Forward to Federation News June 2000 Back to Federation of Citizens Associations main page Back to Federation News April 2000
Volume 6, Issue 8, May 2000
3710 S Street, NW, Washington, DC 20007
(202) 338-5164 phone/fax
|Laissez Les Bontemps Rouller
Federation Backs Norton Idea of Commuter Tax Credits
Officers and Board
D.C. Representation in Congress: Situation Report
Charity Runs through Residential Neighborhoods
Consortium of Impacted Communities Committee
Board Member Elected
Federation Instigates Reexamination of Skewed Election Board Methology
For Communities that Abut Universities
Tables for the Awards Banquet
Federation Board Activities
Future Federation Assembly Meeting Dates
FEDERATION ANNUAL AWARDS
Dubious French. Excellent celebration it describes. The venerable Federation kicks up its heels this coming Wednesday the 17th at the elegant Ft. McNair Officers Club for its ninetieth birthday. Not a bad record for Washington's now-principal concentration of civic intellectual talent, savvy on the citizens side, and access to money by citizens organizations.
As fitting, Mayor Williams will happily join us for some likely mutual admiration; never mind that every detail of the reform administration's program is not agreed to or upon. For the first time in recent memory our neighborhoods are receiving city services again such as streets kept in repair, storm drains cleaned, alleys cleaned, new trees planted in abundance, and a more customer-friendly Department of Consumer and Regulatory Affairs. Imperfect, but a step in the right direction is the newish regime's new insistence on mediation in connection with the remediation of university campus plans. This mayor has brought into key and secondary offices talented, baggage-free young specialists from around the country. And, as Anna's King of Siam said, et cetera, et cetera, et cetera - most of it good, and commendable. "A" as in Award - for effort, for a good try, and for a goodly measure of success.
So much for Washington's present-day leadership and ongoing programs. We haven't "been there, done that" yet, but we're definitely "there now, experiencing that." Things are looking up. But what about where we as civic Washingtonians have been already? Well, to afford at least a glimpse backward, we will have Mr. Adam Foster with us; he dating from the creation of Home Rule. Older delegates will remember that Home Rule began appointively, in 1967. President Lyndon Johnson, after the new arrangement had been enacted, appointed popular local leader Walter Washington as mayor and a ten-person city council.
Subsequently, municipal elections were held and Walter Washington and the council were elected under the new system. And we have been functioning ever since under the Home Rule arrangement, with its good points and rewards, shortcomings, and ongoing development (See article on the current lawsuits for more Congressional representation in this issue.) Mr. Foster was on the appointive city council. He will give us a short, rare look at "back when" at the banquet.
In this countdown period orders for whole tables at the banquet are coming in from many associations. A stanchion and sign with the subscribing associations name on it will mark specific-association tables. Combined tables also seem to be in. Tickets are $30 for the best party in town. Spouses, significant others, dates are all invited to celebrate.
FEDERATION BACKS NORTON IDEA OF COMMUTER TAX CREDITS
At its April meeting, the Federation adopted a resolution to endorse the tax credit principles embodied in new proposed federal legislation filed by D.C. Delegate Eleanor Holmes Norton.
That proposed legislation is in four parts: "(1) The District of Columbia Non-Resident Tax Credit Act that would cost commuters nothing but would fairly spread the cost of services used by federal and other employees who return to the suburbs with the overwhelming majority of the income earned here;
(2) The District of Columbia City-Wide Enterprise Act, to spread to all neighborhoods and businesses tax incentives that have brought substantial benefits to communities, but with the unintended effect of affording an unfair and arbitrary advantage to some neighborhoods and businesses over their competitors;
(3) The District of Columbia Economic Recovery Act, affording a progressive (sic) 15% flat tax to residents, in order to draw and maintain taxpayers; and
(4) The District of Columbia $5,000 Homebuyer Credit Act, to make permanent the tax incentive that is largely responsible for new homebuyers in the city and for maintaining and attracting taxpayers to the city."
In a nutshell, the way the tax credit modus would work is in this manner - using, say, a 2% tax figure of $2,000: If 2% of the salary of a federal or other out-of-state wage earner working in the District comes to $2,000, the District government would collect that $2,000 in withholding taxes. And retain it. The wage earner-taxpayer would then apply for and receive a $2,000 federal income tax credit. The tax forgone by the federal government would essentially be used by the District to offset the cost of federal use of D.C. city services and of lost opportunity costs to the city for being unable to tax federally-sheltered real property in the District.
The Federation's support of this proposed legislation is based on a number of stated reasons:
(1) The District has a restricted local tax base consisting mainly of income taxes, real property taxes and sales taxes.
(2) Direct payments by Congress to fund some of the "state level" costs of government in the District (under President Clinton's 1997 rescue package) do not cover the full range of "state level" costs in the District - particularly considering the extraordinary portion of the State-like jurisdiction which lives in poverty.
