Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Underlying Agenda In Play (?)

Fengler:  I am posting this email exchange between Commissioner Pate and myself.

On Tue, Sep 20, 2011 at 10:55 PM, Brian Pate <> wrote:


I know you had a full agenda last night, but I was seriously disappointed with the lack of an opportunity for public comment on the most recently adopted plan, BEFORE the plan was voted on by the Task Force.  Will this be rectified on Thursday? 

I also have a simple question.  Why did ANC6C blithely give away 3 SMDs to an ANC that very vocally stated that they did not need or want them, then turn around and vociferously lobby for an additional SMD to their south?  It does not make any sense to me, unless there is an underlying agenda in play.  Please help me clear this up. 

Thanks, Brian

On Wed, Sep 21, 2011 at 5:55 PM, Joe Fengler <> wrote:
If time permits, at the end of the meeting, an opportunity for public comment will be provided.  The last two meetings (public meeting #9 and #10) are scheduled as public meetings for the task force to make decisions.  These are not hearings where we are soliciting additional information from the public.  We have completed that phase of our redistricting process.  However, if a task force member wishes to make a motion to open the meeting for public comment/participation/input on various proposals/recommendations, and that motion receives the appropriate second, as well majority of the task force voting in the affirmative, the meeting will be open to public input during the meeting.  I am being candid to manage expectations.  
I welcome the opportunity to address the two questions you asked me.  And thank you for asking them.  It is this type of exchange that will facilitate understanding.  And to be clear, for the rest of my comments below, I am speaking as Joe Fengler and not the W6TF Chair.   
1. Why did ANC6C blithely give away 3 SMDs to an ANC that very vocally stated that they did not need or want them? 
As you are asking my opinion on ANC 6C's recommendation to realigning 6C SMD in the NW to the new 6E, I believe the full rational for their request can be found in the recommendations they forwarded the task force on Friday, September 16, 2011 - which can be found here 
It appears that 6C was providing solutions to address the integration of ANC 2C as well as meet the objectives listed in the Ward 6 Guidelines for ANC/SMD - which can be found here (as well as posted on the W6TF website, under Filing Cabinet).  These guidelines were also provided on page 30 of the W6TF Redistricting Report (issued August 18, 2011)  - which can be found here (as well as posted on the W6TF website, under Filing Cabinet).  
Specifically, the very first objective of the Ward 6 Redistricting Guidelines for ANC/SMD deal with striving for cohesive grouping of residents:  "Recognize neighborhood cohesiveness by grouping residents into ANCs where they are likely to have the most concern about issues that come before their own ANC, and have an affinity of interests and preferences with other residents in the same ANC."
To that point, ANC 6C's formal recommendation provided to the task force stated:  "We recognize the opportunity to bring together the northwest communities from the current ANC 2C to our north with the northernmost ANC 6C communities because of constituents’ similar interests and issues as NoMa and North Capitol corridor development continue to move through their neighborhood.  We believe that ANC experience in dealing with developers in ANC 6C01, 02, and 03 will provide guidance as this development proceeds.  Thus we recommend that 6C01, 02, and 03 join with the four current 2C SMDs to form a new ANC 6E."
From the ANC 6C Listening Session held on July 14,2011, the following statements where made:
(1) ANC 6C Chair Karen Wirt said that right now, ANC 6C has nine Single Member Districts, and with the addition of Shaw it could very well be 12, so one idea would be to break off 09--along with 01, 02 and 03—into a new ANC 6E. 
(2) Ms. Scheeder pointed out that the boundaries of 01, 02, 03 and 09 plus Shaw can be put together logically. 
(3) Ms. Wirt said 6C had nine, and Mr. Coburn said that seven is a logical number in terms of operations, etc., that seven provides more people to pitch in and get things done. 
(4) Ms. Scheeder pointed out that there’s a lot of development happening within the Ward and there should be consistency in developing the policy for the ANCs.  The Task Force should develop procedures that will equalize the workload among the Commissions.
You can read the entire ANC 6C Meeting Listening Summary on  the W6TF website - which can be found here.
To summarize these three data points, I can follow the development of the idea to realign ANC 6A NW SMDs from the early stages of the redistricting process all the way to ANC 6C sending that recommendation to the task force.  It appears to be based in sound public policy - that NW blocks in Ward 6 share more in common with ANC 2C than ANC 6C.  That ANC 6C and ANC 2C both recognize the neighborhood cohesiveness achieved by grouping these residents together as the share common issues.  
It is important to note that ANC 2C's position on this subject as evolved over the summer as they had a chance to really study the potential option of incorporating most of ANC 6C's NW SMD.  If you read the ANC 2C Listening Meeting Minutes (which can be found here), you will see very hesitant and skeptical comments from ANC 2C Commissioners.  Initially, ANC 2C wanted to remain a four SMD ANC.  By the time they voted on their official recommendations - they recommended adoption of the initially approved maps that had seven SMDs, to include other recommended changes.  I credit that to Chair Padro and Commissioner Nigro's willingness to work with the task force and understand the objectives of the Ward Six redistricting process.   
