Today’s post comes from a combination of my curiosity and my ignorance of history.

I would guess (with no research into the question), as a matter of course, that a government’s default stance is that a person is ineligible for benefits until proven otherwise. It just makes sense, as sound fiscal policy. (This does not mean that a government should create hurdles to proving eligibility, though.) It also makes sense that someone who isn’t a resident of a given jurisdiction shouldn’t be eligible for that jurisdiction’s benefits.*

Additionally, it seems to me, though if you haven’t noticed yet I am the master of overly-broad-generalizations-based-on-not-much, that there has been a trend recently (where by recently I mean in the time I’ve lived in DC) to expand eligibility.

So I was surprised to come across this policy order from 1969:

Was this standard at the time? Or was it a progressive move by the federally-appointed folks running DC in those days?

I’d love to learn more.


*BIG issue regarding services for homeless people. I’m not talking about those.

White male property owners?

Is that provocative enough? Too provocative? Too provocative since race and racism are the issues of the week? (We haven’t heard of any new transvaginal ultrasound requirements this week, have we?) Too provocative since this is only about property ownership and not race or sex?

After my post yesterday, I saw a surge in readership (nothing to do with search engine optimization or anything like that, just one retweet and finally admitting this blog’s existence by way of facebook), so in case any of those new readers stuck around, let me explain that I usually focus on local issues, and generally hyper-specific at that. Lots of things come across in old documents as I compile them for work.

Which brings me to the issue of property ownership.

In the olden days, voting was restricted to white male property owners. Gradually, thankfully, voting rights were extended so that now all adults (except for felons and in some cases ex-felons) may vote. Without recalling any of the American history I learned in high school (key recollections from 11th grade American history: 1st of day, teacher had a fork in his shirt pocket, and “Hugo” referred to Hurricane Hugo), nevertheless I know that by the time of World War II, every citizen over the age of 21 at least technically had the right to vote. I don’t remember when things like Jim Crow laws were finally struck down. And I really don’t remember at which point in the expansion of voting rights property ownership was removed as a requirement.

This is relevant, I promise!

Because today I came across a document from 1955 establishing a Board for which real property ownership (in DC) was a criteria for serving on.

Organization Order 112, Establishment of Board of Appeals & Review, August 11, 1955. The Board of Appeals & Review was the precursor to the Office of Administrative Hearings, though it’s unclear to me what the role of the Board members was in adjudicating cases. On the one hand , the Board “shall consider and make final determinations,” but on the other hand, they were to hire one or more hearing officers who would conduct “all hearings on matters coming before the Board.” Maybe it’s just unclear to me because I’ve never gotten to be the judge that was, for a time, my career aspiration.

I ask the question about the parallel of Board members to judges because property ownership was (again, if I remember correctly, etc etc) for some time also a requirement for being a judge. I know even less about when this stopped being a requirement in DC or elsewhere.

So I leave you with the questions that first came to mind when I noticed this: WHY was property ownership a requirement? Why wasn’t residence enough? In 1955, what did this mean for the racial composition of the Board?

Do you have any ideas? Please share them in the comments.

Today’s Nerdity and a Neologism

In my work today, I came across two coards* that have sunset dates in the coming months. One, the Tenant Advisory Council, sunsets next Monday, and the other, the Advisory Committee to the Office of Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, and Transgender Affairs, sunsets at the end of March. I mention these specifically in the event that either of these issues is important to you and you think the sunset of the coard is a concern.

More generally, however, I raise the issue in this space because I was asked  the question “why?”

I don’t really know. I wasn’t around for the establishment of either of these coards (now I’m just using the word as much as possible to engrain it in your mind). I have been told, though, that the Office of Boards and Commissions has the intent to include a sunset date in all Orders establishing new coards. This is so that coards don’t exist on paper long after they have ceased existing in fact…or continue to exist long after their purpose is met. I don’t know how consistently this has been applied, and I don’t know if the length of time between establishment and sunset is approximately the same for each coard or if context/substance/policy/politics come into play. It would be an interesting thing to look into.

But tonight I’m rearranging furniture. Remind me later?


*This started as a typo in a tweet, but I decided I like it as an intentional abbreviation for “board/commission/committee/council/group/panel/taskforce.” Another thing that I would love to look into but don’t have time is the difference (if there is one) between each of these types of entity.

Ramblings on employment of DC residents

Earlier today there was a hearing on Bill 19-486, the Unemployed Anti-Discrimination Amendment Act of 2011. As the title indicates, it is about adding “unemployment status” to the list of protected classes in DC’s human rights law, so that employers can’t look at a long gap in an applicant’s resume and decide there is something inherently wrong with the applicant and not hire him or her.

I did not watch the hearing, but I did glean snippets via Twitter.*

The snippet that made me pay any attention at all to the hearing is this, courtesy of Jim who actually did watch the hearing: Chairman Brown finds it insulting to say that DC residents are not getting jobs because they aren’t qualified.

That may be. Though “we” all recognize this problem, that there is a gap between the jobs that exist and the skill level of the people looking. This is why there are efforts made to bring different types of industry to the city. This is (part of) why there is so much attention paid to school reform and school improvement. This is why attempts are made every year to make the Summer Youth Employment Program more meaningful. Can you fairly say “you’re insulting us by implying XX” and then turn around and say “XX”?

But more to the point… that’s not the point! The point isn’t DC residence. It’s employment status.

So here’s an idea. Let’s stick to the topic at hand and not assume inflammatory intent. ‘Kay?


*I realize that this is not a good way to make an informed analysis of the proceedings, but it is much more fun.