A Conversation about DC Statehood with Lorie Masters and Bruce Spiva (S3E04)

The U.S. hasn’t admitted a new state since Hawaii in 1959. Could Washington DC become the 51st state? It could. The people of Washington have voted for statehood. Congress must decide and there are more senators leaning that way. But it’s still a longshot. Listen as proponents of statehood for Washington explain how there should be the 51st star on the flag.


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Lorie Masters: Should the federal legislature, which is supposed to be running the country, be worried about license plates and potholes in the District of Columbia? That is a big part of, you know, the whole good government issue that you’re talking about.

Bruce Spiva: We would also have a say over now nationwide decisions that affect us like they do everybody else, whether to go to war or not. We fought in every war since the beginning of the republic, but we don’t we’ve never had a vote in whether or not we should go to war.

Lorie Masters: The fact is, we’re the only national capital in the world where the citizens don’t have representation in a democratic, elected government.

Bruce Spiva: Now, D.C. very much has a soul, and its people are proud of our history and our culture.

David Martin: Welcome to the Good Government show. I’m your host, Dave Martin. We’re going to change things up a little bit on this episode instead of talking one on one with the government leader. I’m going to have a conversation with two people who are most definitely not in government. Coming up, as my conversation with Laurie Masters and Bruce Spiva. They are both on the board of the DC Statehood PAC.

This is an organization that is pushing to make Washington, D.C. a state. Washington, A state, you say, because the nation’s capital be a state. Well, yes, it can. In fact, there’s really no legal definition of a state. Congress does have the authority to admit states, but the Constitution says little else about, you know, new states and what a state is.

They just say they can vote them in. So here are some Washington, D.C. fun facts. There are over 700,000 citizens that have no voice in Congress. You know, Congress, the big white building that’s just a few blocks from the home of some of the local residents. In fact, citizens of Washington, D.C. did not even get the right to vote to vote the right to vote until ready for this 1961. Think about that. Women and freed slaves got to vote before the residents of the district. Well, we had a good long conversation because, well, making a new state isn’t easy. There have been movements in the past to make D.C. a state. And by the way, the state is going to be called the Douglass Commonwealth. Get it? D.C., Douglas Commonwealth.

And that’s named after former resident and abolitionist Frederick Douglass. But the movement’s been picking up a little bit of momentum lately. And we’re going to get into all that and a lot more. And that’s all coming up. D.C. statehood after the break.

The good government show is sponsored by NACO. That’s the National Association of Counties. County Government is actually the oldest form of government in the United States, and it touches more people directly. Roads, highways, hospitals, schools, recycling law enforcement, water and sewers in most of the country, those services are maintained by the county that’s county government. Naco is a nationwide organization that represents all 3069 counties across the USA.

Naco helps county government work better together through things like sharing best practices. Because when county government works well, well, that’s just good government.

Welcome to the Good Government show. I’m your host, Dave Martin. And with me today, I have two guests, not one, but two guests. And we’re going to do something a little bit differently. Instead of talking about good government projects at work, we’re going to talk about a big government project that could work might work and might actually be better government.

David Martin: So I it’s good to have you both with us. We have Laurie Masters, who is the board chair, and Bruce Spicer. They are both members of the D.C. Statehood PAC. That’s District of Columbia Statehood PAC. So if you would just sort of introduce yourself what you do for the PAC and what you do in real life.

Lorie Masters: Oh, sure. Well, I’ll start. So again, Laurie Masters, founder and I think I would call me president of the D.C. Statehood PAC. So the point of the statehood PAC is to promote D.C. statehood and bring the actions of political action committee to to the Statehood movement. So it’s a broad movement. I’ve been involved for 20 years. And somebody else on this podcast, Bruce Biber, got me involved many years ago, and I’ve been very involved through D.C. Vote, which is founded specifically for this purpose and also D.C. Appleseed.

And in my day job, I am a partner, a law firm partner at Andrews Curse, and I advise policy holders and when needed, I assume insurance companies when needed.

David Martin: Bruce, tell us about yourself.

Bruce Spiva: Oh, thanks, David. So I am also a board member and I think I can call myself a founding member also of the of the DC Statehood PAC. And I am now again a board member of DC Vote. I was formerly. Several years ago the chair of the Board of DC Vote, which is also dedicated to seeking statehood for the District of Columbia.

I recently ran for DC Attorney General and and I, I came in second. I did not prevail and I’m off now and basically focusing on my advocacy work. I serve on another board of a youth voting. I’m a voting rights lawyer, by the way. That’s.

David Martin: You’re both lawyers. Okay.

Bruce Spiva: Yes. Yes. And I have litigated cases all around the country fighting attempts to suppress the vote or partizan and racial gerrymandering.

David Martin: You’ve had a busy few years.

Bruce Spiva: Yes. Yes, indeed. It was very busy. So I’m glad during this period of time in my life to be focusing fully on my passion. And as Lori said, we’ve both been involved in this for four decades now and and so glad to be able to devote so much time to this at this point in my career.

