Tuesday, April 19, 2016

DC Statehood - The Only Solution to 200 Years of Disenfranchisement


[4/18/16]  An on the spot message by Anise Jenkins from Capitol Hill where demonstrators are now being arrested.
   
Right now, hundreds of people are sitting-in on the steps of the US Capitol demanding an equal voice and an equal vote.  As this email is being written, they are being taken away by police, one by one, because Congress would rather arrest over 1,000 people than simply do its job to end the corruption of big money in politics and guarantee our right to vote.

With the corporate media refusing to pay attention to this burgeoning movement, we need your help to spread the word.  Share this [information] to tell the world what is happening.

By the close of today--after an eight-day barrage of nonviolent sit-ins--we will have committed the largest act of civil disobedience of this 21st century in America.  The weather is changing in this country.  The American people are no longer going to allow the corrupt political establishment to go forward unopposed; we are no longer going to allow our voices to be silenced or our communities to be forsaken by a Congress that is bought and sold to the highest bidder.

Going forward, every candidate and every politician will have a choice: side with the people and commit to fundamental reforms that would give us a real democracy, or expect growing grassroots resistance at your fundraisers, your debates, your campaign events, and ultimately, at the polls.

We have no time for this corrupt status quo that results in so much destruction and pain.  Our planet has no time.  Our people have no time.  We are taking mass nonviolent action to make 2016 a referendum on whether we have a democracy that can address the moral crises of our time or a plutocracy that sacrifices the public good for private profit.

Help us catapult this message into every corner of our nation...

[Late evening news, almost 1,000 people have been arrested in DC in this week's Capitol Hill actions.  Democracy will not be denied when people are willing to give their bodies for their cause.]

[4/15/16] - Mayor Bowser has decided to take up the Statehood standard.  She wants the people to weigh in on this idea.  In 1982 and again in 1987 a DC Constitutional Convention was held and voted for by the people.  These two events were developed and voted from the bottom up.  What the Mayor proposes is top down and should be viewed with great suspicion.  I have included several links for you to view while I learn more about what the status is of the past Conventions, and what the Mayor is trying to do and why.  S-132, the New Columbia Admissions Act, was introduced in 2013,

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Legislator Wants to Put Money Into Statehood Fight [The first 7 paragraphs come from http://dcist.com/2013/03/dc_legislator_wants_to_put_money_in.php.  If you are the author(s) of the remainder of this segment let me know if you want credit or it removed or left as is.]
   
     [This occurred late in the Mayorship of Vince Gray.  By that time I had already run for Shadow Representative to Congress.  In the process I gave careful thought to how I would reach out to 435 members of the House, whereas our two Shadow Senators only had to contact 50 Senators each.  I had also been very disturbed by our several recent Special Elections which cost us taxpayers around $1 million per election.  I realized one problem was the lack of any step in general politics between unpaid ANC representatives and Councilmembers receiving around $130,000 to start.  Thus, we have been electing people to a well paid job mainly based on their capacity to raise campaign money, rather than our ability to study their effectiveness.
     My idea for correcting this vacuum was to create 8 Shadow Representative slots, one for each Ward, each paid $35,000 as the bill described below suggests for one person.  This would cost an additional $245,000, about 1/3rd per year what the recent Special Elections have cost us.  An alternative would be to pair wards to have a total of 4 representatives (for example, Wards 1 & 4, 2 & 3, 5 &6, and 7 & 8), and have 4 At Large representatives.  There could be a pay differential.  Perhaps $30,000 and $40,000, or even $25,000 and $45,000.  The results should be the same--an opportunity to proved effectiveness before the largess of a $130,000 salary and the ego that goes with it.]


If you're one of the three members of the elected D.C. Statehood Delegation, there aren't many perks that come along with the job. You're an unpaid advocate for a tough cause, and though you've got a title like "representative" or "senator," no one in Congress will formally recognize you as one of their own. Maybe the only benefit is an office in the Wilson Building—albeit in the basement.
Now Councilmember Vincent Orange (D-At Large) wants to make the job pay off a little more. Today he introduced legislation that would offer each member of the delegation—Shadow Representative Nate Bennett-Fleming and Shadow Senators Michael Brown and Paul Strauss—a $35,000 annual salary and $75,000 each for staffing and another $75,000 per person for programming. Additionally, the bill would allow the D.C. Council to spend $550,000 annually on a "lobbying and media campaign" for statehood. All told, the city would be putting just over $1.1 million a year into the fight for statehood.
Were the bill to pass, it would add some muscle to a fight that has largely suffered from lack of resources over the years. Up through 2008, Congress prohibited D.C. from spending any money on the fight for voting rights and statehood. As a consequence, the only money the statehood delegation had access to was donations made by D.C. taxpayers; from 2006 through the second quarter of fiscal 2012, it had taken in over $145,000.
For former Shadow Representative Mike Panetta, the idea is a start. "I think it would be good to have a stipend and some allocated budget for the delegation. I felt like the whole time I was in office I was trying to make a dollar out of 15 cents on everything I did. If we are serious about putting a 51st star on the American flag it's going to take a serious commitment of time, energy, and financial resources. Funding these office would be a good start, but it's only a down payment on what's really needed," he wrote in an email.
Ward 5 statehood activist Josh Burch largely agrees, writing today that if Orange is serious about promoting statehood, he should up the amount of money offered—and mandate that the $550,000 for the council be used for grants to organizations working to promote self-determination, voting rights and statehood. (The council recently offered up such a grant for $200,000.) Burch also said he worried how Orange's plan would work with a recent proposal by Mayor Vince Gray to create a 51st Statehood Commission with a paid executive director and staff.
"While we need more people and resources committed to the statehood cause, I’m not sure we need the mayor acting on one track, the shadow delegation on another, and then the Council on another. Maybe it’s a case of the more the merrier but I do worry with too many cooks in the statehood kitchen we’ll have competing and/or conflicting messages," wrote Burch.
A bill that would make D.C. the 51st state has been introduced in both the House of Representatives and Senate.

