Community Palette

Celebrate Bella Abzug’s Centennial with a Statue

July 30, 2020

July 24, 2020 Bella S. Abzug (D-NY) would have turned 100. Her impact on the nation through her activism, brilliance and tenacity will long be remembered. Her short six years in Congress left an outsized impression on the nation. 

With all the statues being torn down I support erecting one of Bella; feminist, activist, civil rights advocate, lawyer, congresswoman. Harold Holzer recently reminded us it was Ed Koch who first suggested one be placed in Washington Square Park in New York. 

I was fortunate to work as a staffer for Bella and then continued as a friend. One never stopped working for Bella. My tenure began in 1972 when she cut a deal with my District Leaders to secure the Democratic nomination to replace William Fitts Ryan on the ticket after he passed away from cancer. It was a simple deal. They would assure her the votes needed if she would hire me as her community representative in the upper part of the District. The people of the District won because they got Bella as their Congressperson. I won because I got to work for the most brilliant woman I have ever known leaving my job as a teacher to do so.  

With Bella, 1976 (Photo by: Peter Rosenstein) With Bella, 1976

Bella was a tough boss, a Jewish mother, and someone who never asked her staff to work harder or longer than she herself did. I learned much from her which placed me in good stead for the rest of my career. There are legions of funny stories about Bella and her staff and nearly all are true. I was Deputy Campaign manager for her 1977 Mayoral campaign and we were late getting a piece of literature to hand out. We hired a photographer who followed us around to take pictures. He took one of me and I put it up in my office. Next morning Bella looked in and noticed it and yelled ‘What’s that? Take it down. There is room for only one ego in this campaign and its mine!” Another time at La Guardia airport, she asked me to walk on the shuttle with her to carry her papers to her seat. One gate agent told her I couldn’t as I didn’t have a ticket. The other agent looked at Bella, who was about to ream them out, and said quietly, “Let him go he has enough trouble working for Bella as it is”. 

But in every campaign every member of the staff came back to support her. When she lost the Senate primary to Patrick Moynihan by less than 1% she tried to come back running for Mayor, and twice for Congress. Though never winning another race she never stopped fighting for what she believed in which is why she is both respected and admired. 

Some called her ‘battling Bella’ and others would say about her she was a ‘piece of work’, and she was. Bella was a brilliant dynamo impatient to right the wrongs she saw in the world. Her work included fighting for world peace, civil rights, women’s rights and gay rights. Nothing she did ever deviated from her overall goal of ensuring equal rights for all. She won her first Congressional election with the slogan "This woman's place is in the House—the House of Representatives." No one watching her in action could deny how right that was. When she passed much too young at 77 the Washington Post wrote “She took stands against the Vietnam War and wrote bills to prevent sex discrimination and improve the status of women. She introduced the first gay rights bill in Congress. She also denounced her white, male colleagues, saying they were part of a privileged elite and out of touch with America.” That was well before we heard of AOC. 

Some criticized Bella for being a realist. She occasionally made deals to win votes as long as they led to progress on the issues she cared about. She never compromised her principles and was named an assistant whip to House Speaker Thomas P. "Tip" O'Neill Jr. (D-Mass.)

In the past year to celebrate her centennial Harvey Fierstein did a play about her; New York named a park for her; and Jeff Lieberman is doing a documentary film. Now it’s time to put up that statue. 

 


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Shakespeare Theatre to Rebroadcast 'Mock Trial'

July 12, 2020

 

If you didn’t get the chance to watch the Shakespeare Theatre’s Mock Trail you have two more chances to do so. If you bought a ticket the first time and missed it on June 22nd, this is your chance to see it or you can register for the first time. 

You get to see Judges Merrick B. Garland, Patricia A. Millett, Neomi Rao, and Amy Berman Jackson hear a case based on the events of A Midsummer Night's Dream argued by former White House Counsel Kathryn Ruemmler and Abbe David Lowell from Winston & Strawn LLP.

The two streaming dates: Friday, July 24 at 8:00 pm and Saturday, July 25 at 2:00 pm.

This stream is of the previously-recorded live broadcast, but you will still be able to chat with other viewers and act as jury to vote live during the trial! 

To claim your ticket click on this link.


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Muriel Bowser Shines As Mayor

July 5, 2020

It is often said a crisis can bring out the best or the worst in people. We are confronting two crises at the same time in the United States; the coronavirus pandemic and the murder of George Floyd and the ensuing Black Lives Matter protests. The protests forced us as individuals and as a nation to face the rampant overuse of force by some members of police departments against Black and Brown members of the community. At the same time the pandemic forced us to recognize the healthcare discrepancies faced by Black and Brown communities and the economic inequality which exists often bringing them about. 

Polling makes it clear the nation sees that in Trump, who has been floundering worse than ever, these crises have brought out the worst. Washington, D.C. is fortunate they have brought out the best in the Mayor. Muriel Bowser has stepped up to the plate and made residents proud. She has shown herself a leader and handled both crises with a steady hand. She has had the help of some of the best people in her administration, and we must recognize they are people she chose, who have also stepped up. They include among many others the Director of the Department of Health Dr. LaQuandra Nesbitt; acting Deputy Mayor for Planning and Economic Development John Falcicchio (also doing double duty as the Mayor’s Chief of Staff); Chief of Police Peter Newsham; and Jeff Marootian Director of the Department of Transportation. 

Because the District of Columbia is not a state the Mayor walks a fine line. DC is in many ways under the control of the federal government. Often that means Trump.  Our budgets and legislation need Congressional approval and the President controls our national guard and in an emergency could take over the police.  So when the Mayor chastised the President she had to be careful not to harm discussions she was having simultaneously with parts of the administration and Congress. She has walked that line brilliantly; including when she had BLACK LIVES MATTER painted in huge yellow letters on 16th street NW leading to the White House. It was like giving Trump our middle finger. Then she named the area in front of Lafayette Park and the White House ‘Black Lives Matter Plaza’. According to John Falcicchio as reported in the Washington Post she did this because “There was a dispute this week about whose street it is, and Mayor Bowser wanted to make it abundantly clear whose street it is and honor the peaceful demonstrators.” Bowser also spoke out forcefully about keeping federal troops out of D.C. insisting the National Guard the President brought in from other states be removed. 

At the same time the Mayor dealt daily with the coronavirus pandemic; facing a nearly complete shutdown of the economy and having to submit a totally revised budget to the Council. Her daily press conferences reporting to the residents gave comprehensive updates on the pandemic’s impact on each neighborhood and also explaining there would be a $750 million budget shortfall this year and an $800 million one next year. She has committed to try to address some of the inequalities rampant in DC between East and West. Because the Mayor has been leading the city well there was an over $300 million surplus from the previous year so the impact of the cuts won’t be as drastic as they are in many other cities. While not everyone agrees with her response to the cry to ‘defund police’ she is being rational and standing strong for what she believes is best for the District. Many agree with her and many don’t. Hopefully the Council will rise to the occasion and work with the Mayor to come to an agreement on this without individual members of the Council trying to grandstand for headlines. This discussion needs to be held in an open and systematic way taking into consideration the views and needs of all the people of the District. 

In recent weeks Mayor Bowser has appeared on numerous national television shows including Meet the Press, the Today show, and ABC World News Tonight. She has acquitted herself well and her ability to speak knowledgably and in a way people can understand has brought new and very positive attention to the District of Columbia. Contrary to the opinion of some Republicans like out of touch Senator Tom Cotton (R-AK) who spoke out against the winning vote for Statehood for the District in the House of Representatives by attacking the Mayor, many like me are proud she is our Mayor and would be proud to call her Governor. 

 


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