One of the greatest civil right issues of our time is that the District of Columbia lacks the Congressional representation that every state in the Union is privy to. This injustice is the reason that I got involved in the District’s affairs. It all began organizing a weeklong voter registration drive early last spring aimed for the Primary Election. This act of civic duty has warped into declaring my candidacy in August for one of the seats on the Advisory Neighborhood Commission in Foggy Bottom.
When I came to The George Washington University, never did it cross my mind that I would register to vote in DC, much less run for elected office there, because I was a Kentuckian born and raised. As I explored Washington beyond the confines of Foggy Bottom, I found neighborhoods much like to my hometown of Louisville. Although some are lobbyists and Congressional staffers, most people who live in Washington don’t work for the government or see the city as a place to live for a few years before moving wherever they came from. Like in cities across the country, most own or work for small businesses; value religion or more broadly exhibit a conscience, and hope to see their children have a better life than they have.
Even though Statehood is what will make Washingtonians mouths drool the most, I bet if we do the following we’ll someday prove to Congress that we should have the power to govern ourselves, 1) Elect politicians without fraudulent behaviors (Just in the past year, Chairman Kwame Brown and Ward 5 Councilmember Harry Thomas, Jr. have been convicted of felonies, and a number of others have been cited for questionable behaviors), 2) Improve Public Education (DC spends more per pupil than any state in the country and is ranked the worst in the nation). 3) Lobby Congress for Park Autonomy (Unlike any state, DC doesn’t have control of neighborhood parks like Washington Circle or Dupont Circle), 4) Lobby Congress for Budget Autonomy (Unlike any state, DC is not allowed spend its own money without Congressional oversight), 5) Lobby Congress to allow a Commuter Tax, (Unlike any state, DC is not allowed to tax the wages of those who work in District and choose to live outside of the District).
When President Obama was elected with a Democratic majority in both the House and the Senate, some believed maybe DC’s day had come when Statehood would be granted. But no, that didn’t happen. First, we have to prove it to Congress that we can clean up the city’s political sphere. Second, we have to bargain beyond our borders much like Henry Clay’s Compromise of 1850, which determined that only a slave state would enter the Union concurrently with a free state. Considering the polarization in Congress and that DC is overwhelming Democratic majority, only an unconventional Republican would support as idea such as Statehood just as most Democrats would be as stubborn if the District was a conservative center. If only Puerto Rico or another Republican trending territory can join the Union concurrently, we may be able to strike a deal that no Republican or Democrat can refuse.
Good government in the District is crucial to ensuring that Congress can consider greater autonomy for the District of the Columbia. As Commissioner, I plan to encourage residents to get involved. Greater participation not only at a ballot box, but on the other 364 days of the year, will make the Foggy Bottom Neighborhood an even greater place to live than it already is. I would like to establish an Advisory Neighborhood Commission Internship Program to instill in students a commitment to service at the most local level of government.
The single-member-district that I reside stretches from Washington Circle to Franklin Triangle, across from T.G.I. Fridays, and down to the E Street Expressway. Improving those parks, while making them more inviting to residents with the help of signage will help stimulate programming such as what Dupont Festival has achieved in Dupont Circle or what the Golden Triangle has accomplished with Pilates in Farragut Square. Getting people more engaged will make it easier to tackle some of the tougher issues facing Foggy Bottom such as town gown relations, campus development, and homelessness.