1980s, and the federal government continued as a major presence in the city throughout the 1990s.
Tourism is the second most important aspect of the city’s economy. The national monuments and museums attract more than 18 million visitors each year; hotels are numerous. The city hosts many conventions, and a major convention center opened in 1983. The functions of federal and local government and the tourism industry have created a large service economy, which employs more than one-third of all the city’s workers. Manufacturing is of only minor importance and is dominated by the printing, publishing, and food industries.
B Transportation For years the hub of transportation to and from Washington was Union Station, served by several railroads. Built in 1907, Union Station occupies 10 hectares (25 acres) in the heart of the city. During the second half of the 20th century, airports and highways became important. Washington is served by three commercial airports—Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport, Washington Dulles International Airport, and Baltimore-Washington International Airport—with extensive national and international connections.
In 1964 an expressway known as the Beltway was completed around Washington to facilitate traffic. Its 36 cloverleaf intersections link it to all major routes to and from the city. In 1976 a subway system opened in the city that extends into Virginia and Maryland suburbs. Called the Metro, the system is projected to extend more than 160 km (more than 100 mi) upon completion early in the 21st century.
C Economic Problems
A result of the growth of Washington’s white-collar employment in the 1980s was an increasing gap in income among the city’s residents. Disadvantaged areas, predominantly black neighborhoods, became subject to a plague of drugs and associated violence. These areas were concentrated in the older sections of the northeast and the southeast quadrants of the city. Even as downtown real estate values rose, so did Washington’s murder rate. During the 1990s it became one of the most deadly cities in the nation. While the region prospered through most of the last half of the century, much of the inner city lagged behind. The city’s tax base declined as more and more middle- and upper-middle-class families moved to the suburbs. This lower tax base contributed to a fiscal crisis for the city.
VII GOVERNMENT AND CONTEMPORARY ISSUES
Unlike any other part of the United States, Washington lacks full political representation. While its political structure has changed over time, the city has remained subordinate to the federal government. This situation is sustained under Article I, Section 8, of the Constitution, which states, “The Congress shall have power … to exercise exclusive legislation in all cases whatsoever over such district … as may by the cession of particular States, and the acceptance of Congress, become the seat of government.” The idea of exclusive jurisdiction solidified in 1783 when Congress, then meeting in Philadelphia, faced angry veterans of the American Revolution who demanded back pay. When Pennsylvania authorities failed to intervene to protect the Congress, many members insisted that any permanent seat of government should be under congressional control. From that virtually forgotten experience, Washington remains without direct representation in the national government that oversees much of its operation.
The Constitution, however, did not prohibit the establishment of a lower government body to deal with local affairs. In 1802 Congress authorized an appointed mayor and an elected city council for Washington. In 1820 it broadened the franchise and made the office of mayor subject to popular election. In 1871 Congress substituted a largely appointed territorial government—although city residents still voted for a house of delegates—as an instrument to consolidate the cities of Washington and Georgetown with Washington County. When the experiment generated costs that Congress found too expensive, it eliminated popular election in Washington in 1874 by placing local government under a three-person commission appointed by the president.
Initially this system was favorably received for replacing partisan politics with professional management. However, flaws of the commission became apparent over time. In 30 investigations conducted between 1934 and 1941, Congress found that power and responsibility were poorly divided between commissioners and different federal agencies, and that political whim controlled most actions. Starting in 1949 and lasting for more than a decade, the Senate voted repeatedly to grant Washington local elections. However, the House District Committee refused for more than 20 years to bring the bill to the floor for a vote. Finally in 1973, Congress authorized the popular election of a mayor and city council for Washington.
In 1974 the Home Rule Act, which established the mayor and city council, became law. The act, though restoring popular elections, retained considerable power for Congress to review legislation and authorize Washington’s budget. It also prohibited the city from taxing federal properties or income earned in the city by people who commuted to work from outside the district. These restrictions remain a cause of tension between city officials and Congress.
In the mid-1970s local activists started an effort to secure Washington’s independence. They argued that the Constitution dictates only a maximum size for the federal district, not a minimum size. Therefore, they suggested that the federal district shrink to the area between the White House and the Capitol and that the residential portion of the District of Columbia become a new state, New Columbia. Congress, however, failed even to vote on the proposition until 1993, when the House of Representatives rejected the measure, 277-153.
Marion Barry has been the dominant figure in local Washington politics since home rule took effect. He has served as mayor all but eight years since home rule began in 1974. First elected mayor in 1978, Barry established a reputation as an able administrator and a defender of home rule who was committed to solving the city’s social problems. In later years, scandal touched his administration, and in 1990 he lost a bid for a fourth consecutive term after he was arrested and convicted of smoking crack cocaine. After serving six months in prison, he made a spectacular comeback, securing election first to city council in 1992 and then as mayor in 1994. Barry’s return to power sparked immediate controversy. However, it soon became clear that the city faced an even greater crisis in a projected budget deficit of 0 million in the coming year.
With the city unable to secure loans from the private sector to pay its debts, Congress intervened by passing the District of Columbia Financial Responsibility and Management Assistance Act of 1995. This measure established a control board with significant powers, a move Congress justified on grounds that poor management and overstaffing had jeopardized the city’s credit. Under terms of the act, the president appointed five people to the board to bring the city’s finances under control. Congress directed the control board to cut jobs.
Barry, however, refused to cooperate with the control board, and instead chose to stress the city’s needs. He claimed that Washington’s problems derived more from inadequate revenues than high costs, and he urged the federal government to pay more toward Washington’s obligations. He recommended that the federal government assume many of the costs of state functions borne by the city since 1974, but his proposal received no sympathy in Congress. However, two years later, without input from the mayor, President Bill Clinton incorporated Barry’s approach in his proposed federal budget. In August 1997 the national government raised its share of Medicare and highway costs in the city, assumed responsibility for funding Washington’s pension plan, and took over operation of the District’s prison system.
In accepting these measures, Congress insisted on exercising greater influence in Washington. It empowered the control board to choose its own city manager and to extend its operational control over all but a small portion of daily operations. Under the terms Congress set in establishing the control board, these powers will revert to the city only after it achieves three balanced budgets in a row. This restriction, even in the best of circumstances, will leave Washington with limited control of its own local affairs into the next century.
Washington’s contemporary crisis is deeply rooted in its history. From the beginning, there was tension stemming from the city’s dual function as both city and capital. In reserving the right to exercise exclusive jurisdiction over the federal district, Congress lavished attention on some sections of the city while other parts suffered neglect, making a clash of interests inevitable.
George Washington saw no conflict between city and capital. To the contrary, he conceived of the new capital as the keystone to the nation-building process. He believed that the District of Columbia’s advantageous location on the Potomac River would let it exploit trade opportunities to the west. Such success could have secured national loyalty, but the states were too jealous of one another to join in promoting a national city.
The first problem arose over selection of the city site. The state governments fought bitterly over the site of the capital, hoping a nearby location would allow them special influence on the new government. Then, once a location was chosen, the states resisted paying taxes for improvements necessary to house the new