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Federation of Citizens Associations of the District of Columbia

Federation News

Volume 9, Issue 2, October 2002
3710 S Street, NW, Washington, DC 20007
(202) 338-5164 phone/fax

DC Strategic Transportation Plan: What Does It Mean for Citizens and the Region?
Downtown and Rest of City May Not Experience Ubiquitous Advertising
District Police Surveillance Camera Proposals Make It Through Committee
Traffic Calming Measures in Residential Neighborhoods
Estate Tax Increases from DC Act 14-486
Neighborhood User Group Formed
November 5 Is Election Day for DC Leadership
Move to Dilute Master Business License
Commission Begins Review of Judges Abrecht and Dorsey
Officers and Board
Federation Board of Directors
Legal Aid Foundation Downgraded to Committee
Norton Hopeful for Street Appearance Relief
Interesting Concept: Pro Bono Quota
Ward 6 School Building May Become Senior Wellness Center
Income Limits for the Home Purchase Assistance Program (HPAP)
Federation Assembly Meeting Dates


Tuesday, October 22, 2002
7:00 p.m.


Councilmember Phil Mendelson
Chairman, Transportation Planning Board

Dan Tangherlini
Director, Department of Transportation

Michelle Pourciau
Transportation Planning Board

Other Business

The Charles Sumner School
1201 Seventeenth Street, NW
(at M Street)


The October assembly will be the first in-depth look at the District's developing Strategic Transportation Plan, in cooperation with the National Capital Region Transportation Planning Board and key city officials. It is generally agreed that the city and its inner transportation workings are vulnerable and in need of major work.

"Transportation is neither an end in itself nor a slave of today's travel habits, patterns and trends. Rather, transportation systems are developed to help achieve larger societal goals, and transportation projects can both catalyze and support change." So declares the District leadership in a March 1997 letter that presents A Transportation Vision, Strategy, and Action Plan for the Nation's Capital, the first fully articulated transportation plan for the District of Columbia.

This fall, the newly created District Department of Transportation began to update this 1997 plan. Now is the first opportunity for citizens to learn about these activities and to find a place at the table during the plan's development. At the October 22 assembly, the Federation and the collaborating Citizens Advisory Committee to the NCRTPB will host the forum to discuss the process, schedule, and tools that will be employed by District officials to update the transportation plan.

Phil Mendelson, at-large member of the city council and current chair of the Transportation Planning Board, will introduce transportation planning in the context of regional planning, a first. D.C. Transportation officials, including DDOT Director Dan Tangherlini and Michelle Pourciau, a member of the Transportation Policy Board, will identify the range of issues explored in developing the plan and the processes used to ensure full coverage of these issues, including public participation. Adequate time for questions and answers will be provided.

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A September article on the electric power user aggregation plan misstated that the Federation voted to support the "opt in" option. What the Federation endorsed was the "opt out" option, under which the city would negotiate with a PEPCO-successor power provider on behalf of all current PEPCO power users. Persons wishing not to participate in this arrangement would have to affirmatively opt out in writing. Also, PEPCO will cease to be the monopoly power provider in the District as of January 1, 2004, not 2003. The Newsletter regrets the errors. To report all errors of substance, please call the managing editor at 338-5164.

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Downtown and Rest of City May Not Experience Ubiquitous Advertising

If it weren't so deadly serious, the Federation and, most recently, commentator Mark Plotkin, would have the greatest fun with the abominable DDOT proposed plan to cover all city "street furniture" with advertising as a fundraising device (September 2002 Newsletter, p. 1). Street furniture, very generously defined, would include benches, public latrines, newspaper boxes, bus shelters, and just about any flat surface in the public domain.

Broad citizen, newspaper (whose vending boxes would be affected), and other opposition seemed to have sealed the fate of the proposal at a hearing in September, but the proposal is not off the table yet. Opponents assert that the scheme would uglify the city needlessly and garishly, and that the possible income yield for the city is not worth the inevitable visual disruption.

DDOT Director Dan Tangherlini notes, "This is common in most cities across the world. . . . We are not seeking to expand the level of advertising to any great degree and we note the overwhelming opposition to substantial expansion of advertising in public space." Due "noting" does not, apparently, include dropping the plan by the city. Federation organizations are tracking this issue closely.

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District Police Surveillance Camera Proposals Make It Through Committee

The interestingly bifurcated city approach to the important issue of police surveillance cameras and their use has crossed a major divide. In July, the police department submitted its own proposed legislation for camera regulation, allowing, according to opponents, overly broad latitude for camera use and inadequate control over department operations. That proposed legislation has been under review, with a public hearing, by the city council's Committee on Consumer and Regulatory Affairs, chaired by Councilmember Sharon Ambrose. At the same time, the committee is in the process of preparing its own, presumably broader, legislation for surveillance regulations.

