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Federation of Citizens Associations of the District of Columbia

Federation News

Volume 13, Issue 3, March 2007
3710 S Street, NW, Washington, DC 20007
(202) 338-5164 phone/fax

President's Message, George Clark
Officers and Board
Our Guy, Anne Renshaw
Four Feet to the Beat, Anne Renshaw
On the Campaign Trail
Numbers, At Last!
Fix the Assessment System
Federation Assembly Meeting Dates


Tuesday, March 27, 2007
6:30 p.m.

Harriet Tregoning, Director, Office of Planning
Daniel Solomon, DC Vote

1201 Seventeenth Street, NW
(At M Street)


Mayor Fenty has said that "working with, and listening to, the community," is a hallmark of his administration. So when we congratulated the Mayor on his novel settlement with the Rosenbaum family and the appointment of a long overdue Task Force to deliver a firm recommendation in 6 months on emergency medical services in DC, we thought that asking for citizen involvement would be a mere formality. After all, the Federation has been a leader in calling for EMS reform.

So we were stunned when the Mayor's response was that he would not and could not add citizen participants because that would "open up the entire settlement." The Mayor was stunned, in turn, when we pointed out that the settlement calls for mutual agreement on members and would not have to be renegotiated. He had no answer for why he hadn't insisted on citizen involvement in the first place, and he could not commit that there would be any public hearings. We are troubled that this entire matter may take place behind Williamslike closed doors.

As the Mayor noted in his campaign, citizens have substantial expertise and knowledge to serve on the Task Force. Citizen representation on the inside of the process will give fellow residents confidence that their interests are being presented and championed, and instill confidence in the result.

The Federation has not just testified and held meetings. We have been at every meeting-and pushed hard for its formation-of the EMS Commission created by Councilmember Mendelson. We have been frustrated (as have many Commission members) by its slow progress caused by the lack of information from DCFEMS (a glacier moves faster). And that argues for no DCFEMS personnel to be on the Task Force-they should be witnesses and close liaisons providing information.

Unfortunately, Mayor Fenty has decided that the Fire Department members will populate the Task Force and thus be witnesses, judge, and jury regarding their own conduct. In the meantime citizens are locked out. The Mayor pledged an independent EMS service during his campaign. The Federation has supported that. Tell the Mayor that you think he should live up to his promises of community involvement and an independent EMS.

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Patrick Allen, Esq.
Association of Oldest Inhabitants

Allen E. Beach, Treasurer
Chevy Chase Citizens Association

Gale Black
Crestwood 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

Louis Wassel
16th Street Neighborhood Association

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

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Anne M. Renshaw

Mr. Federation, Guy Gwynne, was fondly remembered by a citywide gathering of government leaders, close friends and colleagues at a memorial luncheon on March 20th at the historic DACOR House, scene of many pleasant Federation events that Guy had arranged and hosted over the years.

Sadly, Guy died this year on Valentine's Day, February 14, as did longtime Federation member, Barbara Simons, whose many contributions to the Federation were also noted.

Mayor Adrian Fenty and Federation President, George R. Clark, welcomed dozens of guests at a pre-luncheon reception.

Councilmember Jack Evans spoke about the solemn occasion to honor his friend, Guy Gwynne. Councilmember Evans reminisced about his long association with Guy stretching back to 1991, when he was elected to City Council to represent Ward 2, including Burleith, Guy's neighborhood. "Guy had a terrific life in city government," said Councilmember Evans.

As a past Federation President, "Guy was real, in the trenches, more involved, looking for ways to improve and impress, said Councilmember Phil Mendelson. "Guy was so aggressive and enthusiastic. The body politic lost a real hero and worker," he continued. "There are great shoes he left to fill."

George Clark reminded the assembly that Guy always wanted updates on issues of importance to the organization. "Guy always said to keep things moving."

