Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Ward 3 Dems for Conroy

I received a 4 page letter (return address did not indicate the sender, but was simply from Morrison Street, NW). I had actually thrown it away and had to retrieve it when a friend emailed me and asked if I had received a long-winded letter of support from the "Ward 3 Democrats for Conroy".

It is filled with most of the same stuff present on various Ward 3 Yahoo Groups, such as:

They claim that "Professor Cheh has not shown that she has the community experience or willingness to learn or listen that are basic requirements of representing Ward 3". That is interesting because Mary Cheh has knocked on hundreds, if not thousands of doors during the campaign. She has attended scores of community forums, meet and greets, etc. and listened to thousands of Ward 3 voices.

They make the claim that electing Mary Cheh will result in higher density development for all of the Ward 3 corridors, with no regard for overtaxed roads and schools or the impact on the struggling EMS, fire and police services. Actually, Cheh entered the race because of the outrage over the tragic death of a colleague of her husband, which was preventable had a competent police and EMS response happened in Washington DC. This is actually a top priority of Mary Cheh, yet this group is solely focused on the development angle, without any regard to the bigger priorities in Cheh's platform.

They make the claim that Theresa Conroy is beholden to no one but the voters. I am not sure who they claim Mary Cheh is beholden to. As noted earlier on a local Yahoo Group, Mary Cheh raised the most money of any of the Ward 3 candidates from within the Ward. Her money came primarily from individual donors from all corners of the Ward. To suggest that she is not beholden to the scores of supporters who donated time and money to her campaign is an insult. Further, who is Theresa Conroy beholden to? In the summer, her website and campaign brochures included the following passage:

...carefully examine development proposals whether in the Connecticut Avenue corridor, on Wisconsin Avenue, or elsewhere in Ward 3. Allow reasonable development (smart growth) that incorporates off street parking and contributes to the tax base, while ensuring that our existing residential neighborhoods remain peaceful and quiet with green areas for recreation...

Who is this group fooling when Theresa Conroy, the republican candidate, does contortions of epic proportions in changing her position on development in the ward to suit the whims of this group? This is the most outrageous effort I have seen in 35 years of DC politics, particularly when her original platform was identical to Cheh's.

This group also raises the issue of the Comprehensive Plan, and Conroys willingness to flush years of effort and hundreds of thousands of taxpayer dollars down the commode in tossing or delaying the proposed comprehensive plan. I am not sure what this group thinks they will gain by delaying the adoption of the plan, but if Tersh Boasberg, the chair of the DC Historic Preservation Review Board thinks the plan is ok, then it is good enough for me.

They also beat the dead horse of the connection between GWU and Mary Cheh. That has been addressed on countless occasions, including in a letter to the NW Current by Stephen Tractenberg. She is teaching at most, one class per semester, and the fact she has tenure mitigates any hold that the institution would have over her employment status (she led an intensive deposition of GW during her pro-bono service to the City Council. The concept of having to recuse herself is silly. After all, Linda Cropp never had to recuse herself from Council proceedings where GWU is concerned, and her husband is the Vice President of the university.

In short, the Ward 3 Democrats for Conroy try to rehash the same tired arguments against Mary Cheh, but offer little positive for the pro-life, anti-human rights republican candidate, Theresa Conroy, who offers nary more than a safe haven for those who feel chilled by the prospects of a Councilperson Cheh. Has it occurred to these people that the broader Ward 3 community feels chilled by the antics that the ANCs and Community Associations have foisted on the rest of us who want better retail and a new approach to issues in the Ward?

With respect to the signers of the document, it is generally the regular cast of "no development" Ward 3 activists. I note 4 people on the list:

Lars Hydle is a republican

Disclosure: I am a Republican, but there is no Republican candidate for this position in the general election

So I am not sure why he is even signing or supporting this letter.

Alma Gates, Bruce Beckner and Deborah Jane Lindeman are all ANC Commissioners. All three are being challenged in the general election. I hope each of their seats becomes a proxy on this issue. I would note also that Bruce Beckner was the leading torch bearer against the NCRC preschool, and even led the fight against new sidewalks in Cleveland Park, in an effort to fight the pre-school (of which he lives next door). The tens, if not hundreds of thousands of dollars of wasted DC taxpayer money caused by Mr. Beckner (via delays he instigated in the project) should send a red flag to anyone considering supporting him or Conroy on November 7th. This was not good use of taxpayer dollars or community time. If the kind of activism embodied by these three commissioners is indicative of a Conroy Council tenure, then it is very telling.

Monday, October 30, 2006

Washington Post: Palisades Development

This is the classic preservation/status quo versus new development, except that the players are all influential in the grand scheme of things.

It seems like this would have been a good place to come to some compromise on the most efficient use of 3 and 1/2 acres of generally pristine land, rather than to cram so many "luxury" houses into the parcel.

It will be fun to see how this plays out.

Saturday, October 28, 2006

City Paper: Unsightly Dirt finally removed

For five consecutive school years, a giant 25-foot-by-5 foot heap of dirt had sat on the playground of Oyster Bilingual Elementary School in Woodley Park. Finally, more than a year after City Paper first covered the story, the pile is gone, replaced with a climbing wall for kids.

The developer who built the school had used dirt mound to disguise a slab of unsightly concrete that was reinforcing the playground area. But the mound became the truly unsightly thing when it lost its grass and deteriorated into a pile of dirt and rocks. When parents first proposed transforming the mound into a climbing wall, according to ANC Commissioner Deborah Jane Lindeman, D.C. Public Schools wouldn't allow it.

“The powers that be were just stubborn as all get out.” Lindeman says. She says that DCPS argued that the climbing wall and wouldn't be fair to disabled/handicapped students, even though the parents’ plans also included an ADA-compliant climbable rock. Complaining to School Board Superintendent Clifford Janey didn't do any good.

When DCPS finally gave the Oyster Community Council permission to finish the climbling wall last year, parents went to the local advisory neighborhood commission for a $17,100 grant to make the improvements.

Lindeman says she doesn't understand why DCPS was so stubborn in the first place. “They kept claiming that it wasn't ADA-compliant,” she says. “But neither is a mound of dirt and rocks and exposed concrete.”

Final Ward 3 Debate set

Please come to a Ward 3 Council Candidates' Forum on Friday evening, November 3, from 7 to 9 pm, at the Washington International Churc at River Road and Fessenden Street.

Candidates Mary Cheh (d) and Theresa Conroy (r) will be participating and the League of Women Voters will moderate. Co-sponsors include ANC3E, ANC3C, ANC3D, the Tenleytown Neighbors Association, the Friendship-Tenleytown Citizens Association, the Ft. Gaines Citizens Association, and the Woodley Park Community Association. Below is the format the candidates have agreed upon:

Five topics will be covered by the candidates:

The Environment
Public Safety
Fiscal Management

Each topic will be given 10 minutes and will be broken down in the following way:

Candidate A. 3 minutes to discuss topic.
Candidate B. Asks one question on topic to candidate A.
Candidate A. 1 Minute response to question.

