Housing Complex

Ward Wars

To the barricades! (Nick DeSantis)

There’s a knock-down, drag-out fight inthe Wilson Building over redistricting, and politically active residents are incensed that they’ll be moved from one ward to another.

“For some, this may seem a logical, easy solution,” says a member of one affected Advisory Neighborhood Commission. “I call it racial gerrymandering and believe it is detrimental to east of the river and to the city as a whole.”

Faced with petition drives and squads of citizen lobbyists, councilmembers plead with residents to accept the changes, saying that political boundaries don’t have much of an impact on how most people live their lives.

“It is not the end of the world,” the D.C. Council chairman insists. “We will still have the same alliances. We will still have the same friendships… All of us need to be one D.C.”

That was 2001.

Then as now, the city was going through the Census-mandated process of redrawing its political boundaries, and Wards 7 and 8—having lost population in proportion to the rest of the city over the previous decade—needed to gain territory. Then-Council Chairwoman Linda Cropp saw the east-of-the-river pieces of Ward 6 as the most logical places to transfer, incensing residents who felt that having a ward span the Anacostia River was essential for the city’s civic life. They said the same thing ten years before that, in 1991, when then-Ward 6 Councilmember Harold Brazil raised a tidal wave of resistance to a plan that would absorb historic Anacostia into Ward 8. That time, he won.

In 2011, the most pitched battle is again on the banks of the Anacostia, with Ward 6 Councilmember Tommy Wells seeking to protect his southern and eastern flanks from encroachment by even more shrunken Wards 7 and 8. Current and former residents of Ward 6 have responded by mobbing community meetings and rallies and deluging members of the redistricting committee with calls and emails, demanding that greater Capitol Hill be kept together.

To hear them talk, ward boundaries are ten-foot-high brick walls over which residents can’t socialize, shop, or coordinate community activities. At a town hall a couple weeks ago, a woman who had moved to eastern Capitol Hill from Kingman Park—which was redistricted into Ward 7 last time around—started tearing up as she imagined the prospect of being kicked out of Club 6 yet again. “Nobody ever came to see us. We were left alone,” she said, of her time in Ward 7. “It’s so frustrating that you want to do that to us.”

This decennial anguish, of course, belies the fact that ward boundaries don’t actually mean much, unless you’re redrawing them. Historically, they’ve dictated residential parking zones, but the council is working to change that. According to Washington D.C. Association of Realtors president Suzanne Des Marais, there’s no discernable affect on property values from being in one ward or another. And meanwhile, the borders that really do matter—historic districts, police districts, and school districts—aren’t affected one bit.

So why does anyone care what ward they’re in?

Most fundamentally, it’s about the virtues of the person who represents you. That’s what you voted for, after all—unless, of course, you’re among the 78 percent of District residents who didn’t care enough about municipal representation to turn out for last September’s primary election, a figure low enough to raise the question of whether anyone cares what ward they’re in, or knows. D.C. is a city of neighborhoods, and that’s the main geographic layer residents identify with.

Still, your ward councilmember can be the ultimate level of appeal for disputes that need resolving, roads that need fixing, and taxes that need abating—constituent service, after all, is the lifeblood of local politics. (Naturally, councilmembers became a lot less useful when earmarks were banned).

Which means many of the arguments from Ward 6 residents for staying in Tommy territory had to do with how attentive he’s been to their daily needs, and how councilmembers Marion Barry or Yvette Alexander might be less eager to oblige.

“I call up Tommy three or four times, he gets it done like that,” one man told redistricting committee member Phil Mendelson at a community meeting. “Two or three days, no problem. Sell me on the services that I’m going to get from Ward 7.”

That’s fair enough. But Wells knows that his constituents’ loyalty—or their aversion to the alternatives—wouldn’t go far with those in charge of redrawing the map. After all, the answer to the complaint, “I don’t like my councilmember,” is the same no matter what ward you’re in: Work to vote them out. So along with parking issues, he asked them to keep their dislike for Barry or Alexander out of their lobbying, and focus instead on their feeling of togetherness. “I really think it’s who you identify with,” Wells said. “You don’t identify as being a suburb of that neighborhood. You identify as being contiguous with these neighborhoods.”

But what does that mean?

You identify with the places you shop and eat. Maybe you spend lots of time on Barracks Row and H Street, and would like to have some small measure of influence over how it develops, perhaps through activity on an ANC. But say you live 10 blocks away, and all of a sudden don’t belong to Ward 6. Will you all of a sudden be completely voiceless? Hyperlocal government should consider the views of those within a reasonable radius, even if their address isn’t on the right side of the line. If government agencies don’t, business and civic associations are much more forgiving.

