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ALAN GREEN HAS IT HALF right in his article suggesting that Arlington and Alexandria be annexed to the District to solve the District’s problems (“Diamond Mine,” 4/28). First, I will talk about how he his half wrong.
There is much too much wrong with the District for little A&A to solve: The District has a sick and greedy political culture which consistently elects corrupt buffoons to public office, who overspend in the serene expectation that Congress will bail them out. The number of poor people consuming more in services than they can possibly pay in taxes is too high relative to the number of prosperous people who can pay more in taxes than they consume, and this trend is getting worse as the middle class—black and white—flees to the suburbs. Compared to the District, A&A are paradise on the Potomac.
But A&A are too small to tip the balance back to health. Peter Hayes’ illustration, showing the District’s arms coming out of the pit to pull A&A in with it, is exactly on point: A&A would be consumed, and there is not enough money or population in A&A to overbalance the District’s political pathology. It is also worth noting that the margin of votes for Robb over North in the last election came from A&A. Excising us from Virginia would put the North/Allen/Farris crew in charge for the foreseeable future.
Two solutions have been offered—giving more money to the city as it stands, and retrocession to Maryland. Congress has chosen the first, perhaps because Maryland’s governor has expressed doubt about accepting the District. But it is difficult to imagine that the solution lies in giving more money and power—now or in some pie-in-the-sky after-control-board future—to the same band of fools which put the District in its present state.
So how does Green have it half right? Much of Alexandria, and all of Arlington, were once part of the District. These are now thriving cities, with competent governments, educating children in admired schools. There is no reason Virginia cannot do it again. No law of physics states that a competent government cannot be installed in the District, making it a proud jewel of the state in which it is located. That state should be Virginia. And the Virginia legislature could be counted on to give exactly the careful oversight to the city government which has never been on offer from the Congress. In order to develop a new culture of public service in the new government, Congress should couple the transfer with a lifetime ban on holding public office in Columbia, Va., for any current or former District officeholder.