Disputes among the Advisory Neighborhood Commissioners in Ward 8b are becoming a challenge for residents and commissioners, some leaders and constituents said.
Last week at the Ward 8B ANC monthly public meeting, one commissioner announced her resignation and stormed out of the gathering, while another pledged not to run for another term. Ward 8b is one of five ANC jurisdictions in Ward 8 that includes the Congress Heights residential area.
Paul Trantham has decided to not run in the next ANC election. (Courtesy Photo)
“Yeah, it’s a little tense and I cannot expose that right now,” ANC 8B Chairperson Khadijah Watson told the AFRO May 23 in reference to her fellow leaders.
District residents met at the Seventh District Police Station in Southeast, D.C. for an ANC meeting on May 16, but the discussions of education, crime, and community outreach were overshadowed by disagreements between commissioners. During the meeting a heated argument arose among the elected officials after ANC 8B Secretary India Blocker asked to be reimbursed for her purchase of business cards.
According to the D.C. Auditor, all ANC expenditures must be approved by a majority of commissioners in a public meeting and then checks must be signed by at least two officers. The commissioners were voting to reimburse Blocker for $115 of the $215 she spent on purchasing business cards. Blocker had the receipt of her purchase and said Watson didn’t give her instructions on a spending maximum for the cards. Watson, along with other commissioners, including Paul Trantham and Betty Scippio, agreed to reimburse Blocker for part of the money, but Blocker wanted a vote for the full amount.
The discussion escalated when residents attending the meeting jumped into the debate advising the commissioners to sign the reimbursement check and be respectful to one another. “Please don’t come in here governing my meeting. You will not get honored here,” Trantham said to resident, Michelle Kiah, who attempted to calm the situation. “You don’t come running my meeting, you crazy as hell.”
Scippio and Blocker walked out of the room during the verbal altercation.
Kiah said she has been attending the meetings for more than five years and the jobs of ANC commissioners are to “to bring the government to the people and the people to the government.” She told the AFRO that a lot of the issues going on in the community like crime and violence are not always addressed in the meetings, because of bickering among the commissioners.
“I feel very disappointed,” Kiah said. “I want to be proud of our ANC commission, and I’m not going to stop coming and staying engaged, but that’s a problem and its not how people should conduct themselves.”
Trantham said he will not run in the next ANC election. Scippio, who initially announced her resignation at the May 16 meeting, said she resigned because the constant bickering can be wearing. She has since retracted her decision.
“Sometimes you just get overwhelmed with crazy stuff and I just had to let it out,” she told the AFRO on May 23. She explained that she should be immune to the disrespect at meetings by now, and that commissioners have to separate their personal feelings from their ANC duties if they want change.
“In any political situation, especially as ANCs, it’s not about us personally. We represent constituents when we took that oath. It’s not about how I feel,” Scippio said.
The third term ANC member said she is planning to move to Virginia when her term ends, and will not run in the next election. “We not getting anything done in the community like we should because we are arguing,” Scippio continued. “We not giving out money like we should. We not moving forward.”
The Office of Finance and Resource Management disburses annual funding through quarterly allotments to ANCs based on population ratios, according to the D.C. Auditor. The funds can be used for commission’s expenses, public purposes, and benefits within the commission’s respective location. These funds include awarding grants for improvements in the community, programs, neighborhood sports leagues, area events, and more.
Scippio said since she has served on the ANC she can only remember Ward 8B giving out one or two such grants. According to Ward 8B’s quarterly reports from 2016, the commission had more than $20,000 in available funds to spend, but none of the money was spent on issuing community grants. In fact, only about $7,290 of the available funds were disbursed, with majority of the spending listed under the category of “communication.”