Organiza.gif (1182 bytes)

Home     Organizations

Forward to March 2002 DC VoterBack to League of Women Voters home pageBack to January 2002 DC Voter

The DC Voter
League of Women Voters of the District of Columbia
Vol. 78, No. 2, February 2002

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:, E-mail:

President’s Corner
News from the Units
Member News
Voter Services: Thank You to Washington Gas
Education Committee: The New Federal Education Law
Congressional Representation
Health Care Committee Report
Alert: National Capital Area CareFirst Watch
Brown Bag Dialogue Series: Understanding the DC Budget
International Relations Committee
New Affordable Housing Bill Makes a Difference
Dr. Alice Rivlin Speaks to Full House on the District’s Future
Highlights of January 9 Board Meeting
National Capital Area LWV News
Prepared Lunch Available for March 15 General Meeting

Lunch reservation form

Calendar — February 2002
New Trade Position Addresses Complex Globalization Issues
Card Party and Lunch

Card party reservation form

Wine and Cheese Party


Monthly naturalization swearing-in-ceremonies of new citizens continue to occur at the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia. Over 80 applicants were sworn in by Judge Ricardo Urbana this month. Judge Urbana advised the newly naturalized citizens that "immigration is not something of the past, but something of the future." He also indicated that 280 countries are represented in the District of Columbia. The Women's Bar Association also welcomed them. LWVDC HAS BEEN INVOLVED IN THIS CEREMONY FOR SOME TIME, by collecting the completed voting registration forms from the new citizens and submitting the forms to the Board of Elections and Ethics. Thanks to Elinor Hart, Guy Coriden, Vinna Freeman, Minnie Fitzhugh and Ethel Cooper for their continued support. The enthusiasm, relief and joy expressed by the new citizens spoke volumes.

Planning for the upcoming election activity in the fall, we will be arranging training soon for those interested in working on DNet (Democracy Network), the League of Women Voters Electronic Voters Guide. Interested? Please call the office and let us know.

Several of our LWV Units and individuals are undertaking Fund Raising benefits on our behalf. Thanks to all contributors to the LWVDC. We have met half of our goal so far and our efforts are still underway.

Members of the Children-at-Risk Task Force, Joan Wilson and Nancy Buchanan are making headway with this year's study of homeless children. In a recent week, they: audited a meeting of emergency shelter providers entreating city officials for more emergency shelter space; met with the director of Valley View Apartments, a new transitional housing facility; interviewed the director of shelter for women and families at the Center for Creative Non-Violence; and, toured the Community of Hope Belmont facility to observe a tutoring program of DCPS. See next month's Voter for more information. — E. Patricia Hallman President

Back to top of page

11:30 a.m.
Monday, February 25, 2002
1730 M STREET, NW SUITE 1000
TOPIC: "Understanding DC Budget"
Speaker: Ed Lazere
(See below for more information)

Back to top of page


Unit Meetings in February and March will be replaced by a General Meeting on the proposed Trade Position Concurrence on Tuesday, February 12 and by a General Meeting on the United Nations on Friday, March 15. For details see IR Committee report.

As its contribution to our fundraising efforts, the Northwest Evening Unit is sponsoring a fundraising wine and cheese party on Friday, February 8, while the Upper 16th Street Unit will sell brown bag lunches to those attending the March 15 meeting. A reservation form for the lunch can be found on page 8. Both are interesting ways to introduce your friends to the League! — Sheila Keeny, Unit Director (966-1692)

Back to top of page


With sorrow we report the death of Beulah R. Foster and extend our sincere sympathy to her family and friends. Welcome New Members: Joining the local DC League: Judith J. Canning, John T. Mathison. Joining the National League who reside in our area: Robert L. Borlick, Alfreda Brewer, Norman Frumkin, Linda Heaney, Hugh M. Jenkins, Hester C. Lewis, Priscilla Mason, Bernadette Odyniec & Herb Ettel, William Meadows, Robert A. Pratt, Marion Pryde, Juanita C. Ritch, Susan U. Spaulding, and William L. Turner. Contributions: Bonnie Barhyte, Hope C. Bogorad, Barbara J. Bramble, Janet W. Brown, Patricia J. Elli, Sylvia Fesler, Elizabeth Fox, Elizabeth Hobby, Anne D. Hull, Julie B. Johnstone, Lloyd Leonard & Elizabeth Wiener; Frances Lewine, Joanne London, Ruth Nadel, Marguerite E. Nolan, Kathryn Ray, Lillian K. Rubin, Carl F. Seastrum, Joy R. Simonson, Dr. Harriet J. Smith.

