Statehood Hearing – Carpe Diem

The Chairman of the Senate Homeland Security and Government Affairs Committee (HSGAC), Senator Tom Carper (D-DE), announced that there will be a hearing on September 15th for S. 132, the New Columbia Admission Act, which would grant statehood to the people of the District of Columbia. This will be the first time in over twenty years that there will be a hearing before Congress for this piece of legislation. This is an important opportunity to show the Senate & the country what we want and what we deserve, statehood. We need to seize the opportunity this hearing presents to elevate this issue both in the Senate and around the country and over the next week so let’s get to it.

Below are a few things each and every one of us could do to help push the cause forward:

  1. Email Senate Staff: Draft and send an email asking that their bosses cosponsor S. 132, the New Columbia Admission Act. You can also ask friends and family around the District or in one of the 50 states to do the same. Here’s a list of targeted Senators with staff contacts to email: senate_targetlist_2014
  2. Op-Eds: Draft and submit an Op-Ed to a paper around the country asking citizens of each state and their representatives in Congress to support the statehood legislation. Here’s a write-up on why Op-Eds are so important (http://wp.me/p1xdSF-x6) and a link for how and where to submit Op-Eds and Letters to the Editors for papers around the country (http://www.ccmc.org/node/16179)
  3. The Hearing: We need you at the hearing which is scheduled for September 15th at 3pm in the Senate Dirksen Building Room 342. We need District citizens to turn out for this hearing to both fill the hearing room and the halls of the Dirksen building. We might not all be able to testify and speak with our voices but we can speak with our bodies. Please show up wearing red (DC flag red!!!) and bring a picture of your family if they can’t join as we are all in this together. Let’s show the US Senate that the people of the District want and deserve statehood.
  4. Submit Testimony: While the witness list at the hearing is closed there is an opportunity for all of us to submit our own testimony for the record as to why we believe the Senate should pass S. 132, the New Columbia Admission Act. Please send your testimony to: laura_kilbride@hsgac.senate.gov by close of business on September 30, 2014, and cc us a unitedforstatehood@gmail.com if you don’t mind us sharing your testimony on our Statehood Supporters page.

Statehood is our democratic destiny and we must seize the opportunities this hearing provides us. Let’s be active, let’s be engaged, and let’s help make our country more democratic.

Josh Burch

Brookland, DC

Unitedforstatehood@gmail.com

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No Shame

American Crossroads has no shame and Senator Mary Landrieu should feel no shame. Both are simply doing their jobs but American Crossroads aired an online commercial that paints Senator Landrieu work on behalf of the District of Columbia as something unseemly and thereby shirking her duties as a representative of the people of Louisiana. While the ad might be smart politically in a conservative leaning state it’s intellectually disingenuous and misleading (sadly trademarks of many good political ads). There should be no shame on Senator Landrieu’s part because she is simply doing her job, the job which the people of Louisiana elected her to do while also promoting the basic tenets of our democracy.

There is an underlying implication in the commercial that standing up for and standing with District citizens is something that she should be ashamed of and that Louisiana voters should be mad at her for. It’s fascinatingly depressing that our body politic sees a tactical advantage in looking down upon someone who simply stands up for 660,000 US citizens who are required to pay federal taxes but are denied federal representation in Congress. Senator Landrieu, on a very small scale, has tried to give voice to the voiceless and yet somehow voters are supposed to think there is something wrong with that. If American Crossroads had either an enlightened core or a moral soul that were consistent with the beliefs articulated on their website they would be praising Senator Landrieu for standing up for the unfinished business of the American Revolution instead of condemning her.

If American Crossroads were intellectually honest (again two attributes they seemingly have neither of) they would, as Perry Stein in the Washington City Paper points out, be airing ads against Andy Harris of Maryland or Thomas Massie of Kentucky both of whom have spent considerable time and oxygen using their powers as members of Congress to meddle in the local laws of the District. And unlike Senator Landrieu their forays into local District affairs were not asked for, were unwelcome, and were contrary to the opinions and feelings of the vast majority of District citizens on their respective causes. Their actions were contrary to good principles of democratic governance but American Crossroads remained silent. Representatives Massie and Harris were congressional interlopers of the first degree yet American Crossroas remained mute on their actions which speaks volumes of their hypocrisy.

