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Federation of Citizens Associations of the District of Columbia

Federation News

Volume 3, Issue 2, October 1997

The Billion-dollar Convention Center? Hold on to Your Wallet!

Questions Beyond the Money

Police Stories

Council Alert!

Outreach to New Associations -- Who Should Join the Federation?

Welcome to New Faces at the September Luncheon

New Officers and Board

President's Message

Capitol Hill Update

Undergraduate Majors in Drinking

City Council Listings at One Judiciary Square

The Standing Committees of the Council

Key Contact Informnation

Federation Meetings

Federation Assembly Meeting
Thursday, October 9

7:00 p.m. -- Business Meeting
7:30 p.m. -- Program
"Unconventional Thoughts"

Beth Solomon and Gastral Riley
The Shaw Coalition

Harriet Hubbard and Tersh Boasberg
Committee of 100 on the Federal City

What dangers are posed by present plans for the Convention Center at Mt. Vernon Square?

Are better options being ignored?

What price will we be asked to pay?

What can be done to change the outcome?

The Charles Sumner School
1 7th and M Streets NW

The Billion-dollar Convention Center?
HoId on to your wallet!

Stop us if you've heard this one before.

Fourteen years ago the present convention center was built with a capacity that ranked It as the sixth largest in the country. But it was landlocked, with no room to expand.

The "hospitality industry" declared Washington needed a new, much larger facility to be. competitive, and an additional 1% was added to the hotel- motel tax -- and to every restaurant bill we have paid -- to start funding a new center.

That new convention center is being pushed through various approvals, but it is experiencing cost escalation on an order of magnitude not even Washington is used to.

Proposed in 1993 at a cost of $444 million, estimates were revised later that year to $512 million. Current costs are said to be $650 million, but that's the number provided by the Convention Center Authority.

Only one serious construction bid was received by the Authority, and it was approximately $100 million over estimates, according to reports in the Washington Business Journal.

The neighborhood groups opposed to the center, known as the Shaw Coalition, say that $922 million is closer to reality.

What's more, all that money will buy a convention center that has no room to grow.

One could reasonably question why still more space might be needed, inasmuch as the current proposal is for nearly 2 million square feet. The project will be roughly three times the size of the new MCI Arena. Surely, one would think, that has to be about the outside margin for convention space.

Sadly, no. There is a seemingly endless escalation in the competition to attract the biggest and most lucrative conventions. Chicago already has over 2 million square feet. Orlando, too, seeks 2.2 million square feet. San Diego plans for 1.2 million square feet -- all on one floor.

Once again, DC's new convention center would be the sixth largest facility In the country If it is completed as currently designed.

And It has no parking faculties for convention-goers. In fact, it will eliminate currently available at the site.

Sadly, other cities seem to have been able to develop their centers at a significantly lower cost than the District.

The Committee of 100 on the Federal City, a respected local leadership group, has analyzed costs and consequences for construction at the Mt. Vernon Square site.

They propose, Instead, that the convention center be built at Union Station, where costs would be nearly $300 million less, where Impact on residential communities would be abated, where massive truck traffic and parking problems could be handled (see box).

The lower costs would be due to a more flexible site, with lower construction costs, and lower land values.

Proposed New Taxes

The legislation that created the Convention Center Authority contained a provision that requires District taxpayers to foot any costs associated with the Center. That obligation is open-ended.

This is an even more difficult matter because the real costs associated with the construction have, thus far, resisted disclosure.

The Committee of 100 has had great difficulty trying to extract anything that resembles hard numbers for any part of the center's development.

The enigmatic financial picture has made It very much more difficult to mount campaigns to challenges the current plans - or to provide valid comparisons with the costs of alternative sites for the center.

Having once been wounded by poor planning of a convention center, many want real numbers before making the same mistake again. Hopefully, some of the oversight committees will agree

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Questions beyond the money

In addition to the tremendous costs associated with the Mt. Vernon Square site, the project as proposed presents very significant additional concerns:

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Police Stories

Recent developments on the public safety front have struck people as everything from appalling to arrogant to hopeful. (You decide which adjective fits each.)

Killing the Homicide Squad

The news that homicide detectives abused overtime pay on a massive scale had just broken, coupled with a serious decrease in the clearance rate for murders. Then came the story that the Federal government had provided extensive reviews of open cases and provided an evidentiary trail for solving more than 100 crimes. And nothing was done with the information.

Chief Larry Soulsby, working with the anonymous crew of consultants hired by the Control Board, has removed the entire leadership corps of the homicide unit, placing interim leadership in charge pending further reforms.

The Keeper at the Gate

One local elected official participates in the meetings discussing anonymous consultants' reports and police operations with the Chief Jack Evans, chair of the Council's Judiciary Committee. He does not believe, however, that any other member of Council should be included in these discussions. Not the other members of the Judiciary Committee. No one.

Evans has made no secret of his intent to ride the public safety issue into a bid for the mayor's office.

Citizens' Police Review Board

Council (again through the Judiciary Committee) is considerig proposals for change in the citizens' complaint process. One approach -- to use panels of retired judges to review complaints -- received very negative comments at public hearings Support was expressed for an alternative, framed by the American Civil Liberties Union. relying on citizen panels.

Final recommendations are yet to be made.

Citizens' Advisory Councils

As far back as 1952 the Metropolitan Police Department has had Citizens' Advisory Councils. A decade later, still more formal recognition came for the 'Council composed of the precinct captains and several responsible citizens to maintain rapport and encourage citizen participation in crime detection and reporting."

Advisory councils exist in each of the District's police precincts, and their presidents serve as members of the Chief's Advisory Council.

Today the role of both the Chief's and the precinct advisory councils, on which many Federation members sit, is being questioned by MPD. Whether they are independent bodies or whether they serve at the pleasure of the Police Chief is a critical distinction.

Efforts to decrease the role of the councils bodes ill for public police- community relation particularly in light of the amount of decision- making that is being handled behind closed doors by anonymous persons.

Public Drinking

The Police Chief has voiced support for changes in public space regulations that would limit drinking at street festivals using District streets and space.

Some communities have opposed public space permits for festivals and other activities that have histories of excessive alcohol consumption. The National Park Service has banned alcohol consumption on the Mall.

It remains to be seen what will be done by Council with such recommendations.

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Council Alert!

The controversial project on Children's Island in the Anacostia River is once again being placed on a fast-track for approval, this time by City Council.

Those organizations with concerns about the theme park should contact their Council members to inquire about emergency legislation, which we understand will be up for adoption this Tuesday.

The Federal turnover of the land was done during a late-night Congressional session; the President did not abide by his promise to veto the bill.

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Outreach to new associations --
Who should join the Federation?

The Board has been wrestling with the definition of a community organization, weighing the qualities that make for strong membership in the Federation. The Federation has both geographically based organizations, such as as the Hillcrest Community Citizens Association, and general-purpose organizations, such as the Association of Oldest Inhabitants. The Georgetown chapter of the Kiwanis has been proposed for membership, and the question will be put to the membership as early as the October meeting.

To assist in the Assembly's deliberations, what follows is a recap of the Federation's Constitutional standards for membership, and an abstract of an analysis done by Al Wheeler for the Board, outlining the goals of the Kiwanis. If you have questions, please contact a Board member or bring them to the October meeting.

The Federation's Constitution

The Federation's Constitution opens membership to citizens groups organized to advance its community's and the general interests of the District, so long as it has more than 25 members, is organized for civic work, holds regularly ordered meetings, and certifies to the Federation that its officers and delegates are bona fide residents of the District.

It prohibits associations formed along occupational, business, or professional lines, as well as associations of purely political, sectarian, or social nature unless three-fourths of the attending delegates approve.

