The Association participated in the County's comprehensive Consolidated Plan development process. That is the plan that will guide the expansion of the County's homeless services and subsidized housing creation strategies. Several of our members led citizen panels at the Interactive Forum, last November, to provide substantial input on the homeless and affordable housing issues.
On the subject of continuing activities: The Association has now annualized the fall membership survey which President, Bob Sherretta first initiated in 1993. Last fall, we received 70 member responses which helped guide the Executive Committee's actions and positions on issues throughout the year. The Association's outstanding Newsletter, under the able editorship of Ernie Ragland, has continued to gain accolades and readership around the County. Behind the scenes, keeping all of our records straight, our Secretary of Members Records and Treasurer, Richard Ellis handles a mountain of book keeping and paper work. Both our Vice-President, Deem Gillmore, and Executive Committee Member, Dorothy Sticken have represented the Association, as our designated speakers, at numerous Planning Commission and County Board hearings. The Member Information Line Telephone Number, 528-1887, a.k.a. MILTN, which was initiated as a 4 month test in 1994 by Rohan Samaraweera, has now been made permanent. Members and others regularly call it to leave messages about matters of concern and listen to the many announcements which are now updated approximately weekly. Hayden Bryan will continue his efforts as our Association's GMU Expansion Committee Co-Chair. The second annual holiday party, last December, was a smashing success with 66 members and quests participating.
On the subject of needed improvements: We need to see more members and more participation in all our activities. We hope that in the future, many more new faces will attend our meetings and join our membership ranks. As we strive to improve communication with our neighborhood's residents and seek your input, the Civic Association will soon have its own Home Page on the World Wide Web portion of the Internet. An e-mail address will also be added so that members and others may communicate with us by that means. In the meanwhile, MILTN will listen to you 24 hours a day.
Committee Chair, Rohan Samaraweera reports the Committee's nominees for the Association's 1995-'96 officerships and other representative positions, as follows:
This site plan amendment is scheduled for consideration by the County Board on May 20, 1995 (which is after the Newsletter date of publication). Several members have contacted the Association and indicated that this proposal would materially effect the occupants of the condominium and the Windsor Plaza Condominium Association by eliminating the meeting room space and child care conditions, which were approved by the Arlington County Board in 1985 in exchange for increased density for the site plan. Also, under these existing site plan conditions, the Ballston community shall have access to the space, free of charge, for civic association meetings, or other meetings dedicated to the betterment of the Ballston community, or any other meeting room uses which, in the developer's judgement, would not be detrimental to the space of the tenants living near the space.
At the Executive Committee meeting of May 3, 1995, the Executive Committee met with Association members from the Windsor Plaza Condominium to discuss the applicant's proposed site plan amendment. The Executive Committee voted to oppose this item and has sent a letter to the Arlington County Board recommending that the Board not approve the proposed site plan change. The details of the County Board's 1995 adopted site plan conditions are as follows:
An ordinance pursuant to application Z-2253-84-3 to grant an application to a special exception for a site plan on certain parcels of land known as 4305 through 4317 North Fairfax Drive, North Side.
After a duly advertised hearing at which the public spoke, on motion by Mrs. Bozman, seconded by Mr. Eisenberg and carried by a vote of 5 to 0, the Board adopted the following ordinance:
Be it ordained that, pursuant to application Z-2253-84-3 on file in the office of the Zoning Administrator for a special exception for a site plan amendment to increase office/retail gross floor area from 284,338 square feet to 285,629 square feet and to increase residential gross floor area from 189,468 square feet to 190,414 square to permit approximately 6,800 square feet in additional gross floor area for community facilities as a modification of use, all on the mezzanine level under the residential buildings at the office plaza level for the parcels of real property known as 4305 through 4317 North Fairfax Drive, on the north side, approval is granted and the parcels so described shall be used according to the approval requested by the application, subject to the original conditions and the new condition stated below:
The Civic Association has invited the applicant and the applicant's representative, Nan E. Terpak, Attorney, to discuss the proposed site plan amendment. If you have any questions or comments about these proposed changes, we invite you to bring them to the Annual Membership Meeting on Wednesday, May 24, 1995, at the Arlington Renaissance Hotel, 2nd floor conference room. This item is scheduled for presentation from 7:45 p.m. to 8:20 p.m.
A total of 20 parking spaces are provided at a ratio of 1.66 spaces per unit. Currently, 1019 North Nelson Street has a double-car garage and drive way parking. According to John Mandler, President, Virginia Square Homeowners Association, this proposed site plan amendment was informally approved by his Association in March 1995. This item is scheduled to be heard by the Planning Commission at its meeting on June 26, 1995 and the County Board on July 8, 1995.
The Civic Association has invited Sandy Keys, the applicant's representative and architect to discuss the proposed site plan amendment. Also, the Civic Association has invited John Mandler to discuss the Virginia Square Homeowners Association's views on this item. If you have any questions or comments about this proposal, we invite you to bring them to the Annual Membership Meeting. This item is scheduled for presentation from 8:20 p.m. to 8:45 p.m.
