Photo by Ian Quantis.
Last night, the ANC met for its February session. All in all it was quite a snooze-fest. However, one item was of particular interest to the crowd: noise.
Don’t Bring the Noise
At the top of the meeting, MPD Lieutenant Hedgecock gave his ordinary monthly public safety session. He was quick to trumpet that there was not one mugging in Georgetown in all of January. Which is great, but he probably jinxed the perfect month by mentioning it. Either way, the meat of his presentation was on a new law that came into effect today. It reworks the city’s disturbing the peace laws to state that it is an arrestable offense to create a noise “likely to annoy or disturb” between 10:00 pm and 7:00 am. It is punishable by up to 90 days in jail and/or $500.
This obviously piqued the interest of the ANC and the crowd. They were quick to see it as a panacea to all the neighborhood’s noise problems. This is because it is enormously arbitrary. All the police officer needs to do is to determine that a noise is “likely to annoy or disturb.” He doesn’t even need to have a complaining witness.
GM sees a couple potential problems with this law. First of all, it requires a cop to actually arrest someone to enforce it. That’s a dramatic step that a lot of police officers might not want to take when simply dealing with some rowdy partiers. Second, while a police officer doesn’t need a complaining witness, he does need to witness the noise himself. So he needs to actually see the pack of noisy revelers walk by, you can’t phone it in.
Finally, it’s an awfully vague law. Disturbing the peace laws have frequently been used for undesirable or unjust ends. For instance, it was for disturbing the peace that Henry L. Gates was arrested in the wake of “breaking into” his own home. GM doesn’t necessarily think this law will result in such an outcome, but the arbitrariness of the law makes him a little queasy.
Maybe if GM could read the law he’d feel more comfortable, but he couldn’t find it when he looked. Update: Here it is.
The ANC considered a block of transportation matters. First it considered the possibility of adding a leading left arrow to the south Safeway exit. Right now the exit displays a red light while pedestrians cross Wisconsin. Since there is no crosswalk to the south of the exit, it is reasoned that a left turn ought to be allowed. Makes sense to GM, although the ANC also complained about the shortness of the cycle allowing pedestrians to cross the exit itself. Right now while the cars are sitting waiting to exit while pedestrians cross Wisconsin, no pedestrians are allowed to cross in front of the cars. Arguably, rather than allowing a leading left turn, it would be better to simply allow pedestrians to cross the exit while they also can cross Wisconsin. The ANC, however, didn’t see it this way and passed a resolution asking DDOT to consider the leading left turn and whether the pedestrian phase to cross the exit couldn’t be lengthened.
Second, the ANC considered whether the very bottom of Thomas Jefferson St. couldn’t be made two way. The idea is that there is a Colonial garage about halfway up the block from K St. When cars exit that garage they have no choice but to head up to M and contribute to the traffic problem. Having seen that block of TJ St. work as a two way street during the bridge construction, the ANC would like to make enough of the street two way to allow cars to leave the garage and head down to K St. Continue reading