I share the feeling of several other statehood supporters that the bill’s funding levels ultimately will prove insufficient (and, in fact, are obviously low), but the amount is a start. This is why the Council’s failure to include in the budget even the amount requested in Bill 171 is so disheartening—and also infuriating. Remember, we talking about less than one one-hundredth of a penny for every dollar in the FY2014 D.C. Budget. The District will recoup all those moneys in the long run. Dr. Andrew Brimmer, a former Member of the Federal Reserve Board proclaimed in 1984 that the question was not whether D.C. could afford to be a state, but more appropriately, could we afford not to be a state.
[NOTE PLEASE: I support the ‘Pro-Statehood Groups’ Consensus Substitute’ Amendment, developed since the hearing, which significantly improves the bill. I include below my own amendment suggestions, now superseded by the Substitute, only to complete the record.]
I request that the Committee of the Whole send to the Council such legislation as to ensure that
1. The full authorization (and appropriation as appropriate) of $1,155,000 as described in the Statehood Advocacy Act, Bill B20-0171, subject only to the changes listed below.
2. Amend Section 3a to delete the reference to a “Congressional Affairs firm to lobby congress” and replace it with the same amount to be spend on District neighborhood groups for mobilization and advocacy efforts involving their contacts nationwide.
3. Amend both Section 3a (after amendment) on neighborhood groups and Section 4 on a Media Firm to provide that selection of such groups and firm, and their expenditures shall be as authorized by the Statehood Delegation [not the Statehood Commission], provided also that any firms and groups that have contracts with or receive funds from (other than for promoting D.C. Statehood) D.C. Government, D.C. officials, or any D.C. political campaign, would be barred from receiving such expenditures. I note that D.C. law already prohibits expenditures from being made for political purposes.
4. Amend Sections 5(a), (b), (c), & (e) to delete the reference to “voting rights” from the phrase “promoting statehood and voting rights”. Statehood is the only way to obtain equal voting rights that cannot be taken away.
5. Amend section 1-129.10 of the D.C .Code to insert the phrase “on D.C. Statehood or related matters, or” after the phrase “(1) To influence legislation, other than”. This section appears to be based on Council legislation not congressional rides and I fear it may act to thwart the very intend of the legislation—which is to influence legislation for statehood.

A POTENTIALLY DELICATE MATTER
Over many years I have been a vocal supporter of the Chairman, including working the polls during at least four of his campaigns for At-Large Councilmember and Chairman. During the last At-Large primary I was one of the key votes for his endorsement by the Gertrude Stein Democratic Club against an openly gay candidate. I was proud to do that, and proud also to tell another opponent—in his face, surrounded by others outside the polls on Election Day—“Shame on you for running against Phil Mendelson.” That opponent was D.C. Shadow Statehood Senator Michael D. Brown, whose work and eloquence on statehood I had long admired.
Nonetheless, I honestly challenged—again, to Mr. Brown’s face—his decision to run against Councilmember Mendelson, who—in my view—has proven such a masterful legislator on so many issues. (Mr. Brown claimed he was running to focus attention on efforts, and nonefforts in effect, by the Council to obtain D.C. Statehood.)
Mr. Chairman, I would personally be loath to believe—as I have heard asserted by some—that your failure to include funding for the Statehood Delegation offices established by D.C. voters and any alleged insensitivity to statehood reflects personal pique at Mr. Brown for running against you.
Mr. Chairman, I am confident that you are too intelligent a legislator to overlook this opportunity to advance the interests of D.C. Americans and too dedicated a public official to let any such personal motivations interfere with your responsibilities. You can sweep all that away by leading the Council’s efforts to fully fund—as soon as possible, via whatever legislative vehicle available—the Statehood Delegation offices and efforts outlined in the Statehood Advocacy Bill (with the suggested areas of amendment).
I express my appreciation to the author and all of the cosponsors of the legislation and I hope they—and indeed, all the other Councilmembers as well, for Statehood affects everyone in D.C.—will similarly fully fund the Statehood Delegation offices and efforts outlined in the bill (with the suggested areas of amendment). To really make Statehood happen, the Council needs to actively support it and fully fund (including staff up) the Statehood delegation. District voters have elected to lobby Congress on their behalf.
Of course, the choice is up to the Councilmembers. With all respect, I pledge that District voters are indeed watching. The growing neighborhood involvement in lobbying for D.C. Statehood reflects in part a new generation of activists committed to be treated in D.C. just as Americans elsewhere are. That means Statehood. The growing presence of the D.C. Flag on tattoos, hats, t-shirts and much else also reflects a new commitment to taking pride in D.C. and seeing that it’s treated with equality and fairness. The choice, whether to genuinely support Statehood or not, again, is yours. I’m sure that Councilmembers will make the right one.
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Indeed, Michael D. Brown has provided one of the examples of why we deserve  Statehood:  In 2012, D.C. Senator Michael D. Brown was re-elected as shadow senator with more votes (206,911) than the senators elected that year in Wyoming (Barrasso: 184,531) and North Dakota (Heitkamp: 161,337). He also received more votes than the sitting Senators from Alaska (Begich: 151,767 votes in 2008; Murkowski: 101,091 votes in 2010), Wyoming (Enzi: 189,046 votes in 2008), North Dakota (Hoeven: 181,689 votes in 2010), Vermont (Leahy: 151,281 votes in 2010), and Delaware (Coons: 174,012 votes in 2010).

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