Michael Bindner's DC Blog

In this blog, I discuss DC politics and other issues of import to local government. I have posted several essays from my book, Musings from the Christian Left, on blog entreies dated June 2004.

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Location: Alexandria, Virginia, United States

Tuesday, June 01, 2004

DC Finance (Geocities Rescue)

My original intent was to include the various essays presented below appear in different chapters, with the section on D.C. finance in the previous chapter and an essay on the rights of District residents to self-government in the chapter before on Social Politics. After looking over my collected writings on the subject, however, I realized that this topic contained more than enough material to stand alone. The difficulties the District faces are as much to do with the national legislature, as they are to do with its own mistakes. Given the national passion for pointing out the human rights foibles of other nations, the treatment of the District is an international.

Some may wonder why I follow an essay on abortion with an essay on District of Columbia finance. Those who know about District politics easily guess, however. One key component in budget autonomy for the District of Columbia is the Hyde Amendment attached to the annual District of Columbia Appropriation, which is passed by Congress rather than being solely the province of the elected leaders of the District Government.

Abortion, Medicaid and Budgetary Autonomy
Legislation has recently been introduced to provide for budgetary autonomy for the District of Columbia. This legislation allows the locally passed budget to become law after the customary period of congressional review required of all District legislation. Congress passes, as appropriations legislation, any direct support for the District of Columbia, such as funding of the incarceration of its felons or its presidentially appointed court system. This act gives the District the same financial autonomy as any state or city. Many states have a much higher portion of federal land than the District, yet Congress does not pass their budgets directly. A main effect of this legislation is to allow the District Government to carry on its affairs, even during a federal budget crisis or in the face of a presidential veto of the congressional mischief that occurs when different parties control the Hill and the White House (and even when one party controls both houses, as the recent school voucher battle demonstrates). This improves the District’s position, shifting the balance of power between the District and Congress. For instance, a Democratic president has the freedom to veto a District Appropriation with school vouchers or other riders without shutting down the District Government. Of course, this provision may backfire on Democrats if they win back Congress in 2004 while the President is reelected. For instance, a voting rights bill attached as a budgetary rider passed in such circumstances draws a Bush veto without shutting down District services. It is no wonder that the President supports budgetary autonomy.

One rider that tends to inflame passions is the Hyde Amendment, which bans the use of Medicaid funding for abortion services. Budgetary autonomy means that the District Government could attempt to circumvent this provision by inserting it in the local budget and then securing enough Democratic votes in the Senate to block any joint resolution of disapproval. This change in the balance of power causes some in the Pro-Life/Anti-Choice community to oppose budgetary autonomy. To avoid such a step, and to stop what for years was the annual drama around the amendment to the District budget (which had more to do with fundraising than abortion), two options come to mind.

The more likely and less desirable option is to add the Hyde Amendment to the budgetary autonomy act itself, which is a killing amendment for Senate Democrats. The other preferred option is full federal funding of the District’s Medicaid expenditures. With the aging of the baby boomers and the District’s substantial elderly and poverty populations, Medicaid is a continuing cause of budgetary worry. The inability to tax all income earned in the District means that the biggest potential safety valve to a certain budgetary explosion is not available. The only other option is full federal funding of these expenditures. As you have probably already guessed, this also extends the Hyde Amendment prohibition to all District Medicaid costs, regardless of budgetary autonomy.

Mental Health Care and Corrections
Mental health care is a related issue. In 1978, as part of the District's assumption of St. Elizabeth's Hospital, the federal government agreed to make certain contributions toward the renovation of physical plant. The federal government never paid these obligations. This damages the ability of the District to provide adequate mental health services, especially to homeless individuals with mental illness and drug and alcohol addiction, to properly serve the citizens of the District. Many of these patients are in fact either federal or were originally regional, i.e. residents of Virginia or Maryland, although their care is now funded solely by District taxpayers and the District’s Medicaid entitlement. Ideally, the federal government and the region share in the cost of these services. St. Elizabeth’s Hospital is both a local and a national tragedy. It is better to close this facility and transfer its patients to regional and private facilities at federal and regional expense. (including the type of facility I have described elsewhere). Regional cost sharing on this matter goes a long way in compensating the District for taxes it has a right to collect.

Corrections for the District are now federally funded. These provisions need to be revisited, especially those provisions which require that these inmates be held in private, often for profit, prisons. Citizens of good conscience are right to oppose prisons that are operated for profit. They often result in cruel and unusual punishment for the inmates and that they create pressures for greater and greater penalties for offenders to keep these facilities full, which is a danger to all of our liberties. It is preferable to create an arrangement that trades corrections services for some of the inherent financial liability incurred by our neighboring state governments for their continued opposition to a non-resident income tax.

Education Finance
Education finance is a matter of continuing concern. In FY 1999, Senator Lauch Faircloth inserted a provision into the District Appropriation to further guarantee that parents from Prince Georges County who send their children to District schools be made to pay tuition. Meanwhile, white parents continue to move to Montgomery County rather than send their children to District Junior High and High Schools. It is time to solve both problems. Allow students to attend any public school in the region as if they lived in that school district. (including public and private charter schools). Have them report their true residence to the school district, which collects the cost of tuition from the County or District Government where they reside. This ends both the free rider problem in DCPS and the middle class and white flight from the District of parents of junior high school students.

Regional Finance
It is past time to commission a joint study by the Congressional Budget Office and the Internal Revenue Service on the current impact of current prohibition on non-resident income taxes. Explore the possibility that some services be regionally funded, such as education, corrections, Temporary Aid to Needy Families and mental health, in lieu of the establishment of non-resident income taxes.