The applicant is requesting a rezoning from "R-5" and "C-2" to "C-O-1.0" for the site located on North Randolph Street just north of Fairfax Drive, two blocks from the Ballston Metro Station. Along with the rezoning, the applicant is requesting site plan approval for the as-built office building which is now zoned "C-2" and for the adjoining two sites which are now zoned "R-5" and contain a transitional parking area and an abandoned single-family dwelling. The site plan includes converting the existing parking garage below the office building into underground repair bays, an inspection station and 5 additional parking spaces for the applicant's taxicab business. Parking for the office building will be located on the adjoining surface lot which is now used as a transitional parking lot. The single-family dwelling on the remaining "R-5" lot will be demolished and the applicant has agreed to maintain this area as landscaped open space.
Arlington Blue Top Cab's owner, Mr. Farouq Massoud, has indicated previously to our Association that the primary contributing factor to the Arlington Blue Top Cab's proposed project is the Quincy Street extension project, which will force their existing taxicab repair facility in the path of the street extension to be relocated. Given that (1) the existing Arlington Blue Top Cab repair facility is located in the path of the proposed Quincy street extension and will have to be relocated; (2) Arlington County is not providing financial assistance for small businesses to relocate because of the Board's approval of the street extension; and (3) this company has been an outstanding neighbor and has assisted our community in many ways, the Civic Association has previously recommended favorable support of the Arlington Blue Top Cab's proposed underground garage.
This rezoning application was scheduled to be considered by the County Board on May 20, 1995 (which is after the Newsletter date of publication).
The Planning Commission voted 9 to 2 to recommend the limiting condition sought by the Association. The Planning Commission's recommendation to the County Board recommends approval of the Use Permit but with a limitation so that delivery vehicles are not to enter or exit the site from 9th Street North. The permit will be reviewed by the County Board in one year. This use permit was scheduled to be considered by the County Board on May 20, 1995 (which is after the Newsletter date of publication). The following are the highlights of the Association's letter to the Planning Commission.
These comments and request for mitigating conditions are submitted by the Executive Committee as we have received comments from our members who reside in the Tower Villas complex. The Executive Committee and concerned members considered this matter in light of safety considerations for the neighbors and residents in the vicinity and the heavy pedestrian traffic along 9th Street North.
This facility lies between Wilson Boulevard and 9th Street North. Its driveway has entry and egress points onto both Wilson Boulevard and 9th Street North.
The area immediately to the west of this facility will see the construction of the already approved office component of the Pollard Gardens site plan. On the north side of 9th Street North is the yet to be constructed Pollard Gardens residential component. This area of 9th Street North is also very heavily traversed by pedestrians to and from the Virginia Square metro stop.
We ask that you place a limiting condition on this use permit requiring that the delivery service's vehicles enter and exit the site from the Wilson Boulevard driveway entrance only, and that the delivery service's vehicles be prohibited from entry or exit from the driveway entrance on 9th Street North.
We also ask that you have a relatively short review period such as 6 months, and certainly no more than a year.
The Civic Association sent a letter to the Planning Commission requesting conditions that would mitigate the impact of the arrival of vehicles during the morning and evening rush hours. The Planning Commission did not adopt any of the Association's recommendations. Only one commissioner voted against the Use Permit as proposed. The permit will be reviewed by the County Board in one year.
The Association's comments and request for mitigating conditions are related to the summer day camp use for up to 110 children.
The letter states that County staff did not contact us directly to seek our comments or input. However, we received comments from members at the eastern-end of our Civic Association about the careless manner in which those who drive to the YMCA leave their vehicles unattended. Thus, the Executive Committee and concerned members considered this matter in light of safety considerations for both the neighbors and for the users of the facility.
As the immediate street network, e.g. both 13th Street North and Kirkwood Road, are quite narrow and congested during the rush hours, we ask that you please implement some conditions that might mitigate the impact of the arrivals of all of the vehicles that may be anticipated to arrive to drop-off and pick-up 110 children all within a narrow time frame. We suggest that you require a condition where their might be, for instance, two or more starting times and two or more ending times for the day camp. The idea would be that there would have to be an equal number of children in each class so that all of the parents vehicles would not arrive at the site at the same time because there would be some staggering of the starting and ending times. We suggest a minimum stagger of 45 minutes between the starting times with the same applicable to the ending times.
We also request that the duration of the use permit be only for this summer, such that there would be an opportunity to review it at the end of this season's operations to determine if further refinement is necessary.
Lan Nguyen interviewed several Arlington citizens most affected by the proposed Home Depot project. "This whole issue has caused a tremendous amount of aggravation and grief, said Joe Rahner, a 43-year resident of the nearby Courtlands neighborhood. It has caused unnecessary expenditure of funds, of hard work, of consumption of time, and a hell of a hunk of money that had to be spent needlessly. If the county government had been honest with the community and with Home Depot, we wouldn't have gone through this [process]....Albert C. Eisenberg, County Board Chairman, said he was disappointed by the withdrawal but was confident that another company would be interested in the location. [Also, he said] Everyone tried to work with them, and it didn't work out. These things happen....Said Preston Carruthers, a developer who owns a neighboring tract of land: It was really sad they had to go through all they did and now have to give up in frustration. I think they would have been an asset to us."