Back to top of page

VOTER SERVICES: Thank You to Washington Gas

Many thanks to Washington Gas for its contribution of $500 for the League's DCPS Youth Services Learning Project put together by Elinor Hart and Elaine Melmed. The focus is on civic education aimed at high school students to improve voting participation in this year's elections. We are grateful to Washington Gas and Stephen Jumper, Director, Public Affairs, for their support last year and again this year for our school based efforts.

Back to top of page

THE NEW FEDERAL EDUCATION LAW: No Child Left Behind Act of 2001

On January 8, 2002, President Bush signed a new law that changes the involvement of the federal government in public education. This law authorizes $26.5 billion for K-12 education spending, requires annual tests for every child in grades 3 through 8, and requires students to-make sure that all teachers are qualified in their subject areas. The law does not provide vouchers to attend private or religious schools, but it does provide aid to build new charter schools.

Some teachers claim that schools will be forced to spend more time preparing students for taking standardized tests leaving less time to teach subjects such as music and art. The League Education Committee plans a full study of the law and its impact on DC Public Schools. Interested members are invited to join the Education Committee to begin this study at its next meeting on Wednesday, February 13 at 10 am in the League Office. — Constance Tate (882-0387) & Gladys Weaver (554-3055), Co-chairs

Back to top of page


Remember you can get your DC license plate with "Taxation without Representation" for just $10. It is a good reminder as you drive here in the District, and it is one of the best means to educate outside Washington. To get your plates you must present your current ones with your valid driver's license and a valid insurance card at 301 C Street, NW.

To keep the issue alive, DC Vote has teddy bears, mugs, Tshirts, sweatshirts, caps, and flags. for sale. Some are available from 1500 U Street and all are available on the web site, Each includes the phrase "Taxation without Representation."

Again this year DC Vote will sponsor an event on Income Tax Return Day, April 15. Save the date to help us publicize our voteless plight.

On the federal level, committee assignments have yet to be made on the Norton and Lieberman bills (H. R. 1193/S603). League members can encourage their friends and family who have voting representation in Congress to contact their Congressional Representatives to urge action on these bills. — Kathy Schmidt, DC VOTE Liaison (237-5550)

Back to top of page


On January 16, 2002, public hearings were held regarding a resolution for the District to accept the DC General Hospital property from GSA.

The DC Office of Planning is putting together a master plan for the use of this property to submit to the City Council by March 13, 2002 and will begin to have public hearings starting the week of January 21st. As of this printing, dates and locations of hearings have not been announced. Interested members should check the website  or call their office at 202 4427600 to get information on the hearings.

Non-profit CareFirst Blue Cross/Blue Shield has accepted a purchase bid from WellPoint Health Network of California. The resulting corporation, if approved by Delaware, the District, and Maryland health regulators, would convert the area's largest health insurer to a for-profit corporation. The DC League has joined "National Capital Area CareFirst Watch," a coalition of community groups designed to watchdog the conversion process (See related article this page). Whereas some members of the coalition have stated opposition to the conversion, others have taken a wait-and-see approach.

The Healthcare Committee will meet Tuesday, February 26 at 10.30 am at the LWVDC Office. — Natalie Howard (882-8762), Chair

Back to top of page


As many of you know, CareFirst, the non-profit Blue Cross Blue Shield Company operating in DC, Maryland and Delaware, has recently filed an application to convert from a non-profit to a for-profit corporation, and to subsequently be acquired by Wellpoint, a California-based for-profit provider of health insurance. Anticipating this application, the National Capital Area CareFirst Watch coalition was formed several months ago through the leadership of the DC Appleseed Center. The DC LWV is a member of this coalition and one of more than 15 organizations represented on its steering committee. Similar coalitions have been formed in Maryland and Delaware, and our sister Leagues are much involved.

