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Volume 12, Issue 3, December 2005
3710 S Street, NW, Washington, DC 20007
(202) 338-5164 phone/fax
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Play Ball: Capital Gateway Overlay District Regs Fine-Tuned
Christmas Quarterly Luncheon, December 20
City Council Behavior
District Intolerance: Better Watch Out, People Are Pouting
Leafleting Not Necessarily Free-Speech Right
Police Inspector Patrick Burke Confirmed to Review Board
Selected for Memorial to Victims of Communism
Officers and Board
President's Column, George Clark
Real Estate Bubble Set to Pop?
Councilman Catania Moves to Limit Spending on Stadium
Upcoming Forum on DC Planning Commission
Federation Assembly Meeting Dates
The October 21 DC Register notes that the DC Taxicab Commission has given notice of proposed rulemaking to set standards for the use of credit cards in taxicabs. The new rulemaking text for 31 DCMR Chapter 8 is:
"801.5. All charges for taxicab service provided within the District of Columbia shall be in accordance with the schedule of rates established by the Commission. No person shall knowingly or intentionally charge an amount in excess of the rate established by the Commission. Taxicab operators may accept credit cards in payment of fares. If such method of payment is accepted:
Interestingly, inquiry of several taxi drivers elicited that they do not intend (as of early December) to accept credit cards. On the face of it, this new regulation is a step forward — especially for the passenger who finds himself embarrassingly short of cash.
The Taxicab Commission will conduct a public hearing on its proposed rulemaking on December 14 at 10:00 a.m., at 2041 Martin Luther King, Jr., Ave., SE, Suite 204, to provide an opportunity for interested persons to present views.
PLAY BALL: CAPITAL GATEWAY OVERLAY DISTRICT REGS FINE-TUNED
Playing ball in the District is getting easier, according to the National Capital Planning Commission. The Commission commented favorably on a proposed text amendment to District zoning regulations to modify the Capital Gateway Overlay District to define "ballpark" and also to define ballpark use. This action establishes a DC Zoning Commission review and approval process along with design guidelines for a ballpark and associated uses. As part of its comments to the Zoning Commission, NCPC made recommendations pertaining to building height, lighting, and signage. NCPC also recommended that ballpark parking be limited to Major League Baseball’s minimum requirement of 1,225 spaces for a 41,000-seat stadium. All parking would be built below ground. Finally, the Commission recommended that a higher percentage of the facade facing South Capitol Street be devoted to retail use to help create a lively urban boulevard.
This year’s annual Christmas luncheon will be held, as usual, as 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 12:00 noon until 12:30, will be in the Library, straight ahead 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. Reminders: commercial parking is around the corner on 18th Street; the ladies’ coat area is in the ladies parlor by the front door, and the men’s coat area s is to the left of the downstairs assembly room. The cost this year will be $25.
These luncheons are a excellent opportunity for meeting old friends and fellow delegates, and introducing new associations and association delegates to the Federation. Originally staid affairs with splendid food and excellent conversation, the luncheons have become occasions for discussion of what’s 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 time, as well — it can all happen. See you at the quarterly luncheon.
The following from ace reporter Tom Sherwood: "NO THANKS … To all 13 council members and the too-may council and committee sessions that do not start on time at the John A. Wilson Building. Ten o’clock should mean 10 o’clock. Whatever time is announced to the public is the time a meeting should start, or someone should be there to apologize. Better yet, just show up on time. Or have a good reason for not being there, other than backroom bargaining and prepping." (Tom Sherwood’s Notebook Georgetown Current, November 23, 2005)
Civic activists, and especially Federation delegates who often testify at council hearings, can applaud Mr. Sherwood’s speaking up. Also worth noting is the annoyance caused by council committee chairs who talk lengthily on the telephone during hearings and/or have overly-long jolly conversations with staff aides during the testimony of witnesses. This is rude and counterproductive, and exhibits a lack of interest in the reports and commentary of civic-minded citizens who take the considerable trouble to participate in council hearings and committee meetings.