That was a cue for Councilmember Mendelson to bring the group up to speed on a controversial Zoning nomination that ignited a flurry of opposition throughout the city, including that of the Citizens Federation. He stressed the importance for citizens to continue to lobby Council to vote against the current Zoning Commission nominee.

Then the guests' remarks returned to Guy. A sampling of the tributes follows:

Al Wheeler of the Oldest inhabitants spoke about his appreciation of Guy's leadership to help the community. "Where the facts lead, you will find me," said Al of Guy.

Pat Scolaro of Burleith highlighted Guy's contributions to the Burleith Citizens Association and presented the Federation with a contribution from her organization to be used for a project close to Guy.

Ilsa Stauffer, a personal friend of Guy's, felt that "Guy was still present."

Kay Eckles remarked that Guy put the Federation back together and mentioned Guy's "charm, brilliance, love of a good meal and Southern ways."

Sally MacDonald spoke about the "Joy of Guy Day."

Dino Drudi said that "if it were not for Guy, we'd not have a Federation. I have to personally thank him for that."

Rita Champagne spoke about Guy's generosity. "He's still with us," she concluded.

Carroll Green mentioned that Guy was a "great recruiter who brought a number of us to the Federation."

To Ann Loikow, it was a pleasure and joy to know Guy. "He inspired us all."

Andre Davis, the President of Georgetown Kiwanis Club thanked the Federation for the opportunity to celebrate Guy's life.

Buck Clarke mentioned Guy's extraordinary pride in the Federation membership. "Guy made us feel welcome. I say goodbye to him here.

George Clark reluctantly brought the event to a close. "We celebrated Guy's life today and we'll continue the work he pushed us into."

In closing, George announced that the Federation will rename its annual community service honor as The Guy Gwynne Award for Outstanding Long-Term Community Service."

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FOUR FEET TO THE BEAT, Part 2: On Location with MPD's Canines
Anne M. Renshaw

"SEARCH!" With that command, Officer King, a medal-winning veteran of 300 searches and lead recovery dog at the Pentagon disaster site, raced down the embankment by the railroad tracks on the hunt for human remains. Officer James Lugaila followed, heavy walking club in hand and King's special toy (the reward for a successful discovery) poking out of his pant leg pocket.

Another day, another grisly case for Officer King and MPD's Canine Corps.

A human head, complete with baseball cap, patch of skin, two teeth but no jaw was discovered in a northeast 7-11 dumpster near Catholic University. What happened and when? Where was the rest of the body?

That morning, three powerful patrol/cadaver dogsKing, Sabo and Quando-assembled at the Hawaii Avenue 7-11 parking lot, along with their handlers, MPD's Mobile Crime Unit, homicide detectives, the ubiquitous media and assorted on-lookers.

Officer Sabo, a 7-year-old German Shepherd, watched the feet of his partner, Officer Terrance Liddel who moved around the heavily equipped K-9 van preparing his gear. Officer Steve Giannini pulled up nearby with Officer Quando, a 4-year-old German Shepherd who barked displeasure at having to wait for Officers Lugaila and King.

After reviewing a map, the three canine teams split up and moved out. There was little to go on; without additional evidence, everything was very speculative. Officers Lugaila and King headed to the wooded area near the railroad tracks off Hawaii between Varnum and First, NE. After squirting powder into the air to test for wind direction, Officer King put his nose to the ground and rushed into the underbrush, attempting to pick up the scent of human remains.
Fifteen minutes later, a cell call alerted Officer Lugaila that Officers Quando and Giannini were first to locate the headless skeletal remains. With the canine assignment at an end, Officer King jumped back into the K-9 van without his special toy. The reward of immediate play time only follows a positive find.

Officer Lugaila stressed the fast work accomplished that morning by the canine units. K-9s are efficient and cost-effective trackers, he commented, saving police manpower and time. Interestingly, cadaver dogs were not used in the 2001 Chandra Levy case; instead police cadets scoured Rock Creek Park for her remains as the use of cadaver dogs was relatively new to MPD at that time.

