Monday, September 22, 2014

Free DC: The US Capital is the Last Plantation. Guest Post - Scott McLarty

     Last week (9/15/14) I was excited to attend Sen. Tom Carper's hearing regarding the need to allow our taxpaying citizens in DC to become a state with all the rights of the 300 million other citizens in the US.  The medium sized hearing room was packed with standing room only and a sizable line outside the door hoping to get in.

     It was pointed out that no other major capitol denies its residents full citizenship rights. When Argentina and another country wrote a new constitution based on our own, the citizens of their capitals were so outraged that this peculiarity enshrined over 200 years ago in our constitution was quickly corrected in their two constitutions.  We must insist on this too.  Scott McLarty's article below has other interesting details.

     If you elect me to be Chairman of the DC Council this November 4th, one of my first acts will be to expedite action on fine tuning and passing the bill to provide a million dollars for an aggressive campaign to promote Statehood.
G. Lee Aikin, Candidate, Council Chair

A Step Forward for Democracy in D.C.

By Scott McLarty
FireDogLake, September 16, 2014

"The capital of the nation is the last plantation!" "Free D.C.!"

For decades, residents of "America's last colony" have clamored for the same irrevocable rights as other citizens of the United States.

The movement to bring democracy to the District of Columbia took a step forward on Monday, September 15, when local political leaders and representatives of pro-democracy groups testified in favor of statehood for the nation's capital city before the U.S. Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Government Affairs (

The subject of the committee hearing, which was led by Sen. Tom Carper (D-Del.), was the "New Columbia Admissions Act" (S. 132 (; with counterpart bill H.R. 292 ( in the U.S. House).

Among those testifying were D.C. Delegate Eleanor Holmes Norton, who holds a nonvoting seat in the House, and Mayor Vince Gray. The hearing is unlikely to lead to passage of the two bills any time soon, given Congress's ongoing gridlock and Republican hostility to D.C. statehood.

But the hearing represents an advance for the statehood movement because a new unity behind the goal of statehood was on display.

Until recently, many of the same officials who now seek statehood preferred another goal, "D.C. voting rights," which meant a single voting seat for the District in the House of Representatives. Ten years ago, Del. Norton and other Democratic leaders who favored D.C. voting rights tried to discourage D.C. democracy advocates from demanding statehood ( Endorsement of statehood was removed from the Democratic Party's national platform in 2004 and still hasn't been restored. The promotion of D.C. voting rights legislation led many people to confuse voting representation in Congress with statehood.

This was a mistake. Self-determination and self-government, not representation in a legislature, are the true measures of democracy. Colonies in Africa and Asia and conquered European nations like Ireland held voting seats in the legislatures of nations that ruled over them, even while they suffered exploitation and oppression. Many of these colonies, like Algeria, a French possession until 1962, became free only after violent revolutions.

Our own Founding Fathers and Mothers in the thirteen colonies fought for independence, not voting rights. Patrick Henry never said "Give me a vote in Parliament or give me death."

The D.C. voting rights legislation went nowhere, and not only because of Republican contempt for the rights of D.C. residents. Even when Democrats controlled both houses of Congress and the White House, most recently in 2009 and 2010, no meaningful expansion of the rights of D.C. residents has taken place after limited Home Rule was granted in 1973. Legislation to grant statehood to D.C. was defeated in the U.S. House in 1993 by a vote of 277 to 153.

Statehood advocates (those not distracted by D.C. voting rights) have always understood that the lack of voting representation in Congress is just one of several reasons for statehood, and that self-government and full equality under the U.S. Constitution for the District with its black majority remain part of the unfinished business of the Civil Rights Movement. (For a more thorough history of the D.C. democracy movement, see "The D.C. Statehood Papers: Writings on D.C. Statehood & self-government" by Sam Smith,

Until D.C. becomes a state, Congress holds the power to veto locally passed decisions and impose unwanted laws, policies, and budgets on D.C. residents. Congress threatens to nullify a local marijuana legalization measure: in July, 2014, a Maryland Republican Representative inserted an amendment into the District's 2015 Appropriation Bill that would stop decriminalization of marijuana from taking effect and remove the initiative from the D.C. ballot in November. In June, House Republicans blocked funding for a law passed by D.C. Council that would eliminate the threat of jail time for marijuana possession. In 1998, Congress overturned a ballot measure for medical marijuana (Initiative 59) that had passed with a 69% majority.

