Having lived in DC for some time, I have to say, I’m still a bit unclear on the whole Statehood process. There’s a lot of back and forth about the benefits of Statehood, as well as what would get lost if DC gave up its Federal City host role. The general sense I’ve picked up is that DC Statehood requires a vote in Congress, but doesn’t DC have to do something, too? Is it really just a matter of the Majority Leadership sending something to the floor by way of the appropriate committees?
Congress has said no time and again, not necessarily directly, but at the least by simply not voting. As to why? A lot of reasons are given—the District isn’t big enough in population (it has more residents than Wyoming by about 30 percent); it isn’t big enough geographically (by that reasoning Rhode Island would be a County of Connecticut); it was never intended that DC would have a resident population (times change, Road to Hell . . . ); there is no economy/ tax base aside from the Federal Government (not true—plenty of DC businesses and enterprises like CakeLove, DC Brau, the new printer cartridge factory, and if “economy dependent on the federal government was a Statehood fail, Virginia, West Virginia and California wouldn’t be States).
You could chalk the resistance up to simple tunnel vision and stubbornness, a group of political insiders who lack the vision to see the change in front of them and the pathway to a different future. Even my contrarian self doesn’t buy that, though. I think there are some legitimate concerns with DC’s readiness for Statehood, perhaps they haven’t always been clearly communicated and made their way down to the ordinary DCist on the street. That’s not the same as irrelevant.
One thing in DC’s power to do different is increase the number of elected officials, particularly full-time elected officials. For a jurisdiction of over six hundred thousand to have only three full time Electeds is a bit sparse. The Mayor, City Council (most of whom are considered part time) and ANC Commissioners (who are volunteers) do a lot of work representing their people as both State and Local officials. In most places, there would be a Governor and a state legislature, elected Attorney General (as of the last election, that position in DC is supposed to be elected moving forward, but the current is still an appointee), Treasurer, Secretary of State, Lieutenant Governor, etc. as well, backing up these folks. That’s a lot more access, a lot more Democracy.
So, District, elevate yourself. Engage in some self-help, give yourself a bit more Democracy where the power is in your hands, and who knows what may follow? 😉