Just like last year, Vox is helping you get on top of “news you can use” with an excessively comprehensive review of last year’s important news stories. Today, we cover the off-campus issues that made headlines; noise, cronyism, and cannabis come after the jump.
We’ve got the campus plan blues
Neighborhood associations are irate [PDF] because some Georgetown students are loud and drunken. If the Zoning Commission doesn’t force us on-campus, they say, the neighborhood will become a “student ghetto.” To support this cause, which has gained the endorsement of several D.C. councilmembers, they are putting up yard signs, forming coalitions, and speaking out in public forums.
These activists also have recourse to a unique form of hyper-local government called the advisory neighborhood commission. There are 38 ANC’s throughout the city that provide official community input on everything from liquor licenses to traffic and land-use planning. In keeping with its history, Georgetown and Burleith’s ANC 2E opposes the 2010 Campus Plan. Because of clever gerrymandering of the dorms, there is only one student commissioner, Jake Sticka (COL ’13), on that commission.
The University, for its part, has tried reaching out to neighbors and stumping for support across the city. Georgetown has also ceded to several neighborhood demands, from scrapping graduate housing just off-campus to turning the Leavey Center Hotel into a dorm, in hopes of winning the endorsement of city agencies.
The D.C. Office of Planning didn’t return the love; they recommended a hard cap on undergraduate admissions and 100-percent on-campus residency. The Zoning Commission is due to issue its ruling in November. Depending on the verdict, neighborhood groups or the University will petition the D.C. Court of Appeals to reverse the directive.
Make some noise!
In February, the D.C. Council approved an amendment to its disorderly conduct law allowing police to arrest and fine anyone making an “unreasonably loud” noise between 10 p.m. and 7 a.m. Previously, the misdemeanor carried a $250 fine and a 61-D citation that showed up on an arrest record. The new law doubles the fine to $500 and raises the penalty to 90 days in jail.
The Georgetown-based student advocacy group DC Students Speak put out a petition opposing the new law. the Georgetown University Student Association followed suit with a resolution. The American University-based D.C. Student Alliance secured a meeting with Mayor Vincent Gray in March.
The law remains in place, but it was a rallying point for DC Students Speak’s voter registration effort for the April 2011 D.C. Council special election. Vincent Orange, who opposes the 2010 Campus Plan, won the at-large seat up for grabs.
A couple weeks after the law passed, MPD seized about 20 fake I.D. cards at Third Edition on Wisconsin Avenue. Prosecutors remanded the cases to University authorities, but the move signaled a new police effort to tamp down on underage drinking and other “unruly” behavior.
Here comes the new boss, same as the old boss
Last September, D.C. Democratic voters chose then-D.C. Council Chairman Vincent Gray over sitting Mayor Adrian Fenty as their candidate in a racially-charged primary for the 2010 mayoral election.
After unexpectedly vaulting to the mayorship in 2006 as a popular, constituent-oriented Ward 4 councilmember, Fenty suffered a popularity drain in D.C.’s black majority community over his perceived aloofness and gentrification-oriented policies.
In particular, his takeover of D.C. schools and appointment of merit-pay advocate Michelle Rhee as schools chancellor won him few friends: she closed schools and fired many of the District’s largely black, unionized teaching force. Opponents also accused Fenty of giving preferential treatment to contract bids from fraternity brothers.
Gray entered office on a “one city” reconciliation platform. He drove out Rhee, replacing the her with former deputy Kaya Henderson. Henderson promised to continue the bulk of Rhee’s agenda. Meanwhile, Gray faces his own controversy and a budding recall effort for appointing mayoral opponent Sulaimon Brown to a high-paying position in the Mayor’s office. Brown alleges the Gray operatives agreed to reward him for slamming Fenty in the mayoral debates.
Then again, the mayor’s office is far from the only source of scandal in D.C. government.
High times will no longer be high crimes
Twelve years ago, D.C. residents voted to allow medical marijuana in the city. Until last May, Congress had blocked the measure from taking effect. With the Council’s landmark 4/20 vote, officials will permit patients with cancer, AIDS, multiple sclerosis, and glaucoma to possess up to two ounces of the drug.
Meanwhile, recreational use of marijuana remains illegal. Last October, the Metropolitan Police Department arrested CBS Radio News Correspondent Howard Arenstein and wife Orly Azoulay for cultivating eleven cannabis plants. Prosecutors later dropped all charges.