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[personal profile] fabrisse
I won my election. To clarify, I am now the first (unpaid) politician 2000 people will call if they have a problem. I hope the percentage of children too young to use email is high, but it's not likely.

What does this mean for me? Well, first of all, no matter what, I can't move to Quebec for at least two years. I mean, I hadn't planned to, but with our current President-elect, it was a possibility.

People are still talking about the President-elect and what he'll do and the effects, etc. It's more visceral for us who live in the District of Columbia. We could have literally every scrap of autonomy taken from us. Home Rule, the right of the District of Columbia to elect a mayor and city council has only existed since 1973. We were awarded more fiscal autonomy in the early 1980s (thank you, Marion Barry!) and had much of it rescinded in the early 1990s (thanks to you, Marion Barry *sigh*).

Slowly, we've regained a great deal of the fiscal autonomy since the late 2000s, but the fact of the matter is that every single decision or law made by our mayor and council must be approved by Congress. In general, they approve it by ignoring it until it automatically becomes law which is fair enough. We don't want them meddling, and they'd rather not remember that we exist. If you're interested in DC's status, check out 10 Myths about the District of Columbia from DCVote.

Sidebar: Most Congress critters do not inhabit the District of Columbia but hole up in Maryland or Virginia suburbs instead. Props to Joe Biden for commuting from Delaware every day and huge props to Bernie Sanders for being the only Congress person at any level to regularly take the Metro. This is significant because Congress oversees our Metro system, too.

Now the period of time it takes for a District passed law to take effect is 30 days. Everyone can wait a month, right? Well, it's not 30 calendar days or even 30 business days, it's 30 days where Congress is in session. When we became the ninth legislative unit in the country to approve same-sex marriage, the law passed the council and got the mayor's signature December 18, 2009. It finally took effect in March of the following year. Why does it take so long to get 30 days? Congress took its winter vacation. Then there were holidays and legislative holidays and... 30 days was over on 9 March.

We as a state-like entity -- how we're defined in several national laws -- collect our own taxes to fund our own programs including District Medicaid. Not one penny of our Medicaid money comes from the Federal Government, but they voted to forbid our using our own money to fund needle exchange programs. In a city where 1 in 20 people, 5% of the population, is HIV positive, they took away a major method of prevention. And our infection rates went up again.

We pay more in Federal Income Tax than Wyoming, Montana, South Dakota, and North Dakota combined (per 2014 tax table -- all states were selected for being similar in population to the District. Wyoming actually has fewer people than we do.) Some years we're a giver entity; some years a taker, but it's never more than a few pennies either way. In other words we pay for ourselves. By the way, the states above have 2 Senators and 1 Representative apiece for a total of 12 Congressional votes. We have a non-voting delegate. Under the current Republican leadership, she's not even allowed to sit in the committee room to hear laws pertaining to DC when its in closed session.

But it's not ourselves we're paying for. Most of that money doesn't go to workforce programs or health or housing or any of the other "welfare" programs people accuse us of living on. It goes to pay for the Federal buildings and the National park lands (28.9% of Montana is National Park; 29% of DC is National Park which makes us twelfth nationally.).

All of the above is background for the real issue. Congress can, in its infinite wisdom, take it all away. Republican Congressmen threaten this occasionally, but it's never been taken seriously. If Congress was Republican, the President was Democratic and would therefore, probably, veto it. Even if it were passed, DC can get fast tracked to the Supreme Court, but again, with the current President-elect, that may not be a safety net for us.

Throughout history, presidents and congress have tried policies in the District before they decided whether to make them law elsewhere. The most famous example is Emancipation Day, which in the District is April 16. The rest of the slaves in Confederate lands were freed in September.

So we stopped being slaves sooner, that's good, right? We were also the last city to integrate because Congress exempted itself, and therefore the District, from some of the requirements of the Civil Rights Act.

Our limited autonomy is just that: limited. Any program for, say, registration of Muslims, is likely to be floated here first, just because it's easier. I have probably a dozen people whom I know are Muslim (I'm including Nation of Islam as well as the more traditional forms) within my very little constituency, .006% of my total people, but they may be among the first to be required to register just because we're within walking distance of the Capitol.

We're 45% African-American in the District -- probably just under 30% in my area, estimating by eye. But many of my constituents are old enough to have grown up under segregation. They're wary. They remember having no say at all, and, trust me, they show up to vote.

Every last one of us in District, or at least the ones not working directly for Congress or an embassy, is nervous. We not only know we're likely to be the first; we know that the rest of the United States doesn't care. We're seen as leeches or part of the federal sausage law-making apparatus, when, in reality, we have less say than anyone else in the United States.

For the next two years, I'll have to worry about these 2000 people -- that they'll lose the little political autonomy they have, that they'll end up being forced to register on someone's list. And I'll have to fight. Mostly in small ways via forcing developers to adhere to zoning plans and pollution regulations, but I'm very aware that it may also be in big ways -- and that I'll need to be vigilant every day.
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