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Federation of Citizens Associations of the District of Columbia

Federation News

Volume 4, Issue 5, February 1999
1642 Thirty-fifth Street, N.W., Washington, DC 20007-2334
(202) 337-6505, phone; (202) 337-6504, fax

Fixing the trouble-plagued DCRA: An idle dream or a plan of action?
Zoning code may expand child care: Elderly care centers to be matter-of-right
Public works: Real resources finally available for streets
Redefining election outcomes
Meeting Y2K challenges together: National Cathedral on March 11
Federation support for lower Metro fares
ABC Task Force
University growth — by leaps and bounds
Officers and Board
President’s message
Why not become a member of the Federation?
Internet Resources

Tuesday, February 23

Federation Assembly Meeting

Business Meeting at 7:00 p.m.
Program at 7:30

The Honorable Sharon Ambrose
Council's Consumer and Regulatory Affairs Chair

Bringing her background as a community leader and Council legislative staffer, Sharon Ambrose chairs the committee charged with oversight of DCRA

The Charles Sumner School
1201 Seventeenth Street NW (at M)

Fixing the trouble-plagued DCRA: An idle dream or a plan of action?

Few city agencies have as strong an impact on District residents as does the Department of Consumer and Regulatory Affairs. Few have provoked as much citizen criticism.

Has a neighbor added an illegal extension to a house that affects your property? Does an area bar serve underage patrons? Is there an unlicensed business changing the character of your residential neighborhood? Is someone letting and important historic property fall into ruin so that it can be razed as an eyesore, rather than restored as a treasure?

DCRA controls housing construction and repair, enforces zoning and safety standards, controls the alcoholic beverage licensing and enforcement, supports historic preservation, and supervises the licensing of a wide range of professionals. Too often, their performance has been found wanting.

Last fall DCRA`s new Director, Lloyd Jordan, spoke to the Federation, sharing his plans for transforming this trouble-plagued agency.

City Council's Committee on Consumer and Regulatory Affairs provides the oversight that will help guide changes at DCRA, and the committee's new chair, Sharon Ambrose, will join us at our February Assembly meeting to hear our concerns and to offer her own critique.

DCRA is one of the agencies of government that actually generates revenues beyond its cost of operation. Nonetheless, when across-the-board staff cuts there ordered by the Control Board, DCRA was not spared As a result, shrunken inspection and enforcement staffs have been overwhelmed by the backlog of work.

And citizens wait for service and for safety.

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Zoning code may expand child care: Elderly care centers to be matter-of-right

On March 1 1 at 7 p.m. the Zoning Commission will hear case 98-8, which proposes to allow as matter-of-right the care for elderly persons in any facility that qualifies as a child-care center. Persons interested in testifying must file their written intention with the Office of Zoning by March 4 (call 727-6311 for more information).

In zones R-1 through R-3, the licensing of a *did care (and now elderly care) center is subject to special exception hearings before the BZA, though more than one can be located within 1000 feet. In Zones R-4 the matter-of-right use can accommodate up to 15 individuals; in R-5, up to 25 individuals; in commercial and SP districts, there is no capital maximum. The rule covers day care centers and day care homes (for up to five individuals).

The proposed rule merely limits the operation of these facilities to less-than-24-hours-a-day care, and it expands the range of services to include counseling, education, training, health, and social services. Moreover, the temporary nature of community service centers in R-4 zones) has been eliminated; previously their operations had to be reviewed every three years.

The nature of care for small children is inherently different from the care given adults. Federation member organizations should review the ways in which this proposed change will affect their neighborhoods

The full proposal begins on page 799 of the D. C. Register. Below is a Zoning Commission chart that encapsulates the proposed changes. (MOR=matter of right)

Day Care by Residential Zoning Districts (Proposed)

Use R-1-A R-1-B R-2 R-3 R-4 R-5-A R-5-B R-5-C R-5-D R-5-E
Child Dev. Center BZA BZA BZA BZA MOR (15)/BZA MOR (15)/BZA MOR (15)/BZA MOR (15)/BZA MOR (25)/BZA MOR (25)/BZA
Child Dev. Center (School or Recreation Center MOR MOR MOR MOR MOR MOR MOR MOR MOR MOR
Elderly Day Care Center BZA BZA BZA BZA MOR (15)/BZA MOR (15)/BZA MOR (15)/BZA MOR (15)/BZA MOR (25)/BZA MOR (25)/BZA
Community Center (neighborhood/non-profit) BZA BZA BZA BZA MOR (15)/BZA MOR (15)/BZA MOR (15)/BZA MOR (15)/BZA MOR (15)/BZA MOR (15)/BZA
Community Service Center (neighborhood/non-profit) X X X X MOR (15)/BZA MOR (15)/BZA MOR (15)/BZA MOR (15)/BZA MOR (15)/BZA MOR (15)/BZA
Church Day Care Center BZA BZA BZA BZA MOR (15)/BZA MOR (15)/BZA MOR (15)/BZA MOR (15)/BZA MOR (25)/BZA MOR (25)/BZA

