Councilmember Phil Mendelson Hints Redistricting Will Come at Expense of Ward Six
by Larry Janezich
DC Redistricting Committee Member and Councilmember At Large Phil Mendelson told a crowd of over 250 Ward Six Democrats Thursday night that “it’s impossible to do redistricting without making some people unhappy.” He went on to note that reducing the size of Wards Two and Six would upset the fewest number of people.
He said the Redistricting Committee is faced with either equalizing the ward populations or achieving redistricting with the least amount of disruption. He said his goal was to “equalize the populations, but that doesn’t mean change will be radical enough to accomplish that.”
Under federal law, wards must be redrawn every ten years. The goals are that they be compact and contiguous and approximately equal in size within plus or minus 5%
The 2010 Census revealed that Ward 2 has to come down at least 939, Ward Seven has to come up at least 387, and Ward 8 has to come up at least 743. Technically, Ward Six is within 5% of the average and – all things being equal – would not have to change. But it has population to spare and is next to wards seven and eight which need population.
The City Council has until July 2011 to produce a new Ward boundary map and has until the end of 2011 to approve new Advisory Neighborhood Commission (ANC) and Single Member District (SMD) boundary maps.
The Redistricting Committee, comprised of Councilmembers Michael Brown, Jack Evans and Phil Mendelson, will propose a new ward map in the next few weeks – maybe by the end of May. The Committee will hold a hearing on the new map and the Council will vote sometime in June to make any changes to the committee plan, with a final vote in late June or early July.
Thursday night’s meeting at Friendship Public Charter School was hosted by Ward Six Democrats to allow residents to voice their concerns on the redistricting issue. The meeting’s organizers invited the three members of the Redistricting Committee and Councilmember Tommy Wells. Only Mendelson and Wells appeared.
Wells told those attending that the guiding principle for redistricting is that “we have to keep contiguous neighborhoods together.” He told this reporter that “Penn Quarter is on the table,” but he would otherwise “absolutely” vote against any legislation to reduce the size of Ward Six. Wells would like to broker a deal and give Ward Six’s portion of Penn Quarter to Ward 2, setting up a domino effect that would subsequently increase the size of Wards 5, 7, and 8, leaving all wards with the right numbers.
He told the crowd that “this is not about parking stickers or personalities, but why one ward is working so well.” He cited Ward Six’s renaissance in schools, its highly effective ANC’s, the amount of development, the families working together, and the ward’s broad diversity. Regarding development, he noted “you can’t have remote ANC’s making decisions affecting” the heart of Ward Six. “That’s another reason we can’t be Balkanized.”
He told the crowd, “[y]ou have power – beyond phone calls and email. Make sure – especially the at large members – know how you feel and why.” The at large councilmembers are Redistricting Committee members Michael Brown and Phil Mendelson and Councilmembers David Catania and Vincent Orange.
Questions from the audience revealed concerns about the impact of redistricting on schools, the historic district, and parking. Mendelson said that school and historic districts would be unaffected by any changes. Regarding parking, he said he will propose to the Chair of the Transportation Committee Chair Tommy Wells, that current parking zones be maintained regardless of any ward changes brought about by redistricting.