District of Columbia residents who are political and election junkies can be excused forfeeling a bit frustrated every two years at this time of the year. “Crucial” primary elections for governors, state and national senators and congressmen are being minutely followed by the press and an energized electorate in every state of the union.
But D.C. residents are left out of this excitement. We do not have such elections. Not livingin a state, we don’t have a governor, congressional representatives or senators. We do have a designated delegate — Eleanor Holmes Norton — who sits on the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform that has jurisdiction over the District. But she is a nonvoting member.
However, D.C. does have a full-service government supported by city taxes and run by a District Council, made up of elected representatives from our eight wards. Georgetown is in Ward 2, represented by Jack Evans, the longest sitting Council member in D.C. history. Each ward represents more than 70,000 residents dispersed throughout 131 designated neighborhoods, distinguished by their history, culture, architecture, demographics and geography.
To represent all this diversity, the Home Rule Act of 1973 created advisory neighborhood commissions, known as ANCs: town-hall-like organizations with commissioners elected every two years. They have authority (and some influence) to advise their Council representative how tax money should be spent. An ANC can even “employ staff and expend public funds for public purposes itself within its neighborhood.”
There are eight ANCs, organized into 39 Single Member Districts throughout D.C. Ward 2 has six such districts. Georgetown’s ANC is 2E, with eight commissioners representing Burleith, Georgetown, Hillandale and Georgetown University.
Georgetown’s commissioners meet at least monthly in open, usually well-attended meetings at Georgetown Visitation School. They consider proposals and offer advice on any and all Georgetown issues, such as traffic flow, licensing, construction and events. Their decisions on business licenses and housing renovations can affects lives and fortunes. Most of all, the tone of the ANC can affect the environment of the entire area.
Georgetown’s ANC 2E shares a paid, part-time executive director, Peter Sacco, who does administrative work, including taking minutes at all meetings.
The biannual ANC elections are pretty much the only exciting local election game in Georgetown. District-wide, however, almost two-thirds of the commissioners never face competitive races.
This year, five new candidates are on the 2E ballot. Commissioners Ed Solomon and Jim Wilcox are being challenged by Kishan Putta and Gwendolyn Lohse, respectively. Elizabeth Miller is the only candidate running for the seat of Commissioner Monica Roaché, who has chosen not to run for reelection. Anna Landre and Matias Burdman are running unopposed for the two university commissioner seats.
Commission candidates and commissioners do not run on political affiliations (D.C., of course, has a large Democratic majority). Campaigns are usually low-key and low-budget. Commissioners are not paid, though they are invited to front-row seats and recognition at a fair number of public events. Perhaps the biggest perk is the VIP parking placard, allowing commissioners to park for an unlimited time in legitimate parking places while on ANC business.
But they also spend a lot of their time reading reams of documents and attending endless number of meetings. “I and several other commissioners have already spent well over 10 hours meeting with D.C. agencies, neighbors and commercial entities about the possible installation of small cell wireless communication facilities throughout Georgetown,” commissioner Jim Wilcox told The Georgetowner. (A town meeting on the topic is planned for Thursday, Sept. 13, at 7 p.m. at the City Tavern Club, 3206 M St. NW.) Wilcox also attends all the meetings of the Old Georgetown Board, the official architecture review board, and those of other agencies.
“I loved being an ANC Commissioner,” said Tom Birch, who served 14 years and was called by columnist Mark Plotkin the “Grover Cleveland of the ANC” for having run a second time after retiring. “I loved being the voice of my neighborhood for every issue. But most of all I loved working collaboratively with all my fellow commissioners.” Birch served during a period when “town and gown” relations between Georgetown and the west side of Georgetown were somewhat fraught, but then were brought together to form the collaborative partnership of today.
It’s not too late to run for ANC. While the official deadline to register was 5 p.m. on Aug. 8, write-in candidates can still run. They must have lived in the ANC Single Member District for 60 days prior to election day, Nov. 6, and be a registered voter in the District. An “Affirmation of Write-In Candidacy” can be filed with the Board of Elections any time up until 4:45 p.m. on Friday, Nov. 9.
WARD 2 ADVISORY NEIGHBORHOOD COMMISSIONS
2A Foggy Bottom, West End
2B Dupont Circle
2C Chinatown, Penn Quarter
2D Kalorama, Sheridan
2E Burleith, Georgetown, Hillandale
2F Logan Circle
ADVISORY NEIGHBORHOOD COMMISSION 2E
3265 S St. NW
Washington, DC 20007
WEDNESDAY, SEPT. 5,
6:30 P.M. at Georgetown Visitation School, 1524 35th St. NW (generally meets the first Monday of the month)