GW students Alan Elias, Steven Mandelbaum and Ed Meinert are vying for positions on the Advisory Neighborhood Commission traditionally held by more permanent members of the Foggy Bottom community.
But ANC members such as Dorothy Miller, who is running for her third term as commissioner, said student candidates are unprepared for the level of commitment the ANC requires.
“It takes all day and all night, 24 hours a day when you’re working to save a community from self-destruction,” Miller said.
“If any student thinks that he can go to college and do this job, they don’t know what they’re talking about,” she said. “There’s nothing wrong with registering to vote, but to run for office when you don’t have time to give, then there’s a big problem with it.”
But Mandelbaum, who is running as a write-in candidate in District 2A06 against Greg Scoma, a University Police Department employee and GW graduate, said he thinks he has an advantage as a student candidate.
“Most students, including myself, have 15-plus hours a week that they spend in class,” Mandelbaum said. “That leaves all the extra time for doing other things. In that time I plan to work on the ANC. I think having other things in your life makes you understand the life of the average resident.”
Maria Tyler, a current commissioner and a candidate for the seat in District 2A03, said she also is concerned about students’ abilities to meet academic demands as well as ANC responsibilities.
“If you want to be earnest here, you have a 12 hour a day job,” Tyler said. “How can a student seriously do that and at the same time seriously conduct their academic program?”
Meinert, who is opposing Miller for the District 2A05 seat, said the ANC argument against student candidates is a “politically-minded” response to weaken their campaigns.
“I’ve spoken to many officials in city government about the issue of
students running for the ANC,” he said. “I spoke to Eleanor Holmes Norton, the representative to Congress for the District of Columbia, and she thinks it’s a great idea for students to represent themselves on the ANC. “What she conveyed to me is that this is not a full-time political job. It does not require full-time work and that is why it is not compensated financially,” Meinert said.
Meinert said he plans to dedicate 15 to 25 hours a week to the ANC
position if he is elected.
And despite resistance from ANC veteran members, Elias said he sees support for student candidates in the community.
Elias, who is running against Barbara Spillinger for the District 2A04 seat, camped out in front of the Safeway supermarket in the Watergate apartment complex for five hours every night for a week when he first began campaigning.
Elias said about eight out of 10 people he met supported students running in the ANC election.
“It shocked me because I thought it was going to be very different,” he said. “These weren’t just students, it was many eldery residents. It gives me a lot of hope.”