In the March/April 1995 Newsletter, the Executive Committee reported on their follow-up of the status of the aggressive panhandling bill. Senator Holland apprised the Executive Committee that this did not "come up" in the 1995 General Assembly. Senator Holland indicated that he believed that Arlington County has the authority to adopt such an ordinance under its existing police powers and has encouraged the County Board to do so.
In the April/May 1995 Newsletter, the Executive Committee reported that the Montgomery County Council on March 21, 1995, voted unanimously, with one abstention, to adopt a bill that will impose fees and jail time on panhandlers who "aggressively" solicit money or try to intimidate people to buy items they are selling. Doing so could cost the violator as much as $300 and 30 days in jail. Because most of our members support an aggressive panhandling law/ordinance and our elected representatives from Arlington County have yet to adopt such an ordinance, the Executive Committee has obtained for your consideration the complete text of the aggressive panhandling ordinances adopted by the County Council for Montgomery County, Maryland; the City Council of the City of Alexandria, Virginia; and the County Council for Prince William County, Virginia. These are as follows:
Section 32-24, 32-19B, Aggressive Panhandling.
(a) In this Section the following words have the following
AN ORDINANCE to add a new Section 13-1-41 (PANHANDLING) to Chapter 1 (GENERAL OFFENSES), Title 13 (MISCELLANEOUS OFFENSES) of The Code of Alexandria, Virginia, 1981, as amended.
(b) Prohibited acts. It shall be unlawful for any person
while in the city:
(1) to panhandle in an aggressive manner in or on any
(2) to panhandle in an aggressive manner in any public
transportation vehicle, including buses
(3) to panhandle in an aggressive manner within any
train, Metro or other mass transit station or in or on any
sidewalk, roadway or parking lot serving any such station and
under the control of the owner or operator of such station;
(4) to panhandle within 15 feet of any automatic teller
(5) to panhandle or, as a result of panhandling, to
receive money or any other item of value, while standing or
otherwise present in a travel lane, from any operator or occupant
of a motor vehicle located in a travel lane.
(c) Any person convicted of violating this section shall be
guilty of a class 3 misdemeanor.
Section 2. That this ordinance shall become effective upon
the date and at the time of its final passage.
(b) Prohibited acts. It shall be unlawful for any person while in the city:
(1) to panhandle in an aggressive manner in or on any public place; (2) to panhandle in an aggressive manner in any public transportation vehicle, including buses and trains; (3) to panhandle in an aggressive manner within any train, Metro or other mass transit station or in or on any sidewalk, roadway or parking lot serving any such station and under the control of the owner or operator of such station; (4) to panhandle within 15 feet of any automatic teller machine; and (5) to panhandle or, as a result of panhandling, to receive money or any other item of value, while standing or otherwise present in a travel lane, from any operator or occupant of a motor vehicle located in a travel lane.
(c) Any person convicted of violating this section shall be guilty of a class 3 misdemeanor.
Section 2. That this ordinance shall become effective upon the date and at the time of its final passage.
(2) Panhandle or panhandling means doing any of the following
a. Begging, soliciting or asking for any item of value,
monetary or otherwise;
b. Attempting to sell an item or service for an amount far
exceeding its value, or an item or service that is already
offered or available at no charge to the general public; or
c. Attempting to obtain compensation for an item or
service under circumstances that would lead a reasonable person
to conclude that the purchase is in substance a donation.
(3) Travel lane means the portion of a public street over
which motor vehicles travel.
(b) Prohibited acts. It shall be unlawful for any person
while in the county:
(1) To panhandle in an aggressive manner;
(2) To panhandle within fifteen (15) feet of any automatic
teller machine; and
(3) To panhandle, while standing or otherwise present in a
median or travel lane, from any operator of
a motor vehicle located in a travel lane.
(c) Penalty. Any person convicted of violating this section
shall be guilty of a class 3 misdemeanor. (No. 94-48, 7-19-94)
(2) Panhandle or panhandling means doing any of the following acts: a. Begging, soliciting or asking for any item of value, monetary or otherwise; b. Attempting to sell an item or service for an amount far exceeding its value, or an item or service that is already offered or available at no charge to the general public; or c. Attempting to obtain compensation for an item or service under circumstances that would lead a reasonable person to conclude that the purchase is in substance a donation.
(3) Travel lane means the portion of a public street over which motor vehicles travel.
(b) Prohibited acts. It shall be unlawful for any person while in the county:
(1) To panhandle in an aggressive manner; (2) To panhandle within fifteen (15) feet of any automatic teller machine; and (3) To panhandle, while standing or otherwise present in a median or travel lane, from any operator of a motor vehicle located in a travel lane.
