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Federation of Citizens Associations of the District of Columbia

Federation News

Volume 12, Issue 2, November 2005
3710 S Street, NW, Washington, DC 20007
(202) 338-5164 phone/fax

Rolling in the Anacostia River Area
Real Estate Tax Rates
Christmas Quarterly Luncheon: December 20
Direction of Council's Thinking: Right On, But Hurry
Federation Board Meeting
Harriet Hubbard, In Memoriam
CSX Hazardous Transport Update
Officers and Board
President's Column: George Clark
Evans on the FY2006 Budget
Referendum on Commuter Tax?
Federation Assembly Meeting Dates


It may not be too much to say that Washingtonís future lies in the major developments along the Anacostia waterfront. Our speaker, Mr. Adrian Washington, is seemingly up to his eyeballs in all the aspects of the exciting developments in the, until relatively recently, largely terra incognita down by the (other) riverside.

The catalyst for much of this development is the Anacostia Waterfront Corporation, of which Mr. Washington is the new president. A graduate of Harvard Business School and Stanford University, he served on a range of urban development firms and boards. Mr. Washington notes, "I grew up in Anacostia, and have lived in the District most of my life. I have a real connection with the neighborhoods."

The Anacostia Waterfront Corporation is overseeing implementation of the huge Anacostia Waterfront Initiative, a 25-year plan to clean and restore the Anacostia River and redevelop land adjacent to the river that has been barren or underutilized. The plan calls for the revitalization of nearby neighborhoods as well.

Already, more than $2 billion in public and private investment has been committed to waterfront-related projects, including the construction of a new ballpark for the Washington Nationals. Over the next five years, the AWC will coordinate a public investment strategy that will facilitate the construction of over 3 million square feet of new office space, more than 4,500 units of new housing, 32 acres of new public parkland, and a 20-mile riverwalk along both sides of the river. The new uses are expected to generate up to $1.5 billion in new tax revenues over the next 20 years, in addition to more than $4 billion in private investment.

These are all exciting developments in the offing, and there reportedly is more to the story. Mr. Washington will be "Mr. Answer Man" on November 22. Inquiring minds want to know more about the huge events underway. Delegates and visitors are requested to be on time.

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As of October 21, the Office of the Chief Financial Officer advises, that the recommended real property tax rates for Tax Year 2006 are:

  • Class One (owner or renter-occupied residential), $0.92 (calculated indexed rate per $100 of assessed value)

  • Class Two (commercial), $1.85

  • Class Three (vacant and abandoned), $5.00

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This yearís annual Christmas luncheon will be held, as usual, at the elegant Diplomatic and Consular Officers Club at 18th and F Streets, NW. Unusually, we will share the mansion that day with the Foreign Affairs Council.

Sherry time, from 12 noon until 12:30, will be in the library, straight through as one enters the front door. A Federation guide will be at the door. Luncheon will be served in the main parlors, where we usually have sherry. Reminder: commercial parking is around the corner on 18th Street; ladiesí coat areas are in the ladiesí parlor by the front door, and the menís coat area is to the right of the downstairs assembly room. The cost this year will be $25.

These luncheons are an excellent opportunity to meet old friends and fellow delegates and to introduce new associations and association delegates to the Federation. Originally staid affairs with splendid food and excellent conversation, the luncheons have become the occasions for discussion of whatís happening in the city and neighborhoods, and they usually have a welcome contingent of city council members and pertinent agency leaders. Never dull, luncheons are lasting until what may have to become afternoon tea times as well ó it can all happen. See you at the quarterly luncheon.

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The City Council passed Resolution 16-328 on October 11, "to declare Ö an emergency with respect to the need to require that the Mayor conduct a study relative to the escalating motor vehicle fuel costs and heating fuel cost in the District of Columbia and make recommendations to the Council concerning methods that may be utilized to stabilize such increased costs, and to require the Executive Office of the Mayor to investigate possible price gouging by local motor fuel retailers and wholesalers, and to report such findings to the Council by December 15."

Cogently, "(Sec. 2. The Council Ö Finds that:

(2) The District of Columbia, according to reports issued by the Mid-Atlantic AAA, has the highest motor vehicle fuel rate in the nation.

(3) State legislatures are currently considering or have taken action to provide relief to Ö Residents by either establishing price ceilings, or engaging in creative methods of temporarily relieving consumers of high fuel costs (e.g., sales-tax holidays on gasoline, sale of turnpikes, formal agreements with gas station owners).

(5) Heating oil prices have been estimated to rise by 31% this winter, almost twice the 16% rate forecast in August.

(6) Ö [N]atural gas prices are expected to rise by 37% to 50% this winter.

(7) With colder than normal temperatures predicted, the demand for heating oil and natural gas is expected to rise.

