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In the American tradition of fair play and majority rule, I ask the gentlemen of this committee to let the people of Washington decide what kind of government is best for them. I know that there are members of this committee who are honorably opposed to home rule and it would be the height of presumption for me to believe that any words of mine have altered their views—but I ask you gentlemen to ask yourselves whether political parties can long endure if their platforms turn out to be idle words.
I deeply believe in the integrity of the American political system. I hope that there is no room in that system for a cynicism which holds out to people that Democrats or Republicans will do certain things, if elected, and then fails to do them.
Moreover, I ask you, gentlemen, to ask yourselves whether it is right for any small group of Congressmen, however well intentioned, to substitute their judgment for that of the entire Congress when it involves the disenfranchisement of close to 1 million American citizens. I think you have now the opportunity of redressing a grievous wrong committed by a distant Congress and I suggest that you will commend yourselves to future generations of Americans if you take that wise statesmanlike step.
Mr. Davis. Are there any questions? Mr. MATTHEWS. I have none. Mr. HARMON. No. Mr. Davis. Thank you for your statement, Mr. Goldman. Mr. A. L. Wheeler, chairman of the Democratic Central Committee of the District of Columbia, has been in regular attendance at our sessions. We are glad to have him with us this morning and will be glad to have your statement, Mr. Wheeler.
Mr. MULTER. Mr. Chairman, before the witness proceeds, may I make a brief statement?
Mr. Davis. Yes. Mr. MULTER. Thank you. I have been told—I have not had an opportunity to read that part of the record yet—that one of our colleagues on the committee, during cross-examination of a prior witness, indicated that I, who am a sponsor of one of the home rule bills and a member of the committee, was not genuinely in favor of home rule but that I was doing it because of pressure from some people in my own district.
I would like to say for the record that I believe there is nothing that I have testified to before this committee, and nothing I have said anywhere else, that can give rise to any such interpretation of my position. I believe as a matter of principle, conscientious principle, in home rule for the District and I would be for that principle and for home rule for the District even if my district were opposed to it. I am happy to say that I believe the overwhelming majority of the people in my district support my position.
I am for home rule for the District as a matter of principle and I hope anything that has been said to the contrary will be corrected.
Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
STATEMENT OF A. L. WHEELER, CHAIRMAN, DEMOCRATIC CENTRAL
COMMITTEE OF THE DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA
Mr. WHEELER. I appreciate this opportunity to present testimony here and to appear out of the order of presentation. My testimony is in support of H.R. 4633.
My name is A. L. Wheeler. I am chairman of the Democratic Central Committee of the District of Columbia. I have been a member of this committee since 1946 and have been chairman since 1948. I am a former chief clerk and counsel of the Senate District of Columbia Committee. I represent 35,000 registered Democrats in the District of Columbia. On behalf of these Democrats I urge you to immediately recommend out of this committee H.R. 4633, I believe, with certain amendments which I will allude to later in my testimony.
Since 1890, the Democratic Party has had a suffrage plank urging the adoption of self-government for the District of Columbia. Some 60 years have now passed yet this plank has not been implemented. The 1956 Democratic platform pledge reads as follows:
We favor immediate home rule and ultimate national representation for the District of Columbia. I submit to you that timely action on local self-government is long past due. I urge you to recommend out of this committee legislation which will fulfill the Democratic platform pledges made for more than a half of a century to the people of the United States including the District of Columbia.
This action is timely for another reason. The Senate of the United States has only last week passed a local self-government bill for the District of Columbia. Now that this legislation has passed the Senate, we are hopeful that this committee and eventually the House will pass companion legislation making our dream of local self-government a reality.
I am myself cognizant of how much the people of the District of Columbia genuinely want home rule. I talk and confer with people daily on this subject. The ultimate question always is, How long are we to wait before we elect our own city officials? I hope to answer this question soon and favorably:
In the past 2 months, I have been astonished by the deluge of support that has come into my office from every section of the country, and much more must have come into the offices of the members of this committee. I have in my hands resolutions from the Governors of 13 States. Since drafting this testimony I have received five additional resolutions. The text is identical and reads:
As the Governor of one of the United States, I desire to express my arm position for immediate home rule for the people of the District of Columbia.
The time has come to redress the denial of suffrage to these patriotic, longsuffering American citizens.
