D.C. City Council explores changing influence of ANC

A new law introduced by D.C. Councilman David Catania (at large) could change the influence of Advisory Neighborhood Commissions and add a new residency requirement for potential ANC members.

Catania said the goal of changing the way ANCs’ recommendations are treated is to empower District residents and to force greater accountability for the ANCs.

The bill passed the Committee on Local and Regional Affairs, which Catania chairs, by a vote of 4-1. Council member Phil Mendelson (at large) was the lone dissenter. The bill will head to the full council for its first examination Feb. 1, according to a press release from Catania’s office.

The bill would strengthen the power of ANCs by requiring District government entities to give great weight to ANC recommendations as long as the ANC abides by numerous provisions that are also set out in the bill.

Barbara Spillinger, chair of ANC 2A, which includes the Foggy Bottom neighborhood, said she has some concerns about the bill. She said the bill would put added responsibility on ANC requirements.

It allows the great weight provision to be thrown out under circumstances, Spillinger said.

Bernard Demczuk, assistant vice president for Government Relations, said the bill would take away the authority of District agencies and the mayor.

We support the ANC having a voice, but we don’t think that there should be changes in the city charter, Demczuk said.

He said the bill goes too far.

The bill changes the residency requirement for potential ANC candidates. The bill would require candidates to be a resident of the ANC for at least 180 days. Also, the bill requires that candidates reside in the single-member district for 60 days. Currently, candidates only are required to reside in their single-member district for 60 days.

Catania said a change in the residency requirement would ensure that candidates reside in their ANC for a longer period of time.

In no way was this aimed at students, Catania said.

ANC member Rich Sheehey (2-A01) said when the bill was originally proposed, it required candidates to reside in the single-member district for 180 days.

He said he objected to that requirement because students who switch residence halls subsequently might reside in a different single-member district, and he said he was glad to see the original requirement not placed in the bill. Catania agreed and acknowledged that students might move around in the same ANC.

Sheehey said the revised proposal does not limit or deter students from being members of ANCs. Sheehey said he was satisfied with the residency requirement in the bill.

I don’t necessarily see a flaw in that, he said.

GW senior Alan Elias, who ran for an ANC spot in 1998, said he does not think the changed residency requirement will make it more difficult for students to run. Elias said he thought the residency requirement was six months when he ran, and the new requirement doesn’t change things that much.

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