Candidates for the Advisory Neighborhood Commission have three weeks left to serve up platforms, plans and visions before the Nov. 3 election.
Sara Maddux takes it all seriously. She’s running for her fifth term on the ANC in District 2A06.
“I consider my time on the ANC a contribution of my civic duty,” Maddux said. “It’s a great way to give something to public life.”
In a race that is usually made up of long-time residents and retirees from the local area, three GW students, five GW graduates and one GW employee are running. And although some of them are focusing their campaign on the University’s place within the community, the other candidates running for office say they have GW in mind as well.
Maddux, a GW graduate, disagrees with the notion that GW-affiliated candidates have an advantage in the election. She said voters should make their decision based on an individual’s merit, not their affiliation with the University.
“The candidate should be judged on the quality of his candidacy, not whether he is a student or not . that’s not what it’s about,” she said.
One of the most pressing issues that faces local candidates is GW’s ever-expanding campus. ANC Chair Dorothy Miller, who is running for re-election in single-member district 2A05, said she is concerned that some candidates’ connection to GW will interfere when University proposals come to the table.
The ANC has been accused of having an anti-GW slant, freezing building plans, fighting zoning and resisting compromise.
Miller said the ANC must be stringent to balance the University’s expansion plans.
Building projects recently proposed to the ANC by the University include a School of Media and Public Affairs building, a health and wellness center, Marvin Center expansion and a new hospital.
To commissioners such as Miller, who is running for her third term against GW junior Ed Meinert, the projects are dangerous signs of what she said is the University’s monopoly in Foggy Bottom.
Meinert said the campaign to limit GW’s expansion has brought tension to the ANC for several of the past terms and should be on the minds of voters who are concerned with the ANC’s attitude toward GW.
Despite a number of votes to block GW proposals, Miller said the board has students in mind.
“Students feel that we don’t work for them,” she said. “We do work for them.”
Greg Scoma, a security and safety specialist with the University Police Department and a GW graduate, is running against Maddux. He said he has witnessed the tension between candidates who are against University expansion and other commissioners who consider themselves more “open-minded.”
“Both the University and the community need to be fair to each other and not just trying to assail each other,” Scoma said. “GW is overloading the board with projects, and on the other hand the board is just trying to stop every project, blocking everything, even a handicap ramp. Now I ask you, who does that help?”
Richard Price, who has represented district 2A02 since May, is running against GW Law School graduate Mark Shaefer. Price said he plans to continue work to improve communication between the University and the ANC.
“We could do a better job of negotiating with the University,” Price said. “The problem might lie in how people articulate the issues. GW has a lot of building projects, and they potentially have a great impact on our neighborhood.”
Scoma said he has spoken to residents who know University expansion into Foggy Bottom is inevitable.
“I understand the elderly’s concern,” Scoma said. “They (knew) the townhouses where the tennis courts are now. They (know) what their neighborhood used to look like. It has drastically changed.
“It’s just how GW goes about it. GW just needs to be kind and caring about it,” he said.
Price said the approaching election comes at a good time, when relationships among commissioners also are under stress. He said he has seen differences in personalities impede the commission’s ability to act.
“There is definitely a need for a change in the dynamic in the way the commissioners interact,” Price said.
Maddux agreed that the differences among ANC members are hurting the community. She said the bickering between board members at open forums has damaged its reputation among several governmental agencies to which it reports in D.C.