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Federation of Citizens Associations of the District of Columbia

Federation News

Volume 7, Issue 4, January 2001
3710 S Street, NW, Washington, DC 20007
(202) 338-5164 phone/fax

Office of Planning Director Helps Kick Off Major Campaign at Federation Assembly
Excessive Overhead Telecommunication Wires: PEPCO and Community Wiring
N.B.: Key City Council Chairs
City Council Term Limits
Officers and Board
President's Message
Traffic Photo Enforcement
Brazil Re-Elected with 72%, Schwartz 42%
Facts and Proposals Concerning D.C. Income Tax Overpayment Refunds
New Federation Treasurer Is Quick Study
Vote on Electronic Zoning Map Training
Legal Domicile: When the Definitional Chips Are Down in the District
Next Election Ballots Will Be Different in the District
Delegate Bardin Appointed to WASA
DC Council Acts on a Major Revision of ABC Law
Board of Directors Activities
Future Federation Assembly Meeting Dates

7:00 P.M.

Speaker - Mr. Andrew Altman
Director, D. C. Office of Planning

Other Business

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


Mr. Andrew Altman, popular director of the Office of Planning (OP) of the reform government, will launch the Offices new Neighborhood Planning Initiative at the January 23 meeting. Not a rehash of existing systems and resources, as have been previous citywide efforts such as the Neighborhood Action campaign, the Planning Initiative is reportedly a well-conceived plan of the professional OP to insure livable neighborhoods. Key to the initiative is a Cluster Plan.

There are over 120 name neighborhoods in the District. For planning purposes, these neighborhoods have been grouped together into 39 "Neighborhood Clusters." Strategic Neighborhood Action Plans will be developed in each cluster by community residents and "stakeholders," in concert with the Office of Planning. The plans will be community based ones that link the visions, priorities and actions of the neighborhood clusters to the District's strategic plan and budget.

Different from other plans? Right. The official plan for the District is the Comprehensive Plan, heretofore ignored at times. That plan is updated every four years and addresses specific elements including housing, environment, infrastructure, land use and transportation. Neighborhood plans differ from the Comprehensive Plan or Ward Plans in that they link these general development recommendations to neighborhood-specific priorities.

The OP assures that Neighborhood Cluster Plans are linked to realistic expectations for community investment, overall District priorities, and future District investments. The plans include action steps for each of the major partners in neighborhood maintenance, development and revitalization: residents, businesses, investors, nonprofits and District agencies.

Neighborhood Steering Committees will guide the planning process in each cluster, representative of the broader community. These will be open committees - anyone can join as plans develop.

Planning will begin with a workshop to identify the essential ingredients that make a neighborhood a healthy, vibrant place to live Visioning workshops will be held throughout the District in late winter and early spring.

Mr. Altman has proven himself an able (and revolutionary, for the District) planning director and administrator. He has taken zoning and other matters in hand firmly if not perfectly, and his revivified OP is one of the great hopes of the recovering city. In spite of previous disappointments with government agency plans, we owe Mr. Altman a good hearing and active interest in this new, professionally generated plan.

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Excessive Overhead Telecommunication Wires: PEPCO and Community Wiring

Facts of District life: Some neighborhoods have no utility poles whatever strung with overhead telephone, cable or electric wires. Other neighborhoods have numerous old-fashioned utility poles festooned with wires and cables that line and cross over streets and alleys and through trees. In which category is your community?

An illustrative case in point is the Northwest community of Burleith. The smallish, already heavily wired (aboveground) and cabled neighborhood is surrounded on three sides by four communities with no visible aboveground wires. Some Burleith streets and alleys are heavily wired on numerous poles, with networks of wires over some blocks.

