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Federation of Citizens Associations of the District of Columbia

Federation News

Volume 14, Issue 1, January 2008
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
A Portrait of Inept Management and Inefficient Oversight, Caroll Green

Nominate an Agency or Individual for an Award
Scooby: Gone But Not Forgotten
Metrorail Service Alert
Firehouse Notes: Cheaper by the Dozen
From Police Chief Lanier
Zoning Regulation Working Groups
Speaking of Neighborhoods
Assembly Meeting Dates
Thought to Ponder


Tuesday, January 22, 6:45 pm

Chairman, Fraternal Order of Police, Metro
Police Department Labor Committee

Off The Record

1201 Seventeenth Street, NW
(At M Street)


The Federation and many others testified on November 1 about the problems with public private partnerships in developing "surplus" City land, followed by our November 7 testimony on the equally broken process for declaring land surplus.

At the November 1 hearing, Councilmember Brown pledged to investigate conflict-of-interest charges against Deputy Mayor Neil Albert, who had failed to disclose that he owns investment real estate immediately adjacent to the West End Library, one of three "emergency" land sales in the West End that led to the hearings. Forced to admit that he owns other investment properties in DC, Albert refuses to disclose them, saying in effect "catch me if you can." We're still waiting for your promised investigation, Councilmember Brown.

We learned this week that the Council (led by Councilmembers Graham, Evans, Brown and Schwartz) approved another no-bid emergency land disposition on January 8 for the Radio One site near Howard University. Contrary to DC law (DC Code § 10-801(e)), the disposition does not contain a buyback provision for the City if the project does not succeed due to bankruptcy or is flipped by the developer. There has been no public disclosure of the appraised value of the property or examination of the City's possible use of the site. It's deja vu all over again.

OP's outside study on establishment of a planning commission (called for in the Comprehensive Plan legislation) is moving along. A confidential draft will be delivered to OP by February 1, with a preliminary draft by February 22 that will be the subject of Council hearings. The final report is due April 1. (Maybe there is justification for our fear of consolidation after all.)

And kudos to the Mayor for his quick action on firing workers involved in the failures related to the tragic murders of the four children in Southeast. We hope that is followed by some effective reforms.

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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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A Portrait of Inept Management and Ineffective Oversight
Carroll Green

As the head of the  Office of Tax and Revenue, he failed t o implement simple management controls that would have prevented or stopped the fraud.

The rampant and egregious criminal activity that transpired in the Office of the Chief Financial Officer for so many years was facilitated, and made possible, by ineffectual management.]

The investigation to date reveals that the practice of issuing bogus checks to non-existing firms was on-going during the period when Natwar Gandhi was chief of the Office of T ax and Revenue. Mr. Gandhi, a former academic who holds a doctorate in accounting, is a recognized expert in accounting and finance. As the head of the Office of Tax and Revenue, he failed to implement simple management controls that would have prevented or stopped the fraud.

As chief financial officer, Mr. Gandhi admits that he ignored the tax refund division while the fraud went on, an omission for which he demanded the resignation of Sheryl Hobbs Newman, one of his former successors in the Office of Tax and Revenue.

The Audit Report of the CFO's Office, dated August 28, 2006, was requested by Jack Evans, chair of the Committee of Finance and Revenue and Councilmember Kathy Patterson. Unfortunately, Mr. Evans and his Council colleagues allowed this report to sit on the shelf some 15 months while totally ignoring their oversight function.

The Council's response to this unarmed robbery was predictable: the blame game. Mr. Graham wanted to know who the outside auditors were, but then cooler heads prevailed. Mr. Evans wanted to outsource the oversight function to his bar colleagues on K Street. His Council colleagues dutifully, unsurprisingly, and in lockstep complied.

What is sorely missing from the hallowed halls of the Council is effective and timely oversight of the executive branch. When the Council becomes as vigorous about oversight as it has about access to the luxury box at the Verizon Center, perhaps we can then proclaim we have a co-equal branch of government.

