Why should you care about D.C. voting rights?
By Tamara Copeland, President
You don’t live in the District, so why should you care?
First and foremost, you should care because you are an American. Not only a Virginian or a Marylander, but an American. It’s really that simple. In the mid-1700s, British colonists in America questioned the right of the Crown to tax them if they weren’t going to be represented in the British Parliament. “No taxation without representation” became the refrain and the energy behind the American Revolution. We all learned that in American history class. Unfortunately, many seem to have forgotten representation as a founding tenet of our country since they don’t speak up for the rights of the 600,000 citizens of the District of Columbia just because they don’t live there.
If democratic principles don’t resonate with you, what about economic vitality, gridlock, and the Chesapeake Bay?
Virginia Governor Bob McDonnell recently said, “It is in both Virginia and Maryland’s best interest that the District be able to operate without interruption, resulting in the financial certainty that will enable long term planning and better regional cooperation.” Businesses thrive on certainty. Because the D.C. budget is really not its own, businesses sometimes find it hard to do business with the District government. This doesn’t just affect the city.
The long term planning and regional cooperation of which Governor McDonnell spoke is minimized by the fact that Mayor Gray is unable to act with Governor McDonnell and Governor O’Malley as an equal. He does not have comparable influence over his jurisdiction’s budget. The District’s budget is subject to Congressional oversight, oversight by individuals who may live in the jurisdiction part-time, but certainly aren’t of the community.
But that’s not the biggest problem. The biggest problem is regional clout in the halls of Congress. When the region looks for federal dollars to support the regional infrastructure or our regional assets, our power is less than that of other parts of the country. Take Amtrak and Metro, for example. A recent article in the Washington City Paper suggested that the region had lost at least $12M in federal transportation dollars for a series of Union Station access and capacity improvements specifically because the District doesn’t have adequate power in the House and no representation at all in the Senate. Some suggest that the Council of Governments lost a recent HUD grant competition that would have enabled some of the Region Forward work because there was inadequate representation for the region in Congress. And many suggest that the Chesapeake Bay cleanup efforts would benefit from two more senators speaking out for our region.
The Virginia delegation has Virginia’s interests at heart. The Maryland Congressional delegation looks out for Maryland. But there is a huge gap where the District delegation should be, and because of that gap there is no opportunity for a trio of delegations to collectively represent what many are coming to call the DMV – our region.
So whether you live in Maryland, Virginia or the District of Columbia, the District should matter to you. We are one region. Our worlds are interconnected. The DMV will stand stronger and taller when the District has voting rights in Congress.