December 6, 2013

Arlington Greens want YOU to run for county board in 2014!

Candidates — @ 11:15 am

Press Release: Arlington Green Party Begins Candidate Exploratory Outreach to Encourage Candidates for Arlington County Board Vacancy Election in March

Dec 6, 2013

Steve Davis, chairman of the Arlington Green Party, announced today that the Arlington Green Party will begin actively seeking new candidates for the upcoming election to fill an expected vacancy on the Arlington County. Greens will vote at their next scheduled meeting on January 8 on a nomination or endorsement of a candidate.

The Greens voted at their December 4 meeting to seek new candidates for the county board vacancy created by the announced resignation of incumbent Democrat Chris Zimmerman. The election, depending on the date of the resignation, will likely be held in March 2014. The Greens will also consider endorsing an independent or other candidate if they choose not to nominate a Green candidate.

The Green Party Exploratory Committee (composed of Kirit Mookerjee, Marie Pellegrino and Jim Lowenstern) would like to meet or interview any Arlington resident who might be interested in seeking this public office. For more information, email Info@greensofarlington.org or call 703-386-6919 to schedule an interview.

Arlington Greens have nominated a candidate annually for the Arlington County Board for the past 7 years. In 2012, Green candidate Audrey Clement got about 31 percent of the votes cast for county board, and has run for that office in four consecutive elections.

Davis said that this year that Greens will consider prospective candidates to run for the county board, including independents, disaffected Democrats and Republicans and others who support Green values and positions on such issues as preserving affordable rental housing, eliminating wasteful vanity projects like the Columbia Pike trolley, and insuring that public dollars are spent wisely on our community needs rather than subsidizing developers.

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November 22, 2013

Arlington County Board Campaign funding–Democrat Fisette raises $107,000, with real estate and private business interests the top donors

Uncategorized — @ 12:41 pm

Democratic incumbent Jay Fisette according to State Board of Elections data raised about $106,500 as of Oct. 23, 2013; his leading donors according to VPAC data were from the real estate/construction industry ($5,105), businessmen ($4,210), healthcare ($2,910), and defense industry ($2,200). About $14,000 of Fisette’s contributions came from residents who do not live in Arlington; what is their interest in Arlington?
Virginia Public Access Project reports are at:

http://www.vpap.org/committees/profile/home_financials/2840?start_year=2013&end_year=2013&lookup_type=year&filing_period=all

SBE reports at: http://cfreports.sbe.virginia.gov/Committee/Index/9da1603d-869f-e111-8def-984be103f032

His largest single donor was Christine Milliken ($2,120) whose husband is a prominent lawyer representing many of the large developers operating in Arlington such as Vornado Realty Trust, JBG Companies, Clark Realty,
and Gould Property Company. Vornado and JBG own large commercial properties in Crystal City and other Arlington areas. The county board recently allowed higher development in Crystal City despite many neighbors opposition and to the financial benefit of these large developers.

Why did Jay Fisette take money from developers, real estate interests and other private business interests with past and possibly future matters before the Arlington County Board? The Northern Virginia Realtors PAC gave Fisette $1,000; does this weigh on his ability to impartially regulate developers in Arlington? Unfortunately Virginia’s weak ethical laws allow politicians to accept unlimited business funds.

Our Green candidate Audrey Clement raised less than $8,000 with nearly half of this coming from her own pocket, and her other leading contributor the chairman of the Arlington Greens Steve Davis.

Thus, the incumbent Democrat outraised the Green by about 14 to 1.

How can we have fair elections in the United States with corporate and business interests and those of wealthy people tilting the scales of competition?

The U.S. Green Party bars its candidates from accepting corporate and business contributions. Both the Democrats and Republicans are identical in their dependance and subseverience to the money interests. Whatever happened to Abraham Lincoln’s Government of the People, for the People and by the People? Today we have government of the rich, for the rich and by the rich.

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November 19, 2013

Arlington housing authority fails again–the empire strikes back again

Arlington Greens and their community supporters enthusiastically supported the housing authority referendum in 2013, but were unable to overcome propaganda from the two major parties, particularly the Democrats, and some voters adversion to public housing for lower and working class people in Arlington.

The approval share of votes cast in 2013 was very close to the share in the prior referendum in 2008 (a Presidential election year), about 31 percent:
2008 2013
Votes Percentage Votes Percentage
Yes 32,808 33.1% 19,726 30.8%
No 66,235 66.9% 44,305 69.2%

The Republicans and the Democrats both urged voters to vote no, and distributed sample ballots indicating this.

