CM Silverman Takes On “The Elephant in the Room” – Ward 7’s Cross-River ANCs

Councilmember Elissa Silverman chaired the 10 hour Subcommittee on Redistricting Hearin on Thursday.
Here’s the Ward 7 Task Force ANC boundary map.
Here’s Ward 7 Task Force member and ANC6A Commissioner Brian Alcorn’s map showing the areas formerly in Ward 6 which have become part of Ward 7, and their relation to Ward 7 ANC’s into which they would be incorporated. Alcorn has lead the fight for a stand-alone ANC west of the river. West of river residents say the proposed Ward 7 map fails to meet the principles of compact and contiguous ANCs and the requirement to keep communities of interest together, among others.

CM Silverman Takes On “The Elephant in the Room” – Ward 7’s Cross-River ANCs

By Larry Janezich               

Posted April 8, 2022

CM Elissa Silverman took on “the elephant in the room” yesterday, the issue of Ward 7’s two proposed cross river ANCs.  The issue came up during the City Council’s Subcommittee on Redistricting’s ten hour hearing on the ANC Boundary Redistricting Bill. Three of those 10 hours were spent on the Ward 7 Task Force’s controversial map which would extend two Ward 7 ANCs over the river to incorporate neighborhoods in Hill East.  Hill East wants their own stand-alone ANC on the west side of the river. 

Silverman, chair of the Subcommittee, opened the hearing, saying “My colleagues and I will be asking questions…I want to be clear on one point.  Questions are to understand how decisions are made.  To understand the rational and intent is part of the legislative process…I want everybody to keep that in mind.  There have been sentiments that somehow, asking a question is undermining the task force process.  It is being curious – a means to understand.  If someone has an issue with that, please let me know and speak to me individually.  My questions will be directed to whether maps meet the requirement of law and subscribe to principles of redistricting.”  Silverman might have been referring to the comments of some Ward 7 Task Force members who questioned Silverman’s appearance at the task force meeting on March 29, prior to the vote on the final Task Force map recommendation. 

The hearing proceeded with testimony from proponents and opponents of the Ward 7 Task Force map, with the latter outnumbering former, 12 to 6.  The imbalance reflected the strong feelings of Hill East residents voicing their support for their own ANC, rather than the 16 – 3 vote of the Task Force in favor of the map. 

After a witness referred to the cross- river ANCs as “the elephant in the room” and the phrase was repeated by CM Anita Bonds, Silverman addressed the issue.

“I am going to talk about the elephant in the room.  This is my perception of the dynamics at play.  For decades if not more, the communities in wards east of the river – which are predominantly Black – have felt neglected and not paid attention to in terms of political power – in terms of economic development – in terms of respect by elected officials and by fellow DC residents.  In the redistricting process the newly reconstituted Ward 7 residents west of the river feel neglected and not paid attention to.  So those who testified tonight felt that their desire to have a west of the river ANC was ignored by east of the river residents….”  She asked supporters of the Task Force map to address the concerns of those west of the river that they felt they were not listened to and that the workings of an ANC would be best implemented by a stand-alone ANC. 

Map author Keith Hasan-Towrey noted the long time push and pull between areas of Ward 7 and Ward 6 regarding representation and said the Task Force made sure there were four SMDs on each side of the river in ANC7A which includes Rosedale and Kingman Park and Hill East, formerly in ANC6A.  He suggested by creating an ANC with this kind of integration is one way to bring people together.  He added, “We did not split neighborhoods or communities – west of the river defined itself as a giant community.”

Silverman said that the approach to the proposed ANC7A was “thoughtful regarding the balance of power and this is about power.  This is not the situation in 7F where there are 3 SMDs east of the river and 5 west of the river.  I see an imbalance of power.  ANC7F has Reservation 13 and the Subcommittee’s report says it is seen as an anchor for the community around it.  I am straining to see how the power is balanced in 7F” [cross-river ANC which includes south Hill East and Reservation 13].

Hasan-Towrey said the Task Force had meet with resistance on how to make this work in 7F –   “If all parties come together, I think we can do that.”  He cited time constraints which got in the way of continuing negotiations, but added that “it was always the goal to balance power as equally as possible and we continue to ask for that.”

Silverman said that this claim about unity it was a good goal – that east of the river and west of the river need to see each other’s interest more:  “I’m struck that almost every west of the river Ward 7 resident testified this would divide and didn’t feel included.  Those who live in Kingman Park…said they just didn’t feel listened to in a [the current pre-redistricting] cross-river ANC and given no priority because they were a lone commission west of the river.”

ANC6B Commissioner Alison Horn responded to Hasan-Towrey regarding the question of parity in 7F, saying she repeatedly ran into a roadblock when she raised the issue with the Task Force.  She said she was told that there were political issues that were non-starters on the other side of the bridge which made it unrealistic to do anything differently.  She added, “Any statements that there weren’t attempts to compromise [by east of the river residents] are disingenuous…attempts to compromise with my area fell far short of what it should have been.”

ANC7F Chair Tyrell Holcomb said that working through the adjustment period is going to feel uneasy.  He suggested that if 7F properly utilizes committees for west of the river and east of the river, “I think we can create a balance where nobody feels their voice is not heard and we will always have the opportunity to feel we’re included in the process.  It will not be easy.  We have to meet in the middle.  Regarding development …we need to engage voices on both sides of the river to make sure there is no disparity as it relates to development.” 

At the end of the three hours on Ward 7, Silverman stated definitively who would have the final word on Ward 7 boundaries:  “I, as well as CM Bonds and CM Henderson, will be looking to CM Gray in terms of what we will decide regarding recommendations in Ward 7.  There have been a lot of strong and passionate beliefs here – a good discussion.  We’ll continue it on April 28.”

The Subcommittee will hold a second hearing that date with opportunities to testify.  Going forward, the Subcommittee will mark up the bill in May and forward it to the City Council.  The Council will hold the first vote on May 24, and the second on June 7.

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