I must say, just two days from Christmas Eve, I am infected with the Christmas spirit. So is Washington, D.C.'s city council, which does its level best to make laws during the occasional periods when members of Congress aren't trying to impose their own views on the District's citizenry.
Here's a report from local blog DCist on the council's debate over imposing residency requirements on homeless people seeking to use the city's shelters. Councilmember Harry Thomas Jr. noted that "as we approach Christmas, that there was someone we were celebrating that was homeless." Disputes followed.
Councilmember David Catania (I-At-Large) attempted to refute Thomas the conventional way, telling him that the story of the virgin birth of Christ didn't really have anything to do with a bill that won't take effect until the spring -- at the earliest. But Jack Evans (D-Ward 2) had the definitive word on the subject:
Just for historical accuracy, Mary and Joseph actually had a house. In Nazareth. And they were actually traveling to Bethlehem because the government had raised their taxes and you had to pay the taxes in the place where you were born. If anybody ever saw that story -- I'm sure somebody did -- an onerous tax put on the population by Caesar, and so they had to travel to Bethlehem, and by the time they got there, there was no room at the inn. Everybody remember that?
Wow. Dropping knowledge on a Councilmember who decided to bring Jesus to the dais while at the same time making a statement about his stance on the budget gap? Well played, Mr. Evans, well played.
Intense, but it's worth noting that the Roman Empire was actually performing a census, perhaps for the purpose of later taxation, but more likely to convince the unruly citizenry of a Roman province to swear fealty to the Emperor. Christ, you may recall, thought paying taxes was fine, because he more important things on his mind.
Regardless, seeking Christ's endorsement for your budget policy is a mug's game, and I give points to Catania for his good sense. But Evan's invocation of the Risen Lord to exclude the alien homeless from his city's shelters is more than a bit callous.
Incidentally, this whole episode really reinforces the need for better policy coordination between major cities and the surrounding metro regions. Some kind of unified budgeting for the DMV -- District/Marlyand/Virginia -- would make it easier to deal with the problems of suburban homeless contributing to over-crowding in D.C.'s shelters.
-- Tim Fernholz