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November 20, 2013

Keep a Low Profile

Dear Human-Scale Humans:

The National Capital Planning Commission voted seven to three against changing the Height Act and for preserving the District of Columbia as a low-scale, family-friendly city. At the same time, the city council also voted, with the sole exception of Marion Barry, to preserve the protections of the Height Act. Advocates of developers and skyscrapers, posing as “smart growth,” are angry with both the NCPC and the council, and are trying to portray this as “states rights,” “self-government” issue. When the local governing body, the city council, takes the same position as the federal body, the NCPC, it’s difficult to see what dispute there is between the feds and the locals. In this matter, both entities are representing DC’s local residents against the special interests, who reject the kind of city DC has become, and prefer the models of Rosslyn and Crystal City instead.

Gary Imhoff


District Elections in 2014
Dorothy Brizill,

Voting precincts and polling sites. The DC Board of Elections (DCBOE) has scheduled two additional public hearings and extended the deadline for public comment on the proposed plans to redraw voting precinct boundaries and relocate many polling sites in 2014. The public hearings will be held on Thursday, November 21, at 10:00 a.m. and 6:00 p.m., One Judiciary Square, 441 4th Street, NW, Room 280 South. Written comments must be submitted by November 30 by E-mail to or by postal mail to DC Board of Elections, 441 4th Street, NW, Suite 250, Washington DC 20001.

At the monthly Board meeting on October 2, the DC BOE tentatively approved a plan that had been developed by the BOE staff (with no civic or community input) that would drastically change voting precinct boundaries and polling locations in the District. The plan is on the Board web site at It was initially sent only to ANC commissioners, with a short public comment deadline of October 30, so that the new precinct boundaries and polling sites could be implemented by the BOE for the April 1, 2014, primary election. Most neighborhoods have reacted with surprise upon hearing of the plan, and many residents found the plan and accompanies maps indecipherable. Concerns were raised about the relocations of many polling sites, which in some instances were more than a mile away from their current locations. Assuming the Board reworks its plan following the public comment period, the earliest the Board could vote on it would be at its scheduled December 4 meeting. The BOE would then have to forward the plan to the city council, which retains the sole legislative authority to redraw precinct boundaries. (The Board can only determine the specific locations of polling sites within those boundaries.) Assuming that the council would not hold public hearings on the BOE plan until the first quarter of 2014, it now seems unlikely that there will be adequate time to implement new boundaries and polling sites properly by the April 1 primary date.

Candidates and campaigns. An updated list of people who have picked up nominating petitions is posted on the DC BOE web site at In the Democratic Party, new entrants include Michael Lee Matthews for US Delegate, John F. Settles and Kevin Valentine, Jr., for at-large councilmember, Carolyn C. Steptoe for Ward 5 councilmember, Shelonda P. Tillman for Ward 6 councilmember, and Glenda J. Richmond and Martin Sterbal for US [Shadow] Senator. No new Republican or Statehood Green candidates have filed for any seat, but Bruce Majors of the Libertarian Party picked up petitions on November 20 for the office of mayor. Majors ran for the position of delegate in 2012 against Eleanor Holmes Norton and managed to receive enough votes so that the Libertarian Party secured permanent ballot status as a party in the District.

Nonresident petition circulators. In 2012, Majors and the Libertarian Party sued the Board of Elections challenging a long-standing provision in District law that required nominating petitions in DC to be circulated by District residents. In their lawsuit, Majors, et al., claimed that District law violated “rights guaranteed to them by the First and Fifth Amendments of the Constitutions.” In an out-of-court settlement, DC Attorney General Irv Nathan got the city council to amend the District’s election law so that in the 2014 election non-District residents will be able to circulate nominating petitions, provided they register as petition circulators with the Board of Elections prior to circulating them.

Seven campaigns (Jack Evans, Reta Lewis, Beverly Wheeler, Paul Strauss, Muriel Bowser, Andy Shallal, and Eleanor Holmes Norton) have registered twenty-eight nonresident petition circulators with the Board of Elections (see To date, the Evans and Lewis campaigns, with eleven and eight nonresident circulators, respectively, have the most.

OCF filings. The District’s election law requires a candidate to file a “statement of organization” regarding his or her campaign committee with the DC Office of Campaign Finance (OCF) within five days of picking up nominating petitions. On November 8, Gerri Adams-Simmons, representing the Draft Committee to Save Our City, picked up nominating petitions for Vincent Orange to run for mayor in the April primary. On November 14, Orange filed a statement of organization for his Vincent Orange 2014 for Mayor committee with OCF, but he failed to specify either a committee chairman or treasurer, as required by District law. According to DC Code 1-1163.07, “no contribution and no expenditure shall be accepted or made by or on behalf of a committee at a time when there is a vacancy in the office of treasurer for the committee.” In a November 12 article in the Washington Post, Orange is quoted as saying that, “he has no immediate plans to form a campaign committee, leaving the ‘Draft Committee to Save Our City’ led by Adams-Simmons to handle signature-gathering for the time being, with fundraising to come later.” However, in order to quality for and participate in the November 13 candidates forum sponsored by the DC Bar, Orange pledged that he would raise $25,000 by the next reporting deadline at the OCF — December 10. Orange’s current campaign fundraising activities, without having properly registered a committee with a treasurer at OCF, is especially troubling given the cloud that still hovers over the finances of his 2010 and 2011 council campaigns.

