Sunday, September 30, 2007

Another Advocacy Group's Noise Video

"Despite the world's highest living standard, the goal of a better way of life have not yet been fully realized," says the Citizens Coalition Against Noise Pollution in introducing its latest video on YouTube. It's their version of "keep your noise out of our bedroom."


Saturday, September 22, 2007

Wash Post: 'How Loud is D.C.?'

A comprehensive District of Columbia noise survey conducted by the Washington Post appears in today's edition.

Reporter Marianne Seregi spent most of August recording decibel measurements at 21 locations throughout the city. Her story includes a very informative illustration about her findings. One amplified group at H and 8th Streets NE came in at #5.

She also explains two bills now pending before the D.C. City Council which residents hope will increase their quiet enjoyment of the city.

Read her story introduction here.

Sunday, September 16, 2007

The Good Lord...Right in My Bedroom

Pastor Banks is on a roll this pleasant, sunny day.

She sometimes accompanies the Baltimore-based Rev. Dallas Williams to H and 8th St NE on Sunday afternoons. Damn...she's been at it for nearly an hour. Real fire and brim stone stuff today. Who needs to go to church when the church comes right into your living room?

Surely she must be nearly finished. I've already closed the windows. She and the Rev. Williams always are polite and will turn down the volume if asked. Usually I'd go say hi, but I'm not feeling 100% and am behind on my studies. So I've retreated to the back of the house.

ME: Return focus on my textbook.
PASTOR BANKS: "For God so loved the world!"
ME: Turn the page.
PASTOR BANKS: "That He gave His only begotten Son!"
ME: Highlight a sentence.
PASTOR BANKS: "That whosoever believeth in Him!"
ME: Review a formula.
PASTOR BANKS: "Should not perish, but have everlasting life!"
ME: Review the same formula again.
ME: Amen.

Friday, September 14, 2007

Amplifiers Ensure Captive Audience for Poetry Group

Members of the D.C.-based Guerilla Poets Insurgency get loud during the June 24 Amplified Free Speech Day in Adams Morgan. The poet group’s amplifiers actually were louder than the one rented by the 8th and H Street NE neighbors. (CLICK TO ENLARGE Photo Copyright © 2007. David Klavitter)

The group believes it has a right to use an amplifier to force their poetry into residents’ bedrooms—whether the residents like it or not. The beauty of poetry—like any content—is subjective, after all.

Which makes me wonder if they use an amplifier because their poetry is so bad and nobody wants to listen to it?

And what about poets without amplifiers? Poets using natural voice to share their art would have been smothered by the noise.

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.

A bill pending before the D.C. city council would ensure unamplified voices remain exempt from the city’s noise ordinance.

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Second ANC Urges Protection of D.C. Quiet Rights

For a second year in a row, Advisory Neighborhood Commission (ANC) 6C has officially endorsed legislation to fix D.C.'s broken noise law, which allows amplified speech to be forced uninvited into residents' bedrooms.

The commission's action joins in the public record a similiar request by ANC6A. Both Ward 6 commissions voted support last year.

Councilmembers Tommy Wells and Mary Cheh in April introduced the “Noise Control Protection Amendment Act of 2007" (Bill 17-177). The D.C. Council Committee on Public Services and Consumer Affairs held a July 9th hearing on the bill.

The D.C. Office of Attorney General reviewed more than a dozen municpal noise ordinances and determined the pending bill would not hinder free speech rights.

D.C. Mayor Adrian Fenty said he would sign and enforce such quality of life protections.

The text of ANC6C's letter is below:
July 23, 2007

Ms. Cynthia Brock-Smith
Secretary to the Council
John A. Wilson Building, Room 5
1350 Pennsylvania Avenue, N.W.
Washington, D.C. 20004
VIA FACSIMILE (202-347-3070)

RE: ANC 6C Supports Bill 17-177, "Noise Control Protection Amendment Act of 2007"

Dear Ms. Brock-Smith:

At Advisory Neighborhood Commission 6C’s duly noticed, rescheduled monthly meeting on July 18, 2007, with a quorum of seven Commissioners present, ANC 6C considered the matter of Bill 17-177, the "Noise Control Protection Amendment Act of 2007". After hearing testimony, community comments and discussion, the ANC 6C Commissioners voted unanimously to support Bill 17-177.

ANC 6C fully supports freedom of speech, whether in one’s home, businesses or in the public space. However, there are practical limits with respect to how free speech should be permitted to impact other residents and passers-by. Speech (or any kind of expression for that matter) should absolutely be protected where the sound is unamplified. Amplified speech above certain levels, however, poses a direct harm to the peace, safety and rights of others, and should not be tolerated.

We strongly endorse the U.S. Supreme Court’s 1949 decision in the case of Kovacs v. Cooper: "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."

Until 2001, the District of Columbia provided this necessary protection with respect to non-commercial speech, and continues to this day to provide protection with respect to commercial speech. The result of this change has been disasterous for our communities—residents and individuals walking the sidewalks are regularly subjected to amplified speech, up to and including the levels which one would find at a rock concert. This often happens for hours on end, forcing unacceptable noise levels on individuals, whether they want it or not. For residents in particular, there literally is no escape short of being forced from one’s home.

The Council must act now to remedy this unacceptable situation.

It is important to realize that unamplified speech is and would remain exempt from the District's noise ordinance [DCMR § 20-2704.8]. This provision provides a proper balance between the fundamental rights of both free speech and every individual’s right to peace, order and quiet enjoyment. Bill 17-177 will resolve a serious health and safety matter for all District of Columba residents and businesses, while upholding free speech rights.

