One of my earliest memories is of walking along a burned-out 14th Street in my hometown Washington, D.C., in 1968, holding one parent’s hand as the other pushed my brother in a stroller; I was 4 years old. They took us to witness the destruction that arose from rage following the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s assassination, and later to the Poor People’s Campaign for economic justice encamped on a muddy National Mall. My parents wanted to teach us that the America they loved harbored injustices and systemic racism, yet it was a union we had a duty to try to perfect. Fifty-two years later, not nearly enough has changed. Entrenched bigotry and senseless violence against African-Americans persist. We still have much to do to make this a truly equal and just America — from eradicating police brutality and reforming the criminal justice system to ensuring access to affordable housing, quality health care and education, and decent jobs for all regardless of the color of their skin. An often overlooked piece of the justice agenda was cast into stark relief last week, when President Trump ordered heavily armed federal forces into the District of Columbia against the will of Mayor Muriel Bowser. Largely because Washington lacks statehood, Mr. Trump had the authority to line city streets with military Humvees, to fly Black Hawk helicopters dangerously low to terrorize protesters, to fill the steps of the Lincoln Memorial with military personnel and to deploy thousands of federal forces, many unidentifiable with no discernible chain of command, like Russian “Little Green Men,” to intimidate residents.
Puerto Rico: Puerto Rico to hold statehood referendum amid disillusion | Dánica Coto/Associated Press
Gov. Wanda Vázquez announced on Saturday that she will hold a nonbinding referendum in November to decide whether Puerto Rico should become a U.S. state, a move that comes amid growing disillusion with the island’s U.S. territorial status. For the first time in the island’s history, the referendum will ask a single, simple question: Should Puerto Rico be immediately admitted as a U.S. state? It’s an answer that requires approval from U.S. Congress and a question that outraged the island’s small group of independence supporters and members of the main opposition Popular Democratic Party, which supports the status quo. But it’s a gamble that members of the governor’s pro-statehood party are confident will pay off given that Puerto Rico has struggled to obtain federal funds for hurricanes Irma and Maria, a string of recent strong earthquakes and the coronavirus pandemic amid growing complaints that the island does not receive fair and equal treatment. “Everything important in life carries some risk,” said former Puerto Rico governor Carlos Romero Barceló, a member of the Progressive New Party. Previous referendums have presented voters with more than one question or various options, including independence or upholding the current territorial status, but none have been so direct as the one scheduled to be held during the Nov. 3 general elections.
U.S. House of Representatives Natural Resources Committee Chairman Rob Bishop said on Friday he supports the government of Puerto Rico’s efforts to introduce bipartisan legislation in Congress to grant full statehood to the U.S. commonwealth territory. “I am supportive of statehood. I think it is a solution that is long overdue,” Bishop, a Republican from Utah, said during a visit to the island that was broadcast over the internet. Puerto Rico is still in the throes of recovering from September’s devastating spate of hurricanes that killed dozens and completely knocked out power, deepening the economic woes for the island’s 3.4 million U.S. citizens. Many of them have decamped for the mainland United States in search of jobs and social services.
Hurricane-ravaged Puerto Rico on Wednesday launched a new drive to become the 51st US state, with the island’s governor demanding an end to “second-class” treatment of its citizens. Puerto Rico’s more than three million residents are US citizens, with no obstacles to living and working on the mainland. Yet the US commonwealth in the Caribbean has just a non-voting delegation in the US Congress in Washington, and Puerto Rico residents cannot vote for US president. “It is time to end Puerto Ricans’ second-class citizenship, and statehood is the only guarantee for that to happen,” Governor Ricardo Rossello told a press conference in Washington.
Puerto Rican officials on Wednesday introduced the territory’s “Statehood Commission,” a shadow congressional delegation that will make the case for the territory’s statehood. Resident Commissioner Jenniffer González-Colón (R) announced the commission’s members on the House floor, saying territorial status subjects Puerto Ricans “to a second-class citizenship.” Gov. Ricardo Rosselló (D) named former governor Carlos Romero Barceló (D) and Zoraida Fonalledas (R) as shadow senators; and former governor Pedro Rosselló González (D), former governor Luis Fortuño (R), former president of the Senate of Puerto Rico Charles Rodríguez (D), former chief of the U.S. Office of Citizenship Alfonso Aguilar (R), and baseball Hall of Famer Iván ‘Pudge’ Rodríguez (I) as shadow representatives.