Currently, to add to the problem PEPCO is "heavying up" the community in preparation for the next 20 to 30 years by replacing existing poles and installing additional, 10 feet higher, poles ready for bigger and more numerous wires and cables. As brought out at an oversight hearing by Councilmember Carol Schwartz, underground placement of wires and cables is the preferable current mode as well as the wave of the future. Virtually no new D.C. communities (such as Hillandale and Cloisters East and West), for instance, have aboveground wires. And older communities (such as Georgetown and parts of Capitol Hill) have had formerly overhead wires and cables replaced by underground ones.

Who decides which communities get attractive, wire- and pole-free streets and which get the arguably outdated, aboveground installations? Heretofore, the electric company seems unilaterally to have made the decision. On the face of it, this is patently unfair, and the stakes are presentable, in-step-with-progress, tree-friendly urban villages as opposed to overhead cluttered, wire festooned, 1940s-appearing residential communities in the District.

Added to the mix is the fact that "trenchless tech" (see September 2000 Newsletter) for boring horizontal excavations for underground pipes and encasing is now a relatively easy and inexpensive usage. At least one suburban firm already performs such boring and tube installation for PEPCO.

Currently, the Burleith association has taken the matter up with the D.C. Public Service Commission, which regulates utilities, and the Office of the People's Counsel, the official legal bureau that monitors and works with the PSC, with a view to seeing if PEPCO can wire the Burleith community in step with surrounding areas. A company spokesman claimed at an association meeting that it would cost the firm $24,000 per rowhouse to install underground wiring. This patently does not hold water and the case is ongoing. Any other associations interested in this matter may register concern at 338-5164.

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N.B.: Key City Council Chairs

Federation associations will deal with and appear before a broad spectrum of city council committees in the next two years. New committee chairs were named or renamed in early January by Council Chair Linda Cropp. For association purposes key committee chairs will be:

  • Sharon Ambrose will continue to chair the Committee on Consumer & Regulatory Affairs.
  • Carol Schwartz will continue to head the Committee on Public Works.
  • Vincent Orange will take over the Committee on Government Operations.

Each committee of the Council has five members, the chair and four additional councilmembers.

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City Council Term Limits

Limitation of city council members to two four-year consecutive terms in office was voted in by referendum in 1994. Councilmember Jack Evans announced at a January 16 meeting of Ward 2 Democrats that he will introduce legislation on January 23 to abolish council term limits.

Mr. Evans' reasoning was that 1) it takes time to become proficient at being a good councilmember, 2) eight years is not long enough for effective service after the familiarization period, 3) the normal unrestricted election process is adequate for changing council personnel since 4) two councilmembers have been duly voted out of office since the enactment of term limits, and 5) it is legal for the council to supersede popular referendums. The latter point is possible since even referendums must be enacted into legislation by the council, and do not automatically become law by virtue of having been approved by the voters.

This proposed legislation does not come as a surprise to many delegates. Rumors that an effort would be made in that direction have been rife around city hall for some time. Mr. Evans emphasized that hearings on the matter will be duly held, and he recognized that there will be strong feelings on both sides.

Is abolition of term limits a good idea? This article is an advance alert only for delegates. The question of ending term limits will have to be debated in the media, associations, Ants and other public fora, but the matter cannot now be ignored. The game's afoot, and the public, especially the organized communities must now consider what to do.

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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

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 new year of 2001 stands to be an active one for the Federation. Major overhaul of the zoning regulations on university and other institutional campus plans is in the works with major Federation Consortium committee (and outside, opposition) input into the professional drafting process at the D.C. Office of Planning. This is a crucial currently ongoing project. The Consortium committee of impacted communities has participated superbly and effectively.

The Federation's Legal Aid Foundation eases toward full operation and board structuring and should be functioning in February. Fundraising will begin in the near future, with better-off associations being first invitees to contribute, along with the Federation itself and other organizations. I urge associations to think in terms of $500 and $1,000 donations to the strategic project.