The Democrats further circulated a mistake prone and misleading document to voters with factual errors. Their most amazing claim is that they really want to keep Arlington a diverse community, “where individuals from all walks of life can afford to live.” What a joke–this is totally at odds to the 11 percent drop in Latinos living in Arlington over the past 13 years and a drop in the number of black residents as well, all or mostly because of higher rents, and the Democratic ruling Party’s failure to have an effective housing program to just maintain the number of lower income minorities living in Arlington!

Working income people of all types simply cannot live in Arlington today. Arlington today does not have anywhere near the number of people from all walks of life living here. Fewer than 10% of Arlington firefighters live here; fewer than 80% of police, and fewer than 40% of public school teachers. Arlington firefighters union supported the housing authority because it could then offer as does the Fairfax Housing Authority today subsidized rental housing for lower earning firefighters as well as teachers, police, county employees and nurses and critical medical staff working at the Va Hospital Center.

Some factual Pinnochio statements on the Arlington County Democratic Committee sheet on the housing authority:

It (a housing authority) would not bring any new tools, authority, or funding for affordable housing.”Totally wrong on all three points. An authority under Virginia law can underwrite and issue its own housing bonds at low interest rates (something Arlington cannot do today); it can own land and directly operate rental housing (something Arlington County cannot do today), and it can secure HUD funding and HUD credit guarantees for its housing bonds issued, and automatically obtain Federal tax credits. Obviously, a “housing authority” brings new authority powers as elaborated under longtime Virginia law. There are about 22 Virginia jurisdictions with a housing authority today.

“Arlington is creating and preserving more affordable housing units per 1,000 people than any other county in Northern Virginia
Over the past 13 years, Arlington has lost an average of 1,200 affordable rental units offered by private owners and added only 300 affordable subsidized units, a net loss annually of 900 units annually. Arlington is not creating any affordable units, it is losing nearly 1,000 units a year. Fairfax, Falls Church and every other jurisdiction in Northern Virginia (except for the City of Alexandria) has kept more affordable units than Arlington, and remain more affordable than Arlington. DC is now more affordable than Arlington.

The county already allocates more than $20 million annually for affordable housing development. Since 1996, Arlington County has spent $132.6 million for housing.” Arlington County spends about $6 million annually for affordable housing development, under the so-called AHIF (Arlington Housing Investment Fund). It does not spend $20 million annually. With those $6 million, the county adds about 300 subsidized apartments (CAFs) annually at a very high cost per unit. The most recent CAFs added at Arlington Mill cost about $250,000 each (with free public land), more than twice what the Fairfax Housing Authority spends per unit.

What is really important is not how much Arlington County spends, but what its results are: the county actually spends annually of its own funds over $30 million for all types of housing assistance including rent subsidies, low income homeowner tax defferal, etc. But its program is very expensive per person helped and ineffective because it has failed to meet nearly every goal set to preserve rental housing. Its high costs mean that mostly the subsidized units do not serve lower income people, but only those making $60,000 and above. Its program is fractured, ineffective and expensive mainly benefiting the developers and contractors who get the county funding.

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Solar power in Arizona and why not in Arlington?

environment — @ 3:12 pm
Beaver Creek Elementary School, Arizona 2013

Beaver Creek Elementary School, Arizona 2013

solar panels flagstaff az at county bldgpic1
Recently on a family trip to Arizona,I was impressed by the many solar panels in both public buildings and private homes in that sunny state. The city hall building in Flagstaff, AZ has built solar panels over its parking lot (see attached photo). A public school building in Beaver Creek, AZ has solar panels on a south facing hill next to it.

Admitedly Arizona has many many more days of sun than Virginia, but solar power is still financially feasible for most new public buildings, and if the State of Virginia would provide tax credits like Maryland does, feasible for homeowners and apartments. Clearly solar power is renewable reduces carbon emissions particularly our case in Virginia when a high proportion of electricity is coal generated.

As importantly solar panels on buildings would provide us with energy security as what happens a year ago with Hurrican Sandy leaving many in Arlington without power for 3-5 days.

Unfortunately, the main Arizona private electric utility APS that relies heavily on coal and nuclear is trying to impose fees on solar panel users in Arizon can cut off the growing solar industry there just like the situation in Virginia with Dominion Power.

