ANC6B Debate on Response to Redistricting Hill East Turns Heated
By Larry Janezich
Posted December 2, 2021
In a contentious four hour meeting, ANC6B backed away from a proposal saying it had no opposition to moving Hill East into Ward 7, and ended up supporting sending a letter to the City Council listing the issues it has with the proposed redistricting map approved by the Redistricting Subcommittee.
More than 100 residents joined the virtual meeting and heard from CM Charles Allen, CM at Large Silverman, Council Chair Phil Mendelsohn, and CM at Large Henderson.
The special meeting of the ANC was called by three Hill East Commissioners who would see their single member districts moved from Ward 6 to Ward 7 under the proposed redistricting map. The three commissioners – Corey Holman, Alissa Horn, and Edward Ryder – supported a letter to the City Council saying that ANC6B does not oppose the move to Ward 7, but recommended several issues the council should consider to remedy deficiencies in the proposed map. A fourth affected commissioner, Denise Krepp, vehemently opposed the letter saying that voting for it was a vote to move Hill East into Ward 7.
During the meeting, numerous commissioners and residents commented on the proposed redistricting map, the redistricting process, and their personal feelings about moving Hill East to Ward 7. Comments were varied, with many seemingly resigned to making the best of a situation they regarded as inevitable, some opposed to the move, and some who supported it.
CM Charles Allen said, “I don’t like this…losing any part of Ward 6. To say that neighbors, people, leaders will now be in a different ward is not something I enjoy…but I know it will happen.” He said communities will not be separated by Ward lines – parking, school districts and police districts will stay the same. And he shared concerns of residents – “some,” he said, “are happy, some are fired up and unhappy…some support moving the Ward 7 boundary further west, which is not something I support….I have worked with you and made a hell of a lot of progress and these relationships and work don’t just disappear.”
Council Chair Mendelsohn noted the council is well along in the process and cautioned residents not to expect radical changes to the map between now the first council vote on the map next Tuesday; “For us to make changes to boundaries between 7 and 8 is not likely – that would open things up again. The council looks at all the wards and how they will be affected and I’m not hearing that as part of the discussion tonight. It’s not the end of the world to split neighborhoods between wards or ANCs. There are advantages and disadvantages. It’s inevitable to split communities – a multiplicity of representation can be advantageous.”
The meeting was into the fourth hour when commissioners began a debate on the proposed letter to the council, and procedures went far astray from Roberts Rules of Order. Acting ANC6B Chair Steve Holtzman had to caution commissioners about the use of inappropriate language. The debate became heated as voices were raised and accusations made regarding motives of commissioners.
The commission appeared to be at an impasse, and given the lateness of the hour there seemed to be no appetite for word-smithing the proposal. Standing in the way of a vote were references concerning 6B’s lack of opposition to losing residents to Ward 7. Long-serving commissioner Kirsten Oldenburg proposed stripping out all the controversial language including the declaration that “ANC6B is not opposed” to the move of Hill East into Ward 7. After considerable tinkering, the letter took a form that a majority of commissioners could support, and it passed on at 6 – 3, as follows: Those vote aye: Sroufe, Holtzman, Holman, Ryder, Wright, Horn. Those voting nay: Samolyk, Oldenburg, Krepp
A slightly edited version of the main points of the letter is as follows:
ANC 6B has thoroughly reviewed the Subcommittee Map and has the following comments:
- Ward 7’s population is simply too small, 114 residents above the legal minimum, while not using natural features or census tracts as the boundaries. Ward 7’s population should be roughly equal to Ward 6 and 8.
- The approved map splits a coherent commercial corridor in Eastern Ward 6, focused on Pennsylvania Avenue SE, Potomac Avenue Se, and 14th Street SE.
- Census Tract 71, the triangle bounded by Pennsylvania Avenue SE, 11th Street SE, and the Anacostia River, should remain intact and not be split down Potomac Avenue SE as this small, isolated portion of Ward 6 forms a coherent community of interest.
- The approved map likely means the end of the SMD solely comprised of residents of the DC Jail as the west of the river portion in Ward 7 would only be able to constitute a 5-person ANC. The DC Jail SMD has always been in an ANC of at least 6 commissioners to allow for regular vacancies as residents return or are sent out of state.
- Less than 100 residents would live in buildings contributing to the Capitol Hill Historic District in Ward 7 along Potomac Ave SE and K Street SE. These residents would be represented in an ANC where over 99% of the residents will be in non-designated buildings and have no interaction with historic building regulations.
- The 1,565 residents in Census Tracts 69 and 71 were not included in any of the draft discussion maps (despite many submitted map proposals including this area). Residents feel blindsided and voiceless in these decisions as most did not participate in the Ward 6 or citywide hearings as they noted they were unaffected by the discussion maps.
Thursday, December 2, ANC6A will hold a virtual Special Meeting on Redistricting at 7:00pm. To join the meeting, go here: https://bit.ly/3p95vNI