Congress has imposed zero-tolerance laws and a charter-school program; outlawed needle exchange in D.C. to prevent HIV transmission; and prohibited District government from taxing commuters, a source of revenue for all other cities. Congress members have tried to enact the death penalty, impose a school voucher program, and deny benefits for same-sex couples. In 2001, Congress, through an appointed Financial Control Board, ordered Mayor Anthony Williams to dismantle D.C. General Hospital, the District's sole full-service public health facility.

In the only public referendum on the issue, over 60% of D.C. residents voted in favor of statehood in 1980. 

Groups that have consistently advocated statehood, like the Stand Up! for Democracy in D.C. Coalition, the D.C. Statehood Green Party, D.C. Statehood -- Yes We Can, and Neighbors United For D.C. Statehood are encouraged that Democratic leaders have seen the light and embraced the call for genuine democracy in the form of statehood.

Weaving a New Star

The New Columbia Admissions Act is consistent with arguments by statehood advocates that statehood for the District can be achieved by an Act of Congress (requiring a 51% simple majority), without a constitutional amendment (requiring ratification by 2/3 of states). In 1846, an Act of Congress removed Arlington from D.C. and ceded it to Virginia, proving that Congress can legally alter the District's borders.

Congress may therefore reduce the constitutionally mandated federal enclave to encompass only the federal properties (White House, Capitol, Mall, etc.), after which D.C. would be admitted to the union as a state, just as all other states were admitted after the initial thirteen colonies. Along with freedom from Congress's control, D.C. residents will enjoy the same voting representation in Congress as all other Americans: one Representative and two Senators.

For many D.C. activists, the goals of statehood and economic, social, and racial justice are inseparable.

"Within the constraints of colonial Home Rule, we must be determined to push its limits by putting in place a progressive D.C. tax structure, expanding funding of our low-income budget, and establishing a D.C. public bank holding our revenue instead of Wall Street. These measures would help energize our local movement for D.C. statehood," said David Schwartzman, D.C. Statehood Green Party activist and candidate for "Shadow" U.S. Senator.

"The opportunity to become a state and enjoy full constitutional rights and citizenship will also be an opportunity to further reduce income inequality and better the quality of life for all D.C. residents. We won't suffer Congress's veto power over our laws and budgets. We can assert control over our own school system, rather than tolerate the imposition of charter schools by Congress."

D.C. statehood has been the D.C. Statehood Green Party's most conspicuous plank since its founding as the D.C. Statehood Party in 1970 by Julius Hobson and other local civil rights leaders. The D.C. Statehood Green Party is an affiliate of the Green Party, which has endorsed D.C. statehood in its national platform since the party was founded.

Ten years ago, the D.C. Statehood Green Party and Stand Up! for Democracy in D.C. Coalition helped draft a petition that was sent to the United Nations Committee on Human Rights and the U.N. Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination, which monitor compliance with treaties that the U.S. has signed and ratified. In 2006, the Human Rights Committee found that the District's lack of voting representation in Congress violated the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights. The ruling was the result of a decade of work by democracy advocate Tim Cooper (

The achievement of statehood ultimately depends on two things. First, the current enthusiasm among D.C. leaders for statehood must be sustained. Any dilution of the New Columbia Admissions Act, in the name of negotiation and compromise, must be resisted.
Second, statehood will require vociferous support from Americans who live outside the District. People who live in cities across the U.S. have good reason to join the demand. City populations are underrepresented in Congress, especially in the U.S. Senate, where sparsely populated states have the same representation as states with dense urban centers. (D.C.'s population is larger than Wyoming's and Vermont's.) The District's new Reps and Senators would thus speak for city-dwellers in other states, whose interests are often similar to those of D.C. residents.

The admission of a state whose population is slightly more than half black (50.1% in 2012) would incrementally help correct another severe form of underrepresentation in Congress.

President Obama, when asked recently about D.C. statehood, said "I'm for it." But the White House declined to send a representative to the September 15 hearing. As the November 4 midterm election approaches, the movement to weave a 51st star into the flag will benefit from speakouts and rallies in Washington, D.C., as well as challenges from people living in states across the country directed at their Congress members and the Obama Administration: "If you support democracy and human rights for all Americans, help enact D.C. statehood."

Saturday, September 20, 2014

G. Lee Aikin answers DC Alliance of Youth Advocates, Candidate Questionnaire

I am currently running for Chairman of the DC City Council in the Nov. 4, 2014 General Election. 

[My answers submitted to DCAYA will appear directly below the question.  Additional paragraphs will provide other ideas that exceed the 150 word limit.]

