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Why I Oppose DC Statehood and Congressional Vote

Jonathan R. Rees, jrrees2006@verizon.net


I have received from readers of themail questions about whether I am anti-DC and opposed to statehood and a vote in Congress. My answer to these readers is: the reason I oppose statehood and a Congressional vote is rooted in the corruption of the government of the District of Columbia, from the Office of the Mayor to the city council and across to the heads and management of many agencies of the District of Columbia. DC is a modern day Tammany Hall: E.G. Mary Cheh’s fraud with OCF over free and/or reduced rent on her campaign headquarters and Fenty’s hidden deals to allow developers to land grab.


DC will never realize its dream until the federal government abolish Home Rule, abolish DC government as we know it, and place all DC governmental agencies under their federal counterparts to weed out the corruption and incompetence. Maybe fifteen to twenty years from now, we can start all over again with a new DC government with a mayor, council and release the agencies back to local control.


Hopefully this will set the record straight for all who wondered.



Failed Promises in themail, January 14, 2007


Dear Promise Keepers:


The effort to blame an elected school board for the problems of the District of Columbia Public Schools is sadly misplaced. The city's public schools haven't been under the control of an elected school board for the past ten years. The Control Board replaced the elected school board with an Emergency Transitional Board of Trustees in 1996. The Control Board's promise was that a clear line of authority and a strong leader, General Julius W. Becton, would ensure rapid improvement of the schools. Becton's 1997 report, "Moving Toward an Exemplary System: A Report on the First Year's Efforts to Reform DC Public Schools" (http://www.dcpswatch.com/dcps/9711.htm), makes for much more instructive reading a decade later than it did when it was released. What reading it now teaches is not to believe promises of quick and easy school reform brought about by a clear line of authority and a strong leader.


In 2000, Mayor Williams proposed a charter amendment to replace the elected school board with a mixed mayorally appointed and elected school board. He promised that that would make the mayor directly responsible for the schools and give him a clear line of authority to improve them. The motto of the campaign to reduce the number of school board members and replace half the elected members with mayorally appointed members was "Accountability, Leadership, Change." What that experience taught is not to believe mayoral promises that mayoral leadership and accountability will change the schools.


Now that we are scheduled to return to an all-elected school board at the next general election, Mayor Fenty is determined to prove that he has learned nothing from two failed school board takeovers in the past decade. His solution for the schools? Yet another school board takeover, yet another attempt to blame a democratically elected school board -- which we haven't had for the past decade -- for the problems of the schools, and yet another set of phony promises that if he can just eliminate democratic impediments and replace them with a clear line of authority and a strong leader, he'll improve the schools rapidly and easily. What's amazing is that anyone who has been around for the past ten years would consider being fooled yet again a third time.


Council Chairman Vincent Gray has scheduled a series of city council hearings on Mayor Fenty's takeover plan, starting this Thursday. The press release is at http://www.dcpswatch.com/mayor/070112.htm. Mayor Fenty's 100-day action plan is at http://www.dcwatch.com/mayor/070111.htm -- I'd welcome your comments on it.


Gary Imhoff





Ten Reasons Why I Oppose Fenty's School Takeover

Crystal Sylvia, crystalsylvia@yahoo.com


As a DCPS parent and DCPS social worker I have experienced first hand the overwhelming problems that plague the public school system in DC. As a community activist I have participated over the years in the fight for real reforms to improve our schools. Below are ten reasons why I oppose Mayor Fenty's plan to takeover our schools.


