Saturday, September 18,1993
The Washington Times
America's Newspaper


DC. voters who returned David Clarke to the chairmanship of the City Council on Tuesday also passed Initiative 37, the referendum on nuclear disarmament. According to the initiative Mayor Sharon Pratt Kelly must now send a letter to D.C. Delegate Eleanor Holmes Norton, alerting her that a majority of the District's Voters want her to introduce a constitutional amendment banning nuclear arms by 2000 and requiring a "good faith effort" at peace.

Judging by the result, D.C. voters are in fact very gung-ho about the idea of disarmament and peace. The initiative received 41,008 in favor to 31,904 against. Clearly, Washington stands second to none when it comes to nuclear awareness. Mrs. Norton, however, remains unmoved by the initiative and stated her opposition to the measure before the vote. She has declared she has no intention of introducing a constitutional amendment. The Constitution, she argues, has no business dealing with the issue of nuclear disarmament. "The Constitution is reserved for bedrock principles such as basic rights and due process and for structural changes in government," she said. "This is why there have been only 27 amendments to the Constitution in over 200 years of American history Good for her. She proposes instead to introduce some form of legislation encompassing the spirit of Initiative 37. May it go quietly to some committee and die.

But is was more than adherence to the purity of constitutional principles that fueled Mrs. Norton's opposition to the initiative. She also worried that passage of the initiative would do harm to her hopes of winning state-hood for the District -- presumably by marking the city's voters with the flakiness of the initiative's sponsors, an organization by the name of Proposition One, which has a spokesman by the name of Chicken Robinson and a leadership whose headquarters is to be found in Lafayette Park.

Ellen and William Thomas, Proposition One Founders, met and married during peace vigils in Lafayette Park in the early 1980s. They have spent the past decade, virtually their entire married life, camped out in the park in their own private anti-nuclear vigil. "We each realized," Ellen Thomas recently told The Washington Post, "we had to devote ourselves to getting out of this terrible nuclear rut." And this fall, after three years' work, they finally managed to collect the 16,000 signatures necessary to put their proposition to a vote in the District. As they were unfazed by 10 years of indifference to their cause, so they were untroubled by Mrs. Norton's refusal to accept the will of the city's voters -- they apparently see their victory at the polls as a triumph of "education" if not of politics.

Mrs. Norton may well have cause to worry if this vote is taken as an indication of the readiness of the District's citizens to undertake the responsibilities of statehood. But the key question is whether the Thomases, having gained their educational victory, will abandon Lafayette Park and go get themselves a life.