Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Amplifiers May Be Sign of Political Weakness

I'm disappointed with organized labor's increasing use of artificial activism. I'm talking about their little-guy-be-damned desire to employ amplifiers and non-union people in their so-called "protests."

A story in Tuesday's Washington Post examines organized labor's practice of paying non-union and homeless people to protest District of Columbia businesses that employ non-union labor.

(I can't help but be cynical. What will happen when the Union of Professional Protesters International (UPPI) finds out about these scabs working the picket lines? Will we see UPPI unleash amplifiers in front of labor leaders' homes?)

During the July 9 public hearing on the pending D.C. noise bill, so-called "union workers" clad in pro-noise t-shirts filled the council chamber. Were these real union representatives or was organized labor again simply misrepresenting themselves? I sincerely hope city councilmembers are asking themselves the same question.

Unamplified voices are and would remain exempt from the District of Columbia's noise ordinance. This protects and ensures that the most important issues--about which large numbers of people are genuinely mobilize--are addressed.

The bill pending before the D.C. City Council also would prevent organizations or corporations with deep pockets from unfairly using one giant device to dominate the debate and suppress all opposition. Three amplified people illustrated this point in June by disrupting an entire neighborhood.

Organized labor's desperation to appear influential is understandable. However, their arrogant belief that the "right-to-be-heard-at-any-volume" trumps ordinary citizens' right to quiet liberty in the bedroom is jeopardizing organized labor's credibility.

Sunday, July 22, 2007

Unlimited Noise Hurts Sales

“The volume of the noise hurts H Street businesses,” said Anwar Saleem, long-time H Street NE business owner and executive director of H Street Main Street. Sales are down for H Street businesses in the vicinity of the amplified noise, he said. (Copyright © 2006. David Klavitter)

Saleem, a long-time H Street NE business owner and executive director of H Street Main Street, testified before the city council on July 9 that unlimited levels of amplified noise has hurt nearby H Street business sales.

"The noise is a burden on the businesses," said Saleem. "You can't talk to your customers at the counter without repeating yourself over and over."

While no restaurants with outdoor seating exist now on H Street now, Saleem said a restaurant with outdoor seating is scheduled to open soon a block and half a way from H and 8th St NE.

The restaurant would potentially be negatively impacted by the noise, Saleem told the council.

Monday, July 16, 2007

Out of My Bedroom!

(CLICK TO ENLARGE) We fully support free speech in the public space. However, we simply do not want preachers and protestors in our bedrooms.

"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: KOVACS v. COOPER]

Just as I don’t want to be subject to your free speech in my bedroom, surely you don’t want to be subject to my free speech in yours.

Sunday, July 15, 2007

Unamplified Voices Will Remain Exempt from Noise Limits

The District of Columbia Municipal Regulations (DCMR) already include the following, which Councilmember Tommy Wells' pending bill does NOT change:

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

Unamplified voices are and should remain exempt from the District's noise ordinance. We support this provision, which protects large gatherings of people energized on issues of critical importance--such as labor rights or Darfur.

If enough people are energized about an issue, they should dominate the public debate--not one person with a big amplifier.

As a matter of fact, Tommy's bill actually enhances free speech: D.C.'s current law violates the right to free speech for those without--or with smaller--amplifiers.

The result: Individuals or small groups cannot possibly compete if money and volume is left unchecked. The amplification devices will just get bigger and bigger until only one or two views can be heard.

Friday, July 13, 2007

No amplified advantage at public hearing on noise

Despite the sensationalized rhetoric spouted by labor unions and expensive lawyers, Monday's public hearing before the D.C. city council was an opportunity for all sides to be heard.

And that was because every witness spoke using the same amplified sound system installed in the D.C. Council Chamber.

D.C.'s current law violates the free speech rights of those without--or with small--amplifiers. The result: Those with the biggest amplifiers dominate public debate.

Unamplified voices are and should remain exempt from the noise ordinance. This protects large gatherings of people energized on issues of critical importance--like labor rights.

Meanwhile, residents are forced to endure hours of noise in their bedrooms.

A handful of neighbors from all over the city--including 8th and H St NE--H Street Main Street Exective Director Anwar Saleem, ANC6A Commissioner Joe Fengler, the Downtown Neighborhood Association, the Penn Quarter Neighborhood Association, the D.C. Attorney General's office and the Department of Consumer and Regulatory Affairs testified to protect residents and and enhance free speech rights.

Labor unions, the American Civil Liberties Union, and a street poet group were among those that dismissed pleas for reasonable bedroom tranquility.

This week's edition of Voice of the Hill newspaper carries details of Monday's public hearing before a city council committee on D.C. pending noise bill.

The July 10 Roll Call and D.C. Examiner also carried stories this week.

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Current D.C. Noise Law Favors Amplified Elite

A man unsuccessfully tries to defend his views as an abusive amplifier smothers his unaided voice. (Copyright © 2006. David Klavitter)

The current broken District of Columbia (D.C.) noise law protects only amplified elitists, who think nothing of suppressing the little guy’s voice and bullying their way into her bedroom.

A pending noise bill before the D.C. City Council would strengthen free speech rights by giving non-amplified voices an equal opportunity to be heard.

