Final Georgetown ANC Redistricting Proposal Submitted to Council Subcommittee
Commissioner Tom Birch released his proposal for new boundaries and an additional single member district for Georgetown Thursday.
Commissioner Tom Birch issued his proposal for advisory neighborhood commission redistricting for Georgetown's ANC2E Thursday. He adjusted the proposal offered by the Georgetown redistricting task force's co-chairs, creating single member districts that were more closely in line with the ideal size of 2,000 residents per.
In so doing, several Georgetown University dorms that would have been moved to student representation will now remain in non-student SMDs. Students have the option of running for ANC in any SMD, however, traditionally they have held one or two seats that represented majority-student populations.
"Originally the thinking was this was what the students wanted —to feel represented by students— and so we grouped the students into two SMDs one of which is brand new," explained task force co-chair Ron Lewis.
But student outcry over the exceptionally high number of students —2,581 students concentrated in two SMDs— compelled Birch to reconsider the plan put forth by the co-chairs.
Each ANC is comprised of a series of single member districts, which should be made up of about 2,000 people.
The redistricting statute allows for a relative deviation of plus or minus five percent (100 persons) from the "ideal" single member district population, and for an overall deviation range of up to 10% from the smallest to the largest single member district.
They pushed for a third student SMD, bringing the total number to nine in ANC2E. This proposal failed to garner enough votes within the task force.
"Their numbers didn’t justify" a third SMD, said Lewis.
"Tom (Birch) wisely realized that if the numbers looked too high for the on-campus students compared with some lower numbers off-campus for other single member districts...then that gap should be narrowed," explained Commissioner Lewis.
So do the new numbers address at least some of the concerns raised by students?
"I would say that the fact that the plan is now legal or at least closer to legal than the previous plan was and in that respect it is an improvement," said ANC Commissioner and Georgetown University student Jake Sticka.
But the numbers are "not ideal" he added, pointing to one district that will include approximately 2,300 students, making it one of the largest SMDs in D.C.
"These numbers from a legal standpoint are better. But from a representational and principal respect, they still still don't really give students a fair voice in ANC2E" said Sticka.
Lewis said that the other commissioners and non-students on the task force had not expected the students to object to their plan because they thought it achieved the goal of students being represented by people like them.
"But they complained so often and so loudly that Tom (Birch) did something that we didn’t think was in the students' best interest... to keep dorms in residential SMDs" to meet the legal requirements, explained Lewis. That is, they could have student representation of students or meet the legal requirements, but not both.
"I disagree with the premise that you can’t achieve legal representation and more fair representation," responded Sticka. "I think that the compromise plan I would have offered would have achieved both of those goals."
Since the co-chairs submitted their plan to Birch, Sticka, a junior at Georgetown, offered what he termed a compromise option between student demands and the co-chairs' plan.
"Just by calling it a compromise didn’t make it one," said Lewis. "He wanted to gerrymander to guarantee a student commissioner...It was all PR. It was in no sense a compromise."
Sticka disagreed flatly. He argued that his plan would in no way guarantee a third student commissioner, but would merely create a competitive district where a student might have a chance to win the seat.
"A competitive election might not be something Lewis would like to see in ANC2E," added Sticka.
The plan will now go before the District Council subcommittee on redistricting for review. The Council will vote on the plans for the entire District. Next fall, District residents, who may or may not be in a different SMD, will vote for their chosen commissioner.