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Dorothy Brizill
Press release on the Complaint in Superior Court against the Board of Elections and Ethics on the Video Lottery Terminal Initiative of 2004
June 21, 2004




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Challenge Filed to Slots Initiative

For immediate release:
Monday, June 21, 2004
For more information, call:
Gary Imhoff or Dorothy Brizill, 202-234-6982

Today, June 21, 2004, at 10:00 a.m., three citizens of the District of Columbia, David Argo, Dorothy Brizill, and Regina James, filed pro se a lawsuit in DC Superior Court, 500 Indiana Avenue, NW, challenging the DC Board of Elections and Ethics’ decision to approve the "District of Columbia Video Lottery Terminal Initiative of 2004." This is a ballot initiative that, if approved by the voters, would grant a monopoly license to open a gambling parlor with 3,500 slot machines (or "video lottery terminals," in the language of the initiative’s proponents) at the intersection of New York and Montana Avenues and Bladensburg Road, NE, in the District of Columbia.

The complaint filed today asks the court to prohibit the Board of Elections from issuing signature petitions to the proponents of the initiative. The plaintiffs allege that the Board of Elections and Ethics improperly considered the text of the initiative at its meeting on June 9, 2004, because the text had not been properly published in an official issue of the DC Register, as required by law. It also alleges that the Board should not have approved the initiative because it appropriates funds; negates a budget act; and is special-interest legislation that grants a monopoly ten-year license, or contract, to a single company (composed of unnamed and unrevealed investors), and as such is not in proper legislative form.

All the plaintiffs oppose the establishment of a huge slot machine parlor in the District of Columbia on several different policy grounds. These grounds for opposition range from moral opposition to gambling to economic analysis and research that shows that gambling casinos do not promote economic development. But their lawsuit is based on legal flaws in the process followed by the Board of Elections and Ethics and on the legal defects in the initiative, not on their policy disagreements with it. While the plaintiffs firmly believe that their challenge to this initiative is on sound legal grounds and will be successful, they intend to establish a citywide coalition of community and religious leaders to oppose any successor to this initiative, should gambling promoters introduce a similar measure in the future.

For detailed information on the initiative, go to http://www.dcwatch.com/election/init18.htm. For editorial commentary on the initiative, see The Washington Post’s editorial, "Gambling’s Crack Cocaine," June 13, 2004, Page B06, http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/articles/A35765-2004Jun11.html.m7, and The Washington Times’ editorial, "DC’s Gambling Ruse," June 9, 2004, http://washingtontimes.com/op-ed/20040608-092731-5262r.htm.

The Plaintiffs

The Rev. David Argo is a long-standing resident of the District of Columbia and an ordained pastor in the United Methodist Church. He previously pastored two congregations in the city, one in Tenleytown and the other on Capitol Hill, where he and many of his parishioners were vitally interested and involved in community affairs and outreach programs. Over the past year, Rev. Argo has served as the District Superintendent for the Washington-Columbia District of the Baltimore-Washington Conference of the United Methodist Church, which has brought Rev. Argo into contact with virtually every community in the city — wherever a United Methodist church is located. The opposition to gambling is consistent with Methodist tradition and the social principles of the United Methodist Church. Rev. Argo is participating in this suit on his own behalf and as a witness to his own convictions, and not in any official or professional capacity. Nevertheless, Rev. Argo’s concern for the impact gambling will have on this city flows not merely from his status as a homeowner and taxpayer; it is also, and far more significantly, an outgrowth of his broad-based experience in working to meet the deepest needs of communities in every corner of the city.

Contact information for David Argo:

410-309-3400, work
410-309-9439, fax
202-270-9612, cell

Dorothy Brizill is the founder and executive director of DCWatch, a citywide, nonprofit, good government organization that focuses attention on waste, fraud, mismanagement, and corruption in the District of Columbia and operates the web site dcwatch.com. DCWatch has frequently been involved in election issues, most recently in the challenge to Mayor Anthony Williams’s primary election petitions in 2002, which exposed the biggest election fraud in the history of the District. She is a political scientist who was educated at Queens College (CUNY) and Columbia University and who has worked at the Brookings Institution and the State Department. Her independent investigations of government corruption and mismanagement led to the complete reorganization of the housing inspection unit of the Department of Consumer and Regulatory Affairs, to federal charges of misuse of office and campaign finance violations against high-ranking officials of the city government, and to necessary reforms in the homeless shelter program, as well as to numerous exposés in the media. As the former president of the Columbia Heights Neighborhood Coalition in the 14th Street corridor, she organized her community to fight drugs and crime; implement community policing; force the District to clean, maintain, and manage scattered-site public housing and District-owned properties; limit the concentration of emergency shelters; revamp the Alcohol Beverage Control Board; and improve the delivery of basic city services.

Contact information for Dorothy Brizill:

202-234-6982, work and fax

Regina James has served as an Advisory Neighborhood Commissioner for 5B03 for nearly six years. She focuses on the issue of public safety because of the systematic violence that continues to plague her Ward Five community of Brentwood. In the past, she frequently patrolled her local streets from 12:00 a.m. to 4:00 a.m., and today she still does so when there is a heightened level of crime. By partnering with the Fifth District Metropolitan Police Department, her neighbors and she successfully closed down a house of prostitution at 1007 Rhode Island Avenue, stopped the invasion of prostitution along the Rhode Island Avenue, NE, corridor, and closed the visible open-air drug market within Brookland Manor (formerly known as Brentwood Village). However, drugs continue to plague her community. Dr. George Boyd and she successfully prevented the licensing of a night club owned by a proprietor who had a notorious history of serving alcohol to underage children. Ms. James is a native Washingtonian who was born and raised in Ward 5. She was a shop steward for a period of five years for Local 153, Office and Professional Employees International Union, AFL-CIO. She attended St. Francis de Sales, Academy of Notre Dame, and is a graduate of McKinley Technical High School. She holds a BA in Theology from Zoe University.

Contact information for Regina James:

202-526-1681 home

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