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Federation of Citizens Associations of the District of Columbia

Federation News

Volume 10, Issue 11, November 2004
3710 S Street, NW, Washington, DC 20007
(202) 338-5164 phone/fax

DC Sportin’ Life — Whither Baseball?
Federation Tour of Political Horizon, October 26
BZA and Zoning Commission Secret Guidelines, George Clark, Esq., and Anne Renshaw
Take Us Out to the Ball Game

Rush to Run for Mayor
Streetlight Painting Potential Mess
Federal Government Whistling Toward the Ceiling on METRO?
Officers and Board
Federation Board
Monthly Assembly Time Change
Federation Christmas Luncheon December 22
President’s Message: The State of Our City, Carroll Green
Target Store Coming to DC
Good Community Project, Cost Free
Video Poker Elsewhere
Official Soil
Federation Assembly Meeting Dates


Tuesday, November 16, 2004
6:30 p.m.

Speaker: Mark Touhey, Esq.
Chairman, DC Sports and Entertainment Commission

DC Baseball Update
Other Business

1201 Seventeenth Street, NW
(At M Street)


All the rage and in every conversation now is the front-burner issue of big time baseball in the District. In the cockpit of the continuing discussions, alternative proposals, and controversies is Mr. Mark Touhey, chair of the DC Sports commission. Everyone will be waiting with interest to hear a situation report on the District's hottest current issue, from the perspective of perhaps the best-informed key player in the pre-landing-of-the-baseball-franchise stage of developments. All fans, boosters, and other baseball cheerleaders will want to hear the word from the dugout on the 16th.

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One of the more stimulating and informative Federation Assemblies was enjoyed October 26, with Washington activist Dorothy Brizill (Columbia Heights) as speaker. Ms. Brizill discussed the recent primary election returns and possible trends for the future, covering three main areas: (1) a review of the primary, (2) possible changes in city council committee assignments, and (3) what may happen in 2006. Interestingly, Ms. Brizill noted great energy and activity east of the Anacostia River, but not so much on the west side. She noted it is unheard of for a new candidate like Kwame Brown to win by 20 percent and carry virtually every precinct against a longtime incumbent. Also interesting, Adrian Fenty had two times the number of votes as Jack Evans, even though both were running virtually unopposed in their wards.

Interestingly, Ms. Brizill noted, in 2004 Wards 7 and 8 had a 28 percent voter turnout, versus the previous high turnout of 13 percent, owing to changing demographics, new housing, and energized young voters. Ms. Brizill concluded that the voters were trying to send the mayor a message by ousting three incumbent councilmembers who had been criticized for not providing constituent services.

Ms. Brizill added that baseball will have a negative impact on the mayor that will be the equivalent of the closing of DC General Hospital. She opined that the chummy and perhaps overly collegial nature of the current city council stand to change, with three new members who believe they have a mandate for change. She thought several members are interested in chairing new committees, with Human Services being divided into Housing and Health. There is reportedly some internal debate about whether Republicans should be allowed to be committee chairs.

In response to a question as to whether there will be another mayoral recall effort, Ms. Brizill said she doubted it, but that there might be a referendum to overturn the baseball financing arrangement, because it is not a budget act matter, and a referendum can overturn a law or program.

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George Clarke, Esq. and Anne Renshaw

Have you noticed lately that the Board of Zoning Adjustment (BZA) is reluctant to include in its orders the conditions that you, the community representative, have negotiated on special exception requests -- even though the expiring order includes them? Have you been unable to get the BZA to attach your agreement with an applicant to the order, even though the applicant agrees with all of its terms? If this has not happened to you yet, it will. What's going on?

The BZA, relying on an undisclosed opinion of the Office of the Attorney General (OAG) has recently changed the way it decides cases, without saying why or how it has changed its standards. It has stated it will not include conditions in its orders that it believes it cannot enforce, even though it has included those conditions on many occasions in the past. Likewise, the Board is refusing to attach terms of agreements in its orders.

How does the BZA define conditions that it does not believe it can enforce? No on knows, and the BZA is refusing to say what it means. It has revealed that it is relying on an OAG opinion in a recent opinion, but it has refused to make that opinion public. Meanwhile, applicants and citizens' groups are in the dark as to the standards the BZA will apply in deciding whether it is appropriate for one of its orders. If this practice continues, it will lead to greater uncertainty in BZA cases.

