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Federation of Citizens Associations of the District of Columbia

Federation News

Volume 8, Issue 7, April 2002
3710 S Street, NW, Washington, DC 20007
(202) 338-5164 phone/fax

Federation Pursues Surveillance Issue
Comprehensive Plan Process Reassessment Before City Council
Election-Related Changes Considered
Bona Fide DC Residency and Domicile: Clamping Down
Regional and Local Emergency Preparedness
Officers and Board
President's Message: Swimming or Treading Water — Buck Clarke
92nd Anniversary Awards Banquet May 23
Expanding Downtown DC Business Improvement District
Federation Board of Directors
Organized Citizens Lose Important Contentions
Property Assessment Appeals
District Accepts DC General Hospital Campus and Old Jail Site from Federal Government
Deducting Social Security in DC
Guide for Grantseekers
Electric Power Aggregation Letters Needed
Federation Assembly Meeting Dates


Tuesday, April 23, 2002
7:00 P.M.

The Proposed Boys Town Installation on Capitol Hill

Other Business

1201 Seventeenth Street, NW
(at M Street)

Federation Pursues Surveillance Issue

The blue-ribbon panel of experts regarding the surveillance camera vs. privacy issue at the March assembly was no less educational than interesting. The at-times embattled police chief, confident D.C. Delegate Eleanor Holmes Norton, a George Washington University expert, and the head of the ACLU all shared their perspectives and then engaged in lively and frank dialogue with the packed meeting attendees. With often conflicting points of view, each panelist held his own and then some, and together they provided the best possible overview of an important issue, from the movers and shakers themselves.

Since the Federation assembly, the House of Representatives Subcommittee on the District of Columbia (D.C. Delegate Norton and Virginia Representative Constance Morella) and D.C. Councilmember Kathy Patterson's Committee on the Judiciary have held one hearing each, with a view to formulating legislation to get a grip on the rapidly developing surveillance camera issue. At press time, the House D.C. Subcommittee is in the research stage of its work, and the D.C. Council's Judiciary Committee is at roughly the same stage. Legislation apparently is brewing. In the meantime, the Chief of Police's office has circulated draft "guidelines" for surveillance camera use in the District. These have been distributed for comment to Federation board of directors members, and are not particularly thorough.

Federation interest and testimony at the Patterson hearing were noted by Ms. Patterson at the congressional hearing, and subsequently on television. Basically, the Federation position is that surveillance camera technology has overtaken citizen privacy protection laws, and is improving at a fast pace. As we have federal and state laws against wiretapping with heavy penalties, we cannot omit having the same sort of citizen protection extended to the new technology and its largely undefined legal status.

Recommended for legislative purposes were: 1) legislation formulated or adapted to define legal and illegal uses of video surveillance technology, prior to the widespread use of cameras and other devices in the District; 2) definition of broad circumstances under which surveillance camera evidence may be used; 3) a law to protect the privacy and security of surveillance file tapes and to provide for swift destruction of tapes without value as evidence; 4) provision of civil and criminal penalties for authorities and others who abuse any surveillance system; and 5) legislation to limit the amount of tape recorded distributed and stored, with time limits.

In the absence of such legislation, the public cannot systematically be protected from abuses of privacy. Justice Louis Brandeis's thought still holds: the most precious right of civilized people is the right to be left alone.

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Comprehensive Plan Process Reassessment Before City Council

On April 11, at the mayor's request the city council took up the matter of a proposed major review of the city's important Comprehensive Plan, particularly the plan's Land Use Element. Under council consideration is the "Comprehensive Plan Amendment Act of 2002," which would lead to an in-depth reassessment of the current format, content, and process for adopting periodic amendments to the Comprehensive Plan.

Currently, the mayor is required to submit to the council proposed legislation to amend the plan no later than March 31, 2002, and subsequently not less frequently than once every four years. The new "Amendment Act" would require an interim report on plan reexamination by the Office of Planning within a year, then to have a complete report four years later, by March 31, 2007. This is a long time in a city where change is a regular phenomenon.