Since then, the capabilities of dogs for police work have improved through multifaceted and patient training. MPD's principal trainer, Sergeant Duane Buethe, stressed the support given the Canine Corps by Chief Cathy Lanier, Assistant Chief Alton Bigalow and Special Operations Commander Robert Contee. With an annual operating budget of $110,000 covering food, training equipment, maintenance of kennel facilities and medical supplies, MPD's Canine Corps is available 24/7 to assist law enforcement with patrol, cadaver, drugs and explosives support.

I realize that I promised a sequel to January's column covering how MPD's dogs are trained for a career in law enforcement. Actually, I was on my way to the Canine Training Academy that morning when called to the on-location hunt for a headless cadaver. I will not let you down. I'm as curious as the next (dog) person as to how these special canines get to be so smart.

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The DC Fire and EMS Department has started to require that battalion chiefs attend community meetings for the purpose of campaigning for FEMS support. Actually, this is good news. For too long, DCFEMS has kept itself hidden behind the firehouse doors, with minimal neighborhood interaction, except for annual fire safety events or the staging of fire apparatus at neighborhood picnics. Now FEMS attends ANC and community meetings; it is long overdue.

To prepare for a FEMS appearance at your community session, here are a few tips:

  1. Do you know where your local firehouse is located? If you can, drop in for a firehouse tour and/or discussion with the firefighters, emergency medical technicians and paramedics, especially about ambulance response times and the care they are able to provide within your neighborhood. And assess how willing they are to provide said service.

  2. Understand that nowadays, emergency medical service is over 75% of the department's workload. There is a continuing debate about keeping EMS within the fire service although Mayor Adrian Fenty made a campaign pledge to split EMS from the Fire Department in order to create "two really well run agencies and neither agency would have to suffer," as he told The Washington Times on August 22, 2006. The Citizens Federation endorses the separation of EMS from the Fire Service. The District needs a better-managed, expanded and independent emergency medical services delivery system.

  3. After the January 2006 death of New York Times editor, David E. Rosenbaum, due, in large part, to DCFEMS bungling, his family sued the District for $20 million. The city has since brokered a unique arrangement with the Rosenbaum Family to set aside the law suit in favor of a special Task Force that will help design DC's EMS future. The only hitch is that the public is (not yet) represented on the panel. The Federation is protesting that decision and appealing to the `powers' better judgment.

  4. The fire chief designee, Dennis L. Rubin of Atlanta, worked for five years, back in the `70s, as a DC firefighter before moving on to fire departments in Fairfax, Arizona, Virginia, Maryland, Alabama and Georgia. Mr. Rubin has a fire (not medical) service background. We hear that Mr. Rubin is not a proponent of separating EMS from the fire department and will be very reluctant to do so.

  5. Tell the visiting Battalion Chief whether you want an engine or ambulance at your door in the event of a medical emergency at your home. Many District residents feel it is a waste of manpower and needlessly expensive for BIG fire vehicles to run (screaming/ rushing through our streets) to/from medical locals. If an ambulance (basic life support) or medic unit (advanced life support) is housed at your local firehouse, will it be available to you and in a timely fashion? If not, why not? What is being done to provide and assure this city vital service?

Those questions should jump-start a community discussion of your fire and EMS coverage. Fire fighters nowadays are compelled to be cross-trained as emergency medical technicians. Do you have faith in an emergency medical system that forces fire fighters to be cross trained as medical care providers? What does your community have to say? Let us know.

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In April 2006, the Citizens Federation attempted to acquire, for its member associations, statistical information on the runs from District fire stations to include, but not be limited to, important Emergency Medical Services (EMS) response time data. We were told by Battalion Fire Chief Rafael Sa'ahda, a newly appointed EMS Division Administrator, that the requested data was unavailable. He also testified at the March 30, 2006 City Council hearing that DC Fire and EMS did not have the resources to create statistics.

