Housing Complex

So Much for One City

Battleground D.C. (GGWash)

UPDATED BELOW Saturday, 11:20 a.m.

As a Census-mandated vote on redistricting the city's ward boundaries vote looms, Tommy Wells has a PR strategy for keeping his territory intact in the face of an attempted land grab by Marion Barry. The important part: Don't make it about Marion Barry.

“With Ward 6, with how well it’s working, the real principle is keeping contiguous neighborhoods together,” he told a group at Arthur Capper Senior Homes on Wednesday, when someone asked what their talking points should be. “I think that’s got to be our message to the council. It’s not about parking stickers, it’s not about personalities of councilmembers, it has everything to do with why our ward is working so well.”

But really Tommy: How much do ward boundaries, in themselves, affect “neighborhood continuity?”

School boundaries aren’t affected. Neither are police districts, or historic districts (someone actually asked about those at another redistricting meeting last night). Nothing’s stopping you from living in one ward and going to church in another. It’s quite possible to organize community events across ward boundaries. Councilmember Phil Mendelson is emphatic that wards don’t affect property values; moving a piece of Chevy Chase from Ward 3 to Ward 4 made no noticeable difference. Wells touted the fact that the Ward 6 ANCs are some of the best-functioning in the city, and work together very well—but why couldn’t they still work well together if one were in another ward? ANCs are largely autonomous bodies; there’s no inherent reason why ANC 6A couldn’t work with 5B as well as it can with 6B. The Ward 6 exceptionalism argument just doesn’t hold.

What ward boundaries do affect: Parking, since residential parking permit policy is decided on a ward-by-ward basis. Also, membership in political clubs, like the Ward 6 Democrats.

Most critically, though, they affect who represents you. And that’s the real reason why border neighborhoods like Near Southeast, Rosedale, Hill East, and Near Southeast are adamantly opposed to leaving Ward 6 for Wards 7 or 8. The Ward Sixers who turned out to last night’s meeting adore Wells, to the point where people asked why the ward populations had to be evened out at all (the answer: Not doing so would be unconstitutional).

“I’m willing to make that sacrifice, and dilute my vote in order to stay in Ward 6,” one lady declared.

But the Wells lovefest is only one side of this story. The other is an intense aversion to Barry, which manifests itself as disinterest in reaching across the river for any reason, and arguments that the Ward 6 "community" is intrinsically and insolubly different from whatever's over there in Barry territory.

It would be a “real travesty” if we have to “mix with Ward 8,” one guy said. “We hope and we wish for success for Ward 8, but they’re not there yet.” The whole crowd yelled in assent at statements that the Anacostia was a barrier that shouldn’t be breached—at least on their end of it. One woman even said she would kill herself if she were made to live under Barry. (Of course, there’s not much love for Ward 7 either. “I know two people there,” said one woman, who lives on the border. “What do Ward 7’s businesses have to do with where I am?”)

Given the outcry, it seems unlikely that Barry will get a big chunk of Ward 6. The “contiguousness” and “compactness” criteria for redistricting create a strong case for pulling all of Fairlawn into Ward 8, which would bring it up to the right number. Ward 7 would then need to cross the river into Ward 5, potentially around the Arboretum. Those neighborhoods haven’t made as much of a ruckus about wanting to stick with Harry Thomas. (Thomas says he’s going to start making a ruckus about it himself, promising to organize meetings with his constituents similar to those held in Ward 6. “I think it’s irresponsible for him to try to deflect it to another ward,” Thomas said, of Wells. “It’s unfortunate that he’s engaging in a political attack, when to me the response is, he has the ward that has the growth, and because of that growth, he should be the ward that’s affected.”)

Does Barry actually think his bid for a piece of river west will succeed? Who knows. But whether or not it does, Ward 6’s unwillingness to be annexed into Barryland is already creating ugly rhetoric about why Ward 6 should have nothing to do with river east—which Wells, in his effort to avoid personally maligning a colleague, doesn't tamp down. I doubt those arguments would be as vehement if Ward 8 were represented by someone who didn't strike such visceral fear in the hearts of greater Capitol Hill people as Barry.


UPDATE, Saturday, 11:20 a.m. –

Wells called to make a case for why ward boundaries are more than just political—as Mendelson, who as an at-large councilmember might not have as good a sense of these things, repeatedly argued. For one thing, there are ward education councils, and Wells says Ward 6's has banded together to create a cohesive plan for their middle schools. For another, ward-specific "public affinity groups" like political clubs are actually important, because they define the boundaries of civic engagement. Finally, pots of money for some things—like alley repaving, for example—are divided up on a ward basis, and if you're not on board with the ward's in-crowd, you might get the short end of the stick.

