By 7:15 Friday night, the City Council Chamber was nearly full of Advisory Neighborhood Commissioners and their supporters.
As they talked in small groups before the meeting began, it was obvious that many of them were still angry.
Earlier in the week, a House appropriations committee had voted to deny the ANCs $1 million in operating funds for the coming year, beginning in October. So, much of the hostility was directed at the House committee.
But some of the commissioners blamed Martin Schaller, the District government's executive secretary, for his lukewarm endorsement of the ANCs in testimony before the House committee.
ANC commissioner Charles Richardson, chairman of the meeting, said at the beginning "We're not here to decide who did what; we're here to plan strategy for turning this decision around."
The first step, he said, was to understand how the budgeting process works in reference to the ANC budget. Reference material was provided, and Ron Johnson of the University of the District of Columbia explained the process.
Richardson noted that Mayor Walter Washington and several members of the City Council had sent letters to Rep. William Natcher, chairman of the House appropriations committee, asking him to change his mind on the budget cut before it goes to the full House for a vote.
"You're facing your first and most serious crisis," City Council member Marion Barry said. "You have to mobilize yourselves.
"Regardless of what the mayor or the City Council does, you have to fight for yourselves," Barry said.
Barry said that even though Congress is in recess, "you can't try to turn this thing around. You've got to turn the vote around before it comes to a vote again on Sept. 8," Barry said.
Barry suggested that the ANC commissioners identify subcommittee staff members and talk with them during the recess.
Jan Eichhorn, ANC 6B05, said "We've got to do a job of educating the committee about the ANCs.
"We've got to get together a lot of information to let the committee know what we do," she said.
In an unanimous voice vote, the group decided to name the 36 ANC chairpersons to a lobbying group. The group would decide which approach to take with the House appropriations committee and in the Senate if the proposed budget cut gets that far.
During the debate before the vote on strategy, Sam Fields, ANC 2C11, said that they must not "lose sight of the services we perform for the community."
If Congress does not appropriate the $1 million to the ANCs, Frederick Grant, ANC 4B chairperson said "We could go on to for six to nine months on the money we have and with volunteer help.
"We've already held a special meeting in our community to decide what we could do," he said.
"If it looks as if we aren't going to get money for next year, we plan to start fund-raising in our community.
"We need the money from Congress. As a matter of fact, we need more money. But without it, we would try to continue," Grant said.
Grant said that his ANC has been organized since the first ANC election nearly two years ago, and that has given his ANC an advantage over ones that were organized later.
Andrew Corley, ANC 5A10, said "We couldn't make it two months with the staff we have and the other expenses we have.
"We're just getting staffed up. We would have to let our people go without the money," Corley said.
"The first thing we would lose is our ability to communicate with our community," said Dick Westbrook, chairman of ANC 2D. "We put a lot of money into the newsletter for constituents," he said.
"We would also lose our staff person, and our ability to keep up with the kinds of things we are supposed to know about - like zoning changes and the like," Westbrook said.
"We're just getting geared up, and it looks as if Congress is pulling the rug out from under us," Westbrook said.