January 29, 2014

PRESIDENT OBAMA had some stirring words in Tuesday’s State of the Union address about “justice and fairness and equality” and the importance of making those words set to paper by the nation’s founders “real for every citizen.” He also spoke about efforts to support democracy from Tunisia to Burma to Ukraine.

But sadly there was not one word about how people who live in the nation’s capital — the very spot from which Mr. Obama was delivering his speech — are denied their basic rights as U.S. citizens. Since the State of the Union address is a call to action on the president’s priorities, Mr. Obama’s failure to give voice to the plight of District residents was disappointing.

“A source of great frustration to me,” Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-D.C.) told WTTG-TV (Fox 5) about the lack of mention of the District’s inequality. Ms. Norton has repeatedly lobbied the White House for the District’s inclusion in the annual address, pointing out that, by doing so, Mr. Obama would be joining a bipartisan group of presidents, including Dwight Eisenhower and Harry Truman, who used the State of the Union to focus attention on the city’s unequal treatment.

Not only are 630,000 residents denied a vote in the House and Senate but also their elected city government officials are without the authority — enjoyed by every other locality in the country — to control the expenditure of local taxpayer dollars.

Ms. Norton plans to focus on the need for D.C. budget autonomy Thursday at a Senate hearing, and a boost from the president would have been nice, especially since he professes support for the District. True, his limousine sports the city’s “Taxation Without Representation” license plates, and last year he became the first president to include a provision to grant D.C. budget autonomy in his budget request to Congress. Those gestures, however, are not enough.

The president told the nation he won’t stand still. Why then has there been such inertia in the White House in getting D.C. residents the basic rights they are owed?

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