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Federation of Citizens Associations of the District of Columbia

Federation News

Volume 12, Issue 7, November 2006
3710 S Street, NW, Washington, DC 20007
(202) 338-5164 phone/fax

President's Message, George Clark
Utility Consumers Bills of Rights (UCBOR)
Where's the Light?, Anne Renshaw
Officers and Board
D.C. Contracting Procedures, Carroll Green
A Reasonable Approach
Vote No on Bill 16-734, The Library Transformation Act of 2006
Neighborhoods for Sale, Sally MacDonald
Federation Assembly Meeting Dates


Tuesday, November 28
6:30 p.m.

Dorothy Brizill

Other Business

1201 Seventeenth Street, NW
(At M Street)


With the elections over, the Adrian Fenty mayoral transition is in full and rapid swing. So that you know, the Federation and many of its members are playing a role in that transition, with the hope that we may influence the agenda of the upcoming administration. If you have thoughts on items that should be at the top of the agenda, please let us know, as you are undoubtedly doing on your own with the transition team.

Our emphases are on the following items: 1) giving citizens an effective voice in boards and commissions appointments; 2) delaying passage of the District Elements portion of the Comprehensive Plan until it is fully written and vetted; 3) establishing a District of Columbia Planning Commission; 4) providing for municipal parking garages; 5) protecting our neighborhoods from being seen merely as development opportunities, and providing for neighborhood serving retail and workforce housing; 6) cautionary use of any transit-oriented development overlay; 7) establishing Emergency Medical Services as an independent "third service" from the fire department with an effective Medical Director; 8) preventing a wholesale sell-off of public property that is now under-used, such as closed school properties; 9) providing effective policing with a neighborhood presence; and 10) preventing the uninhibited proliferation dominance of universities in our neighborhoods.

Of course, we continue to have other priorities such as passage of an effective Open Meetings Bill, such as B16-747 in the current session, either in this Council or the new one. Please let Chairman-elect Vince Gray know that you support having Council and agency meetings open to the public. Likewise we endorse the re-nomination of Betty Noël as People’s Counsel. After a new Comprehensive Plan is enacted, the DC Zoning Regulations will undergo their first complete rewrite since 1958. We will play a role in that, especially with respect to trying to place restrictions on Planned Unit Developments. And we endorse B16-912, placing restrictions on the use of eminent domain for private benefit.

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Utility Consumers Bill of Rights (UCBOR)

For the last 19 months, the Office of the People’s Counsel (OPC) has actively participated in a working group comprised of District government agencies and utility company representatives charged with proposing amendments to the Utility Consumers Bill of Rights (UCBOR). As you know, the UCBOR, first adopted in 1979, established the rules of conduct and relationship between the District’s utility consumers and utility services providers. These are the first revisions to the UCBOR in 27 years. They will, in fact, be the most important revisions since the District’s utility markets dramatic change in recent years.

The Public Service Commission (PSC), at OPC’s request, has scheduled three public hearings. The hearings are scheduled as follows: Tuesday, November 28, 10:00 a.m., Public Service Commission, 1333 H St., NW, 7th Floor Hearing Room; Wednesday, November 29, 6:30 p.m., People’s Congregational Church, 4704 13th Street, NW; Saturday, December 2, 10:00 a.m., Washington Highlands Branch Library, 115 Atlantic Street, SW.

It is imperative that your voice is heard in this critical proceeding. Your participation in the hearings will send a clear message that consumers take seriously matters involving the services provided by energy suppliers and telecommunications services providers. If you need technical assistance, please contact OPC’s Consumer Services Division staff at (202) 727-3071. Remember, your participation is vital if we are to ensure consumers’ rights are protected while assuring the utility companies provide safe, reliable, and high quality services.

Sincerely, Herbert H. Jones, III, Manager, Consumer Services Division

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Anne M. Renshaw, Chevy Chase

Some events are distressing but teach a lesson. This is one of them. Over ten years ago, an on-duty DC firefighter stationed at Engine 25 on Martin Luther King Avenue, SE, was struck by a car and permanently disabled. He had been standing in traffic directing his apparatus into the firehouse when he was hit by a speeding motorist.

The District has 33 firehouses, the majority located on busy thoroughfares. If E25 had been outfitted with a station-controlled traffic signal, the tragic accident might not have occurred. To date, only one firehouse, E19 at Pennsylvania Avenue and 28th Street, SE, has a station-controlled traffic signal. According to a District Department of Transportation (DDOT) official, "fire station signals do not meet federal funding criteria" and thus require local monies for installation and operation of traffic signals. E19’s traffic light was "part of a major upgrade to an existing traffic signal and federally funded."