Delegates and others will soon have to examine their positions on term limits for city council members. As noted elsewhere in this Newsletter, Councilman Jack Evans will put the matter on the table January 23. I will poll delegates on this matter. If there is very strong support for or opposition to term limits, we will take a Federation stand on the issue. Barring strong support one way or the other, associations will want to pursue the issue on an individual basis. We will air the matter at the upcoming Tuesday assembly.

Also, we will take a floor poll regarding possible concern over PEPCO's performance in placing electric wires and cables underground, as opposed to stringing wires and electronic cables around residential neighborhoods.

With regard to our assembly speaker Mr. Andrew Altman, let's bear in mind while considering his Neighborhood Planning Initiative projections that he has turned the OP around from being a hobbling and not very effective agency to the professional, focused powerhouse it is becoming. And one that heeds and works to protect our residential communities. The Initiative may be a giant step forward, if we can make it work.

Finally, I urge all delegates to consider following the example of David Bardin, Esq. (Laura Richards, Esq., Allan Beach and others) and apply to be on city boards and commissions. The city badly needs just such civic minded people - basically volunteers - as Federation delegates, for limited two or three year stints.

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Traffic Photo Enforcement

Red-light enforcement cameras are up and operating throughout the District, and more are on the way. The private firm of Lockheed Martin is in charge of the program on a continuing basis. The next phase of the photo enforcement program will include speeding.

In 1996, the D.C. Council passed one of the most comprehensive laws in the nation enabling photo enforcement of traffic regulations. Any moving violation can be photo enforced. The city put out a request for proposals in early 1997, and in 1999 a contract was given to Lockheed Martin to conduct the program. Lockheed runs similar programs elsewhere in the region; their main competition is EDS which operates in Montgomery, Howard and Baltimore counties.

The photo enforcement program has three phases: (1) install 40 red-light cameras citywide (now 39); (2) add additional red-light cameras; (3) photo enforce speeding and other violations. There are over 1500 signalized intersections in D.C.; not all of these are suitable for camera placement. A suitable intersection must have good visibility for the camera and should not be gridlocked. Cameras (costing about $50,000) are installed in bulletproof cases (costing about $10,000); installation costs between $25-35,000. Camera-equipped intersections are not specially marked; for a map, see

Lockheed installs and maintains the cameras, processes film recording to DC procedures, and mails out the tickets. In exchange, they get a percentage of every ticket paid in DC, $32 per red-light ticket. Contested tickets are decided by the DC Bureau of adjudication, not Lockheed. The police decide where to place the cameras, based on community input and a feasibility study and video validation conducted by Lockheed.

The cameras use sensors in the road that measure vehicle speed; if a car enters the intersection moving fast enough when the light is red, the camera takes two pictures, one showing the car entering and another showing the car in the intersection. The pictures are sent to the car owner who is responsible for paying the fine (points are not assessed for camera citations).

Program results have been impressive. Red-light violation at camera-equipped intersections has declined by 55% and there also are fewer accidents. In the first year, 144,388 tickets were mailed and $6.8 million in fines were levied. Out-of-state violators (most from Maryland) comprise 75% of tickets issued.

For the next step, photo radar, Lockheed now has one fixed unit and four mobile units that they are testing. The mobile units will issue warning tickets in every PSA in DC for 30 days; thereafter, they will pick 30-40 intersections with serious problems to focus on.

This article is from the Burleith Newsletter, slightly edited.

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Brazil Re-elected with 72%, Schwartz 42% — by Dino Drudi

The D.C. Board of Elections and Ethics certified final election results show Councilmember Harold Brazil re-elected with 51% of the vote, and Carol Schwartz with 29, even though Mr. Brazil received almost as many votes as Delegate Eleanor Holmes Norton, re-elected with 90%, and 40,000 more votes than Peggy Cooper Cafritz, who received 53%. Since overall voter turnout was 205,748, Mr. Brazil's 131,760 votes should give him at least 64%, more if some voters did not vote for anyone for at-large council member. The percentages published by the DC Board of Elections seem so anomalous because the Board simply divides each candidate's vote total by the sum of all candidates' vote totals. Because voters are allowed to vote for two at-large councilmembers, the denominator upon which the voters are allowed to vote for only one candidate.

