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.
7 responses to “Councilmember Phil Mendelson Hints Redistricting Will Come at Expense of Ward Six – Penn Quarter Deal Seems Less Likely”
Good summary, congrats on posting so soon after the event with pictures yet. Mendelson certainly did not concede anything for Ward 6 but I don’t think he really hinted that he favored any one of the more drastic ideas of peeling off large sections of Ward 6. He reasonably emphasized that something has to be done to re balance, Ward 6 is in play because of the numbers and many neighborhoods have local pride and some will be unhappy at the end of the redistricting. I think he deserves a lot of credit for showing up and patient, clear answers to some aggressive questioners. I also thought the moderator (sorry don’t remember his name) did a good job trying to buck the raucous tide. In all a good evening of neighbors meeting on issues. Bruce, 10th and PA SE.
I’m the guy in the aloha shirt in the foreground of the first photo. The question I didn’t get to ask was whether Councilmember Mendelson (sp?) et al. would be willing to consider more complicated redistricting plans that better respect the contiguity of neighborhoods (which Mendelson did not seem to recognize is a matter of economic and cultural geography, as well as physical geography) than the 5 options he mentioned, or even than our current boundaries do. Would it be possible, for example, for Ward 2 (overpopulated) to cede its portion of Mt. Vernon Square (currently divided among 3 wards, as a meeting attendee from there pointed out) to Ward 5, better enabling Ward 5 to cede tracts in its northeast corner to Ward 7? Or make a “new” Ward 8 composed of SW waterfront land with the southern end of the current Ward 8, and move the northern end of the current Ward 8 into Ward 7?
The parking idea from Mendelson suggests that he is pretty far along in his thinking on how to manage breaking up Ward 6. What a shame! As I wrote to the redistricting committee, losing Hill East will only advance the city’s tendency to have separate political conversations instead of a shared dialogue.
Kudos to Tommy Wells for committing to a vote against the plan if it means losing Hill East or SW Waterfront.
Unless Ward Sixers are willing to organize and take action to boot Councilmembers who vote to split the Ward, the Council will continue to ignore us. Property values will decrease for those who are moved from Ward Six. But, never fear, only the fringes, people who bought homes hoping that the neighborhood would grow in their direction, people who couldn’t afford homes in the center of areas, will be impacted. Georgetown won’t be impacted. The Palisades and Gold Coast won’t be impacted. The Council is afraid of being sued for not equalizing the Wards, shouldn’t they be afraid of being sued for diminishing property values (even if this is a losing argument, a suit would shine a light on the process and a Court might do a better job at redistricting, as they would not be pandering to wealthy neighborhoods or seeking political capitol with certain constituencies)? Council members got arrested to protest the fact that DC has no voting rights, wouldn’t it be a more powerful protest if they refused to enforce the Federal Law that protects voting rights on the grounds that DC Citizens have no voting rights? I appreciate the meeting, but it seems like a waste since two invited Councilmembers failed to appear and the one that did appear already had his mind made up. We should oust Michael Brown and Jack Evans, if they refuse to meet with citizens. Let’s start hold these folks accountable to their real bosses, the people! We need a petition that is a pledge by Ward Six Citizens to work tirelessly to defeat any Councilmember who votes to split our Ward, particularly since our Ward is in compliance. We need a petition that is a pledge by Ward Sixers to file suit against the Council if our Ward is split, forcing the Council to explain its rationale to a Court. This is what the Council pays attention to, not the voices of Citizens at meetings! How do I know? Well it was very clear that Michel Brown and Jack Evans didn’t even care enough about citizen voices to show up. And, in my opinion, Councilmember Mendelson spoke to us like we were children or idiots. He made blanket, unsubstantiated statements that simply reflected the fact that he did not intend to take our concerns seriously.
This is a mandate on Wells. If he get’s rolled, it will simply show his overall ineffectiveness on Hilleast issues.
Then again, as Tommy singularly focuses on the “nice part of Capitol Hill” I believe in his political mind he will be very happy to have his district consolidated further to the center of Capitol Hill. Unless he stops this, what we have all thought for the past few years will be proven. Tommy doesn’t give a damn about anything east of 13th street (with the exception of Harris Teeter where he can shake hands in the white wine section).
Dumb question: What is the accepted boundary for Hill East ? I don’t believe this contiguous neighborhood should be split up, it would make more sense as stated above by Nathan to redraw ward 2 and let the dominos fall where they must.
This is sickening. This is all about political payoffs, and sticking it to the PERCEIVED “new residents” of Capitol Hill. If Wells loses this, he will not get a penny of support from me, and I’ll gladly vote for/support his opponent(s).
Politically, this is a corrupt, disgusting city. It will NEVER see statehood, and just as well. The WORST politicians from “The Wire” don’t hold a candle to the criminals on the City Council.