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Federation of Citizens Associations of the District of Columbia

Federation News

Volume 10, Issue 1, September 2003
3710 S Street, NW, Washington, DC 20007
(202) 338-5164 phone/fax

The DC Citizen Atlas
Important Tenant Rental Housing Conversion Bill to Be Aired
PSA Realignment to be Considered
Parkland Transfer Controversy: Gloves Off
Doing Well While Doing Good

Hands-On Activist Response
Voting Rights of Ex-Felons
DC’s Pro Bono Institute

Federation Uncovers Vote Tabulation Glitch

Officers and Board
President’s Message: Unfinished Business
Federation Newsletter Online
Federation Board of Directors
NCPC Proposed Action Items
Noel Reappointment Reported
Action Alert
Federation Assembly Meeting Dates


Wednesday, September 25, 2003
7:00 p.m.

The D.C. Citizen Atlas
Robert Andrew

Mayor's Mansion Parkland Transfer Controversy
Howard Bray

Other Business

The Charles Sumner School
1201 Seventeenth Street, NW
(at M Street)


Robert Andrew will provide an illustrated overview of the important on-line Citizen Atlas, which has a range of capabilities. For example, for visitors it provides an intuitive menu for locating a restaurant with a desired cuisine, with information about the closest parking garages. For D.C. residents, it holds promise of readily finding on-line such map-based information as one's nearest polling station, the particular public school boundary one lives within, and one's Patrol Service Area (PSA).

Howard Bray, a leader of the Friends of Whitehaven Park, will clarify and point out irregularities in the current push to add pristine wooded parkland to the proposed Casey-Foundation-sponsored mayor's mansion estate project. Among salient concerns is the degree of residual control the foundation is to keep, should the major project get off the ground.

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Bill 15-133, the "Rental Housing Conversion and Sale Act of 1982 Amendment Act of 2003" will be before the city council in early October. The bill is intended to provide tenants with an opportunity to purchase a housing accommodation prior to the transfer by an owner of a controlling interest within a 12-month period.

The hearing is scheduled for Thursday, October 9, at 10:00 a.m., in Room 413, the Wilson Building, 1350 Pennsylvania Avenue, N.W. Delegates who wish to testify should contact Mr. Ron Clark at 724-8198 by close of business on Monday, October 6. Fifteen copies of written testimony are requested. Written statements should be submitted by close of business on Friday, October 25, to Ms. Phyllis Jones, Secretary to the Council, Suite 5, Wilson Building, 1350 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW, Washington, D.C. 20004.

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Consideration of Police PSA (Patrol Service Area) reconfiguring reportedly is in the offing for the city council. The core of the matter is whether PSAs should follow Planning Office clusters or ANC boundaries. Interested delegates or associations should register their preferences with councilmembers.

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Community opposition continues to the anticipated closing of a large tract of national parkland in northwest Washington and the adjacent proposed mayor's estate. The city council will hold a public hearing on the controversial issue at 10 a.m., September 30, at the Wilson Building.

Councilmembers will vote later on the national Park Service transfer of jurisdiction to the District of 1.8 acres of the 4-acre Whitehaven Park between Foxhall Road and Lower-Archbold Park. The city intends to lease this land to the private Casey Mansion Foundation, which has offered to build a mayor's mansion on its 17-acre tract next to Whitehaven.

Opponents, including the Defenders of Wildlife, the Audubon Naturalist Society, Sierra Club DC Chapter, and Glover Park Citizens Association, contend 17 acres is large enough for the mansion and grounds. The Mayor's Official Resident Commission concluded in 2001 that the tract is large enough for a suitable mansion and "to meet all reasonable security concerns."

But the transfer permits the Foundation to erect an 8-foot-high perimeter fence, a guardhouse, and a second access road on the parkland, ending public access to a serene, wooded wildlife habitat that has been enjoyed for more than fifty years. For months District officials have advocated the transfer in response to reported threats by the Foundation to withdraw the offer of the mansion.

"This is philanthropic blackmail," John Finney, chairman of the Foxhall-Palisades advisory neighborhood commission, testified at a September 4 National Capital Planning Commission hearing, The ANC voted to urge delay until public agencies study available alternatives that would cause far less, or no, loss of parkland.

