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The DC Voter
League of Women Voters of the District of Columbia
Vol. 80, No. 10, November 2004

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 Message
Plan to Attend
Affordable Housing Committee: November Units to Discuss Housing
Member News
Answers, Please! Dial 211
Local Issues in the District of Columbia: Baseball Stadium Financing
Healthcare Committee: Making Health Reform Happen
Congressional Representation: DC Voting Rights Committee: Gun Registration and Control Laws and Retained in D.C.
Voter Services Committee: Presidential Election November 2nd
Education Committee: Survey ConcludedDo You Have a Will? Is the League in It?
News from LWVUS
News from the NCA League

The NCA Parliamentary Workshop
November Unit Meetings
LWVDC Membership Form
Calendar: November 2004
Where We Stand: Housing
Testimony of Elinor Hart for the DC League of Women Voters on Inclusionary Voting

By Frances Gemmill

November is bringing many important events, and the Election on November 2 is only the beginning. Be sure to check the calendar on the back of this VOTER for some. To begin, don't miss the LWVUS briefing at the National Press Club on November 4 at 11 am. There is no charge, but LWVUS urges you to call to say you're coming.

Affordable Housing is a major concern all around the city, and it is the subject of our League Units for November 16, 17, and 18. The green insert in this Voter provides you with the text of our existing position on Housing-please read it to prepare for the discussion of current concerns and issues on the subject. One focus for the League discussions is Inclusionary Zoning; another concern is the loss of Section 8 Housing as a result of HUD inspection policies. See the report by Sharron Hines for clarification regarding Section 8 buildings, and come to a Unit for clarification and discussion of the status of affordable housing in D.C.

Mark your calendar for November 16, when the second in a Housing Forum series presented by the Washington Regional Network will take place at the Wilson Building at 6 pm, on the subject of Inclusionary Zoning. This Forum will feature Robert Bobb, John Mcllwain, and Nina Dastur. The Series is entitled "DC's Differing Neighborhoods: How the Comprehensive Housing Strategy Can Help". I hope to see you there.

You should know we have a new Capitol Hill Unit in process of forming. Under the leadership of Betty Pierce, this Unit has met and decided on Wednesday evening at 7 pm as its regular meeting time. It will meet next on Wednesday November 17 at 7 pm. As we go to press, the meeting place is not determined, but you may call the League office, 347-3020 to learn the location.

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Plan To Attend

November 16, 6 pm

Housing Forum at the Wilson Building, 1350 Pennsylvania Ave. NW
(See President's Message)

November Unit Meetings
Discussion Topic: Housing
(See below)

November 20 9:30 am - 12 N
(See below)

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This Year, Consider Giving "Know The District of Columbia" As. A Holiday Gift!
Send $7.00 to the League office with the recipient's name and address and your personal note.
The League will enclose your personal note and send the book for you.

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The DC League positions on Housing are reprinted in the green insert in this issue. A discussion of these positions and the issue of Inclusionary Zoning will be the topic of November Unit discussions. See page 5 for Unit meeting date, time and location.

The Section 8 Program: Started in 1976, the Section 8 Program mainly helps families that make less than 50 percent of the area's median income, although exemptions can be made for the elderly and disabled. People apply for vouchers through their local public housing agency, and recipients can use the money to rent private housing. Typically, recipients pay no more than 30 percent of their monthly income in rent, with vouchers covering the rest.

President Bush recommended that agencies be reimbursed for vouchers based on August 1, 2003 costs, plus an annual inflation adjustment to cover 2004. Critics say the government should update voucher costs every three months, as was the case last year, to reflect more accurately the cost of living increases for rent and utilities.