The Board says it want to leave these conditions up to prive enforcement methods between the parties. But such private enforcement, whether by arbitration or lawsuit, can be expensive. The BZA's new practice means that you will not be able to get an inspector to enforce many conditions. By refusing to attach agreed-upon conditions to its orders, the BZA will discourage private agreements and make their terms less available for the public to scrutinize and use. And eventually this practice may encourage applicants to avoid agreements with citizen groups and neighbors, because they know enforcement will be either expensive or nonexistent.

The Federation wants to know your experience with this issue, and what you think about it. If you think the Federation should take a leadership position on this issue, contact any Federation officer or Board member, or Ann Renshaw at or George Clark at

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Some baseball-connected insiders have noted that a key, but little discussed, consideration in the ongoing debate is the matter of lucrative skyboxes, the luxury glassed-in balcony boxes normally bought by corporate supporters. At prices between $100,000 and $150,000 annually, they represent major income from any new or redone stadium. Reportedly, RFK is not suited for the addition of skyboxes, due to its column-free construction; old Griffith Stadium, which RFK replaced, was plagued by an abundance of view-blocking columns.

All in all, the return of major league baseball to DC seems to have broad and powerful support. How to pay for a stadium, already promised, is the major sticking point. Councilmember Adrian Fenty has noted all along that the District should not use public money to finance a stadium; public opinion seems to be drifting in his direction. We'll see how Ms. Cropp marshals her considerable influence and council forces, and how much public opinion counts in the final settlement of the issue.

Meanwhile, the mayor reportedly met with major league baseball executives in mid-November to decide on a name for the new baseball team. Names being bruited about are "The Nationals," "The Senators" (again), and "The Grays" (again). More tongue-in-cheek are "The Expositors" and "The Exposees," both containing the existing "Expo" appellation.

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At the October Federation Assembly, it was brought out that at least six city councilmembers are thinking of running for mayor: Linda Cropp, Jack Evans, Adrian Fenty, Vincent Orange, David Catania, and Marion Barry. At least five non-councilmembers are also reportedly considering running: Eric Holder, Marie Johns, Michael Rogers, Michael Brown (son of deceased former Commerce Secretary Ron Brown), and A. Scott Bolden. Jack Evans has a reported $200,000 available for a run, and Adrian Fenty a reported $300,000.

Any eventual new DC mayor will have to deal with and be judged by a Republican Congress. Voters should (and probably will not) consider this in choosing from a crowded field of candidates, all with some recommendation or other.

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Delegate Sally MacDonald (Woodley Park) wrote in The Georgetown Current on September 15, 2004, that there is in a DOT report "a proposition to repaint streetlights different colors depending on whether they are on 'historic' or 'non-historic' streets (not related to historic districts, which fall into another category). The area used as an example is in ANC 3C's Woodley Park. Streetlights south of Cathedral Avenue would stay gray. Is it possible to have an historic street next to a non-historic street? Aren't they historic, or not, together? The Department's reply is that K Street is an example of an 'historic street.'

"Considering the listing and mapping of historic/non-historic streets and separate districts, with the additional distinction of federal/city streetlights, we could possibly have six different categories of streetlights to be painted six different colors!

"The cost to the city of mapping the areas citywide, executive/artistic discussion and decisionmaking regarding the six different colors, purchase of the paint in the decided colors, application of the paint, and explanations to the uncomprehending public would be, at least, a total waste of taxpayers' money! I call it 'painting the roses red,' as in Alice in Wonderland.

"Woodley Park is in the process of having beautiful new streetlights installed, after literally decades of an old, failing circuit (which is now out for the fourth night, as I write). If the recommendation of the Department of Transportation's secret committee stands, some of the new streetlights will have to be repainted.

"My official request is that any consideration of repainting streetlights different colors, for any reason, be scrapped. Instead, let's just get good working lights that help people at night!"

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Federal Government Whistling Toward the Ceiling on METRO?

Impressively, the Metro Board of Directors has just approved a $3.3 billion investment in repairs and upgrades for the tri-state transit system. Included in scheduled new acquisitions are 120 subway cars and 185 new buses. This is all well and good, but the entire bill is slated to be paid by the financially strapped District, Virginia, and Maryland.

Where is the other major partner, the feds? As noted in a recent Federation Board meeting, "The federal government runs on the Metro system, with a large percentage of its workers using it to get the work. The government couldn't run without it." Right on.

Should some reallocation of the Metro update burden be negotiated? There are two 3s in the $3.3 billion cost. Should the federal government assume one of them? You pick which one and write your family's home state congressman.

