DC faces a huge dilemma while approaching the precipice of statehood. There is a 13 foot donkey & a congressional woolly mammoth in the room.  The New Columbia Statehood Commission (which includes Mayor Muriel Bowser & Council Chairman Phil Mendelson) and DC Council have a historic, once in a lifetime opportunity. However, this opportunity also presents them with the chance to shape their legacies, along with shaping the paradigm of our nations 51st star. With potentially 440,000 voters headed to the polls on November 8, 2016, Council is trying to carpe the damn diem. Meanwhile, activists & lifelong statehood advocates are crying foul as accessibility to the process seems to have become more consolidated. Its kinda like Michael Jordan, palm gripping the basketball while the clock runs out.

The first public hearing (video) being held just this week (September 17, 2016).

Folks have been working on this legislation & it’s process for a long time. This process, referred to is the “Tennessee Plan”, takes advantage of powers given to Congress in Article IV, Section 3 of the Constitution of United States of America.  As North Carolina was granted statehood they gave up territories west of the Appalachian mountains. The citizens of this now “left over” territory, having fought in the Revolutionary War, felt entitled to full citizenship. They gathered their proposal then petitioned congress for admission to the United States.

“The goal here is that, in January when we have a new president that we will petition the congress to adopt an admissions act, present to them a constitution, it will have been adopted by the council as well as propose boundaries.” Said Mendelson, City Council Chairman. Even the boundaries are still up in the air as a revision were being made just last week.

Congressional overseers can be found perpetually nit-picking in District matters big & small.  The latest and greatest technique has been through “rider” legislation that shapes and blocks was DC can spend its own money. Washington, DC, with almost 700,000 residents operates at a $200,000,000 surplus, has a more robust economy that many other states. However, because of congressional budget riders we’ve been unavailable to make decision for ourselves on:

  • Gun Control
  • Marijuana Legalization
  • Reproductive Health & Descrimination
  • Budget Autonomy
(The area outlined in the center of the “diamond” will remain the District of Columbia.)

Right now, if there is no change, council will have the last, lone word on how our constitution reads. The Advisory Referendum on the State of New Columbia Admission Act Resolution of 2016 will read:

To ask the voters on November 8, 2016, through an advisory referendum, whether the Council should petition Congress to enact a statehood admission act to admit the State of New Columbia to the Union. Advising the Council to approve this proposal would establish that the citizens of the District of Columbia (“District”)

(1) agree that the District should be admitted to the Union as the State of New Columbia; [Some suggested Potomac, Anacostia or (Frederick) Douglass Commonwealth (DC)]

(2) approve of a Constitution of the State of New Columbia to be adopted by the Council; (Draft, Report)

(3) approve the State of New Columbia’s boundaries (here), as adopted by the New Columbia Statehood Commission on June 28, 2016; and [A Council amendment recently reached out and touched two properties near the federal seat tapped for inclusion in the State of New Columbia; Joe’s seafood & the newly finished Trump Hotel]

(4) agree that the State of New Columbia shall guarantee an elected representative form of government.

Some who testified, threatened a vote of  “No” on November 8, 2016 unless the commission and DC Council makes this process more transparent. They are pleading for the opportunity to have a Constitutional Convention, an inclusive process that will pull in more perspectives to address a greater spectrum of concerns from District residents.

The Mayor and DC Council sit at a peculiar point in our history. As they stand to create their next position as well as the powers around it.  Currently, the constitutional draft would expand & transform the 13 member Council to a 21 member House of Delegates (though some are asking for as many as 41.) They can choose to dilute or retain powers as they shape what would become the New Columbia House of Delegates.  The constitutional draft would adds one additional seat from all eight wards of DC. New Columbia would have full representation in U.S. House and Senate. Most importantly, statehood will “#FreeDC” from congressional oversight. As if explaining DC’s status to your relatives isn’t tough enough already. “No, auntie. DC is not a part of Maryland or Virginia. Yes. We are awarded second class citizenship for our tax dollars.”

The next hearing will be held on Thursday, October 6, 2016 at 6:30 pm in The John Wilson Building (1350 Pennsylvania Ave NW, Washington, DC). Will you answer [X] “Yes” or [  ] “Nah”?

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