A recent report from the DC Housing Department indicated that HUD is rejecting improvements of residences made available for Section 8 housing. It was noted that HUD does not appear to have a set of guidelines for inspections of improvements. The Building Codes for Washington D.C. are carefully spelled out, and certified D.C. inspectors are available to accompany the HUD inspectors. — Sharron Hines, Chair, Housing Committee

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We are sad to tell you of the death on October 18 of Lois I. Laster, long-time DC League member and very active in the Southwest Unit. Among the many people who will miss her are those on the Voter mailing crew.

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Answers, Please/Dial 211

District of Columbia residents in crisis can now dial 211 on their telephones to seek social services information and referrals 24 hours a day, seven days a week. They can learn which government agencies and nonprofit, community based organizations are available to help them through the DC Department of Human Services' Answers, Please Call Center.

So why is 211 so important? Many of our city's residents can't afford food, clothing, shelter, medical care, or daycare. Many are physically or mentally abused. Many are elderly, on fixed incomes, or sometimes can't afford to pay their rent, utility bills, and buy food all at the same time. Now, all those residents can dial 211 to seek help.

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The D.C. Council scheduled a public hearing on Bill 15-1028, "Ballpark Omnibus Financing and Revenue Act of 2004", which includes the proposed use of public funds to build a new stadium. Following is a D. C. League statement at that hearing.

We are mindful that many of our residents would love to have a baseball team of their own; we believe though, that a baseball stadium should be build by the people who stand to profit by it - the team owners - and not by DC taxpayers. The well-to-do owners have told the cash-strapped District that the city must pay most of the cost of a new stadium. This does not make sense.

Research and experience show that a team would create mostly low-paying part-time jobs that would not strengthen the local economy. Even the most successful stadiums, such as Baltimore's Camden Yards, fail to produce enough tax revenue to justify large public subsidies.

This is a very special city that attracts tourists from all over the country and the world because it is a major world capital, a beautiful city, and it is a large' metro area without a team. Major League baseball should be begging to come here.

For the DC League, I repeat the point of view we supported in June 2003: that priorities for public monies should be directed to ameliorate some pressing human needs and improve the quality of life for our residents, and the stadium should be paid for by the baseball owners. — Frances Gemmill

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A reminder to those who receive this DC Voter (mailed October 22) before Friday, October 29: The HEALTHCARE COMMITTEE urges you to attend the DCPCA Annual Meeting and the afternoon panel discussion co-sponsored by DC Appleseed and the DCLWV. For details, see the flyer enclosed in your October DC Voter, or call the office at 347-3020 for more information. — Goody Braun (723-2477) & Rene Wallis (638-0252 w), Co-chairs

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Here's a story about what it's like to live down on the plantation here in Washington D.C.:
As September 2004 drew to a close, 228 members of the House of Representatives signed on to cosponsor HR 3193, a. bill which had no committee hearing, and was opposed by Delegate Norton, Mayor Williams, Police Chief Ramsey, Council Chair Cropp and all members of the DC Council. The bill would repeal all 11 of the gun registration and control laws of DC and prohibit any in future not already passed by Congress.

The bill was scheduled for the House to take up on Wednesday, Sept. 29. The DC League joined DC Vote and other groups to mount a protest on Independence Ave. and 3rd St. SW, and the DC League e-mailed several challengers to incumbents who had endorsed the bill.

Silver lining: ultimately, the vote produced 171 members of the House opposed to the Bill, and the Senate has taken no action on the matter. At its October 6 meeting, our LWVDC Board approved a motion to write a short, simple thank-you to the 171 representatives who voted against the bill. — Frances Gemmill

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Voter Outreach:

  • Approximately 200 evening students at Ballou High School attended the September 30 League's presentation about the importance of voting and making our votes count. In her presentation, Elinor Hart, Voter Service Co-chair used the recent primary election to illustrate every vote does count. Ballou H.S. was one of the DC public schools that participated in the National Parent/Student Mock Election.
  • Chevy Chase/Ingleside Unit held a forum for the District 2 Board of Education candidates that was attended by members of other units and the public.
  • Dress For Success, an organization that assists citizens seeking employment with the appropriate clothing for the job interview, listened to Sheila Willet, Voter Services Committee member, present the importance of voting which included demonstration of how to properly mark the ballot.

