Advocates have spent nearly six months attempting to gather enough signatures to secure a spot on the Arlington ballot for a measure supporting a government-run low income housing authority. County election officials now confirm that the group submitted the required 2,845 signatures needed to place a referendum on the November 5 ballot.
The referendum will ask Arlington voters to authorize the operation of a low income housing authority, similar to those in more than 25 cities and counties around the state including Alexandria and Fairfax County. The Arlington Green Party (AGP) spearheaded the signature gathering efforts.
“Arlington’s current housing assistance program has failed to stop the loss of affordable housing, and a housing authority would raise funds more easily, lower administrative costs, and provide more affordable rental units,” said AGP chairman Steve Davis. “Arlington should follow Fairfax’s County’s outstanding example with a housing authority that provides more affordable housing to more people at less cost.”
Arlington had the most expensive rental housing in 2010, except for Alexandria, according to Davis. He said more than 14,000 families in Arlington needed affordable housing that year.
Advocates for a housing authority claim the agency would help the county secure federal housing funds. They also contend it would reduce the county’s costs by consolidating all housing functions under one umbrella agency.
The signatures will be presented to the County Board, which is expected to take up the measure at its July meeting, confirmed Arlington County General Registrar Linda Lindberg. According to a state statute, the Board is required to pass the measure on to Circuit Court Chief Judge William Newman, who has the ultimate authority to put it on the ballot.
Lindberg notes that this is the third time such a measure has been put on the ballot and it has been defeated each time. Most recently, voters rejected the measure in 2008 by a 2-1 margin.
So far this is the only referendum scheduled to appear on the November 5 general election ballot. The deadline for other referenda to make it onto the ballot is August 16.
This morning we ran a story on Committee for a Better Arlington chairman Mike Staples declining to participate in a planned debate over the group’s change-of-government proposal. Since there will be no “debate” tonight, we decided to ask two fresh voices from each side of the issue to make their case to Arlington residents here, in 400 words or less.
As a preface: it’s looking like this is a debate that will only get louder in the coming weeks and, possibly, months. The Committee is facing the daunting task of collecting 14,340 signatures by July 15 in order to float the proposal as a ballot initiative. Staples, however, says his group is “on track” to collect the needed signatures.
The reasons for and against changing Arlington’s form of government, after the jump.
The Arlington County Democratic Committee is holding a forum about the proposed change to Arlington’s form of government tonight, but the person billed as representing the “pro” side of the debate says he won’t be there.
Mike Staples, president of Arlington’s firefighter union and chairman of the Committee for a Better Arlington, which supports the proposal, says the group is refusing its invitation due to unreasonable terms of participation.
“I’m not coming to a staged debate where the tables are stacked,” Staples said.
Among the terms Staples objects to: the Committee representative would be required answer each question first, giving the opposing side the last word; participants would not have the opportunity to question each other; and the debate would be moderated by the head of the Arlington Democrats, who Staples does not consider a neutral party.
Staples said his group would consider participating under more neutral terms, such as a debate hosted by the Arlington County Chamber of Commerce.
“If we’re going to do a political debate, we should do it the right way,” he said.
While the forum is open to the public, Staples objected to the lack of promotion.
“We would like to have the opportunity to advertise the debate to the general public so it can be seen as an open process, and not simply an altered form of a local Democratic Party meeting,” Staples wrote.
Staples said the committee offered to make an informal presentation to the Democrats, but was turned down and told the party would only consider the debate format.
“We believe this decision was made in bad taste and was orchestrated to put the Committee in poor light,” Staples wrote.
The forum is taking place between 7:00 and 9:00 tonight at the NRECA building (4301 Wilson Blvd). Afterward, the Democrats will hold a vote on whether to support or oppose the measure.
Former Arlington County Manager Ron Carlee will represent the “con” side of the debate. Democratic Committee chairman Mike Lieberman says no one else has been lined up to represent the pro-change-of-government side, although they’ll “keep a chair open” for Staples in the unlikely event that he decides to participate after all.
“I honestly think that our debate was going to be fair and neutral,” Lieberman said. “I can’t force their hand to come, but we certainly would love to have them there.”