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Federation of Citizens Associations of the District of Columbia

Federation News

Volume 8, Issue 6, March 2002
3710 S Street, NW, Washington, DC 20007
(202) 338-5164 phone/fax

Camera Surveillance Issue to Be Aired by Blue-Ribbon Panel at Federal Assembly
Election of Federation Officers and Board in June
Upcoming Council Hearing on Mediation
Free Parking Three Hours on Saturday and All Night Parking Every Night
Federation Board of Director Meeting
DC Trees Inventory to Begin in June
Officers and Board
Residential Real Estate Assessments Raised
DC Registered Lobbyists: Part of the System
92nd Anniversary Awards Banquet, May 23
Nighttime Parking Relief
Robert Brandon Appointed to Commission
General Elections November 5, 2002: System Gearing Up
Federation Action Alert
Federation Assembly Meetings


Tuesday, March 26, 2002
7:00 P.M.

Speaker Panel:

DC Delegate Eleanor Holmes Norton
Councilmember Kathy Patterson
Police Chief Charles Ramsey
DC ACLU President Johnnie Barnes

Other Business

1201 Seventeenth Street, NW
(at M Street)

Camera Surveillance Issue to Be Aired by Blue-Ribbon Panel at Federal Assembly

As the surveillance camera issue heats up, the scheduled March 26 leadership panel discussion is all the more timely. Concern over the issue seems to be gravitating toward general surveillance by camera, rather than over traffic monitoring cameras, although current and projected numbers of the latter are important to citizens.

Basic questions are: (1) What to do about the new, potentially invasive improvements in surveillance technology, (2) how to continue to ensure citizen privacy with new "guidelines" or legislation, and (3) what is the organized-citizen role in all this -- other than being one target of investigative attention?

Federation First Vice President Ann Loikow has assembled a blue-ribbon panel of pertinent experts to share their differing views with the assembly. DC Police Chief Charles Ramsey’s office is currently overseeing the preparation of a set of police-prepared guidelines for camera use; ACLU director Johnnie Barnes heads a coalition concerned with protecting citizens rights as the surveillance issue unfolds; Councilmember Kathy Patterson has held a hearing on the issue and reportedly is preparing DC-specific legislation; and DC Delegate Eleanor Holmes Norton’s House of Representatives DC Subcommittee is holding hearings today, with a view to preparing federal legislation on the broad issue of burgeoning electronic surveillance nationwide.

Viewpoints expressed by various Federation delegates cut several ways. Opinions range from hearty endorsement of traffic cameras in neighborhoods and stores to unease over the potential pervasiveness of Big Brother cameras throughout the city. Whatever one’s outlook on the surveillance issue, it will be useful as well as interesting to hear from the four pertinent DC action arms in this equation: the police, the city legislative, the federal legislation, and one viewpoint of citizens’ concerns.

The Federation will not necessarily endorse all the viewpoints that will surface at the Tuesday, March 26 meeting. But every delegate will benefit from an authoritative airing of apparently increasing surveillance in the city and its impact on citizens, businesses, and neighborhoods.

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Election of Federation Officers and Board Members in June

The Federation holds leadership elections each June, and nominations will be published in the May newsletter. In addition to announced slates and individual candidacies, at the June assembly nominations will be taken from the floor.

Any delegate may stand for election. Self nominations and slates or partial slates of candidates are allowed. The process is an open one, and all members are encouraged to participate in any way that they choose.

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Upcoming Council Hearing on Mediation

Mediation as a conflict resolution device is high on the list of priorities of the Office of Planning as a preferred mode. On April 29, Councilmember Kathy Patterson, Judiciary Committee chair, will hold a public dialogue on "Mediation in the District of Columbia: Where We Are and Where We Should Be Going." The hearing will be in room 412 of the Wilson Building, and will begin at 10:00 a.m.

