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University President Steven Knapp, right, moderates a panel with Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan, Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe and D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser. Keegan Mullen | Hatchet Photographer

University President Steven Knapp, right, moderates a panel with Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan, Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe and D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser. Keegan Mullen | Hatchet Photographer

This post was written by Hatchet staff writer Lauren Gomez.

University President Steven Knapp moderated a forum Wednesday morning on business and government in the DMV region, featuring a panel with Mayor Muriel Bowser, Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe, and Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan.

Eleanor Holmes-Norton, D.C.’s congressional delegate, presented the panel and spoke on points of progress at the University. The congresswoman praised several large projects from Knapp’s presidency, including the construction of the Science and Engineering Hall, the launch of several research institutes, the acquisitions of the Textile Museum and Corcoran College of Arts + Design and the creation of the District Scholars program.

“The entire region is a beneficiary,” she said. “Your leadership guarantees that your service in the presidency of one of the great universities in this college town will be memorable to the District of Columbia, to the region, and to higher education.”

Knapp said he sees the University’s presence at the business forum as an opportunity, and a reflection of the University’s place in the region.

“What drives students here is the fact that this is a vibrant city, part of a very powerful culture and economy,” Knapp said in an interview. “As a university in the nation’s capital and the heart of the region, I think it is very good for us to invest in this discussion.”

The panel covered a wide-range of issues of regional issues, from partnerships with the private sector to improving local infrastructure.

Here are the key takeaways:

1. Reforming public transportation and infrastructure

The panelists spent the bulk of the forum discussing transportation initiatives, from the Metro system to road and highway reforms.

Each public official spoke of the strides their state had made in helping people maneuver the region. Hogan talked about the upcoming construction of the Metro’s Purple line and two bridges along the Potomac River, McAuliffe discussed Beltway expansion and efforts to build a Metro bridge to bypass freight traffic. Bowser said that a urban, shared economy needs a reliable and safe Metro system to flourish.

All three officials agreed that the economy relies on the Metro system, and that the Washington Metropolitan Area Transportation Authority is making headway in extensive funding and strategic reforms.

“If we start now and we’re serious as a region, we can identify and finally fund a regional, dedicated source for the Metro,” Bowser said.

Knapp echoed the panel’s statements in a follow-up interview, stating that transit issues heavily affect the University.

“The Metro helps our students as well as our employees,” he said. “If the Metro is in trouble, we’re in trouble.”

2. Contributions from outside the government

Bowser admitted that the government needs help to complete all the projects the region needs.

“The government can’t do it alone,” she said. “If we’re going to have the facilities that our residents expect, we’ll need some partnerships.”

Both governors complimented the private sector, citing its efforts to diversify the economy and partner with the government to repair universal resources.

The panelists also discussed the dangers of allowing the region’s economy to be overly reliant on the federal government. Government sequestration has been devastating to the DMV, causing the region to lose $9.8 billion in the past 12 months, McAuliffe said.

And as the largest University in the District, Holmes-Norton said that GW contributes heavily to the diversification and success of the region.

“It is no accident that all of our universities’ presidents serve on the Capital Region Business Forum,” she said. “Universities are big business when it comes to jobs and economic growth.”

3. Growth in the DMV

The panelists said the region must adapt in order to succeed againts changing economic forces.

The DMV may have impressive job and economic growth, but local governments have to tackle factors like a shortage of many in-demand job skills among college graduates, McAuliffe said.

Each state has adapted to these shifts differently, in both the private and public sectors, Hogan said.

“We have to readjust our education to produce kids to take advantage of this growing economy, based on these kinds of skill-set issues,” Hogan said. “In Maryland, we get private companies to work together in conjunction with our communities and school systems to provide a dual-track, where students are learning technical skills while getting their high school diploma and two-year degree at the same time.”

Several panelists argued that reforms should only start with changes to the current infrastructure of transportation and education.

When asked what the nation’s next president should do to help the region, Bowser focused on the issue of statehood.

“I think she should support statehood for our city,” she said. “It gives us more senators and gives us more power as a region.”

Knapp said that a lack of statehood adversely affects the University, as well as the region as a whole.

