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Volume 10, Issue 10, September 2004
3710 S Street, NW, Washington, DC 20007
(202) 338-5164 phone/fax
|Kickoff Overview of Political Landscape
Federation Updates Meeting Notices
District Offers Free Immediate Alerts
Cell Phone Towers in the Park
Emergency Preparedness Oversight Hearing, October 25
Baseball for DC
Lead in Your Water Sag
Washington Gas Can't Close Anacostia Service Center
Office of Victim Services
Officers and Board
The President's Corner, Carroll Green
Federation Board of Directors
Tightening Up on Recreational Vehicles
Federation Assembly Meeting Dates
FEDERATION ASSEMBLY MEETING
Tuesday, September 28, 2004
The Primary Election
THE CHARLES SUMNER SCHOOL
Well, it's official. Through the efforts of Columbia Heights activist Dorothy Brizill and a team of helpers, thousands of signatures on petitions for a gambling complex in the District were exposed as fraudulent, and the initiative went down in flames at the Board of Elections and Ethics. Community efforts included physically sorting through petitions and culling invalid ones, a process requiring many hours of intense scrutiny and time lost from personal activities.
But for the Brizill effort, the gambling complex issue would have appeared on the November election ballot, with an apparent large groundswell of popular support — on paper, to be exploited by the largely out-of-state backers of the gambling project.
One person, determined and active, can sway city and community affairs; so how much more likely are whole associations to be able to defend their communities' interests in the face of detractors, developers, institutions, and the like. Granted that Ms. Brizill is unique on the civic front in the District (and a Federation delegate from Columbia Heights), her example of energy, determination, and savvy is an example to inspire civic activists across the city, now and in the future.
At the September 28 assembly, Ms. Brizill will provide analysis of the current primary election, comment on the prospective realignment of city council committees, and give an update on the gambling complex initiative.
As an auxiliary reminder, but not replacement of the newsletter, the Federation secretary will notify delegates with E-mail contacts of upcoming meeting dates, usually ahead of the newsletter. the Board of Directors decided this improvement is in step with the times. The secretary's E-mail address is GRClark@GeorgeRClark.com, in case your E-mail address is not in the Federation's records.
Weather emergencies, terrorist events, and crime advisories can now be fed directly to the cell phone, pager, fax, PDA, and E-mail. Alert DC is a new, three-part citizen emergency notification system, and it's free. The DC Emergency Text Alert system allows citizens to receive emergency text messages on any text capable device. Citizens enroll online, identify the type of device and the access number. To register, visit http://www.alert.dc.gov or call 727-1000. (Article from the Burleith Newsletter.)
The National Capital Planning Commission has just approved extended use of two existing and controversial cell phone towers in Rock Creek Park. Community activists in the area opposed the towers five years ago, when they were proposed for installation. The NCPC voted 5-4 for a five-year extension. Witness testimony at the extension hearing before the Commission was divided along business and community lines, as the proposition squeaked by.
The National Law Review notes that a growing number of lawsuits against the wireless industry has involved everything from health concerns to bird fatalities to declining property values.
Rob Miller, chief staffer for city council chairman Linda Cropp, noted that in the Washington case, even the National Park Service's own analysis spells out an "environmentally preferred alternative to Rock Creek locations."
What are some examples? The National Law Review recently ran photos of ingenious forms cell towers may take: one is a surprisingly lifelike palm tree configuration, another is a cross suitable for installation on a church. Still another is a totally deceptive cactus. In a word, cell phone antenna configuration has come a long way from the ugly correctional-institution-compatible versions in Rock Creek Park. Seemingly, a bit more imagination, or creativity, is called for in this long-running, festering case. This may be a rare case where encroachers and encroachees can both be satisfied.
On Wednesday, October 25, Councilmember Kathy Patterson, Chair of the Committee on the Judiciary, will hold a public oversight hearing on Emergency Preparedness in the District of Columbia. The hearing will focus on the District's level of preparedness in the event of an emergency, including terrorist attack on the District or the National Capital Region. Expected to testify will be District officials reporting emergency plans for preparing for and responding to emergencies, as well as plans for communication and coordination with the federal government. The Committee will also invite members of the 9/11 Commission to report on how the Commission's findings impact emergency preparedness planning in the District.
