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Federation of Citizens Associations of the District of Columbia

Federation News

Volume 10, Issue 6, March 2004
3710 S Street, NW, Washington, DC 20007
(202) 338-5164 phone/fax

Full Council to Vote on ABC Rule Changes on April 6
Property Taxes
Free Lead Screenings
Federation Endorses Zoning Commission Candidate
Start Reserving Tables for the May 19 94th Anniversary Annual Awards Banquet
Senator Hatch Opposes DC Gun Ban
Free WASA Test Kits
Council Opposes Gay Marriage Amendment
Officers and Board
President's Message: Quality of Life Issues, Carroll Green
Federation Board
Do the District's Superior Court Proceedings Need Polishing?, Guy Gwynne
Federation Assembly Meeting Dates

FEDERATION ASSEMBLY MEETING

Tuesday, March 23, 2004
7:00 p.m.

Speakers: Councilmember Adrian Fenty, Ward 4
WASA Representative (tentative)

Other Business

THE CHARLES SUMNER SCHOOL
1201 Seventeenth Street, NW
(At M Street)

FULL COUNCIL TO VOTE ON ABC RULE CHANGES ON APRIL 6

The first reading of the proposed changes to the 2001 ABC statute before the full city council will take place on April 6. Many liquor licensing decisions affecting residential communities are among the changes proposed by the Committee on Consumer and Regulatory Affairs, chaired by Councilmember Sharon Ambrose. Other committee members are Councilmen Catania, Brazil, and Mendelson, and Councilmember Sandy Allen. The bar and restaurant industry has lobbied strenuously to have the role of neighborhood associations, ANCs, and other citizen groups dramatically curtailed or eliminated altogether.

On February 19, the committee had a markup of liquor licensing legislation. Proposed changes to the current statute included repeal of the 14(c) referendum. The 14(c) process has long provided communities with the ability to "just say no" to an egregiously inappropriate application for a liquor license. Over the past several months, citizens have appealed to pertinent councilmembers to reform rather than repeal this important tool. In the event, the committee did in fact strike the democratic 14(c) process from the marked-up statute.

The repeal recommendation reportedly was effected without a public hearing on the sensitive issue. The new legislation also lowers the bar for the definition of restaurant. Under current law, 45% of a restaurant's annual revenue must be derived from food sales. The 45% rule reportedly has been largely unenforced, allowing some establishments licensed as restaurants to morph into clubs or taverns. The proposed change allows restaurants to maintain status with sales of a total $2,000 of food per year! Two other areas of concern are (1) protection of the concept of voluntary agreements as the most effective instrument for neighborhood input, and (2) an unanticipated last-minute amendment by Councilman Brazil to extend closing hours for liquor sales citywide. The proposed change would allow liquor stores to stay open until 10 p.m. Monday through Friday and until midnight Saturdays, and would allow convenience stores to remain open until midnight seven days a week.

Associations with an interest in this marked-up legislation should register their interest quickly to the council committee members and to their ward councilmember. This attempt at excision of citizen participation in the liquor licensing process is especially retrograde and worrying.

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PROPERTY TAXES

DC property taxes are due by Wednesday, March 31. According to the Office of Tax and Revenue, failure to receive a bill does not excuse people from paying on time. Councilman Jack Evans' office is reminding taxpayers that there are several tax relief programs available to DC residents:

  • In addition to the 12% per year cap on increased property tax bills, the city council has also increased the Homestead Deduction to $38,000. Both the cap and the homesteal exemption apply to owner-occupied residential property, effective this year.
  • The Senior Citizen Deduction allows property owners 65 or older, with a household income of less than $100,000, to reduce their bill by 50%.

To download the Homestead Deduction and Senior Citizen Deduction application, visit http://cfo.dc.gov/services/tax/forms/index.shtm to download the Homestead Deduction and Senior Citizen Deduction application.

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FREE LEAD SCREENINGS

WASA and the DC Department of Health reportedly are administering free lead screenings for children between the age of six months and six years old and for pregnant mothers. Screenings are conducted at 51 N Street, NE, third floor. For additional information, call 535-2636.

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FEDERATION ENDORSES ZONING COMMISSION CANDIDATE

At the March 8 meeting of the city council Committee of the Whole, Federation President Carroll Green recommended the confirmation of Mr. Gregory Jeffries for Zoning Commission membership. President Green noted, "We were duly impressed with [Mr. Jeffries'] work experience, his credentials, and his candor. Moreover, we . . . appreciate that Mr. Jeffries appears not to be beholden to any special interest group, the Mayor, or neighborhood organizations." Mr. Jeffries introduced himself at the February Federation assembly.

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START RESERVING TABLES FOR THE MAY 19 94TH ANNIVERSARY ANNUAL AWARDS BANQUET

And definitely mark your calendars. the Federation's cheerful, often uproarious gala anniversary banquets are held at the elegant Ft. McNair Officers Club, where security is total and parking is free and abundant. The banquet committee recommends early reservation by associations of their table or equivalent places. Note: when association presidents or banquet committee chairs collect up front from attendees, it helps the Federation banquet committee and enables the association reservees to bypass the admission table at the banquet hall and proceed directly to their tables.

