A rising junior announced their campaign to fill a vacancy on Foggy Bottom’s local governing body last week.
Margaret McDonald, a history major, filed to represent students on the Foggy Bottom and West End Advisory Neighborhood Commission last week, pledging to promote progressive changes like pedestrian safety and police reform. If elected, McDonald will fill the vacancy in the ANC that has left much of GW’s campus without representation since January after former commissioner James Harnett graduated from the University.
“The things that matter the most are being passionate and having a plan to make tangible change in a community, which is something that I believe I can and will be doing with this position,” McDonald said.
McDonald said they will push for increased pedestrian safety, expanded access to menstrual products with additions to public restrooms in the District and limited police presence in Foggy Bottom by way of defunding the police with recommendations to the D.C. Council. The seat, which covers single-member district 2A08, encompasses District and Potomac houses, South, Guthridge, Lafayette and Strong halls, Greek life townhouses and the F Street House – University President Thomas LeBlanc’s campus residence.
McDonald, the president of the progressive student organization Persist GW, said past struggles they have experienced, like financial difficulties and growing up as an LGBTQ person in Oklahoma, gives them the ability to lead all students at GW and not just those coming from privileged backgrounds.
“Being able to understand the struggle that other students would come from a lower income background, I can very much relate to that,” they said. “And I especially just want to be able to advocate to Council members in D.C. and the faculty at GW.”
McDonald said one of their main priorities includes banning cars from H Street, which will improve traffic safety on campus and foster a tighter sense of community among students and pedestrians. McDonald said they were initially inspired by Harnett, the former commissioner, to close H Street to cars and open it up to pedestrians, which Harnett said he advocated for when he was commissioner.
“It’s important that students can feel safe on campus and be able to walk without being scared that they’re going to get hit by a car,” they said. “But at the same time, I think it’s good for any college campus to have a spot where students can just walk around and feel comfortable and feel safe.”
McDonald said they want to expand access to menstrual products to protect menstrual health through food stamp programs, especially for those experiencing homelessness and people with lower incomes who may struggle to purchase menstrual items. They said menstrual products need to be immediately available to everyone regardless of gender.
McDonald said they will lobby the D.C. Council to defund, and eventually abolish, the police by growing the voices of other student leaders who advocate for police abolition. McDonald said the presence of police at protests is in itself an instigation of violence, and they said abolition is necessary.
“Defunding the police in D.C. is really important to me, especially after all the violence that we saw occurring that police members were instigating at the protest this past year,” they said. “I think it’s really important that we push for a general defunding of police in D.C., and I really want to advocate for that to Council members.”
Harnett, the ANC’s former chair who represented 2A08 as a student, said he knew McDonald before graduating and believes they could be a “great” commissioner because he believes they have a clear plan for change in Foggy Bottom. Harnett said he was excited when Yannik Omictin, a senior and ANC commissioner, reached out to Harnett to tell him McDonald was interested in running.
“When Yannik Omictin reached out to me to tell me that Margaret was interested in running for the ANC, it felt like a perfect fit,” he said. “Her advocacy with Persist meshes very well with the sort of vision that I have for the neighborhood.”
Harnett said he is excited by McDonald’s platform, especially their plan to limit car access to H Street.
“I’m really excited that she’s being bold and setting out a really comprehensive vision for what progressive priorities should look like on campus and how she’s going to be playing a big part in making that happen,” he said.