On this Independence Day, let's be honest with one another: the District of Columbia will never be totally free from Congress and the White House.
The Constitution vests control over the federal district to the federal government. It might be neither fair nor just that we residents of the nation's capital city have limited self-government. Under the Home Rule Act of 1974, we can elect members to a local government with a mayor and city council, but Congress has the power to pass or reject our local laws, and it has ultimate control over our budget.
Politically, we are semi-free, as in not independent.
Need proof? For months, Delegate Eleanor Holmes Norton worked with California Republican Darryl Issa to craft a bill that would give D.C. full authority over its own budget. That means the District government could spend taxes collected from its residents, without Congress' approval. Seems fair. Issa thought so.
But when the bill was in final consideration in a Senate committee last week, Sen. Rand Paul, Republican of Kentucky, dropped in three poison pills, among them an amendment that would allow residents to obtain concealed weapon permits. It broke the deal; backers of the bill pulled it.
"I think it's a good way to call attention to some issues that have national implications," Paul told a reporter. "We don't have control over the states, but we do for D.C."
Rand Paul is not unique. The District seeks a measure of independence in every Congress, and every session a senator or congressman puts in the kibosh. Former North Carolina Senator Jesse Helms was a pro. Paul is just the latest in the line.
Eleanor Holmes Norton will fight the good fight. And D.C. Vote will lobby. And politicians will get arrested for protesting the District's lack of independence. All to no avail.
So on this July 4, let's broaden our scope beyond political freedom and take stock of where we can increase the independence of residents in their everyday lives.
-- Freedom to great health care: We are a long way down that road. The District leads the nation in health care coverage for children, according to Sharon Baskerville, CEO of D.C. Primary Care Association. It's second to Massachusetts in covering adults. Infant mortality is down close to the national average. New cases of HIV-AIDs are on the decline. "Are we there yet?" she asks. "The road to freedom is a long journey."
-- Freedom to walk the streets without fear: For residents who live west of Rock Creek, life is safe and sweet. Robberies are still high; murders are at zero. But too many people who live east of the Anacostia River cannot walk to the corner without wondering whether someone will stick a gun or knife in their face. More cops will make us more free.
-- Freedom to get a good education: Too many children in D.C. remain shackled to subpar schools. The best way to set them free is to provide a great education. I know we spend huge amounts on public schools. We might have to spend more.
In the end, it's worth the freedom it can buy.
Harry Jaffe's column appears on Wednesday. He can be contacted at email@example.com.