The hearing is intended to be a public discussion about the current state of mediation in the District, including initiatives within the executive and judicial branches as well as other projects throughout the city. The meeting will also explore practices from around the region and the country, in order to address whether any legislation regarding mediation should be enacted in the District of Columbia.

Delegates who wish to participate should contact Mr. Jesse Ginsburg, Senior Counsel to the Committee on the Judiciary, at 724-7808, by April 17, 2002. Written statements may be sent to Ms. Phyllis Jones, Secretary to the Council, Suite 5, Wilson Building, 1350 Pennsylvania Avenue, N.W., Washington, DC 20004. The record will officially close on May 10.

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Free Parking Three Hours on Saturday and All Night Parking Every Night

Pesky parking problems with downtown and other meters have now been alleviated. A new law provides that "no citations shall be issued for parking meter fee violations all day Saturday, or on other days (sic) between the hours of 6:30 p.m. and 7:00 a.m." But, the act continues, "No person shall park at a parking meter on Saturday pursuant to this act for more than 3 hours, unless current signage permits parking for a longer time." Still this is a welcome concession for businesses and shoppers all over.

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Federation Board of Directors

At its March 14 meeting, the Federation Board of Directors:

  • Discussed the lowering of police recruiting standards

  • Received an update on city civil defense arrangements

  • Arranged for a blue-ribbon panel debate on emergency preparedness for the March 26 assembly (to replace the quarterly luncheon)

  • Considered officer and board nominations

  • Discussed the Federation’s Legal Aid Foundation

  • Considered the new real property tax assessments

  • Decided to include a specimen letter from the People’s Counsel in the March newsletter.

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DC Trees Inventory to Begin in June

The District has lost over 50% of its tree cover in the past several decades. Things are changing, with the Department of Public Works and its enhanced budget and collaboration with the Urban Forest Council and the CGA Casey Trees Endowment Fund ($50 million endowment) taking the natural lead.

New saplings are to be seen in neighborhoods by the hundreds, and old trees are being pruned or taken down, on a seemingly hit-or-miss basis. Now, a new development aimed at getting a firm grip on Washington’s tree situation is underway. The Casey trees foundation will begin a total tree inventory of the District in June, with a view to preparing an up-to-the-minute comprehensive tree map. Using computers, inventory teams will make a street-by-street survey of all street trees.

The new "data layer" of tree cover will serve as a powerful planning and management tool for the District. Once this is in place, the collaborating public and private agencies will set about planning and planting. DC is on its way to becoming "the City of Trees" again.

There will be a major public component in the inventory effort. Any delegates who feel strongly about our trees and wish to help may contact the CGA Casey Trees Endowment fund, 1800 K Street, NW, Suite 622, Washington, DC, 833-4010,

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Officers and Board

Patrick H. Allen, Esq.
Citizens Association of Georgetown

John C. Batham
West End Citizens Association

Allen E. Beach
Chevy Chase Citizens Association

Mary Bresnahan
Spring Valley Court Citizens Association

Francis M. Clarke, III
Cardozo-Shaw Citizens Association

Dino J. Drudi
Michigan Park Citizens Association

Kathryn A. Eckles
Residential Action Coalition

Carroll Green
Manor Park Citizens Association

Guy Gwynne
Burleith Citizens Association

James H. Jones
Crestwood Citizens Association

Ann Loikow
Cleveland Park Citizens Association

Jane McNew
Capitol Hill Citizens Association

Miles Steele, III
Hillcrest Civic Association

A.L. Wheeler, Esq.
Association of Oldest Inhabitants

Barbara Woodward-Downs
Citizens Association of Georgetown

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Residential Real Estate Assessments Raised

In spades. Neighborhoods in one third of the city were hit by hefty increases in home value assessments in March. Increases appear generally to range from 50-odd percent to 100 percent in the broad-brush move by the city. Neighborhood reactions range from acquiescence to planned individual appeals to proposed group appeals.

