The Hine Junior High School auditorium will once again serve as an early voting location starting tomorrow, Saturday October 23. Polls will be open from 8:30 am – 7:00 pm every day (except this Sunday) through Saturday, October 30th. But before you head to the polls, make sure you do your homework and learn a bit about your candidates! For your Ward 6 candidates, we are here to put all of the information you need in one place.
We’ve got websites, candidacy statements and Q&As, as well as the EMMCA Voter Guide and a very thorough history and explanation of the ANC from the Capitol Hill Restoration Society. Keep reading for the full election guide goodness:
If you click through to our Election 2010 Page, we have posted the websites and contact information for all Ward 6 candidates, including the candidacy statements for the ANC commissioners who sent us one to publish. Please note that we only contacted the candidates that represent SMDs on Capitol Hill and the immediately surrounding neighborhoods that we cover here on The Hill is Home, so a large portion of 6C and 6D were not included. We also posted Q&As with both school board candidates, Melissa Rohan and Monica Warren-Jones.
In addition, the Eastern Market Metro Community Association (EMMCA) contacted all of the ANC 6B candidates with a series of questions and compiled a voter guide. EMMCA has chosen to not endorse any candidates and this guide is intended to be an informational resource for voters. A PDF of the Voter Guide can be accessed here.
And, finally, if you need a refresher on what exactly the ANCs are and what ANC commissioners are supposed to do, the Capitol Hill Restoration Society (CHRS) published a great article in their October newsletter that gives the history of ANCs and explains their purpose. I summarized the ANC’s role in a post back in July, but this one gives some additional and interesting information. The CHRS article is posted below in its entirety with their permission.
From the October issue of the Capitol Hill Restoration Society Newsletter:
What Are ANCs, and What Do They Do for the City?
by Dave Garrison, Chair of ANC 6B
DC’s system of elected Advisory Neighborhood Commissions (ANCs) is unique. The idea was drawn by Congressman Don Fraser (D-Minn) from a 1970 report of the Minneapolis Citizen League, a recommendation originally designed for Minneapolis. Congressman Fraser, then a member of the House District Committee, added the authority to the 1973 DC Home Rule Act. In 1974, DC voters adopted the new system by referendum (73% voting “yes’). The first elections for Advisory Neighborhood Commissioners were held in the fall of 1975, and commissions began operating in 1976. Commissioners serve for two-year terms and are on now on the November ballot in even-numbered years when city residents vote for other elected officials.
The city’s ANCs were then and still are unusual governmental entities, especially in large municipalities. Now, with nearly a quarter century of experience with ANCs in our city, how are our ANCs organized, and what do they do?
37 Commissions. The city is divided up into 37 separate commissions, each an independent entity with its own traditions and committee structure. Commissioners represent “single member districts” of about 2,000 people based on the 2000 Census. There are 286 such districts. The ANCs vary a bit in the number of districts included, depending on what were considered natural boundaries for the neighborhoods being represented. The smallest ANC has two districts; the largest, 12. Ward 6 has four ANCs (A – D), each with a different number of commissioners.
When the city redistricts its ward boundaries in response to the results of the 2010 US Census, the number of single member districts will increase, and some of the boundaries will change, in response to the growth in the city’s population.
Open Processes. The ANC statute requires that all ANCs meet at least nine times a year (many do not meet in August, and some also take July off). No ANC actions (apart from internal house-keeping functions) are considered official unless they taken in public at a properly noticed meeting. By law, each monthly ANC meeting must include a segment on the agenda where audience members are permitted to address the Commission on any issue. Most ANCs now have at least a rudimentary web site (some sites are fairly sophisticated), and most post their minutes, agendas, Commissioner contact information, and the like. You can reach all of them by first going to the city’s general ANC web page at www.anc.dc.gov.
Great Weight. ANCs may consider and take positions on essentially any issue. The most important feature of this unique experiment in neighborhood-level governance is the requirement in the ANC statute that District government boards and agencies give ANC recommendations “great weight.” This means that agencies must put their reasons for not accepting ANC recommendations down in writing. The “great weight” phrase remains somewhat murky to many, and the ANC role is fundamentally “advisory”. Nonetheless the requirement has raised expectations, especially with certain regulatory agencies, that ANC recommendations be taken seriously.
