After a contentious hearing, the DC Council Subcommittee on Redistricting voted 3-0 yesterday to support their proposed new ward boundaries. In addition to Councilmembers Michael Brown, Jack Evans and Phil Mendelson, Councilmembers Tommy Wells (Ward 6), Marion Barry (Ward 8), Harry Thomas, Jr. (Ward 5), Yvette Alexander (Ward 6) and Muriel Bowser (Ward 4) attended. Plenty of media attended the hearing, including NBC 4. Here are the highlights:
- Councilmember Michael Brown, one of the co-chairs of the committee, read a significant portion of the committee’s report. He and Councilmember Phil Mendelson dismissed concerns of Hill East, claiming that all of our arguments could be made by other neighborhoods.
- Councilmember Mendelson once again said that Hill East would not be divided by the plan, that ward boundaries do not divide neighborhoods. He also said that Ward 7 would have 12% of its population west of the river, a large enough percentage (in his mind) to ensure that the area could not be ignored.
- After receiving an e-mail from one of his key constituents on Tuesday night, Councilmember Jack Evans introduced an amendment to slightly shift the new ward boundaries between Ward 2 & 6. Councilmember Wells noted that Evans was willing to shift boundaries after hearing from one of his constituents but was unwilling to listen to the thousands of calls and e-mails from Capitol Hill. Wells also questioned the integrity of a process that allowed a Ward Councilmember affected by redistricting to sit on the redistricting subcommittee. The subcommittee voted to support the Evans amendment.
- Councilmember Wells also blasted the redistricting subcommittee for allowing Councilmember Evans to gerrymander the new ward boundary between Wards 2 and 6. Wells pointed to a carve out for the convention center in particular. Evans responded that no one worked harder for the convention center than he did so it should be in his ward. I guess he gets the convention center but Hill East residents who have worked hard for more than a decade on Reservation 13 lose out. Unbelievable.
- Wells also noted that the subcommittee report did not specifically address resolutions passed by the four Ward 6 ANCs, as is required by DC law. He questioned the committee’s legal counsel as to whether the report could be voted on without this requirement. Ultimately, the committee decided to approve the plan anyway with the expectation that responses to the ANC resolutions would be added to the report at a later date.
- Ward 8 Councilmember Marion Barry said he was disappointed that the subcommittee did not extend Ward 8 into near Southeast. He threatened to file a lawsuit, citing that the plan continued the “segregation of Ward 8.”
- Ward 5 Councilmember Harry Thomas defended Councilmember Evans and the rest of the subcommittee and indirectly alluded to the fact that he believes that Ward 6’s redistricting concerns are related to race. Of course, Ward 5 was not asked to give up any area in the plan despite the fact it shares boundaries with two of the three wards that had to change.
- Ward 7 Councilmember Yvette Alexander also thanked the committee for its work and said that sometimes you have to “force people to do what they don’t want to do.” She also said that she would be reaching out to all of her new constituents under the plan.
- Ward 4 Councilmember Muriel Bowser thanked the committee for their work and noted that ten years ago the Chevy Chase neighborhood was divided between Wards 3 & 4 and everything is great now. Swell. Ward 4 was not touched in the plan.
- The hearing ended with a shouting match between Councilmembers Michael Brown and Marion Barry. At one point, Councilmember Mendelson turned off Barry’s microphone and ultimately, the subcommittee voted 3-0 to support the plan while Barry continued to talk.
Thanks to everyone who turned out for yesterday’s hearing – it was great to have a large number of Hill East residents in the audience. The next redistricting hearing will be Wed., June 1, 6:00 pm in Room 500 of the Wilson Building (1350 Pennsylvania Avenue NW). If you would like to testify…and I encourage as many of you as possible to do so…e-mail Carol Sadler at firstname.lastname@example.org.