Spring '09 Newsletter

Green County Board Candidate Gets 23% of the Vote

Green Arlington County Board candidate John Reeder got 23,000 votes (about 23 percent of the 92,160 votes cast). This is an excellent showing considering that prior Green Party candidate Josh Ruebner got 5% of the votes in 2006, and 10% in 2007. The results can be found on the Arlington County website.

Democrat Barbara Favola (an 11-year incumbent) outspent John by over 3 to 1, and was able to coast upon the Obama-mania that brought hundreds of outside Democrat volunteers and dollars to Arlington and Virginia for the Presidential race. Favola was able to call upon donations from contributors with county contracts and from corporate PAC donations received through the Virginia Democratic Party as well. The Green Party, by contrast, accepts no contributions from corporate PACs.

The Arlington Green Party is building an alternative vision of our world that is based on ecological wisdom, peace, and social justice. The Reeder campaign was built around these themes of social justice so that people making less than $60,000 a year and those with disabilities can continue to live in our community. And that a program of conservation and recycling be begun in Arlington where rising use of electricity (much of it generated in coal-fired plants), much higher stormwater runoff, and the loss of nearly half of the tree canopy threatens our environment.

Though Arlington Housing Referendum Fails With One-Third Approval Votes; 33,000 Voters in Arlington Support Change to Affordable Housing Programs

Arlington Greens have made the point consistently over the past three years that moderate income people are being eliminated from the housing market in Arlington, and that something new must tried to ameliorate the situation of sharply lower affordable housing. The Greens placed a voters referendum on the November 2008 ballot to authorize the county government to begin a housing authority to address destruction of moderate cost rental housing.

The housing authority referendum in Arlington received nearly 33,000 votes (about 33 percent of 98,899 votes cast) despite a campaign of disinformation and outright propaganda by the Arlington Democrats and Democratic-controlled county government.

The County Government issued a so-called 'fact sheet' disparaging the housing authority in October 2008, despite a Virginia law requiring local governments to remain neutral in all referendums. The Green Party contacted the State Board of Elections which said such conduct per se was a violation of state law, but the SBE had not power to enforce the state law!

Update from a Tenant-Landlord Commissioner

In March of 2008, Kirit Mookerjee of the Arlington Green Party was appointed to the Tenant-Landlord Commission representing Tenants by the County Board. A major focus of the Commission's work over the past year has been to modify the current relocation guidelines, working to present the County Board with an ordinance authorizing relocation payments in by-right developments, and continuing to encourage County staff at all levels to thoroughly review site plan and other developer requests for indications that displacement of existing residents may result from their projects.

The Tenant-Landlord Commission meetings are open for public comment whether from residents with complaints or others with issues related to rental properties in the County. The Arlington Green Party encourages readers to contact Kirit with any issues of concern related to rental properties or upcoming developments in the County. As an "advisory group" to the County Board, it is crucial that the Commission receive notice of future projects which could adversely affect existing County residents.

Arlington Green Party Positions 2009

The Arlington Green Party has robust ideas and plans to improve Arlington communities. Our positions are built on the 10 key values of the Green Party including social justice and equal opportunity, ecological wisdom, non-violence, respect for diversity, and future focus and sustainability. Our positions require policy achievements at the local county-level, though some positions will require state or federal action. Here are our positions for 2009:

On the environment:

  • County should adopt Pay as You Throw
  • County should adopt recycling in Arlington county parks
  • County should adopt recycling in multi-family buildings
  • County should acquire and preserve remaining existing green space
  • Legislators should reject the further intrusion of fossil fuel use and development in Virginia, enact clean energy alternatives
  • Legislators should reject intrusion of energy resulting from mountain top removal
  • Legislators should ban waste dumps in Virginia
  • Dominion Power should provide alternative energy options and incentives for alternative energy use
  • Legislators should reject the further development of highways for automobiles in Virginia, such as expanding I-66; support alternative transportation solutions such as light rail

On housing:

