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I found the article “Democracy Inaction” by Ta-Nehisi Coates (5/29) to be surprisingly negative, unbalanced, and subjective. It may be true that some ANCs are inept and ineffective, and a few ANC representatives even steal. But I have observed that most ANC representatives are highly effective in serving the citizens of D.C. Unlike other elected officials, ANC representatives are paid nothing and receive little recognition for all the work they do. They are highly motivated D.C. residents who are willing to spend their own precious time to try to make the city a better place to live. And they often succeed. Mr. Coates should have balanced his article by including some of the effective ANCs, but he chose to concentrate only on the negatives, even if it meant re-exposing scandals from over 20 years ago. The one-sidedness of the article should be an embarrassment to the City Paper.
The article is correct in stating that the ANCs are often ignored by the D.C. Council. On the other hand, the ANC has considerable power because it can expose the irresponsible behavior of councilmembers who refuse to be accountable to the people they serve. I noticed that the only councilmember Coates quotes regarding the effectiveness of ANCs is actually a former councilmember, Arrington Dixon, who recently ran unsuccessfully against David Catania for an at-large seat. Catania, himself a former ANC representative, does listen to ANCs. His role as an effective ANC representative helped him get elected. Why didn’t Coates interview David Catania or other councilmembers about the effectiveness of ANCs? Maybe he did, and chose to omit their opinions.
I live in the Southeast neighborhood of Hillcrest and am impressed by how much our ANC (7B) has accomplished, and equally impressed by the dedication and tenacity of our commissioners. They do make a difference in our neighborhood. ANC meetings usually feature a speaker who is a major public figure in the D.C. government, such as the chief of police, U.S. Attorney, a department head, or a councilmember. These meetings provide a forum for residents to speak out and make demands for city services, and they give visiting officials the opportunity to address specific community concerns.
I am not a particularly civically active member of the neighborhood, but even by attending about half the meetings I can vouch for the effectiveness of ANC 7B. They were instrumental in getting a police substation and two police satellite stations opened, additional traffic controls in place in the neighborhood, and the Goodhope Marketplace opened. They stopped unwanted businesses and other projects from coming into the neighborhood. They demand high standards from public officials, and are constantly fighting for full delivery of city services. They usually get what they fight for.