« AnteriorContinuar »
all varieties, and the forty-odd committees are headed by right distinguished citizens. I mean, they are above the middle of their professions.
I may put on the record the fact that in my career as a civic worker in Washington I have been president of the citizens' association, then president of the Federation of Citizens' Associations, 1915 and 1916, and then president of the board of trade 2 years, in 1923 and 1924; and president again in 1937 and 1938. So I think I am qualified to speak.
I was on the Republican National Committee for 31 years, ending last June. Now, based on those qualifications, I say unhesitatingly that members of the Washington Board of Trade are entirely representative of the business and professional people in Washington. They are of every walk of life in the District of Columbia, and it deals with and cooperates with other organizations, as witness that I wound up there, they permitting me or receiving me as president after I had served on what might be called the common man's organization, namely the Federation of Citizens' Associations. Does that answer the question?
The CHAIRMAN. Yes, sir. Thank you.
Mr. HARRIS. Mr. Colladay, as I understand now, the position you present here is that if this matter were to be acted on by Congress, there should definitely be two objectives in mind: First, to provide a better form of government for the District of Columbia; and second, to carry out the highly privileged right of actual suffrage in participating in the political life of the Nation.
Mr. COLLADAY. That is right.
Mr. HARRIS. And not just merely the privilege of voting for something just to be voting.
Mr. COLLADAY. That is right.
Mr. HARRIS. And in your opinion the first of those would be highly doubtful, as to whether or not any change would bring a better form of government?
Mr. COLLADAY. That is correct.
Mr. HARRIS. And the second is, by this approach you cannot give to the people the right of local of self government or home rule or suffrage without an amendment to the Constitution?
Mr. COLLADAY. That is absolutely so.
Mr. COLLADAY. And I want to add this: There may be some surprise expressed about attaching of the proposed amendment to the Constitution and making the bill passed by the Congress not to take effect until that amendment is adopted. I think if this very bill with proper corrections such as I have indicated were offered with that constitutional amendment in it, at the end of it, and providing that the bill passed by Congress shall not take effect until that constitutional amendment were adopted, the passage of that with proper words added would be the actual preparation for that amendment by the Congress and its presentation to the States, and after we had that to go on, following the declaration of the two great parties that we should have the franchise and should have self-government, I don't think it would take very long to get the proper number of State legislatures to ratify that matter. I don't think it would be a difficult thing at all.
Mr. HARRIS. Thank you very much. We are pleased to have your statement.
Mr. COLLADAY. I am glad to be here.
Mr. HARRIS. The next witness will be Harry S. Wender, chairman of the District of Columbia Recreation Board.
STATEMENT OF HARRY S. WENDER, ESQ., CHAIRMAN, DISTRICT
OF COLUMBIA RECREATION BOARD
Mr. WENDER. Mr. Chairman, I am Harry S. Wender, chairman of the District of Columbia Recreation Board. I am also appearing here in another capacity, as legislative chairman of the Southwest Citizens Association.
I am going to speak very briefly. I have not been before the committee for a long time.
Mr. HARRIS. We know it.
Mr. WENDER. I know that last time I spoke on this subject before this committee I spoke at great length, and as I look at the record of that hearing of more than a year ago, it was even a longer statement tban I thought it was at that time. So, Mr. Chairman, I am going to say at this time in my appearance as chairman of the Recreation Board that everything that I said before the subcommittee of the House Committee on the District of Columbia when it held its hearings on home rule and reorganization for the District of Columbia in the week of February 2, 1948, everything I said there still holds true with respect to S. 1527 which I understand is before the committee at his time. I am not prepared to testify on the other bills that are before the committee.
At the outset I want to make it clear that I apologize for not having a written statement, which the committee probably requires. I think the committee can take judicial notice of the fact that I have been a rather busy person the past few weeks and have had little time to prepare statements for anybody, even the press.
Mr. HARRIS. The press seems to be getting the information though.
Mr. WENDER. In some cases. For example, one reporter said to me recently: "Mr. Wender, if I don't get a statement from you, I will have to write one myself,” and the reporter did it.
