Redistricting and Hill East: How You Can Weigh In

This week, the DC Council’s Subcommittee on Redistricting is holding two public hearings on plans to re-draw ward boundaries. One of the options being floated around the web would place the Hill East Waterfront (Reservation 13) in Ward 7. This is a bad idea with potentially negative consequences for our neighborhood. Before I go further, let me explain why Hill East is in the conversation.

The 2010 Census showed that DC gained population over the past decade. The city now has a population of around 601,000, up from 570,000. With this new data in hand, members of the redistricting subcommittee are tasked with ensuring that the city’s eight wards are within 5% of 75,215, the number you get when dividing the city’s total population by 8.  According to the 2010 Census, Ward 6 grew significantly in population over the past decade but not enough to require our ward to shrink.

However, three wards need to gain or lose population. Wards 7 & 8 have populations below the 5% threshold and must gain population while Ward 2 is above the 5% threshold and must shrink. Since Ward 2 is not contiguous to Wards 7 & 8, the only way for 7 and 8 to gain population is for their boundaries to expand west of the Anacostia River. Note that Ward 7 already includes the Kingman Park neighborhood and the northern half of RFK Stadium.

That is where Hill East and the Hill East Waterfront comes in. One of the scenarios being discussed (see Greater Greater Washington) would place the Hill East Waterfront (Reservation 13, the DC Jail and Congressional Cemetery) in Ward 7, effectively cutting off Hill East residents from the waterfront. Since the census counts inmates at the DC Jail and individuals residing at shelters at Reservation 13, there is enough population on the waterfront to allow Ward 7 to gain the population it needs to be back within the mandated 5% threshold.

While this idea makes the numbers work, it does not make sense from a policy and representation perspective. While we wait for waterfront development to begin, our neighborhoods are going to be the most affected by the continued aggregation of social services at the site. And when development does begin, the construction trucks, materials and noise will directly impact our blocks, not those across the river. To report problems, we would have to contact a Councilmember in a different ward who is unaccountable to us and more focused on issues affecting voting residents on his/her side of the river.

And while I’ve had no complaints about Congressional Cemetery (a real asset to our neighborhood) does it really make sense to separate the cemetery from the residents who use it, many on a daily basis?

I am strongly opposed to efforts to draw any portion of Hill East into another ward. Hill East is a part of the Capitol Hill neighborhood. Our waterfront will be the gateway to Capitol Hill from the East, hopefully sooner rather than later. It is critical that our entire neighborhood remains united with the rest of Capitol Hill in Ward 6.

I plan to share my views with the Subcommittee on Redistricting. The subcommittee is holding hearings today (Mon., April 25, 6:00 pm ET) and on Wed., April 27 at 10:00 am. You can view the proceedings on the DC Council website (click on Media, then on Watch Hearings Live, then select Room 500). The Wednesday hearing announcement (pdf) includes information on how you can submit a statement for the record.

Here are two other ways you can help:

  1. Write or call the three members of the Subcommittee on Redistricting and urge them to keep Hill East united in Ward 6. The subcommittee members are 1) Councilmember Michael Brown (I-At Large) – mbrown@dccouncil.us; 2) Councilmember Jack Evans (D-Ward 2) – jackevans@dccouncil.us; and  3) Councilmember Phil Mendelson (D-At Large) – pmendelson@dccouncil.us.
  2. Attend the Ward 6 Democrats Public Forum on Redistricting on Thursday, May 5, 7:00 pm – 8:30 pm at Friendship Charter School (1345 Potomac Avenue SE – across from Harris Teeter). All three of the subcommittee members have been invited.

I’ll continue to keep you posted. Thanks, in advance, for your help!

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9 Responses to Redistricting and Hill East: How You Can Weigh In

  1. shannon welch says:

    Thank you for your continued hard work on our behalf. Quick question before – draft my letter. What are the alternatives for the redistricting? I would rather have the jail go than barney circle for example if we have no choice and someone has to go
    Thanks, shannon

    • bflahaven says:

      Thanks for weighing in Shannon! The subcommittee could also consider expanding Ward 7 into Ward 5 as an alternative to Hill East. Ward 7 has a western boundary with Wards 5 and 6.

  2. fran and tom zaniello says:

    Brian: thanks so much for your full report on this. I live at 16 and D SE (close to Res. 13) and I strongly agree that Hill East should stay united. It would be so short sighted to give away our waterfront.

    I’ve been concerned that some of the neighborhoods close to Res. 13 would be included in the redistricting. What a terrible thing that would be for those of us who depend on our Zone 6 Parking Stickers, etc. But It sounds like none of the actual neighborhoods are included. True? My husband will come to the meeting next Thursday.

    • bflahaven says:

      Thanks Fran. While the Hill East waterfront has been the main focus, the subcommittee could ultimately decide to draw blocks west of 19th St. SE into Ward 7. That is why it is critical that residents weigh in with the message that Hill East should remain united in Ward 6.

  3. Thomas Riehle says:

    I just watched you excellent testimony on the DC Council’s Live Hearings channel online. You did yourself and ANC 6B proud. Congratulations on making such a good case for keeping Res 13 and Hill East in W6!

  4. Hi Brian: Thanks for explaining the situation so thoroughly and for looking out for Hill East! Can you tell us how much of Hill East would be affected–how far the annexation would extend and what streets would be the new ward boundaries? Thanks.

    • bflahaven says:

      Hello Jennifer,

      Thanks for the comment. Right now, most of the focus has been on the Hill East Waterfront Census Track (east of 19th St. SE, south of Potomac Ave. SE and east of 17th St. SE). This area includes Res. 13, the DC Jail, the homes on the southern side of the 1800 block of Potomac Ave. SE and Congressional Cemetery. However, the subcommittee could choose to go further west and grab portions or all of 6B10, 6B09 and 6B06. Ward 7 Councilmember Alexander has said she would like to see the Hill East waterfront and a portion of Pennsylvania Avenue in her ward. Bottom line: the ultimate decision is up to the subcommittee and the Council, so I wouldn’t rule anything out. That is why it is critical that residents weigh in with the subcommittee and urge them to keep all of Hill East united with Capitol Hill.

  5. Amy Wissler says:

    Brian,

    Thank you so much for representing us, and testifying against redistricting my block to Ward 7. I appreciate your efforts to blocking this. It sounds like a very bad idea for our block.

    Thank you,
    Amy
    17 & E Street SE

  6. Lauren says:

    Hi Brian,
    Thanks for all your work on this; my husband and I will be at the meeting tonight. A quick question: I haven’t seen any information about whether or how this would affect in-school boundaries. If we are redistricted into Ward 7, would we still be in-boundary for our current school in Ward 6? This is a huge issue for us, and I’d appreciate any information.
    Thanks very much,
    Lauren

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