Candidate Youth Issue Questionnaire
By DC Alliance of Youth Advocates
Please limit your answer to 150 words. Any words over the limit will be deleted. If you would like, you may hyperlink some of the text in your answer to provide more context or information via an internet link. Please be specific in your answer. If you do not agree with the premise of the question, you may note that, give a reason why, and address the topic as you see as appropriate.

1) What youth-specific legislation would you introduce in your first 100 days of office?

*Moratorium on new Public Charter Schools (PCS) until inequities between the DC Public Schools (DCPS) and PCS's corrected. Legislation requiring student funding returns to DCPS when PCS's dismiss students midyear. When PCS send back students prior to spring testing, the scores should credit to the longest attended school. Fairer for DCPS and PCS parents.
*Eliminate Basic Business License requirement for many businesses grossing under $200,000 annually. Require half day tax preparation class with $25 fee. Don't hamper good youth jobs like dog walking, Avon, yard work, etc. with BBL.
*DC has 3,000 alternative education seats available for 14,000 youths without HS diploma; 6,935 after-school expanded learning slots available for 31,633 "at-risk" DC students; over 4,000 homeless students enrolled; and 58% of 20-24 year olds unable to find full-time employment. We must allocate more money for each need.
*Explicit communication channels between schools and hiring businesses need to be funded. [end answer #1]  

2) Homelessness is a clear and present issue in the District of Columbia. Homelessness among minors (under 18), youth (18-24), and young parents (under 24) is a particularly acute and complex issue. How will you address this issue?

*Homelessness among young DC residents could be helped by removing small units of rental rooms (like row houses) and single apartments from the Basic Business License process. Homeowners may rent out two rooms as a matter of right. That should be no part of the BBL.
*In some cultures families exchange their teenage children. This gets kids away from ongoing antagonisms and teaches them something about other people. Perhaps a matching/supervising service could be set up.
*Middle class youth often experience life in college dormitories. Perhaps dormitories with cafeteria and laundry facilities could be built for youths 18-24. Monitors from social work, education, psychology graduate programs could be given free housing to supervise and guide. Job counseling, living skills, study programs, cooking, laundry work, etc. should be part of the in-house environment, solving both homelessness and life skills needs.
See position paper on housing for poor and homeless. [end answer #2]

Additional thoughts on Question #2:
Homeless people are often not without skills and in many cases they would relish the opportunity to acquire skills. My position paper on housing needs describes training the homeless in construction work at the same time that they acquire credits toward a down payment on the units that they are building. The cash costs of construction should be somewhat low since the only full salaried people would be the teaching staff. Some fraction of the units could be sold at market rates to fund a large fraction of the programs costs. The remaining units could be allocated to those with the most hours worked on building prior units. A mortgage could be issued with payment to be covered with some specific number of additional hours of work each month. However, after the units are allocated the goal would be to find full time work in the private sector to free up slots for the next group of trainees.
For many people a housing first program is needed. The trauma of existing on the streets can be so acute that the only answer is to get housing for them. The nutritional, medical, educational and counseling needs must be evaluated and provided on an individual basis. 

3) Only 13.2% of 16-19 years olds and 42% of 20-24 years olds were able to find paid, unsubsidized employment that they were qualified for in DC in 2011. What is your plan to improve successful entry to the workforce for DC youth?

*The current drug war and its "gift" of criminal records to minority youth is a needless job search barrier. Annually twice as many DC youth have marijuana arrests as graduate from high school.
*We must reestablish youth vocational education as a major study option. Radical improvements in vocational education would greatly narrow the job gap.
*Many DC jobs do require some college education. Denmark has free university education and they pay their students to go to school. Can we find the money to do something similar?
*Another option is a government funded micro-lending operation financing small business for unemployed youth. If youth have a coherent business plan and can convince an evaluation team of successful peers, they deserve the chance to start their own business. People need not be hired by others if they have a personal vision of how to serve an existing need in the community.  [end answer #3]

Additional thoughts on Question #3:
Academicians have tended to stress college and professional education to the serious neglect of the kinds of jobs we cannot send overseas. It typically costs more in materials and work spaces but there is high demand for well trained construction workers, car repair technicians, electricians, plumbers, health care and food service workers, and other vocational trades. In a recent conversation with Andy Shallal (who employs 500+ food service workers), he said graduates of our DC funded culinary training were typically unqualified for the jobs he has available. Much more than just increasing funds for vocational education, we need to legislate better methods of linking the training we deliver with the actual jobs out there.  Employers need to communicate to the government and students the nature of the current job market and give clear feedback on requirements to get those jobs.  

