TONIGHT: An Evening of Education and Entertainment in Support of DC Statehood at the U.S. Capitol
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Statehood for the District of Columbia – The Boston Globe, December 2nd, 1992
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The Boston Globe, December 2nd, 1992
It has a larger population than three states and is nearly as large as three more. Its citizens pay among the highest federal income taxes in all states. It has no power to tax those who work within its borders but take their pay home to states with which it has no reciprocal tax agreements. It is subject to the legislative-decisions of a body on which it has no voting representation.
It is the nation’s capital, and its citizens want and deserve a better break, one possible only through direct participation in federal government. As the most outspoken champion of statehood for Washington, D.C., Rev. Jesse Jackson plans to hold President-elect Clinton to his promise to make it a state, because only with that status can the district end the worst anomalies of its politically segregated condition.
When the Constitution provided for a federal district, it assigned full legislative control to Congress when few envisioned the capital becoming a major city with a population larger than that of any state at the time.
Congress has long kept the city in a degree of thralldom that suited the convenience of representatives and senators, who legislate matters as trivial as taxicab rules. The problem was exacerbated by longtime bigotry against the city’s large black population from a Congress often dominated by members from the Old South.
Congress has partly acknowledged the inequity by granting citizens of the district a nonvoting member of the House and by allowing D.C. residents to vote in presidential elections. The district has three electoral votes–exactly what it would have if it were a full-fledged state with two senators and a member of the House.
The political question of D.C. statehood has been complicated by its predominantly Democratic voter registration, making the matter unpalatable for Republicans when the balance of power could hinge on just a few votes. That is a weak excuse for perpetuating political inequity in a country launched on a cry of `no taxation without representation.’ Make the district a state.
The D.C. Plantation: Freedom Soon? – The New York Times, November 25th, 1991
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New York Times, Nov. 25, 1991
The effort to grant statehood to Washington, D.C., could well become a campaign issue in 1992.
A bill that would admit the District to the Union as New Columbia, the 51st state, was introduced in the Senate on Thursday. And hearings on the House version of the bill saw a welcome burst of enthusiasm. Three Democratic Presidential candidates testified in favor of statehood and others sent messages of support.
That’s as it should be. The District’s treatment is a scandal, albeit one with a long history. The Federal Government runs the city like a plantation, denying it a voting representative in Congress, forbidding it even rudimentary self-rule and limiting severely its ability to raise revenue.
President Bush favors keeping the District on its knees. But Gov. Bill Clinton of Arkansas, Gov. Douglas Wilder of Virginia and Senator Tom Harkin of Iowa testified before Congress that the District deserved to become a full partner in the Union. The three were on the mark.
Washingtonians have long been denied rights that the rest of us take for granted. They weren’t allowed to vote in Presidential elections until 1964. And it was not until the Home Rule Act of 1973 that they could elect a mayor and city council; both had previously been appointed.
The Home Rule Act left the Federal Government’s dictatorial powers intact. Congress can overturn any law the District council passes. A powerful senator can throw some cash to friends by attaching amendments to the city’s budget bill. And one meddlesome Congressman can by himself trigger bearings on any law by simply raising an objection to it.
The Federal Government is not above extortion. Mr. Bush recently vetoed the city budget, forcing the District to ban the use of locally raised tax revenues to furnish abortions for impoverished women. And Congress used similar blackmail to force repeal of a law that made gun dealers and manufacturers liable for injuries from assault weapons. The citizens have reinstated the measure; gun-lobbying senators may yet thwart it. The District’s non-voting representative, Eleanor Holmes Norton, spends much of her time fending off odious infringements like these.
Fiscal restrictions abound. The Federal Government’s real estate is exempt from taxation; the city is forbidden to tax the earnings of commuters, most of whom are Federal employees. District officials say these restrictions cause the city to forgo $1.9 billion in revenues per year. Last year the Federal Government paid a paltry $430 million in return. Denied sources of revenue, the city levies some of the highest taxes in the nation.
Those who oppose statehood typically offer weak constitutional arguments against it. It seems fairly clear, however, that Republicans who oppose statehood do so because the District would send two more Democrats to the Senate.
But most Americans understand democracy well. The issue of statehood for the District raises an obvious question: How can we justify championing democracy abroad while inflicting second-class citizenship in the nation’s capital? The answer is obvious, too: We can’t.
Free the Government’s Plantation – The New York Times, October 6th, 1991
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The New York Times, Oct. 6, 1991
Washington, D.C., with a population of 607,000, has more people than Alaska, Wyoming or Vermont. But its elected officials have no real power and the city is denied a voting representative in Congress. The Federal Government treats the District as a colony, controlling local policy on issues ranging from sanitation to abortion and undermining the city’s ability to raise revenues.
Washingtonians deserve self-government no less than other Americans. A bill pending in Congress, H.R. 2482, would admit Washington to the union as New Columbia, the 51st state. The bill deserves attention and a vote of approval in the House. But that won’t happen until languid Democrats schedule hearings. The legislators need to provide more than lip service they’ve given to statehood in recent years. Even if statehood fails, debate could suggest intermediate solutions. The current arrangement is more suited to a dictatorship than a democracy.
Washingtonians have suffered long under second-class citizenship. They were first allowed to vote in Presidential elections in 1964. Permission to elect local officials followed slowly: in 1968, the school board; in 1971, a non-voting delegate to the House of Representatives; and in 1973, the mayor and the city council.
The Home Rule Act of 1973, which granted limited self-rule, contained dictatorial restrictions. The city cannot so much as reschedule garbage collection without groveling before Congress, which has 30 days in which to disapprove. Nor can the city determine its own budget or set independent policies. President George Bush recently forced the District to disallow the use of local tax revenues to furnish abortions for impoverished women. His weapon: vetoing the city budget. Impoverished victims of rape and incest will be denied a choice available to American women elsewhere.
The Federal presence harms the city fiscally. The District is forbidden to tax nonresidents, many of them Federal workers, who comprise about 60 percent of the work force. Federal properties are also exempt from real estate taxes. The city calculates that all taxing restrictions combined cost it $1.9 billion a year in revenues.
An ill-informed Mr. Bush said last year that he opposed statehood because the city’s funds `come almost exclusively from the Government.’ That’s wrong. The Federal contribution at that time was about 14 percent of the city budget, the Government gave a paltry $430 million in lieu of lost tax revenues. The cost of municipal services provided to the Government is difficult to calculate but potentially worrisome.
Those who oppose statehood often claim that the Constitution forbids creation of a state in the District. That claim is without merit. The Constitution says only that Congress will exercise exclusive legislative control over a seat of Government that does not exceed 10 miles square. A state could be created that reduce the size of the Federal enclave but not eliminate it.
The real objections to statehood are political. When Mr. Bush opposes statehood, he is opposing the creation of two additional Democratic Senators, one of whom would surely be Jesse Jackson, now an unpaid lobbyist, or `shadow senator,’ who represents Washington in the Senate. The Democrats also have acted spinelessly, giving statehood little more than token support.
How can the United States champion democracy abroad while it disenfranchises District citizens who die in wars and pay taxes the same way other Americans do? There is every reason for Democrats to gather courage, convene hearings and then bring the issue to the floor. Sooner or later, Congress will realize it has more important tasks than overseeing schedules for garbage collection.