As candidates file to appear on the November ballot for a neighborhood commission, four hopefuls looking to represent GW students and local residents are running in a mix of competitive and unopposed races.
Candidates for the Foggy Bottom and West End Advisory Neighborhood Commission this fall include two alumni – an incumbent commissioner with a track record of local advocacy and a former ANC candidate looking to oust him from his seat – a former SA presidential candidate and another local resident. Single-member districts spanning Foggy Bottom are up for grabs, encompassing University residence halls, a major homeless encampment and a variety of apartment buildings and townhouses surrounding GW’s campus.
After D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser and a 14-member task force approved new boundaries for the city’s commissions in June, a newly added seat may soon bring the commission to a total of nine representatives if all are filled. Candidates said they are committed to bridging the gap between the student body and Foggy Bottom residents through their representation.
One-term incumbent and GW alumnus Yannik Omictin is running for reelection in the 2A01 district – which spans the southern end of Foggy Bottom and the Lincoln Memorial – against alumna Susana Baranano, who ran for the same district in the ANC’s 1998 election and lost. Junior Dasia Bandy and local resident Jordan Nassar are running unopposed respectively in districts 2A07 and 2A08, which span Potomac House, FSK Hall, District House and Lafayette Hall.
No one has filed in the other two districts that include parts of GW – 2A05, which covers Shenkman Hall, and 20A9, which spans JBKO, Munson, Amsterdam and Fulbright Halls, according to Board of Elections records.
Commissioners serve two-year terms as unpaid representatives on the local ANC, a governing body that represents the GW campus, historic Foggy Bottom and the West End. These representatives make recommendations for city improvements and provide a voice for their single-member district on how the D.C. Council and local agencies should prioritize issues that citizens encounter.
Yannik Omictin, the current commissioner for ANC 2A01, said he will continue focusing on his two top priorities to end homelessness and resolve traffic violence on the streets of Foggy Bottom as he runs for reelection after his first term. The district currently spans residence halls like Mitchell and Thurston and apartment buildings like The York and the Statesman.
Omictin’s district also includes an encampment of unhoused individuals, and he said ending homelessness in the neighborhood can only be possible with credible and accessible housing vouchers for low-income residents, accommodating affordable housing and equitable income that prevents systemic discrimination.
“That means making sure people who are and were in encampments are treated with dignity, are treated humanely, have what they need to survive and are helped along in the housing process,” Omictin said.
Omictin said one reason he’s running for reelection is to wrap up pressing, but long-term projects that the commission has yet to complete during its meetings, limited to 10 per year. He said he is working to expand neighborhood transportation through projects, like implementing bike lanes on Virginia Avenue and closing H Street from motorized vehicles to prevent drivers from harming pedestrians.
“In my view, there’s not much of a reason for cars to be allowed to speed all the way through that place,” Omictin said. “And as part of my work on the ANC, I really want to work with the representative of that area, as well as all of our other colleagues, to really keep that ball moving.”
Omictin said he wants to ramp up student engagement efforts from service based and Greek organizations on campus. He recommends that students run for the ANC because their peers account for many of its constituents who can write in candidates on the ballot.
Susana Baranano, who is running against Omictin in ANC 2A01, said she wants to draft an ANC bill of rights between students and long-term local residents to outline the constituency’s main priorities like stronger traffic safety and more active neighborhood outreach.
“I want to work with the community, both students and long-term residents, to draft and write a bill of rights so that the ANC has our goals and our priorities well-stated,” Baranano said.
Baranano said she wants to create an outreach program where constituents can meet their commissioners before or after ANC meetings to discuss issues they couldn’t previously raise because of the commission’s “tight” meeting agendas that leave little time for residents’ participation during public comment sessions.
Baranano said she doesn’t distinguish between students and other residents because both share concerns like safety in the neighborhood. She said she will work with GW to expand her network as a commissioner and ensure the ANC’s and GW’s decisions align with the community’s interests.
“I mean we all live in the same neighborhood, we cross the same streets, we eat at pretty much the same places,” Baranano said.
Former SA presidential candidate, senator and junior Dasia Bandy is running for commissioner in the 2A07 district, which covers residence halls like Potomac House, The Dakota, and South, Strong and FSK halls. She said student engagement, neighborhood safety – specifically through transportation and sexual assault – and awareness of the ANC are the top priorities for her candidacy platform.
Bandy said she first discovered the possibility of running for ANC commissioner in her sophomore year after discussing the position with Omictin and GW alumnus James Harnett, who represented 2A08 for one term on the ANC before graduating and stepping down in 2020.
“I think paying homage and amends to the people that came before us really allows you to make and do great work afterwards,” Bandy said. “I can’t understand how to make efficient and effective change without knowing what was already done before me.”
Jordan Nassar, a D.C. resident originally from Texas, is running for 2A08 commissioner – which covers District House and Lafayette Hall – with similar hopes of bridging the gap between students and the neighboring populace if elected. He said controlling the neighborhood rat infestation is his primary candidacy priority because many Foggy Bottom activities, like movies and dining, take place at night and the rats worsen the quality of life for inhabitants.
Nassar said he wants to push for more student involvement on the ANC because having student activists would be an “asset” to the commission.
“It’s critical for this ANC to find a balance between the residential needs and the community needs and the people who are only here for the spring and the fall semesters in order to build a sense of community where the students will want to stay full time even after they graduate,” Nassar said.