What We Learned From Dave Weigel's Jason Chaffetz Profile
||Thursday, September 30, 2010
For about as long as we can remember, the District has been run by Congress. Sure, we were granted Home Rule in 1973, but even that move forward came with a glaring caveat -- Congress can always overrule what local officials want to do or just force them to do things they wouldn't otherwise want to.
The last few years have been relatively good, though, as Democrats have pushed measures to increase local legislative and budgetary autonomy and remove a number of noxious prohibitions on local policy initiatives like medical marijuana and needle-exchange programs. But the good times may come to an inglorious end, should Republicans take back the House come November.
This week, Dave Weigel profiles Rep. Jason Chaffetz (R-UT) for the City Paper, assessing what the young Republican's reign over the Federal Workforce, Postal Service, and the District of Columbia Subcommittee of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee would mean for the District. (Without a Republican Senate and president, thankfully, it may just be noise.)
We've excerpted some of the tastiest morsels of what Chaffetz has to say about our fair city and his presumptive lordship over it.
1.Chaffetz promises to be a better, more locally engaged congressional overlord than his predecessors. "I've been to every Five Guys and Matchbox in the city," he proudly told Weigel, assuming that visiting the local branches of a national chain or going to one of the two Matchboxes in the city (each within a mile of the Capitol, it should be noted) would beef up his local cred. That's like saying that since he sleeps in his office on the Hill, he clearly understands the needs, concerns and aspirations of his Ward 6 neighbors. (Yes, Rep. Chaffetz, the city is divided into wards. There's eight of them.)
2.Chaffetz knows that not having any voting representation is a total injustice, but if its a constitutionally mandated injustice, then he's all about enforcing it. "When you're in Washington, D.C., you'll see license plates that say 'Taxation Without Representation.' I think we all recognize that that is fundamentally flawed. But what's paramount in this discussion is the U.S. Constitution, and the Constitution explicitly says that voting rights are reserved for the several states." If only the founders had set up a mechanism to amend parts of the Constitution that become hopelessly outdated. If only.
3.Chaffetz claims he's open to negotiating with presumptive Mayor Vince Gray. "I haven't had any negative interactions with Vince Gray. It's nice to go in with a clean slate, and I'll work together with him. Where we agree, let's get things done. Where we disagree, let's work it out."
4. ...unless, of course, it's about local autonomy. "I know that Gray and the new government will want as much autonomy as possible, but that's not in the Constitution." That slate just got a whole lot less clean, now didn't it?
5. Remember how when Mayor Adrian Fenty took over the city's schools, he managed to strip the School Board of most of its power? Chaffetz seems to want it back, only this time it'll have 535 members. "One of my deep concerns is the education of the city. It's about how to educate kids. It's not about putting as many people on the payroll as possible." Let's hope that it's left to the Texas delegation to write our local textbook standards.
6. Hey gays, are you scaredy cats or something? Chaffetz seems to think that your desire to not subject a civil right -- in this case, marriage -- to a vote makes you so. "They passed the law and were afraid of a vote." MAN UP, gays, and let's just vote on this thing. Or are you...chicken?
7. Chaffetz isn't all bad. He wants us to get all the rights regular Americans get, and he argues that it would best be accomplished through the none-too-new idea of retrocession to Maryland. "It's our nation's capital and the Constitution deals with it in a unique way. Washington, D.C., is not a state...I'd like to see it retroceded back into a state." Of course, retrocession wouldn't likely be any easier or Constitutionally sound than any of the other options to get District resident their voting rights, but it would prevent the Democratic Party from picking up two new senators. Coincidence? We don't think so.