Voter Guide: Board of Education candidates and independent candidates were contacted to obtain candidate information that was included in the League's On-Line Voters Guide "Elections 2004" website at WRC-TV NBC4 News anchors referred to The League of Women Voter's Website that is linked to the NBC4 website Election 2004. 

"VOTE" Yard Signs Available: Positive neighbor responses were received by some members who displayed the red and white 'Vote Tuesday" yard sign on their lawn or in their front window for the Primary General Election. The signs measure 16" x 26" and are double sided, with a wire frame that slips inside the sign and goes into the ground.

Did you miss getting your own durable "Vote Tuesday" yard sign that can be used every 2 years for future elections? There are still some available. Call Jut Smith to arrange pick up from her home at 7628 17 St, NW (one block off 16" St. at Jonquil, across and down from Lowell School.) 

DC Board of Elections and Ethics: Kudos to the DC Board of Elections and Ethics for adding to their website at a "Registered Voter Info Corner" which provided Voter Registration Status, Polling Place Locator, and Voting Equipment instructions. — Elinor Hart (387-2966) & Judy Smith (882-3021), Co chairs

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The Education Committee conducted a telephone survey during the spring and summer months to learn the opinions of members as to our existing education positions, that is, that they support an elected school board, with representatives from each ward plus at-large members, the President of the Board to be elected by its members. They found that a majority of the League members wanted to maintain this position.

The committee posed the following questions for future study:

  • Who are the current Board members?
  • What are the voting and attendance records of the elected Board members as compared with the appointed?
  • What is happening in the voucher arena?
  • What is happening with the "No Child Left Behind" Act?

The committee concluded that it would seek data available on some of these questions as the basis for a series of articles in the DC VOTER. There are many good teachers in the public schools that are respected.

The committee thanks the League members who took part in this telephone survey. — Connie Tate (882-0387), Gladys Weaver (554-3055) & Barbara Luchs (363-0853), Co-chairs

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A will is a statement of your wishes about the people and organizations you want to benefit from your estate. By making a will, you will ensure that your intentions are clearly expressed, and that, those administering your estate follow your instructions. Of course, you want to provide for your family, but you also have the opportunity to continue your support for the mission of the DC League of Women Voters. League members contribute generously to its mission, but often, when members pass, away they haven't made any provision for the League because they never quite got around to it.

There is a simple and meaningful way, through a bequest in your will, to continue your support of the League and ensure that its mission continues unabated. It's easy to include the League in your will. If you are writing or rewriting your will,. simply add a bequest for the League. Your bequest can be of a stated dollar amount, a piece of property including stocks, or you can bequeath a. certain percentage of the "residue" (the amount that remains after paying inheritances, debts, and costs). You could have the following statement included:

"I give and bequeath to the League of Women Voters of the District of Columbia, Washington DC, [insert specific amount, percentage of residual estate, or description of property] to be used as determined by the- board of trustees." That's all it would take.

Do you already have a will? A codicil is a simple amendment to an existing will. Contact your attorney, or the League office for a sample codicil.

By including a bequest to the League in your will, you will not only provide the invaluable financial support that the League relies upon, but you'll also be associating yourself with. the continuing efforts to strengthen democratic institutions of government in QC. — Ken Nesper, Board Secretary

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As the Board of LWVUS assembled here in Washington on Friday, October 15, its members were welcomed at a reception given at the Sumner School by the Board of the National Capital Area Leagues. Kay Maxwell, LWVUS President, introduced the Board members and members of the LWVUS staff, and reported that her recent tour of several states in connection with the coming elections was well received. Nancy Tate, Executive Director of LWVUS announced plans for a League sponsored event at 11 am at the National Press Club on November 4. Media are invited, there is no admission fee, and we Leaguers are encouraged to attend. Please call 202 429-1965 to RSVP your attendance.

