Editorial: Proposal before Council on Tuesday Would Weaken ANC Authority
by Larry Janezich
On Tuesday, the City Council, according to a tweet by CM Charles Allen, will consider a proposal to drop the requirement that ANC candidates get 25 signatures on a nominating petition to get on the ballot.
This seems to be an extraordinarily bad idea, and one wonders how it deserves to be given the dignity of serious consideration.
Another proposal, according Allen, is to drop the signature requirement for at-large councilmember candidates from 3,000 to 250. The proposal would change the collection of signatures to a no/low contact method, substituting electronic petitions for the paper and pen petitions in the interests of public safety.
A fundamental problem of politics is how to get our best people into government. ANC commissioners provide a direct link between the city government and their communities. Given only the statutory requirement that their opinion be “given great weight”, they struggle to make residents’ voices heard against a wall of indifference erected by the agencies they advise.
So now comes a proposal which not only makes individual commissioners less representative of their communities, but also undercuts what status they have.
Gottlieb Simon, Executive Director of the DC Office of ANCs, presented both sides of the issue in an email to all ANC commissioners across the city on Friday. “On the one hand, even obtaining 25 signatures electronically would be challenging, processing electronic petitions instead of paper ones would still be a burden to some extent for Board of Elections, and petitions are unnecessary since so many ANC races have only one (ballot) candidate.
On the other hand, not requiring ANC candidates to obtain any signatures would mean treating ANCs differently than other elected officials, eliminating a reason and opportunity for candidates to have a useful conversation with constituents, and abandoning some (even minimal) demonstration of a candidate’s commitment and seriousness.”
Eliminating the standard criteria to qualify for a place on the ballot is not how we find our best candidates. Our best people – those who are serious about representing our communities – will rise to the challenge.
Simon’s even handedness is understandable. But no such constraint should inhibit commissioners and residents in responding to this proposal which will reduce the effectiveness and authority of the ANCs as well as repress the ability of communities to have a voice in the affairs of the city.
It may be that a reducing the number of signatures on an electronic petition for a city wide race is justified, but it’s hard to see how reducing qualifications for ANC candidates is.
CM Allen’s email is here: firstname.lastname@example.org