You identify with the school your kids go to. Wells used the popular Eastern High School and Eliot Hine Middle School as rallying points, saying that the schools in Ward 6 had developed a unique working relationship with each other that would dissolve if they got booted off his turf. But no matter how the political lines get drawn, no voter’s kids will be forced to switch schools. Can Wells possibly have that much more influence than the school chancellor’s choice of principals, or the degree of parental involvement? And besides, shouldn’t clusters of schools be working across ward boundaries, anyway?

Perhaps your concern lies with something that isn’t built yet, like the 67-acre mixed-use neighborhood that’s supposed to rise on the site of D.C. General Hospital and the buildings around it. Residents of eastern Capitol Hill have pushed for development there for years, and fear all that work will be wasted if they’re suddenly no longer in the same ward. But whether development moves forward has much more to do with the priorities of the mayor and the guy who chairs the Committee on Economic Development, and attractiveness of the site for financing and tenants, than the ward councilmember; development follows the demographics of a neighborhood, and whether the people behind it think they can make money, not the politician who represents it.

Most of all, though, you identify with the people you say “hi” to on the street, the church you attend, the parks where you picnic, the friends’ houses you visit. As much as Wells has worked to foster a sense of community, those bonds know no ward boundaries—but they do tend break down more along racial and socioeconomic lines. And a lurking presence in every redistricting discussion is the degree to which people don’t want to have anything to do with the other people over there.

That means that like many disputes in D.C., there’s a race and class element to the ward fight—even if it doesn’t fall out the way many of them do. Gladys Mack, the ANC commissioner from Rosedale who is protesting the plan to put her district in Ward 7, admits this: She’s the only black person on the commission, and says that redistricting would put her mostly black constituents into an almost entirely black ward, which does nothing for racial understanding.

“We have a mixture. It’s not all one view,” she says, of her neighborhood. “Whites don’t learn from whites, blacks don’t learn from blacks. Poor don’t learn from poor, rich don’t learn from rich.”

If there is any positive value to havingdiverse groups in one ward, asking people on both sides of the river to work together can’t hurt. That’s what residents of Chevy Chase found out after being redistricted against their will from posh, white Ward 3 into predominantly middle-class, African American Ward 4, which is mostly on the other side of Rock Creek Park. ANC Commissioner Gary Thompson says it’s been “refreshing” to stretch past that historically inviolate social boundary. And despite the apocalyptic rhetoric of a decade ago, the only way to know which parts of the Barnaby Woods neighborhood are in Ward 3 or in Ward 4 while wandering the area is to look at whose campaign signs are posted.

The redistricting committee tried to build some connections, by putting enough of Ward 6 into Ward 7 that whoever represents Ward 7 won’t be able to ignore the turf west of the river. That seems like a better solution than annexing pieces of Ward 5, which have even more green space and fewer bridges to cross from one side of the river to another.

Still, those about to be redistricted are dead-set against it, despite Mendelson’s protestations that they shouldn’t be. Which raises the question: Should the line-drawers care? Should simply demonstrating a desire to be in one ward or another be enough to get you there, even if it’s based on affinity for a given councilmember, instead of more nebulous arguments about neighborhood cohesiveness?

Well, yes and no. After all, during redistricting, councilmembers get to choose whom they represent. In a democracy, people are supposed to be able to choose who represents them. Obviously, the law itself is a built-in check on redistricting-as-popularity-contest. The more people who move to a given ward, the more territory that ward will have to lose next time around.

Maybe instead of balancing wards as perfectly as possible, the committee should try to move as little territory as necessary to keep wards about the same population. Why split more people up from their elected officials than required by law? Equal representation is important, of course, but only to a point: Practically speaking, having more or less of a fraction of a councilmember’s attention matters a whole lot less than being suddenly represented by someone you never voted for.

But should the groups that come out and yell loudest to stay in one ward or another be obeyed? Not if they make arguments like the ones I heard most often during meeting after meeting after meeting. It’s nice to feel like part of the club, but in this case, membership matters a lot less than it seems.

Comments

  1. #1

    Interesting article. I am watching the live hearing on redistricting on Cable 13 channel. Race and class are factors in redistricting. As a Ward 7 resident, I don't blame the residents in Ward 6 not wanting to be in pig feet eating Yvette Alexander's Ward. I don't want to be a part of Ward 7 either.

  2. #2

    That many words, with (1.) No interviews with those who have testified at lo these many, many meetings to which you've subjected your sensitive sensibilities, and (2.) no analysis of the impact of Capitol Hill Parents Association over the past 7 years, and (3.) no effort to listen to those who say it makes sense to maximize the voices of those most impacted by Res 13 development in the next decade (those living nearby in Hill East). Weak beer. Not even investigating in a reporter-like way whether there is anything to this claim that Capitol Hill is different than other parts of the city in its recent track record of unified efforts by diverse constituents with a common goal? Easy to dismiss that (which is the argument I've heard most often and I've been to more meetings than you) if you just ignore it and assert it's not true. Harder to say that if you, uh, actually talked to the people who have been involved, and possibly learned something new, namely that W6 as currently constituted is special and something worth preserving. Lazy. Uninformed. Sorry to harsh on this article of which you are so proud you've tweeted it three time, but it might have been better with a little more work and a little less empty and presumptuous assertions about the motivations of others whom you have not stirred yourself to interact with and interview to learn whether there's a basis to what they say.