4) Recent studies have shown that quality expanded learning improves DC youths’ cognitive and non-cognitive skills. Yet, each year there are thousands of DC youth who remain unable to participate in programs that improve academic, social/emotional, health and workforce readiness outcomes. What do you think are the barriers? How would you remove the barriers you’ve identified?

*Teach young learners to take advantage of computer based resources.
*There is an explosion in Massive Open On-Line Courses (MOOCs). Schools should invest much more in technology to utilize such available resources. Making the relatively small effort to match individual youth with resources would expand their cognitive and non-cognitive skill sets.
*Coursera currently offers 728 courses from 110 partners. EdX offers 229 courses. Many US universities offer other courses independently. Many foreign universities offer English language MOOCs.
*This is not a panacea. Many who attempt these courses will drop out if starting on their own. It is quite helpful to have them learning along with other people going through the same process, plus supervision.
*There should be mechanisms to match a given course with the goals and current level of the student. Mechanisms tracking which MOOCs works for DC youth for any specific purpose are also needed. [end answer #4]

5) In DC, around 14,000 youth are disconnected from school and work. The majority of them are trying to re-engage, but there are many obstacles including a time-consuming childcare voucher system, costly public transport, and having to go to several bureaus to get proper documentation. How would you most effectively address these barriers?

*Businesses in general and especially any connected with DC job training programs should have in-house day care available.
*Low cost or free Metro and bus Smart Trip Cards could solve many transport issues.
*More needs to be done to place sites providing needed documentation in the same building.
*An elderly handicapped friend had to get a Basic Business License to have an Agency supervise renting her apartment when she traveled for 6 months. She sat for hours in 2 different offices at DCRA, 1 office at OTR, and then made the difficult drive to Anacostia to complete the process. This was outrageous for her and the same for young people trying to get a start. As I said before, eliminating the BBL for businesses grossing under $200,000 removes a major barrier.
*I worked many hours trying to save neighborhood street vending, including an apprentice license for youth. [end answer#5]

In order to have a better understanding of the issues in the Questionnaire, I and one of my advisers met for an hour with DC Alliance of Youth Advocates staff.  We were told this organization has around 150 member organizations in their Alliance.  They also share an office with youth legal advocates.  We left with an invitation to return with others wishing to know more about their critical work and how to assist it. at 2:21 AM

We  would welcome ideas from others on improving conditions for our youth in the Comments section,

Friday, September 12, 2014

DC Mayoral race, 2014, Catania and Schwartz Views on Small Entrepreneurs/Street Vendors (1998)

Since I am currently a candidate in the November 2014 election for Chairman of the DC Council, people have asked for more details on my experience.  The article below, which is based on the Candidate Questionnaire I wrote regarding vending is an example.
Recent developments are added in brackets [2014.....].

Responses of Current DC Mayoral Candidates David Catania and Carol Schwartz to an earlier questionnaire about Street Vending laws and DCRA practices (DCMR 24).

Two years ago when I was running for At Large, City Counsel, I listed as one of my accomplishments: “Served 3 years on Mayor's Task Force on Street Vending. Strongly support promoting and protecting small entrepreneurs and workers rights and needs. Will also work to improve and expand modern vocational education and training as well as employment opportunities for 'returned citizens'” We met once a week for 3 hours, I estimate spending more than 500 hours, unpaid, on meetings and secretarial duties.

Actually, it was two task forces with two mayors running from about 1994 through 1997. Our struggle as vendor members was to prevent the destruction of vending as a viable income and business opportunity for low income DC residents. For those who had served time, it was also work that did NOT require checking the box that asked, “Have you ever been arrested/convicted.”

In previous years there had been as many as 7,000 licensed vendors, by the time DCRA and other bureaucrats got finished, about 1700 vendors remained, many of them downtown or truck vendors. For many years trucks bearing produce had traveled through poorer underserved neighborhoods bring fresh fruit and vegetables. That has been forbidden, to the nutritional harm of those areas.

One of the saddest things I saw was an elderly, frail African American man who would drag his chair to Connecticut Ave, and sit on his little box of shoe shine materials waiting for the occasional customer. We would chat and he said he earned $20 or $30 a day (l990s). It wasn't much, but it enabled him to survive and he took pride in giving a fine shoe shine. His kind of operation was eliminated, I hope HE wasn't.

We were severely disappointed in the response of both mayors to all our hard work and creative ideas. We organized and formed a group called DC Vendors United. We also started a publication “Vendors' Voice For Victory.” For the November 1998 election we sent questionnaires to DC candidates for Mayor, City Council and Congress.

