The Purpose of Advisory Neighborhood Commissions

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By Nicolle S. A. Lyon

For those of us who live in Washington, DC Advisory Neighborhood Commissions (ANC’s) are little more than groups that meet once a month to discuss the latest happening in their neighborhood.  And while this is true, they are, also, a vital component to the success of each neighborhood served.  Unfortunately, few Washingtonians know how and why they were created or their actual purpose.

Created as a result of a referendum in the DC Home Rule Charter of 1973 ANC’s provide a grass roots experience in the electoral process for District residents.  Established under the Governmental Reorganization Act (Section 738) and the Advisory Neighborhood Commission Act of 1975 (DC Law #1-21) Advisory Neighborhood Commissions are comprised of single member districts.  Based on the latest records of the census bureau, each of the forty ANCs represents approximately 2,000 residents.

Each, single member district (209 total), is represented by an elected Commissioner who serves a two – year term.  Most Advisory Neighborhood Commissions are comprised of five or six commissioners. In order to run for ANC Commissioner, a person must be a resident, and registered voter, in the District of Columbia (as defined by DC Code Section 1 – 1001.02).  And, the resident must have resided in the single member district continuously for the sixty day period immediately preceding the day on which the nominating petition is filed.  Candidates may accept donation of up to $25 per person, and cannot hold any other public office.

As enumerated in DC Code 1-207.38, commissioners have the power to advise the District government on public policy matters (including street planning, recreation, liquor licenses, police protection social services programs, health, safety, sanitation and economic development) within their area.  Commissioners can also be given other duties and powers by the DC Council.  ANCs are funded through an annual appropriations process with the DC Auditor providing oversight.  It is the responsibility of Advisory Neighborhood Commissions to be the first line of response in addressing the concerns of their neighborhood constituents.

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