  3. #3

    @truly
    I notice your critique raises no more substantial criticisms re redistricting than did Alan's article.

  4. #4

    Whoops. Not Alan's article, rather Lydia's locutions.
    When all else fails, at least I'll have alliteration.

  5. #5

    @Trulee_Pist

    1) How can you tell I did no interviews?

    2) Is the Parents Association a ward-based organization?

    3) Don't the proposed map boundaries include most of the blocks closest to Res. 13 that will likely then be incorporated into their own ANC with Rosedale and Kingman park? And that the blocks *closest* to Res. 13 were actually carved out to keep Eliot-Hine and Eastern in Ward 6?

  6. #6

    I just finished watching Ward 2 resident Leory Thorpe testify before the Council of the District of Columbia. Leroy Thorpe have gained a lot of weight. I didn't recognize him. LOL

    The redistricting hearing is interesting to watch.

  7. #7

    A Ward 7 DC resident just went over her time limited and they cut the mick off. LOL

  8. #8

    limit, not limited

  9. #9

    How about experimenting with Ward 5 instead of Ward 6? You could just as easily shift Shaw to Ward 5 and Carver/Langston to Ward 7 and achieve the same population shift results. Ward 6 seems to work to the satisfaction of its residents, who have turned out in large numbers to protest CM Alexander's land grab and CM Evan's jackmandering. ANCs 6A, 6B, and 6C are the best examples of our new Choco-Vanilla Swirl City in action. I think they all function pretty well, so why mess with success?

  10. #10

    @CR; good point. I live in Hillcrest Ward 7 and I am currently represented by pig feet eating Yvette Alexander. I would prefer to be represented by anyone, with the exception to Marion Barry. Barry is an embarrassment to black DC voters and Washingtonians. Barry need to move back to his native Mississippi. LOL

  11. #11

    @lydia, i must have been too harsh, I didn't mean to call you out to have to respond on your own comments section. But your Q2 answers your Q1...if the Capitol Hill Public School Parents Association's Ward 6 Middle Schools Plan does not ring a bell, you did not ask anyone what's so darn special about W6 schools cooperation.

  12. #12

    If redistricting really does not matter, why is Jack Evans working so hard to manipulate the boundary downtown between Ward 2 and Ward 6. As Phil Mendelson told a Hill East community meeting May 31, Evans is acting in response to a request from a community association. Why is it OK to follow the dictates of downtown developers, but to ignore the requests of the Hill East community. Your article does not even discuss what an earlier comment referred to as "Jackmandering."

  13. #13

    The veiled racist language of the DC NEWBIES was indicative of the WRONG SIDE OF THE TRACKS MENTALITY ! The renaming of historic neighborhoods and stretching of true boundaries as shown on valid maps, not recently drawn by the gentrification realators and those who wish to Clorox the neighborhoods that have been African American under the guise of RHEEFORM is sick . THe newbies mentality and false arguments fueled by such demadogues as Ambrose( THE QUEEN OF MEAN), her puppet-Wells and JACK the KING OF CONFLICT OF INTREST tells the world that DC's TEA PARTY RACISTS are embodied in WELLS,AMBROSE and EVANS.THT REVOLUTION WILL NOT BE TELEVISED or TWITTERED !

  14. #14

    Well said, LDP - the noise for redistricting is out of whack to the actual importance of the issue.

  15. #15

    Can someone please call out the annoying Cap Hillers who claim that Capitol Hill is the entire area from the Capitol to the Anacostia and from the Ballpark to H Street? Is it just me or does anyone else not find that preposterous? I've lived here for about 10 years and when I would go to RFK, I would never say that I'm going to Cap Hill. Heck, even when I go to H Street, to Union Station, or even to Eastern Market I don't say I'm going to Cap Hill. Cap Hill stops at 8th Street.

  16. #16

    @Alex B.

    Don't be so quick to diminish the importance of redistricting. It allows Councilmembers to get rid of problems as well as political threats. A part of Ward 3 is now in Ward 4 because a strong candidate for the Ward 3 Council seat lived in the deaccessioned area.

  17. #17

    @Maeve

    I'm not saying redistricting isn't important. I am saying it isn't as important as the hyperbolic rhetoric would make it seem.

    Regarding your Ward 3/4 example - life has continued to go on there, yes? The sun still rose the next day, yes?

    Don't get me wrong, I have my quibbles about the process and the planned boundaries, but that doesn't change the need to redistrict or the mathematical necessity for Ward 7 and/or 8 to cross the river, and cross the river substantially.

