Dear Mr. President

2015-01-11 10.38.11January 4, 2015

The Honorable Barack H. Obama,

Mr. President, over the last several years I have written you with a simple request but one that might be the most important thing you could do for my family and my city during your presidency. I ask that you speak out in support of D.C. statehood in your upcoming State of the Union Speech. I was heartened to hear you last year fully endorse D.C. statehood while at an event in the District. Most people outside the District are not aware of your words of support for this cause nor are they aware of our unequal status within the American union. I ask that you advocate for D.C. statehood to help of educate the nation that my family deserves to be treated equally with yours and theirs.

Since your last State of the Union we have welcomed a second child into our family and I still have no clue how I’ll explain to them why they won’t be treated equally with our friends and neighbors in the 50 states. How will I explain to them a democratic nation continues to disenfranchise the citizens of its capital based on the political realities of over 200 years ago? And how can I tell them that their country believes in justice and equality for all yet turns a blind eye toward equality for people in the neighborhoods that surround the U.S. Capitol and the White House?

Despite our unjust status I will tell my children to believe in America because I still do. We began as an imperfect nation with an imperfect democracy and we have gotten better with time. African-Americas were once enslaved, disenfranchised, and treated unequally before the law and our country through struggle, strain, and courage has worked to remedy those injustices. We have done the same to ensure women the right to vote, the right to vote of those over 18, and thirty-seven times since our nation’s founding we have added states to the union and stars to our flag. Our country over the last 230+ years has become more democratic not less and now we need you to take a stand to help make American democracy inclusive for the 660,000 citizens who make the District of Columbia our home.

Mr. President, from one person who believes in the promise of our country to another, from one dad to another, I ask that you speak out and speak up for D.C. statehood in your upcoming State of the Union. Let the nation know that we in the District fulfill all obligations of citizenship yet are denied some of its most basic rights: the right to full and equal congressional representation and the right to be the final arbiters of our local affairs. Let the nation know that statehood for the people of D.C. is the simplest and only permanent way to ensure that we are treated equally with the people of the 50 states. And Mr. President, let the American people know that statehood for the people of D.C. is not about special treatment it’s about fair treatment and what could be more American than that?

Sincerely,

Josh Burch

Brookland, District of Columbia

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Statehood & the State of the Union

Over the last several years I’ve written a personal letter to the President asking that he speak out and speak up for D.C. statehood in the State of the Union. While the President cannot individually make the District a state nor is the 114th Congress likely to move statehood legislation it would be an important and powerful moment were a sitting U.S. President to speak out on behalf of our cause before Congress and before the nation as a whole.

I’ve created a White House petition asking that the President advocate for D.C. statehood in his upcoming State of the Union Speech. The White House requires that petitions must get 100,000 signatures to merit a response. That means we need to get 15% of the District’s population to sign the petition and frankly if we can’t get 15% of the District’s population to ask the President to speak out for statehood, why should he? So please, sign this petition and share it with friends, family, people from actual states, and even folks you don’t like because they count too!  http://wh.gov/igBRm

Lift up your voice and encourage President Obama to advocate for D.C. statehood in his upcoming State of the Union.

Josh

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2014 Hoodie Awards

i_am_essentialred_hoodieYes, yes, y’all it’s the 2014 Hoodie Awards! The Hoodies (state-Hood) are the awards for good and bad work in the D.C. statehood world. There’s no cash or material “award” rather it’s public praise or condemnation for efforts on behalf of or against the people of the District’s desire to be free and equal citizens. Awardees were selected through an intensely subjective and unscientific process. There are way too many people doing great things that weren’t bestowed Hoodies this year but we in the District owe them all our thanks (looking at you: Anne, Anita, Dara, Elinor, Jerry, Kelli, Kesh, Peter, and on and on). You are free to agree and disagree with these selections and I hope you all will strive to achieve your own Hoodie for Good in 2015. We all have the potential to receive this barely recognized District based award so let’s go out and earn those Hoodies!

Hoodies for Good!!!

Best Frickin’ Senate Hearing: Sen. Tom Carper

In 2013, we gave Senator Carper a Hoodie for promising to hold a hearing on statehood and since he actually held the hearing this year certainly he deserves another Hoodie for keeping his promise. He (and his staff) should be credited with finding liberal and conservative experts who testified on behalf of the bill helping to demonstrate that we have the moral and constitutional backing for statehood and all that’s lacking is political will. View the hearing or read the testimonies here.

