Thursday, 14 December 2017 15:34

Despite GOP Congress, D.C. Statehood Commission Moves Forward

Written by James Wright | The AFRO
By James Wright, Special to the AFRO, December 14, 2017.

While it looks unlikely that the residential and commercial areas of the District of Columbia will become the state of Washington, D.C. during the Republican-led U.S. Congress, the city agency charged with getting statehood is moving forward undeterred.

On Dec. 6, the D.C. Statehood Commission held its last meeting of the year at the John A. Wilson Building, including D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser (D), D.C. Council Chairman Phil Mendelson (D), D.C. Statehood Sens. Paul Strauss (D) and Michael Brown (D) and D.C. Statehood Rep. Franklin Garcia (D).

Bowser said legislative activity on Capitol Hill makes the need for statehood for the District critical. “It is important that the work in front of us proceeds,” the mayor said. “In recent weeks, there has been substantial legislation that has been passed in the Congress and we have not had a voice. Tax reform has passed both houses and it is unclear what the impact on D.C. will be. Our congresswoman didn’t have a vote in the House and there is no voice or vote in the U.S. Senate from D.C.”

While the residents of the District pay federal taxes and have to honor obligations of citizenship such as being drafted into the military in a time of war, the city is represented by a delegate, who can serve and vote in committees but cannot vote on the House floor. The delegate is Democrat Eleanor Holmes Norton, a member of the U.S. House of Representatives since 1991.

Bowser said the Senate’s tax reform plan “will benefit the one percent and raise taxes for the middle class.”

“Does their tax plan work for D.C.,” she said rhetorically. “We should have a vote on those deliberations.”

Beverly Perry serves as a senior advisor to Bowser and is charged with working with the D.C. Statehood Commission. Perry said there is progress on Capitol Hill for statehood.

“Congresswoman Norton has 141 co-sponsors for her statehood bill and in the Senate, Sen. Tom Carper (D-Del.) has 20 co-sponsors,” she said. Norton introduced the “Washington, D.C. Admission Act of 2017” and Carper has brought forward companion legislation in his chamber.

Perry outlined the states she and her staff are focusing on for statehood support. “The states that we are targeting for D.C. statehood support are Arizona, Washington, Alaska, New Mexico, Illinois, Indiana, Maine, Georgia, South Carolina and New Hampshire,” she said.

Perry’s staff reviewed extensive data to determine the target states.  In addition, Perry plans to ask local organizations to reach out to their national memberships to support statehood and establish a speaker’s bureau.

She also noted that the District gets 20 million visitors each year and said that they are ripe for persuasion on statehood. “We will have statehood education kiosks at Union Station and at Reagan National Airport,” she said. “Also, we are planning on having signs that show the actual boundaries of the state of Washington, D.C.”

While the members of the commission were satisfied with the work of Perry, there was still frustration that the statehood effort hasn’t caught on with some people. “I am angry and I think we should all be angry,” Brown said, voicing his anxiety at the media and residents who don’t show up for statehood strategy meetings.

Brown said the $75,000 budget he works with is inadequate, given that he has a website and a radio show dedicated to the cause. Strauss said that celebrities such as comedian Dave Chapelle have taken up the statehood cause and that the movement is a member of the Unrepresented People’s and Nations Organization, which recently voted to support statehood.

Garcia said that while reaching national and international audiences is great, he said local support is critical as well. “We need to make sure that D.C. statehood means something to the common D.C. citizen,” he said.

View this article online at the AFRO.

Read 28 times Last modified on Friday, 15 December 2017 15:57

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