Puerto Rico Gov. Ricardo Rosselló (D) swore in the seven members of its Puerto Rico Statehood Commission, the delegation that will go to Washington and ask to be seated in Congress as part of the island’s bid for statehood. The commission was sworn in at a ceremony Tuesday at La Fortaleza, the governor’s official residence in San Juan. Rosselló’s father, Pedro Rosselló Nevares (D), a former governor, was named the commission’s chairman. “We will request to be recognized and to be allowed participation in Congress,” Rosselló Nevares told The Hill. Based on the island’s population, Rosselló named five representatives and two senators. That’s the number of members in Congress that Puerto Rico would have if it were a state.
The nuclear conflict with North Korea that has made Guam the target of a threatened attack has led to new calls to change the government of the Pacific island whose inhabitants are American citizens but have no say in electing the president or the use of military force. Guam is a U.S. territory where many of its 160,000 residents have long advocated for a different form of government; they just can’t agree on what they want. Some want to become the 51st state, or at least have more say in the government. Others want independence from the U.S. Another faction wants to eliminate the heavy American military presence on an island where 7,000 troops are stationed and the main thoroughfare is called Marine Corps Drive. The feud between President Donald Trump and North Korea has upset some residents, given their lack of voting power in presidential elections.
Puerto Rico Gov. Ricardo Rosselló on Thursday demanded that the U.S. government recognize his commonwealth as the 51st state, citing the island’s overwhelming vote for statehood four days ago. He faces long odds. “The U.S. citizens of Puerto Rico have taken a stand and have pleaded a choice,” said Rossello, speaking in a small, half-empty room occupied by reporters and his own staff at the National Press Club in Washington. Yet while 97 percent of those who participated backed statehood in the June 11 vote, the nonbinding referendum was boycotted by opposition parties, who either support the current commonwealth status or independence. As a result, less than a quarter of eligible voters cast ballots. Héctor Ferrer, the head of the opposition Popular Democratic Party, called the referendum “a rigged process,” in an interview with POLITICO this month.
The governor of Puerto Rico, Ricard Rosselló, has announced that he is to visit Washington in the next phase of his campaign to turn the island into the 51st state of the United States. Rosselló will go to the US capital armed with a 97% backing for statehood from voters in Sunday’s plebiscite on the future of the stricken US colony. But he faces an uphill struggle impressing his case on the US Congress, which holds ultimate power over Puerto Rico, given the historically low turnout of the vote and the boycott staged by opposition parties. The governor, a 38-year-old member of the ruling Partido Nuevo Progresista (PNP), insisted the referendum sent a clear and strong message to Washington. “From today, the federal government will no longer be able to ignore the voice of the majority of the American citizens in Puerto Rico. It would be highly contradictory for Washington to demand democracy in other parts of the world, and not respond to the legitimate right to self-determination that was exercised today in the American territory of Puerto Rico,” he said after the vote.
Puerto Rico’s governor on Monday said the island’s vote in favor of becoming a U.S. state, despite low voter turnout and widespread boycotts, was “a fair and open” process that U.S. Congress should act upon. An island-wide referendum on Sunday favored statehood in a 97 percent landslide, though voter turnout reached just 23 percent as opponents of Governor Ricardo Rossello’s push to become a state boycotted the vote. The non-binding plebiscite is not expected to sway the U.S. Congress, which would have to agree to make Puerto Rico a state. Currently a U.S. territory, the island is struggling with $70 billion in debt and a 45 percent poverty rate, and is not viewed as a priority in Washington.
