Below is my submitted testimony for the Senate’s Homeland Security and Government Affairs Committee’s Subcommittee for the District’s hearing on how the 2013 Shutdown affected the District of Columbia. Testimony can be submitted in writing to Jason_Smith@hsgac.senate.gov for up to 15 days after the hearing date. All are encouraged to submit testimonies to help not just focus on a finite incident but our overall unequal status and the need to achieve statehood to right this wrong.
Shutdown: Examining Federal Government Closure Impacts on the District of Columbia
January 30th, 2014
The Honorable Mark Begich, Chair
Senate Committee on Homeland Security & Government Affairs
Subcommittee on Emergency Management, Intergovernmental Relations, & the District of Columbia
Thank you for holding this hearing about how the federal government affected the District of Columbia in October 2013. I was born and raised in the District and I am now raising a family of my own here. While there was an adverse economic impact to many in the District I wanted to share my thoughts about why the shutdown, as it relates to the District, was such an affront to my faith in our democracy and my role and my hometown’s status within it.
If we had budget autonomy our government would not have had to take extraordinary measures to keep the basic services of the local government open but to me, as a taxpaying American citizen, budget autonomy is not enough. Budget autonomy is important but only as part of a total package that would make me, my family, and my neighbors full and equal citizens. We in the District need and we deserve statehood. Legislative band aids will not fix the broken leg of American democracy that is the District of Columbia’s disenfranchised status.
I understand that the subcommittee is focusing on the finite period of time that was the 2013 Shutdown but to me that finite period is reflective of my entire life and our entire existence as the last colony in the New World. Imagine if your state had to have its local budget, 75% of which was raised locally, approved by Congress? Imagine if the citizens of your state were required to pay federal taxes, billions of dollars a year cumulatively ($20 billion in our case), and yet they were denied representation in Congress to decide how that money should be spent. And finally, imagine if the place where you were from, where you were raising a family and paying taxes was prevented from spending locally raised revenue by a body that you were denied representation in. If this applied to you, would you say that you live in a democracy?
The shutdown is simply a microcosm of our plight here in the District. We are asked and required to fulfill all of the obligations of citizenship yet we are denied its most basic rights. I wish I could provide testimony just in support of something as simple as budget autonomy but I can’t. As an American I am unwilling to ask for anything less than equality. I believe that we are all created equal and that our government should respect our fundamental rights equally. I believe that the promise of full equality in America can only be achieved by making the residential and commercial portions of the District the 51st state in the union. We deserve equality and we deserve statehood, nothing more and nothing less.
As the Committee discusses and debates the 2013 Shutdown I’d ask that you put yourselves in my shoes. Think about what I should tell my children about why their parents are required to fulfill all obligations of citizenship yet are denied national representation in Congress and the right to control our own local affairs. What do I tell my children when they ask, why are we taxed but not represented? Why are we denied the rights and protections of our neighbors just a few blocks away in a different jurisdiction? Why are we, the people living in the shadows of the Capitol, denied representation in it?
The shutdown hurt many in the District financially but to me it hurt personally and it harmed America morally because it was a reminder that the most undemocratic place in the New World is in the neighborhoods that surround the building that is the beacon of democracy for the entire world.
In closing, we in the District do not want nor do we need special treatment from the federal government, we simply want equal treatment and to us that is the most American principle of all. Budget autonomy is better than what we presently have but it is nowhere near what we actually deserve. As a husband, parent, citizen of the District and the United States I ask that this Committee focus not on one finite incident but focus on our entire status, our status is not right, it is not just, and it is definitely not a status fitting of the promise of America. I implore you all to put yourselves in my shoes and if you do, I believe that you too will see that supporting S. 132, the New Columbia Admission Act, a bill sponsored by Senator Carper, is the only bill that would ensure that me, my family, and my neighbors would be treated equally with you and your constituents.
Brookland, District of Columbia