The State of Misgovernment
The New York Times, July 21st, 1992
Representative Eleanor Holmes Norton’s speech to the Democratic Convention gave fresh evidence of how the Federal Government treats Washington, D.C.: like a plantation.
The District’s elected officials have only token power. They can’t pass a budget or even reschedule garbage collection without groveling before Congress. The District has 608,000 people, more than Alaska, Wyoming or Vermont. Yet Representative Norton is denied a vote in the Congress that runs her city. As she told the Democrats, `It is too late in the century for Americans to accept colonial rule at the very seat of government.’
The remedy is to admit the District as the 51st state, as called for in the Democratic platform. Congress can do its part by passing the New Columbia Statehood Admission Act, which Ms. Norton introduced more than a year ago.
The hardships the District of Columbia endures are evident in the annual budget process. Congress can prevent the District from spending even locally raised revenues in ways that citizens see fit. During budget hearings, members of Congress grandstand on municipal issues and meddle with the city’s finances on behalf of special interests. Extortionate threats to hold up budget passage are common.
The need for autonomy was highlighted in a recent encounter between Mayor Sharon Pratt Kelly and Representative Thomas J. Bliley of Virginia, the ranking Republican on the House committee that supervises the District. Mr. Bliley berated Mayor Kelly for what he said was foot-dragging on crime.
He is in no position to criticize. He is currently in court challenging a District law intended to reduce the number of weapons on the streets. The law imposes `strict liability’ for semiautomatic rifles and pistols, allowing victims to recover damages from manufacturers and dealers even though they had nothing to do with gun crimes.
Assault weapons are sold legally in Mr. Bliley’s state. And Virginia is a main source of origin for guns confiscated in the District. Mr. Bliley forced the District’s City Council to repeal the law by threatening to block Federal aid. When voters reinstated the law, Mr. Bliley brought his suit. The suit was dismissed; Mr. Bliley has appealed. In essence, this suit argues that Congress’s control supersedes the right to self-government.
The citizens of Washington, D.C., deserve relief from this kind of imperial arrogance. Statehood is the way to provide it.
This newspaper article was obtained from the Congressional Record in the Library of Congress related to H.R. 51, The New Columbia Admission Act of 1993. The article is not in the public domain but is being republished here under the fair use doctrine of U.S. copyright law in order to continue my advocacy for full representation for the American citizens of the District of Columbia.