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Flag Change Nears Approval

‘No Taxation Without Representation’ Would Be Added

A District of Columbia City Council push to affix the slogan “No Taxation Without Representation” on the city flag will near completion tonight when an advisory committee meets to help finalize the new design.

John Capozzi, a member of the Flag Design Advisory Commission, said last week that two or three flag designs will be approved and sent to the City Council for final selection.

One possibility is to place the slogan in reverse white lettering between the two red bars on the current flag, he said.

The council voted last October to alter the flag by adding the slogan to emphasize the District’s status “as the only place in the United States where citizens are fully taxed without being fully represented in the Congress,” according to the council resolution.

Councilman Phil Mendelson, a vocal supporter of District voting rights, said last week the council plans to move quickly on selecting the new design. The new flag, he said, will draw national attention. “Congress has been able to ignore our disenfranchisement because their constituencies, the nation as a whole, has not spoken out. The flag is a way of increasing national awareness,” he said.

Capozzi said the slogan, which already adorns license plates, “sends a message to Congress the District is serious about continuing this fight. In some ways this is a battle flag.”

Mayor Anthony Williams, in Rome last week for a conference, was unavailable, but spokesman Tony Bullock said Williams is not “confident that modifying the District’s flag is a good idea.”

“It’s not a bumper sticker,” he added.

The flag is seen mostly by District residents, 99 percent of whom want voting rights, Bullock said. “You’re not turning any heads.”

Capozzi responded by saying, “Well, then I guess the people on Capitol Hill will be voting to make us the 51st state soon.” He added that flags have long been used for carry slogans, citing the Gadsden “Don’t Tread On Me” flag.

Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-D.C.) said the flag is “exactly the right medium” to express District frustration about underrepresentation. The slogan isn’t necessarily about attaining statehood, she said, but about equal representation.

“I have seen young men and women off to Iraq recently, but I couldn’t vote yea or nea. Our folks are second per capita in income taxes. If you meet those two burdens, you deserve Senators and Congressmen who can vote,” Norton added.

Party politics might make District voting rights difficult to attain, however. The District, a Democratic stronghold, could tip the narrow Senate divide if it gained full representation.

Bills introduced simultaneously in the House by Norton and in the Senate by Sen. Joe Lieberman (D-Conn.) in March to award the District full voting rights were sent to committees. The bills have only two non-Democratic cosponsors — Rep. Bernie Sanders (Vt.) and Sen. Jim Jeffords (Vt.), both of whom are independents.

Norton said last week that politics is the wrong lens with which to view voting rights. “People looked at political considerations when they decided blacks should be three-fifths of a man.”

Race, too, is a factor, Capozzi said. “We’ve got a majority black city which doesn’t have representation. If you look at how many African Americans are in the Senate, for example, it’s zero. If the District of Columbia became a state, that might change overnight.”

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