Washington, DC, officially the District of Columbia (also known as DC; Washington; and, historically, the Federal City) is the capital city and administrative district of the United States of America.
Residents of the city and its surrounding suburbs refer to it simply as the District or DC, to contrast Washington from its greater metropolitan area.
Washington, DC is the most common way to refer to the District throughout the rest of the United States and the world. Washington or Washington, DC is also used as a metonym for the federal government. Politicians and candidates for office sometimes use these terms pejoratively to convey a sense of solidarity with their constituents by distancing themselves from the negative image of an out-of-touch centralized government. (The Washington Post criticized this common political tactic in a 2001 editorial.)
The District of Columbia is not part of any state, but is instead a nationally unique administrative district under federal jurisdiction, but with limited – and sometimes contentious – local rule. As the seat of national government as well as the home of numerous national landmarks, museums, and sports teams, Washington is a popular international destination for tourists and school trips.
The centers of all three branches of the U.S. federal government are in Washington, as well as the headquarters of most federal agencies. Washington also serves as the headquarters for the World Bank, the International Monetary Fund, and the Organization of American States. All of this has made Washington the frequent focal point of massive political demonstrations and protests, particularly on the National Mall.
The population of Washington, as of 2003 U.S. Census Bureau estimates, is 563,384. Despite being smaller in area than the smallest state (Rhode Island), it has a larger population than the least populous state (Wyoming). Together with portions of Virginia and Maryland, and Baltimore and its environs, Washington is part of a large metropolitan area known as the Baltimore-Washington Metropolitan Area. In recent years, the metro area has expanded to include communities as far away as West Virginia, Delaware, and Pennsylvania.
Law and government
Residents of the District vote for the President but do not have voting representation in Congress. Citizens of Washington are represented in the House of Representatives by a non-voting Delegate, who sits on committees and participates in debate, but cannot vote. DC does not have representation in the Senate. Citizens of Washington, DC are thus unique in the world, as citizens of the capital city of every other country have the same representation rights as their fellow citizens.
There have been efforts to attain voting representation for many years, including the District of Columbia Voting Rights Amendment passed by Congress in 1978 but unratified by the states. These efforts are endorsed by the current mayor, Anthony Williams, and by the current delegate, Eleanor Holmes Norton. So, while the District's official motto is "Justitia omnibus" (Justice to all), the words "Taxation Without Representation" were added to DC license plates in 2000 and there is a current movement to the add the words "No Taxation Without Representation" to the DC flag. Advocates of statehood who have supported these changes have said that they are intended as a protest and to raise awareness in the rest of the country. These measures in particular were chosen because the DC flag is one of the few things under direct local control without requiring approval from Congress.
Various approaches for attaining voting representation in Congress have been proposed. These include:
- Treating DC in some way as a state:
- Have Congress pass legislation that would treat DC as if it were a state for the purposes of voting representation in Congress. Senator Joseph Lieberman introduced The No Taxation Without Representation Act of 2003 (S. 617) on March 13, 2003, to the U.S. Senate, and Congresswoman Eleanor Holmes Norton introduced the same Act in the U.S. House of Representatives (H.R. 1285).
- Amend the U.S. Constitution. In 1978 an amendment to the U.S. Constitution that would have given full congressional voting representation to residents of the District of Columbia passed through both the U.S. Senate and the U.S. House of Representatives. However, by 1985 when the seven year limit on ratification of the amendment expired, the amendment had only passed in 16 of 38 states necessary.
- Statehood for the District of Columbia. Statehood for DC was last discussed in the U.S. House of Representatives in November 1993, and was defeated by the vote of 277 to 153.
- (Re)combining DC with Maryland in some way:
- Retrocession (Reunion with the State of Maryland). The original land of DC was originally Maryland and Virginia's land, and from 1790 until 1801 citizens living in DC continued to vote for, and even run as, candidates for the U.S. Congress in Maryland or Virginia. In 1846 the land from Virginia was given back to Virginia, so all current DC land was originally from Maryland. If both the U.S. Congress and the Maryland state legislature agreed, DC land (except for federal land) could be given back to Maryland with only a small federal area.
- Treat District Residents as Maryland Voters for federal Congressional elections. Congress could give DC residents the right to vote as if they were part of Maryland for the Senate and House of Representatives (including the calculations for apportioning House seats).
On a local level, the city is run by an elected mayor and city council. The school board has both elected and appointed members. The 37 elected Advisory Neighborhood Commissions (ANCs) provide the most direct access for residents to their local government. However, Congress has plenary power over the district. It has the right to review and overrule laws created locally, and has often done so.
DC residents pay all federal taxes, such as income tax, as well as local taxes. The mayor and council adopt a budget of local money with Congress reserving the right to make any changes. Because so much of the valuable property in the district is federally-owned and hence exempt from local property taxes, the city is frequently cash-strapped; public services in the city suffer as a result.
Federal Elected Official
- Delegate to House of Representatives (nonvoting)
- Eleanor Holmes Norton, Democrat
City Elected Officials
- Anthony A. Williams, Democrat
- City Council
- Linda W. Cropp, Chair, Democrat
- Harold Brazil, At Large, Democrat
- David Catania, At Large, Republican
- Carol Schwartz, At Large, Republican
- Phil Mendelson, At Large, Democrat
- Jim Graham, Ward 1, Democrat
- Jack Evans, Ward 2, Democrat
- Kathleen Patterson, Ward 3, Democrat
- Adrian Fenty, Ward 4, Democrat
- Vincent Orange, Ward 5, Democrat
- Sharon Ambrose, Ward 6, Democrat
- Kevin Chavous, Ward 7, Democrat
- Sandy Allen, Ward 8, Democrat
As of the census of 2000, there are 572,059 people, 248,338 households, and 114,235 families residing in the city. The population density is 3,597.3/km² (9,316.4/mi²). There are 274,845 housing units at an average density of 1,728.3/km² (4,476.1/mi²).
The racial makeup of the city is:
13% of District residents are foreign-born.
There are 248,338 households out of which 19.8% have children under the age of 18 living with them, 22.8% are married couples living together, 18.9% have a female householder with no husband present, and 54.0% are non-families. 43.8% of all households are made up of individuals and 10.0% have someone living alone who is 65 years of age or older. The average household size is 2.16 and the average family size is 3.07.
In the city the population is spread out with 20.1% under the age of 18, 12.7% from 18 to 24, 33.1% from 25 to 44, 21.9% from 45 to 64, and 12.2% who are 65 years of age or older. The median age is 35 years. For every 100 females there are 89.0 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there are 86.1 males.
The median income for a household in the city is $40,127, and the median income for a family is $46,283. Males have a median income of $40,513 versus $36,361 for females. The per capita income for the city is $28,659. 20.2% of the population and 16.7% of families are below the poverty line. Out of the total population, 31.1% of those under the age of 18 and 16.4% of those 65 and older are living below the poverty line.
Colleges and universities
General information and activity guides
- Washington, DC official site
- official tourism site
- Washington DC Community
- Cultural Tourism in DC
- City Museum of Washington, DC
- Art Deco Society of Washington — highlights Art Deco architecture in throughout the city
- OurDC.com — features oft-overlooked DC cultural offerings
- Greater Washington regional economic initiative
DC representation debate
- DC Vote An organization working for District representation in Congress
- Committee for the Capital City An organization supporting retrocession of DC to Maryland
- "Treat Washington, DC as Part of Maryland for Congressional Elections" argues for this particular approach for DC representation in Congress.
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