A brick welcome sign greats visitors arriving at Brookland
The Brookland Community welcome sign. Photo by Gordon Chaffin

Advisory Neighborhood Commissions (ANCs) in D.C. can continue meeting virtually through January of next year, according to a recent decision made by the D.C. Council. The hyper-local elected bodies have kept up monthly schedules through the pandemic thanks to video conference tools and mobile applications. Without this change, ANCs would lose the authority to make official decisions virtually in November. The council’s new guidance gives time for consideration of long-term inclusion of digital options with a return to in-person meetings.

During COVID-19, ANCs virtually hosted government officials and aid groups in order to share timely public emergency information. Also, at these virtual meetings, ANC commissioners have expanded use of grant programs that usually support recurring events like street fairs. During COVID, ANCs gave tens of thousands of dollars to support immediate needs in their neighborhoods.  ANC 1C gave $4,000 to the Adams Morgan Partnership BID in 2020 to install four hand sanitizer stations in public spaces for all residents to use. In April 2021, the same ANC granted $4,000 to Momentum Health Development to expand kitchen operations for six months to support the twice-weekly delivery of emergency meals to homeless residents in the community.

Many ANC commissioners have expressed a strong desire for virtual meetings to continue, citing benefits from the format. “We’ve had an increase in attendance and we’re hearing from far more diverse groups,” said ANC 3D07 Commissioner Christian Damiana, whose district includes American University. “Parents, students, and people who work late can join, make their voice heard, and leave at their convenience.” Damiana and 105 out of approximately 300 commissioners District-wide, wrote to D.C. Council last month asking for virtual participation to remain as an option.

Ward 6 Councilmember Charles Allen supported the change to D.C. law allowing ANCs to keep meeting virtually. He said that virtual participation allows families to have dinner together, get kids ready for bed, and still raise their voice. With an extra few months of virtual ANC meetings, the D.C. Council can meet again to consider what comes next. Allen said in a tweet that he expects a permanent option allowing hybrid in-person & virtual meetings to move forward “later this fall.” Hybrid meetings could include residents left behind during COVID-19 who prefer in-person meetings or don’t have access or proficiency with virtual participation tools.

Go to anc.dc.gov to locate the ANC that represents you along with a calendar of all ANC meetings, which are public. Participation is welcome to all residents and stakeholders. These elected, volunteer officials make official comments regarding homelessness, social support programs, housing developments, transportation improvements, alcohol licensing, and other local issues. The Government Operations Committee, chaired by At-Large Councilmember Robert White,  may consider these permanent changes to ANC operations this fall. Any scheduled hearings are posted to dccouncil.us/events.