During the campaign for D.C. mayor, we are asking candidates for their responses on various issue
Q. uld the costs of salaries, staff and offices for the two "shadow senators" and one "representative" be borne by taxpayers in the District?
JOHN RAY: No. I voted in favor of the legislation to go forward with the election of candidates to fill these positions, and I also voted for the amendment prohibiting the use of public funds for these activities. I believe we should not use tax revenues to support these positions until their functions are more clearly defined and proven to be of real benefit in enhancing the District's stature in Congress. That will evolve from experience.
Until then, we should rely on private contributions of money and in-kind services to support these activities. It should not be difficult to raise the relatively small amount of money necessary to finance the initial activities of these officials.
CHARLENE DREW JARVIS: Residents of our city voted by initiative to establish the offices of shadow senators and representative as a first step to achieving full representation. Our senators, representing the District of Columbia, will be able to protect the human rights of our citizens. Our senators will be able to protect the rights of poor women to Medicaid-funded abortions. Our senators will be able to protect our budget priorities. Therefore, I have supported funding for the shadow positions. Unfortunately, mayoral candidate Ray has not drawn the connection between the necessary lobbying efforts of these positions and reaching the goal of full voting representation.
The majority of states have state-supported offices in our city to lobby on behalf of the citizens of those states -- and they already have senators. We should do no less for our citizens.
WALTER E. FAUNTROY: First, I support the statehood initiatives for New Columbia that established the shadow senators and representative.
Second, I am respectful of the judgment of the District of Columbia mayor and council, who indicated that due to the current serious financial constraints facing the District of Columbia government, the scarce resources of the District government should not be spent at this time for the shadow senators and representative. In light of the present financial cutbacks and shortages, I can see parents complaining because of education dollars needed for their children's education; I can see furloughed workers upset about this use of public funds.
I, therefore, favor public-spirited citizens making private contributions that would permit those elected to these offices to carry out their responsibilities until such time as the budget crisis is resolved.
SHARON PRATT DIXON: As mayor, I will actively lead our efforts for statehood through my colleagues and friends on the Democratic National Committee and on the Hill. However, for this effort to be effective, we must first restore our city to financial health. Therefore, in this environment of great financial instability, it would be irresponsible for taxpayers to bear the cost of the two shadow senators and one representative.
Sadly, the perception of Congress is not unlike the perception of our own citizens -- our city faces a serious crisis in leadership. And this perception is exacerbated by the fact that the mayor and the city council tolerate foolish expenditures (e.g., Capital City Inn and the Riverfest cruise) while we cannot meet our pension payments.
So while I am eager to work with the duly elected shadow representatives to obtain statehood, my first priority will be to get the city's bureaucracy under control. The Rivlin report further underscored what I have said must be done -- streamline this top-heavy government by cutting 2,000 nontenured managers.
A lot is on the line in this election. It is critical that we make government work well again. It is critical that we make it a government of the people again.
If we make home rule work, statehood will be ours.
DAVE CLARKE: My answer, in short, is to wait and see.
I supported the shadow positions because they were created by a ballot initiative of the voters. I felt it inappropriate for the council to abolish other elected offices that were created by the electorate.
After years of council deferral of election of the shadows, I cosponsored legislation to give structure and budget to the positions. To provide a point of reference for discussion purposes, the budget was based on that of the office of councilmember. The bill ran into trouble from those wanting further, and this time indefinite, deferral, so the cosponsors of the bill compromised so as to proceed with the elections but provide no public monies for the operation of the offices.
Whether these offices should be funded in the future will depend on the fiscal condition of the city improving from its currently sorry state and what other priorities may exist. It will also depend on whether the shadows are successful in defining their mission, providing programs and mileposts for the accomplishment of that mission and meeting their goals.
At no point, however, should the rest of the government lean too heavily upon the shadows to do all of the necessary work to achieve statehood. The first thing that will be necessary, with or without shadows, will be to improve the city's image so that those who would deny us self-governance in any form will not be handed clubs with which to bludgeon us.
MAURICE T. TURNER JR. : As a third-generation Washingtonian, I support the concept of statehood for the District of Columbia. I believe that the residents of this city should fully share in all the same benefits enjoyed by the other 50 states of this nation.
However, with the city suffering through a severe budget crisis, it doesn't make much sense to ask taxpayers of the District to spend as much as $1.3 million a year for lobbying efforts that should already be taking place within the current city administration.
Considering our current financial state, we do not need to pay additional money for a duplication of effort over which, by definition, we will have little or no control.
I have no problem with lobbyists working on behalf the city's efforts to gain statehood. If they want to raise their own funds for these efforts, I commend them. However, the citizens of the District of Columbia are already paying a number of people to represent their interests on Capitol Hill -- an elected delegate in the House of Representatives, a congressional liaison person from the mayor's office, the city council chairman, a congressional liaison person from the council and the District's ultimate statehood lobbyist, the mayor.
There already seems to be some confusion among members of Congress as to who currently speaks on behalf of the District. Why should we pay out of our own pockets to add to this confusion?
In addition, as taxpayers, we should become more actively interested in just where our money goes. At this point, the "shadow" positions have no clear definitions as to structure, staffing, strategy and, most important, reporting relationships. Not a very wise investment during these fiscally lean times.
The bottom line is that the potential price tags are too high to pay for three vague positions that represent a duplication of effort.