As a not-for-profit provider, CareFirst is mandated to insure those unable to otherwise obtain health insurance and thus it enjoys special tax and other preferential treatment by relevant governments. Consequently, assets accrued by CareFirst must, if the conversion occurs, be used to benefit the communities it serves.

"Advocacy efforts in recent years by public organizations on behalf of communities have been extremely successful in protecting public assets when conversions of this nature have occurred in other parts of the country. The National Capital Area CareFirst Watch Coalition, paying particular attention to the impact of this proposal in the District of Columbia and surrounding suburbs, plans to ensure that

  1. The proposed conversion will be scrutinized closely by regulators, and not approved if it is harmful to the public interest; and if the conversion and acquisition go forward, that
  2. CareFirst is fairly valued;
  3. The public receives the maximum funds to which they are entitled; and
  4. The funds accrued through the sale are used to serve public health care needs in the most efficient and effective way possible."

Those of you with access to the web will find the above and much more on the coalition's website ( If you have questions and/or would like to be involved in this vital effort, please call Naomi Glass, 202-686-0124

Back to top of page



Ed Lazere, Executive Director, DC Fiscal Policy Institute
FEBRUARY 25, 2002 -11:30 AM-1:30 PM AT 1730 M St., NW, Suite 1000

Is there anything more important ...more useful ...for DC local affairs activists to understand than the DC budget and its implications? The speaker for our February Brown Bag Lunch, Ed Lazere, will try to help us aspiring activists do just that!

Ed Lazere is the Executive Director of the DC Fiscal Policy Institute, an organization established "to engage in research and public education on the fiscal and economic health of the District of Columbia." Check for additional information about Ed Lazere and the Institute.

Ed will talk with us about the DC budget structure, the FY2002 budget recently passed by Congress and the FY2003 budget that will be sent to Council in early March. The FY2003 revenue forecast is due by the end of January, so we will have a useful context for discussion and analysis.

As usual, the Brown Bag lunch-discussion will be held at the LWVUS offices, 1730 M Street NW, Suite 1000 at 11:30 am. Call Naomi Glass (202-686-0124) if you have questions. — Anna Marsh, Brown Bag Dialogue Coordinator.

Back to top of page


Committee To Sponsor General Meeting on Trade Position Concurrence: Senator John D. Rockefeller IV in an op-ed in the Washington Post on January 8, argued for "temporary tariffs on steel imports to give the U.S. industry breathing room to restructure." Pakistani journalist Zubeida Mustafa, also in the Post on January 6, argued against loans, "which make a supplicant out of Pakistan", proposing instead that America "work toward opening up its markets for our goods. Trade will bring prosperity. And prosperity will bring stability ...the best insurance against terrorism". Are the two arguments in conflict? What has happened to "globalization" since 9/11?

Members who have been following the trade concurrence process have had much to learn over the past year and a half since LWVUS Convention 2000. It was then delegates agreed to review the LWVUS position on trade because of perceived conflicts between a liberal trade policy and human rights/labor/environmental goals. Leaguers who have read their December/January National Voter realize that the time has now come for each of us to react to the concurrence statement drawn up by a LWVUS Task Force on Trade and printed on pages 9 and 10. Page 10 also contains a tear-off for individual member responses to be returned to LWVUS, in this instance a new procedure for reaching member agreement.

General Membership Meeting on LWVUS Trade Position Concurrence: Before you consider filling out the tear-off, however, the IR Committee urges you to attend a General Meeting on Trade Position Concurrence, Tuesday February 12, noon to 2PM, at the Sumner School, when the proposed new position will be reviewed in detail in a freewheeling discussion led by Task Force and IR Committee member Janet Burmester (see insert - New Trade Position Addresses Complex Globalization Issues).

