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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“CRomnibus” is Short for CRappy Omnibus

District citizens should be enraged about the U.S. Congress attempting to overturn the District’s ballot initiative on marijuana legalization. Congress, a supposedly democratic body is acting to subvert democracy in the neighborhoods that surround the U.S. Capitol. Time is short before this bill comes up for a vote in the U.S. Senate but we must raise our collective voices and ask and demand that Senators to vote NO on the “CRomnibus.” Please take time to call Senate offices, to tweet to them, or go in person to their offices to express your displeasure.

Messages can be short and to the point: “Senator X Please respect the voice and VOTE of the people of D.C. and on the budget deal.

Congress is once again disrespecting our voice and our vote and we must speak out against this.

Josh Burch

unitedforstatehood@gmail.com

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Warning: Swamp Fox Invasion

Photo from The Huffington Post

The National Park Service is presently accepting comments about a proposal to honor Brigadier General Francis Marion with a memorial in the District of Columbia. I’ll be honest I didn’t know who the guy was until I read this piece by Sadie Dingfelder in the Washington Post about it. This project and this process is wrought with examples of how powerless District citizens are over even the small things about our daily lives such as neighborhood parks. It is also sadly ironic that a ‘war hero’ who fought to end a system of taxation without representation might be memorialized in the last place in the free world where such a system still exists.

While I’m offended by the prospect of a memorial statue for Francis “Swamp Fox” Marion to be erected in a park where my daughter plays I’m down right angered by the process by which this come about. Though owned by the National Park Service (NPS) Marion Park like many in the District is a community park, decidedly different than most of NPS’ portfolio across the country. Park spaces managed by NPS and the District’s Department of Parks and recreation are interwoven into all of the District’s neighborhoods and serve a variety of recreational and aesthetic purposes. One purpose that these neighborhood parks should not serve as is to fulfill fantasies of days gone by for outsiders wishing to honor old war heroes. If the people of South Carolina, or to be precise if a stockbroker from Columbia, South Carolina thinks that Francis Marion is deserving of a national memorial I suggest he find a nice spot in one of the many thousands of acres of NPS land in the Palmetto state not here in the District where we did not ask for it nor do we want it.

This issue isn’t just about Brig. Gen. Marion’s memorial it’s about the District’s lack of control over even the simplest matters. It’s a park, it’s a small lovely neighborhood park that children, including my daughter, like to play in. It’s a place where people in the neighborhood like to walk their dogs. But because it’s a neighborhood park owned by the federal government in the District of Columbia one person from South Carolina has the ability through money combined with actual representation in Congress to push this through so that District citizens can only comment at the very tail end of such a process.

Our status is wholly unacceptable and District citizens should speak out against the Francis Marion Memorial in all the proposed locations because we did not ask for this nor do we want it. Neighbors should make decisions about neighborhood parks not citizens from hundreds of miles away, their representatives in Congress, or members of the National Capital Planning Commission. While the federal government has a right (and now legal responsibility) to establish some type of memorial they have a responsibility to be respectful of the community’s concerns where they want to locate it. District citizens should speak out against the Francis Marion Memorial because it is both a bad project and a bad process.

District citizens who want to speak out against this plan can comment here until 12/10/2014. More information on the process can be found here.

I for one don’t want a Francis Marion Memorial in any neighborhood park in the District, federally owned or District owned, unless District citizens are leading the cause. This is a distinctly federal initiative and while I think the best place for such a memorial is the state of South Carolina the second best is to cram it on the Mall somewhere not in residential neighborhoods that didn’t ask for it.

And if this is imposed on us against our will District citizens should not back down or back off. We’ve been pushed around for too long by too many and at some point we have to stand up for our parks, our city, and ourselves.

Josh Burch

Brookland

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The Final Countdown (for this Congress)

The D.C. Statehood bill (New Columbia Admission Act) will not be moving forward in the lame duck session of Congress but it doesn’t mean that there isn’t work to be done. With less than two weeks left in the lame duck Congress we can continue to build the cosponsor list in the House & Senate to help show which members of Congress are our true friends and allies moving forward. Specifically, there are several key Senators that need to hear from District citizens and their own constituents to help compel them to join the statehood bill, S. 132, as a cosponsor.

Take a few minutes to email the following staff members asking that their bosses cosponsor the bill or just tweet to their accounts asking that s/he cosponsor “S. 132 and take a stand for fairness & equality via #DCstatehood.”

It takes just a few minutes to have a big impact in pushing the statehood cause forward so take a look at our list of Priority Senators and start contacting them NOW!

We won’t be a state this Congress but we’re building a foundation of supporters this Congress that will help support the cause moving forward. The more, the merrier so let’s add a few more cosponsors before Congress adjourns.

Thanks to you all,

Josh

Brookland, DC

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