Just as the boundaries of the United States have been extended during the past year to thousands of new Americans who have achieved statehood, it is no more than proper that the people of Washington, D.C., likewise be given the right to govern themselves.
Please accept this expression of my stand in this matter as an endorsement of the pending bill, the passage of which will accomplish this objective.
Mr. Davis. I notice you state that those are identical resolutions, Mr. Wheeler. Who drew them?
Mr. WHEELER. Governor Furcolo of Massachusetts, Judge, drew those resolutions and he sent them to the Governors and headed up this committee.
Mr. MATTHEWS. Will the chairman yield ?
Mr. MATTHEWS. Do you suppose these Governors have had an opportunity to present this problem to the citizens of their States? Is this a resolution expressing the opinion of one man, or did the citizens of the respective States have an opportunity to express their opinions?
Mr. WHEELER. Yes. I am coming to that. We have three legislatures that have passed on this matter.
Mr. MATTHEWS. You are talking about resolutions, the text of which is identical, coming from Governors of 13 States. My question is, Do you think the Governors presented this problem to the electorate?
Mr. WHEELER. No, I do not think the Governors presented the problem to the electorate but they are the representatives of the people.
Mr. MATTHEWS. But they are speaking as Governors ?
Mr. WHEELER. No, I think they are speaking as representatives of the 18 States they represent. They were elected by millions of votes.
Mr. MATTHEWS. I do not want to quibble, but it seems to me there would be a difference between a prepared text presented by a Governor and an opinion coming from a representative vote of the electorate.
Mr. WHEELER. I will agree no plebescite vote has come from those 18 States, but I am sure the Governors very carefully considered the resolution and it expresses what they think their people want.
Mr. MULTER. Mr. Chairman, will you yield?
Mr. Davis. Mr. Multer, you are not a member of this subcommittee but we will yield to you at this time?
Mr. MULTER. Thank you. I appreciate it is a matter of courtesy.
The fact of the matter is that whenever a Governor of a State sends in a recommendation to a congressional committee or appears as a witness he is presumed to be speaking for the people of his State. I think they would not dare present a statement that they did not believe conformed to the opinions of the people of the State.
Mr. WHEELER. That is right.
Mr. MATHEWS. I believe my colleague will agree there is a lot of difference between a Governor speaking as an individual, on the one hand, and trying to speak as the representative of the people of his State, expressing the opinion of the people of his State, on the other hand.
Mr. MULTER. May I say to my beloved colleague that when an elected representative speaks, whether as a mayor or as a Governor or even as a Member of Congress, he is presumed to be speaking for the people who elected him unless he disavows that and states, “this is my personal opinion.” I think any court will say he appears in his official capacity unless he says he is appearing as an individual.
Mr. WHEELER. When you vote on a particular issue, Mr. Matthews, you do not have an opportunity to submit every issue you vote on back to the people for a referendum. You speak generally for the people of your district just as the Governor of Florida speaks generally for the people of Florida. I assume, and I think it is a fair assumption, that when the Governors of the various States speak that they represent the majority of the people of that State, and that when they say that they are in favor of home rule for the District of Columbia they represent the majority of the people of the State.
Mr. MATTHEWS. I would grant to you they are just as sincere as they can be, and when these Governors send this form text somebody sent to them, they send it sincerely as the Governor but I still believe not a single one perhaps knows the predominant feelings of the people of his State about this particular issue. I grant he speaks earnestly, but I do not think he has the facts in hand so that he can say the overwhelming majority of the people of his State feels this way.
Mr. WHEELER. I believe he can speak the opinion of the State more than anybody else.
Mr. MATTHEWS. I will grant that.
Mr. WHEELER. I think a Governor is closer to the people of the State than anybody else, even Members of the House and Senate.
Mr. MATTHEWS. I grant you that.
Mr. WHEELER. And these resolutions mean it is their opinion that the majority of the people of the 18 States think that.
Mr. MATTHEWS. I will grant you that, but that does not necessarily mean it is gospel fact or Mosaic fact.
