Thursday, February 4, 2016

Return DC to Maryland: A Case for Retrocession

Every week or so I get an email from folks supporting statehood for Washington, DC. As a long-time resident and taxpayer of the District, I understand why they do. As it says on our license plates, it's “taxation without representation.” DC is smaller than any of the 50 states but has a larger population than two of them. Yet we get no vote in the US Senate or House of Representatives. Instead, we get a voteless Delegate to the House like some overseas territory.

The Constitution allowed for the establishment of a federal capital through the “cession” of territory from willing states. Washington, DC was formally established in 1790 on swampy land, straddling the Potomac River, taken from Maryland and Virginia to be a neutral place between North and South. The District of Columbia was a square 10 miles on each side. In 1846, the Congress passed a law allowing for the retrocession of the part of the District in Virginia back to that state if approved by the people affected in a referendum and if accepted by the State of Virginia. This was accomplished in 1847. Through this action, the District shrunk from 100 sq. miles to the present 68.

While one may argue that DC should be a state, politically it remains very unlikely. Given that most would expect statehood to mean two more Democratic senators and one Democratic congressperson, this would never pass muster in any Congress without an overwhelming Democratic majority. Maybe not then either.

So, how about carving out the part of the District outside the federal government core – the White House, Congress and the office buildings around the Mall – and giving the rest back to Maryland? The various wards of the city might become a new Maryland city – Washington City? – or perhaps the various wards might each become their own local jurisdiction. The Congress might agree with this as it would not do anything beyond making Maryland a bit more Democratic without adding actual new seats to the Senate. Maryland would have to agree too but why not?

Washington City, Maryland. Maryland is a nice state, I wouldn't mind living there. And no more “taxation without representation.

No comments: