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The Environmental News
January 1998




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dropt.jpg (1256 bytes)he Environmental News – January 11, 1998

Children's Island
Next Steps
Repeal of the D.C. Environmental Policy Act
New Initiatives

Children's Island

Despite weeks, months, and years of toil by neighborhood groups and environmental organizations, the City Council voted December 16 to approve the proposed 99-year lease between the Mayor and the Contessa Bina Sela Di Monteluce. The 7-6 voted vindicated the strategy of Council Chair Linda Cropp, who scheduled votes on the matters for three consecutive Council legislative sessions, pulling the bill each time when it appeared that she and the Contessa lacked a voting majority. Only when at-large Member Harold Brazil switched his position at the last minute did she allow a vote to take place.

Brazil's vote was a shock to many who had worked with him in the past. For years his had been the strongest, occasionally the only voice in opposition to the proposed amusement park. Only weeks before the vote he had urged community advocates to lobby other Council offices, because his vote in opposition was assured. We can all learn from this experience.

Some have speculated that his vote was won by corporate lobbyist Dave Wilmot, who was prominent at Brazil's first mayoral fundraiser. Others suggested that he caved as part of a deal with Cropp to obtain an expedited Council vote on his anti-environmental, hastily-drafted "omnibus regulatory reform" bill. Knowledgeable insiders said that "there was money all over this vote." A family member of at least one Council member was allegedly hired by the Contessa's lobbyists.

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Next Steps

The Control Board must pass on the 99-year lease before the Mayor can execute it. The good news is that the Board apparently has a lot of questions about the overall project, both legal and financial. The bad news is that the Board has already been lobbied up and down by the Contessa's lobbyists. One staff member said that he had a "file cabinet full" of material on the project.

If the lease wins the Control Board's approval and is signed by the Mayor, litigation is a distinct possibility. Watch this space.

Notwithstanding the possible approval of the lease, the project must win approval from the National Capital Planning Commission. Normally this would not be difficult. However, approximately two weeks before the Council's vote, the NCPC voted to request Linda Cropp not to permit a Council vote on the project before a number of environmental and other studies had been completed. Obviously, she declined. The snub may come back to haunt her.

What You Can Do: Write Control Board member Constance Neuman, copy to the rest of the Board. Address: DCFRA, One Thomas Circle, Suite 900, WDC 20005.

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Repeal of the D.C. Environmental Policy Act

was narrowly averted the third week of December. Harold Brazil's omnibus regulatory reform bill, which would have substituted for the current law a watered-down version, drew flack from all quarters, including a large handful of Councilmembers and the President's Council on Environmental Quality.

Debate over the proposal acquired an air of surreality when Brazil's staff informed one environmentalist that "we didn't really mean to weaken the law that much," and offered to fix the bill. The offer never materialized.

This issue remains live. Councilmember Thomas has begun discussions with the Council on Environmental Quality as to ways in which D.C.'s law might be modified. Those who have worked with this law over the years contend that the law needs strengthening, if anything.

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Bidding on the City's proposed recycling contract is complete, and the Department of Public works has selected the winning bidder, according to sources. The winner(s) should be announced this month, after which the negotiated contract runs the gauntlet -- including the Control Board and the Council. The latest DPW estimate has curbside collections resuming in April. Let's see.

New Initiatives

Washington Parks for People, along with the Committee of 100 on the Federal City, have received a $50,000 grant to support their "Blueways and Greenways" campaign. The two groups are forming a team which will conduct a three-stage project aimed at identifying, promoting, and developing the parks, rivers, trails, and green spaces in the City and the metro region. Step One involves the preparation of a state-of-the-art digitized map of the region, one that can be manipulated by computer. Contact: Steve Coleman – 387-3256

"Restore the Core" is the name of a program recently begun by the Sierra Club's New Columbia Chapter. While many are working to stop or manage suburban sprawl, this project takes aim at the other half of the problem – the economic and environmental abandonment of the City. Their first target is the revitalization of the near-Southeast community between the Anacostia River and the SE Freeway. Contact: Gwyn Jones – 488-1140

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January 15 – Councilmember Carol Schwartz addresses the monthly luncheon of the Committee of 100 at noon. Anyone is welcome to be my guest - 488-1140. The excellent buffet luncheon ($12) which follows the presentation is optional. Next month's speaker - Constance Neuman.

January 17 – "Highways or Communities – Its Our Choice – Making the Land Use, Transportation and Air Quality Connection" will be a one-day conference on sprawl and highway issues. Place NOAA offices in Silver Spring. Suggested donation $10. For info call 301-309- 2362.

February 2 – Recycle-in at the Mayor's office (Judiciary Square Metro). Our monthly combined protest and drop-off takes place from 4 - 6:30 pm. Volunteers will help you empty your car. Eagle Maintenance picks up everything for recycling at 6:30 pm. Its a cool place to hang out.

February 5 – Monthly enviro brown-bag lunch, with a discussion of metro and D.C. issues. Everyone welcome. Location: Friends of the Earth, 1025 Vermont Ave. NW. Contact: Larry Bohlen – 783-7400.

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