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April 25, 1999

State of Suspension

To My Fellow Stateless Citizens:

If you're not interested in the statehood (or voting rights) issue, just skip the first half of this issue of themail. There are plenty of other topics, ranging from the Cayman Islands to dog do-do, in the second half. The message by Tom Matthes to which most of the statehood posters refer is available on the web at . George LaRoche's message far exceeded the length limits for themail, so I've just cut it in half. The rest of his message will follow in Wednesday's issue, so this topic will be continued for at least that long, if you want to contribute your own thoughts on it. In the meantime, you can read more about it. The documents in the Adams v. Clinton case are posted at

Gary Imhoff


Adams versus Clinton
George S. LaRoche, attorney for the Plaintiffs in Adams v. Clinton,

I am the attorney for the Plaintiffs in one of the two cases heard last Monday, Twenty Citizens of the District of Columbia [Adams] v. Clinton, which cases are the subject of Mr. Matthes' post. First, I represent twenty INDIVIDUALS. The City is not a party in my suit, nor are any "groups." In fact, the members of the panel I represent have different opinions on many issues, except one: that they are entitled to all rights of citizenship.

But more importantly, the question presented in the Twenty Citizens case is not whether the citizens are entitled to representation in Congress. The fundamental question is whether Congress can continue to segregate the District from the rest of the United States. We do not ask the Court to award any form of representation, and we certainly do not ask the Court to order Congress to "do" ANYTHING. We ask the Court to restrain Congress from continuing to manage the District.

Generally, bracketing lawyerly quibbles, I agree with Mr. Matthes' reading of the Constitution, except for a couple MAJOR points. I also agree with Mr. Matthes that the answer is not clever lawyers. Remember, the District Committees in the House and Senate and the Department of Just-us have had the able assistance of the finest lawyers for two centuries, and that assistance has only cemented the bonds Congress holds. But please save your slams; I probably know more (and nastier) lawyer jokes than you do and I know where in the closet we hide our skeletons, so I can damn my profession quite effectively, if need be.

One major point on which Mr. Matthes is wrong is his assertion that there is a "constitutional requirement that Congress retain legislative authority over the district serving as the federal capital." There is no such thing. The Constitution ALLOWS Congress to exercise power, but it does not require it. Compare the District Clause with other clauses in Section 8 of Article I. Congress has the power "to borrow money on the credit of the United States" (clause 2), but no one has ever construed this to mean Congress is REQUIRED by the Constitution to run a debt. Congress has the power "to declare war" (clause 11), but no one has ever construed this to mean that the Constitution REQUIRES the United States be in a CONSTANT state of war with some country. [To be continued in the next issue.]


DC ’s Voting Right's Lawsuits
U.S. Senator Paul Strauss, District of Columbia (Shadow),

Although, Tom Matthes remarks were really directed at our respected Delegate, since it was actually my office that filed an Amicus Brief in the case, I thought I would respond to his misdirected and even more misguided attack. It is difficult to reply to so many misstatements of facts and law in just two paragraphs, but I'll try. While no one disputes the recitation of the original text, Mr. Matthes ignores the fact that the Constitution HAS BEEN AMENDED 27 times, and its meaning interpreted by the Supreme Court on far more occasions. It is in these amendments, and more importantly, the Supreme Court Cases interpreting these amendments on voting rights that the lawsuit is based. The lawsuit is based on the modern case law governing apportionment, or how voting districts are drawn. Although, a gross oversimplification, the same amendments and body of interpretive case law that prohibits improper gerrymandering, and makes the relatively new "one person — one vote" doctrine a requirement, are what the law suit is in part based on.

Like the DOJ lawyers in opposition, Mr. Matthes can't seem to understand that States can be States without being called States, (like our "Commonwealth" neighbor across the river). Even more astonishing, was his recitation of the other Constitutional rights, specifically the privileges and immunities and due process clauses, as some sort of justification of DC's lack of rights. The voting rights advocates rely in fact on the Supreme Court cases which hold that these fundamental rights apply equally in the District of Columbia. In essence, to rule against us, the court will have to find that DC residents enjoy every fundamental right except the right to vote, an argument far more dubious than Mr. Matthes' plain English reading of the basic text. Those who try and reach legal conclusions by reading the Constitution out of context, without the amendments or the interpretive cases could easily reach the mistaken impression that segregation or even slavery remains legal, that African-Americans remain counted as 3/5 of a person, or even that Prohibition remains the law of the land.


