The DC Democracy Initiative seeks, for residents within the present bounds of the District of Columbia, full Congressional representation and autonomous, fiscally sound local government, as follows:
- Achieving Congressional representation in both the Senate and House equivalent to that of other citizens residing in the 50 states;
- Evolving a local government with elected executive and legislative branches and an independent judiciary comparable to that of the states and other cities in the nation, free of any special oversight or control by the Congress;
- Eliminating the District's continuing "structural deficit" of approximately $800 million annually that is a consequence of factors unique to the nation's capital city, including:
- maintaining an appropriate setting for the nation's capital and providing essential support for the federal presence;
- providing services and facilities for its residents that are met elsewhere in the country by state as well as local governments; and
- raising revenues with a property tax base substantially reduced by federal holdings and income tax revenues constricted by Congressional refusal to permit the District to tax income earned in the District of Columbia by commuters and other non-residents.
The DC Democracy Initiative is a Trellis grants program assisting efforts that would secure basic American rights. If this vision were to be realized, our local government for the first time would be fully accountable to the local electorate and our residents, for the first time, would have the same standing and voice in Congress enjoyed by their fellow citizens who are registered to vote in one of the 50 states. We believe that no other social change so straightforward as this extension of basic rights enjoyed by all other Americans would offer greater possibility and potential for the people of our community across a wide spectrum of social and economic issues.
The change is simple, and that's a plus. But what it would take to bring it about is enormously complex in terms of the number, diversity, and contentiousness of the key players and of embedded issues and interests. Realistically, it's a vision for the long term. And despite all the failures and setbacks since the District was formed in 1800, those who share this vision are building on a base of progress. For example: residents within the original territory of the District west of the Potomac gained all the rights of citizenship in 1846 when it was restored to Virginia; residents of the District gained the right to participate in presidential elections in 1961; we have a non-voting delegate in the House of Representatives; the District has been treated, ad hoc, as a state in a variety of federal legislation; and DC governance has progressed a long way along the arc from total federal control toward truly representative, local government.
In addition to advocacy efforts to advance the vision, in 2005 we began funding supportive projects of research and policy analysis, what we believe has been a missing piece in the movement — individuals and groups producing the stream of information and data, stories, documentation, talking points, messages, issue frames, and all the other information products needed to guide and inform a movement. Such work often has been a crucial element in successful social movements. How to do so is no mystery. The template has been developed by foundations and other organizations on behalf of movements involving civil rights, school vouchers, gun control, and a variety of other issues. And while this kind of work isn't sufficient to produce change of the magnitude and complexity required for the DC democracy vision, it often has proven to be an essential ingredient.