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Federation of Citizens Associations of the District of Columbia

Federation News

Volume 13, Issue 7, October 2007
910 17th Street, NW, Suite 800, Washington, DC 20006
(202) 331-3200 phone/(202) 331-2100 fax

President's Message, George Clark
Officers and Board
Raise Your Hand, Part 1, Anne M. Renshaw

Water, Water Everywhere
TIFs: Tax Increment Financing or Taxpayer Incremental Fleecing, Louis Wassel
Fix the Water: Update, Michele Quander-Collins
Hey, Partner!
Home Escape Plan
City's Reponse to Juvenile Crime Wave: Hand Out Lollipops, Dino Drudi
Assembly Meeting Dates


Tuesday, October 23, 6:45 pm

"What if the Washington Region Grew Differently?"

Metropolitan Washington Council of Governments

1201 Seventeenth Street, NW
(At M Street)


Please be sure to attend our October 23 Assembly Meeting during which we will have an interactive forum by the Metropolitan Washington Council of Governments concerning alternative land-use and transportation scenarios for the Metropolitan area. There has been very little input for this study by Washington, DC residents, and this is our opportunity to influence region-wide transportation planning-especially because you can be sure that the report will say much about Washington, DC proper.

Our congratulations and thanks to the many of you who worked so hard to convince the Council to rescind the sale of the West End library, Special Operations police station, and Fire Engine Company No. 1 as surplus property. This was another example of groups from across the city coming together to remind the Council that the citizens are watching what is going on. There is much more to do, with hearings before Councilmember Brown on November 1 concerning public-private partnerships and before Councilmember Schwartz on November 7 about the "surplusing" of public property. Please sign up for these hearings and let your views be heard.

The City has begun its work to study the efficacy of a Planning Commission for DC, something the Federation has strongly endorsed. At the same time, OP is studying the entire development process and may recommend significant changes in the way projects are considered and approved. We are pleased to report that the Federation has been asked to participate on the zoning code rewrite task force, a process that will take two to three years.

DDOT has begun holding Preliminary Design Review Meetings on proposed developments. These meetings do not give approvals, but do try to flesh out issues that will arise and suggest changes. We've suggested including ANCs and citizen groups as participants, and you might want to do the same for projects in your neighborhoods.

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Patrick Allen, Esq.
Association of Oldest Inhabitants

Allen E. Beach, Treasurer
Chevy Chase Citizens Association

Gale B. Black, Esq.
Crestwood Citizens Association

Jordinia Brown
Shepherd Park Citizens Association

Sylvia C. Brown
Deanwood Citizens Association

George R. Clark, Esq., President
Forest Hills Citizens Association

Dino J. Drudi
Michigan Park Citizens Association

Kathryn A. Eckles
Residential Action Coalition

Elizabeth B. Elliott
Foggy Bottom Association

Carroll Green. Second Vice President
Manor Park 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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by Anne M. Renshaw

Raise your hand ... if you read the September 27th final report of the 13-member Rosenbaum EMS Task Force (TF). Yes, the media covered the release of the TF Report; by now, it is considered "old news." But how many of you plowed through the document to discover whether or not the supposed improvements to DC's pre-hospital emergency medical care would save your, or a family member's, life?

The Rosenbaum TF, you will recall, came into being six months ago as part of a lawsuit concerning egregious deficiencies within the Fire Department's Emergency Medical Services (EMS) that lead to the death of DC citizen, David Rosenbaum, in January 2006.

Well before that tragic event, the Citizens Federation called for the reorganization of EMS into a separate "third" service or an independent bureau -- with its own budget, personnel authority and management team -- within the DC Fire & EMS Department (DCFEMS) in order to modernize the city's ineffective and inadequate emergency medical response system.

