Affiliate Spotlight: Nicola Y. Whiteman, Esq, AOBA
Nicola Y. Whiteman, Esq. is the Senior Vice President of Government Affairs for the Apartment and Office Building Association of Metropolitan Washington (AOBA). AOBA represents the commercial and multifamily industry in the Washington D.C. area. NAA caught up with Nicola to discuss AOBA’s legislative priorities in 2015, her day-to-day responsibilities and her favorite vegetable, kale:
NAA: What are your association’s state legislative priorities in 2015?
NW: In D.C., we are partnering with elected officials and regulators on developing affordable housing and environmental solutions. Specifically, we are developing proposals, such as a rental assistance program, which AOBA believes will be responsive to D.C.’s affordable housing needs. We are also reviewing existing environmental or sustainable programs to determine what financing structures can be utilized to assist owners and managers with energy efficiency implementation. In Maryland, we are opposing rent control, just cause eviction, and other energy and employer mandates that would raise costs. Finally, in Virginia, we are harmonizing state laws to make technical and other edits to the Virginia Residential Landlord Tenant Act and the Virginia Landlord Tenant Act. AOBA is also opposing attempts to limit the powers of the state utility regulator, the State Corporation Commission, at the expense of ratepayers. Recently, AOBA successfully advanced legislation to ensure that the cost of any utility system expansion to serve new economic development prospects would be recovered at the expense of the newly served customer, and not spread across the entire rate-paying base.
NAA: What are your association’s local legislative/regulatory priorities for 2015?
NW: In D.C., we are working with elected officials and regulatory personnel to identify balanced solutions to D.C.’s affordable housing needs and engaging policymakers on the impact of the D.C.’s regulatory climate and how to foster a business environment for growth (i.e., needed reforms, including fee structures, energy costs and tax policies). In Montgomery County, Md., we want to develop responsible housing and environmental policies and in Prince George’s County, Md. we are opposing rent control, just cause eviction, and other employer mandates that would raise costs. Over in Arlington, VA AOBA is focused on eliminating burdensome and costly fire systems inspections and fees. In Fairfax, VA, we are opposing proposals to related to new development to require electric vehicle charging equipment, streamlining development processes and opposing retrofit requirements for existing commercial and multifamily properties dictating proximity between waste containers and stormwater drains.
NAA: How did you get involved in politics?
NW: Canvassing with the Georgetown University College Democrats.
NAA: What is the most challenging aspect of your job and what is the most rewarding aspect of your job?
NW: On any given day, we receive questions on a wide range of issues related to our members’ ability to do business. The most rewarding moment is when I have identified a solution to a member’s problem, or connected them with the right person who can address their issues. Being a reliable resource for our members is a critical part of our job.
NAA: What are your typical day-to-day responsibilities?
NW: First, troubleshooter: Helping members quickly find a solution to a problem so they can focus their time and resources on the operation of their buildings and tenant relations. Second, assistant: Being a resource to the regional vice presidents. Most recently, I accompanied our Virginia Vice President for a scheduled Lobby Day in Richmond. My role is to make sure the regional vice presidents have the resources they need to effectively do their job.
NAA: What is your current “hot” project?
NW: Collecting additional data about operating costs for owners/manager companies in the three jurisdictions so that the regional vice presidents can quickly quantify the impact of proposed legislative and regulatory changes. We also are emphasizing the contribution of apartments to local and state economies. Most recently, for example, we used economic impact information generated by the NAA and NMHC for meetings in Virginia to highlight the significant contributions of our industry to that state.
NAA: What is your favorite political movie?
NW: Mitt, the documentary about Mitt Romney. I walked away with a better understanding of Mitt Romney the person, not just Romney the politician.
NAA: Where did you go to school?
NW: Georgetown University and Villanova University School of Law.
NAA: Is there anything else about your job, association or personal bit of information that you would like your colleagues across the country to know about?
NW: I love to talk about kale, my favorite vegetable. Personal friends and professional colleagues, even AOBA members, now send me updates whenever kale is mentioned in the news. The lesson is that people can make invaluable connections over something that may seem insignificant. Additionally, work issues can be complex, so it helps to share and learn about the interests of others. It’s far easier to discuss complex, even controversial issues when there is a personal connection with the person with whom you are interacting.