Georgetown Students Argue Against ANC Re-Districting

Commissioner Ron Lewis and Bill Starrels spoke with Georgetown University student body president Mike Meaney after his speech.
Robert Devaney
Commissioner Ron Lewis and Bill Starrels spoke with Georgetown University student body president Mike Meaney after his speech.

All politics is local – and sometimes hyper-local – as Georgetown University students and long-time residents experienced during the opening community comment of the September Advisory Neighborhood Commission (ANC 2e) meeting held on Aug. 29. The issue was the redistricting plan for the Georgetown-Burleith-Hillandale ANC that adds an additional single-member district (SMD) within the university campus for a total of eight in the ANC. Students had put forth a plan that included an additional eighth and a ninth district for students. A neighborhood group, which included students, voted nine to six for a new plan that keeps most SMDs the same but adds an eighth district for the campus. The role of the ANC at the meeting was neither to approve nor disapprove the proposal.

Commission chair Ron Lewis opened the discussion of the re-drawn ANC 2e boundary plan, saying it showed "respect for political geography" and chose to round down the student MSDs to two. He then asked those attending the meeting to limit their comments of pro and con to three persons who could represent the larger group. Students in attendance – who wanted three SMDs for the university area – expressed dismay at the time limitations but rolled with it, sending Georgetown University Student Association president Mike Meaney and president of the Graduate Student Association Paul Musgrave to the podium.

Meaney asked that the re-districting be reconsidered, seeing it as a dilution of students' voting power and suggested that his group might "appeal to the Committee of the Whole" of the D.C. Council. He reminded the current ANC of its 2002 affirmation "to full representation." Saying that Georgetown University students make up "45 percent of the ANC's population,” Meaney maintained that "equal rights mean equal votes."

Musgrave, a doctorate student from Burleith, called the situation "disingenuous" for its "extreme malapportionment" and said the ANC must "be a truly representative body." "Representation means representation by person." He condemned the plan as "unfair" and "unjust," and stated so "as a resident, a political scientist and a voter."

In contrast, Nan Bell of Burleith and Cynthia Howar of Hillandale stood up and succinctly said they supported new re-districting plan.

Undergraduate Robert Biemesderfer went to the podium and dramatically held up his D.C. voter registration card and declared: "I am a full participant, I am not a second-class citizen." Student Ruiyong Chen stood up to add that councilman Phil Mendelson does not support this plan.

Ed Russell, a Burleith resident since 1954, asked debaters to "consider permanent residents who pay property taxes." Karen Cruise contended that 1,200 students live off campus and thus can run in their own district if they wish. In the hallway, later, the young Biemesderfer and Allan Wendt of Volta Place had a lively and civil conservation about the issue.

Next week, the plan will be passed along to the Ward 2 redistricting group, headed by Tom Birch, and will be likely approved.

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Tue, 27 Jun 2017 08:11:06 -0400

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