Unfortunately, the Citizens Federation was not appointed to the Rosenbaum TF. Instead, we were allowed but five minutes, during the second TF meeting, to present testimony urging an end to EMS's troubled 30+ year history as a step-child of the fire department. The Federation was alarmed about the panel's general composition, its early focus on an EMS system controlled by fire service stalwarts and the manner in which the TF postponed any serious, in-depth, candid discussion of EMS as a "third service" until its next-to-last September (closed-door) meeting. The majority of TF members were either DC Fire Department executive officials-folks with obvious conflicts of interest -- or city officials who embrace the status quo and/or seem to dread change.

While we had been encouraged by Mayor Adrian Fenty's 2006 election pledge to separate the two vital city services, alas, the Rosenbaum TF Final Report never referenced the Mayor's pledge. Moreover, the TF report never mentioned the Federation's EMS testimony; only that "the (second) meeting included testimony by several members of the public ..." So much for citizen input.

The Mayor, it seems, has done an about-face and endorsed, with praise, the Rosenbaum TF final recommendations. These include six "global," palliative-sounding, seemingly well-intentioned recommendations; in part, a change to an "all-hazards" agency (over 75% of DC FEMS's workload is medical in nature); equalize pay and benefits between the civilian EMS and fire fighter staffs (but not until the completion of yet another study, delaying the long-overdue correction until March 31, 2008); appoint (not select, based on merit) a Medical Director and have him hold the rank of Assistant Chief; hire an Assistant Chief for EMS with 15 years experience in emergency medicine (rumored to be a junior member-of current fire service management team with "national search "farce conducted later); elevate the priority of EMS within the department (also attempted 20 years ago); emphasize "compassionate, professional, clinically competent patient care" through better training (this had to be an outside recommendation); "enhance crew readiness" (two back-to-back 12 hour shifts on the fire apparatus and ambulance make for tired and less-than-effective responders); "reduce misuse of EMS (by) patients with chronic needs" (a handful of DC addresses are well known to tax DC's ambulance response system); and improve the Department of Health's EMS oversight, including license and certification requirements for EMS providers. In other words, fundamental, sound management tenets and not anything much different than the previous studies' reports offered as conclusions five, ten, 20 years ago.

"DCFD" -- as its chief, his staff and almost all of the fire service rank and file prefer to call the department -- is adamant; hanging on to the EMS function is its priority, whether or not its firefighter-members are fully trained for, have a desire to perform the "adjunct" duties and truly embrace and support the EMS mission. One firefighter blogged in August 2007: "Why does DCFD do such a (expletive) job at running EMS calls, misdiagnosing head traumas as drunks...? Maybe its because the FF/EMT riding the ambulance really doesn't want to be there, he/she is doing it (for) money and retirement (fear of losing their job if there were a 3rd service EMS)." The Federation will remain vigilant and monitor the "transition" and reserves judgment on the final report's impact on DC's pre-hospital emergency medical care. We recognize that the EMS debate is not over after all.

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...but where needed. The DC fire hydrant saga is back on the front burner. A recent four-alarm condo fire in Adams Morgan brought to light the ongoing problem with undependable fire hydrants, worn out water mains, low water pressure and questionable maintenance of the water system. Both the DC Fire Department (DCFD) and the Water and Sewer Authority (WASA) monitor public fire hydrants and are caught in the spotlight's glare. City officials have called for the immediate replacement of low capacity water mains, an ultra-costly, long-term WASA project.

Councilmember Phil Mendelson, Chairman of the Committee on Public Safety and the Judiciary, has scheduled a Council session on October 31 with DCFD to discuss, in part, its role in fire hydrant upkeep. DCFD should be asked about its hydrant inspection program that supposedly has been an ongoing DCFD public safety/consumer relations activity. Two years ago, according to a 5th Battalion Chief, "the fire companies in Ward 3 have undertaken a hydrant inspection program in concert with the DC Water and Sewer Authority in an effort to ensure proper mapping and repair ..." And yet the recent Adams Morgan electrical fire saw DCFD wrestling, for six hours, with low pressure, low capacity hydrants and outdated maps. It leads one to ask, "what's going on?"

