Don't be fooled by protests and arrests, they do nothing to help the District.
“Finally got home at 4:45. Nobody knows the troubles I’ve seen…” so tweeted DC Council member Tommy Wells following his arrest at the budget protest on Capitol Hill. It’s a bit of a stretch, to say the least, for Wells to evoke one the most famous negro spirituals of all time, yet many were fooled by the show that played out on Monday.
The fact is the Council and mayor’s theatrics are not going to help the fight for representation in Congress, are not going to help the city’s budget autonomy, and are surely not going to help win back a critical health program for women.
Maybe the national media coverage of the arrests will shed more light on our fight for voting rights in Congress. Maybe.
But instead of focusing on something that isn’t winnable in the foreseeable future, how about we focus on the here and now. Let’s focus on reversing the decision by Republicans, Democrats, and President Obama to restrict District funds for abortions for low-income women. Talk about despicable.
Let’s remember, some of these women may be facing situations of rape. Some of these women aren‘t healthy enough to bring a child into the world. All of them have the right to choose. This story should be about them. Instead, what you saw was a bunch of lawmakers recreating a scene straight out of the civil rights movement.
Yes, it was all just one big publicity stunt, and it couldn’t have happened at a better time for the mayor. Faced with poor approval numbers, accusations of cronyism, and little to show for his first four months in office, Mayor Gray took two controversial federal budget riders and turned them into national headlines. Unfortunately, that’s all they were.
Thankfully, we later learned that funding was spared for the District’s needle exchange program, which at least helps contain the city’s ghastly HIV/AIDS infection rate.
Now, more work needs to be done to find funding for that most critical of women’s health issues. Here’s where Council member David Catania should step in. On a local level, he is perhaps the most influential when it comes to the city’s health issues. Catania also did not get caught up in that silly re-enactment on Capitol Hill. Maybe it’s because he’s smarter than that. Maybe he was doing something else, like working on finding a way around this mess. Maybe.
DC’s delegate in Congress also was not present. Maybe it’s because Delegate Eleanor Holmes Norton actually knows what it takes to get things done on a congressional level. She’s the only one who has a fighting chance at this point, and she is a fighter.
Norton has her work cut out for her, and rightfully so, she at least offered up amendments to the spending bill in an effort to save our taxpayers’ money for the program it was meant to go toward. This is how things get done on Capitol Hill. This is how the District is to move forward in its fight for independence.
If it takes getting arrested in front of a hyped up crowd to rally your constituents, the mayor and the Council have a big problem on their hands. How about first working together as a smart, responsible and ethical governing body? It doesn’t surprise me at all that the federal government chooses to keep D.C. in its back pocket. Don’t be fooled.
Until a thoughtful approach is made, the District will never gain the respect it deserves.