In October, the committee reported out favorably the police-prepared legislation, making passage by the council likely, to be followed by legal implementation by the police. (The police department has already been installing and using traffic and, more importantly, other surveillance cameras independently, in the absence of legislation.) In effect, the city government has bought the idea of surveillance, the use of which may be adjusted or shaded down the road.

Recent admissions by city officials that traffic cameras are a revenue-raising device as well as a safety enhancer seem to solidify chances for retention and expanded use of the cameras. Use of broader-area surveillance cameras is less clearly spelled out in the new regulations, unhedged about with clear-cut dos and don'ts or adequate penalties for misuse.

All of which draws attention to the council committee's "real" legislation in preparation. The going feeling at the council seems to be that such important legislation requires more time and research, but that some sort of regulations for the issue should be enacted in the meantime. If this is the case, the Federation, interested associations and individuals should actively monitor and possibly contribute to the Consumer and Regulatory Affairs Committee's efforts toward broader encompassing legislation.

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Traffic Calming Measures in Residential Neighborhoods

Mr. Dan Tangherlini, Director of the District's Division of Transportation (DDOT), reports that DDOT has under consideration a number of traffic calming measures to address traffic problems and volume. DDOT has drafted a new document, "District of Columbia Residential Traffic Calming Policies and Guidelines." Associations or individuals who wish a block evaluated for a traffic calming measure should contact DDOT's Transportation Policy and Planning Administration (TTPA) at (202) 671-2730.

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Estate Tax Increases from DC Act 14-486
A.L. Wheeler, Esq.

Since 1986, the District has had an estate tax equal to the maximum amount of the credit for state death taxes allowed against the federal estate tax. Under this provision, the D.C. estate tax did not increase the total death taxes. In effect, the federal estate tax paid the D.C. estate tax, because 100 percent credit on the federal estate tax was given by the federal government for payment of the D.C. estate tax.

In 2001, the federal estate tax was amended to reduce estate taxes significantly over a a period of years, by increasing the amount which may be transferred without tax and by reducing the maximum marginal rate of tax. As part of these changes, the credit against the federal estate tax for state death taxes is being phased out over time. In 2002, the allowable credit it 75 percent of what it was under the old law. In 2003, the allowable credit will be 50 percent of the prior amount, and in 2002, it will be 25 percent. Beginning in 2005, state death taxes will be, among other things, deductible vis-a-vis credited in computing the federal estate tax.

The emergency decoupling legislation, DC Act 14-486, passed by the D.C. Council on July 23, 2002, provides that for purposes of calculating the District of Columbia estate tax, reductions in the credit allowable against the federal estate tax, and the increases in the amount which may be transferred with a federal estate tax, will not be taken into account. As a result, the total death taxes payable by a D.C. resident dying in 2002 and thereafter will be substantially higher than they would have been if the D.C. estate tax had not been "decoupled" from the federal estate tax under this temporary legislation. The decoupling results in a tax on D.C. decedents payable by D.C. residents ranging from $34,700 in 2002 to $2,000,100 in 2004, dependent upon the size of the estate and year of death.

This decoupling particularly affects the wealthier citizens of the District, the very group which the District needs most to enable it to finance its deficits. These citizens contribute exponentially through their large real estate and income taxes to the revenues of the District, which could ill afford their loss. Not only does this decoupling encourage D.C. citizens to move outside the District, but it discourages others moving into the District from suburbia and elsewhere. Reviewing and correcting this oversight underlying D.C. Act 14-448 ought to be promptly undertaken.

D.C. Act 14-448 further increases the tax burden on D.C. taxpayers not only through increases in estate taxes but also on all income earned from municipal bonds, except for D.C. municipal bond, which had heretofore been free of D.C. income taxes. Such an increased D.C. tax burden particularly affects retirees who may have invested their savings in municipal bonds from other jurisdictions which offer conservatism and higher yields.

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Neighborhood User Group Formed

A user group, both E-mail list and web site, for the Northwest community of Foggy Bottom has been created. Its address is Its purpose is to enable the residents of the neighborhood to alert one another about issues and proposals that have community impact. Two point persons are named in the Foggy Bottom News. (Adapted from the Foggy Bottom News)

In the past, the most efficient and best-knit communities were almost always those with ample personal interaction among neighbors, who knew almost everyone in the community, looked in on area residents, exchanged information on area activities and functioned in a village manner. The Foggy Bottom example of a use group may be more in keeping with speeded-up times, when personal contacts among neighbors may not be as frequent or as close as in former years.

This is a project other associations may wish to consider. As with so many community projects, one or two persons should be enough to get this one going.

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November 5 Is Election Day for D.C. Leadership

Primaries are over, party candidates chosen, and candidates' electioneering signs are still up in many areas of the city. Federation delegates, among many others, were active outside polling stations in support of favorite candidates, and one delegate ran, unfortunately unsuccessfully, for Shadow Senator. The story will be amplified November 5, when many delegates will themselves be running for ANC seats.

