A film about democracy in the nation's Capitol
You can help make this film a reality by donating -
"Who Cares About DC?" is a sponsored project of Fractured Atlas, a non-profit arts service organization. Contributions for the charitable purposes of "Who Cares About DC?" must be made payable to Fractured Atlas only and are tax-deductible to the extent permitted by law.
photos and videos on this site © Steve Kolb and HBO, Last Week Tonight, August 3, 2015
Who Cares About DC? - Phase 2!
Washington, DC is a diamond-shaped political jurisdiction, about 63 square miles in area that is home to the US Capitol, the White House, US Supreme Court, federal agencies, the National Mall, Lincoln Memorial, Washington Monument and the largest concentration of statues and memorials dedicated to the memory of people who fought and died for democracy here and abroad.
It is a place where people from around the world come to learn about America, "the greatest democracy in the world." They come to learn, study, explore, demonstrate, petition their government for redress of grievances, and celebrate their shared appreciation of the concept of democracy.
However, against this historic backdrop is the fact that DC is also home to almost 660,000 residents who do not share in the democracy celebrated by America's other residents. Article 1, Section 8 of the US Constitution created the District as the seat of Federal Government, under exclusive control of Congress.
DC's history of benign and not-so-benign neglect by Congress has created a very complex picture which is misunderstood by many across the land. Yet, many inside the District believe their government is capable of taking care of its residents without Congressional intervention. Some want statehood while others prefer the status quo or other construct.
But the story is deeper than that. The same Civil Rights Movement of the 1960s that lead Congress and President Lyndon B. Johnson to grant the District limited home rule, also provided the impetus to pass the Voting Rights Act of 1965. Since its enactment, ongoing attempts have been made to emasculate the VRA. These include, among other state-adopted voting regulations, stringent new Voter ID laws, limits to voter access to the polls by shortening early voting, ending same-day registration, and purging voter rolls.
These actions have been demonstrated to make voting by poor, minority, old and young citizens – people who might otherwise be voting as Democrats – more difficult, thereby suppressing their exercise of the franchise. But, the net outcome reflects the same values of those outside DC who would not want another "State" which tends to favor Democratic candidates.
Who Cares About DC? will explore how racism and Federalism vs. States Rights are affecting the balance of power in Congress and possibly the White House. It seems that we haven't figured out how to live up to the moniker, "The Greatest Democracy in the World."
Alice Rivlin was chair of the District of Columbia Financial Responsibility and Management Assistance Authority - popularly known as the DC Control Board from 1998 to 2001. In one of her final reports to Congress she wrote,
“. . . most of the country doesn’t care about Washington . . . and the attitude in Congress is largely one of contempt.”
Who Cares About DC? will try to understand that quote and examine whether the DC has capacity for self-governance without Congressional interference.
Dr. James McHenry, one of Maryland’s delegates to the US Constitutional Convention in 1787 noted that
“A lady asked Dr. (Benjamin) Franklin, Well Doctor what have we got a republic or a monarchy.
A republic replied the Doctor, if you can keep it.”
I want Who Cares About DC? to help us understand that the question and response in Dr. McHenry's story about Franklin is more urgently in need of understanding and action than at anytime since the Civil War.
This film needs your financial support
I began collecting material for this project more than two years ago. When I started, I thought I could self-fund the work, having produced other smaller films both in California and since settling in DC. However, I've discovered that the costs for licensing the rights to use archival film footage along with the costs of hardware needed to continue to do my own video capture are beyond my own means. Additional hard disk drives to edit on and archive captured interviews and B-roll content are essential. I took a 7,900-mile, 24-state motoring trip this Summer gathering interviews for the film. Funds raised via Indiegogo and Fractured Atlas during phase 1 of the project only covered the cost of fuel for the trip. I still must cover the cost of food and lodging carried on credit cards dedicated to Who Cares.
This phase of the campaign is for $10,000 to retire the debt incurred for the trip, to purchase additional hard disk drives for the raw and edited footage and to license footage from C-SPAN and DC's WUSA-TV9 which is necessary to help demonstrate DC's unique relationship with Congress and the US..
Perks for contributions to Who Cares are the same as in phase 1.
Each donation level will earn film credits for the donor unique to that level. All denominations are in US Dollars.