  • County should enact an Arlington housing authority to acquire and manage affordable, moderate income, and market rate housing, and which will increase the sources of funding
  • County should acquire existing housing to be managed as affordable and moderate income housing in perpetuity
  • County should adopt as policy and preserve existing affordable, and market rate, middle income garden apartments in Arlington, including those along the Columbia Pike corridor; revise sector and land use plans accordingly
  • County should initiate action with other jurisdictions to establish a regional housing authority
  • County should institute a moratorium on development and tear down of single and multi-family residences until controls can be put in place to preserve existing moderate income housing
  • County should expand building fees for developers that incorporate real infrastructure costs for continued development, such as surface water runoff increases resulting from expanded building and paved lot surfaces
  • County should provide temporary homeless shelter on public property

On equal opportunity:

  • County should institute a living wage for Arlington county workers
  • County should abandon those initiatives which lead to the gentrification of Arlington, and the removal of existing residents, including minority residents, such as instituting trolleys and other superficialities on Columbia pike, and the development of sector plans which preclude the protection of existing moderate income housing
  • County should establish openness to the community in initial discussions of preliminary sector plans intended to guide development
  • County should reject racist symbols in Arlington County vehicle stickers, and street, and building names

On non-violence:

  • County should adopt a resolution against the Iraqi invasion of 2002
  • State should abolish the death penalty in Virginia

Taxes for Local Issues, Not War

By Don Rouse

Over the past several years, Greens and Democrats alike have asked the Arlington County Board to pass a resolution opposing this war we are waging against Iraq. The Board has consistently rebuffed or ignored these representations.

During this time, both individual Democrats, and the Arlington Green Party, have constructed internet petitions against the war. Not only that, but the Arlington Democratic Party has passed a resolution opposing the continuation of the war in no uncertain terms, and calling for immediate withdrawal.

The Green party began its demonstrations against the invasion of Iraq even prior to that invasion (and passed a resolution in 2002 against invading) when it first realized that a minority government in this country was hell-bent on starting a war.

The Arlington Greens continue to call on the county to pass that anti-war resolution. To that end, you can sign a petition now. If you email us, we will be happy to send you a paper copy of the petition to fill out and return to us. It reads:

To: Arlington County Board
We, the undersigned, residents of Arlington County, Virginia, do hereby petition the Arlington County Board to pass a resolution calling upon the United States to end its war in and occupation of Iraq and to support our troops by bringing them home safely now.

A National Priorities Project analyzes and clarifies federal data so that people can understand and influence how their tax dollars are spent. According to their website, www.nationalpriorities.org, taxpayers in just one Arlington congressional district, Congressional District 8 (Congressman Moran), will pay $2.1 billion for the total Iraq war spending approved to date. The site lists benefits that could have been provided to our locality for the same amount of money. An example of just one benefit among many that could have been provided by and for Arlingtonians:

13,586 Affordable Housing Units

Arlington faces an affordable housing crisis that it is ignoring, involving the loss of 13,000 units of moderate income housing over the last 10 years.

According to Cities for Progress, 273 localities in the United States have passed resolutions calling for an end to the war in Iraq. This sets in high relief the continued timidity of our County Board.

We all know that US troops should withdraw from Iraq; and this Government should terminate an unnecessary war that it started by invading a foreign country without provocation, through blind, arrogant, ignorance and ineffectuality, in direct conflict with the US Constitution. It should cease killing our troops (made up in large measure of high school graduates and economically deprived minorities), innocent Iraqi civilians, and through this action mitigate as much as possible the ongoing suffering it has caused for no reason at all.

US presence in Iraq now has and will have no effect on the political and social stability of that country, which must now wait until we leave before it can begin to resolve the problems we have made. And you as citizens should be simultaneously ashamed and outraged at what we have done.

Homelessness and Affordable Housing

By Dana Thomson

Homeless Arlingtonians are in grave jeopardy owing both to the depressed economy and to the County Boardís neglect of our housing program aimed at sheltering the homeless during winter months. A year ago, the director of the Arlington Street Peopleís Network (the former operator of Arlingtonís main winter homeless shelter) said the homeless shelter in courthouse was dangerous and filled to maximum capacity. Soon after, the County Board cancelled ASPANís funding and tasked another organization with operating the shelter. The Board also promised in February 2008 that the county government would provide a new, adequate shelter building. Unfortunately, the same dilapidated building is used today to shelter homeless Arlingtonians during the winter, and same overcrowded conditions persist.

