ANC Commissioners Need to Come Out of the Shadows on Sex Work Decriminalization

The DC Voice commends the participants and councilmembers that withstood 14 hours of emotional testimony on Thursday, October 17, 2019, during the hearing on Bill 23-0318, the \”Community Safety and Health Amendment Act of 20.\” Councilmember Charles Allen (Ward 6) did an excellent job maintaining order and allowing a safe space for everyone to express their opinions, whether for or against the ACT. Numerous survivors came out of the shadows to bring their world front and center. The ANC Commissioners can take a lesson from them.

Aside from Commissioners  Anthony Lorenzo Green (7C04), Christopher L. Hawthorne (8E05), and Holly Muhammad (8A01), the nearly 300 other Commissioners were mostly absent from the live testimony. Commissioners Hanna Baker (8A07) and Salim Adofo (8C07) were announced but were not present. The DC Voice is particularly disappointed in the lack of Ward 5 representation as a significant number its constituents testified. The exchange between Commissioners Green and Muhammad was one of the most contentious parts of the hearing. However, Wards 7 and 8 at least had to feel glad their Commissioners took the time to be present.

In 5 Things You Need to Know About Washington’s ANCs, The DC Voice identified the duties of the ANCs as:

  1. Advising the DC government on the local impact of public policies. It includes traffic, recreation, health care, planning, safety, education, and social services.
  2. Letting the DC government know what improvements a community would like to see and represent local concerns when it comes to proposed changes.
  3. Speaking for your neighborhood as it relates to development and zoning. They provide residents with a way to express their views on issues such as gentrification, proposed new developments, hospital closings, and neighborhood beautification projects.

So, where were they to carry out these duties? Each Ward and single-member district (SMD) deserved to have a Commissioner or two representing their community\’s position on this issue; for, against or divided.  There was no lack of testimony from other parts of the country. Some of them will lean on written input, and that might be the case. But nothing beats visible representation of a community\’s interest than in-person testimony.

Otherwise, the Commissioners are operating in the same shadows the sex workers are trying to escape. Our commissioners must be seen at times like this. Be heard and represent each ward vigorously. Hiding in the shadows or behind written testimony is lacking. Whether they are for or against decriminalizing sex work, their constituents should know where they stand.

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