by Ann Hoffman
You couldn’t walk in or around the Rayburn Building last Thursday without bumping into enthusiastic supporters of Statehood for DC. A thousand of them, from people who moved here a week ago to fourth-generation Washingtonians lined up for hours outside the hearing room (knowing they would never get to sit in one of the 50 or so seats). If you got in line when the building opened at 7:30, you got a seat for the 10 a.m. hearing - the first since 1993 on DC Statehood. After the doors closed, supporters packed the two overflow rooms. Hundreds watched the testimony of DC officials, constitutional experts and a DC military veteran on jumbotrons set up in a park across from Rayburn (popcorn not provided). If you're a Statehood buff, you probably did not learn anything new - except that DC outshines many states with respect to Bond ratings (AAA), pension funding (100%) and percentage of their state budgets contributed by the federal government (DC, 23%; state average, 32%). You can watch the 3-hour hearing here, where you’ll see Virginia Representative Gerry Connolly show that race and partisanship are keeping DC from its rightful place as the 51st state at 2:02:30 in the video. Hopefully more unions and their members will become actively involved in this fight. Metro Washington Council 3rd Vice President Herb Harris attended the House hearing; the Metro Council is a supporter of DC Statehood and released a statement reaffirming that support.
Hoffman, a member of the National Writers Union, is a longtime DC Statehood activist. photos courtesy Herb Harris and 51 for 51