« AnteriorContinuar »
that the members of the Council should be required to live in the districts which they represent. As the bill is presently drawn, nine men living in a central city hotel, with very little acquaintance with the needs of the people in the various sections of the city could be elected to the proposed City Council. The bill also provides for an elective school board. I have known instances where the schools have been hopelessly enmeshed in political machine politics to the extent that teachers could not get jobs without the 0. K. of certain political bosses. I do not see that this bill in any way safeguards the schools in this respect.
The bill provides that the City Council shall elect a City Manager, who performs the functions of a mayor, but who has no corresponding responsibility to the voters.
This City Manager appoints the heads of the several governmental departments and otherwise controls much of the city administration. It is my thinking that an individual who is executive head should be a resident of the District of Columbia and should be subject to and responsible to the voters themselves.
As regards the Office of the Recorder of Deeds, the bill provides that this Office shall be virtually abolished and the functions transferred to a proposed Department of Law. This is an unprecedented procedure and is contrary to the American pattern. Our survey shows that, in practically every political subdivision throughout these United States, the office of recorder of deeds is independent and in most cases it is an elective office and the recorder is responsible only to the electorate. I cannot understand how a person corresponding to a city solicitor could carry on the duties of his high office and at the same time supervise the multitudinous details of the Office of Recorder of Deeds. At present, our Office is almost self-supporting and the work is current.
At present, the Recorder of Deeds is appointed by the President of the United States, with the advice and consent of the Senate. If selfgovernment in the District of Columbia becomes a reality and the President wishes to relinquish the responsibility, it is my feeling that the Recorder should be elected by all of the people in the District of Columbia. But since the Federal Government has such a stake in the land records, particularly of the District of Columbia, the present method is the more desirable one because the President represents all the people of the District of Columbia and the Federal Government likewise, and his choice is far more representative, and I may add, Mr. Chairman, and gentlemen, that in the conduct of our office we have not had any complaints whatsoever that have not been remedied.
We welcome suggestions, and so forth, of course, but in every political subdivision the office of recorder of deeds is always an independent office and it is never made the tail end of some other department of city government, and I think we should follow the old American pattern here in the District as it is followed in other cities of the Nation.
Mr. HARRIS. Thank you, Dr. Shepard. Mr. Abernethy.
Mr. ABERNETHY. Dr. Shepard, as I understand your statement, you oppose the adoption of Senate bill 1527, the Kefauver bill, for the reasons which you have just stated?
Dr. SHEPARD. Yes,
Mr. ABERNETHY. Now, the other bills pending are of a similar character, and I therefore assume that you oppose them.
Dr. SHEPARD. I do.
Mr. ABERNETHY. Do you oppose those bills because they do not grant to the people of the District of Columbia honest-to-goodness, sincere, democratic home rules?
Dr. SHEPARD. I do.
Mr. ABERNETHY. So, you have not been taken in, then, by this proxy character of the home-rule bills.
Dr. SHEPARD. I certainly have not. I have read them very carefully
Mr. ABERNETHY. You ought to have been here before now. I want to go just a little further, Doctor.
Dr. SHEPARD. Yes, sir.
Mr. ABERNETHY. Is it your feeling that the people of the District of Columbia should be given the right to vote for President, to vote for Members of Congress, and to vote for a United States Senator or representatives of some other character to represent them in the executive as well as the legislative branches of this Government?
Dr. SHEPARD. I certainly do.
Mr. ABERNETHY. You appreciate the fact, I am sure, that this is an impossibility with the Constitution. And that in order to confer those great democratic rights upon the people of this great city, the Constitution definitely must be amended, and the two parties have committed themselves to that?
Dr. SHEPARD. Yes, sir.
Dr. SHEPARD. They have committed themselves to home rule, but not to this bill, and I think that if they are going to have home rule, it ought to be honest-to-goodness home rule and should be done by constitutional requirements if that is what is necessary, by changing the Constitution.
Mr. ABERNETHY. I think everyone agrees that is necessary.
In fact, Senator Kefauver, the author of the bill which passed the Senate, stated before this committee on June 28 that home rule in the District of Columbia was impossible unless and until the Constitution was amended. So, these bills, in your opinion, are more or less just some shadow-boxing with the issue?
Dr. SHEPARD. It is a “quickie.
Dr. SHEPARD. Yes, sir; and I think that if the people of the District have waited this long for home rule, they could wait longer until the Constitution is changed, if the people of the United States decide they want it changed.
Mr. ABERNETHY. It is your feeling, then, that the proponents of home rule for the District should approach this thing in a forthright manner, and by saying that I am not directing criticism at anyone, and I do not want to be misunderstood.
Dr. SHEPARD. That is right.
Mr. ABERNETHY. And that is to insist upon an amendment to the Constitution which will give them the privileges which the people in the 48 States enjoy?
Dr. SHEPARD. I think so, gentlemen.
Mr. ABERNETHY. I want to congratulate you on your statement. You are definitely correct in what you have said.
Now, there is just one other point that I want to bring out, and we may
find ourselves at a slight difference now. Dr. SHEPARD. I see.
Mr. ABERNETHY. You stated that, in your opinion, the recorder of deeds probably should be an appointive official, appointed by the President in view of the tremendous interest which the Government has in land within the District of Columbia.
Dr. SHEPARD. Yes.
Mr. ABERNETHY. Doctor, might that not also apply to the people in the 48 States when it comes to conferring certain governmental functions upon the people of the District of Columbia ? Might that not also apply to the people in the 48 States who also have a very great interest in the properties and the seat of government which is located in the District of Columbia?
Dr. SHEPARD. That is why I do not think it should be changed until we get the advice and consent of the people in the 48 States.
Mr. ABERNETHY. You have just repeated what a distinguished jurist said just before he left here, that the people of the States created it, that it is in the Constitution today, and they have a right to change it if they see fit.