1) While campaigning for the mayoral primary, Fenty never uttered a word about taking over the schools to voters nor did he include it in his education platform. It was only after the primary that he shared his plan. Fenty's landslide victory was a mandate for change not a recycling of Williams failed legislative proposals. Why did Fenty hide his intentions during the primary race? 2) This plan is undemocratic in two ways. Firstly, since Fenty did not include a school takeover in his campaign, he does not have a mandate to take such drastic steps without going to DC residents. Not only should we have public hearings as Council Chair Gray has scheduled, but the takeover should also be put before voters as a referendum since it radically changes the governance structure of the schools. 3) Secondly, the takeover is undemocratic because Fenty is asking Congress to change our city's home rule charter to allow the takeover. He is doing this while at the same time planning a march to Congress to demand statehood. Fenty is insisting that he is only going to Congress to prevent a long drawn out divisive debate on the issue. The takeover undermines democracy and our fight for statehood. 4) The takeover will mean one more layer of bureaucracy in DC Public Schools. Fenty will have authority over the superintendent and the council will have line item control (micromanaging authority) over the DCPS budget. This type of top-down approach is already one of the main criticisms of DCPS by parents and teachers. Under Fenty's plan, those who know best how to improve the system (parents, teachers and students themselves) will be even further removed from any real decision making power. The takeover just adds one more layer at the top. 5) Let's look at alternatives to a takeover like showing more support of Janey's Master Education Plan and Master Facilities Plan. Janey has also recommended that a moratorium be placed on new charter schools which are draining money and resources out of the school system while at the same time performing no better than DCPS. 6) It is quite alarming that the people Fenty has chosen to spearhead his education reform efforts, Victor Reinoso and Neil Albert, are very closely tied with the Federal City Council (FCC). For those who may not be aware, the FCC operates like a shadow government of Washington, DC. It pushes pro-business legislation and development in DC and leverages tremendous power among our elective officials. Many people are rightly speculating the possibility of a land grab of DCPS property by developers. 7) Ever since Fenty's announcement of a takeover, all of the focus on DCPS has been overwhelmingly negative. The media, city leaders, and DC residents are only discussing how DCPS is dysfunctional. While in no way can one deny the huge problems that exist in DCPS, it is important to recognize that there are a lot of great things happening as well. It is very demoralizing to students, school staff, and parents to constantly hear only the bad. It makes you just want to give up hope. 8) As a parent who chose to run for mayor and prioritize his efforts on improving public schools, it is very disheartening that Fenty also chooses to send his two children to private school. Almost all of the people in power (mayor, city council members and school board members) do not have a child enrolled in DCPS, yet they claim to know what is best. 9) The takeover will be yet another turnover of leadership in DCPS. The instability of leadership within DCPS has been one of the main obstacles to true reform. The takeover will mean new initiatives to replace the "old" initiatives, which are only a couple of years old. Even though Fenty is going to keep Janey for now, the leadership and direction of DCPS is going to change with the takeover. So while we are waiting for this to happen DCPS is being paralyzed- why bother planning for the future when the takeover will create so much change. 10) Fenty should use all of his energy and resources supporting and fixing the problems of other DC agencies that he has control over that directly impact our students. Major improvements are needed in the Department of Mental Health, juvenile services, substance abuse services, Department of Human Services and with improving our students and their family's access to quality health care and safe affordable housing. All too often DCPS is saddled with the responsibility of trying to educate children whose families are in crisis or are in desperate need of support services.




School Reform 2007

Kathryn A. Pearson-West, wkpw3@aol.com


Not every citizen in the District of Columbia (including native and longtime Washingtonians that may not be on the active front line for statehood or may not have been involved in the civil rights movement) is ready to abdicate their rights to permit a takeover of the school system by another elected unproven body. Certainly no one wants to be an impediment to responsible, positive change or wants to rain on anyone's parade; however, not all voters are willing to rubber-stamp an initiative to alter the home rule charter without going through the legal process and we do not expect our leadership to change the rules to enable them to do so without our advice and consent.


It would seem that any major changes to the District of Columbia's home rule charter should be brought to the citizens in earnest through a referendum and not just through public hearings where the results can be open to interpretation. It would be presumptuous of elected officials to think that because voters trusted them enough to elect them that citizens are ready to give them carte blanche to change the structure of elected government as they see fit. A mandate to win is not a mandate to dictate or a license to amass more power and influence without permission of the electorate. Everybody is not so sure that reducing another elected representative body to an advisory panel is the best thing. In fact, elected and advisory seem to be an oxymoron in many respects. Mayors Williams and Barry were not granted this authority and now the citizens are expected to grant a new mayoral administration in its infancy this power. Washington, DC, is a unique jurisdiction and maybe in a city with limited democracy, an elected school board with power and independence is the right structure


It is mind-boggling to see that in 2007 elected officials are willing to circumvent the home rule amendment process by appealing to the powers to be in Congress to make it convenient to sidestep a vote by the citizens in the nation's capital. Historically, Congress has long wanted to make changes to our city with the mere waving of their hand (or five hundred plus hands) and often has wanted to use the District of Columbia as its personal laboratory to try out their pet projects not implemented back in their home districts. There has long been resistance by citizens and city leadership to keep Congress out of our governing affairs, whether they be Republicans or Democrats. Now, with the blessings of a Republican mayor from New York, we are expected to be ready to bypass the home rule charter to get a quick, convenient fix in the name of education for our children. With all due respect, that is an ingenuous proposition. At least give the semblance of respect for the Home Rule Charter and citizens' rights by ratifying any vote to change the charter via a referendum. The council could still impose its will by overturning it like it has done with some citizen initiatives. Note that when the initiative guaranteeing housing for the homeless became a fiasco, the citizens overturned it through a referendum/initiative. They were smart enough to do what they needed to do. Why not trust them now with a referendum? [Finished online at http://www.dcwatch.com/themail/2007/07-01-14.htm#west]

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