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Federation of Citizens Associations of the District of Columbia

Federation News

Volume 4, Issue 2, October 1998
1642 Thirty-fifth Street, N.W., Washington, DC 20007-2334
(202) 337-6505, phone; (202) 337-6504, fax

Advisory Neighborhood Commissions: Saving Them: Strengthening Them

What’s been going wrong at ANCs?
What is already being done to fix the worst of this behavior?
What are some proposals?

Historic Preservation: Bypassing the Board Members?
The Economic Summit
Community-Based Residential Facilities: A free seminar for community leaders
Officers and Board
President’s Column
Perspective of History in the District: The more things change
Share your community’s treasures: Scenic Byways in the District
More eyesore than scenic byway? Adopt a park!
Federation meeting dates for the program year

Tuesday, October 27

Federation Assembly Meeting
Business Meeting at 7:00 p.m.
Program at 7:30

John Ferren, Corporation Counsel
E. Barrett Prettyman, Jr., Inspector General
Russell Smith, former D. C. Auditor

This top-flight panel will participate in dialogue about what ANCs were intended to be, what weaknesses have produced the current level of distrust, what can be done to help them fulfill their potential — and become real support for stronger neighborhoods.

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


Advisory Neighborhood Commissions: Saving Them, Strengthening Them

What a hot topic ANCs have become.

The grass-roots bodies of unpaid representatives were created by the Congress at the time home rule was established in 1973, and modest funds are allocated (varying with the size of the ANC) to provide for administrative support and for public purposes not covered by city services.

ANCs are the designated conduit, not just for community input to the District government, but for critical information from the District government that affects all citizens: proposed zoning changes, variances, public improvements, licenses, or permits of significance to neighborhood planning and development. ANCs must be given timely notice of these changes, and the view of ANCs are supposed to be given "great weight" by the governmental agency.

So went the design. But things do not always go according to plan.

Some ANCs attract few candidates for the unpaid positions. Some have too few members to meet quorum requirements, either permanently or as a matter of practice. Some failed to file proper financial reports, and as a result, were denied further funding.

Some ANCs behaved very badly. They spent money on services or activities that were not authorized. Some spent money on themselves. A few stole. A reduction of resources for the D. C. Auditor exacerbated the problem, dropping the number of audits from 18 ANCs each year to just two ANCs each year.

This year, Congress hit the ceiling. The most recent audit report detailing truly outrageous behavior caused Congress to cut all funding for ANCs in the 1998-99 District budget, and only the strongest lobbying as part of the omnibus budget negotiations restored the funds, with a strong proviso that Council enact further restrictions to prevent future abuse.

The Federation has for several years taken the position that properly functioning ANCs — and the citizens they represent — should not be punished for the actions of others. Moreover, the Federation sought to aid in reforming ANCs so that more of them might fulfill the role that was anticipated for them.

The October meeting involves three critical players in the operation of ANCs. Before becoming Corporation Counsel, before his appointment to the D.C. Court of Appeals, John Ferren was involved in writing the original legislation creating the ANCs. Russell Smith, now director of management accountability for the Control Board, spent two years supervising audits of ANCs. Barrett Prettyman has the responsibility for pursuing criminal activity in District government.

The evening will be structured like a workshop, with an opportunity to review the kinds of problems ANCs have had, the steps that might be taken to remedy those problems, the opportunities for better central support and training, the positive roles ANCs have played in other communities, and what changes or limitations could be adopted to make them more credible — and more effective.

The outcome of the October meeting would be a framework for reform proposals that could be presented to the Council, to member organizations, and to others.

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What's been going wrong at ANCs?

  • They have been failing to comply with internal control and recordkeeping requirements. Funds were expended without ANC approval. ANCs have not completed reports properly, have not maintained adequate records, have not taken precautions against misuse and fraud.
  • They have accumulated significant cash balances. Because some ANCs have not expended funds in regular, planful ways, some ANCs accumulated balances of $ 10,000; a few have balances over $25,000.
  • They have not made use of resources available to them. Because of the failure to meet standards, $161,444 of the $561,900 allotted to ANCs in FY 97 was withheld. Yet the ANCs had a combined cash balance of nearly $350,000 at the end of the fiscal year.
  • They have spent money on purposes that are not allowed. No ANC funds are to be spent for block parties, food festivals, and the like. Yet, such expenditures continue to be made.

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What is already being done to fix the worst of this behavior?