Examine the impact of current commuting patterns. Such a study likely exposes a large flow of income from the Tyson’s Corner technology center to the Maryland suburbs. This circumstance, as well as the loss of revenue from the personal property tax on vehicles, has plunged Northern Virginia counties into a fiscal crisis that exceeds the one from which the District has recently recovered. Armed with these results, form regional authorities and tax structures and jointly forestall many of our common problems from Loudon County to Baltimore City.

Jim Moran of Alexandria put such a study in the fiscal year 2001 budget. Tom Davis, in what was undoubtedly a short-sited move, took the study out. Such a move is short –sighted because it shows that many commuters from Maryland to Northern Virginia who are liable for the payment of non-resident income taxes to the Commonwealth don’t pay them. Of course, Northern Virginia developers don’t want this fact in the public domain, since it makes their location less attractive to business.

Infrastructure and the Federal Payment
It is also past time for further study of a regional transportation authority to set a uniform gas tax for road repairs and improvements in mass transit, reducing gridlock and smog. Such an authority benefits the entire region, not just the District, although the infrastructure deficit in the District is most telling and not entirely the District’s fault.

During the later part of the 1980s and the early 1990s, a large portion of the District budget went to fund a pension liability that was transferred to the District without the assets which had been paid into the pension system by covered teachers, fire fighters and police officers. During the time of this obligation, District taxpayers funded $2.2 billion in pension assets which were not there responsibility to accumulate in the first place, and which have since been raided to fund non-District spending priorities. The drain of the unfunded pension liability led to disinvestment in infrastructure, which in turn has resulted in a large infrastructure deficit, which the current Mayor estimated at over $2 billion.

Some federal payment is appropriate for services rendered to the federal government. It is interesting to note that the National Park Service receives reimbursement from the Secret Service for coverage of presidential motorcades, while the Metropolitan Police Department does not. When the federal payment existed, it was understood to include these costs, as well as the costs of roads and fire protection for federal buildings. Since that payment has been withdrawn, no such provision exists. It is time to restore it.

It is time to audit of all expenses incurred by the District that serve the Federal Government since Home Rule. Many of these may be reimbursable, including those instances where the federal payment was cut in violation of the home rule act formula accepted by the citizens. Compare these expenses to the various federal monies received, including the federal payment the District appropriation, impact aid in the Defense Appropriation and the Payment in Lieu of Taxes in the Interior appropriation. It is likely that the District is owed money. Send an invoice for this amount to the National Capital Planning Commission, which is the agent of the President in administering the National Capital Service Area. Include promised but unappropriated sums for accepting St. Elizabeth’s plus a reconsideration of how much the District gave up due to the transfer of the pension liability (it is absurd that it ever had to pay it in the first place). One possible form of repayment is the assumption of a portion of the District’s General Obligation Debt and a mechanism to bill additional NCSA support costs in the future.

A Legacy of Broken Promises
The financial history of the District is a serious of broken congressional promises. Over the past two hundred plus years, local investors and taxpayers have consistently been called upon to make up for the lack of federal financing for what are arguably federal expenditures.

Congress has a history of inadequately funding D.C. public works. Lack of adequate federal support began with the sale of land to finance the construction of public buildings, rather than direct financing or borrowing to accomplish this purpose. From the start, the federal government refused to adequately fund the construction of roads. (See Constance McLaughlin Green, Washington, A History of the Capital 1800-1950, pp. 39-41). It was not until the territorial government period that an adequate program of civil engineering was undertaken. While there was regrettable corruption in the contracting process associated with these improvements, these irregularities were no more or no less prevalent then those found in similar cities at the time (for example, Republican Boss Tweed in New York). Of note, while the Commissioners did install extensive waterworks, these were then allowed to decay over much of their administration, leading to the current need for mass replacement of pipes and sewers.

Federal support has been decidedly inadequate to fund the District, despite adequate federal taxes received from the District. This century has seen a declining level of federal support, from 50% of District tax revenues shortly after the turn of the century to no direct unencumbered support in the current fiscal year. While a large percentage of the District budget comes from federal funds, the same can be said for the budgets of all states and many cities. With the advent of home rule, a formula based federal payment was established to compensate the District for lost revenue, and additional expense, due to the federal presence. Despite the inadequacy of the formula from DC’s perspective, this methodology did not survive for long. It was replaced with several other methods that, with one exception, led to lesser and lesser discretionary federal payments, without a lifting of federal restrictions on the District's ability to raise revenue. This payment was finally eliminated as part of the re-assumption of the pension liability for certain employees previously funded under the federal system.

Since the institution of Home Rule, the Congress of the United States has abrogated its agreement to provide an adequate federal payment based on factors accepted by District voters. District voters, after having agreed to certain conditions, were promised certain compensations. The Congress has unilaterally reduced this compensation without first obtaining the consent of these voters and must therefore repay District taxpayers for the shortfall. It must do more than that, however. It must cease meddling in District affairs.

Limiting Congressional Power over the District (Geocities Rescue)

The Historic Justification for Congressional Interference

Congress justifies its meddling in District of Columbia affairs by an odd bit of history, the insult in Philadelphia. The Continental Congress was meeting in Independence Hall, while the Pennsylvania legislature was meeting upstairs. Revolutionary War veterans rallied outside to demand back pay. Congressional apologists like to assert that these soldiers were in rebellion against Congress. This is in fact a fairy tale. The veterans were demanding their pay from the state legislature, since they knew the Continental Congress had no money to give. Later on, in what amounts to a publicity stunt that was possibly arranged by one of their former generals, Alexander Hamilton, the soldiers did in fact jeer the Congress. The real insult to Congress was the fact that everyone knew that it had no power (the Emperor was without clothes).

