Monday, July 11, 2016

David Grosso & Anita Bonds Bill Removes ANC Chairs From FOIA Requirements

FOIA, or Freedom of Information Act is a law giving you the right to access information from the federal government.  It has been described as the law to keep citizens in the know about our government.  State and local governments also have such laws, sometimes called "Sunshine" laws.  Washington DC has one, but Councilmembers Grosso and Bonds have introduced a bill titled Advisory Neighborhood Commission Omnibus Amendment Act of 2016 (B21-0697) which they say is meant to make it easier for the city’s volunteer commissioners to govern as elected officials.  Unfortunately, this bill includes provisions, explained in detail below, which would exempt ANCs and commissioners from FOIA requirements.  Other suggestions provide ways to increase ANC record keeping and email capacity.

I should note that I, G. LEE AIKIN, am running for At Large member of DC Council in the Nov. 8, 2016 General Election.  At Large Council member David Grosso also plans to run again for At Large in this election.  Should I be elected, I will support shining all the SUNSHINE possible on all our publicly elected officials.  Thus I believe ANC Chairs and actions should continue to be subject to FOIA requirements, but modest stipends to make their record keeping jobs easier should be approved.

There have been troubling cases involving ANC failures and possible criminal activity.  This Sept. 2011 article explains that in June, the D.C. auditor determined William Shelton as ANC5B Chairman withdrew $30,000 from the ANC account, spending it on payments for a Lexus and purchases at Bloomingdale’s.  He also began paying a friend, Patsy Staten, $25 an hour to answer phones about 25 hours a week. Ms. Staten signed her own timesheets. In repeated calls to the ANC office during those hours, no one ever picked up the phone.

This 1997 article details a number of problems ranging through malfeasance, misfeasance and nonfeasance.  The disturbing actions of Mary Treadwell (Barry), ANC1B, are described in detail in this article and the article in the next paragraph.  Other issues including possible shakedowns for favorable testimony are mentioned, as are comments/actions by politicians like Jack Evans, Phil Mendelson, and former Mayor Anthony Williams.
     A good friend and black activist who was helping the elderly tenants at Clifton Terrace described this scene to me.  "Discussions had been hot and heavy and Ms. Treadwell began rummaging in her handbag.  Suddenly a pistol popped out and landed on the conference table.  I put my hands under the table and said, 'Do you really think I would come here and I wouldn't be prepared?  Now put that gun away and lets finish our work.'"  The above link was to the general Google page for Clifton Terrace and Ms. Treadwell.  There were too many articles for me to decide which was the best to link here.  If you find one you really like, link it in the Comments below.

All that being said, the ANCs do perform important functions.  ANC representatives can face significant problems as described in this 1997 article, and most deserve both our support and our sympathy.  Nevertheless, Sunshine and FOIA are important safeguards for us to have.
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[7-13-16]  Apparently there are ANC's in full agreement with the need for Sunshine.  Here is a resolution submitted and approved unanimously by a quorum of ANC 4C Commissioners.  The ANC Secretary will forward this Resolution to the full Council for consideration.

RESOLUTION BY ANC 4C IN SUPPORT OF IMPROVEMENTS TO THE ADVISORY
NEIGHBORHOOD COMMISSIONS OMNIBUS ACT OF 2016 WITH REGARD TO
TRANSPARENCY IN ANC OPERATIONS.
     WHEREAS, ANC4C deeply appreciates the determined efforts of Councilmember Anita Bonds
and her colleagues to improve the ways in which Advisory Neighborhood Commissions function,
including through the Advisory Neighborhood Commissions Omnibus Amendment Act of 2016;
and
     WHEREAS, transparency is important for an accountable government, and that proactive and
reactive disclosure builds public trust in all levels of government, including Advisory
Neighborhood Commissions; and
     WHEREAS, while broad Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests can occasionally pose an
undue burden on individual Advisory Neighborhood Commissioners, relatively few FOIA
requests are filed each year; and
     WHEREAS, there is no adequate centralized public repository for all documents that ANCs are
required to disclose, such as meeting minutes, increasing the need for FOIA requests; and
     WHEREAS, the the director of the Office on Open Government has committed to providing
guidance to ANCs regarding FOIA compliance and best practices; and
     WHEREAS, the Advisory Neighborhood Commissions Omnibus Amendment Act of 2016 could
be improved in the following ways:
   1.ANC records, including but not limited to email, recordings, and other materials related to ANC business should be subject to open records requests, subject to exemptions in DC open records law.
   2.The communications division of the Office of Advisory Neighborhood Commissions, as
provided for in the legislation, should be charged with processing FOIA requests and assisting
with compliance, taking much of the burden off of individual commissioners.
   3.FOIA requests should be filed electronically through the city's central FOIA portal instead
of with individual ANCs. This will ensure that requests are fully documented and allow the
OANC and the public to track the status of a FOIA request, improving consistency and
accountability.
   4.ANCs should be required to publish minutes and other documents that are required to be
disclosed on a central calendar at open.dc.gov. This kind of proactive disclosure would reduce
the need for FOIA requests and make ANC operations more transparent.
[Closing legal language has been omitted.]
Signed:  Vann-Di M Galloway, Chairman, ANC 4C and
Michael Halpern, ANC Commissioner, SMD4C04
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[7-11-16] - Rumor has it that Grosso and Bonds have received enough flak from voters that they are having second thoughts about this bill.  Stay tuned.  I hope they will keep the good parts and get rid of the anti-Sunshine parts.
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Comment from a former ANC member.

