D.C. Holds 'Historic' Statehood Strategy Session
More than 40 people turned out for the D.C. Council's first statehood strategy session late yesterday afternoon at the John A. Wilson Building, including representatives from DC Vote, DC Statehood Green Party, the League of Women Voters, Stand Up for Democracy and several other groups.
"I think we're fighting for several things," Michael A. Brown, the councilmember who chairs the new committee, said before the meeting. "Any time there's an injustice, that's what this is about. There are under 600,000 residents of the District of Columbia and they deserve something, whether it's voting rights, statehood. That's what this meeting is about."
D.C. Wire was not allowed into the meeting, so we hung out in the hall outside room 502. Afterward, some of those filing out told the Wire they thought the meeting went smoothly.
D.C.'s two shadow senators had varying degrees of focus, providing one example of just how knotty an issue this can be, whether it's the fight for a D.C. vote in the U.S. House (tangled up in a battle for gun rights) or the all-out and even harder push for statehood.
"This voting rights bill, this gun amendment is just preposterous," said Michael D. Brown on the vote bill now on the Hill. "We can not stand by and let Congress take back our right to home rule. It gives them the right to make laws in the District of Columbia and it takes the right for us to make laws away. Statehood gets rid of all the problems. It gives us reps in both houses and it gives us control of our budget."
Shadow senator Paul Strauss, however, said divisiveness on voting issues and statehood should not be the focus.
"I think most people in the District of Columbia support statehood as the ultimate goal," he said. "There are some who see the house voting rights bill as a step in that direction, there are some who think it might derail the effort. I don't like the idea that people can be for voting rights and somehow that means they're against statehood."
Councilmember Brown released a statement late last night calling the meeting "historic."
"This meeting was a ground breaking success," he said in the statement. "It gave us the opportunity to finally sit down with a cross-section of leaders with varying viewpoints to build a common framework from which to work on one of the most pressing issues facing the District."
This also from the release: "Notwithstanding the diversity of perspectives offered during the meeting, the group reached consensus that full self-determination is the ultimate goal. The exact path to reaching this common goal varied amongst participants. The various approaches discussed included building a national movement in achieving statehood through an amendment to the US Constitution, using the current Voting Rights bill as an incremental step to full representation, and retroceding the District to Maryland or :StateVirginia . A common thread in all of the discussion was the agreement amongst the participants that working together is essential to developing a winning strategy."
Reading between those lines: there's still a lot of ground to cover on a collective strategy.
Still, Brown said participants offered feedback on a 60-day plan that will jump start the Special Committee's operations. That proposed effort included what's been a part of D.C. strategy for a while: from meetings with national and congressional leaders to the use of relatively new technology and social networking tools such as Twitter and Facebook.
Council Chair, Vincent C. Gray, Councilmember Yvette Alexander (Ward 7) and Councilmember Kwame Brown (At-Large) also attended the session.
March 25, 2009; 8:00 AM ET
Categories: Voting Rights
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