How does New Columbia sound? That may be the new name for the District of Columbia if the city wins its bid to become the 51st state, a statehood commission decided on Monday.
Settling on a name was among the most basic constitutional questions settled by Mayor Muriel E. Bowser, Council Chairman Phil Mendelson, D.C. shadow Sen. Paul Strauss and others on the five-member commission, which also approved a draft state constitution that calls for the creation of a 21-person state legislature.
New Columbia is actually an old name - it was approved by voters in a 1982 referendum that was part of an earlier campaign for statehood.
But the moniker is far from a crowd pleaser. Residents suggested at least 10 alternatives ranging from Potomac to Anacostia to Douglass Commonwealth - an homage to abolitionist Frederick Douglass that would have maintained the District’s “D.C.” abbreviation.
“We decided to keep what had been part of the statehood legacy since 1982,” said Strauss, who says he’s not a “super fan” of the New Columbia name. “If the voters of the new state want to change it, that’s going to be a great thing they can do as a free state.”
Some also wanted the new name disconnected from Christopher Columbus, saying they associate the Italian explorer with the decimation of indigenous people.
Bowser is leading a renewed push for statehood that has picked up steam this year, including some high-profile endorsements from President Obama and Democratic presidential front-runner Hillary Clinton.
The District’s statehood bid also won the backing this week of the U.S. Conference of Mayors this week, and is included in a draft of the national Democratic Party platform to be debated at the July convention in Philadelphia.
The proposed 51st state name, however, got little love on social media following Monday’s decision.
Those who detest “New Columbia” will get an opportunity to lobby for a different name in the fall, when the D.C. Council holds hearings on the draft constitution before bringing it before voters as a ballot question in November.