Candidate B. 3 minutes to discuss the same topic.
Candidate A. Asks one question on topic to candidate B.
Candidate B. 1 Minute response to question.

The Moderator selects one question from the audience to ask the candidates. Each candidate has one minute to answer the audience question.

Then the moderator moves candidates on to the next topic. Debate continues this way for all topics--alternating which candidate begins.

Questions from audience members will be written on cards and collected by volunteers. Moderator will review cards and select one question per topic to ask each candidate. As indicated above, questions from the audience will be incorporated into each "issue block."

Each candidate will have 2 minutes to make an opening statement at start of debate, and 2 minutes to make a closing statement at the end.

Friday, October 27, 2006

Cheh and Conroy face off on Kojo!

DC Politics Hour with Kojo and Jonetta

Mayor Anthony Williams on his final months in office -- and the next era in District leadership. Plus, the future of one of D.C.'s most prosperous areas. We hear from the candidates for the Ward 3 Council seat. Join us for our weekly review of the politics, policies, and personalities of the District of Columbia.

Anthony Williams, Mayor, District of Columbia

Mary Cheh, Democratic Candidate, Ward 3, D.C. City Council

Theresa Conroy, Republican Candidate, Ward 3, D.C. City Council

Wednesday, October 25, 2006

October 25th NW Current wrap up

A few items caught my eye in the October 25th NW Current:

- The headline, top fold article about the Comprehensive Plan is very interesting. The Office of Planning has added language to assuage the opponents of the passage of the Comp Plan this term. According to the article the amendments include additional protections for "historic neighborhoods" where Transit Oriented Development are concerned. In other words, Woodley Park and Cleveland Park and their historic designations are relatively safe from any new TOD plans. Of course, this also means that Tenleytown and Friendship Heights may still be ripe for development proposals, particularly on the 5220 Wisconsin Avenue, WMATA Garage and Pedas properties, this continuing the angst against the plan by "civic activists".

- Theresa Conroy, the Republican Ward 3 candidate has written a viewpoint parsing DC Law where Ward 3 Democratic nominee Mary Cheh's "association" with George Washington University may cause Cheh to recuse herself from Council proceedings where GWU is concerned. Of course, GWU officials and Council attorneys had weighed in on this prior to the Democratic Primary, but if Conroy wants to turn the dead horse into glue, that is her prerogative. In its endorsement of Mary Cheh, the Northwest Current states,

We doubt that analysis, given the outgoing D.C. Council Chairman Linda Cropp - whose husband is an official at George Washington University - has not faced similar problems. Nor have practicing attorneys such as sitting council member Jack Evans and former members Harold Brazil, Kevin Chavous and Bill Lightfoot, all of whom have chaired various council committees

At the Democratic State breakfast earlier this month, DC representative Eleanor Holmes Norton praised Cheh for her committment to education, noting that she too had such an appointment at a local university.

- Speaking of dead horses, there is an article by Staff Writer Julia O'Donoghue pointing out that Candidate Conroy is gaining traction with certain Ward 3 Voters who are in favor of delaying the implementation of the Comp Plan and who oppose new development (or overdevelopment) in the Ward. The irony here, of course, is that the "keep it as it is" voice was heard and largely ignored in the democratic primary, given the means by which the development critics raised the banner in the weeks prior to the election. It is funny, Theresa Conroy is quoted in the article as saying the retail options on upper Wisconsin Avenue are "adequate" given the shopping opportunities in Friendship Heights. I am glad the republican candidate is happy to have our retail dollars going to Maryland businesses.

I guess a "sensible growth", pro-life, anti-business republican candidate in Ward 3 makes a complex recipe. November 7th should be interesting.

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

Military Road redux

The hot topic of Military Road has reemerged over the past week as the DC Department of Transportation concluded its "one year" study with restriping and center turn lanes.

The study came about as a result of Military Road residents complaining of speeding and lack of parking near their houses. As a result, DDOT implemented a one-lane in each direction approach to this Upper Northwest arterial roadway. The striping also includes center turn lanes.

The test was a disaster within a few days:

If you drive along Military Road in Northwest DC, you may have noticed longer backups. This is because 4 lanes of thru-traffic have been turned into 2 lanes. Some drivers tell 9News their morning commutes have increased by as much as 20 minutes due to the road changes. So, what happened to the other two lanes you ask? One of them is for turns only. The other one is for residential parking. While commuters may hate the new traffic pattern, most residents along this stretch of road love the changes. "People have been flying down Military Road for years using it as a highway," says long time resident Shelly Sconberger. In order to slow down the traffic, DCÂ’s Department of Transportation implemented the changes. Now they are studying the impact of all their work and they want to hear from you! If you have any pros or cons youÂ’d like DDOT to know about regarding this project, call 202-727-1000.

At the Octoberer 23, 2006 ANC 3/4G meeting, DDOT announced that they intend to maintain the 1 lane scheme on a permanent basis, except during rush-hour, when a second lane would be added (North lanes in the morning and south lanes for the PM). The ANC indicated a desire to simply revert the road scheme to the way it was before the study was conducted, while adding speed reduction schemes.

A community meeting for all interested will be held at the Chevy Chase Center on Wednesday, October 25th, 6:30.

Monday, October 23, 2006

Washington Post Endorsement Ward 3

IN LAST MONTH'S Democratic primary contests for D.C. Council seats in Wards 1, 3, 5 and 6, we endorsed Jim Graham , Mary Cheh , Harry "Tommy" Thomas Jr. and Tommy Wells , respectively. We repeat our endorsement of each of these candidates in the Nov. 7 general election.
. . .

Ward 3 Democratic nominee Mary Cheh has all the qualities to make a fine lawmaker in the mold of Kathy Patterson, who vacates that seat in January. But Theresa Conroy, carrying the Republican standard, has proven to be a smart opponent with a good feel for Ward 3 issues. She's not up to Ms. Cheh in experience and knowledge of city government, so Ward 3 voters ought to support the Democrat. Ms. Conroy, however, has a future in District politics, provided she remains involved with civic concerns.

Saturday, October 21, 2006

Tenley Firehouse Reopens!!

After how many years of discussion? How many stops and starts? How much taxpayer money wasted?

The historic Tenleytown firehouse, Company 20 finally reopens . This is a releif to thousands of upper Northwest residents who have endured a patchwork (but hurculean and heroic) effort on the part of the DCFD to properly serve and protect the citizens.

