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Orange Continues Push for D.C. Statehood Residents Allowed to Testify at Public Hearing

At-Large Councilmember Vincent Orange has been on the forefront of the campaign to secure full voting representation and statehood for the District of Columbia.

And on Tuesday, Oct. 27, he, along with Council Chairman Phil Mendelson, held a public hearing on PR 21-302, the “Sense of the Council in Support of a ‘Statehood or Else’ Signature Campaign Resolution of 2015,” which Councilmembers Orange, Alexander, Bonds and Grosso introduced in July 2015.

Councilmembers Allen, May, Todd, Nadeau and Evans co-sponsored the bill.

During the public hearing, District residents were invited to share their views and express their frustration with the fact that while those who live in D.C. pay taxes, that they do have a vote or voice in Congress.

The nationwide signature campaign’s goal has been to produce a petition supporting District of Columbia statehood and to collect one million signatures for the petition. The petition would then be delivered to the White House, to all 535 members of Congress, as well as leadership at both the 2016 Republican National Convention and the 2016 Democratic National Convention.

“The time is now for the District to push for statehood and collecting one million signatures demonstrates that sense of urgency,” said Orange in an earlier press release.

“It’s important to have the signatures by next summer so that future leadership in the White House makes statehood in the District a priority of their administration.”

“The ‘Statehood or Else’ campaign is an opportunity to present a unifying front with the goal of achieving statehood for the District,” he said.

“God bless the child who has its own,” Orange added. “The citizens of the District of Columbia must have its own voting member in the House of Representatives and two voting members in the U.S. Senate.”

Eleanor Holmes Norton currently serves as a delegate to the U.S. Congress representing the District of Columbia. As a non-voting member of the U.S. House of Representatives, she can serve on committees and speak on the House floor. However, she remains unable to vote on the final passage of any legislation.

She said the citizens of the District have waited 250 years to correct a mistake made when the country was first created.

“There have been hundreds of ways that District residents have attempted to secure statehood and it takes a great deal of courage,” she said. “The last two states, Alaska and Hawaii, had to wait 50 years to get into the Union. It’s taken us much longer and most of the opposition is partisan. But our goal must remain the same – to keep moving no matter who controls either house and to raise support each year for the bill.”

Norton said she believes people in the U.S. do not understand the real issue.

“We need exposure so that false notions are dispelled and so people understand what’s at stake,” she said. “An example of that was a segment released by HBO earlier this year that made fun of our country for denying District citizens the same rights as everyone else. It got at the tension but in a comical way.”

The show to which she referred, John Oliver’s “Last Week Tonight,” aired in August 2015 and showed Oliver lampooning what he described as the hypocrisy inherent in the District’s lack of budget autonomy and absence of voting rights in Congress.

Norton, known for her often boisterous speeches on the House floor, considers D.C.’s lack of voting rights tantamount to a major civil rights issue. It should be noted that D.C. has a larger population than Vermont and Wyoming and a larger gross domestic product that 16 states.

Former Secretary of State and current Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton has stated her support for D.C. statehood, Norton said.

A contingency of members of the Congressional Black Caucus [CBC] joined Norton during a panel of local council members, business leaders and other interested parties during the annual legislative conference held in Northwest in September 2015.

“It is not the looney Republicans, I can handle that,” she said. “It’s the fact that the American people believe citizens in D.C have equal rights when in fact what we face is taxation without representation and the implications of that fact.”

“Look at the HIV/AIDS crisis where D.C. was cast as the center for this disease but no one was talking about how the federal government was preventing us from using our own money for treatment and prevention. These are the kinds of situations that our citizens face,” Norton said.

Orange commented on the hearing at its conclusion.

“The goal of today’s hearing was to put the issue of statehood at the forefront of the minds of the residents of the District of Columbia, and ultimately, citizens across this great country,” he said. “It provided us with an opportunity to pull together key supporters of the issue so that their position could be well-documented and on the record. Additionally, it allowed us to share ideas and hear the concerns of those who have spent years fighting for this cause.”

“Both Congresswoman Norton and Mayor Bowser have vowed their support. Now it is time to pull our resources together and organize so that we can accomplish our goal before June 2016. The time is now for statehood,” he said.

Residents can still provide a written statement by sending it to the Committee of the Whole, Council of the District of Columbia, Suite 410 of the John A. Wilson Building, 1350 Pennsylvania Avenue. NW, Washington, D.C. 20004. The record will close on Tuesday, Nov. 10 at 5 p.m.

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D. Kevin McNeir – Senior Editor

Award-winning journalist and 21-year Black Press veteran, book editor, voice-over specialist and college instructor (Philosophy, Religion, Journalism). Before joining us, he led the Miami Times to recognition as NNPA Publication of the Year.

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