This is your opportunity to analyze and discuss some of the issues to which we have been sensitized over the past months, i.e., free vs. fair trade, the role of subsidies, "fast track" authority for the President, and many others. Bring your tear-offs from the National Voter; following the giveand-take of the discussion, members will be urged to fill out the tear-offs. Bring your brown bag lunch at noon - the meeting will end promptly at 2PM.

Great Decisions - February Meetings The first meeting of the League's Great Decisions group, when we discussed the roots of terrorism while pondering why "they" hate us, was held on January 25. Our meetings in February will look at Korean security issues (Friday, February 8) and the elusive quest for peace in the Middle East (Friday, February 22). For information on the prescribed readings and their authors, see flyer distributed with January DCVoter. The meetings will be held from 10 am noon in the Rosalie Goodman Room of the LWVUS office, 1730 M St., NW. (Metro Station: Farragut North). In all there will be eight sessions, ending in May. Call Hope Marindin, Great Decisions facilitator, at 9666367 for information or to order a Great Decisions briefing book. It is never too late to join the group.

Looking ahead The IR Committee plans a General Meeting on the United Nations on Friday, March 15, noon - 2 pm at the Sumner School, with a panel of experts moderated by Andrew Rice, President of the United Nations Association of the National Capital Area. See enclosed flyer to order your box lunch now; more program details in March DCVoter. The Upper 16th Unit will prepare brown bag lunches as a League Fundraiser for $5. See the reservation form on page 8. — Sheila Keeny (966-1692) Co-Chair

Don't forget to read and bring the paper New Trade Position Addresses Complex Globalization Issues (insert) and your December/January National Voter with you to the February 12th General Meeting at Sumner School (noon - 2 pm) on LWVUS Trade Concurrence.

Back to top of page


In January the DC Council passed The Housing Act of 2001, the city's first significant housing legislation in two decades. And it was League members, most notably Elinor Hart and Janet Brown, along with other active community groups and individuals that made it happen. Mayor Williams' proposal to strengthen the Housing Production Trust Fund was the centerpiece for League action. Through visits to Council members we urged Coucilmembers Patterson and Fenty to introduce two amendments that focused the dollars in the Trust on the people most in need. The Housing Trust Fund monies are intended for rehabilitation or construction of housing for the use of citizens at various income levels.

As the debate continued Mrs. Linda Cropp, Council Chair, noted that it had been a long time since all members of the Council had been so involved in an issue. Mrs. Patterson and Mr. Fenty introduced the amendment that requires 50 percent of the funds to be used for rental housing. In proposing the amendment she noted that 16,000 rental units have been lost in the past ten years. Mr. Chavous stated that with this addition, the policy is all-inclusive. Ms. Allen concurred, saying, "a choice should be left on the table. The amendment passed with two "no" votes from Councilmembers Catania and Brazil.

Mr. Fenty, along with co-sponsors Schwartz, Graham, Chavous, Ambrose and Mendelson, proposed that 40 percent of the Trust Funds be used for those families of four with incomes below $26,000 and another 40 percent be used for those with incomes from $26,000 to $43,000 for a family of four. The remaining 20 percent would be for families with incomes up to $68,000. "This is the crux of the debate," stated Mr. Evans. Mrs. Ambrose asserted that this is a "good compromise and ... a new kind of commitment. It will hold the executive feet to the fire." Now citizens from all income levels are served from the Housing Trust Fund. This amendment passed with one dissenting vote by Councilmember Brazil.

The League met with The Washington Post Editorial Board in an effort to get editorial support. On January 6, The Post came out in support of focusing the housing trust funds on the "neediest, using public resources to help those for whom the private market is least likely to provide." Several Councilmembers cited the editorial in their arguments for passage of the two amendments. The Post also came out in support of developing better information about the city's housing needs - the next issue your Affordable Housing Committee will be addressing. — Liz Martin & Julia Cuniberti, co-chairs.