2.  Why did ANC6C...turn around and vociferously lobby for an additional SMD to their south? 
Again, it appears that ANC 6C is basing their recommendation in the following Ward 6 Redistricting Guidelines for ANC/SMD: 
Guideline #2. To the extent that current boundaries contribute to effective functioning of the ANCs, limit the scope of change to ANC and SMD boundaries.
From ANC 6C's formal recommendations:  "ANC 6C believes that seven is a logical number in terms of operations and provides a sufficient number to get things done.  Six SMDs can result in a tie vote, whereas seven does not, and this is particularly important as NoMa developers continue to come before ANC 6C as the area to our north grows."
Guideline #3. Balance workloads and resources of ANCs and pay attention to likely caseload based on development patterns, historic districts, etc.
From ANC 6C's formal recommendations: "A better balance would be created in Ward 6 and hence the workload better distributed if the number of SMDs in each Ward 6 ANC is more evenly divided:  6D and 6E each have seven SMDs; 6A has 8; 6B would have 9 if 6C were to have a seventh SMD.   Thus we recommend that for effective functioning of the workload both across Ward 6 and within 6C, a seventh SMD is needed in 6C."
Guideline #4.  Take advantage of natural or built features to the extent they make sense to residents in defining the boundaries of ANCs. 
From their formal recommendation: "Similarly, the extension of ANC 6C’s southern border to Independence Avenue also satisfies the criterion of grouping residents into ANCs where they are likely to have similar interests, concerns and preferences in the Capitol Hill historic district." 
So, while I understand that there is disagreement regarding ANC 6C's recommendations, as well as the subsequent W6TF adopting them, I don't see any hidden plan.  In my opinion, their recommendations are grounded in good public policy for Ward 6.  In addition, I supported this recommendation for the following additional reasons:
1.  In the Ward redistricting process, Ward 6 lost Chinatown and has significant adjustments to the western end of the Ward.  Initially, my objective was to effectively incorporate 2C into Ward 6 - which was accomplished.  In my opinion, it is not realistic to think that all the changes created by the DC Council on the western end of Ward 6 could be completely resolved/absorbed in the western end.  Initially, the task force proposed to do just that - by reducing ANC 6C to six SMDs.  Even to get to six SMDs required moving ANC 6C's eastern end to 8th Street - essentially taking census blocks for ANC 6A.  I was initially OK with that plan as it would be reviewed by all the ANCs to provide formal comments and recommendations.  However, upon reading ANC 6C's recommendations, it was clear to that trying to "contain" all the western end changes within their existing boundaries (along with the portion from ANC 6A) did not lead to an equitable redistricting process.  
2.  The redistribution between the NW SMDs and ANC 6A and 6C SMDs.  In my opinion, the differences between Ward 6 NW SMDs and Ward 6 NE SMDs are significant.  Noting that ANC 6C does still retain parts of NW below Massachusetts Avenue, I attribute that to an acceptable deviation to support the larger goal of building equitably-sized ANCs.  I will agree, it is not perfect solution.  That being said, shifting ANC 6C boundaries both east and south supports the guidelines adopted and is a much better policy option than having ANC 6C retain more of NW than they already have in the currently approved plan.  
3.  In my opinion, the redistricting process is recognize neighborhood cohesiveness, retain/build effective ANCs and balance workloads, resources and caseloads.  By adopting a final plan that has one ANC with 6 SMD and one ANC with 10 violates all three of these guidelines.  While it would be difficult to build all ANCs with the same number of SMDs - implementing a plan that has three ANCs with 7 SMDs, one with 8 SMDs and one with 9 SMDs is a worthy policy objective worth achieving as it supports all three of these objectives.  
4.  Accordingly, I disagree that those living between Independence and East Capitol will be "cut" adrift from Eastern Market/Barrack Row.  Eastern Market is a wonderful resources share by the entire Ward 6 community  as well as the city.  I don't agree with "where I shop" is "what ANC" I should be in.  While the line - "I can see ANC 6B from my window" does not hold logic with me.  The very nature of borders means that someone will see another ANC from one's front door.  I can think of MedLink, H Street Connection and RFK all as good examples of "recognized" features that are just across the street.  
In close, I hope this clears up how ANC 6C came to their recommendations.  I offered my additional points used in making my decision in an effort to provide the context of one vote - mine.  I respect that others have different rationale and don't agree with any of the points provided by ANC 6C or even my additional analysis.  But, I will say, from my opinion, this was not a hasty decision made without study or proper notice to the community.  In this case, well respected task force members, who are volunteering their time and great expertise, spent two months reviewing the same information and came to different conclusions.  Whether the decisions are "wrong" or "right" depends on the evaluation lens used to make a decision.   
Respectfully, Joe Fengler