David Martin: All right. So I guess my first question is, this has been a movement that’s been going on for quite some time. How long has there been a push to turn DC into the District of Columbia into a state? How far back does this go?

Bruce Spiva: Well, I mean, Lori, you may know differently, but, you know, I my understanding is that it began around 1970 at or near the advent of home rule in the district. The district used to be ruled directly by Congress. And in the initial election, I think for the first mayor’s office, one of the candidates made that his platform at Bell named Julius Hobson.

David Martin: Was this 1973?

Bruce Spiva: Well, I believe it was 1972.

David Martin: So there was no mayor. There was no city council. There was no no government of any type in Washington, D.C. up until that point. Well.

Bruce Spiva: It was governed directly by Congress. And I believe they appointed some kind of a mayor and more. Correct me if you if I’m getting some of this history wrong, because I know you know this stuff is as well. But I believe there had been a council a hundred years prior and Congress dissolved it. And unfortunately, our community was was governed, if you can call it that, by a lot of segregationists from the South on these very powerful committees in the Congress.

And they basically treated D.C. as their little fiefdom. You know, enforced segregation, did all kinds of things to trample on the rights of the the the citizens of DC, who then were predominantly black.

David Martin: Are you both native? What would Washington District of Columbia residents?

Lorie Masters: I’m not a native, but has lived here for decades and I’m going to I like to say I said this to you earlier, David. You have the passion of the converted, so to speak.

Bruce Spiva: And I’m I’m not a native either. I’ve been here for for three decades, which is not as long as I won’t tell you, Lori, but not as long as Lori. But but yeah, I’m the same way. I love the community and I’m very committed to it. As Lori raised her first son here, I raised my two sons here as well.

But I’m not a native.

Lorie Masters: But I’d like to follow up a little bit on the history just so that people are aware. There’s a reference in the Constitution to a District ten not exceeding ten miles square in Article one, but the district wasn’t actually constituted until 1801. So the Constitution, of course, was ratified in 1789, late 1780s. So there was not a District of Columbia per say, until 1801.

People get that wrong. So it’s not that the Constitution says, Oh, you have to have the District of Columbia as an entity as it’s presently constituted. That’s not correct.

David Martin: But I did read I did a little research here. There is a the way it was written, the district was never intended to be a state. It was always supposed to be a separate entity. I think the fear was that if it was a state, that the state would have undue power over the federal government. Is that.

Bruce Spiva: Correct? I think that’s partly correct in the sense.

David Martin: That’s what they wrote.

Bruce Spiva: Whether that’s well well, what what they actually wrote does, as Lori just mentioned, was that it would be there would be a federal district not to exceed ten square miles that over which the federal government would have exclusive sway. But it didn’t say how small it could be. And so the proposal on the table that has passed the US House two times now would shrink the size of the federal district out to essentially the National Mall, the White House and similar federal buildings and Congress would continue to exercise exclusive authority and the rest of what we now know as the district, our neighborhoods, our churches, our synagogues, our parks, our people, they would they would that would become the Douglass Commonwealth. And there’s nothing inconsistent in the Constitution with that.

David Martin: So let’s sort of step back a little bit. Is there any definition of what a state is? We have 50 states. We have Rhode Island and Delaware are very small states. California, a huge state. We have North Dakota and Wyoming. Small populations, you know, Florida, New York, huge populations. Is there any state definition anywhere?

Bruce Spiva: I can just say briefly that it’s defined in the Constitution? I mean, the Congress has the authority to admit new states under Article four of the Constitution. Right. And so once a state has been admitted, it then has prerogatives in our federalist.

David Martin: But is there any definition of what a state actually is at all anyway?

Lorie Masters: Constitution doesn’t really say a state is X, Y, and Z, but I think we all appreciate and I think it’s generally understood that it’s a political entity with defined borders and powers over the citizens. So if you want more specifics, I don’t think you’re going to find them in.

David Martin: Okay. I’m just just curious about that. Well, the.

Bruce Spiva: Constitution does set forth this the the powers of the states. Right. So they they you know, each of them gets two senators and each gets at least one representative, and they have to treat each other so that they have to accord each others laws with full faith and credit. So it’s really speaks in terms of the powers of the political entity vis a vis each other and vis a vis the federal government.

So but once once an entity is admitted as a state in the Union, it has all of those prerogatives, powers and responsibilities.

David Martin: So it seems to me a casual reader of on this topic, that this conversation is a little bit more lively. It’s heated up a little bit more recently. Are you closer to becoming a state?

Lorie Masters: No. Closer than what?

David Martin: Well, closer than you were ten years ago. I mean, it is it seems like there’s more conversation around this topic now.

