Thursday, February 21, 2008

Whom Does the D.C. City Council Represent?

Is the District of Columbia (D.C.) City Council's duty to act in the best interests of its citizens or special interests?

WTOP investigative reporter Mark Segraves takes a closer look at Tuesday's District of Columbia City Council vote to indefinitely table a bill that would protect residents at home from unreasonble amplified noise. An excerpt:

"Council members Carol Schwartz, David Catania, Mary Cheh and Marion Barry supported the bill. So did Council members Yvette Alexander and Kwame Brown. Alexander had told her constituents in Hillcrest that she supported the Bill. Brown didn't just support the bill, he co-introduced it and co-sponsored it. But something happened to Alexander and Brown."

Segraves interviews Councilmembers Tommy Wells and Advisory Neighborhood Commissioner (6A) Joe Fengler--both supporters of residents' rights. He spoke with Yvette Alexander, who flipped on her commitment and voted to table the bill.

Councilmember Kwame Brown, who co-sponsored the bill but then voted to table it, would not return Segraves' calls.

"We're the only major city in the country that has no limit on amplified speech. I'm trying to provide some balance so that residents of the District can expect some limits to the amount of noise in their neighborhoods," Councilmember Wells told WTOP.

It's not that the noise bill lacked support--on the contrary.

It had the support of ANC 6A and 6C, the Hillcrest Civic Association in Ward 7, the Penn Quarter Civic Association and Downtown Neighborhood Association in Wards 2 and 6, the Woodland Normanstone Neighborhood Association in Ward 3, and labor unions SEIU 32BJ and SEIU 500, representing thousands of working men and women in D.C.

It's ironic that some city council members wave the free-speech banner, but then lack the courage to openly debate the noise bill's merits. It's not unlike trying to have a conversation with some unreasonable person wielding an amplifier.

Read the WTOP report online.

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