Imagine our surprise when 10 months later, a Battalion Fire Chief distributed EMS response time performance data at a February '07 neighborhood ANC meeting. Come to find out this statistical information is provided to the Mayor and City Council (and many others) on a regular basis. Why this shameless runaround and deception from BFC Sa'ahda? What else has he been hiding? Only he and his superiors know.

As a result of persistent pressure from the community, these easily available data will now be presented on DC Government web-sites. How reliable and forthright they are and will be remains an uncertainty.

Here is a snapshot of some of the EMS information we will have to review:

EMS Response Time Performance: October 2006 to January 2007

Medical Incidents in January 2007: 10,004
Medical Incidents in January 2006: 9,388
FY 2006 Year-end Tot. Med. Incidents: 117,380
Critical Medical Dispatches in FY'06: 61,540
Non-Critical Med. Dispatches in FY '06: 55,840

Percent of Critical Medical Dispatches Receiving First Transport (ambulance) Unit Arrival within 13 Minutes or Less, Dispatch-to-Scene:

January 2007: 97.5%
November & December 2006: 96.4%

We will provide more data when and if it becomes available. BFC Sa'ahda, take note!

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March 2007

Dear Council Member Evans:

I would like to reiterate my request that the Council, and in particular the Committee on Finance and Revenue, urge and Mayor and Attorney General to discontinue its appeal of the decision in the class action lawsuit brought by Peter Craig challenging the District's assessment system and refuse to approve further funding of outside counsel for such lawsuit and direct that any remaining funds for such appeals be directed to improving the assessment process so that it complies with the Constitution and District law.

The property assessment process is badly broken and has been for years. You only need to talk to members of the Board of Real Property Assessment and Appeals to find out how broken the system is. The bottom line is, instead of wasting hundreds of thousands of dollars (or maybe millions by now) fighting these lawsuits, the District government should just FIX THE ASSESSMENT SYSTEM! Until that happens, the problems just continue and citizens pay not only in increased taxes, but in having to research and file appeals every year, wasting weeks of time every spring. See the two emails from Mr. Craig below describing Judge Hamilton's decision regarding tax year 2002 and regarding the District government's dilly dallying over complying with that order and its appeal.

I would also like to urge the Committee to look into the practices of the Office of Tax and Revenue, Real Property Tax Administration, and why that Office refuses to release the neighborhood adjustment factors requested by Mr. Craig, which appear to be required to be made public pursuant to D.C. Code §2-536. Below are emails on Mr. Craig's original request for information, OTR's response, its turning into a FOIA request, and the letter denying the FOIA request. There has got to be something crazy about some of those factors when my house's assessment for 2008 went up 28% when the last major work (besides fixing roof leaks, routine painting, replacing rotten wood, etc.) was 15 years ago and all appliances are 15-30 years old and when my next door neighbor's house, which they just bought in July 2006, is assessed for 65-70% MORE than they paid for it just last summer.

District property owners all over the city are having problems with the assessment process. Please see that it is finally fixed!

Thank you for your consideration of this problem and assistance in resolving it.

Ann Loikow Cleveland Park

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March 27, 2007
April 24, 2007
Awards Banquet, May 16, 2007
June 26, 2007


The Citizens Federation's 97th Annual Banquet and Awards Ceremony will be held on Wednesday evening, May 16, 6:30-9:00 p.m. at the Fort Lesley J. McNair Officers' Club. Mayor Adrian Fenty is our invited speaker. The cost will be $50 per person or $400 for a table of 8. Reservations (with attendees' names) must be received by May 1.

Order your association's tables now from Carroll Green (723-6063, Checks should be made payable to the DC Federation of Citizens Associations and sent to Carroll Green, 205 Sheridan Street, NW, Washington, DC 20011. This year's Banquet will be full of surprises and neighborhood highlights. Don't be left out! 

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