April 28, 2016 at 4:52 pm EDT | by Mark Lee
Playing statehood card with a political poker face
statehood, gay news, Washington Blade

It has been 34 years since the last resident vote on D.C. statehood.

D.C. ain’t gonna become a state.

It certainly isn’t going to happen anytime soon. It’s already been 34 years since the last resident vote on the issue, and the District is arguably no closer to statehood now than it was then.

Of course, you might think otherwise if you’ve been listening to D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser suddenly and excitably auditioning for head cheerleader on the squad that wants to add another star to the U.S. flag.

Bowser announced a few days ago that she wants to place a non-binding initiative on the November general election ballot to allow D.C. voters to presumably register their support for becoming the 51st state. Last week she got the endorsement of something called the New Columbia Statehood Commission to back her pie-in-the-sky plan to petition Congress and the next president for admission to the Union as a full-fledged state.

As if.

This will require the hurried convening of a local constitutional convention to draft another state constitution to replace the one approved over three decades ago, prior to the vote on approving it in six short months. Some question whether there’s even enough time for the task, predicted to be a messy process on a too-tight timeline. Last time it took more than two years and generated hearty controversies over included provisions.

It could even require that D.C. Council members convene during their summer recess to work on the thing. Most ironic is that this futile exercise is likely to delay action on more pressing matters.

Aside from the obvious benefit of distracting local legislators from scheming up yet even more harebrained and poorly thought-out new mandates and regulations on citizens and commerce, the entire exercise seems a distraction, which may be exactly the point and purpose.

What better way for a meme-making mayor beginning to be swallowed up by a failure to deliver on what are becoming irritatingly meaningless slogans, cloying Twitter hashtags, and increasingly transparent platitudes to avert our attention than waving the tried-but-true statehood flag?

Why not tempt voters with looking away from a homeless shelter plan now in the crapper due to the discovery that her administration didn’t do even rudimentary due diligence on the financial details of land and leasing deals by exploring other arrangements and terms?

Hey, locals might be stuck with a subway system that is literally falling apart and catching fire, but won’t a new ensign sure be something special? The murder rate may be stuck at the same elevated level of her first year in office, but just look at that new flag flapping in the breeze!

Perhaps Bowser is hoping she can drown out the pissed-off anger and fear for their futures of tipped bartenders and servers caused by her turnabout last week on raising the wage portion directly paid by local independent small business bar and restaurant owners. Those earning tips are smart enough to know that changing the longstanding economic foundation of hospitality establishments will only reduce their actual incomes, especially as venue owners have no choice but to lay off employees, cut back shifts and reduce shift hours to afford exorbitant new labor costs that rising patron prices will only exacerbate.

She might be thinking we won’t notice our fingers ordering on touch-screens when we spot that renovated red-white-and-blue on the flagpole outside.

Good luck with her team’s plea this week for private sector hiring of entry-level low-skill first-time job applicants from the Summer Youth Employment Program. She’s priced them out of the job market by suddenly switching gears on further raising the local minimum wage to $15 after consistently opposing a continued too-rapid hike.

Not only is political discourse these days reduced to broad-brush sloganeering more conniving than constructive, a wannabe-governor is now playing the statehood card with a political poker face.

It’s a cynical ploy on display in all its new, and old, glory.

Mark Lee is a long-time entrepreneur and community business advocate. Follow on Twitter: @MarkLeeDC. Reach him at OurBusinessMatters@gmail.com.

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