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Federation of Citizens Associations of the District of Columbia

Federation News

Volume 5, Issue 6, February 2000
3710 S Street, NW, Washington, DC 20007
(202) 338-5164 phone/fax

Guest Speaker: Looking at Ongoing Lawsuits for Broader Representation in Congress
Looking Up? A View from the Hill
City Personnel Changes of Note
There’s No News Like Snow News
Resolutions for Y2K
Useful City Government Telephone Guide for Delegates
Officers and Board
President’s Message — Guy Gwynne
Federation Board Meeting
By-Election November 22
Score One for Norton
In Memoriam — Milton Fischer
Crestwood and Environmental Groups Mount Court Challenge on Cell Towers
Future Federation Assembly Meeting Dates

7:00 P.M.

Speaker - Dr. Jamin Raskin
American University Law School

Other Business

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


Nothing daunted by a snowout of the January meeting. The Federation will pursue its scrutiny of the lawsuits that are aimed at achieving fuller voting rights for D.C. citizens. D.C. Vote, the moving force behind the suits, is a coalition of concerned citizens and organizations that have coalesced for the purpose of testing the matter in the courts.

Dr. Raskin is the actual author and drafter of the lawsuit and related briefs and has been involved with the enfranchise-D.C. movement for some time. The movement expresses its goal as "voting representation in the House and Senate equal to that of every other U.S. citizen." Essentially, this means that every citizen of the District should be able to vote for a U.S. Representative(s) and U.S. Senator(s). This is distinguished from the concept of the entity of the District of Columbia having of-right votes in or for the national legislature.

The Congress, which is given legislative control of the District of Columbia by the Constitution, takes the position that it can and ought to decide on D.C. citizens' voting rights as well. Therein lies the rub.

One interesting possible anomaly is what to do about the Senate vote. Citizens of states vote for senators from the individual states, not for at large candidates. The District has no present right to a senatorial delegation in Congress. Whom to vote for? Maryland senatorial candidates? Virginia candidates? Something else? It will be interesting to hear our speaker's comments to this important point.

A number of civic organizations have associated themselves with the enfranchise-DC. movement. Among these are the League of Women Voters of D.C., the D.C. Chamber of Commerce, the Downtown Cluster of Congregations and the Women's National Democratic Club.

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Everyone knows Representative Tom Davis of Virginia. Inter alia, he is (1) the chairman of the House Subcommittee of the District of Columbia and (2) is arguably the most influential member of Congress as far as the District is concerned. Along with Ms. Eleanor Norton, Mr. Davis is the heavyweight most colleagues listen to when the chips are down.

In a recent published commentary on District affairs Mr. Davis was upbeat. His observations are worth noting, partly because they are from him, and are presented here as an interesting capsule summary. In Mr. Davis' view, 1999 was a banner year for the District because:

  • The city budget was balanced for the third straight year.
  • The trend of population and employment loss appears to have been reversed.
  • Measurable improvements were made in identifying and collecting local revenues.
  • The city's bond rating was upgraded.
  • Congress passed a city spending bill that enhanced resources for foster care, drug treatment and public education, and included funds to clean-up the Anacostia River and to study widening the 14th Street Bridge.
  • Congress passed the College Access Act, to enable D.C. high school graduates to pay in- state tuition rates at public colleges in Maryland and Virginia.
  • The Williams administration, with the support of the Control Board, city council and D.C. office of the chief technology officer, insured that the city achieved Y2K conversion compliance.
  • Tax and regulatory reforms - including the largest tax cut in the city's history in the fiscal year 2000 budget - have attracted investors and employers.

Of those indices of progress, the most important by far in the long term is the perceived stanching and reversing of the population (and tax base) hemorrhage of the past decades. Viewed as a whole, the process is a progression: Many, if not most, of the middle-class and other departers from the city left for quality-of-life reasons in their areas of residence. Our residential neighborhoods are not figuring as importantly as they should in D.C. recovery goals and priorities - as witness the Davis list of accomplishments. Ergo, it is time for the city reformers to focus energetically on the numerous residential communities, enhance taxpayer quality of life in these and pro-actively protect communities from encroachers - if it wants to keep the ball rolling.

It is increasingly being said that the District is in a definitional as well as an operational crisis. Emphasis on residential neighborhood concerns does not show up in any serious 1999 progress reports. It's time for a change.

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City Personnel Changes of Note

  • Mack Brown has left the mayor's office. He was Deputy Chief of Staff, Legal and Internal Affairs
  • John Fanning has left the mayor's Office of the Public Advocate
  • Marie Drissell has resigned as the mayor's chief personnel officer for boards and commissions

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In dealing with a "major" snow emergency like the one just past the progression of action would seemingly be: snow clearance, trash removal, recycling materials removal, and then pothole repair. In other words, based on available resources, after having to concentrate on street emergencies the city would then focus on accumulated-trash removal, then concurrently or slightly later concentrate on accumulated-recyclables removal, and lastly focus on mop-up pothole repair — expeditiously.

