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 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.

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).
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     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 - Ward 5 Town Hall to discuss draft constitution, Birdie Backus/UDC-CC, 5171 South Dakota Ave., NE, 6:00 - 8:00pm. (same)
6/4 - Ward 7 Town Hall to discuss draft constitution, (apparently combined with Ward 8).
6/4 - Ward 8 Town Hall to discuss draft constitution, Thurgood Marshall Academy, 2427 Martin Luther King, Jr. Ave., SE from 1:00 - 3:00pm.
6/6 - Ward 2 Town Hall to discuss draft constitution, MLK Library, 901 G St., NW, 6:00 - 8:00 pm.  (unclear where and when)
6/7 - Ward 1 Town Hall to discuss draft constitution, African American Civil War Museum, 1925 Vermont Ave., NW, 6:00 - 8:00pm.
6/8 - Ward 4 Town Hall to discuss draft constitution, Raymond Recreation Center, 3725 10th Street, NW, from 6:00 - 8:00pm. 
6/9 - Working groups present recommendations to the New Columbia Statehood Comm., Student Center, UDC, 4200 Connecticut Ave., NW, 6:30-9:00pm.
6/14 – Primary Election day, at your designated Precinct.
6/17-18 - New Columbia Statehood Comm. convenes Constitutional Convention, 6/17 location TBD, 6:00 - 10:00pm, 6/18 location TBD, 9:00am - 1:00pm. [these times will make it hard for our seniors to attend both sessions given the late Friday and early Saturday timing].
6/24 - Convene meeting of New Columbia Statehood Commission to approve emergency legislation, including Constitution, WB, G-9, time TBD.
6/30 - Mayor, on behalf of the New Columbia Statehood Commission (NCSC), will submit the NCSC Resolution to Council.  [Will there be public hearings?]
7/5 - Council approves resolution for Statehood.
7/8 - Advisory Referendum filed with Board of Elections.
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.
9/15 - Board of Elections certifies the Advisory Referendum to be placed on 11/8 ballot.
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]

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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