  18. #18

    @trulee_pist - First off, I sincerely hope you are not one of the people leading the Capitol Hill Public Schools Parent Organization, your spelling/professionalism is appalling.

    After reading through your organization's site, it looksas though your organization is about improving schools on Capitol Hill not just Ward 6 therefore not making it a ward based organization. If a school or neighborhood is now classified as being in ward 7, why would you stop trying to improve it and make it a better place for the kids that attend the school? Students will not be switching schools as a result of this, so you and your organization can continue to improve Capitol Hill... not just ward 6 :)

    Is it because you only want schools in your ward to be good?

  19. #19

    I see your point abou this not being as big a deal as it is being made out to be, but you don't seem to be addressing the core point. People in the affected area don't want to be sent to Ward 7 because Alexander is incompetent and the political culture that put her in office isn't going to change any time soon and the Hill East votes aren't enough to change that. It's not as bad as the situation in Ward 8, but it's obviously bad. Maybe someone will run against Alexander and win (this was the Ward that elected the fully competent Vince Gray) but so far no strong candidate had emerged. So Hill East people will be stuck with the incompetent and borderline corrupt Alexander till at least 2017. I personally think that is a legitimate enough reason to object to being redistricted.

  20. #20

    @Trulee_dissed

    Thanks, I was just about to say that.

    @Reid

    I agree that not wanting to be represented by a given councilmember is a legitimate reason not to be redistricted into their ward. But almost noone is making that argument, because they know it would be completely ineffective, and most of the arguments they're offering instead don't add up (with the exception of the diversity bit, which I do think makes sense).

  21. #21

    Ward and ANC boundaries create turf that councilmembers and city agencies respect.

    City agencies and the zoning/liquor boards provide notice on projects and applications that fall within ANC boundaries, but never to nearby ANCs. Not only will Kingman Park, Rosedale, and Hill East be in a different ANC, but in a different Ward. It's not impossible to seek party status, but it will make participating in decision-making about Reservation 13 and improving instructional quality at Eastern HS and Eliot-Hine MS more difficult for those who remain in Ward 6. Once you do get party status, you still have to fight the uphill battle of "you don't even live in this Ward, so why should we listen to you." I've seen this play out with the Florida Ave Market and Hechinger Mall in Ward 5.

    The Eastern HS and Eliot-Hine MS concern relates to the fact that all the neighborhood feeder elementary schools remain in Ward 6. Last night CM Alexander said she would fight to move the Ward 7 boundaries to pick up the MS and HS schools since Ward 7 kids attend as out-of-boundary students. Think of the conflict this sets up if the rising tide of in-boundary elementary students from Ward 6 starts to reduce the number of OOB slots. Will the Ward 7 CM try to get the school boundaries changed now that the schools are in her ward? Do you think the Ward 7 CM is going to go to bat for parents and students from Ward 6? You can see how this makes parents with younger kids in Ward 6 public elementary nervous about the ultimate effect of redistricting.

    Redistricting doesn't physically move anyone or stop them from trying to improve their neighborhood, but it does make it more difficult in ways that people who have only been watching from the sidelines might not fully appreciate. I would think @lydia had been to enough hearings and meetings to understand how this all plays out in practice without reducing the phenomena to a reductio ad absurdum example about 10 foot walls.

    So, if boundaries really don't matter, then let them not matter between Wards 2, 5, and 7.

  22. #22

    I was a resident of the old Ward 4 which annexed Upper NW in 2002. "Splitting" Greater Chevy Chase was actually the best thing that happened politically for those residents. Immediately, those better organized neighborhoods shifted the center of gravity in the ward. Any Ward 4 council member ignores the wants and needs of these residents at their own risk. So since the first wards were drawn in the 70s, the areas to the West of Rock Creek have gone from having representation by one councilmember to three. That's exactly how it is supposed to work in a democracy. Being switched into Ward 7 is actually a sign of Capitol Hill's strength.

  23. #23

    I am starting to think people here NEED something to fight about or a reason to be unhappy. Something this minor only impacts your quality of life if you let it ... and as the article said most of the important boundaries and borders will remain intact. There are plenty of real issues in this dysfunctional city to be upset about, and this is not one of them.

  24. White daffodils and the bllue sky
    #24

    When I heard that the council went and consulted Sharon Ambrose in regards to keeping Eliot-Hines and Eastern in Ward 6, it almost made me gasps. They might as well have gotten a pyschic reader and channeled Hilda Mason, and seeked out her guidance as well.

    What I find so ironic that this group of Hill East and Capitol Hill are being so-ever polite. They don't give a darn about Eastern and Eliot. Remember Eastern High was in dire straights for over 10 years. The common denominator with all of that chaos is that Wells was either our school board representative or councilmember. This is when SSDD is accurate for the description of Eastern.