During her travels, Kay Maxwell called attention to "Top Five Risks to Eligible Voters in 2004," released earlier by the League and the Leadership Conference on Civil Rights, and suggested specific procedures that could protect against these risks:

  1. Voter registration problems.
    • Ensure timely transmittal from DMV and other agencies to registration authorities.
    • Accept all registration forms with adequate eligibility information.
  2. Erroneous purging.
    • Do not purge voter rolls close to Election Day (after the close of registration).
    • Check for accuracy before using any list of potentially ineligible voters.
  3. Problems with ID requirements.
    • Educate voters on the ID they should bring to the polling place.
    • Recruit and train bilingual poll workers to assist limited English-proficient voters.
  4. Difficulties with voting systems.
    • Educate voters on how to operate their voting machines.
    • Institute management safeguards and testing of all machines.
  5. Failure to count provisional ballots.
    • Ensure that eligibility to vote in the federal election is the teup tost for counting provisional ballots in federal contests.
    • Set a statewide, uniform, nondiscriminatory process for issuing and counting provisional ballots.

"Our research tells us that voter-registration is shaping  be a critical problem in this election, according to Maxwell. "Too often, voter registration applications are being rejected because of technicalities," she said.

"People of all political persuasions are deeply concerned about this election and want to participate. Numerous voter registration drives are underway," Maxwell continued. "We urge election directors to make sure that eligible voters are properly registered, rather than being unfairly rejected," Maxwell concluded.

"Early signs indicate that provisional ballots cast by eligible voters in many states will not be 'counted, undermining this important new voter safeguard," said Wade Henderson, Executive Director of the Leadership Conference on Civil Rights. "The right to cast a ballot is meaningless if those ballots are never counted," he continued. "We need fair processes to guarantee that all eligible voters will have their provisional ballots counted," Henderson concluded.

"Momentum to ensure a fair election is growing," said Maxwell. "The civil rights community believes steps must be taken now to ensure an open and democratic election system for all," said Henderson.

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President's luncheon: Each year, the NCA League Board an ILO (Inter-League Organization) made up of the State Leagues of Maryland and Virginia, and the District of Columbia, plus 10 local leagues in those states) gives a luncheon for the Presidents of its member Leagues. This year the luncheon was held at the Cosmos Club, thanks to arrangements by Andrea Gruhl of the Howard County League through Club member Walter Beach. It turns out that he is also a member of the League.

Presidents attending made oral reports on activities of their Leagues last year and plans for next year. -The group took formal action to support the Montgomery County League request that each League partner with them in a letter writing campaign to the general managers of ABC, NBC, CBS and FOX to appeal for more substantive information about candidates and issues in the weeks before the election. The Alliance for Better Campaigns (a Media Watchdog Project which is conducting a national campaign) suggests two hours of such coverage each week. The Montgomery County League is developing the protocol for monitoring the national news programs and will share this information with other Leagues.

We are reminded that the airwaves belong to the American people.. Broadcasters get free access to those airwaves, but only on the condition that they serve the public interest. Providing viewers with the information they need about candidates and issues at election time is a core component of broadcasters' public interest obligations. Attempted Takeover of Local League of Women Voters. Last spring, when longtime Republican activist Betsy Mayr (also President of the Loudoun County LWV) spoke out at a County Board of Supervisors meeting, she became the center of a controversy that resulted in an attempted takeover of the LWV-Loudoun County during its Annual Meeting four months later. Mayr publicly cited $65,000 in developer campaign contributions as reason for the Board of Supervisors to recluse themselves from voting to settle ongoing downzoning.

