D.C. voting rights: What now?

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Sunday, August 1, 2010

One of D.C. Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton's fondest expressions, used repeatedly over the past 20 years as she led the charge for D.C. voting rights, has been "kill 'em with your case."

Unfortunately for D.C. residents, her July 25 Local Opinions commentary, "D.C. voting rights: Where we've been, where we're going" posits a new, virtually incoherent strategy for winning D.C. rights that is far more likely to confuse than kill. Her proposal is a smorgasbord of disparate, if not conflicting, strategic choices, each textually and substantively distinct from the other. Such a recipe for moving the city forward is bizarre and all but guaranteed to take us nowhere, because if we haven't figured out where we're going, how in heaven's name are Congress or the American people supposed to follow our lead? With her fresh plan, Norton will succeed only in confounding our clear and compelling case for equal political rights.

Before we slide yet further into strategic disarray, perhaps good-faith efforts should be made to win a citywide strategic consensus on what our goal should be. Only then will it be possible to map a plan to get there.

Timothy Cooper, Washington

The writer is executive director of the group Worldrights.

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No one has more respect for Eleanor Holmes Norton than I do, and I am encouraged by her announcement that she plans to introduce a statehood bill in Congress if she is reelected. She's right that "it was the city's decision that took statehood off the table," and it should be the city that supports restoring it. The people of the District have never abandoned statehood as our goal; it was the D.C. Council and those who seek compromise on Capitol Hill who did.

I disagree with Chief Financial Officer Natwar Gandhi that "statehood would cost the District an extra $1.2 billion." Although the District as a state would be responsible for some of this cost, a portion would still be the responsibility of the federal government. Also, we must remember that the group D.C. Appleseed has shown that we leave $2 billion a year on the table by not being a state, because we are not able to tax the 72 percent of the city workforce that lives in Maryland and Virginia.

I would add that bringing us close to representation, as happened with the D.C. voting rights bill this year, does not make us stronger; our recurring losses only embolden our opposition. And we are going to have to face gun proponents no matter what.


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