The problem is most of the ANC's only talk to a few residents.  They don't put out flyers other than through emails, they don't post notices of their monthly meeting in the neighborhood and ANC5E only gives the community five minutes on their agenda.  Neither of the Council members putting this bill forward show up at their neighborhood ANC meetings, and if they did they would see most ANC members as self serving, instead of representing their 2,000 constituents.  There should continue to be transparency in how they operate and the FOIA should prevail.
- - - - - - - - - - - 
Grosso to shield ANC from FOIA
Jeffrey Anderson, who wrote for the City Paper about the D.C. Superior Court decision in Vining v. Barnes, sent a tweet asking how the Bonds-Grosso bill could be legal, given the court's decision in the 2014 case that all public business is subject to FOIA regardless of the ownership of the device (smart phone, etc.) upon which it is conducted.  Part of that decision stated explicitly that ANCs are elected officials and thus I'd still like to see a lawyer weigh in, though.

Here's a full account from the Sunlight Foundation of the provision of the Bonds-Grosso bill that would reduce government accountability.
Andrea Rosen

by Azeezat Adeleke (policy)
JULY 7, 2016, 4:11 P.M.
Washington, D.C., boasts a unique system of neighborhood governance, but a proposed bill would eliminate the rights of District residents to hold their most local officials accountable.

In a July 6 hearing, Councilmember Anita Bonds explained that the Advisory Neighborhood Commission Omnibus Amendment Act of 2016 (B21-0697) is meant to make it easier for the city’s volunteer commissioners to govern as elected officials.

If you are unfamiliar with the role of the advisory neighborhood commissions (ANCs), they are the most local elected representatives in the District of Columbia. Most people might know that the federal district is split into eight wards, each with its own D.C. councilmember, but they may not realize that D.C. is also divided into 30 ANCs, with a total of 299 commissioners elected from single-member districts. The ANCs describe themselves as “the body of government with the closest official ties to the people in a neighborhood.”

Each of the commissioners is elected, on a volunteer basis, to represent an average of 2,000 residents. ANC commissioners address important issues such as zoning, economic development and liquor licensing. Some of the reforms in the omnibus bill would improve the governing capacity, but one provision would exempt ANCs and commissioners from the District’s Freedom of Information Act.

A short provision, nestled toward the end of B21-0697, declares that an ANC “shall not be considered an agency, an independent agency, or a subordinate agency.” In doing so, the drafters — Councilmembers Bonds and David Grosso — would erase the FOIA requirement with one fell swoop. Another portion of the bill states that ANC commissioners may “choose to transmit” certain information for publication on their websites or social media. The bill would also entrench current law, which exempts ANCs from the requirements of the D.C. Open Meetings Act.

“The motivation behind this provision is to alleviate an impractically high administrative burden that takes an inordinate amount of time from commissioners’ primary function and duties,” Bonds said.

In response, open government advocates, community members, and some ANC commissioners cried foul.

In their testimony, witnesses from Sunlight, the D.C. Open Government Coalition, the D.C. Office of Open Government and other groups argued that the ANC commissioners do not need a free pass from FOIA, but more capacity to comply with its guidelines. That capacity comes from other provisions in the same bill, including those that expand storage in commissioners’ official email inboxes and allow them to receive a $500 yearly stipend to support their time on the job.

Alex Howard, a Sunlight senior analyst, and LaVita Tuff, a member of the D.C. Open Government Coalition Board of Directors and a policy analyst at Sunlight, testified against this provision.

In HIS REMARKS, Howard argued that there is “no compelling need” for the anti-FOIA provision of the bill. Tuff emphasized that the bill would weaken constituents’ power to hold their elected officials accountable, especially when those officials get to choose what the public gets to know.

Barbara Kahlow of the West End Citizens Association, a non-ANC civic group, testified that FOIA allows residents access to ANC spending records, an essential means of keeping commissioners honest. Recent history highlights why D.C. needs this: In 2012, a former ANC commissioner pled guiltyto fraud and using $28,000 in public funds for his personal whims. In 2015, the Office of the D.C. Auditor reported that some ANCs made illegal disbursements while others failed to maintain meeting minutes — or evidence that public meetings happened at all.

Mike Silverstein, commissioner for ANC 2B06 in Dupont Circle, came as a dissenting voice, arguing that FOIA requirements could discourage potential candidates from running.
The plurality of witnesses, however, criticized the provision as a step in the wrong direction, away from transparency and toward government where decisions happen in the shadows. ANC Commissioners Mark Eckenwiler, ANC 6C04 near Union Station, and Kathy Henderson, ANC 5D05 near Brentwood, agreed that the anti-FOIA provision should be removed.

“It’s appalling to suggest that ANCs should be exempted from FOIA,” Eckenwiler said.

In her testimony, Tuff highlighted a contradiction in the legislation. Those who support the legislation, including Councilmember Bonds, emphasized that the bill would increase respect for ANC members as elected officials. But, according to Tuff, “The bill demands that agencies keep ANCs informed, but seeks a blanket exclusion from the Freedom of Information Act that would effectively deprive neighborhood residents of the ability to oversee their elected representatives.”

To this end, Sunlight worked with Councilmembers Mary Cheh and Grosso to draft the STRENGTHENING TRANSPARENCY AND OPEN ACCESS TO GOVERNMENT ACT of 2016, which would mandate that ANCs conform to the Open Meetings Act.

This bill follows the ADVISORY NEIGHBORHOOD COMMISSIONS TRANSPARENCY AMENDMENT ACT OF 2013.  As Sunlight WROTE at the time, that bill would have held ANCs to a higher standard by requiring them to release a variety of documents to the public, including meeting minutes, bank transactions and policy decisions. That bill did not come to a vote.

Residents have already made clear that they want transparency: Gottlieb Simon, executive director of the Office of the Advisory Neighborhood Commissions, testified that the number of FOIA requests to ANC commissioners has climbed in recent years.

