Forward to June 2001 DC Voter — Back to League of Women Voters home page Back to April 2001 DC Voter
Making Our Voices Heard Making Our Votes Count
733 15th Street, N.W., Suite 432, Washington, DC 20005
202/347-3020, fax: 202/347-2522
Website: http://www.dcwatch.com/lwvdc, E-mail: LWVDC@erols.com
81st Annual Meeting
News from the Units
IR Committee Report
Dialogue with Michael C. Rogers
Calendar, May 2001
Housing Policy for the City
Miss Brown Bag Dialogue
Bring a friend!
Guest Speaker & Topic still to be finalized as we go to press. Call the League office 347-3020 for information after May 15.
Two national awards have been presented to the DC Public Schools and the DC League for their "Making Our Votes Count" (MOVC) Student/Parent Mock Election project held last fall. We received first place for "Participation and Voter Turnout" with a 325 percent increase in participation and the leadership award for an "Outstanding Voter Education" project. Elaine Melmed and Reggie Yancey headed the League effort along with a host of volunteers.
Our MOVC project now moves into its third year and will focus on Making DC's Youth Vote Count. Elinor Hart and Elaine Melmed, in cooperation with the DC public schools, have planned a voter registration project with the student council leaders from each of the city's public high schools. The staff of the Board of Election and Ethics will provide the training and the League will provide packets for seniors about the opportunity to register. The brochure will present an overview of the 2002 election, explaining the "who, how and when" of elections in the District.
Housing is hot in the District with three pieces of legislation in the hopper at the moment. The League has long-standing, solid positions in this area. The May units will focus on updating ourselves and gearing up for action in the fall. We recently wrote a letter to Milton Bailey, Director, Department of Housing and Community Development, asking about the process for developing a plan and strategy to increase affordable housing in the District as well as an estimate of the time frame and how the public can participate.
My thanks to Anna Marsh, Audrey Hatry, Susan Rao and Carol Ragsdale who are leaving the Board. It's been a pleasure to serve and to work with such dedicated and informed Leaguers. — Elizabeth M. Martin Outgoing President
Members attending the 81 St LWVDC Annual Meeting unanimously elected E. Patricia (Pat) Hallman as President. In her acceptance remarks, Ms. Hallman commended Elizabeth Martin for her outstanding job as President these last two years. "I look forward to working with League members as we educate and advocate for issues affecting the citizens of DC," she added.
Other officers elected included Naomi Glass, 2"d VP and Ken Nesper, Jr., Secretary. Existing officers are 1 St VP Elaine Melmed, 3`d VP Barbara Yeomans and Treasurer Christine Matthews. Directors elected to serve the next two years included: Natalie Howard, Barbara Luchs and Ann Porowski.
Guest speaker Dr. Paul L. Vance, Ph.D., Superintendent of DC Public Schools spoke on "Parents Have Choices Because Parents Have Voices." Pictures of the annual meeting will be in the next issue of the DC Voter.
May Unit Meetings will discuss Affordable Housing in DC (see insert "Housing Policy for the City."). LWVDC members are invited to attend any of the neighborhood Unit Meetings listed below that meet their time or location needs; call hostess for directions/parking information.
May Unit Meeting Schedule
Tuesday. May 15
Wednesday, May 16
Thursday. May 17
New Members: Welcome to new members: Luci W. Bourne, Laura E. Harris, and Marie C. Richardson. Update: June Bashkin, Guy Coriden and Audrey Hatry are also participating in the Court Excellence Project (April, 2001 DC Voter).
In Memoriam: As reported in March, members have made additional contributions to LWVDC in memory of Martha Myers. For many long-time Leaguers who knew Martha, it was shocking to learn of her unexpected, precipitous decline in health. We will miss her organizational talents as a librarian, and one well acquainted with D.C. Many of us will remember Martha as a lynchpin in the long fight beginning in the late 1960's toward gaining Home Rule and full voting representation in Congress. Her kitchen table was often "headquarters" for massive mailing efforts before email and computers. Her fine good humor, sound judgment, and effective energies epitomized what makes an outstanding Leaguer. Contributions: We gratefully thank members who made additional contributions to the League: Suzanne Campagna, Julia Cuniberti, Coralie Farlee, Naomi Glass, Virginia Gorman, E. Patricia Hallman, Audrey Hatry, Norma M. Hunton, Joan Keenan, Sheila & Spurgeon Keeny, Johnetta Kelly, Grace Malakoff, Anna & Luther Marsh, Leona Rumsey, Elaine & William Simons, Nancy Sloss, Mary R. Weiler, Sheila Willet, Barbara T. Yeomans.
Have you "shared your view" with the LWVUS Trade Update Task Force? The March/April National Voter offers each of us an opportunity to do this via a tear-off in that issue. A recent meeting of the IR Committee's informal steering committee revealed that most committee members had also failed to circle the statements with which we agreed/disagreed. Some of us even had reservations about the question and tear-off process.
