East of the River: August shuttle service links National Mall, Anacostia cultural sites


By Wayne Savage


A temporary shuttle-bus service from the National Mall makes August an ideal time to visit two important D.C. cultural sites east of the Anacostia River.

Starting Saturday, Aug. 4, and continuing each weekend in August, the free shuttle bus will link the Mall to the Smithsonian’s Anacostia Community Museum and to the Frederick Douglass National Historic Site.

Shuttle stops on the Mall will be the Ripley Center, 1100 Jefferson Drive S.W., and the Air & Space Museum. The shuttle also will stop at the Anacostia Metro Station. For a complete shuttle schedule, click here.

The Anacostia Community Museum, which has reopened its public spaces after a major lighting upgrade. (Photos by Wayne Savage)

The Anacostia Community Museum, founded in 1967, traditionally has focused on the African American experience from a community perspective. Now emphasizing more broadly the concept of community, the museum maintains strong ties to Anacostia and the Washington region.

Public spaces of the museum reopened this week after a closure of almost three months to accommodate a major lighting upgrade.  The museum exhibition “Separate and Unequaled: Black Baseball in the District of Columbia” has returned to public view.

Special weekend programs scheduled for August include the following (call 202-633-4844 for reservations):

● Aug. 4, 10 a.m.: Collage-design workshop with Jay Coleman.                                 

● Aug. 5, 2 p.m.: East of the River Boys and Girls Steelband.

● Aug. 11, 10:30 a.m.: Performance artist Kwelismith on Harriett Tubman and the Underground Railroad.

● Aug. 12, 2 p.m.: Tour of public art east of the Anacostia. (Meet at the museum no later than 1:50 p.m.)

● Aug. 19, 2 p.m.: Clothing consultant and apron designer Velma Crawford on her grandmother’s inspirational influence.

 ● Aug. 25, 2 p.m.: Eileen Torres and others discuss female musicians in the male-dominated world of Salsa music. Jim Byers of WPFW-FM moderates. The band All-Star Female Descarga performs.


Behind the scenes


Behind-the-scenes tours of the museum, which highlight rarely seen artifacts from the museum collection and preservation efforts, are offered at 10 a.m. every Friday in August. Call 202-633-4844 for reservations, and meet at the museum’s staff entrance no later than 9:55 a.m.

On a recent Friday morning, your litter blogger was fortunate to join one of the behind-the-scenes tours. Our guide was Jennifer Morris, an archivist at the museum, though various staff members rotate the duty of leading tours.

Our tour group passed by a piano once owned by Madame Lillian Evanti, an internationally renowned opera singer who was born in Washington. The museum’s holdings include the Evanti family-history collection.

In the archives storage room, we saw an original copy of Frederick Douglass’ abolitionist newspaper, the Liberator. The chilly photo-storage room, among its many images, holds a photo of Douglass returning by ship from his post as U.S. minister to Haiti.

The museum’s archives also include rare audio recordings and other items related to the work of Lorenzo Dow Turner, a pioneering linguist who graduated from Howard University and earned graduate degrees from Harvard University and the University of Chicago.  His research in the 1930s among the Gullah people of the South Carolina and Georgia Sea Islands established links between their creole language and the West African languages of their ancestors.

  On September 17, the museum will launch a new exhibition, “Reclaiming the Edge: Urban Waterways and Civic Engagement,” that examines efforts to restore the Anacostia River and other urban waterways beset with pollution. The exhibit will run through August 11, 2013.


Cedar Hill


The Frederick Douglass National Historic Site preserves Cedar Hill, the home where the great abolitionist, orator, and newspaper publisher lived from 1878 until his death in 1895. During that time, Douglass was U.S. marshal for the District of Columbia, the District’s recorder of deeds, and U.S. minister to Haiti and chargé d’affaires to the Dominican Republic.  

Cedar Hill, the home where Frederick Douglass lived from 1878 until his death in 1895.

