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April 20, 2011

The Price of Statehood

Dear Cost Counters:

If I think that DC’s elected officials and statehood advocacy groups are using wrong and counterproductive strategies to get statehood for the District — and I do (themail, April 13) — then what would I suggest instead? I’d suggest not seeking statehood, since the price of statehood would be higher than its current advocates would be willing to pay.

First, let me dismiss two claims that statehood advocates make about the federal government’s failure to give statehood to DC: racism and power hoarding. Congress won’t give statehood to DC, they insinuate (and sometimes claim outright), because Congress doesn’t want black people to have political control over a state. Nonsense. Congress didn’t give statehood to DC when it had a majority white population, for generations and centuries before the past few decades, when it had a majority black population, and it won’t suddenly turn around and look favorably upon statehood if the white population of DC continues to grow to be a solid majority of DC again. Second, advocates claim that “power is never given up willingly,” and that the federal government has to be forced to give statehood by hostile demonstrations. That’s a complete misunderstanding of what admitting states to the union has been all about. Admitting states to the union increased the wealth, size, and strength of the union; it didn’t reduce it. The earlier states didn’t lose any power when later states joined; all the states gained more power by being together. New states were admitted with celebration, not with grudging, reluctant acceptance.

The main impediment to DC statehood is the Constitution, which provides (Article 1, Section 8) that one of the powers of Congress is “To exercise exclusive Legislation in all Cases whatsoever, over such District (not exceeding ten Miles square) as may, by Cession of particular States, and the acceptance of Congress, become the Seat of the Government of the United States. . . .” Some advocates argue that DC can be made a state through shortcuts, but there are only two options: amending this section of the Constitution or reducing the size of the District that was created by Congress. The second option is easier; it could be done by an act of Congress that would create a small Federal District of several blocks with relatively few residents (who would still not be represented by senators or even by a delegate in the House of Representatives) and would leave the larger portion of the District of Columbia, which could then become a state.

How do the residents of the District of Columbia persuade members of Congress first to reduce the size of the Federal District, and then to pass a bill admitting the nonfederal part of DC to the union as a state? (These steps could conceivably be collapsed into one bill.) We don’t do that by insulting members of Congress; by making enemies of Republicans, who control one house of Congress now and who may control both houses of Congress after the 2012 or 2014 election; or by insulting the residents of the fifty existing states by rubbing it into their faces that we don’t share their values, in fact are contemptuous of their values, and that we won’t be a congenial member of the club once we’re admitted. Over the past several months and years, DC government has worked to convince the nation that our highest values and legal priorities are government financing for abortions, especially for poor black women; legalizing marijuana, with medical marijuana as the opening wedge; facilitating the use of injectible illegal drugs by providing free hypodermic needles to addicts; preventing poor children from receiving financial aid that could enable them to attend private schools; legalizing gay marriage and forbidding the participation of Catholic church organizations in governmentally financed social service programs (though, interestingly, not forbidding the participation of Islamic mosques) because of their support for traditional morality; and even refusing a floor vote in the House of Representatives for our Congressional delegate, if the cost of that vote would be that the DC government could no longer deny its citizens their Second Amendment rights. Those may be the highest values of DC’s elected officials and voters, but collectively and taken as a package they place us on the fringe of American politics, far to the left of all states and all but a few municipal areas.

If DC really wants statehood, it needs to follow a political route, to moderate its political stances and show that it would be a moderate state. There is no potential Republican state ready to be admitted to the union at the same time, with which DC can be paired to preserve the political balance in Congress. The only potential candidate for statehood in the near future is Puerto Rico, whose citizens will vote on a statehood option next year, but Puerto Rico is nearly as Democratic (though not as far to the left) as DC. It would help if DC would elect some Republican councilmembers, or even a Republican mayor or delegate to Congress. That is the cost of statehood, but DC politicians and voters are likely to decide that adopting more moderate political positions or electing a few Republicans is a price too high, a cost that they are unwilling to pay.

