Actually, the battle is well underway: At this morning’s council breakfast meeting, councilmembers got pretty huffy over the bill’s prospects. Ward 2 Councilmember Jack Evans described an amendment he plans to introduce that would distinguish between amplified noise in residential areas, where it would be limited to 80 decibels as measured inside a residence, and commercial areas, where there would be no limits. The distinction, he explained, was necessary to protect the interests of unions (Local 25 of the Hotel and Restaurant Employees was specifically mentioned) who want to hold protests—-including protests outside three large hotels located inside residential zones (the Washington Hilton, the Wardman Park Marriott, and the Omni Shoreham).
Also, rather than empowering police officers to enforce the law as originally proposed, the amendment would require readings to be taken by noise inspectors from the Department of Consumer and Regulatory Affairs. That, Evans explains, is because the unions “have an enormous distrust of the Metropolitan Police Department.”
Ward 6 Councilmember and bill cosponsor Tommy Wells initially suggested a compromise amendment that would keep the residential/commercial distinction, but lower the threshold to 70 decibels, as measured outside a residence. To placate the unions, Wells proposed allowing amplified speech within 100 feet of a hotel with 50 rooms or more.
So what does 70 decibels sound like? Some said “freight train”; Evans likened it to one of his favorite hangouts: “It’s Cafe Milano on a busy night,” he said.
Wells took a dig at Evans, who had loudspeaker-equipped protesters outside his Georgetown home early on a Sunday morning earlier this year: “As Jack learned, noise is used…as a weapon.”
Then At-Large Councilmember David A. Catania said, essentially, screw this union shit: “What offends me about this is in the effort to pander to one constituency…we’ve basically said to the community, ‘Good luck!'” After Catania’s spiel, At-Large Councilmember Carol Schwartz also spoke again the union pander, and Ward 3 Councilmember Mary M. Cheh stood up for the provisions in the original bill, which she cosponsored. The hotel exception, she says, is “beyond pandering.”
The meeting broke up when Evans stalked out shortly before 10 a.m.; Cheh, Wells, and others huddled to discuss strategy.
Shortly before the start of the meeting, Wells told LL that he and his allies would offer no amendment unless Evans’ amendment passes.