Since 1990, the Federation has sought the underlying data to calculate the percentage of voters voting for each at-large city council candidate. The figures for the 2000 at-large council election are as follows (for comparison, the numbers in brackets are the Board-reported percentages):

Harold Brazil 72% [51%]
Carol Schwartz 42% [29%]
Arturo Griffiths 15% [11%]
Daphne McBryde 6% [4%]
Chris Ray 3% [2%]
Matthew Mercurio 3% [2%]

Since 1997, the Federation has also urged the Board to routinely publish blank, undervote, and overvote counts for each contest. The imperative to do so is accentuated by the controversial Florida presidential vote where, the Miami Herald revealed, some counties do not even distinguish between overvoted and blank ballots. This failure impeded the Herald's effort to independently verify the election results. In the 2000 at-large council election, there were 77,280 fully voted ballots (voter chose two candidates), 104,873 undervoted ballots (voter chose only one candidate), 23,446 blank ballots (voter did not choose any candidate), and 149 overvoted ballots (voter chose too many candidates).

Over the past decade, at-large councilmembers William Lightfoot and Phil Mendelson have encouraged the Board to adopt the Federation's method of calculating percentages, but did not follow-up with legislation. The Federation will be polling the at-large councilmembers to ascertain whether the Federation should continue providing this recalculation as a public service.

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Facts and Proposals Concerning D.C. Income Tax Overpayment Refunds — by Jane McNew (Capitol Hill)

Proposal: Amend Code 47-1812.11, "Credits and Refunds for Overpayments", to mandate that interest accrued due to overpayment of income tax be automatically added to the refund check consistent with Federal management of repayment of amended tax returns where interest accrual has occurred.

This Code requires that the preparer of an amended return file separately for interest income accrued. Notification is reportedly included in the tax booklet mailed with the annual income tax forms

This notification is frequently missed by accountants. Nonresident accountants employed by D.C. taxpayers are even less likely to be aware due to computerization and non-residency.

1) Individual citizens are more apt to miss being fully remunerated for interest earned. The Department of Tax and Revenue does not provide written notification when they issue a refund check. 2) This is a perfect example of inefficient management of limited staffing resources: i.e., the files has to be reopened, reexamined, calculation of accrued interest and cutting and mailing another check. 3) The D.C. Government has extended a float on the money at ...taxpayer expense. 4) Individuals are most likely to fall victim to such an arcane ruling.

The Federation of Citizens Associations Board review of this six page section of the D.C. Code found on (click on the 7th button down on the left side of the web page to bring up the D.C. Code) and find those lines which order this obsolete inefficient and obfuscatory ruling to be amended to include interest payment be included when a refund check which is exactly what the I.R.S. does in the identical circumstance.

Our citizens do not lose their money through ignorance of arcane inefficiencies of reimbursement. We deprive the District of an unauthorized "float" on citizen money between the time that overpayment is made and separate filing and payment of interest income is made. We deprive the District of keeping interest income because it was not claimed. The Federation will have served its citizens, particularly those most vulnerable to oversight of this separate form filing: "Claim For Refund Of Income Or Franchise Tax" #FR-119 (Rev. 12/78), J-91139. And yes, the Federation can add a notch on our collective belt for getting the government to work better.

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New Federation Treasurer is Quick Study

All delegates know by now that former Federation treasurer Dr. Mark Weiss resigned in 2000 due to the press of business and that Buck Clarke of Cardozo-Shaw has been elected to finish the 2000-2001 term as treasurer. Mr. Clarke has quickly taken up slack in Federation financial arrangements, renegotiated terms of banking arrangements and started orderly dues collection. Best thanks go to Dr. Weiss for his previous efforts (the first treasurer to achieve 100% dues collection early on). We welcome Mr. Clarke as the Federation's newest officer.