(c) Penalty. Any person convicted of violating this section shall be guilty of a class 3 misdemeanor. (No. 94-48, 7-19-94)
The authorization was approved by the Arlington County Board at the Board meeting Saturday, April 1, 1995, under Agenda Item 23f. Our Association received no prior notice of this agenda item, nor was this agenda item publicly advertised in the Arlington Journal's advertised County Board agenda for the Board meeting of April 1, 1995. Also, we reported that the County's grant application includes a funding request for a "Day-Time Drop-In Homeless Shelter," which our Association has strongly opposed since August 1993, when we first learned from County staff that it was being considered for either the Virginia Square Metro area or the Clarendon Metro area. We were told at that time our community had the greatest need for such a facility.
The second issue concerned the lack of proper notice and coordination by the County's Department of Community Planning, Housing, and Development of their Draft Interim Consolidated Plan for FY 1996-1998 with our Association, despite our Association's prior participation in the November 5, 1994, public forum on Housing Community Development.
On April 25, 1995, the Director, Housing and Neighborhood Division, Joan L. Linderman, responded to the BVSCA letter of concern dated April 11 about: (1) the lack of proper notice and coordination by the County's Draft Interim Consolidated Plan for FY 1996-1998 with our Association, despite our prior participation in the November 1994, public forum on Housing Community Development; and (2) the lack of timely notice of the public hearing on April 5 to discuss this plan.
The Director responded with a letter of apology to Secretary Ragland for his "failure" to receive a copy of the Draft Interim Consolidated Plan in early March, along with notice of the public hearing on April 5. The Director indicated that they went back and checked their mailing list. She indicated that the Secretary's name was on the copy of the mailing labels, so it is not known why the Secretary did not receive timely this information. Also, she indicated that the President of the Ballston-Virginia Square Civic Association did receive a copy of the Plan and the public hearing notice. The Executive Committee has since checked with Mr. Robert Sherretta and Executive Committee member, Dorothy Sticken, who also represented the Ballston-Virginia Square Civic Association at the County's November 1994 "Interactive Forum on Housing," and confirmed that neither of these individuals timely received this information.
Also, the Director, Housing and Neighborhood Division, expressed appreciation to our Civic Association for addressing affordable housing and homeless concerns in the community. She thanked the Association for sharing our neighborhood's perspective on current housing and homeless issues. Also, she indicated that Staff has noted the BVSCA concern regarding crime in the neighborhood and our recommendation for a law [or ordinance] against aggressive panhandling. The Director indicated that the County Board concurs and is seeking State enabling legislation for that purpose.
[For our members information, the Executive Committee shared with the County the results of the BVSCA neighborhood survey questionnaire conducted for a two week period ending October 15, 1994. We received 70 responses to the survey. Specifically, subsidized housing was frowned upon (64% opposed to additional spending) as were homeless shelters (52% opposed to additional spending). There was almost an equally strong reaction against spending more County money on a proposed Day-Time Drop-In Homeless Shelter in our community with 78% of the respondents indicating that they would not support such projects. Only a small percentage of those completing the survey expressed a willingness for the County to spend more money for these issues: affordable housing (14%), subsidized housing (15%), and the homeless (22%). Also, there was strong sentiment against the County creating developer incentives for affordable housing with 86% of the survey respondents indicating that they were opposed this year, versus only 54% of the respondents indicating opposition to additional spending on affordable housing in the 1993 BVSCA Neighborhood survey.]
In response to the Association's other concern discussed in the letter, about the $5.6 million application to the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) for Supportive Housing Program (SHP) grant funds, the Director indicated this competitive grant program is separate from the HUD programs funded through the Consolidated Plan, and operates on a different funding time line with an earlier submission deadline. The Notice of Funding Availability was published and regional training was held in late February, with an April 7 application deadline, leaving very little time for required planning.
According to Ms. Linderman "HUD strongly encouraged each jurisdiction to submit one SHP application coordinating all projects planned by the County as well as nonprofit providers, and in fact the Director responded, that more points would be awarded to jurisdictions that demonstrated the development of a local continuum of care of services. HUD directed that the applicant should, to the maximum extent possible, coordinate its efforts with other providers of services and housing to homeless persons, such as nonprofit agencies. The County agreed to become the applicant, necessitating an intensive joint planning process between County staff and several nonprofit providers. County staff needed to review and finalize all proposals, and changes were still being made to the County Board report on March 30, 1995. Because of the late changes, the Director stated it was necessary to place the item on the agenda (for the County Board meeting of April 1, 1995) for supplemental distribution."
Also, Ms. Linderman stated "The deadline for the SHP set by HUD was prior to the deadline for the Consolidated Plan. HUD did not require that the Consolidated Plan include the SHP, nor was it possible to do so within the required SHP deadline. However, the County did not want to lose the opportunity to apply for the SHP funding. It is our intent that once the Consolidated Plan is finalized, any future grant applications be consistent with the Plan. The Consolidated Plan is being updated to reflect the $5.6 million McKinney application."
