Image by BrotherM licensed under Creative Commons.

There are 21 Advisory Neighborhood Commission (ANC) seats this year with no one on the ballot: that is, no candidate registered before this summer’s deadline. Write-in candidates for seven of those empty seats filled out our candidate questionnaire, as well as a few in contested races. Here are their responses and our endorsements.

Two weeks ago we wrote about the 21 ANC races this year with no candidate on the ballot. We asked any write-in candidates already out there to get in touch and take our survey so we could evaluate their stances on issues we care about. Nine candidates answered the call, and we’ve collected their responses here.

After reviewing all responses, we found six write-in candidates we’d like to endorse. If you live in one of these neighborhoods, please consider writing these names in. Without their name printed on the ballot, these candidates need all the help and exposure they can get. Often these races are only decided by a handful of votes, so pencil these folks in and tell your neighbors to as well!

Our write-in endorsements:

What are ANCs, and why should I care?

Advisory Neighborhood Commissions, or ANCs, are neighborhood councils of unpaid, elected representatives who meet monthly to weigh in with the District government about issues that are important to their community. ANCs play a very important role in housing and transportation decisions.

An ANC’s opposition to new housing, retail, a bike lane, bus improvements, etc. can stymie or significantly delay valuable projects. On the other hand, proactive and forward-thinking ANCs offer the government valuable suggestions for ways to improve the neighborhood and rally resident support.

Each ANC is divided into a number of Single Member Districts (SMDs), averaging about 2,000 voters each. Races often hinge on a small handful of votes. Your vote — every vote — really counts.

Not sure which SMD you live in? It’s easy to find in our interactive ANC Voter Guide! Simply search your address to find your ANC/SMD, compare your candidates’ responses to our questionnaire side-by-side, and take a look at our ultimate endorsements.

GGWash 2018 ANC Voter Guide

Map of 2018 ANC races with no one on the ballot. Image by Connor Waldoch.

In Ward 2, we endorse Nina Miller

A few write-in candidates who responded to our questionnaire are running in competitive races. One of those is Nina Miller, who’s running in 2B09, the far northeastern corner of Dupont Circle’s ANC, 2B. We asked all candidates in this area about the floated proposal to ban scooters on sidewalks, and Miller’s response was really solid: “For me, safety is the paramount consideration. Our sidewalks have to be safe for pedestrians. However, it is also clearly the case that some roads are not safe for bike riders and of course scooters. I cannot support an absolute ban on sidewalk riding because in some circumstances it would force people to risk life and limb riding on the street.”

Miller writes that “there are good cases to be made for restricting on-street parking on major arteries in favor of bus lanes or improving traffic flow for buses (for example, on 16th Street),” but also hedges saying that removing parking for should be done on a “case-by-case basis.” On Vision Zero, Miller says “we need solutions for the intersections where people have been killed or injured,” and has specific proposals for bike improvements.

More than anything, we urge voters to compare Miller to her opponent, Ed Hanlon, who is on the ballot. Hanlon did not complete our questionnaire this year, but we did review him in 2016. As we noted then, Hanlon seemed generally negative on removing parking and on adding new homes to his neighborhood. Readers also wrote in that in the past Hanlon has not been easy to work with, and once even had a protective order filed against him during an ongoing argument with a neighbor over an outdoor deck. Ultimately, we’re glad Miller is running her write-in campaign, and we hope enough voters in the neighborhood are ready for a change to pencil her on their ballots.

In Ward 4, we endorse Tiffani Johnson and Nora Simon

We received two responses from write-in candidates in Ward 4, whose races we discussed in our previous endorsements post. One empty seat is 4B06, in the Manor Park neighborhood where incumbent and previous GGWash endorsee, Natale Snider, is stepping down. Tiffani Johnson is stepping up to run for the vacant seat, and while she’s not an urbanist champion, we do think she's a strong candidate. You should write her in.

Johnson seems very knowledgeable about her community. She has a great focus on seniors and people with disabilities, and writes passionately about affordable housing: “The ANC should aggressively support housing affordability and additionally ensuring that our senior and disabled residents can afford to age-in-place. I am a big proponent of mixed use developments which allow for housing growth but also economic growth within the community.”

