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Federation of Citizens Associations of the District of Columbia

Federation News

Volume 3, Issue 1, September 1997

The Bailout Package: Understanding What It Means, Tracking What's Missing

Departments Slated for Reform

Overlooked Council Oversight?

New Board Members

Outreach to New Associations

Federation Advocacy

President's Message -- Barbara Zartman

New Officers and Board

Update Corner: Student Voting

Update Corner: University Land Use

Update Corner: Traffic, Parking, Ugh!

Update Corner: Transporation Plan

Key Contact Information

Federation Meetings

Tuesday, September 16
Fall Luncheon

Welcome back to the Federation's 1997-98 program year with a return to the superb setting of the Diplomatic and Consular Officers (Retired) Club for a reception and luncheon.

This historic townhouse creates a fine setting for catching up with one another and the concerns in our communities, as well as to share strategies for coping with citywide challenges.

This is a fine opportunity to invite your City Council member or other guest to join us. It's also a fine way to introduce prospective members to Federation colleagues. The cost is $15 per person, and reservations can be made through Guy Gwynne 338-5164 or Barbara Zartman 337-6505.

DACOR -- Bacon House
1801 F Street
12 noon

The Bailout Package: Understanding what it means, tracking what's missing

It's called the "revitalization" plan. Officially, it's the National Capital Revitalization and Self-Government Improvement Act of 1997.

Clearly, the legislation restructures our local government as the quid pro quo for a package of assistance from the Federal government that was needed to stave off the bankruptcy that loomed in the near future as pension liability ballooned and expenditures for health care climbed.

For most, it was simply a bailout, and not surprisingly, the institution that was handing out the money for the bailout demanded -- and got -- rules that were to its liking. Vocal critics of the plan have focused on the usurpation of authority of local elected officials. Quieter voices question whether the District got as much aid as was warranted, especially in light of the cutbacks on local autonomy.

Reports indicate that Capitol Hill had finally lost patience with both District officials and the Control Board. Those who wrote the legislation wanted to send a very strong signal that they expected prompt and concrete actions to reform what is wrong with local government in the District.

It is also reported that no further financial aid will be forthcoming until the long-sought reforms and efficiencies are accomplished.

Beyond these overall views of the revitalization plan, it is important to examine how the specific provisions of the legislation will affect D. C. residents. Some of these changes are highly detailed, some are broad and sweeping. Examples of the former include:

Among the sweeping changes are, of course, the re-Federalization of the pension liabilities the Dlstrlct assumed with initial Home Rule. The bill prescribes the manner of transfer of assets and liabilities, and it outlines protections the District must include in creating a "successor" pension plan for District employees.

Also sweeping is the Federal assumption of the corrections function, sentencing, offender supervision and parole, pretrial and defense services, and the financing and administration of the District's courts.

This includes the controversial transfer of the Lorton prison facility and the construction of a new prison in the District.

Moreover, in a little-noticed provision, the new Bureau of Prisons -- and its agents -- are exempt from provisions of the National Capital Planning Act of 1952 (see June 1997 Federation News for description of NCPA).

Another "small" provision has broad impact: the Chief Financial Officer has been authorized to contract out with private firms for the administration and collection of taxes. It is anticipated that this may lead to a re-examination of the taxes that are levied and the cost- benefit relationship for the many, odd fees the District imposes.

And another, seemingly benign, allows cooperation between Federal agencies and the District.

The other major titles of the Act include the following areas:

Management Reform

Congressional impatience with local government reform was perhaps no where as clear as in the treatment of nine District government departments (see box below), for which the Revitalization Act requires the creation of management reform teams.

The management teams described in the Act are comprised of a representative of each of the following: the Control Board, the Council Chair, the Mayor, and the head of the department involved.

The department heads appear to have been given independent authority over their agency personnel, with the authority to reassign personnel or remove them for cause.

The Control Board has already replaced the directors of some of these agencies, and multi-million- dollar contracts are being signed for management consultants charged with bringing these agencies into modern and responsible practices. At least that's the plan.

The Federal Payment

The language of the Act reflects some of the unfair limitations placed on the District by the Congress, including most significantly the prohibition against taxing income at Its source.

These are cited as reasons for the existence of a federal] payment, though this year that payment is reduced to $190 million, and the Act calls for future congresses to consider these measurements in setting future levels for the federal payment.