From the article:

A historic Northwest firehouse is open again, after a renovation project took four times longer than expected and cost more than double what was budgeted.
"The main thing is, we're in," D.C. fire department Capt. Kenneth Crosswhite, who is stationed at the remodeled Engine 20 in Tenleytown, said yesterday. "And we've actually improved the service to the community."
Firefighters returned Oct. 14, four years and four months after what was slated to be a one-year project began in June 2002. Officials say the cost of renovating the 1901 firehouse ballooned from the $2.9 million that was originally budgeted to about $7 million.
Engine 20 is now a paramedic-engine company, meaning that one firefighter on each shift is a certified paramedic. It also is home to a ladder truck and an ambulance, and serves as the headquarters for the 5th battalion chief.
The firehouse has at least 50 percent more space, with a larger kitchen and bathroom facilities. The most obvious addition is the two new drive-through bays with 13-foot doors. They replace doors originally designed for horse-drawn fire wagons through which only older, smaller vehicles could fit.
"Having the wider doors decreases response times because you're not slowing down as much," Capt. Crosswhite said.
However, some problems still exist.
Firefighters are sharing space with construction workers, who are completing the renovations at the station, on Warren Street Northwest. Some exterior work also remains, such as laying sod and a sidewalk and fixing a large crack in the building's facade.
"Everything that remains to be done now is superficial," said Alan Etter, a fire department spokesman. However, he acknowledged the project "took too long, no question about it."
The $2.9 million renovation contract was awarded in July 2002 to District-based HRGM Corp. A dispute was raised about construction issues, and city officials fired the company in July 2003, saying it had defaulted on the contract.
Officials rebid the contract and selected Garcete Construction Co. Inc., increasing the budget to $3.9 million. The work was supposed to be completed by last August, but the city granted an extension to the contractor.
An official rededication ceremony and open house is scheduled for Nov. 4. The event also will celebrate the 100-year anniversary of the house's designation as Engine 20.

By Matthew Cella
Published October 21, 2006

Tom Knott covers the Glover Park Alley

As discussed previously there is a little controversy in Glover Park. Tom Knott addresses it in the Washington Times.

Thursday, October 19, 2006

Chevy Chase Candidates forum

This is a review of the recent Chevy Chase Citizens Association candidates forum. This was the second, of I believe two forums where the Ward 3 Council candidates will meet:

There was a good crowd at the meeting, in part because it included a forum for candidates for School Board president. Much of the dialogue between Cheh and Conroy covered very familiar ground: both candidates reiterated positions that can be found on their websites. Cheh spoke of her support for transit-oriented development on upper Wisconsin Avenue that focuses on pedestrian-friendly access to retail stores, while Conroy favored the status quo - saying that there are already plenty of retail and grocery stores there.

The only new issue addressed was the question of where each stood on a woman's right to choose and DC support for benefits for same-sex partners.

Conroy declared she was pro-life. While she doesn't support a woman's right to choose, she is endorsed by the Log Cabin Republicans, and would support laws on the books. As for the second part of the question, she said that she believed such matters should be left to states. Cheh said that she supports a woman's right to choose, and linked the issue to her commitment to fight for the District of Columbia right to self-determination. She noted that Congress has forbidden the DC government to pay for abortions for low-income women, and called it an intolerable situation. It was interesting that this was the only response of the night that drew applause from the audience.

Ward3Vision website goes live

The DC Ward 3 Smart Growth Coalition changed its name in the Spring to reflect a broader vision for the future of Ward 3 where neighborhood serving retail, affordable housing and lively streetscape are concerned.

To encapsulate this "vision" the committee has launched its new website in order to attract new members and continue to build on the momentum it has achieved over the past year.

If you are interested in a revitalized Wisconsin Avenue corridor, enhanced regional environmental concerns, and affordable housing, particularly for city employees and first responders, then you should visit their website and sign up to the movement!

Wednesday, October 18, 2006

Cleveland Park family forces change in DCPL Policy

As first reported on the Cleveland Park Listserv, a local family had a frustrating day at the local branch of the library.

My son who is 4.5 was told that to get a library card he had to be able to write his name. This is an issue he has been working on as he has fine motor skill issues. He tried and tried but could not do it well enough and they would not give him a card, rendering him to tears. I know other four year olds can comply and would get a card and it seems very unfair and cruel to tie getting a library card to a child's physical development. It is discriminatory against those with developmental delays or physical disabilities. A policy requiring that a child be of a certain age makes sense; this one does not.

According to the City Paper, the days events were not for naught, as the Director has pledged to adjust the policy:

(The parents) lobbied Chief Librarian Ginnie Cooper to change the policy. By Saturday evening, Cooper gave word that she had abolished the handwriting challenge altogether. “It was an easy decision for us to make,” Cooper says. Making a 4-and-a-half-year-old cry, she says, is “not the kind of impression we want children to have at our libraries.”

But with the new policy in place, the library system wanted one more thing from Jonah: his picture on a brochure trumpeting the policy change. Jonah and his parents are up for it. “He's cute,” Loeb says. “He's a cute 4-year-old.”

Bravo to the DCPL system for getting it right.

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

Mark Plotkin on the republican candidate

Tenleytown, D.C.: So, how do you feel about the possibility of a Republican holding the Ward 3 Council seat?

Mark Plotkin: Won't happen. The Ward is overwhelmingly Democratic. Mary Cheh ran a strong race and beat all her Democratic opponents by over two to one. Conroy is a sign, I don't know anything else about her. For a Republican to win in a Ward race because of the registration figures, they need to be a household name with a great history, or spend hundred of thousands of dollars. The fact of life is that Republicans are seven percent of the registered voters in D.C. That's an enormous hill to climb. The Republican party is a social club, not a political party in this city. I wish it was more, it would help on the Hill. The only elected Republican Carol Schwartz won't even support the Republican running for Mayor. That says it all.

Your Taxpayer Dollars at Work

ANC3C passed a resolution last night authorizing up to $5,000 of OUR tax dollars to go to zoning attorneys to fight the Wardman project in Woodley Park.

ANC3C 02 Commissioner Deborah Lindeman proposed the resolution at the meeting (after having posted about it a scant few hours before the meeting on a narrowly read listserv). There was no adequate announcement beforehand that the Advisory Neighborhood Commission would be taking this action (as we have grown accustomed to such non-actions by various ANCs). The resolution said that the ANC would appeal all future permits and would take whatever legal action is necessary. ANC 3C Chair Nancy MacWood had clearly not read the resolution and it was after midnight when it was proposed. Some commissioners tried to get it deferred; but MacWood and Lindeman plowed it through. After one commissioner noted to Nancy MacWood what the resolution actually said, MacWood offered an amendment to eliminate any reference to future permits and future legal actions. It is too bad. It would have been really funny to watch ANC 3C bankrupt itself because of this hasty action.

Given that the total ANC budget is about $26,000, the $5,000 approved along with the $1,300 already spent on this account for about 26% of the total.