Mr. WHEELER. It is pretty hard to give pure facts, you know. Mr. MATTHEWS. Thank you. I have no further questions. Mr. Davis. Proceed, Mr. Wheeler. Mr. WHEELER. Thank you. I have joint resolutions from three legislatures—the Senate of Hawaii, the Assembly of California, and the full State Legislature of Connecticut-urging the enactment of this legislation. I should like
the resolution by the Legislature of the State of Connecticut: Whereas there are 826,000 Federal taxpaying residents in the District of Columbia, our Nation's Capital, who have long lacked any voice in the government of the District of Columbia in which they live; and
Whereas the taxpaying residents of the District of Columbia are without even a voteless delegate to represent them in the Halls of Congress; and
Whereas the U.S. Senate has, during the last decade, four times passed legislation granting home rule to the residents of the District of Columbia ; and
Whereas such legislation has four times been killed in the District of Columbia Committee and the Rules Committee of the House of Representatives; and
Whereas it is a matter of grave injustice to deny American citizens the right even to govern themselves as to matters of local interest, and particularly so when they are obliged to bear the costs of such government: Be it
Resolved, That this assembly favors legislation to grant home rule to the District of Columbia ; and be it further
Resolved, That this body urges the members of the Connecticut delegation in the House of Representatives of the United States to sign a discharge petition to bring a bill granting home rule to the District of Columbia onto the floor of the House of Representatives in the event that such a bill is again approved by the Senate and bottled up in either the District of Columbia Committee or the Rules Committee of the House of Representatives; and be it further
Resolved, That the clerks of the house and senate are directed to transmit copies of this resolution to the President and Vice President of the United States, to the Speaker of the House of Representatives, and to each Senator and Repre sentative from Connecticut in the Congress of the United States.
I have a most warmhearted assortment of letters from mayors around the country. As you know, the U.S. Conference of Mayors, a body consisting of all the mayors of cities with a population of 50,000 or over, passed a resolution in support of District of Columbia home rule at its annual conference last year at Miami and again on July 15, 1959, at Los Angeles. The text is:
Whereas local self-government is the bedrock of free government;
Whereas the rights and benefits of local self-government should be available to all American citizens;
Whereas the residents of the District of Columbia are denied the rights and benefits of local self-government;
Whereas the Congress of the United States has the authority to assure local self-government by granting home rule to the District of Columbia ;
Whereas the principle of home rule has been endorsed by a substantial majority of the residents of the District of Columbia ; and
Whereas the Board of Commissioners of the District of Columbia have unanimously endorsed proposals for granting home rule to their city: Now, therefore, be it
Resolved by the U.S. Conference of Mayors, That the Congress be, and it is hereby, urged to approve home rule legislation to assure local self-government to the residents of the District of Columbia.
The District of Columbia Committee, I am sure, will be interested in the mayors who drafted this resolution as members of the resolutions committee of the U.S. Conference of Mayors. Among the seven men who drafted this unanimous resolution were Mayor Hayden Bursh, Jacksonville, Fla.; Mayor Allen C. Thompson, Jackson, Miss.; Mayor John Christian, Baton Rouge, La.; and Mayor William B. Hartsfield, Atlanta, Ga.
The resolution and the names of the mayors drafting it may be found on pages 142-143 of the Annual Report of the U.S. Conference of Mayors, "City Problems of 1958."
Mr. MATTHEWS. If the gentleman will yield, that is Mayor Burns, B-u-r-n-s, of Jacksonville, instead of Bursh.
Mr. WHEELER. Thank you for correcting it.
Individual mayors have also made personal statements in support of home rule. I should like to read a typical statement by the mayor of West Palm Beach, Fla., in a letter to Congressman Paul Rogers. Mayor Holland writes:
We understand there is proposed legislation before Congress regarding municipal self-government for Washington, D.C.
Since the purpose of the proposed bill is to permit the residents of the District of Columbia to govern themselves in local municipal affairs in a manner which will not adversely affect any Federal interest in the District, it seems this is a definite step in the right direction,
We are wholeheartedly in accord with a resolution adopted unanimously by the U.S. Conference of Mayors.
The District of Columbia has numerous problems, no doubt, that could be expedited by a municipal government which would be in constant touch with the public needs and welfare of its residents.
We urge your support for the proposed legislation in the interest of better government. (Letter dated July 1, 1959.)
From the city of Milwaukee, Mayor Frank P. Zeidler writes: I believe that this [home rule] proposal would grant considerable home rule to the people of the District while retaining a sound veto power in the Federal