THE LACK of attention in this city to political activity outside the mayor's race is often lamented. Right now, one of the reasons for this missing passion is on view. It is the process by which candidates enter the races for the Advisory Neighborhood Councils. To become a candidate for one of the dozens of ANC seats that will be on the ballot in November a candidate has two weeks, from Aug. 21 to Sept. 4, to collect the required number of signatures and file a petition.
This short span comes at the worst possible time for political activity, even of the most exciting sort, which the ANCs hardly generate. The last week of August and the four days after the Labor Day week end are times for ending vacations and starting school. The ANC elections have enough trouble rousing any interest without that sort of competition. With this handicap, these elections labor under a tremendous burden that apparently has nearly sunk them. Several of the ANC seats are un filled--city officials are not sure exactly how many.
The ANCs are supposed to represent grass-roots politics in the District, the source of political activity and various movements. They are also supposed to be a training ground for novice politicians. Neither has been the case. The school board still serves as the starting gate into the city's political races for far too many people aspiring to be City Council members or mayor. The ANCs have the potential to create politicians and--this is key--to weed out the bad ones before they appear on the ballot for school board or City Council as unknowns, some of whom luck out and get elected, usually to everyone's regret later on.
The ANCs also have the potential to be the most efficient mechanism in the city for getting action out of the District Building, because they are in every neighborhood, near every house and every business in the city. Matters coming to the District Building through the ANCs should come with some political weight behind them. But up to now this system has been neglected to the point of decay. The short period for filing petitions for candidacy in the ANC race is the starting place for treating what ails the ANCs. As a first step in getting the ANCs to work, the petition period must be extended.