The first rule of the Kingman Park Civic Association? Don’t talk about the Kingman Civic Association.
Members of the long-running civic association, back in the news this week after delaying the streetcar line by attempting to get historic status for the site of a future car barn, probably have a lot to say about their group. But don’t ask them to talk, because according to their by-laws, they can’t (emphasis added):
No member or non-member will be permitted to obtain membership, or retain membership in the association, if he or she disparages, defames, libels, or discusses other members of the association in and through print media, electronic mail [e-mail], telephone or any other mode of communication that is not authorized or permitted by association, its executive board and officers.
That secrecy rule should itself be a secret, because the by-laws can’t be shared, either. The rules, obtained by City Desk in defiance of the omertà and included at the bottom of this post, explain that “they are not to be distributed, disseminated, published electronically or in any other way for non-members.”
A look through the by-laws of several other D.C. civic associations reveals no similar pacts of silence. Kingman Park requires the extra secrecy because its activism has made it so many enemies who would see it destroyed, presumably using its by-laws, according to association president Frazer Walton, Jr.
“Can you name one civic association in this town that has been more active than Kingman Park?” Walton asks. Among those alleged enemies: drunks disrupting meetings, politicians angry that they didn’t get an endorsement from the group, and potentially, after the streetcar fracas, Mayor Vince Gray. So far, Walton says, no members have been booted for speaking about the group without permission.
When asked why the by-laws don’t just have a “no noisy drunks and mayors” rule, though, Walton vaguely explained that the by-laws are a warning. “That’s putting people on notice,” he says.
Silence photo by Shutterstock