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Federation of Citizens Associations of the District of Columbia

Federation News

Volume 6, Issue 7, April 2000
3710 S Street, NW, Washington, DC 20007
(202) 338-5164 phone/fax

The Telecommunications Revolution in D.C.: Who Does, Controls, and Gets What?
The Federal City Council: Informal Power Behind the Scenes
Proposed Legislation to Lure New Teachers to D.C.
Officers and Board
President’s Message
When Required Building Project Permits Need to Be Checked
Change in D.C. Surplus School Properties
The Mayor’s Neighborhood Action Plan, Continued
New Election Board Nominee
George Washington Off-Campus Property Acquisitions
Board Meeting
Future Federation Assembly Meeting Dates

7: 00 P.M.

John Ray, Esq., Manatt, Phelps & Phillips LLP
Wes Heppler, Esq., AT&T Cablevision
Starpower Communications
Other Business

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


So basic and important to the future lives and businesses of Washingtonians is the ultimate decision on how to handle the imminent coaxial cable revolution, that the Federation will take up the matter again at its Tuesday meeting. Central to the concept of the upcoming cable system expansion is that currently discrete services - E-mail, telephone, television and other increasingly common services — will be amalgamated soon into a singlepackage offering by an undefined number of companies, via cable.

Basically, and largely unknown to the public, the District along with the rest of the country is caught up in the decision-making process concerning imminent provision by one, a few or many firms of voice, video and highspeed Internet access through the broadband cable network.

The D.C. City Council has under consideration an application for the transfer of the D.C. cable television system from AT&T to Comcast, or the renewal of the current cable franchise contract which is due to expire in (now, after a six-month extension) September 2000. The buzzword is Open Access — by competing service provider companies — to the franchise cable system, or not. Stated in another way, the city council is being asked to approve legislation providing that the owner of the D.C. cable system must allow all Internet service providers "open access" to the system, so that they too can offer their customers the high-speed services of a cable connection.

Reportedly, a number of cities nationwide have already enacted similar legislation - in this area Fairfax County, Virginia. Open access proponents report that a local government's right to take such action is part of the local franchise nature of cable contracts.

Most recently, in late September 1999, the City of Fairfax jumped into the growing national debate over the future of the Internet when its city council voted to require its new cable television provider to open up its high-speed lines to other Internet Service Providers. Legislators across the country are mulling the same issue.

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One of the lesser-known and major power layers in the District is the self-appointed and self-perpetuating Federal City Council. Made up of 206 prominent or emblematic business, university, law firm and other executives, the Council freely and.reportedly often effectively intervenes in policy decisions in the District, virtually always with a degree of discretion that amounts to secrecy. The organization has traditional ties with the Washington Post, whose publisher Philip Graham heads the membership nomination committee.

Members of the Federal City Council include members of major business corporations such as PEPCO, the Washington Hilton and Towers, the Washington Post (but not the Washington Times) and Riggs Bank; university presidents such as those from George Washington, Georgetown, American and Catholic Universities; and members of law firms such as Wilkes, Artis, Hedrick & Lane; Hunton & Williams; and Furey, Doolan & Abel.

Recently, a spokesman for U. S. Representative Tom Davis, III of Virginia, who chairs the House D.C. oversight committee, reportedly stated, "They're (the Federal City Council) certainly a voice we listen to."

Delegates and other citizen representatives may wish to familiarize themselves with this important, although little-known, element in the District power structure. The best and most interesting source to date is the December issue of the new D.C. newspaper Common Denominator. Its prizewinning lead research article describes the Federal City Council in useful detail and lists its members and their affiliations. The Common Denominator is located at 680 Rhode Island Avenue, N.E., above the CVS store.

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In view of the existing shortage of secondary school teachers in the District, Councilmember Carol Schwartz has authored legislation to attract and retain new teachers. Along the lines of the federal tax break for first-time homebuyers in the District, the new law would afford teachers who are first-time homebuyers access to second-trust loans up to $10,000.

The teacher-buyers would have to live in the house at least five years, and loan payment would be deferred until the house is sold, after the five-year period. Interested delegates may wish to push for passage of the legislation.

