Beyond the Lines on a Political Map
By J. Jioni Palmer
It was a much different time in the District of Columbia when Advisory Neighborhood Commissions were established to provide grassroots input from neighborhoods. It was the 70s and times were tough in our neighborhood. The city was in the midst of a decades long slide in population as residents left for the suburbs, and the job of the local commissioner was to help fight crime on the streets and bolster neighborhood efforts to keep the streets clean. Because of all these changes, very little development was going on; we just were trying to hold on to what we had.
Almost 40 years later, population in the District is surging and development abounds everywhere, including Edgewood. All this development will have long-term consequences for our city and region. Because the effects of development are rarely confined to a small area, especially one as small as an ANC Single Member District, we are well into an era where our commissioners cannot solely view development matters or most other matters of importance (crime, youth, recreation, etc.) through the lens of a particular commissioner's SMD.
That’s why as a recently announced candidate for Advisory Neighborhood Commissioner in the Edgewood neighborhood, I have chosen to talk about my agenda within the context of community rather than a Single Member District. The quality of life issues my campaign seeks to address are not confined by lines on a political map. They are broader; they affect not just one block but entire neighborhoods and sometimes our city. We are one community.
The Single Member District I seek to represent (5C08) ends in the middle of the street in front of my house. Yet across the street from my home in another Single Member District are Shaed Elementary School, Edgewood Park, and the Edgewood Recreation Center. Does that mean that the condition and future of those facilities are irrelevant to the people who live on my side of the street? Absolutely not!
Likewise, the shopping center at 4th and Rhode Island is within the Single Member District I'm running to represent, but certainly no one would suggest that the impact of Safeway closing or any potential redevelopment of that plaza will only have consequences for residents of 5C08. And thus, if elected, I see the great need to work with my colleagues in other SMDs to ensure that this shopping area is an asset to the entire community and has the support and energy of all the elected officials.
Yes, this campaign is about improving the basic delivery of services for the people I seek to represent. But it is also about building a movement in our neighborhoods, ward, and city that goes beyond superficial distinctions and focus on substantially improving our collective quality of life. I welcome your partnership, help, support, and suggestions.