Given the history of the District clause, one can argue that congressional power over the District is no longer necessary. Concerns over physical security as provided by a state have been overcome. When the District of Columbia was established, there may have been some question as to the vulnerability of Congress vis-à-vis the states. Over the last 200 years, the Federal government has become a huge and powerful bureaucracy, greatly overshadowing even the largest of states. Further, the military and police personnel directly at the service of the Federal government number in the millions, and are well equipped and armed like in no time in history. There no legitimate concerns over the physical safety and prestige of the national legislature that could justify the continued rule of Congress over the District of Columbia. Those concerns having to do with international terrorism are not unique to the national capital, and can be dealt with without continued domination of all of the District’s residents.

The justification for physical security from insult by people of a state has been overcome. The passage of the First Amendment of the Constitution has given protection to insulting speech directed at the Congress. The promise to adopt a Bill of Rights secured the ratification of the Constitution, modifying the intent of every provision contained therein. It must be noted that the Capitol Police have assisted District residents in the exercise of their rights to speak and assemble on congressional grounds to engage in such speech. Therefore, this justification for continued congressional authority over the District of Columbia has been overcome. To avoid insult, Congress must act in a way not to attract it, by giving free people their rights.

Congress as State Legislature
The U.S. Government asserts that the relationship of the Congress to the District is like that of a state legislature to a locality. This theory has been set forth in a variety of cases before the Supreme Court, and is also now echoed in Section 601 of the District of Columbia Home Rule Act. The constitutional electors of the District of Columbia ratified the Home Rule Act, which is the only constitution for the District of Columbia Government. Section 704 of the Home Rule Act provided for acceptance or rejection of the Home Rule Charter by the electors of the District of Columbia. The Act acts not only as the charter for the municipal government, but also as the basic law or state constitution.

District Residents are entitled to Equal Protection of Law, with these rights trumping the powers of Congress to act as the supreme lawgivers created under the District Clause. In Bolling v. Sharpe, the U.S. Supreme Court made it clear that the 5th Amendment extends due process and equal protection rights to citizens of the District of the same order as those granted to citizens of the states. In Bolling, which was decided with Brown v. Board of Education, the federal government asserted that it had the right to segregate schools because the Fourteenth Amendment rights to due process did not apply to the District. The Supreme Court rejected this contention, which applies to all constitutional rights, not merely the right to integrated schools.

In reserving the power to unilaterally amend its state constitution, the Congress has exceeded its presumed authority as state legislature. No other state legislature in the United States may enact changes to its state constitution, which in the District of Columbia is the Home Rule Charter, without enacting identical language in a subsequent session preceded by an intervening election or without a ratification vote of the electors of that state. Because none of the members of the state legislature for the District of Columbia, the Congress of the United States, are elected by the citizens of said District, the only viable method of ratification is by referendum. Any amendment to the Home Rule Charter that has not been presented to D.C. voters is enacted in violation of the equal protection rights of its citizens to approve or reject such matters, many of which are plainly against their interests, especially with regard to District finances.

Congress has also exceeded its authority as a state legislature by operating outside of a constitution ratified by the people of that state, in this case, the District of Columbia. State legislatures may charter localities because they operate under constitutions ratified by the people of the state. The people of the District of Columbia has no such constitution providing the people with their sovereign right over the state government, unlike every other American in a state or a territory which has ratified, or chosen not to ratify, a state constitution.

Limiting Congressional Power Over DC
All amendments to the Home Rule Charter are void until such time as they are presented to the constitutional electors of the District of Columbia. Such a remedy would provide the people of the District of Columbia with the full protection entitled to them as citizens of the United States. The restriction on the power of Congress applies only to those cases where it usurps the constitutional authority rightly held by the people of the District of Columbia. It does not invalidate exclusive legislative authority over the District, but only “state” constitutional authority, which under a republican form of government resides only with the people.

There have been attempts to overturn the status quo by litigation, although these were not successful. No one has ever sued on just the right to vote on the District Constitution. While District residents might sue in the future, the fact that prior amendments were never challenged makes doing so a dicey proposition. The other way to protect the rights of D.C. citizens is by amending the Home Rule Act.

Section 303 of the Home Rule Act, which provides for amendments, is not listed as unamendable by referendum, so it is fair game for a Charter referendum initiated by the Council. Such a referendum is akin to a declaration of independence by DC voters. It gains national attention to the rights of DC citizens, as do the attempts in Congress to enact a legislative veto, the filibuster blocking such a veto, the subsequent legal challenge, and any attempts to circumvent the amendment through the budget process. Such attention raises the visibility of the plight of District residents.

Some object that the Home Rule Charter is hardy a constitution, and is in fact colonial legislation. Yet, however it was drafted, DC voters (who could have rejected it) accepted it. It can, and most likely should be amended wherever possible by provisions of the New Columbia Constitution ratified by District voters in 1982. The Council has the right to propose such amendments (as the charter amendments cannot be submitted by initiative), including those provisions allowing amendment initiatives.

If the Council were to propose such an amendment, it likely leads to a court challenge. Such a challenge forces litigation of the rights of District residents to a republican form of government in a way that the Supreme Court could not dodge. If the District wins the challenge, Congress is required to abide by the law and submit the amendment to the voters. After it had been litigated, the Courts must side with any challenge by District residents to any “budgetary riders” or other legislation amending or revoking the Charter without a vote by District residents.

