The Advisory Neighborhood Commissions or ANCs are the level of District government closest to the people. Referred to as “a unique experiment in neighborhood democracy” by the League of Women Voters, the ANCs are each designed to serve one or more distinct neighborhoods. As of January 1, 2023, there are 46 ANCs in the District, with close to 350 individual Advisory Neighborhood Commissioners serving their Single Member Districts. Each Commissioner serves approximately 2,000 DC residents.
Advisory Neighborhood Commissions (ANCs) were established by the Home Rule Charter of 1973 and approved by voter referendum on May 7, 1974. The first ANC Commissioners took office in 1979. Since then, Commissioners have been elected to two-year terms, on the ballot in November General Elections in even numbered years. ANC elections are non-partisan; in other words, the Commissioners do not run as members of any political party, and there are no primary elections for ANC Commissioners.
The ANCs are not part of either the legislative or executive branch of government in the District but are independent and act solely on the basis of Commission votes taken at regular public meetings.
Each ANC functions as an advisor to the DC Council and executive branch, sharing information with residents and providing a connection between the neighborhood and other parts of the District government but also carrying information and perspectives from the neighborhood to members of the legislative and executive branch. Under the law, District agencies in the executive agencies are required to give particular attention – referred to as “great weight” — to the issues and concerns shared through official vote of an ANC about a proposed decision or action that is subject to public notice requirements.
The specific roles of the Advisory Neighborhood Commissions, as defined by the D.C. Municipal Code, include advising “the Council of the District of Columbia, the Mayor and each executive agency, and all independent agencies, boards and commissions of the government of the District of Columbia with respect to all proposed matters of District government policy including, but not limited to, decisions regarding planning, streets, recreation, social services programs, education, health, safety, budget, and sanitation which affect that Commission area.” (D.C. Code Title I, Chapter 3, Subchapter V Part A § 1 -309.10 (a)) The law states that when an agency notifies the ANC about a proposed policy or action, “the issues and concerns raised in the recommendations of the Commission shall be given great weight during the deliberations by the government entity.” (§ 1-309.10 (d)(3)(A))
ANCs are also allowed to give grants to non-profit organizations for projects that serve a public purpose, which is defined as something that benefits the Commission area (not for the good of an individual or private entity or entities but for the good of the community as a whole). (§ 1-309.13 (I-1)).