More than 800 GW students are expected to vote locally in Tuesday’s midterm elections, up from about 100 students in the 1996 elections, said Adam Siple, director of GW Votes.
The increase could have a significant impact on the Advisory Neighborhood Commission races. Foggy Bottom, part of ANC district 2A, has some of the tightest ANC races in the District of Columbia with all but one of the six single-member district seats up for grabs.
The purpose of the ANC is to represent residents’ interests to the city’s governing bodies and agencies. In Foggy Bottom, each commissioner represents almost 2,000 residents.
In districts where universities are part of the community, commissioners are charged with representing the diverse – and sometimes conflicting – needs of permanent residents and the student community.
With the influx of registered student voters, the campaign has become a race to win support from the growing student bloc of voters without abandoning the interests of local residents.
The new wave of events in ANC politics comes just in time, said 2A02 candidate Mark Schaefer. He said the current ANC has ineffectual leadership and needs focus.
“The most important thing that the leadership of the ANC can do is to build consensus among the differing interest groups, the residents and the students,” he said.
Commissioner Sara Maddux, of 2A03, said at least 75 percent of the issues the commission deals with involve GW.
With a record of deadlocked votes on its most frequent issue – GW’s expansion – recommendations rarely reach the agencies the ANC is supposed to advise, said 2A06 candidate Steven Mandelbaum, a GW junior.
“They just don’t listen to each other,” he said. “They don’t objectively look at any issue. If all six show up, it is sure to be deadlocked.”
“Everything is a fight before it ever begins,” he said. “We need to welcome both opinions. (ANC Chair) Dorothy Miller shoots down any opinions that don’t match hers at the meetings.”
The ANC’s record shows a divide between its six commissioners and their views on the University’s growth.
Over the last two-year term, ANC commissioners have recommended the city reject the expansion of GW’s campus. The most recent move was a recommendation to the city’s Board of Zoning Adjustment, the government agency that reviews District construction and land usage.
ANC 2A03 candidate Maria Tyler said the ANC recommended the BZA reject future GW proposals until the University presents a new campus plan.
“That goes in line with our position that the plan at present is very weak,” she said. “It does not protect our neighborhood adequately. The logical sequence is to let us have a new campus plan and see what should be the balance between the student enrollment and the available dorms on the campus.”