The Planning Commission voted for the transfer. Some commissioners said that having only the mansion built on the Foundation's property would avert the by-right development of many houses there. "That is not a guarantee," said Kent Slowinski, chairman of Friends of Whitehaven Park, an association of park neighbors. "No easements exist in accord with NCPC policy. The Foundation rejected a binding agreement rejected by NPS."

Opponents of the transfer are weighing a lawsuit to deter the loss of parkland. To testify or provide written statements for the DC Council hearing, contact Aretha Latta at 724-8196 or by the close of business September 26.

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The following highly paid police command staffers in the District are eligible for eligible for the salary bonus program: Chief Charles H. Ramsey, $175,000; Executive Assistant Chief Michael Fitzgerald, $141,400; ROC North Assistant Chief Ronald Monroe, $141,400; ROC Central Assistant Chief Brian Jordan, $141,400; ROC East Assistant Chief Jose Acosta, $141,400; 1st District Commander Thomas E. McGuire, $105,548; 2nd District Commander Jeffrey Moore, $105,548; 3rd District Commander Larry McCoy, $105,948; 4th District Commander Hilton Burton, $90,111; 5th District Commander Jennifer Greene, $112,619; 6th District Commander Willie Dandridge, $107,256; 7th District Commander Winston Robinson, $128,217; Forensics Commander Christopher Lojancano, $107,256; Assistant Chief, Special Services Alfred Broadbent, $141,400; Off. Superintendent Detectives John Barrett, $122,111; Special Op. Div. Cathy Lanier, $107,256; Major Narcotics Commander Mark Beach, $105,548; and Violent Crimes Brance Micael Anzallo, $85,191. Source: The Common Denominator, September 11, 2003. (ROC, Regional Operations Command)

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The following account, unedited, is an instructive example of how neighborhood residents can made a difference in their areas in defining matters and speeding up less-than-efficient city response times for problem resolution.

Sally MacDonald (Woodley Park)

Monday, August 25, 2003 — A utility pole was broken at the base after being hit by a truck in an apartment parking lot, by a busy back lane, behind 2900 Connecticut Avenue NW. The pole was left leaning onto the truck, with live electric wires on the ground, in the parking lot/roadway, across the open gate to a deep construction pit.

Tuesday, August 26, 2003 — Word spread in the neighborhood of a "hit" utility pole. The truck disappeared; the pole was propped up with scrap lumber pieces; live wires were still on the ground; the construction pit was still wide open. I called a DC Emergency Management officer who put me through to a DDOT (DC Department of Transportation) official, a Mr. Buchanan, called a NEMO officer. He agreed to call me back after he checked the site.

Wednesday, August 27, 2003 — At 2:00 PM, returning from work, I expected to see it all repaired or being so. Nothing had been done, while curious onlookers wandered under the leaning pole and stepped over the downed wires. I sat on the nearby stone wall and started phoning DDOT to ask why our community had been left in such danger.

Mr. Buchanan said that he had not visited the site; had sent an assistant instead; had never asked or spoken to the assistant afterward; had not asked for repairs or informed anyone; and he, Mr. Buchanan does not "call people." NEMO must be DDOT's version of "Don't ask; don't tell."

Construction workers at the pit told me that there were 400-plus volts in the wires (deadly!); PEPCO had seen it but could not begin any work until authorized by DDOT; the Fire Dept. had seen it but could not help because of the electrical work. This was the only information we had.

Every DDOT official that I called was "in a meeting" — none was reachable! Their young women assistants, and I, worked hard to find someone, anyone, to help — but we were expected to know, and report:

  1. Who owned the pole (PEPCO or Verizon or other?)
  2. Who had been notified (That's how I found that Mr. Buchanan had told no one.)
  3. How many volts were involved (It seems there are different repair requirements)
  4. Who at DDOT would be responsible for authorizing the work.

How could we be expected to know such things?

Eventually, a DDOT Streetlight Field Engineer arrived at the site, declared it to be a Verizon pole, said, "IT'S NOT MY POLE. I'M OUTTA HERE!" and left us . . . with no help or advice. Again, DDOT — "Don't ask; Don't tell"?

Mr. Abdi, the DDOT Head of Streetlights, was the only official to be found, and, just before his leaving time of 4:45 PM, he saw fit to help us! He called MC Dean, the DDOT contractors who repair the streetlights. I called the MC Dean supervisor to verify that we would, with Mr. Abdi's request, quality for their help. Then, at 5:00 PM, I went home to get the lunch I had never had.

