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Federation of Citizens Associations of the District of Columbia

Federation News

Volume 5, Issue 5, January 2000
3710 S Street, NW, Washington, DC 20007
(202) 338-5164 phone/fax

Guest Speaker: Federation Will Look into Ongoing Lawsuits for Broader Representation in the Congress
Time to Organize to Pass Effective Campus Plan Control Legislation and Regulation
Computers for ANCs
Hearings/Legislation of Interest
May 2 Primary Election Petitions
Officers and Board
President’s Message
Good Federation Turnout for Chevy Chase Activist’s BZA Confirmation Hearing
Speed Bumps Down the Road in Residential Neighborhoods?
Burial Assistance Program Reestablishment Emergency Amendment Act of 1999
In Memoriam
Federation Board Activities
Future Federation Assembly Meeting Dates


Cancelled because of weather conditions

7:00 P.M.

Speaker - Rob Wick, Esq.
Covington & Burling

Other Business

The Charles Sumner School
1201 Seventeenth Street, N. W. (at AI)

Guest Speaker: Federation Will Look Into Ongoing Lawsuits for Broader Representation in the Congress

D.C. Vote, of which our guest speaker is a spokesman, is a coalition of concerned citizens and organizations that have coalesced for the purpose of attempting to achieve full voting representation in Congress for the citizens of the District of Columbia. (N.b., not for the entity of the District of Columbia.)

This is expressed by the group as "voting representation in the House and Senate equal to that of every other U.S. citizen". As we know, citizens of the District who bear the full burden of citizenship have never had representation in the Senate. The one delegate District voters are able to elect has no vote on the final passage of legislation in the House of Representatives.

Using the concept of "one person-one vote," the Coalition contrasts the situation of the voters in the District with those on military bases throughout the country. Formerly, the latter also could not vote in their states of assigned residence, but now after considerable political debate and judicial action military voters are able to vote in their duty areas at election time, provided they fulfill normal minimum residence requirements.

The argument is made that the denial of complete one person-one vote representation in the Congress to Washingtonians is doubly pernicious since Congress acts as both the national and state legislature for the District. The assertion is made that as their state legislature, Congress should and can enfranchise the District's citizens.

Sure to come up in discussion of what to do about an ongoing Washington citizen lawsuit concerning the dilution of the vote of some voters. A propos, the Coalition cites former activist Supreme Court Justice Earl Warren as having noted, "...the right of suffrage can be denied by a debasement or dilution of the weight of a citizen's vote just as effectively as by wholly prohibiting the free exercise of the franchise." The local suit, which will probably go to the Supreme Court, argues that concentrated transient, especially student, voters, in an area for approximately six and a half months of a year should vote in their states of real legal residence, rather than unduly and rootlessly vote in their area of voluntary transient activity. The transients may dilute the votes of taxpaying permanent resident citizens directly interested in their localities' affairs.

Whether a vote for the U.S. Senate would be within the framework of Maryland (as the District is not a state) or in some other context will also be examined in the doubtless interesting give-and-take discussion.

Among the groups cited by the coalition as endorsers are the League of Women Voters of D.C., D.C. Chamber of Commerce, Downtown Cluster of Congregations and Women's National Democratic Club.

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One of the major areas of largely unaddressed, much less unfinished, business of the District's one-year-old reform administration is the city's chaotic, often harmful lack of effective control of the expansionist, business and community impact activities of its taxfree universities.

Virtually all of the District's universities:

  1. Are situated in residential areas.
  2. Operate on the concept that expansion is necessary for competitiveness.
  3. Tend increasingly toward major uncontrolled expansion of neighborhood property acquisitions and/or student enrollments.
  4. Are tax exempt and probably tax consuming.
  5. Seldom, if ever, effectively take community concerns or interests into account when encroaching expansion projects are undertaken.
  6. Are required to submit heretofore less than meaningful 10-year campus plans for development for BZA approval.
  7. Are not bound in practice by BZA-sanctioned campus-plan restrictions.
  8. Are united for common purpose in the Consortium of Universities, represented by the principal land-use law firm in the city.
  9. Are allowed unduly broad latitude for action by the city government.

A more uneven and unfair town-gown playing field would be hard to find than that pertaining in the District of Columbia. No matter that existing zoning regulations are explicit in prohibiting negative university impact on surrounding communities.

Higher education as well as other tax-exempt institutions are ever-ready with claims that they are major employers in the District; but unsaid is that most of their substantial-earning employees reportedly live outside the District. Assertions of economic benefit to tradesmen and suppliers are also made, but these are equally valid for any large establishment. And, unspelled-out, probably unsupportable assertions of institutional prestige and its accompanying urban benefits unfailingly arise. These justifications are dubious at best, but they have been effectively bought by a number of city agencies and by past administrations.

We are approaching an election year. Already bad, laissez-faire institutional spread has increased in recent years, often to community detriment. It is time to push for normal, responsible city control over and enforceable definition of contractual, binding university and other institutional periodic campus plans.