    Eastern has been suggested to give up the historical nickname "The Pride of Capitol Hill" and that came from those who live in Hill East. Capitol Hill residents are saying that the nickname is finally accurate. It's quite nice have those out there believing in the Ramblers [sarcasm]

    So, to all of that I wonder how is that Eastern never had to worry about a school population. If those who still reside on the Hill are feeling Eastern isn't worthy to be in Ward 6 until now, then why only show your love for "us" when it looked like you were going to lose-it. Someone was taking someone for granted, don't you think?

    I personally think that Eastern should be of the inventory of Ward 7. Right now, you have the Chairman, the Mayor and Council Member all DCPS products and all reside in Ward 7. Ward 7 has the most school aged children attending schools.

    Their Ward has been the most progressive with schools, new Woodson, new Chavez, new Kelly Miller, new Kipp, and Friendship Collegiate. Too keep the "new" tract why not have the new Eastern in the inventory of Ward 7." Remember Ward 6, you lobbied to close Hines to only now say we need to improve Eliot-Hines, duh rah???

    I heard a comment at the hearing last night about Capitol Hill has 3,000 school age children and they will eventually go to Eastern. Wow, let's break it down even more on how many Blacks, Whites, Hispanics and Asians of that 3,000 will make Eastern their choice. You'll see the trend now will be the trend for years to come. Actions speaks louder than words.

    It's all good to hear many chant that they want Eastern but how many have actually walked into Eastern and said to a student I want you to succeed and let me mentor you.

    As my grandmomma used to say "don't let your wants and needs fool ya" So, you want Eastern to remain in Ward 6 but you need to reach out Eastern while they are here in Ward 6.

    Just don't applaud our marching band and choir when they perform, it would appear more satisfying that you appease us with your presence in the edifice that is the "Pride of Capitol Hill."

  25. White daffodils and the blue sky
    #25

    I also forgot they have the new Sousa too.

  26. #26

    "you’re among the 78 percent of District residents who didn’t care enough about municipal representation to turn out for last September’s primary election, a figure low enough to raise the question of whether anyone cares what ward they’re in"
    FROM DC BOE website for the primary election so 63% not 78% didn't vote
    Election Day Turnout 137,586 37.14%

    one of the Rosedale residents testified that they had a 70 % voter turnout so apparently they do care.

    CM Alexander said everybody wants good schools but have her ward 7 residents done anything like what the ward 6 residents have done and do?

  27. #27

    @Shipsa1 - actually, Capitol Hill (aka Capitol Hill Historic District) stops at 13th Street - at the top of Lincoln Park.

    @white daffodils: "Right now, you have the Chairman, the Mayor and Council Member all DCPS products and all reside in Ward 7" - I'm sorry, but Vince, Kwame, and Yvette are all idiots of varying degrees. If this is the best that DCPS can do...and since when is the fact that those three are all from Ward 7 germane to anything?

    I live in Ward 6, far from the redistricting lines. My kids will not go to Eastern, in all likelihood, or DCPS past middle school for that matter. That said, I understand those opposed to moving to Ward 7, based on the councilmember representing them, and her utter failure to develop ward 7.

    @Dan - exactly.

  28. #28

    First of all, no issue in DC is as important as the noise be it pepco, welfare, or redistricting. Any seasoned DC native understands that inherently; however, the noise is the way to get heard and grow your constituency. No one gets press for taking mainstream even handed approaches to issues; it's a stupid expectation for someone from the press to claim that the issue is overblown. Every single one of a newspaper's headlines is overblown too.

    To imply that redistricting is unimportant (which the author does) because of the hysterics, does a disservice to the readership though and undermines the democratic process in DC. Redistricting does matter. Compare the commercial districts in Councilman Graham's ward to those in Capitol Hill, South Anacostia, and North Anacostia. You start to get a feel for how an individual Councilman can encourage and grease the wheels of DCRA to their constituents priorities. Barry can't get someone to fill the commercial districts in his ward, because everyone knows it's a shakedown. People are clamoring for tighter bar ratio restrictions because of the slum that Graham has created in Adam's Morgan.

    I'm really disappointed in the author's take on the issue.

  29. #29

    @Shipsa1: I live in Hill East. Every single person who lives here considers ourselves to live on Capitol Hill, including those who have lived here a lot longer than you or I. Hill East is a portion of the Hill. It grew out of the older section of the Hill in the 1920's, spurred by new streetcar lines.

    Now, it is true, as civic life deteriorated in DC, what "the Hill" is shrank, according to those in the newer sections, but my neighbors here in Hill East never stopped considering themselves Hill residents.

  30. #30

    "the borders that really do matter—historic districts, police districts, and school districts—aren’t affected one bit."