(8) Residents of the District of Columbia deserve some sort of relief to offset the increased cost of fuel."

The ball is in the mayorís court now. Association officers and other delegates having personal contact with the mayor or senior administration officials should voice citizen concern regarding this ticking time bomb of an issue, and the need for prompt city action.

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At its November 17 meeting, the Federation Board of Directors:

  • Discussed the status of an ongoing hazardous substances lawsuit

  • Discussed the upcoming Citizens Summit

  • Heard a report on a candidate roundtable on November 28

  • Discussed the 2006 97th Anniversary Awards Banquet

  • Moved to strengthen the University Affairs Task Force

  • Voted to support the Foggy Bottom Association on campus plan issues

  • Reviewed the National Capital Medical Center issue.

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Washington lost one of its grand civic icons in early November. Diminutive, feisty, doggedly determined, Paris-loving, and Federation delegate from the Residential Action Coalition, Harriet Hubbard leaves a significant gap in District civic activism. Kalorama delegate Ann Sellin, a comrade in arms, reports: "Mrs. Hubbard became active in zoning and city planning matters when she lived in Georgetown in the late 1940s. At that time, several streets in Georgetown were endangered by developersí designs. On learning of this, she mobilized not only the neighborhood, but Congress, and successfully maneuvered to enactment the Old Georgetown Act, the first preservation law to be passed in the District of Columbia. It established the Fine Arts Commission as the overseer of the District. Just after that, Mrs. Hubbard, with her neighbors, managed to persuade the city to downzone the commercial streets of Georgetown and adjacent streets.

"In the 1960s, when Washington was threatened with being sliced by a series of freeways, she worked steadily in the citizensí citywide coalition to defeat the plan, which would have demolished tens of thousands of houses and many historic buildings. During that battle, a riot occurred, instigated by police, in the city council chambers, when citizens began protesting the councilís vote in favor of the freeway plan. This effort saved our city a fate like that of Boston, which is now spending billions to rectify the harm done by its freeways.

"When Mrs. Hubbard moved to Dupont Circle she brought her ironclad will, which was put to work persuading the city planning department to downzone 40 blocks of the Dupont Circle area. This, after she had been arrested with several other citizens and thrown into jail for sitting in front of a bulldozer on Corcoran Street. In 1978 she wrote the application for the Dupont Historic District and the 16th Street Historic District, which resulted in their protection and listing on the Federal Register of Historic Places. Later she was active in the creation of the Strivers Row and Greater U Street Historic Districts.

"Mrs. Hubbard is an inspiration for all civic activists, with her ĎIt can be done and Iím the one to do ití attitude and approach to city betterment. She will be sorely missed and fondly remembered by her many friends and admirers, in and out of the Federation. RIP."

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The war on terror in our nationís capital remains a skirmish, pitting the Department of Justice and CSX Railroad against the cityís ban on the transport of hazardous materials by rail. On November 9, 2005, a status hearing was held in US District Court on this slowly proceeding matter.

Many observers were shocked that CSX chose to put this issue on the evening news, rather than seek a quiet agreement with the city on this very topical and sensitive national security matter. An interesting aspect of the ban is that the front lawn of the US Capitol and the Congress is in close proximity to the rail tunnel leading from Union Station.

Some would say that the premise for this litigation is corporate arrogance and congressional concurrence in the elevation of the profits of special interests over the welfare and safety of hundreds and thousands of citizens.

The order by US District Judge Emmett Sullivan, that the government and CSX must share with the city the closely held security plans for the safe transport of hazardous materials by rail, was upheld on appeal.

The delay tactics now include determining what documents are to be included in the show and tell. The next hearing is scheduled for December 14, 2005.

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Patrick Allen, Esq.
Association of Oldest Inhabitants

Allen E. Beach, Treasurer
Chevy Chase Citizens Association

Francis M. Clarke, III
Cleveland Park Citizens Association

George Clark, Esq., President
Forest Hills Citizens Association

Dino J. Drudi
Michigan Park Citizens Association

Kathryn A. Eckles
Residential Action Coalition

Elizabeth Elliott
Foggy Bottom Association

Carroll Green. Past President
Manor Park Citizens Association

Guy Gwynne
Burleith Citizens Association

James H. Jones, Second Vice President
Crestwood Citizens Association

Ann Loikow, Esq.
Cleveland Park Citizens Association

Sally MacDonald, Secretary
Woodley Park Citizens Association

Ann Renshaw, First Vice President
Chevy Chase Citizens Association

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

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Our November 22 Assembly meeting features Adrian Washington, who was appointed on November 11 to head up the Anacostia Waterfront Corporation. Mr. Washington is co-chair of the Comprehensive Housing Strategy Task Force, which published its Executive Summary in September, and plans on finalizing its report by year end. The final report, Homes for an Inclusive City: A Comprehensive Housing Strategy for Washington, DC, is charged with laying out a ten-year blueprint of the goals, methods, schedule, and estimated public and private funds needed to improve District housing for residents and ensure better access to affordable units. Mr. Washington is President of the Neighborhood Development Company. Iím sure youíll have many thoughts and questions about the report and the AWI.