On the January Federation assembly agenda will be the formation of a committee of impacted communities to organize Federation personnel and other resources to bring this about. All sixteen communities that abut universities are already members of the Federation, with the exception of Brookland near Catholic University. This is a do-able project, and the time is right.

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Perhaps taking a cue from District supermarkets and their upbeat Computers for Kids campaigns, the D.C. government is now supplying a computer to each ANC. Included will be space on a web site. Not included will be backup computer support. In the words of one computer-wise ANC commissioner, "There will be no 800 number to call for breakdowns or crashes." Even so, the new equipment marks an upgrade in city support for the charter-authorized ANCs, which have ample maintenance funds of their own.

The new equipment also may afford easier and more direct contact with ANC offices for associations and individuals.

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Based on the expressed concerns of various associations and delegates, the following are items of interest.

Hearing January 24, 1 p.m., Council chamber: "Election Day Challenge Procedures Amendment Act of 1999," Bill 13-445. Committee on Government Operations Committee; Chair, Kathy Patterson.

"Board of Elections and Ethics Recall Petition Amendment Act of 1999," Bill 13-492.

Bills and Resolutions passed by the Council December 6 and December 23, 1999:

"Advisory Neighborhood Commissions Management Control Temporary Amendment Act of 1999", Bill 13- 464.

"Disposal of District Owned Surplus Real Property Temporary Amendment Act of 1999," Bill 13-466.

"Advisory Neighborhood Commission Vacancy Congressional Review Emergency Amendment Act of 1999," Bill 13-498.

Documents are obtainable at the Legislative Services Office on the seventh floor at No. 1 Judiciary Square (4th and E Streets, N.W.), for a small fee. ANC members receive them free. The LSO telephone number is 727-8050.

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Now available at the D.C. Board of Elections and Ethics are nominating petitions for the District's May 2 primary election. Petitions may address all offices that will be on the ballot. These are:

  1. Presidential nominations for the Republican and Democratic parties.
  2. D.C. House of Representatives delegate nominations for the Democratic, Republican, D.C. Statehood, Green, and Umoja parties.
  3. National Committee members of the Republican and Democratic parties.
  4. D.C. Republican Committee.
  5. D.C. Democratic State Committee.
  6. D.C. Umoja Committee.

Petition filing time for Democratic and Republican presidential candidates and their delegates to the national conventions is March 3.

Filing time for the other offices is February 23.

The Board of Elections telephone number is 727-2525.

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Officers and Board

Patrick H. Allen Esq.
Citizens Association of Georgetown

Gracie V. Baten
Shepherd Park Citizens Association

Rhoma Battle
Penn Branch Civic Association

Allen E. Beach
Chevy Chase Citizens Association

Larry Chatman
16th Street Heights Citizens Association

Buck Clarke
Cardozo-Shaw Citizens Association

Dino J. Drudi
Michigan Park Citizens Association

Kay A. Eckles
Residential Action Coalition

Lois Forster
Cleveland Park Citizens Association

Guy Gwynne
Burleith Citizens Association

M.R. Peggy Snyder, Esq.
Hillandale Homeowners Association

Alice F, Stewart
Palisades Citizens Association

A.L. Wheeler, Esq.
Oldest Inhabitants Society

Dr. Marc Weiss
Southwest Neighborhood Assembly

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President’s Message — Guy Gwynne

If 1999 was an active and productive year for the Federation, 2000 promises to be even busier. Our efforts to help beef up the zoning and housing agencies are paying off, we continue to try to aid in the placement of responsible citizen activists on the city's boards and commissions, we have begun final procedures for establishing a legal aid foundation and our working committees will present progress reports at the January meeting.

While continuing and refining our outreach efforts, we will be wise to keep our expanding base operation in good health. A fundamental element of this is maintaining our financial health. It is dues time and then some, so I urge every association to bring its Federation dues check to the January meeting if possible. Treasurer Marc Weiss will be sending gentle reminders for association records if necessary, as some treasurers are asking for them.

The Federation elegant annual awards banquet will be held Wednesday, May 17 at Ft. McNair's officers club. This is always a gala affair and as many associations as possible take tables for eight or ten persons. A new arrangement has arisen in that some associations have opted to "visit" with other member groups by having two tables comprise half of one group and half of the other. (Some independent attendees choose to wing it and find a welcoming and interesting empty chair.) There's something for everyone.

On a specific issue, the Federation will support a number of its associations in their efforts to effect the reopening of Pennsylvania Avenue. Now is the time for anyone interested in this project to approach the two major party candidates' campaigns and try to incorporate this as a plankette in the various candidates' platform wish lists. It's do-able.

The January 25 assembly meeting promises to be no less informative than interesting. Let's take advantage of the opportunity.

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Fourteen Federation organizations testified January 11 in favor of Chevy Chase 10-year ANC commissioner and activist Anne Renshaw to serve on the D.C. Board of Zoning Adjustment. Other civic associations and ANCs contributed written endorsements. As most delegates know from experience and observation, the BZA is one of the - arguably the - key commissions in terms of direct and frequent impact on the city's taxpaying residential neighborhoods. Ms. Renshaw stands to bring a proper understanding of community impact to BZA decisions that has often been lacking in the past.

