What is an ANC? DC’s Advisory Neighborhood Commissions explained
ANC stands for Advisory Neighborhood Commission, and they have a big impact on neighborhood life in the area. If you are unfamiliar with ANCs, this primer will help you better understand what they are, who they are, and their role in the community.
What is the objective of an Advisory Neighborhood Commission?
The purpose of ANCs is to give community members a greater say in their neighborhoods and to prevent the proliferation of special advisory groups in the District. Created by a 1974 referendum, ANCs provide a voice for District residents on a variety of matters. These include traffic, parking, zoning, economic developments, liquor licensing, health and safety, sanitation, and the city’s budget. ANC’s cut out the distance between government and the people they serve. They do this by providing more direct representation of District residents.
What authority does a Advisory Neighborhood Commission have?
Rather than authority, you might think of ANCs more in terms of their influence. Because the members represent small areas called Single Member Districts (SMD), they provide hyperlocal advice to a variety of groups on behalf of their neighbors, including:
- Government agencies
- The Mayor’s Office
- The DC City Council
- Independent Agencies, Boards, and Commissions
- Federal Agencies
This advisory power can be initiated either by the governmental office or by the ANC. While not required to follow the recommendations of the ANC, government groups do give it great weight. In regards to some subjects, like liquor licensing, the ANC’s approval or disapproval carries significant weight. And the Commission’s disapproval can effectively serve as a veto to licensure.
Who participates in Advisory Neighborhood Commissions?
ANC members serve two years without pay and are elected at November elections in even-numbered years. In order to be elected as an Advisory Neighborhood Commissioner, an individual must be:
- A registered voter in the District
- A resident of the nominating SMD for the 60-day period immediately preceding nomination
- A resident who holds no other public office
Twenty-five signatures are required in order to be placed on the ballot as a potential commissioner. While commissioners receive no salary, they do receive funding to hire staff and institute improvements. In addition, ANC candidates can accept campaign donations of up to $25 per donor.
How do Advisory Neighborhood Commissions impact the community?
ANCs have no official powers. However they provide a more direct voice for their community to “The Powers That Be” in city government and in the federal oversight of District matters. ANCs may initiate suggestions and requests for services and improvements, hear complaints from residents, and conduct neighborhood improvement initiatives.
Each SMD encompasses about 2000 residents, with boundaries regularly adjusted as the population increases. There are currently 40 ANCs — the largest has 12 SMDs, the smallest just 2. Georgetown belongs to ANC 2E which encompasses East Village Georgetown, Georgetown University, West Village Georgetown, Burleith, Waterfront Georgetown, Hillandale, and parts of other areas.
If you think the role of commissioner is for you, get ready — ANC elections will be on this year’s November ballot. Check out the election guidelines for more information.
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