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April 8, 1996

Retrocess Thineself

Dear Neighbors:

You came to the right place if you were looking for some diverse views on whether the District of Columbia ought to retrocess itself (love mangling that mother tongue) to Maryland. Thanks to all the contributors who wrote my next column.

I attended a Brookings forum last week on the state of the District. Sorry to inform you but the District's financial picture hasn't bottomed out. In fact, it looks pretty bleak out there. The forecast calls for heavy borrowing and lots of federal aid. As near as I can tell, downsizing takes place in the long run when we are all dead. If the Mayor is downsizing in the 1990s, then what was he doing in the 1980s--supersizing it?

I've been writing on public schools recently and have gone with the unoriginal thesis that since the school system was built for 120,000, is staffed for 80,000, and probably serves slightly above 60,000, school closings on the order of 40-50 schools could save a ton of money (in facilities and staff) that could be plowed back into improving the system. Any reaction? Want to help me write another column?


Jeffrey Itell



The seven best reasons not to be retroceded to Maryland:

1. Anyone who wants to retrocess themselves to Maryland can do it right now. But please leave quietly.

2. Maryland doesn't want us.

3. DC doesn't want to go

4. Even if we did have to link up with another state, it doesn't have to be Maryland. The parts of states do not have to be contiguous (Maine was once part of Massachusetts, for example). Why not become part of Orange County (we can pool our similar size deficits for a discount), or Tom Davis's district or Newt's? That way we can improve democracy in two places.

5. Maryland gave DC to the federal government free and clear. It has no residual rights. In fact, the original grant to the feds was probably illegal since it denied the citizens who were ceded the protections of the Maryland constitution -- about the most progressive in America at the time.

6. There is no city in America that would tell you that being a part of their state is a picnic. Ask the mayor of NYC about this.

7. I'd rather apologize for Marion Barry than for Marvin Mandel and Spiro Agnew.


sam smith the progressive review washington's most unofficial source


For a long time I was an agnostic on statehood. I had tended to support it as a way to obtain full representation in Congress, but I had also questioned whether the city could sustain itself as a state.

These days, I've definitely swung away from statehood, in part because we don't seem to be able to govern ourselves as a city, but moreover because IMHO there isn't a snowball's chance in hell (aka Congress) that DC will ever be granted statehood. So let's move on.

Meanwhile, home rule as currently constituted is in the intensive care unit, and I think it is an untenable position for the long term. DC doesn't have the political leadership to make it work; in fact, I don't think anyone can make it work.

Thus, retrocession is looking more and more the way to go: we would be able to cast off some of the more onerous financial responsibilities (welfare, Medicaid) to the state of Maryland, and we'd get aid from the state. In addition, we would get full representation in Congress: two senators and at least one congressperson, maybe two. On the other hand, as a creature of the state (essentially a state-chartered municipal corporation) we would lose some autonomy, but, hell, how much do we have now?

So, I cast my vote for retrocession. It may not be likely in the immediate future (I'd imagine Maryland would think a long time before accepting us back into the fold), but it's more of a possibility than statehood, which I think is an idea that is virtually dead and buried, and an alternative to brain-dead home rule.

Evan Roth My views are my own and not necessarily my employer's.


retrocession is a nice idea, but it's like plastic surgery when your liver is failing.

95% of the problems of DC are local, and are not related to having congressional representation or a functioning state.

i also doubt the maryland government is up to the problems of DC. Maryland hasn't dealth with Baltimore very well, what makes people think the people of maryland are up to DC?

Besides, the problems of DC are local in nature. It's Barry, the council and the people of DC that are the problem. Look at the Schools. these were destroyed from within, not without.

DC will not recover until the people of DC want it too.



For all of us who take pride in living in a city, we'd need to make sure that DC did not become a suburb of Montgomery county -- it's interesting to contemplate how the school board and city council would relate to being part of a state, not becoming an independent state -- how would the Maryland General Assembly react to all of us city folks needing representation? And, most importantly, do they pick up recycling weekly in MD, or would we still have overflowing piles of newspapers and Home Alone office waste to contend with?

Margie Siegel MASiegel


Retrocession is a pretty good idea (Washington, MD??). But it's probably a net loser for Maryland, which would inherit a tax base unable to support the costs of taking care of the District's needs, at least in the short run. In the longer run, elimination of duplicative administrative functions would solve some of that problem, but that's a jobs issue, and politically a very hot potato. I can't see Maryland voluntarily taking it on. A more politically doable idea might be to say, well, o.k., we'll live with the fact that we don't have representation. So therefore we deserve the benefits that come with that in the few other instances where it exists. I.e., turn us into a commonwealth, a la Puerto Rico, and, abolish federal taxation. I could go on and on about some of the other trimmings that can go with commonwealth status (new District seal, cool colonial-era uniforms, etc., but I won't).

I know I'm fooling myself - Maryland and Virginia have a lot to lose if something like this were ever to happen. And overtly or covertly, they'll continue to see that the idea gets deep-sixed. But maybe if enough of us keep squeaking, someday it might happen. Particularly after a few more D.C. budget catastrophes.