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Public Works: Real resources finally available for streets

At long last there is light at the end of the tunnel for District streets, so long neglected for want of District funds, even the comparatively small amount required to fund the local matching share of Federal millions. Certainly, projects requiring all local dollars could not be funded.

The logjam began to break when Congress agreed to a special formula allowing the District to fund the "local share" with future receipts.

The defeat of the Barney Circle Freeway, and the reprogramming of those funds through Congressional action (and Congresswoman Eleanor Norton's advocacy) has made an additional $97 million available for District projects.

Chief of Design Gary Burch recently shared outlines of DPW plans, including complete reworking of nearly 300 local streets (roadbeds, sidewalks, bus-pads, lighting).

In five historic districts, this will include special design elements such as brick sidewalks or cobblestone streets. In addition, there is a small fund of money available to repave historic alleys, for which DPW is anxious to have "nominations."

Trees are finally getting the attention they have been denied, aiming at a four-year cycle for treating/removing/pruning/replacing all street trees. Even the struggling Dutch elms are receiving special therapy in the hope of preserving at least some of them.

A special team is working on cleaning street signs that have been targets for stickers and graffiti, and another team is working with the Business Improvement Districts, with the Commission of Fine Arts, and with tourism groups to change the signage and design at key entry points to the District. The goal is consistent, attractive, useful information to help people find their way around the city.

Of course, not everything Is rosy. The DPW equipment fleet has too many trucks that are more than a dozen years old, too many tools of the same vintage. Members' testimony at budget hearings can help provide better funding for this critical part of DPW's work.

Associations and ANCs that want updates on plans for their communities can contact Gary Burch at 9398060 (phone) and 939- 7179 (fax).

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Redefining election outcomes

Once again, a reanalysis of Board of Elections data has revealed a very different picture of November's elections.

In races where voters may choose more than one candidate for an office (you can vote for two candidates for at-large seats on Council, for example), the Board of Elections distributes incomplete reports.

Last November, tens of thousands of District voters used only one of the two votes they were entitled to cast for City council

As a result, Phil Mendelson was reported as receiving 37% of the vote, whereas in truth 5596 of the persons who cast a ballot voted for him.

David Catania, similarly, was reported as having 21% support; in truth, 31% of the voters who participated in elections cast a ballot for him.

The Federation will again be working with the Government Operations Committee of Council to encourage more informative reports from the Board.

Many thanks to Michigan Park's Dino Drudi for his continuing excellent work in this area.

We will continue to provide this analysis until the Board does it for everyone.

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Meeting Y2K challenges together: National Cathedral on March 11

Through the leadership of Washington National Cathedral, a working session for community organizations to prepare for the Y2K challenges has been organized for Thursday, March 11.

Plenary session will be from 9 to 12:30; working groups will be held from 2 to 5 p.m. Among those participating will be representatives of the American Red Cross, the Council of Governments, the Metro Washing ton Human Services Coalition, and other concerned groups. The program is designed for churches, community groups,

Commentators will include John Koskinen, assistant to President Clinton and Chair of the President's Council on Year 2000 Conversion. Registration is free, but Information should be phoned (537-2221), faxed (537-2160), emailed ( ), or put on the web   ( ).

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Federation support for lower Metro fares

The Federation testified at a January hearing in support of eliminating charges for zone crossing and bus-to-bus transfers. We also supported elimination of rail-to-bus transfers, consistent with long-held positions. The Federation supports the proposition that escalation of fares would be counterproductive, driving passengers from the Metro system as it becomes more costly to utilize. Our statement applauded the change in direction advocated by current Metro leadership.

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ABC Task Force

At the Federation's January meeting, a task force was appointed to look Into a series of alcohol-licensing questions, including new strictures (proposed by Councilmember Catania) on the sale of individual containers of beer or malt liquor ale beverages by Class A or B businesses.

In addition, the task force will consider the question of whether ABC licenses held in "moratorium areas" should be retained as property by the applicant, or should be returned to the city for cancellation or for sale under particular circumstances. Members of the task force include Pat Allen, Buck Clarke, Dino Drudi, Miles Steele; members are encouraged to contact them (see page 5) if these questions pose problems for your community.