The other way to enact such provisions is to do so congressionally as part of the push for voting rights. D.C. voters are on record as supporting statehood for the District of Columbia. Voting rights are a step less than full self-determination. In order to make voting rights acceptable to the population, some form of enhanced self-determination is necessary. Requiring that D.C. residents ratify any changes to their own constitution would be such a compromise. If Congress enacted a charter amendment requiring ratification of its actions, a challenge is also likely, although the case is easier for DC to win.

Does such a provision will sidetrack the movement for DC Statehood. I believe it has the opposite effect; as such a provision takes away Congress’ fun. Given the effort required to run roughshod over the rights of DC residents, Congress most likely ends its resistance to statehood for New Columbia. Before statehood is even an option, however, the District of Columbia Government is in dire need of reform.

D.C. Government (Geocities Rescue)

To say Congress must butt out is not to say that the District of Columbia Government is not in need of reform. It simply says that reform must come from within. Two areas are in need of reform if there is to be any hope for statehood. The first is the day-to-day structure of government. The second is the proposed Constitution for the new state. The basic departmental structure has never worked. While there have been some changes since the advent of home rule, much more can be done. The Department of Consumer and Regulatory Affairs is a favorite target for budget cuts. It was especially gutted during the mayoralty of Sharon Pratt Kelly. The number of inspectors was cut drastically, although the effect of these cuts actually hurt business more than it helped it, by increasing waiting time and increasing the propensity for graft. I have offered a few basic changes to the current administration on several occasions, both publicly and privately, but to no avail. I summarize a few of them here.

Parks and Recreation
The most obvious candidate for reorganization is the Department of Parks and Recreation. Aside from swimming pools, recreation centers and programs for youth and the inherent need to raise grant funds, Parks and Recreation must contend with community gardens, trash removal from park facilities and grounds maintenance. This includes cutting the grass at all of those little triangle parks resulting from L'Enfant's diagonal avenues.

Sanitation
Many municipalities have separate sanitation departments, which remove the trash and cut the grass on all city property. In the District, Parks and Recreation shares these responsibilities with the Public Works Department's Solid Waste Management Administration. Perhaps now is a good time to consider consolidating these operations in a new, cabinet-level, Department of Sanitation.

Health
One of the other responsibilities currently housed in DPW Solid Waste is the sanitary inspection of both homes and business. Separate these; with the inspection of homes remaining in the new Department of Sanitation and the inspection of business transferred to the Department of Health, which then forms a unified strategy for restaurant hygiene, a major source of our current rat problem. Transfer zoning enforcement for restaurants to Health from DCRA. Cross training is then possible between sanitation, alcoholic beverage control, food safety and zoning. Imagine an adequately staffed corps of well-trained and highly visible inspectors. Additionally, use a portion of the sales taxes collected by these establishments toward funding these activities. The result is a cleaner District.

Youth
Transfer the remainder of Parks and Recreation to a Mayor’s Office on Youth, the same way the Office on Aging was created. This Office contains parts of Human Services and Employment Services, as well as the Mayor’s Youth Initiative. Consolidate operations for youth and coordinate with D.C. Public Schools and Metropolitan Police Department’s Youth and Family Services Division.

Community Services
Services for communities are also scattered throughout the government. Consolidate them and raise their visibility through the creation of a Department of Community Services. Create it from the Office of Planning, the Department of Consumer and Regulatory Affairs and the Department of Housing and Community Development. A Department of Community Services includes planning, housing inspection, residential building permitting and inspection, rental property enforcement and residential community development.

Economic Development
A companion Department of Economic Development includes commercial non-residential building permitting and inspection, as well as commercial development activities. Such reorganization benefits both the residential and commercial sectors, providing a much needed focus to the needs of each.

Charter and Constitution Reform
The political structure of the District Government is partly to blame for its dysfunction. The District is a essentially a one-party state. While there is the occasional investigation into the conduct of the Executive Branch by the legislative, by and large abuses go unexamined. More importantly, a culture of unanimity has emerged in the legislative branch. Such unanimity is ultimately damaging, since it encourages the kind of cooperation that sweeps the hard questions under the rug.

It is way past time to devise ways to increase the debate in the legislature. Do this by increasing the number of wards, making the Councilmembers more responsive, and by providing the same diversity at the ward level that exists among the at-large members. In the District, at least two of the four at-large members are of a different party than the majority. This results in token diversity. Real diversity occurs if each ward had three members, with no party nominating more than two candidates.

A final legislative reform is to have the Chair elected by the body from among the five at-large members, rather than having the voters select the Chair directly. This assures that the Chair has the backing of the majority without the need to pursue consensus at all costs. The selection process itself is healthy, as it creates at least two factions, which most likely endure and provide for real debate. Of course, this body is no longer just a city council. Give it the more state-like name House of Delegates, since it exercises state functions.

For the same reason, replace the Mayoralty with a Governorship. The names the District uses for its officers affect how it is treated. If it elects state officers, it is treated like a state. Also make these changes to the proposed state constitution for New Columbia.

New Columbia Constitutional Questions (Geocities Rescue)

Here is some suggested language for a referendum between the two constitutions:

Ballot Questions on Amending the Constitution of New Columbia & the Home Rule Act

Question 1. Shall Article I. Bill of Rights be replaced with the Bill of Rights adopted by the Council of the District of Columbia?

Question 2. Shall the Home Rule Act be amended to include the language adopted in Question 1, adding a new Part H?

Question 3. Shall Article II. The Legislative Branch, be replaced with the amendment adopted by the Council of the District of Columbia (except Section 202. Constitution Amending Procedure)?

