Saturday, November 12, 2005

Dalai Lama Speaks Out on DC Voting Rights

As you may have seen reported over at DCist.com, the Dalai Lama showed his support for DC voting rights during his visit this week in the nation's capital.

During his Thursday visit to an area charter school, one student commented that there seems to be no good reasons for DC to be denied a voice in Congress. The student didn't know why the District would be denied these rights. To this, His Holiness responded:


“Then you should find out. If there are sufficient reasons, we have to think more carefully, but if there is no reason, then shout.”



Well said.

DC Residents Plan Alternative Education Plan

From The Common Denominator:

About two dozen education activists, led by school board member William Lockridge, announced tonight that they have formed a core group to activate under-represented D.C. residents and develop an alternative master education plan for public schools located east of the Anacostia River.

"We are committed to working to help develop a master education plan [for D.C. Public Schools] … however, we will not rubber stamp a hidden plan that may have already been masterminded by those seeking to take over so-called 'low-performing' schools," said Lockridge, the elected District IV school board representative of residents in Wards 7 and 8.

Lockridge said about 41 percent of all children enrolled in D.C. public schools are among his constituents and that "few, if any" of their families are represented on the D.C. Education Compact planning team that has been assisting Superintendent Clifford Janey in developing his much-anticipated master education plan.

Several prominent local educators and former elected school board representatives, as well as two members of the former financial control board's education advisory board, are among the core group that has met during the past three weeks to lay the foundation for their effort.

The group, calling itself District IV Save Our Schools, has issued an open invitation to the community to attend its next meeting at 6 p.m. Nov. 15 at Stanton Elementary School, 2701 Naylor Road SE, and subsequent weekly meetings on Tuesday nights.

"We need to make the superintendent see what the parents see are the critical needs of their kids," Lockridge said.

The group, which says it opposes expansion of charter schools and the congressionally imposed school voucher program as drains on the public school system's funding, expects to present its proposals to Superintendent Janey in December. Janey has said he expects to present his master education plan to the Board of Education in January.

Lockridge identified a cluster schools concept, creation of comprehensive community-based education centers and "effective school-based management" as part of the group's vision. The group is calling for emphasis on a phonics-based reading program and intensive reading instruction as a base for improving overall academic achievement.

Copyright 2005 The Common Denominator

Thursday, November 10, 2005

Marion Barry's Magical Energy Machine

So apparently former DC Mayor, and current city councilman Marion Barry decided to unveil a new machine yesterday that he claims can turn trash in to electricity and clean air.

Problem is he unveiled it across the street from the church of Rev. Willie Wilson, a former Barry ally. Needless to say, Wilson wasn't excited about the idea of having the "trash-o-matic" across the street from his religious establishment. The two got into a classic confrontation. If NBC 4 has the video, I highly recommend it.

Ugh. If for nothing else, DC needs to have higher offices than city council, just so we can open up the possibility of getting higher quality representatives than Marion Barry.

Wednesday, November 09, 2005

Mayoral Election Forum Tonight!

The first DC mayoral election forum will be going down tonight. From DC Vote:

DC Vote and several other organizations are gathering the five announced 2006 mayoral candidates at the University of the District of Columbia on Wednesday, November 9, 6:30 pm – 8:00 pm. (See below for more details.)

Whether it’s full congressional voting representation for District of Columbia residents, improving HIV/AIDS services, revamping the child support system, ensuring the delivery of safe drinking water, or cleaning up the Anacostia River, almost every aspect of daily life in the nation's capital relates to the Mayor of the District of Columbia.

Event Sponsors:
DC Vote
The District of Columbia Affairs Section of the District of Columbia Bar
DC Appleseed
The Bar Association of the District of Columbia
UDC David A. Clarke School of Law
DC League of Women Voters
Consortium of Universities
ACLU of the National Capital Area

"The Mayoral Election - One Year To Go"
We're a year away from the election. Come hear what the candidates for Mayor of the District of Columbia have to say at the first District-wide public forum. Join an impressive panel of local commentators as they question the 2006 lineup of mayoral candidates.

