April 20, 2021
Officers Present: Dan Schramm, Kathy Jacquart, Joe Miller, and Leila Duman
1. Welcome – Dan Schramm
Dan opened the meeting by welcoming the attendees and asking the officers to introduce themselves. Regarding Derek Chovin’s conviction earlier in the day, Dan shared a quote from Phillip Abita Goff Goff, co founder and CEO of the Center for Policing Equity:
“There will be no remedy through this court process for anybody. There might be a measure of accountability and the fact of that would feel like something new is an indictment. It’s just an indictment for a case that we haven’t yet really put on trial. And the hope is on the other side of something like sense in this particular court case, that we will do something different for the first time on racism and punishment in this country, for the first time.
I can’t overstate it, because in all of our history we are looking for the example that makes this right. The place we can get back to and there is no going backwards to find comfort. The only possible comfort is what we choose to do next.”
2. Treasurer’s Report – Joe Miller
Joe noted that as new Treasurer, he has had difficulty getting access to the full bank account but will provide a complete summary of the income and expenses when he has access to the details.
The beginning balance carried over from March was $5258.84 and the current balance is $6003.79. Two deposits, totaling 907.31, and two withdrawals, totalling $162.36, were made; $1439.40 of GoFundMe funds are available.
The Brookland Union Baptist Church’s food pantry was discussed as it is back up and running. Dan will check with René about resuming BNCA sponsorship.
The report was accepted with no objections.
3. Ranked Choice Voting – Ed Lazere (RCV Coalition) with Counterpoint Verna Clayborne (DC Women in Politics)
Dan introduced the topic of Ranked Choice Voting by noting that BNCA member Ed Lazere had reached out to speak about it and a counterpoint opinion was invited as well. BNCA does not have an opinion on this matter, so this neutral forum was in the interest of educating its members to the potential benefits of and concerns that some have about Ranked Choice Voting. After opening statements from each side, Dan led a discussion between them.
Ed explained the process and pros of Ranked-Choice Voting, highlighting membership in the Ranked Choice Voting Coalition (which spans individuals and organizations across the city), and noted that it is an important reform but not one that will solve every problem.
According to Ed on behalf of the RCV Coalition, Ranked Choice Voting would:
- Apply to any race with more than two candidates where voters would rank their selections beyond their first choice, potentially as far as to their fifth choice. If any candidate had 50% or more of the first choice votes, that candidate would win. If not, an instant runoff would go into effect, gradually eliminating lower performing candidates. If a voter’s first choice candidate is eliminated, their second choice is counted and so on until a winner is selected who has support from at least 50% of voters.
- Make candidates need to appeal to a broader share of the populous, not only to a narrow slice of the population since a stratifying candidate is unlikely to receive the broad support necessary to win.
- Benefit voters because they could pick more than one candidate and voting for a lower performing candidate does not mean a vote does not count. It eliminates a voter’s need to vote strategically, considering a candidate’s “electability”, and thus makes it easier for new, young, or minority candidates to have a viable chance at winning. It increases the number of women and people of color who win elections.
- Not dilute the power of constituencies because, since voters can vote for more than one candidate who they feel represents them, it eliminates the pressure for candidates to not run or to step aside to avoid competing with someone with similar values. It also lets candidates speak more positively about other candidates with similar values and similar constituencies because it will not necessarily cost them the voter’s only vote.
- Not be as confusing as some believe. Concern exists over making voting more complicated and thus confusing voters, but voters are used to ranking things and as long as there is proper education, people will learn how to use it intuitively and without significant problems.
Verna discussed the cons of Ranked Choice Voting, noting that DC Women in Politics has prepared a document detailing their stance in response to the proposed DC Legislation for Ranked Choice Voting, and highlighting that it seems to be a solution to a voting system that is not a problem which could make it more difficult for some residents to exercise their right to vote.
According to Verna on behalf of DC Women In Politics, Ranked Choice voting would:
- Unnecessarily replace the current electoral process which is functioning adequately and with which voters are familiar. Changing that system would cause confusion and disproportionately impact groups such as seniors, people of color, people with literacy challenges, and people who’s first language is not english, essentially disenfranchising them.
- Benefit some groups in elections, but in some situations has reduced the success of Afircan Americans candidates.
- Not be as universally useful as its proponents claim, having been adopted and since repealed in numerous situations throughout the last century in the United States. It can result in a candidate winning the election who has not actually won the popular vote [ie, won the plurality of the vote].
- Come with a significant fiduciary burden on the DC Board of Elections which would have the onerous task of educating voters on the new system. In addition to being costly, it may not be practically possible to reach everyone, especially those people in most danger of disenfranchisement if they do not understand the confusing new system.