Claiming the League is controlled by liberals and Democrats, the Citizens for Property Rights and other opponents worked for weeks to find people to join the League in order to vote in a new slate of officers during its Annual Meeting. The Loudoun County League has advocated tougher ground water protection laws, supported open space preservation, and adopted positions in a variety of issues in the fields of education, land use, water and sewer, and solid waste management. With 240 people in attendance at the Annual Meeting (as opposed to last year's 32) the attempts to amend the rules and elect a new slate proved unsuccessful. A challenge to the League's opposition to the Parental Rights Amendment also failed. Ironically, it proved to be a profitable time for the Loudoun County League, as a long line was formed by residents on both sides of the fight to sign up as new members.

After Betsy Mayr reported the above events to the Board of NCA, she emphasized that the professional parliamentary assistance she received was of vital important. The NCA Board then decided to arrange a Parliamentary Workshop for its member Leagues. — Frances Gemmill

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The NCA Parliamentary Workshop 

will take place on Saturday November 20, from 10 to 12 am, at the Guy Mason Center, 3600 Calvert St. NW (Wisconsin Avenue & Calvert St.).

Don't miss this opportunity.

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Housing is the discussion topic for the November Unit meetings listed below. Bring the enclosed green insert listing the DC League's positions on Housing. Explanation and update of Inclusionary Zoning issues and how it relates to our positions will be emphasized in the Unit discussion.

The Unit Council (Unit chairs) will meet on Monday, November 8 at 12 noon at the home of Frances Gemmill, 3610 Albemarle St., NW (362-6784).

Tuesday, November 16

9:45 am Southwest Day will meet at the home of Leona Rumsey (863-7484), 550 N St., #S202, SW
12:45 pm Northwest Day meets at IONA Senior Service Center, 4125 Albemarle St., NW Unit Chair: Barbara Yeomans (363-8940)

Wednesday, November 17

9:45 am Upper 16th Street. Call Unit Co-chairs Paula McKann (829-0656) or Constance Tate (882-0387) for the location.
7:00 pm Capitol Hill Evening. Call the League Office (347-3020) for the location.
Thursday, November 18
9:45 am Chevy Chase/Ingleside meets in the Lounge of the Ingleside Community at 3050 Military Rd, NW Unit Co-chairs: Ruth, Allen (362-8953) or Joan Wilson (237-6264)
7:30 pm Northwest Evening will meet at the home of Joan Domike (966-3865) 4200 Massachusetts Ave., NW #304

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Click here for the membership form.

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  1 2 Election Day VOTE! 3 10:00 am LWVDC Board Mtg. 4 11:00 am After the Eelctions LWVUS media event 5 6
7 8 12 Noon Unit Council Meets 9 9:45-11:00 am Voter Registration at Naturalization Ceremony for New US Citizens
December DC Voter deadline
10 11 12 13
14 15 16 Unit meetings
9:45 am Southwest
12:45 pm Northwest
6:00 pm Housing forum
17 Unit Meetings
9:45 am Upper 16th Street
7:00 pm Capitol Hill Evening
18 Unit meetings
9:45 am Chevy Chase/Inglewood
7:30 pm Northwest Evening
19 Dec. DC Voter mailed 20 9:30 am-12 N NCA Parliamentary Workshop
21 22 23 24 25 Happy Thanksgiving 26 27
28 29 30        

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(Adopted May 1978 - Revised and Expanded September 1989. Reaffirmed January 2001)

The League supports a strong commitment by the District to provide and finance affordable housing. Economically, culturally and racially diverse residential communities should be encouraged in all areas of the city, and specific requirements or goals for affordable housing should be included in the Comprehensive Plan. Tax policies should further the District's housing goals and homeownership should be encouraged. Well-managed and maintained public housing should be provided. In expanding assisted housing, the District should first pursue subsidized rental assistance in housing developed by nonprofit or private organizations.

Goals. Housing policies and goals should be established and clearly identified to the general public by the District government and implemented by a single vigorous central housing agency within the District administration. Citizen involvement at all levels, especially the neighborhood level, should be encouraged and supported in the development and implementation of housing policies and program.

