Just over two years ago our group, Neighbors United for DC Statehood, was formed on the heels of an awful bargain where President Obama and Speaker Boehner used the District as a bartering chip in negotiations to avoid a government shutdown. With a government shutdown looming on October 1st and no deal insight I have that sinking feeling that once again, we in the District will be a pawn in this ideological game. Last time we protested after the fact but this time we have two weeks to raise awareness about how and why a government shutdown is particularly unjust toward the citizens of the District.
Part of our problem is that most Americans don’t know about, don’t understand, and don’t care about the plight of those of us in the District. Our challenge is to make the statehood movement a movement about people and not a preconceived notion of a place (the evil “inside the beltway Washington”). And so, instead of being reactive and protesting after Congress and the President screw us, we have two weeks to be proactive and tell our story to Congress and the nation to let them know that there is no excusable reason why the District government should have to shut down its operations simply because Congress can’t pass a budget.
The District, as imperfect as we might be, has passed balanced budgets every year since 2000. Our local budget is structured similar to most state budgets with approximately 75% raised locally with 25% coming via the federal government yet still Congress won’t allow us to spend approximately $8 billion of our own money. Congress can’t pass or balance a budget yet our schools will close on October 1st and 45,000 DC Public Schools students and 35,000 DC Public Charter School students will have their doors shut on them. To be clear: Congress will be responsible for closing local schools in the District of Columbia preventing 80,000 young people from learning in safe environments. Maybe this fact will help our neighbors around the country to understand our plight.
Over the next two weeks take a picture of your local school or school children, send it to us (firstname.lastname@example.org) and we’ll create a compilation page with photos of young people and schools from around the District so that the whole country can see the real victims in a government shutdown. Government shutdowns are hard on government workers, government contractors (the private sector), and their families across the country but here in the District we’re defenseless victims to the whims of partisan ideologues in Congress. In addition to sending us pictures of your local school or school children you can also Tweet, post on Facebook, or send an email letting members of Congress know that if they don’t pass a budget they’ll be shutting the doors on 80,000 school children and thousands of teachers. Tell Congress to pass a budget and then to pass the statehood bill so that the children of the District are no longer the victims of congressional posturing.
This time let’s be proactive and not just reactive to the indignities and injustice Congress & the President impose on us. Get active, get organized, and let’s get DC Statehood!
PS Should there be a government shutdown let’s be ready to head to the Hill on October 1st!