    Overstatement much? Police lines have been redrawn in the past to reflect Ward lines. Not sure, but wouldn't be surprised to see school lines do the same. Historic districts have to go through ANCs. If the Capitol Hill Historic district continues to expand -- and/or Rosedale seeks it own, does the Ward 7 Councilmember now have a say and do the Ward 6 ANCs no longer have the ability to include the eastern parts of the neighborhood?

    Stop being so damn snarky and try a serious take. You have a column, but are doing cheap criticism rather than adding to the discourse.

  31. #31

    I'm disappointed in the author's take as well. I get the sense that this issue is not important to HER, and therefore is not that important in general and people should just stop whining and care about the true injustices of the world. But if she was going to be redistricted I'm sure she'd be pissed as hell...

    On to more pressing issues - why is this specifc redistricting plan upsetting for those in Ward 6? Lots of reasons. One - giving control of Res 13 to a councilmember who lives quite far away and will not have to deal with the day-to-day problems of it being a social service catch-all. On a related note, I don't trust she will listen to the opinions of the people who live right around the area should it actually ever get to the point where they might pick a developer a she'd rather appease the rest of her voting base who live far away. Two, the vast majority of this CM's voter base will live on the other side of a wide river, thus marginalizing her voters in Hilleast (ie she won't give a crap about them as they are only 5% of her voters). Three, CM Alexander does not live, shop, work, etc in the same neighborhoods that HillEasters do - namely Barracks Row, etc - and will therefore not care about those areas. Four, the schools are tremendously influenced by the CM, so yes there is absolutely an argument that having a diffferent CM with "control" over the local high school is problematic. Five, its hard enough getting one damn CM to respond to issues, can you imagine trying to get TWO of them to respond and, gasp, cooperate on an issue? And six - like it or not, the CM has looooots of control over the government services that each Ward gets. So yes - who your CM is absolutely matters.

    Finally, Lydia, do you really think the complaints are that "nebulous"? Have you not listened to anything that people from Kingman Park have been saying? It would be one thing if they were a happy bunch, and we could look at them and say "hey, an experiment that worked!". But they are miserable and want back into Ward 6. That's all the argument you need to hear to understand that the experiment failed.

  32. #32

    @Alex B - "and cross the river substantially" - WRONG. there was absolutely no reason to move as many people into Ward 7 as they did. Technically Ward 7 only needed 400 some odd people to be in compliance "mathematically". They went way above what was necessary. They also ignored the requirements of the law to try and avoid splitting census tracts (they split 4 - again, unnecessarily). Did they need to make some changes? Mostly yes (but as many others have pointed out, it would not have been illegal for them to ignore the 5% requirement), but they did not have to be such sweeping changes, and they did not have to be so tone-deaf to the populace. Oh, and where was Ward 5 in all this? Yes, it was completely logical/rational/equitable to take ONLY from ward 6 (i'm being snarky, if its not obvious). I'm sure the rumors about backroom deals with Thomas not to touch his ward are really just rumors...

  33. #33

    Tim: But I live closer to Cap Hill than people past Potomac Avenue and I live in Mt. Vernon Square. It would be like if Georgetown started at Washington Circle and ended at the Cathedral.

    I'll listen to Rake and extend the border to Lincoln Park - but (to me) this idea that East of 13th is part of Cap Hill is absurd.

    I know there is 0 (ZERO!) appetite for this next statement, but I wouldn't be surprised if come 2020, Ward 7 is extended over to 13th Street as Ward 6 is going to continue to grow - but in the neighborhoods of Shaw, MVS, Swampoodle and H Street, and Wards 7 and 8 could shrink.

  34. #34

    @Shipsa01 - i'm confused. Do you mean you live closer to the Capitol (as in, the building itself) than people in HillEast? I don't think the Capitol Hill "neighborhood" is strictly defined by the Capitol building itself.

    Regardless, you could say that about any street that is on the border of one neighborhood - people who live in Gallery Place/Judiciary Sq are technically "closer" to the Capitol than people who live on 8th st SE but I would never say that means people who live on 8th St don't live on Capitol Hill.

    More importantly - I would wager that people who live in Hill East patronize Capitol Hill stores more frequently than you and your neighbors in Mt. Vernon Sq come to the hill (unless you work on the hill).

  35. #35

    "Historically, they’ve dictated residential parking zones, but the council is working to change that."

    Tell that to Kingman Park. It's been 10 years.

  36. #36

    Anyone who claims not to understand why this is a big deal to us is either not trying, or is hideously obtuse. The DC Jail, the methadone/STD clinics, the homeless shelters, and the Stadium/Armory are all in Hill East, and all affect the surrounding neighborhood substantially. These factors are also, relatively speaking, unique to this area in this redistricting go-round. We don't want a tiny sliver of our area encompassing those issues to be represented by someone who, with the vast majority of their constituents, lives across the river and insulated from those neighborhood effects.