Lorie Masters: Yeah. Look, just to also be clear, I think there’s been a push for discourse, autonomy and local self-government. Right. Just that’s what we’re talking about. Since 1801, there have been hiatuses. There was a 100 year period where the I would say the establishment, perhaps white establishment after reconstruction, decided that we we the why we didn’t want to have elected government anymore in the district.

But there’s been agitation for that throughout. But in terms of being closer to statehood, I think Bruce did have it right in terms of actually talking about D.C. as a state in the maybe late sixties and early seventies as part of the civil rights movement. I think the unfinished work of the civil rights movement, DC is part of that.

But I remind you and Bruce can weigh in here, I think we’re closer than we were ten years ago, certainly 20 years ago when Bruce and I started this.

David Martin: Okay. So there’s been progress.

Bruce Spiva: Yes, absolutely. Yeah, I absolutely agree with Laurie. I think that it’s funny because in some ways I think we are closer than we’ve ever been. And yet, like they say with telecom, the last mile is the the hard the hard. And I mean, we now have 45 or 46 senators who have co-sponsored a statehood bill in the Senate.

We’ve never had anywhere near that number of senators who were willing to sign on to and vote for statehood. Obviously, you need at least 51, and that’s assuming that something is done with the filibuster. Right. But but 45, 46 and some of those others who just haven’t signed on as co-sponsors, I think are have voiced support. So I think we’re you know, we’re much closer.

Certainly I agree with Lori than we were back in the late 2000, early 20 tens. But but, you know, we as we saw a couple of weeks ago, that wasn’t technically a statehood issue, but but Congress still hasn’t gotten passed its inclination to kind of trample on D.C., you know, when when it when it wants to. And so we still have a ways to go.

But I do think I think you’re correctly perceiving that there’s a lot more talk about it right now. And it has kind of come in waves and it gets a little closer and then it kind of recedes.

David Martin: And and is this something is is I’m sorry, is this something everyone, the citizens, the residents of DC is talking about? Is this you go to a cocktail party? Is this something everyone brings up? I mean, is this a topic of conversation for everyone?

Lorie Masters: You know, you may not be asking the right people here.

David Martin: But, you know, go to cocktail parties, Come on.

Bruce Spiva: And our cocktail party.

Lorie Masters: Does go to a cocktail parties as much as I used to. You, the cocktail parties I’m going to might be people who think like I do on this issue. So that’s really where I’m going with that. But yeah, I would say that it does come up a lot more in conversation. I think there’s also still a part of us in DC that feels that, Oh, we can’t get this, so maybe we just give up.

But since we are closer than we ever have been before, and because you don’t get anything without asking and demanding for it, you’re here to stay. Yeah, statehood is a thing and we can no longer, as a country, continue to deny more than 700,000 Americans that live in the District of Columbia. The basic rights of self-government that everybody else has.

David Martin: So how did you get taxation without representation on the license plates, and how did you get that passed? The federal government.

Lorie Masters: Well, I think that the state thing is, is it not?

David Martin: Well, I don’t know who makes it. I mean, Washington, DC has license plates and it says taxation without representation, right?

Bruce Spiva: Yeah, it does. And that that occurred in the early 2000, I believe maybe late nineties. I don’t know if you remember that I we were both here and I remember the discussion of it and did.

David Martin: Some other federal government have to sign off on that or would some of us drive it around going, how did that happen?

Lorie Masters: And this is one of the things right. I mean we have a federal legislature that this is a case in point, right? Should the federal legislature, which is supposed to be running the country, be worried about license plates and potholes in the District of Columbia? That is a big part of the whole good government issue that you’re talking about.

Who should make those decisions? Should it be people from Wyoming who maybe probably don’t even live here, but certainly don’t consider themselves citizens of the District of Columbia? Should they be making these decisions? That’s not good government. They don’t know what we as citizens want.

David Martin: Executive Summary What would the benefit of statehood be for residents?

Bruce Spiva: Well, I think it’d be myriad. I mean, first of all, we would have two senators and at least one representative in the Congress who we could go to like everybody else in the nation does, to to serve our interests. And so that’s a huge benefit. I mean, that’s the whole theory of of our of our our government nationally.

Right. Is consent of the governed. But not only that, but an ability to get the interests of the local jurisdictions served by people who come to Washington. We’d already be in Washington to serve your interests. We would also have a say over nationwide decisions that affect us like they do everybody else, whether to go to war or not.

We fought in every war since the beginning of the republic, but we don’t we’ve never had a vote in whether or not we should go to war, whether whether to raise or lower taxes, how much money to spend on the build back, better act, you know, and whether there should be a child, you know, on and on. Right.

We would have we would have our voice in those decisions and those impact, incredibly impact people here in the district who also pay federal taxes, as we do local taxes. And so so those those are two things. Thirdly, I think that it would allow us to put our finances on an even stronger footing. They have been on a very strong footing for many years now.

