ANC Reps, Voters, Volunteers Share Their Perspectives

ANC representatives, voters and volunteers showed up to polling site Bunker Hill Elementary School at 1401 Michigan Avenue, Northeast to express their views as D.C. residents on election day.

Education was a reoccurring topic.

“Most people I talk to who don’t want to live in D.C. say ‘well I have kids.’ People are concerned about our schools,” said Kelly Jackson, Ward 5 resident for 10 years.

Within the pass year, the District has witnessed several teacher layoffs in an effort, as deemed by the D.C. Public Schools, to restructure the school system. Nearly three weeks ago, Chancellor Michelle Rhee officially resigned from her position, leaving the door open for implementation of a new educational reform system when elected officials begin their terms in January.

If teachers are not performing well, there are ways that principals and officials can document such instances, said Ruth Marshall, a Vincent Gray campaign volunteer.

Marshall does not agree with the previous layoff approaches.

“What the Chancellor did across the board and the way it was done needs to be addressed,” Marshall said.

Outside of the formal education setting, Jackson and Waldo Ford, 46, would like to see improvements in the recreational centers for children.

“I’d like them to have more accessible hours,” Jackson said. “There needs to be more programming for kids.”

Voters also continued to urge the importance of obtaining the statehood of D.C.

“The importance of having a national voice really hit home for me today. It feels ineffective to not have a voice in what’s happening nationally,” said Ford, reflecting on the District not having a full vote in Congress.

Previously a Ward 4 resident, Ford has lived in Ward 5 for 18 months. He supports citizens working together to help the current U.S. president make changes.

The prejudice efforts of the Tea Party movement are not helping the country move forward at the end of the day, Ford said.

Unemployment and health care were other pressing issues stated by voters. When it comes to addressing any issue, voters want to see elected officials represent the people.

“Whoever we put in office, we have to keep accountable,” Marshall said. “Listening to constituents is important. Why put something out there for people to vote and still do what you want to do?”

The representative and constituent relationship is an element considered when Advisory Neighborhood Commissioners are chosen. Simon Gottlieb, executive director of the Office of Advisory Neighborhood Commissions, was at the voting precinct as a D.C. citizen supporting At-large Councilmember David Catania. Although off duty, he did not mind speaking on his role in the Office of ANC.

“I like being able to provide helpful assistance to the commissioners and interact with such a diverse and committed group of citizens,” Gottlieb said. The Office of ANC provides aid to commissioners once elected, including holding training sessions on various neighborhood affairs.

Together he District’s eight wards consist of 37 ANCs, made up of Single Member Districts. Each ward has 35 to 36 SMDs, according to Gottlieb. An Advisory Neighborhood Commissioner, an unpaid position, is elected to represent each SMD.

The dynamics of communities vary, so “it is important to connect with residents,” Gottlieb said.

Herman “Rip” Preston was running for re-election as commissioner of SMD 5A04. In Ward 5, there are a lot of senior residents who commissioners represent, he said.

He wants to see more young people become active.

“We need more youths involved in what we do in the community,” he said. “They’re the leaders of tomorrow. Someone has to be out in the process and learning it.”

Single Member District 5A08 commissioner Timothy Thomas was up for re-election also.

“I enjoy being able to make decisions in the best interest of the community,” he said.

However, Thomas, serving his 15th term as a commissioner, views the process as reciprocal.

“Citizens should come out and get involved with their community,” he said.