It was a looooooong evening at the John A. Wilson Building last night as the DC Council’s Subcommittee on Redistricting heard from nearly 100 witnesses on its proposed plan. The hearing adjourned at 1:15 am and I got home around 2:00 am.
The big takeaway: Subcommittee members said that adjustments to the map are likely. This means we still have an opportunity to influence the final map and, hopefully, reduce the damage being done to our neighborhood.
We had a great group of witnesses from Hill East – Amy, Tim, Nikki, Ellen, James, Brynn, Adam, Patrick and others. I’m especially grateful for the folks who waited 5+ hours to testify. The last panel – which began at 1:00 am – was one of the night’s best.
Here are a few highlights:
- In addition to Councilmembers Michael Brown, Jack Evans and Phil Mendelson, a number of other Councilmembers participated in the hearing. Kudos to Ward 6 Councilmember Tommy Wells for staying the entire time and for highlighting the inconsistencies in the subcommittee plan. Ward 7 Councilmember Yvette Alexander, Ward 8 Councilmember Marion Barry and Ward 1 Councilmember Jim Graham also participated in the hearing.
- I was also impressed that Ward 7 Councilmember Yvette Alexander stayed at the hearing until the very end. Unfortunately, she was absent during my panel …I was looking forward to her questions. Councilmember Alexander said numerous times that she wants Eastern High and Eliot-Hine drawn back into Ward 7.
- I was on the fourth panel with my 6B colleague Commissioner Francis Campbell and Hill East resident Brynn Barnett. I was disappointed that Councilmembers Brown, Mendelson and Evans did not ask us any questions. Fortunately, Councilmember Wells helped us highlight how the subcommittee’s plans valued other neighborhoods over Capitol Hill and Hill East.
- Commissioner Campbell, still recovering from surgery, did a great job in his testimony of talking about how residents have worked for years to build a strong community in Hill East. He also elicited an apology from the subcommittee for referring to him as “Ms. Campbell” in their report. I’m also grateful that Commissioner Brian Pate (6B05) stuck around until 1:00 am to testify on behalf of our neighborhood.
- Of the subcommittee members, Councilmembers Evans and Mendelson asked the most questions. Councilmember Michael Brown stayed relatively quiet throughout the night, though he did say that “he takes pride in knowing that the plan represents the largest western expansion of an east of the river ward” on a couple of occasions.
- Not surprisingly, Councilmember Mendelson continued to be the strongest advocate for the 17th Street boundary. Arguments that the boundary cuts through four of the most diverse census tracts on Capitol Hill did not seem to have much sway with him. He also continued to dismiss the argument that redistricting is unnecessary based on the DC Code’s exception for natural geography and neighborhood cohesiveness also did not move him.
- Schools were discussed quite a bit. Councilmember Alexander said more than half of the current students at Eastern High School are Ward 7 residents. Witnesses responded that in the future, most students at Eastern High will live in Ward 6. Councilmember Wells also noted Ward 6 school initiatives and, while acknowledging that school boundaries do not change with ward boundaries, highlighted the collaborative school efforts happening at the ward level (ex. Ward 6 middle schools plan).
- There were a few witnesses from wards untouched by the plan who asked the subcommittee to make changes so that their neighborhoods could be reunited in one ward. Many made the same arguments we have been making, such as geographic barriers, political isolation and lack of a voice in economic development directly affecting their area.
The DC Council is scheduled to vote on the map next Tuesday, June 7. Please continue to make calls and send e-mails to all the DC Councilmembers, particularly our At-Large Councilmembers. Let’s continue to fight as hard as we can to keep our neighborhood united in one ward.
Thanks for all of your help!