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Officers and Board

Patrick H. Allen, Esq.
Citizens Association of Georgetown

Gracie V. Baten
Shepherd Park Citizens Association

John C. Batham
West End 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

Miles Steele, III
Hillcrest Civic 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

The past month has been a busy one for a number of Federation members and member organizations, as circumstances require and the Consortium of Impacted Communities committee gets going. There has been a spate of separate community-institution negotiations, as some upscale secondary schools stir in some neighborhoods and college campus plan renewals and reviews are falling due. All of these require strenuous interfacing and subsequent action at the Board of Zoning Adjustment. City induced, although not quite forced, mediation is an increasingly used mode, and may be the wave of the future. We'll see how it goes.

On another matter, looking down the road to the June and subsequent elections, the Board has discussed the practicality of severing the Newsletter editorship from the position of president. It decided that the Newsletter function in best treated as appointive, rather than as a new office. In the interests of freeing future presidents from the basically extraneous but time-consuming editorship chore, such a separation seems prudent. The combination came about naturally. Since the Newsletter's inception some seven years ago, all presidents have been persons of independent time — that is, without normal outside professional jobs.

In order to better open the presidency to candidates with regular job responsibilities, it seems wise to lighten the load. An additional factor is that future presidents and first vice presidents will be ex-officio members of the governing board of the Federation Legal Aid Foundation. The Federation needs to draw from the best and largest possible base for candidates for office. While we comprise a formidable group of 36 of the city's premier civic organizations, most eligible board and officer candidates need to earn a living.

Moving on, the Federation gala Annual Awards Banquet will be held May 17 at the Ft. McNair Officers Club. Tables will be for eight to ten persons. I urge every constituent association to reserve and fill either a full table or as great a fraction of a table as possible. The Federation will be en fete for the 90th birthday, and we need to strut a little after a busy year. Banquet committee members will be calling everyone soon.

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Very often contractors, landlords, developers and the like simply start work on projects large and small with no city permits or community contact. Included are ancillary activity such as blocking sidewalks (a special permit is required) and other space blockage.. Permits should always be displayed prominently - on houses, at building sites and on buildings to be repaired or enlarged.

For neighborhood officers and ANC commissioners who wish to verify whether necessary permits have been secured, the city government office with which to check is the DCRA Building and Land Regulation Administration, 801 North Capitol Street, NW, second floor. Telephone contact appears to be difficult.

By way of example, recently a Glover Park delegate, who is also an ANC commissioner, found that a developer had blocked off a sidewalk bordering a project. No permit was exhibited. When the delegate made on-site inquiry, he was fobbed off. The delegate then checked with the Building and Land Regulation Administration, found that no sidewalk permit had been issued, and reported the blockage. He then went to the project, informed the project office that the required permit had been omitted, and noted that an inspector would visit the site the next day. The sidewalk was cleared in short order. This is a "pedestrian" but illustrative instance.

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A number of our communities contain surplus schools, many vacant for years. Neighborhood attention to and tracking of these properties, usually centrally located, must now change focus from the D.C. Schools system to the mayor's office.

The changeover of responsibility was ordered by the financial control board in late March. Proceeds from the sale or lease of school property will go into a fund for maintenance and improvement of D.C. public schools and public charter schools.

One Federation member neighborhood, Foxhall, added a note of common sense to the school use-disposition process in connection with a large school and extensive playground in its midst. When moves were being discussed to dispose of and develop the large property, the citizens association was able to make the case successfully that, since families with school-age children are now moving back into the community, the school should not be sold. Rather, it should be retained for future use as is or temporarily devoted to non-school use and not pass from city ownership. The buttressing argument was made that such a large and convenient property, once sold, could not be regained or suitably substituted for in the likely case of need.

This line of reasoning and experience may be useful elsewhere.

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The Mayor’s Neighborhood Action Plan, Continued

Background: The Mayor held the second Neighborhood Action Forum January 29 at the UDC. Overall, the Neighborhood Action initiative is being developed "to forge a greater partnership between the government and its citizens, and to empower the District of Columbia residents to improve their communities by mobilizing and coordinating the resources of government, business, nonprofit organizations, foundations and the faith community." End background.

An encouraging sequel to the Neighborhood Action Forum was a Neighborhood Services Leadership Retreat held April 11 and 12. The 30-odd attendees were senior and upper-midlevel hands-on personnel from the Office of Planning, DCRA, Department of Public Works, the police department, the Department of Health, the Office of the Corporation Counsel, Operation Sweep, and the Federation, inter alia. The Federation president and first vice president served as the community side of the bustling give-and-take two-day planning session.

The purpose of the Retreat exercise was to orient key personnel in various pertinent agencies toward working together across agency boundaries, pooling and coordinating resources, and effectively departing from customary agency-specific navel gazing. In all of these goals, the participants seemed to pass with flying colors.

