The Arlington-based Alliance for Housing Solutions is raising questions about the “Blue Ribbon Panel” on county priorities that was unanimously approved by the County Board last month.
In a letter to the panel’s principle supporter, County Board Chair Libby Garvey, and the four other members of the County Board, AHS asks the Board to delay implementation of the panel — the six members are slated to be appointed at the Board’s meeting on Tuesday — and gather more public feedback.
Garvey said last month that the panel would serve an advisory role for the Board and would not set policy, thus negating the need for an extensive public process.
As an organization, AHS is dedicated to “preserving and increasing affordable housing in Arlington through public education, facilitation and action.”
The full letter from AHS leaders Eugene Hubbard and Mary Margaret Whipple, the former state legislator, is below.
Dear Madam Chair and Members of the County Board:
The Alliance for Housing Solutions is writing to express its disappointment in the Board’s unanimous adoption of the Blue Ribbon Panel Charge on April 19, 2016. We urge that the Board delay this process, including the appointment of Panel members, until the public has had reasonable opportunity to provide feedback and the Charge is clarified to explain what appear to be inconsistencies.
Our principal concerns are summarized as follows:
1. Process. While it is clear that the Blue Ribbon Panel and Charge were discussed among Board members and perhaps members of the public as well, there was virtually no notice that the Board would adopt the Charge and the language was not available for public review and comment. This flies in the face of repeated messages by many Board members of the need for greater transparency and adequate public advance notice of Board actions.
2. Governance. The complete scope of what is being asked of the members of the Panel is not clear but explicitly includes the ability to “Affirm the[se] goals and objectives [of the Comprehensive Plan] and/or consider policy areas that should be revisited.” This is high-level policy-making that we believe should not be in the hands of unelected persons.
Further, we believe that the need to create a process to set priorities is redundant. As the Charge itself notes, priorities are set every year by the County Board in the budget and CIP processes, with feedback from the community and from affected Commissions.
3. Inclusion. The Charge speaks of the Panel of six reflecting “broad diversity, including knowledge of and experience with Arlington Public Schools”. Respectfully, we think that such diversity of issues and concerns cannot be reflected by six persons in a six month process. Further, AHS is concerned about how the on-going roles of Commissions and other appointed bodies will be considered.
Thank you for your consideration of these views.
Mary Margaret Whipple