This year tables will be for ten persons each, duly marked with association name plates for handy location. Some associations will want exclusive use of their table, while others may wish to be less specific in their placement, with a view to making new acquaintances and renewing old ones. Table hopping is always busy and welcome. Kudos go to the Crestwood, Oldest Inhabitants, and Burleith Associations, who last year filled two tables (of 8) each. Phone reservations should be made at 338-5164. Admission per person this year will be a bargain $40.00.

Car-frisking security arrangements at the Ft. McNair gala will be the same as last year, but the young soldiers are unfailingly polite and thorough, making for general safety and minor inconvenience. (Last year, when a soldier put on a surgical glove before examining a vehicle, a waggish Burleith matron asked, "How thorough is this search?") Anyway, we are paying guests at the beautiful banquet facility, and the military hosts call the shots when it comes to security. We're glad to cooperate.

N.B.: Calendars should be marked now, conflicts avoided or resolved, and reservations for canvassed attendees phoned in. Association organizers are urged to collect in advance. For more information or just to enthuse, call Banquet Committee members Kay Eckles at 265-5961, Jim Jones at 291-3203, or Guy Gwynne at 338-5164.

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SENATOR HATCH OPPOSES DC GUN BAN

Senator Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) in early March introduced legislation that would ban the ban on resident gun ownership in the District. According to a Senate Judiciary committee source on March 15, the measure has not come to a vote yet.

The District has one of the most sweeping gun ownership laws in the country, and prohibits handgun ownership in the city by all non-law-enforcement parties. According to the Washington Times, the law has been a target of Congress for years. Local leaders are wedded to the nation of keeping the law indefinitely, as an aid to crime control.

A showdown on the latest Congressional move appears to be likely in six months, when the so-called Assault Weapons Ban of 1995 law expires. Two updates are being offered by Congressional Democrats; both would tighten current restrictions. The Times editorialized on February 14 that, "Those who support more stringent gun control laws are swimming against the tide, as the national trend is toward greater gun ownership and use rights," and noted that Wisconsin recently loosened gun laws to allow citizens to carry concealed handguns. Georgia has had the law for some time now, and the Illinois legislature reportedly is considering legislation to allow citizens to use handguns for self-defense in their homes, even in communities that have gun bans.

Meanwhile, the AARP Bulletin reports that people aged 65 and older are the citizens most likely to own a gun, and notes, "Our latest survey shows 37 percent of all Americans age 65 or older personally own a gun." Interestingly, the AARP articles muses that, "More research is needed to determine why older Americans own the most firearms. It may be because younger Americans are buying fewer guns."

And therein may lie the long-range solution. If the citizenry is eventually convinced that pistols are not a necessary protective tool, the demand for handguns will drop to the British, virtually nonexistent level. Until then, gun bans will be opposed and disobeyed, which probably reflects actual sentiment and at least some practice in the District, rather than an assumption of a silent abjuration by residents of a desire for handgun ownership.

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FREE WASA TEST KITS

The DC Water and Sewer Authority (WASA) promises to send free lead testing kits upon request to all homes with known lead service pipes, as well as with unknown or undetermined types of service pipes. Customer service is at 354-3600 or http://www.dcwasa.com.

In the meantime, the best advice seems to be to draw water for drinking or cooking after another high-water-use activity such as showering or clothes washing, so that service line flushing has occurred. Everyone is concerned. Even the wilting of tulips in a vase was blamed on possible lead in the water at a recent Board meeting. The test kits sound like a good idea, everything considered.

Also, a recent WASA bulletin advises: "We are working with the District Government to pursue funding assistance for replacing lead service lines on private property. WASA is responsible for replacement of the portion of the pipe under streets and public property. Portions under private property are the responsibility of homeowners. But we can replace these at cost if requested." [Italics added] "Cost" was not estimated, but it sounds better than retail.

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COUNCIL OPPOSES GAY MARRIAGE AMENDMENT

In a "Sense of the Council" resolution in early March, the DC city council voted 13-0 to oppose President Bush's proposed constitutional amendment to ban same-sex marriages and communicated the action to federal authorities. It is questionable if the measure will count for much at the federal level, but it will likely play well in the District of Columbia constituency.

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OFFICERS AND BOARD

Robert Andrews
Foxhall Citizens Association

Allen E. Beach
Chevy Chase Citizens Association

Francis M. Clarke, III
Cleveland Park Citizens Association

George Clark, Esq.
Forest Hills Citizens Association

Dino J. Drudi
Michigan Park Citizens Association

Kathryn A. Eckles
Residential Action Coalition

Elizabeth Elliott
Foggy Bottom Association

Carroll Green
Manor Park Citizens Association

Guy Gwynne
Burleith Citizens Association

James H. Jones
Crestwood Citizens Association

Ann Loikow, Esq.
Cleveland Park Citizens Association

Sally MacDonald
Woodley Park Citizens Association

Ann Renshaw
Chevy Chase Citizens Association

Laura Richards, Esq.
Penn Branch Citizens/Civic Association

A.L. Wheeler, Esq.
Association of Oldest Inhabitants

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PRESIDENT'S MESSAGE: QUALITY OF LIFE ISSUES

Carroll Green

There are some who would suggest that the municipal codes and regulations in our city are sufficiently ambiguous to the extent that they facilitate unwanted, and in some instances, unlawful activity. Others argue that unwanted and unlawful activity flourishes because enforcement is woeful in our city. While both statements are essentially true, as many of us can attest, the Council is addressing one aspect of this problem that affects the quality of life of all residents through the Clean Car Dealership Act of 2004, Bill 15-671.