On October 11th, the Citizens Federation Board voted the following resolution: "That the city prepare, and make available on the Internet, a map of all fire hydrants (and) water lines, (indicating) the capacity of the mains and the last time, and by which agency, they were inspected, so that responders will know what lines are available." The city should expedite this mapping project without delay in the name of public safety.

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TIFs: Tax Increment Financing or Taxpayer Incremental Fleecing? 
by Louis Wassel

A primary rationale behind using Tax Increment tax revenue generated by the hotel will not go into our Financing (TIF) is to offset the high costs of redevelopment in so-called "blighted areas." The original intent behind the TIF "tool" was to level the playing field between economically distressed and more vital areas by providing developers with an incentive to build in ailing urban neighborhoods.

It is a stretch of the imagination by the Fenty administration and our Council to call the area around the Convention Center a blighted area. There are two business improvement districts that are up and coming in this area of the city and that are already taxing themselves to get better streetscape services.

While a TIF would allow the city to issue bonds to pay for part of the costs of the new Marriott Hotel through the hotel tax collections, that will not begin to happen until 2011 when the hotel is completed. The tax revenues generated by the hotel will not go into our public coffers but will be diverted to pay off the bonds.

When the question then becomes "How are the citizens benefiting from this deal?," proponents will tout TIFs as a way to play developers off against each other. What really happens is that for-profit companies are given taxpayer-sponsored handouts simply to operate profit-making enterprises.

There are far too many reasons (e.g. location, third highest tourist destination in the country, strong economic region) to have to persuade developers to build in our city.

Editor's note: The following link will take you a fairly recent Chicago study on the use and impact of TIFs in that city. 

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by Michele Quander-Collins, Director, Public Affairs, D.C. WASA

As a follow-up to Gale Barron Black's September 2007 Federation News article (Vol. 13 No. 7/September 2007), "Fix the Water," WASA would like to take this opportunity to provide an update some of the information concerning sewer work in the Rock Creek area.

In the late 1800s and early 1900s, District sewers were constructed to carry both sanitary wastewater and storm water runoff in the same pipe. During rainstorms, when the flow exceeds the capacity of the combined sewer, the untreated overflow goes into local waterways to prevent flooding and sewer backups. These permitted discharges are called combined sewer overflows (CSOs). As Ms. Black explained, Rock Creek is in the third of the District served by this antiquated combined sewer system.

WASA has undertaken a $2 billion long-term (20year) program to eliminate 96 percent of the CSO's that occur in the Anacostia and Potomac rivers and Rock Creek. Among these, Rock Creek is the least affected-receiving only 1.5 percent of the total throughout the system in an average year-by CSOs. Although WASA will continue its work to reduce the impact of CSO's on Rock Creek in the future, it was also where we undertook some of our earliest work.

Sewer separation in Luzon Valley, for example, was completed some time ago.

Under a schedule agreed to with the federal government and environmental organizations, WASA plans to eliminate four CSO outfalls along Rock Creek. Design is underway and the work will be completed in 2011 at a cost of about $5.45 million. This, however, is only one element of the overall CSO control plan for Rock Creek. Other projects include constructing and connecting huge underground storage tunnels to reduce overflows in areas along Rock Creek, including Piney Branch, by 2025 for an additional $45 million.

WASA's plan to eliminate 96 percent of overflows exceeds the federal requirement that we eliminate only 80 percent. Moreover, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has called WASA's program one of the most thorough and comprehensive approaches to CSO control in the nation. We are committed to working with all stakeholders to ensure that we continue to set the bar for environmental stewardship to improve our community's historic waterways and the quality of life for residents in neighborhoods throughout the District.

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Congratulations to the Palisades Citizens Association and the Hillcrest Community Civic Association on the 10th Anniversary of their "across-city" partnership. The Citizens Federation, we are proud to say, was instrumental in bringing the parties together in 1996. The following year, the presidents of both organizations, Alice Stewart and Myles Steele III, formalized their neighborhood-to-neighborhood partnership.