Planning/Diversity. Economically, culturally and racially diverse residential communities should be encouraged in all areas of the city. Public and other subsidized housing units should blend into the total community through the use of such devices as heterogeneous grouping of income levels in neighborhoods and within the same multi-family structures. The Comprehensive Plan should include specific requirements or goals for affordable housing to be incorporated into the Ward Plans.

Funding. The District should have a strong financial commitment to providing affordable housing and should effectively utilize all available Federal and District funds. The District should place a priority on providing financial support to nonprofit and private organizations that successfully provide affordable housing.

Displacement. Prevention and amelioration of displacement should be a goal. Measures which would be desirable as a means of assisting residents to remain in their homes include: extra concession to hardship cases due to condominium and "co-op" conversions; subsidies for low and moderate income residents; advising landlords, owner-occupants and tenants of their rights and obligations; an enlarged stock of standard rental housing; and utilization of vacant structures which otherwise detract from neighborhood safety and attractiveness.

Use of Vacant Property. The District should inventory all publicly and privately held vacant and abandoned properties (structures and land) and prepare an action plan with the primary goal of increasing the supply of affordable housing. This process should be ongoing.

Homeownership. Homeownership in the District for those who wish to own homes should be encouraged through counseling and assistance to tenants, tax policies to support homeownership, expansion of mortgage lending policies, and analysis of rejected housing loans. New financing methods should be established where necessary to carry out an appropriate level of support. Low and moderate-income residents should be supported with resources to obtain, rehabilitate, renovate and maintain homes.

Taxes. Tax policies should further the District's housing goals for resident homeowners and tenants who have low and moderate incomes. We support ending tax incentives which encourage investment to secure income tax or other financial advantages. We also support tax disincentives for vacant property; tax policies which promote prevention and safety; such as credit for circuit breakers; differential tax rates for business and owner- occupied homes; and improved collection of all taxes.

Public and Assisted Housing. The District should provide well-managed and maintained public housing. Concerns include reducing vacancy rates, improving rent collection, increasing social and educational services and providing a safe environment. To expand assisted housing, the District should pursue well-managed, subsidized rental assistance in housing developed by nonprofit or private organizations before pursuing construction of new public housing.

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Presented Wednesday, March 3, 2004 at 1:00 p.m. before the Office of Planning Oversight Hearings by the Committee of the Whole, Linda W. Cropp, Chairman.

I am here to testify on behalf of the D.C. League of Women Voters. The League believes that any public examination of planning must include inclusionary zoning.

As I expect everyone in this room knows, inclusionary zoning requires private developers to make a percentage of housing units in new residential developments affordable to low-andmoderate-income families. I expect that people also know that for over 25 years, communities across the country, including neighboring Montgomery County, Maryland have been using inclusionary zoning to build thousands of units of. affordable housing with private dollars. The District of Columbia should do the same.

Building and renovating housing is expensive, and, up until now, most low-income housing in DC has been financed by the public sector. But the public sector has not kept up with the need, and the gap between the need and the supply of affordable housing continues to grow. Inclusionary zoning will make it possible for the District of Columbia to direct private dollars to work on building affordable housing.

We believe that DC's inclusionary development policy should be mandatory, and that it should include these other elements:

  • It should allow developers to make a profit. Inclusionary zoning is indeed a sensitive mechanism that must be finely tuned,
  • It should have established income targets that reflect the city's affordable housing needs,
  • It should involve the majority of new residential development throughout the city, and 
  • It should require long-term affordability.

We hope to see a citywide policy soon, but we think a good way to begin the implementation of inclusionary zoning would be to amend the pending legislation on the Southwest waterfront to require inclusionary zoning for any residential developments of, say 10 or more units.

Thank you for the opportunity to speak.

The League of Women Voters, a nonpartisan political organization, encourages the informed and active participation of citizens in government, works to increase understanding of major public policy issues, and influences public policy through education and advocacy.

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