Throughout the last decade, at least, the board has been widely perceived as being pro developer, -institution and -land-use law firm, and dismissive of community efforts to preserve neighborhood integrity and quality of life. Developer and institutional efforts to expand into or otherwise impact D.C. residential communities have been spearheaded in an estimated 85 percent of cases by two or three major and aggressive law firms. A complaisant BZA has been viewed as often ineptly giving away the store, to community detriment.

The process has worked in this way. In contested, community vs. developer cases, talented, well connected and highly paid lawyers representing would-be encroaching client developers or institutions argue before the BZA the unparalleled benefits a proposed project will bring to the city (area, community, neighbors, etc.). The potentially-beset community representatives plead, on their own time, for preservation of neighborhood quality of life and against the perceived negative impact the proposed project would have.

Each side, developer attorneys and community representatives, then submits a "suggested (BZA) opinion". On the land-use attorney side this is normally a tendentious, copiously "researched" and excellently formulated statement of the proposed project and its minimal and/or beneficial impact on all concerned. Community leaders muster as good an attorney as they can, if at all, drain their limited resources and come forward with as good and persuasive "suggested opinion" as they can, if they can.

All too often in the past, BZA board members and staff, with no technical backup and no (in practice) real legal advisory backup have opted to wing it easily and uncritically, and to rubber- stamp the astute preparations of community opponents. These are then published and inferred to be the work of board deliberations. The lower the caliber of board members, the more awful some of these endorsed "suggested opinions" can be, and the more the city and its constituent communities lose.

Let's hope the Renshaw appointment is only one of many upcoming mayoral nominations of normal, experienced and responsible community leaders to serve on the city's key boards and commissions. Federation delegates and association leaders are encouraged to volunteer to serve on the numerous, mostly unpaid, bodies, both to raise the caliber and efficiency of these and to do our part in helping the recovering city.

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A new law that will likely pass the city council early this year provides for an array of "traffic calming" devices on streets within 100 feet of all public schools. Among the provisions for stop lights, rumble strips, signs and the like are. . . speed bumps.

Unlike many other jurisdictions, the District has steadfastly held off installing speed bumps, reportedly because of the possibility of motorist lawsuits over possible vehicle damages. One exception is in the Northwest community of American University Park, where a few speed bumps were installed a number of years ago on an experimental basis, decided against for general installation, but not removed.

Some observant neighborhood residents are eyeing the new city interest in the traffic-slowing bumps with keen speculation. If speed bumps will do for the District's many school areas, they reason, why could they not be used in densely populated residential community streets, now often a species of speedways.

The bill to control speed around schools was authored by Council member Kevin Chavous. A companion bill submitted by Council member Jim Graham would prevent affected motorists from suing the city over damage incurred in the course of rapid driving on streets provided with the bumps. It may be worth a try.

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In member communities with homeless or other indigent persons, the following may be of use. The District of Columbia Register (November 26,1999) notes that the "Burial Assistance Program Reestablishment Emergency Amendment Act of 1999", passed by the Council and signed by the mayor, affords emergency assistance up to a maximum of $800 for burial and cremation services if the liquid assets of the deceased person at the time of death do not exceed $800. The emergency legislation will be in force for 90 days after assent of the control board, likely to be followed by permanent legislation.

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In Memoriam

The Federation announces with sadness the recent death of former Board member and president of the Ft. Gaines Civic Association Rosa Sumpter. Cause of death was a long- term circulatory illness. Ms. Sumpter was known for her signature wig, an unfailingly jolly disposition and devotion to duty. On one occasion, for instance, she left her sickbed and drove a good distance to an ongoing Board meeting, in order to insure a quorum.. She lasted fifteen minutes and drove herself back home. We will miss Ms. Sumpter.

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Federation Board Activities

At its January 13 meeting, the Board took the following actions:

  • Approved the establishment of the Federation legal assistance foundation.
  • Voted to hold meetings within two weeks of the following committees:
    • Federation history and goals statement: Chair, Allen Beach
    • Awards Banquet: Chair, Kay Eckles
    • Taxation: Chair, Dr. Thomas Stauffer
    • Land Use: Chair, Lois Forster
    • Neighborhood Commercial District Revival: Chair, A.L. Wheeler, Esq.
  • Voted to support the efforts of the associations of DuPont Circle, Residential Action Coalition and Kalorama to oppose proposed major expansion by the Hilton Washington Towers Hotel.
  • Considered feasible mechanisms for converting unused city property into supportive parking areas, as needed, for commercial districts.

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Future Federation Assembly Meeting Dates

The Sumner School has reserved the following dates for the Federation's Assembly meetings. Each will begin at 7:00 p.m. at the School and Museum, which is at 1201 Seventeenth Street, at the corner of M Street, N.W.

Tuesday, February 22
Tuesday, March 28
Tuesday, April 25
Wednesday, May 17 (Awards Banquet)
Tuesday, June 27

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