But we, unlike every other state in the Union, can’t tax income at its source. And so there may people who live in the district, I mean, work in the district, but live outside of it. And we can’t touch that. In terms of taxes, the opposite is not true. Of course, those those of us who maybe live in the district and work in Maryland and Virginia or elsewhere, we have to pay taxes in those states, at least as a non resident.

And so that’s another example, I think, of how it would improve our finances.

David Martin: Lori, how would this affect things like education, schools, sanitation, roads, transportation, the police department, what would statehood mean to those kinds of departments?

Lorie Masters: Well, I think it’s it’s emblematic of the overall issue here. Right. So if we’re a state, we get to we get to decide on how our local DC local tax dollars are spent and we get to enact our laws without interference from the federal legislature. And so if they don’t like how we’re running our police department, we just saw this last week right when they were on March 29th when there was a hearing on our Police Reform act that was passed by our D.C. Council, our locally elected legislature, the equivalent of a state legislature.

The Congress comes in and starts second guessing that legislation. So, you know, do they if some of them are attacking home rule and that was it signed into law on December 24th, 1973, by Richard Nixon, the push for statehood to push for rights, I would I should say, for the district in the 1960s, at least initially came from the GOP, did not come from the Democrats because of the Dixiecrats who were running right at the time.

So from our perspective, you know, we don’t need them and we don’t want them and it’s not efficient for them to be overseeing how our streets are run, how the street signs are, what they look like and where they’re placed, how the potholes are fixed, how the sewage system in my neighborhood that they just redid, how that is redone, should the Congress be wasting its time doing that?

What are clearly local issues? We say no. And of course, we also think that we’re entitled to spend our dollars the way we want to without interference. And we’re entitled as Americans. We should be, to make laws that affect local issues, as you’re talking about, without interference from Congress.

David Martin: One of the arguments against statehood that I’ve read about is, Oh, this is just a big liberal ploy to get more liberal votes and get more Democratic votes. And and that’s all this is about. What how do you respond to that?

Bruce Spiva: Well, it doesn’t make any sense, right? I mean, the theory of our government is that everybody is entitled to their to, you know, one person, one vote. Right. Everybody is entitled to their say in our government. And and we don’t have that right. I mean, it doesn’t it doesn’t say, well, only if you think a certain way, you know, only if you vote Republican, do you get a vote in the Congress.

Nobody’s trying to keep Wyoming from having two senators, even though they have fewer people than we do.

David Martin: Where would D.C. rank as a state, which would be?

Bruce Spiva: There are two states, Vermont and Wyoming, that have fewer residents than us. Okay. And there.

Lorie Masters: Are.

Bruce Spiva: At least two states that have a very similar they have a few a little bit more than us. Alaska, North Dakota have have have more people, but not many more. So. So certainly we’re not we’re not too small and the theory of our government premise was consent of the governed. And so, you know, it may result in Liberal senators in a congressman being elected, but that’s because the people that would be the choices when you get we’re not going to give you a choice because you’re going to be you’re going to vote too liberal.

So that’s un-American.

David Martin: So what about I’m sorry, Go ahead, Larry.

Lorie Masters: David, I’m sorry, but I there are people there are Republicans in the District of Columbia and if Republicans appeal to the issues that are important to us, they would get votes in the District of Columbia. So this idea that somehow this is just a liberal ploy to get two Democratic senators, I think that ignores or shows an ignorance about how the district is.

There are a lot of people across the political spectrum here and a lot of people would like I think people have told me this, they don’t think you.

David Martin: To talk to your party, but.

Lorie Masters: Yeah, well, you know, whatever. Okay then can not be a cocktail party. But I go to.

David Martin: A brunch, perhaps.

Lorie Masters: But but people say, you know, you can’t guarantee that these people will always be Democrat. That’s not why we’re doing it, Right? Yeah, but I think the point of people saying that to me is, look, I really would like someone who I consider, you know, however, you consider this, right, fiscally conservative and then perhaps on voting issues, particularly socially liberal.

So there are a lot of people like that who the Republicans can get to support them if they will just appeal to us.

David Martin: So if Washington, D.C. were to become a state that could open the door to Puerto Rico, becoming a state, Guam becoming a state, other U.S. territories becoming states, yeah, Is that a problem for anyone?

Lorie Masters: It’s not a problem for us, I don’t know. But do you see it as a problem?

Bruce Spiva: I don’t see it as a problem. I do think there are differences between us and those other territories. You know.

David Martin: First the American Samoa, the next state. I don’t know.

Bruce Spiva: Yeah, well, we pay federal income taxes and they do not. Okay. What is a RICO? You know, we were subject to a draft when there was a draft. I don’t believe any of them were. We were founded out of original states, you know, Maryland and Virginia and Virginia, The land that used to belong in Virginia was retro ceded.

But but so we are part of the original project of American democracy. I’m not against anybody else becoming a state. I think you would guess there are differences, though. I mean, Puerto Rico has had several referenda and there are three different choices. Right. And so you don’t get a clear answer all the time as to what the people of Puerto Rico actually want.