The Bill, introduced by Councilman Fenty and cosponsored by Councilmembers Brazil, Evans, Schwartz, Orange, Ambrose, and Graham, creates separate license categories for motor vehicle sales, service, and repair businesses; minimum size requirements, and regulates the outdoor storage of vehicles at motor vehicle rental and repair businesses and vehicle dealerships. The bill requires that vehicles stored outdoors for sale or rent be parked on a paved lot, that no license will be issued for any establishment with fewer than 10,000 square feet of occupied space and that no vehicle will be stored outdoors for more than 90 days.

Our recent testimony before the Committee on Consumer and Regulatory Affairs was in support of this bill. However, we recommended that the bill be amended to mandate that no paper vehicle tags will be issued, that vehicle inspection be required within 24 hours of transfer of ownership, and that no after-marketing tinting of vehicle windows be permitted.

Two companion bills are being considered simultaneously; the Used Car Lots Dealers Renewal Act, Bill 15-92, requires that prior to renewal of dealer's licenses for used car lots, such lots must have permanent fences surrounding the establishments, have licensed waste haulers, that all areas where cars are housed be on concrete surfaces, have adequate lighting, and maintain records providing a full description of all vehicles and parts purchased. We testified that this bill should be amended to include: that prior to renewal of a dealer's license for used car lots, the establishment must comply with the size requirement of no fewer than 10,000 square feet of occupied space.

The final bill, Moratorium on Used Car Lots Licenses Amendment Act of 2003, Bill 15-89, stipulates that no new used car dealers licenses will be issued for a period of 3 years from the effective date of the moratorium. Our testimony recommended that the moratorium be five years from the effective date of the moratorium.

We commend the council for moving these quality of life issues to the forefront on the legislative agenda. Collectively, these bills represent a great step towards eradicating major contributors to crime in our neighborhoods.

One of the findings of the task force reviewing the problem of paper vehicle tags is that chronic violations of the illegal sale and use of temporary paper tags figure in the commission of criminal activity in the city. Many of the used car dealerships are engaged in the sale of old clunkers that are chugging along on their last cylinder. These old cars are clearly the choice of the criminal element. They obtain illegal paper tags and continue to alter the expiration date until the car conks out and is abandoned on the street.

It is very clear, even to the casual observer, that old clunkers with temporary paper tags and windows tinted to the extent that one cannot see inside, pose a menace to the safety and well being of police officers as well as our citizens.

We are therefore particularly adamant about the requirement for vehicle inspection within 24 hours of a change in ownership. Many of those old clunkers are safety hazards that would never pass inspection, and hence should never have been sold.

Approval of these bills, and an increased effort on the part of the Williams administration to improve the enforcement apparatus of city government significantly, would greatly enhance the quality of life for residents and visitors alike.

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FEDERATION BOARD

At its March 11 meeting the Federation Board of Directors:

  • Discussed recent Federation testimony concerning the Used Car Lot Dealers License Renewal Act (Bill 15-92) and the Moratorium on used Car Lots Licenses Amendment Act (Bill 15-89) aimed on getting a handle on unsightly and proliferating used car lots in resident and other neighborhoods.
  • Reviewed the ongoing Upper Wisconsin Avenue Project and the need to enforce a Clean Hands requirement for protagonists.
  • Discussed recent Federation testimony at the office of Planning budget and oversight hearing at the city council.
  • Considered informal nominations for (four) award recipients at the upcoming May 94th Annual Awards Banquet at Ft. McNair.
  • Considered aspects and ramifications of the Tree Bill.
  • Briefly reviewed progress on the ongoing Comprehensive Plan overhaul.

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DO THE DISTRICT'S SUPERIOR COURT PROCEEDINGS NEED POLISHING?

GUY GWYNNE (BURLEITH)

Very likely, if my own experience this past week is an indicator. the main beef may well be audibility, intelligibility, and hearing. While court auxiliary personnel were unfailingly helpful and polite, the soft-spoken judge's frequent statements to prospective jurors were incomprehensible in the back row, and prospective jurors of a range of ages had to consult in whispers to see who understood what, if any, part of what the judge said from the bench.

At least one state, Georgia, has auditory devices for jurors and others for cases of muffled communication in courtrooms. They may be available in District Superior Courts, too, but they are not in universal use. Federation President Carroll Green is participating in organized observing of the US District Court for DC, sponsored by the Council for Court Excellence. Seemingly, the DC Superior Court could also use some fine tuning.

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Federation Assembly Meeting Dates

March 23, 2004
April 27, 2004
May 19, 2003, Annual Awards Banquet
June 22, 2004
July No Meeting
August No Meeting