The Kiwanis' Interests

The Georgetown Kiwanis are organized to promote broad public interests, but the group is prohibited from engaging in political activity. It assists and serves various charities in the District of Columbia, including Georgetown. In a broader sense, the Kiwanis of Georgetown seeks, among other things, to promote and maintain sound public policy and opinion, the protection of persons and property in the District, the reinvigoration of District neighborhoods and the combating of deterioration.

The Kiwanis are a nonprofit service organization, organized under Section 501 (c) (3) of the Internal Revenue Code; they violate none of the provisions of the Federation Constitution as iterated above.

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Welcome to new faces at the September luncheon

At the September luncheon of the Federation at the DACOR Bacon House, the.anticipated opportunity to catch up with old colleagues' concerns was enhanced by the opportunity to meet new community leaders interested in joining the Federation's collective advocacy.

James Taylor of the Park Skyland Civic Association joined us, seeking to add to his organization's new entry into the field of citizen advocacy. We look forward to learning about the way in which his community has been impacted, and to offering our assistance.

Alan Blevins of the Woodley Park Community Association joined us, and we hope to enrich ties to that very strong community group. Additionally, Gregory New of the Cleveland Park Association has indicated that his association will vote in October to rejoin the Federation; Roberta Chestnut of the Cleveland Park Association attended the luncheon.

A particular delight at the luncheon was the participation of Romaine Thomas, President of the Federation of Civic Associations.

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New Officers and Board

Patrick Allen, Citizens Association of Georgetown, 337-8760
Gracie Baten, Shepherd Park Citizens Association, 882-6162
John Batham, West End Citizens Association, 628-3527
Allen Beach, Chevy Chase Citizens Association, 362-2239
John Brown, Southwest Community Council, 479-4658
Larry Chatman,
16th Street Heights, 291-7381
Dino Drudi, Michigan Park, 526-0891
Kay Eckles, Residential Action Coalition, 265-5961
Guy Gwynne, Burleith Citizens Association, 338-5164
William Scheirer, Kalorama Citizens Association, 232-8827
M. R. Peggy Snyder, Chancery Court, 338-1972
Miles Steele , Hillcrest Citizens Association, 582-7832
Alice Stewart, Palisades Citizens Association, 364-1505
Al Wheeler, Oldest Inhabitants of DC, 337-00340
Barbara Zartman, Cloisters in Georgetown, 337-6505

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President's Message

The presentation at our October meeting should be very insightful about how District residents seem about to he saddled with one more huge liability they did not ask for.

One wonders who is pleased with the IT billion obligation. The members of Congress who have risked the judgment of their own constituents by agreeing to a District bailout should not welcome this additional obligation, arranged largely through the acquaintance of other federal appointees. District residents' belief that those Congressmen did not provide nearly enough bailout is beside the point; we are not the ones who vote for their reselection.)

The Control Board cannot be pleased with such a huge trailing liability, one which threatens the economic stability they are charged with achieving. It will be decades before the net result of the currently proposed Convention Center will produce new dollars for the l)istrict's economy, and it will soak up huge piles of financial reserves that could be used elsewhere.

The proposed new taxes to finance the open-ended District obligation for the Convention Center had been scheduled for an emergency authorization this Tuesday. The measure is no longer on a fast-track, but each Federation member organization should voice its concerns about still new taxes - for a project of questionable benefit. The October 9 Assembly meeting will offer a great opportunity to learn all about the consequences.

In another area entirely, the Appropriations bill for the District of Columbia that is currently working its way through the Congressional process contains a little noticed provision that would provide for more than a dozen additional alcoholic beverage control officers, with a directive that they focus on underage drinking.

All those who care about the use and abuse by young people (including college students, see page 6) are not likely to criticize Senator Robert Byrd of West Virginia for adding this bit of "micromanagement" to the District hill. It passed with 69 votes in the Senate, so it is likely to survive the conferencing process and become law.