Question 4. Shall the Home Rule Act be amended to include the language adopted in Question 3, renaming the Council the House of Delegates and expanding it to twenty-five or forty?

Question 5. Shall Article III. The Executive Branch, be replaced with the amendment adopted by the Council of the District of Columbia?

Question 6. Shall the Home Rule Act be amended to include the language adopted in Question 5, abolishing the Office of Mayor and establishing the Office of Governor and providing for an Attorney General?

Question 7. Shall Article IV. The Judicial Branch, be replaced with the amendment adopted by the Council of the District of Columbia?

Question 8. Shall the Home Rule Act be amended to include language adopted in Question 7, transferring Judicial appointment to the Governor (if so provided in Question 6) and, if Question 7 fails, providing for Retention Elections for Judges?

Question 9. Shall Article V. Suffrage, Article VI. Education, Article VIII. Banking and Corporations, Article IX. Land and Environment, Article X. Public Services, Article XI. Health, Housing and Social Services, Article XII. Labor, Article XIII. Local Government Units and Article XVI. Intergovernmental Relations be stricken and replaced with Article VIII. Independent Agencies and Article X. Miscellaneous as proposed by the Council of the District of Columbia?

Question 10. If Question 9 should fail and Question 4 succeed, shall Article V. Suffrage, Article VI. Education, Article VIII. Banking and Corporations, Article IX. Land and Environment, Article X. Public Services, Article XI. Health, Housing and Social Services, Article XII. Labor, Article XIII. Local Government Units and Article XVI. Intergovernmental Relations be added to the Home Rule Act as Section I or where otherwise appropriate?

Question 11. Shall Article VII. Finance and Taxation be replaced by the amended Articles adopted by the Council of the District of Columbia?

Question 12. Shall Article XV. Initiative, Referendum and Recall be replaced by the Amendment adopted by the Council of the District of Columbia?

Question 13. Shall Article XVII. Amendment and Revision be replaced by the Amendment adopted by the Council of the District of Columbia (Section 202)?

Question 14. Should Question 13 fail, shall the Home Rule Act be amended by Article XVII of the Constitution of New Columbia?

Question 15. Shall Article XVIII. Transition be replaced by the Amendment adopted by the Council of the District of Columbia?

Alternative Language
If a less complicated ballot is preferred, the question of which constitution is to chosen can be presented to the voters in summary form, as follows:

Question 1. Shall the Constitution of New Columbia ratified in 1982 be replaced by the Constitution adopted by the Council of the District of Columbia?

Question 2. Shall the Home Rule Act be amended by substituting, where appropriate, the language of the Constitution of New Columbia which succeeds in Question 1?

Getting a Vote on Voting Rights and Statehood (Geocities Rescue)

There are a variety of ways to obtain either voting rights or statehood for District residents. Voting rights are possible through the enactment of a constitutional amendment, although a statute is enough if the plenary power of the Congress over the District is cited as the authority. Such rights come through either Maryland or in the District’s own right, although the latter seems likely given the razor-thin margins of control in both houses of Congress. Voting rights through Maryland necessitates an interstate compact with Maryland to determine the method of redistricting congressional seats, since it is settled law that the District is no longer a part of Maryland. Either statehood for New Columbia or reunification with Maryland also give voting rights to District residents, as well as full self-government. Neither requires a constitutional amendment, although Maryland has to consent to reunification. Defenders of the status quo, primarily in the business community and Congress (who both like the current arrangement), play off proponents of the various solutions against each other. Do not allow this to continue. Currently, proponents of each solution are working together to draft a common strategy for voting rights and full self-determination. I personally went to great lengths to bring everyone to the table. Now that we are working together, it is harder to play both sides against the middle (although some are trying).

To enact any solution, a three-pronged approach is essential. Unless reunion with Maryland is debated and voted on by both the DC electorate and the Maryland House of Delegates, a voting rights amendment has no chance of ratification. Additionally, while reunion is a viable option, Congressional Republicans will never support even holding a statehood vote. The corollary is also true. No vote for reunion will be acceptable to DC voters unless statehood is also fully pursued. Even a push for voting rights must contain statehood as an option, lest forces for statehood feel that the movement for self-determination has been co-opted by the business community as a way to deny District residents their full rights. Before any of these strategies are pursued, they must all be “ready for prime time.” This means that before a vote is taken in either the House of Delegates or the Congress on the options (statehood, reunion, voting rights), the problems with the New Columbia Constitution must be resolved and the same changes should be made to the Home Rule Charter. Likewise, charter language for Douglass County, Maryland must be worked out.

Voting Rights are, of course, a temporary solution. This does not nullify their usefulness. As Northern California seeks their own state without losing voting rights, the District is to gain them while seeking statehood. Voting rights for the District as a stand-alone entity are not timely, given the current division of Congress. Voting rights through Maryland is only temporary, as they lead to either retrocession or statehood. They lead to retrocession if redistricting which includes District voters does not forever make the congressional races in the Washington suburbs uncompetitive for Republicans. They lead to statehood if Republicans find themselves shut off of the Senate and lose congressional seats permanently as well.

Many believe that reunion with Maryland is preferable to the status quo, including some long-time statehood advocates. If this is to be pursued, an economic study of the benefits to Maryland of including the District is necessary, as is the drafting of an organic act for the Douglass County Government. After this groundwork is laid, a bill is to be introduced in the Maryland General Assembly to grant voting rights to the District, directing the Governor of Maryland to negotiate an interstate agreement with the District of Columbia to include the District of Columbia citizens within its congressional redistricting. That bill is debated with amendments offered in the debate to pursue each option. One amendment calls for full union with the District of Columbia. Another supports statehood for the District, with the option that voting rights in Maryland be negotiated until this occurs.