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University growth — by leaps and bounds

Ward 5 Federation members are reporting that Catholic University, which has had a history of positive community relations, has recently announced that it may no longer provide on campus housing for junior and senior class members.

The potential increase in student residents in Michigan Park and Brookland raise questions about whether these communities will share the experience of the Foggy Bottom, Burleith, and west Georgetown communities, where intense expansion of off- campus student quarters has been cited for changing the character of family-oriented neighborhood life. In particular, there is trouble controlling weekend parties of increasingly large groups of students (many under the legal age for drinking).

Why the concern? Catholic University anticipates a 91% increase in the number of freshmen for the Fall '99 semester.

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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
Larry Chatman, 16th Street Heights, 291-7381
Dino Joseph Drudi, Michigan Park Citizens Association, 526-0891
Kay Eckles, Residential Action Coalition, 265-5961
Guy Gwynne, Burleith Citizens Association, 338-5164
M. R. Peggy Snyder, Chancery Court, 338-1972
Miles Steele III, Hillcrest Community Citizens Association, 582-7832
Kathy Sternberg, Kalorama Citizens Association, 328-4806
Alice Stewart, Palisades Citizens Association, 364-1505
Marc Weiss, Southwest Neighborhood Assembly, 535-1970
Al Wheeler, Oldest Inhabitants of DC, 337-00340
Barbara Zartman, Cloisters in Georgetown, 337-6505

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President’s Message — Barbara Zartman

In these early months of 1999 the Federation is putting an emphasis on the new leadership of City Council, the committee chairs who have been given oversight responsibilities for departments and agencies that have a high impact on the quality of life in District neighborhoods.

Last month Council Chair Linda Cropp repeated her desire to work with the Federation and its members on better community input to the planning process, and on a Charter review project she will introduce shortly. However abstract they sound, these are the documents that erect the skeleton for civic life in the District. We will gladly take Mrs. Cropp up on her offer.

We also shared with her our concerns about:

  • adequate inspection and enforcement staff for DPW and DCRA
  • the lack of accountability of the Water and Sewer Authority
  • the need for electronic availability through websites of key information about local government
  • the need for ABC reform
  • further work on parking reform.

We invite our member organizations to actively participate in these sessions, and in the follow-up work that will help make these exchanges more productive.

Chairman Cropp also described the evaluations of Council's function that were done by the National Conference of State Legislatures and by the Appleseed Center. We will try to make copies available at our February meeting, and will analyze them in the next Federation News.

It is in our own interest to make the Council work, and work as effectively as it can. Join our efforts.

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Why not become a member of the Federation?

If your organization becomes a new member, dues for the balance of our program year are just $30! Your organization is entitled to three delegates and three alternates, each of whom gets a subscription to the Federation News. Please contact a Board member or the Treasurer, Gracie Baten.

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Several websites have been identified that provide extensive materials on either issues of concern to the federation and its members or of general interest to citizen organizations. (Community organizations will be listed next month.)

Helpful Sites for Federal Government Information Commerce Department search engine   This is WINGS, the Postal Service's Web Interactive Network of Government Service. It searches by agency name or service. The Government Information Locator Service searches agency sites by fields. Not local government, but the Library of Congress. In addition to this repository of and links to federal information, it links to wonderful resources such as the papers of the "Thomas" (as in Jefferson), links to House and Senate members and Congressional committees, dally Congressional Record. This is the site for the federal General Accounting Office, the unit that conducts independent investigations and analyses of governmental functioning. Recent studies of interest have concerned the Convention Center, airline industry/FAA.

National Reference Sites and Search Engines Website for the American Library Association — the cyberspace equivalent of a helpful librarian at a very large library, hyperlinks with many other resource sites, offers reviews of websites that are useful, interesting, and safe for teenagers —and even younger children. (Can even respond to information inquiries, but not overnight lest it be too useful on homework assignments.) This is the Brookings Institution website. Get information about Brookings' mission, recent studies, comparative materials about other local governments. Called U.S. Business Advisor, this is a searchable database designed by the University of Massachusetts Center for Intelligent Information Retrieval. Internic allows you to search government website6: it links to other search engines and the three branches of federal government. This was created by the University of Michigan to allow searches and links to government and private sources by subject. Washington University created this website to track legislation at the state level, including the District. Villanova University's Center for Information Law and Policy created this site for listing and searching government servers. This is the website for the League of Women Voters of the United Estates. It offers links to the local League as well, and it provides information about national voter-rights issues. National Association for Public Administration, chartered by Congress, shares "best practices" of governments. This site is home for the National League of Cities, a respected organization that provides studies and information about the issues that affect cities large and small across America. The website for the National Conference of State Legislatures, which shares information among legislative arms of state governments; recently studied D.C. Council (not yet available at this site). [Available at ] The National Civic League is a 105-year old organization, founded by Theodore Roosevelt, committed to grass-roots solutions to problems; designates "All American Cities." Website of the American Planning Association and its professional counterpart, the American Institute of Certified Planners. It provides access to policy positions taken by APA, to recent publications, to conferences, and to other materials that could be of value to citizen-planners. Is working with Mayor Williams on new D.C. planning function. Website of The Century Fund (formerly Twentieth Century Fund), independent research and advocacy group, with particular interest in elementary and secondary education. The Great American Web Site previews information; links users directly to other sites. This website is for the Urban Institute, another national think tank that stud lee the problems of urban areas, shares information and studies about their resolution.