Best Conservative for Statehood: Dr. Viet Dinh

In all honesty, I was scared out of my mind when I saw his name on the panel for the statehood hearing. I knew he supported voting rights but had never seen him articulate an opinion on statehood. I was way more than pleasantly surprised with his testimony. His testimony stated that Congress had broad authority under the Constitution to admit new states and that the District’s path to statehood would follow a similar path to how Ohio became a state. If you’re up for a stirring statehood read check out his testimony here.

Tweet of the Year: Cory Booker

Most people don’t tweet about DC statehood. Most Senators don’t think about DC statehood so to have Senator Cory Booker tweet his support for statehood for the people of the District of Columbia that definitely earned the Hoodie for Tweet of the Year. And were we to give a Hoodie for best speech on the floor of the Senate, Senator Booker would get that too for his speech against the budget deal in which he discussed the D.C. riders & the overturning of a the District’s marijuana referendum as one of many reprehensible components of the budget deal. It’s very exciting for the future to have Senator Booker on the Homeland Security & Governmental Affairs Committee and look forward to he and Senator Carper shepherding the bill though committee in a few years and onto the Senate floor for passage. Yes, passage!

Lifetime Achievement: Anise Jenkins & Johnny Barnes

Johnny Barnes and Anise Jenkins for decades have been walking the talk to make the chant “Free DC, Statehood Now” a reality. While the statehood movement is undergoing a resurgence over the last few years, it has been the work of Johnny, Anise, and countless others who have led the charge over the last few decades to keep the statehood fire burning. For their work in the Halls of Congress and the streets of D.C. both Johnny & Anise have earned Hoodies for Lifetime Achievement.

Intellectual Honesty: Martin Moulton

Martin Moulton ran to be our shadow Representative in the U.S. House of Representatives as a Libertarian. Martin was a very effective a powerful voice for statehood in meetings on the Hill and made both powerful cases for statehood from a conservative ideology perspective and as the son of an immigrant. Martin walks the talk of libertarian ideology which fits perfectly with statehood because it is the only way to #LiberateDC.

Workhorse Not Showhorse: Charles Allen

Usually one of the pre-requisites for running for elective office in the District is to give a humdinger of a speech on D.C. statehood but then do nothing substantively to advance the cause once in office. Charles Allen gives us hope that this trend will end because over the last year he’s given time, thought, and effort to advancing the statehood cause. Charles participated in several advocacy days on the Hill, helped promote Flag Day activities in support of the statehood cause, and went door-to-door to business on Capitol Hill asking that businesses put up pro-statehood signs (an idea suggested by Elissa Silverman) in the lead up to the hearing on statehood in the Senate. Charles has been a workhorse more than a showhorse for statehood and for that he has truly earned his Hoodie Award.

Issue Advocacy Link for Statehood:

Jimmie Lithuli for organizing two discussions with WIN to help raise awareness about how and why statehood would be the best solution to protecting the reproductive rights and health care decisions of women in the District. This is a model that should be replicated to raise awareness about how statehood affects other key public policy areas (marijuana, criminal justice reform, courts & prisons, environmental issues, voting rights, etc.) for the people of the District.

Excellence in Organizing: DC Cannabis Campaign

At the end of 2014 focused on the fact that Congress and the President passed a budget that overturned a referendum (prevents the District from “enacting” the referendum) to legalize small amounts of marijuana in the District. The DC Cannabis Campaign, however, should be praised & given a Hoodie Award for their organizing work that got Initiative 71 on the ballot in the first place. Though needing 22,373 signatures to get the initiative on the ballot the DC Cannabis Campaign submitted over 57,000 signatures to the District’s Board of Elections to ensure the initiative made it on the ballot. Initiative 71 is about marijuana legalization but it is also about the District’s right to set our own laws. For the organizing work that the DC Cannabis Campaign did in 2014 they truly earned their Hoodie.

Statehood Roadshow: Joan Shipps

Two years ago Joan Shipps crafted a proposal for the Netroots Nation Conference that was not selected but undaunted she persevered and in 2014 her proposed panel on statehood was selected to be a part of the national conference. The panel focused on the history, need, and moral underpinnings of the statehood cause. Joan also organized a statehood panel at Roots Camp. These national conferences are great venues to spread the statehood message to a wide audience of activists who live in the 50 states.

Kickass Expats: Jaime Fearer & Geoff Hatchard

Jaime Fearer & Geoff Hatchard made their way to the Left Coast but kept the District in their hearts and their cause on their license plates. They have also engaged their representatives in Congress encouraging them to support the statehood bills in the House & Senate. If we had D.C. expats like Geoff and Jaime in the 50 states the statehood cause would progress much faster. D.C. diaspora please follow their lead, we need you!!!

