Thursday, September 13, 2007

A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the ANDC Meeting…

…or near the end of it.

Gene Betit, self-described as retired from military intelligence, and now a social justice outreach minister with Our Lady Queen of Peace Catholic Church (according to his business card), called for the impeachment of both President Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney at the latest Arlington New Directions Coalition meeting. This was an odd request for a group primarily concerned with affordable housing, economic fairness and diversity in the county, and other quality of life issues for people of modest means. Although some at the table may have agreed with Mr. Betit, the general consensus was that the ANDC generally did not involve itself with impeaching the president.

Then John Reeder, of the Arlington Green Party, made a pitch for the ANDC to support the creation of an Arlington Housing Authority. Mr. Reeder passed around a handout outlining the top 10 reasons for creation of the Housing Authority while he explained that a housing authority would give the county more power to conserve affordable housing by buying and selling property. It would even allow the county to “condemn and take housing.” That raised eyebrows in the room.

Mr. Reeder with the Green Party (and their candidate for county board, Josh Ruebner) has gotten the AHA’s creation onto the Nov. 8, 2008, ballot. They were trying for Nov. 6, 2007, but the county board meeting where the referendum was to be considered for the ballot came a day after the deadline for adding it. (Those decisions are off to court.) The last time it came to a vote was 1982.

My take: Why can’t a group that has the signatures (on the correct form, please) advance a referendum that they create directly to the Circuit Court? It seems that the step of giving it first to the county board, where a board could delay action (I’m not saying that happened here) or in other ways interfere, and then moving it to the court gives power to officialdom when the act of creating a referendum is a grassroots thing. I don’t want to have us govern like California with everything on ballot initiatives, but it would seem to me removing the middle man might help. From what I understand, the state fears the referenda of the people. And John, I wouldn't use the "condemn and take" line too much in the stump speeches.

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