And so so you’d have to look at those differences. I’m for more democracy, certainly. I’m not one who would would say, be against anybody gaining their rights. But there are real and significant differences, I think, between the situation of the people, the district and those other places.

Lorie Masters: In 2016, we had a referendum here in the District of Columbia asking this question If people want to be a state, and my recollection of the state is that it was 86% of us who said yes, when do you get 86% on anything?

David Martin: What’s is there any downside to becoming a state?

Bruce Spiva: I can’t see any. I mean, do you know that we would have to stand on our own two feet? Obviously, But we do that now, right? I mean, you know, now Congress does provide some money to make up for the fact that there’s so much in taxable land that the federal government takes up. But we we’re still a net provider of funds to the federal government.

We pay the most in taxes per capita of any state, any state. And and so, you know, there would be some fiscal ramifications. But I think they actually in the end and there’ll be a transition period. But I think in the end it would actually be a net positive in terms of even the fiscal part of it. Other than that, there is just, you know, even the potential of there being some fiscal downside.

I don’t see any downside to it at all.

David Martin: Is there any.

Lorie Masters: Also to say I would that the federal payment that they’re talking about is less than 3.5% of our budget. So it’s not this huge giveaway to the District of Columbia and it is compensating us for the fact that there’s a lot of property here in the district that we can’t tax.

David Martin: Is there any similar situation in the world where there is a challenge? This is similar to what you have trying to become a state in a larger nation. I mean, is the Vatican City the same? Is there you know, is there any is.

Lorie Masters: A nation state, the Vatican within Rome or Italy? Right. But the fact is we’re the only national capital in the world where the citizens don’t have representation in a democratic elected government. There may be places where they don’t have rights, but that’s because we don’t have rights in the country, similar democratic rights in the country as a whole.

David Martin: Is it going is D.C. going to become a state?

Lorie Masters: Absolutely not in this for half measures. I mean, and also, I think it’s important to say that sometimes it’s darkest before the dawn. Okay. Right.

David Martin: So are we in the dark time or where were you the dark time?

Lorie Masters: No, we’re not. We’re on the side where we’re not yet a state. And so some people, you know, maybe we felt a little bit better about things a couple of years ago. In other words, before the new Congress came into play and before these hearings on some of our locally passed legislation. But we have more, I think, momentum than we have had in a long time.

And you have to plan for success. We’re not planning for failure here.

David Martin: No, you can’t. There have been numerous votes that have been cast in Congress. Have they all largely passed on some level for, you know, pro statehood?

Bruce Spiva: Well, in the House, the statehood bill passed twice in two separate Congresses. It has not passed the Senate yet, but it had the first lawyer was in the first hearing ever in the Senate on the statehood bill. This passed Congress. And so we’re encouraged by that. You know, in contrast, back in the early nineties, there was another statehood bill that did get a vote in the House and it went down in flames.

I mean, a lot of Democrats did not support it. And I think that’s another sign of the difference between now and even maybe 20, 30 years ago. I think at least one of the parties is fully on board. And and so, you know, I think it I think it is it’s not impractical to say that it’s going to it can and will happen, but it obviously is not.

It hasn’t been. And it’s not going to be easy.

David Martin: So I saw that you have something called DC Statehood Day that’s going to be on May 1st of 2023. What is DC Statehood day?

Lorie Masters: Well, this is day to a day is a day for us to bring our issue to the public. So people around the country, around the world really, you know, I think Bruce probably has his experience, too. But, you know, I’m a lawyer, so I go through a lot of legal conferences, even a lot of lawyers don’t understand and our situation here.

So we need to make sure that everybody understands this. And then we want to make the demand on DC statehood Day that we’re entitled to the rights that everybody else has in this country, all the other American citizens who do live in states. So that’s the point of D.C. statehood Day five one for the 51st state.

David Martin: Five 1/51. Got it?

Lorie Masters: Yes.

David Martin: All right. And you have you have you have merch, don’t you?

Lorie Masters: Your have merch a w w w DC statehood, PACOM. Absolutely. Look at our website, see what we’re about. Join us in this effort because this is not just about DC, this is about democracy and the ideals of this country. This is part of the effort to make the United States of America what it always is promised to be.

Bruce Spiva: Absolutely, Absolutely. And you know, when people know, when they do learn about our situation, overwhelmingly people support the idea of DC voting rights. I mean, there have been polls over the years that have shown, even among Republicans, kind of going back to the partizan issue, that majorities, at least at that time, favored a solution and certainly nationwide. But the problem is a lot of people just didn’t know.

David Martin: What is holding this up. What is stopping DC from your mistake?

Bruce Spiva: I think unfortunately it has become very partizan. It shouldn’t be. It’s as Laurie said earlier, it’s a voting rights issue. It’s a civil rights issue. You know, in the late seventies, the Congress went out and had a solution a different way. They sent a constitutional amendment not to make us a state, but to give us voting representation in the Senate, in the House, you know, we are not seeking a constitutional amendment and we can be admitted as a state with a simple vote.