Surely, by 2006, the other 32 firehouses now have station-controlled traffic signals with remote controls carried on fire and ambulance units that would allow apparatus a fast exit to emergency calls and safe return to the firehouse. But no. Since the E25 incident, no firehouse, save E19, has been modernized with a station-activated traffic light to protect the lives of firefighters and EMS providers. Instead, other fire companies report objects thrown at them by passing motorists. One speeding vehicle even plowed into a fire truck in front of Engine 20 on upper Wisconsin Avenue, NW. Recently, a car shot around Truck 8 stationed at the E33 firehouse, 1st and Atlantic, SE, causing the firefighters to run to the other side of the truck to get out of the way. It is dangerous out there.

Four years ago, at the start of the Tenley Firehouse (E20) restoration on upper Wisconsin Avenue, NW, a quartet of citizen activists (myself, Amy McVey, Cathy Wiss and Marvin Tievsky) implored the Fire & EMS Department (FEMS) and DDOT to install, concurrently, a station-activated traffic signal in front of the firehouse which is in close proximity to the Department of Homeland Security. After one of the longest renovation jobs in the District’s history (more than four years), the Tenley Firehouse recently reopened. While residents applauded the return of Engine 20, Truck 12 and Ambulance 20, something was missing. Where’s the light?

DDOT’s chief engineer, Doug Noble, explained: "The fire station traffic signals program was previously submitted for the State Homeland Security Grant and denied. The program was also submitted to Federal Highway Administration for traffic safety funding three years ago and did not meet the explicit program criteria. DDOT will continue to investigate alternative methods of funding the program."

E20’s station-activated traffic signal will finally be installed around the second week of January 2007. According to Battalion Fire Chief John M. Lee, Property Management Officer, "we are in the process of identifying the necessary funding to include these upgrades at the current renovation projects underway. E25 is one of those stations. Whether E25’s location will be deemed worthy of a station-activated traffic signal is uncertain. The DC Citizens Federation will closely monitor the fire station traffic signal program for E25 and DC’s other firehouses. The public safety of our firefighters and EMS providers is critically important to all of us. Lesson learned.

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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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DC Contracting Procedures
Carroll Green, Manor Park

The bribery and corruption trial — featuring key witness Michael Lorusso, a former official of the DC Office of Property Management — of noted developer Douglas Jemal was, according to many, but a brief glimpse into the somewhat hazy world of the DC contracting process.

An incoming Fenty administration says it would delve into DC government contracting and procurement procedures, and well it should. There are long-standing complaints about the lack of transparency in the municipal contracting process. The District residents’ and organizations’ inability to obtain contract numbers or copies of these very public documents is a commonplace problem.

There have been some questions about the awarding of "management contracts" for routine maintenance and services by various agencies to firms that let sub contracts to other firms to perform the required work. Some observers suggest that this practice is tantamount to 1) outsourcing the contracting responsibility, an inherently governmental function, and 2) waste and abuse of scarce taxpayer resources.

Under the guise of these "management contracts" the costs of service to the government are much higher with the added cost of management fees that add nothing to the final product. The issues of quality and value to the public are conspicuous by their absence in DC contracting. Interestingly, we have not heard from the DC auditor or the inspector general about these questionable practices.

We wish the new administration well in its efforts to bring about reform to a flawed municipal procurement system.

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A Reasonable Approach

Faced with a tsunami of development requests from George Washington University (no less than 3.2 million square feet in three huge Planned Unit Development applications), which is at its density and limits in Foggy Bottom, the Foggy Bottom Association and Advisory Neighborhood Commission 2A have filed a request with the Zoning Commission in the GWU Campus Plan case.

The testimony presented to date has established that many of the "town-gown" problems identified by the Board of Zoning Adjustment in its 2000 Campus Plan decision remain unresolved. For that reason, among others, the FBA and the ANC have urged the Zoning Commission not to approve a new campus plan prior to the expiration of the current Plan. In the interim, there are several ways to make use of the years remaining on the current Campus Plan in a constructive manner.

The FBA and the ANC submit that this time could be profitably used to build something notably lacking here: a legitimate, best-practices-based plan for the future that respects and involves the community as an equal partner. The problem of town-gown relations is neither new nor unique to the Foggy Bottom neighborhood. Solutions have been elusive, so much so that there is a federal program that makes grants to fund attempts between universities and their neighbors to forge "structural changes, both within an institution and in the way the institution relates to the neighborhood."

This is the description of a program operated by the Department of Housing and Urban Development’s Office of University Partnerships ("OUP"), which in turn operates a Community Outreach Partnership Centers ("COPC") grants program. The COPC program has awarded grants to help universities conduct outreach and applied research activities. While GWU is not listed as a previous grantee, we understand that Georgetown and Howard Universities have received grants under this program. One activity that is eligible for HUD funding is "[p]lanning activities that help local residents develop a vision for their community and a plan for implementing that vision." Such a planning exercise would be a good use of the time remaining on the current Campus Plan and could be a tool to demonstrate GWU’s commitment to its neighbors.