Traci Hughes, director of the Office of Open Government, said that her office is eager to assist ANCs in meeting compliance requirements. Howard, of Sunlight, made the same point, emphasizing that Sunlight would be happy to help build capacity on this issue.

In his testimony, Robert Vinson Brannum, former president of the D.C. Federation of Civic Associations, made the overarching point: “ANC commissioners deserve to be respected as elected officials.” But if they want that respect, they have to earn it. And that begins with accountability to their voters.

D.C. residents can join the call for accountability by sending a written statement on this hearing by July 20 at 5 p.m., when the public record will close. A third and final hearing on this bill will happen after the council’s summer recess. In the meantime, D.C. residents can contact the staff and members of the Council on Housing and Community Development here.

- - - - - - - - - - -
Can they legally do this? Especially after Kirby's (Kirby Vining) recent litigation against Dianne Barnes? Anyone have insight on the legality of such a bill?

I remember hearing scuttlebutt a couple years back about the money DC was spending in litigation on ANC FOIA cases. That must be partly the impetus for this bill.
MB
- - - - - - - - - - -

A member of  Friends of McMillan Park <friends-of-mcmillan-park@googlegroups.com> wrote:
You may be interested to know that the DC counsel is considering a bill that would exempt ANC commissioners from foia requests. There is an article in urban turf about it dated July 7th. ES
- - - - - - - - - - -
On Fri, Jul 8, 2016 at 6:21 AM, d.c. forrd, <dc4reality@gmail.com> wrote:
Hey folks,
Here's your chance to be the next McMillan.Leaks explorer.  Let's see what you can dig out of the haystack >>http://www.savemcmillan.org/foia

We are beginning to raw dump PDF files which came by way of DC agencies through the DC Freedom of Information Act.
If you find any goodies, smoking guns, amazing facts or trite government hacks playing with language and our park -- identify by sending us the PDF title, page, and citation.  
McMillan.Leaks!
http://www.savemcmillan.org/foia
Thanks. DC for Reasonable Development, 202-810-2768, dc4reason.org




Sunday, May 15, 2016

Statehood for DC, Mayor Fast Tracks New Constitution for Nov. 8, 2016 DC Voter Approval


Important Information for ALL DC Voters

For many years, we of the DC Statehood Green Party have been working to achieve the same rights held by all our US citizens--the right to vote for Congressional representatives, the right to spend our own tax money, and all other rights reserved for US states.  Comments inserted by me in information from others will be in brackets [  ].  This is a fast moving series of events and will be updated, so come back again.  Also add Comments, especially if you have information from the past or present we should know.  As a result of the Primary Election I am now the DC Statehood Green Party ballot candidate for At Large (you can vote for 2) on the Nov. 8, 2016 ballot appearing as G. Lee Aikin.*  Given the latest version of the Mayor's Constitution, this may be the last election that Statehood Greens, Republicans, Libertarians or Independents have a possibility of being elected to the Council.

The New Columbia Statehood Commission was created by the New Columbia Statehood Initiative, Omnibus Boards and Commissions, and Election Transition Reform Amendment Act of 2014 (DC Act 21-070).  The officers and current members of the Commission are Mayor (Muriel Bowser), Council Chairperson (Phil Mendelson), and two Senators and Representative of the DC Shadow Congressional Delegation (Paul Strauss, Michael D. Brown, and Franklin Garcia).
---------------
[8/18/16] - This past Wednesday evening I, and another member of our DCSGP attended an official event of the New Columbia Statehood Commission.  This event was titled "51st State Speakers Bureau Training.  The purpose was to develop "a volunteer group of speakers....to educate citizens about the Statehood Process." Then we were told that there would be a single vote, with 4 parts.  If any one part was a strong NO then people might choose to vote NO for Statehood.  As a member and ballot candidate for the DC Statehood Green Party I have been a strong supporter of Statehood.  However, it immediately became clear that a number of people there were concerned that to vote for the measure meant to include approving the Constitution which DC's Mayor had begun with a top down process.  

In 1982 DC voters through a bottom up process (2 years work by a number of elected people on a long Constitutional Convention) had approved a Constitution that included having 40 elected Delegates.  I immediately pointed out that at the recent 3 so-called Constitutional Convention meetings (they were actually just big hearings with 3 minute witness testimony) 75% to 90% of the testifiers were against the Mayor's proposed 13 member Legislature and/or the top down process.  The people running the Wednesday meeting immediately said my 3 days of observations were not a correct evaluation of sentiment.  They also pointed out that the Mayor's Constitution had now been revised to have 21 members.  I have copied this information from the new Constitution linked above.

[8/24/16] - While attempting to clarify whether or not "on a partisan basis" means there is no longer a 2 Delegate set aside for non Democrats, I was also alerted to look at Article VII.  Oh, I was also told that NO, the set aside is absent in both Constitutions, although some spoke up for using the term "on a NON-PARTISAN basis", which was overruled.  I was also informed that our Council will have 2 hearings, Sept. 27, 11pm, [The Committee of the Whole will hold a Public Hearing on the following Legislation:  B21-826, Constitution of the State of New Columbia Approval Amendment Act of 2016.  Those who wish to testify are asked to email the Committee of the Whole at cow@dccouncil.us, or call Evan Cash, Committee Director at (202) 724-8196, and to provide your name, address, telephone number; organizational affiliation and title (if any) by close of business Friday, September 23, 2016. Persons wishing to testify are encouraged, but not required, to submit 15 copies of written testimony.] and Oct. 6, 6pm. [Same information as above, except "Witnesses testifying on this bill at the September 27th hearing will not be allowed to testify a second time at this hearing." deadline for those wishing to testify is October 2, 2016]  Some may wish to attend the second hearing to give moral support to those who feel we have had this Constitution forced down our throats.

