After nearly two years of existence, the Advisory Neighborhood Commissions have begun a push for changes in the legislation that defines their duties, responsibilities, and relationship with the District government.
In some instances, the ANCs are asking the City Council to make changes in D.C. Law I-58, which is the day-today guidebook for what the ANCs can and cannot do. In other cases, the City Council has initiated some of the changes.
"it hasbeen evident for some time that there is a need to extend and to clarify the role of the ANCs," according to Council member Willie J. Hardy, who chairs the Council's special committee on the ANCs.
"Some of the first things to consider are the cost accounting procedures, the requirements for public hearings and the internal budgeting procedures," she said.
So far, the City Council has been considering changes in the legislation one issue at a time and passing emergency legislation when necessary to solve some of the problems.
A group of ANC representatives from throughout the city met recently to review the legislation step-by-step and work out revisions in the ANC statues.
About 30 people attended a workshop to revise the laws sponsored by the D.C. Project a group made up of lawyers from the Georgetown University law Center. Robert Stumberg, deputy director of the D.C. Project, said the workshop was scheduled in response to request from the ANCs.
"The ANCs are in a position now to look back over their experiences of the past year and a half or so and see what changes they think need to be made. We may not agree wih all of the proposed changes, but we will put them in legal language for any ANC commissioner or group of commissioners," Stumberg said.
"We're here to provide legal technical assistance to the ANCs. The political maneuvering it will take to make these changes in the law will have to be done by the ANCs," he added.
Among the changes discussed was one that would make it clear in which cases the District government agencies must give the ANCs 30 days notice when planning changes would effect their neighborhoods.
Charles Richardson, chairman of ANC 2C, said his commission was not notified by the Redevelopment Land Agency when the agency was getting ready to dispose of a parcel of land in his area.
"I found out that something was about to happen when I saw a notice that a fence was to be put up around the property," he said.
Richardson said his ANC protested the lack of notification from RLA and asked the corporation counsel for ruling.
"We got a letter back saying that the ANCs did not have to be notified of all kinds of government actions, only the one which affected policy decisions or guidelines which could impact on larger areas of the city," said Richardson.
He said that the ANCs should be notified of the specific neighborhood issues as well as the policy issues that affect the larger community.
Among the other parts of the law that some commissioners said need to be cleared up is one that would define what weight ANC recommendations will have on the deliberations of government agencies.
Other revisions suggested in the ANC laws would permit commissioners to serve staggered terms and make it easier for the ANCs to file annual reports, to handle citizen complaints, to form a citywide ANC alliance and to pool funds.
On its own initative, the City Council passed an emergency revision in the law that establishes a procedure for filling vacancies on an interim basis and for replacing persons who don't fulfill their responsibilities as commissioners.
The D.C. Projects will sponsor another meeting to discuss the revisions at 7:30 p.m. tonight at the Georgetown University Law Center, 6000 New Jersey Ave. NW.