Actual taxation of residential homes is a two-step process: property values assessments and tax rate setting. Property assessment is a "technical" process, done by the Finance and Revenue Department. Property tax setting is a political process, done by the City Council. Currently, the rate is 96¢ per $100 of owner-occupied property value. For taxation purposes, the District has a three-tiered property classification system: 1st class, owner-occupied residences; 2nd class, rental residences; and 3rd class, commercial premises. This tax system is applied citywide by class, and not by ward or other area designation. The assessed value of a residence is the city’s estimated market value of a property. Within this framework, all kinds of appealable individual home assessment anomalies can occur.

Challenged assessments must go through an appeals process. The December Newsletter spells out the best way to go about an appeal.

On the broader front, property assessment is a city agency administrative function, to be appealed through persuasion. The taxation rate fixing process, however, is a political function of the City Council. It is there that rate adjustment pressure may be brought to bear. A recent law provides that no tax bill shall increase more than 25% for the next two years. However, this is a temporary palliative. Residential owner/occupiers are soon stuck with the entire tax bill. Fears have arisen that exemptions notwithstanding, some older persons on fixed incomes may be taxed out of their homes.

Foxhall delegate Scott Polk, a real estate agent, notes that the the tax burden of owners/ occupants of residential property in DC has recently increased dramatically while city leaders have reduced the tax rate for real estate investors and commercial landlords by 38% over the past two years. Their tax rate declined from $1.54 per $100 of property value to 96¢ per $100. He advocates reducing the homeowner/occupant rate by a commensurate percentage.

Should the Federation’s associations get behind a 38%-or-so residential property tax rate decrease via the City Council? Should business residential property tax rates be revisited by the Council? These issues are naturals for Federation debate and possible action mobilization, one way or another.

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DC Registered Lobbyists: Part of the System

The DC Register (February 15, 2002) has published a list of lobbyists in the District registered with the Office of Campaign Finance of the DC Board of Elections and Ethics. Many large corporations, such as banking institutions, universities, hospitals, insurance firms, HMOs, alcoholic beverage manufacturers, and telecommunications firms maintain paid lobbyists to influence matters in the District of Columbia. These interests can find themselves in conflict with citizen groups in the areas of community impact and land use cases. It is as well that we take note of their resources and potential influence, particularly with city officers and councilmembers.

Lobbyists must register with the Office of Campaign Finance. Elected city officials and councilmembers are ever in need of campaign financing, and amounts count. (Maximum individual campaign contributions in the District are $2,000 for the Mayor, $1,000 for at-large Councilmembers, and $500 for ward-based Councilmembers.) A perfectly legal campaign fundraising method is for lobbyists to arrange for number of interested-corporation personnel to contribute legal amounts to candidates or potential candidates. It adds up. One upshot: ordinary citizens and citizen groups cannot compete, or are hard-pressed to compete, with targeted corporate political contributions.

On the other hand, lobbyist-arranged and other political donors legally aim at persuasion rather than outright purchase of governmental favor. It is to the credit of the reform city administration and Council that citizens and citizen groups now receive more equitable treatment in land use and other contentions with large corporations and institutions (e.g., problems with university campus plans, telecommunications towers, and illegal building and expansion), campaign donations notwithstanding.

Interesting reading for all delegates are the February 15 DC Register roster of lobbyists and the public record of campaign contributors and amounts to the Mayor (listed in the Common Denominator, 3/11-24) and to City Council members, on record at the Board of Elections. Strategic campaign giving is shown in admirable detail, and illustrates some of the systemic tensions in our political system.

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92nd Anniversary Awards Banquet May 23

On the occasion of its whopping ninety-second anniversary, the Federation will hold its impressive Annual Awards Banquet on May 23 at the elegant Ft. McNair Officers Club. Now is the time to begin assembling neighborhood representative tables for eight, nine, or ten persons. Some associations are finding it necessary to reserve two tables.