The SHP application does include a project submitted by a community nonprofit organization to develop a day drop-in program for homeless street persons. The County Board has made clear that while it approved the application in order to take the opportunity to access Federal funding, if the grant funds are awarded, all program proposals will be subject to future Board approval. The County Board is on record, as is the County Manager, that while they believe it would be inappropriate for a public body to provide some types of homeless services, specifically a day drop-in center, the Board does not have the right to forbid private agencies from attempting such programs if they meet all applicable local ordinances.
The Director closed by thanking the [Executive Committee] for sharing the neighborhood's perspective on current housing and homeless issues. Also, she indicated that our detailed review of the Draft Consolidated Plan allows staff to clarify its contents and ensure its accuracy.
Because of the significant increase in additional affordable housing units (or subsidized/assisted rental housing) described in Arlington County's Interim Consolidated Plan for FY 1996-1998, including an additional 1,244 assisted rental housing units proposed for this time period, the Executive Committee obtained the City of Alexandria's Draft Consolidated Plan for Housing and Community Development for comparative analysis purposes with the Arlington Plan.
The Alexandria Plan states that "According to the 1990 Census, 59.5 percent of Alexandria's occupied housing units are renter-occupied, with only 40.5 percent owner-occupied." In comparison, the Alexandria Plan states that 55.4 percent of Arlington's occupied housing units are renter-occupied, with 44.6 percent owner-occupied. In contrast, according to the Alexandria Plan, the Fairfax County average is 29.3% renter-occupied and 70.7% owner-occupied; the Northern Virginia average is 36.0 percent renter-occupied and 64.0 percent owner-occupied; and the national average is 35.8 percent renter-occupied and 64.2 percent owner-occupied. (Note: Based on the Alexandria Plan's data, the level of renter-occupied housing units in Arlington County is 4.1 percent less than the City of Alexandria, but 26.1 percent greater than Fairfax County.)
Over the past decade, the Alexandria Plan states that "The City has experienced a continued increase both in the number of persons making use of City services, specifically housing and human services, and in the cost of providing those services. This trend can be seen in the increasing number of families and individuals receiving assistance under such federal programs as Aid to Families with Dependent Children (AFDC), Food Stamps and free and reduce price lunches. For example, the number of residents receiving AFDC assistance has risen from 26 out of every 1,000 residents in 1985 to over 35 of every 1,000 residents in 1994. Alexandria's 1994 AFDC figure exceeds both Arlington County's at nearly 18 per 1,000 residents and Fairfax County's at 13 of every 1,000 residents."
In addition, the Alexandria Plan states that "Between FY 1988 and 1994, Alexandria's AFDC caseload increased from 753 families to 1,698 families. This represents a 126 percent increase, the largest rate of increase in the state. The AFDC caseload in Arlington County increased 100% and the caseload in Fairfax County increased 117% during this period. By comparison, AFDC caseloads in Virginia and nationwide grew by 32 percent from FY 1988 to FY 1993. Thus, recent AFDC caseload growth in Northern Virginia far outstrips national increases..."
"The City believes that one of the reasons increases in health and human services expenditures have been greater in Alexandria is that the City has higher percentage of assisted housing, a higher percentage of rental units in its housing stock, and lower median rents than other Northern Virginia jurisdictions. As a result, Alexandria has a large transient population, as evidenced by the fact that 32% of Alexandria's population (5% of all owners and 44% of all renter households) moved into their homes between January 1989 and the March 1990 Census (15 months). While the City allocates $4.7 million for early childhood development, many children who benefit from this investment move out of the City before finishing elementary school. In order to stabilize the community, reduce school enrollment turnover and bring the percentage of owner-occupancy in line with that of other jurisdictions, the City encourages homeownership as the top housing priority. As a result, it is anticipated that the demand for social services and schools will become more predictable and manageable, and that the City will cease being a magnet for increasing service demands."
Several members of the Association have recently inquired why Arlington County is dramatically increasing its stock of assisted rental housing units and have expressed concern about the proposed 512 units planned by the County at Buckingham Village, as "moderate rehab" at an approximate cost of $70,000 or more per unit, for very small units and on a cost-per-square foot basis of over $100 per square foot.
For members who are interested in the Buckingham assisted rental housing units, Notice was recently provided in the Arlington Journal, page C12, April 3, 1995, that on "Monday, April 17, 1995 at 1:00 p.m., the Alexandria Redevelopment and Housing Authority (the "Authority") will hold a public hearing which may be continued or adjourned, at the Authority's office in Old town, Alexandria, 600 N. Fairfax Street, Alexandria, Virginia 22314 (the "Public Hearing), to consider a request from the Arlington County Board for the Authority's issuance of up to $34.1 million in tax-exempt revenue bonds pursuant to Chapter 1, Title 36, of the Code of Virginia 1950 (the "Bonds"), and for allocation of 4% of federal Low-income Housing Tax Credits, as part of a $41 million affordable housing preservation and rehabilitation project to be developed by a joint venture Arlington Housing Corporation and Paradigm Development Corporation, involving villages 8, 9, 10, and 11, and part of village 12, of the Buckingham Village in Arlington County, Virginia. Proceeds from the sale of the Bonds will fund the development expenses to be incurred in connection with the acquisition of 524 rental apartment units, twelve of which units will be demolished by Arlington County to accommodate a proposed extension of Quincy Street, and the rehabilitation of the remaining 512 units rental units. Upon completion of the renovation, 230 of the 512 units (45%) will be designated as affordable to households with incomes of or below 60% of area median income, as determined by the United Stated Department of Housing and Urban Development (the "Project")."
