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Adrian Jordan wants to shake up one of the most entrenched branches of the District government: Advisory Neighborhood Commissions.
While many members of the District’s 40 ANCs pull long hours for their constituents without pay, not every commissioner is so scrupulous. In recent years, ANC commissioners have figured into a phone sex scandal and a shoving fight. Sometimes, they manage to make it a paid position after all, by pilfering an ANC bank account. Less scandalously—although maybe more galling for their foes—they can use the ANC’s ability to issue recommendations on liquor license changes to hold up or quash new businesses.
Jordan, a former committee staffer for Ward 5 Councilmember Kenyan McDuffie, saw firsthand the commissioners’ power in the developing, politically active ward. Now he wants to take them on, by using a political action committee to defeat “obstructionist” ANC commissioners.
Jordan, who says he’s working with other Ward 5 activists to get the PAC ready for 2016 ANC elections, plans to focus the group’s efforts in the ward first. He was inspired by recall efforts aimed at ANC 5D commissioners opposed to intrigue-prone Ward 5 ANC Commissioner Kathy Henderson—exactly the kind of commissioner who Jordan would likely want to oust.
Instead, Jordan is looking for ANC candidates who can bring the “Kenyan McDuffie brand” to their commissions.
“He definitely sold me on changing Ward 5 politics from basically being Thanksgiving turkey giveaways and going out to rec centers all the time to actually being legislation and doing quality things,” Jordan says of his old boss.
McDuffie isn’t currently involved in Jordan’s PAC plans, although Jordan plans to focus much of his initial fundraising on McDuffie donors.
Jordan’s PAC sounds like good news for Mark Lee, a Washington Blade columnist whose liberal approach to nightlife laws leads him to advocate for abolishing ANCs entirely. Lee points to the months-long wait new businesses often face for ANC approval as one reason for ANC reform.
“It just sort of begs the question why we continue to tolerate so much obstruction from these groups,” Lee says.
Jordan also wants to see changes at the District’s Office of Advisory Neighborhood Commissions. Rather than keeping ANC funds in vulnerable bank accounts, for example, Jordan wants to see the government hire an ANC procurement employee. Also on the agenda is updating technology at the office.
“Right now there’s three people,” Jordan says of the ANC office’s staff. “And this isn’t disparaging, but they all are very old.”
Photo by Darrow Montgomery