Georgetown students decry redistricting plan

Photo by The Georgetown Dish
Residents including students packed the ANC meeting
Residents including students packed the ANC meeting

Georgetown residents including many students packed a standing-room only ANC meeting Monday as the Commission heard public comment about a controversial redistricting proposal to be submitted to District officials that would effectively add one "student" seat to the panel for a total of two seats out of eight -- representing 45 percent of Georgetown's residents with 25 percent of the ANC seats, students said.

Georgetown University Student Association President Mike Meaney (Photo by: The Georgetown Dish) Georgetown University Student Association President Mike Meaney
An ANC-appointed committtee including several students voted nine to six in support of the redistricting plan that would create a new single member district (SMD) to account for additional residents in the area, mostly students.  Students, meanwhile, offered a plan that would create two new SMDs to more fairly represent their large population in the neighborhood, they said.

The ANC redistricting committee rejected the student plan. "We are asking the ANC to reconsider this plan," said Georgetown Student Association President Mike Meaney, speaking for a group of over 30 undergraduates who attended the ANC meeting. Meaney said the ANC proposal unfairly undermines student representation and creates unbalanced districts because of discrimination against students by other residents. "The D.C. Human Rights Act prohibits discrimination based on matriculation status. Equal rights to us means an equal vote."

ANC Chair Ron Lewis presents the proposed new single member district map at the Monday meeting (Photo by: The Georgetown Dish) ANC Chair Ron Lewis presents the proposed new single member district map at the Monday meeting
Calling the current ANC proposal an "extreme malapportionment," Paul Musgrave, representing Georgetown graduate students, criticized the process that led to the current proposal. "Any pretense of collaboration has been just that," said the political science PhD candidate. "Apparently we do not count as voters or residents."

Undergraduate Robert Biemersderfer held up his voter registration card, explaining that he lives in Georgetown year-round, goes to church in Georgetown, and has served as a volunteer in Georgetown homeless feeding progr

IMG_1659.JPG Robert Biemesderfer, a student, holds up his D.C. voter registration card (Photo by: The Georgetown Dish) IMG_1659.JPG Robert Biemesderfer, a student, holds up his D.C. voter registration card
ams. "By every measurable standard, I am a resident in good standing in this community," he said. "I am not a second-class citizen. I don't want want my vote rounded down or not counted."

But some residents said concerns about parties, trash and noise, as well as recent concerns about Georgetown's proposed campus expansion plan, mean "permanent residents" and local property owners should have greater representation than "transitional residents" like students.

Edgard Russell, a historian and longtime Burleith resident, speaks for the plan. (Photo by: The Georgetown Dish) Edgard Russell, a historian and longtime Burleith resident, speaks for the plan.
"I think as a homeowner and a property tax payer, you do have additional rights," said Burleith resident Edgar Russell. "This community has worked well since the 1920s. We need to consider the permanent residents who  pay property taxes."

ANC Chairman Ron Lewis noted that D.C. laws allow exceptions to the general rule that ANC Commissioners should represent equal numbers of residents in a Commission, give or take 10 percent. Exceptions to that guideline include respecting the "political geography" of an area, or to promote "neighborhood cohesiveness," Lewis said.

Georgetown students Adam Talbot, Sam Ungar, Mike Meaney, Greg Laverrieve and Colton Malkerson (Photo by: The Georgetown Dish) Georgetown students Adam Talbot, Sam Ungar, Mike Meaney, Greg Laverrieve and Colton Malkerson
"If we're 45 percent of the ANC population, with whom is the other 55 percent trying to be cohesive?" Meaney asked.

"At the end of the day, we're treated as second class citizens," student John Kenchelian told The Georgetown Dish. Kenchelian is a senior who lives on campus, where he says many students would prefer to have housing. "I get dirty looks when I walk to Safeway," he said. "It's a shame."

Nan Bell of Burleith and Cynthia Howar of Hillandale spoke in favor of the plan. (Photo by: The Georgetown Dish) Nan Bell of Burleith and Cynthia Howar of Hillandale spoke in favor of the plan.
Resident Fiona Greig, rocking a tiny baby in the back of the room, said she was troubled by the discussion. "A democratic process to address this issue is something we should pursue," she said.

Lewis said the redistricting working group would submit its recommendation to ANC Commissioner Tom Birch, who was not at the meeting. "If a majority of the working group want to reconsider their vote, we can meet again."

Georgetown Associate Vice President of Communications Linda Greenan and Associate Vice President of Student Affairs Jeanne Lord with student Bridget Power (Photo by: The Georgetown Dish) Georgetown Associate Vice President of Communications Linda Greenan and Associate Vice President of Student Affairs Jeanne Lord with student Bridget Power

0 Comments For This Article

DR

Sadly, I think Ed Russell summarized the Ron Lewis/Lenore Rubino/Jennifer Altemus position clearly: he believes that he has "additional rights." He wants to divide the community according to his own prejudices and take away rights from whatever demographic group he doesn't like. There is precedent, though, for Russell's beliefs; after all, in pre-Civil War Days, some people were counted as only 3/5 of a person for purposes of apportionment.