"Unfortunately, at times, community influence on the allocation of public resources makes a difference," Wells notes.

At the Arthur Capper meeting, he'd spoken of the disadvantage of being split off from a ward's political power center.

"We can not have ANC commissioners that are substantially removed from Ward 6 making decisions about zoning and other issues that directly impact the neighborhoods that are closer in," Wells said. "And that’s another reason why we can’t be balkanized."

  • SW

    "One woman even said she would kill herself if she were made to live under Barry."

    Is that right? Have at it then, lady.

    As a SW resident, Barry can have Near SE for all I care. Just keep your filthy hands away from SW.

  • Near SE

    As a Near SE resident, I say go to hell. The reason I don't want to be annexed by ward 8 IS Marion Barry. And while I'm sure Barry and like minded people will cry racism is the driving factor, for me personally it boils down to development. My neighborhood is on the precipice of Massive development, and the idea of Marion Barry being able to dip his finger into the honey pot terrifies me. Let's not kid ourselves, Marion Barry ran this city like a 3rd world Kleptocracy when he was Mayor. Why in gods name would we give him control over Near SE? Hell, Yvette Alexander annex us, I don't care, I don't even particularly care for Tommy Wells. Just don't give Mayor For Life the keys to the development kingdom.

  • Really?

    So the chicken littles are out...."the sky is falling the sky is falling"


  • Jason

    How about let him have capital hill. Then he'll finally get voted out.

  • http://www.revrob.com Zadoc

    They should be voting on congressional districts because they should have statehood.

    Should DC get statehood?
    Poll: http://www.wepolls.com/r/171496/Does-Washington,-DC-deserve-statehood?tag=63401

    No taxation without representation!!

  • Peter Rosenstein

    Maybe if some of Ward 6 was annexed to Ward 8 they could join with the new Ward 8 and finally get rid of Marion Barry. Ward 8 has some of the most beautiful real estate in the District. With the coming of the Homeland Security agency and the new housing and young people moving in it will be a changing community. Gentrification is coming to Ward 8 and the role of those in the community will be to make sure that it comes in a way that is fair to those living there now and to those who will be moving in. It is possible to do that if people work together. The problem with Marion Barry is that he has always felt it is good for him to pit one section of the community against the other. I respect what Marion Barry has done in the past but it is time to move on to new leadership and to give the people of Ward 8 a chance to move Ward 8 into the 21st century. There are so many beautiful people living in Ward 8 they don't deserve to be represented by someone who conjurs up the past rather than the future.

  • Stephen Gorman

    The real solution is to revisit the charter and convert all at large seats to ward seats thereby creating 13 wards. this will reduce the size of the eight baronies and five city wide into something more manageable, make the at large council members work at genuine constituent services and make running for council cheaper and take care of Barry phobia. That said, even in the face of widespread support in the city for for any of these ideas, would even a single member of the council support these changes that would could result reduction in power, pay, lucrative campaign donation by developers and council offices. Not an "f-bomb" chance.

    To paraphrase DC For Democracy, "more democracy for DC!"

  • Sally

    Harry Thomas continues to show himself to be a buffoon. If he cared so much about the sanctity of Ward 5 boundaries, he'd be taking a proactive role like Wells. Instead, he sits on the sidelines and whines about being disrespected. What a total moron.

    I bet Thomas wouldn't be whining if somehow the borders were changed and put Kathy Henderson's house in another ward.

    As for Barry, can anyone blame Ward 6 residents for not wanting to be under this thumb? He could give a shit about Ward 6 residents. All he wants is to get his hands on the development dollars coming to the SW Waterfront and Hill East. That's what it's all about.

  • Legends

    lydia - why dontcha just marry wells? geesh. no comments from evans or brown?

  • http://distcurm.blogspot.com/ IMGoph

    I'm looking forward to see what Harry Thomas plans to do, but honestly, he's late to a game that he has very little say in.

  • Gregory Hemby

    Ward 7 has its own category of redistricting issues.
    A. It is the mission of a SMD Commissioner to serve as a liaison between the District government and the community and walking through SMDs 7A03, 7A04, 7A05 and 7A07, to ascertain and hearing constituent opinions, comments and their concerns, residents of 7A07 are concerned that they have not been represented for over four to five years, not knowing who their representative was. This in itself serves to justify eliminating this SMD however this Council see fit. Many constituents of Ward 7A have gone as far as reaching out to its at-large representatives because of a lack of respectful responses to their concerns.