It is an interesting concession that a force of just three ABC enforcement officers makes a mockery of alcohol control laws.

Sometimes micromanagement is the only management.

Barbara Zartman

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Capitol Hill Update

In the next two weeks, the House and Senate will adopt separate Appropriations bills for the District, and a Conference Committee representing the two bodies will develop a compromise plan for ultimate adoption by the Congress.

Three provisions that have received little attention are of particular interest to Federation members.

  1. Reprogramming Barney Circle funds. The multi-million-dollar funds originally earmarked for the Barney Circle Freeway (declared "dead" because of citizen opposition) is apparently being offered up for spending in other ways by the Mayor.
    No process for public input has been included, say knowledgeable sources.

  2. ABC officers would be added under provisions written by Senator Robert Byrd of West Virginia. His amendment limits alcohol advertising aimed at underage drinkers, and requires the hiring of ABC inspectors to focus on illegal underage drinking.

  3. A Senate provision introduced by ranking minority member Barbara Boxer on behalf of Senator Moynihan of New York marks the year 2000 for celebration of the 200th anniversary of the founding of the nation's capital in Washington, D. C. The Federation has supported activities of the Nation's Capital Bicentennial Celebration.

Much attention has been focused on the House bill, written under the direction of chairman Charles Taylor of North Carolina. It contains a number of provisions, some good (opening Pennsylvania Avenue), some not so good (mandating particular personnel cuts).

The question of vouchers for students to attend non-District or private schools (and to secure tutoring while staying in District public schools). Tile provision has much more support than a similar version had last year.

President Clinton has threatened to veto the District appropriations bill if it contains the voucher provision.

This would throw the District back to the "continuing resolution" funding that caused great difficulty last year, undermining the ability of District government to adopt any of the intended reforms.

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Undergraduate majors in drinking

The September 11 edition of one of Georgetown University's student newspapers, The Voice, included a chilling description of alcohol use on campus, undisputed by students, college officials, or police.

It describes freshmen running up the stairs of freshmen dorms with backpacks of beer and $10 bottles of Chesapeake Vodka, a pattern they describe as regular on weekends and "not hard" to come by on weekdays.

Aided by a virtual "factory" in the freshman dorm, students describe the ease with which they obtain phony IDs to drink at public, licensed bars -- and to obtain bottled alcohol.

University officials are quoted as saying that between "30 and 50 students were brought by Georgetown Emergency Rescue Medical Service" to the Medical Center for alcohol poisoning last year. There is no way, they indicate, to tell how many more were hospitalized without GERMS intervention -- or how many cases went untreated.

The phony IDs have an insidious impact on treatment for these students. Without accurate access to medical records, medical staff has to By blind about existing conditions or medical allergic reactions when treating such students.

District police do selective checks on the bars of Georgetown; more than 50 students were arrested at one establishment alone. But bars and liquor stores may be checked lust once a year -- or not at all.

The article quotes some students as bragging that "their uncles' PBA cards" would keep them out of.jail, while others were convinced the "cops will block off every possible exist and arrest everyone in the bar." Neither view reflects current practice.

The police apparently have an Agreement that, if an officer is available, he or she will be sent to the station to return the student to his or her home. The penalty -- for underage drinking or for carrying a false ID -- is a misdemeanor charge, punishable by a $1000 fine or a year in jail. The university adds five hours of community service.

The bars receive no penalty unless a practice of failing to check IDs can be proven. Just seeing phony IDs doesn't obligate the bar operator, though some responsible operators participate in training programs run by the Barry Administration to learn how to recognize phony IDs.

In an interesting side note, the State of New Jersey has apparently been the source of such a rich supply of false ID forms that some bars and liquor stores have flatly refused to recognize Garden State documents -- entirely.

