- The Washington Times - Friday, January 18, 2002

This is an election year in the District of Columbia, with all four top seats up this fall. And, while there will be no significant bipartisan fireworks because everybody who's anybody in D.C. politics is a Democrat, even registered Republicans don't expect too much excitement from city hall. That is unless, of course, the local economy totally tanks, or Mayor Tony Williams dumps his trademark bowties for uncharacteristic neckwear.

Do, however, expect political sparks to fly on Capitol Hill, where D.C. Delegate Eleanor Holmes Norton has set the tone with her legislative agenda. The issues themselves are no surprise, however. Most of them, at least those issues Mrs. Norton herself highlighted, are the same-old, same-old. Like warmed over D.C. hash, with a liberal sprinkling of whining, the District's agenda includes a push for statehood.

Of course, Mrs. Norton and the rest do not call it that. They can't. The very word turns off a lot of folks. You know how liberals reflexively recoil when the word "voucher" is used in the school reform debate, and how some conservatives have come to shun the word? Well, Democrats and statehood advocates are playing that same game of semantics.

Their new strategy calls for using such phrases as "budget autonomy" as in, Mrs. "Norton seeks votes on budget autonomy." Now that the Senate is "controlled by Democrats," the delegate points out, "Norton is pressing for passage by the Senate and a vote in the House" that would allow the city's budget to go into effect without any congressional comment.

Now, that can't happen with changing the U.S. Constitution, which grants Congress exclusive control over D.C. legislative and fiscal matters. Mrs. Norton is positioned to do all this "pressing" because two things happened: The courts, and rightly so, said the District's statehood problem must be remedied legislatively; and Louisiana's Sen. Mary Landrieu promised to introduce legislation. (Sen. Joe Lieberman has vowed a helping liberal hand, too.)

This brings us to another example of the push for statehood without using the "s" word. In this case, Mrs. Norton can brag about bipartisan support this time from Rep. Connie Morella she being a Maryland "Republican." Mrs. Morella and Mr. Lieberman will be responsible for holding D.C. voting-rights hearings in the House and the Senate. Hearings that, Mrs. Norton, said, "will be preceded by Voting Rights Lobby Days led by major civil rights organizations."

Now, we don't need to name names, and we don't need name-calling, either. Suffice it to say, this series of events will be nonpartisan, multiracial, multicultural and inter-religious (and gender neutral?). You'll either be with them and their liberal agenda or against them.

See, they have been planning these events for a long time. They have been lobbying state by state, over hill and dale, and through rain, hail and sleet during many a dark and dreary night. Surely you have seen the culmination of one of their hallmarks license plates that say "Taxation Without Representation." Surely you saw Mr. Lieberman and Mrs. Norton, side-by-side, discussing his sponsorship of the "No Taxation Without Representation Act." Perhaps, you heard wind of it at a local Democrats' planning meeting. Not the Democratic National Committee, though. It didn't even see fit to include the District's primaries in its 2002 calendar which kind of makes one of my points.

I mean, what's going on here? What do congressional voting rights have to do with potholes, lousy schools, and the fact that the District still has more money-grubbing parking and driving regs than Carter has little liver pills?

Of course, the answer is this agenda has nothing new to offer D.C. taxpayers. D.C. Democrats are in such a liberal rut that the more things change the more they stay exactly the same.

Another example: The city's leadership promised to tackle what they deem a significant flaw in the relationship between the nation's capital and the feds. They call it a structural deficit, and said the boom years of the late 1990s obscured this imbalance. Mrs. Norton said this imbalance stems, in part, from the loss of middle-income taxpayers, which is true, and the "congressional bar to a commuter tax," which is false. To even suggest there was a boom instead of a rebound in the 1990s is misleading as well as irresponsible.

To be sure, the 1990s were tumultuous. The city went from being flat broke because it mismanaged tax dollars, had a monster of a bureaucracy, and handed out entitlements to anyone who sought them to the verge of becoming one of the most desirable cities in all America. But there was no true boom, despite population gains and widespread economic activity. That is, in part, because the same agenda (i.e., liberal politics) that drove taxpayers and businesses out of town remain in place.

Interestingly, the District used to receive a guaranteed payment in lieu of taxes from the federal government. But Democrats sacrificed that in lieu of various allotments for schools and public safety, for example. Now these same Dems are shaking their tin cup again.

Indeed, money wasn't the problem when the city went bust. It was the stupid agenda.

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