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Anyone doubting the strength of organized labor in this town, think again: A bill that would allow the District to enforce limits on daytime noise was tabled without debate this morning at a meeting of the D.C. Council’s committee of the whole, thanks in no small part to union protesters.
The Noise Control Protection Amendment Act, sponsored by Ward 3 Councilmember Mary Cheh and Ward 6 Councilmember Tommy Wells, was prompted, among other things, by the amplified demonstrations of the Black Hebrew Israelites on or near H Street NE. Under the bill, noise greater than 70 decibels, or 10 decibels above ambient noise levels, would be subject to sanction.
Cheh introduced the bill, citing the need for some checks on daytime noise that’s currently unregulated “no matter how long, no matter how unrelenting, no matter how amplified.” She mentioned that she had met with members of the labor community, who were concerned that the bill might interfere in union protests, but noted that the bill had gained the support of the Service Employees International Union. Cheh, a constitutional law professor at George Washington University, also said she “completely confident in the ultimate constitutionality” of the bill.
Immediately afterward, Ward 2 Councilmember Jack Evans moved to table it, a manuever that under council rules requires no debate. The motion passed 7-5, with Evans, Jim Graham (Ward 1), Muriel Bowser (Ward 4), Yvette Alexander (Ward 7), Kwame Brown (At-Large), Phil Mendelson (At-Large), and Chair Vincent C. Gray in favor; Cheh, Wells, Marion Barry (Ward 8), David A. Catania (At-Large), and Carol Schwartz (At-Large) opposed the tabling. Ward 5 Councilmember Harry Thomas Jr. was absent.
What gives, you may ask? Our man on the scene, Arthur Delaney, reports that more than 100 members of the Metropolitan Washington Council AFL-CIO and its affiliated organizations showed up for the council meeting wearing red T-shirts. After the vote the group set off around the Wilson Building thanking members and their staffers for putting the kibosh on the bill.