Councilmember Brianne Nadeau has introduced a new bill that would boot an advisory neighborhood commissioner who misses three consecutive meetings, an issue that’s particularly plagued some of her Ward 1 constituents.
Kent Boese, chairman of the ANC 1A, has dealt with members who would blow off meetings during their last session. Boese’s commission and ANC 1B have both had to reschedule meetings in the past when enough members wouldn’t show up to reach quorum.
“There’s not much you can do to force somebody to come to the meeting,” says Boese, whose ANC pushed for the legislation through a resolution.
The quorum problem usually affects larger ANCs, according to Boese, when some commissioners think it might be fine to miss a meeting when there are many other members.
Not all community members seem thrilled about Nadeau’s proposal though.
Sandra Seegars, a former commissioner in Ward 8, doesn’t think councilmembers should “write a law to get rid of an elected person.” She instead suggests lowering the quorum threshold, which currently requires one more than half of the total members of a commission to be in attendance in order to vote on matters.
Another Ward 8 pol and chair of ANC 8E, Anthony Muhammad, says “what about councilmembers that don’t attend meetings?” If people really want to get rid of a commissioner, he adds, they can try to recall them.
It’s unclear how many ANC members would be affected by the bill. Boese and James Turner, chair of ANC 1B, says they haven’t had issues reaching quorum this year so far.
Gottlieb Simon, director of the Office of the Advisory Neighborhood Commissions, says there’s currently a way to remove commissioners through petitioning the D.C. Board of Elections and Ethics. But he adds that it can be a drawn out process, and that he doesn’t remember a commission in recent times undertaking it. (An effort to recall three ANC 5D commissioners is currently underway.)
There are also bigger issues the D.C. Council should address, commissioners say. Chair of ANC 3D Tom Smith, who hasn’t had problems meeting quorum, wants representatives to work more closely with commissioners.
“If councilmembers are going to look at being the safeguard of the ANCs in terms of their attendance records,” he says, “it might be good for [them] to also take on a little more responsibility in terms of working with ANC commissioners on the kinds of issues they face.”
Even Turner, who says his commission missed quorum three times last session, hopes for larger improvements. In calling the bill a “good step forward,” Turner says he looks forward to a more extensive package of fixes from Councilmember Anita Bonds. Among his wish list: more shared staff support for all ANCs, having the city pay for website costs, and a consistent method for all commissions to tape and record meetings.
Nadeau, herself an ANC 1B aluma, co-introduced the bill with At-Large Councilmembers Elissa Silverman and Bonds, with a co-sponsor from Ward 8’s LaRuby May.
Photo by Darrow Montgomery