  1. Joe,

    At any point in this lengthy process, when you and others became aware that the "best public policy" option would be to move residents within a block or two of Eastern Market and Hine out of that ANC and into an ANC focused on NoMa development, did you or anyone think to ask the affected residents what their opinion was about such subjective issues as whether they were being grouped "into ANCs where they are likely to have the most concern about issues that come before their own ANC, and have an affinity of interests and preferences with other residents in the same ANC"?

    What I saw the other night was a Task Force wondering aloud whether there were any affected residents who wished to speak, even stating "nobody in the affected area even knows they are being moved to 6C," and a chair ruling no public comment would be allowed without a motion, a second and a vote.

    Too bad the full scope of this approach--including the part about moving close neighbors of Hine and Eastern Market out of the ANC that deals with those issues--was not fully explicated *prior* to the ANC-6B Listening Session. You'd have heard a lot from those affected neighbors if they'd been made aware of this threat prior to the ANC-6B Listening Session.

    I am sure that tomorrow night you will want to have ANC Vice Chair Ivan Frishberg review for W6TF the signatures and volunteered comments of affected neighbors at the outset of the W6TF meeting (not at the end, after all the decisions have been made), in order to allow some TF members in that slender 5-4-1 majority an opportunity to reconsider their vote. Over 120 signatures already in, many comments from affected neighbors asking, in effect, "WTF, W6TF?" in just *24 hours* since W6TF took this 5-4-1 vote.

    That kind of groundswell, particularly since the opinions expressed are precisely on the topic of "the very first objective of the Ward 6 Redistricting Guidelines," deserve further review and possibly ameliorative action by W6TF, before proceeding further.

    Thanks to you and all W6TF members for their many hours of hard and honorable work on this assignment.