There should be no shame that our mayor referred to Senator Landrieu as ‘our Senator’ until we become the 51st state. What’s sad is that more Senators don’t act on our behalf  by listening to and respecting the will of the District citizens and standing up for us in a body where we are denied representation. Another fundamental flaw in the ad is the fact that Senator Landrieu serves on the Homeland Security and Government Affairs Committee and was previously chair over the subcommittee that had oversight of the District (since we are a federal district and all). Therefore it literally has been her JOB to work with and support the efforts of the District government. It’s part of her Senate committee assignment duties. Were she not to help the District she wouldn’t be doing her doggone job. Criticizing her for caring about the District is simply criticizing her for doing her job well and that is about as un-American as taxation without representation.

American Crossroads created a political attack ad that was as good as it was disingenuous and misleading. As a District citizen I’m not ashamed of who we are but I am ashamed at times of the country we live in when people are deemed unworthy of elective office when they simply stand up for the democratic rights of others. There is no shame in what Senator Landrieu has done for the District and I hope that she lets the people of Louisiana know that she’s been doing her job and doing it well for them and for those of us who are still denied a voice in Congress.

If American Crossroads or any other organization has a problem with her spending too much time focused on the District I suggest they get on the bandwagon for statehood for the people of DC so that we can have our own two Senators who can work exclusively on our behalf. We would welcome the change. There should be no shame associated with Senator Landrieu for simply trying to walk the talk of the American Revolution by working to respect the will of a free people by supporting our rights to have autonomy and equality in the American union.

 

Josh Burch

Brookland, DC

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Building State by State Constituencies

I had just finished up explaining the details of the DC statehood bill and the reasoning why I believed his boss should cosponsor the bill to a Legislative Director for a US Senator when he leaned back in his chair to think about it for a moment. He let out a sigh and said “what’s fascinating and unfortunate about this cause is that there’s no natural or active constituency for this cause in our state.” He is right and it is one of the biggest problems with the statehood movement because we have very few advocates for our cause in the 50 states who actively pressure their representatives on Capitol Hill to support our cause.

One effective and powerful method to reach wide audiences in each state is to get Op-Eds published about the statehood cause. Op-Eds can be used to both educate citizens about the issue and influence legislators to supporting the cause. Earlier this year I was honored to get an Op-Ed published in the Roanoke Times. After it was published my Virginian relatives followed up with calls and emails to both Senators offices asking them to support the bill. A few weeks later Senator Kaine cosponsored the bill. There is no way to know if the Op-Ed played a role in him joining the bill but it surely didn’t hurt. At a bare minimum the readers of the Roanoke Times got to learn about the statehood cause and why one person believes it is a cause all Americans should embrace.

In the lead up to a hearing on the statehood bill in the Senate it’s vitally important that we start getting this message out state by state and thus WE NEED YOUR HELP!!! If you’re from a state or have friends and family living in a state who would be interested in drafting a pro-DC statehood Op-Ed the time to do it is now. In particular we’re looking for people to send Op-Eds to papers in states where we’d specifically like to influence their Senators and get them to cosponsor the bill. Here’s our list of great states where we would like to prioritize getting Op-Eds published: Alaska, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Hawaii, Maine, Michigan, Minnesota, New Jersey, Ohio, Oregon, Washington, and Vermont (but we totally support submitting Op-Eds in other states too). We can help provide you with all the information you’ll need but we want you or your friends and families in those states to use your own voices to advocate for statehood for the people of DC.

Let’s spread the word state by state about why statehood for the people of DC is a just and righteous cause that citizens and legislators should all embrace and support.

If you’re interested in writing an Op-Ed (500-600 words usually) or a shorter Letter-to-the-Editor (200-250 words) please send us an email and we’ll get you any and all information you’ll need to draft a great piece.

Simple…Free…Powerful…

Josh Burch

unitedforstatehood@gmail.com

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The $600 Million Question

This fall it is expected that the Senate Homeland & Government Affairs Committee led by Senator Tom Carper (D-DE) will hold a hearing, as promised last year, on the New Columbia Admission Act (aka DC statehood bill). When the hearing takes place supporters of statehood will have a compelling case on our side that statehood is the right path forward for democracy and within the framework of the Constitution. What supporters of statehood won’t have, because District leaders have not focused on it, is a plan to take back control and payment of our court and prison system which is presently paid for by all American taxpayers and run by the federal government.