Constitutional Quirks In Our Favor
Mark Eckenwiler,

In the 4/21 issue, Tom Matthes argues that the DC voting rights theory is all hooey because, among other reasons, the 14th Amendment's equal protection clause only relates to "states." He's right that the 14th doesn't apply to us, but he hasn't followed the tangled thread of constitutional law far enough. Let's get some perspective: in Brown v. Board of Education, the Supreme Court held that "separate but equal" schools in the states violate the 14th Amendment. Since the 14th amendment doesn't apply to DC, would it be constitutional to restore the odious segregated educational system that existed here for decades? Of course not, but why not? Because in Bolling v. Sharpe (1954), the Supreme Court held that the Due Process Clause of the *Fifth* Amendment (which isn't limited in its reach to "states") includes an implicit "equal protection" guarantee.

In other words, we DC residents are guaranteed equal protection of the laws even though we do not live in a "state." I don't pretend to know if that's adequate to guarantee us voting rights (given the contrary implications elsewhere in the Constitution), but I do know that the (in)applicability of the 14th Amendment to us is beside the point, legally speaking.


DC Voting Rights & the Constitution
David Sobelsohn,

Tom Matthes is right that the lawsuit for DC voting rights is doomed. But not, as he argues, because the 14th amendment's equal protection clause doesn't support the case. Yes, the 14th amendment only limits state action, and yes, the lawsuit demands action from Congress, not from any particular state. But the plaintiffs' argument doesn't rely on the 14th amendment; it rests on the 5th, which does limit Congress. To be sure, the 5th amendment has no equal protection clause. But the same day the Supreme Court decided Brown v. Board of Education under the 14th amendment, the Court also invalidated school segregation in DC under the 5th. The Court reasoned (if you can call it that) that the due process clause of the 5th amendment contains the same equality principle, embodied in the 14th amendment's equal protection clause, that supported the decision in Brown. Since then, the Court has generally (not always) interpreted the 5th amendment's "equal protection principle" as identical to the 14th amendment's equal protection clause; the one limits Congress, the other limits the states. The Court has also found a general equal-right-to-vote command inherent in the 14th amendment's equal protection clause. Consequently, it's reasonable to argue the 5th amendment's equality principle has the same equal-voting-rights command and that it applies to DC voting rights. There's no doubt that it would violate the equal protection clause for a state to carve out a district whose residents had no voting representation in the state legislature. Hence (the argument goes) Congress violates the equality principle in the 5th amendment by denying voting representation to residents of the District of Columbia.

Matthes is also off base when he raises the specter of a constitutional crisis if the courts were to order Congress to accommodate DC voting rights. Ten years after Brown, the Supreme Court ordered Congress to engage in massive reapportionment to accommodate one-person, one-vote. Reapportionment directly threatened the seats of incumbent members of Congress. Nevertheless, and despite a lot of grumbling and proposals to overturn the Court's decision, Congress complied. Congress would comply with a court order to accommodate DC voting rights. Finally, Matthes is wrong when he suggests that Congress couldn't, if it wanted, successfully recognize DC as a state. Yes, article I of the Constitution vests Congress with plenary power over "the Seat of the Government." But the Constitution doesn't specify a minimum size for that area, just a maximum (10 square miles). With Maryland's consent (since the territory was originally Maryland's), Congress could recognize a state in virtually the entire current area of the District outside a small federal enclave, over which the Congress would retain jurisdiction pursuant to article I. And even if constitutional questions remained, the Supreme Court has repeatedly ruled that questions of statehood recognition are better left to the political branches of government. If Congress decided to admit some or all of DC as a state, the courts wouldn't intervene.

Why. after all that, is the case doomed? How is DC statehood actually antidemocratic? Why is retrocession the way to go? I'll answer those questions in a subsequent post.


DC Voting Rights
Stewart Reuter,

Bravo Zulu (well done!) to Tom Matthes on his last posting this subject. There's just no logic to having a minuscule new "state," with another layer of bureaucracy (Governor, Legislature and Courts) and two Senators for 600k people. The appropriate solution would be recession — having all but a small Federal enclave given back to Maryland, with the number of HR reps that population would justify and voting for Maryland's Senators. This would satisfy the "voting representation" questions — if that's not what the argument is about, then we should examine the ulterior motives of the complainers.


14th Amendment and District Representation
T. Jr. Hardman,

Tom Matthes makes a fairly close call in his take regarding Congressional representation for the District. However, he makes the same mistake that has doomed — and will eternally continue to doom — any attempts to get District residents voting citizen status He thinks the District is worthy of a totally independent vote in Congress and that cannot ever happen unless and until the Constitution is amended specifically to allow it.

