By Tracy ZupancisHoya Staff Writer

Under a controversial redistricting plan approved by a community task force, Georgetown University students will effectively be guaranteed a seat on the Advisory Neighborhood Commission. The plan, which allows the potential for fewer student representatives than one proposed by ANC District 2E05 representative Justin Wagner (COL ’03), was selected through voting procedures considered unfair by some members of the task force.

The plan selected creates a district that lies within the confines of the university, and three other districts of both students and residents.

Wagner’s plan, formed with ANC 2E04 Commissioner Justin Kopa (COL ’03), drew four districts that had a mixed population of students and area residents, giving students the potential to hold as many as four seats on the ANC. This plan, labeled `B,’ was ranked as the first choice by nine of the 17 members on the task force and last by eight members. Ultimately, however, plan `C,’ designed by current ANC chair of the Commission Peter Pulsifer, was selected.

Under plan `C,’ students can run in as many as three districts, including one district composed solely of students.

Wagner and Kopa’s plan had four districts containing students, two that were approximately 60 percent students, two with about 60 percent local residents. Pulsifer’s plan `C,’ which will go into effect next year, has one district of about 45 percent students, another of about 40 percent students, one that will be all students and another that will contain about 20 percent students.

“We shouldn’t create a district that is 100 percent students,” Wagner said. “There should be better working relationships between residents and students through mixed districts, and that’s what a majority originally supported.”

“After the first vote, it was apparent that the group was polarized concerning plan `B’,” Grace Bateman, coordinator of the neighborhood redistricting task force, said. Bateman, in charge of the proceedings, had originally ranked plan `B’ first, but was one of four members who changed his or her vote.

“It is important to know what our goal was, which was coming up with what most people can accept,” she said.

Bateman explained she changed her vote after seeing that 11 members had picked plan `C’ as their second choice, and only one member had placed it last, which demonstrated to her it was the plan that had the most consensus.

“I felt like the rug was pulled from under me,” Wagner said of the way the voting was done. “I thought majority would and should rule.”

“Grace has been a great advocate of students, so I’m a bit mystified by what happened,” he added.

Task force member and local resident Joan McGoth concurred with Wagner.

“I felt that the vote should have been kept, not done this strange way where the majority’s first choice ended up being last . I feel students should be part of the community, and the second plan put a group of students completely by themselves,” she said.

McGoth also felt that the task force should have accepted Justin Kopa’s vote, made clear in a letter, though he was absent.

After discussion and consideration of the ranked votes, plans `B’ and `C’ were resubmitted for voting. Pulsifer’s plan `C’ was approved 12 to five.

“We were not given a game plan or directions to run the voting,” Bateman said. “It is a process of consensus, and unless we did a ranking, it would have been difficult to find what consensus was. We didn’t have anyone saying it wasn’t a reasonable way to proceed at the time, and the conversation was very civil and non-hostile.”

Bateman, who also served on the task force assigned to redistricting 10 years ago, said she feels the redistricting process has come full circle.

Ten years ago, former ANC 2E04 Commissioner Westy Byrd, known by students for her anti-university opinions, championed a plan to divide students into several districts, with the effect of diluting student voting power.

“It really is to the credit of the students that over 10 years they became active enough that being in several districts was helpful,” Bateman said. “Now, the same group is arguing just the opposite, and trying to put many students in one district.”

Plan `C’ now proceeds to the city council, but according to Wagner, the council almost always defers to the decision of task forces.

“The plan that was approved is better than how things are now – though this is a setback,” Wagner said. “I am angry that there are still residents who don’t want to work with students.”

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