Forward to November 1998 Federation
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Back to September 1998 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
Neighborhood Commissions: Saving Them: Strengthening Them
Historic Preservation: Bypassing the Board Members?
Tuesday, October 27
Federation Assembly Meeting
John Ferren, Corporation Counsel
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.
What is already being done to fix the worst of this behavior?
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:
Cassell suggests that people with similar concerns write to HPRB members.
November 12, 3:30 p.m. to 5:00 p.m.
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.
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
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
Patrick Allen, Citizens Association of Georgetown, 337-8760
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.
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 Washingtons
Grievances, The Evening Star, Feb. 18 and 25, Mar. 3 and 10, 1888.
Share your communitys 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.
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).
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.
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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