Anonymous

While the students presented interesting arguments for having their "rights" considered, it was not raised in the meeting that those students who reside in Burleith already have representation in the community as it is currently configured. Like any resident, they are entitled to run for elective office to have their voices heard. To include the transient population of Georgetown students as a rationale for allowing the University two districts in the ANC i(called for by the alternative "student plan") is a sham, essentially allowing duplicate representation, something the redistricting efforts do not contemplate. This is seen by many to be a University ploy to gain votes for their 10-year plan which has caused great controversy in the neighborhood.

This is not a matter of student rights. The students who live responsibly in Burleith and Georgetown are treated with respect and dignity. It is the students who do not live as responsible citizens who have caused the problems in the neighborhoods surrounding Georgetown. We all were students once and have children who are students here and elsewhere and hope they are treated with respect and dignity.

This is a matter of a growing, affluent University not dealing adequately with its own housing needs and hiding behind student rights...The students attending Georgetown University, a wonderful institution, have the rights for adequate campus or University-run housing. Period.

John Kenchelian

It's really cute when people like "Anonymous" not only hide behind "Anonymous," but also hide behind the completely baseless claim that they act in the interests of bettering student life by providing for more on-campus housing. Is building more prison housing an improvement because it allows you to unfairly incarcerate more citizens?

Paul Musgrave

"The students who live responsibly in Burleith and Georgetown are treated with respect and dignity. "

That's actually almost laughably untrue. Students who live in Burleith are treated as second-class citizens, period. The fact that residents apparently consider even those of us who pay quite hefty income taxes to be second-class citizens undeserving of citizenship speaks volumes about which side in this debate is more interested in civility and fairness.

"The students attending Georgetown University, a wonderful institution, have the rights for adequate campus or University-run housing."

As a doctoral student, I'm quite comfortable with the notion that I have the right as an American citizen to live in Burleith, in Rosslyn, or in Anacostia for that matter. It's unfortunate that my neighbors disagree.

Anonymous

Why aren't the students represented exactly? Don't they vote like anyone else? Or is it that they want special treatment from the rest of the community, just like they don't think laws apply to them. Simply go and vote, nobody is stopping you. The truth is that they want to be able to have another elected representative with 9 votes.

Anonymous

How about taking all of this energy and brain power to play before the U.S. Congress to urge statehood for the District of Columbia? With voting rights at the Federal level, DC residents will have equal rights with other Americans and our ANC's could be empowered to impact community development. Currently, all of us in DC are "second class citizens".

John Kenchelian

@Anonymous: There's a thing called you vote in your district.....welcome to the debate chief.

Anonymous

Ah. So they want a single private lot owned by a private enterprise to have two or more districts? Maybe a district line can go across a building too? And what about large appartment buildings, do we create multiple districts per building?

Chief, welcome to reality. You will get a second useless ANC student rep voted by 6 students at best.

But keep whining...

John Kenchelian

First of all, until DC can prove it can govern itself there's no reason for it to have as much representation as a state. Second of all, yes you can divide a private lot owned by a private enterprise, because it actually fits within the guidelines of DC redistricting(I know, a shocking development). And yes if a building held 2000 people I would recommend creating a district out of it. Common sense. More than likely if there is a 50/50 district, students will hold 3 seats in the ANC. Out of the 8 proposed districts, that would only mean that one other ANC commissioner(see Eason), would need to vote with their rational faculties in order to essentially prevent any meaningless, insane ANC action, or recommendation from taking effect. So I will keep "whining". And whining implies I'm begging you to give me another district. False, I'm telling you, you will give me another district. Just depends how long you want to fight for.

Peter C.

"So they want a single private lot owned by a private enterprise to have two or more districts? Maybe a district line can go across a building too? And what about large appartment buildings, do we create multiple districts per building?"

Political representation per the apportionment of legislative districts has nothing to do with the owner of the property or the number of people living in a building. It's headcount - period. Infants are counted, prisoners are counted, students, voters, non-voters, citizens, non-citizens. That's how congressional districts are apportioned and how city council seats are apportioned.

And just to reply to Edgar Russell's unbelievable statement: the arguments over whether certain Americans are worthy of more political representation than others were settled a long time ago in this country - settled in our legislatures, the courts, and on battlefields not too far from here. It's shocking to hear this kind of crap today.

anonymous

Thanks to each and everyone of you for taking the time to weigh in on this issue. While I wish that abuses of courtesy would be recognized a little more as the individual acts that they are rather than universally commited by "them", I only wish that Americans in general could argue as vociferously over the Supreme Court decision that now recognizes corporations as individuals, thus allowing them to contribute unlimited amounts to buy the cooperation of members of the House and Senate to have things their way instead of what's best for our Country. So, keep it up, but expand your power of free speech, as well.