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The D.C. Council looks for home rule in cyberspace.

When a constituent asked Ward 3 Councilmember Kathleen Patterson for her e-mail address at a meeting late last month, Patterson gave what she says is her standard response: “I’m happy to….Just be sure you have a big piece of paper.”

It’s necessary, given the sesquipedalian answer: kpatterson@dccouncil.washington.dc.us.

Chalk up the ungainly address—and the correspondingly gawky D.C. Council Web address, www.dccouncil.washington.dc.us—to the District’s colonial status. When the council went online in the early ’90s, Secretary to the Council Phyllis Jones says, the council “requested the [dot-]us designation because we wanted to be treated like the other 50 states.”

The 50 states, though, were granted domains such as “state.md.us” and “state.va.us.” And “state.dc.us” was not an option.

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The extra length, councilmembers and officials say, can stymie interaction with constituents. John Ralls, executive assistant and chief of staff to Ward 2 Councilmember Jack Evans, says he now gives out his personal Yahoo address at community meetings.

“People have made sarcastic remarks that we left out ‘North America’ and ‘Planet Earth’ in our e-mail address,” he says.

Several weeks ago, Jones says, council Chair Linda Cropp asked her to investigate the possibility of switching to a shorter address, but there is no timetable for such a change. Cropp intends, Jones says, for the new address to preserve the dot-us format, with its connotations of equal membership in the nation.

At-Large Councilmember Phil Mendelson endorses that view: “I support statehood, and I support a [dot-]us suffix.”

But the executive branch is less picky. The mayor’s office uses its own abbreviated domain, dc.gov—even though the dot-gov suffix is generally used for subsidiaries of the federal government.

Says Jones of this choice: “Not good if you’re advocating state rights…but certainly easier.” CP