“States can tax commuters that are coming into the city,” Knapp said. “We don’t have the same access to state structures and state funding that would benefit our university and everyone in the District.”

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John Oliver may have just made himself the apple of every D.C. politician’s eye.

The host of the HBO satirical news show “Last Week Tonight” advocated for D.C. statehood Sunday night – with song – arousing praise from the D.C. community who objects to the District’s inability to pass laws or define its own budget without Congressional approval.

“There is one other U.S. population who suffers a lack of representation in D.C., and that is D.C. itself,” Oliver said on the show. “If you’ve ever visited, their license plates say ‘taxation without representation,’ and that is for a pretty good reason.”

The show included a run-down on the origins of the District’s political situation and showed clips of D.C.’S non-voting Congressional delegate, Eleanor Holmes Norton, standing her ground on statehood in an argument. D.C. residents only received the right to vote in presidential elections with the 23rd amendment in the 1960s and only being able to elect its own mayor and council members with the creation of the Home Rule Act in the next decade.

Oliver cited a number of incidents in recent D.C. history he considered unfair, including D.C.’s inability to use tax money to legalize the sale of marijuana, even though the city allows residents to grow, smoke and possess the substance for recreational use. The show also mentioned Rep. Bob Barr, R-Ga, voting against D.C. using its tax money for a needle exchange program in the city, although Barr’s home state of Georgia has its own needle program.

“It seems that Congress just forces riders on D.C. whenever they disapprove on how they’re spending their money,” Oliver said. “They are treating more than 600,000 people right now like children.”

Oliver’s comments have lead local politicians such as D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser and D.C. Council members to chime in on the debate and support Oliver’s statements.

The topic of D.C. statehood was discussed for the first time in more than 20 years in the U.S. Senate last year when Norton, along with then-mayor Vincent Gray, D.C. Council Chairman Phil Mendelson and two senators argued for statehood. Since leaving office in January, Gray has been working to strengthen the statehood movement in the District.

D.C. Council Member Anita Bonds, At-Large, also introduced a resolution for D.C. statehood to the National Conference of State Legislators Summit in Seattle, Washington, which lasts from Monday through Thursday, according to a press release. Council members Vincent Orange, At-Large, Charles Allen from Ward 6, and Kenyan McDuffie from Ward 5, were also a part of submitting the resolution.

Missed Oliver’s segment? Be sure to watch it below.

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University President Steven Knapp awarded the highest award he can give, the George Washington University President’s Metal, to crooner Tony Bennett and his wife, Susan Benedetto, for their dedication to the arts at the Corcoran building Thursday night.

“It’s a particular pleasure to recognize the contributions of Tony Bennett and Susan Benedetto to arts education at the home of the Corcoran School of the Arts and Design, one of the most iconic buildings in our nation’s capital,” Knapp said in a press release.

The award ceremony Thursday included a private exhibit of 18 pieces of Bennett’s art, two of which are from the Smithsonian Institution’s permanent collection: a portrait of Duke Ellington and a painting of Central Park. Bennett’s portrait of Ella Fitzgerald is also housed in a Smithsonian collection.

University presidents award the President’s Medal to people who “have exhibited courage, character and leadership in their chosen fields and who exemplify the ability of all human beings to improve the lives of others,” according to the release. The award was established in 1988, and previous recipients include former President of the Soviet Union Mikhail Gorbachev, former Israeli Prime Minister Shimon Peres and journalist Walter Cronkite.

Fellow singer Lady Gaga, who has recorded an album with Bennett, put in an appearance with her parents, as did Kim Sajet, the director of the National Portrait Gallery and Congresswoman Eleanor Holmes Norton.

“I could never dream of anything this beautiful happening to me. After years of work and wondering where it is all going to end up, this is a great experience in my life,” Bennett said in the release.

Bennett received an honorary Doctor of Music degree from GW in 2001 when he was honored at that year’s Commencement ceremony.

Bennett was also an advocate for civil rights and marched with Martin Luther King Jr. in Selma, in addition to refusing to perform in South Africa during the apartheid. He also raises money to diabetes and cancer research, and his artwork is on the cover of the American Cancer Society’s holiday card every year.

