Weekly DC newspapers have long covered Advisory Neighborhood Commissions (ANCs), their monthly meetings and the local issues they address. Local blogs joined the fun several years ago. But, in the past year the online coverage seems to have increased.
If bloggers are writing and posting about ANCs, there must be readers. Borderstan did a two-part series on ANCs and the role of commissioners in April; the number of readers who clicked on those two links was far beyond anything we imagined. Recent posts about ANC 2B-Dupont and the controversy surround Hank’s Oyster Bar were extremely popular.
What’s Driving Interest in ANCs?
My observation is that DC’s newer residents have, after a few years in town, discovered ANCS—and bloggers have, too. The reason is simple: At a very basic, close-to-home level, ANCs can and do affect residents’ daily lives.
Technically, they are advisory and do not have legal regulatory powers.
But, as Cary Silverman (an ANC 2F commissioner when he lived in Logan Circle) recently wrote over at his blog, the Other 35 Percent,
“These positions are important and can have a significant effect on the quality of life in a neighborhood. They can promote or discourage development, permit or stop more liquor stores from opening, fund beneficial and worthwhile projects or give taxpayer dollars to friends and political supporters, and demand community involvement in government policy decisions or stay silent.”
True, routine meetings can be dull and tedious. But, throw in a local controversey and that changes quickly. Remember the alarmed citizens who attended an ANC 2B-Dupont meeting in June 2009 when The Real World DC was setting up house at 20th and S Streets NW?
Moreover, when you live in DC neighborhoods that are rapidly changing—with new residents and new businesses—the likelihood that there will clashes over local issues intensifies. After all, how could I not mention ANC 5C (with an amazing 12 commissioners) and Big Bear Cafe in Bloomingdale?
Who’s Writing About ANCs?
This is an incomplete list, but here are some of the local bloggers I read for ANC coverage. 14th & You is known for regular, in-depth coverage of ANC 2F-Logan… Dave Stroup has written about ANCs for We Love DC… David Alpert and his contributors at Greater Greater Washington check in from time to time… Martin Austermuhle at dcist has a good piece, “Yes, You Can Be An ANC Commissioner Too.”
As Austermuhle points out there, are 37 ANCs with 286 SMDs in DC. Three of those ANCs are in the Borderstan area:
- ANC 2B-Dupont with nine commissioners.
- ANC 2F-Logan with six commissioners.
- ANC 1B, which covers a large, diverse area including the U Street corridor and has 11 commissioners.
Reporting About Your Neighbors
The close-to-home angle of covering ANCs is both a plus and a minus when writing about a commission where you live. It becomes easy to wrap your brain around the issues at hand (although city regulations can be mind numbing): a new restaurant’s operating hours… brick versus paved sidewalks… regulations at the local dog park.
But, this level of intimacy brings another angle to covering ANCs: Your neighbor may not appreciate having his or her passionate comments at last night’s meeting covered on a local blog. But, it’s democracy in action and there’s increasingly a chance someone will be there to cover it.