Campus Notebook: Voting With Their Feet

Posted October 5, 2009 at 6:29pm

About 50 D.C. voting rights activists gathered in the Cannon Caucus Room on Monday to rally for a House version of the D.C. House Voting Rights Act without what is sometimes called the “poison pill— gun amendment that is currently part of the Senate version.

[IMGCAP(1)]Sponsored by the advocacy organization DC Vote, the event included a slate of speakers including D.C. Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton (D), local business owner Kamal Ali of Ben’s Chili Bowl and Marie Johns, a consultant and former Verizon executive.

“We were one of the first bills out of the Senate,— said Ilir Zherka, executive director of DC Vote. “We have the votes in the House, we have the votes in the Senate and we have a president who will sign this bill — we need to get this done.—

Norton called the Senate gun amendment, which would loosen the city’s gun registration requirements and rescind the ban on certain categories of weapons, “NRA blackmail,— referring to the National Rifle Association. “Opponents underestimated you,— she said. “They hoped for an offer you couldn’t refuse — public safety or voting rights. Take your pick.—

Zherka said there was no way that his organization could support a bill that included a gutting of the city’s gun laws — a move that would defeat the very idea of local control enshrined in the legislation. “Our agenda is full democracy,— Zherka said. “As we promote D.C. voting rights, we also want to promote and protect local democracy.—

Following a rally where citizens could compose letters to Congress, teams of activists fanned out around the House office buildings to deliver information and speak to staffers about why a version of the bill without the gun amendment was so crucial to D.C. residents.

New Digs. In a belated celebration of its successful relocation to new offices at 101 M St. SW, the Metropolitan Police Department’s First District and its Citizens Advisory Council will host an open house from 5 to 8 p.m. today at the newly minted district headquarters.

According to Nancy Rosen, chairwoman of the First District’s Citizens Advisory Council, the impetus for the event is simply to raise awareness. “We pretty much want to let people know that we’re in a new location and meet some new neighbors,— she said.

The department will also be celebrating its designation as the best-performing police district — a new annual honor given to one of the city’s seven districts.

According to First District Commander David Kamperin, the police department routinely commends individual officers but this year decided to look at the Metropolitan Police Department district by district and confer an award based on criterion as diverse as crime reduction, citizen satisfaction and bureaucratic efficiency.

The open house will include refreshments, music, tours of the new space and information tables from the federal government, city departments, local businesses and area nonprofits. Ward 6 Councilmember Tommy Wells is also expected to attend.

Two Wheels. Commuting to Capitol Hill by bicycle just got a little easier. The Bike Transit Center, which offers bike rentals, storage and repairs, opened at Union Station on Friday.

The facility is a joint venture between the D.C. Department of Transportation and Bike and Roll, an organization that offers bicycle tours and rentals. Membership and administration will be operated by the company Bikestation.

“We specialize in bike parking facility infrastructure. We track the membership,— said Brucker Chase, vice president of operations for Bikestation. “We provide input on how facilities would function most efficiently.—

The $3 million structure, which cost an additional $1 million in “site improvements,— was created by KGP Design Studio and Parsons Transportation Group and is meant to be reminiscent of a bicycle wheel and helmet. The Federal Highway Administration and DDOT provided funds for the project.

The 1,600-square-foot facility holds more than 100 bicycles and is located by the Union Station Metro stop. It will be open from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. during the week and from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. on weekends, though members will have 24-hour access. Membership to park is available for $116 annually or $2 a day, and 40 outdoor spaces are also available for free. In addition, members are asked to pay an annual administration fee of $20.

Members will have access to bike parking, air for tires, a changing room and lockers and bicycle repair services. The station will also sell bicycle parts and accessories.

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