Two of the people who answered then are current Mayoral candidates DAVID CATANIA and CAROL SCHWARTZ. I thought you might be interested in seeing their responses and thinking in 1998, as you make your voting decisions for this November 2014.

Here are informative excerpts that were printed in the October 1998 issue of VVV.

Dear Candidate:                               October 15, 1998

     If you are successful this November in your election campaign, you will have an important opportunity to bring economic wellbeing and justice to our City. We are writing to make you aware of certain problems blocking prosperity for our lowest income entrepreneurs and to enlist your support and ideas for correcting these problems.
There has been a steady erosion of the rights and economic opportunities of licensed D.C. Street vendors, to the point that now only 30% of vendors are D.C. Residents. There has also been a reduction in the total number of about 65% to 75% over the past 15 years, this at a time when legislators have cried high and low that we need to get more people off welfare.
     The Holland and Knight consultants hired by the Control Board to evaluate the Brazil Bill on regulatory reform have stated that vending is “one of a number of small business enterprises that the District should encourage” and it offers “an entry point for small businesses with low capital requirements.” Their report further states that vending “can benefit consumers by offering goods at lower prices and convenient locations” and “bring a sense of vitality and diversity to the city and improve the quality of city life.”
     We would very much like to know your views and ideas concerning vending legislation and oversight.... We hope we can work together to enhance a positive micro business climate in our City. {Catania answered all questions, Schwartz answered 3, but apparently we did not receive additional answers from her. Candidate answers will appear below each question.}


1. Several years ago the vending squad was disbanded and several police officers were convicted and/or retired without loss of benefits in the wake of allegations of corruption.
          QUESTION: If, in fact, such corruption continues to operate in the police or other regulatory agencies, what would you want to do about it legislatively, and in an oversight capacity? [2014—Despite asking for an accounting of payments received for licenses and $1500 Fee in Lieu of Taxes, for 4 years, we were never provided this information. We were particularly concerned because much of this was paid in cash.]
     Catania—Last March, I introduced a piece of legislation which would create an elected Attorney General for the District of Columbia. Currently, the District's felonies and major misdemeanors are prosecuted by a Presidentally appointed U.S. Attorney, who is not accountable to the residents of the District. My proposal would create an elected Attorney General for the District that would have greater prosecutorial powers and would focus on corruption and governmental integrity issues. In person he explained the advantage of this system is that the AG would be a watchdog and power center separate from the Mayor. Since the AG would be a potential competitor for the Mayor's office, the Mayor would be under greater pressure to perform well and honestly.
     [2014—At long, long last we are actually having our FIRST election of our own Attorney General in November. Thank you Mr. Catania.]

2. There have been persistent problems with special events vending, wherein licensed (fee and tax paying) D.C. vendors have been forced off their customary vending spots, sometimes even when they have been promised this would not happen. In addition whole streets have been sold off to outsiders, who then sold small spaces to other outside vendors at inflated prices. [2014—We also never received an accounting of how much was received from these sales, and to whom payments were made.]
          QUESTION: What should be done to ensure that D.C. vendors (who spend their revenues in our own community) have a full opportunity to participate in special events?
     Catania—A preference should be given to vendors who have a customary vending spot for special events. Special event organizers should not be permitted to usurp the customary vending spots of D.C. vendors. DCRA regulations should be written to ensure that D.C. vendors are not closed out of special events.

3. A related trend has occurred with our community festivals. Overwhelming popularity forced the Hispanic Festival out of Adams Morgan and down to the Mall. This has also happened to the Gay Pride Celebration. This year the Georgia Ave. and Adams Morgan Day Festivals were harmed when faced with charges for police services that were 10 times those ascribed to the MCI Center for their daily police overtime.
          QUESTION: How can we protect and enhance the community nature of our local festivals, and maintain opportunities for cultural interaction, local small entrepreneurs, charitable organizations, and licensed street vendors?
     Catania—The festivals that are mentioned in the question simply became too big for the respective communities in which they were previously held. Public safety concerns forced the relocation of these events to larger spaces. I prefer the festivals to take place in our neighborhoods. One way to encourage other events is to offer police protection—and other city services—free of charge to event organizations. Often these costs make it prohibitively expensive to host such events and therefore discourage them.