Pro-statehood witnesses won’t be able to answer the $600 million question about how we’ll pay for and run our legal system because the District, to my knowledge, doesn’t have a plan in place for it. Covering the cost is the easier part of this process (though not easy) as new revenue streams will be available to the new state once congressional restrictions on how we raise revenue are lifted. If the District is serious about statehood then the legislative branch and executive branch need to create a plan on how we’d own and manage our court and prison system. If we’re serious about bringing our imprisoned sons and daughters back closer to the District so their families don’t have travel across the country to visit them we need to compel our leaders to develop a plan to create our own court and prison system. If we’re serious about reforming the criminal justice system we have the opportunity to virtually start from scratch and create a system that we want that fulfills our vision of a just and fair system that punishes, rehabilitates, educates, treats, and hopefully empowers those who commit crimes in the District.

Taking back control of our courts, the Public Defender, and the prosecutorial services will take time and effort but some of those service transfers are in many cases administrative and personnel adjustments. It is the prison system however that will be a huge logistical and cost challenge. Formerly, the District sent its prisoners to the now closed Lorton Correctional Facility in Lorton, Va., but after the Control Board takeover of the District our prison population was then dispersed to federal prison facilities around the country. How will we take back all of our prisoners from federal prisons and where will put them? Is there a space in the District to build a prison or is there a state that will allow us to do so? Will we have to reach agreement with the federal government temporarily to house our prisoners while we build a facility? These are just some of the questions that need to be asked and answered by the District’s leadership now, not later. I don’t pretend to have or know the answers to these questions but there are too many intelligent and well-intentioned people in the Wilson Building to not have at least a preliminary plan together. It’s an abdication of leadership that despite operating like a state for so long in so many ways that no one has shown the foresight and resolve to develop a plan for how we’ll create, foster, fund, and manage these important governmental functions so that we truly can be a state.

If a plan exists please tell me what it is but repeated queries to the Council on this issue have gone unanswered and one Councilmember told me bluntly that no such plan exists. This is of concern in the lead up to a hearing on statehood because one of our detractors on the Homeland Security & Government Affairs Committee will surely ask us this very important $600 million question. Simply responding ‘it’ll be our problem after statehood’ isn’t enough. It’s time for the District to get serious not just about seeking the full privileges and rights associated with being a state but also embracing the full responsibilities of being a state. We should not look at this as an impediment to statehood, instead we should treat it as an awesome opportunity to reclaim and create anew our own full-fledged judicial branch of government that serves as a national model for the administration of justice.

Josh Burch

Brookland, DC

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United, We Can Do This!

Earlier this summer we embarked on an initiative to build support for the New Columbia Admission Act (DC statehood bill) in the Senate in the lead up to a promised hearing by Senator Tom Carper (D-DE). Senator Carper, through staff, continues to reaffirm his commitment to holding a hearing on the bill this year but to date our summer initiative has yielded no new cosponsors on the bill. With the Senate going into recess for the month of August this is our last week to add cosponsors before the break so let’s make one last push before the recess!

Our 12 target Senators have all expressed support for the District in the past and some have legislative records in support of statehood for the people of DC (Sens. Leahy, Cantwell, Menendez, & Wyden). Please email the following staff members and ask that their bosses add their names to S. 132, the New Columbia Admission. If we getting 5 people emailing them it will get their attention but if we get 20-30 people emailing it’ll be hard for them to ignore us so let’s all send emails to the staff members in the 12 Senate offices listed in this link: SummerAssignment2014

With congressional attempts at meddling in District affairs reaching a fevered pitch of late combined with the President’s support for statehood last week there couldn’t be a more opportune time to call on our supporters to finally add their names to the statehood bill.

Emails can be brief (ie. Please ask Senator X to had her/his name to S. 132 & take a stand for equality for the people of the District of Columbia) or they can be more lengthy. Most importantly we need to send these emails this week. Let’s add cosponsors to this bill to help show Senator Carper there is support for his bill not just in the Senate but across the country.

United, we can do this!

Josh

Brookland

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