Puerto Rico: Puerto Rico votes again on statehood but US not ready to put 51st star on the flag | The Guardian
The hall is a sea of pink and white. About 350 Puerto Ricans, mostly women, have come to hear their First Lady speak in what they hope will be the final push towards a new relationship between their island and the United States. When Beatriz Rosselló, the 32-year-old wife of the governor of Puerto Rico, finally appears at the rally outside the capital San Juan, the room erupts into a frenzy of flag-waving. The American Stars and Stripes with its 50 stars, and the Puerto Rican emblem, with its single one, intertwine amid the flurry, giving the illusion that they have fused: 51 stars in a single banner of red, white and blue. … Rosselló and her supporters of the governing Partido Nuevo Progresista (PNP) hope to take that spirit of unification to the polling stations on Sunday when Puerto Rico holds its fifth plebiscite on statehood in 50 years. The ambition is to deliver such a resounding cry from the island’s 3.4 million citizens that Washington will be forced to take Puerto Rico on board as the 51st state of the United States.
Puerto Rico’s government is banking on a push for statehood to solve the structural issues that led to its financial crisis. Puerto Ricans will vote Sunday to decide the territory’s status. If statehood wins, as expected, the island will enact what’s known as the Tennessee Plan, an avenue to accession by which U.S. territories send a congressional delegation to demand to be seated in Washington. Puerto Rico will send two senators and five representatives, chosen by Gov. Ricardo Rosselló (D), later this year, once the plan is put into action. Statehood remains a long shot as many Republicans are wary of adding a 51st state that could add two Democratic senators and seven Democratic electors to the Electoral College.
District of Columbia: Republican-led Congress denies D.C. delegate a vote. Again. | The Washington Post
On the first day of the 115th Congress, members buzzed Tuesday about the repeal of President Obama’s health-care law, tax reform and whether to gut the ethics office. All Eleanor Holmes Norton wanted to discuss was a vote. And a symbolic one at that. For the fourth consecutive session, Norton (D), the nonvoting D.C. representative, formally asked the speaker of the House for the ability to vote on amendments and procedural issues. Again, she was thwarted. This time, she brought D.C. Mayor Muriel E. Bowser (D) and a veterans advocate with her. Norton pushed for a vote in the Committee of the Whole as “a down payment on full voting rights for the more than 680,000 American citizens residing in the District of Columbia, who pay the highest federal income taxes per capita in the United States and have fought and died in every American war, yet have no vote on the floor of the House of Representatives, ‘the people’s house,’ ” she said.
Puerto Rico: Could Commonwealth Become A State? Ricardo Rossello Vows To Make History | International Business Times
Puerto Rico’s longtime movement toward statehood saw a significant victory Tuesday night after Puerto Ricans elected Ricardo Rossello of the New Progressive Party in a tightly fought gubernatorial race. Rossello is a vocal supporter of statehood for Puerto Rico and vowed on the campaign trail to turn the debt-ridden Caribbean island into the 51st state. Puerto Ricans are eager for change. More than 200,000 Puerto Ricans have left the island of 3.5 million people in recent years because of an economic crisis that has seen schools shut down and a shortage nurses and doctors. Puerto Rico owes $70 billion in public debt. “I’m honored Puerto Rico gave me an opportunity. … We will establish a quality of life that will allow (Puerto Ricans) to return to the land where they were born,” Rossello, 37, said. He carried nearly 42 percent of the vote, or 566,000 votes, against his main opponent, David Bernier, who had more than 527,000 votes, or 39 percent. Bernier, of the ruling Popular Democratic Party, sought to follow Gov. Alejandro Garcia Padilla, who did not seek a second term.
One step closer to statehood, the D.C. Council heard and discussed what could be the state constitution for “New Columbia.” “The question is not why statehood, but what it should look like,” said D.C. council member Mary Cheh during Tuesday’s hearing. To create the state of New Columbia, the citizens of the District are following what’s called the “Tennessee Plan.” “The citizens, of in this case of the District, get their proposal together before they petition Congress for admission into the union,” Council Chair Phil Mendelson explained at the hearing’s outset. But there’s little time to waste to get the referendum to voters by Nov. 8. It will need to be approved by voters in November to be sent to Congress. It’s a big job to be done in a small window of time.
