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organizations, at their regular meetings, and presented all the salient facts contained in the original House bill. We appeared before more than 30 neighborhood groups. From the questions asked after the presentation, we learned one important fact. The majority of Washington residents were heartily in favor of the idea of home rule, but there was a great variance of opinion as to the specific provisions of the bills that have been presented to the Congresses. This was also the case with the membership of our club when the resolution passed by a very small margin. Practically all of us were for home rule, but many of us could not agree on any one, over-all piece of legislation.
This technicality has long been an insurmountable barrier to democracy in the District of Columbia.
Everyone I have talked to has said, at one time or another, “I am for home rule but I don't go for such and such a provision of the soand-so bill.”
Those of us who really want to see the citizens of the District of Columbia enfranchised are just about fed up with this foolish, haveyour-cake-and-eat-it-too attitude. One group says: "No home rule without national representation.”
The most ridiculous, malicious, and odiferous complaint of all is. the hatemongers' behind-the-hand remark, that, "If we get home rule the Negroes will take over the city.”
That one always burns us up. Few of us are, what you might call, violent advocates of civil rights. Most of us have always felt that the minority groups should be judged individually on their respective merits, regardless of race, color, or creed. Obviously people who make statements like that don't believe in home rule, their idea of democracy is mob rule; and that's all they deserve.
In any event we all are aware that for the past few years, any decisive action on self-government for the District of Columbia has been prevented by the fact that our citizens, either individually or through their various civic organizations, have been unable to reach a unanimous agreement on any one home rule bill. It is my opinion, and that of many of the members of my club, that they never will. If things continue as they have in the recent past, bill after bill will be introduced only to fall by the wayside because somebody objected to a clause in title 4, section 8. The fact of the matter is we have been getting nowhere fast.
This present bill, S. 656, carries on its title page the names of some of our most distinguished Republicans, Senators Taft, Hendrickson, Carlson, Smith of Maine, and Duff, of Pennsylvania. I am sure that each and every one of them is vitally interested in writing the most equitable legislation possible to provide for self-government in the District. Two of their distinguished number have served admirably as governors of great States. Three of their Democrat colleagues, whose names are also on the bill, have served as chief executives of other States equally as great. All of the others, both Republican and Democrat, who have collaborated on this legislation have had long experience in such public matters. None of them would be where he is today if it weren't for the almighty ballot; the free vote which is the only guarantor of democracy. If this bill is good enough for them, it is good enough for me, for the Young Republican Club of the District of Columbia, and it should be good enough for all Republicans, Democrats, or other partisans or nonpartisans anywhere. It is high time that we channeled all of our efforts for self-government toward the passage of one bill; S. 656 should be that bill. Thank you. [Applause.)
The CHAIRMAN. Thank you very much for a very vigorous, clear-cut, and courageous statement.
Mr. A. L. Wheeler, representing the Democratic Central Committee of the District of Columbia.
STATEMENT OF A. L. WHEELER, REPRESENTING THE DEMOCRATIC
CENTRAL COMMITTEE OF THE DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA
Mr. WHEELER. Mr. Chairman, first I want to commend this committee on the prompt action it has taken on the bill. In the clinic which concluded last week, there were a number of issues concerning home rule brought up. With certain of those there was a possibility that the people of the District were apathetic concerning home rule, and that was possibly one of the reasons why home rule has not been achieved. In my opinion, that is not the case.
As you recall, last year there was a real effort made by the people who were interested in home rule to see that this bill was passed. Delegations were constantly on the Hill after the passage of the bill in the Senate, over in the House trying to persuade the Members of the House to first vote the bill out of the committee and second, on a discharge petition to sign it.
In order to get 196 signatures on a discharge petition, it is a job that requires the efforts of many, many people. These people gave of their time and effort unselfishly, and in numbers I would say approaching a thousand people working on it.
In the course of the strategy of how to get the bill out of the House, there were some who thought that a mass meeting whereby public demonstrations could be shown and interest could be manifested, that would be a big help in showing the way. Others interviewed the various Congressmen, discussed this matter with them, and they found that it was not the lack of interest that was causing the bill not to be reported out, but various other reasons.
At this time a group of us considered the getting together of a mass meeting, but it was thought that a meeting could not actually persuade the Congressmen because without a vote they could ignore the feelings of the people, without prejudicing their position with their electorate, and consequently other considerations controlled.
S. 656 has three real purposes in mind. First, it gives the people a democratic way of choosing their representatives by qualified electors. This is the heart of a democracy.
Second, it relieves Congress of the burdensome task of acting as a city council, and this is particularly important now when Congress is busy with more important international affairs. Most of the laws of the District are passed on the Consent Calendar. I would say 99 percent of the laws that pass the Senate for the District of Columbia is by consent vote. In other words, if there is no objection to the bill, it passes, somewhat legislation by default for the District. This I think is not the best way. I am sure this is not the best way for the people's interest of the District to be protected.
The third important function of this bill is that it reorganizes the District into 12 organizations, 12 departments, which is badly needed. It sets up an efficient method, streamlined method for carrying on the Government without duplication and overlapping of authority. It sets forth a clear line of authority where responsibility can be imposed.
Now briefly as to some of the details of the bill, there is no provision in the bill for a Delegate to Congress. I think this is a wise omission. The Democratic Central Committee favors both home rule and national representation. We think by the nature of things that home rule is logically to be taken up first, and national representation should be taken up as soon as practical afterward. .
If a Delegate were to be elected, it would possibly be a substitute for real representation. As I said previously, it might take the cause away from the fight by giving us a token method of representation.
The second reason why I am opposed to a Delegate is that I think, the purpose of this bill is to charge the District Council with the responsibility of formulating local laws. By the nature of things and by the Constitution in particular, Congress must retain the power and responsibility for local laws, passing of local laws.