4. There have been problems in the past year with the open air vending at Eastern Market, and most recently at the popular flea market on Wisconsin Avenue. It seems that such venues are being systematically threatened or downsized. We recently discovered that a proposal from the manager of the Eastern Market sidewalk vending to establish a short term flea market on the vacant Mt. Vernon Square site languished in a D.C. Government office for 2 years with no action.
          QUESTION: What can you and this City do to expand these well-received small markets, and enhance the economic empowerment of these small part-time and full-time vendors and craftspeople?
     Catania—The best thing the City Council and DCRA can do is to be responsive toward vendor and community requests for greater open air vending. I happen to shop at the Farmer's Market in Dupont Circle and find it to be a wonderful addition to the neighborhood. I suspect DCRA does not make it easy for such open air vending enterprises to be established or to succeed. DCRA needs to be more responsive to the desires of communities for these activities.
     [2014—Given that Mayoral candidate Muriel Bowser has been chairing the committee overseeing DCRA, I am wondering whether there have been any improvements under her supervision?]

5. Over the years there have sometimes been conflicts between local merchants, elements of the community, and vendors; such as in Adams Morgan and Alabama Ave., S.E. Vendors have expressed the willingness to support financially a Vendors Commission that could resolve issues involving vendors, fixed site businesses, the community, and the government.
          QUESTION: How would you respond to establishing such a commission, and what other ideas do you have regarding resolving such issues?
     Catania—I am a little concerned about establishing a Vendors Commission given the past history of certain commissions. For example, the Taxi Commission was established in part to help address concerns of drivers, but it has arguably evolved into a body which protects the industry and not the dirvers. I believe that DCRA can establish standards of practice and can then arbitrate conflicts within and administrative proceeding within the Agency without establishing another Commission.
     [2014—Did DCRA ever establish such practices, and if so has it worked, or should this issue be revisited with 16 years hindsight?]

6. The Recreation Dept. is one of the few direct responsibilities remaining to the Mayor [because of the Control Board], and by inference to the City Council.
QUESTION: Accordingly, what creative use could be made of Recreation Dept. space to enhance community economic empowement wih local flea markets and entrepreneurial activities?
Catania—I have not given this issue much thought, but I would be very willing to meet with vendors and the respective communities affected by their proposals to encourage this activity.

7. The Holland &Knight Report came out against the moratorium on new vending licenses and recommended reviewing the ending of vending around the MCI Center.
          QUESTION: Are you willing to sponsor or support emergency legislation to immediately lift these restrictions as recommended?
     Schwartz—I would certainly consider legislation to lift the moratorium on new licenses and the prohibition against vending around the MCI Center because I wholeheartedly believe in free market competition.
     [2014--Sixteen years later there is still no vending at the MCI Center which presents a sterile exterior. And I believe the moratorium on new vendors is also still in effect.]

8. In the past decade a number of lucrative RFP's have been contracted out regarding street vending and economic development. Their results have seldom been acted upon to assist street vending, community development, or economic empowerment, although they have benefited consulting firms.
          QUESTION: What can you as an elected official do to shift this economic gain to the community rather than to outside consultants?
     Catania—I am not a fan of consultants. In my opinion, the District has spent a lot of money over the past few years on consultants with very little to show for it. I don't believe in government by consultants. We know who the interested parties are and we should bring them together to resolve mutual concerns.
     Schwartz—It has been a long-standing practice of my to support local businesses. When you are looking to find out about a city, you should first look to the city. As an elected official, I have always supported going with the best-qualified contractor, to get the job done. Some qualities the winning contractor should have are experience, knowledge of street vending in Washington, D.C., focus points for economic development in our city, and knowledge of our people. These characteristics are not usually found in a stranger; these are usually found in a neighbor.
     [2014—Unfortunately the vendor friendly Holland and Knight recommendations were not implemented. Was money spent on their consulting a total waste?]

9. An unexpected proposal has just surfaced from the Control Board to auction all street vending spaces to the highest bidder. Previously, City officials have said they want to make street vending more like other public space based businesses. Currently sidewalk cafes pay $5/sq.ft./year often enclosing and heating their space. Sidewalk vendors can occupy a maximum of 31.5 sq.ft., and must remove their stand daily, and have no weather protection. We fear this is part of a plan to allow corporate vendors with permanent kiosks to set up showcase, loss-leader vending operations.
          QUESTION: What is your position on this attempt to auction the people's streets to the highest bidder?
     Catania—I do not have a position on this issue. I am inclined to favor the continuation of the current system because it provides modest income individuals a chance to own their own businesses. My fear is that auctioning off sites would discourage new vendors.
     Schwartz—I have always supported our local businesses. It is not our place to drive business out of our city; it is our place to provide an atmosphere where local business can flourish. Any proposed change to the existing vending system must be looked at very closely and I would seek input from individual vendors before making any decisions on this proposed change or any other.
     [2014—Apparently this particular corporate grab was shot down, although having witnessed the recent Walmart controversy it is hardly a dead issue. Alas, even though the sidewalk vending sites are not auctioned new vendors are thoroughly discouraged by the moratorium.]

