D.C. voting rights: What now?
||Washington Post (DC)
||Sunday, August 1, 2010
||Sunday- Local Opinions
D.C. voting rights: What now?
Sunday, August 1, 2010; C05
One of D.C. Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton's fondest expressions, used repeatedly over the past 20 years as she led the charge for D.C. voting rights, has been "kill 'em with your case."
Unfortunately for D.C. residents, her July 25 Local Opinions commentary, "D.C. voting rights: Where we've been, where we're going" posits a new, virtually incoherent strategy for winning D.C. rights that is far more likely to confuse than kill. Her proposal is a smorgasbord of disparate, if not conflicting, strategic choices, each textually and substantively distinct from the other. Such a recipe for moving the city forward is bizarre and all but guaranteed to take us nowhere, because if we haven't figured out where we're going, how in heaven's name are Congress or the American people supposed to follow our lead? With her fresh plan, Norton will succeed only in confounding our clear and compelling case for equal political rights.
Before we slide yet further into strategic disarray, perhaps good-faith efforts should be made to win a citywide strategic consensus on what our goal should be. Only then will it be possible to map a plan to get there.
Timothy Cooper, Washington
The writer is executive director of the group Worldrights.
No one has more respect for Eleanor Holmes Norton than I do, and I am encouraged by her announcement that she plans to introduce a statehood bill in Congress if she is reelected. She's right that "it was the city's decision that took statehood off the table," and it should be the city that supports restoring it. The people of the District have never abandoned statehood as our goal; it was the D.C. Council and those who seek compromise on Capitol Hill who did.
I disagree with Chief Financial Officer Natwar Gandhi that "statehood would cost the District an extra $1.2 billion." Although the District as a state would be responsible for some of this cost, a portion would still be the responsibility of the federal government. Also, we must remember that the group D.C. Appleseed has shown that we leave $2 billion a year on the table by not being a state, because we are not able to tax the 72 percent of the city workforce that lives in Maryland and Virginia.
I would add that bringing us close to representation, as happened with the D.C. voting rights bill this year, does not make us stronger; our recurring losses only embolden our opposition. And we are going to have to face gun proponents no matter what.
Last year, Puerto Rico put $20 million into its effort to become a state; the District has budgeted $0 for fiscal 2011. I went to a statehood rally last week, and fewer than 100 people showed up. Until the city budgets real money and Washingtonians show their support, the movement will go nowhere.
It's time to stop looking for different ways to make this work. When in doubt, do the right thing, and the right thing is statehood.
Michael D. Brown,
The writer is shadow U.S. senator for the District.
Del. (how I wish it were really Rep.) Eleanor Holmes Norton's review of the history of attempts to secure D.C. voting rights was, of course, accurate. She has valiantly participated in every effort.
But because her history is so accurate, the story is bleak -- one failure after another. She is right that we must review the record to determine whether we can finally get a hit after so many strikeouts. Everything should be on the table.
In her review, she did not include retrocession to Maryland, which would enable us to have representation in both the House and Senate. Obviously, the prospect for this course is as bleak as (perhaps even bleaker than) the alternatives Norton discussed, but that is no reason for not considering it.
Bob Guttman, Washington
Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton's commentary on the fight for D.C. voting rights accurately reviewed past efforts to achieve equal representation for D.C. residents. Unfortunately, she offered no realistic alternative to repeating past failures.
A better strategy can be found on D.C.'s license plates: "Taxation Without Representation." Unlike Puerto Rico -- where residents also have a nonvoting delegate to Congress but are exempt from federal income taxes -- D.C. citizens have the worst of both worlds. A similar exemption from federal income taxes for D.C. residents, in addition to directly benefiting our residents, would attract an influx of high-income taxpayers from around the country, who would then provide the District with higher "state" income tax revenue. And unlike statehood or House voting rights, this approach is supported by some of the most conservative members of Congress, who have co-sponsored a bill by Rep. Louie Gohmert (R-Tex.) to achieve this.
Norton should work to pass this bill, H.R.1014. If we can't be equal to Virginia or Maryland, perhaps we can be equal to Puerto Rico.
Kent Jeffreys, Washington