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Patrick Allen, Esq.
Association of Oldest Inhabitants

Robert Andrews
Foxhall Citizens Association

Allen E. Beach
Chevy Chase Citizens Association

Francis M. Clarke, III
Cleveland Park Citizens Association

George Clark, Esq.
Forest Hills Citizens Association

Dino J. Drudi
Michigan Park Citizens Association

Kathryn A. Eckles
Residential Action Coalition

Elizabeth Elliott
Foggy Bottom Association

Carroll Green
Manor Park Citizens Association

Guy Gwynne
Burleith Citizens Association

James H. Jones
Crestwood Citizens Association

Ann Loikow, Esq.
Cleveland Park Citizens Association

Sally MacDonald
Woodley Park Citizens Association

Ann Renshaw
Chevy Chase Citizens Association

Laura Richards, Esq.
Penn Branch Citizens/Civic Association

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

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At its November 11 meeting the Federation Board of Directors:

  • Discussed a recent change in BZA procedures so that it will not include in an order conditions that it has included in past orders for the same property, because of a claim that the conditions cannot be enforced.
  • Discussed the upcoming roundtable of Board members with the mayor's office. Topics to include: a night court, official apparent conflicts of interest, Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) matters, enforcement, and inability to access department managers so they can be accountable.
  • Examined financing of a new baseball stadium and contending alternative plans.
  • Noted the current dispute between the fire department and emergency medical services over whether they should be separated.
  • Noted the possible development of a new apartment building on Tilden Street near Connecticut Avenue, requiring a change in zoning and across the street from townhouses.
  • Discussed a need to review what the Zoning Commission considers appropriate amenities for PUDs.
  • Discussed affordable housing and the possible need for the District to change the way it tries to deal with the matter.
  • Noted the Federation president's new role as a member of the state council for DC of the AARP.

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Federation fourth-Tuesday meetings will now begin at 6:30 p.m., instead of 7:00 p.m. The Board changed the time in order to take better advantage of the 6:30 parking free-up time and to aid in timely 9:00 p.m. adjournment. The Sumner School has emphasized that adjournments after 9:00 p.m. interrupt administrative arrangements and cause cleanup delays.

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It's time to mark calendars. The Federation's quarterly Christmas luncheon will be on Wednesday, December 22, at the palatial Diplomatic and Consular Officers Club at 18th and F Streets, NW. Delegates and guests are invited for sherry time at 12:00-12:45 and for luncheon at 12:45-2:00 p.m.

These annual luncheons are elegant affairs, held in one of the grand old mansions of Washington, with impeccable service amid gracious surroundings. They are truly a red-letter Washington experience, and afford an excellent opportunity for delegates to renew old acquaintances and make new ones in optimal conditions. Normally there are no speakers, but things have a way of developing into an informal full-house chat over dessert, as delegates rise to share what it on their minds with the assembled attendees.

Reservations may be made by calling 338-5164. As usual, delegates may share the experience with a guest or two, at moderate cost.

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Carroll Green

We began this year by taking on the issue of the new Building Code Amendments that included a provision on "Public Access to Records" requiring a request under the Freedom of Information Act for records heretofore available to citizens and ANC's without the attendant red tape and delays.

This of course was legal overkill to a simple administrative fix to control the file room, and was clandestine rulemaking under the cloak of darkness, since there was no public input in this process.

As we approach the end of the year this issue is still on the table, despite the fact that the mayor told us in May that he would be willing to work with us on the application of the Freedom of Information Act and the Sunshine Law.

We have appeared before the Council to support mayoral nominees, specifically Ms. Betty Noel's reappointment as the People's Counsel and Mr. Gregory Jefferies' nomination to the Zoning Commission.

A vast number of our citizens feel that Ms. Noel sets a very high standard for public service in our city. Mr. Jefferies sought us out, appeared before our Assembly, requested and garnered our support.

We testified before the Committee of the Whole on the Progress Report implementing elements of the Comprehensive Plan prepared by the Office of Planning. We offered eight specific recommendations.

We appeared before the Committee on Consumer and Regulatory Affairs to protest the clandestine rulemaking by the DCRA in the Building Code Amendments. DCRA had also failed to inform the Council of its intent to change the process radically.

We testified before the Committee on Public Interest to support legislation to regulate natural gas suppliers doing business in the city, in the manner and form of the electric utility industry. We also testified before this Committee against proposed cuts in the budget for the Office of the People's Council.

