Home Statehood Pete Tucker Interviews Johnny Barnes on D.C. statehood
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Pete Tucker Interviews Johnny Barnes on D.C. statehood E-mail
http://thefightback.org/2011/04/johnny-barnes-calls-for-statehood-not-voting-rights-for-the-district-of-columbia/

Johnny Barnes Calls for Statehood (Not Voting Rights) for the District of Columbia

Posted on April 5, 2011 by admin
Johnny Barnes

The District of Columbia is not a state.

Let’s try that again: The District of Columbia is not yet a state.

“It’s going to happen in my lifetime. I believe that,” said Johnny Barnes, executive director of the American Civil Liberties Union of the National Capital Area.

Here’s some background courtesy of the ACLU-NCA: “Since 1801, Congress has denied the people of Washington DC representation in the House of Representatives and the Senate.

All other Americans vote to elect members of Congress – DC residents are forbidden to do so.

“This means Washingtonians have no say in creating the policies that govern the United States – no say on health care, no say on national security, and no say on the economy.

“There are 193 countries in the world. The United States is the only one that denies basic political rights to the residents of its capital while granting them to all other citizens.”

Today, the District of Columbia’s representation in Congress consists of a Delegate to the House of Representatives (Eleanor Holmes Norton) who lacks full voting rights.

There are some who confuse the effort to gain a full vote in the House with the push for statehood. Johnny Barnes is not one of them.

“The difference is statehood is permanent. D.C. voting rights is not. Statehood gives us our full bundle of rights. D.C. voting rights does not. Statehood makes us first class Americans. D.C. voting rights keeps us in a second class status.”

“Voting rights is not about rights, it’s about wrongs. It’s wrong for us to send people to Afghanistan and Iraq and now Libya, and [for] them to come back and be treated differently than everybody else. It’s wrong for us to pay more taxes per capita than anybody else in America and then be treated differently than everybody else in America.

“And it’s wrong for every human being on this planet who lives in a country where there is representative government to have representation in their national legislature, [but] that [comes] to a screeching halt in the shadow of the Washington Monument.”

There are more wrongs. Washington Post columnist Colbert King noted, “Congress expressly prohibits the District from taxing the income earned within its borders by nonresidents, a power that all states have; two-thirds of the income earned in the District is earned by non-residents.

“The federal government, the city’s largest employer, uses city services but does not pay property, sales or income taxes. Neither do embassies, international institutions or many tax-exempt nonprofits (such as Fannie Mae). Together, they occupy 57 percent of the District’s land.”

And more wrongs. Johnny Barnes said, “700,000 cars come here every day and they put potholes in our streets… They use our sewer and water services. They use our police services, our fire department services. They use many services and they leave nothing behind. Nothing except potholes and other things that we have to clean up.

“You can’t go into New York without paying. You can’t get out of New York without paying. And we can’t impose anything like that because we can’t have tolls. These are limitations imposed by Congress.

“We can’t tax private real property that is lucrative. We can’t tax Constitution Hall because Congress passed a special charter for Constitution Hall even though it’s a private entity. And there’s several like that.

“In addition to the federal property that’s taken off the tax rolls because no one can tax the federal government, the revenue foregone amounts to $2.6 billion that we leave on the table every year.”

And more wrongs. Barnes explained, “When congress is embroiled in these budget battles – as they seem to be every Congress in recent years, they haven’t passed a budget for America yet – the District of Columbia suffers.

“That’s because our budget – like the budget of the State Department or the Defense Department or H.U.D. or Health and Human Services, any agency – … has to be approved by Congress.

“From the time [Mayor] Vince Gray and [Council Chairman] Kwame Brown and others formulate the budget for the District of Columbia… at least eighteen months elapses… before Congress allows us to spend our own money. And 95 percent of our budget is our money.”

“Here’s the consequence of that… We just spent $700 million to build that stadium over on South Capitol Street. Now, troubled Prince George’s County could have built that same stadium under the same terms, at the same time, with the same enhancements… for far, far less than what we’re spending.

“The reason is this: Prince George’s County gets a Triple A rating on its bonds and we don’t. And the reason we don’t get the Triple A rating [is because] the bond raters in New York… say, ‘… your revenue stream is unpredictable… because Congress has the final say.’

“We’re paying more than Prince George’s County or most other jurisdictions would pay for the same thing… That’s your money and my money that we’re paying because of our non-state status.”

These are some of the wrongs. Barnes, who spent twenty five years on Capitol Hill and served as chief of staff for three congressmembers, says statehood is the remedy. And it’s doable. “It takes a simple majority vote of the Congress and signature of the president.”

But is this feasible? Barnes said, “I happen to be the staff person who worked the D.C. Voting Rights Amendment [in 1978]. That amendment would not have given us all of our rights, but it would have given us two senators and voting representatives, as well as equal representation in the electoral college, had it been ratified by the states.

“It was passed by Congress. Two-thirds of the House and two-thirds of the Senate. Super majorities. We only need a simple majority for statehood.”

The signature affixed to the bottom of Johnny Barnes’ emails reads, “Every human being on this planet, residing in a nation with representative government, enjoys political standing — except those who happen to reside in Washington, D.C. We must change that!”

 
Home Statehood Pete Tucker Interviews Johnny Barnes on D.C. statehood

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