Election day is finally upon us. While others are worrying about the presidential race, there is also an election taking place in the Foggy Bottom neighborhood for the Advisory Neighborhood Commission.
The Foggy Bottom and West End Advisory Neighborhood Commission is the most local governing body for the area, serving as a liason to city agencies on mostly quality-of-life, development and safety issues, including construction, noise, traffic and liquor laws. It’s a way to ensure that neighborhood residents’ interests are heard and taken into account. And as students, we make up a core component of the Foggy Bottom neighborhood.
These races tend to go largely unnoticed by students. But this year, four undergraduates are vying to become local representatives, some running unopposed or as write-in candidates.
In one race that has caught the community’s attention, junior Patrick Kennedy is running to unseat incumbent David Lehrman to represent a district covering 23rd and 17th Street to F Street and Constitution Avenue, which includes a swath of campus.
Both candidates – one an undergraduate who has for years sought to increase student participation in city politics, and one a decade-long local servant – bring impressive experience, enthusiasm and knowledge to the table.
Lehrman has proven his dedication to the community, and The Hatchet’s editorial board endorses the 65-year-old for a sixth term to continue guiding Foggy Bottom.
Over his tenure, Lehrman has seen the neighborhood grow. He has also served as a moderate on a local group that has seen bitterness and contention in its relationship with the University, and that voice of balance and hindsight would continue to be an asset to the commission.
We are encouraged to see students engage in local matters and express an interest in the ANC and its affairs. Kennedy was a founding member of GW’s chapter of DC Students Speak, which sought to engage more college students in D.C. affairs. But he does not have the experience it takes to advocate for student interests while still representing permanent residents, and we are concerned he does not fully understand the function of the ANC in relation to the University.
Kennedy expressed a desire to push back on University construction projects that do not directly create student-focused spaces, calling for sites that would build a sense of community. This is a noble goal.
But the ANC is not the correct avenue for lobbying on internal University and student concerns. The Student Association, on which Kennedy also serves as the vice president of community affairs, is a better soapbox from which he can push student initiatives.
Although Kennedy is involved on campus, Lehrman is not an unfamiliar face.
He has audited numerous classes in the English department and can often be seen studying on the sixth floor of Gelman Library or in the adjacent Starbucks. And when it comes to construction projects on campus like The Avenue, and the upcoming office and retail space along Pennsylvania Avenue at Square 75A, he has openly voiced his support. These sites have been instrumental in creating more community and foot traffic through Foggy Bottom as well as a steady flow of revenue into the University’s pocket. Even when other commissioners opposed the construction, Lehrman remained a source of support for the University’s expansion.
Another student, sophomore Peter Sacco, is running a write-in campaign for a seat on the commission as well. Sacco expressed his enthusiasm for community service, identifying homelessness as something he hopes to combat if he wins a position.
He holds a pragmatic view about the sometimes contentious relationship between GW students and the local community, admitting that while he plans to advocate for students – who make up the vast majority of his district – he would approach conflicts on the commission with a level head.
Although Sacco has only attended one ANC meeting this semester due to his class schedule – leaving us to question whether he is well-versed in ANC procedures – he has passion that would be an asset to both the commission and the neighborhood.
Another student candidate, junior Jackson Carnes, is running unopposed for a seat on the commission. He stated an interest in promoting more transparency between the University and the community, particularly in regard to construction endeavors.
Transparency is an admirable goal that we wholeheartedly support. But Carnes lacked any specifics as to what types of measures he would like to see, and also failed to show a working knowledge of the ANC or vision as to how he planned to represent his constituency.
One freshman on the Mount Vernon Campus, Jevin Hodge, announced his candidacy for a slot to serve on an ANC in Ward 3 that covers the Vern and part of American University. He brings to the table an impressive resume in public service. As a high school student in Arizona, he participated in local government and wrote a piece of youth-focused legislation that eventually made it to the governor’s desk.
But Hodge is only a freshman and has been to only one ANC meeting in his district. At this stage, he does not have a sufficient knowledge of GW, the community or their relationship. It would be naive to suggest that he is ready to represent community members more than incumbent and longtime local resident Penny Pagano, who has worked as the director of community and local government relations at American University. Hodge shows promise, though, and would be better suited to run for this position after he has spent more time learning about GW and the community.
The ANC may seem like a trivial neighborhood body that holds little importance in the lives of students. But the outcome will affect the entire community, and it’s worth paying attention to this election season.