Ironic that Commissioner Lindeman abstained on a vote earlier this year, approving a grant for a playground at 39th & Porter for 6 to 12 year olds, an age that really needs to get out of the house, away from computers and TV, and onto the playground. The minutes say: "Commissioner Lindeman stated that she planned to abstain from the vote and encouraged the ANC to demonstrate fiscal responsibility."

I wonder how many of the folks in Woodley Park, and the broader ANC 3C area who support the Wardman project feel about this action?

Sunday, October 15, 2006

Washington Post on Aircraft noise in Palisades

By Sue Anne Pressley Montes
Washington Post Staff Writer
Sunday, October 15, 2006; C12

Every Saturday and Sunday afternoon, residents of the Palisades neighborhood in northwest D.C. look skyward. With clipboards in hand, they meticulously rate the noise levels of airplanes flying over their homes on the way to nearby Reagan National Airport.

They mark an option for each aircraft -- "less loud" than usual, "normal" or "louder." They hope their notations will convey, to regional and federal agencies, what it is like to live in a community where the house windows sometimes rattle in sync with the commercial-jet engines overhead.

"Just this morning, at 6 o'clock, I heard an aircraft fly over my house and I said, 'It's time to get up,' " said Spence Spencer, president of the Palisades Citizens Association, which is conducting a six-week study with the Metropolitan Washington Council of Governments.

About 700 flights take off from and land at National Airport each day, according to the Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority. Half fly over the Palisades.

On clear days, when visibility is good, aircraft bound for National operate under visual flight rules, basically following the Potomac River route and avoiding flying over neighborhoods such as the Palisades, FAA spokesman Paul Takemoto said. On overcast days, they fly under instrument flight rules and often have to end up over homes.

"We are very sensitive to noise issues, but our main concern is safety and you can't have aircraft snake their way up the river when they can't see the river," Takemoto said.

Palisades residents say they understand that, but they also think that new technology, based on a global positioning system approach, could keep the aircraft over the river in good weather and bad. The community, between Chain Bridge and Key Bridge, with an estimated 3,000 households, big shade trees and unique, old homes, has been involved in noise-abatement issues for many years.

"First of all, we are not trying to close down National Airport," said Stu Ross, past president of the citizens association. "What we're trying to do is find the best scientific way to manage noise. There are a couple of ways you can do this -- one is quieter engines, obviously, and the other is patterns pilots may fly when landing."

Coexisting with airport noise is one of the continuing predicaments of modern American life. Recent airport expansions, like those at San Francisco and Minneapolis-St. Paul, produced a storm of new protesters. As daily flights have increased and once-sleepy airports have grown, more residents and citizens groups across the country have begun pushing for better noise control.

"The problem is that the number of takeoffs and landings have increased faster than airplanes are getting quieter, and the times of takeoffs and landings are spreading into more vulnerable times of day, into early morning and late evening when people are sleeping," said Les Blomberg, director of the Noise Pollution Clearinghouse in Montpelier, Vt.

Palisades residents only complain about aircraft noise to a point. They knew what they were getting into when they moved into the neighborhood northwest of Georgetown, but the charm of the area bowled them over. In a mayor's proclamation that celebrated Palisades Day in May 2005, the community was described as "a small town in the big city, composed of an eclectic mix of citizens of all backgrounds committed to making our city a better place to live and work," and "a treasure of green spaces, quiet streets, high bluffs and breathtaking sunsets." The Palisades also has become known for its annual Fourth of July parade.

"I don't know anyone who's ever moved out or didn't buy a house here because of" the planes, said Ross, an attorney who moved to the Palisades 26 years ago and now lives in "an old boardinghouse" there. "You get used to it. Everyone benefits from how close National is to us. It's just one of those things you kind of put up with."

For about an eight-month period after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, noise levels in the Palisades reached new heights, residents said, when all arrivals had to pass over the neighborhood for security reasons. Use of the river route was later resumed.

Mat Thorp, a retired aerospace-industry executive who often is described as the unofficial mayor of the Palisades, is leading the noise-control effort. The 44-year resident of the neighborhood said he was struck by the loudness of passing aircraft when he viewed a video of his wife's memorial service that he held on his patio, and often could not understand what was being said because of engine noise.

As families in the Palisades and surrounding areas pull out the clipboards each weekend for the survey, Thorp is curious to know whether they can distinguish the quieter sounds of one airline. About a year ago, Alaska Airlines became the first U.S. carrier at National to use something called Required Navigation Performance, which uses the GPS satellite network to remain on course over the river.

The technology was developed in the 1990s for "some of the more challenging airports in Alaska," due to weather and terrain, an Alaska Airlines spokeswoman said. The airline is now expanding its use to other areas.

Four years ago, officials with the regional airports authority undertook an exhaustive study of noise control around National that has been turned over to the Federal Aviation Administration for review. They agree with Palisades residents that new technology "has provided a way for us to address a critical issue," said Jonathan Gaffney, an airports authority spokesman, adding, "Everybody's on the same page."

Official complaints about noise at National Airport are surprisingly few, with only about 40 this year, said Neal Phillips, noise-abatement manager for the authority.

Rob Krupicka, who chairs the aviation policy committee with the Washington council of governments, said he is interested in seeing the results of the Palisades survey and hopes residents in other neighborhoods eventually will join the effort. "We'll let [the Palisades] try it first and see what happens and expand it from there," said Krupicka, an Alexandria City Council member.

Ross said he realizes that even the best citizen efforts and the most sincere government responses can only go so far to solve the problem. It may never really be quiet in the Palisades.

"Oddly enough, the loudest thing we get is presidential helicopters," he said, describing the powerful motors and low approach. "Usually on Friday evenings or Sunday afternoons, you hear them coming down, and if you have folks around, you say, 'There goes the president.' "

© 2006 The Washington Post Company

Saturday, October 14, 2006

More bad traffic proposals for Ward 3

In a recent announcement for an updoming Chevy Chase ANC Meeting a commissioner announced that there is a

Possible proposal for one-way traffic on 3800 block of Livingston Street

One response retorted

Creating a one way traffic plan in the 3800 block of Livingston Street is a very bad idea and reminiscent of a one-way "Maze Plan" proposed and rejected (by the ANC) for the west side of Livingston and Morrison Streets in the late 1980s when I was on the ANC. Piecemeal traffic calming is NOT what this community needs. We need comprehensive traffic planning and a look at how one-way streets, traffic signals and other "calming" devices impact our traffic safety, traffic flow and cut through problems. I urge the ANC to reject this idea and all future proposals that consider one block or one street in isolation for traffic calming measures.

I agree with this sentiment. The city needs to formulate a comprehensive traffic management plan, rather than allow ANCs to encourage DDOT to implement these piecemeal measures.

