D.C. Democratic Party Chairman A. Scott Bolden said he has called on Democratic National Committee Chairman Terence R. McAuliffe to urge the national party to live up to its commitment to give District voting representation "important time" at the Democratic National Convention in Boston, July 26-29.
"The real issue for us is the DNC's commitment to give us important time to our plight in the District," Bolden said in an interview this week. "Without it, it raises serious questions as to, are we better off with a Republican Party who plainly doesn't support D.C. voting rights and statehood, or a Democratic Party that supports us but refuses to act or do enough to ensure it?"
Bolden picked up on mixed messages sent recently about the issue by presidential candidate John F. Kerry, his newly selected running mate, John Edwards, and party leaders.
Both Kerry, a four-term senator from Massachusetts, and Edwards, a freshman senator from North Carolina, dropped out of the District's nonbinding, first-in-the-nation advisory primary in January. The primary was intended to spotlight the D.C. voting rights cause.
Before the primary, McAuliffe assured District Democrats that the national party would boost D.C. voting rights when the local party agreed to go ahead with the primary but not have it count.
Kerry, 60, won the District's nominating caucuses the next month with 47 percent of the vote. Edwards, 51, who like Kerry keeps a house in Georgetown, finished fourth with 10 percent.
In May, Kerry said that if he were elected president, he would not sign legislation to give the District a vote in the House of Representatives as proposed by Rep. Thomas M. Davis III (R-Va.), because related provisions could elect more Republicans. Kerry, however, also said, "I intend to fight to see that representation occurs somehow."
In hailing the new ticket, Bolden said he remained confident that voting representation "will be high on their list of priorities" as the election neared. "We . . . know that the Kerry-Edwards team will take time to look at the District and its lack of representation in the U.S. Congress and assist us in moving forward towards voting representation for D.C. residents," Bolden said in a written statement.
The Democratic Party's 63-page, draft 2004 platform generally addresses the District voting rights issue: "We support equal rights to democratic self-determination and congressional representation for the citizens of the nation's capital."
Voting Rights Rallies
In convention activities, the D.C. delegation to the Bay State will stage two pro-District voting rights events. The first will be a kickoff rally and celebration July 24 at Union Station and aboard the Acela train cars reserved for the Boston-bound District's delegation, which will include 39 delegates, four alternates and 18 District Democrats who serve on DNC standing committees.
Mayor Anthony A. Williams (D) and Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-D.C.) head the delegation, whose send-off will include the Eastern High School marching band, Bolden said.
The other voting rights event has been billed as a "Second Boston Tea Party" and is scheduled for July 26 at Boston's children's museum. District Democrats plan to drop crates of American-made tea bags into the Charles River to protest federal taxation without representation in Congress.
D.C. Democrats have invited all 4,000 delegates and House and Senate Democratic leaders on District issues to join them for a three-hour rally at the children's museum, several miles and across the river from the convention site. The rally will feature the Rev. Al Sharpton Jr., who campaigned heavily in the District last winter and finished second in the District's nominating caucuses with 20 percent of the vote.
WASA Official Leaves
As one of the D.C. Water and Sewer Authority's most senior officials said goodbye last week, the agency welcomed several new high-level executives.
At the Board of Directors meeting last Thursday, the board feted outgoing Chief Engineer Michael Marcotte, who will become Houston's director of public works. Marcotte, with some of his top deputies in the audience, choked up as he said a few final words and received a plaque from board Chairman Glenn S. Gerstell.
Marcotte, 53, General Manager Jerry N. Johnson and Gerstell represented WASA during the past several months at public meetings about the problems with lead in the city's water. Agency sources said Marcotte had been considering leaving WASA for several months before the lead problems prompted a public outcry in February.
Johnson announced that Marcotte will be replaced on a temporary basis by John T. Dunn, a longtime consultant to utilities in Allegany County and Richmond. WASA will continue to conduct a nationwide search for a permanent chief engineer. Johnson also introduced four other new faces: Avis Marie Russell as general counsel, Dan Hall as security manager, Tanya DeLeon as risk manager and Karen DeWitt as public affairs director.
Most recently, Russell served as legal counsel to the mayor of New Orleans, Hall was deputy chief of protective services for Metro, DeLeon worked in the private sector and with WASA and DeWitt was a producer for ABC's "Nightline" and was a correspondent with the New York Times.
DeWitt, who will start mid-month, takes over after a period during which local and federal leaders, environmentalists and residents criticized WASA for failing to fully publicize test results that revealed excessive levels of lead in thousands of District homes.
She said she is eager to get started.
"There's a lot of good things this agency does," she said. "It just doesn't always get told to the public."