Pat Hahn aka


I reiterate my support for Retrocession. Sign me up!

- Athan Manuel (


I think it would be a great idea...if I didn't live in Maryland!

Michael Mann


The idea of seceding to Maryland stinks. Why run away. Let's fix what we have here. We are in a unique location with the most beautiful city in the world. We have green spaces, parks, theaters, museums, monuments, a neat river, good intra-city transportation and a city that's small enough to solve all the problems. We don't need to be a State with another layer of government What we lack are the right people in the city government to lead us out of these problems. If we had real leader in the mayor's office, a bold City Council that acted like a team, and good key people running the school system, this place would start to rebound in a big hurry. The majority of people in this city will some day have to realize that electing incapable big mouth deadbeats (who appoint all their deadbeat friends and lovers to management jobs) instead of competent, independent leaders will cause them to continue to suffer and things will get worse. No, running away and statehood are not the answer.

Somewhere out there are some real leaders who could shape this city up and make it the model it should be for the rest of the country.

Ed Barron


I work in Montgomery County and a co-worker who knows that I live in the District came over to ask me if it was true that the District had erected toll booths on all of the bridges in to the city and was collecting a one dollar toll from all cars entering the District. The dollar toll is supposed to go toward pothole repair in the District. The co-worker who lives and works outside the district was perfectly serious. She had heard the rumor from her husband who had heard it from a co-worker of his. She also didn't think it unusual that DC would charge admission for entry, she doesn't regard the district well. When I said that I didn't think that it was quite legal to collect a toll for coming into the district she said that wouldn't stop our Mayor from trying and she would call another co-worker who lives in her neighborhood and works in our Washington office, he would know because he drives into the city across the 14th Street bridge. Since I haven't heard any more about it or read anything in the Wash. Post I assume that we haven't started charging admission to enter Washington but maybe it could be a solution to our financial problems. It could be considered a variation on a commuter tax or we could start calling the city an amusement park, maybe "Government Land" and we can charge a lot more than a dollar to get in.

Bob Levine


Retrocession seems to be a good solution to many of the injustices that DC citizens face. The highest travesty is that of having no voting representation because we call the Capital of the Free World "home." What an ironic outrage!! I'll bet most US citizens don't even realize this. Virginia got its "piece" back long ago -- time for Maryland to do the same -- and all parties will prosper.

Please let me know of groups/organizations that are "fighting" for retrocession -- I'd like to help.


DC retrocession to Maryland is the most sensible idea to come along lately. The real "problem" with DC, beyond the obvious, is that DC has to provide a whole array of services that elsewhere are state functions. Even if DC were the model of municipal management and efficiency (now _there_ is an assumption!), we would still be too small to perform those state functions effectively.

Another important function of states is to insure that the cost of running cities is spread over the whole population, not just those who live there. With the current political climate, there is no way that DC will get financial help from commuters who work here but live elsewhere; suburbanites have a great deal and want to keep it that way.

Ditto voting representation. There is no rational explanation why DC residents should have all the obligations of US citizenship but be denied representation in Congress. Still, there is no chance of this changing because too many on the Hill have a vested interest in keeping the status quo.

These major problems simply go away with retrocession. The real question, of course, is how we get Maryland interested. Maybe tie a pork chop around our neck?


Another good idea surfaced recently regarding UDC. I think many DC residents fail to understand why DC needs either a university or a school of law; it never made sense to me, but I know that there was substantial bureaucratic inertia, lobbying and empire building when higher education was consolidated years ago.

If performance was anywhere above mediocre there might be support to continue, but UDC is nothing more than a community college the school of law is a place for Dave Clark to teach.

The good idea was to bag UDC and the school of law, start a 2-year community college with open admissions, and give DC residents the "resident" tuition rate for Maryland and Virginia state colleges.

Maryland and Virginia would pickup additional students, a particularly inept DC bureaucracy could be dismantled and the DC taxpayers could _finally_ see some quality educational benefits from their tax dollars.

Dick Gill


The Mayor's Health

[You guys ought to know about one of the rumors floating around for months about the Mayor's health. jeff]

A few weeks ago I attended the unveiling of the Mayor's? Transformation plan for the restructuring of the D.C. government. The mayor looked much thinner since I last saw him but there was also another very striking difference. The normal beads of sweat on the mayor's brow were not there. Every time I have seen the mayor in person or on the tube his brow is covered with beads of sweat that rival the raindrops on my freshly waxed Volvo. On this day the mayor was dry and cool in spite of the very warm auditorium and the heavy Kinta jacket he wore.

It did not occur to me until much later to mention that to one of the Council member's staff personnel. This person told me that there was scuttlebutt from the mayor's inner circle that the mayor was undergoing Chemotherapy. My experience with close friends who were undergoing that debilitating process was that they were always chilled and in need of warmth. If you add two and two together you come up with four. Two other friends of mine have had the prostate surgery performed by Dr. Walsh at John Hopkins. Surgery to remove a cancerous prostate is one option for a cancerous prostate, radiation is another. I have not heard of Chemotherapy being required for either of these options. Neither of my two friends had any Chemotherapy follow up. Perhaps the mayor's disease is in an advanced stage with ancillary effects that require the Chemo.