Bennett and Benedetto founded the Frank Sinatra School of the Arts in Queens, where Benedetto previously served as a social studies teacher and the principal. The couple also founded the nonprofit arts education organization, Exploring the Arts, which has partnerships with 23 public schools in New York City and Los Angeles.

“All students deserve access to a high-quality education, and a belief in the profound impact of the arts, is what fuels our work,” Benedetto said in the release. “A very heartfelt thank you to Tony for exemplifying the power of the arts, the importance of giving back and inspiring us all in the process.”

Benedetto, who is a graduate of Fordham University and Columbia University’s Teachers College, was also the owner of an artist consultation and management firm Creative Artists Management.

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The District’s Circulator bus will begin its new route through the National Mall this Sunday, according to Greater Greater Washington.

The Circulator’s new route was mad possible by funding from the National Park Service that began in 2011, a change that allows the bus to now provide service through the interior of the Mall. The District Department of Transportation announced the new route in December.

The bus will provide service until 8 p.m. in the summer and 7 p.m. in the winter. The route will begin at Union Station and continue along Louisiana Avenue and through the Mall by Madison Drive, West Basin Drive, Ohio Drive, Constitution Avenue and Jefferson Drive.

The Circulator ceased services on a route near but not inside the National Mall in 2011, the same year the D.C. interpretive tour service Tourmobile shut down. Sunday will mark the first public bus service on the Mall since then.

Due to the expected increase in bus demand, DDOT purchased 18 new hybrid buses, bringing the Circulator fleet to a total of 67 buses. The new buses include improved air conditioning units and 19 USB ports on each for charging electronics.

The department will host a launch event for the new route this Friday at 11 a.m. at the Lincoln Memorial. Mayor Muriel Bowser and Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-D.C.) are expected to attend.

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This post was written by Hatchet reporter Henry Klapper.

Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton (D–D.C.) hosted a panel on threats to women’s reproductive health in a talk at GW Hospital Tuesday.

Norton spoke alongside leaders from Planned Parenthood and Reproductive Rights Action League. The group urged the audience to “Fight for our right to choose.”

1. Spreading awareness

Norton said women need to “go on the offensive” in the fight for women’s rights to make choices about their reproductive health. She said being aware was the first step to reforming anti-abortion laws across the nation.

“Nothing is more under attack than reproductive choice in America today,” Norton said.

Norton said that the progress made for women in the Supreme Court’s landmark Roe v. Wade decision is quickly being lost following Republican efforts at the state and federal levels.

In 2013, nearly two dozen states enacted 70 anti-abortion regulations ranging from requirements at clinics to bans on insurance coverage of abortion, according to the Guttmacher Institute.

“We need to be visible in the fight,” said Norton. “We need evidence of our consciousness.”

Jacqueline Ayers, director of legislative affairs of Planned Parenthood said women need to be vocal about “anything that interferes with our health.”

2. Not just a woman’s problem

Norton said that reproductive health is a broader family issue – not just a woman’s problem.

The panel invited several guest speakers to share their stories on the importance of giving a woman the right to choose.

One speaker was Christy Zink, an assistant writing professor and the director of the University Writing Center. Zink shared her story about the decision she and her husband made to terminate her second pregnancy after she learned her child would be born with a birth defect that would lead to severe pain and constant seizures.

“The choice didn’t come out of laziness, contrary to the common arguments against abortion,” Zink said, adding that she was speaking as a mother at the panel, not a professor.

3. Call to action

Norton repeatedly said pro-choice women need to make themselves visible – and make themselves heard.

“There are disadvantages to social media,” Norton said. “You need to march, you need to demonstrate evidence of your ideas.”

She said students should be “on the front lines” of fighting for reproductive rights. She said she decided to hold the panel at GW because she was “very impressed” with students’ activism around the issue.

Shannon MacLeod, the president of GW Voices for Choices, also spoke at the panel.

“Choice is an issue that directly affects young women,” MacLeod said. “Women are extremely affected by the stigma around abortion in the media and women are paying attention to it. People aren’t aware of what they are facing.”