Local and Area Government Information Council's General Counsel's site, publishes "Legalese" council rules, confirmation information

ANC's: The District's official homepage, in need of a lot of work. This is the website of the Board of Elections and Ethics in the District. Calendars and schedules are available, along with listings of pertinent information, registration materials, election results, addresses of polling places, and much more. Site for the Chief Financial Officer, a very useful place for budget information, material about contracts, tax forms, information about tax delinquencies — and even job and internship information. Track the activities of the Convention Center Authority, including its public meetings, building progress, etc. Council's website, with access to members' bios, legislative process; planned for upgrades. The Control Board's website, with detailed information about its activities; it contains the authorizing legislation, as well as all bills that Council has sent to the Control Board for approval. You can find reports, contracting standards, a database of contractors, and many other assets. The Inspector General's website, with reports, Hotline number, etc. The District's public library website, with hours of operation, links to important information, includes computer training options. DCRA's website (with music!) outlines permitting process, offers some forms online. The D. C. Department of Parks and Recreation gives information about facilities, hours, utilization. The Tax Revision Commission's site contains many of the studies that resulted in their report for restructuring D. C. taxes and revenues. The Department of Human Services, information about a range of D.C. assistance programs. D. C. Department of Employment Services, information about job availability, qualifications. Site for administration of D. C. public schools. has lots of information, Including recent issue of weighted funding. Metropolitan Police Department snazzy website includes crime statistics, reform updates, recruitment information. Council of Governments. the interstate entity linking local governments in greater Washington area. Transportation and road planning projects are only the beginning of the areas in which COG plays a critical role. Maintained by highly committed D. C. employee Brian Flowers, the site includes titles of DCMR(Municipal Regulations), cumulative list of amendments, text of the Administrative Procedures Act, other goodies. Metro's website, includes maps, timetables, links to other transportation sites (including Arlington, where you can buy farecards on-line.

Local Information Sites The site for the Greater Washington Board of Trade, the regional Chamber of Commerce that links Virginia, Maryland, and District businesses for public policy and governmental action, as well as broad business promotion. This universal search engine provides an effective way to tour District sites and sources of information. This is the site for the local Chamber of Commerce, offers information about the organization, its mission, and its activities, as well as membership Sit for advocacy for public schools; contains community newsletters, links. Good mix of local information, with dining, entertainment, chatrooms, lots more. This website is very useful for those who follow community interests; it contains current information about Council, the Control Board, Police and the community, and election issues. It also hyperlink to a range of useful other sites, as well as editorials on key issues. This is a very active commercial site, offering information about theater, dining, athletics, weather, traffic (including radar traps!), and a rich range of chatrooms This is a link to the foreign embassy community of Washington, and it links to many interesting information cites. Locations of embassies. Site has its own search engines to access virtual tours, archives, libraries. A special slant on the local information scene: this site identifies shops, theaters, other information based on a route of travel Need a photocopy shop on your way out Georgia Avenue? Try this one. This site of the National Association to Restore Pride in America's Capital, founded by "concerned citizens of the Grater Washington Metropolitan Area outraged by the declining quality of life in our nation's capital." Analyzes and links with studies in the fields of education. health, safety, infrastructure, and finance for the purpose of contributing to the debate on the District's future. Traveler-based information about airports, hotels. Includes terminal layouts, schedules, etc. Site for the Convention and Visitors Association, and includes information about performances, exhibitions, promotions, and festivals, along with other traveler-related information. Committee for the Capital City, devoted to retrocession to Maryland

Universities: Information about local higher education institutions is readily available, along with access to library materials, histories, other very useful data. Georgetown is ;George Washington is ; Howard is , and so forth.

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