Archive for the ‘Politics’ Category

The snow-shoveling bill that languished for a year in mean old Jim Graham’s Committee on Public Works and Transportation was reintroduced today by cosponsors Mary Cheh and Tommy Wells, TBD.com’s Dave Jamieson reports. The bill stands a better chance of coming to the City Council for a vote now that Wells has been named the chair of that committee.

Cheh and Wells’s bill would provide for a $25 fine for residents who fail to shovel snow from their sidewalks within 8 daylight hours, as is already required by District law.

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From the January 2011 edition of the Glover Park Gazette:

When its second-floor Hero Bar space became a bit too successful over the summer—prompting noise complaints—Blue Ridge (2348 Wisconsin Ave.) heard from the ANC. Now, the two entities have hammered out an agreement designed to keep the restaurant’s noise level down. According to a letter submitted to the Alcoholic Beverage Control Board on December 1, Blue Ridge has agreed to close its second-floor deck at midnight, even for smokers; eschew live music on front and back patios; and disallow the operation of “any separate club, venue, or recurring event such as Hero Bar, which was inconsistent with Blue Ridge’s operating model.”

Meanwhile, the restaurant continues its transformation into a casual, beer-focused neighborhood diner. According to owner Eli Hengst, Blue Ridge will be closed for renovations until early spring, though it “may operate in some limited function,” as it did last fall when the main dining room was closed but the downstairs bar stayed open.

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According to the unofficial results of yesterday’s election, Jackie Blumenthal held onto her Advisory Neighborhood Commission seat, winning 236 votes to challenger Alev Akbulut’s 40. (There were six write-in votes.) The neighborhood’s other ANC races were uncontested, and the new ANC will consist of Blumenthal, fellow incumbents Howie Kreitzman and Brian Cohen, Glover Park Citizens’ Association secretary Mark Stevens, and Ben Thielen of the Wisconsin Avenue Streetcar Coalition.

Vincent Gray won the mayor’s office by a wide margin citywide, but in Glover Park’s precinct, he only narrowly beat “WRITE IN,” 609 to 593. The names on write-in ballots have not yet been reported, but one would expect many of these to go to current mayor Adrian Fenty, whose supporters pushed a write-in effort after he lost to Gray in the primary. (In our precinct, Carlos Allen got 49 votes for mayor; Faith got 26; and Omari Musa got 8.)

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Whenever D.C. gets a big snow, an absurd hole in the District’s public-safety law reveals itself. Furious citizens demand that the hole be patched, and lawmakers promise to do so. Then the snow melts and people forget. The law is not fixed. Eventually, it snows again.

And when that happens, snow on unshoveled sidewalks quickly gets trodden down into hard packs, which then freeze into ice sheets that can last for weeks. The sidewalks become unsafe for small children, elderly people, and those with disabilities. People slip and break bones. People walk in the street and get hit by cars. People feel trapped at home for fear of injury.

Angry, frustrated citizens ask why there isn’t a law requiring residents to keep their sidewalks clear. But in fact, there is such a law. According to the D.C. Code (§9-601), anyone whose house fronts a public sidewalk must clear the sidewalk of snow or ice within eight daylight hours of the last flake’s falling.

So that’s the law, and here’s the hole: there’s no workable enforcement provision. The city can’t easily fine you for failing to shovel, the way it can fine you for parking in a fire lane, leaving your garbage where rats can get at it, or otherwise endangering public health or safety.

Last December, City Council members Mary Cheh and Tommy Wells cosponsored a bill that would allow city workers to issue $25 tickets to residents who don’t clear snow as required. This bill was referred to the Council’s Committee on Public Works and Transportation, headed by member Jim Graham—and there it remains, more than nine months later. The committee did hold hearings, and the Council’s Office of Policy Analysis issued a report that recommends “giving ticketing authority to municipal workers.” The report also advises steps already within the District Department of Transportation’s power, such as designing sidewalks for easier snow removal and training snowplow operators to be more mindful of pedestrians’ needs.

Graham says he expects to take action on the matter before the snow season begins, but “it is still unclear whether the Committee will report a bill to the full Council [for a vote], or whether we will simply request that DDOT initiate some of the recommended actions for which they already have authority.”

That’s right: Jim Graham’s committee has not yet decided whether it will even allow the Council to vote on fines for scofflaws. If you would like to help them decide, you can write to ask them to release the bill. Here are their addresses:

Jim Graham: jgraham@dccouncil.us
Tommy Wells (bill cosponsor): twells@dccouncil.us
Muriel Bowser: mbowser@dccouncil.us
Kwame Brown: kbrown@dccouncil.us
Phil Mendelson: pmendelson@dccouncil.us

Under the current law, the only way to get penalized for not shoveling snow is for the city to clear it and then sue you for the cost—which it never does. After years of watching politicians vow—and fail—to make the law easier to enforce, one wonders whether it’s possible to sue the city for not enforcing the law as-is.

Photo of Puck the Corgi copyright 2010 by Wendy Stengel, all rights reserved.

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Less than a year after she lost the seat to Alan Blevins by four votes, Jackie Blumenthal tonight became the Advisory Neighborhood Commissioner for ANC3B, SMD 2 in a special election. Blevins recently resigned the seat—which represents Glover Park’s commercial strip and nearby homes—to concentrate on his divinity schooling.

Blumenthal got 47 votes; Florie Knauf came in second with 23, and Matt VanderGoot got 9.

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From the June 2009 Glover Park Gazette:

Meet the new commissioner, same as the old commissioner. Alan Blevins, whose ANC district includes Glover Park’s commercial strip, announced in April that he was resigning his post effective April 30 and moving to Takoma Park for theological studies. But Blevins never submitted a formal resignation to the D.C. Board of Elections and Ethics, so when his study plans changed, he decided to stay in his district—albeit in a new apartment—and stay on the ANC.

The commissioner says his plans are still in flux, so he doesn’t know whether he’ll be able to serve the full two-year term he won in a squeaker last November, but he intends to serve “for the foreseeable future.”

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