Arlington General Assembly delegates and Federation delegates expressed their appreciation to Senator Edward M. Holland, who is retiring after six terms or 24 years of distinguished service to Arlington County in the Virginia Senate. For the last eight years, Holland was the Chairman of the Senate's judiciary committee, the Committee for Courts of Justice. Senator Holland represented the 31st District of the State Senate, which covers the City of Falls Church, parts of North and South Arlington, central Arlington, and the BVSCA community.
Federation delegates asked a number of questions about the status of certain bills, and inquired about the elected representatives views on various issues. These included questions about two bills that the Civic Association has supported the past two years on aggressive panhandling and Initiative and Referendum.
A Civic Federation Delegate inquired about the status of the County's bill on aggressive panhandling, and directed his question to Delegate Darner. Delegate Darner, I'm wondering when and if you will support an aggressive panhandling law?
Delegate Karen Darner (D): "My concern about adopting an ordinance that was dealing specifically with prohibition of aggressive panhandling is number one, the definition of aggressive panhandling and how that would impact on variety of number of people in this room. If we were all to write a definition right now, I'm sure that aggressive would be very, very difficult to find some uniformity. The other thing is that I see that as something just moves people from one spot in the county to another spot in the county, and it also does not deal with the long term with the problem that is very evident-- and I think that is perhaps the multi-purpose facility that we have on Columbia Pike with the beginning of dealing with some of the problems with regards to panhandling and the presence of people on the streets. But it's not necessarily people in that particular category, and I have a good deal of concern of looking at a package deal with regard to handling problems of this particular nature. I think we've had a debate and a meeting at my home last fall with people from all over the county representing a variety of positions on this issue. When we came away from that meeting, I think we had a better understanding about where a variety of people were on the issue and why, but not necessarily what the solution was going to be. But one of the issues that came forward was that Arlington has, there seems to be a difference of opinion, but Arlington has the authority to go ahead and do that type of legislation now or ordinance if they want to do it on a local level. It does not need legislative authority from the state government from the legislature. At this particular point, I haven't heard anymore because as far as I know there wasn't anything that was offered during the General Assembly on that issue."
Senator Calhoun (R): "In the City of Alexandria, we have an ordinance on the subject. Let me mildly demur with what Karen has suggested. It is not a denigration of a policy that one ought to deal with the problems of homeless people and others who for whatever reason do panhandle. That is wholly separate and distinct from dealing with that particular act. Taking an urban area, from what's called in Sociology, the broken window syndrome. If an urban area particularly allows its streets to be unsafe, or are to be perceived of being unsafe, whether its due to public drinking which is a problem that's quite serious in Alexandria, I have not seen that over here. We had a lot of problems with people walking around the streets with single cans of beer or just getting potted and bothering people and we have got a legislation issue to deal with that. Panhandling tends to fall much in the same category. Not long ago I was approached twice by the same person over at Court House Square, not aggressive particularly, but just annoying. I had given him 50 cents, but he approached me again.
The District of Columbia which is not considered an ultra conservative reactionary jurisdiction has an ordinance on this subject. They don't find it necessary to enforce it very often, but by the very fact that they have it tends to self-enforce. I can tell you as one who works in the District everyday and has to walk across Farragut West Park, the Metro station. That place used to be just a gauntlet for that kind of activity, people shaking fists and hands at you, it is no longer. People are still there and occasionally ask, but they do ask. But that is far as they go and I have not seen the police to find it necessary to hassle people, or do anything else. The message is out, this is not acceptable conduct, and that seems to take care of it."
Senator Janet Howell (D): "The session before this one, the aggressive panhandling bill did come before the Senate. Bob [Senator Calhoun] and I both, I believe, did vote for it, both in committee and on the Senate floor and it was carried over to the House. I voted for it although I have some concerns that it is not going to serve the purposes. I think our highest priority really is to have safety in our neighborhoods and a perception of safety and we need to do what we can for that. My fear is that having done it with aggressive panhandling, we'll think we've solved something and I don't think we'll have solved much of anything, unless we get at some of the root causes as to why people are doing it. I feel that we are getting away from looking at some of the root causes and that is another cause of concern."
