Wednesday was a dramatic day in Washington, D.C., not only with the ninth day of the government shutdown nationwide but also what was going on inside the District. Washington, D.C. Mayor Vincent Gray, along with Delegate Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-DC)) and other political officials including members of the D.C. Council, held a news conference demanding that the city should control their own coffers during the shutdown crisis.
The mayor’s website (mayor.dc.gov) stated the announcement of the conference which is below.
WHERE: “Senate Swamp” site on the East Lawn of US Capitol, across driveway from Senate east steps (near southwest corner of 1st Street and Constitution Avenue NE).
BACKGROUND: Earlier today, Mayor Gray sent a letter to President Obama, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.), and House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) requesting an immediate meeting with them to discuss ways to alleviate the serious consequences of a federal shutdown for the District due to the capital city’s lack of budget autonomy. The District, unlike every other state, county and city in the country, is prohibited from using its own locally-raised Fiscal Year 2014 funds to pay for operations during a federal shutdown. While the District has been able to continue operations by drawing on contingency funds, those will soon be exhausted. Meanwhile, the District’s unique inability to spend federal pass-through funds that other states are able to use during a shutdown is causing significant problems (such as delaying payments owed to Medicaid providers, the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority, and, shortly, the District’s public charter schools).
The bold move by Mayor Gray holding the conference was a sign of leadership in the nation’s capital; one that is sorely needed by Congress responsible for the government shutdown. Gray’s speech was passionate yet adamant, which provoked bystanders at the conference and others behind him with applause. Newschannel 8 presented the conference live on their broadcast for approximately 20 minutes.
“Free us so we can spend our own money!”, the mayor retorted, explaining further the D.C. government was exempted five days in 1995 (when the government was shut down under Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich) and “this is now day nine.”
Another fervent speaker was Eleanor Holmes Norton, also wondering why the District could not spend its own money and that the city was also in peril. She further discussed her views on Newschannel 8 today on the program “NewsTalk” with host Bruce DePuyt.
A surprising speaker stepped forward, Congressman Darrell Issa (R-Calif), Chairman of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee. Issa, who is an adversary of Obamacare and grappled with Attorney General Eric Holder on “Operation Fast and Furious,” agreed with Gray and Norton. He believed the DC government was unfairly affected and supported their agenda. He also encouraged the reopening of the national parks.
Gray and Norton continued their plea that Washington, D.C. has a population of 632,000, more than the states of Vermont and Wyoming. They believed the city was being held hostage because they were not a state; even though many of their civic duties were state related. Both consider all District workers “essential.”
Washington’s City Paper column “Loose Lips” projected the following if DC ran out of funds –
If D.C. does eventually have to close nonessential services, trash would only be collected every other week, libraries and recreation centers would close, the Department of Motor Vehicles would shutter, and parking enforcement would cease. As the only municipality in the country that also fills many state functions, D.C. has already stopped paying debts to Medicaid providers and others, because its entire budget is essentially being held hostage by the shutdown.
The District also has a deadline of paying $150 million to D.C. charter schools by Oct. 15.
The plantation mindset has always been an on-again, off-again topic for District residents, especially when it relates to topics of voting rights and statehood. On a different issue the Washington Post under its DC Politics section had an article on March 19 by Tim Craig in which the first sentence was “D.C. Council candidate Paul Zukerberg on Tuesday referred to the District as a “plantation” because city politicians are not seriously considering decriminalizing marijuana.” However the statehood issue was reemphasized in Mayor Gray’s speech at the recent August 28 Anniversary at the March on Washington.
More on Wednesday’s story is below from the Washington Post.