This falls far short of the provision many had sought: a formula that would establish a predictable level of federal aid, constant over the near future.

Regulatory Reform

The Act makes very specific reference to the work of the Business Regulatory Reform Commission appointed by the Mayor in 1996.

Chaired by local attorney Douglas Patton, the Commlsslon's report called for the virtual complete reconstruction of the Department of Consumer and Regulatory Affairs.

It acknowledges what citizens have known for decades: Decree's shoe box record-keeping systems must be replaced by integrated computer systems. Staff with knowledge of information systems must lead better-trained employees in an agency-wide overhaul. Businesses and citizens alike are crying out for enforcement of sensible regulations.

The recommendations, however, include streamlining that goes beyond elimination of 44 "unnecessary" boards and commissions to the scrapping of the Environmental Policy Act of 1989, which will meet with stiff resistance from environmental groups and residents associations.

Sure to spark controversy as well is the commission's recommendation to scrap the local rent-control program and related protections for renters and condo conversion.

It was recommended that the new head of DCRA be a person recruited from another municipality that already employs sophisticated integrated data-management systems.

What's not in the Act?

Federation members will be most pleased that the Economic Development Corporation complete with powers of eminent domain -- was not included in the Act. Senator Sam Brownback, chair of the District's Congressional authorizing subcommittee, refused to agree to its inclusion, and so the provision was dropped.

There is significant pressure within the District to go back to the Hill for some alternative structure for an economic development entity, and the Federation will continue to monitor the situation.

Other provisions

In future newsletters, we will recap what the Act provides for District borrowing -- and extending that borrowing authority to nongovernmental entities.

We will also look more closely at the impact of the tax forgiveness provisions that were included for home ownership and businesses.

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Departments Slated for Reform

Administrative Services

Consumer and Regulatory Affairs


Employment Services

Fire and Emergency Medical Services

Housing and Community Development

Human Services

Public Works

Public Health

Overlooked Council Oversight?

When people started reading the bailout bill that was passed by the Congress, there was embarrassment enough to go around.

It seemed that, in designing the process by which strong new managers would be selected to head the nine troubled District departments, the process bypassed the City Council. There is simply no role included for the District and At-Large Council members who, together with their staff, cost $7 million a year.

A large part of council's responsibility is supposed to be providing "oversight" of these very District governmental functions.

Apologies were offered all around. Corrective legislation will be passed by Congress. And Council came back from its summer vacation to hold "advisory" confirmations on the first two groups of nominated department heads (approving every one so far).

The public may participate, too -- sort of.

For example, the designated new head of DCRA will have hearings on Monday at 2 p.m. They will last for 90 minutes. The Council intends to have its recommendation to the Control Board in time to confirm the appointment by Wednesday.

It's a good thing that we have such a commitment to the democratic process, consent of the governed, and all that.

How could Congress have overlooked the value of this input?

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New Board Members

With the Federation's June elections, several new members were added to the Executive Board, and one "old" Board member returned for additional service.

Kay Eckles of the Residential Action Coalition is one who returned, bringing her dedication and her wealth of knowledge of zoning matters, and of Federation history.

Allen Beach, a delegate from the Chevy Chase Citizens Association, joins the Board for the first time. Allen has been one of the most dedicated participants in Federation deliberations, and he brings his experience as both an ANC and an ABC commissioner.

Miles Steele III, delegate from Hillcrest Citizens Association, also newly joins the Board. Miles also is a central player in the Committee of 8000 and their reform efforts in the area of solid waste services.

Larry Chatman joins the Board, a delegate from 16th Street Heights, where rapid expansion of nonprofit institutions triggered a successful comprehensive plan amendment that protects residential interests.

These are wonderful new Board members who bring great talents and experience to their service. The Federation's next year should be all the more productive for their contributions.

If you have not met them, please introduce yourself at the next meeting. And consider others who can serve in the future.

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Outreach to new associations

We are especially interested in recruiting like-minded citizens organizations to join the Federation and share in the many collective efforts to help this city that we love become a better and better place for families and residents.

Please consider those organizations you know who can offer their expertise, whether it is in the area of education or utilities, taxation or historic preservation -- or other fields you know to be critically important.

We are preparing a packet of materials to use in outreach efforts, and some of our Board members are more than willing to pay a visit to potential member groups. Speak to any of the officers or Board members if you have suggestions.

