This is the first of seven installations of “Better Know an ANC Commissioner,” Vox’s interviews with the representatives that comprise Advisory Neighborhood Commission 2E. The ANC is Georgetown residents’ primary voice in local government. When the average student marries a homogenous conception of “the neighbors” with “the Man” that puts him or her down for making noise, he or she is thinking of the ANC.
Ron Lewis’ kingdom (above) sits Northwest of the University in the middle of the Georgetown neighborhood. The former CAG member was reelected to his second two-year term on the ANC in November. Students may know the new ANC chair’s name: last year, he co-sponsored the unpopular off-campus keg ban.
Below, Lewis, an attorney who has moved between government jobs and business ventures discusses changes ‘the neighbors’ would like to see in GUTS bus routes, noise violations, community safety, and said keg ban.
You co-sponsored a controversial off-campus keg ban with [former student ANC commissioner] Jenna Lowenstein [COL '09]. What was the rationale behind that?
Our position was very clear—was that there should be the same rules about kegs on campus or off campus, and that it wasn’t fair for either the students or the community to push parties off campus, which having stricter party rules on campus does. Since the University had decided on a keg policy on campus-what we were saying was that you need to make it fair.
How would you characterize students’ relationship with the neighbors?
The student-neighbor relationship I think is on a good upswing. It sort of varies from period to period but I think that both the neighbors-the permanent residents-and the students are making an effort to work together. There are issues, overall, but I think that we’re developing better way of working together.
What do you think of MPD’s recent decision to issue 61D noise violations to students-which come with a mark on their arrest records? And the issue of noise in general?
I would call them the way some plants are called hardy perennials, these are hardy perennials in that these issues are always there. As for 61Ds, it’s not my position to say fair or unfair, it’s what City Council decides the law. I think [MPD] should have a lot of discretion and does have a lot of discretion. I think in practice the police have a lot of patience.
You were a proponent of moving GUTS bus routes to Dupont last year, which made non-rush hour trips longer than usual. Can you tell me a little about that?
I think the University has responded appropriately as far as it goes, because the buses were causing not only noise, but vibrations, not only on the street but on the houses, especially the old wooden houses that would shake when they drive by.
It was a short term solution. The long term solution, we believe, is how to get all the University buses to use the Canal Street entry.
Is that a practical route for the buses that leave down Reservoir to take?
Absolutely. You’d get right on the Whitehurst and up to Washington Circle and then go over to Dupont Circle .You’ll fly past Georgetown, you’ll be amazed. You won’t even hit a stoplight until Washington Circle. GW uses that route and they tell us they’re very happy with it.
Totally untrue, totally untrue. I never saw that, interestingly. I don’t know what he had in mind when he wrote that but it’s untrue. I’m pro-University I like it very much. Are there issues, sure. But we can work on them.
The neighborhood has seen some violent crimes recently, specifically, there have been several sexual assaults near the area around campus. Do you anticipate working on any new safety initiatives?
Definitely. That’s one of the key issues on which the University administrators and the residents and the students have in common.
The issue is getting MPD to put more resources in Georgetown. We want more police to patrol here, and we’ve had some success with that, around the University and Wisconsin Avenue. We press the University to increase its public safety resources.
CAG and the University are coordinating to the Reimbursable Police Detail. They both chip in to pay for extra police who would otherwise be off-duty to police the area on Saturday and Friday nights.
Finally, do you think neighbors and students have a tendency to stereotype—or view each other as homogenous groups?
I think there is definitely a risk of that and I think I’d like to work to overcome that. I really think our mutual interests are greater than our differences.