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The Environmental News
April 1998




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dropt.jpg (1256 bytes)he Environmental News – April 30, 1998

Rock Creek Park
Convention Center
DC Environmental Policy Act
Restore the Core
City Council Gossip

Rock Creek Park

There are no new rumors regarding the National Park Service's planned summer unveiling of a draft General Management Plan for the Park — they will almost certainly recommend the plan endorsed by the City Council and the Washington Post — no change in the status quo. However, an action has been planned by residents and advocates.

Y’ALL COME OUT ON MOTHER’S DAY! Everyone with an interest in either protecting the Park or enjoying it is invited to come to the “Rally for Rock Creek's Future” on the 10th. There will be music, poetry, a “stroller brigade,” and, yes, a few speeches.

Marchers will start at 1 p.m. from three places, described below, and converge on picnic area 28 — near the intersection of Beach Drive and Broadbranch, about five stones’ throw upstream of Peirce Mill (at Tilden and Beach). The rally begins at 2.

Walkers, joggers and cyclists meet at the Carter Barron parking lot; strollers and skaters start at the Miller Cabin, just above Military Rd. on Beach; and others will start at Pierce Mill. If coming by Metro, get off at Van Ness and take the trail that leads northeast from Connecticut Ave. at Windom. (anyone interested in a beginners’ volleyball clinic be at Peirce Mill at 12 with a ball).

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Whining, finger-pointing, and hand-wringing over the City's failed recycling collection program escalated in April, and for the first time emanated from the new office of the Chief Management Officer, Camille Cates Barnett. After a decade of non-execution by the Barry/Kelly administration, Ms. Barnett pledged to recycling advocates on February 20 that the program would soon be restored. Indeed, she promised, collections would be resumed by April — no ifs, ands, or buts.

But that commitment was not kept. Sometime in March, Ms. Barnett terminated the contract that had been negotiated with Waste Management and Eagle Maintenance. Though she never informed the City Council or environmentalists of her decision, she told the Washington Post that she believed that she could negotiate “a better deal” for the City. Some suspected that intensive City Council lobbying by the Committee of 8000 and the Dupont Circle Citizens Association had led to pressure to rework the program to permit collections in alleys, rather than at (front) curbside.

In any event, when the contract was re-offered for bid, there was certainly no “better deal” on the table. The lowest responsive bid came in at approximately $3.8 million dollars — i.e., $1.6 million more than the deal that Barnett had scrapped, and quite a bit more than the amount found in either the 1998 or the 1998 recycling budget. From there, the news get worse. The lowest bidder was Urban Services, and small firm that does some commercial recycling for the D.C. school system. Unfortunately, Urban Services does not have the trucks that are needed to drive down the narrow alleys of Wards, 1, 2, and 6. Insiders says that such trucks cannot be leased, and take months to purchase. So, the smart money, if there's any of that left in this town, says not to expect to see recycling until August. Or September. Or....

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Convention Center

Council Chairman Cropp invited a group of environmental and neighborhood representatives on her office on April 20th to discuss the question of where to site the new Convention Center. But Ms. Cropp did more talking than listening, making it clear that she wants the facility to be built in Shaw, not behind Union Station.

Meanwhile, workers for mayoral candidate Harold Brazil has been dropping hints that he is open to arguments regarding the alternative site being advocated by the Committee of 100 and others. As yet, there has been nothing from the candidate himself on the matter. At this time Councilmembers Ambrose, Catania, and Patterson have expressed open skepticism about the Shaw site, which is expected to cost at least $200 million more than the Union Station, destroy a neighborhood, and feature no room for expansion of its rather modest size. Carol Schwartz seems to be on the fence.

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D.C. Environmental Policy Act

On April 13th the Control Board heard a day of testimony from business and civic groups about the recommendations of the Business and Regulatory Review Commission (last summer) and Holland and Knight (January) to repeal the D.C. Environmental Policy Act (“DCEPA”), the law that requires the preparation of environmental impact statements (“EIS”) on large development projects. In reality, the law is routinely ignored — only one EIS has been prepared under the law since its enactment in 1989.

The D.C. Chamber of Commerce complained that the law was dragging down business, but could not, when questioned, explain exactly how. Lined up on the other side was an array of others, including Presidential-appointee Lois Schiffer, the head of the Environmental Division at the Department of Justice. Environmentalists pointed out that laws like DCEPA have been proliferating around the states, and indeed the world, because of the demonstrated usefulness of EISs in opening up major governmental actions to public scrutiny.

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Restore the Core

The Sierra Club, the Coalition for Smarter Growth, and other groups concerned with slowing the bleeding of the City by suburban politicians and business interests, conducted a “Tour de Sprawl” on April 21. The event consisted of a propane-fueled trolley carrying Council staff, reporters, and others from center-city developments that work (like the MCI arena) to urban areas that need help (like the Southeast Federal Center and environs), to suburban areas in Maryland where large-lot zoning is the rule, and the auto is king. Another Tour is planned in Maryland. Contact: Glen Besa (301)261-2314.

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City Council Gossip

After 14 years of service to the City Council, mostly as staff to the Public Works and Environment Committee, Adam Maier resigned on April 21. Evidently there was a minor incident in the office that day, and Maier said “toodles.”

Adam mastered the budgetary and legislative processes that governed many of the environmental issues that were most important to Washington, from highway projects, to recycling, to drinking water quality. He literally put the “Environment” in “Public Works and Environment.” We will watch his next move with great interest, particularly in this political year.

Policy wonks should send their resumes to Harry Thomas. Those with a low tolerance for cigarette smoke should think twice before doing so.

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