If DC wanted to pay that political cost, its strategy would be simple. It would stop the anti-Congress and anti-Republican protests that gather no more than a handful of attendees (and whose low attendance undermines the claim that statehood is a high priority and widespread desire of DC citizens). It would start mass pro-American, pro-federal government celebrations, even as small and symbolic as trying to get every household in DC to fly an American flag for flag day, that emphasized the Americanism of DC residents and our connection to and affection for the nation, not our grievances and complaints about it. And then it would start playing an inside game of lobbyists and lawyers, of the “leading citizens” who already have ties to and friendships with members of Congress. That is how other states have succeeded in their quests for statehood — they have had positive rallies with enthusiastic citizens and have exploited the influence, prestige, and powers of persuasion of their leading citizens. DC is blessed (or cursed) with a surfeit of influence peddlers who have moved Congress on a multitude of issues for a multitude of clients and causes and companies. And these influential people have kept their distance from the cause of DC statehood. Convince them of the cause first, and then they will convince Congress. Finally, DC will have to write a state constitution that will impress Congress that our readiness for responsible self-government — a Constitution that is not filled with all the faddish, slogan-filled causes of the day, but a noble Constitution that will stand up to comparison with the United States Constitution itself and with the best of state constitutions, and that will stand for the ages.

Gary Imhoff


Gray and Brown, Unaccountable
Dorothy Brizill,

Last fall, after their victories in the September primaries, both Vincent Gray and Kwame Brown announced that they would not rely on public funds to pay for their transition and inauguration expenses. To that end, they both established nonprofit entities to raise and expend funds. Vincent Gray established the DC One City Fund, Inc., with Lorraine Green, Thomas Gore, and Lloyd Jordan as the three incorporators and board of directors. Jordan was also named the fund’s registered agent. Kwame Brown registered the Making a Difference Fund, Inc., with DCRA, and he named Aura Garcia, Dawn Cromer (who was also the treasurer for Brown’s 2008 campaign committee, which the Office of Campaign Finance recently audited), and Victor Fenwick (who was also the registered agent for the Fund) as the Board of Directors. The articles of incorporation are strikingly similar, because they were both written by the same attorney, Lloyd Jordan.

In separate press conference last fall, Gray and Brown both promised to be open and transparent with regard to their fundraising, and indicated that they would provide full accounting for all funds raised and expended. Now, four months after taking office, and after repeated requests for information, Gray and Brown have cloaked their fundraising in secrecy. Unfortunately, neither the District’s campaign finance or election laws require the reporting or disclosure of nonpublic funds raised or expended for the transition or inauguration of elected officials. The only legal reporting requirement Gray and Brown will be required to meet will be the tax returns the two nonprofit entities will file in the fall.

Regarding Kwame Brown, this is what we know to date: 1) in addition to the Making a Difference Fund, Inc., there were two other entities that raised funds for Brown, Kwame Brown Inaugural 2010, Inc., and Kwame Brown Transition 2010, Inc. 2) The expenses for Kwame Brown’s transition and inauguration should have been minuscule, since he largely piggybacked on Vincent Gray’s inauguration and relied on free government resources for his transition (e.g., office space, supplies, etc.). 3) With regard to the funds Brown raised, we know that at least one entity, Kwame Brown Transition 2010, Inc., raised approximately one hundred thousand dollars. 4) What we don’t know is the amount raised by the other two entities, how their funds were expended, and whether there were any unspent funds. 5) Lloyd Jordan serves as the attorney for Kwame Brown’s transition and inaugural committees, and was also the attorney and registered agent for Vincent Gray’s inaugural/transition committee. 6) According to Jordan, the disclosure of financial information by the three Kwame Brown entities is up to “the decision of each board of directors.”