    Thomas Riehle, 8th and D SE

  2. To say this:

    "Specifically, the very first objective of the Ward 6 Redistricting Guidelines for ANC/SMD deal with striving for cohesive grouping of residents: "Recognize neighborhood cohesiveness by grouping residents into ANCs where they are likely to have the most concern about issues that come before their own ANC, and have an affinity of interests and preferences with other residents in the same ANC."

    And then vote to take way representation on the issues that have the biggest impact on those residents and which are most central to their neighborhood is just nonsensical.

    Some times the longer the explanation the more it smells like a rat.

  3. We are all neighbors. There is no doubt that people in SE have dinner on H Street, and people in NE shop at Eastern Market. But the line has to be somewhere. Capitol Hill is a massive neighborhood - too big for one ANC - and a boundary at East Capitol is just as arbitrary as Independence or 8th.

    There is no "rat" here... Mr. Fengler is following all of the guidelines, and not just selectively reading. The boundaries of Ward 6 have changed. 6C has supported changing its borders to fully incorporate and welcome our neighbors in Shaw. Why won't 6B welcome this change as well? Why in the world would the arbitrary borders of 6B be sacred?

  4. the border has been there for 35 years. It is a major quadrant line. it is not arbitrary. Plus, it is not about if 6B is objecting to this change, it is about the neighbors objecting (strenuously) because they will not have representation on the major issues that impact their neighborhood and quality of life.

    What is becoming clear is that this 6C plan is actually the fengler plan. originally rejected then taken up by 6C. Will anyone else on the TF besides Fengler care what the actual residents think or what issues they want to be represented on.

    Only in DC could we have such a technocratic defensiveness about patently absurd ideas, defend it with excessive process that was used to create it in the first place and the whole time appear blind to the principles of representation.

    throw this nonsense out and start listening to the people. Isn't that what ANCs are supposed to be about.

  5. The only East-West dividing lines that are NOT arbitrary are Florida, F NE, Southeast Freeway and the Anacostia River. The only difference between NE and SE within the Historic District is one letter in the address.

    Nothing will stop interested residents from shopping at Eastern Market or attending meetings about Hines redevelopment. But as Mr. Fengler points out, this will allow for five roughly even ANCs.

    The task force has already decided to add a fifth ANC. This means the others must shrink, and none are shrinking more than 6C.

  6. I must respectfully take exception to the comment referring to 6C as "an ANC focused on NoMa development".
    I am the longest-serving citizen member of the NE Zoning and Planning committee, dating back to the time when NE was one single ANC--6A--from North Capitol to the river, surviving the redistricting resulting from the 2000 census that cleaved 6A into two--6A and 6C, and I can tell you that that characterization is incorrect. We are as much a part of the historic district as B. We care just as much about Eastern Market, Hine development, and Barracks Row as anybody in SE, and we participate in those public meetings.
    Furthermore, the former 6A survived being cleaved into two, bringing new life and new ideas to representing the Hill.
    But to allow one ANC to endure all the cuts, and shrink in size to the point of questionable viability, in order to allow another to remain unchanged forever just rewards bullying and petrification.
    I see houses, trees and people from my window.
    Thank you very much--
    Bobbi Krengel

  7. You should have seen this one coming. Blocks were initially taken away from 6A -- which was the first step of expanding 6C. Folks in 6A were very upset, but 6B didn't seem because it didn't affect them. You should have cared what happened in 6A, because it was very clear that Step 2 was to take part of 6B. If you want a more defensible argument, why don't you argue that both 6A's and 6B's boundaries should be restored? That would reduce the number of 6C commissioners to 6 -- a perfectly viable commission.

  8. Joe,

    Thanks for posting our exchange. I applaud the job the TF has done to date, and don't envy your role in the slightest. Indeed, I think you are brave in accepting this thankless role and feel that few could have executed the responsibility with as much zeal and energy.

    I do have to question some of the tenuous logic in your response to my enquiry.