ARTICLE I:  THE LEGISLATIVE BRANCH
Sec. 2. Composition; election of members; vacancies 
     a. The House of Delegates shall consist of 21 members
          1. The Speaker of the House of Delegates who shall be elected on a partisan basis at large by the qualified voters of the State of New Columbia. 
          2. Four members shall be elected on a partisan basis at large by the qualified voters of the State of New Columbia. 
          3. Sixteen members shall be elected on a partisan basis by the qualified voters, two from each of the 8 legislative districts of the State of New Columbia. 
     b. The term of office for Delegates shall be 4 years, and shall begin at noon on January 2nd of the year following their election. Delegates shall be elected in accordance with the schedule established in Article VIII, Sec. 1(b) of this Constitution.  [This Article appears to call for the existing staggered dates of election for existing office holders, and use of a staggered schedule for new Delegates.]

In this meeting I had stated that given the fact that voting for Statehood also meant that we would be voting for the Mayor's Constitution, I felt I could not approve a YES vote without the guidance of our DC Statehood Green Party.  How ironic that after all the years we have worked for Statehood I should even have to ask such a question because of lack of a democratic process.

Then I read the above ARTICLE 1, Sec. 2 (a).  What exactly does elected on a partisan basis actually mean.  My interpretation is that it means we loose the set asides for representatives elected from other than the Democratic (???) Party.  If my interpretation is correct (and I most profoundly hope it is NOT), then perhaps all Statehood Green, Republican, and Libertarian Party members/or lovers of true Democracy might be inclined to vote AGAINST this November's measure if there is no clarification in the included approval of the above language.  [8/21 - I have now checked the April Constitution and the same "elected on a partisan basis" is there with no mention of set asides.  This week we minority parties need clarification from the BOEE legal staff on what exactly this means.]  See below exactly what the single vote will approve (it approves all 4 parts including the Constitution).  Thus if you vote YES you are approving all 4 parts:
  • Do you want the District to become the 51st state?
  • Do you approve the state constitution?
  • Do you agree to the boundaries?
  • Do you commit to a representative form of government?
ARTICLE VII: MISCELLANEOUS  [I will list all that is in latest version of the Constitution and highlight the parts that were added since the Lincoln Cottage distributed version.]

Sec. 1. Openness and transparency
     The government of the State of New Columbia shall operate on principles of openness, transparency and democratic participation. Specific obligations regarding participation and transparency may be established by Act of the House of Delegates and administrative orders of the Governor.  [Unchanged]

Sec. 2. Construction of Constitution 
     a. To the extent that any provisions of this Constitution are inconsistent with the provisions of any other laws of the State of New Columbia, the provisions of this Constitution shall prevail and shall be deemed to supersede the provisions of such laws. 
     b. The use of partisan or nonpartisan with respect to elections under Articles I and II shall determine only when the name of a political party may appear next to the name of a candidate on the ballot but shall not limit in any way the authority of the House of Delegates to establish any type of primary or runoff system it may find appropriate.  [All New]
     c. In interpreting this Constitution, the courts are not bound by the interpretation given by federal courts to identical or similar language in the United States Constitution, but shall interpret this Constitution in light of its purposes and the laws, values, and traditions of the State of New Columbia.  [All New]

Sec. 3. Constitution amending procedure 
     a. The Constitution may be amended by an Act passed by the affirmative vote of two-thirds of the members of the House of Delegates and ratified by a majority of the qualified voters who vote in a ratification referendum.  [Highlighted portion previously said "a majority"]
     b. Ratified constitutional amendments take effect either on the date the elections agency certifies the ratification, or the date prescribed by the amendment, whichever is later. 
     c. On or about the fifth anniversary of the effective date of the Admission Act, the House of Delegates may call for a Constitutional Convention to assess the transition from a federal district to a member of the Union. If the House of Delegates elects to call a Constitutional Convention, the House of Delegates shall, by Act, establish the subjects and procedures therefor. Any amendments resulting from such a Constitutional Convention must be ratified by a majority of the qualified voters who vote in a ratification referendum.  [All New]

Sec. 4. Effective date 
     This Constitution shall take effect upon passage of an Admission Act to admit New Columbia as a state of the United States of America with the same rights as other states, unless otherwise provided therein.  [Change highlighted]

[There are a number of alterations that need more thought and feedback.  Personally, should we be forced to accept the Constitution with the highlighted changes, not to mention others, I think 5 years might be too long to wait on a true Constitutional Convention to rework the parts that appear to eliminate any set asides for non majority party At Large representatives.  All Statehood Greens, Republicans, Libertarians, and Independents please give all this careful thought.]

I am also updating the calendar further down with new material received on Wednesday.
--------------
[7/20/16] - Mayor Bowser is now in Cleveland attempting to persuade Republicans that the party of Lincoln should not deprive more citizens than are in the states of Vermont or Wyoming of their voting rights. The Washington Post also reports that DC Republican Party executive director, Patrick Mara, said the DC delegation stood and booed on the convention floor when the platform was approved without Statehood for DC.  He blasted the Republican party platform as outdated, pointing out "the party has some partially fossilized members" and doesn't "see progress until they are fully fossilized."  DC Shadow Senator Paul Strauss noted that VP pick Gov. Mike Pence "once spoke in favor" of DC Statehood (2007) when he referred to our lack of representation as a "historic wrong."  Donald Trump says he does not yet have a position on Statehood.  Hillary Clinton vowed last month to push forcefully for DC statehood if elected and Democrats approved statehood in their party platform.  This draft will be voted on in the Democrat's convention in Philadelphia.
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[7/13/16] - Comments from people the day after Council voted to have Statehood on the November 8 ballot, and for the Council to write the Constitution rather than the people.