2006 Announced Mayoral Candidates:
Linda Cropp
Adrian Fenty
Vincent Orange
Michael Brown
Marie Johns
Panelists:
Mark Plotkin, WTOP
Tom Sherwood, NBC4
Jonetta Rose Barras, WAMU

Moderator:
Colbert King, The Washington Post

Date:
Wednesday, November 9, 2005

Time:
6:30 pm - 8:00 pm
(Doors Open at 6:00 p.m., Program Begins at 6:30 p.m.)

Location:
The University of the District of Columbia
The Windows Lounge - Building 38, 2nd Floor
4200 Connecticut Avenue, NW
(Van Ness/UDC Metro Station - Red Line)
(Paid Parking Available in UDC Garage)

Attendence is FREE. There is NO cost, but you must register for the event as per below.

Please register ASAP, by indicating in an e-mail to outreach@dcbar.org that you plan to attend the mayoral forum. You must provide your name, address and telephone/fax number. Thank you.

Tuesday, November 08, 2005

City Council or Sub-Committee???

The Washington Post had an interesting editorial today. I'm not as interested in the gun politics as I am this point:

"We know it matters not a whit to Mr. Souder and the NRA that every D.C. mayor and D.C. Council member has supported the local law passed in 1976 that required registration of all firearms and prohibited new handgun registrations. The law also required gun owners with firearms at home to store their weapons disassembled or with a trigger lock. Mr. Souder and his friends at the NRA prefer that people keep unlocked and loaded shotguns or rifles in their homes, so they added an amendment to the House version of the D.C. appropriations bill that prevents the city from enforcing its safe-storage requirements."


Be it Souder in Indiana, or Barr in Georgia, no other local government in the U.S. would tolerate being placed under such direct Federal scrutiny and intervention. In DC, it's not only tolerated, it's in fact constitutional.

Monday, November 07, 2005

District Considering Grandparent Stipend

"Under the bill, sponsored by council Chairman Linda W. Cropp (D), the stipend would equal what the city provides to a long-term permanent guardian of a foster child: about $718 to $791 per month per child, depending on the youngster's age and the amount of other public benefits received. The grandparent would have to have legal custody of the child, submit to a background check and meet other requirements, such as having an income of no more than $16,090 a year in a household of three.

Supporters say the cost of the subsidy would be much less than what the city winds up paying when a grandparent cannot afford to raise a child, who then must be placed in foster care, which can cost up to $80,000 a year, according to the D.C. Child and Family Services Agency."
  • LINK


  • So, in keeping with the theme of this blog, will the District even ultimately have the say over whether or not this can pass? The DC City Council is a funny thing. In reality, it's more like a glorified sub-committee of the House. They can debate things, vote on things, but ultimately the financing decision is up to another committee, a higher body.

    Sunday, November 06, 2005

    Congressional Malpractice

    LINK


    This piece in the recent edition of the Washington City Paper perfectly highlights the gross form of government paternalism that exists here in DC. It's perfectly rational and democratic to have problems with the issue of medical marijuana, but unlike the rest of the nation, the residents of New Columbia are denied the right to even make that decision for themselves.

    The fact that Bob Barr, an ideologue from Georgia, can have such lasting power over the behavior of DC residents is disgusting. DC needs control over its own budget and policy decisions. The District is already asked to function at a capacity similar to many states, yet is denied all of the democratic freedoms that go along with it. This needs to change.

    "the U.S. Congress set the stage for the entire tragedy to unfold by means of a proclamation a couple of dozen words long: “The Legalization of Marijuana for Medical Treatment Initiative of 1998, also known as Initiative 59, approved by the electors of the District of Columbia on November 3, 1998, shall not take effect.” Those words are attached to the city’s annual federal allocation every year, toward the end of a long list of provisos on payments to the District, not far from restrictions on needle exchange, abortion, and promoting full congressional representation. When the U.S. Senate sent that language to conference committee Oct. 18, it all but guaranteed the ban will yet again survive at least another year."


    This initiative passed withing the District, was supported by the city, yet was squashed by the verbal proclamation of a congressman from Georgia. This is not functional democracy.

    DC Statehood: Where is the Progressive Outrage?

