When that proposed statehood constitution shows up on the ballot in November, what's a dyed-in-the-home-rule-wool resident going to do?

1 If you buy the whole constitutional package, you're asking for a spicy potpourri of programs guaranteed to gag a majority of Congress if the voting gets that far. Included are the right to employment, or "if unable to work, an income sufficient to meet basic human needs"; the authorization of the state to acquire public utilities; and the right of public employees to strike.

1 If you vote against the constitution because you don't like or believe in certain key provisions, rejection of the document by the city's voters surely would spell the end of any more immediate progress toward statehood, congressional representation or additional self-determination.

There is some middle ground, even if no one at city hall seems to have staked it out yet: how about voting on the constitution by provision? Cumbersome, yes, and complicated, too. But no matter which way the proposition is presented, the job of voting on it will still cry out for a three-credit cram course before ballots are tackled. At least a provision-by-provision vote might provide a more informative barometer of resident opinion.

If certain proposals failed to win public approval, the statehood delegates--who were elected for three-year terms, anyway -- could either go back to their drawing boards for reconsideration and redrafting, or they might agree to strike rejected language and send the edited result on its way to the mayor and Congress.

Understandably, the delegates who drafted this proposed constitution want it offered to the voters in its totality. After all, they note, didn't we, the people--or at least a bona-fide majority of those voting--approve the idea of statehood and elect this representative gathering of residents to draft the constitution?

Yes--and if we, the same people are boxed into an uncomfortable up-or-down vote on the entire draft as is, a decision either way could doom that whole idea. If the vote were no, maybe another convention could be authorized and convened to try again, and then maybe the voters would accept a second draft that could win congressional acceptance. Maybe . . . maybe not.

It is the mayor who presents the constitution to the voters, and therein lies another procedural problem: if the mayor believes that the constitutional convention's wishes must be respected without question, he simply orders an up-or-down vote; but if he believes that a more thorough and perhaps politically practical evaluation would help more, he asks the voters for their detailed opinions.

However he decides, voters are going to need serious help--from the candidates for local office, statehood convention delegates, city government leaders, election officials and the media--to understand what life in "New Columbia" might be like.