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Federation advocacy

At its August meeting, the Executive Board agreed to support a resolution calling for closer study of the Convention Center proposal currently before the National Capital Planning Commission.

The Board had deep reservations about the financing package on which development of the center relies.

Moreover, the Center represents a tremendous engine of economic development that should be brought to bear where it can have the most impact for District-based jobs. The current proposals seems more likely to be a drain on resources than to be a producer of new revenues.

The funding for the Center to date includes a dedicated percentage increment on the sales tax everyone pays when dining out or renting a hotel room, monies we all pay to support the development of the Convention Center.

These funds, it appears, are inadequate for its development, and the shortfall threatens the ability to market bonds to finance its construction.

We also continued to oppose the granting of an Alcoholic Beverage Control license to private clubs in residential neighborhoods.

One such establishment is seeking a license in a residential neighborhood in Dupont Circle, and neither the first club nor others that might seek to follow the precedent are welcome in residential communities.

It should be noted that when an ABC case is to be discussed by the Board, we will take special care to conduct this portion of the meeting out of the presence of Allen Beach or by telephone, so that his continued ability to sit independently in judgment of ABC cases is not impaired.

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President's Message

The District is facing challenges far greater than those we saw a year ago. While the federal bailout plan removes our local government from the brink of bankruptcy that seemed very close just last year, the task before us now is "fixing it." The constraints placed on local elected officials trouble most of the people I speak with more in the abstract than as practical, day-today concerns. Most community leaders want to make this city work again. They want rules that mean something. They want to be able to make investments in their homes and businesses without worrying that they are throwing good money after bad. Sadly, they know that the people they have elected have been unable -- for whatever reason -- to do this.

As a friend put it, our city seems unable to count. We can't count our school students, we can't count our workers, we can't count our disabled employees, we can't count our drivers, our voters, our taxpayers, our property parcels. These shouldn't be complex matters in this era of interactive databases and local area networks. Our city of merely a half million people should not present insurmountable challenges for management information system specialists.

And so the question for the Federation is: what can we do to "make it work?" I will propose that we develop a network of specialists among our member organizations - and the organizations that ought to be our members- knowledgeable about the city departments scheduled for management improvements and work with the Control Board, the Council, and the Mayor to make sure that the best people are brought in to work on the problems -- and that they understand the residents'-- the taxpayers'-- concerns and needs.

I hope there will be many willing to offer their help, working to make a difference, working to make things better in this city we love. And then we can petition -- demand -- that we be allowed once again to choose democratically those we place in charge of the better system we have helped to create.

Barbara Zartman

P.S. Our first vice president, Peggy Snyder, has been through some demanding surgery this summer. I am sure she will welcome your thoughts and prayers for complete recovery.

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New Officers and Board

Patrick Allen, Citizens Association of Georgetown, 337-8760
Gracie Baten, Shepherd Park Citizens Association, 882-6162
John Batham, West End Citizens Association, 628-3527
Allen Beach, Chevy Chase Citizens Association, 362-2239
John Brown, Southwest Community Council, 479-4658
Larry Chatman,
16th Street Heights, 291-7381
Dino Drudi, Michigan Park, 526-0891
Kay Eckles, Residential Action Coalition, 265-5961
Guy Gwynne, Burleith Citizens Association, 338-5164
William Scheirer, Kalorama Citizens Association, 232-8827
M. R. Peggy Snyder, Chancery Court, 338-1972
Miles Steele , Hillcrest Citizens Association, 582-7832
Alice Stewart, Palisades Citizens Association, 364-1505
Al Wheeler, Oldest Inhabitants of DC, 337-00340
Barbara Zartman, Cloisters in Georgetown, 337-6505

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Update Corner: Student Voting

September will see several hearings before a Superior Court Judge serving as a "special master" to find facts about the circumstances of the student voting.

Judge Steffen Graae will ultimately satisfy himself that he knows the facts involved in the case, and he will provide to the Court of Appeals a report of his conclusions, though his recommendations will not be binding on the Court of Appeals.

The Court of Appeals will then hold a hearing and consider the case de novo. It will hand down a decision about whether the students were property registered and legally entitled to vote as residents of the District, as well as legally entitled to hold office

So far the evidence has included the fact that nearly every student from two test states (Maryland and Massachusetts) retained his or her home-state driver's license. To establish a new "domicile," a voter must abandon the former domicile.