In the D.C. general election of November 5, 2002, the following District offices will be voted on:

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

Many delegates will still be hosting fundraisers and meet-and-greet receptions for candidates, manning election headquarters, serving 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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Move to Dilute Master Business License

Antennae of associations in university impacted areas may begin to quiver when it is more generally known that Councilmembers Sharon Ambrose and Harold Brazil plan to introduce legislation to alter the requirement that absentee student-house landlords obtain the Master Business License. As the law stands now, any business with receipts over $2,000 annually must obtain the minimally priced ($35) license. This is not a significant burden on landlords or other business operatives, but it is an important tool for the Department of Consumer and Regulatory Affairs (DCRA) in tabulating and getting a regulatory handle on, inter alia, rooming house businesses.

Councilmembers Ambrose and Brazil intend to cosponsor legislation, as soon as the council returns from summer recess, to consider:

"(1) Whether, and how much, to increase the current $2,000 trigger amount threshold;
"(2) Whether to exempt homeowners who earn less than $20,000 in rental income from the MBL requirement; and
"(3) Whether to extend the amnesty period further, to May 31, 2003."

According to Ms. Ambrose, "As soon as the legislation is introduced and referred to the Committee on Consumer and Regulatory Affairs . . . we will be amending our hearing notice for October 23, 2002, to expand the scope of that hearing to include the new bill and the rest of the master business licensing issues." The hearing is scheduled for Wednesday, October 23, at 10:00 a.m., in room 412 of the Wilson Building. Interested associations and individuals should call 724-8072 to request hearing notice copies and to sign up to testify.

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Commission Begins Review of Judges Abrecht and Dorsey

The D.C. Judicial Tenure Commission has announced that it is reviewing the qualifications of Judges Mary Ellen Abrecht and Frederick D. Dorsey of the Superior Court of the District of Columbia. The judges are retiring as Associate Judges and have requested a recommendation for appointment as Senior Judges. Senior Judges are retired judges willing to perform judicial duties.

The Commission is requesting members of the bar, litigants, former jurors, interested organizations and members of the public to submit any information bearing on the qualifications of Judges Abrecht and Dorsey. The identity of any persons submitting materials will be kept confidential unless expressly authorized by the person submitting the information.

All communications should be mailed, faxed, or delivered by December 6, 2002, addressed to DC Commission on Judicial Disabilities and Tenure, Building A, Room 312, 515 5th Street, NW, 20001. Fax 727-9718.

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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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Federation Board of Directors

At its October 10 meeting the board of directors:

  • Discussed assistance to the Spring Valley, AU Park, Fort Gaines, Spring Valley Court and Citizens for a Livable Community associations with regard to upcoming American University bond issue and university encroachment.
  • Discussed assistance to Michigan Park Association in upcoming Catholic University campus plan.
  • Noted need for replacement for departing Federation secretary.
  • Received report on and planned participation in upcoming October 17 hearing on telecommunications antenna regulation.
  • Reviewed new decoupling of federal and D.C. estate taxes and impact of this on attracting and keeping upper bracket taxpayers in the city.

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Legal Aid Foundation Downgraded to Committee

With regret but prudence the Federation Legal Aid Foundation board of directors has decided it must dissolve the foundation as an independent 501(c)(3) entity. The principal reasons cited were 1) lack of adequate active intra-Federation direct support in the form of individual work toward setting up a strong base organization, and 2) inadequate fundraising responses to support this effort.

A contextual factor is that the foundation would have to operate in the current local legal milieu. Washington's legal climate has seemingly become meaner and no-holds-barred than has previously been the case. SLAPP suits targeting community opponents (e.g., by Boy's Town, the Wisconsin Avenue telecommunications mega-tower, a Georgetown University student group against an ANC commissioner, the National Cathedral) are increasingly lodged by developers and others.

Even without lawsuits, expensive director liability insurance is necessary for organizations such as active legal aid foundations in order to protect their officers and perhaps even advisory board civic-minded attorneys. A volunteer and pro bono fledgling Federation foundation would likely be unable to withstand one or more shocks brought on by determined corporate or other adversaries.

While the Federation Legal Aid Foundation was independent of the Federation itself for legal reasons, at its June assembly the Federation endorsed the decision of the foundation board to assume committee status within the Federation.

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Norton Hopeful for Street Appearance Relief

D.C. Delegate Eleanor Holmes Norton notes in the Hill Rag that the White House has sent a budget amendment to Congress to fund important studies that could change much of the armed camp look this city has taken on since 9/11. The proposal is the first step in opening the most congested parts of the city and beginning to beautify security on city streets. She expects the study of the closing of Pennsylvania Avenue and E Street to result in the reopening of E Street. Also funded is a study of the practicality of a tunnel beneath Pennsylvania Avenue or E Street to make up the closing of Pennsylvania Avenue. She adds, "I have always questioned whether a tunnel could be built without marring the face of downtown, but the District and the business community have pursued a tunnel.