    It's not rocket science. The author and many of the comments are engaging in plain old fashioned NIMBYism. In this case, since it's not your backyard, STFU about it unless you have something constructive to add. "You shouldn't care" is about the most useless and stupid thing you could possibly say, except for maybe the 10-foot high walls comment, or some of Mendelson's crap.

    If redistricting didn't matter, IT WOULD NOT BE HAPPENING.

  37. #37

    As a resident Ward 7, I find Yvette Alexander to be completely ineffective. She is lazy and unprepared. She refuse to do her homework on very important budgetary issues. She lacks the mental ability to compete on an intellectual level with the likes of a David Catania. Hopefully, she will be booted from office next year or the people east of the river will politically suffer. I usually stand up for black leaders because I know the history of this city.But, Mrs. Alexander has spent majority of her time in office undermining other black people. All she does is engage in silly gossip.

  38. #38

    still LOL@ these people protesting!

    1. It will destroy the fabric of the neighborhood and sense of community we established...blah blah blah

    2. We don't want that woman as our Ward rep..blah blah blah

    Sooner or later the real truth will come out....

    and blah blah blah

  39. White daffodils and the blue sky
    #39

    What has Ward 6 done but berated the interim Chancellor with a plan that she's reluctantly said she would adopt. Okay, let me say that is worth just as much as her longevity. Does one remember the former Superintendent Janey's plan for Eastern? Huh! That was adopted by Tommy Wells and Capitol Hill Crew too and that left in middle of the night with Janey. Yet, Ward 7 plans were being crafted, enacted, approved and realized. See, when people are saying that Ward 7 is not progressive enough in education, that just means that they have not diversified enough. All those new schools in Ward 7 that include Kipp and Friendship as well are all educating a predominantly AA student body. Ward 6 can't figure out how to keep the clan together.

  40. #40

    And what, SEis4ME, is the "Real issue"? I say that somewhat rhetorically, since I know what your answer will be, but please, enlighten the rest of the commentariat not as familiar with One Citidiots as I.

  41. Read Scott Martin, 1300 A NE
    #41

    @Trulee Pist - Do tell a Hill parent of public school kids in Ward 6 for 16 years "what is so special" (your words) about our parent-school cooperation and concern, compared with concerned parents and neighbors in other wards and schools. At quality schools in three wards which our brood attended, I confess I haven't seen the difference except for homegrown incivility:

    "no interviews... no analysis... no effort... I've been to more meetings than you... lazy... uninformed... empty... presumptuous..."

    Are you God, or just Ted Williams, of whom it was said "Gods don't answer letters." Nor sign their names? I mean, how polite would that be? We might actually make our points without swinging a crowbar.

  42. #42

    @Rake, uhm..I don't know what the real answer is. But clearly, it's much ado about something..the root of which only those involved know.

  43. #43

    Hmm, so you don't know the real issue, but are certain it isn't the two you describe in your post above - funny logic, if you can call it that. Thanks for the laugh.

  44. #44

    @CR gets it.

    Ward boundaries make a difference.
    Rivers define neighborhoods and there is no way that the western and eastern sides of the Anacostia at Hill East share the same "neighborhood".
    Schools define neighborhoods too.

    Councilmembers make a difference. And Tommy Wells really does get the "Livable, Walkable" concept.

    Moving Hill East and Res 13 "across the River" for political representation really does separate them from their neighborhood when it comes to getting represented on neighborhood issues.

    What is important to Evans is how to keep development funding/clout in Ward 2 and not piss off every other councilmember. He has mostly succeeded by taking the 3000 people in the DC Jail and Correctional Treatment Center and moving them to Ward 7.

    If this census tract was split to include only the Jail and CTF footprint, then the Ward 6 opposition would probably die down. But as a resident of Ward 6 equidistant from the river and the Capitol I have a big stake in what happens to the east. I want a livable, walkable, community with good neighborhood schools (so I don't need to go to three different wards to get a decent, public education in DC) and development on Res 13 that fits with what the near neighbors want. The river is a really does define separate neighborhoods. The difference between last round's Ward 4 Chevy Chase redistricting event and this year's model is that the 3000 people in custody in the corrections department will not be active politically and the CM won't need to represent them any more than they already do. Unlike Ward 4 where enough folks were moved to make a difference, the goal in this ward shaft is to minimize the disruption to the comfortable CMs and only screw a small set of voters -- the Hill Easters who live west of the jail.

  45. #45

    No matter the talent or ability of anyone who serves as Ward 7 Councilmember, that person will have little to no reason to pay attention to a handful of orphan blocks separated from the bulk of her ward by a river with few pedestrian- or bicycle-friendly crossings. To say so is to do nothing more than state simple political reality --- the wishes of the 69,000 constituents east of the river will always trump those of the 9,000 west of it. The physical barrier created by the Anacostia is exacerbated by the conditions on either side of the river. The east bank of the river features an underused park separated from adjacent neighborhoods by an Interstate highway that is a relic of discredited urban design and transportation policies from the last century. The west bank of the river features a jail, a derelict stadium surrounded by acres of decaying surface parking lots and a crumbling DC government facility that is also surrounded by acres decaying surface parking lots (Reservation 13). Simply put, the City has for decades underinvested and ignored both sides of the Anacostia River and this redistricting plan will probably exacerbate that neglect.