Update on Glover Park alley

In an update about the proposed alley closure in Glover Park, and astute resident has reported that measured steps have been taken to arrive at a solution that seems to work for everybody:


There was no alley-related metaphorical bloodbath. Many were expecting a repeat of the passionate, three-plus hour city council hearing Tuesday about whether to close and privatize the L-shaped public alley between Tunlaw and Hall Place. But commission chair Tamela Gordon announced at the outset that no one was allowed to speculate on anyone else's motives, nor on anything that was not currently known for sure. That took a lot off the table.

Ms Gordon read a letter from Ken Laden of the D.C. Department of Transportation dated October 11, 2006. The letter said that, because even the applicant does not want the alley to be privatized (he wants it to remain public property, but forever closed to car traffic) he should withdraw his application, and in its place DDOT would file documents indicating that the alley should stay city property but remain "unimproved and closed to vehicular traffic."

Laden's letter does not acknowledge that there is a dispute among adjacent homeowners over whether the alley can or should be reopened to cars. (It also doesn't mention that, if left public, the alley could one day be used to create a public path from 37th Street to the commercial district!)

The DDOT general counsel's office is investigating the best legal method for prohibiting car traffic on a public alley, and will report back to Laden by October 20. Laden said the DDOT would not file any documents without consulting the ANC.

After a civil discussion among attendees, the ANC resolved to strongly urge the following:

a) The applicant to withdraw his application to close the alley;
b) The mayor to withdraw the bill to close the alley; and
c) The City Council to reject the bill to close the alley.

I believe this means that, as long as the City Council doesn't go nuts and pass the bill over the ANC's objections, the alley will not be privatized. But the question of what, if anything, to do with this public alley is still very open. The ANC will take up the matter at its November meeting. I got the sense that the ANC will be working with adjacent propertyholders in the meantime to try to develop a consensus. People like me who do not live adjacent to this public land will have to wait till the next ANC meeting to join that conversation. Should be fun!

Hopefully the powers that be will act appropriately.

City Paper unearths Palisades resident!

I had mentioned previously the Palisades resident who has unearthed quite the trove of early history in construction sites throughout the neighborhood. Huan Hsu of the City Paper has written an excellent cover story on the subject.

Friday, October 13, 2006

Marc Fisher comments on Conroy

Palisades, Washington, D.C.: Do you find any irony that the Republican, Theresa Conroy, running in the Ward 3 council race, has fully embraced the NIMBY viewpoint, which was (tongue in cheek) so successful in the Democratic primary?

Marc Fisher: It is funny to watch some of the liberal upper Northwest folks who are the foundation of the area's stereotype now running to the shelter of the Republican who promises to stand up to development. Ward 3 voters spoke clearly against the tiny, loud NIMBY minority that dominates the neighborhood listservs: the majority is fully supportive of the much higher density that the city needs to start building its population back up to anything like 1950 levels.

Thursday, October 12, 2006

National Zoo renovation opens

The first phase of the National Zoo renovation, the first capital improvement to the Zoo since the bi-centennial, will open on October 17th, but was open to the media yesterday.

This will make it a lot easier to get to the bird house from the main entrance!

Wednesday, October 11, 2006

Common Denominator Ceases Publication

With much regret and great personal disappointment, I am sad to announce that I must discontinue publication of The Common Denominator.

When I started this newspaper more than eight years ago, it was born of the idea for a "hometown paper" for all the people of the District of Columbia, with our residence here being what we hold in common.I wanted it to be the District's "newspaper of record" -- a place where readers could find the information that some local papers in other communities still provide. It would serve citizens across the city with reporting and opinion focused on local public policy and events, news about their neighborhoods and meaningful facts from the public record.

I also tried to build The Common Denominator into a self- sustaining and job-creating business -- a locally owned community asset -- with wide circulation and a strong base of local advertisers. From the start, it's been a constant struggle, with frequent tangible setbacks outweighing the occasional intangible rewards. Operating a small business can be difficult under the best of circumstances. Being an independent, working-class entrepreneur in the newspaper field -- a small fry in a sometimes predatory pond of Big Media -- made it all more difficult. But competing in the marketplace becomes nearly impossible when the playing field is uneven. At The Common Denominator, I realized how uneven it could be -- in terms of limited capital access, usurious interest rates, restricted circulation opportunities and oft- demanded personal financial guarantees.

While a supportive community of loyal readers offered much- appreciated encouragement and occasional monetary assistance over the years, the company's debts continued to grow. My repeated attempts to secure long-term financing have proved unsuccessful. At this point, the financial burden -- for The Common Denominator and myself -- has become overwhelming. I never expected this enterprise to be easy. But I certainly did underestimate the challenges of being an editor and publisher. While running a newsroom, I've also had to struggle all too frequently with landlords, banks, printers, circulation agents, creditors, government agencies and deadbeat advertisers. I've been detained by the U.S. Capitol Police for taking photographs. I've been robbed outside my office. My car has been stolen; my tires have been slashed. The paper's news boxes have been repeatedly vandalized, robbed or stolen outright. But there also have been gratifying experiences. Though pride may be a sin, I can point with some satisfaction to what The Common Denominator has achieved, or aspired to, over the years:
*It has trained scores of young people in urban journalism, many of whom have gone on to careers in the field, and published the work of veteran D.C. writers who didn't have a regular print outlet.
*It championed "sunshine" legislation and open-meeting policies to help the public know what their elected officials are doing.
*It went where others wouldn't or didn't go for stories and circulation. By shining a light on and giving voice to residents of
low-income neighborhoods, it prompted competing news organizations to pay attention.
*It exposed the secretive business group known as the Federal City Council, which for decades has set a private agenda for public policy in the District.
*It won awards from the regional press association in every year of eligibility, including first place honors for investigative
reporting, editorial cartoons and coverage of the closing of D.C. General Hospital.
*It helped the Smithsonian's Festival of American Folklife assemble its featured program on the District and participated in the festival's public forums.

Though I'm now beyond broke, I hope to salvage something of this eight-year endeavor for the lasting benefit of the community at large. I continue to seek a way to ensure, at a minimum, the survival of The Common Denominator's searchable online archives as a free resource. I also hope that the paper's high school athletic awards programs, which recognize student achievement, can somehow carry on. Seeing The Common Denominator revived in print, perhaps under
the wing of a local university, would be most satisfying. The community's need for local news and alternative ideas is
great. The need for a local newspaper also remains great in a city where new electronic media are flourishing but many neighborhoods are still largely unplugged and highly dependent on the printed word for detailed coverage.
In any democracy -- but especially in the limited democracy we have here in the District -- knowing how the government works is vital to the democratic process. This was the central driving force in my quest to create a "hometown newspaper."

Many thanks to the loyal readers and advertisers who helped make The Common Denominator possible over the years. Thanks also to the educators and students who cooperated with the paper's school programs, and to the sponsors of The CD's awards programs.Special thanks to the many staff members, contributors, interns and volunteers who helped produce The Common Denominator and get it onto the street. And heartfelt thanks to my longtime associate Lottie
Hunter, a source of stability through tumultuous times.

