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Federation of Citizens Associations of the District of Columbia

Federation News

Volume 9, Issue 5, March 2003
3710 S Street, NW, Washington, DC 20007
(202) 338-5164 phone/fax

93rd Anniversary Annual Award Banquet Coming Up May 29
GWU: Never Say Comply
Small Community Acts to Protect One of Its Own
Historical Associations
Mayor Passes Over Ann Renshaw for BZA Reappointment
One-Dollar Fuel Charge Per Taxicab Trip Until July 1
D.C. Presidential Primary to Be First in the Country
Community Antennae Quivering
Upcoming Meeting on Proposed Voting Rules Adjustments
Traffic Adjudication Appeals: Loose End Remedied
City Council: Official Dance of D.C. Legislation
Host Communities in Mind at New Convention Center Opening
Commission Releases Report on Siting Community Corrections Facilities
Federation Assembly Meeting Dates

93rd Anniversary Annual Awards Banquet
May 29th
Fort McNair Officers Club
7 PM




Ninety-third and counting toward 1001 Thursday, May 29th is the reserved date for the gala 2003 Federation Awards Banquet As in past years, the Fort McNair Officers Club will be the elegant venue. The savvy banquet committee of Jim Jones (Crestwood), Kay Eckles (Residential Action Coalition), Guy Gwynne (Burleith), and Phyllis Klein (Residential Action Coalition) is finalizing arrangements, which stand to be on a par with those of previous years' blowouts.

Once a year the venerable Federation decides to take a break and have some fun, in considerable style. Last year's success fou was the best ever, and things keep getting better. Joining us in 2002 were members of the cutting edge Hexagon Club cabaret troupe, the solo female singers of which seemed to single out Councilman Phil Mendelson for particular attention during their numbers.

Association action alert: Now is the time to form up and reserve association tables. Tables may be for six, seven, or eight persons. The cost is a bargain $35 per person. Associations are encouraged to collect in advance from guests, thereby enabling attendees to bypass the often-busy check-in table, as well as simplifying the accounting process. Tables will, as usual, bear signs identifying 'the sponsoring association. (The cheerful result is the appearance of a political party nomination convention.) Individual delegates and guests may of course register with a banquet committee caller, and there is always a lot of individual placement at various cheerful tables So, everyone is taken care of expeditiously.

Several associations occupied two tables each last year. These we-love-a-party sponsors were Crestwood, Oldest Inhabitants, and Burleith. Sharing went on; Southwest Neighborhood Assembly shared with host American University Park Association and there was some table sharing (at least table-hopping) between Palisades and Hillcrest associations. Councilmember Kathy Patterson held court at her own (duly identified) table, filled with supporters. All making for a lively tout ensemble, that thoroughly, drowned out the harpist performing for the evening

This year already promises to be bigger and better than ever! Every association is urged to come in swaggering, with a sign on its separate table. For information or just to chat about banquet matters, call Banquet Hotline, 202-338-5164.

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In 2002, the D.C. Board of Zoning Adjustment acted to condition and adjust the George Washington University campus plan to conform with the greater good of the city. Claiming, inter alia, immunity from city regulation, the school sued the city in every possible venue and requested reconsideration at the BZA. Appeals at both the pertinent District court and the federal court of appeals failed. Bottom line: Universities can be regulated like the normal community components they are. The school's reconsideration motion before the BZA comes up soon, and odds for successful reversal there are long.

What went on here? As with so many large enterprises in the current legal climate, GWU'S knee-jerk reaction in the face of failure to get its way was automatically to undertake broadcast lawsuits, which the institution can finance and which opponents may have trouble opposing financially. Citizens associations are aware of the strategy, and often fail in unequal combat. In the GWU campus plan case, the city's even-handed regulatory action initially and subsequent standing up to a determined, canting challenger was, in the D.C. context, revolutionary, and was hugely welcome in the taxbase, voting community.

GWU, meanwhile, has a secondary suit before the D.C. Court of Appeals, on human rights (!) grounds.

Corporation Counsel lead attorney in the GWU case, Lutz Praeger, is on the 2003 Federation awards list, and will be honored at the May 29th Awards Banquet.

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A several-years-old federal lawsuit concerning student-voting rights was recently decided by presiding judge Henry Kennedy against three community activists in the Georgetown-Burleith area, along with an $18,000 assessment for opposition-attorney expenses. From the layman's point of view, the judgment is an odd one, in that the collecting pro bono attorney (for amicus representation of three Georgetown University students) undertook to work without compensation. Period. However, when a favorable ruling appeared, suddenly, whopping expenses were required. The tab: $18,000, or $6,000 per activist Choices of the punished community representatives: Appeal or pay up. They opted for the latter.

A Federation delegate stood up at a recent Burleith association meeting, decried the odd amercement, and noted that the Burleith activist should not have to pay an unfair assessment for a principled stand on behalf of the community. Burleith-specific response to date has been handsome — $4,000 in contributions of (mainly) $100 and $200 amounts, with $2,000 to go, and with active solicitation not begun. This is community activism at its best, as a small, middle-class neighborhood refuses to allow (1) one of its loyal activists to be victimized by elements of a nearby expansionist university or (2) its community-defense spirit to be chilled.

