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Battles begin over ANC lines

(Published July 16, 2001)


Staff Writer

In the aftermath of the already-controversial Ward redistricting process, flags are being raised across the city as the process of remapping Advisory Neighborhood Commissions begins. There are multiple areas of dispute, and some fierce battles may be brewing across the city.

One area where a fight is being waged is ANC 3G, in Chevy Chase along the west side of Rock Creek Park. The area between Broad Branch Road and Rock Creek is being moved to Ward 4 under the Ward Redistricting Act. Anne Renshaw, ANC 3G chairperson, is upset over the move.

"We had no vote" on the issue, she says. "It has always been that our issues have been 95% with the rest of Ward 3, and not with Ward 4 on the other side of the park, but the Council, and that includes our city council member, who lives in Chevy Chase, decided to ignore the natural boundaries and shift everyone."

However, it appears that a solution to this problem may be in the works, as both Councilman Adrian Fenty, D-Ward 4, and Councilwoman Kathleen Patterson, D-Ward 3, have agreed to allow the areas being moved to remain a part of ANC 3G despite their being in Ward 4.

Another area of dispute is ANC 2D. Much of Southwest is being moved to Ward 6 under the redistricting plan, but the area between the National Mall and the SE/SW Freeway is staying in Ward 2. This is a big part of the Southwest community, according to Andy Litsky, chairman of ANC 2D. The area, which Litsky says is the primary commercial area in Southwest, includes DOT, HUD, the FAA, HHS, the Holiday Inn Capitol, the headquarters of the DNC, the FCC, and a five-star hotel.

ANC 2C is also unhappy. According to chairman Alexander Padro, nearly half of the population of that ANC is being moved to Ward 6. The area includes the so-called NOMA triangle, the historic Woodson house, the new D.C. Convention Center, Chinatown, and the MCI Center. This move will result in 2D only having enough residents to be given three and half commissioners, whereas there were previously six. Padro hopes to split the 10 total commissioners he shares with ANC 2F evenly, but he expects 2F to keep their six and 2D to get only four.

Perhaps the biggest point of dispute of all is east of the Anacostia River, where ANC 6C is being split up between Wards 7 and 8. 6C is splitting up along Good Hope Road, its main artery. According to Commissioner Linda Eckles of ANC 6C, "When you look at it on a map, it makes sense; when you look at it on the ground, it doesnít make sense at all. Itís just another way to make [the area] east of the river unable to defend itself."

The procedure for redistricting is as follows: A memo was sent out by the mayorís office in June 13 reminding wards to appoint task forces. On June 29, Mayor Williams signed the ward redistricting bill. From that point, the task forces have 90 days to file their recommendations for ANC redistricting. Written progress reports are due to the mayorís office by Aug. 15 from the task forces. A month later, draft reports are due for review by a subcommittee headed by Councilman Phil Mendelson D-At Large. The final deadline for recommendations is Sept. 27. The bill will be introduced in the council on Oct. 16. There will be public hearings on the bill on Nov. 8 and 10. The subcommittee mark-up will take place Nov. 29. On Dec. 19, the ANC redistricting bill will be read in the Committee of the Whole. The first reading of the bill in legislative session will take place on Jan. 8, 2002, and the second reading will occur on Jan. 22.

Each task force is composed of all the ANC commissioners, the heads of the neighborhood and civic associations in the respective ward, other members appointed by the council member of that ward, and one appointee from each at-large council member.

According to Councilman Mendelsonís staff, D.C. citizens can have input in the ward task force process in two ways. The first would be to go to the task force meetings and to let the task force know what they want and where boundaries should be drawn. The second stage, when the bill is introduced in the council, is public hearings, and the public is encouraged to attend those hearings and testify. By that time, people will be able to see what the task forces have recommended and make comments.

The Councilís goal is to have eight to 10 single-member districts per ANC, with each district containing approximately 2,000 citizens. This is so funding can be distributed equally among the ANCs. Among the other principles put forth by the Council: Redistricting should not dilute the voting strength of minority citizens, and redistricting should respect natural geography and neighborhood cohesiveness.

Copyright 2001, The Common Denominator