Kathy Sinzinger
Oct. 10, 2006

Tuesday, October 10, 2006

Tunlaw Street alley dispute

The City Paper has reported on the ongoing dispute in Glover Park:

The alley running between Hall Place NW and Tunlaw Road NW in Glover Park is hardly an alley anymore. It's narrow and choked with weeds, and bamboo makes it impassable sans machete. Jersey barriers block one entrance, and a retaining wall holding up one side of the alley appears to be crumbling.

Hall Place resident Tim Robinson obtained permits to park in a spot behind his house last summer. So he called the District Department of Transportation (DDOT) to have the jersey barriers at the front of the alley removed. But soon after they'd been taken away, Tunlaw Road property owner Ron Bitondo had them put back, citing the instability of the retaining wall. (The alley sits 8 feet above the edge of Bitondo's property.)

Robinson says DDOT officials told him they'd hire an engineering firm to analyze the alley and come up with some proposals for fixing it, but a short while later, another DDOT official—Robinson doesn't remember exactly who—said nothing was going to happen with the alley because of a “political issue with your neighbor.”

Bitondo co-chaired D.C. Council Chairman Linda Cropp’s mayoral campaign. Says Robinson, “Linda Cropp is in his pocket.”

In the fall, Bitondo submitted an application to close the alley to the city surveyor, complete with a petition with neighbors’ signatures and a $1,870 fee. His petition has wound up as a bill before the D.C. Council to have the alley closed—typical alley-closing procedure.

And now rages a fight that's seen neighbors taking sides—one side of the alley against the other. The Tunlaw folks who live down below the alley support closure; Hall Placers want it left alone for a variety of reasons, the chief one being that a closed alley reverts to private ownership; they'd be responsible for long-neglected pieces of land and would have to pay taxes on it, too.

At an Oct. 10 D.C. Council hearing on the alley, Robinson forced Cropp to acknowledge that she had more-than-typical relationship with Bitondo. But Cropp denied that his financial support of her campaign had anything to do with the alley legislation.

A city employee testified at the hearing that the rules had been followed, and Bitondo denies any impropriety. “It's taking the normal process across the board,” he says.

There is an update to this story. On the Glover Park Listserv one resident posted her report of the proceedings:

For those who asked me to report on yesterday's City Council hearing regarding a proposal to close the alley that runs behind the 2100 blocks of Tunlaw Road and Hall Place:

There was a gigantic turnout, a few dozen people, of whom about 20 testified (including me). More than half of those who testified (mainly Hall Place residents) were strongly opposed. The people in favor (mainly residents of Tunlaw) were as strongly in favor. This week's ANC meeting (7 pm Thursday at Guy Mason) should be interesting! I testified against, because closing the now-impassable alley would prevent its ever being used as a public footpath from 37th St. to the commercial district.

• Reasons to close the alley include that people like the privacy and serenity afforded by the greenery growing there now. People on Tunlaw, a whole house-height lower than Hall Place, also count on the green space to filter and divert heavy rains.

• Reasons not to close the alley include that people want to study whether the alley can be re-opened to car traffic. More than one resident of Hall Place has been granted a permit to park behind his house, but there's no way currently to get his car back there.

• The DC Dept of Transportation seems to have issued two conflicting opinions on whether the alley can be used in the future for vehicular traffic. (The retaining wall that supports it failed in 1961 and was reassembled rather than replaced.)

• The current bill would split up the alley into segments and give each segment to the property owner whose land abuts it. No one, even the people in favor of closing the alley, seems to want that. There was talk of changing the bill so that the
alley would stay public but would be limited to foot traffic.

• People whos land abuts the alley have different ideas of how it could be used, including possibly opening it for foot traffic but installing locked gates that only those adjacent to the alley would have keys to.

• Tamela Gordon, our ANC chair, asked Linda Cropp not to let the City Council act until the ANC has had a chance to investigate the matter.

• Will Miller, who is running unopposed for ANC from the single-member district that includes the alley, asked Mrs. Cropp not to let the Council act before those whose property abuts the alley had gotten together to discuss the matter.

• My new hero, a guy named Roger who lives on a part of Hall Place that has a functional back alley, said that he has no trouble with the people who use his alley as a footpath and that he would like to see the whole alley opened for pedestrian traffic.

There, end of objective report. OK, the part about Roger was not objective. Whatevs. It seems to me that the disposition of this publicly owned land should not be decided only by those whose property abuts it, especially if they're considering installing locked gates. People who want to live adjacent to private green space should maybe buy houses adjacent to private green space. Just a thought.

Thanks to those who signed in support of my testimony. If you have not contacted me but are in favor of keeping the alley open for possible future public uses, including as a footpath, let me know. To repeat from an earlier post, there is no current proposal to build a footpath. The question is whether such a footpath could *ever* be built.

Mark Plotkin on the Ward 3 General Election

Ward 3: So in the general election between Cheh and Conroy, does the Republican have any chance at all of winning? And have you noticed that Conroy's campaign signs and Web site seem to forget to include her party affiliation? Sorta like Michael Steele's TV ads that never seem to get around to mentioning whether it's a D or an R that appears after his name.

Mark Plotkin: There is no chance that Conroy can win in Ward 3. It is overwhelmingly Democratic and Conroy is in no way a household name. No Republican in D.C. can get elected in a Ward race. The numbers are just too overwhelming in favor of Democratic registration. Both Conroy and Steele don't mention publicize or in any way their party affiliation because they know it doesn't help their cause. Why advertise that you're so much in the minority in terms of party preference? What they're doing is smart. Why give somebody a reason to vote against you?

More on Campaign Signs

The law isn't that complicated:

108.1 No person shall affix a sign, advertisement or poster to any public street light or traffic signal, except as provided in accordance with this section.
108.2 The placing of any advertisement on any tree in the public space with nails is prohibited.
108.5 Posters of individuals seeking political office in the District can be displayed In the public space only after candidates have met the requirements of S210 of the DC Campaign Finance Reform and Conflict of Interest Act (DC Code, S I - 1101.01).
108.6 Political campaign literature materials shall be removed no later than 30 days following the general election.
108.7 Each sign, advertisement, or poster shall contain the date upon which it was Initially affixed to a street light or traffic signal.
108.8 Each sign, advertisement, or poster shall be affixed securely to avoid being torn or disengaged by normal weather conditions.
108.9 Signs and posters shall not be affixed by adhesives that prevent their complete removal from the fixture, or that do damage to the fixture. (It is illegal to use tape in affixing signs to lampposts.)
108.10 No more than three versions or copies of each sign, advertisement, or poster shall be affixed on one side of a street within one block.

I am not sure what the Conroy campaign doesn't understand about properly affixing signs to utility poles (note yard signs in public space is illegal), about limiting signs to 3 to a block (Nebraska Avenue is a joke right now), and please, do not staple signs to trees. The trees really don't like that.