The District must also take action on the question of voting rights, retrocession and statehood. Either an Act of Council or an Initiative is offered to direct the Mayor (or Governor) to negotiate a redistricting agreement with Maryland. A referendum is also offered giving District voters the choice between statehood and reunion with Maryland. This matter was last presented to District voters over 20 years ago. Much has changed since then, so it is time for another vote. Such a vote also involves the public in the discussion, as there is nothing like an election to get people interested. Large blocs of the District are not necessarily for statehood. Giving them a chance to vote for reunion is healthy, as even statehood is tyranny if the population doesn’t want it.

A voting rights bill is currently up for debate in the Congress. The debate on this bill also includes consideration of all of the possible options. The underlying bill provides voting representation through the state of Maryland subsequent to the negotiation of an interstate compact to provide for redistricting beginning in 2010 (with the current Delegate seated immediately as a member of the Maryland delegation). An amendment provides voting rights for the District as if it were a state. Other amendments to be considered are full reunion between the District and Maryland and statehood for New Columbia. An amendment providing for a constitutional amendment for voting rights is also in order, although this requires a 2/3 majority to succeed.

Some believe that statehood requires a constitutional amendment. This is not the case, as long as some portion of the District is held out as the Federal Capital. The current constitution duplicates the National Capital Service Area in the Charter. This is problematic, because this area includes military bases with housing. Presumably, these individuals gain the District’s three electoral votes, while New Columbia also has three votes. Of course, this may be just the needed compromise, as it gives the Republicans just the reason they need to support statehood.

In any case, legislation is needed to automatically fund the costs of services provided to the National Capital Service Area by the District of Columbia or the State of New Columbia. Enact a no-year appropriation; payable after authentication by the National Capital Planning Commission, who is the administrator for the area by Executive Order by President Ford. Split the NCSA into two parts, one that remains a federal enclave after statehood or reunion with Maryland and one that remains part of whatever entity is created.

Racial Justice (Geocities Rescue)

Race is a key factor in several issues, many of which are covered in separate essays on education, crime and the District of Columbia. Two issues are covered here, reparations and affirmative action.

Reparations for the Descendants of African Slaves
No topic is more volatile than reparations for the descendants of African American slaves. It is an issue that deserves a lot more light and a lot more heat. I attempt here to provide the former and encourage the latter. The basic question is whether the United States Government apologizes for slavery and compensates the descendants of African American slaves for this grievous sin perpetrated upon their ancestors. The United States made reparations to surviving Japanese Americans it interred during the Second World War, an action that strengthened the call for similar treatment in the African American community. Germany has compensated Jews for the Holocaust, mandating both public and private payment. Indeed, the United States, through its support of Israel, attempted to wipe its own stain for allowing this tragedy by not vigorously opposing it and by not allowing fleeing Jews entry prior to the war (though the U.S. now arguably owes some form of reparation to the Palestinian people). Of course, the reparations made to the Japanese were different than that made to the Jews, as the United States Government was directly responsible for the internment, but only indirectly responsible for the Holocaust.

What responsibility does the United States have for slavery? As a nation, did the United States Government establish the slave trade? No, it did not. At the founding of this nation, slavery is the issue that came close to preventing its establishment. Even at the beginning, this nation was not of one voice regarding slavery, with some founders in favor of abolition and some for preservation, though many thought it a temporary condition before the invention of the cotton gin made the institution profitable. This is why the Constitution set a date in the future for stopping the international slave trade – it was predicted to be unprofitable by then.

Randall Robinson of TransAfrica maintains that the United States benefited from slavery through collection of export taxes on cotton. This cannot be true, as part of the original compromise on slavery was the banning of export taxes – which was an advantage to the cotton industry that benefited mightily from this exemption. The taxes that were collected were on imports, which resulted from the use of cotton credit and every other credit. As we know from our current trade economics, the propensity for import does not require export, which means those tariffs are collected anyway.

The United States, on balance, did not foster slavery, and at great human and financial cost finally ended it by defeating the Confederacy. If anything, a debt of thanks is owned to it that wipes out the stain of both Dred Scott and of any indirect participation due to the cotton trade.

This does not mean, however, that the United States is without blame for its conduct toward African Americans, subsequent to the abolition of slavery. The United States has made certain promises that it has ineffectively kept. The promise of America is equality, yet as a direct result of governmental inaction or ineffectiveness the position of African Americans in our society is grossly unequal in several ways, to which I return after addressing the responsibility of certain others for the institution of slavery.

While the United States is not directly responsible for slavery, there are those institutions who are and who must apologize and pay some form of reparations. Chief among these is those states that enforced a condition of slavery, whether or not these participated in the treasonous war against the United States. My current home state of Virginia is chief among those who are obliged to apologize for both slavery and for segregation. (Update: They actually did). As a jurisdiction that allowed slavery, the District of Columbia need also apologize, as well as the Congress for enforcing slavery within the District. While its national participation in slavery is tangential, its participation in slavery in the District was direct. The descendants of slaves who were resident in the District of Columbia during slavery must be compensated by the District of Columbia, as should the descendants of Maryland and Virginia slaves by their respective states.

Certain private concerns must also compensate the descendants of slaves, principally the cotton, tobacco and sugar industries. The sugar industry must go even further, as it still practices a form of chattel slavery to harvest sugar in the developing world. If this does not cease ban this sugar from import into this nation. The labor movement needs to atone for its part in segregation by compensating those to whom it denied membership and by aggressively recruiting African-American youth.