The final report would comprise recommendations regarding "major process initiatives . . . taken by the Office of Planning." To aid in its review process, OP will call on "a consultant, experts, District government staff, and a Task Force composed of a broad-based group of citizens, businesses and institutions representing various constituencies throughout the District." The task force's membership would be appointed by the mayor and the council chairman. The end review would be submitted in 2007 and would possibly include a major overhaul of the Comprehensive Plan and its formulative process.

Signs are that the new proposed "Comprehensive Plan Amendment Act of 2002" will pass. What does it mean? Well, assuming passage of the bill by the council and signature by the mayor (who submitted it), associations and the Federation must be alert to this process, however protracted. The Office of Planning has proven itself evenhandedly open to community input into complicated plans, and will likely be so in this important instance. But association leaders must monitor the OP's work and the proposed contributions of interest groups and protect residential tax base neighborhood interests. This means, inter alia, serving on future OP committees and task groups with alacrity.

The lack of any provision for an interim update of the Comprehensive Plan for a seven-year period (two just past, five more until 2007) is arguably extreme. What is certain, however, is that eventual OP recommendations to change the 1) process, 2) format, 3) content, and 4) usefulness of the Plan, especially regarding its Land Use element, are likely to be the game plan for city governance where it impinges most directly on residential taxbase neighborhoods. The Comprehensive Plan is incorporated into zoning regulations by law, then to be enforced by the Zoning Commission and the Board of Zoning Adjustment. The Federation and associations can meet this challenge, but the process promises to be a long one.

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Election-Related Changes Considered

Councilmember Vincent Orange has introduced two election-related bills for council action. The first, which encountered little opposition, would allow 16- and 17-year-old District residents to serve as pollworkers. The reasoning is that 1) they could do the usually uncomplicated work, 2) it would be participatory civic work for the young people, and 3) such service would make up for recent problems the city has had in finding adult pollworkers. While there is debate over whether the teens should receive compensation, the bill will probably pass.

The second, iffier, Orange bill would amend the election code to eliminate the nominating petition requirement in the case of "certain primary election candidates" who are endorsed by the executive committees of political parties in accordance with the endorsement procedures established by the parties. Among others who have expressed opposition to this proposed bill is the Board of Elections and Ethics. At least some of the "certain primary election candidates" would be D.C. councilmembers. Chances are that this bill will go nowhere this year as the public becomes more aware of the proposal.

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Bona Fide D.C. Residency and Domicile: Clamping Down

Following recent difficulties with a senior District official who maintained only a token residence in the city, the city council in late March took a look at the problem and required all Executive Service and Excepted Service city employees to make the District of Columbia their legal domicile, and established definitive measures by which bona fide residency and domicile are to be measured. The council bill states:

"(a) The Office of Personnel has interpreted the District's residency requirement to exclude domicile in the District as a requirement of (sic) holding a position in the Executive and Excepted Service.

"(b) A number of waivers of the District's residency requirement have been granted.

"(c) District law defines a bona fide resident to include a domiciliary of the District of Columbia.

"(d) The commitment to require residency in the District of Columbia ensures that District government employees have a vested interest in enhancing District neighborhoods and facilitates their opportunities for civic involvement.

"(e) The intent of the Council is for Executive and Excepted Service employees to make the District of Columbia their domicile and principal place of residence, and to be become active participants in the communities they serve.

"(f) Existing budget pressures make it untenable for the District to expend its limited resources on Executive and Excepted Service personnel who choose to expend (sic) the majority of their non-working waking hours commuting in and out of the District, when they choose to maintain a household outside of the District during their tenure.

"(i) It is the intent of the Council that when candidates accept an appointment to the Executive and Excepted Serve they must abandon their prior domicile and residence, within 180 days, when it is located outside of the District. The employee must then establish the District as their (sic) domicile and principal place of resident."

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Regional and Local Emergency Preparedness

On April 11, representatives of the District and suburban Maryland and Virginia approved a plan to coordinate responses to terrorist attacks or natural disasters in the capital region. This is a good intermediate step, but there are important dangling details. The state-level plans are likely to be of limited value until they are completely integrated with federal plans. A number of federal agencies are now reviewing the D.C.-Virginia-Maryland effort; some agencies are preparing their own plans.