The MC Dean crew arrived with a new pole and two huge trucks. Three men removed the broken pole and worked until a lightning storm made to impossible for them to stay.

Thursday, August 28, 2003 — The MC Dean crew returned, put in the new pole and replaced the wires. The job was done — efficiently and well — without any loss of electricity to the area!

I found out that the wires only had 120-plus volts (still plenty dangerous!); that the pole was a DDOT/PEPCO pole with streetlight wire and . . . that IF MC Dean had been called by DDOT earlier (Tuesday?), they would have come, quickly, as they did after our Wednesday calls for help. . . . MC Dean and its crew are to be thanked and commended!

Mr. Abdi deserved our thanks; the DDOT women assistants who worked to help us should also be given credit.

Later, one of the unfound officials, when I told him of his assistant's efforts to help, said, dismissively, "That's why we pay them well!" He failed to see the most important difference, that being, while the assistants tried to help, neither they nor I could AUTHORIZE any work to be done. He was surprised that I described the situation as a "problem."

He seemed not to understand. In addition to the very obvious physical danger to many residents, the problem was that, apart from Mr. Abdi, who was eventually found, the DDOT officials who are paid to authorize did nothing, were unreachable, never responded or literally walked away! What are we paying for people to be in charge who do not help, respond, or even seem to care — during or even after a crisis?

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There has been some advocacy in recent months for the restoration of voting rights to persons convicted of felony crimes once they have served their adjudicated time. Little known, however, is that such restoration is already District law. DC Code Sec. 1-1001.02(7)(A), specifies: "Any person in the District of Columbia who has been convicted of a crime in the United States which is a felony in the District of Columbia, may be a qualified elector, if otherwise qualified, at the end of his incarceration."

Interestingly enough for activists in university-impacted areas, the same section, 1-1001.02 (Definitions) of the law, in section (16)(A), defines: "The term 'residence,' for purposes of voting, means the principal or primary place of abode of a person. Principal or primary home or place of abode is that home or place in which the person's habitation is fixed and to which the person, whenever he or she is absent, has the present intention of returning after a departure or absence therefrom, regardless of the duration of the absence." The law continues: "(B) In determining which is a principal or primary place of abode of a person the following circumstances relating to the person may be taken into account: (i) Business pursuits; (ii) Employment; (iii) Income sources; (iv) Residence for income or other tax purposes; (v) Residence of parents, spouse, and children; (vi) leaseholds: (vii) Situs of personal and real property; and (ix) Motor vehicle registration."

Elements of this list of considerations were adduced by a Georgetown ANC activists in a previous election when she claimed students are legal residents of their home states for voting purposes, and challenged them. For this, she was subjected to an extralegal trial at the Board of Elections, with attorneys (the ACLU inter alia for the defendant), rules of evidence, and the chief of the Board of Elections taking a de facto prosecutorial role at times.

Seemingly, trumps in the matter was subsection (E) of the law, which states: "No person shall be deemed to have gained or lost a residence by reason of absence while employed in the service of the District or the United States governments, or while a student at any institution of learning. . . ." However, ". . . if a person . . . intends to maintain residence in the District for voting purposes, he or she shall not register to vote in any other state or territory during his or her absence."

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Most people don't know it, but there is a Pro Bono Institute in Washington. Its president, Esther Lardent, has noted that despite the economy many law firms have signaled their commitment through the creation of support staffs, internal awards, and newsletters. On reported example, Washington's megafirm Holland & Knight, examined its lawyers' pro bono hours and economic targets. it concluded that pro bono does not displace paying work and that full billable hour credit is worth the cost. It therefore strengthened its commitment. (Source: The Washington Law Journal, January 6, 2001)

Right on, ABA and star law firms. Before long, it will be time to form an exploratory Federation committee to visit the DC Bar, and perhaps Ms. Lardent, to inquire about possibilities of establishing cooperative relations between the Federation or (in principle) individual associations and the Pro Bono Institute or its members. This is an interesting area that needs work, and in which associations have historically been at a disadvantage.

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With the helpful intervention of At-large Councilmember Phil Mendelson, the Federation discovered that the Board of Elections tabulation system lacks a crucial accountability feature: the capacity to tabulate the number of blank ballots cast in the at-large council contest in which two candidates are to be elected. The old election tabulation system routinely provided this information on request, but his year, even though the Federation had been pressing since November, clarification of the date the Board provided was not forthcoming.

