Tuesday, April 23, 1996
Media Source: 
Washington Times (DC)
Adrienne Washington

Washington, Md.?

Can you imagine the District of Columbia returned to the
arms of Maryland?

Paula Taylor, a native Washingtonian, can't.
She says she doesn't "know anything about Maryland." Nor does she
care to know.

"D.C. is my home. I was born and raised here," said Ms. Taylor,
registrar at Alice Deal Junior High School. "What else can I say?"

Well, a fledgling group of men and women calling themselves the Committee
for a Capital City have plenty to say about retroceding the District to

As residents of Washington, Md., D.C. residents would gain voting
representation in the House and the Senate and they'd be able to tap into the
state's coffers.

All local history buffs know the District's land was once part of Maryland
and Virginia. The Virginia portion was returned in 1846 to form Arlington and
part of Alexandria. The Maryland portion was retained as the nation's capital.

Lawrence Mirel, president of the Committee for a Capital City, told editors
and reporters at The Washington Times last week the civic organization hopes to
realize its goal of retrocession
by the year 2000.

Fat chance.

The D.C. financial control board is supposed to make the District solvent by
the next millennium, too. Again, fat chance.

Whatever happened to statehood? What ever happened to home rule? "This,
in many ways, is the worst solution - except for all the others," Mr.
Mirel said.

Under the committee's plan, a "national capital service area"
would be forged from the federal enclave around the Mall. It would come under
jurisdiction of the federal government. The rest of the city would be returned
to Maryland intact.

Rep. Ralph Regula, Ohio Republican, has introduced a D.C. retrocession bill, but it's gone about
as far as this curious idea has - nowhere.

Mr. Mirel considers it a hopeful sign whenever someone doesn't outright
laugh in his face - or chew him out - with the bare mention of retrocession. But the committee is
bravely standing before anyone who will sit still long enough to listen.

A lot of Marylanders and Washingtonians have no interest in coming together,
particularly Marylanders who don't want to share their wealth and political
power with the District. What's the benefit to them, other than enabling Parris
Glendening to get his hands on the D.C. taxpayers' cash to give away more
goodies to sports magnates?

The even harder sell is to Washingtonians, those born and bred here, and
those who've lived in the city so long they are sort of naturalized natives.

For some, "their whole life is about being a Washingtonian," said
Lea Adams of Northwest.

"I wasn't born here, but having lived here all my life with people
whose identity as a Washingtonian is central to their entire self-concept, and
they are not likely to give up that identity without a struggle," she

It's true, people in Baltimore have a sense of identity. But people in the
District are more like New Yorkers. They're used to being a powerful little
island and wouldn't care a fig about their host state.

Paula Taylor fits squarely, and most comfortably, in that category.

So does James D. Berry of Bates Street NW. A couple of years ago, this D.C.
native would have fought such a retrograde idea as retrocession. He would have seen it as a further attack on the
city's image. Not now.

"As I've come to understand the political process and how democracy
works, my interest is in being enfranchised," Mr. Berry said. "Being
empowered is more important than being unique and disempowered."

He's now willing to "seriously consider" retrocession because he's "tired of everybody being able to
leverage our situation but us."

I understand Mr. Berry's frustration, but now
is not the time to give up on the city of our birth.