Back to top of page


[Editorial Note: Dr. Rivlin's address was made in her capacity as Co-Director of the Greater Washington Research Program at Brookings and derives from her June 2001 report with Carol O'Cleireacain, "Envisioning a Future Washington." The report below is shared by D.C. Leaguer, Janet Brown, a Board member of the Washington Regional Network (WRN) who led the subject meeting.]

Dr. Alice Rivlin, speaking before a full house at WRN's November Forum at the Sumner School, addressed the question, "What kind of city do we want Washington to be?" She led off her remarks by observing that the fiscal crisis of the 1990's is behind us, the attitude of Congress about the city has improved a little, and the population is increasing once again. A recession, terrorism and fear of change create anxiety all over the city. But D.C. is better off than most cities. On the other hand, we have a badly deteriorating infrastructure and a badly divided city. She said, however, that what we all want is diversity, safe streets, affordable housing, stores, services, good transportation and schools -- a city with more community and less poverty, and less concentration of poverty.

To compensate for population loss since the 1970's, Dr. RivIin said we need to grow the population that will support businesses and create jobs. While some people will move in from the suburbs, she said, our main hope for adding 100,000 residents in ten years is to retain the young people who come to the city every year.

Adding adults, old and young, is the easiest and least expensive way to do that. This is happening already, but it won't necessarily commit to the city for the long run, and it could further divide the city between rich and poor. Attracting and keeping families with children is a more difficult and more expensive proposition (primarily because of the cost of education), but clearly is the healthy way to go to secure a greater commitment to the city.

Since revitalization of a neighborhood requires that everything be done at once, Dr. Rivlin suggests that it is important to choose neighborhoods that are close in, near Metro stations and have a combination of elements: hope, active community organizations, an anchor institution that's a major employer with whom to partner (mostly universities and hospitals in D.C.), some good housing stock, schools that are ready to be improved, a health center, recreational facilities, etc. Care must be taken not to push people out of their communities, so some of the easiest places to build new housing and add to the tax base will be parts of the city where there aren't established populations, e.g., the waterfront, north of Massachusetts Avenue, downtown, and St. Elizabeth's. Partnerships must be sought with major governmental and non-governmental institutions.

Renters, said Rivlin, need extra provisions to protect them. To start, we have to have an increased supply of lowand moderate-income rental housing. And she suggested that there are things the city can do that have been done elsewhere and not yet tried here, like requiring a mix of incomes in all new developments, or capturing the rising values in 'a rapidly "gentrifying" neighborhood and returning this in some fashion to the particularly affected neighborhood to protect long-time residents. And, Rivlin emphasized, we have to get federal money on a regular basis since restrictions are placed on our tax base (e.g., we cannot tax commuters nor federal land and instrumentalities let alone compensating for services we render to the federal government.)

Dr. Rivlin concluded that she hoped the on-going Brookings Institution's research program would stimulate serious dialogue about the choices and strategies before the city. Such dialogue was started immediately with more than twenty questions from the audience, including representatives of the press. Among suggestions coming from the audience were proposals to alter the tax structure (specifically by taxing higher incomes more); by restructuring mortgages (among other things, by offering location-efficient mortgages); by adding a surcharge to large mortgage transactions; through a community land trust; by raising building-height limitations north of Florida Avenue and on the periphery of the city. Several times the conversation came back to the need to tax income, one way or another, earned in the city by workers who do not live here. The statement that brought the most applause was Alice Rivlin's assertion that the city's development priorities should not be distorted by hosting the Olympics, nor should we build any more stadiums. — Janet Welsh Brown (332-0789

Back to top of page


Nelson Rimensnyder, a D.C. League member and historian, attended the meeting to discuss a 1979 study on the history of Federal-D.C. relations, including a historic review of the Federal Payment. At risk are some 90 boxes of papers relating to the study, now in Rimensnyder's garage. He would appreciate the League's support in his effort to persuade the Brookings Institution to provide a two-year chair to catalogue the papers . . . this is the only existing such study. He asked that the League write to Alice Rivlin of Brookings regarding the matter. The Board voted to support this effort and have Rimensnyder draft the letter from the League to Rivlin/Brookings.

