The President and Congress have officially thrown the will of District voters under the bus and the District must figure out how to press forward to confront and/or dance around the 2015 federal budget just passed. The budget bill is a clear attempt and overturning the will of District voters not just on the marijuana initiative but also its renewal of preventing the District from spending tax dollars on reproductive health services for low income women and its ban on the use of federal funds for the District to work toward greater democracy. We can no longer sit back and accept this treatment as ‘just the way it is,’ it’s time to standup for ourselves.
While the Council Chair has indicated that he’ll follow the legislative interpretation of Congresswoman Norton and the respect the will of District voters by acting as if the law has already been enacted. That is not the only thing we should do. Below are five steps the District should take to confront the bullies that meddle in our affairs and call out those ‘friends’ of ours who seem not to have the political will or backbone to stand-up for democracy in the District:
- Confront: The Council should begin holding hearings on the tax and regulate component of legalization (not part of the referendum). This would be in direct violation of the law passed within the budget deal. It’s time for confrontation and this is it. What would Congress do if we held a hearing on tax and regulation? What would the optics be if Congress acted to enforce a law preventing a democratically elected legislature from having a hearing on an issue? Of course the next budget could be more punitive against the District but the only way our message will get out is by direct defiance of unjust and undemocratic laws. And some point direct confrontation of a meddlesome Congress is needed and given that they acted to subvert the democratic will of the people of the District the time has come.
- Invest: With a new administration brings a new opportunity dare I say a #freshstart to finally and fully invest in a push toward statehood. Over a year and a half ago I recommended creating the Mayor’s Office for DC Statehood and I think the importance of spearheading such an effort now is more important than ever. Every single piece of incremental legislation we have tried over the last 20 years still leaves the District vulnerable to a meddlesome Congress. Only statehood would permanently free us from their manipulative hands and it’s time for the District to fully invest time, money, and personnel in this effort.
- Rescind: Mayor-elect Bowser, upon taking the office, should send a formal letter to President Obama requesting that he turn in all of the “Taxation Without Representation” license plates on his fleet to the District’s DMV because has shown no will or passion to stand up against such a system. Here’s a draft:
Due to your lack of courage and fortitude to stand-up for the democratic will of the people of the District of Columbia I respectfully request that you turn in your “Taxation Without Representation” license plates until a time in which you willingly and forcefully stand with us and up for us in our pursuit to be treated equally as the 51st state in the union.
The Honorable Muriel Bowser
- Embarrass: A local non-profit should apply for funding from the United Nations Democracy Fund or other international grants focused on democracy building to support activities to promote and secure democracy in the District of Columbia. We should start taking our message nationally & internationally by showing America treats the people of its capital in an unjust and undemocratic manner. If our own country will not support our efforts to be more democratic maybe the international community will support us.
- Organize: District citizens must own this movement. We must be more involved, more passionate, and more strategic about how we press forward. If only minimal protests occur when Congress acts to overturn the will of the people they will continue to do so. The statehood movement needs to be better organized and house by house, neighborhood by neighborhood, ward by ward we should do so over the coming years. If you interested in hosting a meet & greet about D.C. statehood at your house and want to invite neighbors over, we’ll help facilitate! If you want to have someone give a talk at a school, place of worship, or civic group about D.C. democratic history & the statehood movement, we’ll be there! We simply need more people to agree to do a few small things so that we all have a stake in this cause and we all push toward a common goal.
There are many other ways that we all can stand up to Congress but the above list would be a good start and there’s a little something for our elected leaders, the non-profit and advocacy community, and individual citizens to do. We are all in this together so let’s stand-up for ourselves and determine our own democratic destiny and have some fun while doing it.
Please join the cause and we’ll welcome you with open arms to the statehood movement.