NOTE:  I particularly look forward to comments from vendors on the current state of street vending and recent DCRA and police treatment of vendors.

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

G. LEE AIKIN, Experience, Goals, Hopes, as Candidate, Chairman, DC Council 2014 & At Large 2016

While many of the goals I had in 2012 remain the same, there are important differences in my goals this year.  I was delighted to see that the change I had promoted for 10 years to put $85 million annually back in the pockets of poor and middle class workers was finally approved by the Council, I was very distressed that we will have to wait until 2019 to see the full benefit.  Then I saw that taxpayers between $25 and $50 thousand will benefit less than $400 while those earning over $1 million will gain more than $8,000.  [In 2015 (2014 tax year) an improved revised D-40, Schedule E was in force, but nobody is being told about it and it is a shame since so many are eligible to get up to $1,000 back.  This benefit plus needed forms is in another of my blog posts.]

So once again the little guy was being made to take crumbs while the big guy was raking in the gravy.  The 4 year delay in full implementation must have been needed to give these bigger benefits to the "important" people.  That is when I decided I must run for Chairman of the DC Council.  This body needs a conscience, gadfly, and any other role I can play effectively.  [In 2016 I am running for At Large to the Council in the June 14, 2016 Primary Election.  While a bit more of our $85 million annual benefit was increased slightly, tax year 2019 is still to long to wait.]

Just this evening (9/9/14) I was told that my opponent has been sitting on a bill that would have our government Divest (no longer own) our funds from companies that are anti environment.  Divesting is powerful.  During the years we supported the struggle of black Africans in South Africa, this tool was used to strong effect in the US and Europe. 

Whether or not I can win, the more votes I get the more I will be able to push important changes for the little guy.  Please forward this blog to others who care to learn details on what is going on in government.  I don't have funds for mass mailings, I have to count on the people to support and spread the word on my candidacy.  If you would like to donate, please write out and send your check to Elect G. Lee Aikin, 1754 Swann St., NW, Washington, DC 20009
Below is my updated resume.

G. LEE AIKIN                                                                               September 2014
Candidate, Chairman DC Council, DCSGP  
See political blog:

While standing on the Mall listening to Martin Luther King, Jr.'s dream, I too had a dream, of some day voting in the State of DC, a stronger dream after 53 voteless years.  Let's build a city so outstanding and worthy people will be inspired to support our statehood status.  Let's carry on the legacy of Statehood Party leader, Hilda Mason (Washington, DC statehood advocate and longest-serving elected official in DC history). 

LEE AIKIN’S GOALS & OBJECTIVES: as Chairman of DC Council
Will strive to persuade Council members to enact legislation helping poor and middle class, not continue expanding benefits to “haves” rather than “have nots”. What helps the big guy often hurts the little guy. We must not let Walmart destroy community businesses. Reduce Class 2 property taxes for small businesses.

We must encourage people to use their lands, buildings, and merchandise for worthwhile community activities.  Let's give legal protection to providers with a “Good Samaritan” (hold harmless) law.

Grow a greener, healthier city using our school resources, vacant lots, rooftops, parks, and public housing lands.  Promote public gardens, good nutrition, and solar energy with creative financing. Negotiate green enhancements to all major projects. Enforce agreements for more low income units in new projects.

Let's ease taxes, regulatory burdens, and nuisance fees that discourage entrepreneurs, business, and affordable housing.  Government must enforce agreements to provide affordable housing set-asides in new housing construction.  Teach useful legal and economic knowledge to all our young people.  

LEE AIKIN’s service record includes:
+ Ten year successful effort to restore 1973 pre-Home Rule tax benefits, will restore $85 million to you all.

+ Served as bilingual (Spanish) Administrative Assistant 3 years to an At-Large member of the DC Board of Education. Upon boss's instructions, I succeeded in finding the argument against Carol Schwartz' memo that DC teachers were overpaid and under-worked which changed two votes and prevented a big strike.

+ Served four years on Mayor's Commission for Food, Nutrition and Health.  I plan to champion child and maternal health, and better care for our older residents, the handicapped and care-taking families.

+ Served 500+ hours on Mayor's Task Force on Street Vending.  Strongly support promoting and protecting small entrepreneurs’ and workers’ rights and needs. Will also work to improve and expand modern vocational education in both technical and laboring jobs.  This is especially needed by our 60,000 returned citizens.  Remove blocks to very small business start-ups--Basic Business License, $100 clean hands, etc.