She is less forceful when it comes to some transportation issues. She does “not believe removing on-street parking for our residents is the solution” when it comes to bike or bus infrastructure, and explains that it because of her concern for the needs of seniors in her community. However, she strongly supports the completion of the Metropolitan Branch Trail in the area, has concrete ideas for other bike lanes, and wants to advocate for traffic calming measures as part of her goals for Vision Zero. Overall, we think Johnson would be a positive addition to the ANC and we hope enough people write her in to give her the chance.

To the west in the Petworth area, we also received a response from Nora Simon in the empty seat at 4C04, and she won our support. Simon supports the plan at the Old Hebrew Home, saying that “as Petworth continues to become a more desirable place to live, I believe that we have an obligation to ensure that longtime residents are not priced out of their neighborhood, and that teachers, alongside others who work in the area, can afford to to live in the community that they serve. I believe that we can find a balance between new market-price residences and affordable housing, so that we have a thriving, diverse community that safeguards and values all of its members.”

Simon is “someone who commutes from Petworth to Clarendon every day via a combination of bus and Metro,” and says that she is “a huge advocate of public transit.” However she waffles when it comes to stepping out in support of those improvements if they required taking away on street parking. Simon does “see value in increasing our area’s population density, which would lead to greater business infrastructure. Additional multi and single-family units would help to support our current shops and foster a thriving business community.”

She also writes that “the larger ANC does not exist in a vacuum. The decisions we make can and will have an impact beyond our boundaries. I believe that it is possible to to advance initiatives that benefit our neighborhood and the broader city as a whole.”

While we wish Simon was stronger on the parking issue, she overall seems like a good choice for this empty seat. If you live in the area, please consider writing her name on your ballots for 4C04.

Finally, we’re a little sad we can’t weigh into whatever is going on in 4C08. There’s been a lot of twitter activity about “lemonadegate” over there—the kind of juicy, only-in-ANCs controversy we’d love to opine on. We didn’t end up receiving a questionnaire from the challenger responsible for those curious signs, but incumbent Timothy Jones did return our questionnaire earlier this month. Unfortunately, his answers are incomplete sentences, full of misspellings, and not very informative. Good luck folks in 4C08—let us know in the comments what is going on over there, we’d love to stay in the loop.

Street crossing at Petworth Metro. Image by Victoria Pickering licensed under Creative Commons.

In Ward 5, we endorse Nick Cheolas

ANC 5E makes up neighborhoods like Bloomingdale, Eckington, Edgewood, and Stronghold. It has played host to many local fights over the last few years (McMillan chief among them), and will continue to be a place of spirited neighborhood debate in the years to come.

In the northeast corner of the ANC is 5E01, where Eddie Garnett has been a champion commissioner for the past few years. With him stepping down, we received questionnaires from a pair of candidates for the position. Both looked good, but ultimately we are endorsing Nick Cheolas.

Cheolas had many good answers, balancing community input with a broader vision of harnessing development to benefit the neighborhood. For example, on McMillan he writes that “we can’t let the need for deliberation become an obstacle to progress. We’ve allowed a decades-long fight over McMillan lead to a vacant property that doesn’t provide *any* community benefit. Our community benefits from both responsible development and green space alike. I think the current McMillan plans strike a good balance, and hope the project can move forward soon.”

We also liked his take on historic preservation, given that Bloomingdale was recently approved as DC’s newest historic district despite the ANC’s and others’ opposition. He writes that “our community’s rich history is part of what makes it special… but we can’t allow for abuses of historic designations when they’re a proxy for overall opposition to development or change.”

Cheolas is strong on transportation, saying “we need not see transit planning and safety as a zero-sum game,” but rather take “a comprehensive, thoughtful approach [that] will benefit pedestrians, cyclists, and drivers alike.” Cheolas looks really strong on a lot of our issues.

So, too, does Nathaniel Russ, Jr., who also completed our questionnaire and is vying for write-in votes in 5E01. Russ is a strong pedestrian safety advocate, and writes that “roads and vehicles are most valuable when they serve their primary function, that of moving people in between places.” This leads to his support of additional bus and bike infrastructure.

