- The Washington Times - Sunday, October 30, 2011

City officials are guilty of “talking to ourselves for decades” about taxation without representation, their plight for statehood or another route to voting rights in Congress, D.C. Council member David A. Catania says.

“I think we’ve pretty much convinced ourselves on the subject,” he said of his fellow council members.

Mr. Catania and Michael A. Brown, at-large independents, are handpicking state legislatures that will support D.C. statehood through resolutions in their chambers, starting with District-friendly contacts in New England.

The idea is that sitting members of Congress will be forced to look at what is happening in their home districts and that some state-level politicians will sympathize with D.C. self-determination efforts before they springboard to Capitol Hill.

Mr. Brown, chairman of the council’s Special Committee on Statehood and Self-Determination, says the campaign is not scheduled to start until Nov. 8. But his fourth-floor office at the John A. Wilson Building already is filled with pamphlets and paraphernalia.

In addition, large ads about D.C. self-determination soon will be put on more than 20 buses across the city.

“I’ve been working on this since Day One,” said Mr. Brown, elected to the council in 2009.

Mr. Brown’s office said the effort will cost roughly $50,000 and will be paid for through the council’s budget. Among the expenditures will be 100,000 brochures, a month of the bus ads, 1,000 statehood calendars for state legislators and governors, and stickers, pens and decals featuring a “D.C. Statehood” logo with the number “51” — for the District as the 51st state.

The effort offers a fresh approach but faces age-old challenges.

A recent debate among U.S. House Republicans on gun laws in the District laid bare their divided thinking on the subject, namely that taxation without representation is unfair yet the Constitution limits the options for granting the District full autonomy, representation in Congress or even statehood.

Recent proposals from House leadership would have exempted D.C. residents from federal taxation or ceded much of the city back to Maryland in a practice known as retrocession.

Ilir Zherka, executive director of advocacy group D.C. Vote, said state officials with aspirations for higher office “may be in a position of power to either help the District or harm the District.”

Mr. Catania says the effort is “not a waste of time,” though he recognizes the challenges.

For example, state legislatures are in session at different times, so sweeping through the country in one year is impossible. The District instead will select certain legislatures with members who have some connection to the District or are sympathetic to its plight, Mr. Catania said.

The effort resurrects a push in 2008 by council members and former Mayor Adrian M. Fenty, who trekked to New Hampshire about the time of the presidential primary to testify before state’s House of Representatives on a resolution that recognizes the need for D.C. voting rights in Congress. A committee reported favorably on the resolution, but “it came to the floor on a snowy day,” its sponsor, Rep. Cindy Rosenwald, said in an interview Friday.

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