  • Criminals are being prosecuted. Where it is clear that commissioners were diverting ANC monies to personal use, criminal charges have been brought.
  • Misused funds are being recovered. Commissioners who have made improper use of funds are being made to repay those funds to the ANC and the District.
  • ANC funds have been cut off. When ANCs don't comply with reporting and control requirements, they do not get additional funds from the District.

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What are some proposals?

  • That an ANC should not be given funds until it has issued grant guidelines.
  • That an ANC forfeit its next quarterly allotment if it does not file quarterly report within 45 days of when it is due.
  • That an ANC forfeit a portion of its next allotment if an audit finds it in noncompliance with recordkeeping requirements.
  • That ANCs report each year the share of funding that went to "public purposes" (not operating expenses), and the projects that got such support.
  • That year-end surpluses be deducted from the next year's allotment.
  • That additional personnel and funding be allocated to ANC audits, either in the Auditor's or the Inspector General 's office.
  • That training be restructured to better prepare new commissioners and officers.
  • That centralized resources be made available to support ANCs, including a designated legal advisor/ombudsman.
  • That a website be created and maintained with core reference and other materials:
    • DCMR
    • Zoning and BZA schedules
    • Zoning and BZA orders ABC schedules
    • HPRB and CFA agendas
    • Other materials currently produced at considerable cost as paper documents or D. C. Register publishings.

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Historic Preservation: Bypassing the Board Members?

Recently the District has proposed changes to the way in which historic preservation approvals would be granted by Historic Preservation Review Board — or, more accurately, by the staff of the Historic Preservation Division. A letter by the former Chairman of the HPRB, Charles Cassell, offers the following thoughts:

“I have just reviewed the ‘Public Notice of Intent to Delegate Authority for Expedited Review of Minor Work,’ promulgated by the D C Historic Preservation Review Board. This would be a delegation to staff of authority to make decisions on minor work, to become effective 30 days after publication in the D C. Register.

“While I can fully appreciate the desire to reduce the number of minor cases brought to the board for determination, I believe that such delegation is fraught with dangerous possibilities.

“Under the proposed policy, decisions on applications for minor projects would be made where there is no assured deliberative process exercised by preservation authorities who are chosen for their demonstrated involvement with and responsibility to the public Nor would the proposed regulation subject applications to a body with board experience, not just as analysts, but as adjudicators who provide advice to the Mayor that is in the best interest of preservation and of the community.

“Once appointed to the Historic Preservation Review Board, members are independent of improper or irrelevant pressures and cannot be removed for political reasons when they are faithful to the responsibilities of their office.

“During my eleven years on the old Landmarks Committee and the Historic Preservation Review Board, we were fortunate to have had excellent service by highly competent and professional staff. That obviously is the case today. However, staff members do not have the kind of independence referred to above, nor are they necessarily free from other kinds of improper influence.

“I would therefore strongly suggest that the Board reconsider yielding any of its assigned authority to another source, however advantageous regarding reduction of the Board's workload and however competent the delegatee.”

Cassell suggests that people with similar concerns write to HPRB members.

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The Economic Summit

November 12, 3:30 p.m. to 5:00 p.m.
The World Bank, Lewis T. Preston Auditorium, 1818 H Street NW
To attend, bank security requires that you call 561-5779

Federation members are invited to attend the wrap-up meeting of the planning process that has produced the blueprint for the “economic resurgence of Washington, D.C.” In addition to the plenary session from 3:30 to 5:00, workshops will precede for the Industry Networks (which are on-going groups in which Federation members are welcome to participate) and the cross-cutting policy working groups (which will end with the Summit). In addition, a reception will follow the plenary session.

Industry network meetings. 1 30 p m to 2 15

1. Business / professional / financial / association services
2. Information / technology / telecommunications
3. Hospitality entertainment tourism specially retail
4. Media/publications
5. Biomedical research/health services
6. Universities/educational/research institutions

Cross-cutting policy working group meetings 2:30 to 3:15

1. Strategic industries - business promotion
2. Strategic industries - business climate
3. Strategic populations - worldwide development
4. Strategic populations - attracting and retaining residents
5. Strategic areas-downtown
6. Strategic areas - neighborhoods

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Community-based Residential Facilities: A free seminar for community leaders

