A group of students and Georgetown neighbors are working to redraw district lines that will determine Georgetown’s representation on Advisory Neighborhood Commission 2E for the next 10 years.

The proposal put forth by the working group on Aug. 17 has been met with mixed reviews from members of the university community and its neighbors. While the co-chairs of the group describe the plan as “fair and appropriate,” students accused the plan of gerrymandering districts to ensure minimal student representation.

The plan, which divides the ANC into eight single-member districts, was designed by the committee’s co-chairs, Citizens Association of Georgetown President Jennifer Altemus (COL ’88), ANC2E Chairman Ron Lewis and Burleith Citizens Association President Lenore Rubino.

Two of these districts are comprised almost entirely of Georgetown students, meaning that students are likely to win two seats on the ANC while the remaining six districts will likely go to non-students.

“I think students should be very concerned about the co-chairs’ proposal,” said Jake Sticka (COL ’13), the current student representative on ANC2E.

According to Sticka, the plan packs Georgetown students into as few SMDs as possible. The two districts that would encompass the Georgetown campus, SMDs 2E04 and 2E08, contain 2,581 individuals, while D.C. law requires redistricting working groups to attempt to draw districts so they contain 2,000 people each. Most other SMDs in the proposal would contain fewer than 2,000 individuals.

A fairer plan, Sticka said, would resemble the one proposed by John Flanagan (SFS ’14), another student member of the working group. Flanagan’s proposal divided Georgetown’s campus into three SMDs, one of which would be composed of roughly 50 percent students and 50 percent non-students.

“I looked at what seemed to be natural divisions in the area and I tried to keep [the SDMs] equal [in] population, which is actually quite difficult,” Flanagan said.

“[The ANC is] supposed to be a cross section of the neighborhood, so one man, one vote is super important.”

Flanagan said he believes that the distribution of SMDs in the co-chair’s plan does not achieve that, as he finds it to be unequal.

The co-chairs counter that their plan is in better accordance with other aspects of the redistricting law.

“The law doesn’t require the districts just to be equal, there are several criteria,” Lewis said. “The cohesiveness of neighborhoods can override that.”

According to Lewis, the co-chair’s proposal does a better job of preserving neighborhoods within one SMD.

“Burleith is a very unified neighborhood, [but] the Flanagan plan divides it into three separate single-member districts. We don’t think that’s appropriate,” Lewis said.

Rubino also defended the need for her neighborhood to remain in one district.

“Burleith needs community cohesiveness, that’s a big point, and we don’t want to see it split apart,” she said.

In addition to their critique of the working group’s final proposal, Sticka and Flanagan found the process by which the districts were redrawn problematic.

The working group’s co-chairs were appointed by Ward 2 Councilmember Jack Evans without community input, and no students were made co-chairs even though students make up 45 percent of the population represented by ANC2E.

“We don’t really feel like we got a fair shot at the meetings,” Flanagan said. “I did get to state my case, but there really was very little acknowledgement of my arguments.”

But Lewis said that the composition of the working group was entirely self-selecting.

“[Councilman Evans] said that anybody that wanted to serve on a working group in an ANC district could do that. So anyone who was on the group was someone who volunteered their time,” he said.

He added that it was standard for the presidents of the local citizens association and the chair of the local ANC to be appointed co-chairs of the working group.

Rubino agreed that the meetings went smoothly.

“They were very cordial. Everyone expressed their opinion on the redistricting plan. We took everything into account and came up with a proposal,” she said.

Lewis said that he thought most of the working group was in accordance regarding the co-chair’s proposal and was disappointed when no students voted for it.

All five students and one non-student member of the working group, Charles Eason, backed Flanagan’s proposal. Eason represents SMD 2E07, which encompasses the area of East Georgetown north of Q Street.

“If you just look at the maps and the sizes of the different districts [in the co-chair’s proposal], that would suggest to some people that it was gerrymandered, whereas Mr. Flanagan’s proposal just looked cleaner. I just felt more comfortable with that,” Eason said.

The working group presented its proposal before the community Monday at the ANC’s monthly meeting. Though approximately 100 community members attended the meeting to give input about the plan, Lewis chose to limit the number of people able to speak for and against the proposal allowing five to speak for each side.

Mike Meaney (SFS ’12), Georgetown University Student Association president, spoke at the meeting for the students who opposed the co-chair’s proposal.

“We’re asking the ANC to reconsider their plan because the majority of the students feel that this plan dilutes their voting power,” he said. “Students merit an ability to be represented in things that affect student life.”

Rob Biemesderfer (COL ’12) also addressed the ANC group.

“I am not a second class citizen of this community. I don’t want my vote watered down. I want full representation,” he said.

Laurel Radley, who lives in the neighborhood, voiced her qualms with the Flanagan proposal.

“To me the bigger picture is that we are much bigger community than just the university,” she said. “I don’t believe [that students] are second class citizens. I don’t feel that way about you. I do believe you are transitional residents,” she said to the student representatives.”

“We did the best we could,” Lewis said of the working group’s efforts, adding that the group’s recommendation to the D.C. Council could be made by the end of the month.

After the hearing, any member of the working group can call for the group to reconvene to discuss the community’s input and make changes to the proposal. Students on the working group hope that input from members of the university community will persuade the working group to reconsider the current distribution of districts.

If no changes are made, Flanagan and Sticka said they plan to petition the D.C. Council, which has the final say on the matter.

“I’m hoping it can get heard before them with the idea that the council will see that our concerns have merit and will either send the task force back to the drawing board or redraw the districts themselves,” Flanagan said.

They also called upon students to participate more in local politics in order to protect their interests.

“Students live in D.C. for a majority of the year. The laws that take place in Washington D.C. really have a significant impact on their lives and how they enjoy Georgetown University,” Sticka said.

“I understand wanting to vote at home and stay involved in local politics, but what happens in D.C. affects us and what happens on the ANC affects us,” he said. “If students have a stronger voice saying that these are things that matter to them then, they can make things happen.”

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