Saturday, December 13

DON'T SELL DC SHORT

Bill Mosley - Why stop at a single vote in the House? Norton and Fenty counsel against demanding too much too soon. But the political stars may never again be aligned in the District's favor as much as they are now. It's possible that Democrats could lose seats in 2010, thereby diminishing the District's chances. And the District is a very different place than in 1993 when the previous statehood bill was defeated in Congress. Then, the District was plagued by a crack epidemic and stood on the brink of fiscal insolvency. Today, crime is declining and the District has produced balanced budgets for 12 consecutive year. The district has become a magnet for retailers, and more people find it a desirable place to live.

Norton, in particular, has opposed an immediate push for statehood because the District lost some of its state responsibilities, such as prisons and courts, in the 1997 DC Revitalization Act. But this should be no obstacle. A statehood bill could simply include a provision that would require the District to assume these functions. The financial burden of taking on these duties would be substantially eased by the fact that statehood would enable the District to enact a commuter tax – something it is currently forbidden to do.

Moreover, never in our country's history has voting representation been awarded by any method other than statehood, and a voting-rights bill is certain to be challenged in court. Should we abandon the constitutionally tested path of statehood for the uncertain ground of stateless voting rights?

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