Moreover, District law requires that when out-of-town students register to vote in the District, they must convert licenses and registrations to DC within 30 days.

A student recruitment organizer also was shown to have authored material that indicates students don't have to pay taxes, change licenses, or lose domicile. They can Just register and vote here.

That information is, of course, wrong.

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Update Corner: University Land Use

The well-known tensions between not students but their academic institutions and the residential communities in which they sit have taken a particular turn over the last few years.

The question arises over the universities' freedom to use campus facilities for purposes not described in campus plans.

The position universities have taken is that so long as the new purpose is "related" to their academic mission, they should be free to reallocate space as they wish without approval of the Board of Zoning Adjustment or the Zoning Commission.

The Acting Zoning Administrator at DCRA, Gladys Hicks, has supported this view, regularly issuing permits without BZA approval under a non-statutory concept called "accessory use."

Ms. Hicks has a broad view of what constitutes accessory use, and has granted approval in all cases except those requiring new building construction.

In a case brought by member association Georgetown Residents Alliance before the Board of Zoning Adjustment, this practice has been thoroughly examined and discredited. The questioning by the Board seemed to indicate they believed the Zoning Administrator had misread the regulations.

The BZA is to render its decision in October. The decision is critical to ail communities housing a mayor academic institution. Their ability to redraw the elements of a campus plan at will would make a mockery of the plan-approval process.

Moreover, the freedom for universities to put unlimited controversial uses in existing buildings and construct new buildings for "safe" purposes like dormitories would leave residents' organizations with no defenses.

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Update Corner: Traffic, Parking, Ugh!

Some sources of useful information to make commuting easier are available for the asking. It won't make traffic lighter, but it will allow you to make your plans based on the most current Information.

Metro has a 24-hour service that provides current route and schedules, though it is a two-step process. First dial 962-1420 and request the index of documents.

The five-page listing will come back to you immediately; you can then select the routings for which you need information.

Requests for the index or documents by mail can be placed through 637- 7000.

If it's not Metro that bugs you but the trucks of construction workers parked in what should be traffic lanes, contact Norma Mapp, chief of the parking services bureau at 541-6031.

Her deputies are George Carr (AMs) and Shirley Ferguson (PMs).

They can arrange for ticketing and towing, and they can work with the construction crews to keep it from recurring.

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Update Corner: Transportation Plan

The Department of Public Works tells us that the much-awaited six-year transportation strategic plan for the District will shortly be available.

Many community meetings, and additional sessions with the Advisory Board, produced recommendations that were significantly scaled back from the original - and quite striking - proposals for major changes in nearly every quarter of the city.

The summer months brought a period in which the consultants worked with community groups, and took a realistic look at what would (and what would not) work in particular neighborhoods.

As a result, most of the recommendations that raised eyebrows have been replaced with more pragmatic suggestions for changes.

The amount of money overall that will be available to the District over the six years is significant, and the document that is produced over the next few weeks will set the policy and priorities.

The Federation will receive one of the first copies to be released, and special meetings with associations that are particularly affected will be scheduled immediately thereafter.

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Mayor 727-2980
Chief Financial Officer 727-2476
Zoning/BZA 727-6311
HPRB 727-7360
City Council 724-8080
Committee agendas 724-8554
Legislative services 724-8050
All are at 441 Fourth Street NW, One Judiciary Square
ABC, 727-7375, 1614 H Street, NW
DPW, 939-8000, 2000 14th Street, NW
Control Board, 504-3400, One Thomas Circle
School Board, 724-4222, 415 12th Street, NW
Fine Arts, 504-2200, 441 F Street, NW
NCPC, 482-7200, 801 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW

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Federation Meetings

The meetings of the Federation Assembly for the program year 1997-1998 are shown below. We hope that they will all be at 7 p.m. at the Sumner School, although recent budget and staff cutbacks in the School District make that more difficult.

In December we will have our Holiday Luncheon, and in April, we will return to the Officers Club at Fort McNair for our annual banquet.

In addition, your Executive Board will meet each month to consider business, and should you have issues you would like presented for consideration by the Federation, it would be most helpful if you contacted a Board member in time for consideration at a Board meeting.

Federation Meetings
October 9
November 13
January 8
February 12
March 12
May 14
June 11
Board Meetings
September 23
October 28
November 25
(No meeting in December)
January 27
February 24
March 24
April 28
May 20
June 23

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