The District of Columbia: A Circus of A City

by Stuart DeVeaux

Stuart DeVeaux, a member of the national Advisory Council of Project 21,
is a Washington D.C. resident and former Howard University student.

A New Visions Commentary paper published February 1997 by The National Center for Public Policy Research, 501 Capitol Court, N.E., Washington, D.C. 20002, 202/543-4110, Fax (202) 543-5975, E-Mail Web Reprints permitted provided source is credited.


The District of Columbia is in a state of emergency. It is time to sound the alarms, send for help, call in the troops. In each city, Americans pay federal, state, and local taxes for the support of basic services. In the District of Columbia, the local citizens pay taxes and cannot obtain the basic functions that are mandated by the payment of their taxes. If this was a store-bought product, we would all be asking for a refund.

Perhaps the worst aspect of the District is its miserable school system. Most recently, the principal of a D.C. charter school along with some staff and students attacked a newspaper reporter in their school who refused to hand over notes she was taking for a story on charter schools. The reporter was forcibly removed from the school. Ironically, one of the school's primary purposes is to teach character education. The school, although privately operated, is publicly funded and supervised. In another incident, a radio reporter doing a story on violence in
schools was attacked by students as he attempted to leave.

Besides the violence, there are management problems. District schools have a continuing problem with getting the schools open on time, sometimes because of mismanaged funds and sometimes safety hazards. The school board and the previous Superintendent constantly argued in
Washington Post stories over who was responsible for the mismanagement. As is the norm in D.C. politics, no one's willing to be accountable. The University of the District of Columbia (UDC) gets a new President like Hollywood stars get spouses. It has reached a point with UDC that
individuals familiar with the school have called it the University of Dumb Children. The District is notorious for spending more money per pupil with the least results than any other area with a similar population.

The District of Columbia's carrying out of its responsibilities to provide reliable services is at an all-time low. In most areas of the city, with the obvious exception of wealthy Georgetown, pothole free roads and trash removal are luxuries not to be taken for granted.

The District of Columbia must make immediate changes to remedy the current problems that it faces. The U.S. Congress made the initial steps to remedy the problem by appointing a financial board to straighten out the management and financial problems of the city.

Next, the City Council, the School Board, and the Mayor should be removed. Their positions should be made volunteer positions, and more honorary than functionary. Plowing streets and cutting ribbons should keep them busy.

As individuals are jumping to the suburbs for a safer and better education system and life, it is important that the citizens and Congress change the current structure for managing the city's affairs. In reality, this isn't even a city anymore. It's a circus led by a ringmaster named Marion.


Note: New Visions Commentaries reflect the views of their author, not necessarily those of Project 21.