Friday Question of the Day – Time to Reform the ANC Structure?


We’ve spoken about the DC Government’s ANC structure in the past but I received an email from Rob Goodspeed of the Goodspeed Update that is worth reading. He suggests four avenues of reform:

“1. Modify the structure of Single Member Districts,
2. City government should enforce greater transparency and consistency in operations,
3. Reduce the number of ANCs or enlarge SMD sizes, and
4. Term Limits for ANC Commissioners.”

Read his full post here.

I feel pretty lucky in that my ANC is pretty active and has (mostly) good, responsible, engaged representatives. For the FQoTD – do you think the ANC structure should be reformed? Also, what are your experiences with your ANC representatives? Do they help solve problems you have in your neighborhood? Do you support the way they spend ANC money? And I’m just curious with this one – do you know who your ANC Representative is?

31 Comment

  • The ANC structure absolutely needs to be reformed. It is such a joke. For every diligent ANC commissioner who actually tries to be responsive to the local concerns of his/her neighbors, there are at least three to four petty tyrants with delusions of grandeur (or just outright delusions—there are some really wacky ANC Commissioners out there). The whole system is a complete waste of taxpayer dollars.

  • Government is fractal and you aren’t necessarily going to get more competent or less corrupt officials by expanding the scale of each SMD. As a resident within 1A06, I’m happy with both my SM commissioner and the chair. I do not want a system shakeup.

  • Any kind of governing body that allows William Jordan to be elected is one that needs to be abolished.

  • Ditto what Boomhauer said!

  • So if these changes are to be made, who/what is the entity to be entrusted with the task?

  • I actually really dislike my ANC commissioner, though our chair is great. I don’t want to shake up the system or have fewer representatives. When will you ever be closer to elected office than in DC’s ANC system? They make a lot of decisions that affect my day to day life, and I’d much rather those decisions be make by someone who knows me by name. I feel like I have a lot of say in how decisions are made that I wouldn’t have if some faceless government agency or someone elected city-wide were making those decisions. Yes, some of the ANC reps are kooky, but then again a fair number of my neighbors are kooky, too! That’s just life I guess.

  • Okay, I have a really novice question: where can you get those ANC maps? I couldn’t find them on DC’s website.

    So yeah, no, I don’t know who my ANC rep is, but I think I can guess based on which one lives closest to me. Sadly, though, the website for my district (1A) appears to be down.

  • ANC Commissioners are not just “cooky, petty tyrants with delusions of grandeur.”
    Some are beyond category:

    Here’s one that for fun provokes his neighbors, and then litigates in court with ANC funds used to pay his $20,000 legal fees.

    You can read about what he did in this case here:

    From these ANC minutes his fellow ANC Commissioners voted to pay $20,000 for his personal legal fees:


    Minutes of December 5, 2007

    Commissioner Logsdon moved that funds from ANC 1C support legal funds for the defense of Commissioner Reynolds. A friendly amendment was offered to cap the funds at $20,000.

    YEA: Weise, Mechner, Weaver, Moretti, Logsdon, Shia, Boettrich
    NAY: None
    RECUSED: Reynolds

    Commissioner Weaver made a motion to move to executive session.”

    To top it off, this former bartender, Adams Morgan ANC Commissioner Wilson Reynolds, was hired by Councilman Jim Graham to work full time on his staff as Constituent Services Director. He remains there on staff, and as an Adams Morgan ANC Commissioner continues playing his games litigating with his neighbors and constituents with multiple lawsuits for his personal enjoyment -all with our local government funds.

    Because of voter apathy, most get re-elected unopposed.

  • That City Paper article makes Reynolds and his ANC look pretty good in my book.

  • I went to my first ANC meeting a couple of weeks ago and was surprised at the range of representation. Needless to say, kooky seems to be the least of our worries. However, I’ve been very happy with my rep, who has been working very closely with the residents on issues of concern in our area, and attending our neighborhood meetings to stay actively involved.

  • Thre times a charm for what Boomhauer and Mr T said about unopposed William Jordan.

  • Is it democracy when you get “elected” just by signing yourself up?

    ANCs were a good idea in theory, but have been terrible in practice. Many are self-“elected” neighborhood tyrants who are only there because 1) nobody else ran, and 2) they have the free time that people with real jobs don’t.

  • [email protected]:00a.m….Commissioner Reynolds was sued by a slumlord because the ANC helped organize the tenants in the building to do a clean up of the building which was in horrific conditions. The ANC ended up helping Commissioner Reynolds cover about $7,000 in legal fees that he accrued before the AG’s office agreed to take on the case… which it should have done in the very first place.

    As for the fact that Reynolds works in Grahams office, if you look as the Councilmembers staff list and the Ward One ANCs, you’ll see that the Councilmember has a staff member on three out of the four Ward One ANCs…this is a function of the Councilmember, not the ANCs (and trust me, other ANC commissioners do not particularly appreciate that the councilmember in essence has a mole on the ANCs).