The Audit Report contains all the information the Council, the Mayor, the citizenry, and any other interested bystanders need to understand what happened and how. The Auditor's findings include: 

  • The absence of written protocols in several units;

  • A critical lack of segregation of duties, allowing one employee to both approve refunds and to input vouchers for payment;

  • Lack of knowledge of the full range of tasks performed by the unit's employees on the part of the immediate supervisor and the employee responsible for the operation of the Check Writing unit.

Mr. Evans and his Council colleagues allowed this report to sit on the shelf some 15 months while totally ignoring their oversight function.

Mr. Gandhi’s response to the audit findings and recommendations was immediate, defensive and dismissive. The defiant Gandhi neither accepted nor signed off on the report and has since taken an approach, similar to the Council, calling for an IG investigation and seeking advice from the IRS and a former employee of the Securities and Exchange Commission.

This does not appear to be an original crime and there remain many unanswered questions to this saga: How long? How many participants? How much? Where is OUR money?

When Mr. Gandhi removes his head from that hole in the ground and reads the Audit Report, he will also have all the information he needs to fix the obvious. Interestingly, he has yet to hire a management consultant to teach management 101, at which he and his managers failed miserably.

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Nominate an agency or individual for an award!

The 98th Annual Awards banquet will be held Tuesday May 13 at Ft. McNair. In recent years we have tried to regularize the award categories, and last year made the awards listed below. If you would like to nominate an individual, group, or D.C. agency for one of these awards, please contact any member of the Federation Board. 

  1. Guy Gwynne Lifetime Achievement Award 

  2. Exemplary Civic Activism

  3. Sustained Public Service*

  4. The Fourth Estate

  5. Sustained Civic Activism 

  6. Extraordinary Public Service 

*In 2004, we awarded the "Greatest Improvement in Public Service" honor to the D.C. Office of Zoning. In 2005, no award was made in this category. In 2006, the Department of Motor Vehicles was honored and in 2007 the Office of People's Counsel was the winner under this new category name.

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Anyone who has (or ever had) a beloved pet can feel the pain of West End resident Michael Morauw whose two-and-a-half-year-old boxer, Scooby, was shot by a DC police officer on Christmas Eve. The Federation assumes that a formal investigation has been made by the Metropolitan Police Department (MPD) into the circumstances of the killing. Was the officer in imminent danger of being attacked by Scooby and therefore gunned him down? Was Scooby protecting his master, a natural instinct typical to various breeds? Did Scooby have a history of aggressive behavior?

Or is Scooby dead because an MPD officer was afraid of dogs?

MPD has a highly respected Canine Unit, whose officers (including those with four feet) have been subjects of several Federation News articles. The handlers and their dogs (remember Officers King, Sabo and Quando?) work as highly disciplined teams; the dogs, trained to react on command, sense danger and protect their handlers.

When Scooby's story hit the news, our first thought (aside from knowing that the Morauw family must have been heartbroken) was whether MPD officers (from recruits to senior staff) are required to take training or refresher courses about animal behavior led by WD's Canine officers.

If MPD does not routinely ask street officers whether they fear dogs and take proactive measures to school them about the right and wrong way to confront (deal with) a threatened (and/or threatening) animal, then we can anticipate more Scooby-type events hitting the news. That would be a shame and a crime if MPD's canine behavior experts are not being employed to educate their own.

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Metrorail Service Alert

Metrorail operations and service on the Red Line, Orange and Blue Lines will be affected during the Martin Luther King, Jr. Holiday Weekend (January 18-21) and the President's Day Holiday Weekend (February 15-18). Rail service on all three lines will be slower and single tracking will be required over portions of the lines.

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What would you ask Fire & Emergency Medical Services (FEMS) Chief Dennis Rubin should he show up at your Citizens Association meeting? He is, after all, keen on consumer relations and outreach. He wants to talk to you, but also offers blood pressure checks, blood sugar and/or cholesterol screenings as fillers.