Joan Wilson described the workshops and educational activities of the Fair Budget Coalition (of the District of Columbia), which is sponsored by the Free Legal Clinic for the Homeless, and provides budgetary information and assistance to D. C. citizens and community group. The Board voted to accept her recommendation that LWVDC join the Fair Budget Coalition.

Reggie Yancey showed a LAPEL pin with the message VOTE. She proposed that LWVDC purchase a supply of the pins and sell them. not only to our members. but also to voters who participate in our private elections. The Board voted to adopt this recommendation. Yancey said volunteers are needed to assist in Private Elections on Monday, March 25 and Thursday, March 28.

Natalie Howard proposed that LWVDC send a letter to Lawrence Mirel, D.C. Insurance Commissioner, urging him to scrutinize carefully the proposed conversion of BCBS/CareFirst from nonprofit to for-profit status. The Board deferred final action on the letter for further consideration.

Sheila Keeny, for the IR Committee, urged all members to attend the general meeting on Trade to be held Tuesday February 12. Anne Porowski spoke about the upcoming general meeting on the UN, giving a broad perspective, plus the specialized agencies. Anne will ask all speakers to talk about how the United Nations affects our daily lives. — Frances Gemmill

Back to top of page


  • Assist Yancey with the objective conduct of Private Elections (March 25 & 28) 
  • Plan to join DC Vote and other voteless citizens for the annual protest on Tax Day (April 15)

Back to top of page


U.N. UPDATE REPORT (Elissa Kramer): Two UN articles are planned for The National Voter. The first -- well written by Barbara Crossette, a long time UN correspondent for the New York Times -- is in the Dec/Jan issue. The second article is for the March/April issue. The UN task force had a successful fall meeting. Members are now working on the issues discussed at that meeting: peacekeeping, international criminal court, human rights, expansion of the Security Council, and more. No other UN task force meeting is scheduled. A UN listserv is active, but with few participants. To sign up, go to the Members Only section -Password is "Iwv" and Username is "carriecatt." After more members sign on and the discussions get going, Michelle Benjamin will post resource materials to the listserv. The League will also launch a website for the UN update, similar to that for the trade update. PLEASE SIGN UP. We are depending upon members to become more involved with the study and to start exchanging views and questions. The presence of peacekeeping troops in Afghanistan and the issue of the AI Qaeda prisoners testify to the relevance of the UN update study.

D.C. FINANCES (Elinor Hart): Letters to Sen. Mary Landrieu and Rep. Connie Morella in support of HR 2995, the District of Columbia Fiscal Integrity Act of 2001, had been drafted for LWVUS. To help our local Leagues support the bill, Elinor has sent them sample letters for their U.S. Representatives and Senators.

REGIONAL TRANSPORTATION STUDY: The Transportation Committee has finalized plans for the March NCA General Meeting. Entitled "The Future of Transportation Planning in the Washington Metropolitan Area," it will be held in Washington, D.C. on Saturday, March 2, from 9:30 to noon, at the headquarters of the Councill of Governments (COG), 777 North Capitol Street, N.E. (Union Station Metro stop). The speaker will be John Mason, mayor of the City of Fairfax, immediate past chairman of COG's Transportation Planning Board and representative to the federal Metropolitan Planning Organization. The meeting will be held in the COG Training Room on the ground floor and will focus on the findings from the LWV local League meetings held throughout the NCA area in the fall of 2001.