District of Columbia: D.C. mayor pushes statehood issue at Democratic National Convention | The Washington Post
D.C. Mayor Muriel E. Bowser, speaking Tuesday at the Democratic National Convention, confidently predicted victory — and soon — in the District’s four-decade fight for statehood. Bowser used the few moments she was allotted to address the convention to publicly demand greater support for the cause from fellow Democrats. The mayor also made clear that she expects Hillary Clinton to fulfill her pledge to be a vocal advocate for D.C. statehood if she wins the presidency in November. Taking the microphone to announce D.C. Democrats’ overwhelming vote for Clinton to be the party’s nominee, Bowser introduced herself as mayor of “the best city in the world, and soon to be the 51st state of our great union.”
Since Mayor Bowser announced her statehood initiative in April, the celebratory mood has gone from one of exuberance to consternation among some statehood supporters in just a short few months. The debate over the content of the Mayor’s proposed new statehood constitution and the sequence for its ratification have caused a flurries of discontent. Now, according to council Chairman Mendelson’s office, the final statehood constitution is unlikely to be put on the ballot in November for a vote up or down. However, the language of the city’s “advisory” referendum states that D.C. voters who approve the referendum “would establish that the citizens of the District of Columbia … approve a Constitution of the State of New Columbia to be adopted by the Council…” In other words, the D.C. Council may add or subtract whatever language it likes and call it a constitution, without District residents actually knowing what’s inside when they vote to approve it in the November.
A ballot referendum to split the nation’s capital into a new state for its residents and a smaller, federal district for government buildings and monuments is headed to D.C. voters in November. The D.C. Council unanimously approved the referendum proposed by Mayor Muriel E. Bowser (D) on Tuesday, saying that, if approved, it could help pressure Congress to hold the first vote in more than two decades to allow D.C. residents to form the 51st state. In backing the plan, however, the council brushed aside criticism from statehood advocates who felt that D.C. residents should have more say in drafting a constitution for the would-be state. A final vote on the founding document, which voters would be asked to “approve,” would not be taken by the D.C. Council until after the November election.
District of Columbia: District To Become 51st State? Washington, DC, Could Be Named ‘New Columbia’ If It Gets Statehood | IBT
A commission working out the logistics of Washington, D.C.’s bid for statehood decided this week if they’re successful in becoming the 51st state, it should be called “New Columbia,” the Washington Post reported. New Columbia beat out suggestions like “the State of Washington, D.C.,” “Anacostia,” “Douglass Commonwealth” and “Potomac,” according to WAMU, American University radio in Washington. It emerged as the victor in part because voters have technically already approved it once — in 1982, another time Washingtonians pushed to become a state. “It’s the only name that’s even been voted on by the people of the District of Columbia,” shadow Sen. Michael Brown told WAMU. “For 34 years, people have used this name to push this movement forward.”
Editorials: District of Columbia’s Democratic Primary Highlights Their Statehood Blunder | Pat Garofalo /US News & World Report
Tuesday is officially the last election day of the 2016 Democratic presidential primary campaign. Not that it matters much, of course: Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton is already the presumptive nominee. But going 57th in the primary order and having their votes rendered largely meaningless by the previous contests is nothing new to Tuesday’s set of voters – after all, we’re casting our ballots in the District of Columbia. Yes, adding a lot of insult to plenty of injury, the voters of Washington, D.C. – myself included – were stuck at the end of the presidential politics playlist, relegated to a footnote in the campaign, after already being largely disenfranchised at the national level. But it doesn’t have to be this way: That D.C. is still stuck in representative purgatory highlights one of the biggest mistakes Democrats made during the Obama era.