In March, Councilmember Phil Mendelson, anxious to learn the actual percentage of the vote he received in his successful reelection bid, asked the Federation when our recomputation would be forthcoming and learned of the difficulty in obtaining clarification needed to recompute, whereupon he wrote directly to the Board requesting the data.

Board of Elections and Ethics Executive Director Alice P. Miller's June 24 reply stated: "… last year the Board's Ballot Tabulation System was enhanced for the first time in 20 years. Unfortunately, the enhancement was not programmed to record the number of blank ballots. Therefore, it is not possible to obtain the number of blank ballots from that election at this time. Subsequent to a conversation with the vendor, it has been determined that the system is capable of producing these results and they will be available in the future."

The Board, using the quirky methodology it has used in the past, gave winning candidates Democrat Phil Mendelson, with 90,316 votes out of the 133,302 valid ballots cast in the election, 47%, and Republican David Catania, with 51,698 votes, 27%. But clearly Mendelson's 90,316 votes out of 133,302 is 68% and Catania's 51,698 votes is 39%. Because there is no a priori way to compute how may of the 42,986 remaining non-Mendelson voters did not vote for any candidate, versus those voting for only one candidate, the Federation cannot publish the true percentages each at-large council candidate received. Only actual data from the Board of Elections would allow such a recomputation.

Because the Board published an "undervote" figure that apparently counted every ballot in which the vote did not vote for any at-large candidate as two undervotes and every ballot in which the voter voted for only one at-large candidate as one undervote, the 74,765 undervotes the Board reported (if accurate) suggest most voters who did not vote for candidate Mendelson did not vote for any at-large candidate. Under the most extreme variant of this assumption, only 11,216 voters who did not vote for Mendelson did vote for some other candidate in that contest, meaning that 90% of voters supported Mendelson's reelection and 51% supported Catania's reelection. Alternatively, no more than 22,433 non-Mendelson voters could have voted for only one at-large candidate, with 26,166 voting for none. Under this assumption, intuitively the most plausible one, Mendelson is reelected with 80% and Catania with 46%. (For purposes of these calculations, because the 74 overvotes the Board reported represent between 8 and 24 invalid ballots, the Federation treated them as negligible.)

Because of the quirky way the Board of Elections computes percentages in the at-large council contest where two candidates are to be elected, as a public service in each election year since 1990, the Federation has recomputed the statistics and published the actual percentage of voters casting valid votes for those contests voting for each candidate. The Board's percentages use as their denominator the sum of votes cast for each candidate, inflating it by double-counting to the extent some voters voted for two candidates as election law allows for this office.

The Federation believes the Board of Elections should publish the number of overvoted, undervoted, and blank ballots for each contest and should present meaningful percentages so that at-large council candidates can readily assess their electoral mandates as their council colleagues servicing in positions where only one is to be elected. As the Florida election fiasco in 2000 shows, having a complete data audit trail for the entire election process is crucial.

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Robert Andres
Foxhall Citizens Association

Allen E. Beach
Chevy Chase Citizens Association

George Clark, Esq.
Forest Hills Citizens Association

Dino J. Drudi
Michigan Park Citizens Association

Kathryn A. Eckles
Residential Action Coalition

Elizabeth Elliott
Foggy Bottom Association

Carroll Green
Manor Park Citizens Association

Guy Gwynne
Burleith Citizens Association

James H. Jones
Crestwood Citizens Association

Ann Loikow, Esq.
Cleveland Park Citizens Association

Sally MacDonald
Woodley Park Citizens Association

Ann Renshaw
Chevy Chase Citizens Association

Laura Richards, Esq.
Penn Branch Citizens/Civic Association

A.L. Wheeler, Esq.
Association of Oldest Inhabitants

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Carroll Green

As we push on through our 93rd year of operations, the Federation and its member organizations can reminisce fondly over past accomplishments and contributions to the health, safety, and welfare of the residents and visitors to our city, the nation's capital.

Our concerns and actions today are no less important than our historical concerns actions and achievements, and they are in many ways much more challenging. The population of the metropolitan area continues to increase, taxing our infrastructure to its maximum and triggering competing interests on nearly every public project. Many observers cite the Washington area as having the second worst traffic situation in the country.

Competing interests vie heatedly over what limited green space remains; bicyclists and environmentalists challenge motorists over Rock Creek Park and city streets; developers, high-rise apartment buildings, and campuses expand into traditional residential neighborhoods.

