Josh Ruebner is emphasizing affordable housing in his third-party quest to get on the County Board.
By By David Schultz
Monday, August 13, 2007
Today’s color-coded politics are dominated by the fight between red and blue – i.e., red states against blue states. But Josh Ruebner wants to add another color to our bifurcated political spectrum: green.
The local Green Party’s candidate for Arlington County Board is trying to use his campaign to inject a new way of thinking into local politics, despite the long odds that face anyone who runs for public office on a third party ticket.
“Lots of people in Arlington are tired of one-party rule,” Ruebner said. “I think that the progressive values that the Green Party stands for are going to attract more and more adherence.”
The Arlington chapter of the Green Party was founded shortly after Green candidate Ralph Nader’s controversial 2000 presidential campaign. While the national Green Party is known for its far-left stances on a variety of topics, Ruebner has chosen to make affordable housing, an issue of local importance, the centerpiece of his campaign.
“The county is pursuing development projects with little local benefits,” he said.
A LACK OF AFFORDABLE HOUSING in the county has been a problem for several years now, dating back to the early part of the decade.
From 2002 to 2006, the average rent for a three-bedroom apartment in Arlington has increased by 15 percent while the average price of a single family home skyrocketed to more than $600,000 in that same time. This are prices beyond the reach of many government employees such as police officers, firemen, teachers and civil servants.
The Green Party is in the process of putting an initiative on the ballot that would establish a housing authority in Arlington. The authority would have the power to float its own municipal bonds that could pay for private land, which could be turned into public housing.
Proponents of the housing authority initiative say that it would allow the county to acquire land for affordable housing on its own instead of having to rely on an assortment of private housing developers.
“In Arlington… they have all these non-profits,” said John Reeder, a Green Party activist who is spearheading the initiative effort, “And that’s fine but they all duplicate each other [and] none of them are large enough to bite off a big project,” such as the recent Buckingham Village deal completed by the county earlier this year.
Ruebner is fully behind his party’s attempts to create this housing authority because he said that, if elected, his number one priority will be to “increase the stock of affordable housing in Arlington”
DESPITE BEING one of the youngest candidates for public office in Arlington this year, Ruebner cannot be classified as a neophyte in the local political scene.
He ran an unsuccessful campaign for County Board last year against Republican Mike McMenamin and longtime incumbent Democrat Chris Zimmerman. Despite receiving less than five percent of the vote, Ruebner views his previous campaign optimistically.
“It was the first time the Green Party had run a candidate locally,” he said, “[And] it was first time I had been involved in local politics, so we were starting from square one. I was very heartened that I got as much support as I did.”
“I think we didn’t know what to expect last time,” said Kirit Mookorjee, the chairman of the local Green Party and Ruebner’s campaign manager last year.
Mookorjee said that Ruebner’s 2007 campaign will not focus as much on responding to the other candidates in the race but, instead, will be working to convey the county’s dire need for more affordable places to live.
Ruebner said that he believes his campaign is at an advantage this year, because of last year’s failed attempt.
“This year we’re starting from a much stronger base,” he said. “There’s much greater name [recognition] for me and [for] the party in general.” Ruebner added that, while getting elected to a countywide seat is a “multi-year process,” many Arlingtonians share his way of thinking about the problems the county faces.
“People in Arlington will have a wide choice for County Board this year,” he said. “[And] we have positions that resonate within the community.