On October 2, 2012 Nate Bennett-Fleming (@NateforDC) and I (@JBurchDC) had a discussion on Twitter about the merits of Council Chair Mendelson’s plan to put budget autonomy to a referendum for District citizens to vote on. During our back and forth @NateforDC asked me if I had better ideas (probably not but I’ll try). While Twitter might not be the best venue to articulate ideas for referendums below are a few initial thoughts on things we could and should put before the District voters. While I’m not the biggest fan of the budget autonomy referendum I do like the referendum process because it puts the decision in the hands of the voters of the District. We make the decision, we own the decision and if Congress overturns the referendum then it’s not a slap in the face to the Mayor or the Council, it’s a slap to all of us. And maybe, just maybe one day Congress will slap us one too many times…
The below items could all probably be enacted by simple legislation in the Council but if we want to follow the referendum route so that citizens start taking ownership of the statehood movement why not try out a few of the ideas below. None of these ideas will make us the 51st State but they might help us raise awareness for the issue while concurrent grassroots organizing is taking place to make the full push for statehood.
Alternative Referendum Ideas:
• To install toll booths to support the roads and bridges of New Columbia at strategic entry points to the city-state. If it’s a roadway toll it’s technically not a commuter tax because it would apply to District citizens (similar to parking meters) as well but toll booths strategically placed should bring in more revenue from non-District citizens.
• To authorize the District Government to fund the DC Statehood Delegation. This should be a fully functioning office and full-time job for both the elected delegation and their staff. If we want statehood we need to commit time, energy, and resources to make it happen.
• To refuse to allow the transferal of the Frederick Douglass statue to the U.S. Capitol until all New Columbians have equal access to the Capitol and thus American democracy. We should spurn Congress until they treat us all equally (read more here).
• To change all signs at entry points to the District to say “Welcome to Washington, DC…A Capital City… and soon to be the state of New Columbia.” We’ve had the same old tired signs at entry points to the District for a long time let’s now use them to send a message or install more signs like what Senator Michael Brown put together for Charlotte, NC.
• To authorize the change of name of “Nationals Park” to “New Columbian Field” We paid for it so we should vote on naming it!
• To commission the design and creation of a USA Flag with 51 stars on it and have it hung outside all District/New Columbian buildings next to the New Columbian flag. This is symbolic at best but I wouldn’t be surprised if this really rubbed some folk the wrong way.
If Mendo’s referendum passes and becomes law it will be a more substantive improvment than what I’ve listed above but what I’ve listed above focuses predominantly on keeping the issue of statehood at the forefront. Mendelson deserves credit for innovative thinking now it’s up to the 638,000 of us outside the Wilson Building to think of other more innovative ways to engage and inspire our neighbors to act for statehood.
Debate and discussion is good and healthy. We don’t have to always agree but it’s great to challenge each other to think smarter and more strategically. Thanks to @NateforDC for challenging me…