What has happened in the last few weeks, Mr. Chairman, has convinced me more than ever of the absolute necessity of independent action and form of government in order that we may have an independent Recreation Board.
I am absolutely confident that the pressure that our board members have been under, who as citizens were immune to pressure, what they had to undergo during the last month or two would have driven to the insane asylum any ordinary director of recreation or any administrator. There is no doubt in my mind whatever. I am immune to orders from anybody in the Federal or District Government because I don't take a red cent for even the stamps I use in my office or the nickels I use in making telephone calls. If some Members of Congress have time to write me and threaten me as to what they would do with the Board, I do not have to worry because my job was not at stake. Time and time again I have said, "If the Commissioners want my job, they can have it," and I think I am also speaking for the members of the Board, that they also think the same way.
Mr. HARRIS. I want to compliment you for the stand you have taken, although I know very little about the problem and the results of your decision.
Mr. WENDER. Thank you very much, sir.
I did not make that statement with the thought that we needed any public support, although I think we have it. If we did not, we could not stay immune. That is the only thing we are not immune from, public opinion, but we are immune to pressure from official agencies, and for that reason I am asking this committee, with all the vigor and strength and whatever little influence I may have as one who has been identified with this community all my life, and I have appeared before this committee for the better part of 20 years—I am asking this committee to give thought to the amendment of this bill. I don't have the exact language for the amendment but it is very simple.
I would like to call attention to page 13 of the bill, under section 327 (a), where it provides:
The District Council may by ordinance create such advisory boards and commissions as it deems necessary or appropriate for the proper functioning of the District government, and may provide for the appointment and fix the compensation of the members thereof. That is on pages 12 and 13 of S. 1527, the Kefauver bill.
Then on page 53, section 904 (a), under the heading, “Department of Recreation," it states:
The office of superintendent of recreation is hereby abolished, and the functions of such office and of the Recreation Board are hereby transferred to the director of the Department of Recreation. That seems to be clear enough. It means after the Board is abolished, its functions are transferred to the director, and so we will not worry about having the Board if we don't have any functions. But then it says:
The offices of the two members of the Recreation Board, representing, respectively, the Board of Commissioners and the Board of Education, are hereby abolished, and in their place a member of the National Capital Park and Planning Commission, who resides in the District (designated by the chairman thereof) and a member of the Board of Education (designated by the president thereof) shall serve as members of such Board.
Well, any number of people could get up before this committee and say, “I am not a lawyer, I do not know what that means," and that would be true. But, of course, I am a lawyer and I ought to know what it means and I do know what it means. To me it means that the Board goes out of existence and all of the provisions of the prior acts of Congress from 1942, which created the Board, remain in effect, except that the functions are being transferred to this new director, as well as the authority of the superintendent, which, of course, would be entirely proper. That is, the transfer of functions of the superintendent would be proper.
Now, of course, they are getting rid of the representative of the District Commissioners. That is proper because you are not going to have any District Commissioners if this bill passes. They will be replaced by a representative of the National Capital Park and Planning Commission. I personally think that is good, because we originally wanted the National Capital Park and Planning Commission on the Board, and the Congress decided we did not want a nine-man board and said that seven would be enough, and that is where it leaves it. It said all the functions ought to be transferred to the director. Well, if the functions are transferred and the naked Board remains, what is it? It is a Board without authority. I do not know whether this was intended to be like that.
I have seen many acts drawn and we know that all legislation passed is not perfect, and so I appeal to this committee that any legislation that is passed, it should recognize not only the fine work that our Board has done, but the fine work which individual recreation boards, like independent boards of education, are doing all over the United States.
I am not going to repeat the testimony of a year ago but it is there and I ask the committee in its consideration of this bill to look at it. We have given you the authoritative material on this entire matter and it is as true today as it was a year ago.
From all over the United States where we made inquiry, we found independent recreation boards were on the increase everywhere and advisory boards were decreasing, and that directors who had all of the authority in the operation of recreation activities were on the decrease, and operation of recreation on the whole by boards was on the increase. We say this is the modern way of doing things. Congress, 7 years ago, did the right thing and it should continue to do it in this type of legislation, and it would be a simple thing to do. All you would need do would be keep the Recreation Board.