If we cannot follow these simple rules, where will the madness end?

Sunday, October 08, 2006

CPCA/FHCA Forum on Saturday, October 7th

The Cleveland Park and Forest Hills Citizens Associations co-sponsored a pre-election forum on October 7th. The forum was split into three segments. The first featured three of the DC School Board President candidates. The second was a smaller forum for the contested for ANC 3C races, and concluded with the candidates for Ward 3 Council.

The event was attended about about 25 unaffiliated residents, and many left after the school board forum.

The ANC portion featured presentations from Dia Black (her opponent in Woodley Park, Ari Shapiro was unable to attend); the second race was the other Woodley Park seat between Gloria Day and Deborah Jane Lindeman. Gloria Day was unable to attend, but she had a friend read a statement. There were no questions for either of these candidates, since questions were limited to only residents of the affected Single Member Districts. The third race was the north part of the ANC in Cleveland Park between incumbent Bruce Beckner and challenger Greg Hair. The distinction between the two seemed to be that Greg Hair is interested in including schools and school communities when considering ALL of the factors in the make-up of an ANC, where Beckner only considers some of the residents in his ANC to be constituents. The final contested race is between Catherine May and Shelley Cohen. Again, there were no questions from participants.

The only questions in this portion were from two Ordway Street residents who tried to get clarification from Greg Hair about his deference for schools. Of course, no one wanted to ask the hard questions of Mr. Beckner, such as, how much did his actions and the actions of the ANC cost DC Taxpayers, when they delayed the construction and completion of the sidewalks and wall along the South side of the 3000 block of Ordway, and who were the constituents that Mr. Beckner represented (and snubbed) in that somewhat unilateral action?

The final portion of the forum was the Ward 3 Council debate between Mary Cheh (d) and Theresa Conroy (r). It became evident early on that this was a very not a balanced discussion, as the level and tone of the questions were very hostile towards one candidate and friendly towards the other.

Theresa Conroy's platform seems to be to delay the comprehensive plan, to keep the zoning parameters in the ward as they are, to focus on Ward 3 not city wide issues, to defer to the ANC's and neighborhood associations on local issues and fill the pot holes.

On contrast, Mary Cheh is in favor of moving forward with the comprehensive plan, to allow flexibility in zoning around Metro Stations, to focus on Ward 3 issues and City Wide issues, and to be involved in areas around the Ward which concern all citizens, and receive input from all citizens, rather than to defer solely to ANCs and Citizens Associations.

It will be interesting to see what happens with all of this in the event that candidate receiving the bias is successful in capturing this seat. The partisanship being shown be these supposed non-partisan, not for profit organizations (CPCA and FHCA) is also surprising and actually could be challenged as illegal.

Thursday, October 05, 2006

Tax Assessment Class Action Lawsuit

Judge Hamilton Enters Final Judgment Against the D.C. Government on Flawed Assessments for Tax Year 2002

Senior Judge Eugene Hamilton today filed his Final Judgment and Order in the class action suit brought by Peter S. Craig and 50 other petitioners in Superior Court Finance Dockets 8112-02 and 8141-02, contesting the lawfulness and Constitutionality of across-the-board increases in residential assessments for tax year 2002 in one-third of city known as Triennial Group 1. The suit was initiated on September 30, 2002, but because of what the judge has described as foot-dragging by the District lawyers, was not decided on its merits until September 26, 2005.

In his order of September 26, 2005, Judge Hamilton concluded that, as a matter of law, the assessments by the Office of Tax and Revenue in tax year 2002 were arbitrary, capricious, an abuse of discretion and otherwise not in conformity with the Constitution of the United States or the laws of the District of Columbia, and were, therefore, void. His final judgment directs the city to refund any increases in property taxes in tax 2002 resulting from increased assessments over the prior year plus annual interest of 6%. All taxpayers in Triennial Group 1 who suffered increases in assessments and who paid all taxes, interest and penalties for tax year 2002 will receive refunds under his order.

Triennial Group 1 encompasses the neighborhoods which the Office of Tax and Revenue describes as Anacostia, Barry Farms, Brentwood, Central, Cleveland Park, Columbia Heights, Congress Heights, Crestwood, Eckington, Forest Hills, Fort DuPont Park, Garfield, Hillcrest, Kalorama, LeDroit Park, Marshall Heights, Massachusetts Avenue Heights, Mount Pleasant, Observatory Circle, Randle Heights, Trinidad and Woodley.

The District government estimates that the total refunds will reach $15 million. Payment of these refunds will be stayed, however, while the District of Columbia appeals the rulings of Judge Hamilton to the D. C. Court of Appeals.

By a separate order, also issued at the same time, Judge Hamilton has directed the Office of Tax and Revenue to notify all members of the class entitled to refunds by mailed notices and by a notice published in the Metro Section of the Washington Post.

On January 13, 2006, Senior Judge Eugene N. Hamilton of the Tax Division of the D.C. Superior Court issued his final judgment in the class action suit contesting the constitutionality and lawfulness of across-the-board increases
in residential real property assessments in the one-third of the city defined as Triennial Group 1 by the Office of Tax & Revenue. Judge Hamilton held that these across-the-board increases were in violation of the Due Process and
Equal Protection clauses of the U.S. Constitution and were also in violation of D.C. law. He ruled that the city should refund to taxpayers the resulting increases in taxes, estimated by OTR to be $15 million. The case is captioned as Peter S. Craig, et al., v. District of Columbia, et al., Tax Docket No. 8112-02.

On February 3rd the District government filed a notice of appeal to the D.C. Court of Appeals, but did not file its brief until August 2nd. The brief for the taxpayers was filed on September 22nd. An amicus brief supporting the taxpayers position was filed by the D.C. Federation of Citizens Associations on September 29th. The Districts reply brief is due on October 13th. It is
hoped that the case can be argued before a three-judge review panel by December.

A second case, contesting tax year 2003 assessments in triennial groups 1 and 2 on the same grounds is also pending. That case has been stayed pending final decision regarding tax year 2002 assessments.

Wednesday, October 04, 2006

Cleveland Park Temple receives major gift

D.C. Synagogue Receives $5 Million Gift
By Michelle Boorstein
Washington Post Staff Writer
Wednesday, October 4, 2006; 2:56 PM

A former business reporter who also wrote trivia games for Washington and Baltimore newspapers is giving $5 million to the D.C. synagogue where he has belonged for decades, money he says he accumulated by investing and saving.

Donald Saltz, 72, is donating the money to Adas Israel Congregation in memory of his late wife, Mozelle, who died last December. They had been married for 40 years.

While 35 percent of money Americans donate goes to religious organizations, the $5 million stands out among gifts to individual houses of worship, experts said. Giving USA, which tracks data on philanthropy, said there have been no gifts near that size to particular synagogues, temples, churches or mosques in recent years. Other major gifts have been given to schools or hospitals affiliated with religious institutions.

