This weekend, DC bloggers from DCist, Greater Greater Washington and We Love DC, amongst others, got a chance to sit down with DC’s Delegate to the Congress Eleanor Holmes Norton this past weekend and talk about DC Voting Rights, the recent support for Gay Marriage among the DC Council, and the sorry state of Park Service Parks in the District of Columbia, and about federal funding for transit in the city. Read on for the notes from our conversation with the Congresswoman1
There were about a dozen of us gathered at Big Bear Café in Eckington for the meetup with Congresswoman Norton this weekend, all bloggers from throughout the city. What followed was a 2-hour lengthy discussion of various local issues. The starting point was clear: Where are we with the DC Voting Rights bill? The answer? Still in some trouble. The “No DC Gun Laws, Ever” amendment still remains attached, and may well remain that way. The Congresswoman, though, holds out hope that Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-MD) will be an ally with the conservative Democrats who could help out the District and fight for the removal of the amendment, or at a bare minimum, vote for the removal. She also passed along a comment given to her by Gov. Kaine of Virginia, that the NRA “should be tested,” and that they should be pushed to act, one way or the other.
On the question of the Congress’ opinion of the DC Council recognizing other states’ same-sex marriages, the Congresswoman suggested that it “shouldn’t be a problem” to expect passage from the Congress, but used the moment to point out the dangers of Congressional Supervision in a city that should have Home Rule. Being subject to the whims and whines of the city’s 540 or so auxiliary mayors makes it very difficult to do anything as a city. But we all know that, we’re familiar with the roadblocks of this crazy city.
The most interesting discussions came from a question about parks in the District. Most of the circles and squares that dot our urban landscape are “Park Service Parks,” and not “City Parks,” which means they’re managed and maintained by the National Park Service. That can mean, in many cases, that they’re neglected by an agency that has little or no pressure put on it from the community that surrounds the park in the grand scheme of things. The discussion was very development-oriented, from a perspective of how we can exert more control over the parks that are here. The Congresswoman was very down on the idea of turning over these areas to the District as a whole, but was open to the idea of public/private partnerships to help revive some of these dead spaces. The three golf courses (Langston, East Potomac, and Rock Creek) that are in the District are run by the Park Service, and they might benefit from some public/private investment to make them into more attractive options for the young professional. I know that perked my ears up, despite the issues with the public/private courses in Maryland.
However, there are some spots in the city that could use some maintenance, be they Franklin Square or the unnamed park in Southeast in Congress Park, they need some TLC, and the Congresswoman is working to get some more attention brought to these lonely areas.
We had just about two hours with the Congresswoman, she answered everyone’s questions, from Prince of Petworth’s almost Bob-esque “What is it you do?” to the most detailed inquiry about federal funding of the arts from DCist‘s Kriston Capps. And, at the end of it, it was most of us who had to leave before she did, which is testament to her participation in her community and her engagement with local politics. Many thanks to Aaron Pritchard for helping set this up.
Footnote 1: Though her title may be Delegate, Ms. Holmes Norton is still afforded the title of Congresswoman as she is a (albeit non-voting) Member of Congress. ↩