Making your voice heard in your community

Last November, GW students achieved a great victory as they journeyed to the polls to take part in the electoral process in the District of Columbia. Students showed elected officials throughout the city that they must consider the views of students as important if they are to keep their positions. Students will be even more influential in future elections.

I was elected to the Advisory Neighborhood Commission, the grassroots organization of government in the District. This group of six commissioners has the responsibility of advocating for the Foggy Bottom and West End communities on important issues such as zoning, public works and safety to the various agencies in the District as well as the D.C. Council.

Voters who think their vote does not count should think again. I won my race to be the first GW student on the ANC by having only one more vote than my opponents. Voting in the District is extremely important if students are to have a voice in the issues that affect them every day of their lives.

In the past, it was no secret that the ANC had been against University initiatives, whether it benefited students or otherwise. This animosity among the ANC, students and University administrators delayed the approval of the health and wellness center, and most recently, the new School of Media and Public Affairs building.

It is my hope that by being part of the ANC, I will have the opportunity to advocate on behalf of the students and ensure they receive the amenities they deserve in their community – both academically and socially.

However, those who believe that just because a student is on the ANC that the University will get its way are simply dreaming. My job is to advocate and vote in the best interests of the residents in my district – and those residents are primarily students. This means I will evaluate all issues as they pertain to the quality of students’ lives, not the administration.

Therefore, a proposal by the University will not receive an automatic “yes” vote from me. It must be beneficial to the students for it to gain the support of student advocates on the ANC.

The University in the past has been particularly successful in fighting and defeating a stubborn ANC and has gained the necessary government approval for many of its initiatives.

However, if student objections to an initiative result in a negative ANC recommendation, it will be difficult for the University to overcome that if it attempts to nullify the ANC’s position.

I will ensure that the University successfully fulfills its academic mission, and efficiently and effectively provides the existing services it promised to students before it takes on additional services or projects, academic in nature or otherwise.

Therefore, I call on you to get involved in your community. You are affected by everything in our community – from construction of a building to the planting of a tree. This is your community as well and you have a right to be well represented in it.

I am specifically interested in the effects of projects on the streets of our campus including automobile and pedestrian traffic and the safety of our neighborhood’s streets. I am concerned when the Metropolitan Police Department reports that there were only 30 fewer crimes in 1998 than in 1997. The Metropolitan Police Department must increase its response and presence in our community.

I invite you to our next public meeting Feb. 17. If you have a concern or question, you can e-mail me at sjm@gwu.edu or you can call (I’m listed in the GWIS directory). In just a few short months, I will begin to gauge student opinion through forums and questionnaires. Please take a moment to help us include your views in our resolutions. You have chosen to make Washington, D.C. and Foggy Bottom your home for at least three-quarters of every year. It’s time to have a voice in the quality of your life here.

-The writer, a junior, is ANC-2A06 commissioner.

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