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City Council Listings at One Judiciary Square

Room Phone Fax Principal Staff Aide
Chair Linda W. Cropp (At-Large) 704 724-8032 724-8085 William Rumsey, Jr.
Sandy Allen (Ward 8) 712 724-8045 724-8055 Ron Dennis
Sharon Ambrose (Ward 6) 718 724-8072 724-8054 Vicky Wilcher
Harold Brazil (At Large) 701 724-8174 724-8156 Mary Rudolf
Kevin P. Chavous (Ward 7) 705 724-8068 724-8097 William Wright
Arrington Dixon (At Large) 720 724-7772 724-8087 Wanda Lockridge
Jack Evans (Ward 2) 703 724-8058 724-8023 John Ralls
Charlene Drew Jarvis (Ward 4) 708 724-8052 724-8120 Audrey Duff
Hilda M.H. Mason (At Large) 702 724-8064 724-8099 V. Nadine Daniel
Kathleen Patterson (Ward 3) 709 724-8062 724-8118 JoAnne Ginsberg
Carol Schwartz (At Large) 706 724-8105 724-8071 Joan Lankowski
Frank Smith, Jr. (Ward 1) 710 724-8179 724-8109 Ann H. Hargrove
Harry Thomas, Sr. (Ward 5) 707 724-8028 724-8076 Diane Romo

The Standing Committees of the Council

Consumer and Regulatory Affairs
Harold Brazil, Chair (Allen, Dixon, Evans, Smith)
Clerk: Sabrina McClendon -- 724-8118

Economic Development:
Charlene Drew Jarvis, Chair (Allen, Dixon, Evans, Smith)
Counsel: Adam Smith -- 724-8152

Education and Libraries and Recreation
Kevin Chavous, Chair (Thomas, Jarvis, Patterson, Smith, Mason)
Clerk: Courtney Carter Guner -- 724-8145

Finance and Revenue
Frank Smith, Jr., Chair, (Jarvis, Brazil, Thomas, Schwartz)
Clerk: Mark Sobo -- 724-8109

Government Operations
Kathleen Patterson, Chair (Ambrose, Brazil, Dixon, Schwartz)
Legislative Aide: Jason Juffras

Human Services
Sandy Allen, Chair (Ambrose, Dixon, Mason, Patterson)
Clerk: Michael Battle -- 724-8196

Jack Evans, Chair (Brazil, Thomas, Mason, Chavous)
Clerk: Lyle Blanchard -- 724-8033

Local, Regional, and Federal Affairs
Carol Schwartz, Chair (Ambrose, Mason, Patterson, Thomas)
Clerk: Jacques Rondeau -- 725-8015

Public Works and the Environment
Harry Thomas, Sr., Chair (Allen, Ambrose, Chavous, Evans)
Clerk: Adam Maier -- 727-8203

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Mayor 727-2980
Chief Financial Officer 727-2476
Zoning/BZA 727-6311
HPRB 727-7360
City Council 724-8080
Committee agendas 724-8554
Legislative services 724-8050
All are at 441 Fourth Street NW, One Judiciary Square
ABC, 727-7375, 1614 H Street, NW
DPW, 939-8000, 2000 14th Street, NW
Control Board, 504-3400, One Thomas Circle
School Board, 724-4222, 415 12th Street, NW
Fine Arts, 504-2200, 441 F Street, NW
NCPC, 482-7200, 801 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW

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The meetings of the Federation Assembly for the program year 1997-1998 are shown below. They will all be at 7 p.m. at the Sumner School.

October 9
November 12
January 8
February 12
March 12
Mary 14
June 11

In December we will have our Holiday Luncheon, and in April, we will return to the Officers Club at Fort McNair for our annual banquet.

In addition, your Executive Board will meet each month to consider business, and should you have issues you would like presented for consideration by the Federation, it would be most helpful if you contacted a Board member in time for consideration at a Board meeting.

Board Meetings
October 28
November 25
(No meeting in December)
January 27
February 24
March 24
April 28
May 20
June 23

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