Photo by Bill on Capitol Hill on Flickr.
Advisory Neighborhood Commissioners work on many subjects besides development, but challengers for a few seats on Capitol Hill want to make the election a referendum on a single project, the Hine school.
Such a narrow focus ignores the many subjects that ANCs work on, like public safety, liquor licenses, and just helping connect residents with public officials who can solve their problems.
Members of ANC 6B spent hundreds of hours listening to resident testimony and brokering a compromise on the important Hine project. A committee negotiated with the developer, Stanton-Eastbanc, around community concerns, such as noise, loading, and accommodating the flea market that currently uses the parking lot each Sunday.
Many weren’t happy with the ultimate compromise. The developer took off one floor to please neighbors. Some felt that made the building aesthetically worse, while other immediate neighbors wanted an even smaller building.
Another concession to neighbors removed street-activating retail at a prominent corner. Still, the ANC pushed for changes that allayed many residents’ concerns while maintaining many of the benefits of the project.
A pair of residents who wanted the ANC to more strongly oppose the Stanton-Eastbanc proposal are running to unseat the commissioners in the districts right around Hine, Ivan Frishberg in 6B02, and Brian Pate in 6B05. These opponents, Gerald Sroufe and Steve Holtzman, respectively, specifically cite Hine as the primary, if not the only, reason for running.
The Hine project is a good one for Capitol Hill. It will activate this major corner, bring new customers to local businesses, increase housing choices near Metro, and add retail space to better connect Barracks Row to the south with the 7th Street commercial strip and Eastern Market to the north. If the election is a referendum on Hine, voters should resoundingly return Pate and Frishberg to the commission.
However, elections shouldn’t turn on a single development project alone, especially not over issues that are now essentially settled. Hine isn’t the only reason to re-elect these 2 incumbents. They have worked hard to listen to their neighbors on this and many other issues. They have toiled to improve the quality of life on matters that will ultimately affect residents far more than the number of floors on the Hine project.
Pate pushed to restore a Capital Bikeshare station at Lincoln Park after DDOT almost took it away. He and Frishberg both ran 2 years ago on a platform of improving the procedures of the ANC, involving more residents and increasing transparency.
Ironically, Frishberg and Pate had the support in 2010 of the Eastern Market Metro Community Association (EMMCA), an organization that fought implacably against the Hine project this year. EMMCA hasn’t visibly supported one set of candidates, but Hine was the only concrete issue they asked the candidates about in their voter guide.
Elsewhere in the neighborhood, Hine aye votes Dave Garrison (6B01) and Brian Flahaven (6B09) are running unopposed, as is Francis Campbell (6B10), who voted against the project. There is also only one candidate in the open seats for 6B07 and 6B08, Sara Loveland and Chander Jayaraman, respectively.
Longtime commissioner Norman Metzger, who voted for the Hine compromise, is not running for re-election. 2 candidates are vying for the seat: Philip Peisch and Randy Steer. Steer says he would have opposed Hine, while Peisch would have supported it; single-issue voters would therefore be best off supporting Peisch.
But that’s again not the only reason. When listing the challenges the ANC face, Steer’s statement in the EMMCA voter guide focused primarily on opposing things, like liquor licenses on Barracks Row, or future buildings that might be even a little tall. On the other hand, Peisch talked more about building consensus and also helping Barracks Row thrive while balancing its needs against resident issues such as noise and trash.
Kirsten Oldenburg (6B02), another vote in favor of Hine, has a write-in challenger, Tim Britt. Britt does not make any overtly anti-growth statements and generally seems supportive of some change. Meanwhile, Nichole Opkins and Chris Harlow are running against incumbent Jared Critchfield in 6B06, who voted against the Hine project. Both Harlow and Opkins emphasize the bread-and-butter ANC issues like being accessible to constituents; Opkins says that she got involved because Critchfield wasn’t reaching out to the people in his district.
I met Opkins at a recent event and was impressed with her commitment and energy, but ultimately, as with the districts where Hine is the primary issue, residents of these districts are best off trying to meet their candidates directly, or reading the candidates’ online statements and platforms discussing the many issues that affect the community.