The role of Chair of an Advisory Neighborhood Commission (ANC) is a time-consuming one. Just like other commissioners and officers of District ANCs, Chairs are volunteers, working in their roles on the ANC in addition to the demands of their regular careers. The Chairs set agendas and facilitate meetings, officially receive commission correspondence, oversee procedure and promote good relationships between the Commission and District organizations. They may also act as spokespeople for the views of their particular ANC.
Learn more about the people doing this time-consuming work. Meet three chairs of your neighborhood ANCs.
Amber Gove (ANC 6A04): Paying it Back
In 2017, now ANC 6C Chair Amber Gove (6A04) gave careful thought before she ran for a seat on her ANC. Gove, who has two young children, a husband who travels a great deal and her own full-time job in international education, wanted to be sure she would make a contribution.
“At one point, Councilmember Charles Allen and I talked through the pros and cons on a long ride on the D6,” Gove recounted. “I also asked my extended ‘village’ of friends if they would be willing to take our kids during meetings and events when my husband was out of town—their support has proved critical to making this work,” she said.
She almost had someone to share the load with. “During my first swearing in at Councilmember Allen’s Office, my then 9-year-old decided to say the oath along with me,” she said. “We had to start over or risk having an underage Commissioner.”
The new chair said that the biggest challenge of ANC business is balancing the views of current residents while still bearing in mind the greater good. “There is a cost-benefit analysis to be done on just about every decision we weigh in on,” she said, “from supporting a new development to petitioning for traffic-calming measures.”
Gove said that she would particularly like ANC 6A to collaborate with other commissions on issues such as transportation safety and the pursuit of Vision Zero, a strategy to eliminate traffic fatalities.
In regard to transportation safety Gove said, “we need to be more comprehensive than a block by block approach.” Noting that the Maryland Avenue Pedestrian Safety Project and C Street NE redesign have been in the making for a decade, Gove said that ANCs need to push for designs that will compel drivers to respect the speed limit and protect the vulnerable.
“More than 30 people lost their lives transiting our streets last year—that is just unacceptable,” she said.
ANC 6A has also experienced an increase in gun violence over the last year, and is looking at ways to prevent these crimes before they happen, as well as at ways to reduce crime and violence, she said.
Gove said that while commissioners are charged with serving the 2000 or so residents of their single member districts, the ANC oath also commits commissioner to serve the interests of the District of Columbia as a whole. “To me this means we need to take into account the many voices that we don’t hear—because they can’t attend the meetings or haven’t even arrived yet—the future residents whose lives will be impacted by the decisions we make,” she said.
“I also recognize that serving in a public office, especially in a volunteer role, is not something everyone can do. I’ve been afforded many privileges in my life— this is my way of paying some of that back.”
Learn more about ANC 6A by visiting their website at ANC6A.org. Follow the Commission on Twitter @ANC6A and Chair Amber Gove @AmberGove
Chander Jayaraman (ANC 6B08): Finding Solutions Right Here
Chander Jayaraman has been commissioner for 6B08 since 2012, running unopposed for three elections in a row. This will be his second term as Chair of ANC 6B, having previously served in 2017. “I knew this year there were going to be a lot of new commissioners,” Jayaraman said of his decision to run for Chair. “I felt that it was an opportunity to lead and also to show the pathway to how this works for the next group.” Six new commissioners joined ANC 6B this year, three of whom have taken executive roles with the encouragement of the Chair.
Jayaraman is no stranger to electoral politics. In the early 1990s, he ran for a seat on the Lawrence, Kansas City Commission, a race he eventually lost but not before winning endorsements from other candidates. He said he first ran for ANC commissioner in 2012 because he loves debate and working with a team to come to a consensus about what is best for the community.
“I think it was my time,” he said.
Jayaraman said that there are many issues that face ANC 6B in the near future. He said that ANC 6B will continue to press District agencies and boards to give the ‘great weight’ due to the opinion of the ANC by statute, saying that it varies by agency. “The idea was that the opinions of the community matter. It’s not a check the box type thing,” he said. Jayaraman said a major challenge facing the ANC is “trying to keep agencies from trying to go around us.”
Another important challenge facing the ANC this spring is ensuring community feedback is accounted for in the vision for Eastern Market Metro Plaza. Jayaraman said the ANC should work to engage residents with the Department of General Services (DGS) as they work on the project, slated to start construction this fall. “This is not just about four SMDs. This is a major spot for a large part of the community,” he said, noting that the area is expected to function both as a town center and to help keep the commercial areas along Barracks Row and Eastern Market vibrant.
Jayaraman expressed concern that the development at The Wharf and increasing options on H Street NE are drawing attention away from Barracks Row even as the ANC works with other groups to address concerns on the 400 block of Eighth Street SE. “I think we’ve got to try something different, not just talk about it,” he said.
“I want this to be a destination,” he said, pointing to the excellent restaurants in the area. “I would love to see it be called Michelin Row.”
The ANC is concerned with issues of crime, he said, noting the increase in purse- and phone-snatchings as well as armed car jackings. However, he wants to look at alternate methods of ensuring safety such as improved relations with MPD and identifying alternatives to police presence, citing a weeklong trial in 2016 of his ‘Safe Route’ concept, where trained volunteers are stationed on routes from Potomac metro toward residential areas, deterring crime with an increased presence on the street.
Jayaraman sees the Capitol Hill area as a place where models can be developed and adapted to address problems all over the District, in part because of the different lives that converge here. “I see it all the time at Tunnicliff’s Tavern,” he said, “You’ll have anyone from an attorney, a Congressman, a plumber to a maintenance worker all together.”
“That’s what makes this area in 6B so special –that if we’re going to find a balance and find solutions to problems in the District, we can find them right here.”
Learn more about ANC 6B by visiting ANC6B.org, or by following @ANC6B and the Chair @DC_Chander