Welcome to the website for Josh Ruebner, Green Party candidate for Arlington County Board. In 2006, I ran for the County Board to promote affordable housing and to end Arlington’s over-development and gentrification.
The Arlington Sun Gazette gave me the highest grade-an A minus-for any of the County Board candidates at last fall’s Arlington County Civic Federation candidates’ forum. “Somebody out there has to raise the fact that the County Board is standing by as gentrification takes place, and it looks like Ruebner’s the one,” the paper reported. The Arlington Connection noted that I “surprised many in the community by running a strong campaign this past fall as the Green Party candidate for County Board,” and the Washington Post commended me for running a “thoughtful” campaign.
This year I’m running again for County Board to continue to advocate for more affordable housing; to end over-development and gentrification in Arlington; to promote diversity, racial and economic justice; to protect the environment; to advance sensible transportation polices, and much more.
Thank you for visiting my website and together let’s work to turn Arlington Green!
Josh Ruebner is a 10-year resident of Arlington County and is currently the Vice-President of the Homeowners’ Association of Carrington Village, a townhouse community located near the intersection of Columbia Pike and Washington Blvd.
Josh is a long-time activist for peace and justice. He works as the Grassroots Advocacy Coordinator for the US Campaign to End the Israeli Occupation, a coalition of more than 200 organizations working to change US policy toward Israel/Palestine to support human rights and international law. He has also served in leadership positions with United for Peace and Justice, helping to organize some of the largest protests against the U.S. war on and occupation of Iraq. Josh is also a board member of the National Peace Foundation and is an instructor at the Social Action and Leadership School for Activists (SALSA) of the Institute for Policy Studies.
Prior to becoming a political activist, Josh worked as an Analyst in Middle East Affairs at Congressional Research Service, a non-partisan federal government agency which provides Members of Congress with policy analysis. Josh has a graduate degree in International Affairs from Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies and an undergraduate degree in Political Science from the University of Michigan.
Promoting Affordable Housing
Over the last six years, Arlington has lost more than half of its stock of market-rate affordable housing units. The situation has gotten so bad that the county no longer publishes figures on the loss of market-rate affordable housing units in its Annual Affordable Housing Targets Report.
On top of the huge loss of market-rate affordable housing, the county also has failed to achieve over the past three years its very modest goal of adding 400 new committed affordable housing units per year.
The current policy mix of granting bonus density to developers to build committed affordable housing units and providing loans and other assistance to non-profit affordable housing developers is not adequate to meet the enormous challenge faced by our community’s loss of affordable housing.
That is why the Arlington Green Party has collected signatures for a ballot initiative to create a public housing authority for Arlington. I strongly endorse the creation of a public housing authority to help solve our affordable housing crisis. By enabling the county to purchase and maintain committed affordable housing units in perpetuity and by creating a vehicle to issue bonds for the construction of affordable housing, a public housing authority will greatly help to expand Arlington’s pool of affordable housing.
Ending Over-Development and Gentrification
The same market forces that have led to the loss of market-rate affordable housing in Arlington have also driven its over-development and gentrification. As market-rate affordable housing has been replaced by luxury apartments, condos, and townhouses, many working-class and fixed-income individuals have been pushed out of Arlington.
Increasingly, Arlington—now the 7th wealthiest jurisdiction per capita in the entire country—is becoming an exclusive community for the well-to-do. This gentrification has had a terrible impact on the diversity of the community, a value that Arlington claims to hold dear.
Nor does it seem like the process of over-development and gentrification is at an end. The Arlington County Planning Division forecasts that Arlington’s population will increase by more than 43,000 people from 2005-2030. With the Rosslyn-Ballston corridor nearing its bursting point, it appears that future over-development and gentrification will be shifted south to Columbia Pike. County Board member Jay Fisette confirmed as much when he stated that Columbia Pike will look like Clarendon in five years.
Although county leaders claim that they are powerless to stop this process of over-development and gentrification, actions taken by the Loudon County and Prince William County boards demonstrate otherwise. Both counties voted to halt major residential rezoning applications in 2007, and Loudoun took the additional step of capping the density of development in the western half of the county. As a member of the County Board, I will study the decisions of Loudon and Prince William Counties to determine what steps Arlington can take to end the over-development and gentrification that are harming our community.
Supporting Diversity, Racial and Economic Justice
Arlington’s leadership rightfully points to the county’s diversity as one of its positive attributes. I think that our diversity is the largest single asset we have in our community.