We are not interested at all in having paid board members. I suggest, and I am not at all immodest, that the District of Columbia had a pretty fair bargain in the some 10,000 hours I put into this recreation work in the past 7 years for no compensation. I am not asking anything for my services, nor does one member of our board want anything for the work they have done. All we say is, whether we continue or somebody else does, you should have somebody who was primarily interested in recreation for the benefit of our people, young and old, in the District of Columbia, and that they be independent, and whether they are appointed by the public agency or by the council, that is perfectly all right. They will be responsible to the appointing authority, the responsible agency, which in turn is responsible to the District of Columbia.
The CHAIRMAN. In other words you are not responsible to anybody?
Mr. WENDER. Not until the end of our term. Of course, if we do something which is irregular, we are responsible to the court; but I mean, sir, that we don't have to do what the President of the United States tells us to do. We don't have to do what any one Congressman tells us to do. But if the Congress and the President together pass legislation, of course we must do it.
The Commissioners of the District of Columbia have only one representative on our Board. Therefore, they cannot tell the other six board members what to do.
The Secretary of the Interior has only one representative member on the Board; the Board of Education has only one representative on the Board. Then there are four lay members, whose responsibility is only to the District of Columbia, only to the people, and they are appointed for a 4-year term, and at the end of that term if the Commissioners do not want to reappoint them, that is their job.
The CHAIRMAN. That is all I wanted to find out, who you were responsible to.
Mr. WENDER. Let me explain that. We have seven members on our Board. Four are lay members like myself. Congress provided that the chairman and secretary of the Board shall be elected from the lay members. We are appointed for 4-year terms. The other three members are representatives of agencies: the Interior Department, the District of Columbia, and the Board of Education. All of these members have the same right to vote and have the same right to do everything except the lay members only may serve as secretary and chairman. Those are the only requirements which we are subject to. We are public servants and we have our responsibility to serve the public, and as public officers we take the oath of office and we have our responsibilities under the Constitution of the United States.
I want to make it quite clear, Mr. Chairman, that we are an independent organization created by Congress. We are an independent agency similar to the Board of Education who are appointed by the justices of the District Court. Therefore, we are immune, as I say, to any pressure from any individual source.
Now, Mr. Chairman, I think that about concludes what I want to say on behalf of the Recreation Board. The Board acted formally on the matter last year, and because of heavy schedules we had in recent weeks and months, I haven't put this on the agenda, but felt the original authority I had to appear before Congress was sufficient to present the views of the Board; and our position then, I am certain, is the position of our group today.
Now just one thought for the little Citizens' Association in the southwest section which I represented for 18 years.
Mr. HARRIS. I would like to remind you that we have still 12 or 14 witnesses to hear and we have taken an hour and 15 minutes on two witnesses.
Mr. WENDER. I merely want to say to you that our organization, the Southwest Citizens' Association, has historically supported home rule and every other kind of suffrage for the District of Columbia. We fully recognize that this bill is not perfect. If this committee can make it perfect, that would be fine, but we do want to have home rule of some kind
We think now is the right time. This bill is far from perfect but it would be a firm step in the right direction. I would like to see this amended to include an independent Recreation Board, but I will say as I said to the Senate Committee yesterday, if the bill were passed without an independent Recreation Board, it would still be good for the District. I am willing to make that sacrifice of recreation in order to improve the District of Columbia as a whole.
I know time is short and I will not refute arguments made this morning. If you wanted them to be refuted I could take considerable time to answer many things said by Mr. Colladay in detail. I am not prepared and I know the committee does not want me to do it.
This is new legislation. It is not perfect legislation. No one can ever determine what is perfect in advance. It will have to be amended again and again after it has been passed, like any piece of legislation, and the Constitution itself in order to make it a more perfect document was amended; but if the committee will take this document, recognizing that the principle has already been passed on by the over