Greater Greater Washington

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Redistricting Game results, part 2: Where people want to live

How can we derive useful information from 3,981 maps that could help the DC Council make choices?

We could simply give everyone a vote and see which areas get changed in the most maps, but that wouldn't be very fair. Many people just switched areas that looked best on a map. Some folks definitely do know the area, though: people who live in that particular area.

What did people say about the places they live personally? Who would like to see their home part of a different ward?

The "game" started by asking people where they live. If they clicked an area in DC and that area is on the border between wards, it then asked them which ward they'd like to live in. We can see how many people liked the ward they're in:

WardBorder respondentsChose own ward
173580.7%
252572.6%
327183.0%
420555.1%
527233.1%
655587.4%
78146.9%
84555.6%

The only people who got this question are people who live in one of the areas bordering the other ward. Therefore, this doesn't mean that 80.7% of Ward 1 residents want to be in Ward 1, but 80.7% of the people who live at the edge.

We can tell from this that the wards most popular with their own border residents are 6 (Tommy Wells), 3 (Mary Cheh), and 1 (Jim Graham), while the least popular ward is 5 (Harry Thomas, Jr.) People's choice likely revolves around a few factors. There's which councilmember people want representing them, for sure. There's also which area people feel most geographic affinity to.

The RPP zones also factor in. It's a silly policy, but a resident's resident parking permit is tied to the specific ward in which they live. People can park for free as residents even in another part of their own ward, but not in another ward. That means that when part of Chevy Chase got moved from Ward 3 to Ward 4, not only did the councilmember change, but people then stopped being able to drive to Woodley Park Metro and park in the neighborhoods but could now do so at Petworth.

When the Palisades got moved from 2 to 3, some people were more upset about losing the ability to park as residents in Georgetown or around Mount Vernon Square than about ceasing to be represented by Jack Evans. DC could easily remove this incentive by creating parking zones based on geographic features and distinct neighborhoods instead of ward boundaries, but that's not how it works today.

Among people who wanted to switch wards, what other wards did they prefer?

Wants to be in
12345678
Lives in180.7%14.4%1.9%2.4%0.5%
218.1%72.6%5.0%1.3%3.0%0.0%
35.5%9.2%83.0%2.2%
420.0%22.4%55.1%2.4%
532.4%14.7%1.8%33.1%17.3%0.7%
610.5%0.7%87.4%0.2%1.3%
71.2%45.7%46.9%6.2%
84.4%13.3%26.7%55.6%

It's important to note that not everyone got all of the options. People only got to pick wards that were adjacent to their area. For example, a lot more people in Ward 5 said they want to be in Ward 1 than said they want Ward 2, but there are many fewer people in the Truxton Circle area that get Ward 2 as a choice, versus many more people from Bloomingdale to the Armed Forces Retirement Home eligible for the choice between 5 and 1.

The most informative way to look at that part of the table is to compare two squares for the same pair of wards, on opposite sides of the diagonal. For example, only 0.2% of Ward 6 border residents wanted to be in Ward 7, but 45.7% of Ward 7 border residents wanted to be in Ward 6 (and not all had the choice!) This particular result is probably mostly Kingman Park, the part of Ward 7 west of the river, whose residents generally want to be in Ward 6 instead of 7.

Digging down further, what about individual areas? This map shows each area in the "game" and which ward the residents of that area picked.


Click for larger and interactive version.

The darker the color, the stronger the sentiment in that area for a particular ward. If a plurality chose a different ward than what it is today, that area has a darker border. The areas with no or almost no residents are grayed out.

89% of the 38 people in Kingman Park wanted to switch back to Ward 6. 42% of the 72 respondents in Truxton Circle, now in Ward 5, wanted to go to Ward 2, and 28% wanted Ward 6; Ward 5 came in only third among the residents' preferences. The 2 people in the little triangle east of North Capitol between New York and Florida Avenues both would switch to Ward 6, though ironically, Ward 5 beat out 2 and 6 for the 10 people who live in Ward 6's "chimney."

People on the Ward 5 and 1 border, in Bloomingdale and around the Hospital Center, preferred to be in Ward 1, while people on Ward 1's western outpost, between Connecticut Avenue and the Zoo, would go for Ward 3. The western districts of Ward 4 in Chevy Chase, west of Utah Avenue, would go back to 3 given the choice, but only 23% of the people east of Utah Avenue chose to move.

In other areas, a majority didn't choose to change, but sentiment was still deeply divided. That includes most of the Ward 2-3 border on both sides, the Penn Quarter segment of Ward 6, most parts of Ward 5 near either 6 or 7 or in Ward 8 near 7.

Surprisingly, only half the 38 respondents in Sheridan-Kalorama would stay in Ward 2, the others preferring 1 or 3, and similarly half of the 30 Crestwood participants would change from 4 to either 1 or 3. Both groups preferred 1 over 3.