    B. The ANC allocation for SMD 7A07 could be eliminated thus, the District’s yearly allotment distribution could be lowered with this partial redistricting out of 7A07. More succinctly, community meetings have been non-existent for the residents of SMD 7A07 which is not the way to inform the community and for the community to reach out to its ANC SMD representative. ANC SMD 7A07 would better serve its constituency (known as “Twining”) as its residents could align themselves with seasoned and proven community-involved active 7A Commissioner who would follow-up constituent concerns within the SMD 7A07 boundaries which has been lacking for over five years.

    The District’s yearly allotment for 7A could be lowered with the redistricting of 7A07 moreover, a savings to the taxpayer.
    SMD 7A07 has had less than five or six residents come out to its monthly meetings in the last five years. Those who have not attended have stated that they did not know when or where meeting were and have asked what can be done when there is a representative, but their concerns have nobody to address them in the community setting.
    With these basic facts in itself, we would respectfully recommend that the portion of 7A07 on the most southern and western borders of Pennsylvania Avenue SE be redistricted to Ward 8 since its surroundings are in Ward 8.
    We would respectfully recommend that 7A03 by itself or 7XXX by itself or a combination of both could absorb 7A07 and save the District tax-paying dollars and increase service to its constituents.

  • Gregory Hemby

    I used to live in the Lincoln Park area of of Ward 6. This annexing should not happen now because our city council should have done it 20 years ago so that it could grow and develop together. It will not now. I would not like for the police to answer a --emergency-- from 7D vs. 1D or its sub-station on E Street.

    I'm a Southeast resident now--East of the River at that. I DO NOT FEEL THIS ANNEXATION in my heart. There is another way--find it Council.

  • DBrighthaupt

    1. I hope you don't feel Annexation. Because it is NOT an Annexation. Ward 8 would not make adjustments to be identified w/ that area. This area will become a part of Ward 8. Yall need to kill that Annexation mess now.

    Its SouthEast
    2. What in the hell is 'Near SE'? Do these people put nearSE on their return address labels? Is nearSE on their drivers licenses? Anything not to be called SE huh? And this is why Murphy's Law should bite the self-named nearSE'ers in the tail. Wake up call - you new residents over there live in SE --- You all do from E. Capitol St., through Capitol Hill, Cross Penn Ave., at Fragers' garden center on to The River; just as Ward 8 does from The River to Southern Ave.

  • DBrighthaupt

    Sir Rosenstein - You communicated the possibilities beautifully!

    Not 'Near Beautifully'. Absolutely, perfectly beautifully.

  • DBrighthaupt

    Ms. Sally & IMGoph - Yall ain't never lied...

    Mr. Jason - You touched on an earlier point I had. Since these outraged, suicidal residences seem to be heavily involved civically, they can seriously change the face of leadership in a Ward I perceive to only get involved once angered. Got a little story, wanna hear it? Here it go:

    There's a growing # of Sect 8 res on my block who don't know the dif between a roof & a home. I loathe sweeping the entire block of bottles, fastfood trash, condoms, drug bags ect. Even though its fairly clear in front of my house/in my yard, I sweep my block anyway. Why? Because the wind blows, the rain washes stuff to & fro, Kids discover the game Kick-The-Bottle - and fuckin' stop kickin' it when they get in front of my yard. So that trash eventually winds up my problem to deal with. sooner or later, I'll wind up having to pick up that tossed bottle. These voistrous gentrifying W6 SE'ers may want to look at it this way: Keep thinking you can ignore the trash over here - snub your noses at it from waaayyyy across that 1/12 of a mile River (merely walking distance for our looters, 2-bit hustlers & homeless:-)... It could wind up blowing in your faces |ummm your front Navy Yards. I mentioned this heat issue to CM Wells a couple of years ago; Developmental/Economic reasons were not on Marion's agenda at that time.

  • DBrighthaupt

    WCP, Did I say a bad word? My Bad. Anywho, a history lesson from a W8 Resident whom I seek to clarify 'how we got here' on such issues:

    How many CM Wells Groupees were actually in DC when my half of Fairlawn was -lol- 'annexed' to W8 from W6?