The local planning process is awash in money. According to the Washington Post, "Officials with the Metropolitan Council of Governments, which is making plans to spend $320 million in federal emergency preparedness aid to the region, said the (tri-state) pact endorsed by 17 localities would be in vain if federal agencies do not sign on." Funds for strengthening community efforts are available, including support for public safety, public health, and disaster preparedness and relief. Any local nonprofit organization, college, faith-based organization and District government agency proposing to operating a program within DC may apply. The deadline is April 26. The contact website is The mayor's Commission on National and Community Service is at 441 4th Street, NW, Suite 1040 S. Contact person: Ronetta Boyd, 727-7939. The Federation is considering applying for a training grant.

Federation preparedness committee chair Jane McNew (Capitol Hill) believes city efforts at training in residential communities are wanting. The Federation has a tentative arrangement for cooperating with the mayor's preparedness office in citizen-training activities. This keeps being postponed, as the city's plan percolates through the bureaucracy. At last word the Corporation Counsel was assessing the plan. As it is, our neighborhoods are basically tabulae rasae when it comes to knowing what to do and how to proceed in case of catastrophic emergency. The Federation's plan is to facilitate actual preparedness training classes and organization of neighborhoods, working closely with the city.

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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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President's Message: Swimming or Treading Water — Buck Clarke

Now please don't take the following as alarmist. In reading the financial pages, everyday I see articles testifying that we are well on our way out of the recession. Consumer spending continues strong, sales of new homes remain solid at prices previously unseen. Interest rates, being held low by the Fed, may have enabled the country to ease its way out of this recession without it ever really having been felt. Then I turn the page, and am confronted with tales of corporate layoffs in the tens of thousands, some of the largest corporate bankruptcies in history, accounting irregularities, and unprecedented levels of consumer debt – all in a period when debt has been exceedingly cheap. Something keeps telling me that all of the good news has been the result of some great spin, and that the bad news has been the result of some horrible business fundamentals. The country has seemingly managed to keep its head dry, but has now been treading water for quite a while, and is getting cold, hungry, and tired, with night and a storm on the way.

This puts me in mind of the District. Over the past few years, we've managed to whip up enough spirit to convince folks that once again the city is the place to be. A new vibrancy has returned to downtown and real estate sales in the District are outperforming those of the rest of the country. There's talk about hosting the Olympics in a few years and of bringing a baseball team into the city. Office building construction is booming and new apartment and condo buildings are popping up. Folks are moving into the city by the tens of thousands, and bringing with them millions of new tax dollars. Sounds pretty rosy and upbeat.

Then I turn to the Metro section. The public school system, with no noticeable improvement yet for its "clients," nevertheless anticipates a deficit closing on $100 million. Hundreds of abandoned properties continue to sit boarded up, years after being given by the city to nonprofits to be renovated. Each day a new scandal comes to light at one or more district government departments. And District roads continue to be the friend only of auto mechanics. All this as the city government creates a few more balance sheet liability dollars through tax increment financing.

How secure is the urban renaissance we're now undergoing? All the new tax dollars coming in certainly give us the right to expect improvements in the quality of life. Are we, as a city, really getting anywhere, or are we too just treading water and burning precious energy? As night sets in after a day of energetic swimming, will we find ourselves pulling ourselves up the ladder of the dock, or rather just treading water, exhausted, in the middle of the deep, cold lake?

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92nd Anniversary Awards Banquet May 23

Laissez les bons temps roller! The Federation's big annual awards banquet at the elegant Ft. McNair Officers Club is only a month away, and associations are arranging for tables of eight, nine, or ten attendees, all to be identified by the reserving association's name. With group-identifying names on stanchions, the gathering takes on the appearance of a genteel presidential campaign convention.