In Washington, driving after a single glass of wine can lead to arrest for driving under the influence. The Washington Times reports that a little-known DC "zero-tolerance" law empowers police to accost and test drivers at will on suspicion of being under the influence. A blood-alcohol level as low at .03 percent, about that of a single drink, can lead to arrest and jail for DUI. Surely this is excessive.
Meanwhile, the city council just passed an across-the-board prohibition on smoking in bars, restaurants, and sundry places of entertainment. Bar owners’ outcry that prohibition of smoking in the District will drive customers across the District line seems not to be given much credence.
Also, recently a mouthy young policeman lay lurking in wait on foot by the Riggs National Bank at Wisconsin and M Streets, NW, pouncing on drivers without seat belts buckled and dispensing $50 tickets.
All this prohibition, scrutiny, and operative worst-case definition makes driving in the inner city even less attractive than usual, in addition to a parking shortage, ubiquitous meter maids, traffic snarls, and detours. It is no wonder that many District Christmas shoppers, restaurant patrons, and museum goers simply say hang it, and hie to the suburbs like Alexandria and Bethesda, with their more easygoing laws and enforcement practices.
What do political candidates and civic activists have in common? Why, both freely communicate by means of hopefully interesting and persuasive leaflets, generally considered free speech.
But not in all circumstances. The Washington Times reported in October that a political candidate in Albemarle County, VA, lost his free-speech argument in a trespassing case. The candidate was handing out political literature at a Charlottesville-area shopping center when the manager asked him to leave. The politico refused, and was arrested. He argued that private shopping centers have become public centers like town squares, where political speech is protected under state law.
As events developed, the candidate lost his election bid, but received support from the American Civil Liberties Union and the Rutherford Institute in his claim of free speech protection. The judge voiced sympathy for the candidate’s defense, but fined him $50 anyway for trespassing.
Inspector Patrick Burke was confirmed by the city council in late November as the Metropolitan Police Department’s representative member of the Police Complaints Board. Inspector Burke is fondly remembered in the Georgetown area as the police lieutenant who cleaned up Burleith, which had been beset by student noise and nighttime commotion. Lt. Burke heeded permanent residents’ complaints, took his resolve, and organized his Third Precinct police force to spell out the rules for group house behavior, start issuing stiff citations for unruly behavior, and report assuringly on progress to the local citizens association. As a result the hundreds of off-campus students in the area are now largely quiet in their home activities and are exhibiting a behavioral and attitudinal maturity that was, pre-Burke, missing.
Lt. Burke also encouraged Georgetown University, which attracts the off-campus students, to take a livelier interest in off-campus behavior, which resulted in improved orientation definitions and better relations with the homeowner community. The only downside to the new Burke advancement in the police apparatus, in the words of one resident: "We wish we could have our young Lt. Burke back again." Federation Board member Guy Gwynne (Burleith) noted, "We have a good candidate here for this year’s Federation Banquet honors list."
Federation delegate alert: do you have a story and/or example of outstanding police or other official performance, good or bad, in your community? If so, please send it to the Federation News, 3710 S Street, NW, Washington, DC 20007.
A memorial honoring more than 100 million victims of communism will be located in an emerging office area in northwest Washington. The National Capital Planning Commission has approved a triangular-shaped site bounded by New Jersey Avenue, Massachusetts Avenue, and G Street, NW. The proposed site has a prominent view of the US Capitol.
NPCP’s Memorials and Museums Master Plan characterizes the site as an appropriate location for a small-scale memorial. Just two blocks from Union Station, the parcel lies in the immediate vicinity of Georgetown University Law Center and the Government Printing Office. The Commission concluded that locating a memorial on this site would help to preserve a L’Enfant-designed green space while enhancing the overall ambiance of the office district.
Washingtonians may be forgiven for not cheering at the prospect of a new monument in the city center, the excellent object of the memorial notwithstanding. The District already has a plethora of monuments, ranging from laudable new ones such as the FDR and World War II monuments to statues of any Union general who did not fall off his horse.
More news on the Comprehensive Plan rewrite. Once the Task Force finishes the draft in March or April, it will be publicly available. There will then be a series of so-called Mayor’s Hearings for community input. Afterwards the Plan will return to the Office of Planning for revision before going to the Council in June, after the budget process is completed. Whether the Plan returns to the Task Force or the OP for final revisions is undecided.
