At the April 14th meeting of Advisory Neighborhood Commission (6C), commissioners discussed the redistricting of Ward 6 in addition to several Planning, Zoning and Economic Development (PZE) and Transportation and Public Space (TPS) Committee proposals and concerns.
All six commissioners: Christine Healey (6C01), Karen Wirt (6C02, Chair), Jay Adelstein (6C03), Mark Eckenwiler (6C04), Joel Kelty (6C05) and Drew Courtney (6C06) were in attendance.
The redistricting task forces in each ward concluded months of discussion and deliberation last week as final maps were submitted to the DC Council for review. The first step in this process was a public testimony session where community members had the opportunity to provide input on the maps.
At the ANC meeting, Mark Eckenwiler (6C04) highlighted some concerns about the map and final report that was sent to the DC Council by the Ward 6 redistricting task force. Eckenwiler said that “the taskforce had a number of other rationales for why their map was so great,” but added that he did not find any of those rationales “truly compelling.”
One of the main issues was that the task force drew boundaries that made the population of 6C04 over 2,200 people. Immediately to the northwest of that SMD, however, lies 6C06 with only 1,973 residents. This disparity is over the permitted 200 person difference allowed within the redistricting guidelines.
“They want to create a new SMD boundary in the middle of a block in the middle of a census block, and the statute is very clear that census block splits are to be avoided wherever possible,” Eckenwiler said. “It’s possible to draw a legal map without doing a census block split or introducing a new SMD boundary that runs through an alley.”
Eckenwiler said that his new map does not entail any census block splitting and includes one SMD boundary running through an alley, however, “it would not be introducing a new through alley boundary, which is what the task force proposed,” Eckenwiler said.
Other commissioners echoed Eckenwiler’s concerns about the map. Commissioner Drew Courtney (6C06) called the task force’s submission an “objectively bad map.” Commissioner Christine Healey (6C01) said that, despite her appreciation for their efforts, she was “disappointed” with some of the decisions made by the task force.
“I am disappointed with some of the decisions that [the task force] made, particularly with the borders that they’ve established for our east and our west, which I don’t think make sense,” Healey said. “But I do think that this plan for our SMDs sticking within the constraints we’re stuck in does make sense,” Healey said of Eckenwiler’s proposed map.
Commissioner Jay Adelstein (6C03) expressed concern about the possibility of losing four out of the six ANC commissioners in the ANC with the task force’s map.
“We have institutional knowledge, we show our camaraderie in these meetings by having the consent calendar and while other agencies meet for two and three hours, we try to keep our meetings somewhat shorter and can do so because of the consensus and the backgrounds of each member, as well as the committee members,” Adelstein said.
Commissioners unanimously passed Eckenwiler’s motion that the ANC urge the DC Council Subcommittee on redistricting to adopt his new map in preference to the one proposed by the Ward 6 Task Force. Eckenwiler will also attend the public hearing on redistricting scheduled for April 28 and provide testimony.
The ANC commissioners adopted the unanimous committee recommendations and the motion to agree to all items and recommendations on the consent calendar was passed unanimously 6-0:
- A Board of Zoning Adjustment (BZA) application for relief from the lot-occupancy requirements to construct a rear two-story addition to a three-story house at 634 E Capitol St. NE. Previously reviewed for historical considerations, the PZE committee unanimously supported this with the condition that the applicant file additional materials related to an exterior balcony.
- To remove a case from expedited review and oppose an application after the fact for approval of a railing on a front porch at 1121 Abbey Pl. NE. Eckenwiler said the railing appears to have been replaced without a permit and it is not consistent with the criteria under zoning regulations.
- The TPS committee discussed several proposals. First, at 300 D St. NE, there is an area of public space previously unused and fenced in. It is now being used as a private parking space. The committee recommendation was to send a letter to DDOT requesting that they inspect and possibly remediate the area there that has been paved over.
- To provide written testimony in support of the exit on the east side of NoMa-Gallaudet Metro Station, after a request from the NoMa Business Improvement District (BID) requested ANC testimony. The testimony is intended to buttress the letter sent by the ANC in January supporting funding for this project.
- The commissioners voted unanimously to send a letter to the Mayor’s Special Event Task Force in support of the May 15 Capitol Hill Classic, the biggest fundraiser of the year for Capitol Hill cluster schools.
- The ANC voted unanimously to award two community grants. Victoria Lord, Grants Committee Chair, said the first was for the Capitol Hill Literary Book Fest on May 1. The organization asked for $1,500 to help with the cost of a venue and tables and chairs. Lord said “many of our residents benefit from this event.” Second, the Capitol Hill Gardening Club requested $1,300 for supplies for their gardening project on Seventh Street.
- Community member James Thran attended the meeting and spoke about his proposal to open a cafe located at 653 Constitution Ave. NE. The café plans to serve grab and go lunch foods with seating provided and to eventually, offer beer and wine sales as well. This proposal will go to the PZE and Alcohol Beverage Licensing (ABL) committees for further consideration. Thran also expressed interest in hosting a community forum for the neighborhood at the proposed location of the cafe.
- Community member and long time restaurant worker Ryan O’Leary attended the meeting and spoke in favor of Initiative 82, the Tip Credit Elimination Act of 2021. This legislation, which would raise the minimum wage for restaurant workers to the local minimum wage, and workers would receive tips in addition to that wage. This legislation will appear on the general election ballot in November.
- Resident Nicole Lewis attended the meeting and spoke in support of the Mobile Voting Options for Turnout Equity Amendment Act of 2022 (Mobile VOTE Act, recently introduced in DC Council. Lewis said that there are currently more than 330 jurisdictions in 8 states with digital voting. “This adds an option for those looking for a more convenient way to participate in elections,” she said. Lewis spoke briefly about multi-factor authentication for security, something she compared to mobile banking.
Lewis requested ANC support for the bill. Commissioner Drew Courtney (6C06) expressed concern about the security of a secret ballot. “Seeing how we’re doing with WebEx in the city does not inspire me that we should be putting voting on a similarly administered system,” Courtney said. Commissioner Joel Kelty (6C05) expressed similar concern about the mobile voting system saying he is “highly skeptical that our government is capable of doing this right now. I think it’s a laudable idea, but the devils in the details.”
The next meeting of ANC 6C will take place on May 11 via WebEx. You can read more about ANC 6C and register to attend the meeting here.
Sarah Payne is a general assignment reporter for the Hill Rag. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.