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Vote on Electronic Zoning Map Training

A vote will be taken at the January assembly meeting on the preferred time for a training session at the Office of Zoning on use of the city's new electronic zoning map. Apparently an amazing compilation classifying neighborhoods and areas in all sorts of ways, the map promises to be a useful tool for delegates and other persons concerned with land-use issues. Reportedly, only one other complete electronic zoning map had existed in the city prior to the Office of Zoning one, compiled by a major land-use law firm. The new map is one more step in leveling the playing field in dealing with community zoning issues.

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Legal Domicile: When the Definitional Chips Are Down in the District

In recent years, it has become the fashion in the District to laugh off legal domicile as a principal criterion for voting in the District. The current Board of Elections is one primary exponent of this viewpoint, to the detriment of permanent resident taxpaying voters in communities that surround universities. The rub? Transient students, in real terms domiciled elsewhere and normally studying in the District from six and a half to seven months of the year, (1) register casually to vote in District elections, (2) are motivated in on-campus campaigns to vote for university interests, (3) are bused to the polls, and (4) are duly voted. At times, the bused students outvote local permanent residents on local issues.

However, when the chips are down to legally qualify for substantial benefits in the District, it is a different matter. Tellingly, the December 8, 2000, District of Columbia Register details required qualifications for legal domicile for students who wish to register for study grants under the DC College Access Act (to study at universities outside the District of Columbia). Basic among qualifications demanded are:

29 DCMR. Chapter 70; Domicile - General

7001.2 No person may have more than one domicile simultaneously.

7003.1 The following criteria will be considered in determining the domicile of the applicant or the person through whom the applicant's domicile is established:

(a) The place of residence;

(b) the jurisdiction in which state or local income taxes are fixed or paid;

(c) the jurisdiction in which the driver's license or non-driver's identification is issued;

(d) the jurisdiction in which the person's motor vehicle is registered;

(e) the jurisdiction in which the person is registered to vote;

(f) the jurisdiction in which the person owns residential (sic) real property;

(g) the jurisdiction from which the person receives public financial support, and

      (h) any other relevant criteria that reveal an intent to establish a particular jurisdiction as the person's domicile.

7003.2 With the applicant's first application for tuition assistance under this chapter, the applicant shall submit sufficient evidence to establish that the District of Columbia has been the domicile of the applicant, or the person through whom the domicile of the applicant is determined, for not less than the 12 consecutive months preceding the commencement of the freshman year in an institution of higher education.

These requirements are only fair in insuring that out-of-state applicants do not abuse and compromise an arrangement that solely and legitimately benefits DC domiciled students or prospective students. The same should hold with regard to out-of-state prospective voters. The current situation is an anomaly that is overdue for correction, in the interests of protecting the votes of DC's permanent-resident taxpaying voters from dilution by massive miscast votes by non-legally domiciled, manipulable voters. Amended DC voting rules would not deny voting rights, but merely require that prospective voters vote where they have normal binding ties - in their actual legal domiciles.

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Next Election Ballots Will Be Different In the District

According to Ms. Alice Miller of the DC Board of Elections and Ethics, ballots in the 2002 mayoral/council elections will no longer consist of three punch cards. Rather, a larger, one-page ballot will be used, and voting will be done by filling in circles with a No. 2 pencil. Ballot columns will be up to 23 inches in length and ballots can be single or double sided. After voting, a voter's ballot will be fed into a machine - basically a scanner - for counting and tabulation. Overvotes and other irregularities reportedly will cause the ballot in question to be rejected by the machine.

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Delegate Bardin Appointed to WASA

Forest Hills delegate David Bardin, Esq. has been appointed by the mayor to serve on the DC Water and Sewer Administration commission. Mr. Bardin's appointment marks yet another mayoral appointment of a talented, committed community activist to an important board or commission, a welcome departure from previous practice. In this appointment, the city has a winner and this will soon be in evidence.