    "Its issues like this that.... unfortunately....the truth comes out. The irony is, 19 years ago, that area Marion wants for 8 was Ward 2. NOBODY wanted it because it housed the Arthur Capers projects and various other low-to-no income housing. It was a forgotten area in W2.
    Then 10 years ago a deal was cut to move that section of W2 to W6 and then the part east of the river that was in 6(Fairlawn) to Wards 7 & 8. Now,
    This was done under the idea that Fairlawn and Twining's shift to 7 & 8 so 6 could take the Navy Yard corridor. And [obviously] was shielded from any racial issues because it was basically a majority Black issue for another. But,
    The rub is, W6s'(Sharon Ambrose) knew she was getting a area that was going to move all those "undesirable" Black folks out, and by extension a easier path toward future elections. {me~ because she rarely came to our civic mtgs and community happenings over here)...

    Con't "...It will be interesting to see if there are any legal challenges should The Anacostia River remain a boundary between 6, 7&8."

  • January Capricorn

    Well, if this does happen the unemployment data for Ward 8 will be less. The only possible fallout will not be that the voters will move Barry out, it will have just the opposite effect. The uhaul trucks will be rented by an overwhelming neighborhood coalition.

    Let's be real, the concern that the new Eastern High School will have this big influx of white students next year, NOT. So, far the 350-plus incoming freshman class is predominantly AA, that says alot about Capitol Hill or does it?

  • Thomas Butler

    I live in Ward 4 and many of the ANC boundaries are drawn by class. An example, 4C ANC is huge and it starts over near Rock Church Road, NW and come North across 14th Street, NW up to Colorado Avenue, NW to Missouri Avenue, NW. However on Colorado Avenue, there's 3 different ANC's with 2 blocks (ANC 4A06, 4A07, 4C01). All of Colorado Avenue, NW should be in 4A ANC, not 4C ANC.

  • Southeast Ken

    I would rather be in Ward 6 than to be in Ward 7, represented by the blond Yvette Alexander.

  • PGirl

    "Don't make it about Marion Barry."

    Don't make me laugh. It has everything to do with Marion Barry.

  • meanteeth

    "It has everything to do with Marion Barry."

    When will the reporters and residents of DC get over making Marion Barry the big bad Boogey Man who is responsible for every single wrong thing in this city and start looking elsewhere? Could it be that there are actual, fixable issues in the city that could get remedied if everyone was accountable? Of course not-- it MUST be MB. The laundry list of what's wrong or unfixable in DC is much too long to hang on one man's doorstep.

  • QuoteMe

    As a border resident of Ward 7, I am greatly concerned that many people in the city are continuing to simply rely on the river as a natural boarder between the have's and have nots. It is frustrating to hear people talk about the changes their neighborhood has made recently and how they don't want to be held back by becoming Ward 7. Really? Your neighborhoods were just as bad a Ward 7 five years or so ago and the reason why you have been successful is not just because you got involved. Older residents have been involved for years to no avail. You just had someone (Wells) who finally listened. My area (Downtown Ward 7) is struggling to change and is fighting everyday against crime, these tacky vendors, and the overflow of Section 8 tenants discarded from the rest of the city. No one is listening. Some even seem to relish the fact that Ward 7 is willing to take the problem children which they cleverly call the 'low-income residents who need help'. Don't just assume that none of us care, we do and if we get more people who care, we can vote out the people who don't (Alexander) and get our fair share. IF the redistricting lines are allowed to follow the river, then the city will be annexing an entire side of the city, which they have done historically, but it is now time to stop.
    However, if Ward 7 does expand more into Ward 6, don't think that we are coming to you with our "hat in hand", because we think of you as the saving grace. We do acknowledge that you have been successful in accomplishing what we have been denied. Just understand that not everyone in Ward 7 is complacent. Get over yourselves.

  • Hillman


    I think 'Marion Barry' is short hand for the Marion Barry era mindset.

    It wasn't just Barry - it was the whole machine, and the way of thinking.

    The same things we've seen creep back with Vince Gray and Kwame Brown.

    The blatant nepotism. The class and race warfare. The refusal to admit the failures of 40 years of unending public welfare with no accountability.

    It wasn't just Barry. It was an army of his followers and protegees as well.

  • http://urbanplacesandspaces.blogspot.com Richard Layman

    DBrighthaupt, are you sure that 20 years ago, that part of SE was in W2? I know that where I lived, the part of the H St. neighborhood north of H Street and south of Florida Avenue was in W2, and of course, as well as the part of the ANC6C that is W6 now. Then again, it was a long time ago, and I can't say I remember.