D.C. Council approves boundary changes

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The D.C. Council on Wednesday approved a draft plan that repositions the boundaries of the city’s eight political wards after making concessions to Ward 6 residents who protested the division of its eastern neighborhoods on Capitol Hill.

Council Member Marion Barry offered the lone dissent in a 12-1 vote, calling the plan “morally wrong” for keeping all of his ward east of the Anacostia River.

Mr. Barry, Ward 8 Democrat, said the redistricting subcommittee blocked his ward from expanding its diversity and business prospects to shake its reputation as an impoverished bloc.

“I know I’m not going to win this, because the fix is on. It’s shameful,” he said, noting his ward feels “kicked in the behind” by the subcommittee.

Phil Mendelson, at-large Democrat and a member of the subcommittee charged with redrawing the map, said testimony out of Ward 8 was mixed and only a small, sparsely populated portion of the ward could be placed across the river, creating an odd divide.

Nevertheless, Mr. Barry said “the fight is not over” ahead of a second vote on the plan in about two weeks.

The District must reorganize its wards every 10 years, after the release of the census, to balance the population and ensure equal representation on the D.C. Council.

Residents of Ward 6 protested the initial draft plan, which significantly shifted part of the western border of Ward 7 from the Anacostia River into the Hill East neighborhood.

Council member Michael Brown, at-large independent and co-chairman of the subcommittee, noted the subcommittee’s three members did the “best balancing job we can.”

Jack Evans, Ward 2 Democrat, served as a co-chairman and the only ward council member on the subcommittee.

Wards 7 and 8 saw their populations decline, leaving Ward 6 geographically caught in the middle of the shifts.

Mr. Evans’ ward experienced the largest population surge, which led council member Tommy Wells to accuse him of gerrymandering. The term means to manipulate unfairly to gain an advantage.

A long line of public witnesses from Ward 6 were able to secure a compromise that traces around the contested portion of eastern Capitol Hill where people live.

Council member Mary M. Cheh, Ward 3 Democrat, unsuccessfully tried to combine all of the Woodley Park neighborhood into her ward, arguing the portion in Ward 1 leads to confusion and combining would have no negative “domino effects” on the redistricting map.

Yet other council members noted Ward 3 would move to close to the maximum deviation from the average ward population, and that there is a benefit to having two council members represent a single neighborhood.

The subcommittee also recommended that residential parking permits be divorced from the wards to eliminate any disruptions from redistricting.

The plan must receive approval from the full council and the mayor’s signature by July 14.

However, the subcommittee recommended final action by July 1 to allow the advisory neighborhood commissions to start their own redistricting by Oct. 1 upon receipt of ward task force recommendations.

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