This year's keynote speaker stands to be Senator Mary Landrieu (D, LA), who, besides being a popular younger member of the US Senate, plays a major role in District of Columbia affairs in the Congress. Her other committee assignments include Armed Services, Energy and Natural Resources, and Small Business. What to do with the Senator's spare time? There is none, so we are especially pleased to have Ms. Landrieu join us for this most festive of Federation occasions of the year.

Table reservations: even before banquet committee members contact association presidents and delegates it is a good idea to arrange for neighborhood tables. Tickets are still $35 per person. To reserve, call Kay Eckles (25-5961), Jim Jones (291-3203), Guy Gwynne (338-5164), or Mary Bresnahan (686-3266). Is one table not enough? Friendly arrangements are gladly made for a second table or portion of an adjoining table. Single or single couple, or just want to meet other delegates? There are always interesting places at combination or short tables; just please make all arrangements in advance.

A sign of the times: Ft. McNair entrance security is relatively elaborate, as it was last year. Incoming cars must pass the normal main entrance and proceed a short distance father to a second entrance for security inspection. The process takes several minutes, not counting the press of other cars coming for the banquet. Once inside, the sense of security is worth the trouble, making for a carefree evening. Exiting the area is via the normal front gate.

Handy statistics: 92nd Anniversary Federation Awards Banquet

Date: Thursday, May 23
Venue: Ft. McNair Officers Club main ballroom
Time: Bar opens at 6 p.m., seating at 7 p.m.
Cost: $35 per reservation
Table capacity: 8, 9, or 10 persons, as preferred

The banquet committee requests that as many associations as possible collect in advance for tables, as this enables attendees to proceed directly by the busy registration table and assume their seats. Also, the fort requires an exact roster of all banquet attendees, to check at the entrance gate. The latter arrangement worked fine last year.

Let's celebrate the venerable but vibrant Federation's 92nd (going on 100th) and have some elegant fun.

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Expanding Downtown DC Business Improvement District

In a recent action the mayor ordered that: "The Capitol Hill North area, as described in the application filed with the Office of the Deputy Mayor for Planning and Economic Development by the Capitol Hill North/Downtown DC BID Planning Committee, is hereby registered as part of the Downtown DC Business Improvement District."

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Federation Board of Directors

At its April 11 meeting the Board of Directors:

  • reviewed the CareFirst Blue Cross/Blue Shield issue
  • reviewed Federation Legal Aid Foundation bylaws preparation
  • received an update on the DC emergency preparedness situation
  • briefly noted ABC board reform
  • reviewed officer and board nominations
  • discussed the upcoming May 23 Annual Awards Banquet
  • noted trash and litter problems in Metro
  • decided to have a presentation at the April 23 Assembly on the Boys' Town project on Capitol Hill.

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Organized Citizens Lose Important Contentions

Neighbors Against Foxhall Gridlock v. D.C. Board of Zoning Adjustment (D.C. Court of Appeals, D.C. App. No. 01-AA-53 February 28, 2002)

The D.C. Board of Zoning Adjustment granted an application for a special exception filed by the Field School and the Morris and Gwendolyn Cafritz Foundation, permitting establishment of a private school on a large, upscale property occupied by the Cafritz mansion on Foxhall Road, Northwest. The principal issue the BZA had to contend with was the acknowledged risk that location of the Field School on Foxhall Road would impair traffic safety on the north-south roadway, specifically on a portion the Board described as "narrow, curved and hilly, with poor visibility." Petitioner property owners residing near the proposed site raised substantive and procedural challenges to the Board's decision granting the special exception. They contended, in summary, that the Board failed to give the required "great weight" to the opposition filed by the pertinent ANC; that the Board paid insufficient attention to national highway design standards in allowing that the school would not "become objectionable to . . . nearby property" because of traffic and other conditions; and that the Board's inadvertent failure to record a portion of the evidentiary hearing resulted in the de facto "disqualification" of two votes — leaving less than the required majority — in favor of the applications. The D.C. Court of Appeals ruled against the community.

