DC’s Ward 7 covers the northern half of neighborhoods east of the Anacostia River, plus a few adjacent sections on its western shore. This election, Ward 7 has one of the highest numbers of contested seats for Advisory Neighborhood Commissioners in all of DC, a testament to these engaged citizens grappling with the changes in our city. Here are our recommendations for nine of these competitive races.
What are ANCs, and why should I care?
Advisory Neighborhood Commissions, or ANCs, are neighborhood councils of unpaid, elected representatives who meet monthly and weigh in with the government about important issues to the community. ANCs are very important on housing and transportation. An ANC’s opposition to new housing, retail, a bike lane, bus improvements, etc. can stymie or significantly delay valuable projects. On the other hand, proactive and positive-thinking ANCs give the government suggestions for ways to improve the neighborhood and rally resident support.
Each ANC is divided into a number of Single Member Districts (SMDs), averaging about 2,000 voters. Races often hinge on a small handful of votes; Your vote— every vote— really counts.
Not sure which SMD you live in? Find out here.
Here are our endorsements
After reviewing the candidate responses from each competitive race in Ward 7, we chose nine candidates to endorse. You can read their positions for yourself here, along with responses from many unopposed candidates.
ANC 7B follows Pennsylvania Avenue from the bridge crossing the Anacostia River to the Maryland border, encompassing the Penn Branch area south of Fort Dupont Park and north of Naylor Road. The Penn Branch Shopping Center is an important area of focus in this area, as its redevelopment has been stalled for years, and just this summer it was auctioned off to a new owner.
Residents also have their eye on the Skyland Town Center, a neighborhood area where shops and housing were razed to make room for redevelopment, but that still sits vacant after the recent withdrawal of Walmart as an anchor store. Many Ward 7 citizens felt strongly that the District government botched this and the nearby Capitol Gateway deal, leaving the neighborhoods with with a large patches of dirt where retail, investment, housing, and jobs should be.
In the district between the Anacostia River and Minnesota Avenue, 7B01, we’re endorsing Debra Walker. While not providing the most detailed answers, Debra seemed in step with many of Greater Greater Washington’s values, including a focus on multiple levels of housing affordability and neighborhood investment and growth.
In contrast, her opponent, Patricia Howard-Chittams, thinks that “more housing would be a detriment to 7B01,” and seemed overly protective of parking when asked about bicycle lanes and improving bus infrastructure.
Farther south near the Maryland border in 7B05, we were impressed by Villareal “VJ” Johnson. In general, it is clear that VJ knows his community well and has a detailed vision and plan for how to make it better. He had well thought-out answers for the different redevelopment sites in the area, and suggested a specific site for the development of more housing.
VJ’s energy and experience are exciting to us, and we look forward to his example of what a pro-active, not a reactive, commissioner can do in a changing neighborhood.
7B07 is at the northeastern edge of the ANC, bordering Fort Dupont Park. Jimmie Williams is an impressive candidate here. He wants to see his neighborhood “experience measured and sustainable growth” and details his support of mixed use plans at both Skyland Town Center and Penn Branch Shopping Center.
According to him, the area “is changing and the newer residents are younger with various incomes,” are “diverse… [and] don’t want to drive to shop,” signaling the need to improve alternative transportation options, including bike lanes. Even though he is “aware that there are some in [his] area that view the lanes as a omen of gentrification,” he views them as “healthy and viable transportation alternative[s].”
We like the sensitivity VJ brings in his approach to growth and development, and we think he will do well.
The right-hand corner of the DC diamond is much of ANC 7C, including neighborhoods like Deanwood, Burrville, and others north of East Capitol Street on it’s way towards Maryland. What the future holds for Capitol Gateway, the other large redevelopment site abandoned by Walmart, is on the minds of many here, as well as what changes the coming streetcar development along Benning Road will bring.
One candidate stood out to us in this ANC: Joseph Thomas for 7C05. He believes the streetcar will “connect [the neighborhood] to greater economic growth,” and wants more retail options to be developed at Capital Gateway, especially dining options for families.
Joseph projects humility, but has good ideas for how to incorporate new housing into the neighborhood, and talks about tackling crime through increasing job opportunities and community outreach rather than more punitive enforcement.
Just north and west of 7C lies 7D, a district that includes large stretches of river water and park space. Kenilworth, Parkside, Kingman Park and River Terrace are some of the main neighborhoods within this district, which is bordered by East Capitol Street on the south and the Anacostia River on the west. Besides the extension of the streetcar on Benning Road, the major issue facing residents here are the plans for how to redevelop RFK stadium and the surrounding parking lots and parkland.