However, according to the county’s own statistics, Arlington has become a less diverse community this decade. From 2000-2005, Arlington became more white and lost parts of its African-American, Latino, and multi-racial communities. This loss of diversity is partially attributable to the corresponding loss of affordable housing and resultant gentrification outlined above.
If Arlington is to honor its commitment to diversity, then it should look to expand affordable housing and end the over-development and gentrification that has, in part, caused this decrease in diversity.
Supporting diversity means more than just cultural celebrations—it also means a commitment to racial justice. Earlier this year, the state legislature passed a resolution apologizing for Virginia’s historic role in promoting and maintaining slavery in the United States. Now that this apology has been made, it is long past due for Virginia to end its tradition of honoring those who fought to defend slavery. As a member of the County Board, I will work to rename all streets and highways in Arlington that are named for defenders of slavery and replace their names with those brave Americans who worked to defeat slavery.
In 2003, the Arlington County Board passed a commendable ordinance that requires contractors doing substantial business with the county to pay their employees a living wage. The adoption of this ordinance represents a good first step toward Arlington being a community where employers pay their employees living wages. However, even many employees of the county–police officers, librarians, and teachers–still cannot afford to live in Arlington and many service-sector employees are paid degrading, poverty-inducing minimum wages.
Although Arlington County cannot compel private sector companies to adhere to a living wage standard, there are steps that the county should take to encourage the extension of the living wage concept into the private sector. As a member of the County Board, I will encourage private sector employees to pay their employees a living wage by publishing a list of and commending employers who voluntarily pay their employees a living wage and urging the public to patronize them.
Caring for the Environment
This year Arlington launched a new program, called Fresh AIRE (Arlington Initiative to Reduce Emissions), to reduce its carbon footprint. By planting trees, purchasing more wind-generated electricity, and installing solar energy in county building, Fresh AIRE aims to reduce the government’s carbon emissions 10% by 2012.
Fresh AIRE is an admirable start to reducing Arlington’s carbon footprint; however, more far-reaching steps are needed. Even with the anticipated reduction in carbon emissions through Fresh AIRE, the FY2008 proposed budget still anticipates that overall carbon emissions in the county will rise by an additional 5,000 tons in FY2008.
As a member of the County Board, I will do more to encourage Arlington’s private sector to build green. The county currently encourages green building practices by granting bonus density to developers who build to Leadership in Energy and Environmental (LEED)-specifications and moving homeowners to the front of the line for plan reviews when they build through the Green Home Choice Program.
These programs could be enhanced greatly by providing a tax rebate, either for a set number of years or possibly in perpetuity, for green homeowners through a program similar to the homeowner grant program, which provides tax rebates to homeowners of modest means.
As a member of the County Board, I will do more to increase recycling and reduce waste disposal by expanding curbside-recycling to include #3-6 plastics, stationing recycling receptacles in Arlington’s parks and other public gathering places, institute year-round lawn clipping recycling, and switching over Arlington’s flat-rate waste disposal tax to pay-as-you-throw (PAYT) pricing that encourages recycling and composting.
Another way to care for the environment and improve public health is to ban smoking in public places, including restaurants. To shield the community from the ill-effects of second-hand smoke, as a member of the County Board I will follow the City of Alexandria’s lead and use Arlington’s zoning powers to ban smoking in restaurants and other public places.
Advocating for Sensible Transportation Options
The westbound lane of I-66 is currently in the process of being widened under the guise of “spot improvements.” These so-called “spot improvements” will, in effect, create a de facto third lane in violation of the federal government’s agreement to limit I-66 to two lanes in both directions.
In the past, the county has done a good job of voicing its opposition to the widening of I-66; however, lately, the county’s commitment to not widening I-66 appears to be faltering. In May 2007, County Board member Chris Zimmerman voted for the inclusion of these “spot improvements” in the 2007 Constrained Long Range Plan of the Transportation Planning Board.
As a member of the County Board, I would continue to speak out against the unwise widening of I-66, including widening under the guise of “spot improvements.”
As recently as July 2007, County Board Chair Paul Ferguson reiterated the board’s support for a $120 million trolley system for Columbia Pike even though 12,000 people ride buses daily on Columbia Pike, making it the heaviest-used bus route in Virginia. A trolley system for Columbia Pike is both expensive and unnecessary. A trolley would create dangers for bikers and pedestrians and slow down car and bus traffic.
The county’s commitment to a trolley system for Columbia Pike appears to be based on a desire to make the area more appealing for developers to gentrify, rather than to improve its public transportation. As a member of the County Board, I will work to ensure that boondoggles for developers do not get confused with sensible transportation policy.