John Reeder

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November 3, 2013

Arlington Greens Post-Election Celebration, Tues, Nov. 5, 7:15 PM at Westover Beer Garden

green meetings — @ 3:36 pm

Arlington Greens Post-Election Celebration at Westover Beer Gardens

Please join us for our 2013 post-election celebration at the Westover Beer Gardens, a locally owned bar and supermarket in Arlington.
The Arlington Greens will gather starting at around 7:15 pm (after the polls close) for a post-election celebration at the Westover Beer Gardens, located at 5863 N. Washington Boulevard, Arlington, VA 22205
http://www.westovermarket.com/_BEER_GARDEN.htmlPlease vote for our Green candidate Audrey Clement for Arlington County Board, and support the housing authority referendum. Thank you all our campaign volunteers and community supporters who have worked so hard to support our candidate and our cause to keep affordable rental housing in our community!

If anyone would still like to work at a poll for the Greens, please email John Reeder info@greensofarlington.org

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October 25, 2013

Sandra Hernandez testifies for Housing Authority at Arlington County Board

Affordable Housing — @ 4:41 pm

Good morning members of the Arlington County Board: Oct. 19, 2013   I am Sandra Hernandez and here today to tell you why Arlington residents should vote FOR a Housing Authority on November 5th.   

Walking on Columbia Pike, I met a young brown skinned woman carrying a baby who asked me where she could find information on affordable apartments in Arlington. “No where”. Why doesn’t Arlington have One single place for referral to available subsidized units, located on 85 separate properties, and operated by about 30 separate private organizations?

Fairfax County Housing Authority provides referral at one location to subsidized units, and keeps a centralized waiting list and housing information.

Our county government spends millions for housing, but my Latino community in Arlington is decimated as rents rise, and apartments are replaced by million dollar homes. The Latino population in Arlington fell by 11 percent since 2000 as affordable, private market-rate apartments fell by over two-thirds.  As Arlington becomes whiter and richer, Latinos are pushed out. 

At a 2013 Latino Housing Forum, residents complained that they worked 3 jobs to barely pay $1,700 rent, some end up at AFAC food bank because they cannot afford rent and food.

Why is the CEO of the largest not for profit affordable housing contractor making over $250,000 a year when  in Fairfax, the volunteer, citizen-run housing authority controls and audits subsidized units to make sure tenants are treated well and that contractors are not over paid?

In March 2013, HUD confirmed to Arlington Mercury Newspaper that an Arlington housing authority WOULD qualify for HUD funds. A well run authority could improve treatment of tenants, reduce costs of rental units, get Federal funds and SAVE MONEY.

Thank you and please vote yes for the Housing Authority November 5th

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October 8, 2013

WAMU story: Arlington Voters To Decide On Creating New Housing Authority

Uncategorized — @ 11:33 am

http://www.flickr.com/photos/34564103@N03/4256127642/Arlington Voters To Decide On Creating New Housing Authority

http://wamu.org/news/13/10/08/arlington_voters_to_decide_on_creating_new_housing_authority

By: Michael Lee Pope
October 8, 2013
Ashley Brown: http://www.flickr.com/photos/34564103@N03/4256127642/
Proponents of a housing authority in Arlington say it’s necessary to maintain affordable housing in the county.
Should Arlington have the kind of housing authority that already exists in Alexandria and Fairfax County? John Reeder of the Arlington Committee to Save Affordable Housing says yes.
“A majority of people who live in Arlington are renters,” says Reeder. “We need to have a better housing assistance program in Arlington, and what we’ve done is an abject failure even though we are spending a lot of money.”
Opponents acknowledge that the county has lost thousands of market-rate units. But they say the county has worked with developers to set aside committed units of affordable housing that low-income residents can apply for. Former Sen. Mary Margaret Whipple says the public-private partnership model is working.
“Arlington has relied for years on a really, I think, genius idea of the county working with private, profit and nonprofit developers to address affordable housing in the community,” says Whipple.
Arlington Green Party Chairman Steve Davis isn’t so sure how genius that approach is. He says county officials won’t have access to federal money if Arlington doesn’t have an authority to receive it, including stimulus money that was available a few years ago.
“There could be money in the future, and there was money in the past because they weren’t eligible for it because they didn’t have a housing authority,” says Davis. “If you don’t have one you can’t get the money, and who knows what the future is going to bring.”
But Mary Rouleau, executive director of the Alliance for Housing Solutions, says federal money is no longer available to authorities. And she doesn’t expect new funding anytime soon.
“Should the government do an about face in five or 10 years, then lets have that discussion then.”
County voters have already rejected similar efforts four times, but leaders of the Green Party collected enough signatures to get it on the ballot again this year. Voters will have the final say when they head to the polls on Election Day.

