At a press conference Monday, Dec. 6, DC Council Chairman Phil Mendelson announced that changes would be proposed to the redistricting plan put forward by the DC Council Subcommittee on Redistricting Nov. 19.
Changes to be put forward at the Committee of the Whole (COW) vote Dec. 7 include the reunion of the Kingman Park and Rosedale neighborhoods in Ward 7 rather than Ward 6. Two tracts of the neighborhood located east of 15th Street and south of Benning Road are now in Ward 6; another portion of Kingman Park is in Ward 7.
It is unclear what impact the absence of Ward 7 Councilmember Vincent Gray (D) might have on discussions. Aides announced Monday evening that Gray had been admitted to hospital over the weekend of Dec. 4 to 5 after complaining of a persistant cough. While in hospital, the 79-year-old former Mayor suffered a stroke. He is said to be in “good spirits” but is unable to attend the meeting Dec. 7, his office reported.
"The Councilmember is upbeat and eager to return home and to the office" – read the full statement here: https://t.co/ujTuMkI5xF
— Vince Gray (@VinceGrayWard7) December 7, 2021
In Southeast, the area east of 11th Street, south of Potomac Avenue, and south of the DC Jail complex will be included in Ward 6 rather than Ward 7. That would make Potomac Avenue SE the boundary between Wards 6 and 7. Those living east of 15th Street SE and North of Potomac Avenue SE and E Street to its east will live within the new Ward 7 bounds.
The map makes other alterations, including keeping the three block area east of New Jersey Avenue and North of New York Avenue, which includes the New York Avenue playground, in Ward 5 rather than moving it to Ward 2. Three-blocks in the Shaw-Howard neighborhood home to just under 300 voters will go to Ward 2, moving the border with ward 5 down New Jersey instead of creating a bumpout.
At a Monday night press conference, the Ward 7 Redistricting Equity Coalition (WREC) said they had not yet seen the proposed changes but appreciated Chairman Mendelsons efforts to address concerns. Without having seen the changes, said Marshall Heights Community Development Organization (MHCDO) Vice-Chair Dionna Maria Lewis, residents could not say if the changes addressed their concerns.
Lewis reminded the assembled that the full Council would still need to approve the changes. “Assuming the boundaries are proposed to be extended as described, we certainly appreciate the Chairman for recognizing the injustice of the previously proposed map,” Lewis said. “However […] we still need the full DC Council to support a proposal that reflects euqity for our ward as well.”
The Committee of the Whole acknowledged in their report that the primary reasons for these changes were to increase the population of a new Ward 7 closer to the average across all wards. Ward 7 residents and civic organizations expressed significant discontent with the new boundaries, with Ward 7 Councilmember Vincent Gray (D) calling them “unacceptable.”
Ward 5 Advisory Neighborhood Commisison 5E Chair Bradley Thomas attended Monday’s WREC press conference. “I believe I speak for a majority of Ward 5 residents when I say that we are in solidarity with the concerns expressed by the Ward 7 leaders,” he said. ANC 5E and nine other Ward 5 ANCs have supported a letter to DC Council urging the council to adopt modifications to the map. Ward 5 Councilmember Kenyan McDuffie is expected to move an amendment that would address many of these concerns, including keeping the New York Avenue Playground, Soldier’s Home and Washington Hospital Complex in Ward 5.
Meanwhile, some Hill residents opposed the decision to draw the boundary along 15th Street, calling the line arbitrary and saying it would split Capitol Hill, a community of interest.
“The Committee believes this issue is overwrought,” Mendelson wrote in the COW report. “Neighborhoods have been split, for years, across wards without ill effect: Chevy Chase is a current example; Woodley Park is a former example. That’s not to say this is ideal; rather, it is not problematic.”
The Committee of the Whole will take a first vote Dec. 7, and a second vote Dec. 21. Watch online here.
Read the full COW report on redestricting here.