This winter, increased numbers of people are "overflowing" from the winter homeless shelter on nights when the temperature falls below freezing. Last year, the daily overflow was estimated at 40 to 50 persons each nightly. The situation is exacerbated this winter because the Rosslyn church that offered overflow space in 2008 no longer does.

Instead, the Arlington County Jail was used for emergency shelter overflow in November and December 2008. There are a number of reasons this solution should only be used as a last resort. County jail staff are not trained to provide emergency shelter for the homeless, and this gesture suggests that being homeless is akin to a crime.

At the December 2008 county board meeting, the Arlington Green Party shared expressed deep concern about the poor shelter conditions and use of the jail for overflow. We suggested instead that other public buildings such as the empty trailers at Wilson school be used as temporary overflow hypothermia shelters, and asked the County Board to investigate and improve conditions at the courthouse shelter.

The Arlington Green Party also highlighted the obvious and direct link between homelessness and affordable housing. Overdevelopment in Arlington County has resulted in too few affordable apartments, condos, and homes. Not only are families becoming homeless after losing low- or moderate-cost housing, they are also finding it difficult to reestablish themselves after becoming homeless. The 84 shelter beds in Arlington County are nearly always full because there is nowhere to relocate people who become homeless. Last January 410 people were counted as homeless in Arlington; this year there were 527, a 28% increase in the number of homeless families, children, and single adults.

The Arlington Green Party maintains that a public Housing Authority is essential to reestablish housing units in Arlington that can be afforded by low- and middle-income families, and to be able to secure new funding for affordable housing. We also continue to pressure the Arlington County Board to improve the emergency shelter program.

Arl. Green Party Opposes Spot Widening of I-66

By Suzanne Sundburg

At the public meetings, VDOT representatives admitted that the I-66 spot widenings would simply shift the choke points from their current locations to new positions along the highway.

Moreover, there are no federal or state funds to widen the I-66 Rosslyn tunnel—the most expensive and intractable choke point inside the beltway. Without widening the Rosslyn I-66 tunnel, the rest of the spot improvements are of equivocal value, at best.

A Picture Is Worth a Thousand Words

Because our population continues to grow by leaps and bounds, we must begin thinking about how to move people, not cars, more efficiently. The poster below illustrates why we can't simply pave our way out of congestion problems—it shows the inordinately large amount of road space that cars (as opposed to buses or bikes) use to transport the same number of passengers.

Transport Experts Reject Widening

Many transportation experts agree that road expansion simply isn't the best or smartest long-term use of available resources to solve road congestion.

The Livable Region Coalition, Vancouver, British Columbia makes the following statement: "Traffic congestion road building is typically presented as a solution to traffic congestion. But experience demonstrates that new and wider freeways merely attract more traffic, especially over the long term. Traffic planners and engineers call this the Triple Convergence Principle: widened roads attract drivers who previously used alternative routes, traveled at other times or used different modes of transport. Additional development is stimulated and is likely to be car-dependent. People begin to travel further and more frequently until the widened highway is once again congested" (Anthony Downs, Stuck in Traffic, 1992).

And, we've already seen the triple convergence principle in action along I-395/95, where repeated road widening has failed to relieve traffic congestion between Washington, D.C., and the outlying Virginia suburbs.

Victoria Policy Institute Executive Director Todd Litman (who has provided technical support to D.C.'s Downtown Congestion Management Task Force) agrees that highway expansion actually encourages more drivers to use the road, and thus exacerbates the problem it was intended to solve.

The Sacramento Area Council of Governments concurs, saying,"The statement 'We cannot build our way out of congestion' is essentially correct, because large metropolitan regions lack the resources, community will, and ultimately the space to provide for uncongested travel by auto. …Roads designed for peak period traffic cost too much, take too much land, are underused too much of the day, and cause unacceptable community and environmental impacts."

Extensive roadway capacity does not solve congestion: cities with the largest highway systems–Los Angeles, Houston, San Diego, Atlanta–also have some of the nationís worst traffic congestion.

Select Effective Alternatives for Spot Widening $

The money earmarked for I-66 spot widening should be redirected to more effective congestion solutions: relieving the bottleneck at Metro's crossing under the Potomac River and implementing rapid bus transit along the I-66 corridor.