For many of the ANCs, the meat and potatoes of their monthly agendas consists of reviewing cases coming before these agencies:
- Board of Zoning Appeal: property owner requests for special exceptions and variances from zoning rules;
- Historic Preservation Review Board: requests for permission to renovate, add to, or otherwise alter the exteriors of properties in historic districts;
- Alcohol Beverage Control Board: applications by stores, restaurants, and bars for licenses to sell alcoholic beverages; and
- DDOT’s Office of Public Space: requests for use of public space, such as applications by restaurants and bars for sidewalk seating, and for approvals of courses for the many races that come through our Capitol Hill neighborhood.
Commissions such as 6B often have six to ten cases on the monthly docket, along with presentations by various entities about their initiatives and discussions about pending development projects.
ANCs also regularly deal with the Office of Planning and the Zoning Commission on issues associated with the city’s Comprehensive Plan and changes to the city’s zoning law and regulations. ANCs work with the Office of the Deputy Mayor for Planning and Economic Development on the major development projects the city is facilitating, such as the redevelopment of the Hine Junior High School site and the large Hill East project. ANCs are often in discussions with DDOT about a wide range of transportation issues, including the always-controversial topics of residential parking and traffic calming initiatives, as well as major undertakings such as the 11th Street Bridges construction and long-term traffic planning for the city. Other issues actively covered by a number of ANCs include public safety, education, social services, and health. Not surprisingly, many Commissioners operate as ombudspersons of sorts for their constituents by providing a reliable spot to get advice and help in getting city agencies to respond to service requests.
Support. Each ANC receives an annual allocation of funds from the city based upon a formula driven by the population encompassed by that Commission. By way of example, ANC 6B, representing 21,364 people, received $29,288 for fiscal year 2010, roughly $1.37 per resident. Most ANCs use the bulk of their resources to support the awarding of small grants to neighborhood projects and activities. A few, such as ANC 6B and 6D, invest most of their funds in a part-time staff person to support their work. Some ANCs set up small offices, often in borrowed space. Others operate out of donated private space. The DC Auditor closely tracks individual ANC expenditures, and audits are done regularly.
Expectations. ANCs are made up of volunteers who receive no pay, office space, or staff from the city. The quality of each ANC depends entirely on the extent of the dedication and professionalism of the individuals elected as commissioners. Predictably, the quality varies considerably across the 37 Commissions and 286 Commissioners. The issues that ANCs tackle are important ones, not only to the individuals associated with the many cases that come before the Commissions but also to the community’s ability to provide organized input into the deliberations of city agencies on projects large and small that impact our neighborhoods.
The jobs of Commissioners are largely thankless and involve long hours, many meetings, lots of email work, and the stress generated when constituents complain that a Commissioner does not do exactly what is demanded. Thus the motivation to run and serve must come from something other than mountains of praise. In my experience, the best Commissioners are the ones who take pleasure in helping to strengthen their neighborhoods and seeing residents and business owners dealt with fairly and respectfully as they interact with the bureaucracy of a large municipal government.
The Election. This November’s ballot provides an opportunity for voters to assess the work and experience of their individual Commissioner, as well as the skills and competencies of any challengers. In assessing incumbents, I urge voters to consider whether the Commissioner keeps up with the key issues facing the neighborhood and shows an understanding of their complexity and nuance. Does the Commissioner demonstrate patience and fairness in dealing with constituents? Is the Commissioner fair and evenhanded in running public meetings? Is the Commissioner effective when dealing with constituents and open to new ideas? Does the Commissioner work hard at the job (i.e., does the Commissioner attend the Commission meetings and, when appropriate, committee meetings, as well as make it to community meetings on important issues facing the neighborhood). You can check the minutes of the Commission meetings posted on the Commission’s web page to track attendance.
In assessing challengers, I encourage voters to similarly determine whether the candidate’s background and skill set is likely to lend itself to the busy world of an ANC. Is the challenger a one-issue candidate, or does he or she demonstrate knowledge and wisdom about a range of neighborhood issues? Are the issues that the challenger brings forth ones that are reasonable for an ANC to take on? Does the challenger demonstrate some working knowledge of how the Commission in question actually functions (i.e., has the person attended many Commission meetings)? Is the challenger fair and open in dealing with the public? Does the person understand the time commitment involved and is the person likely to put in that time?
Choosing ANC representatives is the essence of our democracy. It is each voter’s right and, I would argue, duty to perform this function with care and seriousness. We don’t have a vote in the U. S. House and Senate, but unlike voters in America’s other major cities, we do choose those we want to represent us at the neighborhood level.