Artistic Expression: Daniel Schramm & Amanda Frayer

Dan and Amanda individually have great artistic talents but as a married couple and as statehood supporters they were able to combine their talents this past year. Dan led the way in organizing a benefit concert at Tropicalia and even joined in on a few songs. It was a great way to reach and bring in new supporters to the cause. Amanda made great t-shirts for sale to support the cause and designed our organizations dope new business cards. We all should tap our inherent talents and put them to the statehood cause the way Dan and Amanda did in 2014.

4th Estate: Hannah Hess

Roll Call covers the statehood movement and thanks to Hill Blotter reporter, Hannah Hess, the movement has been covered quite well. Given Roll Call is the paper that covers happenings in Congress it has served the cause well to have both statehood progress & congressional meddling in District affairs covered so thoroughly. It is extremely important for Hill staff & members of Congress to see and read about the statehood cause on a regular basis. Thanks to Hannah & all of her colleagues in the 4th Estate around the District who have done well to cover this cause.

Hoodies for Bad-

Troll Emeritus: Andy Harris

This guy spent the entire year trolling the District devising ways to halt or overturn District laws related to both the decriminalization and legalization of marijuana in the District. At the end of the year with a federal government shutdown looming Doctor Harris got his way by inserting language that prevents the District from ‘enacting’ the referendum. While there is debate over when the enactment starts, Dr. Harris gave it his all to troll the District and act in a manner subversive to the principles of democratic governance.

Complicit Enablers: Lots of Folks in Congress

As much as we in the District have focused our wrath on Andy Harris we should not lose sight of the fact that Democrats and Republicans voted for the budget bill that overturned the vote, voice, and will of the people of the District. There will always be grandstanding ideologues like Andy Harris and as long as there are complicit enablers who vote for their crazy bills (components of bills) they will continue to do what they do.

Crazy Bastards: Steve Stockman and Kerry Bentivolio

The more you know about Steve Stockman and Kerry Bentivolio the more you should question whether the District wants to be a state in the union or an independent nation nestled within the union because if Americans elect these clowns to Congress do we really want to be a part of it? Thankfully these losers are leaving Congress but before they left Mr. Stockman introduced language to mandate and open a gun range in the District and to ban speed cameras (originally a bill of Mr. Bentivolio’s).  Happy trails you crazy bastards and I hope a speed camera got you both when leaving the District!

Heartbreaker Hoodie: Harry Reid

Outgoing Senate Majority Harry Reid broke our heart at the end of the year when he allowed provisions overturning the District’s marijuana legalization referendum and allowing previous social policy riders to remain. Senator Reid is a statehood bill cosponsor making his willingness to go along with a bill that so fundamentally goes against the principles of statehood is quite troubling. And as the Senate Majority Leader he could and should have told budget negotiators that the District was NOT on the bargaining table but he didn’t.  He supports statehood but when push came to shove he didn’t stand up for the principles of statehood and let the District, once again, be a bargaining chip in federal budget negotiations. And yes, President Barack Obama deserves a “Heartbreaker Hoodie” too for voices his support for statehood earlier this year but not standing up for our right to self-determination when push came to shove.

IDGAF: Senator Tom Coburn

In some respects we need to give Senator Coburn mild praise for actually showing up to the hearing on statehood (aka doing his job) in the Senate and we should acknowledge that he admitted there’s something not right about our disenfranchised status…but mild praise stops there. If anyone personified IDGAF body language it was Senator Coburn at the statehood hearing. He appeared to nearly nod off  to sleep, made dismissive remarks about the statehood cause, and left early. For his attitude, mannerisms, and words at the statehood hearing Senator Coburn gets the Hoodie for IDGAF.

And that’s it for the 2014 Hoodies, there was more good than bad awardees and yet we’re still subject to the whims of a Congress where we have no voting representation. High praise goes out to so many who have done such great work this past year but we still have a long way to go so let’s get back to work.

Josh Burch

@JBurchDC

Brookland

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March with Phil

A strict reading of the Omnibus Budget that was just signed into law prevents the District from expending any funds to enact Initiative 71 which legalizes a specified amount of marijuana in the District. While there is dispute as to whether or not the Initiative has already been enacted part of the administrative process with all District laws is to have the law transmitted to Congress. In order to transmit the bill to Congress it requires minimal staff time and administrative work but both come with a cost thus potentially violating the law.

Council Chair Phil Mendelson has the duty under the Home Rule Act to transmit Initiative 71 to Congress and thus he could be breaking the law by doing so. Whether it’s a legal or illegal transmittal this situation provides a wonderfully symbolic avenue to grandstand. Usually a transmittal to Congress is a quite no-frills affair but in this case we should do the exact opposite.