With regard to Vincent Gray, we know that: 1) Reuben Charles, whose questionable background and business practices were the subject of several media stories last fall, was both the director of Gray’s transition/inaugural committee and the principal fundraiser for the DC One City Fund. 2) As recently as two weeks ago, Charles was still working and conducting fundraising operations out of Gray’s transition office in the Reeves Building. 3) Charles’ fundraising included having envelopes picked up from individuals and operations up and down the east coast from New York City to Richmond. Many individuals association with Gray’s campaign and transition allege that in many instances the envelopes contained cash money. 4) Charles’ fundraising prowess was in large measure attributable to his claim that he would be appointed Gray’s Chief of Staff. After the negative press stories about him, however, Geri Hall was appointed Chief of Staff. Charles then switched his sales pitch to telling potential contributors to “give if you want to assure access in a Gray administration.” 5) Mayor Gray is now refusing to release any financial records until an accounting firm chosen by the transition committee (that is, Lorraine Green and Reuben Charles) completes an audit. That audit is likely to take several months. Moreover, will the cash money that was allegedly passed to Reuben Charles ever be accounted for?


Metro and Fairfax/Loudon Counties
Vic Miller,

Almost forty years ago, as a young staffer at the Office of Management and Budget, I wrote enthusiastically in the President’s Budget about the coming Metro. Roger Adkins, then Transportation Branch chief, advised me to tone it down — nothing was here yet, and a lot might not ever arrive. A lot did eventually get built, sadly not maintained, but the extension to Dulles never did. When I worked internationally for the Treasury Department in the 1990’s, other countries’ finance officials would regularly express amazement that in this capital of all there was no real transportation to the international airport.

But Fairfax and Loudon grew like Topsy, the two richest counties in the nation, and the strain on Dulles’ small facilities was intolerable. So the airport expanded to serve this increased demand. However, all of us have paid for it for more than a decade through increased taxes on our tickets even though those of us in the inner suburbs and DC itself did not create the need for the expansion. And we paid even more, both in time and money, for the increasingly difficult privilege of getting there. I am amazed that it is cheaper to get a bus from Washington to New York than to Dulles. Now we will all pay again in lost time, first because of the increasing delays in getting the extension to Dulles, and because of the diversion through multiple Tyson’s Corner stops to get there.

I am now almost 67, and I don’t ever expect to ride Metrorail all the way to Dulles. Again, this is not a problem for Fairfax and Loudon, which are a short car or cab ride away. But for the residents of these two counties to say they are being put upon to place the final stop near the terminal is absurd. We have paid for their terminal. It is their time to pay for our Metro station.


DC Council At-Large Candidate Positions on Social Issues
Richard Urban,

ULTRA (Urban Life Training and Reality Assessment) Teen Choice has compiled the positions of the DC Council At-Large Candidates on Abstinence Education, Same Sex Marriage, and public funding of abortions here: We have also posted video on the ULTRA Teen Choice candidates forum on health issues held on March 10.


White House Response to DC Riders Is Tone Deaf
Ann Loikow,

DC residents contribute vast sums of money to candidates from all over the country, from those running for President to those running for Congress and other offices and we also send large numbers of volunteer workers around the country to help these folks get elected. Unfortunately, we have rarely asked for anything for ourselves. If we want to cure the tone deafness of the President and Congress, we should start by refusing to contribute to or work for any national or state candidate that does not support DC statehood. Similarly, we should tell all national public interest groups that solicit our money and help lobbying for X, Y, and Z issues, that we won’t participate unless they put DC statehood on their agendas. We have leverage. We just need to use it. Go to and take a look at where campaign contributions come from.


Dan Gambler,

I hope you are actually reading/viewing al-Jazira, if you wish to bad mouth it. At least in the English language web and TV versions, I see none of that bias. They just lack the pro-American bias normal in the American press.


Al Jazeera Arabic
Simon Davis,

May I ask what the source is for the statement that Al Jazeera Arabic “promotes the Muslim Brotherhood and anti-American and anti-Western propaganda” [themail, April 17]? My understanding is that it is the most objective and authoritative Arabic language satellite network with editorial independence from the Qatari government. I’m a bit suspicious of such characterizations which are quite similar to those leveled by Donald Rumsfeld and other Bush administration officials during the Iraq War. Furthermore, if we wish to ask District residents what they think of support for human rights abusing regimes by District financial backers, we might also examine US Federal government support for Saudi Arabia (to mention one of many).