*  Every one of the group of 5 have esteemed, experienced attorneys advising them. All have been to this rodeo before. That no one directly answers our questions at any hearings or the press conference on Monday makes it clear there is a lot lying below the surface.  We need to find a way to make a statement they will understand. We will have to suspend logic and facts thinking "outside the box" so to speak.

*  From Perry Redd, DC Statehood Green Party.  Fine...on the ballot, one question: Statehood Y/N.  Allowing THIS 13-member Council--or ANY Council--to make a corporate decision for a state full of people is an exercise in insanity; that shall never work, only a democratic means and methodology is acceptable.  I am in agreement with Grosso, that a serious PR campaign has to undergird a drive toward DC statehood; $100 million "feels" wrong, yet is overdue. I imagine a $100 million makes up for all the piss-poor investments in the statehood fight. The concern about his PR cronies is wholly valid and can be overcome IF, we the people, insist that we locally get 40% of the PR contracts

*  From Kesh at DC4Democracy  DC COUNCIL ON SUMMER RECESS  -  The DC Council broke for summer recess yesterday not with a bang, but a whimper.  They did not vote on Paid Family Leave or Just Hours, two major proposals that will improve the lives of DC workers.  They also failed to schedule a hearing on DC Fair Elections (public financing).  The Council did unanimously adopt the Advisory Referendum on statehood without any substantive changes.  Voters will be asked to approve a constitution that the DC Council is in the process of drafting, and most likely will not be finalized by the election on November 8.  Our pleas for a proper constitutional convention appear to have fallen on deaf ears, and we are extremely disappointed in our elected officials.
     We would like to recognize Ward 3 Councilmember Mary Cheh and CM Silverman for their  efforts to simplify the referendum language.  We find it troubling that no other Councilmembers recognize the fundamental problems with the current process.
    Despite our disappointment, we look forward to participating in the Council hearings this Fall on the proposed constitution, and hope that many DC for Democracy members will join us.  We will also continue to explore other avenues for a proper, legitimate, and democratic process for drafting a new constitution.  Suggestions are welcome at dcfordemocracy@gmail.com.
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[7/12/16] - AP reports that Tuesday's unanimous vote by the DC Council is part of Mayor Bowser's strategy to pursue the "Tennessee model" for statehood.  If approved, the referendum would also give the Council authority to write the Constitution for the "state of New Columbia."  While lawmakers praised the referendum effort, Ind. Council member David Grosso sounded a note of caution.  He said earlier Tuesday that the referendum won't influence Cogress and will give people "false hope" unless it's backed by a major public relations campaign at a cost of $100million or more.  [Wow, $100M, I wonder who he has in mind for that largess?  A campaign contributor.  The Council hasn't even been able to mobilize under $1million for that effort.  I think there is language in the Home Rule charter that forbids using our tax money for that purpose.  More research needed.]
     Ann Loikow reported the following:  The Council's resolution is unchanged, except for correcting the date of the Statehood Commission's meeting to approve the Constitution (June 28, not June 13). The Council expects to hold hearings and amend the Constitution between the time they return from summer recess (Sept. 19) and Nov. 8. Given that they need two readings, two weeks apart and proper notice for a hearing (probably don't have time for much more than 1-2 days of hearings) and a markup, they only have 6 weeks. Also, there needs to be at least a week, maybe for the BOEE to print the Constitution and send it to the voters so they can have any idea what it is before they have to vote to ratify it on Nov. 8. As a result don't expect to have much citizen input. Instead, it will be more of the 3 minute rule with Phil cutting folks off and a Constitution written by an oligarchy of 13 people (plus the 5 member Statehood Commission and the Mayor's legal committee, which is heavy with DC Appleseed people). In other words, No democracy for the people of D.C. ....voting yes on the referendum (you only get one vote for all 4 items) means you are for everything, including giving a blank check to the Council on the constitution.  Ann
     PS: Here is the full debate and vote on the referendum resolution as filmed today by Stephen Kolb who is making a documentary on our effort to get statehood. Stephen is a resident of Ward 6.
Here’s today’s arguments, statements and the vote -
Enjoy and pass it on to all your constituents and friends.
Stephen L Kolb, Amer. Soc. of Media Photographers, MPA, SAG-AFTRA, AEA
Producer: http://WhoCaresAboutDC.com  [go here to see video of all Statehood Comm. meetings, hearings, and interviews]  http://stevekolbmedia.com
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[6/17-18/16] - Having just attended and spoken at two more Constitution Convention meetings at Woodrow Wilson High School, it appears a considerable majority of the people testifying don't want the Mayor's proposed 13 delegates fixed in stone.  Many spoke in favor of a general vote for Statehood on Nov 8th, with a statement of intention to form and hold a properly constituted real Constitutional Convention immediately afterwards allowing it to be acted on early in the next administration.
     In a last gesture to "democracy" Council Chair Phil Mendelson "magnanimously" said all written testimony had to be received by midnight that evening, and that spoken, written and email testimony would receive equal weight. Other hearings (and that is really what these 3 meetings were) allow a considerably longer time to submit written testimony after the oral testimony.  The Mayor has already lost credibility by loosing 3 regular supporters in the Primary Election.  Does she really want the Council Chair to further tarnish her credibility?  And do we want 3 lame duck Council members controlling this Constitution process?
     The Washington Post has published two stories about the will of the people:  https://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/dc-leaders-are-thinking-small-on-statehood/2016/06/17/43ee30ce-28e1-11e6-ae4a-3cdd5fe74204_story.html, and https://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/this-is-no-way-to-draft-a-constitution/2016/06/17/9778f2ea-29d3-11e6-b989-4e5479715b54_story.html
     This second link already has eleven comments, while the first has 4.  I was particularly impressed by the list of flaws below presented in one of the comments. I added bold to some I particularly like:

     wdccruise


Not only is the process a sham but so is the "Constitution". Some highlights: 
o The City Council becomes the House of Delegates. No bi-cameral legislature, no change in the number of members. 
o The City Councilmen simply become "Delegates". No election for the positions are held. 
o The mayor magically becomes the governor. No election for the position is held. 
o Elections for governor and delegates are required to be "partisan" which is obviously to keep Democrats in control. 
o The governor and delegate speaker can't hold other jobs (in the "constitution"???) 
o Inexplicably, the governor and delegates must be voters but not citizens. 
o There is no role specified for the ANCs other than that they are "advisory" 
o Inexplicably the "constitution" states that the governor must appoint an Administrator and Chief Operating Officer. 
o The "constitution" contains the CFO's job description including that he must prepare "tax maps". 
o The "constitution" strangely references the Home Rule Act even though it is declaring itself a state which, one would suppose, would not be subject to the HRA. 
o The "Constitution" spends many paragraphs describing how a total of 6% of the annual budget is to be deposited into what are essentially slush funds that can -- and will -- be used for any purpose. 
o The "constitution" specifically states that the District can issue revenue bonds for "sports" or "any other undertaking that the House of Delegates determines to be for a public purpose." This is obviously to allow the governor to subsidize billionaire sports-team owners and other favored business entities. 
o The citizens are specifically prevented from approving a referendum that gets rid of a tax or stops spending they don't like. 
o The citizens can amend the "Constitution" but only if the delegates first approve the amendment! Silly wabbit, bet you thought citizens could impose term limits!
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[6/13/16] - I have just returned from the so-called Constitutional Convention held in Ward 8.  It was scheduled to end at 8pm, but continued until 9pm to allow the many people who had signed up to speak for 3 minutes to do so.  Most speakers supported the idea of a number of delegates similar to other small states (at least 40 as decided and approved by voters in the 1982 Constitution, note this document does not say 1982 and if someone can find a better link, please send it out), also a bicameral (2 house) legislature was recommended by a number of people since only one state is not bicameral.  No one I heard (and I was late) favored keeping the same 13 that has been so problematic for our rights, as 7 votes are so easy to influence or even buy.  Everyone liked the idea of some name other than New Columbia which has the same initials as North Carolina.  The Douglass Commonwealth, honoring abolitionist Frederick Douglass, was popular, retaining our well known  DC initials.  [Commonwealth is a designation used by four of the 50 states of the United States in their full, official state names. The four are: KentuckyMassachusettsPennsylvania, and Virginia.  It is also used by our sister victim of statelessness, Puerto Rico.   Constitutionally, there is no difference between a state and a commonwealth.]  Others recommended forming a proper Constitutional Convention and doing serious comparison with the 1982 Constitution.  Tonight was simply a hearing with 3 minutes per speaker.  The two additional days of Friday 6 to 10pm and Saturday 9am to 1pm on June 17 and 18 are also really only hearings.  They will be held at Woodrow Wilson High School (see map), 3950 Chesapeake St., NW.  

     I am particularly concerned at the scheduling for Friday and Saturday.  On Friday the parts covered are:  Article II - The Executive Branch (14 pages), Article IV - Budget & Financial Management (8 pages), and Article V - Borrowing (12 pages).  This gives a total of 34 pages to be covered in perhaps 4 hours.  This Monday we spent 3 hours+ covering 21 pages.
     On Saturday the parts covered are:  Article III - The Judicial Branch (5 pages), Article VII - Miscellaneous (2 pages), and VIII - Transfer of Offices (9 pages).  This is a total of 16 pages possibly also with 4 hours allocated.  In other words they are giving us the same amount of time to cover more than twice as much material, which is some of the most important aspects of the government--Mayor and Money.  Also given past history, parts that are often vulnerable to malfeasance, misfeasance, and nonfeasance and undue influence by developers and gentrifiers.
    Although specific articles of the proposed Constitution were supposed to be discussed on specific days, in fact testimony was all over the map with personal feelings, opinions and history, and statements on whatever part of the Constitution most concerned the testifier who you will remember had only 3 minutes to speak.
- - - - - - - - - - - -
[6/3/16] - Here is on scene report by Keshina Ladduwahetty from DC4D:
     Thank you all for taking the time to respond to DC4D's statement on the Statehood Initiative.  
A number of us attended the first statehood town hall last night, and I wanted to share what I learned:

  • The town halls are somewhat like Council hearings; individuals testify for 3 minutes, organizations for 5.  Last night, Sen. Brown & Rep. Garcia presided for most of the meeting; the Mayor showed up only at the very end and heard only Ann Loikow's testimony.  The entire session is videotaped and you don't need to hand in printed copies.  There is opportunity for Q&A afterwards.
  • Sen. Brown spoke very publicly about the fact that he and the other members of the Shadow Delegation are not playing a decision making role on the Commission.  
  • The Mayor's own legal counsels (Barry Priceworth & Betsy Cavandish) don't seem to know the answer to the critical question of whether the November referendum will contain a single compound question that includes the constitution, or whether it will contains 4 separate questions (on statehood, boundaries, type of government, and constitution).  However, they confirmed the impression I got that the Council will control the wording of the referendum.
  • 12 people testified last night (in order): myself (Kesh), Josh Burch, Jesse Lovell, Anise Jenkins, Adam Gluckman, Anne Anderson, Harold Hunter, Taboo, Guy Durant, Dan Schramm, John Capozzi, Stan Mayes, Ann Loikow.  Most of us voiced serious concerns about the process, particularly the lack of a proper constitutional convention
  • The "constitutional convention" is now going to be on 3 separate dates: the evening of June 13 (the night before the primary!), the evening of June 17, and the morning of June 18 at Wilson HS.  I repeatedly asked for further details about how it is going to be organized, but got no answers.  
  • The Commission will vote on the final version of the Constitution on June 24th (6 days after the last public meeting)

