Andrew is the only member of our team who has actually lived in the nation's capital. He is also the one who keeps up to date with all the news in Washington D.C. and of recent events. Andrew has written a number of short editorials on what life is like in the city. He talks about all sorts of topics relating to the city. His main subjects, are listed below. Visit the ones which interest you most.
Andrew has also written another separate editorial, about how it was like to actually live in D.C.. Here, he mainly addresses crime and how it has affected him and his family.
The Life and Times of Washington, D.C.
A Little History
In 1789, George Washington was given the authority to select the location of the new nation's capital. The following year, Washington would select a spot at the fork of the eastern and western branches of the Potomac, using land from both Maryland and Virginia. Surveyor Andrew Ellicott and mathematician Benjamin Bannekar laid out the boundaries of the diamond-shaped capital, into what would be called the "ten miles square". To plan the city, Congress hired Pierre Charles L'Enfant, a French architect who served with Washington in the Revolutionary War. With everything now set, a new city, the nation's capital, was born.
Much, of course, has happened in the nation's capital since then. The Capitol, the White House, and other buildings were built. Then in a matter of days, during the British invasion of Washington D.C., they were burned down. Dozens of monuments and memorials have been erected, to memorialize all sorts of heroes and events ... from the nation's first president George Washington, to the Vietnam War.
However, in these editorials, I won't be discussing what happened in the city's distant past ... that is the job of the tours. Here, I shall go over some of the more recent events in the city's history. Hopefully, you will gain a better understanding on what the city, today, is like.
Mayor Marion Barry
Since home rule was restored to the District in 1975, there have been 5 elections and three mayors - Mayor Walter Washington was named mayor by the Senate, Marion Barry has been elected in every election, and Sharon Pratt Kelley became mayor when Barry was arrested for drug possession. Then, after Kelley's term ended in 1993, the people again turned to Mr. Barry, again voting him into office. How has Mayor Barry been since his return? Well, he squandered the city's fragile budget on pay raises for friends and family, forcing several public schools to close because of a lack of money to fix fire hazards. He made promises during the Blizzard of '96, regarding plowing, which were never fulfilled. Also, Barry recently disappeared on a 'spiritual journey' to St. Louis, which caused the city to gossip about things such as resignation, or possibly a return to drug use by the mayor. My question now is, will these people ever learn? Perhaps they will when Mayor Barry is up for election in 1997.
The Budget and Home Rule
On the topic of the budget, it is held completely in the hands of the United States Senate, as the District does not have complete home rule. There is not enough money to run the schools. The emergency budget was depleted only a week after the blizzard of '96. The Senate has appointed a Control Board to watch over the District's finances and give advice, but even that seems to be growing corrupt. And worst of all is that it seems the Senate is set on giving the District *less* money this year, when they need hundreds of millions more.
Not only do we not have complete home rule, we don't even have the full rights of other states in the Union. We have no official Senators or Representatives; Eleanor Holmes Norton serves as an elected bridge between the District and the Senate, and Jesse Jackson serves somewhat as a 'Shadow Senator.' We get to vote for President, but we have absolutely no vote in the Senate or House of Representatives. People in the District must pay State, City and Federal income taxes. There is a growing movement to have the District of Columbia made into the nation's 51st state, under the name New Columbia. Congress quickly struck this plan down. Others think that the District should revert back to Maryland's control, but many in Maryland don't want that, and there is an advantage to keeping the government out of any particular state.
There are many who want Congress to make a decision soon on what to do with the District. Several of these people are from Lorton, Virginia. The problem is that the District's primary prison is located in Lorton, and is becoming heavily overcrowded. The people of Lorton are calling for the District to stop putting the inmates in their state. Without Lorton Prison, there will probably be no permanent place to keep inmates. And if the current condition of the District continues, there will be a lot more inmates.
Speaking of prisons and inmates, the District of Columbia has been called the crime capital of the world; in 1994, about 450 people were killed. That is a lot when you consider the city's small size of about six hundred thousand. Only Johannesburg, South Africa, has a worse crime rate. The crime is a bad combination of gang wars and drug turf wars. It mostly takes place around the public housing units common in the city. Police officers are quitting rather than being transferred to the incredibly overworked homicide department.
If you want to know how much crime has had an effect on me and my family, read what its like to actually live in D.C.
Another problem with the city has to do with its streets: potholes. Last winter, a horrible blizzard blanketed the east coast with tons of snow. (Mayor Marion Barry luckily avoided the blizzard, as he was in Florida at the time) The plows went directly to work, plowing most of Pennsylvania Avenue and a few other major roadways. However, in the two weeks of the snow crisis, many side streets never even saw a plow. This was a direct contradiction to some of the 'promises' Mayor Barry had made in regards to the plowing. I know my street never saw a plow, and I lived only six blocks from the Capitol building. In the six months since the blizzard, potholes created by the blizzard still litter all the major thoroughfares. (Jiunwei should know. The first thing he said to me when we met in D.C. was "Boy, the city DOES has a lot of potholes!") If the potholes are fixed, a mound of asphalt appears. Some places, like the Whitehurst Freeway, have had potholes for years, and no one seems to want (or be able to pay) to fix them.
Closing Pennsylvania Avenue
Because of the recent rise of domestic terrorism, specifically, the Oklahoma City bombing, the President did what many have suggested for years - he had the section of Pennsylvania Avenue that runs in front of the White House blocked off with planters and police cars. This ensures a safe radius of about 200 yards that a truck with a bomb cannot enter. This has severely cramped traffic in the District, since Pennsylvania Avenue was a major roadway through the city.
The question remains whether the closing of Pennsylvania Avenue is really needed. All of the four presidential assassinations took place away from the White House. Also, all of the recent truck bombings have been targeted not at the president, but at Americans. To close Pennsylvania Avenue and seriously disrupt the traffic in the area seems like an overreaction. President Clinton has often said that terrorists shouldn't be allowed to win, by cramping the freedoms of the public. However, by closing Pennsylvania Avenue, it seems as if the government is doing precisely Clinton didn't want it to do regarding terrorism.
Anyway, closing Pennsylvania Avenue will still not stop the individual from getting his shot at the President. Several people have tried climbing the fence that surrounds the White House. One person walking along Pennsylvania Avenue drew an automatic rifle and took several shots at the White House before several tourists subdued him. In an accident still under investigation, one individual crashed a plane into the White House lawn, nearly hitting the house. What makes this even more strange is that Washington, D.C. airspace is off limits to all but the highest priority government aircraft. How a plane evaded their radar is unknown.
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