    It was an intriguing week here in Washington, DC. While British royalty wined and dined with local government officials, celebrities, and dignitaries, a ruling appellate court once again deemed the citizens of Washington, DC incapable and unworthy of collecting their own taxes. No friends, the year is not 1775, but rather 2005. Welcome to the District of Columbia-- the oldest British colony in the world!

    The British royalty I speak of are of course Prince Charles and his wife Camilla, the Duchess of Cornwall. Yes, while the royal couple visited local schools, attended a black tie dinner at the White House, and saw all of the sites to see here in Washington, a U.S. Court of Appeals unanimously ruled that a city-proposed commuter tax would be unconstitutional. One of the three judges to sign off on the decision was our newly appointed Chief Justice John G. Roberts, who in fact sat on the DC Circuit Court prior to his Supreme Court nomination.

    The most unfortunate part about the ruling is that it’s kind of true. The Tenth Amendment states that any powers not enumerated for the federal government in the Constitution are reserved for the states or people to decide. However, the so-called Organic Act of 1801, which was passed in order to pervert Article I, Section 8, Clause 17 of the U.S. Constitution, gives the U.S. Congress full control over the budgetary decisions made by the District. Over half a million DC residents (larger than the current population of Wyoming) are without any representation in the U.S. Senate, and are represented by one non-voting member in the House. It wasn’t even until 1961, with the passage of the 23rd Amendment, that District residents were given the right to vote for presidential electors.

    In 1970, the famous progressive activist Sam Smith wrote what would be the first call for full DC statehood. In his article entitled simply The Case for DC Statehood, Smith argued that it was time for DC to become the 51st state, and that the pursuit of anything less would be unacceptable equivocation. Where has this sentiment gone? Why have the habitually disenfranchised citizens of Washington been ignored by the Liberals and the Progressives? Much was made of the election fraud in Florida in 2000, as well as the supposed election fraud in Ohio last fall. But why is it that Progressives and Liberals jump from crisis to crisis, rather than focusing their collective energies on what can be described as no less than codified election fraud? While the citizens of Florida and Ohio might be able to complain of disenfranchisement for one election, residents of Washington, DC suffer it every single day.

    I occasionally read some of these internet blogs, and I read an awful lot about “taking things back” and “growing spines.” Well why don’t we all grow a spine, and take back full citizenship for our fellow countrymen and women in Washington? We Instead have piecemeal efforts, such as the proposed DC Fairness in Representation Act (H.R. 2043), which would grant the District one representative in the House, as well as granting one more representative to Utah, thus “neutralizing” the bill (because God forbid it if we were to simply grant full Congressional representation to a predominantly urban, African-American, and Democratic population!).

    While one can appreciate the efforts of the bill’s proponents, I’m forced to believe that such an effort, were it to ever even be passed, would simply quell any future discussion over representation in the Senate. Or as Sam Smith put it, by opting to give up hope on the prospect of statehood, we instead get the “annual piddling negotiations on the Hill that move the cause ahead with all the haste of a paraplegic turtle climbing the Washington Monument.”

    It’s time to renew the call of Sam Smith. Let’s build a national DC Statehood movement, one powered and funded by the grassroots infrastructure that has grown, thanks in part to the internet and the Progressive blog warriors. It’s time to turn our attention beyond the halls of Congress, and instead turn towards the 50 other state houses throughout the United States. It’s in these legislative bodies at the grassroots level that the decision for DC statehood will ultimately succeed or fail (the latter having already happened). The residents of Washington can yell until we’re blue in the face, but it will ultimately be the residents of Wyoming, Wisconsin, and Pennsylvania that create the 51st state. Like in many other instances, the parties will simply not take the necessary action to fix this injustice. Elected officials understand one thing—fear. Ask your state and national representatives to support DC statehood. Better yet, make them afraid not to.

    Saturday, November 05, 2005

    DC Circuit knocks down commuter tax

    The DC Circuit voted against the proposed DC commuter tax yesterday, thus denying the District something 40+ communities around the nation use in order to raise revenue. This sort of policy is protected under the 10th Amendment, which apparently holds no bearing in DC.


    "In a sharply worded opinion, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit reinforced the view that the District is a creation of Congress and subject to its will. "


    That about says it all. Read the rest of the Washington Post story HERE.
    Wasn't Anybody Paying Attention to Sam Smith?