(3) Congress has exempted numerous organizations in the District from real property and/or sales taxes.
(4) Almost half of the land in the District does not bear local real property taxes.
(5) The Home Rule Act forbids the District of Columbia city council from levying non-resident income taxes on commuters (both federal employees and others) - who make up two-thirds of the work force in the District.
(6) Local tax collections from the District's limited tax base pay for extensive services to commuters exempted by the District's State legislature - i.e., Congress - from paying on-resident income taxes.
(7) State legislatures for other jurisdictions with an income tax do impose non-resident income taxes on commuters working in the jurisdiction and living outside it.
The Federation will request that members of the Taxation Committee be scheduled to testify on the proposed legislation when it comes before the House Government Reform Committee, chaired by Republican Dan Burton (R-Ind.)
President's Message Guy Gwynne
We have had an active year, and are now in high gear as we approach the upcoming celebration of a whopping 90 years of community service by the Federation. Over the summer, we will be preparing an interesting Federation history and information booklet, which will be waiting for everyone at the September meeting.
By way of reminding delegates of our future meeting schedule, the May Awards Banquet takes the place of the May plenary assembly meeting, and the June meeting is the election meeting. The Federation does not meet in July or August, although there will likely be a quarterly luncheon in the latter two-month period. These luncheons are fun and elegant, and afford good networking opportunities. Delegates and guests are filling the graceful Diplomatic and Consular Officers Club salons and dining room now, and in our conviviality are discreetly polishing off over a half case of sherry - before even sitting down to the liberally refreshed luncheon tables. And why not? The next luncheon will be in late July or early August.
For the banquet, let me urge every member organization to take a table or as big a percentage of one as possible. This is the occasion when we like to flex our civic muscle, let out or belts and just enjoy being delegates to the city's premier citizen confederation. Table hopping is the order of the evening, and there are many pleasant surprises as delegates (and guests) renew old acquaintances or discover new ones. In response to inquiries, dark suits and party dresses are the attire, and the secure banquet venue allows good things to come out of safety deposit boxes and be worn, if desired.
Meanwhile, the Tax Committee is actively meeting with District tax authorities on tax policy and community interests as affected by taxation. At the same time, the Federation has strongly endorsed Del. Eleanor Norton's four-pronged D.C. tax proposals in the Congress (including a new proposed out-of-state commuter contribution system), and Tax Committee members will likely testify at the pertinent Congressional hearings. Formidable talent is on the committee.
And, as we approach June election time, delegates are requested to consider whom they might wish to nominate and vote for as we approach the 2000 - 2001 activity year. Most of the current board members have consented to stand for election again (unless limited by the three-year term limit in the case of officers, but not of board members). There will be, as usual, as many nominations from the floor as desired for both officers and board members.
See you at the banquet the 17th.
D. C. REPRESENTATION IN CONGRESS: SITUATION REPORT
The Federation has voted to support the efforts of DC Vote to secure broader voting rights in Congress for D.C. citizens. One of the two lawsuits of DC Vote, Alexander v. Daley, was ruled on by a federal court in March. The following update article is by Dr. Jamin B. Raskin. Dr. Raskin is a professor of constitutional law at American University Law School and is co-counsel with Covington & Burling and the D.C. Corporation Counsel in Alexander v. Daley.
LITIGATION UPDATE BY Dr. Jamin B. Raskin
The three-judge federal district court panel assigned to the DC voting rights case issued its long-awaited decision on March 20, 2000. The decision is a mixed bag - disappointing in many respects, promising and hopeful in others. We did not obtain the relief or the holdings we sought. All three judges agreed that there was no standing to challenge the District's lack of representation in the US Senate. Judge Oberdorfer essentially took the position that the conflict over Senate representation had not actually been brought to a head yet and that the criteria for standing were missing. Thus, as to the Senate disenfranchisement claim, the court never ruled on the merits - neither up or down.
On the question of voting representation in the US House, the panel reached the merits and split 2-1, with US Circuit Judge Merrick Garland and US District Judge Colleen Kollar-Kotelly ruling that the Constitution effectively contemplates and compels disenfranchisement of the District's population. Their decision rests heavily on an inflexible and static reading of the word "state" and a narrow, frozen view of constitutional history.
Judge Oberdorfer's magnificent dissenting opinion was the judicial pronouncement we had all been waiting or. It begins with the three words that infuse any progressive understanding of the American Constitution: "We the People..." Rather than reading the rights of the people through a restrictive and unchanging structural paradigm as his colleagues did, Judge Oberdorfer read the structural provisions of the Constitution through the lens of democratic rights. He quoted the Court's prior determination that "No right is more precious in a free country than that of having a voice in the election of those who make the laws under which, as good citizens, we must live... Our Constitution leaves no room for classification of people in a way that unnecessarily abridges this right."
