So Much For ‘Self-Determination,’ Council Ices Statehood Committee
It still has a website–but it seems that D.C. Council's Special Committee on Statehood and Self-Determination is no longer.
Doxie McCoy, communications director for Council Chairman Vincent Gray, emailed this week in response to City Paper's cover story, "How the Gun Lobby Shot Down D.C.'s Congressional Vote," to point out that Councilmember Michael A. Brown no longer chairs the statehood committee. In fact, she noted, the committee has ceased to exist. Instead, those issues now fall under the purview of Councilmember Yvette Alexander's Committee on Aging and Community Affairs.
Council chose to fold the committee when Brown was given the reigns to Marion Barry's old Housing and Workforce Development Committee in the aftermath of Barry's censure for alleged conflict-of-interest abuses. With Barry on the outs because of ethics issues, McCoy explained, there weren't enough councilmembers to keep the committee functioning as a stand-alone entity.
She describes the move as a "procedural change" but insists that council's efforts to promote D.C. statehood and congressional voting rights will not suffer as a result.
“The council’s focus and the council's intent to raise awareness of statehood has not lessened at all,” says McCoy. “It is the Chairman’s belief that with the funding the Council restored, the statehood/voting rights work can still be done and will not suffer,” McCoy adds via email.
“Statehood and self-determination is certainly at the top of my agenda,” says Brown, the former statehood committee's former chairman. “But I know there are a lot of people that are disappointed that there is not a stand-alone committee.”
Brown says he’d like to see the committee return in another session of the Council. “Just because there may not be a committee per se, doesn’t mean folks are not fighting for this every day.”
Asked about the former committee's legacy, Brown says, “We clearly kept the issue on the forefront. Not having a committee may harm that, but the Committee on Aging and Community affairs can still host those kind of hearings related to statehood. I think people would love to see the progress, though, of a stand-alone committee.”
The biggest challenge to the statehood and voting rights movement isn’t the abolition of the committee in the Council, according to Brown. Rather, it's Mayor Adrian Fenty’s FY2011 budget proposal that almost gutted the whole statehood budget line item.
“I was very disappointed that the Mayor’s budget didn’t include any money for statehood activities,” Brown says. “I think that says a lot about where the Mayor’s priorities are.”