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DC Council Approves ANC Redistricting Legislation on First Read

DC Council voted almost unanimously to send legislation creating redistricted Advisory Neighborhood Commissions (ANCs) to a second vote.

Councilmember Elissa Silverman (I-At Large) elected to vote “present” to draw attention to what she called the “broken process” of redistricting. The map adopted by council during the May 24th legislative meeting makes significant changes to the boundaries supported by the Council’s Subcommittee on Redistricting the week prior. Silverman said that despite lengthy and, at points arduous, efforts by the subcommittee to keep redistricting discussions open and public, she was not consulted or informed about the latest changes.

The changes made between the Subcommittee vote May 20 and the DC Council vote May 24 largely affect Ward 7. And they still aren’t finalized; Councilmembers have until the conclusion of the second vote, scheduled for June 7, to make any last-minute changes.

It was an abrupt change from what the Subcommittee approved the week prior.

Ward 7

The new boundaries of Ward 7 encompass three neighborhoods west of the Anacostia: Kingman Park, included in 2000; the portion of Hill East that is east of 15th Street; and Rosedale. Both the latter were formerly in Ward 6. The Ward 7 Redistricting Taskforce incorporated these neighborhoods into two cross-river ANCs: 7A and 7F.

The taskforce’s original design of ANC 7F drew criticism from Subcommittee members, particularly the chair. As drawn, the commission was comprised of five SMDs east of the Anacostia and only three on the west. The Subcommittee redrew 7F to balance the number of SMDs between east and west using a compromise map drawn by Taskforce Member Keith Hasan-Towery.

The map approved May 24 by DC Council renames the northern cross-river ANC, formerly 7A to ANC 7D and extends it to include all of the currently developed land in Hill East. The southern cross-river ANC 7F now includes largely undeveloped Reservation 13 and Jail and extends further west into much of what was ANC 7D on the Subcommittee Map.

The reconfiguration necessitated the moment of other Single Member Districts (SMDs) into adjacent ANCs. With the elimination of the Subcommittee’s ANC 7D (mostly absorbed into ANC 7F). The Subcommittee’s proposed ANC 7D01 moves to ANC 7C, uniting the neighborhoods along Nannie Hellen Burroughs Avenue. ANC 7F06 rejoins ANC 7B as advocated for by the current ANC Commissioner.

“The Committee believes that these changes build on the work of the Ward 7 Taskforce and the Subcommittee, and achieves a balance of cross-river cooperation, compactness of West of the River neighborhoods in a single ANC and a balance in the number of SMDs in neighborhoods,” reads the report accompanying the map, noting that additional changes are to be expected, especially to balance the size of the ANC 7F SMDs.

The Ward 7 map advanced by the Subcommittee sought to help achieve the task force goal of unity but also to balance the two cross-river ANCs by ensuring each had an equal number of SMDs on each side of the river.

However, in the map approved by council, ANC 7D has 5 SMDs west of the river, and 4 on the east side; meanwhile, ANC 7F includes 6 SMDs on the east side, one in the west and another that crosses the river.

Ward 6 Councilmember Charles Allen (D) asked Mendelson if the Park Kennedy Apartments (1901 C St. SE) and The Ethel (1901 C St. SE) were intentionally included in ANC 7F. That would separate those residents from all other neighbors currently in the area and within the boundaries of ANC 7D, Allen noted. Mendelson said that line could be moved in the second reading.

Elissa Silverman (I-At Large) speaks during the DC Council meeting May 24. Screenshot: dcgranicus

Silverman Casts Protest Vote

While western members argued for a standalone ANC or being placed in a single commission during the redistricting process, a majority of the Ward 7 Taskforce took the position that cross-river commissions better incorporate the new residents into the ward by compelling them to work with their eastern neighbors.

In her comments on the Council draft at the May 24 meeting, Silverman noted that the Subcommittee on Redistricting had conducted innumerable intense public meetings to collect that kind of feedback and make decisions. She expressed disappointment that she had not been told of the changes proposed in council, noting she had seen the Chairman at a social event over the weekend.

“The [ward 7] task force’s vision —trying to unify a ward that spans a river— was the goal,” Silverman said, “to bring east and west together. And this map does that in a way that west will dominate one ANC, and east one ANC.”

Silverman said that was the reason for her protest vote. “That’s fulfilling the letter, but I guess I just don’t see it fulfilling the spirit of the task force’s goal of unity,” she said of the new map.

But the council changes did not affect the recommendations on ANC boundaries in any of the other wards that were unanimously advanced by the Council Subcommittee on Redistricting at a their May 20 meeting.

It’s Not Over Till The Council Votes

The Subcommittee recommendations now advance to DC Council. There, all 13 members of DC Council have one more opportunity to weigh in on the ANC and SMD boundaries. That means they can still change. Council votes on the legislation that makes the new ANCs official again, likely on June 7.

Councilmembers can offer amendments before both these votes that could change boundaries significantly. For example, during the Council’s two votes on Ward boundaries, Ward 5 Councilmember Kenyan McDuffie (D) offered an amendment to move the Old Soldiers’ Home and Washington Hospital Center from Ward 1 back into his ward. McDuffie’s amendment failed during the Council’s first vote, but succeeded on the second.

Information on watching DC Council meetings as well as the hearing schedule are available at www.dccouncil.us/events/list/. The proceedings will also be televised on Channels 13 or 18 starting at noon. See the Subcommittee report and the DC Council changes on first vote here.

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