Once again, as in every redistricting process using Census data collected every decade, neighborhoods are split, feelings are hurt and political deals are made. But what if the redistricting creates an area most Black political leaders normally dread?
DC Councilman Tommy Wells (D-Ward 6) warned other members of the city council that the proposed ward redrawing destroys racial diversity in Ward 6. The ward has the third highest concentration of Whites in the District due to its close proximity to Capitol Hill.
“If you look at the Census data, this is the area with the greatest diversity in the District. Now we are decreasing it. Something I’m sure will be regretted in the future,” said Charles Allen, Wells’ chief of staff.
Councilman Phil Mendelson (D-At Large) defended the proposal claiming that the committee adopted what it thought was more logical. “There is no doubt that Ward 6 will have less African Americans. However, we took the outline with the best connections across the river. Somehow we thought that was more important,” said Mendelson.
Every 10 years jurisdictions across America are subject to boundary changes based on the most recent Census figures. A more than 5 percent increase or decrease in population causes areas to come under the scrutiny for possible redistricting. Using Census data, Wards 1, 3, 4 and 5 have not been affected by redistricting because the increases or decreases in the wards were not significant enough to warrant any boundary changes. However, some residents claim this is more than a numbers game.
“Every time there has been heated debates over redistricting. However, this one has raised the ire of thousands of Ward 6 residents like never before,” said native Washingtonian Francis Campbell. “Councilman Jack Evans created his own ‘Evansville’ by getting rid of the Shaw community and took all the downtown venues, businesses and tax producers, not people.
“Things would be much better if Haines Point and other southwest areas were moved into Ward 8, the Shaw community in Ward 2 was moved into Ward 5, and the Langdon community in Ward 5 was moved into Ward 7,” the advisory neighborhood commissioner advocated. “The current proposal makes Hill East become a peripheral edge of Ward 7. That didn’t serve the Kingman park community in the last redistricting and it won’t serve us either. There is no reason at all the way they have gerrymandered the map.”
Attempts to reach council members Marion Barry (D-Ward 8), Michael Brown (I-At Large), Yvette Alexander (D- Ward 7)and Jack Evans (D-Ward 2) before press deadline were unsuccessful.
According to the proposed redistricting legislation Ward 7 will be bordered by the Maryland-District of Columbia boundary line and the center line of the Anacostia River; continue along Benning Road, 17th Street, C Street and Nineteenth Street, N.E.; move south to East Capital Street onto 17th Street, Barney Circle, Pennsylvania Avenue, 25th Street and Naylor Road, S.E.; then back to the Maryland-District of Columbia boundary line
Wells pointed out in a May 24 newsletter that the plan: Places Eastern SHS and Eliot-Hine MS into Ward 7. And it carves out a small portion of Hill East and isolating it within a larger advisory neighborhood commission (ANC) that shares no connection with the community much the way Kingman Park has been isolated since it became a part of Ward 7 in the last redistricting.
“We wanted Kingman Park back. Not only have we lost it again, but Hill East, another strong predominantly Black neighborhood,” explained Allen.
Wells vows to continue to fight for the 9,000 residents of his ward that are being affected.
“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,” stated Wells.
In 2000, Ward 4 was extended through Rock Creek Park to Broad Branch Road at 27th Street, N.W. going southward to Military Road. It was a large piece of land area taken from Ward 3.