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ANC to gain seat in redistricting

By Brady Holt...Current Staff Writer...

The Georgetown advisory neighborhood commission will likely gain a second representative from the Georgetown University student population as a result of redistricting after the 2010 Census. But a panel reviewing the boundaries of single-member districts is split on whether to accept changes that would likely lead to the election of a third student commissioner.

The Advisory Neighborhood Commission 2E Working Group will finalize its vote today between two competing proposals: one from a Georgetown University student and one from three longtime neighborhood residents. Students and long-term residents are each worried that their views would not be adequately represented by the other group on the commission.

Both plans call for adding a single-member district to the commission, making a total of eight. Each district is supposed to contain approximately 2,000 residents, and population changes over the last decade have forced modifications to neighborhood commissions across the city.

The plan sought by the working group's co-chairs -- Ron Lewis, chair of the neighborhood commission; Jennifer Altemus, president of the Citizens Association of Georgetown; and Lenore Rubino, president of the Burleith Citizens Association -- would divide the university into two districts.

Most other districts would change relatively little from their present shapes and locations under this plan, though district 2E05 would extend several blocks north in a narrow section to help equalize populations.

“The co-chairs' proposal ... respects the historical patterns of SMD’s in ANC 2E, including variations in size of the SMD’s and the fact that some SMD’s include areas both east and west of Wisconsin Avenue,” the co-chairs wrote in a letter to the working group, provided to The Current. Altemus and Rubino could not be reached for further comment; Lewis declined to comment on the proposals.

The alternative -- designed by John Flanagan, a student member of the working group -- places a priority on equalizing populations across districts and minimizing irregular boundary lines. Because there are some 5,000 on-campus students at Georgetown, he said, creating only two student districts would grant each student less representation on the commission; under the co-chairs' proposal, the districts' populations vary from 1,660 to 2,581.

“Given the basic, democratic principle of 'one man, one vote,' I drew a map that, among other things, would give fair representation to students,” Flanagan wrote in an email to The Current, adding that he was inspired to join the discussion because of the commission's impact on his university and fellow students.

Flanagan's proposal would reassign large sections of existing single-member districts to achieve a more narrow range of populations: 1,964 to 2,200. His plan would make a chunk of western Georgetown adjacent to the main university campus into its own district -- an area that includes some university-owned housing as well as many student rental homes.

“At the end of the day, I think the big thing is there being more [student] voices,” Flanagan said in an interview. “It's about getting on the record the pulse of the community, and really giving a fair representation of the voice of the whole community.”

The working group co-chairs, in their letter, wrote that Flanagan's plan “would violate community cohesiveness -- by, e.g., denying effective representation to the many residents in the area adjacent to the campus between 37th and 33rd Streets and between M and P or O Streets who have serious issues with the University.”

They also opposed Flanagan's suggestion to separate the southernmost stretch of Burleith from the rest of district 2E01; even without the blocks in question, that district would have the highest population of any in the Flanagan proposal. In sum, they wrote, his plan “is a mechanical approach driven by a faulty premise -- that there should be three student SMD’s -- and flawed by insufficient ground-level research and inquiry.”

Charlie Eason, a current Georgetown neighborhood commissioner, said he is concerned that there aren’t enough residents involved in the 16-member working group. The community at large hasn’t really had “an opportunity to see the plans, much less absorb and comment on them,” he said.

Residents can weigh in at the Aug. 29 neighborhood commission meeting, Lewis said, and the working group can revise its recommendation based on community feedback.

Members of the working group are submitting their votes by email through today as to which approach the working group should recommend to a ward-wide panel. Eason said that as of yesterday morning, the group seemed to be split between the proposals along student/traditional resident lines, but that he and some other members hadn’t yet voted.

He is leaning toward the Flanagan proposal, he added, calling the other setup “gerrymandered.”

The boundaries must be adopted by the D.C. Council by the end of the year. They will be in effect beginning with the November 2012 election.

Maps of the two proposals and the existing commission boundaries are available at

This article appears in the Aug. 17 issue of The Georgetown Current newspaper.