The DC Voice

5 Things You Need to Know About Washington’s ANCs

Advisory Neighborhood Commissions (ANC) play a critical role in the District of Columbia governance. These elected bodies deal with issues of local importance. They function as liaisons between neighborhoods and the DC government. This article will introduce you to the basics every politically engaged District resident needs to know about ANCs.

1. What Does My ANC Actually Do?

The DC Code lays out what ANCs actually do. They’re responsible for advising the DC government on the local impact of public policies.  This includes traffic, recreation, health care, planning, safety, education, and social services. ANCs don’t have the power to pass laws, instead, they let the DC government know what improvements a community would like to see and represent local concerns when it comes to proposed changes. ANCs speak for your neighborhood as it relates to development and zoning. They provide residents with a way to express their views on issues such as gentrification, proposed new developments, hospital closings, and neighborhood beautification projects.

2. Why Are They So Important If They Can’t Pass Laws?

DC residents shape and influence what happens where they live primarily through ANCs. These commissions participate in Board of Zoning Adjustment, Zoning Commission and Alcohol License Review Board hearings involving the neighborhoods they represent. The law requires DC government agencies to give “great weight” to local commission concerns and suggestions when it comes to things such as education, health care, planning, development, and safety. Commissioners also exert informal power. They meet with residents to discover concerns, lobby city government agencies on behalf of constituents and attend city council hearings to advocate for their districts’ needs.

3. How Are ANCs Made Up?

DC has 40 ANCs. Several single-member districts, SMDs, make up an ANC. Each SMD has one commissioner, and most districts include around 2000 people. Not all ANCs have the same number of SMDs, and every ward has multiple commissions. DC residents elect neighborhood ANC members, each of whom serves a two-year term.

4. How Do I Get in Touch with My Commissioner?

The DC government has a site dedicated to Advisory Neighborhood Commissions. It features a tool you can use to find your ANC and SMD. The site also publishes the date, time and location of all ANC meetings. Attend your local meetings to find out about the issues facing your neighborhood and to voice your opinions and concerns. You can also reach out to your SMD representative in writing. Head to DC’s ANC website to locate your SMD representative’s contact information. The DC Board of Elections also makes this information available online. 

5. What Can I Do If My Commissioner Is Not Doing Their Job

The Initiative, Referendum, and Recall Procedures Act permits DC residents to recall elected officials. The law protects ANC commissioners from these sorts of dismissal proceedings during the first and last six months of their terms. The Election Commission offers detailed information that walks you through the entire process

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