The 1 person from Bellevue, in DC's southern tip, made a map that puts it into Ward 2 along with Bolling.

It would be great if every area could be in the ward more people preferred, but that's not possible. This map makes wards 2 and 3 far too large, and 1 also is too large. 5, 7, and 8 all become too small, with 7 getting much smaller than today where it actually has to grow.

There is only one shift that residents of an area chose and which also helps advance the ultimate redistricting goal. Census Tract 76.05 contains the southern part of the Fairlawn neighborhood, and is a small piece of Ward 7 that looks like it's protruding into Ward 8. 6 people from the Ward 7 portion made maps. 3 moved it into Ward 8, while 2 kept it in 7 and 1 moved it into 6.

As it turns out, this change is the one that is the most clear-cut by any metric. We'll examine this and other possible solutions in an upcoming part.

David Alpert is the Founder and Editor-in-Chief of Greater Greater Washington and Greater Greater Education. He worked as a Product Manager for Google for six years and has lived in the Boston, San Francisco, and New York metro areas in addition to Washington, DC. He loves the area which is, in many ways, greater than those others, and wants to see it become even greater. 

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I'm not sure if this has been covered here or not, but what's the history behind the Ward 6 Chimney? It's so incredibly odd...

by andrew on Apr 19, 2011 11:51 am • linkreport

Therefore, this doesn't mean that 80.7% of Ward 1 residents want to be in Ward 1, but 80.7% of the people who live at the edge.

Actually ... it doesn't mean that either. It simply means that 80.7% of the GGW bloggers who responded who happened to live 'at the edge' wanted to remain in Ward 1. There's a lot of self selecting going of from the get-go given that those who even read GGW aren't necessarily representative of Ward 1 residents in general. GGW is an advocacy for a certain position (i.e., not an unbiased news source). Hence the opinions your going to draw are going to be confined to those who by and large support the specific positions of that advocacy ... or oppose them enough to be willing to read those positions (and sometimes argue against them) ... AND participate in the pole.

I.e., At its basis it is fundamentally flawed if the purpose is to show what 'the people' want. It simply, by and large, shows what those who believe in the positions GGW takes want.

by Lance on Apr 19, 2011 12:11 pm • linkreport

@andrew Hard to say, though it borders the Sursum Corda Co-Op, which might have something to do with it. Anybody with more institutional memory care to chime in?

by Rudi on Apr 19, 2011 12:15 pm • linkreport

Worse, it didn't offer the choice if living in Ward 9.

by ah on Apr 19, 2011 12:15 pm • linkreport

The most informative way to look at that part of the table is to compare two squares for the same pair of wards, on opposite sides of the diagonal. For example, only 0.2% of Ward 6 border residents wanted to be in Ward 7, but 45.7% of Ward 7 border residents wanted to be in Ward 6 (and not all had the choice!) This particular result is probably mostly Kingman Park, the part of Ward 7 west of the river, whose residents generally want to be in Ward 6 instead of 7.

It's also the result of 'who's reading this blog?' ... is it bike and dog owning 'new' residents ... or more traditional 'old' residents ... Again, while this is a wonderful tool which could/should be expanded for use by the council. It's results, as being reported here, are inherently flawed given the obvious population sampling biases. We really can't read anything out of it other than that it was a fun experience and 'yes, if the Council just wanted to change boundaries around to reach the 'almost equal' proproportions based on non-political reasons, they really could ... very easily. That's all. The rest is just a great way to present GGW positions and cloak them with an authority that doesn't really exist ...

by Lance on Apr 19, 2011 12:19 pm • linkreport

It simply, by and large, shows what those who believe in the positions GGW takes want.

I don't remember swearing fealty to GGW's positions when I did my map.

I'm actually kind of impressed that there were so many respondents from wards 5, 7, and 8. Maybe lots of folks from all over the District are interested in a greater greater Washington, and we should stop assuming otherwise.

by Matt W on Apr 19, 2011 12:49 pm • linkreport

The rest is just a great way to present GGW positions and cloak them with an authority that doesn't really exist ...

You mean sort of like Community Associations and other ad hoc groups?

by William on Apr 19, 2011 1:32 pm • linkreport

I own a bike but not a dog and have lived here 16 years (the vast majority of my adult life). Am I old or new?

by rg on Apr 19, 2011 1:46 pm • linkreport

Go trole elsewhere Lance.

