As the city becomes more diverse so does the city council. D.C. was once labeled as “chocolate city” with an overwhelming majority of the city’s residents African-American in almost every corner of the city. This has changed and continues to change rapidly.
The city’s recent elections have seen a racial shift on the city council. Most recently, David Grosso unseated Michael Brown for his independent seat. Grosso is white and Brown in black. Grosso’s election shifted the racial makeup to 7-6, with whites holding the majority of the seats.
Additionally, the power of the blacks on the council has begun to wane. With the abrupt departure of the former council chair Kwame Brown, who was black, Phil Mendelson now serves as chair and if the mayor falls from power, which many believe is imminent, then the city could see it’s first white Mayor since the Home Rule if David Catania (I-At-Large) or Jack Evans (D- Ward 2) wins.
There is still an election underway to fill the seat Mendelson vacated upon winning the chair seat and currently there are only African American’s running for that seat.
In recent council hearings Ward 8 Councilmember Marion Barry (D) and Ward 7 Councilmember Yvette Alexander (D) have begun to challenge Mendelson’s racial sensitivity on issues that focus on historic African American areas of the city.
Historic pockets of the city that were once the home of African Americans are now being gentrified with young 20-30 something whites. Areas like LeDroit Park around the Howard University area have transitioned along with the U-Street corridor, which has a wide variety of new restaurants and nightclubs. Councilmember Jack Evans represents LeDroit, Howard and U-Street.
Even in the city’s poorest ward, Ward 8, historic Anacostia now has small pockets where whites are slowly moving in. This may be due to the Department of Homeland Security moving to St. Elizabeth’s east campus in 2013.
Still the city’s council is representative of the changing demographics in the city. Today the city sits at an even split between black and white residents and the council is beginning to reflect that shift.