Courtesy photo

On June 7, a day filled with legislative activity, the D.C. Council approved the new advisory neighborhood commission boundaries for the next decade, along with other matters.

The council initially supported the advisory neighborhood commission (ANC) single-member district boundaries in its May 24 meeting on first reading. However, D.C. Council Chairman Phil Mendelson heard that some residents of the Cleveland Park neighborhood in Northwest did not like the plan the Ward 3 redistricting task force submitted to the council’s redistricting subcommittee in April. 

The task force committee, backed by Ward 3 Council member Mary Cheh (D), created a new commission that comprised of areas along a part of Wisconsin Avenue., NW which includes the McLean Gardens neighborhood and parts of Cleveland Park and Cathedral Heights. At a May 31 meeting at the Cleveland Park Library, about 200 residents communicated to Mendelson that they wanted all of Cleveland Park in one commission. 

Days later, Mendelson crafted a new plan for Ward 3 that put Cleveland Park back together and paired it with McLean Gardens. Cheh and Council member Elissa Silverman (I-At Large), who chaired the redistricting subcommittee, strongly objected to Mendelson actions.

“I object to this 11th hour change to the map that the Ward 3 task force worked many hours and held meetings to draw up,” Cheh said.

“We had a process in place,” Silverman said. “The subcommittee worked hard to make this the most transparent redistricting process the city has undergone.”

Silverman said Mendelson acted unfairly when he pushed aside the Ward 3 task force’s recommendations and went on his own to make Cleveland Park whole regarding its commission. Mendelson pointed out that the subcommittee’s maps consisted of recommendations and the council had the authority to change boundaries as it saw fit. Additionally, Mendelson said he took offense at the tone of some of the critics of his plan, labeling some comments personal attacks.

However, 10 council members voted Mendelson’s plan down and support Cheh and Silverman. Only Council members Vincent Gray (D-Ward 7) and Anita Bonds (D-At Large) favored Mendelson’s plan.

Mendelson also received pushback from some Ward 7 activists when he tried to create a single-member district made up of the D.C. Jail complex and the nearby Park Kennedy apartment building. However, the chairman later revised his plan to have the D.C. Jail complex as its own single-member district.

In other action, the council voted to bar private companies from firing workers who test positive for marijuana. Recreational marijuana has been legal in the District since 2014. Council members said workers in the District’s private sector should not be terminated from employment based on marijuana use given its legality.

The bill heads to Mayor Muriel Bowser for her signature and, if she signs, to the U.S. Congress for its review. If no congressional objection emerges, the law takes effect on Oct. 1.

An exception to the law includes workers in sensitive jobs related to safety including construction workers, police officers and medical professionals. However, the law does not extend to federal workers.

James Wright Jr.

James Wright Jr. is the D.C. political reporter for the Washington Informer Newspaper. He has worked for the Washington AFRO-American Newspaper as a reporter, city editor and freelance writer and The Washington...

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