Foggy Bottom vs. D.C. Board of Zoning Adjustment (D.C. Court of Appeals, D.C. App. No. 99-AA-1105 February 15, 2002)

The Foggy Bottom Citizens Association (FBA) sought review of an order of the BZA which granted to George Washington University a special exception allowing it to build a large new hospital on 23rd Street, N.W., in the neighborhood. The FBA asserted that the BZA erred in refusing to postpone its approval of the special exception until after the need for an Environmental Impact Statement had been determined. The FBA further argued that the BZA's order failed to give "great weight" to the views of the affected ANC, as required by statute. The court "reject(ed) all of these arguments and affirm(ed) the BZA's order."

These are the newest examples of the Appeals Court's reluctance to override city regulatory agency decisions or to "micromanage" city affairs. As in contentions with traffic police officers, a presumption of correctness is generally accorded to regulatory agencies by courts, with very high standards for rebuttal by citizen and other groups. Also, truth to tell, District and federal courts seem never to have really accepted the concept of "great weight" for ANCs in the District. ANCs are unique to the District, and the concept is juridically a novel one. ANCs duly fare better with city boards and commissions — for all the good this did in these two cases. In addition, one of the most dubious practices in District regulation is the routine ignoring of the requirement that projects worth over $1 million must have an environmental impact statement (EIS).

The organized-citizen plaintiffs in these contentions waged principled and expensive cases in protection of their residential communities. It is to be regretted that they lost the cases so outright. They are to be commended for their energetic opposition even so, and supported in future contentions.

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Property Assessment Appeals

Many association members want to or plan to appeal their most recent residential property assessments. A helpful guide to the appeals process is in the November Federation Newsletter. To log on to this, key in:

District Accepts D.C. General Hospital Campus and Old Jail Site from Federal Government

In early March, the city council resolved to "accept the transfer of jurisdiction from the United States, by the General Services Administration, for any municipal purpose, that certain land commonly known as the D.C. General Hospital Campus and Old Jail Site, and more particularly described as all of U.S. Reservation 13, bounded by U.S. Reservation 343 (commonly known as "Anacostia Park"), 19th Street, S.E., Independence Avenue, S.E., and C Street, S.E.," less a portion transferred for park purposes to the National Park Service, and another portion conveyed for the Congressional Cemetery to the Vestry of Washington Parish.

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Deducting Social Security in D.C.

The District of Columbia and four states — Ohio, Utah, Virginia, and West Virginia — generally deduct Social Security income from unemployment insurance benefits on a dollar-for-dollar basis. Seventeen other states deduct about half from unemployment benefits. (Wisconsin will eliminate the offset by 2003.)

The American Association of Retired Persons (AARP), the nation's largest public interest group, is preparing to launch a campaign aimed at persuading lawmakers in the District and states to eliminate Social Security offsets to unemployment benefits. The underlying proposition is: workers earned both the benefits. So why should one be offset against the other?

Delegates who wish to associate themselves with this worthwhile AARP campaign should contact Federation president Buck Clarke at 610-2645.

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Guide for Grantseekers

Penn State University has released a new, free source of advice on grant writing. It is entitled, "Finding the Funds You Need: A Guide for Grantseekers." This concise guide to grant-seeking covers preparing your organization for fund seeking, understanding foundations, corporate giving, public sources of assistance, locating basic references, doing preliminary research, and writing effective proposals. The guide also includes a thorough glossary of terms, a well-selected bibliography, and an interesting set of Internet links. It is a helpful guide to anyone trying to secure grant funds. The guide can be downloaded at: There is also a free newsletter, "Help for Grant Writers," available at

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Electric Power Aggregation Letters Needed

Associations interested in the electric power aggregation issue, presented by People's Counsel Elizabeth Noel to the Federation recently, should write their requested endorsement letters to the city council A.S.A.P. A sample letter format is in the Federation's March newsletter on page 5 ( The Noel plan, at a time of rapidly approaching all-out competition among power suppliers for Washington customers (PEPCO will no longer be a power supplier), is aimed at achieving economies of scale by "aggregating" much of the market into a huge bloc of consumers for rate bargaining purposes. The Federation has endorsed the plan.

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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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