NCA ANNUAL MEETING: When? Saturday, May 18, 9:30 a.m., at the Marriott Metro Center. Make sure it's on your calendar. Details later. Planning: Member Leagues wishing to provide input on traditional annual-meeting business should make their suggestions to the appropriate committee chairs, as follows:

Nominations: Elizabeth Martin, 202-537-3043; 
Budget or By-laws: Forest Williams, 301-552-1681; 

Back to top of page


For $5, the Upper Sixteenth Street Unit will prepare brown bag lunches for those attending the March 15 General Meeting about the United Nations (See pg. 4). The lunch will include a choice of Turkey or Corned Beef sandwich on roll, coleslaw, fruit, drink and dessert. To order your lunch, fill out this reservation form and return with your check (made payable to LWVDC). Reservations must be received by March 11. — Reggie Yancey (726-1929)

Back to top of page

CALENDAR — February 2002

          1 2
3 4 5 6 10 AM, LWVDC Board Meeting 7 8 10 am Great Decisions #2
6-8 pm, Wine and Cheese Party
10 11 12 12 noon-2 p.m., General Meeting Trade Concurrence
Deadline for March DC Voter
13 10 am, Education Committee Mtg. 14 15 16
17 18 19 20 21 22 10 am, Great Decisions Discussion #3
March Voter mailed
24 25 11:30 am, Brown Bag Dialogue, DC Budget 26 10:30 am, HealthCare Comm. Mtg. 27 28 12:30-4 p.m., Card Party & Luncheon    

Plan Ahead: Save These Dates: Sat., Mar. 2, NCA Gen. Mtg. on Regional Transportation Study; Thur., Mar. 15, General Meeting on the United Nations (Andrew Rice, guest speaker); Thur., Apr. 25, Annual Dinner Meeting.

Back to top of page


The proposed update of the League's trade position reaffirms the League's longstanding advocacy of trade liberalization, meaning that the League supports efforts to reduce trade barriers, such as tariffs and quotas, and trade distorting practices such as-export subsidies. Even critics of Globalization admit that reducing trade barriers and trade distorting subsidies fosters growth that can improve living standards both at home and abroad. Most of their criticism focuses on the failure to distribute the fruits of Globalization equitably and on possible negative environmental impact.

The proposed new position then reaches beyond the League's traditional liberal-trade policy goal by linking the pursuit of liberal trade to other League policy goals, including environmental stewardship, labor and human rights, development assistance for poor countries and improvements in our domestic social safety net. There is, however, no mandate that any one of these goals "trump" any other.

Linking these policy goals without prioritizing them will leave considerable discretion to LWVUS board members. Board members and national staff will have to maintain considerable substantive depth in all of the linked policy areas weighing the consequences of pending legislation and policy initiatives in each area so as to identify the specific combination of policies that would best serve the public interest. Undoubtedly, they have already been doing so but the requirement to do so would hereafter be explicit. .

The proposed new trade position endorses US participation in a global trade organization -- meaning the World Trade Organization (WTO) while not identifying it by name. This unnamed global trade organization should have power to hold member countries accountable for their multilateral trade treaty commitments. The WTO already has such power. It tan impose financial penalties on guilty countries although it cannot force them to comply if they prefer to "pay" rather than "comply."

This agency (WTO) ought to recognize the "legitimacy" of environmental, labor and human rights treaties. Critics believe that multilateral environmental treaties' (MEAs') trade-sanction provisions (for enforcement purposes) could be overturned by WTO dispute settlement panels although WTO appeals panels have so far bent over backwards to give full weight to environmental needs when reaching final decisions in trade disputes. Countries are allowed to prohibit imports of products produced with slave and prison labor under current WTO rules but child labor is not addressed.

WTO proceedings should be open to public scrutiny, i.e., made more transparent than at present, and NGOs ought to be allowed to present "friend-of-the-court" briefs. WTO documents and proceedings are frequently concealed because developing countries, in particular, fear public disclosure and even the US finds certain matters embarrassing. this is an uphill battle but the WTO has begun to accept "friend-of-the-court" briefs.

The new trade position asserts that countries must be allowed to have health, environmental, labor and human rights standards higher than those of their trading partners without fear of challenge at the WTO. WTO rules, specifically GATT Article 20, already protect such rights provided that any resulting restrictions on trade are applied in an even-handed manner to domestic and foreign firms alike.

