Law and Government
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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. To further this effort, 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.
On a local level, the city is run by an elected Mayor and City Council. The school board has both elected and appointed members. 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.
German map of Washington, DC]]
Washington was selected as the site of the national capital city after a sitdown dinner deal between Thomas Jefferson and Alexander Hamilton. Jefferson agreed to support Hamilton's banking and federal bond plans in exchange for the choice of a Southern locale for the capital. It was initially 100 mi² (260 km²).
The signing of the Residence Bill on July 16, 1790 established a site along the Potomac River as the District of Columbia (seat of government) of the United States. Land for the district was given to the federal government by the states of Virginia and Maryland and the city was named after George Washington. On February 27, 1801 the district was placed under the jurisdiction of the United States Congress. The town of Georgetown already existed at the time.
By an act of Congress, the area south of the Potomac (39 mi² or about 100 km²) was returned to Virginia on July 9, 1846 and now is incorporated in Arlington County and a part of the City of Alexandria.
On August 24, 1814, British forces burnt the capital during the most notable destructive raid of the War of 1812. British forces burned public buildings including the White House, the Capitol, the Arsenal, the Dock-Yard, Treasury, War office, and the bridge across the Potomac.
President James Madison was forced to flee to Virginia and American morale was reduced to an all-time low. The expedition was carried out between August 19 and August 29, 1814, and was well organized and vigorously executed. On the 24th the American militia, who had collected at Bladensburg, Maryland, to protect the capital, fled almost before they were attacked.
US President Herbert Hoover ordered the United States Army on July 28, 1932 to forcibly evict the "Bonus Army" of World War I veterans that gathered in Washington, DC to secure promised veteran's benefits early. US troops dispersed the last of the "Bonus Army" the next day.
The Twenty-third Amendment to the United States Constitution was ratified on March 29, 1961 which allows residents of Washington, DC to vote for President (popular election) and have their votes count in the Electoral College the same as the least populous state, which currently is three (3).
The first 4.6 miles (7.4 kilometers) of the Washington Metro subway system opened on March 27, 1976.
Walter Washington became the first elected mayor of the District in 1974. Four-term mayor Marion Barry was arrested for drug use in an FBI sting on January 18, 1990. He was acquitted of felony charges, but convicted of the misdemeanor of marijuana use. On January 2, 1991 Sharon Pratt Kelly (elected as Sharon Pratt Dixon but married later that year) was sworn in as mayor of Washington, DC becoming the first black woman to lead a city of that size and importance in the USA. After her term was up in 1994, Marion Barry was once again elected mayor for his fourth term. The current mayor, Anthony Williams, a Yale educated lawyer, became mayor in 1998. He was reelected in 2002. See List of mayors of Washington, D.C
The Washington area was the target of at least one of the four hijacked planes in the September 11, 2001 attacks. One plane struck the Pentagon in Arlington County, killing 125 people in addition to the 64 aboard the plane, while another that was downed in a field in Pennsylvania is believed by many to have been intended to hit either the White House or the U.S. Capitol.
Shortly after September 11, Washington was once more subject to fear from an anthrax attack, when what may have been a domestic terrorist sent anthrax-contaminated mail to numerous members of Congress. 31 staff members were infected, and two U.S. Postal Service employees at a contaminated mail sorting facility later died of pulmonary anthrax.
During three weeks of October 2002, John Allen Muhammad and Lee Boyd Malvo perpetrated what became known as the Beltway Sniper attacks in Washington and across the Baltimore-Washington Metropolitan Area. Muhammed and Malvo killed ten people and critically injured three others with a high-powered rifle. The apparently random selection of victims (crossing racial, gender, and socioeconomic categories) caused a general panic in the Washington area and led schools to cancel all outdoor activities. Muhammed and Malvo were arrested on October 24 at a highway rest stop. In March 2004, Muhammad was sentenced to death and Malvo to life imprisonment for the attacks.
In November of 2003, the toxin ricin was found in the mailroom of the White House, and in February of 2004, in the mailroom of U.S. Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist. As with the earlier anthrax attacks, no arrests have been made.
Partly in response to these events from the past few years, the Washington area has taken many steps to increase security. Screening devices for biological agents, metal detectors, and vehicle barriers are now much more commonplace at office buildings as well as government buildings. After the 2004 Madrid train bombings, local authorities have decided to test explosives detectors on the vulnerable Washington Metro subway system. False alarms due to suspicious chemical or powder substances or suspected explosives have led to fairly frequent evacuations of buildings, Metro stations, and local post offices.
satellite image of Washington, DC, taken April 26, 2002. The Potomac River and its eastern branch, the Anacostia, are visible. Virginia lies across the Potomac from Washington, while Maryland surrounds it on all other sides. The black "crosshairs" in the image mark the quadrant divisions of Washington, with the U.S. Capitol at the center of the dividing lines. To the west of the Capitol extends the National Mall, visible as a slight green band in the image. The Pentagon is also visible in Virginia, near the Potomac.]]
Washington is located at 38°54'49" North, 77°0'48" West (38.913611, -77.013222)1.
According to the United States Census Bureau, the city has a total area of 177.0 km² (68.3 mi²). 159.0 km² (61.4 mi²) of it is land and 18.0 km² (6.9 mi²) of it is water. The total area is 10.16% water.
Washington is surrounded by the statess of Virginia (on its southwest side, and a small part of its northwest one) and Maryland (on its southeast and northeast sides, and most of its northwest one); it interrupts those states' common border, which is the Potomac River both upstream and downstream from the District. The city contains the historic federal city, the territory of which was formerly part of those two adjacent states before they respectively ceded it for the national capital. The land ceded from Virginia was returned by Congress in 1847 (present day Arlington County and Alexandria), so what remains of the modern District was all once part of Maryland.
See also District of Columbia (geography).
Washington is divided into four quadrants, directly along the four compass directions: Northwest, Southwest, Northeast, and Southeast. Every street name has appended to it the abbreviation of the quadrant that it is in—i.e., Connecticut St NW, New York Ave NE. A street's quadrant is necessary to include in postal addresses, especially because much of the city's street layout repeats within each quadrant. The north-to-south numbered streets in Washington and count upwards from east to west in NW/SW (1st St NW, 2nd St NW, 3rd St NW, etc.); these streets repeat in NE/SE, counting upwards from west to the east. The east-to-west lettered streets (A St, B St, etc.) "count" upwards from south to north in NW/NE, and likewise repeat in the opposite direction in SW/SE.
The center of the north/south and east/west dividing lines is the U.S. Capitol, which is west of the physical center of Washington's diamond shape making the quadrants inequal in size. Additionally, much of what was SW is now Arlington County, Virginia (or the Potomac River), making it by far the smallest quadrant; NW is the largest.
Washington includes many distinct and historic neighborhoods:
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 30.78% White, 60.01% African American, 0.30% Native American, 2.66% Asian, 0.06% Pacific Islander, 3.84% from other races, and 2.35% from two or more races. 7.86% of the population are Hispanic or Latino of any race.
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 people living in poverty, 31.1% are under the age of 18 and 16.4% are 65 or older.
Several major companies are based in Washington, including the Carlyle Group.
America Online is based in nearby Dulles, Virginia. MCI is based in nearby Ashburn, Virginia. US Airways is based in Arlington County, Virginia. Lockheed Martin is based in nearby Bethesda, Maryland. Alhurra is based in Springfield, Virginia.
The Washington Post is the oldest and most read daily newspaper in Washington.
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