Russ also discusses a bunch of interesting ideas when it comes to youth empowerment and job creation in his questionnaire. Ultimately, while both candidates here are good, we think Cheolas most clearly will lead the way on urbanist issues, thus he won our endorsement.

Metropolitan Branch Trail near Edgewood. Image by Malcolm K. licensed under Creative Commons.

In Ward 6, we endorse John Pitts

There is only one empty seat in Ward 6 this year (6E04), and luckily we found a real urbanist champ who’s trying to jump into the game there: John Pitts.

Pitts is clear what kind of commissioner he’s going to be: “I say yes in my backyard.“ We really loved how he framed his answer to the trade off of street parking vs bike or bus improvements:

I would approach it as if no on street parking existed and we were deciding afresh whether to use the space for bus transit, cycling, or street parking. Where significant institutions exist that are dependent on street parking, I would favor a flexible approach that limited parking usage to times of heaviest use, and phased in greater bus and cycling use over time.

Pitts wants his ANC to be “truly a connected neighborhood north and south of New York Ave, …creating the feel of an expanding community, not one that is bifurcating.” As such he has a detailed answer for his Vision Zero priorities and how he’d like to to see “Dave Thomas” Circle redone.

For Northwest One, one of the last remaining large empty sites in the area and one with a drawn-out history of displacement and redevelopment, Pitts says it “should be developed to maximize housing density while ensuring that all previous residents have a unit to move into once the project is complete. My biggest concern is the amount of time it is taking. When low income families are displaced from a neighborhood for too long, that displacement becomes permanent for many of them.” This is in line with Pitt’s overall take on development: “Maximize housing density and minimize parking space requirements.” Preach, brother.

Urbanists in 6E04, you got a steal. Instead of facing two years with no direct representation, you all have a chance to elect a powerhouse candidate. Go write him in, now.

Near North Capitol Street. Image by Ted Eytan licensed under Creative Commons.

In Ward 8, we endorse Sharece Crawford

We received two responses from write-in candidates in Ward 8: Sharece Crawford in 8C03 and Dorcas Agyei in 8A05. We’re adding Sharece Crawford to our endorsees for 8C, joining Chyla Evans and David Jones on the ticket for this ANC, which encompases areas like Congress Heights and Barry Farm.

Crawford is running to fill the void in 8C03, which is the eastern corner of the ANC past Martin Luther King Avenue SE. She says she was part of the effort that “stopped the initial development plans” at Congress Heights over the obvious concerns about displacement and tenant’s rights. In her own words, “the plans looked great but they were not inclusive of residents. I will always put residents first.” While we at GGWash don’t always side with folks who try to stop development, this is pretty clearly a case where the plans needed to be redone so current residents’ needs could be addressed (and the Attorney General agreed). We are happy to support a candidate who lines up with us on this.

Crawford similarly seems to be acting as a valuable watchdog on the Barry Farm redevelopment plans, ensuring that residents have a “spelled out” right to return there. On transportation, Crawford is not as strong. On whether or not to remove parking for bus or bike infrastructure, she writes only one sentence: “NO. Street parking should not be removed.” She does seem open to additional bike infrastructure, but it doesn’t seem to be a high priority for her.

Some of her other answers weren’t well developed, but ultimately Crawford seems to understand her community’s issues very well, both the impact on her community and the overall politics involved. Not an urbanist in the conventional sense, but worth adding to the ANC? We think so.

Congress Heights. Image by Eric T. Gunther licensed under Creative Commons.

Want to read the responses of all of the write-in candidates who responded to our questionnaire and judge for yourself? Check out the full PDF here. You can also explore our ANC Voter Guide, which allows you to compare candidates in your neighborhood side-by-side. Our ANC Endorsements Page is now complete, including the responses from write-in candidates and our detailed rationale for each decision. Check it out, share with your neighbors, and please… go vote!

These are official endorsements of Greater Greater Washington. To determine this year’s endorsements, we sent a reader-generated candidate questionnaire to all ANC candidates. We then published candidate responses and collected feedback. Our volunteer elections committee then evaluated all candidate responses and feedback for contested races and with staff came to our final decisions.