I hope all of you take the opportunity to testify at the remaining town halls (this Saturday June 4th, next Tuesday, June 7, next Wednesday, June 8th, as well as June 13, 17 & 18) and online.  I think Saturday, June 18 is particularly important as it is the final public meeting and likely will have the highest attendance.  It is extremely important that we use these opportunities to voice our support for the goal of the Statehood Initiative as well as our concerns about the process.  In my opinion, the most useful points to make are:

  • Referendum: word the November referendum in the simplest way possible.  Ideally, it would be a simple yes/no to statehood to ensure overwhelming support.  At a minimum (if the Commission decides to include other questions, such as a new constitution), voters should be able to vote separately on each question.  
  • Call for a Proper Constitutional Convention: 1) insist on a proper constitutional convention, with elected delegates, as a requirement for a legitimate constitution.  2) include in the new draft constitution an explicit call for an elected constitutional convention within a specific timeframe.  [end]  A more detailed report by DC4D is near the end of this post.

  • ------------------ [can't get these extra dots to go away] new topic below
  • At the April 29th meeting, where all 5 members (above) were present, 15 minutes for public comment were allowed which the Mayor noted for future addressing.  Statehood Green Party member, David Schwartzman indicated that although statehood was long overdue, he favored the bottom-up process of the 1982 Convention, and we ought to choose between the process outlined in the New Columbia Admissions Act, or hold a new Constitutional Convention after Nov. 8 with elected [not appointed] delegates.  Importance of getting MD and VA support was emphasized, and Jesse Lovell, Secretary of the DC Statehood Commission, outlined such support received.  Asked was information on the affect of this new effort on the current New Columbia Admission Act in Congress. Also questioned was why we are drafting a new Constitution when the one in 1982 was voted and approved by DC residents.  [There are legal changes which needed to be incorporated, but absolutely no legal reason to reduce the number of delegates to our current 13 Council number.]

Beverly Perry, the Mayor's Senior Advisor, presented the Legal Advisory Committee's recommendations.  These included promoting stability by keeping DC's current governing structure, simplify and modernize the Constitution, and empower the [current] legislature and executive to govern in the interests of the people who elected them [and paid for their campaigns].
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     We the people were first presented with a draft copy of this new 2016 Constitution at the Lincoln Cottage at the Soldiers Home, upper North Capital St., an area with poor public transportation.  This chilly rainy day meeting on May 6, 2016, was held in a large tent, but was well attended including by many who had participated in the 1982 and 1987 working groups.  After detailed explanation of the proposed action, the Mayor called on many people including those who had a number of objections.  People were concerned about bypassing the 2 years of work on the 1982 Constitution (this 36 page document has not date printed on it), as well as work in 1987.  Concerns were also raised about the sudden speed required by this approach, and limiting the Delegates to only 13 (thus, with no change in power of gentrifiers), rather than the higher numbers previously agreed (over 2 years of many meetings) which are closer to the pattern of other states.  In 1982 it was 40 delegates, and 25 in 1987.
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     Here is the schedule for the fast track process proposed by Mayor Bowser on 4/15/2016 (Emancipation Day) and supported by Council Chairman, Phil Mendelson.  You can visit: statehood.dc.gov for updates.  The significant input by the people ends on June 24th.  After that all work is by the existing power structure, and we must monitor to demand our interests be served.  Also there is no information on location and times after June 24.  I will add this as well as the To Be Determined (TBD) information if it is provided.

