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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Businesses for Statehood

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Capitol Hill is more than the name of the hill upon which the US Capitol sits, it’s a diverse and wonderful neighborhood in the District where people live, work, pay taxes, play, shop, eat, and drink. It’s also a neighborhood where many people who work in Congress live and frequent businesses so this summer Neighbors United & the DC Statehood Coalition are embarking on an advocacy initiative to get businesses located in Capitol Hill (liberally defined borders) to post signs in support of “Statehood for the People of DC.”

Members of Congress and their staff need to see that statehood is a priority of the people of the District and businesses on the Hill can play an important role in helping to articulate that message by posting the statehood signs in their windows or behind their counters to show their support for the cause. So if you’re a Capitol Hill business please let us know if you want a sign to post in your window and we’ll get one to you. If you frequent Capitol Hill businesses feel free to ask them where their “Statehood for the People of DC” sign is if they don’t have one up. We want members of Congress and their staff to see that statehood is a our cause whether they’re picking up their laundry, going to the gym, grabbing dinner, or meeting someone for drinks.

Let’s have the people of Capitol Hill send a clear message to those lovely legislators on the Hill that all District citizens want and deserve fair and equal treatment as the 51st state in the union.

The Argonaut led the way posting signs and a couple of places in Brookland, Askale Café & Brookland Café, have stepped up too but our main focus will be the Hill for this current endeavor. Get your sign now by emailing us at the address below.

Josh Burch

unitedforstatehood@gmail.com

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The Unfulfilled Promise of the 4th of July

As the United States of America celebrated the anniversary of the founding of our country I hope that Americans, especially our friends in the Senate and the House, took time to reflect upon the fact that the system of taxation without representation which our nation was founded in opposition to is still alive and unwell for the citizens of our nation’s capital. I was born and raised in the District of Columbia and I’m now raising a family here and find it hard to believe that over 200 years after our country’s founding we still have found a way to make me, my family, and our 650,000 neighbors whole and complete American citizens.

Our founders created an imperfect democracy where initially only white male property owners over the age of 21 were allowed to vote. Over time through strength, struggle, and perseverance we’ve expanded the franchise to all those over 18 regardless of race or gender. Yet while we have the right to vote here in the nation’s capital we cannot vote for members of Congress nor do we have the final say over our own local affairs. Congress continues to meddle in our local affairs, manipulate our budget and policies and we have no voting members of Congress able to fight such intrusions.

It’s time to fulfill the promise of America by continuing to make a more perfect union by admitting the residential and commercial portions of the District of Columbia as the 51st state. In early 2013 Senator Carper sponsored S. 132, the New Columbia Admission Act (aka DC statehood bill). While this is the first time the bill was seriously offered since 1993 in the Senate there has been progress made with a growing list of cosponsors and a promise by Senator Carper to hold a hearing on the bill. Despite progress on the bill there still remains a lot of left ahead of us to build support for the bill. Earlier this summer we began to focus our advocacy efforts on a select group of Senators in the hopes that they’ll add their name to the bill as cosponsors and to date none of these Senators have signed on to the bill.

It’s time to redouble our efforts to ensure that Senators Tammy Baldwin (D-WI)Claire McCaskill (D-MO), Michael Bennet (D-CO)Richard Blumenthal (D-CT)Maria Cantwell (D-WA)Mazie Hirono (D-HI)Amy Klobuchar (D-MN)Patrick Leahy (D-VT)Robert Menendez (D-NJ)Chris Murphy (D-CT)Debbie Stabenow (D-MI), and Ron Wyden (D-OR) step up and put their names on a bill that does nothing more than declare a group of Americans equal to their constituents. On the heels of the anniversary of our country’s founding what could be more appropriate than a group of Senators standing up and speaking out to end taxation without representation? The aforementioned Senators are people of strong convictions and have great equal rights track records, it’s now time for them to stand up for and with the people of the District of Columbia.

 

Josh Burch

Brookland, DC

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