    I am especially concerned that placing Reservation 13 in Ward 7 will ensure that Reservation 13 remains a drain on the District Government budget rather than a vibrant, tax-producing neighborhood. Even though I walk to and from my house and the south entrance of the Stadium-Armory Metro Station every day (the blocks closest to Reservation 13 are placed in Ward 7 btw), the lost opportunity of Reservation 13 never ceases to amaze me. It makes little sense to have invested billions of dollars in Metrorail only to have a collection of crumbling buildings, a decaying parking lot, a storage area for DC Government vehicles and a dumping ground for snow from other neighborhoods immediately next to the entrance of a subway station served by two (soon to be three) high-frequency subway lines. (It’s been over 30 years since the Stadium-Armory Metro Station opened and I think at least a decade since the District was given full control of Reservation 13 --- imagine what Arlington County would have done with Reservation 13 in that amount of time!!) My concern grows when I read that Mayor Gray has publicly stated that Reservation 13 is not even on his radar screen -- he apparently prefers to push for automobile-centric big box developments that do nothing to leverage our investment in transit.

    In general, I agree that ward boundaries are not that important. However, in the case of Reservation 13, I am truly worried that the proposed redistricting plan will ensure that instead of a vibrant, mixed-use neighborhood next to my Metro station, it will continue to have methadone clinics and a gargantuan surface parking lot as its immediate neighbors.

  46. #46

    @Ms DePhillis

    "I agree that not wanting to be represented by a given councilmember is a legitimate reason not to be redistricted into their ward. But almost noone is making that argument, because they know it would be completely ineffective..."

    Right, but the premise of your article is that all this protest is over nothing. I agree, no one is making the above argument because it *would* be ineffective. But nevertheless it's a huge deal. Wells is probably the most responsive politician I've ever dealt with. And as someone with no Congressional representation, he's pretty much it as far as constituent services go (Eleanor Holmes Norton is pretty much useless on this score).

    In a city where things don't often go very smoothly, and where it's easy to get caught in a Kafkaian nightmare of bureaucracy, constituent services are big.

  47. #47

    What Oboe said. The issue with redistricting is that those close to Res. 13 would trade the best representative to the second-worst. But we can't use that argument, so there is no argument. Catch-22 at its best and worst.

  48. Kingman Park Resident
    #48

    @Red & Mark: you are both abosulely correct.

    As a Kingman Park Resident almost 10 years now, I have felt like a step child. Vinny only came around for votes and Yvette ignored us completely! It is sad but true. Ask any Kingman Park Resident!

    We can go one block and get a ticket because of the zone parking...not fair at all.

    But let me be clear its bigger than parking.

    In Kingman Park we feel like step children. I compare this to the "stepchild syndrome" : will not and can not function as does a natural family. It has its own special state of dynamics and behaviors.Imagine being separated from your family and then placed with another family that do not like or respect you! What an awful feeling!

    During this redistricting process we only wanted to be treated fair and just.....we still want to go back to Ward 6! That is the truth of the matter!

    This is just my take on things! Others in Kingman Park feels the same way!

  49. MadWard7Resident
    #49

    @ Reid

    Trust and Believe that CM Yvette Pig Feet Alexander will
    be gone next election cycle! We are Mad as He77 with Alexander! Check out some of the listserves and blogs!

    As Ward 7 residents we will take care of Vinny, Kwame and Vette! Their political careers are done!

  50. #50

    If, as posited in this op-ed, ward boundaries don't matter much, then why is MB all worked up about not getting Near Southeast? Obviously, these boundaries do matter in terms of money, power, and influence. Plus, our ward system of organization and representation is all we have (no state, no fed), so of course folks are going to take their membership in the "club", our only sphere of real citizen influence, seriously.

  51. #51

    I watched a good portion of the June 1 Council hearing on redistricting. I was surprised and some what disappointed by the comments and questions offered by Yvette Alexander. Does this person not understand the need to speak in coherent sentences? Does she not understand the need to listen and not form questions based on what she thought she might have heard rather than what was actually said? Does she not know how to hide her disinterest in testimony which may require to give a little thought to what is being said?

    I can now understand why the residents of Ward 6 fear going to Ward 7 with her as the councilmember and I can understand why Ward 7 residents wish she would go. Too bad--Ward 7 and DC deserve better than her!

  52. #52

    Why does nobody mention the fact that the new river-west residents of Ward 7 could only have to deal with Alexander for, like, a year or so? She's up for re-election in 2012, so why not talk about working to get a better candidate elected?

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