Inauguration reviewing stand to be platform for DC statehood

WASHINGTON (AP) - District of Columbia officials are using Inauguration Day to call attention to the District's lack of statehood and congressional representation.

Mayor Vincent Gray on Wednesday revealed a sign on the reviewing stand that top D.C. officials plans to use on Monday to watch the Pennsylvania Avenue parade.

The sign states: "A More Perfect Union Must Include Full Democracy in DC."

Gray says he hopes it will provoke discussion about the fact that D.C. does not have full budget autonomy and is not its own state. He says many people know that D.C. is not a state, but don't really understand the full implications.

He says he's grateful that President Barack Obama's limousine will soon carry the District of Columbia's "Taxation Without Representation" license plate.

But the language used and the costs of the stand raised questions today.

“We think that the statement out there hardly will be missed,” says D.C. Mayor Vincent Gray. “It will be fully understood. And we hope it will serve as a catalyst for further action.”

There is no reference to “statehood” on the sign.

“We don't have any hesitation about saying ‘statehood,’” Gray says. ”I say it everywhere we go. That we ought to be the 51st state. And we'll continue to do that so I wouldn't conclude anything from the language out here other than full citizenship means to me being a state.”

To unveil the signage on the viewing stand and to celebrate President Obama's decision to put the District's "Taxation Without Representation” tags on his presidential limo, Gray was joined by Council Chairman Phil Mendelson and other local activists.

“It's all part of a process trying to expand awareness across the country,” Mendelson says. “That the citizens of D.C. who believe they are citizens of the USA don't have the rights and privileges citizens of other states have.”

D.C. officials say the heated, 151-seat viewing stand for the mayor, councilmembers and their invited guests - which will be torn down later next week – cost$342,000 to build.

The District will be reimbursed by the federal government for the bill, but still, some question if it's worth the expense to keep local elected officials warm on inauguration day.

“I think really it is a way of concentrating the District's participation in the inaugural parade,” Gray said. “I haven't really heard a lot of people talk about keeping warm. It's just a way of watching the parade.”

Gray said he'll probably walk most of the parade route, so he doesn't care much about staying warm. He also said people move in and out of the viewing stand and the list of invited guests is mostly made up of constituents.

The Associated Press contributed to this story.