Friday, October 31, 2008

Fengler, Schwartz Look Out for Little Guy’s Quiet

In the three-year Quest for Quiet, which concluded this summer, several candidates running for reelection have emerged as shining examples of exceptional community servants--champions of the Little Guy.

I can vouch for these folks, who steadfastly worked for the rights of D.C. residents:

Joe Fengler, Advisory Neighborhood Commissioner for ANC6A
Carol Schwartz, At-Large D.C. City Councilmember (write-in)

This community deserves another term of service from each.

I won’t say anything about the other candidates--those that deserve praise are mentioned here--with one exception: Kwame Brown, who is running for another term as At-Large D.C. City Councilmember. On our single noise issue, this guy had more positions than a yoga master.

I’m not that flexible with my vote, Mr. Brown.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

The Relative Quiet of 8th and H Streets NE

After months of relative quiet inside the homes of those living near H and 8th Streets NE, I think the friends and neighbors now can safely accept that one noisy and amplified group has finally moved to busier pastures.

It started earlier this spring, in the heat of the battle with the city council over a bill that would protect residents from unreasonable amplified noise INSIDE their homes. Suddenly one Saturday, representatives of the Israelite School of Universal Practical Knowledge (ISUPK) stopped gathering with their amplifier in our northeast neighborhood.

Many here suspected a conspiracy—some payoff to quiet the amplifiers until the brew-ha-ha down at city hall blew over. However, we’ve discovered the group now blasts their amplifier on Fridays in Chinatown—H and 7th Streets NW.

This blogger has more.

According to one member of the ISUPK who works in my building, the bustling Chinatown intersection offers more people to hear the group’s amplified message.

The D.C. residents of downtown Chinatown have my sympathies about the blasted noise.

Meanwhile, H and 8th St NE remains home to the Rev. Dallas Williams and others, but their amplified lectures are few and far between—plus they’ll turn down the volume if asked.

Wednesday, June 04, 2008

In the News: The Vote's Morning After

A quick rundown of the noise news...

Council Approves Noise Bill, or Does It? [Washington Post's D.C. Wire]
The D.C. Council gave final approval today to a heavily amended noise bill in a 9 to 4 vote after a hard-hitting lobbying campaign by labor unions that several council members described as mean-spirited and unfairly targeted at two members who are up for reelection. [READ MORE...]

Kwame and Yvette Are Noise Bill Flip-Floppers! [Washington City Paper]
Councilmembers Kwame R. Brown and Yvette Alexander, both targeted by unions for their support of restrictions on amplified speech, have caved to the pressure. [READ MORE...]

Gutted Noise Bill Passes 9-4 [Washington City Paper]
Ward 5 Councilmember Harry Thomas Jr.’s pro-union amendment passed and the full bill both passed 9-4. [READ MORE...]

Council Action Roundup [Washington Post]
...the council gave final approval to a significantly tweaked noise bill in a 9 to 4 vote after a hard-hitting lobbying campaign by labor unions that several council members described as mean-spirited and unfairly targeted at two members up for reelection. [READ MORE...]

Amplified Noise Legislation Update (Bad News) [PQLiving]
The best quote from the council discussion was when Tommy Wells (Ward 6) said that none of this legislation helps the 10,000 people living downtown. [READ MORE...]

Noise Bill Passed, But Won't Do Anything About Noise [DCist]
The D.C. Council earlier today passed an amended version of the noise bill first introduced by Tommy Wells and Mary Cheh that was born out of Ward 6 resident David Klavitter's crusade to put an end to amplified street preachers keeping him awake at his home near H Street NE. But Wells and Cheh actually voted against this bill, after it was basically gutted by an amendment introduced by Ward 5 Council member Harry Thomas Jr. that was a major concession to union groups. [READ MORE...]

Labor successfully waters down noise bill [Greater Greater Washington]
The DC Council just passed a revised version of the much-debated bill on non-commercial noise. [READ MORE...]

Bloggers Sound Off About New D.C. Noise Rules [Free Ride]
The D.C. Council this afternoon passed a new noise bill, a move that came after a series of amendments and a bruising skirmish between labor unions and some council members. [READ MORE...]

Help for the Neighborhoods [Washington Post editorial]
Opponents [of the noise bill], largely from organized labor, have wrongly portrayed the issue as one of free speech and assembly. Nothing in the carefully drafted bill would curtail public protests. It simply establishes allowable noise levels, higher than in other cities and calibrated above background noise. [READ MORE...]

Tuesday, June 03, 2008

Gutted Noise Bill Passed Council

The District of Columbia has a new and toothless noise bill. I'm busy with work, so I'll let the Washington City Paper give you the play-by-play [Read more HERE]:

Gutted Noise Bill Passes 9-4: Ward 5 Councilmember Harry Thomas Jr.’s pro-union amendment passed and the full bill both passed 9-4. Original bill sponsors Tommy Wells and Mary Cheh both voted against in both cases, along with David Catania and Carol Schwartz. Chairman Vincent C. Gray and Ward 8 Councilmember Marion Barry, though both in support of the union position, denounced in strong terms labor’s targeting their colleagues. Barry said he was “very upset with my friends in the labor movement”; Gray said he was “offended and disappointed to see what happened” to Kwame Brown and Yvette Alexander.

