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.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

The labor union groups you refer to in fact support an enforceable noise level restriction in residential zones. Where there be sleeping babies, and tired parents, and folks finally happy to be home and away from it all— in your neighborhood, on Saturday morning, for example—absolutely it makes sense. But in commercial zones (those not abutting residential zones), why muzzle political (ie, noncommercial) speech?
A Freedom-of-Information-Request, or a transcript from the July 9, 2007 hearing on this bill, will tell you that the only noise complaints regarding noncommercial public speaking came from your neighborhood. Yes, there were some from downtown about “drumming,” but drumming-for-tips (see jar on ground) is not noncommercial, and crackdowns are enforceable under current noise laws. The vast majority of the 1,000 or so noise complaints were about construction work. The DC Code, for example, exempts pile drivers from any decibel restrictions during the day; I had to work with headphones on for weeks as crews laid the foundation for a new building across the street from my office last fall, and obvi I’m not the only one. But Bill 17-177 will do nothing about that. This bill does nothing to address the noises that are actually offending most DC residents, and that maybe they think are about to fixed. The bill only concerns political, noncommercial speech.

Political speech is a problem for you—yes, loud, unrelenting Saturday-morning political speech that you want to go away. A simple amendment adding a decibel threshold on noncommercial speech in residential zones will solve your neighborhood’s problem. Councilmember Evans has introduced an amendment that would do just that, and labor unions and activist groups are all for it. So why are you, and why are certain councilmembers, so insistent that this bright white line be extended into commercial zones, where there is no actual or historical evidence that noncommercial speech is a problem for DC residents?
You mention “the District’s working families”— do carpenters count? And hotel workers? And parking lot attendants? And the Verizon Center staff? And the cafeteria workers on the Hill, and in the Executive Agencies? How about Banquet waiters and restaurant servers? The hopes, and mortgage payments, and pension funds, and vacations, and workloads and futures of these folks certainly do rest with the Council now, because if our elected representatives go out of their way to “solve” a downtown noncommercial speech problem that doesn’t exist, the District’s working families will bear the full brunt of this economic downturn for as long as that law stands. Tell me how that’s the right thing for this city. Tell me why their livelihoods have to be put at risk when the problem at hand can be solved with a residential zone amendment.
I am not a paid protester, or a lobbyist. I live in Ward 3.

8:13 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Maybe we should bring "our problem" to your doorstep. We know you live in Ward 3 but a street address would be greatly appreciated. Break out your headhpones Mr. Lobbyist. You will lose this battle and then you will have to get paid to uphold some other dribble.

8:14 AM  
Blogger Klav said...

speak and be heard:

Yes...we have much work to do to ensure a more quiet, safe and healthy society. But your right to say something should not mean I must be forced to hear it--especially in my home.

You'll have to speak to our friends at the Penn Quarter Civic Association and Downtown Neighborhood Association in Wards 2 and 6, the Woodland Normanstone Neighborhood Association in Ward 3. They are now dealing with unreasonable people using amplifiers as weapons.

The bill already allows amplifiers to be 10 dB over the ambient noise--that's TWICE as loud as anything else around. What's next? A law that forces people to take and read handbills?

8:58 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Dear anonymous,

1. As I said, I am not a paid lobbyist.

2. As I said, I am all for restrictions in residential areas....all. for. it. I don't want you in front of my house, and I don't think people should camp out in front of yours either.

3. I do not trust the DCRA to take accurate readings of ambient noise. It is a policy detail that simply will not matter in practice. See comment under previous post re: sound inspector's testimony.

3:18 PM  

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