But they sent it out as a constitutional amendment, and it was an overwhelming vote in the Congress in favor of that, Republicans and Democrats. And it just shows how times have changed. You know, voting rights issues used to be somewhat bipartisan. And as Laurie said, if anything, it was the certain wing of the Democratic Party that was really the hold up on civil rights back in those days.

But it but it unfortunately has has become very partizan. And, you know, so we’re going to keep trying to overcome that.

David Martin: So DC right now has a mayor, they have an elected mayor of the District of Columbia and you have a city council, correct? And but you do you I think, do also not have a non-voting member of Congress.

Lorie Masters: We do.

Bruce Spiva: We have a delegate, Eleanor Holmes Norton, who’s very effective given especially given that she doesn’t have a vote over, you know, legislation. And when the Democrats are in power, they allow her to vote in what’s called the committee of the whole. But the rule is that if it makes a difference, turbo doesn’t count. You know, it’s not a real okay.

She’d be the first to say, I think that it’s not a real vote and it’s not the same thing as being a a full voting representative. And so, you know, all of these things are well and good. And it was progress from what we had before. But as we have the very recent example from two or three weeks ago, when Congress gets a notion that they don’t like something that we’ve done, and oftentimes it’s just to score cheap political points, they can.

And they just recently did override, you know, a law that had been studied by the council and by a committee of experts for 16 years. And just like that, they threw it out.

David Martin: So obviously, you can’t be called the state of Washington. I can’t believe I’ve waited this long to ask what would the state be called?

Bruce Spiva: Well done. This Commonwealth.

Lorie Masters: Douglass Commonwealth, Sir Frederick Douglass, but also picking up on the first Douglass Commonwealth.

David Martin: Okay. All right. Well, listen, I could I could ask questions all day long. I am fascinated by this topic and been following a little bit. But we do have our question here. We must get to what will good government look like to the people of Washington, D.C.?

Lorie Masters: Well, I think good government’s going to mean that we will have our elected leaders who can legislate and budget our D.C. tax dollars the way that we in the District of Columbia want that legislation and that budget proceed. So I think it’s it’s the autonomy, the freedom from interfere from the federal legislature that we’re looking for. And I think that that brings in the government.

Because one thing I didn’t say earlier, David, is if you think about efficiencies, government should be about using our tax dollars as efficiently as possible and making us all secure. And here in the district, there’s an overlay of national security on that, too. How secure are we when the federal legislature can come in here, as they do periodically and upset the entire apple cart, for example, any time, they can’t decide on whether the budget or the debt ceiling should be raised.

For example, we have to scramble around here in the District of Columbia to try to figure out how to keep the lights on and the police presence and the security that’s necessary for our our national legislature and generally, I’d say, our country to keep functioning. That is not an efficient use of government resources in any anyway.

David Martin: So let’s assume that you become the Douglass Commonwealth. What will success look like 1 to 5 years down the road?

Bruce Spiva: Well, I think that we, the people in D.C., we want what we want is not very all that different from what people all over the country want, which is why it’s so silly that the Congress overturned our own local legislation on the grounds that somehow our council wanted to let crime run rampant. Nothing could be further from the truth.

We want safe streets here in the district. We live here, right? We want good schools. There is such an insult at that hearing. Last week where the congressman from Alabama said that our schools were inmate factories, which is just an outrage, a racist outrage. We want good schools here. And we you know, we want an efficient government. We we we we want we want to try to reduce poverty, all those things.

And so I think that basically, though, we want to be the ones to decide how best to go about that. And if our leaders mess up as any as.

David Martin: As oftentimes it’s.

Bruce Spiva: Hard times do, we can throw them out. Yeah, we have thrown them out before when we needed to, but that should be up to us. And that’s that’s what we want. That’s what I would say.

David Martin: How will the citizens of of of Douglas Commonwealth know quickly that this is a better system?

Lorie Masters: I think they’ll know it when they know that we can pass a budget and have the budget put into place without worrying about whether Congress is going to come in and prevent us from spending our own tax dollars. So these are DC tax dollars. People get this idea now repeating myself, perhaps people have this idea that somehow the federal government, because it has exclusive legislation, legislative authority on the Constitution over us, that somehow, you know, they give us all this money and it’s all federal tax dollars.

That is not true. 3.5% maximum comes from the central government. So that that’s a big part of it. We have to go to Congress hat in hand with our budget and say we please approve this. So that we can continue funding our schools and funding the police that they depend upon and fixing the potholes and the sewers.

Bruce Spiva: We talk about the police. Yeah, right. I mean, who was it that was defending the Congress on January six? And how much more effectively would we have been able to do it if we could have called out our own National Guard? We had to wait for the Trump administration to approve our our mayor mayor’s ability to call out the National Guard to fend off the interaction.