Chairman Mendelson should let his colleagues on the Council and District citizens know when he plans on transmitting the bill to Congress and we all should do it in person with him. Let’s have the entire Council joined by District citizens march with Phil from the Wilson Building to Capitol Hill and personally deliver Initiative 71 to Speaker Boehner’s office. If Chairman Mendelson does run the risk of breaking the law let’s walk with him, let’s support him, and let’s show Congress that we are all in this together.

Let’s transmit that bill together and send a powerful message to Congress and the President that we respect ourselves and we respect the vote of the people of the District and we won’t back down.

Josh Burch

Brookland

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Five Steps to Stand Up

The President and Congress have officially thrown the will of District voters under the bus and the District must figure out how to press forward to confront and/or dance around the 2015 federal budget just passed. The budget bill is a clear attempt and overturning the will of District voters not just on the marijuana initiative but also its renewal of preventing the District from spending tax dollars on reproductive health services for low income women and its ban on the use of federal funds for the District to work toward greater democracy. We can no longer sit back and accept this treatment as ‘just the way it is,’ it’s time to standup for ourselves.

While the Council Chair has indicated that he’ll follow the legislative interpretation of Congresswoman Norton and the respect the will of District voters by acting as if the law has already been enacted. That is not the only thing we should do. Below are five steps the District should take to confront the bullies that meddle in our affairs and call out those ‘friends’ of ours who seem not to have the political will or backbone to stand-up for democracy in the District:

  1. Confront: The Council should begin holding hearings on the tax and regulate component of legalization (not part of the referendum). This would be in direct violation of the law passed within the budget deal. It’s time for confrontation and this is it. What would Congress do if we held a hearing on tax and regulation? What would the optics be if Congress acted to enforce a law preventing a democratically elected legislature from having a hearing on an issue? Of course the next budget could be more punitive against the District but the only way our message will get out is by direct defiance of unjust and undemocratic laws. And some point direct confrontation of a meddlesome Congress is needed and given that they acted to subvert the democratic will of the people of the District the time has come.
  2. Invest: With a new administration brings a new opportunity dare I say a #freshstart to finally and fully invest in a push toward statehood. Over a year and a half ago I recommended creating the Mayor’s Office for DC Statehood and I think the importance of spearheading such an effort now is more important than ever. Every single piece of incremental legislation we have tried over the last 20 years still leaves the District vulnerable to a meddlesome Congress. Only statehood would permanently free us from their manipulative hands and it’s time for the District to fully invest time, money, and personnel in this effort.
  3. Rescind: Mayor-elect Bowser, upon taking the office, should send a formal letter to President Obama requesting that he turn in all of the “Taxation Without Representation” license plates on his fleet to the District’s DMV because has shown no will or passion to stand up against such a system. Here’s a draft:

Mr. President,

Due to your lack of courage and fortitude to stand-up for the democratic will of the people of the District of Columbia I respectfully request that you turn in your “Taxation Without Representation” license plates until a time in which you willingly and forcefully stand with us and up for us in our pursuit to be treated equally as the 51st state in the union.

Respectfully,

The Honorable Muriel Bowser

  1. Embarrass: A local non-profit should apply for funding from the United Nations Democracy Fund or other international grants focused on democracy building to support activities to promote and secure democracy in the District of Columbia. We should start taking our message nationally & internationally by showing America treats the people of its capital in an unjust and undemocratic manner. If our own country will not support our efforts to be more democratic maybe the international community will support us.
  2. Organize: District citizens must own this movement. We must be more involved, more passionate, and more strategic about how we press forward. If only minimal protests occur when Congress acts to overturn the will of the people they will continue to do so. The statehood movement needs to be better organized and house by house, neighborhood by neighborhood, ward by ward we should do so over the coming years. If you interested in hosting a meet & greet about D.C. statehood at your house and want to invite neighbors over, we’ll help facilitate! If you want to have someone give a talk at a school, place of worship, or civic group about D.C. democratic history & the statehood movement, we’ll be there! We simply need more people to agree to do a few small things so that we all have a stake in this cause and we all push toward a common goal.

There are many other ways that we all can stand up to Congress but the above list would be a good start and there’s a little something for our elected leaders, the non-profit and advocacy community, and individual citizens to do. We are all in this together so let’s stand-up for ourselves and determine our own democratic destiny and have some fun while doing it.

Please join the cause and we’ll welcome you with open arms to the statehood movement.

Josh Burch

UnitedforStatehood@gmail.com

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