ANC Redistricting: Task Force Makes Major Changes to ANC 6B Boundaries

Last week, the Ward 6 Redistricting Task Force met twice to finalize their recommendations on ANC boundaries for Ward 6. On Monday, Sept. 19, on a divided 5-4 vote (1 abstention), the task force approved a major and controversial change to ANC 6B. The new plan moves 1,275 6B residents who live between First Street SE, East Capitol Street SE, 8th Street SE and Independence Avenue SE into ANC 6C, a primarily Northeast commission centered around Union Station and the NoMa neighborhood. Despite receiving an online petition with signatures of more than 200 residents, the task force voted again 5-4 to keep the controversial plan during their Thursday, Sept. 22 meeting.

Prior to Thursday’s vote, I wrote the task force and urged them to return to their “status quo” plan, a plan they unanimously approved in August. You can read the full text of my statement below. My main concern with the new plan is that emphasizes numbers over neighborhoods. The plan prioritizes ANC 6C’s desire for 7 commissioners over the wishes of affected residents, who clearly will be worse off. Many of the affected residents can see Eastern Market from their front door, yet will have no voice in issues affecting the market. This is wrong.

Since they approved an entirely new plan, the task force was forced to re-draw all the ANC 6B single member district (SMD) boundaries to fit the commission’s new population. View the proposed 6B SMD boundaries. Thanks to a last minute amendment that kept the Barney Circle neighborhood whole, the boundaries of my single member district changed very little (though I would now live in 6b10). However, the task force did draw current ANC 6B Chair Neil Glick into 6B10 as well, setting up a potential race between current commissioners. In addition, four other commissioners were drawn into the same single member districts.

The task force will meet for a final time tonight (Mon., Sept. 26) from 6:30 pm – 8:30 pm at 1100 4th Street SW, Second Floor  to finalize their plan. My sense is that the task force meeting will not include an opportunity for public comment. I plan on attending and tweeting the meeting.

Note that the task force will submit their plan to Ward 6 Councilmember Tommy Wells, who will ultimately have the final say on the ANC boundaries.

My Sept. 22 Statement to the Ward 6 Redistricting Task Force

Ward 6 Redistricting Task Force members,

I’m writing to urge you to re-consider the major change you made to the redistricting plan on Monday, Sept. 19 and to support the status quo plan you unanimously approved in August. Unfortunately, I’m out of town for work this week and will be unable to attend tonight’s meeting.

Before I outline my concerns about your new plan, I do want to thank you for agreeing to serve on the task force and for the thoughtfulness you’ve brought to a difficult process. Serving on this task force is a thankless task…but I want to thank you for stepping up to serve and for the time and effort each of you have put in.

I am disappointed that a majority of the task force has put “numbers” before “neighborhoods” by moving 1275 residents from ANC 6B to ANC 6C in the new plan. The arguments for why this change is needed remind me of the arguments we in Hill East heard from the ward redistricting task force earlier this year, such as “we need to equalize the size of the wards” and “it doesn’t matter which ward you are in.” I strongly disagreed with these arguments during the ward redistricting process, and I strongly disagree with them now in the ANC redistricting process.

ANC 6C supported adding their three westernmost SMDs to 2C “because of constituents’ similar interests and issues as NoMa and North Capitol corridor development continue to move through their neighborhood.” I’m glad that 6C and the task force listened to residents who agreed that this change made sense.

However, ANC 6C’s argument in favor of adding a portion of 6B goes against the same argument they made for attaching their 3 westernmost SMDs to 2C. The 1275 residents who live south of East Capitol Street have much more in common with rest of the constituents in 6B and issues related to Eastern Market and the Hine development that directly affect their neighborhood. As I’ve said over and over again, where possible, residents should be in ANCs with their primary commercial corridors. NoMa is not the primary commerical corridor of the affected residents.

I respectfully, but strongly, disagree with Task Force Chair Fengler’s belief that residents should not be in the same ANC as their commerical corridors. If this is the case, why do ANC’s matter at all? The primary powers of ANCs relate to liquor license requests, voluntary agreements and zoning cases. The 1,275 residents who are moved from 6B to 6C will have not have a voice in the liquor license requests or zoning cases around Eastern Market and Hine, though they will be directly affected by those developments.

And the historic district argument is also a weak argument. About 1/2 of ANC 6B is in the Capitol Hill Historic District. What value do the affected residents receive for being grouped with another portion of the same historic district? No value, in my opinion.

The only rationale for moving 1275 from 6B to 6C is to make the “numbers work” and to de-prioritize the views and best interest of the affected residents. This is a bad idea…and an idea I thought was dismissed when the Rice/Fengler plan failed to gain any traction with the task force in August.

One final point: we also argued during ward redistricting that it was unwise to move large numbers of people and disrupt their representation when it was totally unnecessary. The same can be said of the ANC redistricting process. The task force’s new plan not only moves 1275 unnecessarily, it also means a massive redrawing of ANC 6B SMDs with little time to gauge community input or thoughts about the new district lines. Why disrupt so many residents when you have a stronger “status quo” plan that keeps neighborhoods grouped in the same commission areas?

Again, I encourage you to re-consider your new plan and to return to the status quo plan.

Thanks again for your time and consideration,

Brian

Brian Flahaven
Commissioner, ANC 6B09

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