In my last letter, I mentioned our emphasis this year on the Comprehensive Plan rewrite process. With the Federationís support, the draft plan will now be made public by March 2006, followed by two months for public comment, and then go back to the Task Force for changes before it is submitted to the Council in June. We still support public hearings in that two months, rather than just public comments before the plan goes to the Council vote.

We hope you made our September Assembly meeting with Patrick Canavan and his ambitious plans for the DCRA. Since then, former ANC 6C07 Commissioner Bill Crews has been appointed as Zoning Administrator. Crews is a lawyer with an extensive background in land use and zoning issues. Weíll invite him to meet with us after he has a change to get his feet wet.

Our holiday luncheon will be Tuesday, December 20, 2005, at noon, at the Diplomatic and Consular Officers Club, located at 18th and F Streets, NW. Cost of the luncheon is $25 per person. The luncheons always inspire lively discussions on a wide variety of topics, and are a great chance to exchange and learn new information from other involved citizens. Happy Thanksgiving!

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One of the sprightlier newsletters around is the DC Market Report real estate newsletter by Ms. Kimberly Casey. Councilman Jack Evans, always with the latest word on housing and real estate tax matters, noted a number of interesting happenings in the Fall 2005 Market Report issue:

"The Fiscal Year 2006 budget and FY06-09 financial plan are now complete and have been transmitted to Congress for approval. . . . The FY06 budget grew by 8.4% in recurring spending and 18.3% in nonrecurring from the previous fiscal year. . . . I moved forward substantial tax relief during the markup of the Committee on Finance and Revenueís ĎFiscal Year 2006 Budget Support Act of 2005í subtitles. The property tax relief that was funded in the FY06 budget included:

  • Increasing the Homestead Deduction from $38,000 to $60,000;

  • Creating a calculated residential property tax rate, which will lower the property tax rate if revenue from residential property comes in at higher levels than expected this year;

  • Expanding the property tax deferral program for lower-income property owners; and

  • Expanding the family property recordation and transfer tax exemption to include grandparent to grandchild transfers, as well as transfers between domestic partners.

". . . I moved forward the following five additional property tax relief in the FY2006 Budget pending additional revenue:

  • Reducing the residential property tax cap from 12% to 10%;

  • Reducing the residential property tax rate from .96 cents to .92 cents [sic];

  • Providing tax relief to homes and limited-equity cooperatives that have resale restrictions;

  • Correcting the capped taxable assessment disparity among the three triennial groups; and

  • Providing a 50% reduction to residential taxes for disabled District residents and expanding the Homestead Deduction to include special needs trusts."

Mr. Evans adds that, if the real property market remains strong, he believes all this tax relief is likely to occur by Spring 2006. Let us pray.

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Earlier in October, an appeals court rejected city efforts to impose a tax on incomes earned in the District, in the manner that most or all other states do. In an effort to overcome this frustration and many before it, Councilman (and mayoral candidate) Adrian Fenty introduced legislation on October 13 to hold a referendum of District voters, to add moral force to the widely perceived need for such taxing power and to rectify the anomalous inability of the District of Columbia to come into step with the rest of the country. Specifically, the referendum would address amending the city charter, to remove the restriction placed there by the Congress on taxing all income earners in the District, regardless of place of domicile ó namely, in Maryland and Virginia.

Itís a basically sound, wise, and old idea, and one that, even if a referendum resulted in a 100% approval of changing the restriction of such taxation, would still face the need for Congressional approval. Past practice has been for Maryland and Virginia congressmen, heeding DC-tax-avoiding constituents, to torpedo District efforts to obtain this basic taxing authority.

It is a fact of District political life that as little as a rider on any Congressional bill passed can override any District law, regulation, or referendum result. Mr. Fenty and a reported eight other councilmembers apparently believe the moral force of hundreds of thousands of District voters will sway the Congress.

Letís not hold our breaths on the efficacy of this latest stratagem in the ongoing struggle to achieve home-rule taxing power. The effort is obviously good, positively conceived, and likely doomed. Still, as delegate A.L. Wheeler famously says in a sticky situation, "Youíve got to keep pecking at it."

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November 22, 2005
December 20, 2005 (Christmas luncheon)
January 24, 2006
February 28, 2006
March 28, 2006
April 25, 2006
May 17, 2006 (Annual Awards Banquet)
June 27, 2006