Another Civic Federation Delegate inquired about the status of the bill on Initiative and Referendum, which the Arlington County Civic Federation has supported for the past two years. The Federation Delegate stated "I was one of the six or seven speakers that spoke to the Arlington County delegates on Initiative and Referendum (in January 1995). "I think it was something like 15 percent or 20 percent of all the speakers that came before you indicated that they were in favor of it. One of who was a [representative of United Virginians for Initiative and Referendum], who had corrected a lot of misinformation about how "tedious" it was in California. She pointed out that the people there were overwhelmingly in favor of it despite some who had labeled it as tedious. I'm just wondering, all these people appeared before you and it seems to get bogged down in committee. It just seems, it's getting nowhere year after year. Just to add one thing, if we had it, people could have voted here on whether or not we should have a meals tax, which I believe has been defeated in public referendums 3 or 4 times in Prince William County. It just seems to me that it's something a lot of people are calling for, and it doesn't seem to be getting any response from the legislators. I'd just like to know your opinion on this, if you're working on this or what?"
Senator Calhoun (R): "My opinion is right in there (Senator Calhoun held up the March/April 1995 BVSCA Newsletter, which he had apparently picked up at the beginning of the Federation meeting). You can see how I voted on the issue. I'm the only one up at the delegates table who had to vote on the issue because I'm on the committee that considered it. What we are talking about is what we call in the General Assembly, "I&R", Initiative and Referendum. That's a subject that's become very trendy in this country again. It was very popular in the early part of the 20th century and it went into limbo and it's come back into fashion. You're wrong in saying we are not getting anywhere. Because in years past, it probably wouldn't have even gotten to a vote, at least in the Senate's Privileges and Elections (P&E) Committee, which considers all constitutional amendments and this is what it would be. This year it did in fact get a vote. The fact that it lost by 8-7 vote, I was one of the 7 does not negate the value of what you're trying to do. Now having said that, I have to tell you, the particular proposal that we had and had the vote otherwise been 8-7, the other way, I still think there would have been some more amending done to it before it got out on the floor. There are a couple of things from the California experience, I for one do not want to emulate. I don't think you ought to allow more than one or two of these things on the ballot, statewide at least in a year. California loads their ballot up with a fruit basket full of stuff and I don't think half of the people know what they they're voting for. People in California seem to confirm that kind of superficial impression.
Secondly, there are certain things you might have to just rule out of bounds. I'm not so sure you can put to at least a state government level, you might be able to do in a county or city level, issues involving taxation and budget in a detailed sort of way. The issue of whether a sales tax or not, income tax or not, or BPOL tax, that's basic policy issues. I don't mind putting that up for a referendum. I do mind putting up for a referendum whether we shall raise the sales tax by 1/2 cent. Because that gives you power without responsibility. You get to vote that down but you don't have to cut the budget to make the money come out right. I'm not going to let voters have the sweet part of the problem but not take the bitter along with it. That goes back to my days in local government. Easy to say you want to cut taxes but a lot harder to say you want to cut spending. When push comes to shove, usually what you end up doing is cutting neither, because people won't want to belly up to the bar and do it. If you want the right to cut taxes on a referendum, I'm going to make you vote on a budget too to balance it. I don't think most people want to do that. But subject to those two qualifications, I don't see anything wrong in letting people having the right to vote on things. I went to school in Massachusetts, where they have it. It seems to work fine and that's probably a better example than California."
Senator Ed Holland (D): "I never voted on it, I'm not on P&E. My bet has been against it because I had thought in Virginia where we have elections every 2 years for members of the house, every 4 years for members of the senate, that the issues that were likely needed to put on a ballot by initiative and referendum could be brought to the floor. For example, the lottery, constitutional amendment originally, then a statute to implement it. Horse racing, parimutuel betting on horses actually. More recently, riverboat gambling and incidently, it was a close question with me. If I had been voting on Riverboat Gambling as to putting it on a referendum, I would have voted to put it on a referendum because I think the people ought to be able to vote on it. So to that extent, I agree with you, at least I think that's the kind of issue I think should be put to a referendum. But Bob's points about the budget process are right, in my view because you do have more than just the question of whether or not to cut taxes. Don't tax me, don't tax you, tax the man behind the tree, whatever. That syndrome is out there, in responsible government, you have to make decisions based upon where your taxes are going to be spent and where they're going to be raised or not raised; and where you're going to cut, if you don't raise the taxes. So that's about where I am on the thing. I know from California, I have a son who was in school there and he registered to vote while he was there and got his booklet. It was a book about elections in November. It was 144 pages, and that was the year they were voting on the roll back of insurance premiums and after that was agreed to, what was that 101 or 111? I forget the number, but anyway it was agreed to that the insurance companies were required to roll back premiums and there was a lot of confusion in the voters mind for voting for this, and not understanding why insurance companies were leaving California, and why they were finding loopholes in requiring that they roll back their premiums. It was a very complicated question and it just didn't seem to me, one that didn't lend itself well to being put on initiative and referendum. Maybe you can say it was a process problem, but my view is this process is not yet well enough perfected that I would support initiative and referendum."