7D01 stretches west across the Anacostia into Kingman Park, and for this district we really like incumbent Bob Coomber. At RFK, he sees an opportunity to replace parking lots with new parks and trails (even housing if rules can allow), and wants to work with planners to “encourage neighborhood amenities before professional sports stadiums.” His record includes improved pedestrian infrastructure along Oklahoma Avenue, and he has plans for more bike and pedestrian friendly changes.
As a commissioner, Bob also has:
- Helped establish a community garden
- Fought against evictions in his neighborhood
- Actively supported family-leave legislation before the DC Council
Keep up the good work, Bob.
Immediately east of the river is 7D04 and the River Terrace community. In this district, Cinque Culver seems like a good candidate. He is supportive of an NFL Stadium at RFK, but wants to make sure that the stadium acts “as an economic multiplier, employing additional residents of all tax-brackets, as well as incentivizing… streetscape and public space maintenance around the site.” He is also supportive of developing more housing in the neighborhood and of using the streetcar plans as opportunity to improve bike transit along Benning Road, and he seems generally open and balanced in his views.
ANC 7E is another area directly bordering the stalled Capitol Gateway project. Hugging the Maryland border south of the eastern-most tip of DC, 7E includes neighborhoods like Marshall Heights and Dupont Park.
Here Myron Smith is our pick for ANC 7E04. He wants to increase the development of more housing near the two metro stations in the ANC, and is adamant about improving access across the river, especially for pedestrians and bikes.
We’re also endorsing Dontrell Smith, who is in a three-person race for 7E06, which is along the northeastern edge of the ANC. He plans to advocate for more and more affordable housing, in particular at the Capitol Gateway site. He is supportive of bike lanes along Minnesota Avenue and Benning Road, as well as other trail and lighting improvements throughout the area.
One of Dontrell’s opponents, Lakeshia Lloyd-Lee, also completed our questionnaire, but her answers were vague and non-committal.
To be honest, what most impressed us in this race were Dontrell’s notable efforts to catch our attention. He organized over 20 of his supporters to write in favorable remarks on our feedback form, and while we did not use those scores to determine our endorsement, the effort demonstrated the breadth of the candidate’s neighborhood support, his organization, and his willingness to engage with the Greater Greater Washington community.
Sandwiched in between all of these other ANCs lies 7F. An portion stretches across the river to the RFK site, while the majority of the ANC surrounds the intersections of Minnesota Avenue and East Capitol Street, and is bordered by Benning Road on the north.
7F01 is a hotly contested race between four candidates, all of which completed our questionnaire. Of the four, Maria (Mafe) Jackson is as our top choice. Maria’s answers to our questionnaire showed an in depth understanding of the issues and revealed a stand-out intellect.
Her analysis of the current proposals at RFK was thorough, and included a proposal to look at adding an Oklahoma Avenue Metro station, as well as dramatic improvements to pedestrian and bike infrastructure across the Whitney Young Houston Bridge. She also is an advocate of extending the streetcar even farther towards Southern Avenue to improve transit options for that part of the city.
She gave detailed plans for improving access across the ANC. Residents who live east of the Anacostia, she says “are locked in their community because of the poorly-designed existing bridges. The current design of the roads fails to provide safe access to the rest of the city for residents, families, and seniors. Beautiful parks surround this area, but they are not easily or safely accessible to residents by walk or bike.”
Maria was also solid on housing. She proposed building more housing at a nearby shopping center and vacant lots, and was strongly for home ownership support programs and education. “Advocating for these opportunities for our residents is what revitalization of my neighborhood looks like to me,” she said.
Many readers agreed that Maria would make an excellent commissioner, writing in our survey that she seemed “energetic, positive, responsible, and qualified.” Two of Maria’s opponents, Gia Stancell and Tyrell Holcomb, seemed reasonable but did not measure up to Maria’s strengths. David Belt, the fourth candidate, responded negatively to many our questions about increased development and transit.
Maria is the clear choice here.
Want to read the responses of all of the Ward 7 ANC candidates who responded to our questionnaire and judge for yourself? Check out the full PDF for Ward 7. You can also see responses and our endorsements for all 8 wards on our 2016 ANC Endorsements Page, and we’ll publish our rationale for those in upcoming posts.
These are official endorsements of Greater Greater Washington. To determine this year’s endorsements, we sent a reader-generated candidate questionnaire to all ANC candidates. We then published candidate responses and collected feedback. Staff evaluated all candidate responses and feedback for contested races and presented endorsements to our volunteer editorial board, which then made the final decision.