Councilmember Sharon Ambrose has arranged for a free — and thoughtfully planned — seminar on the subject of CBRFs, to which Federation members are invited In light of the very significant impact various proposals for siting of CBRFs potentially have for residential communities, members are encouraged to take advantage of this opportunity

October 29 — 9:00 a.m. to 12:00 noon
Council of Governments Training Center — 777 North Capitol Street
Reservations: Mary Jane Budjako — 962-3272

Participants include new COG Executive Director Michael Rogers, Fairfax Supervisor Penelope Gross, HUD Deputy Assistant Secretary Ken Zimmerman, National League of Cities counsel Cameron Whitman, Potomac Group Homes chairman David Daumit, and other representatives of planning agencies and provider groups. It should provide for a thorough discussion of the approach other regional jurisdictions have taken with regard to siting group homes and to providing reasonable accommodation for persons covered by the Americans with Disabilities Act

While the seminar is free, space is limited, so reservations are strongly encouraged Many thanks to Councilmember Ambrose for her initiative in arranging for this area-wide review of such an important issue

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Officers and Board

Patrick Allen, Citizens Association of Georgetown, 337-8760
Gracie Baten, Shepherd Park Citizens Association, 882-6162
John Batham, West End Citizens Association, 628-3527
Allen Beach, Chevy Chase Citizens Association, 362-2239
Larry Chatman, 16th Street Heights, 291-7381
Dino Joseph Drudi, Michigan Park Citizens Association, 526-0891
Kay Eckles, Residential Action Coalition, 265-5961
Guy Gwynne, Burleith Citizens Association, 338-5164
M. R. Peggy Snyder, Chancery Court, 338-1972
Miles Steele III, Hillcrest Community Citizens Association, 582-7832
Kathy Sternberg, Kalorama Citizens Association, 328-4806
Alice Stewart, Palisades Citizens Association, 364-1505
Marc Weiss, Southwest Neighborhood Assembly, 535-1970
Al Wheeler, Oldest Inhabitants of DC, 337-00340
Barbara Zartman, Cloisters in Georgetown, 337-6505

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President’s Column

This has been quite a hectic time for Federation members, and for your Board.

The responses to regulatory reform proposals have been both time-consuming and productive. The Federation's comments on the Control Board proposals for the Zoning Commission and the BZA produced modification in the proposals that were advertised for adoption in the D.C. Register.

The new Control Board Chair, Alice Rivlin, has adopted a far more accommodating approach to community input on matters before Board action; the extension of comment periods for regulatory reform is just the first example.

Increasingly, forums are being opened to community input: the economic plan's development is an important first step in this direction. me flip side of this openness, however, is that we must work harder to take advantage of these opportunities for thoughtful input. New hands, additional talents, fresh perspectives are all welcome in this on-going assignment.

As an example, all associations that have not yet done so are encouraged to do the following:

1. Communicate to the Zoning Commission before October 27 their concerns about the proposals for siting CBRFs in residential communities (detailed information is available to those who wish more information). If your association cannot meet the timelines for Zoning Commission comment, please write as individuals. A number of ANCs have adopted the position advocated by the Federation.

2. Communicate to your Ward Councilmember and to At-large Councilmembers the need to postpone adoption of the Comprehensive Plan amendments that have been before the Council for so many months. me new Mayor, the new Council deserve the opportunity to make the "comp plan" their own is critical, as is the need to consider including the policies that emerge from the Economic Summit.

Your help is very much appreciated — and very effective.

Barbara Zartman

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Perspective of History in the District: The more things change ...

Lest anyone think the current concerns about the welfare of the District of Columbia represent a particularly dismal moment in the relationship with Congress, a scholarly assessment of pre-Civil War Washington by Daniel D. Reiff may provide some perspective. Historical anthropologist Janice Artemel brought this to our attention.

The passage begins with comment on Congressional indifference to creating a “national university,” sought by no lesser figures than George Washington and John Quincy Adams. Reiff goes on to observe:

“There was also a specific lack of concern for the problems of Washington City, and an assumption that the city would somehow take care of itself. In general, Congress begrudged any time it had to spend on District affairs.

“As early as 1803, a Representative declared that as the city grew, it would take more and more of Congress’ time and presently would be equal to that spent on the rest of the United States!1

“And in 1830, the chairman of the House District Committee complained of the unpleasantness of his job, because of the ungenerous ‘temper and spirit with which the most ordinary appropriations for the benefit of this District are received. . . . Some gentlemen seem to regard the District of Columbia as a rat under an exhausted receiver, where political empirics may display the quackery of legislation without any danger of being called to account for their folly or their ignorance.2 This was in part due to the lack of representation of the city in Congress so that no one had the interests of the city his sole duty. Petitions of citizens were regarded as irritants.

