Sunday, July 11, 2004

Canucks' got nothing on U.S.

Thanks, Frank, for the link about the Canadian Election (no party won the majorty this time, BTW). But for its wackiness factor, the District of Columbia beats Canada any day.

Because the United States federal government resides in the District, the Feds get to control the district. Which seems reasonable enough until you realize that, due to the nature of the federal legislative body, a Congressman from New Jersey has effective veto power every time D.C. wants a bill to change the funding for their failing school system. D.C. doesn't get any say in the federal legislative body. Sure, the District elects someone to congress (1 out of 535), but Congresswoman Norton isn't actually allowed to vote.

So after 173 years, Congress allowed D.C. to elect its own mayor and the Washington City Council in The Home Rule Act. They've still no voting Congressional representative. If you live in D.C., for ten bucks you can have your licenses plates read "TAXATION WITHOUT REPRESENTATION". I think the default is "Celebrate and Discover".

And what did they get by having home rule? Last time around, the current mayor almost didn't get himself on the ballot for his own reelection, because his campaign screwed up in the face of a deadline and filled petitions full of obviously fake signatures. But at least he's not ex-Mayor Marion "Bitch set me up" Barry, who set low mayoral standards by getting caught with a hooker and crack. I mean, if the current mayor gest caught with an high-end escort and some pot, he's still doing better than average. Now Marion Barry wants to run for the Ward 8 City Council seat (yet again, after a campaign in 2002 for an "at large" spot on the council which was cut short by another cocaine-related incident), but the incumbent for the seat he's running for, Sandy Allen, announced his candidacy before he did. And if you're tired of hearing those two argue back and forth, it's okay: I've been told there are over 500 other people running for elected positions in the District this year.

The school system is still the biggest political issue, though. There was last year's scandal of embezzlement by the head of the teacher's union. The mayor's struggling to gain control over what is now a wholly elected school board, with good reason: if he's held accountable for failing schools at election time, he'd like the authority to do something about it. The city's still searching for someone a sucker qualified enough to be the D.C. Superintendent of Schools.

Some linguistic notes on names:

For confused foreigners, the District of Columbia contains only the city of Washington and all of the city of Washington. There used to be more than that: Alexandria used to be part of the district, and Georgetown was considered separate from Washington City (history here). From my personal experience, people usually use D.C. for the physical place: "I'm going in to the District this weekend"; and Washington for concepts, entities or organizations: "Those fat cats in Washington have another thing coming." "The Washington Times is owned by the Reverend Sun Yung Moon [true!]." These are not hard and fast rules.

The spokesman for the D.C. police is Joe Gentile. I get a kick out of that. Also, the mayor appointed someone last year to help get the bureaucracy in order. That man's name is Bob Bobb. People actually call him that.

Bob Bobb.

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