Here's what will work. A 14th Amendment approach is indeed the only workable strategy -- but the District is not and cannot ever be a State nor can it have equivalent status. However, the District lies entirely within the State of Maryland. Rather than suing the Federal government for voting rights in an independent polity, rather the suit should be directed against the State of Maryland for depriving residents of their voting rights. There is no need to retrocede the District to Maryland, the Federal government retains their control, the District gets their own congresscritters (probably two, perhaps three) with full vote, and vote for the two Maryland Senators. It's simple, top-down, avoids divisive issues, and removes all red-herrings and show stoppers.


DC Statehood
Chris Richardson, CHRISR@AECF.ORG

My suggestion for solving the vexing problem of no congressional representation for D.C. residents undoubtedly is an old one offered many times before. Just in case this idea hasn't been proposed in a while. . . . Washington, D.C. should be a relatively tiny portion of land (such as The Federal Triangle times five or ten) for conducting federal business. This chunk of land should then be zoned accordingly — no residential, commercial, or other properties would then be able to exist on this "federally zoned" land. Consequently, any piece of land outside this zone would belong to either Maryland (north of the river) or Virginia (south of the river).

Would this plan be easy to implement? Of course not. Any solution, at this point, will necessarily be a fight among competing interests. Many gnarled issues to untangle, too, such as what to do with the commercial and residential structures that already exist in the heart of this proposed "federal zone." Nevertheless, this simple plan seems reasonable (and perhaps terribly idealistic) at heart.


DC Income Tax
John Whiteside,

Ed Barron is partly right, and partly wrong. Right: cutting personal income taxes won't bring a flood of residents into DC, because there are other important issues. Wrong: it's not a good idea. It's a piece of a good idea; the question to be answered ss why DC needs 9.5% of its citizens' incomes to function.

I'm a former DC resident who left specifically because of the income tax. I'm in the category that's hardest hit by it: single, no kids, good income, renter. And while I liked living in DC, crossing the river meant a significant increase in my standard of living (and the surprising discovery that some of the area's most diverse urban neighborhoods are actually in Arlington). Now I'm getting ready to buy, and thinking of DC again, but frankly, the idea of handing over a huge chunk of my income to the DC government makes Arlington even more appealing, as much as I love DC. And if it were for Ed's favorite thing, school vouchers? That would seal the deal. If I want to subsidize private schools, I'll do it directly, thank you very much.


Residential Parking Tickets
Kerry Jo Richards,

I registered my car in DC last year and got my residential parking sticker. I remember that there was some kind of weird thing going on and they said I'd get a new one before the year was up. To be honest, I forgot about it and just realized last week that my parking sticker expired Dec 31, 98! I haven't gotten any tickets yet, but would like to find out if it's possible to get my new sticker without making a trip to the DMV. Anybody have any ideas? Real people don't ever answer the phone at DMV, so I haven't been able to ask anyone there. It used to be you could get some information at or but those URLs don't work anymore. If I have to go downtown, I will, but I'd like to avoid it. Any advice?


RE: Delay Receiving Renewed Car Registration
Frank Pruss,

My new registration stickers and resident parking permit came in the mail stapled together. Sounds like you are getting lame information.


Prison Close to Home?
James E. Taylor, Jr.,

Mr. David C. Sobelsohn's response to a comment made by Mr. Ed. T. Barron was very interesting. Mr. Sobelsohn criticized Mr. Barron's statement that "if people want to be close to home they should not commit crimes." Mr. Barron's statement is on target. Mr. Sobelsohn has evidently overlooked the fact that building a "Federal Prison" in Washington, DC does not guarantee that DC residents convicted of crimes will be placed in the facility. If the proposed prison, as promised, is suppose to provide jobs, and a prison business related industry, in proximity, who will guard and transport prisoners? Will friends or family members be guarding friends and family members? Will prisoners create a situation of intimidation by contact threats to prison employees and their families? Who will be responsible for escapees? I think that every young person on the streets know that if they are convicted of a crime, they are placed in confinement to protect society, and not for their comfort or convenience. What study does Mr. Sobelsohn refer to when he made the statement about being close to home lowers recidivism among those paroled or released? I would say, education, training, in prisons and targeted and available jobs on the outside would be a determining factor, not some made up statistic concluding that being close to where they were living when they committed the crime to begin with, will render them less likely to do it again. We need to stop building jails and put a stop to the horrendous condition that causes our young people to choose this path of self destruction. Will building more prisons eradicate the conditions which caused the awful school killings situation in Colorado? I don't think so.