Subsequent to slavery, the United States allowed certain conditions to exist that require compensation. Chief among these conditions is the sharecropper system. Until the advent of automated harvesting technology for cotton, poor blacks were held in virtual slavery to grow and harvest cotton for the profit of rich landholders, as if slavery were never abolished. Any survivor of this system must be directly compensated for this backbreaking labor. This compensation should come primarily from the cotton industry, but also from the United States Government.

The United States continues to allow, through inadequate enforcement, the perpetuation of discrimination of African Americans in the areas of employment and housing, and for allowing rampant violations of its wage and hour and environmental laws where African American and Latino workers or residents are concerned. Provide adequate funding to assure sure enforcement of equal employment, fair housing, wage and hour and environmental laws, particularly where the victims are African American. Locally, one of the most glaring examples of environmental racism is the odor from the Blue Plains facility, whose primary victims are the African American citizens of Ward 8 in the District and the Inner City neighborhood of Alexandria, although as a nearby neighbor I can testify that odor knows no race.

Governmental action has damaged the African American family. The United States Government has required that to receive economic assistance, families must break up. To a great extent, this has been an act of intentional discrimination against the African American male, as has the enforcement of our nation’s drug laws, particularly mandatory minimum sentences for crack cocaine, which fall hardest on black males though they are not by any means the exclusive users. It is past time for the repeal of these onerous provisions.

African Americans have received a secondary public education, due to the link between educational funding and property taxes. This link must be forever broken. Education is a redistributional activity, to be funded by a progressive income tax.

Finally, it is time for the progressive movement to apologize. After the Civil War, the radical Republicans made several promises to freedmen. Many of these were not kept, or were discarded when the White House was at stake in the election of 1872. Eventually, the Democrats became the heirs to this tradition, although one cannot tell from their last stint in the White House. Arguably, it is the Green Party of the United States that is now the heir presumptive to the progressive cause. It is for this reason that the Green Party of the United States must take the first action and apologize to the descendents of slaves for promises that have not been kept.

One obvious form of reparations is affirmative action, which we discuss next.

Affirmative Action
Affirmative action at schools of higher education needs reworking for it to survive. I offer a fairly straightforward proposal. In each state, assess the success in college of the graduates of all high schools in the state in terms of both grades and test scores. Admit applicants whose marks indicate that they are sure to succeed academically, based on the performance of those who have gone before. Admit those whose marks indicate that they have little chance of success to the state’s community college system or to an open enrollment university. Both of these steps are the easy part. The controversy arises in how to treat the vast majority of individuals in the middle. Admit the remaining applicants based upon a lottery for the remaining slots. This system is fairer than trying to second-guess academic success and failure based on some tortured process. No one can argue with the fairness of random chance, except self-important selection committees and legacy admissions, which are also ended.

Affirmative action and even non-discrimination in a small business setting is hard to design and enforce. The best alternative is to just set up your own business - which people do frequently. There, affirmative action is accomplished with economic development loans. Enforce anti-discrimination laws with much more vigor. Establish an inspection arm for the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. Send identically qualified agents as applicants into recruitment and housing situations and compare how the members of the various races, genders, etc. are treated. It is likely that there is much to inspect. In a variety of situations, including an employment interview for a conservative think take, I have heard people say that they would never hire someone in a protected class of fear of a discrimination suit. What they don't realize is that they already have discriminated, for not hiring someone for that reason is both discrimination and actionable. There is a saying in public health inspection that the best form of education is a fine. The same is likely true in the world of housing and employment. Fines are also attractive because they fund the inspection program, which is why what I am suggesting is not the common practice. The majority would rather not believe that racism is as common as it is.

The Christian Left: Gay Rights (Geocities Rescue)

The Christian Left: Gay Rights (Geocities Rescue)

Professional Sports Teams & the Entertainment Industry (Geocities Rescue)

Any discussion of egalitarianism eventually turns to the question of how to pay celebrities. There is a perception by the critics of equality that somehow egalitarians seek to remove excellence from the American way of life, making mediocrity a virtue. While this is true of some egalitarians, it is certainly not the view of the Christian Left. We like our sports stars and our headliners and believe they should be paid well for that winning season, best selling novel, double platinum record or box office smash. What we don’t particularly like, however, is the poor pay of emerging talent or the lack there of in big college athletics, or the fact that starving artists and actors have to turn to waiting tables or, for runaways in Hollywood or New York, prostitution. We also believe that professional sports teams, record labels and studios can get along without such highly paid executives and owners. It is amazing that it is still acceptable for old white men to own the efforts of 20 and 30-year-old athletes, considering the team they sponsor their property. The ownership structures of Cooperativism are offered as way to change this. Let us address athletics first.

Professional Sports Teams
Every few years, it seems the contract between the owners and players association of one of our professional sports leagues comes up for negotiation. When this occurs there is talk of a strike or lockout if negotiations aren’t going well. One year, the football players did strike and the owners fielded replacement players. I wondered at the time, and still do whenever a strike occurs, why the players don’t go out and field replacement coaches, mascots and owners? While the owners do own the broadcast rights, the equipment and the team logo, if the players truly wish to make a statement, and improve their bargaining position, they buy new gear, pick new team names and find a venue and someone to broadcast the games. It doesn’t take rocket science to organize and televise a sports event (except the part about launching the satellites to broadcast the games, but the networks make those arrangements, not the teams). Given the choice between watching replacement players or replacement teams, most fans watch the real players with the new mascots, at least I would. Am I suggesting that the players do this? Not exactly. I am suggesting something far more radical.