Ed Barron


Abandoned Auto

the long stripped and abandoned car on a vacant lot at 11th & T street was finally removed by the may have been the spray-painted words on the side "Barry's DC" that did the trick....

Paul Williams, VP Cardozo Shaw Neighborhood Association.


Sign of Spring?

Jeffrey, just wanted to let you know that this morning I saw a live fox on Foxhall Road. That's a first for me.

Cynthia L Grant Cynthia.L.Grant@ccMail.Census.GOV


Have you seen the C&O Canal since it was drained after the flood this winter? Noticed all that yucky junk stuck in the mud? Ever thought somebody ought to clean it up while the Canal's drained? If so, join in the 3RD ANNUAL C&O CANAL CLEAN UP on Sunday, April 14th from 9am to 1pm. Meet at Patagonia, 1048 Wisconsin Ave, to register. You can get down in the mud if you've always wanted a good excuse to do that, or you can help plant trees, clean up the tow-path or paint over graffiti. A light breakfast will be provided beforehand and a free raffle will be held afterward to thank everybody. The National Park Service will provide trash bags, trash removal & some boots.

In 1994, (the first year of the clean-up) 25 people joined in and hauled out 11 tons (!) of garbage -- including a Christmas tree, shopping carts, a TV & a toilet. Last year, over 250 people pulled 17 tons (!!) of junk from the Canal and over 30 businesses donated supplies & food. So wear your worst clothes, bring your best attitude and join a bunch of fun people to do a good deed for the Canal! Call anybody at Patagonia, 202-333-1776, if you have questions.

Caroline Staff


Carl Rakosi, "Objectivist" poet, also (from 1939-1965) therapist and social work administrator, will lecture at the Library of Congress Thursday, April 11, 6:45 PM in the Madison Bldg., Mumford Room. Free. I've met Carl several times and admire him and his work. Here's some:

The Drinking Vessel

Strange that this glass cup shaped like a trumpet is of more interest than the unknown Saxon with whom it was buried. -------

Evening with My Granddaughters

o for a world with a string and a kitten and Tipsy who loves us so much he pees and you and I. --Carl Rakosi (aka Callman Rawley)

E. James Lieberman, M.D.


All Partygoers:

I'm happy to inform you that Charlie Adler will be a category on AOL in a few weeks. I will be producing "Charlie Adler's Nightlife Picks" on American Online under keyword "DCEvents" or go to Digital City, Events, Nightlife and you'll find me there. Every two weeks or so I will publish a list of Hot events, parties (including mine, of course!) and miscellaneous goings ons. Obviously, you have to be a member of AOL to see the list, but don't worry, I plan on getting a Web Page in a few weeks.

So remember, if you hear of any great events, email me or call the Hotline. You also need to leave the contacts name and phone number so I can get permission to print the info. I will not be making any money from this venture, but I will be getting plenty of exposure for my parties.

Charlie Adler ph. (202)333-8992 or Hotline (202)333-5588 email at either or


24 April 1996 Education Building National Zoo 7:00 p.m. Book signing and reception 8:00 p.m. Lecture

William Lishman, author of Father Goose: One Man, a Gaggle of Geese, and Their Real Life Incredible Journey South, will autograph copies of his book and speak at the National Zoo. He will chronicle his experience leading a Canada goose flock on its southern migration in his ultralight plane. His story has been featured on ABC's 20/20 and PBS.

Lishman recognized that many birds, whose flocks have been diminished by overhunting or habitat destruction, were unable to pass on migratory routes to the next generation. He explains how he was able to imprint himself on a flock of Canada geese and teach them essential information about migration. His work may have important implications for endangered birds such as whooping cranes and trumpeter swans.

Office of Public Affairs, National Zoo


My name is Michael O'Neill. I am a PhD candidate in Applied Linguistics in the Department of Spanish and Portuguese at Georgetown University. For one of my seminars this Spring, a colleague and I are carrying out a study related to language acquisition. We need subjects who fit ALL of the following criteria:

1. Not hearing impaired 2. Have NEVER studied Spanish before (i.e. you don't know Spanish) 3. Have studied another Romance Language (French, Italian, etc.) for NO MORE THAN 2 years or 4 semesters, but MORE THAN 5 years ago. 4. Have spent no more than TWO WEEKS in a Spanish speaking country

The task takes no more than 15 minutes to complete. It can be done at my place or yours. I can't compensate you with $$$, but I can offer you a cup of coffee and a snack if you come to my place! If you can help out, please drop me an email or call me at home before Saturday (4/13).

Michael D. O'Neill


For fast, reliable Internet services and cutting edge Websites contact Michael Mann at Interstate Internet Web:


Jeffrey Itell Publisher: dc.story

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