I know I shared the link with many of my peers who care nothing of GGW.

by Ward 2 on Apr 19, 2011 2:25 pm • linkreport

@Lance,

I think you've got the wrong end of the stick on this one. I saw references to this redistricting tool here, at DCist, Prince of Petworth, and about a half-dozen other online communities, including Matthew Yglesias' blog.

by oboe on Apr 19, 2011 2:44 pm • linkreport

The column is right to point out that RPP is currently bound up with ward boundaries. Yet another reason to move to a neighborhood, ANC or census cluster-based system of smaller parking zones.

by Sarah on Apr 19, 2011 2:49 pm • linkreport

@rg -depends. What kind of a bike do you have?

by Tina on Apr 19, 2011 4:02 pm • linkreport

For what it is worth, the area along the border of Wards 3 and 4 in Chevy Chase are not subject to RPP, so that should not have come into play when that neighborhood was split 10 years ago.

by Andrew on Apr 19, 2011 4:47 pm • linkreport

@oboe and about a half-dozen other online communities, including Matthew Yglesias' blog.

And what would you estimate is the share of people in this town that are part of the online communities? Maybe 5% ... 10% if you stretch it?

by Lance on Apr 19, 2011 4:58 pm • linkreport


Lance before:

It simply means that 80.7% of the GGW bloggers who responded who happened to live 'at the edge' wanted to remain in Ward 1...It simply, by and large, shows what those who believe in the positions GGW takes want.

Lance now:

And what would you estimate is the share of people in this town that are part of the online communities? Maybe 5% ... 10% if you stretch it?

I will take your backpedaling as a gracious concession to the validity of my point.

Synthesis!

by oboe on Apr 19, 2011 5:09 pm • linkreport

What's your point, Lance? That this isn't a scientific survey?

Did David ever present it as such?

I'm also not following you when you say that this should have been given to Council for their use - 1) I'm pretty sure the Council has other software to help them do the same task, and 2) what's preventing them from using David's tool as it is - is there an internet outage at the Wilson Building?

by Alex B. on Apr 19, 2011 5:09 pm • linkreport

@Lance And what would you estimate is the share of people in this town that are part of the online communities? Maybe 5% ... 10% if you stretch it?

Good point. Let's defer to the 0.0166189426% who get to be members of the Committee of 100 on the Federal City instead!

by cminus on Apr 19, 2011 5:13 pm • linkreport

@cminus:
Zing.

by Matt Johnson on Apr 19, 2011 5:14 pm • linkreport

lance, I know you're trying to be dismissive, but do you realize that turnout for Tuesday's election will be 8-12%? so you're saying "that community" could very well be the only people who show up at the polls.

by Ward 2 on Apr 19, 2011 5:24 pm • linkreport

@oboe, there's no backpeddaling going on. I guess you don't understand that even if it were true that its not only GGW readers who responded as you claim, that's still only a small group not representative of the general constituency.

by Lance on Apr 19, 2011 6:21 pm • linkreport

@ cminus, I see how you came about your screenname. Do you see the Committee of 100 taking any stand in this arm wrestling match between the council members?

by Lance on Apr 19, 2011 6:25 pm • linkreport

RE: Ward 6 Chimney. I as I remember it, the Ward 6 Chimney came late in the redistricting effort in 2001. The final lines for Ward 6 had ben so radically changed that it was in danger of ending up too small. Taking an entire census tract from Ward 2 might have cut it too much. so they looked for a few non-controversial blocks. The west line could not go past 4th Street NW because a Ward 2 ANC Commissioner lived on the corner of 4th and M. So two blocks were taken from Ward 2 and two blocks were taken from Ward 5, totaling about 120 people and given to Ward 6. The issue could have been avoided by giving Kingman Park back to Ward 6, but the then Councilwoman had decided to get rid of that neighborhood early on. So much for the science of redistricting.

by Pleasant on Apr 19, 2011 6:58 pm • linkreport

Lance,

I can answer that question. Soon after David Alpert released the "redistricting game", Alma Gates of the Committee of 100 on the Federal City posted to every listserv she could suggesting that redistricting is not a game, and that those interested should lobby their Councilmembers to be appointed to special (secret?) committees to make these same decisions at the Ward level.

I would submit that an unscientific sampling of internet users that draws almost 4000 responses is entirely more democratic, albeit unscientific and not representative than the approach advocated by Ms. Gates.

by Luke on Apr 19, 2011 7:17 pm • linkreport

@Luke, Alma did NOT post as a representative of the Committee of 100. Alma is a well known activist in her part of town. She posted simply under her name. As I do here. And you too I might add ...

by Lance on Apr 19, 2011 7:37 pm • linkreport

@Pleasant but the then Councilwoman had decided to get rid of that neighborhood early on. So much for the science of redistricting.

Thanks for the insights into the process. There seems to be an inability to face the fact here that the redistricting process isn't about us. It's purely about the Ward Councilmembers having a 'mud fight' between themselves to determine who gets which 'spoils' in terms of political base, likely contributors (think the downtown developers), and exiling political opponents who might take the seat away from them down the road.