ANC 6C wants to protect the homes, businesses and families that call our great neighborhood home from unlimited decibels of noise. Furthermore, the ANC urges the Council to include these enhancements to the bill:

1. Measured Distance. Limit sound to a level that does not inhibit residents' quiet enjoyment of their homes. Much of our neighborhood is mixed between commercial and residential uses, with each use closely adjoining the other. The 50 foot provision for measuring sound at 70 dB(A) is simply not enough protection. The Act should be amended to state: "50 feet or the closest occupied building".

2. Maximum Sound Level. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) established a maximum level for outdoor activity interference and annoyance is 55 dB(A) outdoors and 45 dB(A) indoors. These are the maximum levels that still permit spoken conversation and comfort in the activities of daily living. A permitted level greater than 55 dB(A) actively harms the hearing of our residents—an unacceptable health threat to the neighbors living within our ANC, and the District as a whole. The Act be amended stating the maximum sound level be no higher than 55 dB(A).

3. Tools, Training and Enforcement. The relatively few sound level meters available for enforcement in the District are all owned by the Department of Consumer and Regulator Affairs (DCRA). Additional meters should be funded and training should be provided to DCRA inspectors and Metropolitan Police Department (MPD) personnel. The Act should be amended to provide enforcement powers to both DCRA and MPD.

The District of Columbia Attorney General researched major municipal noise ordinances and determined that Bill 17-177 strikes an appropriate balance between free speech rights and rights to quiet enjoyment of property, and is constitutional. It is a good bill, and necessary to protect the residents of our great city.

Thank you for taking the position of ANC 6C into account and according our input the great weight to which it is entitled under District law.


Karen J. Wirt

Cc: Council Chairman Vincent C. Gray (fax 202-724-8097)
Ward 1 Councilmember Jim Graham (fax 202-724-8109)
Ward 2 Councilmember Jack Evans (fax 202-724-8023)
Ward 3 Councilmember Mary M. Cheh (fax 202-724-8118)
Ward 4 Councilmember Muriel Bowser (fax 202-741-0908)
Ward 5 Councilmember Harry Thomas, Jr. (fax 202-724-8076)
Ward 6 Councilmember Tommy Wells (fax 202-724-8054)
Ward 7 Councilmember Yvette Alexander (fax 202-741-0911)
Ward 8 Councilmember Marion Barry (fax 202-724-8055)
At-Large Councilmember Kwame R. Brown (fax 202-724-8156)
At-Large Councilmember David A. Catania (fax 202-724-8097)
At-Large Councilmember Phil Mendelson (fax 202-724-8099)
At-Large Councilmember Carol Schwartz (fax 202-724-8071)

Monday, September 10, 2007

Confusion Lingers Over Hate Crimes

(CLICK TO ENLARGE) Brilliant sunshine bathes a plastic Madonna hanging from a traffic signal on the southeast corner of H and 8th Streets NE on April 29, 2006. The symbol hangs within yards and in plain view of residential homes where people of all races and sexual orientation live. It is part of the Saturday ranting by the men from the Israelite School of Universal Practical Knowledge (ISUPK) (Copyright © 2006. David Klavitter)

The Baltimore Sun and the Washington Post report the University of Maryland campus police have opened a criminal investigation about a possible hate crime after "a noose was discovered last week hanging near a building housing several black campus groups."

Whether the noose is someone's idea of a sick joke, overt harrassment, or a serious threat, I've never been more confused about the definition of a hate crime.

For several years, residents in one northeast Washington, D.C., neighborhood have faced a similar display nearly every weekend. Some have complained to city officials, but to my knowledge, no official investigation has resulted.

Sunday, September 09, 2007

Note to a Councilmember: Bill Will Enhance Protest Rights

District of Columbia Councilmember Kwame Brown during the July 9, 2007 hearing on the pending D.C. noise bill. (Copyright © 2007. David Klavitter)

Councilmember Kwame Brown
Council of the District of Columbia
1350 Pennsylvania Ave NW
Suite 506
Washington DC 20004

RE: Unamplified Voices Will Remain Exempt from Noise Limits

Dear Councilmember Brown:

Thank you for co-sponsoring the “Noise Control Protection Amendment Act of 2007” (Bill 17-177). As a journalist and former dues-paying member of the Office and Professional Employees International Union (OPEIU), I share your concern about ensuring citizens’ right to protest, while protecting residents from unreasonable levels of noise.

Ward 6 residents of the H and 8th St NE community urge support of this bill.

One important note was not made clear during the July 9 Committee on Public Services and Consumer Affairs hearing on the noise bill. The District of Columbia Municipal Regulations (DCMR) already includes 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, the pending 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.

Again, your support and understanding for all sides is greatly appreciated. Please contact me if you have any questions.


David Klavitter

Councilmember Mary Cheh
Councilmember Marion Barry
Councilmember Jim Graham
Councilmember Tommy Wells

Monday, September 03, 2007

Report: Excessive Noise Linked to Premature Heart Deaths

New research from the World Health Organization has found long-term exposure to excessive noise causes heart disease that prematurely kills thousands of people around the world each year, according to The Guardian (Aug. 23, 2007):
The research is part of a long-term study of the health effects of noise in Europe, which began in 2003.

In addition to the heart disease link, it found that 2% of Europeans suffer severe disturbed sleep because of noise pollution and 15% can suffer severe annoyance.

Chronic exposure to loud traffic noise causes 3% of tinnitus cases, in which people constantly hear a noise in their ears.

Research published in recent years has shown that noise can increase the levels of stress hormones such as cortisol, adrenaline and noradrenalin in the body, even during sleep. The longer these hormones stay in circulation around the bloodstream, the more likely they are to cause life-threatening physiological problems.

High stress levels can lead to heart failure, strokes, high blood pressure and immune problems.
"All this is happening imperceptibly. Even when you think you are used to the noise, these physiological changes are still happening," according to one researcher cited in the Guardian story.