The city plans to study the possibility of paying the elected representatives of Advisory Neighborhood Commissions and has announced several other initiatives that would change the way ANCs operate.

City Administrator Thomas M. Downs announced the initiatives in a speech last week at the annual orientation seminar for ANC commissioners sponsored by the city's Department of Community Services.

Downs said a recent citizens' proposal that ANC commissioners be paid is "a controversial issue . . . . We believe that now is the time to take on this issue, instead of just sweeping it under the rug year after year."

He added that Mayor Marion Barry proposes that representatives of the 37 ANCs come together in a sort of " 'committee of the whole' to develop recommendations" on whether commissioners should be paid.

During a radio call-in program on ANCs last month, the pay issue was promoted by ANC representatives who said they should be compensated for their testimony at public hearings and for the hours of community service they perform.

Downs also said that "within the next few weeks, the mayor will announce the formation of a task force on ANC regulations" that will help write regulations for operating an ANC. The city comptroller's office will draft recommendations on financial operations of ANCs, Downs said.

"There is no single place you can go to get a coherent, comprehensive set of regulations regarding the operations of ANCs," Downs said. "This situation is particularly glaring in the area of financial expenditures." In the last year, one ANC commissioner has been convicted of misusing ANC funds, and another commission is being investigated by the city auditor's office for lack of proper financial records.

The mayor has also asked each city department and agency to review its written procedures for complying with the city law that says ANCs must be given 30 days' notice of any departmental action that will affect a specific neighborhood, such as the issuance of a liquor license or a zoning variance.

Commissioners have long complained that they have not received proper notice from city agencies.

Another initiative announced by Downs is the mayor's request that each city department and agency appoint an ANC liaison to help commissioners handle constituent requests and get information on programs.

Downs said the mayor will hold two meetings a year with ANC commissioners and that one is slated for the fall.

Barry may order a feasibility study on whether a discretionary fund could be established out of the city budget, which would be separate from the money allotted to ANCs for operation costs.

If an ANC saw a need for additional city services in its jurisdiction, such as more street cleaning, then ANC officials would present a voucher to the city agency involved and the money for the additional services would come from the discretionary fund.

"It would allow ANCs to have more say in how city services are divided up throughout the city," said John Pressley, the ANC adviser in the Office of Community Services.

Several city officials attended this year's ANC orientation, including many of the mayor's Cabinet members and at least seven D.C. Council members. About 150 ANC commissioners attended the seminar.

Brian Roberts, staff director for ANC 5B, which represents the Ivy City and Brookland areas of Ward 5, said the seminar was successful. "The most positive aspect of it is that the commissioners from all over the city got to interact, and they realized they have common problems," Roberts said.

Gottlieb Simon, office manager for ANC 2D for more than 10 years, complained that the orientation session is being held later each year. ANC representatives serve two-year terms.

"It's quite difficult to understand after 10 years why {city officials} can't have the orientation session earlier," Simon said. ANC 2D represents near Southwest and Southeast in Ward 2.

"The orientation should have taken place ideally before they {ANC commissioners} were sworn in" in January, said D.C. Council member Betty Ann Kane (D-At Large), head of the council's Committee on Government Operations, which oversees ANC matters. Kane said she hopes the seminar is held earlier next year.