Delegate Judy Connally (D): "I serve in the house, but neither Karen nor I are on Privilege and Elections, which is the committee this would go to and I think on the whole I lean against it too for the number of reasons that has been suggested because one, you can add a referendum onto a bill as we have repeatedly done when the lottery came up. Also, I'm concerned about when you get a very complex issue, in addition to finance issues such as abortion. I remember that Maryland, when they had the abortion issue on the referendum about 2 years ago. I think there was enormous confusion and people voted the way they didn't mean to vote just because the language was very awkward. I think you do have a communication problem. I'm also concerned about controversial issues--you will give a field day to the lobbyists and you think it's an opportunity for greater individual freedom and I can see it being very big bucks for a lot of the lobbyists who will, at least it seems to me be mounting these enormous campaigns in favor of one side of an issue or the other. On the other hand, when I deal with tobacco and the use of tobacco with minors in the state of Virginia, I am beginning to forsake all those other rational reasons. I bet we could get an initiative and referendum on this; and we might get some control at least of youth access to tobacco. On the other hand, I know that concealed weapons would have been very popular and a rash of things."
Delegate Karen Darner (D): "I'll echo what Ed and Judy have said. In addition to the fact, that it becomes a bipartisan issue. It becomes an issue that's not supported on an urban versus rural division because of the very issues that Judy was highlighting. If we're going to allow for a referendum on the cigarette tax or on access by minors to tobacco, then we can allow for a referendum on gun use, on concealed weapon permits, on zoning possibilities for various localities. It just opens it wide-up to a great deal of concern about, what in the world is going to happen with regard to control from the citizenry, because you're going to have a number of lobbyists that are going be involved in that and a polarization that might be present. I think that's why we're hardly at this particular point putting the referendum on various pieces of legislation. But at least in Virginia, we are being fairly selective at this point."
Senator Janet Howell (D): "I also haven't had the opportunity to vote on this because it never came out of P&E, but I have signed on as cosponsor for Delegate Vince Callahan's (R) bill for initiative and referendum and also Senator Charlie Waddell's (D) bill and maybe some others, I don't remember. To me, it's almost part of democracy that you have some form of initiative and referendum. I also believe in recall, as a matter of fact. I don't think we should limit it to--we only have a referendum when the legislature deems we should have one. I think there should be an opportunity for it to come beyond us from a different perspective. I do think though, if anything ever gets to the floor, I'm going to want to look real carefully at the percentage of the voters that need to sign and the distribution throughout the state of those voters. I think that's legitimate and I wouldn't want as Bob was saying, the California type of situation where you could have 100 bills like this. The California situation also has some lessons in it just in terms of how well big business does with the initiatives, and I hope that we could tailor something different that would work for us but we would still have the initiative and referendum."
Senator Bob Calhoun (R): "Just a couple of additional points that Senator Howell just made, I forgot to mention. That's another amendment we ought to put into the bill, and that is the distribution for the petitions. To require there must be a certain number. I think the thing we were using, each congressional district, so you don't pile them on one part of the state. One of the ironies in all of this subject is that the business community in states where they do have it, that includes the District of Columbia which has a referendum provision, I guess they have both over there. They also have the hybrid, that's where you can petition a legislative item onto the ballot. Something that the legislators have already passed. You can overrule in a referendum. The business community in this state is horrified at the whole idea of having I&R in this state because they worry about things like the right to work law that might go on the ballot, or we might get a bottle bill in Virginia. And you only have to look across the river, the District's City Council passed a bottle bill and the bottle industry proceeded to put it on the ballot and they killed it. And so two can play at that particular game. Basically, you're going to have to come down to the proposition, you're the folks that vote for us, and you're also the folks that vote in referendums so basically it's your government, not our government, and I guess it's our job and it's the job for those people who want a particular initiative or referendum as the case may pass or not to pass, do what citizens are suppose to do, and that is to get involved in their government. And to the extent they do not do so and let the special interest people, the lobbyists, the men in the gucci shoes and Brooks Brothers suits as we call them, and through the process you only have yourselves to blame.
In those places, I'll give you one example of local government level where initiative works to the citizens advantage. There are 3 cities in Virginia, all of them in Tidewater, who have had in their charters since apparently 1920's initiative and referendum. That's not commonly known. One case I can tell you about is the City of Chesapeake. The Chesapeake City Council passed in the minds of many of a very bad zoning ordinance that they felt in the words of some people, they (the council) were in the pockets of the developer. Under their charter, they had a right to petition that zoning ordinance onto the ballot, and they did so and they overturned it, and said we are as good a judge as you folks on the city council of how our community ought to look. We don't like what you did! The Virginia Supreme Court upheld that process against the constitutional challenge. That doesn't happen very often. Referendums are expensive to mount, it takes effort to go around and get signatures and ask anyone of us who run for office, who have to get signatures. But it is a useful safety valve and I think it is one way, I hope reinvigorating people's interest, civic interest in their government. I hope it happens."