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Anti-Ping-Pong Commissioner To Run Unopposed?

With 72 hours to go before nominating petitions are due at the D.C. Board of Elections, despite all manner of uproar over the Advisory Neighborhood Commissioner who acts as video vigilante to protect his corner of northwest Washington from the horror of sidewalk ping-pong tables, benches and other signs of urban life, no one is running against Frank Winstead.

Winstead is the commissioner whose video oeuvre has helped press D.C. bureaucrats into cracking down on table tennis games outside the Comet Ping Pong pizza place and brought to public attention such grievous ills as UPS trucks left unattended on a public street and a Budweiser delivery truck double-parked on Wisconsin Avenue (that video featured conclusive proof that the delivery guy was, and I quote from the commissioner's own caption, "eating chips.")

At the height of the community backlash against Winstead, who has led a seemingly unpopular fight against pedestrian amenities along Connecticut Avenue NW, voices all around that part of Ward 3 swore that voters in ANC 3F04 would be given an alternative to Winstead on this November's ballot.

But the latest list of names of people who have picked up petitions to run for neighborhood commissioner shows Winstead to be the only one who cared enough to seek that seat.

The lack of opposition points out a persistent problem with the District's micro-local form of government: The only people who care about ANC elections tend to be those who, for whatever reason, feel the need to run for the unpaid office and subject themselves to endless development battles, and the small packs of neighborhood warriors who appoint themselves to protect their environs from any change.

So an odd bird such as Winstead, who has consistently refused my entreaties to explain his actions (he even fended off a visit at his apartment door from a video-wielding City Paper reporter), can stay in office seemingly permanently.

This is obviously very good for the city's corps of news reporters, who will eagerly await the next installment of Winstead's video diary, but not necessarily the greatest development for those who actually live in the commissioner's neighborhood. But, as politicians so often remind us, we get the democracy we deserve. Or we go to war with the army we have. Or we are the ones we've been waiting for. Or all politics is local. One of those.

By Marc Fisher |  September 2, 2008; 3:28 PM ET
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This is just what the DC city council wants. How else to make yourself look like the bastion of rationality. It's some much easier to give gas cans and matches to the kids, than to clean up your own act. Just think of the ANC as the District council rehabilitation program.

Posted by: jj | September 2, 2008 6:20 PM

Someone will run...Count on it.

Posted by: Anonymous | September 2, 2008 7:46 PM

here's an idea...abolish the anc's...leave things up to the property owners...less government!

Posted by: Mike | September 2, 2008 10:39 PM

wow fisher - you sure do hate it when someone (winstead) doesn't pay attention to you.

Posted by: dctony | September 2, 2008 10:51 PM

Glad he isn't my rep.

It would serve all of you right if the only other option would be the "pants" judge.

Posted by: DC Voter | September 3, 2008 7:30 AM

That list has been updated Marc, and someone has stepped into the breach to compete for Winstead's seat, thankfully.

You are right that ANC's tend to select for zealots, NIMBYs, zealot-NIMBYs, etc., but try to be a little more hopeful. It's possible that some reasonable people may run this year, what with the whole change thing and all. And that would make a good story for you and your colleagues, if not quite as colorful as stories about Crazy Frank.

Posted by: Alice D. Millionaire | September 3, 2008 1:54 PM

Ping pong is a commie sport anyway.

Posted by: Anonymous | September 3, 2008 2:29 PM

I am hopeful we'll see some positive change this election cycle in the ANCs--as we did two years ago. And in another two years, I expect we'll see more change. At that point, most of the busy-body NIMBYs will have been replaced by reasonable people who are interested in making decisions that benefit the community overall. It's no surprise that a candidate to oppose Winstead was slow in coming--as it stands now, no one wants to be a commissioner, everyone dreads having to go before an ANC--they're reputations are terrible. My hat is off to those few people willing to hold their noses and run for office to try to restore some dignity to the commissions.

Posted by: 3F resident | September 3, 2008 3:06 PM

I know I'm setting myself up for a whole lotta hatin' here, but what, exactly, is wrong with requiring a public space permit for using public space? Comet would need to do it for tables and chairs, why not tables and paddles?
Seriously, Marc, maybe this Frank guy isn't a good ANC rep, but what's wrong with asking the business to follow this very basic and long-standing law?

Posted by: downtown rez | September 3, 2008 10:03 PM

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