My experience watching Al Jazeera English (since I don’t speak Arabic) has been that it is by far the best international news available on US television, with far superior reporting and analysis than BBC America, cable news, or broadcast news. Anyone who followed the recent Egyptian revolution will probably agree with me. Incidentally, the Al Jazeera English US studio is in Washington, DC, as well. Washington viewers can watch it on Comcast channel 275, on over the air broadcaster MHz, as well as online at

[Whether al Jazira Arabic presents moderate, trustworthy, and independent news coverage, or whether its news coverage is slanted toward the Muslim Brotherhood and against the United States, is a topic that is too far from the local DC focus of themail to be debated in detail here. I would just suggest that those who don’t trust anything said by a conservative, or who think the US press is too conservative to be believed, should read an article on the station by John Arlidge that is reprinted from the (London) Sunday Times Magazine, Arlidge write frequently for the Guardian newspaper, which should give him sufficient leftist credentials. As a side note, I recommend and



Ward 6 Candidates Forum, April 19
Wendy Glenn,

The Ward 6 Democrats will cohost the final special election candidates forum of the season. This is your last chance to see the candidates before Election Day on Tuesday, April 26. Tuesday, April 19, 6:30-8:00 p.m., in the north hall at Eastern Market. Accessible by Metrorail, Metrobus, and Bikeshare. Moderators will be Bruce DePuyt, host, NewsTalk, and Martin Austermuhle, Please RSVP and submit questions in advance to Join us after the forum for the debate after the debate and a little social fun, across the street at Tunnicliff’s Tavern, 222 7th Street, SE.


Events at Woman’s National Democratic Club, April 21-April 28
Tonya Butler-Truesdale,

Thursday, April 21, luncheon with Alon Ben-Meir, New York University’s Center for Global Affairs. Dr. Ben-Meir is an expert on Middle East politics and affairs, specializing in peace regulations and conflict resolution. For the past twenty years he has been directly involved in various negotiations and has operated as a liaison between top Arab and Israeli officials. He regularly holds briefings at the US State Department for international visitors. Dr. Meir writes a weekly column for the Jerusalem Post and has appeared in numerous newspapers, in magazines and on web sites. This is an opportunity to learn from an expert. Bar opens at 11:30 a.m.; lunch 12:15 p.m.; presentation and question and answer period, 1:00 p.m.-2:00 p.m. $25 members; $30 nonmembers; $10 lecture only. Register at

Tuesday, April 26, luncheon with Patricia Smith Melton, “Sixty Years, Sixty Voices. A stunning book by Peace x Peace Founder, Patricia Smith Melton, offers a rare perspective on the possibility of Middle East Peace through the eyes of thirty Israeli and thirty Palestinian women whose practical approaches have already gained traction across both sides of the Wall. Printed in English, Hebrew and Arabic, the book illuminates each woman’s deepest feelings, visions, and hopes for peace along with the tactics they use every day to make peace a reality in their lives. From Knesset member to Bedouin sheepherder turned community leader, from comedian to the widow of a Hamas principal, from prisoner to soldier, from rabbi to teacher of the disabled, these women say who they are, what they do, what they believe, what their life is like, and what is needed to build peace. The result is a mosaic of sixty different lifetimes of struggle, spirit, and sheer leaps of faith in one of the most war-torn regions of the world. The collection of interviews, biographies, and photographs documents the power and experiences of these diverse women, who have struggled to find a mutual destiny where each can thrive.

