As D.C. starts the budgeting process for the city, Advisory Neighborhood Commissioner Salim Adofo, who represents 8C07 in Ward 8, decided that his residents needed education on how their commission’s financial plan works.
Adofo convened a meeting of his 8C colleagues and residents at the United Planning Organization’s Petey Green Center in Southeast on March 23 to explain how his commission’s budget development takes place.
“We are having this meeting to raise political consciousness,” said Adofo, who was elected to the 8C07 position last year. “The stakes are a little higher now as the city and the ward is changing. We need to discuss and implement what we want to see.”
Adofo also had another meeting at Bright Beginnings on Martin Luther King Jr. Avenue SE on March 25.
Advisory neighborhood commissioners are uncompensated residents who deal directly with community issues such as trash pickup, liquor licenses and zoning. By law, District agencies and council members are to give their recommendations “great weight” when making decisions about economic development projects and policy implementations in their communities.
Commissioners are nonpartisan and run every two years.
The 8C Commission covers the Congress Heights neighborhood of Ward 8 that entails Barry Farms, Bolling Air Force Base, the Entertainment and Sports Arena and the St. Elizabeths East and West campuses.
The 8C commission will work with an operating budget of $16, 466.16 for the 2018-2019 fiscal year and has $40,039.50 saved up in its bank account. During the session, Adofo focused on the $16, 466.16 because that is the allotment that the commission receives from the District government for the fiscal year.
Adofo said the $40,039.50 could be used by the commission but for the purpose of the meeting, he ignored it. Participants in the meeting included Yafet Girmay, Edward Baffoe-Bonnie, Ta-Tanisha Hawkins, Ryan Dunn-Komely and Commissioners Mustafa Abdul-Salaam and Chyla D. Evans of 8C05 and 8C02, respectively.
Adofo said that commissions have to be careful of how their money is spent. He noted that the District government, through its auditor’s office, requires solid financial management practices and if there are discrepancies, a commission can have future allotments reduced, sometimes severely.
He spoke of an instance when the auditor’s office released a report on Sept. 2, 2009, that showed basically that an 8C $24,000 allocation on office space didn’t get spent and the commission received a financial penalty as a result of that. Adofo also showed examples of other commissions in the ward where financial practices didn’t meet the District government’s standards and received reprimands for that.
Commissions are required by law to produce financial plans and Commissioner Mustafa Abdul-Salaam, who represents district 8C05, said 8C should do that.
“If we have to do a budget, we have to have a plan,” Abdul-Salaam said. “The plan keeps us focused on what we need to do.”
Adofo set up three large sheets of paper and had markers to emphasize points during the meeting. Dunn-Komely at one point wrote down what figure the participants wanted to go to a particular budget item.
Adofo presented 23 budget items to the participants that included such things as office supplies and equipment, grants, training, communication services, postage and delivery, printing and copying.
He stressed that the commission pays for cell phones out of its budget and those phones are to be used for business only.
“One of my colleagues wanted an iPhone but I don’t think we will give that person that,” he said. “One colleague even suggested not using an ANC cellphone but their own but I reminded them that the records of their personal phone may have to be seized [for an investigation] and they would not want their personal business public in someone else’s hands.”
The commission doesn’t need to pay for office space, Adofo said, because the community benefits agreement from Events DC in reference to the ESA, mandated space for them at the R.I.S.E. Demonstration Center.
A great deal of discussion took place regarding professional development. Some meeting participants thought the District government paid for all commissioner’s professional development training and courses but Adofo said that’s not the case.
Hiring a staff person to manage the office seemed a popular suggestion until the participants noted the limited amount of money available for even a part-time employee.
“Also, keep in mind that this person will be a District government employee and we are responsible for all of their benefits,” he said.
Throughout the session, participants discussed what should and shouldn’t be funded, suggesting figures for various budget items with the goal of meeting the $16,466.16.
“This is the boring stuff that nobody wants to come to,” Adofo said with a slight smile. “I have learned that some people have bad financial management skills at home and when they are elected, they bring it to the commission.”