Compared with the 1996 snow emergency, snow removal proceeded in an orderly - although not perfect fashion just about everywhere in the city, over a week-long period. DPW then, somewhat belatedly, focused on alley trash removal. So far, so so. However, most difficult to understand is the inordinate delay in the collection of piled-up recyclable material. The latter is not the job of a beset DPW but, rather, of outside contract firms. Surely, a four-week delay was unnecessary, and this should be viewed with squinted eyes by the city at contract renewal time.

The city is now in the pothole repair phase. Heretofore, at least for the past decade, D.C. pothole filling has often been substandard and recurring, partly due to a cheaper grade of asphalt used for the purpose. Six months ago, the pertinent DPW source assured that the better, "usual" Venezuelan asphalt would be used in future in the District.

In some neighborhoods, one association or ANC person has been designated as a central point to whom potholes are reported. That person is then able to turn in a more complete request for pothole repair, with better chances for broader ranging service.

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Following are timely resolutions for associations, possibly useful for helping to articulate our organizations' own resolve. The suggested resolutions are contributed by former Federation president Harold Gray, and may be sent by associations to whoever they believe to be most responsive.

RESOLVED that Pennsylvania Avenue and E Street, N.W. beside the White House be reopened to restore access to downtown, even if we have to wait for the next U.S. president to get it done.

RESOLVED that Klingle Road, N.W. be reopened to restore the only cross-town route that goes under Connecticut Avenue.

RESOLVED that major route numbers in the city be better marked. For example, U.S. 1, U.S. 29, U.S. 50 and Interstate 295 get lost on their way through District.

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One of the simplest but most useful minor publications of the city government is the small, handy tablet "Telephone Pocket Guide for services of the District of Columbia." This lists, with telephone numbers, D.C. government agencies; the mayor, city council members and school board members by name; and an alphabetical directory by topic (Public Works, Real Property Taxes, Street Repair, etc.) These are best obtained at the office of the Chief Technology Officer, 9th floor, No. 1 Judiciary Square, telephone number (202) 727-2277.

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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

After extensive and extended examination of the pros and cons of setting up a Federation legal foundation, the officers and Board have authorized final actions to begin establishment. A final vote will be taken at the February 22 assembly session.

Much excellent work has gone into the consideration of procedures and drafting of the basic foundation document. A team of Federation-connected attorneys has reviewed, consulted over and drafted texts for the past two years. We are convinced that new foundation, as contemplated, will (1) go a considerable way in leveling the playing field in citizen association contentions with institutions, developers, city agencies and others, (2) attract outside foundation money, (3) provide a framework for securing legal assistance from Washington law firms, and (4) provide a tax-free umbrella agency for ensuring that monies donated to member organization for specific projects are tax deductible for donors.

It is a fact of civic life in the District and elsewhere that large institutions, developers, agencies and the like enter any contention with neighborhood organizations and other civic opponents with highly-paid, skillful and often well- connected legal backup. Ordinarily, it is the corporate land use attorneys who lead corporate action and deal with citizen objections. It is equally true that when the time arrives to test conclusions with developers, encroachers and the like, affected civic organizations must think fast, find attorneys -- if they can, draw down limited resources, and find volunteers to defend the community at their own expense.

This is not a level playing field and is bad for the civic good. More likely than not, under present conditions the communities lose in litigation and related activities that call for legal background, preparation of briefs, legal research and skillful presentation. By means of the legal foundation, we will try to solidify such support for our often-beset residential communities and the taxpaying District citizenry. This will not be totally smooth, but it is do-able. And we have the vision to make it do-able.

Let's get the legal aid foundation off to a good start at the November 22 meeting.

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At its February 10 meeting, the board of the Federation took the following actions:

  • Voted support for the School Board Governance Referendum Bill, now before the city council. Resolution mover: Dino J. Drudi, Michigan Park Association
  • Voted to support ongoing community/foundation litigation against Rock Creek Park cell telephone towers. Presenter: Jim Jones, President, Crestwood Association
  • Reviewed the recent purchase by George Washington University of 28.55% interest in the vast Columbia Plaza apartment complex and voted to pursue the general problem of tax-exempt organization expansion
  • Approved a by-election November 22 to fill one board position and the office of secretary
  • Passed a resolution in support of strengthening the D.C. fire department. Resolution mover: Alice Stewart, Palisades Association
  • Arranged for more detailed treasurer's reports
  • Explored more significant enforcement tools in connection with land use inspection and control. Presenter: Lois Forster, Cleveland Park Association chair of the land use committee

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By-Election November 22

An unusual two vacancies have appeared on the Federation Board. Second Vice President Peggy Snyder, Esq. has had to resign for personal reasons, and at least one delegate has agreed to stand for the vacant secretary office. Candidates to date for secretary are Jack Batham, West End Association president and, for board member, Miles Steel III, delegate from the Hillcrest Association. As in all elections, nominations will be invited from the floor as well.

