E. Refuse Collection.
The Court turns now to the question of refuse collection. The basis of the complaint in this area is the fact that refuse collection in the District is accomplished by use of three separate systems. The National Capital Housing Authority is responsible for collection of refuse from public housing projects.
The District itself is responsible for collection of waste from all residences having three or fewer dwelling units. Responsibility for waste collection from private residences having four or more dwelling units rests with the landlord thereof, who contracts with private disposal firms to perform the task. Plaintiffs insist that this distinction between residences with less than four dwelling units and residences with four or more units is an improper one. They urge that the District itself should provide refuse collection services to all units.
The Court is again troubled by the question of standing. It appears quite clear that plaintiff Gibson has no standing in this matter since he apparently owns his own house.
He therefore receives full services from the District. Plaintiff Jones lives in a National Capital Housing Authority house (scattered site housing).
It does not appear whether NCHA is responsible for refuse collection at the Jones home.
If NCHA is so responsible, Jones has no standing as against the District. If, however, the District is responsible for waste collection from Jones' residence, she -- like Gibson -- could not show personal harm since the dwelling is apparently a single-family residence. Plaintiff Cloyd lives in an NCHA project
and thus lacks standing to sue the District. Plaintiffs Daniels, Burner, and Patterson live in housing which is federally assisted; but it is not clear whether these are NCHA projects.
Plaintiff Thomas appears to live in an apartment building which is not federally assisted.
She alone would certainly be subject to the distinction drawn between buildings with four or more dwelling units and those with three or less.
Turning to the merits, the Court thinks that plaintiffs have completely failed to show a significant difference in level of services accorded to the various areas of the city. Indeed, their complaint resolves itself essentially into a claim that the District has erred in its belief that it must not collect certain types of waste from residences having four or more dwelling units and that this erroneous belief discriminates against the residents of Anacostia.
The distinction in question first arose in 1919 when the Congress appropriated money for the District to expend in collecting "garbage, dead animals, night soil, and miscellaneous refuse and ashes"
but provided that the appropriation could not be used for collecting "ashes and miscellaneous refuse from large apartment and boarding houses."
By 1961, the limiting language had grown more refined and provided that the appropriation was not to be used to collect ashes or miscellaneous refuse from apartments containing four or more dwelling units.
That limitation has been carried forward to the present. It is undisputed that the District has, from the start, interpreted these provisions to prohibit collection of any refuse whatsoever from large apartment houses and the like. Plaintiffs argue that this interpretation is plainly in conflict with the language of the statute. They urge that the District has the power to collect at least certain types of refuse from the larger dwelling. Power being father to duty, plaintiffs further urge that the District must collect certain refuse regardless of the size of the dwelling.
Whatever might be said for plaintiffs' views if the Court were writing on a clean slate, they are not persuasive in the present circumstances. The administrative interpretation in question has existed for over 50 years. Such a longstanding administrative interpretation is entitled to great respect, especially where Congress has given no indication of dissatisfaction with that interpretation in subsequent amendments or other actions.
The Court recognizes, of course, that Congressional silence or inaction during amendment -- or even re-enactment -- of an Act does not necessarily signify legislative consent to an administrative interpretation of a statute.
Here, however, we deal with an appropriations act. Appropriations for the District are freshly considered and voted annually. Since 1919 each such appropriations Act has contained language substantially similar to that at issue here. For that same period of over 50 years, the administrative interpretation by the District of the subject language has been consistently as described above. The Court thinks that Congress must necessarily be deemed to have had knowledge of that interpretation. The case, therefore, would seem to be squarely within the rule of Kay v. Federal Communications Commission67 where it was said that:
[A] consistent administrative interpretation of a statute, shown clearly to have been brought to the attention of Congress and not changed by it, is almost conclusive evidence that the interpretation has congressional approval.