“The assumption that the city would somehow take care of itself was common. Care of roads was always the duty of the municipality. So was poor relief and care for the sick. As early as 1802 the city was spending up to 42 per cent of its income on care of the poor, both local and those flocking to the seat of national government in hope of aid.3 By the 1830's it was shown that in the local hospitals 75 per cent of the patients were nonresidents of the city.4 The jails were similarly overburdened; but since these services were traditionally locally administered, Congress provided no assistance until the 1840's.5

From Washington Architecture, 1791-1861: Problems in Development by Daniel D. Reiff, U. S. Commission of Fine Arts, Washington, D.C. 1971.

1,. Noyes, Theodore W. “Some of Washington’s Grievances,” The Evening Star, Feb. 18 and 25, Mar. 3 and 10, 1888.
2. Bryan, Wilhelmus Bogart. A History of the National Capital. 2 vol. Macmillan Company, New York, 1914-16.
3. Green, Constance McLaughlin, Washington: Village and Capital 1800-1878. Princeton University Press, 1962.
4. Young, Jarnes Sterling. The Washington Community, 1800-1828. Columbia University Press, 1966.
5. Ibid.

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Share your community’s treasures: Scenic Byways in the District

There is a Scenic Byways Program operated by the D. C. Department of Public Works that seeks to identify transportation "corridors" in the District that have special scenic, historic, cultural, natural, recreational, or archaeological qualities.

Funded through the 1991 highway bill (ISTEA), the program seeks to augment the well-established malls- and-monuments profile of places to visit with the rich tapestry offered by the District's diverse neighborhoods.

Community organizations are the perfect source for information about their sometimes-hidden assets, which can include both activities and physical assets, cultural festivals, artistic performances, riverfront activities, hiking and biking trails, historic sites and districts, great architecture, diverse neighborhoods, landmarks, parks, and natural areas.

Among the goals of the Scenic Byways Program is the fostering of community involvement in the preservation and enhancement of the intrinsic qualities and resources along the scenic byway corridors in the city. This both enhances the neighborhoods and testifies to their commitment to the richness they contain; it also encourages tourism and other economic development opportunities throughout the District. Scenic Byways can be elevated to national status through this program as well.

More information about the program and the means for making nominations can be had by contacting the Program Coordinator, Ali Fatah, in the Office of Intermodal Planning at DPW, 2000 1 4th Street NW, Washington 20009 (939-8010).

The District can take special pride in the fact that Mr. Fatah won the 1998 award from the American Planning association for the metropolitan area in recognition of his work on this program.

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More eyesore than scenic byway? Adopt a park!

In many communities, the “treasures” are truly hidden, treasures that are the public parks and recreation grounds. Too many years of too few budget dollars and too little focus have taken their toll, and what greets the eye is the accumulation of neglect.

Civic and community groups, businesses — even private individuals — can take things into their own hands by participating in the Adopt-A-Park Program of the Department of Recreation and Parks. More than 300 sites are available to sponsors willing to commit to removing litter, performing simple gardening tasks (planting flowers or grass, mulching, and so forth).

The agreements are flexible: sponsors can choose from a one-year to a five-year commitment. The twenty "adoptions" have ranged from one- person efforts to massive community fund-raising end construction projects. Any effort to make parks, playgrounds, and open space more attractive is a plus for the individual community affected, and a net gain for the District as a whole, showing the pride of the people of the District.

Information is available through Diane Quinn, Office of Policy, Planning and Evaluation, Department of Recreation and Parks, 3149 1 6th Street N.W., Washington 20010 (6737693).

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Federation meeting dates for the program year

Federation assembly meetings will be held on the following dates; all will begin at 7 p.m. and will be held at the Sumner School unless special notice is given.

October 27
November 24
December 11 — Holiday Luncheon
January 26
February 23
March 23
April — Annual Banquet TBA
May 26
June 22

This is a switch from the traditional “second Thursday” pattern of past years. The Board elected to change the schedule in order to accommodate member groups that had structural conflicts with those Thursday meetings. We look forward to having them with us at our monthly sessions. The Executive Board now meets on the second Thursday of each month.

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