To speed up (and enlighten) the process, the committee has decided to hold an open meeting on Saturday May 26 when we will attempt to reach consensus on questions (and answers) that should be included in the League's new position on trade, which is being developed now by the Task Force. Members "turned on" by the discussion of Trade at informational Unit Meetings in February are particularly encouraged to attend and share their thoughts with the committee. Metro-area Leagues are also invited to participate.
Background material on trade is being provided by LWVUS via five articles in the National Voter. The six Globaphobia seminars sponsored by LWVDC this past fall were followed by an all day Symposium on Trade, each with nationally known experts. Videotapes of all of these are available by calling Task Force and IR Committee member Janet Burmester at 237-6948.
It is the Committee's hope that the new position being developed by the Trade Update Task Force will reflect our in-put before it is disseminated for concurrence by all LWV members via tear-off in the National Voter next December. The May 26th meeting is your chance to make an informed contribution to the process. Remember to bring your tear-offs. — Sheila Keeny, Co-Chair (966-1692)
Meeting on LWVUS Trade Position
Come one, come all! NCA's 2001 Convention will be held on Saturday morning, May 19, 2001, at the Marriott at Metro Center. Registration will begin at 9:30 am and Nancy Tate, Executive Director of the LWVUS, will address us, starting at 10:15 am. Her subject will be election reform and, as is customary at League meetings, she will be responsive to questions and comments from the audience.
We will then move on to the business part of the Convention: adopting the program for the coming biennium; electing two officers, two directors and a nominating committee chair and two members; and approving a budget for the year 2001-2002. This year's nominating committee, chaired by Natalie Testa from Montgomery County, is proposing the following slate: Barbara Sherrill, Arlington, for president; Janet Hays, Fairfax, for secretary; Forest Williams, Prince Georges, and Shirley Olson, Fairfax, for board positions; Elizabeth Martin, DC, for nominating committee chair; and Jan Dring, Montgomery, for nominating committee member (a second nominating committee member is still to be nominated).
We will have for sale some items remaining from our Mart at the LWVUS Convention last June, including hats and T-shirts. In addition, we have a third pin in the series put out by the LWV of Missouri. This one is called The Capitol Woman and "honors those women who have placed their names on the ballots." Also available once more are the first two pins in the series: the Suffragist and the Flapper. The pins cost $10 each.
Sometime during all this, the Naumann Award will be presented to the winning League and we will be served a sumptuous breakfast. — Naomi Glass, President 6860124, firstname.lastname@example.org
DIALOGUE WITH MICHAEL C. ROGERS, EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR, METROPOLITAN WASHINGTON COUNCIL OF GOVERNMENTS (COG)
A good turnout for a great program! Mr. Rogers became COG's Executive Director in July 1998. His prior experiences serve him well in his current responsibilities, including service as D.C. City Administrator, the chief procurement officer for New York City, and with Commerce Secretary Ron Brown. Mr. Rogers gave us background on COG and reviewed current initiatives.
COG is an independent non-profit association of 17 local governments in the Washington area. D.C. has worked with COG for over 40 years. The organization's mission is to enhance the quality of life and competitive advantages of the region. There are 28 members of the Board of Directors, currently chaired by D.C. Councilwoman Carol Schwartz. The Board is comprised of elected officials from the member governments (executive and legislative) and representatives from Maryland and Virginia legislatures.
COG addresses regional issues which affect the region's more than 4.2 million residents, such as clean air and water; transportation; public safety; human services and sound planning and land use policies. It functions as a regional "think tank" and as an advocate and technical consultant for the member governments and the region. The Washington metropolitan area comprises the fourth largest regional economy and fifth largest employment base in the U.S. By 2025 the population is expected to reach about 5.8 million. Mr. Rogers said that the 1.6 million new people will need about 600,000 new housing units, and 379 million square feet of new retail and office space will be required.
Last year the emphasis in COG was on better use of information technology for local governments, citizens and businesses. A related project coming to fruition is a regional Web-based electronic procurement system that will work to expand cooperative purchasing and help automate procurement needs of governments and agencies. More than 40 local government school boards and other agencies within the COG region have combined annual purchases in excess of $2.5 billion. Further, COG has established a Digital Divide Task Force to assist residents to learn about how to access the Internet.
(Editors Note: This is Part I of a two part series reporting the March Brown Bag Dialogue. Part II will appear in the June DC Voter.)
HOUSING POLICY FOR THE CITY
of paper prepared by the Washington
Regional Network for Livable Communities
In the wake of a welcome economic turn-around and a boom in residential and commercial real estate, the District of Columbia faces a crisis in affordable housing, as do other cities across the country. Safe, healthy, and reasonably-priced housing is simply disappearing from some sections of our city as market prices skyrocket. We welcome the return of households, investments and jobs to the city. This is "smart growth." It builds the tax base essential for DC's further growth. But it should not take place at the expense of long-time neighborhoods and residents who stayed on in the city during all the hard years.