District of Columbia: New Columbia? Washington DC sees new hope in fight for statehood | The Guardian
The leading contender is New Columbia, but that has associations with Christopher Columbus some would question. Other options include Anacostia or Potomac. Or how about Douglass Commonwealth – conveniently DC – after the abolitionist Frederick Douglass? The debate over what to call America’s hypothetical 51st state is just one of the thorny issues facing campaigners as they strive to correct what they claim is a long historical injustice unique among capital cities around the world. The effort to gain statehood for Washington, District of Columbia, received a boost on Thursday when the Democratic candidate Bernie Sanders reaffirmed his support. “I hope that the next time I’m back we’re going to be talking about the state of Washington DC,” he said to cheers at a rally ahead of Tuesday’s Democratic primary. Hillary Clinton has also endorsed the plan, although the fact that Washington’s Democratic primary is the last in the country, and a “dead rubber” now that Clinton is certain of victory, could be seen as symbolic of how one city deeply underrepresented in Washington politics is Washington itself. It was not until 1964 that residents of DC could even vote for president.
Editorials: The United States has a moral obligation to give Puerto Rico the right to vote | Noah Berlatzsky/Quartz
Voting rights has become an increasingly partisan issue. In Wisconsin, new voter ID laws led to brutal lines at the polls in urban areas—a development designed, even according to Republicans themselves, to suppress Democratic turnout. In Virginia at the end of April, governor Terry McAuliffe re-enfranchised all felons who had finished parole. In theory, the move returned the vote to 200,000 people. This was a refutation of a policy originally designed to explicitly deny black people the vote. It was also, potentially, a way to give more votes to more minority and poor voters, and tip a narrowly balanced purple state more Democratic in the US presidential election. The focus on voter IDs and felon disenfranchisement—while important—has inadvertently obscured other voting rights issues. Every year, with little comment, the United States denies millions of people representation in the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, Guam, and other territories. Washington, DC, has a population of over 650,000 people. That makes it larger than the states of Vermont or Wyoming, and yet it has no voting representatives in either the Senate or the House of Representatives. Puerto Rico has a population of around 3.5 million people, which makes it more populous than states like Nevada, Iowa, and Arkansas. But not only do Puerto Ricans lack Congressional representation, they also cannot vote in presidential elections (unlike residents of DC, who are entitled to three votes in the Electoral College).
Democratic presidential front-runner Hillary Clinton called for making the nation’s capital the country’s 51st state on Wednesday, promising to be a “vocal champion” for D.C. statehood. She blasted presumptive Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump for failing to say whether D.C. residents should have the same voting rights as other Americans. “In the case of our nation’s capital, we have an entire populace that is routinely denied a voice in its own democracy. . . . Washingtonians serve in the military, serve on juries, and pay taxes just like everyone else. And yet, they don’t even have a vote in Congress,” Clinton wrote in an op-ed published in the Washington Informer, an African American weekly newspaper.
District Officials will in the coming months spend a lot of time and energy on a quest that even they realize is the longest of long shots: D.C. statehood. That doesn’t mean they are wrong to undertake the effort. It is important to keep reminding the American public and its leaders about the unjust treatment of people who live in the nation’s capital. D.C. Mayor Muriel E. Bowser (D) has announced a new front in the District’s long-running fight for equal rights. She proposed a three-part process that would allow the District to directly petition Congress for admission as a state. Statehood would give the District voting representation in the House and Senate as well as legislative and budget autonomy. The petition would be preceded by a November referendum and, if city voters favored statehood, a convention to draft and ratify a constitution. The new state would exclude a small federal enclave, thus making a constitutional amendment unnecessary.
District of Columbia: Kasich on D.C. voting rights: ‘That’s just more votes in the Democratic Party.’ | The Washington Post
When asked his position on D.C. voting rights, Republican presidential contender John Kasich didn’t pretend to draw on any constitutional clause or existing law to explain his stance against it. Instead, the Ohio governor stated the political reason that many already perceive as the biggest obstacle standing between D.C. and congressional voting representation: Giving D.C. voting representatives in Congress would mean more Democrats in Congress. “What it really gets down to if you want to be honest is because they know that’s just more votes in the Democratic Party,” Kasich said Wednesday during an interview with The Washington Post editorial board.