Most useful and encouraging to report were: (1) the relative youth of the mostly 30-to 40 year-old attendees hired from all over, (2) the key positions these bright new people occupy under the new reform administration, (3) the go-getter attitudes and demeanor they evidenced, and (4) the ease with which they fell into working together. A propos of fresh and new, city administrator and acting Mayor Norman Dong — who participated the second day — from his appearance. He could be a college fraternity president.

If, and it a big and hopeful if, these bright new personnel are able to carry through on their hypothetical-model ideas and ease of problem solving, there is hope for the city. From the standpoint of participation in the Retreat, the activity was a cheering experience for citizen representatives. Although, in the words of one of the "facilitators", " ....after 35 years of dysfunctional government, we can't expect an immediate turn-around".

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New Election Board Nominee

The mayor has nominated Jonda MacFarland of the Georgetown area to serve on the Board of Elections and Ethics. Ms. MacFarland was among the first supporters of Anthony Williams as mayor of the District.

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Just So

"Even a weak case can be used to bully those who lack the resources to fight to the end." Quote from "Government by Lawsuit", an April 2nd Washington Post editorial.

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George Washington Off-Campus Property Acquisitions

Sometimes it is hard for city officials, and even community residents, to grasp the scope and extent of university extra-campus property acquisitions, the taxation implications of these and the community impact such acquisitions carry with them. Listed here are the reported outright acquisitions by purchase of major residential properties by GWU, and also those properties having in effect been taken over by the university through predominant use as student housing. The acquisitions stem ultimately from lack of oncampus student housing.

All of the purchased GWU buildings have reportedly been removed from the property tax rolls, a serious loss to the cashstrapped city.


  1. Howard Johnson Hotel, 2700 block of Virginia Avenue, NW
  2. The Aston Apartments, 1129 New Hampshire Avenue, NW
  3. The Foggy Bottom Inn, 824 New Hampshire Avenue, NW
  4. The Riverside Tower, 2100 Virginia Avenue, NW
  5. Virtually all townhouses in Square 43, and 23`d Streets and Virginia Avenue, NW (16 reported demolished).
  6. The Dakota Apartments, 2100 F Street, NW
  7. Two townhouses, 1916 and 1918 F Street, NW
  8. Association of Life Underwriters Building, 1900 block of F Street, NW
  9. Parking lot (Square 122,19th and E Streets, NW)
  10. General Contractors Building, 1957 E Street, NW
  11. 28 % interest in the vast Columbia Plaza Apartment Complex, 2300-2400 Virginia Avenue, NW
  12. Reportedly, over 150 townhouses over the years


  1. The Statesman Apartments, 2020 F Street, NW
  2. Letterman House Condominium, 2030 F Street, NW
  3. Bonwit Plaza Condominium, 2401 H Street, NW
  4. The Remington Apartments, 601 24th Street, NW
  5. Jefferson House, 922 24th Street, NW
  6. Claridge House, 940-950 25th Street, NW
  7. Bader Condominium, 2515 K Street, NW
  8. Swarthmore Condominium, 10140 25th Street, NW
  9. The Elise, 825 New Hampshire Avenue, NW
  10. The Savoy Apartments, 1101 New Hampshire Avenue, NW
  11. Carriage House Condominium, 2201 L Street, NW

This list, likely partial, is published to illustrate a major and besetting problem that faces the city, and one that needs remediation. This record is part of a continuing process, and additional off-campuses acquisitions or de-accessions for all universities may be reported to 3710 S Street, NW, Washington, DC 20007.

The Consortium of Impacted Communities committee will meet next week; date to be announced.

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Board Meeting

As its regular monthly meeting on April 13, the Board dealt with the following concerns:

  1. Post-incorporation next steps for the Legal Aid Foundation.
  2. Possible need to divide the Newsletter editor from that of the president. Decision: president has the authority to arrange this appointively.
  3. June elections.
  4. ATT Cablevision complaint concerning the Federation's resolution on free commercial access to the city-franchised coaxial cable system.
  5. May 17 banquet progress report. Discussion of award candidates.
  6. Authorized the Federation to reserve the right to claim party status in university campus plan approval cases at the Board of Zoning Adjustment.

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Future Federation Assembly Meeting Dates

The Sumner School has reserved the following dates for the Federations 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.

Wednesday, May 17 (Awards Banquet at Ft. McNair)
Tuesday, June 27 (Election Meeting)

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