  • Being a casually active neighbor, I have not found a use for my commissioner yet. I can usually with some smart email get the same responses he gets, and I would prefer to stay involved as I think its better that way. I mean, come on, we are actually a very small town, so why do we need so much “representation”? Lets hold the ward 1 council members office responsible for the big picture; not leaving it up to each ANC to scrap for pieces. I hope that makes sense!

  • As chairman of ANC1A I have to say I disagree with making ANC SMD’s larger. We are only supposed to represent 2,000 residents but in 1A I believe every commissioners is representing twice that number, if not triple. Depending on the SMD there are more zoning, ABRA, or budget issues than others. On top of that you have to address the concerns of your constituents. This makes being on the ANC nearly a full time job. We have no paid staff and are volunteers. All ANC’s must maintain records and make them available to the public. Every secretary is supposed to maintain and have available at meetings all the minutes, bylaws, resolutions, and treasurers reports.

  • There are certainly some of bad ANC commissioners, but the fact that some bad people get elected a reason to throw out the system? I think instead the answer is to try to get people in the neighborhood more involved.

    I would support term limits however, within reason …being on the ANC is a large time commitment and it could be difficult to find enough people to serve if the term limits or short. Still, it could help prevent disasters, like Leroy Thorpe in Shaw – see He’s the most outrageous example I know of.

  • I’d also like to cite an example of what happens when the city makes decisions for your neighborhood vs. when your neighbors via the ANCs make decisions for your neighborhood. The original development that was going to happen above the Petworth metro stop was an office of the DMV. The neighbhorhood was up in arms and pushed to redo the plans, to include residential/retail development, which eventually resulted in the Donatelli building we have being built now. All I can say is I’m thankful we have a way the people who live in this area can push back when bad decisions are made.

  • I’ve been impressed with my SMD commissioner: she’s organized a bunch of events and regularly communicates through e-mail and a paper newsletter. The fact that she lives halfway down the block doesn’t hurt either. We’re at the other end of the same ANC as PoP, and I’ve also been happy with them as a whole.

    L, you can find your ANC from the website under DC Atlas.

  • Oh, I don’t know, don’t get me started about Timothy Jones in 4C08. He votes against everything, even grants to help kids etc. He once expressed his opposition to cherry trees being planted near Grant Circle, ‘who’s going to rake the leaves?’.

    On the other hand, 4C is blessed with a great chair in Joe Martin, and the quality of the commission in general has improved significantly over the last few years.

  • William Jordan and others do a fine job representing the majority of their constituency. This is a democracy, if you don’t like your rep, run yourself or support a challenger. Any system is going to result in good and bad reps being elected.

  • i agree with petworthdc completely!

    i would also support term limits across all dc elected positions.

  • I like the system in general – however, I wish the DC gov would exercise more oversight of the ANCs that are clearly not meeting their reporting/fiduciary responsibilities (I guess that’s point #2 of the suggestions). The fact is, when things go to hell in a local ANC (I’m talking about you 2C), there are no effective mechanisms to fix/improve/make the commissioners accountable.

    That said, being a commissioner is a pretty thankless job.

  • I am completely outraged by the ANC system, how in God’s name havent I been elected as a write-in candidate yet?

  • ANC boundaries/population sizes should be doubled. No need to have so many damn ANCs. It would also make it harder for some weirdo to run unopposed because there would be more people to draw from.

  • Anonymous said: “William Jordan and others do a fine job representing the majority of their constituency.”

    Ha ha ha ha, welcome to the Prince of Petworth, William! William Jordan, who was elected in an unopposed race, at best, represents a small percentage of his constituents, those who would like to see Columbia Heights return to it’s post-1960s riots, pre-redevelopment state. He is against everything.

    Perhaps if the ANC districts were larger, it would be harder for nut cases like him, Leroy Thorpe, and Frank Winstead (remember him?) to get elected.

  • People elect the commissioners, residents, neighbors. If you don’t care for a particular one, you should run yourself or support another’s campaign. If districts were larger, they would be a lot less responsive to the neighborhood. Don’t undermine representative democracy because you happen to hate on a particular commissioner. That’s lazy.

  • If the districts were larger, then it would be easier to get rid of the truly difficult nutcases because they would have to answer to a larger section of voters. Each SMD should be twice as big as they are now. The extremely small size of the ANCs also promotes pettiness between neighborhoods.

  • Anon 12:22 — don’t you need actual votes in a “representative democracy”. I mean, more than one?

  • This will NEVER happen. Our city has too many problems to start some more

  • The best reform for ANCs is an active, caring and involved citizenry who are really civically oriented. Sometimes complaints are more about personal likes and dislikes instead of what is “best” overall.

    BTW, Mr. T in DC, knows I don’t post anonymously.

  • making ANCs too big would make the area unmanagable, as it is a democracy, if William Jordan is duly elected by the people for the people, I rest my case, as suggested term limits go, study it, as typically these ideas need work lest these ideas fall by the wayside.
    I hope the suggested changes will be examined and cross examined in order to keep in check any hidden objective in general to maintain proper checks and balances.

Comments are closed.