Judge Oberdorfer concluded that "both Article I and principles of equal protection require this Court to declare that qualified residents of the District have a constitutional right to vote for voting representation in the House of Representatives" and that the Secretary of Commerce must add the District's population to the post census reappointment letter sent by the President to the House of Representatives stating where Americans live.
The case will now be appealed to the Supreme Court where we will build on Judge Oberdorfer's insights, respond to many of the incomplete and misleading historical arguments made by the majority, and lay out a case for representation that will appeal both to rights-protecting liberals and federalism protecting conservatives. All of American constitutional thought returns us to the original principle of consent of the governed and we do not think that the Court can ignore a case of first impression of such intense public importance. We remain hopeful as we prepare our Supreme Court papers and are extremely cheered by the work of DC Vote and the reinvigorated movement for democracy and national representation.
Charity Runs Through Residential Neighborhoods
Some of our center-city residential neighborhoods are being troubled by mass organized runs by many hundreds of people, all in the name of charitable causes. Community residents have been reported hemmed in their garages and otherwise inconvenienced by the hours-long runs. These runs also beget unavoidable commotion, accompanying police vehicles and numbers of onlookers.
Mass runs are now organized in the District under the parade law and any concomitant regulations. Under this arrangement, there is no citizen or community input into the matter. The runs are requested, planned and permitted, and target area citizens are usually simply told of a race-run or read about it in the accompanying publicity.
To get a better handle on the existing unsatisfactory situation, which apparently just grew up, the Georgetown-Burleith ANC is drafting and will initiate proposed legislation for passage by the city council. When this is in the legislative pipeline, affected communities may organize within the Federation or work separately for a new legal framework for the seemingly increasing number of in-town mass runs.
Consortium of Impacted Communities Committee
With regard to the Consortium of Impacted Communities committee, this is not on intentional hold, but the next meeting has been delayed owing to lack of a suitable regular meeting locale. And the work, data and ideas are piling up. Venue resolution is in sight, with the advent in a few weeks of the splendid new conference facility at the upscale suite Hotel Monticello on Thomas Jefferson street in Georgetown. Hotel owner and Federation First Vice President A.L. Wheeler, Esq. is generously making the newly refurbished facility available. The Consortium will get down to business in a short time.
Board Member Elected
Federation Board member Pat Allen, Esq. was elected Democratic Party State Committeeman from Ward 2 in the May primary elections.
Federation Instigates Reexamination of Skewed Election Board Methodology
In 1990, a Federation expert computed the results of at-large elections where two or more candidates are voted on at the same time for an office, and found the Board of Elections to be tallying the results incorrectly. A case in hand is that of now-Councilman Phil Mendelson. Although the Board of Elections' official results showed him with only 37 percent of the vote, in fact, 55 percent of the voters with multiple choices in the at-large contest voted for him. The difference lies in the method of vote counting.
In the Federation's May 8, 1997 testimony before the city council on Board of Elections oversight, the Federation called for the Council to direct the Board, either by act or through the budgetary process: (1) to report the number of blanks, overvoted and (for offices where more than one candidate is to be elected) undervoted, both overall and by precinct; and (2) to compute percentages based on the number of valid ballots cast for candidates an office in more correct fashion.
On December 3, 1997, the Government Operations Committee issued a report endorsing the Federation's latter recommendation. To date, the Board of Elections has not adopted either of these recommendations, despite the passage of ten years.
As of May 1, the Federation has entered into communication with Councilman Phil Mendelson, with a view to beginning suitable urging of the Board of Elections to take long overdue action on this current anomaly of elections bookkeeping.
For Communities That Abut Universities
In response to the citizen association complaints, at least one and reportedly other universities have bulk trash collection service at the ends of semesters or terms. Georgetown University, for example, has announced pick-up dates of May 15,17, 20, 22, 24, 27, 29, 31 and June 3, 5, 7, 10. Usual items that would otherwise create community eyesores are beds, mattresses, couches, chairs and boxes.
For neighborhoods with incipient or ongoing problems with the bulk trash of departing off-campus students, it may be time to demand that the pertinent university institute a bulk trash collection service. It is their responsibility.
At this writing, associations are industriously putting their banquet tables together and looking forward to a gala event. Complete tables already are Georgetown, Burleith, Oldest Inhabitants, American University Park, and Crestwood. Most others are rapidly forming up, and partial tables are becoming whole, or almost whole, ones.
In an effort to make it simpler for attendees and easier on the entrance cashiers at the (upstairs) door, delegates are invited to send in their checks with their reservations. Around 7 o'clock, the gate area can become a bit busy, and paid reservation holders simply pass directly into the bar-dining salon. Checks should be mailed to Federation, 3710 S Street, NW, Washington, DC 20007.
On the other hand, the waiting group is invariably a social one (in the manner of the Social Safeways), so there is even a definite Up side to paying at the door.
At its April meeting the Federation Board considered and decided as necessary the following concerns:
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, June 27 (Election Meeting)
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