And and that, you know, so not only can we protect our own interests much better if we had full democracy, we could actually protect the Congress better.

David Martin: How well, how will multiple layers of government be more helpful? You’ve got city government and then you’re going to put federal government on top of that. How will that be more effective?

Lorie Masters: I don’t see.

Bruce Spiva: What you got.

Lorie Masters: Now. Then what? Yeah, What? First of all, we have more federal government here in the district. You would, and they’re farther away. They don’t understand what we need or want. And then why is that any different than, say, Maryland, Virginia, Wyoming, California. Name any state. Right. So what we would actually have is more rights to go and demand what is what everybody else gets from the federal government.

When we had the, you know, the infrastructures build the the COVID relief, we initially didn’t get what every what we were we think we were entitled to given our population. So this would give us the opportunity to go into the Congress, the federal legislature, and ask for what everybody else is entitled to ask for, but would also mean that we don’t have to worry about the interference and try to, you know, we’re looking over our shoulders or spending extra tax dollars to try to figure out and overcome instances like the budget impasses where we can’t proceed with our government here in D.C. that affects us in D.C. and nationally.

Congress. In other words, without spending a lot of extra time, money and I would say political energy trying to counteract what they’re trying to do.

David Martin: I’m going to ask you both the same question. I’m looking for your you sort of briefest, most succinct synopsis. What’s the one thing you’d like everyone to know about this movement?

Bruce Spiva: Well, that we you know, our American citizens just like them. I mean, we we we do all the things that are responsibilities of American citizens in terms of fighting in wars and paying federal taxes and serving on federal juries. But we but despite all of that, we don’t have the same rights. And that that’s not right. And I think people get that at a very visceral level, that that’s contrary to, you know, when this country started, obviously, there were grand ideals in the Constitution.

And we all know that they weren’t actually put into effect right away. And every subsequent generation, we got a little closer. You know, we had a civil war.

David Martin: We just can’t be pretty.

Bruce Spiva: Yeah, Yeah. We had we had the civil rights movement and we got closer and we had the 19th Amendment right. Right. But this is this is unfinished business. And it’s very serious. Unfinished business. And 700,000 American citizens, just like them, don’t have any voice in the federal government and don’t even really have local control over their local institutions.

David Martin: Laura, if you could be briefer, tell me the one thing you’d like everyone to know. Well, we you can’t do it, so don’t even try to ahead.

Lorie Masters: Will not be able to get a lawyer. I don’t want our birthright as American citizens, just as Bruce said. But I think it’s also really important for people to understand that we live in the District of Columbia. We’re proud of being citizens of the District of Columbia. And it is not a solution to say, oh, somehow you should go to Maryland, you should be retro seeded.

We will up with a fix that will give you voting rights, but won’t allow us to be who we want to be. We’re citizens of the District of Columbia and we’re we are entitled to be a full fledged American citizens of a state just like others in the country.

David Martin: Is there any hero in all this? Is there is there a political hero? Is there someone who’s really, like, led the charge?

Lorie Masters: I would say there’s probably many, many heroes. Many are unsung, and they go way back in history. But, I mean, you could think about I don’t know if you ask me that, as you were thinking about statehood specifically. But, you know, Frederick Douglass lived here. He has his house in Anacostia Ward. I think it’s ward eight in the in the district.

And he called for democracy in the district of Columbia. And he said and this is what I like to say to people, because why a PAC and why all these groups of advocating for statehood? He said democracy power concedes nothing without a demand is actually what he said. We have to demand it and this PAC and the statehood movement is the demand.

David Martin: What will Douglass Commonwealth be known for? What will what will be your signature? What will be your state? BYRD What will be what will be the state dish of the of the Douglass Commonwealth?

Bruce Spiva: You know, I think one thing that I would love to see kind of correct it in the national psyche. We here in D.C. know this already, but a lot of people think only of the Congress and they really think of people who aren’t D.C. residents when they think about us. But we have neighborhoods. We have Ben’s Chili Bowl, where you can go and get a house, you know.

Yes. You know, we have wonderful parks. We have we despite what some may say, we have wonderful schools. We you know, we have we have go, go, go, go music. We we were the ones who invented that. I mean, D.C. very much has a soul and its people are proud of our history and our culture. And and so I hope that we are more effectively able to to to show that to the rest of the country.

So maybe when they come here, they won’t just go to the mall, maybe they’ll come to our neighborhood.

David Martin: You can’t you can’t have crabs that’s already been taken by Maryland. So is there is there is there a I guess it is Ben’s the national dish of of D.C. of of Douglas Commonwealth.

Bruce Spiva: Probably one of the best known. Oh, it’s a great it’s a great institution. You know, I mean, it’s been here through thick and thin. You know.

Lorie Masters: We’re a melting pot. David Right. I mean, you live here and you know that.

