Georgetown ANC ignores democracy to fight campus plan
Later today, several commissioners from Advisory Neighborhood Commission 2E will present a 35-page report on the Georgetown University 2010 Campus Plan to the DC Zoning Commission. But the ANC never voted on the report, and some of its own elected members didn't see it until it was filed.
The ANC already has significantly influenced the Campus Plan and steered the DC Office of Planning's own recommendations on the issue. This new report further tries to discredit efforts Georgetown University has made to satisfy neighborhood complaints.
ANC 2E first became publicly involved in the campus plan discussion in January, when it hosted a town hall at the Duke Ellington School. Representatives from the ANC, the local neighborhood associations, and the university were present to discuss the plan and to solicit feedback and comments from community members.
Following this town hall, select members of ANC 2E drafted a 16-page resolution on the campus plan. After discussion at the ANC's March meeting, the resolution passed. It has subsequently had significant impact on the Office of Planning's review of the campus plan, which surprised many by recommending cuts in Georgetown enrollment if it doesn't house 100% of students on campus by 2016.
As an elected representative to ANC 2E I opposed that resolution, but nonetheless felt satisfied with the process. All voices on the matter were heard, and I was able to make the views of my constituents clear via my vote in opposition.
The same cannot be said of the supplementary report that was released last week, and which goes before the Zoning Commission today.
The supplementary report never appeared on a public agenda nor was it ever put to a vote. Despite being very engaged with the campus plan, and despite being a member of ANC 2E's town-gown committee, I only became aware of the existence of this report when it appeared on The Georgetown Metropolitan.
I asked ANC 2E chair Ron Lewis how it was that this report carried the full letterhead and endorsement of ANC 2E despite not having been voted upon. He referred me to a resolution passed in October 2010 (before my election) that reads:
Be it resolved by Advisory Neighborhood Commission 2E, that whenever a resolution or recommendation is adopted by the Commission that relates to a particular matter that is or will be before an agency, entity or instrumentality of the District of Columbia Government or of the United States Government, any Commissioner, or any one or more of them, or any successor thereto, who in each case has voted in favor of the resolution or recommendation so adopted, may represent the Commission before such agency, entity or instrumentality with respect to such matter. Further, any such Commissioner, with the approval of the Chair or in the Chair's absence, the Vice Chair, of the Commission, may authorize any other person to represent, assist in representing, or temporarily represent the Commission, in each case on a pro bono basis without fee, before such agency, entity or instrumentality with respect to such matter.This resolution as usually applied has many positive and practical applications. The ability to have commissioners present before other government bodies on the thinking of the commission ensures that those bodies understand the ANC's position. It allows for clarifying questions that might otherwise be missed.
However, Lewis has clearly gone beyond the the intent of the resolution by creating a supplemental report over twice the size of the resolution it is augmenting, and which covers several new issues.
The report primarily attempts to discredit new initiatives Georgetown University instituted in response to community concerns. These programs include a late-night shuttle between campus and M Street, a daily trash collection service, and a significant increase in the number of reimbursable police details in the community. The report also addresses several of the points that GU made in its rebuttal statement, filed in July.
The original ANC 2E resolution does not address these programs or the the rebuttal statement because they did not exist at the time it was drafted. It is clear that the November 8th report is not in fact supplementary to anything, but is rather its own, original report. It does not clarify established positions, but rather establishes new positions about new issues.
Considering this fact, it is disappointing that the leadership of ANC 2E did not feel as though a public vote was justified. One of the best aspects of the ANC system is that it supports direct connection to the community. Constituents should always feel as though they have viewpoints heard. In the case of this supplementary report, that clearly isn't what happened. Instead, this report has been created in a completely non-transparent manner that undermines its authority.
It is my hope that Zoning Commission will consider the non-democratic drafting process behind the supplementary report as it reviews this case. Going forward, it is also my hope that ANC 2E will uphold the promise of the ANC system, and be more transparent and open in its proceedings.
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