It is well past time to replace the ownership structures of both major and minor league sports. Player salaries are now high enough to establish Employee Stock Ownership Programs (ESOPs) or Worker Cooperatives for each team, with players on any minor league farm team included in the ownership structure. Cooperatives are preferable to ESOPs for some teams, because in cooperatives each member has one vote. ESOPs are better for teams with minor league components, giving the more experienced major leaguers a bigger proportional say. What is important is that each month of the season, each active player is paid an equal number of shares in the franchise. When a player is traded, shares in the old team are sold back to the team and shares in the new team are purchased with the proceeds.

Retired players keep their shares and their voting rights until sold back to the franchise. This provides stability and wisdom in the management of team affairs that otherwise does not exist if only active players had voting rights. Allowing retired players to hold onto their shares also allows them a long-term income from the franchise. It provides an incentive to players to keep salaries somewhat within reason, both in paying higher salaries to minor leaguers and in not making salary demands which bankrupt the team and jeopardize their own retirement security. Up front salaries are lower with a greater team ethic, with more team rather than individual rewards for a successful season, although stars are still paid incentive bonuses for individual excellence.

Non-player employees are given some share of the ownership and voting rights. Vendors and cleaning crew, in particular, are notoriously underpaid for their work. While they might not be entitled to share in the income from the broadcast rights, they are at least be entitled to a healthy share of the gate proceeds as a separate class of owner.

Some portion of the ownership of the team goes to the jurisdiction sponsoring the team, especially when the municipality provides the stadium. This forever ends the threat of moving the team in order to force the building of a new stadium, at least without the consent of the host city. Once upon a time, the Green Bay Packers were about to move and the municipality stepped in and bought the team, selling shares to the citizens. To this day, the favorite professional sports team of the Communist Party is the Green Bay Packers. A similar arrangement is possible for at least a portion of the ownership group of most teams to the extent that the municipality provides the venue. This public ownership portion may also include the stadium employees, although if this is done they still pay a just salary for their efforts and an owner’s share of the gate proceeds.

Changing the ownership structure of professional sports changes how they operate. If players are co-owners, the team effort is strengthened. A share of the ownership by the stadium crew only improves the experience of attending games (especially in the sanitary facilities). Anything is possible, even a better sense of geography in professional football, so that the Indianapolis team plays in a division with its neighboring teams rather than with southern teams. They might even recognize that Dallas is not on the East Coast while the Carolinas are. (Don’t tell me that a twice-yearly game between a Washington team and a Carolina team wouldn’t develop into a juicy rivalry).

Transition to a more cooperative ownership system occurs on a team-by-team basis or occurs all at once as the result of a labor dispute. Just suggesting it has an impact on relations between owners and teams. One place to start might be in the Washington area, where two groups are bidding for relocation of a baseball team from Montreal. Perhaps the structures I have outlined here are useful to any relocated team, assuring the municipality, the owners and the stadium personnel have the say in the team that they so richly deserve. Adoption of employee ownership by any team, or by an entire sport, is a powerful culture statement that the day of the plutocratic owner has ended and a new era of employee-ownership has arrived. A similar impact occurs if adopted in the entertainment industry.

Employee-owned Entertainment
For every star in the entertainment industry, there are many who do not make it, due to lack of talent, training or opportunity. The purpose of increasing equality in the entertainment industry is not to make everyone a star, or even to diminish the awards that stars get. It is to improve the opportunities of those who are trying to make it and to guarantee that everyone’s contribution is awarded justly, from talent to craft. It always saddens me when I hear stories of some platinum album holding musical group from the fifties, or even today, who unknowingly signed away their ownership to some producer, manager or record label. Charlie Chaplin, Mary Pickford and Douglas Fairbanks had it right when they created United Artists. It is too bad that they were so far ahead of their time.

When I first got involved in the D.C. statehood movement prior to the 30th Anniversary March on Washington, I met Faith Dane and Jude Crannitch. They were, and still are, pushing her Stars War idea to expand funding for arts education through tithing artists’ foundations and matching these tithes with government funds, bringing back the spirit of the WPA Arts and Theater Project of 1935. I don’t agree with all the details of the plan, but their concept is sound.

Instead of taxing artist foundations to expand arts education and apprenticeship, I propose a Business Income Tax credit to provide for entertainment industry funding of arts education and apprenticeship. This is similar to the credit provided to other industries for the education of their employees, although the credit for the arts includes more broad based education, as well as direct support of up and coming talent. These increased funds provide an avenue for young artists to hone their craft without making sacrifices or compromises that their mothers do not approve of.

The ownership of entertainment companies is also an area where Cooperativism provides a useful solution to the problem of inequality. Art and craft unions invest a portion of their pension funds in the acquisition of the stock of entertainment companies. Also, if personal retirement accounts are enacted as part of Social Security reform, entertainment workers are able to invest a part of their accounts into the stock of the record label or studio where they have a contract or have worked during the prior quarter. Each employee, whether a star or a grip, invests the same employer contribution in these funds. Over time, their employees slowly but surely control the big entertainment conglomerates and greater equality naturally results.

More broad-based ownership results in more equitable contracts for young talent and even leads to the righting of old wrongs that have not yet been redressed. Stars still make big money for bringing in the fans, although that money comes as a percentage of the grosses rather than as an up-front payment. There is also a bit more sharing of money and credit among cast and crew in an employee-owned Hollywood. Like professional sports, employee-ownership in the entertainment industry shows that the concept has truly arrived.