We testified in support of the Clean Car Dealership Act of 2004, introduced by Councilmember Fenty and cosponsored by Councilmembers Brazil, Evans, Schwartz, Orange, Ambrose, and Graham, before the Committee on Consumer and Regulatory Affairs.

We recommended that the bill be amended to mandate that no paper vehicle tags will be issued; that vehicle inspections be required with 24 hours of transfer of ownership, and that no after-marketing tinting of vehicle windows be permitted.

Within three weeks of our testimony the Department of Motor Vehicles issued a 180-day moratorium on the issues of paper vehicle tags. The moratorium ultimately became permanent.

The paper vehicle tags issue represented a small but important victory for our citizens. One of the findings of the task force reviewing the problem highlighted the chronic violations of the illegal sale and use of temporary paper tags in the commission of criminal activity in the city.

Our response was that this was simply another area where our city was crime friendly.

The deployment of our police force leaves much to be desired. Police officers are conspicuous by their absence. While it is not unusual to see the Capitol Police or the Park Police making traffic stars, it is rare to see our Metropolitan police doing so.

Parking enforcement is a chronic problem, yet this administration assigns parking enforcement officers to perform traffic control duties that are clearly police functions. The primary reason we see so many traffic violations is the absence of police. The violations run the gamut from running stop signs to speeding, running red lights, and the very dangerous acts of running red lights at traffic circles.

Many of our councilmembers say the lack of enforcement permeates most of the problems of this city. Others say the lack of accountability is at the heart of most of our problems. I would offer that it is a bit of both.

It is interesting to note that in the largest of agencies of the federal government one can find phone books complete with employee names and phone numbers. Yet in our municipal government one cannot find a similar book that contains at least a listing of names and phone numbers of all management personnel.

The time spent/wasted going through agency heads to find out who has the responsibility for certain functions represents the height of inefficiency and frustration for many of our citizens.

This father-knows-best approach to municipal governance is totally without merit and shows a great disdain for the electorate.

I have previously posed the following questions: are our municipal managers desk bound? What prevents city officials from seeing problems that are obvious to citizens? What happened to the great business school dictum of management by walking around?

Could it be that the Williams administration is politically tone deaf? While we would like to think not, it certainly is not very encouraging when you are ending the year on the same note that it began.

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Washington does not have its Super Walmart, a fact that is not universally regretted. A good second is reported in the offing, with the recent announcement by Mayor Williams that a Target store is to be built in the Columbia Heights neighborhood. Except for the traffic and commotion involved, many communities would be glad to have a handy modern department store within close reach. Arrangements reportedly call for $42 million in public financing, mostly to be applied toward a major parking garage. Prospects for the Target store seem much better than those for a formerly exciting K-Mart, which failed to materialize due to a company bankruptcy.

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The Georgetown Kiwanis Club is sponsoring a useful community project that can be used in just about any other community. The club brings an old-fashioned mobile knife and scissors grinder to a pre-announced address and affords the neighborhood a welcome, if now bygone, service. The grinder charges moderate fees -- around $15 -- for sharpening knives, scissors, lawnmowers, and every bladed utensil or machine. The fees, which mount up, are the grinder's compensation. This is a symbiotic project that is likely to be welcomed in every association area. For more information, call Guy Gwynne, 338-5164.

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The Washington Times reports that the city council of Weirton, West Virginia, population 20,000, has barred new video poker businesses from locating within 1,000 feet of a church or school. The ordinance "is aimed at limiting the proliferation of gambling parlors."

A small example, but indicative of one town's take on video gambling.

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New Jersey is the latest state to be on its way to designating an official soil. Fifteen other states reportedly have adopted the concept. New Jersey's pick is Downer Soil, a sandy loamish dirt good for growing certain crops produced by Garden State farmers.

The District of Columbia tends to give serious attention to developments in other states, so can an official DC soil be far away? It would take it place with the official dinosaur, for instance, bird (wood thrush), and tree (scarlet oak). Several soil candidates spring to mind: there's fertile National Park garden plot soil, used by park neighbors to grow table vegetables. Or Spring Valley Special earth, gratuitously laced with arsenic from WW I munitions manufactured in the area. And Burleith sinking soil is a possibility, judging from the undulating neighborhood. With the diminished roster of unofficial things left, the city council may wish to get busy. In addition, fie on the waggish delegate who suggested the dodo as the District bird.

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Federation Assembly Meeting Dates

November 16, 2004
December 22, 2004 (Christmas luncheon)

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