The gift is also the largest in Adas Israel's 140-year history. Synagogue officials say the gift will be put toward their endowment, which was $10 million before the Saltz donation. The synagogue building will be named after the couple, who were both active on boards and committees and in spiritual life at Adas Israel.

People at Adas said Saltz and his wife were very unassuming, and that no one at an institution with many prominent and wealthy members knew of their savings and giving potential. Mr. Saltz drove an old car, and wore modest suits, they said.

"I've always been thrifty, though other people would say cheap," said Saltz, who said he has been investing in the stock market since he was a teenager.

The gift includes a small amount of money up front, and then larger amounts will be donated each year. It also includes a bequest, as much of Saltz's estate is tied up in stock and real estate, synagogue officials said. The gift is irrevocable.

Saltz worked as a business reporter, editor and columnist at the Washington Star, Washington Daily News and the Baltimore Evening News -- all papers no longer in publication. He joked today that he was like Joe Btfsplk, the character in the Lil Abner comic strip who brought bad luck.

"I'm like that character, who always had a cloud over his head," he said.

He also created a trivia game that was published in various area newspapers for years, and is still published in the Buffalo News. He also still writes columns for his hometown newspaper in Crisfield, on topics including the importance of not eating too much and comic strips.

He said today that he is a "simple individual" who wanted to do something to honor his wife's memory. He is an only child and has no children.

"I figured, you don't take it with you," he said.

© 2006 The Washington Post Company

City Paper reports on a Woodley Park fiasco

(This happens ALL the time. DDOT and DCRA need to get their act together on this sort of thing)

Posted by Jonathan York
In October 2005, the 2800 block of 28th Street in Woodley Park got some crucial utilities upgrades—the D.C. Water and Sewer Authority (WASA) replaced the block's lead service lines, and shortly afterward, Washington Gas made some repairs of its own. All this construction left the pavement pockmarked, with a huge gash running along one curb. It was more trench than pothole, threatening to shred tires and making it difficult for parked cars to pull out.

When utility work is done that requires pavement to be torn up, and the D.C. Department of Transportation (DDOT) hasn't also scheduled a regular repair, the outfit doing the digging must also repair the street. But almost a year after the repairs, neither had happened.

Bill Mankin, who lives on the street, says a DDOT employee told him repairs weren't coming because the water and gas companies were fighting over who'd pay. “I was told this was done in a very chaotic way,” Mankin says. “We kind of all lived with the chaos.”

Jane Davis, spokesperson for Washington Gas, says her employers didn't set new asphalt because DDOT had already planned to repair the road. She said that WASA, which didn't return calls for comment, held off for the same reason.

DDOT spokesperson Erik Linden wouldn't say why the repaving has taken so long. “We are actively working to have the road repaved right away and will keep the community posted on when that occurs,” he says in an e-mail.

As of Monday, DDOT is finally paving the block. Workers are busy destroying old pavement, dispensing workmen, rolling things flat. Says Jane Jones, a longtime resident of the block, as she stands on her steps, drinking a cola: “Our homes have been reassessed into the stratosphere. Having the streets so crummy adds insult to injury.”

Tuesday, October 03, 2006

Klingle Bridge Criticism Starts Early

The District department of Transportation announced the beginning of construction on the Klingle Bridge on September 8th. The rehabilitation of this major span has been in the works for at least 5 years.

The Project Manager for the job, Fariborz Navidi-Kasmai has been keeping the Cleveland Park residents apprised of the project since April.

The early return started with complaints regarding the temporary lane signals. Next came the complaints about flooding during a recent rain storm, and finally questions about the engineering expertise of the crews involved in the project. Residents are also asking about the traffic management.

I am glad a few neighbors have the decency to appreciate that the contractor is communicating with the community.

Monday, October 02, 2006

DC Examiner on the plight of the ANCs

Elected ANC seats not so coveted
Michael Neibauer, The Examiner

WASHINGTON - The glamour of an unpaid but critical elected office that often pits neighbor against neighbor and draws harassment was not enough to charm D.C. residents into seeking dozens of open seats on Advisory Neighborhood Commissions.

Come Nov. 7, when all 286 existing Advisory Neighborhood Commission positions will be up for grabs, 44 of the single-member districts will have no candidate, either because residents failed to collect enough petition signatures or because no one was interested.

“The issues have gotten more complicated, more time-consuming and a lot of the meetings of the boards we’re expected to attend, or go to, or testify before, are all during the day when people are working,” said Karen Perry, commissioner in ANC-3F. “It’s getting harder and harder to serve.”

Perry is running for re-election to another two-year term. More than half of her ANC, which represents Tenleytown, North Cleveland Park and Forest Hills, could be unrepresented come January unless write-in candidates accept the positions.

“There’s always a number of write-ins, and it’s always a surprising number, which is unfortunate,” said D.C. Council Member Phil Mendelson, who served as a commissioner for 20 years.

ANCs are considered jumping-off points for higher office. Democratic mayoral nominee Adrian Fenty served, as did Mendelson and Council Members Jack Evans and David Catania.

While on the job, commissioners hold significant power over liquor license applications and zoning variances. They weigh in on policy decisions impacting traffic, public safety, trash collection and recreation. And they are a critical link between neighbors and their local government.

But there are downsides. The positions are unpaid, time-consuming and even dangerous. In some cases, commissioners have been harassed, attacked — one Ward 5 commissioner’s car was twice set on fire — and derided for their efforts.

Commissioners talk of incentives to maintain or spur interest. Perhaps a tax break or a stipend, they say. Hire more staff in the government’s ANC support office. Or at least reschedule meetings for such bodies as the Board of Zoning Appeals and the Alcoholic Beverage Control Board — both of which meet during the day — to accommodate commissioners’ full-time jobs.

“There’s nothing the city can do to incentivize ANCs,” said Christopher Dyer, a Dupont Circle commissioner. “It’s a volunteer position. We do it for civic engagement and responsiveness.”

ANC seats with no candidates, by ward

Ward 1: 2
Ward 2: 3
Ward 3: 9
Ward 4: 3
Ward 5: 8
Ward 6: 3
Ward 7: 5
Ward 8: 11

Sunday, October 01, 2006

Where is the District Archeologist?

Posted on the Palisades Listserv:

I visited the park today where they cleared brush/land and was not surprised when I found two arrowhead fragments and a stone bowl fragment. These items and others items provides evidence for the earliest people living in the Palisades. I was hoping to recruit volunteers to salvage the archaeological record before it's demolished. Also wanted to know the configuration of the new field so that I can get an idea what will be plowed away, and what buried, what left alone. I want to make sure that salvaging of these materials has no effect on the schedule for park renovations. It's been delayed long enough! So this might require immediate attention.

Doug Dupin
Palisades Museum of Prehistory