    Perhaps it's rather lazy of me, but the first post I'd like to make on this blog is the seminal article by Sam Smith, written over 35 years ago. Despite being littered with spelling and grammatical errors, this piece was bold in its day, and arguably still is. Unfortunately, not much has changed for the residents of New Columbia since Sam first wrote this:

    http://prorev.com/dcstdfirst.htm

    THE CASE FOR DC STATEHOOD
    By Sam Smith

    This article appeared in the DC Gazette in June 1970. It presented, for the first time in print, the case for DC statehood. It also described for the first time how DC could become a state without a constitutional amendment. Three months later, the author joined a small group of activists led by Julius Hobson to form the DC Statehood movement.

    About a year ago, the peripatetic Rev. Doug Moore had a good idea. He proposed that the District become the 51st state of the Union. A news conference was held, a committee was formed, a flag was devised and then -- as so often happens in this town -- nothing happened. Rev. Moore moved on to other matters and the fight for local suffrage was once again turned over to the polite liberals. The idea of 51st statehood moved north to New York City for the duration of Norman Mailer's campaign.


    It is one of the ironies of this town that there hasn't been a sustained militant drive for self-government here since the demise of the Free DC Movement. Instead, we have annual piddling negotiations on the Hill that move the cause ahead with all the haste of a paraplegic turtle climbing the Washington Monument. Over the past couple of weeks we have once again observed the old charade. A straight-forward and just proposal to give the District voting representation in Congress offered by Senator Kennedy becomes mireds in legislative muck. Suggested as a rider to a national electoral reform amendment, it is quickly attacked as endangering the legislation upon which it is riding. A separate constitutional amendment to the same end is criticized as too difficult to pass. And Walter Washington and Gilbert Hahn tiptoe up to the Hill to support a sham of a proposal that would grant one District resident the right to be a salaried non-voting observer on the House floor.


    Half a loaf, half a loaf, half a loaf onward. Into the valley of urban decay ride Gil and Walter. We must be practical. We must take what we can get. And Congress rightly surmises once more that not only would we accept a partial loaf, our leadership will thank you massah very much for a few stale crumbs.
    Our congressional commissars and Racetrack Richard, the flimflam man working the south side of the 1600 block of Pennsylvania Ave NW, will never conclude that they have to give us anything until we begin demanding something.


    Those who could provide some sort of alternative for the bland blather that passes for home rule activism haven't been much help. Some are victims of a masochistic pragmatism that dilutes goals before the battle has even begun. Considering themselves experts on what Congress will "accept," they define away our demands until the home rule fight centers on legislation that would provide a charter commission with no guarantee of home rule at all, or until the sought-after representation measure becomes a semi-representation measure and then a demi-semi-representation measure.


    Others tend to treat the matter as Rev. Moore did, the topic of this week's news conference, a transitory talking point. Because home rule seems to difficult to obtain, those concerned with black doors getting bashed down by cops in the night, freeways being rammed through neighborhoods, and public housing tenants being evicted, naturally tend to put the more distant goals on hold and take care of today's business.


    But as long as we fail to make clear what it is we demand -- unfettered, uncompromised self-determination -- and until we show some inclination to fight for this goal, today's business will be tomorrow's business and the next day's and on into the future. If we display little disposition to be free, can we really be surprised that we remain a colony?


    We need a plan, a sense of destiny, something to replace the endless quibbling over colonial reorganization that passes for a fight for freedom.

    Though Doug Moore may have forgotten, he gave us such a plan.


    Statehood is a clear, just and attainable goal to which District residents can aspire. Unlike the ambiguities of "home rule" -- whose home rule?: Lyndon Johnson's, Richard Nixon's, Channing Phillips'? David Carliner's? Joseph Tydings' ? The Washington Post's? -- statehood is a concept whose prerogatives and privileges are easily understood. Statehood means nothing more nor less than what Wyoming, Rhode Island, Delaware, or any of the states smaller and larger than the District enjoy. When Alaska became a state, Congress declared that it was "admitted into the Union on an equal footing with the other States in all respects whatever." That's what we should demand: equal footing, not some more benevolent form of colonialism foisted off as "home rule." In the old days, when Congress admitted new states, it put it even more gracefully and accurately.

