Harry Thomas, Jr. has brought shame to the District of Columbia the way that Rod Blagojevich brought shame to Illinois or that Jim Guy Tucker brought to Arkansas or that Don Siegelman brought to Alabama (I could go on and on but I won’t). He was a thief in a savior’s cloak. I had seen him in several setting where he spoke to community residents about their concerns and the direction of the city. He was good, real good, and but he also stole $350,000 from the city which was supposed to go young people to help keep them out of trouble so he was also bad, real bad. I used to work for an organization whose annual budget was about that and our programs engaged young people after school, on weekends, and in the summer all of which kept young people active, engaged and educated instead of potentially out on the street. We did a lot of good with $350,000 per year it’s terrible he stole that amount from others. Harry Thomas Jr. will go to jail for his actions and he deserves to but I want to explore how or if this would have happened if we were a state or at least how it could have been stopped earlier.
If we were a state would this have been prevented?
No. Corruption happens in all 50 states unfortunately. Elected officials intentionally or unintentionally do get involved in acts that are both unethical and illegal (see this Wikipedia page on all the jokers convicted of crimes: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_American_state_and_local_politicians_convicted_of_crimes)
If we were a state how would this situation be different?
First and foremost we would not have wasted $60,000 over the last 6 months paying Harry Thomas Jr’s salary. If we were a state our own Attorney General would have had the authority to bring about charges against him earlier. Remember that Peter Nickles started this investigation which was taken over by Irv Nathan who brought about a civil case in June or July 2011. Presumably at that time, had he the authority, he could have brought about criminal charges against Harry Thomas Jr. which might have led him to resign earlier and save us all the money and grief. Instead, by act of Congress, our Attorney General only has the authority to defend the city and to seek to recoup funds through civil, not criminal, suits. So maybe just maybe we would have this in our past at this point instead of it still actively playing out. Being a state wouldn’t have prevented HTJ from stealing but it might have caused him to get caught faster, we just don’t know for sure.
Second, if we were a state we’d have the ability to schedule the election as we’d like. Presently the Home Rule charter (http://www.abfa.com/ogc/hract.htm#431) says the election needs to be no sooner than 114 days after the seat is vacated unless a general election is also within 60 days of when the special election would be held. Basically, that sticks us with a big bill to pay for a special election in May 2012 instead of pairing the Ward 5 special election with the DC Primary because the Primary is not a “general election.” Delegate Norton tried to change this language back in 2010 and it passed the House by voice vote (which means no one cared) but someone in the Senate put a “blind hold” on it meaning it didn’t and won’t pass until the hold is lifted. If we were a state we’d select our own election dates and would thus save the city/state millions by not having two elections less than a month apart. Someone in the Senate just screwed the District and is too much of a coward to say who they are or why they put a hold on such a benign piece of legislation. If we were a state we’d be saving some money on elections.
I really don’t know what else to say other than the criminal actions really have nothing to do with whether we should be a state or not but our detractors will use it against us. Our once powerful voice for Statehood, HTJ, is now a big reason our critics will keep denying us our rights. Tip O’Neill used to always say that ‘all politics is local.’ He’s right and here in Ward 5 we need to get our house in order so that we can still lead the charge for Statehood because we still are 75,000 out of the 617,000 disenfranchised citizens of the District and we are all in this together.
Keep well and keep working for Statehood…come and join us: firstname.lastname@example.org