The revised trade position includes a lukewarm endorsement for bilateral and regional trade arrangements, such as NAFTA and the proposed hemispheric trade pact (FTAA). Regional tirade pacts may serve as useful steppingstones toward major new global trade pacts, such as the Millennium Round initiated at the November 2001 WTO Ministerial meeting in Qatar, but they are an inferior way to go about reducing trade barriers globally. The League's new trade position explicitly states that trade agreements should be negotiated in the broadest possible international forum, meaning the WTO.

The new position endorsed "fast-track" or "trade-promotion authority" (TPA) for the President. When Congress grants "fast-track" negotiating authority to the President, both houses of Congress agree to vote the resulting trade pact up or down without any possibility of amendment. This is necessary to assure other countries that Congress will not alter a carefully crafted deal after it is signed.

Critics claim that this strips Congress of its Constitutional responsibility to regulate trade with foreign powers. The League Task Force found that Congress has, in the past, failed to pay proper attention to its role in negotiations. It has failed to send Congressional representatives to negotiations as provided for in earlier "fast-track" deals. Congress may need a Congressional Trade Office similar to the Congressional Budget Office to provide expertise and oversight.

The new position takes a clear stand against direct and indirect subsidies, such as support for the fishing industry, because they are both economically and environmentally harmful. Fishing subsidies, for example, lower the price of fish concealing the real cost of fish, thereby encouraging excessive fishing that depletes fish stocks while diverting investment to fish production-investment that might otherwise be used more efficiently elsewhere in either the domestic or the global economy. The League would be breaking new ground in taking a stand against subsidies.

This new trade position endorses private as well as public measures to further our policy goals. Ecolabeling of products by non-governmental entities such as Underwriters Labs, codes of conduct for business, international sanctions to end egregious human rights violations and monitoring of countries' practices and performance in environmental and labor matters so as to permit consumers to choose which products to buy are all endorsed.

The revised trade position endorses special measures to aid poor countries including priority elimination of tariffs and other restrictions on term and agricultural products imp" developing countries. Special measures are needed to assure their access to costly essential medicines. WTO rules do provide for special exemptions from the normal rules. For example, patent protections for drugs may be suspended during a national emergency. AIDS is such an emergency and progress to assure provision of AIDS drugs in poor countries was made at the November WTO meeting in Qatar.

Finally, the new position advocates an improved social safety net for dislocated workers without requiring that their dislocation be clearly linked to an influx of imports. This has major budget implications.

Temporary assistance for trade-affected industries is also endorsed. This latter provision means that the League would support temporary, i.e., Section 201 of the Trade Act of 1974, assistance for trade-affected industries such as steel. Under WTO rules, Section 201 protection is limited to a. maximum of eight years and the US government must begin compensating injured foreign suppliers after the first three years. Our own consumers, of course, pay to shield affected domestic industries through higher prices. For example, if we invoke Section 201 to protect the US steel industry, we will all pay more for cars and washing machines.

  Janet F. Burmester Member of the LWVDC International Relations Committee, Member of the LWVUS Trade-Update Task Force

January 6, 2002

Back to top of page


Date: Thursday, Feb. 28, 2002
Time: 12:30–4:00 p.m. 

Beat those "winter blahs!"

Join in the fun and help the League.
$25 per person (includes lunch)
Your contribution is tax deductible.

Other card games
And for those who don't play cards — Scrabble

For Questions, contact LWVDC at 202-347-3020

Iona House
4225 Albemarle St., NW
Parking on street or use Tenleytown Metro stop.

Reservation Form: Print and return with check made payable to LWVDC-EF for receipt on Monday, Feb. 25.

Back to top of page

Wine & Cheese Party!!


Friday, February 8, 2002
Time: 6-8 P.M.

A fundraising event to support the League of Women Voters of the District of Columbia

Celebrate the League with Wine and Cheese. Bring friends and family to tasste various wines and cheeses and make money for the League!

4000 Massachusetts Avenue, NW, Apt. 1510

RSVP: 362-2605

Street parking available
NW, 4, 6, 8 buses stop at apartment
N7 bus stops at corner

This fundraiser sponsored by the Northwest Evening Unit.

Send mail with questions or comments to
Web site copyright ©DCWatch (ISSN 1546-4296)