 Cedar Hill afforded Douglass a commanding view. As a park ranger noted during a recent tour of the house, to the northeast Douglass could see the rolling hills of Maryland, the border state where he was born into slavery; to the northwest, barely more than a mile away, was the imposing dome of the U.S. Capitol, symbol of a federal government that held the promise of full civil rights for freedmen.

The historic site will feature a family festival from 1 p.m. to 4 p.m. on Sunday, Aug. 5, with music; crafts; house tours; bike rides; free ice cream and popcorn; and Massachusetts 54th reenactors.

Tours of Cedar Hill are scheduled six times daily through October 31. Admission is free.


Wayne Savage is the owner of Mid-Atlantic Litter Cleanup Service, a Washington-based public space litter removal service.       






D.C.’s anti-litter crackdown reveals gaps in law

By Wayne Savage


More than three years after the D.C. City Council enacted ground-breaking anti-litter legislation, an initial burst of enforcement activity has slowed. Police are ticketing fewer motorists, and a pilot project expanding the crackdown to pedestrians appears stalled.

The Metropolitan Police Department issued 225 tickets for littering from a vehicle in 2009, the year the new legislation took effect. Since then, enforcement numbers have plummeted. There were 63 tickets issued in 2010 and 64 in 2011. Of the 352 tickets issued over the three-year period, 62 were dismissed.

Headquarters for the Metropolitan Police Department's 4th District, where a pilot project is underway to enforce D.C.'s anti-littering law against pedestrians and others in non-traffic situations. (Photo by Wayne Savage)

On May 1 of 2011, amid a splash of publicity, MPD further implemented the new legislation by launching a pilot project in its 4th District to target pedestrians and other persons who litter in non-traffic situations. Initially envisioned as lasting a few months, with citywide enforcement possibly coming as early as the fall of 2011, the pilot project remains confined to the 4th District, which is east of Rock Creek Park and north of Park Road N.W. and Michigan Avenue N.E.

Only 14 tickets for non-traffic littering had been issued through May 17 of this year, with the most recent ticket dated February 4, according to records released by the D.C. Office of Administrative Hearings. Only two fines had been paid.

The Office of Administrative Hearings ― an independent tribunal that hears litigation involving more than 40 city agencies, boards and commissions ― adjudicates tickets for littering in non-traffic situations. Tickets for littering from vehicles follow a separate legal track, with adjudication by the Department of Motor Vehicles.


                                                      Law expands police powers


Enacted with police backing, the Anti-Littering Amendment Act of 2008 outlawed, for the first time in the District of Columbia, littering from a moving vehicle. That’s right, the police used to have no legal authority to stop a driver who tossed a greasy Big Mac wrapper or, for that matter, the Big Mac itself from a moving vehicle. Now the police can stop the offending driver and issue a ticket that carries a $100 fine.

The new law also requires pedestrians and others stopped for non-traffic littering to provide their true names and addresses to police so tickets can be issued. Persons who refuse to identify themselves can be fined up to $250, although the law does not require them to show police officers any documents to establish their identity.

The fine for non-traffic littering is $75.

Although other crimes are more serious, “littering is still an important offense against the community,” said MPD Assistant Chief Joshua Ederheimer in testimony to the city council’s public safety committee in 2008. “Neighborhoods with a lot of litter are at risk of more serious crime and disorder.”

Ederheimer’s assessment follows the so-called Broken Windows Theory of urban crime. First proposed by social scientists James Q. Wilson and George L. Kelling in 1982, the theory holds that signs of social disorder in an urban community ― such as vandalism, littering, and graffiti ― encourage more serious crimes. Though not without controversy, the Broken Windows Theory was touted by New York City Mayor Rudolf Giuliani and his police commissioner in the 1990s, and it is now widely accepted by law-enforcement officials.