Supporting Clean Electoral Campaigns
According to the Virginia State Board of Elections, developers and others with real estate interests contributed approximately 10% of money received by the Arlington County Democratic Committee (ACDC) in 2006. The ACDC then used these funds to support the combined campaigns of Arlington’s Democratic candidates for office. Since the main responsibility of the County Board is to determine land-use policies and rule on land-use applications, it is inappropriate for candidates to accept money from people who materially benefit from these decisions.
Earlier this year, the Loudon County Board passed a resolution to ban campaign contributions from developers with pending business before the board. As a candidate for County Board, I pledge not to accept any contributions from developers or other real estate interests, or from any corporations. I call upon the other candidates for County Board to join me in this pledge and also urge them to reject money from any political party that accepts contributions from developers or other real estate interests. The Green Party, as a rule, accepts no corporate contributions.
Enacting a Human Rights Contracting Ordinance
Arlington has an admirable record of protecting the human rights of its residents. As a member of the County Board, I will work to extend Arlington’s human rights ordinance to include a human rights contracting provision. Too often, corporations profit from human rights abuses, whether it is Caterpillar profiting from Israel’s demolition of Palestinian homes or Coca-Cola profiting from the destruction of groundwater resources of villagers near its bottling plants in India. Enacting a human rights contracting provision will ensure that the county does not sign contracts with corporations that profit from human rights violations.
As a County Board member, I will also work to include a human rights provision in the business licensing process. Unfortunately, several corporations that are headquartered or have offices in Arlington are war profiteers and at least one, CACI, has been implicated in the torture of Iraqi prisoners at Abu Ghraib. Instead of making Arlington an inhospitable place for human rights violators like CACI, earlier this year County Board Chair Paul Ferguson actually recognized its CEO’s contributions to the community! Corporations that profit from human rights violations should be stripped of their license to do business in Arlington, not lauded by the county.
Events of Note
Wednesday, October 17, 8:00PM
Donaldson Run Civic Association Candidates’ Night
Taylor Elementary School, Multi-Purpose Room
2600 N. Stuart
Sunday, October 21, 11:00AM
Jewish Community Relations Council Candidates’ Forum
Congregation Etz Hayim
2920 Arlington Blvd.
Wednesday, October 24, 7:00PM
Friends of South Arlington Candidates’ Forum
Wakefield High School, Room 110
4901 S. Chesterfield Rd.
Thursday, October 25, 7:30PM
Rock Springs Civic Association Candidates’ Forum
Williamsburg Middle School 3600 N. Harrison St.
Tuesday, October 30, 7:00PM
N.W. Arlington Civic Associations Candidates Night
Resurrection Lutheran Church 6201 N. Washington Blvd.
Thursday Nov. 1, 8:00PM
Barcroft School and Civic League Candidates Forum
Barcroft Community Hall S. 8th and Buchanan
Monday, October 15, 3:15PM
Candidate Open Forum
Jefferson Senior Living Condominium
900 N. Taylor St.
Monday, October 15, 7:30PM
Arlington Citizens for the Arts
Gunston School, Theater II
Wednesday, October 10, 6:30PM
Aurora Highlands/Ridge Road Civic Associations Candidates’ Forum
Aurora Hills Recreation Center
735 18th Street So
Monday, October 8, 8PM
Lyon Village Civic Association Candidates’ Forum
Lyon Village Community Center
1923 N. Highland St.
Monday October 1, 6pm
American Association of University Women Candidates’ Forum
Arlington County Central Library
1015 N. Quincy Street
Sunday, September 30, 2:00PM
Candidate Meet and Greet, Hosted by Steve Thurston
Arlington Oaks Community Center
4490 N. Pershing Dr.
Tuesday, September 25, 12:00PM
Organized Women Voters of Arlington Meeting
4770 Lee Highway
Sunday, September 23, 6:30PM
Arab American Institute, 19th Annual Virginia Candidates’ Night
Tysons Corner Marriott
8028 Leesburg Pike, Vienna, VA
Wednesday, September 19, 7PM
Ashton Heights Candidates’ Night
Clarendon United Methodist Church
606 N. Irving St.
Tuesday September 4, 7pm
Arlington County Civic Federation Candidates’ Forum
Hazel Conference Center, Virginia Hospital Center
1701 N. George Mason Dr.
Wednesday, October 10, 7:00PM
Radnor/Ft. Myer Heights Civic Association Candidates’ Forum
Belvedere Party Room
1600 N. Oak St.