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Thursday, June 13, 2024

Taskforce Votes to Split Western Ward 7

On March 22, The Ward 7 Redistricting Taskforce met for the sixth time to discuss three draft maps. While changes are still likely, the task force voted to accept a map that splits two the western sections of Ward 7 between two ANCs that would span the Anacostia River.

All maps must conform to a set of rules. Single Member Districts (SMDs) must contain between 1,900 and 2,100 residents by DC statute. Boundaries must avoid splitting census blocks, maintain neighborhood cohesiveness, not dilute minority voting power, respect natural boundaries and roughly balance the ward’s population.

The task force focused its attention on equal representation, minority voting power dissolution, compactness, continuity and not dividing communities of interest. Task force members were asked to endorse or reject either whole and partial maps. It considered three alternatives authored by resident Ebony Payne, community member Rob Coomber and Taskforce Member Keith Hasan-Towery.

Map 1. Ebony Payne.

The map authored by Ebony Payne, a longtime Kingman Park resident. Payne proposed adding River Terrace to the western sections of Ward 7 to create a cross river ANC (Map 1).

“Today we had a shooting on my block, and the person that had the gun went from Kingman Park to Rosedale,” Payne said. “There is this imaginary boundary that has been separating us, and they say you can communicate across ANCs, but no…I think it’s crucial that neighbors are able to caucus with their neighbors.”

Map 3. Bob Coomber.

Thirteen members of the task force voted to decline Payne’s map entirely. Five voted to accept it partially. A similar map (Map 3) offered by community member Rob Coomber later in the meeting also went down defeat with 15 ‘no’ votes and three votes to partially accept.

Consensus among task force members gelled around an alternative authored by Taskforce Member, Chair of Marshall Heights Civic Association, Chair of Fletcher-Johnson Taskforce Keith Hasan-Towery (Map 2). Hasan-Towery’s objective was to create commissions with equal number of SMDs on both sides of the Anacostia.

Taskforce Member. Keith Hasan-Towery proposal (Map 2).

“I feel like if we’re going to have a cross-river commission, it would make more sense to have it a little more evenly divided, so that there are the same or similar numbers of SMDs on each side,” stated Taskforce Member Travis Swanson in support of this vision.

Hasan-Towery’s map divides the western section of Ward 7 horizontally placing Rosedale and Kingman Park in an ANC 7A while reserving Hill East for ANC 7F.

The new ANC 7A consists of an eight-member commission with four SMDs on either side of the Anacostia. This is not obvious from the map due to issues with the DC Office of Planning mapping tool which misidentifies 7A01 as 7D02. It would include River Terrace, Parkside, Eastland Gardens, Kenilworth and Mayfair neighborhoods on the river’s eastern side. ANC 7F is another eight-member commission that marries Hill East to neighborhoods across the Anacostia River.

There are questions about whether Hasan-Towery’s map in in line with redistricting legislation. Several of the SMDs Hasan-Towery proposes for 7A and 7F contain more than 2,100 residents, which violates the equal apportionment rule. SMD 7A02, for example, contains 2,800 residents. In addition, the even number of SMDs envisioned for both 7A and 7F invites the possibility of deadlock over contentious issues.

Despite these questions, Hasan-Towery’s map proved popular with his task force colleagues, 11 of whom voted to accept it in its entirety. Another seven voted to accept it partially.

The next meeting of the Ward 7 Task Force is scheduled for March 23 at 5 p.m. A recording of the March 22 meeting is available. The task force’s final map and report must be submitted to the DC Council by April 1.

Sarah Payne is a general assignment reporter for The Hill Rag and East of the River Newspapers. She can be contacted at sarahp@hillrag.com.

Note: A previous version of the story incorrectly referred to Ebony Payne as the Task Force “chair“. Ebony Payne is a Ward 7 resident. Tamara Blair and Joel Caston co-chair the ward 7 redistricting task force. The Hill Rag regrets the error.

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