Ward 5 Councilmember Harry Thomas borrowed Jack Evans' amendment, which passed 9-4. It raises the decibel level limit from 70 to 80 dB, restricts the limit to R-1 through R-4 zones, and changes the requirement for measurement to inside the home.

Basically, this offers zero protection for our downtown friends and allows the noise of a freight train inside a residential bedroom.

We are grateful for the tenacity of all D.C. residents who stood up for their rights--especially our elected Councilmembers Tommy Wells, Mary Cheh, David Catania and Carol Schwartz. They truly fought the hard fight for the residents of the District of Columbia.

Thank you.

Council Volunteer Needed for Home Noise Test

Lest any elected councilmember believes that 80 decibels inside one's bedroom is an allowable level of sound, we propose a controlled test. The requirements:

* One councilmember inside the comfort of his or her living or bedroom;

* One trained noise inspector with a certified decibel meter stationed inside the councilmember's living or bedroom;

* Members of the interested Washington-area media, labor union officials and other councilmembers stationed inside the councilmember's living or bedroom.

* One single person with an amplifier positioned outside the councilmember's home;

* Increase amplified decibels until noise volume reaches 80 decibels as measured in councilmember's living or bedroom.

We'll supply the one person with amplifier, the trained noise inspector and invitations for special guests. The volunteer can even provide refreshments, if desired.

Now, who will volunteer?

Wanted: Councilmembers with Courage

"The unwilling listener is not like the passer-by who may be offered a pamphlet in the street but cannot be made to take it. In his home...he is practically helpless to escape this interference with his privacy by loudspeakers except through the protection of the municipality.”

--1949 U.S. Supreme Court decision which upheld a municipality's right to defend citizens against amplified devices: KOVACS v. COOPER

The Washington City Paper reports that At-Large Councilmember Kwame Brown apparently plans to cave to special interest pressure during today's vote on bill that would protect residents--inside their home--from amplified noise.

Ward 2 Councilmember Jack Evans's amendment provides zero protection for commercial areas of the city and raises the dB level from 70 to 80 in residential areas as measured INSIDE the home.

That's a freight train in your living room--a hollow victory at best.

In fact, that proposal would not even protect Councilmember Evans--inside his Georgetown home--from the amplifiers of March 2008. See the video.

To be fair, Brown and Ward 7 Councilmember Yvette Alexander withered under a barrage of special interest advertising which began running last week. She remains on the fence, apparently. But that's where the courage comes in.

And one last shout from the U.S. Supreme Court decision:

"The preferred position of freedom of speech in a society that cherishes liberty for all does not require legislators to be insensible to claims by citizens to comfort and convenience. To enforce freedom of speech in disregard of the rights of others would be harsh and arbitrary in itself."

Monday, June 02, 2008

Amplifier-Awakened D.C. Babies Are Pissed

Nobody should have the right to force loud noise--no matter the content--into anyone’s private space.

District of Columbia parents and grandparents are furious because the current law allows unreasonable amplified people with impunity to wake babies.

Inside the walls of their home. Within their cribs. Surrounded by cuddling arms.

And Councilmember David Catania reminds us to hold dear a student’s right to learn by protecting them from distracting amplifiers.

Give D.C. kids--and parents and grandparents and teachers--a break: Support the "Noise Control Protection Amendment Act of 2008 (Bill 17-177).”

The final vote is on the council's June 3 legislative meeting agenda. Need help understanding what all these decibels in D.C. mean? Here's an easy interactive explanation from the Washington Post.

Friday, May 30, 2008

Labor Ads Blast Citizens’ Quiet Rights

The Washington Post reports several labor union groups have banded together in a three-day advertising blitz to kill a bill that would protect D.C. residents at home from unreasonable amplified noise. The bill also would bolster free speech.

I can’t say labor’s effort was unexpected.

Some unions have an everyone-be-damned obsession with the citywide noise loophole they sneaked into a 2004 Georgetown street construction bill—a process of which residents at that time were not made aware.

Other labor groups, like SEIU 32BJ and SEIU 500, can empathize with residents and support the noise bill. Thank you.

The reality is labor unions have the money to buy advertising, retain lobbyists and lawyers, hire protesters, and employ amplifiers as weapons of unrelenting noise.

Meanwhile, the hopes of the District’s working families—moms and dads, grandmothers and grandfathers, retirees and children—rest with the elected councilmembers.

Politics obviously does not lack money. But sometimes it takes a little courage to do the right thing for the people of this great city.

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Noise Bill Will STRENGTHEN Free Speech

As a journalist and former card-carrying member of the Office and Professional Employees International Union (Local 39), I’m rabidly protective of free speech rights and complete transparency in our government processes.

That’s why I back a noise bill that actually enhances our democratic process. Here’s how:

The current law contains this provision, which the pending bill will NOT change:

DCMR § 20-2704.8 “The unamplified voice shall be exempt at all times.”

Unamplified voices are and would remain exempt from the District’s noise ordinance. When large numbers of people are energized about an issue, they should dominate the public debate--not one person with a big amplifier.

What does this mean? It means 100, 1,000, or 100,000 people marching in D.C. will have NO (zero, nada, nothing) restrictions on how loud their unamplified voices can be. And that’s the way it should be.

As a matter of fact, D.C.’s current law violates the right to free speech for those without—or with smaller—amplifiers.

Let’s let the people prevail--not special interest groups who, when lacking real voices, resort to artificial bullying to get their way.