Dr. SHEPARD. That is right.
Dr. SHEPARD. Thank you, Mr. Chairman, and gentlemen of the committee.
STATEMENT OF ELMER E. BATZELL, REPRESENTING MacARTHUR
BOULEVARD CITIZENS' ASSOCIATION, WASHINGTON, D. C.
Mr. HARRIS. Mr. Elmer E. Batzell, of the MacArthur Boulevard Citizens' Association, who is next on the list of witnesses, will now appear.
Mr. BATZELL. Thank you.
Mr. BATZELL. I am here today as delegate from the MacArthur Boulevard Citizens' Association.
I was appointed to come to inform you of the action taken by that association in its March meeting.
I appeared last year at the request of the president of the association before the Auchincloss Committee with a similar message.
In March the citizens' association, after circulation of notice on the subject, considered the problem of home rule, and at that time discussed at some length the Kefauver bill, which was then pending in the Senate. No legislation, of course, had at that time been enacted by either House of this particular Congress.
At the conclusion of the consideration, which consisted, in large measure, of a discussion of the outlines of the proposed legislation, and floor discussion, a motion was made in favor of home rule, and in general of the principles of this pending legislation.
However, no action was taken specifically to endorse the principles of either the Kefauver bill or the Auchincloss bill which had been introduced last year.
At the same time, this motion carried with it instructions to appoint a delegate to convey this word to the appropriate committees of Congress, and also requested that the delegate convey to the Congress that the citizens' association was in support of the principles they had advanced the previous year in favor of the Auchincloss measure.
To that extent, and to that extent alone, can it be said that the MacArthur Boulevard Citizens' Association has expressed an opinion on either of the home-rule bills which you have before you.
Now, that is all that I am here to tell you. At a subsequent meeting of the association I reported that hearings had been called in the Senate before I was notified of my appointment, and that I had submitted a letter to the committee stating that I would appear before the House when hearings were held there. That action was approved by the association.
I shall be glad to comment personally on any questions you may have, or answer any questions with respect to the action of the association.
Mr. HARRIS. Mr. Batzell, you noted on the card filled out for the information of the committee, and which was submitted to the clerk on June 24, your home address and other information, that you were acting for the organization, the MacArthur Boulevard Citizens' Association, and you have just indicated today that you appear in their behalf.
Mr. BATZELL. That is correct.
Mr. HARRIS. You note on here that your position with the organization is "representative to Northwest Council."
Mr. BATZELL. That is correct.
Mr. HARRIS. And you stated that your authority to appear here was by appointment by the president to communicate position of MacArthur Boulevard Citizens' Association.
Mr. BATZELL. That is correct.
What is your president's name?
Mr. BATZELL. The president who made the appointment was Mr. Monteith. The present president of the association, I believe, is Mr. Hershman.
Mr. HARRIS. The clerk has just called to my attention a letter from the president of the MacArthur Boulevard Citizens' Association. This letter is addressed to me as chairman of this committee, and he states in part:
I read in today's The Sunday Star that the House District Committee will hold hearings on Wednesday morning at 10 on home-rule legislation for the District.
Among the witnesses scheduled to appear before you is Mr. Elmer Batzell, representing the MacArthur Boulevard Citizens' Association.
As president of this association, I would like to inform you that Mr. Batzell has not been appointed by me or any of the present officers to represent us at this hearing.
I call this to your attention because this is a communication that is directed to the committee, and signed by the president of the association, so I think if the committee is to give serious consideration to the recommendations that you have just outlined here, it might be advisable for you to get cleared up just what your authority is and whom you represent.
Mr. BATZELL. I would be very glad to clear that up at the present time to the extent that I am able to.
Mr. HARRIS. I might indicate further that in this letter it is stated, which is along the line you have just mentioned here, that:
The MacArthur Boulevard Citizens' Association at a meeting in March went on record in favor of home rule, as they have alı ys done, but the assembly did not study the present bills on this subject. Therefore, it is not fair for any of us in our neighborhood to speak for the citizens when we have not carefully studied the present bills. My fellow officers have asked me to write you and inform you of the present situation. You may put us on record as in favor of home rule, as we have been for 35 years, but we cannot truthfully state the position of the citizens in this area in respect to the present bill.
There are too many pressure groups in Washington at this time trying to persuade Congress to grant home rule. Mr. Batzell is a member of the ADA's and the Central Suffrage Group. Each of these organizations are “too anxious” for home rule, and many of us doubt the sincerity of their intentions.
Mr. ABERNETHY. I think, Mr. Chairman, that the witness said he wishes to make a statement.
Mr. BATZELL. It is up to the committee, of course. I have stated that I would be glad to state whatever I could. It seems to me that the action of the MacArthur Boulevard Citizens' Association is a matter of record. I have merely been asked by the president to carry out the views of the association, or course of conduct which the association put into motion and on which I reported at a subsequent meeting as has been explained to you, and was approved by the association. I was never informed about and did not know of that letter until a member of the press called me on it. To my knowledge, my appointment to appear before you, which was approved by the entire association after representation by the president that I had been appointed, has never been retracted
Mr. ABERNETHY. Does your association keep minutes of its meetings?
Mr. BATZELL. Yes, indeed, sir; and I shall be glad to supply you with the minutes of these two occasions, if they would be of interest
Mr. HARRIS. I hope you are sure that it is not my intention to question your authority, but this letter was brought to my attention, and I thought I should inquire about it.
Mr. BATZELL. I would like to say one or two words in this connection. Insofar as the statements about my organizational affiliations are concerned, they are not correct.
Mr. HARRIS. I do not know anything about that.
Mr. BATZELL. I just want to put that before you because I think it has some bearing on the general circumstances.