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In August 1996, D.C. Delegate Eleanor Holmes Norton, at the request of the city council, introduced a bill for federal government renovation of the downtown District (Wilson) Building in exchange for partial occupancy by the Environmental Protection Agency. Work has proceeded a pace since about 1997 and reportedly is well on the way to completion.

To make a long story short, in late 1999, Mrs. Norton brokered a deal between the mayor, city council, EPA and GSA officials which provides for the District government to reoccupy the Wilson Building in its entirety. EPA reportedly is considering moving into One Judiciary Square, among other alternatives. A spokesman from Councilmember Jack Evans' office reported that council staff had received word that a move back to the Wilson Building might take place in May 2000 - but the reporter doubted it.

All in all, kudos for Mrs. Norton. The District government belongs in its traditional headquarters, from which it retired in a time of financial extremities. After having seen some of the luxurious, high-priced offices at One Judiciary Square, many Federation members will agree that the EPA would probably be more comfortably off there after having given up its rights to the Wilson Building. Mrs. Norton's solomonic solution seems to be best for everyone.

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In Memoriam

The Federation notes with sadness the passing in late 1999 of 12-year Michigan Park delegate Milton Fischer. A life-long Washington resident, Mr. Fischer was prominent in his specialty field of bridge building. He rose to the position of chief bridge engineer for the Eastern Federal Lands Highway Division, where he oversaw the design of bridges on highways traversing public lands, including the Linn Cove Viaduct in North Carolina - one of the most complicated ever built - and the Tom Bigbee Bridge in Tennessee, a major three-span bridge. Mr. Fischer's particular expertise in engineering was useful in the Michigan Park Association's dealings with at-times controversial construction projects.

Mr. Fischer brought an integrity, a diligence and, as an engineer, a rare set of talents to civic work for which he will be remembered fondly.

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Crestwood and Environmental Groups Mount Court Challenge on Cell Towers

The Audubon Naturalist Society and the Maryland Native Plant Society joined forces with Crestwood Neighborhood League residents to file a suite in U.S. District Court on January 21, 2000, which accuses the National Park Service of failing to comply with environmental laws in reviewing a Bell Atlantic Mobile request to build two towers in Rock Creek Park. Spearheaded by legal counsel from Georgetown University Law Center's Institute of Public Representation, the groups argue that the National Park Service's findings that the cell towers would have no significant impact were incorrect and should not have been allowed. The complaint also asks the court to dismantle the two and to invalidate the right-of-way permit until the National Park Service complies with the National Environmental Policy Act and prepares a thorough environmental assessment.

Spokespersons from each of the challenging organizations released statements for the press. Crestwood Neighborhood League President James H. Jones observed that the environmental assessment fails to consider other technologies or alternative sites capable of providing the basic telecommunication coverage. It fails to even consider the alternative of denying the application.

The Audubon Naturalist Society President Jeff Smith stated, "Unfortunately, the National Park service is evaluating the application from one applicant only and has not looked at the cumulative impact from multiple tower construction."

Mike Nelson, the Audubon Naturalist Society Executive Director, revealed, "Our breeding bird census area is a 65-acre tract that adjoins the maintenance yard where one of the towers is located. One reason the environmental assessment is inadequate is that it completely ignores the proximity of the tower and associated development to the adjacent breeding bird census tract."

Steve Paley, Audubon Conservation Committee Chair, noted, "Rock Creek Park is the largest block of forest in Washington, D.C. The high ridge that borders the west bank of Rock Creek between Broad Branch and Military Road is the best migrating warbler habitat in the city. We disagree with the assessment's conclusion that the towers would not pose a threat to migratory birds."

Maryland Native Plant Society Representative Mary Pat Rowen said that while the environmental assessment dismissed the effects of the telecommunications facilities, a thorough botanical survey of the area has not been conducted.

We all have a vested interest and a responsibility to protect the park from the forces of environmental derogation. We in Crestwood are excited that the environmental groups are joining us in this effort. We urge the Federation of Citizens Associations, the District of Columbia Government, and other civic and environmental groups to become immediately involved in this lawsuit to save our park. Rock Creek Park is an oasis to many residents and visitors who treasure the park's beauty.

Jim Jones,
Crestwood Neighborhood League

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

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