The Conflict of Federal and Local Interests
Charles Wesley Harris
Foreword by Donald C. Rowat
Taxation without representation is a fact of life for the residents of Washington, D.C., who have neither a voting representative in Congress nor local autonomy. The crux of this problem is the conflict between federal and local interests within the capital city. On the one hand, the primary concern of the national government is to develop the capital in the interest of the nation as a whole, while on the other, the people of the city wish to govern themselves to the fullest extent. In this book, Charles Wesley Harris argues that it should not be necessary to sacrifice basic American rights and democratic ideals in order to achieve appropriate development of the nation's capital.
Harris analyzes the conflicts between Congress and the District of Columbia government during the last twenty years and identifies the issues behind the frequent clashes. He finds that the points of contention have encompassed a very wide range of public policy issues, including public safety, land use, revenue, public works and transportation, general government and personnel, education, human services, and civil liberties. Moreover, the repeated federal interventions in local matters have been used, for the most part, not to protect legitimate national interests but rather to assert parochial concerns, the moral views of particular groups of legislators, or their propensity for exercising power through micromanagement. Federal officials' mistrust of the ability of the District government to act in the best interest of its own citizens, some of it racially based mistrust, has also been a contributing factor.
After drawing comparisons with federal capital cities in other countries, Harris evaluates statehood and other self-determination options and makes recommendations for restructuring the government of the nation's capital. Because another motion for statehood is likely to come before Congress under the Clinton administration, every voter and legislator will soon be called upon to render justice to both the nation and the federal district. This comprehensive and clearly reasoned analysis of the politics of District governance will provide the information needed to understand this complex and vital question of democracy.
"This is a careful, fascinating history and commentary on local governance in the city where the national government conducts its business. Harris' exploration of the first 20 years of the unique, controversial — and limited — self-government in hometown Washington speaks to issues of democracy and self-determination that resonate throughout the world today."—Congresswoman Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-DC)
312 pp., 6 x 9
312 pp., 6 x 9