On the Hill, D.C. gets the short end of a double standard

Correction: Earlier versions of this column incorrectly said that D.C. Mayor Vincent C. Gray, then a D.C. Council member, was an honorary trustee of the World War I Memorial Foundation. Although Gray signed a council resolution supporting the foundation’s aims, he was not an honorary trustee. This version has been corrected.

John Kelly
Columnist January 24, 2012

Arizona’s Mohave County has very little in common with Washington, D.C., which, oddly enough, is exactly why I’m sticking them together in the same sentence.

Both jurisdictions — one is home to the Grand Canyon, the other isn’t (I’ll let you figure out which is which) — were on the agenda Tuesday morning during a hearing of the House Natural Resources subcommittee on national parks, forests and public lands.

John Kelly writes "John Kelly's Washington," a daily look at Washington's less-famous side. Born in Washington, John started at The Post in 1989 as deputy editor in the Weekend section. View Archive

I was at the hearing — in the Longworth Building — to watch testimony on H.R. 938, the House bill that would rededicate the District’s World War I memorial as the national World War I memorial. Rep. Ted Poe (R-Tex.), sponsor of the bill, explained how much Frank Buckles — who, before he died, was the nation’s last World War I vet — wanted to see the country finally get a memorial to veterans of the Great War.

Nelson Rimensnyder, a D.C. resident, a veteran and the historian for the Association of the Oldest Inhabitants of D.C., was there to say it’s not thenation’s memorial, it’s the District’s, built with donations from District residents, dedicated to District dead. Make Pershing Park the national memorial instead, he said.

Edwin Fountain of the World War I Memorial Foundation was there to say that if Congress decided to back Pershing Park, that would be fine by him, but wouldn’t it be better to have the memorial on the Mall, near the other war memorials?

Peter May was there from the National Park Service to say that there are problems with the bill, because Congress has decided that the Mall is essentially “done” and that nothing more may be built there.

And Rep. Emanuel Cleaver II (D-Mo.) was there to make sure people knew that the bill would actually officially create two memorials: The one in the District would be transformed into a national World War I memorial and so would one in his state, Kansas City’s Liberty Memorial.

In other words, there’s a lot going on.

The effort to nationalize the District’s memorial has taken an odd journey. When Edwin Fountain’s foundation was first put together, its honorary board of trustees included Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-D.C.) and D.C. Council member Jack Evans. Del. Norton even signed on as a co-sponsor of an earlier bill in support of nationalizing the District’s memorial. (This is an example of why it’s important to think carefully before joining seemingly innocent honorary boards.)

Over time, largely driven by a D.C. gadfly named Joe Grano, it became a voting rights issue.

This no doubt irritates supporters of the bill. Perhaps it even emboldens them. The District has taken so many lumps at the hands of Congress recently — Guns for everybody! Abortions for nobody! — that this presents yet another opportunity to remind D.C. residents that they are second-class citizens.

Which gets us back to Arizona and another piece of business before the subcommittee on Tuesday: the “Mohave Valley Land Conveyance Act of 2011.”

About 10 years ago, some people in northwest Arizona decided that it was getting harder and harder to find a place to shoot their guns. The problem is that with development on the increase it’s getting crowded out there. Go out “plunking” and there was a chance your bullet might end up somewhere you didn’t want it to. What was needed was a shooting range.

Where to put it? It was decided to transfer to the state of Arizona land currently overseen by the federal Bureau of Land Management. But that particular parcel just happens to be near land that is sacred to members of the Fort Mojave Indians and the Hualapai Indians, who, understandably, don’t want the sound of gunfire when they’re going about their business. (Of course, the reason given for needing the shooting range — “encroaching development” — pretty much describes our country’s treatment of Indians.)

Before the subcommittee got to the D.C. memorial issue, Rep. Trent Franks (R-Ariz.) explained why his bill transferring the land for the shooting range, H.R. 919, was necessary.

My point is, if the citizens of Mohave County are happy with Trent Franks, they can reelect him. If not, they can send him packing.

Who in Washington voted for Ted Poe?

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