Monday, May 16, 2016

One reaction to the New Columbia Statehood Commission draft Constitution

By Ward 7 resident Ralph J Chittams Sr.:
I just finished reading the discussion draft of The Constitution of the State of New Columbia ("Draft Constitution"), produced by the New Columbia Statehood Commission. Other than providing residents of the District of Columbia voting representation in Congress, this would-be Constitution does nothing to increase participation of District of Columbia residents in the local political process.

The draft re-christens the current DC Council as DC's "House of Delegates." The Council Chairman becomes the Speaker of the House, "At-Large" Councilmembers become at-large members of the House, and so on… The Mayor becomes the Governor. However, this Draft Constitution does absolutely nothing to increase the political power and involvement of residents of the District of Columbia in local matters.

If individuals advocating for statehood for the District of Columbia were serious about empowering the people, they would not propose a unicameral legislature, but a bicameral one. That would be more democratic and give more power to the residents of the District of Columbia.

The current council should be restructured and become the upper chamber of our legislative body. Senators would be elected as follows. There would be one Senator elected from each of the eight Wards, and the President of the Senate would be elected on an at-large basis by all qualified voters of the District of Columbia. The total number of Senators would be nine.

The Office of Advisory Neighborhood Commissioner would be abolished, and those positions would then become "Representatives" and comprise the lower chamber. As currently structured, each Commissioner represents approximately 2,000 residents of the District of Columbia. They are the elected representatives of the people closest to the people. Therefore, it makes sense that these individuals become the people's Representatives in our lower chamber. Additionally, a bicameral legislature provides more oversight of government and provides an additional check and balance which currently does not exist in the District of Columbia.

If the true goal of proponents of statehood for the District of Columbia is empowering the residents of the District of Columbia with greater access to democracy and involvement in the electoral process, a bicameral legislative body is the way to move forward. A unicameral legislature does nothing but enhance egos of current politicians by giving them better titles, while simultaneously continuing to disenfranchise the residents of the District of Columbia.

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