Wednesday, May 27, 2009

WPCA weighs in on CPCA

Dear Anne and other Executive Board Members:

As some of you may be aware the Cleveland Park Citizen’s Association has postponed their election of officers until the fall. The claim by the President of that Association was that the increase of new members constitutes an emergency and thus was their excuse to use their executive powers to postpone their election.

This is wrong.

The Federation of Citizens Associations of the District of Columbia is predicated on the concept that citizen activism is good, that democracy is good, and that the rule of law matters. The good people of Cleveland Park are doing the very things that we admire.

The Federation has spoken out and acted on these issues time and time again, be it the deplorable state of the EMT service, the lack of oversight on the mayor’s office, the public health committee you name it. The Federation has always been there to speak out when something is wrong. We must be there to speak again.

In this instance it is not the city government, or the federal government that is abusing the public trust, it is one of our member associations. We, as the premier umbrella organization of community associations, cannot afford to stay quiet on this issue. By staying quiet we are giving tacit consent to what is happening in Cleveland Park. We must act and we most positively affirm that citizens joining citizens’ organizations are good, and that the rule of law must continue and the CPCA is wrong in doing this.

I am writing to you today to inform you that if The Cleveland Park Citizens Association fails to conform to its own bylaws and holds their election as scheduled that I will introduce a resolution at our next assembly meeting calling for the removal of CPCA from membership in the Federation. The presence of an organization that is so Nixon-esque in its abuse of power gives the rest of our associations a bad name.

I remain committed to a better Washington, DC.

Sincerely Yours,

Peter W. Brusoe
Woodley Park Community Association Delegate
The Federation of Citizens Associations of the District of Columbia

CPCA: An update

Two updates to the recent entry regarding the Cleveland Park Citizen's Association.

Marc Fisher and Greater Greater Washington have both provided commentary.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

What's Going on in Cleveland Park?

If the vacant storefronts weren't enough, Cleveland Park seems to be in turmoil over the leadership of the local Citizen's Association.

A posting on the Cleveland Park Listserv today, in response to questions about the upcoming meeting, opens the question about the legitimacy of the organization. From President George Idelson:

The Cleveland Park Citizens Association welcomes the many new members who have joined in recent weeks. This is a president's dream come true and we look forward to their active participation. A recent listserv posting by a CP'r suggested that his call to join CPCA to "make sure all voices are heard" apparently spurred this membership surge. He also described a recent meeting where he and others offered suggestions for achieving broader representation. What the posting didn't mention is that those attending the meeting specifically requested an "equal voice" -- one-half the members of CPCA's Executive Committee -- either on the slate or as heads of our committees, for our upcoming election. They didn't spell out who these new candidates might be, but said such a "joint" slate would avoid an acknowledged, organized campaign to take over the entire leadership of CPCA at our annual meeting. The campaign urged people to join by a certain date, to be eligible to vote for this competing, unnamed slate. Sad to report, this campaign has been fueled by false charges that the Association opposes all change and development. It has distorted our position on the Giant development and makes the wild claim that the Association is responsible for store vacancies on Connecticut Avenue. That the campaign was orchestrated was demonstrated by some 60 bundled applications received by certified mail just before the specified cut-off date, by anonymous leaflets, and by private emails urging residents to join CPCA to "stage a coup." Normally, competition for leadership is healthy and our nominating process is wide open. Demonizing an association and encouraging a chaotic election is hardly normal. This is Cleveland Park, not some third world country. We are deeply dismayed over the divisiveness this campaign has caused in our community. Development issues can be contentious, but they ought not be used to tear the community apart. The Giant hearings have ended and the record is closed. The Zoning Commission will decide whether all the upzoning requested in our low-density neighborhood is worth the potential impact. We need some time for cooling off. Time to reflect on the issues. For these reasons, CPCA's Executive Committee has executed the emergency powers granted in our bylaws to postpone the election of officers until the Fall. This is clearly an emergency. In the interim, we will seek ways to mend this tear in our neighborhood fabric. We look forward to constructive support and suggestions.

One could expect a response like this from a third-world banana republic, but in the heart of the nation's capital? The by-laws seem fairly specific:

All officers provided for in Article V and the delegates to the Federation of Citizens' Associations and the Federation of Civic Associations shall be elected for a term of one year at the annual meeting which shall be held on the first Saturday of June each year.

So does anyone from the CPCA care to rationalize this other than a ploy to maintain control over a volunteer organization?

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Cleveland Park Magruders to close

According to fliers around the neighborhood and confirmed reports on NBC4, the Cleveland Park Macgruders grocery store is slated to close this weekend.

Along with the Starbucks, McDonalds, Blockbuster and other retail outlets, this marks another in a long string of vacancies in Cleveland Park.

Friday, May 08, 2009

CPCA: Another Case Study

A recent discussion on the Greater Greater Washington Blog dealt with the current status of the Dupont Circle Citizens Association, and its accurate representation of the community. Blogger David Alpert noted:

Do citizens' and civic associations represent the broad interests of residents, or very narrow factions within a neighborhood? Recently, growing numbers of residents have started to question the long-standing role of these groups as the voices of residents in the civic discourse. The Dupont Circle Citizens' Association (DCCA) faces a contested election next month, where a slate of candidates nominated by the current Board seeks to bring the neighborhood together and represent the broader resident interest, while competing candidates, nominated from the floor, would keep the organization on one specific, partisan side of major issues.

Citizens' and civic associations have existed in DC for a long time. When DC lacked home rule, they played an especially important role to amplify resident needs to a frequently uninterested Congress. They then had to fight for a better city during decades of a completely dysfunctional District government. Today, our government is much better, but residents still need a voice.

It is a good question because the ANCs and Council provide ample opportunity for residents to have a more direct voice to the city and its leadership on issues ranging from alcohol licenses to the comprehensive plan or baseball lights on a public park. So what is the purpose of a Citizens Association and what is the responsibility to provide a voice for the whole community?

As was discussed this winter, the Cleveland Park Citizens Association decided to vote (with fewer than 30 people present) in February to oppose the Giant PUD eventhough it had filed papers in opposition in January. This despite hundreds of letters and petitions of support from the broader community, even members of the CPCA. Indeed, when these numbers were disclosed during a recent Zoning Commission hearing, the Commission Chair, Anthony Hood noted that such a low turnout was not representative of the community, did not constitute a quorum and if he conduction an association in such a manner, his tenure as president would be short.

At the monthly meeting on May 7th, CPCA President gave an impassioned speech to the few assembled about the heart and soul of the Cleveland Park community, and how the AWARE group (Giant supporters) were staging a coup. The allegations included the characterization that AWARE was nothing more than shills for the developer and a groups of newer residents who have neither the best interests of the community or its community association at heart.

One board member offered a resolution prohibiting Board membership by a CPCA member until said member had enjoyed 6 months of membership. According to the CPCA bylaws (pdf) Article VII, Section 3 "Election of all officers and delegates and members of the Nominating Committee may by request be by a secret, written ballot. A majority vote of those qualified members present and voting is required for election." So in other words, the it was proposed that the definition of "qualified members" be amended to exclude any recent applicants for membership to participate in the posted nomination and election process.

CPCA President George Idelson admitted that such a provision had been considered by the Executive Committee, but after some discussion the amendment was tabled.

So it begs the question, are these valid organizations in terms of representing the true voice of the community? What are they afraid of when suggesting such measures as amending by-laws to maintain control? Perhaps it is time for the heart and soul of the community to be truly represented?