Representatives from several District civic associations appeared at the first listening session of the Ward 7 Redistricting Task Force Tuesday evening to ask members to prioritize reunifying communities in one ANC. The meeting was focused on advisory neighborhood commissions (ANCs) 7C and 7E.
Appointed by Councilmember Vincent Gray (D), members are charged with establishing new boundaries for each ward’s ANCs as well as the single member districts (SMDs).
By law, the population of a SMD, the area represented by a single commissioner, can vary from 1,900 to 2,100 residents based on the 2020 US Census data. Customarily, each ANC is drawn with an odd number of SMDs to avoid any voting deadlock, although this is not a requirement.
‘Make Communities Whole’
Several members of the Deanwood Civic Association came to the meeting, as well as members of the civic groups representing residents of Marshall Heights, Fort Davis and Benning Ridge. All endorsed aligning newly-defined ANCs with community borders or with civic association boundaries.
Deanwood Civic Association President Jimell Sanders asked the task force to do everything possible to reunify Deanwood within one ANC, or if that proved impossible, to unify the community’s assets by creating an ANC that spans east to west from the railway tracks to Division Road. Currently, Deanwood Recreation Center is located in ANC 7C, while Deanwood Metro Station is in ANC 7D. 7C04 Commissioner Anthony Lorenzo Green agreed, pointing out that dealing with differing ANCs made it particularly challenging for the community to work on “legacy projects,” work that spans several generations and requires memory of meetings and agreements over that time.
“I believe most of us that are civic association representatives are in agreement that our communities need to coincide with our ANCs,” Benning Ridge Association President Sharon Shanklin Browne said. The Benning Ridge community touches both ANCs 7E and 7F. That confuses some residents, said 7E task force member Lee Wilson, making them uncertain which meetings to attend to advocate for change in their community.
Defining Guiding Principles
Task force member Dr. Marla Dean suggested that the reunification of communities in ANC borders should be one of the task force’s guiding principles as they work. 7E Commissioner Keith Hasan Towery said that was a great idea in principle, but reminded the meeting that some of these neighborhoods –like Deanwood –are quite big. An attempt to balance the needs of all communities may be a difficult one, he said; communities might want to think about those divisions could best happen. Task force member Justin Lini (7D) suggested the group look at using major highways and arterials like Minnesota Avenue, East Capitol Street or Benning Road as natural boundaries.
There are currently five ANCs in Ward 7. According to task force Co-Chair Tamara Blair, the population of ANC 7B is over by 1150; ANC 7C is over by 1300; 7D is over by 2482, 7E by 347 and 7F by 2095 residents. That’s in addition to the new SMDs added to Ward 7 from what are now ANCs 6A and 6B.
Former commissioner Alice Chandler suggested that the task force add an additional ANC, in particular the former ANC 7A could be brought back west of Kenilworth. Although Task Force Co-Chair Tamara Blair noted the additional 14,000 residents in Ward 7 are sufficient to justify for 7 Single Member Districts in Ward 7 now, other commissioners cautioned against specifying how many SMDs or ANCs the task force might propose this early in the process.
Co-chair Blair said the task force will hold two more public listening sessions. Those dates have yet to be set, but the meetings will take place every second week; the next is set for the week of Feb. 13 to 19 and will focus on ANC 7B and 7F. A third session will take place sometime in the week of Feb 27 to Mar 1 and will focus on ANC 7D as well as additions to Ward 7 formerly part of ANCs 6A and 6B. After these listening sessions, the task force will hold two additional meetings open to public to discuss further recommendations to DC Council.
Once agreed to by task force membership and approved by Councilmember Gray, the new Ward 7 ANC boundary maps will be sent to the District Subcommittee on Redistricting, which will then pass recommendations on for two votes by the entire DC Council sometime this spring. The intention is for ANC and SMD maps to be finalized in time for materials to be disseminated prior to the June primary elections.
You can re-watch the entire session on Youtube. Follow the Office of Councilmember Vincent Gray on Twitter: @VinceGrayWard7 or Instagram: @cmvince.gray for notice of upcoming meetings, or subscribe to the East of the River daily newsletter.
The Ward 8 Redistricting Task Force will meet at 6 p.m. Feb. 2. Register to attend: https://tinyurl.com/