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DC Council Acts On A Major Revision of ABC Law — by Ann Hargrove

Bill 13-449 constitutes the first major overhaul of the Alcoholic Beverage and Control and related provisions of the DC Code since 1986. It has lumbered through many months of hearings and revamped versions. The Bill substantially improves enforcement, reporting requirements, penalties, and standards for reviewing licenses and moratoriums. It sets up an independent agency to undertake ABC activity, thus offering the possibility of improved management and enforcement. While not perfect, it is a very important step forward for citizens and their neighborhoods.

The Federation of Citizens Associations has worked with individual neighborhoods and city wide groups sending a letter to the Council during its deliberations and signing a citywide letter from Citizens Concerned About Alcohol Regulation (CAR). These letters urged the Council to move amendments favorable to effective regulation of alcohol and the effects of its sale on residential neighborhoods and at the same time to reject industry recommendations aimed at substantially undermining that regulatory system. Some desirable provisions did not make it into the Bill as it currently stands, such as tightening definitions to more clearly distinguish "nightclubs" from restaurants. A minority of Councilmembers led by Councilmember Harold Brazil voted largely along industry-led lines treating alcoholic beverage establishments as though they were little different from the friendly neighborhood hardware store. Fortunately, the Bill emerged largely intact in spite of the intense lobbying efforts not only to scuttle new provisions in the Bill but to dismember its fundamental and important protections in current law. The Federation appreciates the hard work of Councilmember Sharon Ambrose and her staff on this Bill and the Council's approval thus far of a Bill which significantly strengthens current law.

The Council's second, and presumably final, reading on the Bill was held in December. However, because of the storm of protest by members of the public and concern by the Mayor over the repeal of a 1994 provision having to do with "nude performance," the Council never sent the Bill to the Mayor and has decided as we understand it to take the Bill up again as a "motion to reconsider" on January 23. Reportedly, consideration will limited to this one topic. Current law limits nude dancing to legitimate theaters and to nightclubs. This activity in nightclubs is confined to those located in the Central Business District, although existing nightclubs offering such entertainment outside the central business district (when this provision was passed) were allowed to continue operations as long as they remained under the same ownership. A second provision created a moratorium on additional nightclubs offering such entertainment, and it is this provision which the Council in December moved to repeal. An amendment may be offered on January to restore the nude dancing moratorium along with additional clarification, perhaps with a time limit of two or three years.

As this newsletter goes to press, it is uncertain what will happen on the 23rd. It is to be hoped that the door will not be opened to consider other issues which could set off a renewed effort to dismember beneficial provisions in the Bill. Assuming the Bill goes forward to the Mayor with protective and improved provisions intact, we should urge strongly that he sign it.

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Board of Directors Activities

At its January meeting the Federation Board of Directors dealt with the following business:

  • Voted to stress the importance of associations paying their 2000-01 dues;
  • Reviewed current BZA actions on university campus plans;
  • Reviewed the current Office of Planning efforts to assist in overhauling the zoning regulations regarding campus plans;
  • Noted a request of the Federation president for a meeting with the Bush Transition team;
  • Considered a tentative Federation prepared and run seminar for the ABC Board at the Board's request;
  • Discussed City Council ceremonial resolutions;
  • Discussed the Federation Legal Aid Foundation
    • Approved by the city;
    • Approved by the US IRS
    • Filed first (two year) required nonprofit corporation report to the DCRA only months after initial filing
    • voted operations and fundraising to begin shortly,
    • noted request for use of the foundation as an umbrella for tax-free proposed fund-raising by associations;
  • Voted to endorse proposed reversal of mayor and council approval of portions of the new ABC law.

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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, January 23
Tuesday, February 27
Tuesday, March 13 (Quarterly Luncheon)
Tuesday, April 24
Tuesday, May 22 (Annual Awards Banquet)
Tuesday, June 26

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