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I was disappointed by Loose Lips’ (5/14) call to abolish the advisory neighborhood commissions (ANCs). It is easy to harp on the problems of the handful of dysfunctional commissions, and many do—reporters, politicians, citizens, and members of Congress—making it that much harder to convince qualified, committed people to run for the seats. The majority of ANCs represent their neighborhoods responsibly and with great commitment and energy, despite the fact that the positions are unpaid and the commissions’ budgets are minuscule in relation to the scope of the issues—crime, alcoholic beverages, zoning, trash, transportation, etc.—they are called on to oversee. My commission, based in Mount Pleasant, has represented the neighborhood responsibly and actively over the years, without a breath of scandal. If LL were to attend commission meetings other than those promising “the possibility of fistfights,” I’m sure he’d find more of them similar to ours than to the handful of troubled commissions he reported on.

A wardwide “subcouncil,” as LL proposes, would add a layer of bureaucracy without added value. Neighborhoods are the vital segments of the city; wards are arbitrary jurisdictions created for voting purposes. Would Georgetown residents on a Ward 2 council have any special understanding of the needs of Shaw?

A more constructive approach than this knee-jerk criticism of the ANCs would be investing them with the resources needed to give them more effective voices in city affairs. If city agencies truly gave the ANC’s opinions “great weight,” our neighborhoods would have a greater voice, and democracy would be strengthened. I hope and expect that Councilmember Catania’s hearings result in a definition of “great weight” with real teeth. The bottom line: If you care about our neighborhoods, help us strengthen the ANCs—don’t tear them down.

Chair, ANC-1E

via the Internet