Ms. Smith Melton is a poet, playwright, and photographer with more than thirty years of experience in the arts. She produced and co-directed the award-winning 2003 documentary Peace by Peace: Women on the Frontlines, which highlights the often invisible work of women around the world in building the components of sustainable peace, filmed in Afghanistan, Burundi, Bosnia, Argentina and the United States. Peace X Peace is an international nonprofit organization that uses the Internet to support the peace-building work of women — locally and globally. This Global Network includes more than one thousand women’s groups in sixty-five nations linked as Sister Circles for direct cross-cultural conversations for education, information and collaboration. In 1990, Ms. Smith Melton co-founded the Melton International Education Foundation, which brings together university students in India, China, Chile, Germany and the United States to participate in an international effort using the Internet to establish cross-cultural understanding. Bar opens at 11:30 a.m.; lunch 12:15 p.m. Members $25, nonmembers $30, lecture only (no lunch) $10. Register at

Thursday, April 28, Calder Portrait Exhibit Tour at the National Portrait Gallery. While Alexander Calder’s name is most often associated with his mobiles and stabiles, over his long career he also produced delightful three-dimensional portraits of art world friends and celebrities such as Babe Ruth and Calvin Coolidge. An exhibition of such portraits is currently at the National Portrait Gallery, and curator Wendy Wick Reaves has offered WNDC members a special before-opening-hours guided tour. We’ll assemble at the desk inside the Gallery’s G Street entrance (between 7th and 9th Streets NW — Gallery Place Metro stop) at 10:30 a.m. Following the tour, attendees can choose to remain at the Gallery or lunch at any of the excellent restaurants that now abound in Penn Quarter. Twenty-five is the maximum number that can be accommodated so get your reservation in early. 10:30 a.m.-12:30 p.m. Free. Reservation required at


The Alternative Housing Pilot Program, April 26
Stacy Adamson, 

Please join us for the final program of the Community in the Aftermath series, The Alternative Housing Pilot Program: Conclusions and Recommendations. Tuesday, April 26, 6:30-8:00 p.m. Developers, policy makers, and housing researchers discuss the successes and lessons learned from the Alternative Housing Pilot Program (AHPP) projects and propose next steps for creative post-disaster housing solutions.

Speakers include Katherine Fox, FEMA Housing Division director; Mikhael Schlossman, AHPP program manager; Larry Buron, Abt Associates; Dana Bres, research engineer, HUD; John Peavey, director of Applied Technology, NAHB Research Center. This program is free. At the National Building Museum, 401 F Street, NW, Judiciary Square Metro station. Register for events at


Eco/Justice Cafe, May 6
Joe Libertelli,

The next UDC Eco/Justice Cafe will be on May 6 at the Firebird Inn, 4200 Connecticut Avenue, Building 38, B-Level (on the Red Line at Van Ness/UDC). We begin with a happy hour from 4-6:00 p.m. Food by Fresh Start Catering comes out at 7:00 p.m. Shabbat at 6:50 p.m. Special guest speaker/hip hop artist, Shahid Buttar, executive director of the Bill of Rights Defense Committee, For a peek at Shahid’s musings and music, see

The Eco/Justice Cafe feature friendly people, tabling organizations with important information and services, live music, relevant information, pool, video, great vegetarian and vegan food, beer and wine and soft drinks, a children’s play/art area and more! Join UDC Law Professor John Brittain for drumming session to end the evening! (BYO Percussion instruments!) Donations are requested: $15, $10 for students/low income; $5 for kids under thirteen. Feel free to donate more. We do not turn people away for inability to pay but, seriously, where can you eat, drink, and be merry (in a P.C. kinda way) for $10-15/person?) To donate in advance, please go to and use the general fund with a note to May Cafe.

The meta-point of the Cafes is networking and community building. So don’t just sit there, help build the Cafe! Contact Joe at regarding 1) tabling organizations (no charge) and additional performers welcome; 2) volunteers always sought before, during, and after the Cafe; 3) potluck dishes welcome in lieu of or in addition to donation; and 4) other initiatives! Sponsoring organizations sought! Please sign up at the Cafe Facebook Event page, or at the School of Law web site at


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