Other candidates who picked up nominating petitions on November 8 who have yet to file with OCF include Octavia Wells (mayor and US [Shadow] Senator), Nate Bennett Fleming(at-large councilmember), and Paul Zukerberg (attorney general).

Democratic State Committee election. On November 8, the city council adopted emergency legislation, the Party Officer Elections Emergency Amendment Act of 2013. The bill, which amends the District’s election code “to permit the election of officials of political parties during any regularly scheduled primary election,” will allow the District’s Democratic State Committee to place the election of party officials (e.g., national committeeman, national committeewoman, at-large committee party member, and ward committee members) on the April 1 primary ballot. In order to be on the ballot, candidates will have to secure nominating petitions from the DC BOE and submit the requisite signatures by January 2, 2014 ( The council’s emergency legislation, which was adopted without a public hearing or public notice, allows the DC Democratic Party to held long-overdue and postponed party elections at public expense. Rather than bearing the expense of convening a party convention, two councilmembers, Vincent Orange, a National Democratic Party committeeman, and Anita Bonds, chairman of the Democratic State Committee, worked tirelessly to shepherd the legislation through the council. When it came up for a vote on November 5, Orange was absent, but Bonds did not recuse herself. Instead, she participated in the unanimous vote to approve the emergency bill. To many, it is clear that Bonds had a conflict of interest, and that she violated the council’s Code of Conduct by participating in an “official action that would adversely affect the confidence of the public in the integrity of the District government.” Moreover, the District’s Ethics Manual, published by the DC Board of Ethics and Government Accountability, has clear rules and guidelines regarding activities outside the District government by government employees and officials. It states that “if an employee is an officer, director, trustee, partner or employee of an outside organization, then the employee must not participate as a District employee in any particular matter (such as a judicial proceeding, investigation, contract, or grant) that would have a financial effect on that organization.”


Affordable Housing, Smart Growth, and Parking
Robert Bettmann, Ward 4,

There is an important conversation happening right now about the need for increased affordable housing and how the city might pay for it. As you know, zoning regulations are one of the few chits the city can legally use to encourage developers to add/create affordable housing units. Under current statute if a developer wants to go higher than the original zoning, or cover a larger percentage of the lot than zoned with the building footprint, that may be allowed in exchange for addition of affordable units. These kinds of zoning variance can be a win for everyone. A developer gets to add units (increase profits) while DC residents get access to high quality affordable housing at less cost to taxpayers.

If this new zoning proposal offered developers the option to reduce or eliminate parking in exchange for adding affordable housing units I’d support it. But as is this is simply a developer giveaway masquerading as “smart growth.” The city needs to make sure that affordable housing exists in prime locations (near metros) and DMPED [the Office of the Deputy Mayor for Planning and Economic Development] is trying to give away an important bargaining chip that could help make that happen. It’s ridiculous, has nothing to do with smart growth, and should be stopped.



Council of Churches Forum on DC Statehood November 21
Ann Loikow,

The Council of Churches of Greater Washington invites all interested persons to take part in our annual fall assembly, on Thursday, November 21, from 6:00 to 8:00 p.m., at the National City Christian Church (Community Room) at 5 Thomas Circle. Supper will be served, and underground parking is available from N Street, NW. Johnny Barnes, Esq., noted civil rights leader and former longtime director of the Washington Chapter of the ACLU, will be speaking on “Statehood for the District of Columbia — Why It Is Owed to Us and How Houses of Worship can Assist in the Statehood Process.”

The Council of Churches of Greater Washington believes that now is the right time for houses of worship of the Washington area to share with the American public and the US Congress the deep frustration of residents of the District of Columbia with the flawed and undemocratic nature of our unequal status. We wish to spur public awareness that the current situation is unjust and belies our trust that American democracy is fair. We believe it can be permanently and constitutionally rectified through seeking statehood — the only complete, fair and final remedy.

Why statehood? Because that is the means provided by our Constitution to ensure equal treatment of all citizens of the United States, and because any lesser measure can be rescinded by Congress at any time and for any reason it chooses to do so, regardless of the wishes of our residents. No such burden is laid upon citizens living in any of the states making up our union. We believe justice and democracy demand nothing less than statehood. Come, listen and take part. An online invitation and RSVP form can be found at


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