Now with the delegation into the Council and a potential remaining in Congress, there exists the possibility of conflict, particularly with those dissidents who have been overruled by the local Council, they will inevitably complain to their Delegate, who will come to Congress, who will have the things taken up in the District Committee and given a review, the purpose of which will be to frustrate the original intention of Congress.
The retention of this power of review was not based upon the theory of supervision of the Council's activities, but rather for constitutional reasons. Interference with local government should be extremely limited. The District should have the right to determine through its elected representatives in the Council what satisfies its interest.
The third reason why I am opposed to the Delegate is that Washington does not need a representative for purposes of making their views felt. There is a big difference between a Territory such as Hawaii, Alaska, and other Territories which are far away and which do not have easy access to Washington. There I can see a very logical and good reason for having a Delegate. That is not the case here.
The legislative scheme as set forth in the Kefauver-Taft bill is a good one and offers about the maximum in self-government consistent with the Constitution. The bill places financial responsibility of the District with the people. They must choose how much they wish to spend and how much moneys are to be raised after a fair Federal contribution.
The bill sets up a formula for Federal contributions wherein for each dollar the District raises the Government will contribute 20 cents additional. This is necessary because the large and important land holdings in the District in such a small area deprives it of normal revenues.
In addition the bill provides for a very much needed reorganization of the District government, which everyone concedes is necessary and ishould be accomplished. Then what are the arguments against home rule? I might digress a minute and say that most of the opposition I have found has come from people who do not live in the District, who live in the peripheries of the District, outside in Maryland and possibly in Virginia.
The main arguments which are advanced is that first it is not constitutional. I refer you to the opinions of your legislative counsel of both the Senate and the House wherein exhaustive opinions have been given holding that it is constitutional.
The second matter, for about 75 years from 1800 to 1874 there was local government in the District, at times with varying amounts of authority and at times with an equal amount of authority that is suggested in this bill be reposed in the District Council.
Third, there are cases from the Supreme Court which do not exactly touch upon it, but in which there is dictum indicating that local self-government for the District is constitutional.
Another argument that has been advanced is that it is not true home rule.' Of course this is not true home rule, true home rule in the sense that other areas in the country experience, but this is about the maximum that can be given consistent with the constitutional powers. It has the essentials of home rule in it, and which could easily satisfy and which should satisfy and could satisfy the people of the District.
The real argument I think which is implicit, or maybe it is a philosophy behind it, are economic and political reasons in opposition to home rule. Over a period of years there are certain people and certain classes in control of the District government, and they fear changes in the government because of their associations, their affiliations, and procedures which the government has developed which might result in these classes having less say-so in the District government. It is natural for them to oppose it. The second real opposition is in a political viewpoint. · The CHAIRMAN. Mr. Wheeler, you and your Democratic organization are both for the bill ? Mr. WHEELER. Yes, sir.
The CHAIRMAN. That is the important thing.
I would just like to leave this thought with you, sir: That this issue is a very serious one, it is meritorious, and I suggest that for the good of the people of the District that these various interests be subordinated for considerations which are to the benefit of the whole people.
The CHAIRMAN. It is my hope that that can be done.
STATEMENT OF WILBUR S. FINCH Mr. FINCH. Mr. Chairman, I want to excuse myself for not having a written statement, because I had not intended to testify this morning. It is through your courtesy that I am allowed to do so, but I :shall be very brief.
I want to say at the outset, Mr. Chairman, that there has not been a suffrage hearing on the Hill on either side of the Congress in the past 20 years at which I have not testified. Today, however, I am testifying as a private citizen.
I have testified here as chairman of the local suffrage committee and as president of the Federation of Citizens Association, as the first and only president of the District of Columbia Suffrage Association and as the first president of the Central Suffrage Congress.
. At the moment I am not heading any organization, but I am a member of the board of directors of the Central Suffrage Congress and I have no doubt that representatives of that organization, as well as the others with which I have been affiliated, will testify as to their attitudes. I simply want to get a brief statement in, I might say, at this time as a private citizen who has had some experience in this question of District suffrage.
I was one of those who perhaps about 20 years ago made a lot of the eyebrows rise when we first suggested that probably the best solution to the various problems facing the Congress and the people with reference to the management of the affairs of the District of Columbia government lay in the fact that we did not have any say in the management of our own local affairs and that the solution was perhaps granting to us or restoring to us the management of municipal affairs which we were entitled to have.
I will not go into the arguments in support of that, but it is in the record and you can read it. Over the years it has been my privilege, as I said, to serve as president of the Federation of Citizens Associations which represents many thousands of persons in the District of Columbia, and that organization, through the efforts of myself and my associates in the group, has supported consistently this problem of suffrage for the District of Columbia...
The District of Columbia Suffrage Association was the first citywide organization formed to push for local self-government, now called home rule. It was my privilege to serve as the general chairman of the plebiscite which was held here on April 30, 1938, and while many of us are skeptical as to the outcome of that plebiscite, which was the first opportunity that the people of the Dịstrict of Columbia had to vote in any kind of an affair here since the 1870's, we were really amazed at the results. We were able to get almost 100,000 people to the polls, and they voted overwhelmingly in favor of suffrage, both local and national.
Again on an election day in 1946, upon the invitation of the Washington Board of Trade, I was honored with the position of vice chairman, I believe they called it, of the committee in charge of the plebiscite which the board sponsored on that day, and as a result of that the people again, this time close to 200,000 people, almost twice as many as voted 9 years previously or 8 years previously, over twice as many went to the polls, and the vote was practically similar to the vote held in the 1938 plebiscite. So I am fairly convinced myself, Mr. Chairman, that the people of the District of Columbia want home rule.