Why Accokeek Belongs in District 9
Remarks to the Redistricting Commission on June 21, 2011:
Redistricting is a complex issue. I understand the process that is unfolding, the factors that you are required by law to consider, and the balance of numbers that you have to achieve. I appreciate that the task you have is not an easy one.
That said I rise to speak in strong oppositionto the proposed change that would remove Accokeek from District 9 and place us in District 8. Achieving the objective or fair representative redistricting is not simply a matter of moving people around from one place to another. The citizens of Accokeek are not pawns on a chessboard, or grains of sand to be sifted and shifted about just to make sides of a scale balance out.
We are a distinct community with a unique history and perspectives on major issues that align with the other communities of District 9, and are reflected in our elected representation—representation we would like to keep.
And while we are not grains of sand on a scale, something really important does indeed hang in the balance here…the fate and future of a community. Specifically…how it defines itself an derives its identity…its ability to have its voice heard and its problems fully understood by the ones that would claim to represent it.…and ultimately its ability to protect and enhance the characteristics that its residents hold dear and want to pass on to the generations that follow.
While I am keenly aware that there are indeed numbers that have to be achieved, and a certain real balancing that must, and should occur, I would argue strongly that there are more appropriate places from which to achieve this objective-places where the concerns of communities have much more in common with those of the majority District 8.
While they are a community that I love, and have spent a good deal of time in, Camp Springs comes to mind. It’s already divided between three districts. It is wholly urban in character, both its infrastructure and transportation needs. While it is greatly impacted by Joint Base Andrews, I would argue that particularly moving forward, it will be as greatly impacted is by National Harbor and even Rosecroft Raceway.
Now I am not really offering up my neighbors in Camp Springs. Although I know that they have been vocal in their desire to be consolidated into one district, that is not really my place. What I, and many of my neighbors (and hopefully others here tonight) are really offering to you is another chance to re-evaluate the criteria by which you make your recommendations, and to really know the particular perspectives of the citizens whose lives and communities this redistricting decision will so directly impact.
In the case of Accokeek, and the potential of moving it into District 8, this is acutely important. District 8 is a great district, full of wonderful communities. However, whether we are talking about land preservation, development decisions, transportation and infrastructure, or even broadband access and connectivity, for the residents of Accokeek, our perspective on these concerns are shared to a much greater degree with our fellow District 9 residents in places like Brandywine, and Eagle Harbor, than folks in Fort Washington or Oxon Hill.
Accokeek is a community that deeply values its rural characteristics and history, and it brings a perspective to questions related to growth, development, land use, recreation, transportation, and even role of government that is deeply impacted by those values.
Accokeek belongs in District 9, where it can join with communities of similar interest and concerns, and it deserves to be represented by people who share its perspective and understand its needs.
Redistricting is an important component of our Democracy. It is supposed to be a tool to help assure balance and fairness in representation. Let’s make sure that it does not become a tool that is used to chip away at the very identity of a community.
In perspective, experience, and aspiration, the citizens of Accokeek are citizens of District 9. And that is exactly where we need to remain.