The White House proposal also would beautify Pennsylvania Avenue in front of the White House. However, the renovation will be reversible to leave open the possibility of reopening the Avenue. Fast-moving technology should allow the reopening of Pennsylvania avenue itself someday. (From the Hill Rag)

Ed: The reopening of Pennsylvania Avenue is at the forefront of the goals of the influential Federation member the Association of Oldest Inhabitants, which initiated the most recent push for reopening. Both the Federation and the Association testified before the D.C. Subcommittee (along with the city leadership and elements of the business community), and introduced an alternative action plan. Nine/eleven overtook matters subsequently. It is good that Mrs. Norton is not allowing the important issue to drift into political oblivion, and is working to keep our options open by insuring that treatment of Pennsylvania Avenue in front of the White House is not frozen in concrete, literally.

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Interesting Concept: Pro Bono Quota

Outside counsel working for Santa Clara County, California, may have to meet a pro bono quota to keep their contracts. Santa Clara County Counsel Ann Ravel unveiled the new policy last week, saying she was motivated by new state legislation requiring attorneys with state contracts to complete thirty hours of pro bono work a year, or the number of hours equaling 10 percent of their contracts. Though the proposal has been approved in broad form, details — including the number of hours that would be required — are still in the works. The county spends $1 million a year on outside counsel and has contracts with more than twenty law firms and solo practitioners. (The National Law Journal, April 15, 2002)

Meanwhile, the District of Columbia Pro Bono Program and the District of Columbia Consortium of Legal Service Providers have launched a web site with resources and information about pro bono practice in Washington. Located at, the site was constructed in cooperation with Pro Bono Net, a New York-based nonprofit group that aims to use technology to improve legal services provided to low-income communities. The site features information on community development, employment law, house (sic), public benefits, asylum, death penalty representation and civil rights. Legal service providers and law firms in the Washington area provide the site's content. (The National Law Journal, June 3, 2002)

Obviously, there is a qualitative difference in the types of cases this or that law firm takes on out of civic responsibility or otherwise. In the District equation, a Corporation Counsel spokesman notes that little legal work must be contracted out, so that the Santa Clara County example is not directly germane. However, perhaps the city council or mayor could formulate recommended guidelines for law firms, including in them a target percentage of solid work (however untrendy and dull) to be done in support of organized communities.

It's worth considering. Meanwhile, the grassroots, tax-base organized communities continue at a lopsided disadvantage in contentions with large developers, institutions, and corporate charities.

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Ward 6 School Building May Become Senior Wellness Center

On November 12, the DC Office of Aging will petition the Board of Zoning Adjustment for a special exemption to establish a Senior Wellness Center in the Old Hayes School on 5th Street, NE. Such a use is better than allowing the school to sit empty, selling it off at a ridiculous price as surplus property, or allowing it to become a possible nuisance and source of community contention. When and if the community formerly served by the school bounces back, the school could be reactivated.

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Income Limits for the Home Purchase Assistance Program (HPAP)

Judging from many of the District's residential neighborhoods, the combined federal and D.C. Home Purchase Assistance Programs have been a major success story. Previously superannuated communities now have numerous young families with small children and perambulated babies where few existed before, and a new and active element is evident at citizens association meetings.

For the record, the federal HPAP law extends $5 thousand off federal income tax for first-time home buyers in the District, and the D.C. HPAP law forgives five years of real estate tax plus exemption from the 1.1% sales tax on first-time homes. This has been a winning combination.

Interestingly, the D.C. Department of Housing and Community Development established in the first quarter of 2002 income rates for participation in very low income, lower income, and moderate income households in the HPAP program. These are:


Eligibility Category 1 2 3 4 5 6 7

8 or more

Very Low Income 32,050 36,600 41,200 45,750 49,400 53,100 56,700 60,400
Lower Income









Moderate Income 70,500 80,500 90,590 100,650 106,900 106,900 106,900 106,900

These income limits have been determined based on the median family income of $91,500 established by the Secretary of the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development for 2002 for the Washington Metropolitan Statistical Area. The amounts determined above have been calculated based on Section 2510 of the HPAP program.

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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, October 22, 2002
Tuesday, November 26, 2002
December Quarterly Luncheon, Tuesday, December 17, 2002
Tuesday, January 28, 2003
Tuesday, February 25, 2003
March Quarterly Luncheon, To Be Announced
Tuesday, April 26, 2003
93rd Federation Awards Banquet, To Be Announced
Tuesday, June 24, 2003
August Quarterly Luncheon, To Be Announced

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