Environmental matters and the arts became the themes uniting the two communities. The partnership has held community service days, a major "Neighbors through ART" exhibit at the Martin Luther King Library, as well as a musicale and multi-media performances. A creative centerpiece of the Palisades-Hillcrest 10th Anniversary celebration will be a culinary arts feast with an art show relating to food.

Both organizations have demonstrated, with great success, how neighborhoods can find common ground with the help of able volunteers, time and creative ideas. Well done, we say, to our "across-city" partners.

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Home Escape Plan

October is Fire Prevention Month. The Citizens Federation reminds its readers the importance of having a home escape plan and working smoke detectors. A fire is no joke. In fact, it can be a deadly occurrence. Help our fire fighters help you. Practice how to exit your house in a hurry and how to call for help. This rehearsal could save your life. 

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by Dino Drudi

Dave Jamieson's "District Line" column in the December 29, 2006 Washington City Paper, was titled ed, "Just for Kicks: Kids' new favorite after-school activity: beating up adults." In some of these instances, early- or pre-teen juveniles wielding rocks, bricks, or simply their fists -- in broad daylight on crowded streets -- jumped passers-by but demanded no money. In other instances, juveniles pulled people from their bicycles and roughed them up. Juveniles even jumped Supreme Court Justice David Souter.

None of the four assaults at Harrison Square that City Paper reported resulted in prosecution, although the attackers were identified in two cases. Even after police had collared three middle schoolers when the victim, at whom a brick had been hurled which hit his shoulder, identified them on the street and in a subsequent photo lineup, City Paper reported that the Attorney General's office would not bring a case against the boys.

From our long experience, we can categorically state that nothing more than crime contributes to making a city unlivable. We were troubled by news reports about the rise in violent juvenile crime, including "recreational violence" committed by heretofore unthinkably young offenders and the Attorney General's office's apparent unwillingness to prosecute. On March 8, the Federation wrote to Mayor Adrian Fenty, urging his Administration to press cases like these. Attorney General Linda Singer's office replied that the police had not referred these cases, and refused to commit to initiating action.

The Federation believes "recreational violence" by juveniles is too serious to be allowed to "slide" lest it become more "trendy" and those involved proceed on to worse offenses. Failing to prosecute these random crimes of violence will surely lead to offenders thinking that they can escalate their violence and beat and rob innocent citizens with impunity.

Mayor Fenty reappointed Vincent Schiraldi, Anthony Williams' Director of Youth Rehabilitative Services -- the euphemistic title for the city's juvenile delinquency system. In the September 10, 2007, issue of the Examiner, an article by Bill Myers and Scott McCabe ("Youth rehab agency found in contempt for defying court orders to put two girls in youth shelters") characterized Schiraldi as having spent his professional career challenging "get tough" policies vis-a-vis juvenile delinquents. Schiraldi has expressed hostility to the concept of locking up children ever since he took over the Youth Services Agency in 2004 and has clashed with career staff who adhere to the tougher methods used in the past.

For over 15 years, the city has been under court order to improve conditions for juvenile delinquents in custody. The Attorney General's office claims the city doesn't have enough space in any of its crowded shelters. And even though the City Council has set aside hundreds of thousands of dollars to add youth shelter space, Schiraldi's Youth Rehabilitative Services Department had not opened any new shelters for over a year.

The Examiner reported that Superior Court Judge Zoe Bush had ordered two girls, one cited for robbery, another for assault (throwing rocks at apartment maintenance personnel), into youth shelters. When Judge Bush learned the girls had not been moved to shelters, she issued contempt-of-court citations against city officials. If Judge Bush's contempt citations hold up, top Youth Rehabilitative Services Department could find themselves in jail.

Meanwhile, lacking the will or the space to lock them up, the city looks the other way as juvenile offenders run roughshod over citizens.

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Thought to ponder:


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2007: October 23, November 27

2008: January 22, February 26, March 25, April 22, June 24

Federation Awards Banquet: May 13, 2008

Holiday Luncheon: Tentative December 18, 2007

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