The Council for the District of Columbia in a very short time has gone from productive and disciplined to unwieldy, contentious, and unfocused. Yes, elections do matter and after last election the Council has taken a downward spiral in terms of its productivity on behalf of the citizens of the District of Columbia. Too often in the last year and a half most stories about the Council have been about the internal dynamics of it and not the policies they are pushing. Quite frankly, the Council itself has become more like Access Hollywood than a legislative body. For details of their encounter read: The Fight!
A prime example of this dysfunction is the anger and venom that Council members Marion Barry and David Catania directed at each other at the Council retreat last week. I wholly support members disagreeing on substantive policies issues (that’s democracy) and don’t for one second believe that they all should be best buddies but their behavior is a waste of energy, unprofessional, and moves us away from the productive fights that we need to have.
As the Council was having its dirty laundry aired in the media at the same time a Freshman US Senator from Utah, Mike Lee (R), was offering a bill to further restrict District laws on reproductive rights. This bill is a Senate companion bill to a bill previously offered by Representative Trent Franks of Arizona. These two bills are an affront to the principles of Home Rule but also are perfectly constitutional because under the Home Rule Act and within Article I of the Constitution Congress still maintains ultimate control over the District. This is what we all should be fighting for: Statehood, which would end Congressional intrusion into local matters.
Instead of petty and unprofessional arguments at Council retreats imagine if David Catania and Marion Barry saved their energies, intelligence, and sharp tongues for those who want to impose their will, morals, and laws on the District. Imagine a tag-team of Marion Barry and David Catania pushing for Statehood. While they both do support Statehood and have led various efforts to push for Statehood imagine if they teamed up to rally District citizens for Statehood. Both Council members represent very different core constituencies in the District and a teaming up of their two core groups to form a coalition of activists pushing for Statehood would be impressive.
The District Council, from SUVs to Harry Thomas, Jr. to the F-U-fest we had last week has really been doing a disservice to the Statehood movement over the last year and a half and city government as a whole. There are good people on the Council and there are great people in this City and we need to stop wasting our energies on petty grips and start forming productive coalitions to continue to push for Statehood and to set an example in governance that even our detractors can look at and say: Yes, They Can!