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.
Azik Schwechter is the owner of the 5-year-old Wrap2Go, which he says currently supplies 75 percent of kosher retail food in the D.C. area. He told Roll Call on Tuesday that he expects Restaurant Associates to begin placing food orders Monday and that he found out about the new business opportunity just last week.
Wrap2Go specializes in pre-packaged kosher sandwiches and salads. It doesn't operate out of a store, but it currently delivers food to the Holocaust Museum, Georgetown University and Law School, various government buildings and the National Institutes of Health.
"There was some interest on the ground from some people who work on the Hill and wanted kosher food," Schwechter explained. "There is no kosher food on the Hill at this point."
Emergency System Test Won't Affect Capitol Hill
At 2 p.m. today, the Federal Emergency Management Agency will unroll its first nationwide Emergency Alert System test — but Capitol Hill won't experience any disruption.
The test is intended to coincide with "the end of hurricane season and before the severe winter weather season," according to FEMA.
For about 30 seconds beginning at 2 p.m., television and radio broadcasts will transmit messages indicating that "this is a test" or that "an Emergency Action Notification has been issued."
Senate Sergeant-at-Arms Terrance Gainer told Roll Call late last week that while his office was made aware of the alerts, they will be largely unseen and unfelt by lawmakers, staffers and visitors in the Capitol complex.
"One question has been, 'Will it be something like air raid sirens?'" said Gainer, who said that would not be the case.
He added that the alerts "would not come over the channels we broadcast from our Senate studios ... and will have no impact on hearings, the floor and operations in general."
Vice President Joe Biden waits to conduct a mock swearing-in ceremony with Sen. Brian Schatz, D-Hawaii, in the Capitol's Old Senate Chamber, December 2, 2014. Schatz was sworn in to serve the remainder of his term since he was appointed to the seat after Sen. Daniel Inouye, D-Hawaii, passed away.