What is this territory we call the District of Columbia? How did it get here? What do we do with it?
Well here is a quick little history lesson. The District of Columbia originally belonged to Maryland. They gave the territory up in 1788. When the Residence Act was passed in Congress, it gave the specific location of D.C. being between the Anacostia and the Connogochegue. This location was chosen by George Washington. During this time the District was ran by locally elected governments. In 1801 the District of Columbia lost all of its voting representation in Congress and all of its electoral votes due to the fact that it is not actually a state. It wasn’t until the 23rd amendment passed in 1961 that D.C. gained Electoral College votes. They gage the number of Electoral College votes just like they do in a regular state, it is proportionate to their size but they cannot have more than the smallest populated state. The citizens of the District of Columbia still did not have full voting rights and ever since then there have been many different proposals to grant D.C. statehood.
The most recent referendum was brought into light by the Mayor in April 2016. He proposed legislation that laid out how the local government would look as well as a new name. Some of the name suggestions were ones that had been previously introduced in the past, such as “New Columbia”. Community members introduced new names such as the Potomac and Douglass. In October of 2016 the city council changed the name on the bill to “State of Washington, D.C.” where D.C. would stand for Douglass Commonwealth in honor of Frederick Douglass.
In November of 2016 the citizens of the District of Columbia voted immensely in favor of statehood. From there, there was another bill drafted that is supposed to be introduced to the U.S. Senate in the summer of 2017.
Like every other issue in this world, there are pros and cons of the District of Columbia being grated statehood. People who support the bill argue that D.C. citizens pay taxes just like every other state, but they do not have any representation in Congress. This is why on the D.C. license plates, at the bottom, it reads “TAXATION WITHOUT REPRESENTATION”. The District of Columbia pays more in taxes than about 22 other states and they still do not have representation. Granting D.C. statehood would mean they finally get represented. Also, it would guarantee that there would be two new seats open in the Senate. Along with these points, if D.C. was to become a state then it would be in control of it’s own budget, instead of Congress.
The people of the opposing side argue that the District would have too much influence over the federal government. Also the people of Maryland and Virginia fear that there would be a new commuter tax enacted. There is also skepticism regarding whether or not the District would need approval from Maryland.
There have been a few other options presented that would help solve some of the the local D.C. problems in the case that it does not get statehood. For example, allowing Maryland to take back the District of Columbia. There has also been a bill proposed that would allow D.C. citizens to be treated as residents of Maryland so they can still get represented in Congress.
Support for granting the District of Columbia has been made publicly by high power figures. Former President Barack Obama publicly endorsed the movement. Also President Donald Trump stated that he would do “whatever’s best” for the District and that “something would be done that everybody would be happy.”
This is obviously a very watered down version of the ongoing debate, but I was not aware of how serious it was and how much the citizens here want to be granted statehood. I became aware about it through some colleagues in my office who I heard talking about it. I think this is a very important issue that has been ongoing and I hope that whatever happens, it works out in the best interest for everybody.
Since last week I have learned that language is everything. Every time I roam around my office and we’re either preparing to send out invitations and make a program for an event, or change something on our website, the first question asked is, “What language is going to be used?” This was never really a question that I had heard before but it is most definitely an important one! Even when it comes to things such as a “soft commitment” or a “hard commitment” these things were all new to me! I’ve learned that how one phrases and words things means everything! I am very much enjoying D.C. and learning tons of new things every week! Stay tuned for the next post 🙂