District of Columbia Ward 6 City Councilmember Tommy Wells
and the council’s Public Services and Consumer Affairs Committee Chair Mary Cheh
(Ward 3) met Jan. 30 with representatives of the D.C. Office of Attorney General (OAG), D.C. Labor Council
and the H Street NE community to address mutual concerns in an effort to fix a loophole in the city noise statute.
The loophole allows unlimited decibel levels of amplified noncommercial speech to blare anywhere in the city, between the hours of 7 a.m. and 9 p.m.
Several groups use amplifiers every weekend at the H and 8th St NE. The intersection enjoys a proud legacy of street preaching. Current groups include the Rev. Dallas Williams
, Evangelist Woodward
, the Nation of Islam
and the Israelite School of Universal School Practical Knowledge
However, some unreasonable groups abuse the law, and blast residents and businesses with more than four hours of peace-disturbing noise every Saturday.
Acting D.C. Attorney General Linda Singer penned a Jan. 29 letter to the councilmembers. She explained her office has pursued all legal options related to noise, and only a legislative solution can provide relief.
Wells and Cheh--who also is active in the American Civil Liberties Union--are pursuing a thorough approach to crafting a solution acceptable to all stakeholders--especially church leaders and organized labor.
As a former card-carrying member of the Office and Professional Employees International Union, Local 39, I know union groups often rely on amplifiers in public protest to reach collective bargaining objectives. But for whatever reasons--irrelevant to this decibel discussion--some noisy groups have no interest in negotiating.
Some people want to be loud because the law says they can be loud
Thus, residents and businesses are left to wither under endless hours of amplified lectures--unlike a passerby who can refuse to accept a printed handbill or the resident who can close the door on a solicitor.
Mr. David Rubenstein, from the Office of Attorney General, committed to drafting proposed legislative language, on which the groups will meet to review in the coming weeks. It will focus on decibel levels applied to amplifiers for all speech during daytime hours.