    First, Ken Jarboe, at the last task force meeting, did a pretty good job of debunking the mythology of the "tie vote". It just doesn't happen that often, and is not that big of a deal (I would point out that 6B effectively operates with 10 Commissioners-we've never tied). In the event it does happen, Robert's Rules provide parliamentary procedures for dealing with the situation. A split vote is not akin to hanging chads.

    Second, I am curious how the TF, or ANC6C, determined the workloads of all ANCs such that you could quantitatively "rebalance" the workload and resources of each ANC? It's a fine objective, but I don't think it should be achieved through subjective conjecture. This should be a quantifiable judgement. The workload argument can be argued in equal measure the other way--in adding additional Cap Hill territory to ANC6C, have you created an untenable workload for them? Will they now be expected to deal substantively with not only NoMa, Union Station, freeway air-rights and H St issues, but with Hine, Eastern Market and additional HPRB issues as well? For me personally, the thought of adding the many important Near Southeast development issues to the list of existing and future ANC6B issues was one reason I backed off of pursuing the addition of Near Southeast to ANC6B. Further, in ANC6C's last resolution, they stated that they need an additional SMD in order to accomodate for missing Commissioners who "were on travel or otherwise unavailable" (paraphrased quote). That's just weak kool-aid, Joe. If ANC6C has an attendance problem, that should be corrected at the ballot box, not through redistricting.

    Third, I concur that almost all boundaries are arbitary, excepting those formed by physical features. However, from a cartographic perspective, the 200+ year old quadrant line is a logical boundary--one that's stood for 35 years. As for creating ANC boundaries that group residents into geographies with like interests and issues, I will not refute that the residents North of East Cap, those residing in the historic district, have as much in common with those in the area ANC6C desires to annex. However, it is specuous to say that these residents, or those in the to-be annexed area, have much in common with residents that live in the north of ANC6C. The development issues in NoMa have limited bearing on those near Independence Avenue. If you accept this as fact, then that leaves you with two good solutions, either a) add the residents in the ANC6C portion of the Historic District to ANC6B or b) considering that this is probably politically unrealistic, minimize the impact of lack of issue affinity by keeping the residents South of East Cap in ANC6B. The solution put forward simply compounds the problem.

    Lastly, I implore you to listen to the residents in the impacted area. They have not been given ample notice of this development, and have not had a public forum to voice their opinion on this latest plan.

    Thanks again, Joe.


    P.S. -- I am very ready for redistricting to be over, and hope that once the dust settles, no matter the outcome, we can work together to make our Ward the best in the City.

  9. The response to Bobbi is exactly right. 6C gave up seats and gave up seats and then had to go and grab across a border that has been a border for decades.

    But the biggest problem with Bobbi's argument is that people are adequately represented on issues if they go to a meeting. An important part of representation is the accountability of elected officials, deciding who is going to represent you on decisions.

    I canvassed all the blocks in my SMD before the election and Hine was THE issue we talked about. I was elected in part based on those conversations and for better or for worse the democratic process put me in a position to be a decision maker on the Hine process. Now I represent those constituents. Ultimately those constituents can boot me out of office or select someone else who better represents their positions. However, their voice whether expressed through letters, public meetings, or conversations in the street cannot be disconnected from the relationship we have as constituent and elected official.

    That is what representation is all about. In DC of all places we understand that writing to a congressperson on an issue is fundamentally different when you ar a constituent versus when you are not.

    Taking away that basic right of representation on the issues that impact them so much cannot be replaced by representation on an ANC that will not have a formal role in those issues.

    ANC6C may have legitimate problems with the size of their ANC but they were party to that, and it doesn't justify creating a bigger problem somewhere else over the strong objections of the people in the neighborhood.

    Ivan Frishberg, 6B02

  10. FYI--I live in the unit block of 7th St NE--3 blocks from Eastern Market--closer to the market than the majority of B residents.
    My duty is to participate in ANC 6C and make sure they understand how important that market is to me.
    The nature of boundaries is such that somebody has to live near them, and feel affinities across them.
    Thank you very much--
    Bobbi Krengel