Don't get side-tracked with FEMS health fairs if what you want is the straight-skinny about your Fire & EMS Department which consumes well over $170 million of your tax dollars each year. The public has a right, no a need, for non-technical, straightforward answers to basic questions from Chief Rubin, well-versed in fire department techno-speak. Stumped as to what your association should ask the Chief? The Federation can help you.
Before we list a dozen questions for Chief Rubin, here's a quick review of DCFEMS. While the Chief prefers to call FEMS an "all-hazards" agency, approximately 80% of its daily workload is medically-related (ambulance to hospital response). DC firefighters (2,090 strong with 118 vacancies) must be cross-trained as emergency medical technicians (EMTs) (whether they want to or not) in order to hold a job (and be promoted) within the Department. Single- role emergency medical service personnel (EMTs and paramedics), once greater in number, now are forced to become firefighters if they expect to advance in grade, pay and benefits. So critical is the city's emergency medical response that Mayor Adrian Fenty once pledged to separate EMS from the Fire Department in order to create two equally well-run agencies. The Mayor subsequently abandoned that promise. We are left with a fire-based emergency medical service, for better or worse. The Federation, in the public interest, will continue to campaign for a "third" or separate EMS agency on a par with the Fire and Police Departments.

Now those dozen sample questions for Chief Rubin: 

1. SMOKE DETECTOR CAMPAIGN, Part I: The success of FEMS' smoke detector program is not common knowledge (where firefighters target one neighborhood per ward, per month, for smoke detector inspection and installation). How many neighborhoods in our ward have been surveyed and how many smoke detectors have been installed? Is FEMS focusing on the elderly and disabled population, or just random neighborhoods?

2. SMOKE DETECTOR CAMPAIGN, Part II: If our neighborhood's first-due fire apparatus is on smoke detector duty (and therefore out of service) and there is a local fire or medical emergency, won't response time increase as other (more distant) units will have to fill in?

3. PAY PARITY FOR EMS: Over three decades have passed waiting for pay parity for EMS (single-role) professionals. This is at the heart of the morale problem affecting EMS personnel. Where does the pay parity issue now stand to correct this long-standing injustice?

4. EMPLOYEE SATISFACTION: Firefighters, on the whole, don't want to be emergency medical technicians. In fact, it's safe to say many hate doing EMS work. We congratulate Chief Rubin on undertaking an employee "performance or satisfaction" survey to flush out these attitudes, the results of which were due out on December 31, 2007. What's happened to the survey findings and when will the results be made public?

5. RESIDENCY REQUIREMENT: Our understanding is that excepted service personnel (post 1980) are supposed to live in the District. Have the two excepted service assistant chiefs who came on after 1980 and who have lived outside the city, established residency in DC? If yes, where's the proof?

6. MEDICAL DISPATCH: Of 33 firehouses in DC, 19 have paramedic engine companies (PECs) staffed with at least one EMT/Intermediate or full paramedic per shift. PECs do not transport patients to hospitals. Some of these 19 PEC fire stations also house medic units (advanced life support transports) and/or basic life support transport units. Yet when all units are in house, PECs are called out first to respond to a medical emergency. Why not send a medical transport first and use the paramedic engine company as backup?

Such an action i s tantamount to a virtual city-wide emergency declaration.

7. PERFORMANCE DRILLS: Department personnel are supposed to drill every day to promote team work and enhanced performance. But firefighter-probationers are being put on ambulances every day and can't drill. They are not getting the hands-on (supervised) drills that are needed, relative to both fire and emergency medical equipment and procedures. If firefighters are on 24-hour shifts, with 12 of those hours riding the ambulance, how does the Department handle the mandatory drills to improve their skills and performance?

8. PROMOTIONS: Is the Department planning to put firefighters who have no or little training or relevant experience as paramedics in leadership roles? Where is the national search for an Assistant EMS Chief with top credentials or has the Fire Chief settled on a junior member of his management team to hold such a responsible position and why?

