24 May 2011

Op-Ed With Tommy Wells: Redistricting

Every 10 years our nation redraws political boundaries based on the latest U.S. Census results. Here in the District of Columbia, redistricting is well underway—and the stakes are high. My position on redistricting is firm: Ward 6 boundaries should remain intact, with the exception of bringing Kingman Park back into our ward.

Based on the census data, Wards 7 and 8 have lost population and need to add residents by expanding their boundaries, while Ward 2 has gained population and therefore must reduce the area it covers. Because Wards 5 and 6—as well as a small portion of Ward 2 next to Hains Point—share boundaries with the Wards that need to expand, they are the focus of efforts to add residents to Wards 7 and 8.

Councilmembers Michael A. Brown, Jack Evans and Phil Mendelson lead the committee charged with producing a redistricting plan. They are close to completion and it appears to me they will recommend a substantial change to Ward 6.

At nearly a dozen community meetings on these potential changes, I’ve listened to Ward 6 residents express fervent opposition to altering our boundaries. I’ve been impressed by the way neighbors are rallying around our ward’s sense of community and participation in our civic life. Their concerns aren’t about parking permits; they’re interested in keeping together the fabric of our neighborhoods.

At one meeting last week, I was told a likely proposed Ward 6 boundary may be 17th Street—both northeast and southeast. Lopping of the entire eastern edge of Ward 6 would do great harm to the neighborhood and the way in which residents work with their ANCs, civic associations and the larger ward community.

A prime example would be placing Eastern High School and Eliot-Hine Middle School in Ward 7. While that would not change the school boundaries for students, it would undermine the years of planning that our community has invested in developing successful Ward 6 elementary schools and a new Ward 6 middle school plan. Ward 6 families have worked together to develop programming and a curriculum that will challenge the next generation of students attending Eastern High School—“The Pride of Capitol Hill.” By moving Eastern and Eliot-Hine to Ward 7, our community and ward leaders will have dramatically diminished influence over the future of these schools.

Another example would be carving out a small portion of Hill East and isolating it within a larger ANC that shares no connection with the neighborhood—much the way Kingman Park has been isolated within its Ward 7 ANC. ANCs review our alcohol and licensure applications and zoning changes, and they play a critical role in community-based development and negotiations. Isolating a single-member ANC district inhibits its Commissioner’s ability to create working partnerships and a shared vision within the larger ANC based on common neighborhood priorities.

Be assured that if the redistricting committee recommends changes that harm the deep-rooted communities that Ward 6 has worked so hard to sustain, I will do everything in my power to fight back. And I know I can count on our committed residents and leaders to stand with me in support of our neighbors.

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11 responses to “Op-Ed With Tommy Wells: Redistricting”

  1. This is right on point. I encourage everyone to sign the petition on this and spread the word. We have a few key days here to influence the shape of the map that is voted on this Thursday.


  2. Noel says:

    Good work, Tommy. Keep it up. Isn’t there a “Keep Ward 6 Together” rally in Lincoln Park scheduled for Tuesday (today!) at 5:45? I may have to skip my workout to make that. Everyone else should as well.

  3. Thanks Noel. Yes, there’s a march and rally being organized by Hill East neighbors. From what we’re told, they want folks to gather at 5:45 pm on the east end of Lincoln Park. The group will march to Eastern High School to gather for a rally around 6:30 pm. If you can’t make the 5:45 pm portion, feel free to join the crowd at 6:30 pm at Eastern High School.

  4. IMGoph says:

    Councilmember Wells: Ward 7 has not lost population. I am seeing that error repeated in almost every redistricting story. It grew, but just not fast enough to remain within 5% of 1/8 of the city’s population.

  5. JPS says:

    Great comments, truly. Might a similar type op-ed be more effective in other mediums, say: The Post, Examiner, Television, Radio, etc? Most folks who read THIH are already supportive of these comments. Maybe using other mediums might help the cause more?

  6. Wondering says:

    Are there any Ward 5 or Ward 2 residents (or informed non-residents) who could articulate the best arguments against redistricting portions of their wards into Ward 7 and 8? I understand the reasons Ward 6 residents oppose this proposal, but I don’t know what the likely consequences would be for the other wards. Equally or more bad?

  7. Andrew in DC says:

    One thing I never understood during all of the meetings was the predisposition of Mendelson (and it was invariably him) to justify dicing up the affected areas between Wards 7 and 8 in as small a piece as possible.

    If we learned anything from the Kingman Park issue, its that taking only-a-piece doesn’t work, because that piece winds up with absolutely no sway within the ward.

    More intelligent would be to take chunks in size – e.g. the whole of Ward 5’s Port Lincoln Langdon, Gateway (and the Arboretum, not that it matters – no ppl there). That way the people West of the River still have a sizeable enough political bloc to make their councilmember care about them.

    Anyway, the idea is longer than a comment-in-a-thread can do justice, but the premise is that by doing it this way, you avoid inadvertently using the “cracking” technique of gerrymanderers.

  8. IMGoph says:

    Andrew: Two things:

    1) It’s Fort Lincoln, not Port Lincoln. That’s a typo on Google Maps that they refuse to fix.

    2) There are people at the Arboretum. There is a neighborhood called “Arboretum.” It has a citizens’ association. Look at the area to the southeast of the corner of New York and Bladensburg – there are homes and apartment buildings there.

  9. Shibafussa says:

    If schools aren’t impacted by dedistricting per everything we’ve been told by Councilmen Jack Evans and Phil Mendelson but from the points identified above, schools seem to be impacted??

    Can the number of wards be increased?

  10. AndrewinDC says:


    1) the goog has let me down 🙁 Though “port” did sound really weird in my head as I typed it…

    2) I concede the point – though I meant, quite literally, the Nat’l Arboretum, rather than the 568 ppl who live just outside it. More as a counterpoint to Henry Thomas’s irrelevant comment re: “land grab” (what difference does the ‘land’ make if 90+% of the territory has no ppl)

    Regardless, my overall point doesn’t change. The only way to do this river-crossing thing without disenfranchising a grip of ppl is to make the size of the redistricted group large enough to make a difference to the EOTR councilmember (or any significantly physically separated representation).

  11. Bruce says:

    As a resident of Near Southeast, and one who has arranged meetings with the redistricting committee, our position is to keep Near Southeast in Ward 6. Our reasons for this position have been made clear at these meetings.
    Thank you.

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