+ For 10 years was an active union member (OPEIU#2), serving as shop steward, and on contract negotiating team, and as grievance committee member.  Persuaded Union to sponsor collecting books and magazines for prisoners at Lorton Reformatory.  We must end life destroying drug arrests for small amounts.

Vote General Election, Tues., Nov. 8, 2016 [all registered voters eligible]

G. Lee Aikin, candidate:  
[Contact to find out how to register SGP and vote. Volunteers welcome]

MY BIOGRAPHY (from an email to a labor union)
I was born into a labor activist family in 1938. My great grandfather was a founding member of the first British Carpenter's Union. He was a ships joiner. His son, my grandfather, worked extensively with Eleanor Roosevelt, to develop employment projects for out of work (starving) artists in the 1930s. My mother's father was blacklisted from his job forever as a ship's engineer for refusing to cross a picket line in the port of New York (probably Masters, Mates and Seaman) around 1920. My father was a member and usually President, Vice-President or Treasurer of his local of Insurance Workers in NJ starting about 1945 for around 40 years. He was on the NY Port Council. He spent many hours with union activity (management was trying to destroy his union), instead of selling insurance, so we were rather poor.
     I vividly remember him coming home very upset from a union convention in Atlantic City when I was around 10. He was pacing around the kitchen saying, “We went to our hotel and they wouldn't let our two Negro delegates stay there. I wanted us to go across the street where the hotel would take ALL of us, but the guys wouldn't do it. THEY CALL THEMSELVES TRADE UNIONISTS. SHAME ON THEM!!!.” My mother was also a building representative in NJ with the National Education Association.
     At age 23 I married. My husband had been attending American University under a scholarship to study International Labor Relations provided through his union, Intl. Union of Railway and Steamship Clerks. He worked for a time as an escort to various international labor union officials visiting major rail and shipping centers in the US. One was the head of South Africa's equivalent of the AFL-CIO, another was the head of the Brazilian Transport Workers Union. He also spent 3 months in Brazil and 1 month in Peru on a fact finding mission studying conditions of the transport unions of those countries. I helped him with to edit and write the reports he had to prepare for each of those activities--a valuable learning experience. He subsequently became a DC teacher and helped start the DC Teacher's Union. He helped write the first two union contracts, and was Vice President for High Schools and/or Junior Highs. I was quite involved in these activities.
     Around 1965, I started working as a bilingual (Spanish) secretary at The American Institute for Free Labor Development. I was elected Shop Steward for secretaries and clerks and on the grievance committee all the 10 years I was there, and was on the contract negotiating team for two Collective Agreement negotiations. I also took courses on Labor History and other topics and the George Meany Labor School. At one point we held out on signing a contract for almost a year when they tried to back out of maternity benefits they had initially agreed upon. We also successfully fought a Civil Rights case when management announced they would not promote any women to the better paid Program Officer positions. I gave birth to two boys while I worked there, much enjoying the benefits we had fought for. One son is currently in Special Forces and has fought in both Iraq and Afghanistan.
     In the late 1970s I was bilingual Administrative Assistant to At Large elected DC School Board Member, Frank Shaeffer Corona. Early in my employment Mr. Shaeffer Corona pointed to a large file drawer and said, “I want you to look through there and find a way to stop the strike we will have this fall if we can't change some BOE votes to accept the arbitrators' report.” After a good laugh, he said seriously, “Look I know you know a lot about teachers' conditions from your husband's activities. So maybe you can find something in there that we could use.” After an extensive search I discovered a memo that I knew to be completely false from a board member to the others. When I showed it to my boss and explained why it was wrong, he had me do research and I wrote a 50 page report. We distributed it to all Board Members, City Council Members, Congressmen on DC related committees, all Building Representatives and Principals, and the Press. I knew from my husband that the AFT was prepared to throw a major strike team into DC to set a national example, and we probably would have had a 3 week strike. The report changed two Boardmembers' votes and there was no strike.
     Some of my other activities are listed above. From 1995 to 2005, I was caring for my mother, father, and husband as they were dying. My mother and husband who had Alzheimers wanted to die at home, and I honored their wishes. I learned a lot about health care and the problems of senior citizens. I have now recovered my strength, health and enthusiasm and wish to work improving the city I have lived in since the day after President Kennedy was elected. I hope your organization will support my candidacy, as I suspect I have the strongest union background of anyone running in DC.
I just got word from the union I sent this to that I am invited to participate in their candidate forum.  Yippie