9. DEPARTMENT BUDGET: We understand that the Department's 2009 budget request is in the neighborhood of $178 million with around $30 million earmarked for EMS "enhancements." What is the Department's current budget allocated specifically to EMS and what EMS "enhancements" are going to cost $30 million? Wasn't the $25 to $40 million projected cost of a "third service," its death knell?

10. DEPARTMENT OF HEALTH, WHERE ARE YOU? Councilmember Phil Mendelson, Chairman of the Committee on Public Safety and the Judiciary, has pending legislation which states that the city's Medical Director (an Assistant Fire Chief) can order private hospitals not to close their emergency rooms. Such an action is tantamount to a virtual city-wide emergency declaration. Isn't the Department of Health responsible for overseeing public health issues, as well as all medical aspects of EMS, including hospital emergency room directives?

11. APPARATUS: Department apparatus usage is supposed to be measured and tracked. How much time, over the past year, has each apparatus spent on fire-related vs. EMS duties? When will that data be available?

12. For several years, the Citizens Federation has asked for statistics covering Fire/EMS apparatus activity (runs) from each firehouse to share with its member associations and publish in its newsletter. That information has not been forthcoming from FEMS, save in piecemeal offerings. How soon will the full and meaningful disclosure of data be made available to the Federation?

Need additional questions for the Chief? Just let us know. There are many more unanswered questions in our ever-expanding FEMS tote bag.

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Start Using 911 for ALL Police Calls, Not Just Emergency Calls


311 - will now be used for the Mayor's Customer Service Requests, all other governmental agency requests/city services, e.g. cars towed, streetlights replaced, streets repaired, animal issues, abandoned vehicles, trees trimmed, trash pick ups, etc..

911 - all police related matters, e.g. emergency and non-emergency, need of ambulance, fires. This new change will be discussed at all upcoming PSA meetings.

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Zoning Regulation Working Groups

The rewrite of DC's Zoning Regulations is now underway and the public is invited to participate in subject specific working groups (WG) to examine and discuss issues within the Regulations. These working groups will propose changes to the existing regulations that will be reviewed by a zoning taskforce and ultimately by the Zoning Commission at a series of public hearings. OP's interactive website will be up soon. Here is the planned schedule for the working groups. Please contact Travis Parker at OP 202442-7600 for more detailed information, including exact times and locations.

Height (WG begins January 29) Will include discussions about how height is measured, the relationship of the Height Act with zoning, roof structures, stories, and other issues that relate to the height of buildings but will not examine raising or lowering the limits on height under zoning or the Height Act.

Flood Plain (WG begins February 6) Will examine the city's policies for building structures within the flood plain and will discuss zoning strategies for regulation of these structures.

Low/Moderate Density Residential & Commercial (WG begins February) Issues relating to lower density residential neighborhoods. Areas that would fit into the traditional R-1 through R-4 zones with largely single and two-family housing stock are the focus. Will look at a very wide variety of issues including alley lots, accessory dwellings, corner retail stores, related non-residential uses, bulk and setback requirements, and many others. Will also be examining the existing residential zoning categories and overlays to determine if these are sufficient to meet the needs of the city's neighborhoods.

Parking (WG begins February) All issues within the current Chapter 21 of the zoning ordinance, examining the requirements for parking spaces as well as the standards for their location and access.

Loading (WG begins February) All issues within the current Chapter 22 of the zoning ordinance. We will examine the requirements for loading as well as the standards for location and access.

Retail Strategy (WG begins March) This area will focus on supporting and encouraging local, small, and disadvantaged businesses. We will examine zoning options to encourage retail development and improve local retail options.

Arts & Culture (WG begins March) Will review existing policies including many incentives and requirements for arts and culture uses and examine ways to expand the availability of art space and arts-related uses throughout the city.

Historic (WG begins March) This area will deal with the relationship between the zoning code and the existing review structure for historic buildings. We will examine the current sections on historic structures and determine what exceptions or special requirements need to be in place for these buildings.