- Distract legislative attention from other, more significant problems in DC (such as homelessness, childcare needs, gentrification, etc) for a system which is not really broken. Further, with questionable voting legislation being advanced across the country, we need to take a deliberate pause in changing electoral processes that people do not seem to have a problem with in DC.
4. A. Comp Plan Updates – Dan Schramm
Dan explained that a new draft of DC’s Comprehensive Plan has been released by Council Chair Mendelson to the public, which declined to accept many of the changes that the Office of Planning had put forward for the Brookland area. Areas of note include:
- The Brookland Green (next to the Metro station) has been designated as a park and open space with help from Councilmember McDuffie. This is a win for BNCA and the community which has long worked to protect this space from being slated for higher density mixed-use development as the neighboring areas are.
- A Reed St. parcel (in SE Brookland near 10th and the tracks) maintained its existing designation as PDR industrial land. South of Evart St, however, the draft appears to accept a high-density mixed residential/PDR change put forward by OP. BNCA was in favor of tiered, mixed-use density while the Office of Planning was in favor of high density residential designation all the way up to existing residences. BNCA will discuss further with immediate neighbors and ANC.
- The St. Francis Monastery grounds (on 14th) were kept with their existing designation as institutional land despite a proposal to change them to mixed-use, presumably in anticipation of future development. The community had not received outreach about these proposed changes or information from the Monastery about what could be expected with these changes.
- The future of the Howard Divinity Campus remains uncertain for now. The draft reflects OP’s change, at Howard’s request, to mixed use development. CM McDuffie is supportive of this change. BNCA has called for and supports neighbors’ advocacy for a Small Area Plan process as the ideal way to get community engagement before any development of property. McDuffie’s position is that Howard has shown good outreach and a SAP is unneeded.
Caroline Petti highlighted several other areas that were not accepted for changes from the Office of Land Use, such as the area immediately north of Brookland metro station (near comcast office) which had been proposed for mixed use, or at 13th and Rhode Island (across from Brookland Manor) which had been proposed for medium density residential. Both of these were rejected.
4. B. Howard East Campus Update – Taylor Beis (Howard East Neighbors)
Taylor explained in greater depth that Councilmember McDuffie stepped in to remove or defer Monastery changes on the Future Land Use Map which was a win for the community which had not received any outreach. He summarized that at a Howard East Neighbors meeting with the developers at the ANC level on March 11th, Howard University senior staff indicated that there was to be no change, thus their request for a change in the Comp Plan came as a surprise. A petition was circulated asking for the Monastery and Howard University School of Divinity FLUM amendments to be deferred and more than 450 neighbors signed it. The group is trying for meetings with At-Large Members of the Council to advocate for a Small Area Plan to allow the community to have input into how neighborhoods around Taylor and Randolph and 18h and 14th will be impacted. The group is not trying to issue a blanket “no” to development, but wants to advocate for continued conversation before the final vote in early May. Those interested in following the issue can sign up for updates with Howard East Neighbors at HowardEastNeighbors[AT]gmail[DOT]com or howardeastneighbors.org
Group discussion followed regarding what is known and not known about these development plans in terms of designation and zoning, both for the Howard property and for other parcels. Representatives from the Councilmember’s staff indicated they will look into specific these parcels of land to try to get answers for BNCA and shed light on the thought process of the decisions reflected in the draft legislation.
5. Other Announcements –
- Bluebird Sky Yoga Studio reopening – Jennie Light announced the studio space reopened 3 weeks ago. Classes are limited to 10 people with masks, social distancing, and cleaning in place and the studio has an with updated HVAC system. Wednesday nights offer a practice at Other Half in Ivy City and Sunday mornings have classes at the National Arboretum. As well as yoga and live music classes are hosted in other areas nearby as well. More information can be found at www.bluebirdskyyoga.com or www.bluebirdskyyoga.com/workshops
- Girard Foodtrucks – Enid Doggett announced that 10th and Girard St NE (near Tastemakers) will have a food truck and music every 4th Saturday starting at 11:00 AM. Upcoming trucks include Peruvian Brothers and Astro Chicken and Doughnuts.
- Great Brookland Yard Sale May 8 – Dan announced BNCA has many sign ups already. If anyone is interested in hosting a sale, they can sign up for a table at a vendor fair location (Atlantic Electric or Brookland Union Baptist Church) or on your own property. More information can be found at www.brooklandcivic.org/gbys
- ANC Meeting – Prita Kohli Piekara reported that ANC meetings will be held next Wednesday the 28th at 6:30 PM, agenda to be distributed. A meeting focusing on zoning and planning 101 is likely to be held in the first week of May. Visit www.anc5b.com for meeting access information.
Meeting Adjourned at 8:46.
The next Zoom meeting will take place on Tuesday, May 18th at 7:00 pm ET.