David Martin: So I don’t live there, but I’ve been there many, many times.

Lorie Masters: Oh, sorry. I understood that.

David Martin: No, I’m in Brooklyn.

Lorie Masters: Where the truest sense of a melting pot here, I would say. And that’s what I think also the country is all about. So, you know, I don’t know if there is one dish, but there are many dishes. Proud. We’re really proud of our diversity. It makes us who we are.

David Martin: I’ve been to last time I was there, I was at a Brazilian steak house. I’ve been there for Thai, had a lot of southern barbecue, been to the waterfront. So some fresh seafood. So yeah, there’s there’s a lot there, certainly. So Douglas Commonwealth is now the 51st state gives me an example of something that will absolutely positively be better when DC is Douglas Commonwealth.

Just one quick example.

Lorie Masters: We’ll have voting rights and be able to have voting representation in Congress, full voting representation advocating for our from our jurisdiction.

Bruce Spiva: Bruce Yeah, I can’t, I can’t improve in any way on what Lori said. I mean, that is a good in and of itself. I mean, I do think it’ll it’ll result in concrete goods, you know, in terms of the fiscal posture and all those things we talked about earlier. But yeah, that’s the we’ve we fought many wars over this, right?

I mean, that that that’s what it is to be a full participating citizen. It’s our duty, but it’s also our right. And and so I knew I, I don’t I know Lori and I don’t things just speak for ourselves. I mean, we’ve had many, many conversations with thousands of people over the years, and they all feel that way, like we were treated like second class citizens.

So I think that’s how I would sum it up, is we would we would now feel and be first class citizens.

David Martin: And how can people get involved and help out.

Lorie Masters: They can go on our website and contact us. DC Statehood, PACOM, okay. And they can come out and support us on May 151 DC Statehood Day.

David Martin: DC Statehood Day and get some merch.

Bruce Spiva: And it’s like, Yes, yes, that’s right. Well, I don’t know if we’re allowed to say this, but they can, they can give to the PAC. But there are other organizations and I know Lori, we started to say this a minute ago, we and we are we participate in and we are supportive of we we believe in a multiplicity of organizations.

I mean DC Vote, which is a DC vote.org 501c3 there’s Neighbors United for DC Statehood. I’m sure I’m forgetting somebody, there are others, but get involved. However, can as much as you can, you know, go to one of those groups. We’d love it to be ours. But but any group, you know and get involved.

Lorie Masters: Think to think about is we need the support of people outside the District of Columbia. Right. People who don’t have power can’t get power without support from the people who do have power. You have power to call up your local, your representative. If you’re in Virginia, if you’re in Colorado, you’re in Montana, all of your represented your two senators and say, I support the District of Columbia having sole statehood the way everybody else does.

That’s what we really need to.

David Martin: Well, this has been a fascinating conversation. I could talk about this for I could ask questions for another couple of hours. But this has been really great. It’s really interesting. I appreciate your your enthusiasm and support and zeal for your project. It can’t be easy to, you know, keep pushing the rock up up the mountain. So thanks for the work you do and good luck.

Bruce Spiva: Thank you so.

Lorie Masters: Much. We really appreciate it.

David Martin: Bruce and Lori of D.C. Statehood PAC, thank you for joining us on The Good Government show. We’ll be watching and we wish you the best. Thanks for being here so much.

Lorie Masters: Thank you.

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Kutztown has 22 NCAA Division, two sports teams and a nationally recognized men’s rugby team. How about that? Plus, you get it all with the affordable tuition of a state university. So visit Kutztown dot edu on the Web. Kutztown, Penn, dot edu and see why it’s good to be golden. So are you ready for a 51st star in the flag?

Two new senators representing Douglas Commonwealth. It might just happen. Look, clearly, there’s a lot of work to do. There are a lot of hurdles to jump around, a lot of legal ground to cover, and many minds in Congress need to be won over. But as both Lori Masters and Bruce Spies have said, it’s possible. And for the residents of the district, this is their choice.

Will it happen? It hasn’t yet. But the potential for real change is here. And, you know, for fans of voting rights and better government, especially for the people in Washington, D.C., you could actually help. You can get involved. You know, the last new state was Hawaii back in 1959. Could this be the year of Douglas Commonwealth? Let’s keep watching.

Thanks for listening. I learned a lot. Hope you did, too. Let’s keep our eye on this story. See where it goes. Join us again on the good government show. Will we have another conversation with someone actually in government next time talking about what makes good government better? I’m Dave Martin. Join me again on the good government show right here where you’re listening to us now.

Me Hey, I’m off to get a half smoked at Ben’s Chili Bowl. Until next time, the good government show and a conversation with is produced by Valley Park Productions. Jim Ludlow, David Martin and David Snyder are the executive are editor and producer, is Jason Stershic. This is the Good Government show. Thanks for listening.


**This transcription was created using digital tools and has not been edited by a live person. We apologize for any discrepancies or errors.