Brooke Pinto
Ward 2 Councilmember Brooke Pinto has secured key changes to D.C.'s ban on non-compete clauses. Credit: Darrow Montgomery

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Ward 2 Councilmember Brooke Pinto is catching some blow back for a not-so-welcoming back-to-school tweet that pits students against longtime residents.

Pinto (or someone tweeting from her official account) wished Georgetown University and George Washington University students a “joyful return to campus (and to Ward 2) for the semester!”

The tweet also encouraged neighbors to call university hotlines to report “noise, trash, and/or other neighborhood concerns.”

Yannik Omictin, a GWU alum and the advisory neighborhood commissioner for single member district 2A01, had a better solution:

“Or…just talk to us!,” Omictin tweeted. “If we’re being loud, ask us to quiet down. If there’s some trash outside a house w/ GW students, knock on the door and ask us to pick it up. We’re all neighbors and GW isn’t our parent – we can build a better neighborhood together.”

Omictin graduated from GW in May and decided to stick around D.C. He began his term on the ANC earlier this year.

He says Pinto’s tweet perpetuates a problem in neighborhoods like Foggy Bottom that house universities, where students are seen as a problem rather than part of the community.

He acknowledges that students share in the responsibility to build relationships with longtime residents. “These are problems that otherwise would be solved by folks just talking to each other,” he says. “I wish that neighborly spirit were encouraged by our elected official.”

He reads Loose Lips a text from his mom, which perfectly sums up the Ward 2 rep’s message: “Welcome! We know you’ll be loud and dirty.”

Pinto is in back-to-back meetings today and was unavailable for a phone call. Her spokesperson, Emmanuel Brantley, sent LL a statement via text on her behalf: “Our community partnerships with local universities and working relationships among teachers, staff, students, and neighbors are very strong in Ward 2 and across DC. Sharing community resources and helping to keep each other informed keeps those relationships strong and allows us to work together.”

Christian Damiana, an American University student and ANC for single member district 3D07, was similarly frustrated by Pinto’s tweet. Although he doesn’t live in Ward 2 (AU is in Ward 3), he says Pinto’s message encourages a “culture of neighbors treating college students like children instead of members of the community.”

He describes a working group at AU made up students, neighborhood groups, ANCs, and AU officials that has worked to build relationships between students and the people living around the university. He says the university and students have made a concerted effort to mend what was once an antagonistic relationship with some neighbors. The university sending newsletters introducing students and requiring those who live off campus to complete a training has helped, he says.

“The ANC used to be antagonistic toward students, but we worked to change those relationships and build new ones,” he says. “But it seems Councilmember Pinto is encouraging the opposite,” he says.

This is the second time in a little more than a week that Pinto’s taken heat on Twitter.

The National Park Service evicted people living in encampments in Burke Park and Austin Gompers Memorial Park last week. In her tweeted statement ahead of the eviction, Pinto said she supported NPS’ decision to clear the encampment and that there was nothing she could do to intervene.

“It is important that these steps to close the park be taken to ensure the safety of the students at Thomson elementary, nearby neighbors, and those staying in the park,” Pinto’s statement said. She said she’d requested that the deputy mayor for health and human services work to move people living in the parks into transitional housing while they look for permanent housing.

Omictin says many of the people kicked out of the parks moved into an encampment at 20th and E streets NW, in his single member district.

“That’s the consequence of the statements and actions that Councilmember Pinto took in this particular case,” Omictin says. “Folks don’t end up going into housing. That’s not how the system functions. One encampment is cleared, and they go somewhere else in the city. We’re going to welcome those folks, but that’s how it goes down.”

He adds that it’s unclear whether Pinto could have stopped the eviction in the first place. “But it would have been very helpful to have her on the side of folks in the encampment,” he says.