$10 = I Care About DC Sponsor
$25 = Resident Sponsor
$50 = Unit Block Sponsor (if you don't know what this means, just ask)
$75 = ANC Sponsor
$100 = Council Sponsor
$250 = District Sponsor
$500= Associate Producer
$750 = Producer
$1,000 = Executive Producer
If I am unable to reach my $10,000 goal during this phase, that portion which is raised will be used to pay off the credit card used for the cross-country trip. Anything beyond that amount will be used first for additional hard disk drives to accommodate footage and then to license additional material from C-SPAN and DC's CBS-TV affiliate, WUSA-9, one of the biggest repositories of recent historical news footage in the capitol area.
The Impact of Who Cares About DC?
This project is the first to address DC's unique status in American democracy from the inside-out and contrasting that picture with how people outside DC see their Capitol. When I conducted my video interviews across the country, many of those I spoke with had little understanding of the term, "taxation without representation," the statement on most DC license plates. I also heard from many that "Washington is broken" and therefor doesn't deserve their attention or consideration.
When asked if they could separate the "Washington is broken" meme from the 660,000 people who live in the District who have neither a voting representative in Congress nor two US Senators as the other 50 states have, many were surprised and expressed their belief that it seemed unfair and unjust.
A few however, responded that because Congress had made such a mess of DC, the District shouldn't be able to govern itself and some believed a populace that would reelect a mayor convicted of drug use, didn't deserve anything better than what it already has.
My research for this project has included reading numerous texts dealing with DC's history and governance and American democracy: "Home Rule or House Rule" by Michael Fauntroy; "Republicans and the Black Vote," by Michael Fauntroy; "The War that Forged the Nation - Why the Civil War Still Matters," by James McPherson; "Dream City," by Tom Sherwood and Harry Jaffe; "Give Us the Ballot," by Ari Berman; "The USA is Lesterland," by Lawrence Lessig; "Republic, Lost," by Lawrence Lessig; and "Mayor for Life, Marion Barry," by Marion Barry.
My background as a filmmaker includes projects produced for Common Cause dealing with US torture and accountability, the National Veterans Legal Services Project, Physicians for Social Responsibility, Therapists for Social Responsibility, California Supported Living Network, Creative Living Options, numerous training videos for the California Department of Transportation and California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation, and a short film, "Eyes Wide Open, a video tone poem," which garnered two National Hometown Video Festival awards, Best Empowerment and Short Subject and one Western Access Video Excellence award, Public Forum/Professional Production.
I am a member of the American Society of Media Professionals (ASMP) and an Apple Creative, responsible for training people in the use of Apple hardware and software to enrich their lives, specializing in digital photography and digital video.
Risks & Challenges
Who Cares About DC? is a complex project with a large number of players and interests which must be pulled together into a meaningful picture. Much like a jigsaw puzzle, this is a project whose pieces will fit together to tell a story which is unfolding as it is being researched and filmed. But, like an onion, each layer removed, reveals another layer with its own complexities and special place in the telling of the story as it unfolds. Each question I ask, leads to new understandings and more questions. I've been working with DCVote, Neighbors United for DC Statehood and Not Your District PAC.This project is a journey of discovery.
When I started, I thought I knew exactly where I was going with internal and external views of DC's governance and how it relates to Congress. However, voting rights, racism, and Federalism have emerged as powerful influences on my understanding and caused me to broaden my approach to try to understand the balance of power in our national government. DC may represent a paradigm of voter control, kept isolated to prevent additional Democratic votes in Congress. This is happening at the same time that new and reemerging actions are being taken by states previously affected by the 1965 Voting Rights Act to curtail previously available registration and voting options in order to minimize the effect of potential Democratic voters. Discovering how to tell this story in a meaningful way with the cooperation of knowledgable witnesses will bring life to the story.
Numerous elected government officials in DC have agreed to be interviewed for the film, along with knowledgeable journalists and DC residents. DC has a marvelous form of local governance beginning with Advisory Neighborhood Councils and their Commissioners, each representing 2,000 residents. There are eight wards, each electing a City Council Member. District residents also elect four at-large Council Members, a Council Chair and a Mayor. For the first time in November 2014, District residents also elected an Attorney General. The story as told by many of these elected officials, how they understand DC, their constituents, and their responsibility to govern will be discussed along with what they want Americans outside of DC to understand about DC and its people.
Other Ways You Can Help
You can help by contributing both your money and your ideas. If you have thoughts about additional interviews and angles for this project, I welcome your participation. After all, we're all in this together, whether you live in DC or anywhere else in America or beyond.
If you have an interest in the survival of our democracy and believe that this project is worth supporting, then please spread the word, share it with your friends, colleagues, relatives and social network.