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D.C. Welcomes New Class Of Commissioners

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By Jessica Gould

Critics say Washington is home to Big Government. But it's also home to some of the nation's smallest governments. In addition to the new mayor, hundreds of D.C.'s not-so-well-known elected officials are taking the helm of Advisory Neighborhood Commissions.

Gottlieb Simon is executive director of D.C.'s Office of Advisory Neighborhood Commissions.

"[The commissions] advise all parts of the District government on issues that have impact and importance for the neighborhood such as liquor licenses, zoning applications, things of that sort," he says.

Mike Silverstein joined the Dupont Circle commission eight years ago after someone was shot and killed outside his window. He says he wanted to improve the community and participate in the political process.

"Someone in the '60s described Washington as a city of eunuchs. Government and politics are all around us. And for most of us this is the one opportunity that we have to participate in the game," he says.

The commissions emerged in the mid-1970s as part of the District's Home Rule charter. There are 37 commissions throughout the city.

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