From David McAuley. Email him at david[AT]borderstan.com.
Reminder: The town hall format joint meeting of three local Advisory Neighborhood Commissions (ANCs) will take place tonight, March 20, at 7 pm at the Thurgood Marshall Center (1816 12th Street NW). ANC 1B’s website says the purpose of the meeting is to get residents’ input on the proposed liquor license moratorium for 14th and U Street NW area. There will be no votes, motions or resolutions at the meeting.
“We want to be able to address any questions people may have about the process or about specific aspects of the moratorium,” said ANC 2B Commissioner Kevin O’Connor. O’Connor is the commissioner for district 02 and chair of the ANC 2B committee for liquor license issues.
This meeting has also been touted as a “listening session.”
What Will the Commissioners Listen For?
1. The effect of a moratorium on peace, order, quiet and sanitation.
Commissioner O’Connor said that members of the Metropolitan Police Department (MPD) had been invited to the meeting, and what they have to say will be important. In their original petition, advocates of the moratorium point to data, which they say indicates high levels of violent and non-violent crime in the proposed moratorium area.
But others, such as ANC 2F Commissioner John Fanning, contend that moratorium area crime rate “actually declined according to MPD Crime Statistics.” These views cannot both be right, so look for expert testimony on this matter. Fanning is the commissioner for district 04 and chair of the ANC 2F committee for liquor license issues.
2. The effect of the moratorium on residential parking needs and pedestrian safety.
Can the pro-moratorium forces link U Street’s dangerous intersections and parking shortages to the number of liquor licensees? Again, law enforcement’s opinion may be key.
3. Testimony from local business.
The voice of local business has largely been absent from the public discussions at ANC meetings. Commissioners have publicly speculated that current liquor license holders are quietly hoping the moratorium will pass, because a moratorium will both shield them from prospective competitors and increase the value of existing liquor licenses. Of special interest will be statements from small business owners who are also local residents.
4. The number of voices each side can muster.
An obvious and important factor: Partisans of both sides believe that their opponents exaggerate the number of people who support them. The anti-moratorium group characterizes the pro-moratorium side as a small group of NIMBY homeowners. How much pro-moratorium testimony will there be from local residents who are not connected to the Shaw Dupont Citizens Alliance, the spearhead of the movement?
The anti-moratorium camp has a strong online presence but can’t seem to always muster a similar number of the live human beings to sit through the often-tedious government meetings where the decisions get made. The pro-moratorium side is not impressed with online anti-moratorium sentiment, petitions and comment.
The pro-moratorium side contends that at least some, perhaps many, of the participants in these activities are not actually local residents. If local residents come out in large numbers to speak against the moratorium, it will put a serious dent in that argument.
What Happens After The Meeting
It’s unclear what the post-listening session game plan is. Can the three participating ANCs speak with one voice?
“Going forward, I think we all agree that it benefits us all to try and take a similar action on the moratorium issue. We have the opportunity to make the greatest impact if we act together,” said O’Connor in an email.
During a recent ANC meeting, O’Connor also said he hoped that the town hall meeting would be the first of several, but there is evidence that the two other ANCs plan to move ahead quickly after this single meeting.
“I intend to offer a resolution for a vote on the moratorium at ANC 2F’s monthly meeting on April 3,” ANC2F Commission Chair Matt Raymond (district 07) said in an email. “It will not be in support of the moratorium. Whether it would be language outright opposing the moratorium or seeking changes to it is something I will decide after March 20.”
Meanwhile, the liquor license affairs subcommittee of ANC 1B will meet publicly the evening following the listening session, ANC 1B liquor license committee chair Jeremy Leffler (Commissioner for district 02) said in an email. A report that there will be an up-or-down vote about the moratorium at this meeting could not be confirmed. Any recommendation emerging from this meeting would then be considered by ANC 1B as a whole.
“It’s my understanding that the full ANC 1B will vote on the moratorium on April 4, the day after ANC 2F does so. I also understand that ANC 2B might not vote on the moratorium until its May meeting,” Raymond said.
“It’s my goal, and I think it’s achievable, that all three of the remaining ANCs that haven’t taken a formal position might be able to agree on identical resolutions, which we believe will carry greater weight with the ANC Board than divergent opinions.”
The fourth ANC, 6E in Shaw, has already voted against the moratorium and will not be participating in the town hall tonight.