With the first vote on the city’s new redistricted ward map set for Thursday, Ward 6 Councilmember Tommy Wells and his supporters brought bullhorns to Lincoln Park last night to protest the proposed 17th Street dividing line that would send the eastern edge of Capitol Hill into Ward 7.
As Housing Complex’s Lydia DePillis has pointed out, the Ward 6 residents up for grabs are tying themselves into knots to keep the current boundaries intact. At last night’s rally, they summoned the specter of Kingman Park—absorbed by Ward 7 during the District’s last redistricting a decade ago—to warn that nearby Rosedale could fall into the hands of an unresponsive councilmember, though none of the speakers referred to Ward 7’s Yvette Alexander by name.
“It’s not working, because I’m not across the bridge, I’m over here,” said Hannah Lewis, a volunteer at the Rosedale Recreation Center who lives in Kingman Park and wants her neighborhood moved back into Ward 6. She waved a “Save Kingman Park” sign during Wells’ speech in front of Eastern High School, following a march along East Capitol Street.
With chants like “don’t gerrymand, we’re in command,” some protesters complained that there’s no way Wards 7 and 8 can represent their interests.
“The folks across the river, they have a whole other set of issues and a whole other set of things going on, and we’re going to be such a small percentage of their constituency that they’re really not going to care,” said Patrick Crowley, a former board chairman at Congressional Cemetery.
Wells called the proposed dividing line—17th Street SE at Barney Circle to 17th Street NE at Benning Road—”dumb,” but all of the territorial goodwill for Kingman Park and Hill East presents a problem: If Ward 6 takes Kingman Park back, the population imbalance across wards will get worse, not better. When pressed for his solution, Wells pointed to his fellow council members for ideas.
“Is Ward 5 part of the solution?” he asked. “Is Ward 2 really part of the solution? There are other wards that border Wards 7 and 8 that are just untouched.”
Some Rosedale residents were convinced that if the council sends the neighborhood to Ward 7, the neighborhood’s black voting base would be left behind.
“My community will lose a voice and will lose resources once we become Ward 7,” said Sondra Phillips-Gilbert. Before the council sets its sights on bigger goals, she complained, the city needs to focus on drawing fair boundaries that won’t split up neighborhoods.
“How can you ask for statehood when you’re busy disenfranchising and gerrymandering communities?” she asked.
Photos by Nick DeSantis