Image by ep_jhu.

The DC primaries take place today, June 19, but voters will have to wait until November to vote for their picks for Advisory Neighborhood Commissioner (ANC). These hyper-local elected officials get a seat at the table when it comes to guiding how each DC neighborhood grows and make decisions that directly impact current residents.

If you’ve been reading this blog, you know just how often equitable change to a neighborhood hinges on local decision makers and groups. In DC, ANCs are at the center of many of those decisions, and frankly they need more commissioners who are willing to work towards solutions with their constituents while also prioritizing the overarching needs of a growing city.

GGWash will be hosting two workshops in the coming months to educate and equip interested neighbors who think they might want to run for ANC. RSVP below!

Click to RSVP!

A quick test: do you...

  • … walk the neighborhood and constantly think of why it's great and how it could be better?
  • ... enjoy talking with your neighbors and solving problems with them?
  • ... love digging into the details, working to a consensus, and being a decision maker?
  • ... want to get more involved in serving and shaping your neighborhood?
  • ... want to dip your toe into elected leadership to try it out, or just aren't ready yet to run for a higher level office?

If you answered yes to any of the above, you should consider running for ANC, and at the very least come to one of our workshops. ANCs need more people like you.

What do ANCs do, exactly?

DC’s is governed by the mayor and a council of 13 members, eight of whom serve individual wards. Those eight wards are broken down even further into districts called Advisory Neighborhood Commissions (ANCs).

A map of DC’s Wards and Advisory Neighborhood Commissions. Ward 7 ANCs are tinted blue, ANC 7D is green, and Single Member District 07 is highlighted in red. Image by Justin Lini, data from DC Open Data..

There are 40 ANCs total, and each ANC is segmented even further into Single Member Districts (SMDs), which elect an unpaid, volunteer ANC Commissioner to represent their interests for a period of two years at a time. These single-member districts are supposed to encompass 2,000 voters, but with changing neighborhoods constituent populations can vary widely. Check out ancfinder.org to find your own ANC/SMD and explore the ANCs around you.

ANCs meet monthly to vote on a variety of issues, passing resolutions and maintaining a regular space for residents to address changes and debate. Others organize committees of residents to evaluate and weigh in on different issues. Legally ANC resolutions are not law, but carry what is defined as “great weight” in other DC government agencies and processes. However, the informal power of ANCs is far reaching, and the relationships commissioners build within the DC government and with top elected officials are influential.

For urbanists, ANCs play a particularly important role shaping and managing the growth of neighborhoods. Most developments, road and transit improvements come before the ANC for debate and a vote. Commissions are also instrumental in bargaining for developing community benefits packages in larger Planned Unit Developments (PUDs), and in general are the official venue for where these development and growth conversations project by project.

A strong forward-thinking ANC can fight for the interests of their constituents while also balancing the needs of the city and get a lot of good done. An anti-change ANC can do a lot damage, and an dysfunctional ANC negates one of the purest forms of hyper-local democracy around.

You don’t need to be an expert on these issues (though knowing something helps). You don’t need to be a politician (though enjoying politics helps). Most of all, the city needs committed residents who care about their neighborhoods and want to help them be better, can compromise, can fight for equitable change, can listen, and can organize their neighbors’ interests.

Running for office is relatively very simple: 25 signatures gets you on the ballot, and campaigns last only a few months. Many commissioners run unopposed, and some seats even go vacant.

Is this thing for me?

People decided to run for ANC for different reasons, and serving as a commissioner for any amount of time is a big commitment. However, I’ve heard many commissioners say it is one of the more meaningful experiences they have had in the city.

If any of this is piquing your interest, RSVP to one of our Run for ANC workshops. You’ll get to listen to a panel of commissioners talk about their work and experience, and discuss if this is the right opportunity for you.We'll also discuss best practices for running a campaign and get you the tools you need before the petition deadline in August.

Join us for one of these two upcoming sessions: Thursday, June 28 near the Columbia Heights Metro station, or Monday, July 9 at our offices near Metro Center. Both are 7-9 pm. Click the button below for more details and to RSVP.

Click to RSVP!

David Whitehead is the Housing Program Organizer at Greater Greater Washington.  A former high school math teacher and a community organizer, David works to broaden and deepen Greater Greater Washington’s efforts to make the region more livable and inclusive through education, advocacy and organizing. He lives in Edgewood.