Tuesday, May 02, 2006

Graham Says Still No Fix to Broken Noise Law, Wants ‘Any Ideas’

D.C. Consumer and Regulatory Affairs Committee Chairman Jim Graham yesterday sent a response to a D.C. resident concerned about the citywide ramifications of a broken noise statute.

Graham wrote in response to a letter Lonnie Bruner sent several weeks ago. The letter urged Graham’s committee to take action to fix the law to provide immediate relief to the northeast area residents, and to prevent hours of unabated amplified speech from blaring in residential areas anywhere in the District of Columbia.

Bruner does not live in the noise zone at H and 8th Streets NE, but resides in Graham’s Ward 1. Bruner has toured the H Street intersection to see for himself the noise harassment which could potentially erupt in his own neighborhood. Graham wrote:
Please excuse the delay in responding. I had hoped to have more specific information for you as a result of our legislative research and consideration. But we still don't have a solution. Barry [Weise] is hard at work. But we run into all manner of problems with other interests that would, unwittingly, be impacted. Any ideas you have [would] be appreciated. Bests Jim

Chairman Graham’s efforts are appreciated, but it sounds like the city council needs more help from the community. Lonnie offered some suggestions, which he dispatched to Graham yesterday:

Hello Mr. Graham,

Thank you for responding.

Would it be possible for you and/or Mr. Weise to take a fact-finding junket to the intersection of H and 8th Street NE at around 4 p.m. on any beautiful Saturday afternoon? My friend David has even begun a website (!) documenting his ongoing struggle to get the preachers to cease using the amplifier. Have you seen it? It's here: www.questforquiet.org. Just amazing. David clearly states throughout his website that his aim is not to stifle free speech; just to have them stop using amplifiers.

It's strange, because other municipalities have found good practices in balancing free speech and noise regulations. Why can't DC?

Have you or Mr. Weise seen the 1949 U.S. Supreme Court Case Kovacs v. Cooper, which ruled that cities can regulate amplified speech? It's here: http://www.firstamendmentcenter.org/faclibrary/case.aspx?case=Kovacs_v_Cooper

Another thing to consider is that most people do not have amplifiers at the ready, so when he or she tries to debate with the fellows on the sidewalk at H & 8th, their voices are snuffed out by the blaring amplifier. In other words, the amplifier actually infringes on free speech.

Thanks for anything you can do. I'm wondering if this would be dealt with differently if it took place in front of my apartment, considering that I live in a richer part of the city ... Sorry to be cynical, but such is the point we've come to.

Thank you.

Chairman Graham’s email address is jim@grahamwone.com. Mr. Barry Weise’s email is BWeise@dccouncil.us.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

I understand the need to be a little bit surgical to address this issue without inadvertantly banning other activities but I can't see why this is so hard. Off the top of my head... (This may fail but let me know how, and lets brainstorm)

1. Whenever a noncommerical entity wishes to use a sound amplification device with XX yards of a residential area, that entity must (a) receive written permission from XX percent of the residents on the affected block (defined as any block within XX yards of proposed device), or (b) apply to the DC XX Agency for a special exemption permit.

I order to reduce the noise burden on any particular block, Special Exemption Permits may not be granted for than XX times per calander year for any particular location. Speciual exemption permits: (i) cost $XXX; (ii) require XX weeks notice, during which time neighbors and/or the ANC are provided the opportunity to oppose the permit, and; (iii) require the permitee to submit their name, address and phone number into a public file.

9:23 AM  

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