Talk of a behind-the-scenes deal between Arlington County officials and the development community was quashed at a recent meeting of the county's affordable-housing roundtable. The group is racing to reach an agreement on developer contributions to affordable housing before the General Assembly convenes in January.

Millions of dollars in affordable-housing financing are at stake. And while the county was able, in an eleventh-hour deal in February, to stave off state lawmakers' attempts to limit its ability to ask developers for affordable-housing money, there's no guarantee that lawmakers won't try to intervene again if Arlington can't get its act together.

But at the Oct. 5 roundtable meeting, County Manager Ron Carlee provided few specifics, frustrating some of those present.

He told the assembled developers, county officials and housing activists that a working group would be formed within the working group to hash out a deal, with the hope of having a formal proposal at the roundtable's next meeting, set for Tuesday.

Some were not pleased with the delay.

"I could have skipped every meeting until this one," said Andrew A. Viola, regional vice president of Bush Construction Corp.

A question remains, Viola said: "Is there going to come a point when there is common ground between what the development community is willing to give and what the housing advocates and the county think they should do? I don't see it, frankly."

Viola said he doubted that an agreement could be reached by Tuesday. "There won't be anybody smoking a peace pipe," he said.

What of Rumored Switch?

Democrats in Alexandria were all set to be outraged earlier this month, when Internet rumors said that outgoing Sheriff James H. Dunning would cross party lines and formally endorse a successor -- Republican William C. Cleveland, a retired U.S. Capitol Police officer and former City Council member -- at a news conference on the steps of the courthouse. Cleveland is running for sheriff against Democrat Dana A. Lawhorne, an Alexandria police detective.

When the banner day arrived, however, Dunning was nowhere to be seen. But Maryland Lt. Gov. Michael S. Steele (R) showed up to endorse Cleveland.

Why Steele, who hails from across the river?

"We've been knowing each other since 1996," Cleveland said gruffly, before rushing off the phone. Dunning this week said he was still a Democrat and was enthusiastically supporting the state-wide Democratic ticket. He said his endorsement of a candidate for sheriff could come as early as today.

"I'll make an announcement later in the week," he said Monday. "It's very personal and important to me."

Dunning, who ran unopposed for all but the first of his five terms, announced in January that he would not seek reelection -- a decision he said he had reached with his wife, Nancy, before she was shot to death in their Del Ray home in December 2003. The crime remains unsolved.

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