When the local Advisory Neighborhood Commission holds its elections, its seems some incumbents have the luxury of coasting to re-election without breaking a sweat. But this year, some new faces have thrown their hats into the race for spots on the neighborhood governing board. A little variety makes for a good exercise in democracy, but only if the challengers are running for the right reasons.
The ANCs were established in the 1970s as grassroots organizations that represent community concerns. But recently, the local ANC has served as an example of what happens to democracy when childlike bickering and bitterness overtake responsibility and accountability. Countless reports have documented ANC meetings that last late into the night, with members battling for hours about parliamentary procedure and attendance records. It seems a rare occasion when something actually is agreed upon.
This November, three GW students – Stephen Mandelbaum, Alan Elias and Ed Meinert – and GW alumnus Richard Sheehey are running for four seats on the local ANC.
While putting some fresh faces on the ANC could have its advantages, only candidates who truly care about the Foggy Bottom neighborhood should run for positions on the commission. Candidates should be running because they are interested in making Foggy Bottom a better place to live, whether they are students or long-time residents.
Similarly, students who register to vote in the District should do it not because the candidate is a friend or fellow student, but because they think the candidate will best represent the concerns of area residents. Likewise, local residents should not vote for someone just because he or she has been a good neighbor or because he or she is not a “GW person.”
Anyone can run for office – that’s the glorious part of our democracy. But a candidate should be running for the right reasons. The ANC is one of the few direct ways older Foggy Bottom residents can make their voices heard. If a current or former GW student is elected to the ANC, he must represent all the residents of his area, not just his student constituents. The area’s permanent residents will be here long after most students have moved out of Foggy Bottom.
New blood could invigorate the ANC, but if the neighborhood’s older residents are left out in the cold, the price is too high.