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The D.C. Taxicab Commission in late March voted to add a fuel surcharge of one dollar per taxicab trip effective March 21 through July 1. The stated e of the new measure is too offset the increased costs of gasoline due to "the (then) imminent possibility of war with Iraq and soaring costs of crude oil (that) creates an emergency that affects the public health, safety, and welfare of taxicab operator:"

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At its April 1 legislative session, the city council voted unanimously to pass "Presidential Primary Election Act of 2003," introduced by Councilman Jack Evans; which will make the District's 2004 presidential primary the first in the nation. Favorable final passage and Congressional approval are anticipated. Given tile District's lopsided pro-Democratic voter preference, Evans, who pledges "to take this issue straight to the 2004 National Democratic Convention, it is time that the nation is made aware of the disenfranchisement of District of Columbia residents," is likely to receive a sympathetic DNC reception.

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Two fiscal data noted recently by city council Committee on Finance and Revenue chair Jack Evans at an association meeting.

  1. In the Washington taxbase equation there are only 22,400 taxpayers with incomes of $100,000 or more, and

  2. the mayor wants to raise income taxes on higher incomes to avoid a probable deficit crisis.

The city is doing little or nothing to attract substantial taxpayers, and a raise in already-high income tales could have a negative effect on keeping existing taxpayers in the city.

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Acting to better comply with two federal voting laws, the D.C. Board of Election is sponsoring a meeting lay 14th to discuss recommendations of a subcommittee appointed to address the issue. Under the provisions of Public Law 98-435, `Noting Accessibility for the Elderly and Handicapped Act of 1984," the Board acted by making D.C. polling places more accessible by installation of curb ramps, and use of alternative entrances and/or voting areas. Under a second law, the "Help America Vote Act of 2003" (HAVA), the Board is required to ensure barrier free access to all polling places. Currently there are 142 voting locations in the District: 90 public facilities and 52 non-District-owned properties.

Among subcommittee recommendations to be discussed May 14th are that: 
  • Non-citizens be allowed to vote in local elections.
  • 17-year-olds "who will be 18 years of age by the next general election (be allowed to vote) in the preceding primary."
  • Felony convicts be located and registered at the end of incarceration.
  • Same-day registration be implemented.

The meeting will be held on Wednesday, May 14 at 10:30 am. at the Board of Election office at 441 Judiciary Square, N.W.

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"Traffic adjudication Appeal Fee Emergency Amendment Act of 2003" that became law in March, provides "for the refund of the fee that a person must pay to appeal a notice of infraction if the person prevails in the appeal." The fee for appealing a notice of infraction is $10. In calendar year 2002, there were 1,111 appeals filed with the Traffic Adjudication Appeals Board. Appellants prevailed in 185 of those appeals.

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In little-known but possibly far-reaching legislation in February, the city council passed Ceremonial Resolution 15-16, "To declare Hand Dance the official dance of tile District of Columbia." The resolution provides that,

"WHEREAS, Hand Dance is a popular, vibrant renewal of music anal dancing originating from the 1950's and 1960's and passed on to successive generations;

"WHEREAS, the art of Hand Dance was created, developed, expanded, and has been sustained in the District of Columbia;

"WHEREAS, Hand Dance promotes physical and mental health through a safe and low impact aerobic exercise for people of all ages;

"WHEREAS, Hand Dance has encouraged cross-generation and cross social/economic interactions, thereby helping to fustier a strong, inclusive and diverse community;

"WHEREAS, Hand Dance helps youth develop the physical skills of agility, coordination, and flexibility and the social skills of cooperation, conflict resolution, consideration and respect;

"WHEREAS, Hand Dance has and continues to generate tax revenue from the entrepreneurship associated with the art of hand dance;

"WHEREAS, Hand Dance venues throughout the Metropolitan area are places where one can go and feel comfortable and safe;

"WHEREAS, Hand Dance is an art form with myriad steps and different foot patterns which, in conjunction with many turns and body movements, requires time, practice and much effort;

"WHEREAS, unlikely many forms of dance and styles of music, Hand Dance will and shall survive in the District of Columbia; and ...."

You get the idea.

Is hand dancing taking over the sedate District? To help define the issue, we will try to have a with-it demo of the art form at the May 29th banquet: The old Federation tries always to be hip and abreast of the times — including the retro 1950'x, when hand dancing was so In. Skidoo.

At the same time, one is left to wonder if, amid the pressing problems of the District, the need for an officially enacted city dance was of first-line importance.

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Many of Washington's citizens associations are of reassuring antiquity, and historically have played an important role in binding together and fostering the welfare of their communities. The Michigan Park Association was founded in 1917. The Palisades debuted in 1916. The Manor Park Association was formed as recently as 2001, and activists on Capitol Hill are eyeing Jump-starting a new Capitol Hill Citizens Association. Which goes to illustrate that the D.C. neighborhood grassroots democratic process is, going strong The granddad of all associations, for the record, is Federation-member Association of Oldest Inhabitants, which dates lack to 1865.