Not a Prayer
Ed T. Barron,

With the D.C. Public Schools operating as a mediocre monopoly beholden to the politicians and the unions, there is little hope of any real reform or real school choice for low income families residing in the District. As opposed as I am to Federal Government intervention, I see no way out for D.C. other than for the Feds to undertake a program that will introduce real reform in the failing schools of the District. The Feds could establish a set of standards for the teachers, another set of standards for the students, create a curriculum in the schools that would result in properly educated students, and and provide the funds to hire new, qualified teachers. It will take considerable uncharacteristic courage on the part of the political leaders in D.C. to ask for this help. The school officials will never acknowledge that they cannot fix the problems.

A few states have already taken control of poorly performing urban schools in parts of the country. Wisconsin and Ohio (Milwaukee and Cleveland) are two of these states and Florida is exploring a voucher system in places where the public schools are failing. George Bush is trying to do the same in Texas. Since D.C. is not a state (thank God), we will have to rely on the Feds to take control of our schools if there is ever to be real reform in the educational system in D.C.


Not My Idea of Paradise
Paul Williams,

Ed T. Barron wrote a nice tome about idealic Cayman Island. I, too, have been there in my youth, but can't go back any longer. Why? Because the government has an anti-gay stance strong enough last year to warrant turning away a regularly scheduled cruise ship enroute to the island that happened to be full of gay and lesbian travelers that particular week. The government of the Caymans have since reported that to allow gay and lesbian visitors would compromise their morals and endanger their population! The British government has been so far unable to change this policy, and it will have to do so to regain complete independence from Britain. I choose carefully where to travel and spread my American dollar (and freedom), and choose vacation spots accordingly.


No Can Do Do
Charlie Wellander,

A correspondent asks for info concerning any laws about putting used dog food (sealed in plastic) in someone else's supercan. Even if it is legal, I expect he will still get plenty of "that" from folks who don't want "that" in their trash. There's a Supreme Court decision that makes it legal for you to look through and take your neighbor's trash (once it's "abandoned" at the curb), but carrying a copy of that decision with you wouldn't mollify those who did not want you to be scanning their trash.

Here's a solution: carry the bagged goodies home. A middle-aged (and perhaps apocryphal) woman used one of her old purses to accomplish this chore. One day a teenager, despite the dog, snatched this purse from her arm and fled. As he rounded the corner, she fell down — laughing — thinking of his upcoming surprise.


Mark Richards,

Calling all Cable TV Attentives. Drawn from ad in District Weekly, The Washington Post, 4/22/99:

The Office of Cable Television and Telecommunications is holding Town Hall Meetings on DC's future cable television needs on Tuesday, May 4th, at 441 4th St. NW, Room 1030S (6-9 pm) and on Tuesday, May 18th, at 2217 14th Street, NW, Studio A (6-9 pm). Both to be simulcast live on Channel 16. For information call Walter Adams at 671-0066.


AU Law School — Raising the Bar
Ed T. Barron,

If you haven't seen the AU Law School building (48th Street and Massachusetts Avenue NW) lately, you ought to come by to see the great landscaping job that has transformed that corner into a lovely garden. AU is raising the bar for the rest of the neighborhood in terms of beautifying their front, side and back yard. There are even nine (count 'em) Grecian urn planters with flowers planted in them dotting the helicopter sized landing pad at the front entrance. Nice job AU.


Alban Towers
Mark G. Epstein,

Anybody have an update on the moribund Alban Towers property at the intersection of Wisconsin and Mass Avenues?


Praise for Praise
Adam Marshall,

As a reader of themail for approximately three months now, I have seen more than a few gripes and groans about the eternal service problems that plague the DC government. It was extremely refreshing to see a post from Alex Butler in the April 21st issue lauding the government and local business organizations for their assistance in opening his company's new office. Mr. Butler's great enthusiasm for our city is a testament to Washington's return from the brink of disaster — I only hope that we will be able to lure more businesses to choose DC over the suburbs and other metropolitan areas. After all, I can't think of a better place to be!


The Common Denominator
John Olinger, North Lincoln Park,

Thanks to Kathy Sinzinger for replying to my query about Common Denominator. Happily, I found a copy in CVS and enjoyed it. I recommend it to Post readers who get it but, when it comes to the place we call home, still don't get it. And thanks too, to themail, for alerting me to the paper.



Apartment for Rent
Stephanie A. Mencimer,

For rent: two bedroom apartment, half of a historic row house on beautiful street in East Dupont Circle. Central air, washer/dryer, wood burning stove, patio access, gated parking space. Pets ok. Available first week of May. $1600/month plus electric. For more info, email:


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