Obama Announces Accessible Inaugural Event

President-elect Barack Obama has announced one of the presidential inauguration balls will be a Neighborhood Ball "open to our new neighborhood here in Washington, D.C." D.C. Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton says she hopes this means Obama will sign a measure that will grant the District of Columbia voting rights.

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Inaugural balls are tony affairs in Washington. You have to get invited to the official balls, and they are expensive. But today President-elect Obama announced plans for a new inaugural ball that will be a bit more accessible. It's called the Neighborhood Ball. Tickets won't carry that big price tag, and a portion of them will be reserved for D.C. residents. The president-elect wants to make sure that there is an event that, as he said, would be "open to our new neighborhood here in Washington, D.C." Eleanor Holmes Norton is Washington, D.C.'s elected delegate to Congress, and she joins me now. Welcome to the program and Happy new year.

Representative ELEANOR HOLMES NORTON (Democrat, Washington, D.C.): Thank you, Michele.

NORRIS: Is this a sign that the new president will have a very different relationship with his so-called neighborhood than previous presidents?

Representative HOLMES NORTON: Well, the Neighborhood Ball is a sure sign that Barack knows where he is. He is in another big city just like Chicago, understands both the problems and the possibilities of big cities. I am not surprised he would do that. They spoke out about reaching out to the District from the beginning. We're very pleased, of course, because, we've not had a president who felt quite at home here as Barack Obama, but that's because he is one of the - in fact, he is the first big city president in memory.

NORRIS: Now, if he really intends to be a good neighbor, how might he demonstrate that? What are you looking for from this White House?

Representative HOLMES NORTON: Well, the first thing we're looking for is the other meaning that his coming has for the residents of the District of Columbia. He was a co-sponsor of the District of Columbia Voting Rights Act. So the first thing we need from him is to sign the act when we get it over there. So we feel pretty sure, particularly with the larger majorities in both the House and the Senate, that we're going to get our bill to his desk very soon.

NORRIS: When you visit the District of Columbia, you notice that the license plates here have a following phrase, "Taxation Without Representation." Now, George Bush traveled in vehicles that carried D.C license plates, but they did not carry that phrase. At the end of Bill Clinton's term, he did use license plates that did carry that phrase. Are you expecting that the motorcade that President-elect Barack Obama will travel in will include license plates that carry that phrase, "Taxation Without Representation"?

Representative HOLMES NORTON: I am hardly in a position to speak for the motorcade. I can say to you that the council wrote directly to the president-elect, and I know how to communicate to the president-elect. And that's about all I am willing to say at this point.

NORRIS: What would that mean if he did?

Representative HOLMES NORTON: (Laughing) Well, it would really bring great joy obviously to the residents of the District who are second per capita in federal income taxes. And interestingly now, many more people know about voting rights than they knew just a few years ago. So we think a lot of people will get the point.

NORRIS: Now, do you expect that you're going see Barack Obama wearing a Redskins cap?

Representative HOLMES NORTON: I do not, not coming from Chicago.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Representative HOLMES NORTON: That may be a bit much to ask. Nor a Nationals cap for that matter, for our baseball team. But that's all right. He can root for whoever he wants. Look, this man and his family choked up when they left Chicago. I'm a third generation Washingtonian. I spent early years after law school in New York. Don't think I didn't miss my hometown. That's too much to ask. All we ask is that he treat this as his hometown away from his hometown and love us the way he loves Chicago.

NORRIS: Eleanor Holmes Norton is D.C.'s delegate. Thanks so much for speaking with us.

Representative HOLMES NORTON: Thank you.

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