Sustainability (WG begins late March/early April) Will examine encouraging environmental sensitivity through zoning and removing zoning obstacles to sustainable design. Issues will include green building design, low impact development, transit-oriented development, energy efficiency and measures of sustainability.

Downtown (WG begins June) The Downtown subject area will begin with the area contained in the Downtown Development Overlay District. The group will examine goals of the District to determine what has been accomplished and what needs remain. Will look at the boundaries of "downtown" and examine the zoning techniques used to address this area.

Medium/High Density Commercial & Residential (WG begins June) Will deal with those issues surrounding the higher density commercial and residential nodes outside of the downtown. While not including commercial corridors, this area deals with other areas traditionally zoned C-3, CR, and R-5. The group will review existing zoning categories for sufficiency to meet city policies.

Commercial Corridors (WG begins September) Will discuss zoning options to meet the needs of the city's commercial corridors. Will examine the relationship between commercial uses and the surrounding residential zones as well as the use of geographically specific overlays and options for zoning solutions to better relate to each corridor.

Industrial (WG begins September) Will work with the existing Industrial Land Use Study and policies of the Comprehensive Plan to determine how to improve existing industrial zones. Issues will include relationships to residential use, matter-of-right uses in industrial zones, and transitional uses.

Mixed/Other Districts (WG begins September) Will deal with issues related to zone districts not covered in the other areas. Specifically, the group will examine the Waterfront and Special Purpose districts as well as some of the miscellaneous overlays in the code.

Campus/Institutional (WG begins November) Includes examination of campus plan options for educational and institutional uses.

Parks/Open Space (WG begins November) Will examine the need for, and makeup of, potential zones for open space.

PUD (WG begins January 2009) Will look at different options for review and approval of larger development projects in the District. Issues include the limits of matter-of-right development, the relationship between density and public benefits, the role of government agencies and community groups in development, and other issues relating to discretionary review of large developments.

Design Review (WG begins January 2009) Will examine the need for and place for design review in our development review process. This group may work with or be combined with the PUD study area in the inclusion of design review as a part of the discretionary review process.

Administration & Enforcement (WG begins March 2009) Working closely with the Office of Zoning, this group will use the results of the first 18 working groups to update and improve the policies of Chapter 32 of the existing ordinance.

ZC & BZA Procedures (WG begins March 2009) Working closely with the Office of Zoning, this group will use the results of the first 18 working groups to update and improve the policies of Chapter 31 of the existing ordinance.

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Speaking of Neighborhoods

Hands across the City

In our last Newsletter we wrote about the extraordinary 10 year old partnership formed between the Hillcrest Community Civic Association and the Palisades Citizens Association. The partnership grew out of relationships formed at Federation Assembly meetings.

Alice Stewart and Miles Steele III were the moving forces behind the partnership and now with the encouragement of Mayor Fenty and Chairman Gray, we and the Civic Federation (led by President Greg Rhett) have tentatively scheduled a meeting the evening of February 21 at the Martin Luther King Library to discuss and hopefully foster more such partnerships. Miles and Alice will talk about what they have done. Both Boards and all member associations will be invited to attend once the date is firm. You won't want to miss this!

What's Right, What's Wrong with Utility Services in DC?

Councilmember Mary Cheh will chair hearings on the quality of public utility services provided by PEPCO, Verizon, Washington Gas on Thursday February 7 at 10 a.m. in the Council Chamber and on Saturday February 9 at 11 a.m. in Room 412 of the Wilson Building. Anyone wishing to testify should contact Aukima Benjamin at 202-724-8062 or Ms. Cheh will also hold hearings on B 17-492, the "Clean and Affordable Energy Act of 2007" at 10 a.m. on January 30 in the Council Chamber.

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

Mark your calendars!

May 13, 2008 1 Ft. Lesley J. McNair

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Thought to ponder:


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