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October 6, 2013

Arlington’s subsidized housing: disjointed, and poorly targeted

Affordable Housing — @ 1:10 pm

Arlington’s housing assistance program relies primarily on 6,500 apartments that are provided by a series of private companies and nonprofits to county residents, supposedly at rent levels below private market rate rental properties.

In response to a Freedom of Information Request to Arlington County, we received data on the operations of Arlington affordable housing units (committed affordable units or CAFs). As of spring 2013, the county reported it had about 6,500 CAFs units, some of which are still under construction and thus unoccuppied.

<Number of separate properties and providers
These 6,500 units are located in 85 separate properties by 29 separate for-profit developers, landowners, and nonprofit housing groups. There are 103 units designed for the disabled, but only 37 of these units actually house disabled individuals.

The largest housing provider is AHC, Inc. with 34 percent of the CAFs, followed by APAH with 16 percent. The next largest are Paradigm Inc. with 6 percent (all at Buckingham Gardens area), and ARHC, Inc. (5 %) that operates the senior housing complex Culpepper Gardens. In total there are 29 separate firms or organization providing subsidized housing unde contract with the county.

The county has to date unable to provide the number of employees these firms or organizations employ to operate these units, and unable to document the administrative costs of opeating these units.
Income of residents of the CAF units
The county provided limited data on the income of the residents of 409 CAF units. For these 409 units (out of 6,500 total), 12 percent of residents have incomes above 60-percent of the area median income (AMI), 46 percent of these units have residents with an income of 60 percent AMI; 27 percent have income at the 50-percent AMI; and 6 percent have incomes of 45 percent AMI or less. There were also 10 percent of the units with residents with “Federal support” and thus their incomes could not be determined. These data confirm that these CAF units are rented mainly (58 percent) by people making 60 percent of the AMI or above.

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September 29, 2013

Arlington trade association offers half truths and distortions on housing authority

Affordable Housing — @ 5:08 pm

The Alliance for Housing Solutions (AHS), Inc. is a trade association composed of housing contractors, banks, and commercial builders, and Democratic Party cronies to the County Board. AHS recently issued a broadside attack against the Arlington Housing Authority referendum. This is not a surprise since this group relies on Arlington County housing progam dollars to support the lavish executives salaries and profits, and an authority would more carefully spend public dollars on housing assistance and would cut their profits, high salaraies, crony status and waste. http://www.allianceforhousingsolutions.org/save-dates-2/

We answer their allegations and half truths, and often totally bogus statements below:

AHS says, A Housing Authority would bring no new resources….
As we have elaborated before, an Arlington housing authority would enjoy Virginia and U.S. housing benefits not available to Arlington today, among them guaranteed access to Federal tax credits, access to HUD credit guarantees on housing bonds issued, and access to some of the over $2 billion given out to U.S. public housing authorities by HUD.

AHS says, Arlington County has created more affordable housing units per 1,000 people than any other county in Northing Virginia….Arlington County has built or preserved about 300 affordable apartments each year over the past decade, mostly for higher income people making above $60,000 annually, but meanwhile private market and developers destroyed about 1,000 affordable apartments annually, meaning a net loss of over 700 affordable apartments each year since 2000. If Arlington does nothing different, all private market affordable apartments are gone in a few years. Yes, Arlington County is spending money, but ineffectively and not enough to even stop the loss.

AHS says HUD has provided no new funds or funding for new housing authorities since 1994.
This is totally wrong. According to an article in the Arlington Mercury Newspaper in March 2013, HUD indicated that a housing authority would be eligible for some of the funds from the HUD Capital Fund that last year gave out $2.41 billion public housing authorities. http://arlingtonmercury.org/countywide/elections-2013/hud-funds-for-housing-are-available%2C-but-worth-it%3F/

There is no evidence that a housing authority can do better in private financing than the county’s existing private affordable housing developers.
This is bogus on many accounts. There are a half dozen or more private housing developers in Arlington, all with their own financial staff and costs attempting to issue bonds and get financing. A single county agency can do this for much less in total costs. Moreover, according to the Fairfax County Housing Authority, it is able to issue housing bonds at a lower cost in both underwriting costs and bond rates than private bond issuers. Fairfax Housing Authority receives a credit repayment guarantee from HUD that lowers the interest rate it pays on its bonds issued to finance housing projects in Fairfax County. Most private housing providers operating now in Arlington also operate in Fairfax County and operate under the Fairfax Housing Authority funding and direction.

