Tuesday, January 17, 2006

Another Commission to Support Noise Law Fix

I attended the Jan. 11 Advisory Neighborhood Commission (ANC) 6C meeting held at the Mount Carmel Baptist Church at 901 3rd Street NW to ask the commission’s support of our neighborhood’s efforts to fix the District of Columbia noise law.

Our neighborhood is split along 8th Street NE so that the east side is represented by Joe Fengler’s ANC6A district, while the west side is represented by ANC6C Commissioners Anthony Rivera (north of G St. NE) and Mike Sherman (south of G St. NE). All three commissioners have been supportive and active in the community’s efforts to stop the noise.

Commissioner Fengler on Dec. 15 sent an official letter to Councilmembers Sharon Ambrose (Ward 6) and Jim Graham, chairman of the Dept. of Consumer and Regulatory Affairs Oversight Committee.

My mission was to ask the ANC6C to officially ask the city council for a fix. Anthony Rivera introduced my letter (see below) to the commission, and I gave a 60 second summary of the neighborhood’s plight. The commission agreed to support our efforts with its own letter.

Meanwhile, our efforts received an added boost because Councilmember and candidate for D.C. mayor Linda Cropp attended the Jan. 11 meeting. After a few remarks, Commissioner Sherman brought the issue to her attention. She said she would follow up and I hand delivered the letter to one of her aides, Archie Williams, her director of constituent services.

DATE: Jan. 11, 2006
TO: Advisory Neighborhood Commission 6C
FROM: David Klavitter
Resident, 700 block of 8th Street NE
RE: ANC6C support for fixing D.C. statute allowing amplifiers

I ask the commission to officially support amending the “Georgetown Project and Noise Control Amendment Act of 2004” in order to modify an exception currently contained in the noise ordnance that permits amplified free speech on our public streets.

ANC6A Commissioner Joe Fengler, whose district is the source of the noise, sent a Dec. 15, 2005 letter to Ward 6 Councilmember Sharon Ambrose and Councilmember Jim Graham, chair of the Committee on Consumer and Regulatory Affairs. Commissioner Fengler’s letter requested an amendment to the D.C. law (SEE ATTACHED). The noise immediately impacts residents living in the districts represented by ANC6C Commissioners Michael Sherman and Anthony Rivera, and therefore warrants action by the commission.

Currently, members of the Israelite Church of God and Jesus Christ, Inc. gather on Saturdays at the corner of Eighth and H Streets, NE to exercise their right of free speech. This group often uses an amplifier to deliver their religious message. The use of the amplifier projects the sound to the surrounding streets in all directions disturbing the peace, order and quiet of our neighborhood. We have no objection to the group or their religious speech. Our objection is the use of the powered amplifier. Over the last nine months, the neighbors have worked with ANC6A and ANC6C, Metropolitan Police Department, Department of Consumer and Regulatory Affairs and the Office of the Attorney General to try to resolve this issue. I testified about this on Nov. 2 before Councilmember Graham’s committee.

In December 2005, the D.C. Office of Attorney General found that amplified, non-commercial free speech on any residential street was permitted in the District from 7 a.m. to 9 p.m. (SEE ATTACHED).

Commissioner Fengler proposes an amendment to the “Georgetown Project and Noise Control Amendment Act of 2004” to prohibit the use of amplifiers. I agree there may be a more technically sound amendment that better captures the intent of the proposed change. I also strongly encourage that in the consideration of the change, the Office of the Attorney General is included in the drafting process to ensure the outcome provides an enforceable ordinance.

Finally, I ask the city council and attorney general to examine the 1949 U.S. Supreme Court decision KOVACS v. COOPER, which found a municipal ban on the use of any sound system emitting "loud and raucous" noises on public streets did NOT violate the First and Fourteenth Amendments.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

I understand that, in the long term, it important to either have the noise ordinance changed or to use Kovacs as a precedent. However, just for the sake of timely action, can't we find something else that these guys are violating that would lead to shutting them down? Is it illegal to block a public sidewalk perhaps?

9:15 AM  

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