D.C.’s Anti-Littering Amendment Act took effect in March of 2009. By the end of 2011, the city’s seven police districts showed wide variations in the number of tickets issued for littering from moving vehicles. The 6th District, which lies east of the Anacostia River and north of Good Hope Road, topped the list with 79 tickets. The fewest, 14 tickets, were reported in the 3rd District, which includes Adams-Morgan, Columbia Heights, Shaw, Mt. Pleasant, and Dupont Circle.

Initial enforcement of the law was limited to littering from vehicles. According to the Metropolitan Police Department, enforcement of the ban on non-traffic littering could not begin until further legislation took effect in January 2011 waiving juvenile confidentiality for such tickets adjudicated by OAH.

On April 27 of last year, four days before MPD finally launched its 4th District pilot project to enforce the anti-littering law against pedestrians, Mayor Vincent Gray announced the move in a sternly worded news release.

“Clean cities are livable cities,” Gray said. “But the Department of Public Works can’t be expected to clean up after all of our residents. Sometimes we have to bring the force of law to bear to make sure our residents and visitors treat our city as they would their own homes.”

A year later, with only 14 tickets issued through the pilot project, none of them to juveniles, and only two fines collected, the results seemed to mock Gray’s get-tough talk. Most of those who received tickets for non-traffic littering apparently ignored them, resulting in default judgments entered by OAH.

In his 2008 testimony, Ederheimer, the MPD assistant chief, foreshadowed the lackluster impact of issuing toothless tickets for littering in non-traffic situations.

“[M]ost civil violations are only effective because they are tied to property interests or a privilege that people value,” Ederheimer said, citing as examples property subject to liens, professional licenses, or, most commonly, drivers’ licenses.

“People follow traffic regulations because there are real consequences for not following them ― fines for violations are backed up by the suspension of a driver’s license or revocation of vehicle registration if the fines are not paid,” Ederheimer said.

Not so with littering tickets in non-traffic situations, a theme emphasized by the MPD in its most recent annual report.

“Without repercussions for an offense, the government’s ability to hold violators accountable for this civil offense is limited, and the tickets may not be enough … to change their behavior,” the police department stated.


                                                      Holistic approach to litter                                                      


Efforts to breathe life into D.C.’s Anti-Littering Amendment Act raise the larger question of law enforcement’s proper role in addressing the litter problem. In recommending the 2008 legislation, the D.C. City Council’s public safety committee stated that enforcement against littering should be part of a larger public-education campaign and voluntary-compliance program.

The Alice Ferguson Foundation, which helped coordinate a Litter Enforcement Month involving 10 Washington-area jurisdictions in April, has been nudging the region’s police agencies in recent years to beef up enforcement of anti-littering laws as part of its effort to protect the Potomac River watershed. The foundation views law enforcement as a key element of a “holistic” approach to litter that includes public education, said Clara Elias, a program associate at the foundation.

“We believe by stepping up enforcement efforts we can change behavior,” she said.

A 2008 survey of residents in the Potomac River watershed revealed that only 6 percent thought there was a chance they could be caught for littering, a finding reinforced by focus groups of confessed litterers, according to Elias.

“One of the reasons that we heard over and over again was they thought they could get away with it,” she said.

The foundation conducts training for law-enforcement personnel in litter enforcement and is working with the Metropolitan Police Department to devise a training manual that will become part of MPD’s continuing-education program for officers.

Meanwhile, there appears to be no immediate plan to roll out a citywide version of the MPD pilot project that targets non-traffic littering.

“We are looking into expanding [the pilot project] in the future,” department spokeswoman Gwendolyn Crump said. “I don’t know when, though.”


Wayne Savage is the owner of Mid-Atlantic Litter Cleanup Service, a Washington, D.C.-based public space litter-removal company.


For further reading:


“Broken Windows: The Police and Neighborhood Safety,” The Atlantic Magazine, March 1982


Mayor Vincent C. Gray news release (“Mayor Gray Announces Kickoff of the Metropolitan Police Littering Enforcement Pilot Program”) (4-27-11)


Metropolitan Police Department Annual Report for 2011 (See Appendix D: Littering Enforcement in D.C.)