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Campus Notebook: D.C. Statehood Push Goes Grass-Roots

Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call File Photo
Washington, D.C., Mayor Vincent Gray's birthday wish was for the District to finally gain statehood.

Mayor Vincent Gray had one wish for his birthday Tuesday: "For D.C. to become N.C."

Gray, Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-D.C.) and D.C. Council members gathered to launch a new grass-roots effort to make the District of Columbia the 51st state or New Columbia, as it would be called.

Norton and others have tried for years to compel Members of Congress to take up the mantle of D.C. statehood.

Unsatisfied with the results, local officials are now embracing a new approach that tries to work around Congress' inaction on the issue.

With Councilmember Michael Brown at the helm, the D.C. statehood campaign will implore state legislators to take up resolutions that would create the state of New Columbia.

They hope that momentum built at local levels around the country will trickle back down to Capitol Hill, putting necessary pressure on Congressional lawmakers to pass D.C. statehood legislation.

D.C. officials on Tuesday, gathering before a crowd on the stairs of the John A. Wilson Building, warned that it would be a hard fight, one that would require constant vigilance.

"If we don't wage this fight day in and day out, nobody is going to pay attention to it," Gray said of the new campaign. There ought to be "a chapter of the New Columbia movement in every neighborhood and every university and every school," he said.

But Brown said the campaign is all about its visibility.

The "aggressive marketing campaign," he said, will include a new logo and website and an educational brochure for businesses around the city to distribute to their patrons. It will also place advertisements on the sides of nearly two dozen city buses over the next month.

"We are going to be hitting the tourists as they come to our city ... educating them on why statehood is so important," Brown continued. "We're going to encourage folks from outside D.C. to take the message back home because no matter what pathway we take to statehood, it's going to include other states being involved."

At Tuesday's event, Norton suggested that local officials' involvement was crucial.

"Elected officials cannot be fulfilled as long as the Congress can nullify their actions," she said. "Statehood is the only way to full and equal treatment for local residents and for our local government."

Senate Goes Kosher

Kosher lawmakers and Hill staffers who find themselves out of luck at lunchtime could have their fortunes reversed as early as next week.

Restaurant Associates, the Senate's private food provider, will begin offering kosher meals in Senate-side eateries.

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