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Just when the city gets its BZA act together, after past years of spotty or worse performance, the mayor — on the advice of the Office of the Special Assistant on Boards and Commissions — decides to weaken tile present board by sacrificing one of its most cornmunity-responsible members, Ms. Ann Renshaw, on the ostensible grounds of unspecified "complaints" and need for turnover. Since the BZA deals importantly with land-use cases and often ambitious developers and land-use attorneys, it is easy to envisage tendentious complaints from developers and lawyers who fail to get their way. This ignores, however, the broad community support and high approval marks for a perceived exemplary performance that Ms. Renshaw received, including the unanimously voted endorsement of the Federation Board. The whole smelly matter invites the questions, "If something's not broken, why fix it?"

Community concerns about BZA performance and personnel quality are well founded. In past years, too many delegates have experienced the performance of an inept BZA, sitting in perfunctory judgment, but overly beholden to shrewd, articulate land-use law firms for final-decision texts. The advent of the new reform. mayor, without cronies or political baggage, was the occasion for a reformed, evenhanded BZA, to the joy of the taxbase residential neighborhoods.

It is in this context that the surprise Boards and Commissions decision suddenly confronts the community and its all-too-fresh sensitivities. Compounding the gaffe was an attempted hurried confrmation hearing for a successor candidate to Ms. Renshaw, viz., Ms. Ruthanne Miller, wife of the chief assistant to city council chair Linda Cropp. While the community (ANC) roots of the new nominee are substantial, they do not compare favorably with those of Ms. Renshaw, nor with her BZA track record of thoughtful vigilance in land-use matters — usually of importance to organized communities.

This passing over of a notably well-performing city board member is an egregious waste of scarce qualified volunteer personnel resources in the District, and is (1) an aberration from the customary care this mayor has exercised in official appointments to strategic city positions, and (2) is out of step with such winning appointments as those at the Office of Planning and, recently, the new Department of Transportation.

While the record is still open on the Miller nominations, delegates who attended the Map 2 confirmation hearing variously characterized the proceeding as "a done deal," "stacked from the Start," and worried, "There's no way we can prevent this one." An interesting observation was, "I worry about (Ms. Miller's) collegiality; she simply didn't get along with her other ANC members."

Written testimony can still be submitted to the council's Committee of the Whole, at "Confirmation hearing on BZA Appointments;" Wilson Building, 1350 Pennsylvania Avenue, N.W., Washington, IBC. 20004.

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Washington's new convention was inaugurated on March 29. Concerning the splendid facility Ward 2 councilmember Jack Evans declared, "The celebration illustrates inclusiveness — opening its doors to adjacent communities is part of being a good neighbor, Not only is it important for the Convention Center to be mindful of tourism, it is important they are cognizant of their nest door community neighbors," Evans said. "It must never be forgotten, the Convention Center is a part of neighborhoods, not the other way around." The neighborhoods of Shaw, Logan Circle, and Chinatown stand to receive any impact generated by the large new facility.

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Jim H. Jones, Crestwood

The Community Corrections Facility Siting Advisory Commission, established by the Mayor in December 2001, to recommend criteria for siting halfway house facilities, has released a report that makes 17 recommendations designed to make location of halfway houses more amenable to the residents. The report also addresses more general issues relating to the process, by which siting decisions are made, and the operation and management of halfway houses in the District.

The Commission's most important recommendation is that local and federal agencies responsible for administering community corrections program in the District of Columbia should assume more direct responsibility for the siting decisions. Currently, contractors make these decisions with only indirect participation by elected or appointed officials. The Commission advocates a more hands-on role for government agencies in selecting sites for halfway houses and is ensuring that halfway houses do what they are supposed to do: closely supervise offenders and provide them with the tools they need to become law-abiding members of the District of Columbia community.

A corollary recommendation is that working in conjunction with the affected Advisory Neighborhood Commission, government agencies should inform and consult with the community about the size, locations, role and operation of halfway houses, and should require halfway house operators to establish a community Relations Board.

The Commission learned from testimonies at its three public headings that there is a strong belief among residents that some Wards, and some neighborhoods within Wards, have been asked to shoulder more than their fair share of the responsibility for the District's community-based residential facilities. In response, the commission recommends that the government agencies find a way to address concerns about the equitable distribution of community corrections facilities within among the Wards.

In order to facilitate the operations that would result from the implementation of their recommendations, the commission urges the appointment of a politically accountable District official, with sufficient stature and experience to deal credibly with the federal agencies involved. This person would assume primary responsibility for the smooth functioning of a coordinated process for sharing information and making recommendations on particular issues affecting the community corrections program in the District, and offender reentry generally.

The seven-member Advisory Commission is in the process of presenting its report to officials in the executive office, City Council and Advisory Neighborhood Commissions.

Federation Board Member, James H. Jones, is a member of the Advisory 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, N.W.

93rd Federation Awards Banquet, May 29th, 7 p.m. at the Fort McNair Officers Club

Tuesday, June 24, 2003

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