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Tuesday, Nov. 4, 2014 11:21 p.m.

Holmes Norton wins re-election

Congresswoman Eleanor Holmes Norton

Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton, D-D.C., who has served as the District’s nonvoting representative in Congress since 1991, is projected to have won re-election, according to the Washington Post. Hatchet File Photo

This post was written by Hatchet reporter Pim Anukularmphai.

Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton, D-D.C., was re-elected as the District’s nonvoting representative in Congress on Tuesday, the Washington Post has projected.

With more than 80 percent of precincts reporting as of about 11:15 p.m., Norton had received 85 percent of the vote.

Norton ran against Independent candidate Timothy Krepp, D.C. Statehood Green Party candidate Natale Stracuzzi and Republican candidate Nelson Rimensnyder.

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Mayor Vincent Gray testified on Capitol Hill on Monday, calling for D.C. statehood. Samuel Klein | Senior Photo Editor

Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton, D-D.C. and Mayor Vincent Gray testified on Capitol Hill on Monday, calling for D.C. statehood. Samuel Klein | Senior Photo Editor

Updated: Sept. 16, 2014 at 4:04 p.m.

The long battle for D.C. statehood made progress Monday, though the historic moment was touched by some cynicism.

The U.S. Senate held its first hearing in more than 20 years on D.C. statehood on Monday. D.C. Mayor Vincent Gray, Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton, D-D.C. and D.C. Council Chairman Phil Mendelson testified at the hearing, led by Sen. Tom Carper, D-Del., and Sen. Tom Coburn, R-Okla., who advocated for D.C  to become the nation’s 51st state.

Here are four key takeaways from the hearing.

1. “Not just a collection of government offices, monuments and museums”

Carper, the chairman of the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, is sponsoring the bill that proposes D.C. become a state called New Columbia. He praised the vitality of D.C., and said the hearing was a way to “restart an old conversation.”

“This may not be the last chapter, but it attempts to right a wrong that should have been righted by now,” he said.

Carper argued that D.C., with more than 650,000 residents, should have representatives in Congress with the power to vote.

2. “No chance of success”

Coburn, the only other senator at the hearing, was more pessimistic of D.C.’s chances.

“Here we are again debating this issue, even though it has no chance of success,” he said.

Coburn pointed to past presidencies, such as Ronald Reagan’s administration, which found that several legal challenges would come with granting D.C. statehood.

3. D.C. is an “anomaly”

Norton, D.C.’s non-voting representative in Congress, was the first witness to speak during the panel, and argued that only statehood would allow her to fully represent the city’s residents.

She pointed to moments when she said she “felt” D.C. needed statehood, including when veterans from the District came home from Afghanistan and Iraq. She said they had fought for the democratic voting rights of citizens there, but they “came home without the same rights.”

“I feel it when the bell rings and I cannot vote on behalf of the residents,” she said.

4. Gray: “We were casualties of national politics.”

Gray spoke about the problems he saw with Congressional oversight of D.C. government. He cited the federal government shutdown last October, which prompted Gray to declare all D.C. government employees “essential.”

Gray added that under the New Columbia Admission Act, Congress would not have control over the District’s budget.

“We’re asking for the same treatment that all Americans get,” he said.

This post was updated to reflect the following correction:
The Hatchet incorrectly reported that the federal government shutdown last year forced D.C. agencies to close. The city actually used reserve funds during the shutdown to keep agencies running. We regret this error.

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In March, the D.C. Council to replace jail time for possession of small amounts of marijuana with a $25 fine. Hatchet File Photo

In March, the D.C. Council voted to replace jail time for possession of small amounts of marijuana with a $25 fine. Hatchet File Photo

A bill to decriminalize possession of small amounts of marijuana in D.C. faced a major setback Wednesday when House Republicans voted to prevent the District from implementing the law.

Unless budget negotiations between the two chambers of Congress lead to restored funding for the law, the House Appropriations Committee just dealt a death blow to the D.C. Council’s effort to join the 17 states that keep many pot smokers out of jail, the Washington Post reported.

