- The Washington Times - Thursday, June 15, 2000


They are all in cahoots, these diehards. The mayor, the D.C. Council, the congressional delegate and the garden variety statehood rabble-rousers. On the one hand they whine frequently that D.C. citizens pay federal taxes without political representation. They complain about "lost revenue" because they cannot levy a commuter tax. They court federal largesse when convenient, then turn around and condemn federal oversight as unjust, tyrannical even. They can't have it both ways.
Their latest political tantrum occurred Monday in the chambers of the D.C. Council, where they had all gathered at a public hearing to strategize. There they were: D.C. Delegate Eleanor Holmes Norton, Mayor Tony Williams, Republican Council member Carol Schwartz, Chairman Linda Cropp, old-time politicos and biased commentators taking fast and furious notes. They want to change the motto on the District's license plates to read: "Taxation Without Representation." They also discussed other options that would permit them the opportunity to emblazon the same message on such items as political buttons, rulers and stickers.
Let them. Let them take their little statehood show on the road to the Democratic and Republican conventions, favorite summer haunts or anywhere else they are likely to drive. See who really benefits. Once they and their silly license plates return to Washington, the realities of the U.S. Constitution, which mandates congressional review of the D.C. budget, will kick in anew.
Those realities include the fact that if the council chooses legislative action to change the motto on D.C. plates, which now read "Celebrate & Discover," Congress could, if it so chose, intervene. D.C. officials could short circuit that process. The mayor ought to exercise his executive prerogative and issues an executive order to rewrite the slogan, a move that would not need congressional oversight. Mr. Williams could save himself a heap of trouble if he chooses to do so.
No problem at all unless tyranny rears its ugly head and D.C. officials dictate one and all purchase the newly inscribed tags. You see not all motorists and businesses whose vehicles are registered in the District of Columbia share their enthusiasm for political gimmickry, and not all support their agenda either. Moreover, many D.C. motorists and businesses believe the better course is to promote all that the nation's capital has to "celebrate" and to encourage Americans and foreigners everywhere to visit and "discover" those unique offerings.
Many states give motorists options. Maryland, for instance, issues a standard plate with black lettering on a white background and another with a colorful background that says, "Treasure the Chesapeake" Bay. Virginia, whose standard plate is navy lettering on a white background, also has specialty tags, including one that promotes nature, featuring the state bird, a cardinal. The operative word is "options." That is what democracy is all about.

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