If GWU were to seek and obtain a federal grant under this program, the funds could be used over the next two and one-half years to develop a post-2009 plan through a legitimate collaborative process that would incorporate the community’s vision into the process. An effort that seeks to establish a multi-year vision for GWU and for the host Foggy Bottom/West End neighborhoods would be in everyone’s interest. This effort could address issues such as the sustainable maximum University development and student enrollment limits within applicable boundaries and the provision of tangible protections to the existing co-located residential areas from any further adverse university impacts.

A collaborative venture using current "best practices" would help address the unanswered question that has been lurking unanswered throughout the current proceedings. The community and the Commission know what GWU wants to look like in 2025. But what do we want Foggy Bottom and the West End to look like in 20 years?

A collaborative process that focused on the needs not just of GWU, but of the community as well is what has been missing to date. There is reason for optimism that such an approach, if supported by a HUD grant, would yield a better result. There is a wealth of recent planning literature regarding creative ways to resolve town-gown issues, and those efforts could be brought to bear on the present situation. The American Planning Association has a Planning Advisory Service ("PAS") that offers practical advice in this area, as evidenced by its May/June 2006 PAS MEMO on the topic. Similarly the American Institute of Certified Planners ("AICP") reviews examples of collaborative efforts. Examples are also available in publications such as the Chronicle of Higher Education.

If there is one theme that is emphasized in the literature, it is that success depends on two-way communication, building mutual trust, and establishing a legitimate partnership in which the community has a real stake in the process. This is not the approach that has been utilized here by GWU. A HUD-supported grant would allow GWU and the community to undertake a truly collaborative process for planning the future both for GWU and for its neighbors.

For this additional reason, the Foggy Bottom Association and ANC 2A believe that GWU’s (PUD) applications should be denied and that the Commission should encourage GWU to undertake this approach to developing a post-2009 campus plan for the University’s Foggy Bottom campus area.

— Joint proffer (edited) of the Foggy Bottom Association and Advisory Neighborhood Commission 2A regarding Foggy Bottom Collaborative Initiative in DC Zoning Commission Case Nos. 06-11 & 06-12: GWU Foggy Bottom Campus Plan

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Vote No on Bill 16-734, The "Library Transformation Act of 2006"

As this edition of the Federation News heads to the printer, the Committee on Education, Libraries and Recreation is considering whether to move the controversial Bill 16-734, the "Library Transformation Act of 2006," forward. Board member Anne Loikow has been following this issue for the Federation, and sent this E-mail to the Committee:

Dear Members of the Committee on Education, Libraries and Recreation:

I strongly urge you to oppose Bill 16-734, the "Library Transformation Act of 2006," and not report it out of committee. I urge you to read the testimony I gave at the Committee’s hearing on June 15, 2006 for the Federation of Citizens Associations of the District of Columbia.

There needs to be significantly more examination of the alternatives for renovating the existing central library, the Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial Library, despite the efforts of the Mayor and the CFO not to fully cost the renovation proposals presented to the Committee as the Chair has requested.

The Council should not rush into disposing of a significant landmark building. You should have learned with the renovation of the Wilson Building that deferred maintenance is not a justification for disposing of our patrimony. Rather, the Committee should direct the Library system to focus their efforts on speedily reopening the four closed branch libraries and improving the maintenance of all parts of our library system. Allowing our public buildings to decay should not be acceptable practice by any agency.

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Neighborhoods for Sale
Sally MacDonald

A couple of years ago, at a Woodley Park citizens’ association meeting, I talked about the fact that many/most of the houses on my block were being sold to young couples who were moving in to fix up the already-modernized houses, to stay for their two-year residency for a resale tax break, and then to move on. They were not at all interested in the neighborhood, any neighborhood associations, contacts or issues. At the meeting, one woman did not like to hear what I was describing.

Well, it has happened — at the two-year mark, in our short one block, right now, there are three houses for sale — all as I had described. It is interesting that in spite of this negative real estate market, the houses were put on the market, at the scheduled two-year time — one just sold for cash after two open-house showings; The other two are still listed. There are other such couples on our block — with their potential sales — and any number of such recent sales on other blocks of Woodley Park.

Each house had had long-term owners: one had been a rental before its first two-year sale, four years ago; and the others had been occupied by families, with children growing up in the neighborhood and parents taking part in the community. The new, two-year owners, during their residency, have hardly ever spoken to anyone! The only hope is that more permanent residents will move in.

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November 28, 2006
Holiday Luncheon, December 19, 2006 (tentative)
January 23, 2007
February 27, 2007
March 27, 2007
April 24, 2007
Awards Banquet, May 17, 2007
June 26, 2007

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