The Council voted in March to replace jail time for possession of up to one ounce of marijuana with a $25 fine. The legislation had been in a congressional review period and would have gone into effect in July without action from Congress.

Rep. Andy Harris, R-Md., led the charge to block the law, proposing an amendment to a spending bill that would keep D.C. from using even its own tax income to roll out the measure.

Harris is Maryland’s only Republican congressman. Two months ago, Governor Martin O’Malley signed legislation decriminalizing marijuana.

D.C. lawmakers pushed to pass the decriminalization bill to reduce the racial gap in marijuana-related arrests in the District. Black residents are “eight times more likely than non-blacks to be arrested for marijuana possession,” according to a 2013 study by the D.C. chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union.

The District’s non-voting congresswoman, Rep. Eleanor Holmes Norton, D-D.C., issued a statement Tuesday before the following day’s vote and criticized Republicans for singling out the city’s decriminalization law.

“I had hoped that D.C. was in good company with the 17 states that had decriminalized marijuana before the city did,” Norton said. “We simply have to fight, and fight we will.”

House Republicans scrutinized D.C.’s decriminalization measure last month, but it was not clear at the time whether they would overrule D.C.’s legislative body.

D.C. decriminalization would not affect GW’s drug enforcement policies. University Police Department Chief Kevin Hay said in October that students caught smoking would still face disciplinary action.

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The Washington Monument’s elevator broke down Wednesday – just two days after it opened for the first time in three years. Photo used under the Creative Commons license.

The Washington Monument’s elevator broke down Wednesday – just two days after it opened for the first time in three years. Photo used under the Creative Commons license.

    Dozens of visitors were temporarily stuck inside the Washington Monument on Wednesday when the elevator’s door broke down, just over 48 hours after the tourist attraction reopened to the public.

    Eighteen elevator passengers eventually exited and 61 other visitors walked almost 900 steps down from the observation deck, the Washington Post reported.

The elevator was out of service from 10:53 a.m. to 12:25 p.m. and all visitors made it down safely, according to the National Park Service.

D.C. congresswoman Eleanor Holmes Norton, who attended the Monument’s opening ceremony Monday, blasted the breakdown, and said the elevator has the potential to disrupt D.C. tourism.

“This elevator is perhaps more important to the city than any other because the Monument is a big draw for tourism and this elevator transports tourists and residents up for D.C.’s best view,” she said.

The Monument reopened Monday after almost three years renovations following a 5.8 magnitude earthquake that damaged the structure in several places.

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This post was written by assistant news editor Zaid Shoorbajee.

Congress scrutinized D.C.’s proposal to decriminalize possession of small amounts of marijuana Friday, poking holes in the legislation that the federal government has the power to overturn.

A U.S. House of Representatives oversight subcommittee voiced concerns that the measure would have negative effects on public health and questioned whether it would be able to combat racial disparities in drug arrests, which was why many D.C. Council members supported it in March.

Congress has about 50 days to review the law, which Mayor Vincent Gray signed on March 31. Both houses of Congress would have to pass and President Barack Obama would have sign legislation to overturn it.

If approved, those caught with less than an ounce of marijuana in D.C. would face a $25 fine instead of criminal charges. Smoking in public would still be a misdemeanor with a maximum punishment of 60 days in jail.

Eleanor Holmes Norton, the District’s non-voting representative in Congress, attacked the hearing because it was the first in more than a decade to only focus on a D.C. law, the Washington Post reported.

Representatives also challenged the measure for possibly conflicting with enforcement of federal law.

Deputy Chief of the U.S. Park Police Robert Mclean said at the hearing that the change wouldn’t impact enforcement on federal land. Federal parks, which make up about 22 percent of the land that falls within city limits, are under the jurisdiction of the Park Police.

Those arrested on federal property for marijuana possession face up to a year in jail and a $1,000 fine.

University spokeswoman Maralee Csellar said GW would wait until Congress approves the law before it considers changing punishments for marijuana possession on campus. University Police Chief Kevin Hay said in October that students would still face disciplinary action if they are caught smoking in their rooms.

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