April 4, 2013 | by Adam Tenner
D.C. residents should vote ‘yes’ on Referendum 8

The LGBT community has always been at the forefront of the fight for D.C. democracy and for good reasons. We have suffered under congressional mandates that targeted our fight against HIV/AIDS and marriage equality. Now we have an opportunity to take it one step further.

On April 23, we District voters have an historic opportunity to make a strong statement in our fight for self-determination. By voting “yes” on Referendum 8 during the April 23 special election, we will amend the D.C. Home Rule Charter to minimize the federal government’s control of how we spend our local tax dollars. This effort, led by DC Vote has the unanimous support of the D.C. Council.

Right now, after the Council passes our local budget, D.C. is forced to wait to spend our tax dollars on critical programs until Congress approves it – and the process can often take months. Support from voters for Referendum 8 would mean that after District leaders enact a budget, Congress would only have 30 legislative days to respond.

Untangling the District’s budget from the federal appropriations process is an idea whose time has come. And on April 23, we citizens can help lead the charge for this fundamental change in our relationship with Congress. And, we D.C. residents will send a powerful message — that we should control the tax dollars that come out of our pockets — just like every other jurisdiction in America.

But to send a strong message, we all need to turn out to vote on April 23. We need to say in a strong voice that the time for congressional meddling is over, and that the people of the District of Columbia deserve to be treated fairly.

Our elected leaders have fought hard to pass budget autonomy legislation on Capitol Hill, and we have strong, bipartisan support. But sadly, there are people in Congress who are willing to use our city as their soapbox. And in doing so, they have taken away our rights to self determination. This amendment, if adopted by voters, would amend the charter to do what our supporters in Congress want: give D.C. greater budget autonomy, without having to give in to blackmail by a special interest group.

We need to send a message that only the people we District residents voted for have the right to determine how and when our money is spent. On April 23, we all have the power to win budget autonomy for the District. Go out and vote “yes” on Referendum 8. No one can stop us from expressing our desire for a measure of freedom from Congress at the ballot box.

Adam Tenner is executive director of Metro TeenAIDS. Reach him via metroteenaids.org.

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