Now that said, the Ward CMs will look to justify their land grabs (and push aways) as being based on 'the will of the people' ... (even if there isn't a shred of truth to it.) And like I speculated back when the excercise (the simulation) was presented to us, I could see the results of this simulation used to give CMs the likes of Wells (and others that GGW deems in line with their advocacy positions) that justification. And like I expressed today, are we surprised that people reading a blog that support GGW's advocacy positions by and large should ... surprise surprise ... show results that support those positions? I bet if we say this same excercise in front of a bunch of Ward 6 African American senior citizens near the Ward 8 border, the opposite claims made here would prevail. Using the same methodology that David is usine ... but with a different population sampling, we'd see where 'the affected people' all wanted to be represented by Barry ... in Ward 8.

by Lance on Apr 19, 2011 7:49 pm • linkreport

"When the Palisades got moved from 2 to 3, some people were more upset about losing the ability to park as residents in Georgetown or around Mount Vernon Square than about ceasing to be represented by Jack Evans."

David - these kinds of political pontifications weaken your arguments all around and make you look rather foolish.

by Tearinmybeer on Apr 20, 2011 8:15 am • linkreport

I kind of agree with Lance's position on this one. Most of the arguments against his position have been highly immature so far. Focus on the facts and drop the emotion.

The tool is not a "game", but the results don't rise much above an "intellectual" curiosity. The 'game' is the battle behind the scenes at 1350 Pennsylvania Ave. If someone wanted to put this tool on a referendum at the voting booth, then we have a useful sample. However, given the current BOEE and the quality of precinct volunteers it would become an unmitigated disaster. This tool, at it's best, is going to be a sanity check against what eventually happens.

A slightly more useful tool would have the population tool combined with the "value of unused commercial space" tool.

THAT, my friends, would give you a clearer picture of what is going to eventually happen.

by eb on Apr 20, 2011 8:58 am • linkreport

@eb

but the results don't rise much above an "intellectual" curiosity.

And who has argued it's anything more than that? David has been very transparent in who has responded and what the data represents. It's up to the consumer of that information to judge how they'd like to weight it.

This tool, at it's best, is going to be a sanity check against what eventually happens.

And you don't think that's a valuable addition to a process that would otherwise be done in behind closed doors, smoke-filled-room meetings?

This tool shows the people what the basic math is, and helps them manipulate the map and understand the basic, mathematically and legally required dynamics. They can then take that knowledge gained and use it to check and inform whatever redistricting plan the council comes up with.

I don't understand the arguments saying this was a scientific sample - of course it wasn't, nor have the results been delivered with any promised statistical validity.

by Alex B. on Apr 20, 2011 9:47 am • linkreport

@eb,

From what I could follow of the argument, Lance's original position was clear: that the results showed nothing more than the preferences of "GGW bloggers".

If his argument was that the decision will be made "behind the scenes at 1350 Pennsylvania Ave" he could've said so. No one would have argued. Of course, the folks making the decisions at 1350 Penn Ave won't be making it in a vacuum.

The value of this tool is that it raised people's awareness of the issue in a way that was heretofore impossible. Those people are now more likely to participate in the formal process, to understand the issues at hand, and to contact their elected representatives.

Lance is drawing flak because, as is usually the case, he overstated his argument, essentially claiming that the only folks who used this tool was "David Alpert and his minions", when in fact, the user-base looks more like "the set of DC political junkies who have access to the Internet."

Having said all that, I kind of agree with Lance's eventual position on this one as well. :)

by oboe on Apr 20, 2011 9:57 am • linkreport

@Oboe, If his argument was that the decision will be made "behind the scenes at 1350 Pennsylvania Ave" he could've said so. No one would have argued.

But I did ... and you did argue ...

There seems to be an inability to face the fact here that the redistricting process isn't about us. It's purely about the Ward Councilmembers having a 'mud fight' between themselves to determine who gets which 'spoils' in terms of political base, likely contributors (think the downtown developers), and exiling political opponents who might take the seat away from them down the road. Lance April 19th 7:49 pm

(And additionally, I've posted this viewpoint innumerable times before whenever we've discussed this subject.)

by Lance on Apr 20, 2011 10:49 am • linkreport

@Oboe Having said all that, I kind of agree with Lance's eventual position on this one as well. :)

thanks!

the user-base looks more like "the set of DC political junkies who have access to the Internet."

it's the 'who have access to the Internet' part that gives me reason for pause here ...

by Lance on Apr 20, 2011 11:08 am • linkreport

Simple solution: Had David referred to "readers" or maybe "respondents," instead of "people" as he stated conclusions in his lead-in, there would have been no basis for Lance to allege overstatement. Gotta go with Lance on this one, ultimately, although I don't think David's intent was to inflate...

by checkered demon on Apr 20, 2011 3:11 pm • linkreport

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