The hearing will be in the Council Chambers, Room 500, at 10:00 a.m. The City Hall venue is located at 1350 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW. All witnesses will have a maximum of three minutes for oral testimony. Written statements are also encouraged, and should be sent to Secretary of the Council Phyllis Jones, Room 5, Wilson Building, 1350 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW, Washington, DC 20004. The October 25 date reflects a change in the date of the hearing.
Several Federation delegates have taken training classes in emergency preparedness since 9/11 in order to be ready to assist if necessary in their communities. This hearing, on a hot subject, will likely be long but usefully instructive for all community activists.
Inside word (plus the Washington Times) has it that baseball in the District is definitely in the cards, despite objections from Orioles owner Peter Angelos. The formula is that the Montreal Expos (the Washington Expositors?) would be moved to the District. This is a welcome prospect for baseball fans.
The Times worries, however, that Baseball Commissioner Bud Selig may eschew an agreed-upon M Street, SW, site for a home stadium for the relocated team, and be tempted to make a deal to put the team in Northern Virginia to ease the impact on the Orioles. Inquiring fans want to know.
It looks like the lead-in-the-water episode is behind us, after the addition of phosphoric acid at the Washington Aqueduct treatment plant at the Delacarlia Reservoir. Over a period of many months, this will form a thin, stable coating in lead pipes and fittings. For now, keep using those filters for drinking water until WASA, DOH, and EPA report that lead levels have stabilized; you may be contacted to be sampled again.
Residents on the 1500 to 1600 block of 44th Street, NW, now have a rebuilt concrete street, and the 1400 block of 44th Street and 4400 blocks of Q Street now have resurfaced paving. This was sorely needed because of the sheer number of homes targeted for lead service line replacement in those blocks. At least one benefit emerged from this saga, since those streets had fallen off DDOT's list when they were switched from Ward 2 back to Ward 3.
Despite WASA contractors failing to provide notice when front yards were to be disturbed, all lines planned to be replaced are done, and meters have been relocated to the street tree box if they were not already there. . . . (Article from the Foxhall News.)
WASHINGTON GAS CAN'T CLOSE ANACOSTIA SERVICE CENTER
The following is a nutshell summary from the Daily Washington Law Reporter of the suit brought by Washington Gas Co. to oppose a Public Service commission decision not to allow the company to close its customer service center in Anacostia. The People's Counsel was an intervenor in the case.
"Petitioner, Washington Gas Light Company … appeals a decision by the District of Columbia Public Service Commission … directing WGL to keep its Anacostia customer service center open. First, WGL contends that the Commission exceeded its statutory authority and that its decision impermissibly interfered with WGL's management decisions regarding the Company's operations. Second, WGL argues that, in reaching its decisions, the Commission utilized a legislative process that impermissibly deprived the Company of its procedural right of due process [and] right to adjudication of disputed facts through an evidentiary hearing. Third and finally, WGL contends that the Commission's order is not supported by substantial evidence. We reject all of petitioner's arguments and affirm the Commission's order."
This is one more example of the Office of the People's Counsel's vigilance in the interest of Washington utility ratepayers. According to the company, the Anacostia service center was not cost effective (thus the paring), but that its functions included "accepting bill payments, taking customer complaints, opening and closing accounts, and providing account information, billing rates, budget payment plans, energy assistance, and extended payment plans," and that alternative locations exist for these services.
Some 35 members of the community testified at public hearings concerning the center closing proposal, including city council member Sandy Allen. They cited difficulty paying bills at some designated banks, transit difficulties in paying bills, and extra fee charges for some credit card payments. In other words, the service center is a major amenity in an often troubled community.
The People's counsel strikes again, to the benefit of an important community that, without the OPC, might have been unable to overcome a utility company with a big purse and ready access to expert legal advice. Kudos.