This top and many others relating to development came up at the November 28 Mayoral Candidates’ Forum on Neighborhood and Development. Before a packed house of over 300, all five Democratic candidates were present, and they answered questions ranging from the establishment of a Planning Commission to recent reports of contracting corruption. Two of our member associations were among the sponsors, and I had the honor of acting as moderator on behalf of the Federation. If your association would like to help sponsor another Mayoral debate/forum in 2006, please let us know and we’ll see if we can work together.
On January 12, 2006, the Committee of 100 on the Federal City will hold a free public forum entitled, "Ballparks, Eminent Domain, and the Need for a DC Planning Commission" at 6:30 p.m. At the National Building Museum (register in advance at http://www.nbm.org or 202-272-2448. Gary Heck, Dean of the Graduate School of Fine Arts, University of Pennsylvania, and Past Chair of the Philadelphia Planning Commission, will moderate. Panelists include Linda Cropp; Christopher Ronanye, Chief of Staff to the Mayor of Cleveland and the former planning director for that city; Patrick E. Gallagher, AICP, Executive Director of the National Capital Planning Commission, and Office of Planning Director Ellen McCarthy. This is an important issue critical to the city’s future, and I urge you to attend.
Please join us at the December 20 holiday luncheon. We plan to welcome several special guests, including Gerri Adams-Simmons, president of the DC Federation of Civic Associations. Happy holidays!
The Georgetowner newspaper reports: "Question: I keep hearing that it’s a seller’s market and that the real estate ‘bubble’ is going to burst. Can you tell me, if this is true, when the bubble is going to burst?
"Answer: the bubble is scheduled to burst next Tuesday, at 11 AM EST."
At the city council’s legislative session on December 6, Councilmember Catania put in an emergency bill to restore the spending cap on the stadium, because the city’s Chief Financial Officer claims that the technical amendments the Council recently rushed through removed the cap! (The bill failed because it got only eight favorable votes, and needed nine votes to be considered as an emergency.) This was another sleazy "bait and switch." Citizens were initially assured that the stadium cost would stay in bounds, in order to assuage public opposition to the cost. Councilmember Catania complained, as well, that infrastructure costs such as road and transit improvements, parking lots, Metro station upgrades, and utility moves, which were originally understood to be part of the stadium’s cost, are now listed above and beyond it.
One wonders whether the city council really didn’t know what it was voting for in the technical amendments, or whether councilmembers are just stringing us along. Meanwhile, our Federation, sitting silently about the stadium when it had the chance to oppose it unequivocally, must itself share culpability in this unfolding fiasco. Is it too much to suggest that the Federation at least belatedly issue its own mea culpa and applaud Coucilmember Catania’s courageous advocacy?
On January 12, 2006, the Committee of 100 on the Federal City will hold a public (and free admission) public forum entitled, "Ballparks, Eminent Domain, and the Need for a DC Planning Commission," at 6:30 p.m. at the National Building Museum. Register in advance at http://www.nbm.org or by calling 202-272-2448. Gary Heck, Dean of the Graduate School of Fine Arts, University of Pennsylvania, and past chair of the Philadelphia Planning Commission, will moderate. Panelists include Chairman Linda Cropp; Christopher Ronayne, chief of staff to the mayor ot Cleveland and the former planning director for that city; Patricia E. Gallagher, AICP, executive director of the National Capital Planning Commission; and Office of Planning director Ellen McCarthy.
Washington, DC, is unique among large US cities in not having a city planning commission. No single city agency relates public capital expenditures to planning visions and economic development objectives. As a result, and all too often, uncoordinated ad hoc development persists, resulting in patchwork financial solutions. A DC Planning Commission would be the principal advocate for the new Comprehensive Plan, and make sure that it is implemented and maintains its integrity. The Home Rule Act provides for a planning commission reporting to the mayor and responsible to DC citizens. It would give transparency to the planning process, which oftentimes now takes place behind closed doors, a problem that may worsen with the large, new tracts that are becoming available to DC.
December 20, 2005 (Christmas luncheon)
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