The council has revoked electorally mandated term limits for elected officials; a public health system is in total shambles; billboards deface the cityscape; and there is the widespread selling of single containers of beer and alcohol. The list goes on and on. Our work is far from finished; the question quickly becomes which issue or issues to tackle next.

One of our member organization's goals are neighborhood preservation and community improvement. It's theme is to promote the general welfare and enhance the quality of life in our neighborhoods. These goals, and this theme, are surely the mantra of activists across the city.

Politicians come and go, special interests continue to curry favor through the legislative and administrative process by campaign contributions. Unfortunately, far too often the resulting favors to special interests are given to the detriment of the public at large. Telecommunication towers, billboards and special signs, and the sale of single containers of beer and alcohol are but a few prominent examples of this process at work.

Our job, in many ways, is simple and straightforward: to remind officials constantly that the health, welfare, and safety of the citizens of this city are far more important than the narrow focus and economic self-interest of for-profit, and sometimes also of nonprofit, corporations.

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The back issues of the Federation newsletter are online for anyone who wishes to consult them, on the DCWatch web site at

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At its September 11 meeting, the Board of Directors:

  • heard a report on citywide tree planting, liquor establishments, and historical districts;
  • reviewed Community Emergency Response Teams (CERT) being established citywide;
  • reviewed the recent BZA decision on halfway houses and the work of the Halfway House Task Force, requiring that ANCs be involved from the beginning in the planning process;
  • heard a report on the George Washington University planning case decided by the DC Court of Appeals on September 11, 2003;
  • heard a report on the administration of public contracts by the DC government;
  • considered the role of the police department (MPD) on the issues of sale of temporary tags to criminals elements and after-market tinting of vehicle windows that impairs police work and safety.
  • noted recent charges of police malingering;
  • resolved against the planned test closing of Beach Drive and in favor of an alternative bike path;
  • heard a report on the new election equipment;
  • noted that DC law allows released felons to vote;
  • discussed appointment and meeting of the DC Zoning Advisory Committee; and
  • noted current efforts to align PSA districts with ANC boundaries (true only in 3F and 3 and 4C); police commanders may have been told that city services are distributed on a cluster basis (which is not true).

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Two matters of interest to associations are proposed for the October 2 NCPC session:

1) File No. Z.C. 01-02, text amendment to the Zoning Regulations to add Chapter 26, Regulation of Antennas, Antenna Towers and Monopoles. 2) File No., Z.C. 02-35, text amendment to the DC Zoning Regulations modifying the definition of building height. (Commission action requested on both items: approval of report to the DC Zoning Commission pursuant to Section 8 of the National Capital Planning Act (40 U.S.C. Sec. 8724 and DC Code Sec. 2-1006(a).

The deadline for registering to speak at the NCPC meeting is September 24, one week prior to the meeting date. "If no member of the public signs up to speak by the deadline, then the proposed project may be moved to the Consent Calendar without presentation or discussion." Witnesses need 25 copies of written comments.

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At press time, unofficial reports are that Elizabeth Noel, Esq., has been renominated as DC People's Counsel, and her name is to be forwarded to the city council for confirmation. The Federation was among other organizations that endorsed Ms. Noel's candidacy. The People's Counsel operation, basically a law office that protects rate payer interests in utility matters, has been one agency that has consistently functioned efficiently overall during the past two and the current city administrations.

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Sally MacDonald, Woodley Park

The city is now actively recruiting residents to become Community Emergency Response Team members. Twenty hours of free training at George Washington University Hospital will enable individuals and teams to help respond, rescue, triage, and treat families and neighbors and be able to report accurately to the Fire Department what is needed and what has been done. Training includes fire suppression, cutting off/marking gas mains, safe rescue of victims debris, triage, emergency bandaging, along with rescue and reporting techniques. Supplies, including tools, gloves, emergency rations, helmets, and water purifying supplies, are issued to graduates of the course, who will then work under the guidance of the Fire Department. To enroll, call Juliann at 741-2933.

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Federation Assembly Meeting Dates

September 24, 2003
October 28, 2003
November 25, 2003
December Quarterly Luncheon
January 27, 2004
February 24, 2004
March 23, 2004
April 27, 2004
May Annual Awards Banquet
June 22, 2004
July No Meeting
August No Meeting


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