Last year’s jolly, boisterous affair had the usual aspect of a regional convention, with individual tables prominently identified with association names on tall stanchions. Alas, the plucky harpist signed on for the occasion was drowned out in the general hubbub. Each association is encouraged to reserve and fill a table, and thereby strut its stuff before the assembled Federation and guests. Association officers will be contacted soon by members of the banquet committee, to make projections and iron out arrangements.

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Nighttime Parking Relief

A new amendment to District parking regulations was passed in late January to provide for a parking moratorium in residential permit parking areas between the hours of 10:00 p.m. and 7:30 a.m. The new law provides for the following change in Title 18 DCMR:

"2411.19 Between the hours of 10:00 p.m. and 7:30 a.m., vehicles displaying valid residential parking permits may park, within a designated residential permit parking zone, in the following manner:

"(a) Twenty-five feet (25 ft.) from the intersection;

"(b) In loading zones, except hotels; and

"(c) In entrances, except hospitals."

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Robert Brandon Appointed to Commission

Cathedral Neighborhood Association delegate Robert M. Brandon, Esq., has been appointed as a consumer member of the Statewide Health Coordinating Council. The Council advises and makes recommendations to the Office of Health Assistance and makes recommendations to the Office of Health Systems Development on applications for certificates of need.

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General Elections November 5, 2002: System Gearing Up

The DC Register has published rules and deadlines, candidates are maneuvering, and support teams are being forms. In the DC general election of November 5, 2002, the following District offices will voted on:

  • Mayor
  • Chairman of the City Council
  • Two at-large members of the City Council
  • Councilmembers from Wards 1, 3, 5, and 6
  • Delegate to the US House of Representatives
  • US Senator (Shadow Senator)
  • US Representatives (Shadow Representative)
  • Board of Education President
  • Board of Education District members from Districts III and IV

Primary elections for all of the above, except for the School Board positions, will be held on September 10, 2002. These primaries are often held to be more important than the general election balloting, due to the District’s heavily weighted party voting history. Voting tallies for the last presidential election, for instance, was: 85% Gore, 9% Bush, and 5% Nader, according to the DC Board of Elections.

Many delegates will be hosting fundraisers for candidates, manning candidate headquarters, serving officially at election polling places, and unofficially working in front of polling stations. While the Federation does not endorse particular candidates, delegates will privately be all over the election scene.

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Federation Action Alert

Further to the informative presentation by People’s Counsel Elizabeth Noel at the February assembly, the Federation Board of Directors presents the following specimen letter for Association consideration. The letter (from each Association) endorses the aggregation and Opt-Out plan of the Office of the People’s Counsel.

March day, 2002

The Honorable Sharon Ambrose
Chair, Committee on Consumer and Regulatory Affairs
John A. Wilson Building
1350 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW
Suite 102
Washington, DC 20001

Re: Letter in support of opt-out aggregation for residential consumers

Dear Chairperson Ambrose:

I am writing on behalf of name of organization and its approximately number members to express support for Mayor Williams’ municipal aggregation program, and specifically for opt-out aggregation for residential consumers.

My organization represents indicate consumer segment organization represents. In the past, name of organization has been involved in and/or testified before the District of Columbia City Council on issues that state type of impact of issues or list some issues. The purpose of the organization is to state purpose.

Name of organization supports the Office of the People’s Counsel in recommending that the legislation be clarified to specifically authorize the opt-out aggregation for residential consumers. Opt-out aggregation for residential consumers provides the best option for helping residential consumers to become attractive customers for electric supplies so that they are able to participate in the competitive market.

Thank you for your time and attention to the matter.


Name, Title
Name of Organization

cc: Mayor Williams
Mr. Cartegena, Public Service Commission

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Federation Assembly Meeting Dates

The Sumner School has reserved the following dates for the Federation’s Assembly meetings. Each meeting will begin at 7:00 p.m. at 1201 Seventeenth Street, at the corner of M Street, NW.

Tuesday, April 23
May Annual Awards Banquet , May 23
Tuesday, June 25

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