4/21/16 - Convene meeting of New Columbia Statehood Commission, Wilson Bldg., 1350 Pennsylvania Ave., NW.  [details on time and place of events already held are omitted, others are TBD, to be determined]
4/26 - Presentation of statehood strategy at Council breakfast, WB.
4/29 - Convene meeting of New Columbia Statehood Comm, WB.
5/6 - (video follows 4/29) New Columbia Statehood Comm. Draft Constitution release, Lincoln Cottage.
5/9 - Presentation of DC Statehood Advisory Referendum to ANCs, UDC.
5/12 - Working Group Kickoff Event, Gallaudet Univ.
5/16-19 - Working Group Organizational Meetings, locations & times below, and call in info.:
   5/16 - Advocacy Working Group meeting, WB, G-9, 6:30 pm.
   5/17 - All 8 Wards Working Group meeting, WB, G-9, 6:00 pm.
   5/18 - Cleveland/Philadelphia Conventions Working Group meeting, WB, G-9, 12:00 pm.
              Dial In: 866-761-6796, Participant Code: 7440840
   5/19 - Communications Working Group meeting, WB, G-9, 12:00 pm.
              DI: 866-423-3721, PC: 4809024
   5/20 - All Americans for DC Statehood meeting, WB, G-9, 6:00 pm.
              DI: 866-761-6796, Access Code: 7440840
5/25 - All 8 Wards workgroup meeting, WB, G-9, 6:00 - 7:30pm. [follow-up]
5/26 - New Columbia Statehood Comm. convenes public engagement meeting, location WB, G-9, 6:30-9pm.
At the 5/17 meeting we were told changes to the meetings below are on their site.  I have listed what I have found at the bottom of the page.  Wards are not indicated.  At the meeting it was said people could go where they wanted.  For unclear locations go by what is at the bottom of page or at link.
5/31 - Ward 3 Town Hall to discuss draft constitution, Tenley-Friendship Library, 4450 Wisconsin Ave., NW, 6:00-8:00pm.  (unclear where and when)
6/1-10 - DC Council Public Engagement Hearings/Roundtables, WB, Rooms & times TBD.
6/1 - Ward 6 Town Hall to discuss draft constitution, Southwest Neighborhood Library, 900 Wesley Pl., SW, 6:00 to 8:00pm.  (unclear where and when)
6/2 - Town Hall, Wards 5 & 7, to discuss draft constitution, Birtie Backus/UDC-CC, 5171 South Dakota Ave., NE, 6:00 - 8:00pm. (unchanged)
6/4 - Town Hall, Wards 6 & 8to discuss draft constitution, Thurgood Marshall Academy, 2427 Martin Luther King, Jr. Ave., SE from 1:00 - 3:00pm.  (Wards 7 & 8 combined)
6/7 - Town Hall, Wards 1 & 2, to discuss draft constitution, African American Civil War Museum, 1925 Vermont Ave., NW, 6:00 - 8:00pm.  RSVP: http://june7statehood.eventbrite.com
6/8 - Town Hall, Wards 3 & 4, to discuss draft constitution, Raymond Recreation Center, 3725 10th Street, NW, from 6:00 - 8:00pm.   RSVP: http://june8statehood.eventbrite.com
6/9 - Working groups present recommendations to the New Columbia Statehood Comm., Student Center, UDC, 4200 Connecticut Ave., NW, 6:30-9:00pm.
6/13 - Added day for Constitutional Convention, DC Taxicab Commission, 2235 Shannon Pl., SE, 6:00pm.  [These will not actually be Conventions, but more like hearings.]
6/14 – Primary Election day, at your designated Precinct.
6/17-18 - New Columbia Statehood Comm. convenes Constitutional Convention, 6:00 - 10:00pm, and 6/18, 9:00am - 1:00pm.  Both days at Woodrow Wilson High School, 3950 Chesapeake St., NW. [these times will make it hard for our seniors to attend both sessions given the late Friday and early Saturday timing.  We need their wisdom, especially if they took part in the 1982 and 1987 process.]
6/28 - Convene meeting of New Columbia Statehood Commission to approve emergency legislation, including Constitution,  [From the Mayor:  Thank you to everyone attended the New Columbia Statehood Commission Constitutional Convention. The Commission received over 500 comments, in person and online, on the draft constitution.TOMMOROW 6/28 at 6:30, join the NCSC at the John A. Wilson Building in Room G-9 (1350 Pennsylvania Ave NW) as they consider recommendations received from the public town halls, online testimony, and the Constitutional Convention and finalize the New Columbia Constitution. 
All public comments on the draft constitution are available at Statehood.DC.Gov. RSVP today at:http://june28statehood.eventbrite.com.  We hope you can join!]
The Resolution was introduced by Chairman Mendelson and approved by entire Council for handling by the Committee of the whole.
For live updates from all NCSC events follow @DCStatehood51 on Twitter!]  
6/30 - Mayor, on behalf of the New Columbia Statehood Commission (NCSC), will submit the NCSC Resolution to Council.  [Will there be public hearings?  Perhaps in the fall?]
7/5 - Council approves resolution for Statehood.  [Didn't happen.]
7/8 - Advisory Referendum filed with Board of Elections.  [Didn't happen so far as we know, but see: http://dcstatehoodyeswecan.org/j/, and especially comments by Ann Loikow near the bottom.]
7/11 - Mayor on behalf of the NCSC submited the NCSC Resolution to Council.
7/12 - Advisory Referendum on the State of New Columbia Admissions Act Resolution of 2016 will be considered by the Council, which may hold off on approving the Constitution.  See link with additional link to language of this resolution number PR12-0839.  Then again it might be a done deal. Time and place TBA.  It was approved that day.
7/28 - Board of Elections to hold hearing to certify referendum language [We should try to attend this hearing].
8/4 - Board of Elections will submit language to DC register and notify Mayor and Chairman.
8/12 - Assuming publication, 10 day window opens for objections and request for hearing.
8/17 - Speakers Bureau Training, 6:00 to 7:00pm, Wilson Bldg., Rm. G-9.
8/23 - Speakers Bureau Training, 6:00 to 7:00pm, WB, G-9 This might be changed to 6:30pm.
9/7   - Speakers Bureau Training, 6:00 to 7:00pm, TBD.
9/10 - Speakers Bureau Training, Saturday, 11:00am to 12:00pm. TBD.
9/15 - Board of Elections certifies the Advisory Referendum to be placed on 11/8 ballot.
9/27 - Council Committee of the Whole (COW), 11:00am. Wilson Bldg., Rm. 500.  Hearing to consider:  B21-826, Constitution of the State of New Columbia Approval Amendment Act of 2016.
10/6 - COW, 6:30pm, WB, Rm. 500.  Hearing to consider item from 9/27.  No repeat testifiers allowed.
11/8 - Election Day, when DC voters will vote on the Advisory Referendum.
1/21/2017 - Petition submitted to new President and new Congress.
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     At the Lincoln Cottage, we were then invited to take part in the next meeting on May 12th held at Gallaudet University. That event was also well attended.  When comments were called,the first was from Anise Jenkins asking whether funds would be available to help low income activists go to the various political Conventions this summer.  I asked whether we should add outreach to the foreign embassies in DC given that ALL other major capitals have full citizens' rights and also whether there would be cooperation with Puerto Rico since they suffer similarly.  Another comment emphasized the reduction of the 1982 and 1987 delegate numbers to new 13 number maintaining the status quo.  He also explained the much larger delegations and bicameral nature of most all state legislatures.  I believe this was by the man quoted below:  [NOTE - my Blogger refuses to allow me to enlarge the material below]