Of special concern is affordable rental housing. In DC the fair market rent for a two-bedroom unit is $863. A low-income household can afford a monthly rent of no more than $652. A minimum wage earner can afford no more than $320. A one-bedroom apartment costs $735 at fair-market rates. An SSI recipient living on $366 a month can afford no more than $110 for rent. Thirty-two per cent of DC renters are unable to afford the fair market cost of a two-bedroom home. Displacement threatens long-time residents of limited means, both renters and homeowners.
Opportunities To Protect Low-Income Tenants and Home Owners by:
1. Strict, timely code enforcement and meaningful penalties. A long-standing dismal record of enforcement has contributed to widespread bad management practices in rental properties;
2. Rent-Control Revisions and a Tenant Safety Net. Rent control, which many of the 60 per cent of the city's residents who are renters consider the single most important protection for their homes, could be strengthened by plugging the loop-holes in the law. The law must be kept in place until the city is able to offer an adequate supply of decent housing for all its citizens.
3. Tenants' Advocate. Residents who are renters - a majority in this town - should have an official Tenants' Advocate office to serve as advisor and protector of their rights and interests. Appointed by the Major and funded by the city, such an advocate would be independent and responsible to his or her clients, operating much as the Peoples' Counsel office and the Consumers' Utility Board.
4. Expiring Use. Many affordable-housing units built in Washington 15-20 years ago with federal money will become market-rate units within the coming months. Hundreds of elderly, disabled, and other low-income residents will not be able to stay in their buildings without assistance. The Mayor should assess the extent of the problem and the number of people actually facing displacement. The city should negotiate a restructuring of the 30-year mortgages that the owners received in arrangements originally made with the city, the federal government, and mortgage companies, and restructure the financing to allow the most vulnerable tenants to stay on at affordable rents. Alternatively, the city will have to find additional money to subsidize the rising rents of the most vulnerable tenants.
5. Section 8 Vouchers Program. Section 8 vouchers, the federal government's main program for assisting low-income householders, has great promise for providing eligible families with real choice in where they want to live, and may also help dilute the concentration of poverty commonly found in cities. The national program's potential is limited by an administrative balkanization in implementing the programs and widespread inadequacy in services provided to help the recipient of vouchers find appropriate housing. Local appropriations do not meet growing needs.
6. Special Fund to Facilitate Tenant Ownership. Elected officials in partnership with the private sector should create a special fund and provide ongoing technical assistance to help tenants where appropriate to purchase, renovate, and manage long-neglected properties. Existence of such resources is essential to give meaning to any right of first refusal.
7. Tax Relief for Low-Income Home Owners. Elderly people living on limited incomes and other low-income homeowners who may have been living in a home owned by the family for more than one generation may also need greater protection. Tax relief should be enacted for such homeowners, along with tax credits or other assistance to keep their homes. in repair and safe and healthy for occupancy.
8. Task Force on Displacement. As one walks through parts of the city experiencing rapid gentrification, one can see the signs of displacement, but no one has reliable, up-to date data on the extent of displacement and what is happening to those displaced. A door-to-door survey of households in a sample of affected neighborhoods could provide the hard information needed.
To Increase the Supply of Affordable Housing by:
Ultimately, no amount of tenant protection or improved regulatory enforcement can meet the problem unless the inadequate supply of affordable housing is effectively tackled. The city must therefore develop policies and programs to increase the supply of affordable housing, especially for low-income households. Many of the following measures were designed originally to increase home ownership. But, we have been convinced by the builders of affordable housing that they can be adapted for rental housing as well.
1. Smart Codes. The city should amend housing codes to provide more flexible rehabilitation codes for existing buildings and infill developments to reduce the cost and encourage the building of scattered-site, low- and moderate-income housing.
2. Inclusionary Zoning. The District should use zoning regulations and tax incentives to require new developments to include affordable housing to compensate for lost to rising rents and gentrification.
3. Taking Advantage of Metro Stations. The District now has a one-time-only opportunity to build quality transportation-oriented development, including affordable housing units, around Metro stations.
4. Split-Rate Taxation. By lowering taxes on buildings and improvements and shifting a greater portion of real-estate taxes to the land, the cost of housing renovation can be reduced and investments in vacant and underutilized parcels encouraged.
5. Tax Increment Financing (TIFs). This is a mechanism by which the city's anticipated increase in taxes is used to pay off a bond for a desirable project that had specific public benefits and that would not be built without the TIF.
6. Location-Efficient Mortgages (LEMs) to create a new class of mortgages that factor in benefits of locating a borrower's residence near work or metro when calculating the level of a loan. (i.e., reduction of local air pollution and large savings on commuting.) LEMs require no public subsidies, but elected officials must take the lead.
7. Employer-Assisted Housing (EAH). City officials should work with selected companies to get them to assist their employees to find affordable housing close to their employment.
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