Thursday, May 1, 2008

The D.C. Council next week is expected to reconsider a bill that would limit noise levels in the District — more than two months after the measure was tabled amid concerns from city labor unions.

“I believe there remains a majority for the bill, but I’m open to hearing what amendments my colleagues have and what they’ve heard from the unions,” said council member Tommy Wells, Ward 6 Democrat who co-introduced the legislation in April 2007.

The noise bill would have regulated noncommercial public speech over 70 decibels or noise 10 decibels above the surrounding noise — whichever is greater — when measured 50 feet from the source.

Violators would face fines ranging from $1,000 to $8,000. A disturbance under the act also would have to violate the “reasonable person” standard set by D.C. law.

But as the entire council was expected to take an initial vote on the bill in February, council member Jack Evans proposed a successful motion to table the measure. The move came after intense lobbying against the bill by union leaders, who expressed concerns that its restrictions would limit their right to protest.

“I believe that had the bill not been tabled it would have passed,” Mr. Wells said.

Mr. Wells yesterday said he did not yet know what changes would be proposed for the bill, which will come up for an initial vote at the council’s legislative session Tuesday.

Mr. Wells said council Chairman Vincent C. Gray planned to meet with him, Mr. Evans and Mary M. Cheh, Ward 3 Democrat, to discuss the bill and its changes. Mrs. Cheh and Kwame Brown, at-large Democrat, introduced the bill with Mr. Wells.

A group of protesters in March staged an early-morning demonstration near Mr. Evans’ Northwest home, speaking loudly into an amplifier just after 7 a.m. to voice their displeasure with his move to table the noise bill.

Mr. Evans yesterday would not discuss specific changes he hopes to have made to the bill but said they would likely deal with adjustments to the noise levels and enforcement of the regulations.

“It’s not too dissimilar from what we have now,” he said. “I think it’s a good compromise with all the affected parties.”

The noise legislation was initially prompted by residents near H Street in Northeast, who said amplified diatribes from a street-preaching group about race and homosexuality could be heard inside their homes.

Dave Klavitter, a Northeast resident who led the effort to resolve the issue, said he was “absolutely encouraged” that the bill would come back before the council, although the group has not been near his home since January.

But he noted that Mr. Wells had reached out to labor unions and received support from branches of the Service Employees International Union before the bill was tabled, and that community groups from around the city also have backed the legislation.

“I think people have realized the absurdity of a loophole that allows unlimited levels of amplified noise to intrude into the privacy of someone’s home,” Mr. Klavitter said.

Copyright © 2023 The Washington Times, LLC. Click here for reprint permission.

Please read our comment policy before commenting.

Click to Read More and View Comments

Click to Hide