In mid-August, Mayor Anthony Williams created the Office of Victim Services, responsible for supporting and coordinating a comprehensive system of care for crime victims in the District. The Office will also "focus on the planning for, and the administration and monitoring of, all victim service related federal funds, including the Crime Victim Assistance Fund, Victims of Crime Act Grant Programs," and any other pertinent grant programs.
THE PRESIDENT'S CORNER, Carroll Green
As we embark on the final year of my term, there remains much unfinished business. The application of the Freedom of Information Act by some city agencies continues to hamper and impede access to citizens and organizations attempting to exercise their right to participate in governance.
Enforcement of the municipal code by the various regulatory offices goes wanting in nearly every agency. There is tremendous room for improving this responsibility that is to vital to our collective health, safety, and welfare. Traffic enforcement is virtually nonexistent and parking enforcement is spotty. Are there any police officers assigned to perform traffic enforcement duties?
Infractions and noncompliance in group homes, nursing homes, and halfway houses abound. Nearly 90% of the nursing homes in the city are operating non-compliant. Building codes and zoning ordinances appear to be haphazardly enforced, if at all. it appears that each agency has its own dedicated group of inspectors. Could not these individuals be cross-trained to conduct multiple inspection functions?
Many of the foregoing activities are revenue generators. Perhaps it is time to assign quotas for writing tickets for violations of the municipal code, and raise fines to a meaningful level of painful economic sacrifice. Are supervisors desk bound? What prevents city officials from seeing problems that are obvious to citizens? What happened to that great business school dictum of management by walking around?
The selling and consumption of alcohol, and the attendant activity that follows, continues to be problematic across the cityscape. Invariably, in far too many instances, where alcohol is sold and consumed the peaceful tranquility of the neighborhood is soon shattered. Is it time to consider a prohibition on the sale of alcohol in single containers and for consumption off premises? Has the time arrived for the city to impose a monopoly on the sale of alcohol by limiting the sale of such
beverages to city-owned and operated stores? A coalition of small business owners testified earlier this year that in some instances greater than 50% of their sales were accounted for by the sale of single containers of beer and wine.
Parking continues to be a major problem. Municipal parking garages featuring limited 3-hour parking certainly appears to be a reasonable alternative to the status quo in business areas adjacent to residential neighborhoods. Physical barriers to preclude through traffic in residential neighborhoods and parking near intersections are standard fare in cities across this nation. In our city, it appears that such barriers are only acceptable near the federal enclave.
The electorate spoke loudly in the recent primary. However, it would appear that some elected officials haven't heard the message yet, given the apparent scramble to chair strategic committees, that economic development must be in balance with the quality of life in our city, in all of our neighborhoods. We are not proposing innovative, untried, or unproven approaches to municipal governance. What we are fostering is an approach to urban living that some municipalities have adopted with considerable success, managed growth and development that features, as its centerpiece, enhanced quality of life, first and foremost, in all aspects of our political environment.
At its September 16 meeting, the Board of Directors:
In June, the District opted to crack down on the reckless operation of recreational motor vehicles. DC Act 15-462, "Prohibition on the Reckless Operation of Recreation Motor Vehicles Emergency Act of 2004," defines such vehicles as including "motorcycles, dirt bikes, all-terrain vehicles, scooters, mopeds, motorized bicycles, pocket-bikes, motorized scooters and mini-sport bikes." The term "does not include automobiles, trucks, mini-vans, buses, sport utility vehicles or any other vehicle where an individual is required to open a door to enter or exit the vehicle."
The meat of the new law lies in Section 103, Reckless operation of a recreational motor vehicle: "(a) The Mayor may confiscate any recreational motor vehicle that is operated by any person in a reckless manner;" and "(d) The Mayor may issue a fine to any person who operates a recreational motor vehicle in a reckless manner not to exceed the following dollar amounts: (1) $500 for the first offense; (2) $1,000 for the second offense; and (3) $3,000 for the third offense."
September 28, 2004
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