In a city notorious for political gridlock, the elected body that oversees neighborhood of Georgetown, Advisory Neighborhood Commission 2E, has voted almost exclusively with unanimity in the past year.
Between September 2012 and April of this year, only two of the 67 resolutions passed by the commission have received a down vote. No resolutions have failed to pass in the last 12 months.
Monthly meeting minutes for May through September have not been posted online, and the ANC did not provide these records after repeated requests from The Hoya beginning July 5.
Following a hotly debated redistricting of the ANC last year, two single-member districts were formed with almost entirely student residents, all but guaranteeing two student seats. When Peter Prindiville (SFS ’14) and Craig Cassey (COL ’15) joined the eight-member commission in January, it marked the first time in a decade that the student body saw dual representation on the board and was widely regarded as a victory for students after a period of acrid town-gown relations.
Of the two resolutions that did not elicit a unanimous vote, only one faced dissent from a student commissioner. Prindiville voted down an April resolution to limit the capacity of the outdoor seating area of Washington Harbour restaurant Farmers Fishers Bakers to 85, though it still passed with a 6-to-1 vote. The other non-unanimous resolution, which concerned the capacity of the summer patio at Old Glory, an M Street bar, also passed 6-to-1, with Charles Eason of SMD 07 voting “no.”
Although Cassey did not vote against a resolution between September 2012 and April 2013, he said that he voted against a resolution at the meeting this Tuesday that would stop the installation of an American flag and an elevator on the top of the Dog Tag Bakery, a new bakery staffed by veterans studying at the School of Continuing Studies set to open on Grace Street in February.
Several of the commission’s resolutions concern only simple administrative matters, such as the approval of each meeting’s minutes and agenda. But the past year has seen more significant resolutions, including one that limits the construction of windows and another that rejects the construction of a bowling alley in the former Shops at Georgetown Park. Prindiville and Cassey were aligned with their fellow neighborhood commissioners in both instances.
According to Prindiville, the reason for the consensus lies in the way the ANC votes on resolutions. Rather than voting on line items, ANC commissioners re-evaluate and edit each resolution until commissioners can all agree on the resolution’s contents.
“It is a conciliatory body in many ways, and we try to make our resolutions reflect all our opinions,”Prindiville said. “It’s not an up-down vote on issues. I can think of many times when I’ve had concern with an initial draft. I expressed my concerns to my colleagues, and often times, they understand my concern and incorporate my concern into the resolution to the point to where I feel comfortable voting in the affirmation.”
In July, The Hoya reported that Prindiville and Cassey had both supported a resolution recognizing Jennifer Altemus (COL ’88), former president of the Citizens Association of Georgetown, for her “sustained contributions to the community,” eliciting concern because of Altemus’s outspoken opposition to the university’s 2010 Campus Plan.
Prindiville defended his vote, stating that the recognition was for civic service, not political views.
“I don’t agree with anything she said about students … [or] her positions about the university, but I think the important point here is that it’s not an award — it’s a commendation for service,” Prindiville said. “I think that the ANC, students, the university, the community as a whole, should be supporting and valuing civic engagement.”
“If you read the text of the resolution, there is nothing in there about supporting her views [regarding] … the campus plan,” he added.
Cassey agreed, adding that former student commissioner Jake Sticka (COL ’13), who was often at odds with the commission, was also honored for his service to the community after leaving his post.
“If there were ever a student who would not be commended, it would be Sticka,” Cassey said. “But we still made special note of his work during a tumultuous time.”
Prindiville said that, despite the apparent voting consensus, he is in a unique position to represent students’ interest in the commission.
“I really do believe that I’m a unique voice … I think I’m the highest dissenting voice — I’ve dissented the most times. It might not be many, but it proves something,” Prindiville said. “I genuinely believe in the consensus model … but I think my voting record proves that if I’m not able to change the wording of the resolution enough to reflect the views of my constituents, I’m not afraid to vote no.”
Cassey echoed that statement.
“I don’t feel pressured — I wasn’t elected to go sit alongside them and vote,” Cassey said. “I’m elected to work with them, make progress and help reunite two communities that were at odds.”