District of Columbia: Mayor calls for citywide vote to make nation’s capital the 51st state | The Washington Post
D.C. Mayor Muriel E. Bowser on Friday called for a citywide vote in November on making the nation’s capital the 51st state, resurrecting a decades-old plan to thrust the issue before Congress and raise awareness across the country about District residents’ lack of full citizenship. “I propose we take another bold step toward democracy in the District of Columbia,” Bowser (D) said at a breakfast attracting hundreds of city residents, Democratic members of Congress and civil rights leaders marking the 154th anniversary of President Abraham Lincoln’s emancipation of slaves in the nation’s capital. “It’s going to require that we send a bold message to the Congress and the rest of the country that we demand not only a vote in the House of Representatives,” she said. “We demand two senators — the full rights of citizenship in this great nation.” The mayor’s announcement appeared poised to ratchet up tension between the District’s Democratic majority and its federal overseers in a Republican-controlled Congress.
“Let them have gun laws! Let them have weed! Let them decide the things that they need!” You may remember those lyrics from John Oliver’s Last Week Tonight segment on D.C. statehood that broadcast in early August. The HBO host brought national attention to an issue that has plagued District residents for centuries: Without full voting representation in Congress, D.C. denizens are largely powerless to advocate for their interests at the federal level. Oliver was able to tap into residents’ frustration over the status quo by appealing to civil rights, and in part thanks to social media; local merriment and momentum ensued. Almost three months later, a campaign spearheaded by At-Large D.C. Councilmember Vincent Orange seeking to highlight the issue of D.C. statehood on the national stage may be gaining traction. Called “Statehood or Else,” it proposes to collect one million signatures on a petition that would be delivered to the president, all 535 members of Congress, and party leaders at the Democratic and Republican conventions being held next July in Philadelphia and Cleveland, respectively. The Council’s Committee of the Whole held a public hearing on the measure this morning, during which a few witnesses questioned the outward presentation of the campaign and found an opportunity to call for greater funding for D.C.’s congressional delegation. Still, most speakers present testified that they supported it.
The New York Times recently reported on comments by Hillary Clinton in Puerto Rico about the territory’s status in presidential elections:
But she also has an eye on the general election. Puerto Ricans are increasingly moving to Central Florida, where they are a key voting bloc in the swing state. In the past two elections, they have turned out in large numbers, helping hand President Obama his two victories in Florida. And she hinted at as much as she closed her remarks in Puerto Rico. “It always struck me as so indefensible that you can’t vote for president if you live here,” she said with a slight smile. “But if you move to Florida — which, of course, I’m just naming a state — you can vote for president.”
Revelers arrived in cars sporting the American flag and wore clothes in red, white and blue as they celebrated the anniversary of Puerto Rico’s pro-statehood political party with deafening salsa music and speeches. Like many others worried about the U.S. territory’s future, those rallying Thursday night in the coastal town of Manati believe statehood can help pull it out of a nearly a decade of economic stagnation. “Puerto Rico has to become a state,” insisted 63-year-old celebrant Norma Candelario. With unemployment at 12 percent, and the public debt reaching $72 billion, advocates for making the Caribbean island the 51st state say the economic woes are strengthening their arguments. As a state, Puerto Rico’s municipalities and public utilities would no longer be prohibited from restructuring their debts through bankruptcy. It would also receive more of certain kinds of federal funding that other states get.
Though the debt crisis in Greece is eating up most of the media oxygen, a somewhat similar crisis is happening in Puerto Rico. They’ve got way too much debt, and have been struggling badly since the 2008 financial crisis. The situation has reached a breaking point, and Governor Alejandro Padilla has flatly admitted the island colony cannot pay in full. Though it is an unlikely prospect, this is an area where the United States government can do some good. By proposing a referendum on statehood, and assisting with an orderly debt write-down, America can atone for past sins and put Puerto Rico back on an upward trajectory. The roots of the crisis are explained well in a piece by Matt Yglesias. For a number of years Puerto Rico had some odd tax advantages that allowed it to borrow extremely cheaply, and so it did, running up a debt vastly larger than any other American state. In 2006 the tax advantages were finally phased out, which made it particularly badly positioned to deal with the financial crisis only two years later. Now with the economy in deep trouble, the government is running short of cash, its citizens are emigrating for the mainland, and it will basically have to default.