Under the current D.C. law amended in 2004, noncommercial speech can be blasted at unlimited volume. The result: One single person can employ big amplifiers to artificially dominate public debate.

Natural voices are smothered. Suppressed. Unheard.

Councilmember Tommy Wells’ proposed bill would place reasonable limits on amplifiers--not speech.

Natural, un-electrified voices would remain exempt from noise controls. In fact, labor union protestors admit they don’t really need amplifiers to make their point--they have the power of the masses.

This allows the volume to naturally gravitate to the greatest number of unamplified voices--not to the power of the amplifier:

Amplifiers stifle her political views.

Amplifiers suppress his religious expression.

Amplifiers smother his right to be heard.

Amplifiers mock his free speech rights.

Amplifiers deny exchange of all views--no matter what the context.

Amplifiers trample his free speech rights.

Monday, July 09, 2007

Video Shows Amplified Free Speech Day

The camera and microphone were positioned about 50 feet from the poetry insurgent’s amplifier and about 60 feet from the H Street group’s. That’s where the decibels measured at about 86 dB. If you live anywhere in the District, this could happen in your neighborhood between 7 a.m. and 9 p.m. (Video by Patrick Keefe. Copyright 2007)

A new 4 minute, 43 second video documents the second annual Amplified Free Speech Day in Adams Morgan on June 24. (As a viewer, you have the luxury of turning down your computer's volume--in D.C. the volume knob is controlled by those with the amplifiers.)

Three electric noise-making devices converged during the two hours at 18th Street and Belmont Rd NW: Two amplifiers and one bullhorn.

Decibel readings recorded from the point source on that day:

* 12.5 feet = 98 decibels (dB)
* 25 feet = 92 dB
* 50 feet = 86 dB
* 100 feet = 80 dB
* 200 feet = 74 dB*
* 400 feet = 68 dB*

According to the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency, distance attenuation estimates show when the distance is doubled from a point source, the sound level decreases six decibels.*

Permanent hearing loss can occur after three minutes exposure to 97 dB, according to the Environmental Protection Agency and the World Health Organization.

The loudest noise in the documentary can be heard from the D.C. Guerrilla Poetry Insurgency, whose amplifier was slightly larger than the Quest for Quiet group’s device.

Which just goes to show, under the current District of Columbia noise statute, free speech rights belong to those with an amplifier—or at least the biggest.


Council Convenes Noise Hearing Today

Councilmember Mary Cheh, Chairperson of the Committee on Public Services and Consumer Affairs, today holds a public hearing on Bill 17-177, the “Noise Control Protection Amendment Act of 2007.”

Bill 17-177 would define the circumstances in which noise made during non-commercial speaking can be considered a noise disturbance.

The public hearing will begin at 10:00 a.m. ET in the fifth-floor Council Chamber of the John A. Wilson Building, 1350 Pennsylvania Avenue, N.W.

Watch it live via the council website.

Saturday, July 07, 2007

Please Turn Down the Amplifiers

An updated version of the June 24th Amplified Free Speech Day t-shirt designed by an H Street NE resident. (CLICK TO ENLARGE)

Thursday, July 05, 2007

Downtown Neighborhood Association Supports Noise Fix

The District of Columbia Downtown Neighborhood Association this week said it supports pending legislation to fix the current noise law. Representatives said they will participate in Monday's public hearing. The complete letter:

July 2, 2007

Ms. Mary Cheh
Committee on Public Services and Consumer Affairs
Council of the District of Columbia
1350 Pennsylvania Avenue NW
Washington, DC 20004

Mr. Tommy Wells
Councilmember - Ward 6
Council of the District of Columbia
1350 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW
Washington, DC 20004

Mr. Kwame Brown
Councilmember – At Large
Council of the District of Columbia
1350 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW
Washington, DC 20004

RE: Support for Bill 17-177, “Noise Control Protection Amendment Act of 2007”

Dear Chairperson Cheh, Councilmember Wells and Councilmember Brown:

On behalf of the Downtown Neighborhood Association, Inc., a civic association whose members are comprised of downtown residents, we would like to express and register our support for the improved noise-abatement rules contained in the above noted legislation.

We appreciate the vibrancy of living in a downtown environment. However, current building code fails to adequately protect residents from the penetration of noise into our homes. Unlike other cities with high-rise living, we are in mid-rise buildings, so noise has greater impact since residents are closer to the sound rising from our streets. This follows efforts by large cities like New York City to provide citizens with healthier lives and more civilized public places. (In New York City’s recent new regulations, if amplified noise from a car can be heard 25 feet away, it is a violation.)

The proposed amendment, with enforcement, will improve the quality of life of all downtown residents, especially if:

* It will give us better protection at night when many prefer a full night’s sleep.

* Further restrict the hours and/or the duration that amplified music and urban drumming can be played.

* Enhance neighborhood safety by limiting the distractions facing pedestrians and vehicular traffic.

* Give enforcement powers to the MPD and the DCRA, and ensure that the appropriate police substations are equipped with a sound meter and all personnel are adequately trained to use it during all shifts.

Consequently, we wholeheartedly support the bill before you. Thank you for your consideration of our views.

Miles E. Groves
Director, Downtown Neighborhood Association, Inc.

cc: Mr. Jack Evans, Ward 2 Councilmember