Rebuilding Place in the Urban Space

"A community’s physical form, rather than its land uses, is its most intrinsic and enduring characteristic." [Katz, EPA] This blog focuses on place and placemaking and all that makes it work--historic preservation, urban design, transportation, asset-based community development, arts & cultural development, commercial district revitalization, tourism & destination development, and quality of life advocacy--along with doses of civic engagement and good governance watchdogging.

Wednesday, July 20, 2016

The Republican Platform and the quest for DC Statehood

Many prognosticators argue that Trump will lose big and this will have negative coat-tail effects on the rest of the ballot, and that it is possible if not likely that Democrats can retake the House of Representatives, as well as the Senate, where there is a good chance for a Democratic majority regardless of how distasteful the Republican presidential candidate happens to be.

I am not so hopeful.  First, the reality is that President Obama's vote tally was suppressed by up to 6% because of race-based voting ("Racial Salience and the Obama Vote" and "Most Say Race Will Not Be a Factor in Their Presidential Vote").  I don't think respondents are being fully honest when they tell poll takers how they'll vote when it comes to Trump vs. Clinton.  

Second, people can distinguish between the top of the ballot and the middle and the bottom, and because Congressional districts have been drawn to favor rural interests, only if the devil himself was running could Democrats win in many of the nation's Congressional districts, since the districts are so rural.

This means that if the Democratic nominee for president wins, and the Senate becomes once again, majority Democratic, it's likely that the House of Representatives will remain in Republican control, albeit with a narrower majority.

So, it will be tough to get DC Statehood (which I am not all that worked up about anyway, "Ho hum: the proposed State of New Columbia Constitution doesn't change very much").  But here's what the Republican Platform has to say about DC proper:
Preserving the District of Columbia
The nation’s capital city is a special responsibility of the federal government because it belongs both to its residents and to all Americans, millions of whom visit it every year. Congressional Republicans have fostered homeownership and open access to higher education for Washington residents. Against the opposition of the current President and leaders of the Democratic Party, they have established and expanded the D.C. Opportunity Scholarship Program, through which thousands of low-income children have been able to attend a school of their choice and receive a quality education.

Republicans have been in the forefront of combating chronic corruption among the city’s top Democratic officials. We call for congressional action to enforce the spirit of the Home Rule Act, assuring minority representation on the City Council. That council, backed by the current mayor, is attempting to seize from the Congress its appropriating power over all funding for the District. The illegality of their action mirrors the unacceptable spike in violent crime and murders currently afflicting the city. We expect Congress to assert, by whatever means necessary, its constitutional prerogatives regarding the District.

[section on expanding access to guns excised]

Statehood for the District can be advanced only by a constitutional amendment. Any other approach would be invalid. A statehood amendment was soundly rejected by the states when last proposed in 1976 and should not be revived.

There are many weaknesses in this argument and a lot of puffery.

As far as considering statehood is concerned, plenty of Constitutional Amendments took a long time or a re-do.  Once failed, never again isn't about reason or logic.  Regardless, Congress has no business holding hostage the locally generated and derived budget, which is not a federal undertaking--DC's local government shouldn't be forced to shut down because Congress won't pass a federal budget, etc.

Just as Congress is proud of itself for eliminating earmarks, which has benefits and also disadvantages, a Republican Congress so focused on promoting "local control" and limited government vis a vis the federal government ought to acknowledge their hypocrisy in how they choose to cripple local governance in Washington.

They argue that DC is Constitutionally under the authority of Congress and so that status should remain the case evermore, but their oversight of the local affairs is concerned more with grandstanding and being obstructive on purely local matters within the City of Washington through veto power over the local budget and the ability to add riders and requirements for local acts with no input from the local government or its citizens:

- once a Senator forced DC to put a death penalty statute to referendum
- there is a rider on DC preventing it from spending local monies on abortions
- there is a rider on DC preventing it from developing regulations around marijuana use, even though residents passed legislation in favor of legalization.

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