"Networked solutions" for some problems with ANCs in DC
DC has a level of grassroots government called Advisory Neighborhood Commissions, which are consulted formally (they have "standing") on matters before DC Government agencies, in particular zoning, planning (including historic preservation), and alcoholic beverage licensing matters. There are 38 individual ANCs, organized by Ward.
It's not like the city is big.
I've mentioned this before in terms of the various Main Street programs and lately the possibility of the creation of separate friends organizations for various parks.
What I suggested for the parks is that instead of requiring each interested group to incorporate, get nonprofit status, etc., that there should be a master friends organization, with a system for creating "affinity groups" for each park, with separate, dedicated fund accounts assigned to each park, but with master accounting and bookkeeping operations maintained within the supra-friends group, along with the nonprofit status, so that the local friends outfits can focus on the parks, raising money, and programming, and not have to deal so much with the legal mechanics of maintaining the organization (when you get down to the neighborhood level, it can be hard to maintain a group, when you have to spend so much time focusing on the nuts and bolts of the organization, and less on outreach and programming and doing).
The same, I think, pertains for ANCs. Rather than expecting each ANC to have its own bank accounts, etc., I think that the City should manage the accounting functions of the accounts, with dedicated accounts for each ANC.
So instead of recurring problems with accounting and misappropriation of funds at the ANC level, they could focus on making different mistakes.
Anyway, the City should commit to creating and maintaining a capacity building operation that supports ANCs, along with the provision of office space where possible (such as in schools, recreation/community centers, and other facilities).
Some of the government agencies have started providing more "training" to ANCs, but at the same time, representatives need access to more information than just being spoonfed by the agencies, because if you don't ever know more than you are told, you end up not being very effective.
That's why I am a big fan of the Urban Information Library at the main branch of the Dallas Public Library, which subscribes to a number of specialized publications, has books and other holdings relevant to local government, etc.
Combine that with a more robust training operation and a coordinated system of independent talks and programs, training conferences, etc., and likely ANCs would be a lot more effective.
(Of course, it's all relative. The groups could still suck, but be better than they are currently.)
Labels: civic engagement, electoral politics and influence, neighborhood planning, participatory democracy and empowered participation, progressive urban political agenda, provision of public services