If you become involved in local policy in the DC Metropolitan Area, you may hear someone mention something about an ANC while in conversations about Washington, DC politics. This may confuse many people who hear the term ANC as they might immediately think of the African National Congress, the political party of Nelson Mandela in South Africa. However, the ANC in Washington DC does not stand for African National Congress; it is the initialism of the Advisory Neighborhood Commissions (ANC).
ANCs were established in the District's 1973 Home Rule Charter (Sec. 738), which states:
The Council shall by act divide the District into neighborhood commission areas and, upon receiving a petition signed by at least 5 per centum of the registered qualified electors of a neighborhood commission area, shall establish for that neighborhood an elected advisory neighborhood commission. In designating such neighborhoods, the Council shall consider natural geographic boundaries, election districts, and divisions of the District made for the purpose of administration of services.
The goal of establishing ANCs was to "bring government closer to the people, and to bring the people closer to government." In addition, ANCs were intended to be the voice of the residents of Washington DC with the city and federal government as opposed to "special advisory groups." According to the DC government, there are now 40 ANCs, up from 37 before the 2012 redistricting. The elected Commissioners serve two-year terms, are unpaid, and must run for re-election in even-numbered years, meaning the next ANC Commissioner election will occur this November. The District's Home Rule Charter states that advisory neighborhood commissions' can:
Advise the District government on matters of public policy, including decisions regarding planning, streets, recreation, social services programs, health, safety, and sanitation in that neighborhood commission area
Employ staff and expend, for public purposes within its neighborhood commission area, public funds and other funds donated to it; and
Have such other powers and duties as may be provided by act of the Council.
ANC areas are subdivided into smaller regions with one Commissioner called Single Member Districts (SMDs), consisting of about 2,000 people. Some of the largest ANCs have 12 SMDs, and the smallest has just 2. Due to the growth of the District population over the past decade, the number of SMD has grown from 286 to 296.
Map of Washington DC's ANC
(To view the current boundaries of the ANC, click here)
Though District agencies are not mandated to incorporate the recommendations of the ANC, they take ANC recommendations seriously. According to the DC Code (§ 1–309.10), If there is an action that will adversely impact planning, streets, recreation, social services programs, education, health, safety, budget, sanitation, and other issues, the ANC must be made aware 30 days in advance. Agencies will be unable to take any action unless ANCs are made aware.