    The states were declared a "new and entire member of the United States of America."


    The District has never been an entire member of the United States of America. It is the indentured servant of the nation. Our goal must be simple and clear: the US must let us in.

    It can be done. In fact, it can be done more directly and more simply than all the tortured meanderings proposed by those who claim to have a pragmatic vision of the District's future. It can be done without constitutional amendment, requiring only two legislative acts on the part of Congress to accomplish the prime objective:


    First, redefine the District. The Constitution does give Congress exclusive legislative jurisdiction over the District. But it does not define the District other than to restrict it to not more than ten square miles. At the time the city became the seat of the government, it contained a mere 14,000 residents, whom Madison assured in the Federalist Papers "will of course be allowed" a municipal legislature "for local purposes, derived from their own suffrages." On this land sprung a metropolis of three-quarters of a million, as large as all the New England states in 1800 combined, excluding Massachusetts. Only the peculiar perversity of the congressional mind has led to the conclusion that the framers of the Constitution expected Congress to exercise total control over, and deny franchise to, a population equal to five of the 13 original colonies. If John McMillan and Joel Broyhill had been around then, pushing such a scandalous suggestion, the Union might never had made it past Philadelphia.


    But we need not continue the debate on the intent of the forefathers. We can swiftly correct the ill effects of their vagueness by redefining the District (perhaps to a narrow strip running from the White House to the Capitol) over which avaricious national legislators can exercise their domain, and the rest of the city shall be evermore free of the curse of Article I, Section 8.


    The initial exercise, therefore, is to force Congress to restrict the size of the District, and to declare the rest of the city the Territory of Columbia, or whatever other name we would wish.


    Second: Admit the city as a state. A constitutional convention should be called to draw up a plan for statehood. An interim government must also be elected, with or without the acquiescence of the national administration and Congress, in order to provide to provide a body with a mandate to represent the city-territory in the difficult days prior to statehood. This can be no overnight operation for the benefit of the evening news. We must avoid the errors of our unwanted masters and begin in the neighborhoods. The specifications of freedom must sprout from the communities.


    Once the neighborhoods have defined their needs and goals and elected their leaders, the constitutional convention can proceed to draw up a state constitution and apply to Congress for membership in the Union. By mere majority vote, Congress can grant that admission.

    Objections:


    If Washington can become a state, why not New York City, Philadelphia, Boston or Phoenix? Why not indeed? The Constitution tells you how to go about it. Work out an agreement with the state within whose bounds the city presently rests, and then petition Congress for statehood. I think it's only fair, however, for the District to ask other localities not to barge in ahead o the place that has been most victimized for the longest period of time.

    Long before Norman Mailer and Jimmy Breslin conceived of the possibility for New York City, Alexander Hamilton remarked: "...the immediate object of the federal Constitution is to secure the union of the thirteen primitive states, which we know to be practicable, and to add to them such other states as may arise in their own bosoms, or in their neighborhoods, which we cannot doubt to be equally practicable." [Emphasis added].

    It isn't practical. By what standards? By the record of the last-half century of the fight for local suffrage, it is certainly as practical as anything else that has been tried. And since nearly every other proposal for a major grant of self-government involves amendments requiring not only two-thirds vote of Congress, but the acceptance of three-quarters of the state legislatures, while the statehood plan would require only a majority in Congress, it is in this respect eminently more practical than any of the current suggestions.

    What about the federal payment? The basis for the federal payment is not hush money for colonialism, but stems from the excessive use of otherwise taxable lands by the national government. The status of this would not be changed by statehood.

    There would be, finally, a certain poetic and historic justice in granting statehood to the District. Admittedly, the concept of a state is itself an inefficient one, a compromise initially conceived as a means of achieving union. The differences today between black American and white America far exceed those between Rhode Island and Georgia in pre-constitutional times. We need union today as badly as we needed it then. Creating the first black state would be a dramatic step towards restoring a sense of union. So let's off the talk about home rule and representation. Our right is entire membership in the United States of America as the 51st state. Let us seek nothing less.