Thursday, February 08, 2007

Council, OAG, Unions and Community Converge on Noise Fix

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.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Thanks for the update. You are making a difference!

6:26 PM  
Blogger gpliving said...

"It will focus on decibel levels applied to amplifiers for all speech during daytime hours."

I'm worried that this legislation is going to be another "noise cannot exceed X decibels - samples taken every 10 minutes for 3 hours" thing.

Currently, if you have a noise complaint, and you think you can get a DC official to take noise readings.. you're basically kidding yourself. After the official tells the noise offender that they are about to take readings (and then they turn their sound down), you see how useless the current system is.

4:48 PM  
Blogger Klav said...

The method actually worked. A D.C. noise inspector used a decibel meter on three separate occasions at H and 8th NE and found one group in violation of the noise ordinance. The group was cited and fined. But...

That was in 2005--before the statute's loophole was discovered by the Office of Attorney General and the citations were thrown out.

12:05 AM  

Post a Comment

<< Home