Saturday, January 24, 2009

"no good deed goes unpunished"

that's what david smith, the person behind the fifth and oh blog had to say on the shaw neighborhood listserv with respect to a complaint that had been filed against anc2c02 commissioner kevin chapple.

it turns out that, in the last year, a complaint was filed against mr. chapple over the publication of his neighborhood newsletter "anc2c02 & you". the newsletter was published under the aucpices of a for-profit organization called "anc-2c02 LLC". money to produce and print the newsletter came from advertising dollars that local businesses and politicos gave to have themselves publicized in a forum that was meant help disseminate news for everyone in the neighborhood. from an admittedly brief reading of the findings that were published yesterday on the shaw listserv, it looks like commissioner chapple even put up his own money to help publish the newsletter.

the newsletter was a breath of fresh air for the shaw community, so used to being kept in the dark about the goings-on of their elected officials. the shaw ANC had, for years, refused to adopt many of the trappings of a modern, open, inclusive government that other ANCs around the city had, such as office space that would allow public interaction, a website to allow dissemination of information (like agendas), and wide publication of phone numbers that would allow constituents to get in touch with their elected representatives. commissioner chapple was showing the rest of the ANC what was possible if information was set free.

unfortunately, to co-opt a common phrase, "freedom isn't free". the cost of getting this information out to the public, while not enormous, was apparently substantial enough that it wasn't something that could be completely handled with out-of-pocket funds. having a newsletter or website for the entire ANC is something that probably could have been funded by the ANC itself, but the previous regime would never have allowed that to happen. thus, commissioner chapple did what was necessary to get a framework of what could be with regards to communication up and running. unfortunately, he ran afoul of current law and some of his political enemies in the neighborhood.

the complaint against his newsletter, initially filed by a constituent, was joined by the gentleman whom commissioner chapple defeated in two consecutive elections, leroy thorpe, less than a week after he had lost to mr. chapple in that second election. a comment on the shaw listserv noted that this appeared to be "sour grapes" on the part of mr. thorpe. one can't help but agree, noting the opportunistic timing of the addition of his name to the complaint.

in the end, the city's office of campaign finance found that a $2,000 fine should be levied against mr. chapple, but given the circumstances, the office ruled that

such fine shall be suspended because although respondent created the offending ANC 2C02 LLC to generate a profit in any legal manner, the overriding sole purpose of this venture was to promote the civic, cultural, and social interests of residents of the District of Columbia and especially the residents within the Shaw community; and, the intent was to use any proceeds, and none were realized, above paying expenses for the publication of the ANC 2C02 community magazine for projects to benefit the Shaw community

so, as a result of all of this, if you try to access commissioner chapple's newsletter, what you find is the screen shot that i've captured in the image above. hopefully, commissioner chapple, wiser in the way things work and aware of the minutia of district law, will be able to continue to publish his newsletter and informative website, thus letting all who are interested in the betterment of the shaw community find out what's happening in the neighborhood, and what we all can do to make shaw and the surrounding neighborhoods even better places.


Anonymous said...

Capital letters are our friends. They enable us to read long, very interesting blog posts that much easier.

Jamie said...

It is so disheartening that people who really are on the same side waste time, money, and public resources on things like this. Cutting off your nose to spite your face. It reminds me of the kind of thing ex-ANC commissioner Frank Winstead does in his community... constant harassing of local businesses and delivery people who are in technical violation of some law that would never be enforced without a complaint, but are actually contributing to the community.

At least these guys both have something in common, they got voted out. But it only takes one jerk to make things difficult for everyone else who's trying to do something good.

p.s. I agree with @Anon.