The D.C. Council is set to vote today on a noise bill that has been tabled, tweaked and revived.
But the council appears to still be divided despite amendments offered by Council member Jack Evans (D-Ward 2) and Tommy Wells (D-Ward 6). There was pouting and at least one audible curse word at this morning's council breakfast, where council members discussed the bill.
Evans left in a huff. "I gotta go. We have people waiting downstairs," he said, referring to the Washington Capitals, which are getting recognized today. Breakfast, Evans chided his colleagues, "started at 8:30, not 20 after 9."
The original legislation aimed to limit noncommercial public speech to no greater than 70 decibels during the day. It was tabled in February by Evans and six of his colleagues to address the rights of labor unions to protest. The council unanimously revived it last month to get a first reading today. Amendments could include an increase to 80 decibels (claimed to sound like a freight train by Wells and a lively night at Cafe Milano by Evans) and no limits within 100 feet of a hotel with 50 or more rooms.
The unions apparently are worried about being unable to demonstrate in front of hotels in residential neighborhoods.
After listening quietly to the debate about the various amendments, Council member David A. Catania (I-At Large) said, "It cannot be a free-for-all to pander to one group."
He talked about a carpenters' union protesting in front of a building across the street from Stevens Elementary downtown. "Stevens lost an entire semester," he said, adding that the principal was in tears at the noise. "It was torture."
Catania said he confronted an organizer, who said he was from Maryland, and asked whether he would want a demonstration in front of his home. The organizer replied, "You don't know what's going on in that building," Catania recalled. "To which I responded, 'I don't care.'"