SIMMONS: ‘D.C. 41,’ Money changes everything

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The arrests heard around the globe of prominent D.C. officials do little to separate perception from reality.

The reality is that the U.S. Constitution mandates congressional oversight of D.C. affairs; the perception is that Congress is meddlesome.

But when it comes to bringing home the bacon (even tofu, if you prefer) two of the very folks who were arrested Monday for protesting against Congress did their best on Wednesday to give Congress a vote of confidence for doing the right thing when they established the University of the District of Columbia (UDC).

In the morning, Mayor Vincent C. Gray announced eight appointments to the UDC Board of Trustees, which has been severely short-handed for nearly two years, and D.C. Council Chairman Kwame R. Brown conducted a budget hearing of the school, whose president is under fire for questionable spending.

As Mr. Brown pointed out, UDC stands to gain $38.4 million in federal money — including $9.7 million in new money — and is poised to receive $2.4 million in private grants, a half-million-dollar increase from the current fiscal year.

Now the squeeze is on.

Mr. Brown, Mr. Gray and UDC President Allen L. Sessoms must begin making sure the incoming board makes sure the money is spent effectively and efficiently as UDC embarks on programs to shore up its new community college, modernizes its infrastructure and implements an academic restructuring proposal — all of which are paid for with money from taxpayers who do not live in the District.

This brings us back to Monday and a “renewed” statehood movement, as the mayor put it.

City officials are pounding their chests for getting arrested and have been wearing their arrest bands as bracelets of honor.

Standing on principled ground and pressing democracy the good old-fashioned American way is commended.

Power to the people.

But even D.C. statehood supporters should be mindful of the fact that perception muddies reality when it to comes to money, honey.

D.C. officials constantly complain that residents should be able to spend local dollars as they see fit.

What about federal dollars — money that comes from non-D.C. residents and fills D.C. government coffers?

Would those same elected officials who were arrested Monday, who now call themselves the “D.C. 41” and are in the international media spotlight, also risk telling the White House and Congress to take their federal money and shove it?

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About the Author
Deborah Simmons

Deborah Simmons

Award-winning opinion writer Deborah Simmons is a senior correspondent who reports on City Hall and writes about education, culture, sports and family-related topics. Mrs. Simmons has worked at several newspapers, and since joining The Washington Times in 1985, has served as editorial-page editor and features editor and on the metro desk. She has taught copy editing at the University of ...

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