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Tuesday, July 23, 2024

Ward 7 Redistricting Task Force Decides More Meetings Needed

The Mar. 14 meeting of the Ward 7 Task Force focused on the process necessary to come up with recommendations in time to submit recommendations to the DC Subcommittee on Redistricting. That report is due Apr. 1, and no extension is possible, said Sheila Bunn, Chief of Staff for Ward 7 Councilmember Vincent Gray (D).

Task Force Co-Chair Tamara Blair initially proposed splitting the task force into two groups, each of which was to look at five of the ten maps submitted to the District’s mapping website and select two.

But members resisted the proposal, arguing that guidelines for selection had not yet been made clear. Blair said that the governing principles of redistricting had been reiterated multiple times, adding that she expected community leaders to be familiar with them and to have shared these with the public.

Principles and Questions

Those principles include equal representation for all, not diluting minority voting power, andkeeping ANCs “compact and contiguous” as well as keeping communities together and not dividing communities interest. Blair noted that area civic associations have expressed a desire to have Advisory Neighborhood Commissions (ANCs) align as much as possible with neighborhoods, and spoke to the importance of these organizations to the District and the disadvantage in having them have to attend meetings of up to three different ANCs to address concerns. “That’s a lot,” she said.

Census blocks are a limitation, as the system used to create maps can not subdivide these population blocks, requiring a manual process. That won’t make subdivision impossible, Blair said, but it will have to be justified to be adjusted manually. ANCs ideally have between 5 and 9 commissioners.

But other commissioners still had questions. Some commissioners wanted a discussion about the ideal size for each ANC, or the number of Single Member Districts (SMDs). “What happens with total amount of SMDs directly effects how they draw their line[s],” said Task Force member Mandla Deskins.

While ANCs drawn after the 2010 census uniformly included seven SMDs, Blair dismissed the idea of predetermined ANC sizes in 2022, saying such a decision would retrospectively eliminate maps submitted by the public. “Why can’t we just have various sizes?” Blair asked. “What’s good for one area doesn’t apply to another. I totally disagree with trying to force every area into a particular configuration. I think the communities should decide what is the right size for them.”

Maps Discussed

As the task force moved to look at maps just into the second hour of the meeting, the Task Force reopened discussion of the question of unity, and whether ANCs should cross the Anacostia River as they looked at a map created by Tyrell Holcomb that focused on ANCs 7D and 7F.

Justin Lini presented a map that focused on aligning ANCs 7C and 7D with Deanwood, as per the request of the Deanwood Civic Association. During a previous meeting, representatives has asked for line between the two to fall along Kenilworth and Nanny Helen Burrows. That, said Lini, would move SMD 7D03 into ANC 7C.

Lini created new SMDs for each of Paradise Apartments and Mayfair Mansions, subdividing a census block but still creating two outsized SMDs (of 2187 and 2295 people respectively). He did not discuss any chances west of the river, but argued that if ANC 7D would absorb SMDs from west of the river, it would cause the loss of 7D06 and 7D07, adding economic inequalities which would affect the ability of Kenilworth and Parkside to shape the agenda of their own ANC.

Compromise Map?

Former ANC 7D01 Commissioner Rob Coomber, who preceded Co-Chair Tamara Blair in that office, presented a map showing a new ANC 7A west of the river to include portions of 6A and 6B newly added to Ward 7 but also adding River Terrace east of the Anacostia and RFK stadium. Representative Melissa Freese had asked for the area to be considered as an addition. River Terrace, Coomber noted, is isolated by Benning Road, Kenilworth Avenue and East Capitol as well as the river and is a good addition to a new ANC 7A.

While Coomber did map additional ANCs east of the river, in particular mapping a large 12 SMD ANC 7C for Deanwood, he noted that he did so largely to ensure his map would be considered overall. While ANC 7C was intentionally mapped encompass that neighborhood as per civic association request, Coomber said, most of the other ANCs were created along geographical considerations and he hoped that the wishes of those communities would be heard over all.

Additional Meetings

The March 14th meeting was the fourth for the Ward 7 Task Force. Members determined additional meetings were clearly needed prior to the report deadline. Task Force member Francis Campbell echoed an early suggestion from member Wendell Felder, suggesting that smaller discussion groups meet prior to the next Task Force meeting, already scheduled Monday, Mar. 21, providing no voting or decisions were made.

Rather, these groups will, as Mandla Deskins articulated, provide a readout of what they saw in each map and what they needed to discuss. The two groups and further direction will be distributed in an email from the co-chairs. Additional meetings of the full task force will also be scheduled after a poll of members.

Task Force member Tomeika Bowden offered to help organize maps to facilitate a quick discussion at the next meeting, and suggested a deadline for maps created by the public prior to the deadline.

To be considered by the Task Force, maps must be submitted online by 6 p.m. Saturday, Mar. 19. The public mapping tool is available at DCredistricting.esriemcs.com. The next full meeting of the Ward 7 task force is 6 p.m. Monday, Mar. 21 and can be watched on Youtube. Watch the recording of the March 14 meeting here.

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