AHS says A housing authority would need a staff.The Fairfax Housing Authority has NO staff of its own, relying on existing Fairfax Planning, Housing and Human Services staff. The Housing authority board members are volunteer citizens who serve without salary. Arlington County already employees abundant and competent housing staff to handle the housing functions, no need to hire more immediately, and in fact our current staff would work better together working as a team. As importantly, Arlington County already pays for a bloated and overpaid private employees working at cross purposes in many of these private housing developers; we could cut these wasteful expenditures and reduce staff costs of both public and private contractors, saving public funds.
AHS says A housing authority would lessen competition (for housing development funds).
Actually the opposite has occurred in Fairfax County: the Fairfax County Housing Authority builds new affordable apartments at about half the cost of Arlington units (even in cases where the land is free). Fairfax Housing Authority forces the housing developers to compete strongly to keep the costs of affordable units low. Arlington housing developers today are crony contractors who cannot deliver quality at a low price, frequently overcharge rents or provide lousy conditions to their tenants. An authority will cut government costs per unit. This waste includes the lavish salaries these housing contractors receive: the largest housing developer in Arlington pays its chief executive over $250,000, a salary higher than the county manager or the school superintendent!

AHS says Arlington commits more local resources per capita to affordable housing programs than either Fairfax or Alexandria and produced more committed affordable units per person than either jurisdiction.Yes, Arlington County spends more funds than Fairfax or Alexandria, but that is because Arlington has virtually no private market rate affordable housing left. According to the Virginia Tech Center for Housing Research, Arlington has the second most expensive rental housing in the Metro DC area and about one-seventh of Arlington households (14,000) need affordable rental housing because their high rents cause them to be “housing cost burdened.” Unfortunately, the funds that Arlington has spent have generated few apartments, and those mostly very expensive. In June, over 3,000 people applied for one of the 120 new Arlington Mills apartments, each of which cost about $250,000. Mostly only people earning $65,000 a year can qualify to rent one of these subsidized, overpriced units.
AHS says the creation of a housing authority would actually slow down or suspend these efforts (to build or retain affordable housing in Arlington) at the worst possible time…Nearly all of the housing developers operating in Arlington have operated for years in Fairfax County and the City of Falls Church under the auspices of the Fairfax Housing Authority. That Authority has won awards and plaudits from HUD for its efficient and speedy process to issue bonds and get funds for its projects. That Authority automatically obtains the critical Federal Tax credits for its new projects, whereas Arlington has to compete and wait and hope that its projects MIGHT get federal tax credits that typically provide one-third or more of the funds for a housing project.

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September 25, 2013

Arlington Green Chairman Davis speaks before County Board on Housing Authority

Affordable Housing — @ 1:24 pm

steve davisSeptember 21, 2013: Speech to the Arlington County Board meeting

Good Morning Board Members,
I’m Stephen Davis, and I’ve been living in Arlington for over 33 years. I’m here today to talk about Arlington’s affordable housing problem.

Recently Arlington County touted the opening of the new Arlington Mill Community Center and the completion of 122 units of “affordable” housing at Arlington Mill Residences located nearby. But the price tag on Arlington Mill shows why the County’s approach to affordable housing isn’t working.

The apartments cost $31 million to build, which comes to about $250,000 per unit. The Washington Post reports that there’s already a waiting list of 3,600 people for those units, and families earning less than $64,000 per year need not apply, as most units aren’t affordable to people earning less.

According to the financial director of the Fairfax County Redevelopment and Housing Authority the cost of constructing an affordable unit in Fairfax is about $100,000. So why did Arlington pay 2.5 times that amount even though the county owns the land on which the Arlington Mill apartments were constructed?

Arlington housing non-profit Arlington Partnership for Affordable Housing got the no-bid contract to construct the units, and therein lies the problem. When non-profits don’t have to compete for business and County Board itself measures compassion in dollars spent rather than dollars spent wisely, there’s no incentive to economize, and both the taxpayers footing the bill and the tenants paying the rents are short changed.

I f Arlington had a non-partisan housing authority like Fairfax County, it could shop around for a better price. Thus more people could be served at lower cost, and taxpayers and tenants would win.

Instead of propping up a flawed system the County Board should focus on preserving the existing diminished stock of affordable housing through a non-partisan, citizen-led housing authority whose top priority would be to ensure that all income groups have access to Arlington’s housing.

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