Metro's new Silver Line from Dulles to Falls Church is projected to add 60,000 DAILY riders to the system. Unless the expansion of Metro's Potomac tunnel coincides with the Silver Line's debut, the system will be unable to handle the additional riders without unacceptable delays—making the $900 million federal transportation grant for the new Silver Line virtually worthless.

Unlike the spot-widening plan to shift choke points around on the road, the new Silver Line will actually take cars off of I-66 and reduce congestion.

A near-term congestion relief option already exists: it's called bus rapid transit. Not only has the U.S. GAO recognized and promoted the benefits of bus rapid transit, but Montgomery County Council member Marc Elrich also supports it as a cost-efficient and effective solution to traffic gridlock.

Bus rapid transit can be implemented quickly, and buses carry 10+ times more passengers than do cars (assuming that each car carries 4 passengers and each bus carries about 50) for the same amount of road space.

We ask Congress and the Obama administration not to waste another single transportation dollar on ineffective and expensive pseudo solutions like the I-66 spot widenings. Reallocate the spot-widening earmark and push VDOT to consider other, more effective options.

Arlington and Beyond:
A Response to the Governor's Commission on Climate Change Action Plan

By Audrey Clement

In December, 2008 the Governor's Commission on Climate Change issued its final report, an action plan outlining Virginia's response to global warming. Environmentalists around the state applauded the commission's adoption of the recommendation of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change Report, calling for reduction of green house gas (GHG) emissions to 25% of the 1990 level by 2020 and 80% by 2050, as well as American Council on Energy Efficiency Economy (ACEEE) measures that would reduce electricity consumption in the state by 19% by 2025.

Nevertheless there are serious problems with the overall thrust of the report. First, it endorsed the Virginia State Corporation Commission's decision to proceed with the Wise County coal fired plant, a GHG monster, which will produce 5.6 million tons of CO2 pollution annually. What is the purpose of energy efficiency if the state continues its reliance on coal? Indeed, Tom Cormons of Appalachian Voices reported that the ACEEE energy reduction benchmark alone would eliminate ten Wise County plants and preclude the need to construct power lines as well.

The commission also "strongly advocates for increased nuclear energy production, both in Virginia and nationwide." Dismissing objections about the high cost of nuclear power and concerns about safe disposal of uranium waste, it endorsed the federal government's plans to implement a controversial nuclear fuel reprocessing program that may actually facilitate proliferation of weapons grade uranium. Yet if the state were to implement the recommendations of the governor's report by investing in renewable energy and conservation, there would be no need to reprocess spent uranium.

In a concession to environmentalists, the commission recommended that electric utilities adopt a Renewable Portfolio Standard of 15% of power from renewables by 2022, up from an earlier standard of 12% by 2022. But the standard is voluntary rather than mandatory. It also rejected adoption of the California Low-Emission Vehicle regulations. Notwithstanding the fact that eighteen states have already adopted the standard, opponents on the commission argued that manufacturers cannot be expected to comply with a multiplicity of state based regulations.

In a recent speech to the Virginia Conservation Network, a member of the Governorís Commission on Climate Change, Delegate Joe Bouchard of Virginia Beach, stated that both the Navy and NASA are opposed to the resumption of oil drilling off the Atlantic coast, saying "oil and ordnance don't mix." He predicted that Navy will move its training range south to avoid the oil rigs. Yet the commission report, which Bouchard himself helped to write, is silent on the question of drilling off Virginia's coast.

Another key issue that the report failed to address is uranium mining in the state. Fortunately last year the state Senate did not report SB 525, an industry sponsored bill that would have authorized research into resumption of uranium mining in Pittsylvania County. But the climate commission should have addressed the issue and discussed the air and water pollution hazards associated with uranium mining in the Piedmont.

The governor's climate commission report is a wolf in sheep's clothing. By endorsing construction of new coal plants, expanded nuclear facilities, voluntary rather than mandatory portfolio standards, and rejection of vehicle emission standards, the report embraces the status quo. It's obvious that if the efficiency measures it recommends were adopted along with robust investment in renewables, there would be no need for expanded nuclear or new coal. By paying lip service to energy efficiency, the report attempts to make palatable continued investment in hazardous, polluting and wasteful energy technology.