The Oddities of the District of Columbia

The District is a strange place.  A city with two distinct populations, historically divided.

In the west, the center of American power
and influence peddlers.
In the east, people below the poverty line
and poorly performing public schools.

(Disclaimer: big generalizations coming.) White folks come to D.C. to work and live in VA or MD. Blacks, immigrants and other minorities are here to live and put their kids in D.C. public schools and work. (A large percentage of workers in D.C. don’t live here. The city’s population almost doubles during the work week.)  Gentrification in the city’s historically black neighborhoods is changing this fact, but it still remains that D.C. is a majority minority city.

D.C. had the highest personal per capita income in 2010 in all of America and had an overall poverty rate of 19.2% and a child poverty rate of 30.4%.   The breakdown by ethnicity provides further stark realities. 8.5% of non-hispanic whites were below the poverty line, compared to 27.1% for black residents and 14.7% for hispanics.  This is a blog, not a think tank.  I’m not offering a prescription for these ills.  Plus, I’ve only got a five minute window.  I suppose losing the taxation without representation thing would help.

So, what other oddities does D.C. have for us?

The street planning for the city was done by a French (!) artist and engineer, Pierre L’Enfant.  No wonder the city layout seems so European.  It must be an incredible honor for this man’s descendants to know that a dark, crowded, stinky Metro station is named after him.

The Heights of Building Act of 1910 limits building heights to the width of of the right-of-way of the street or avenue which the building fronts.  This provides pedestrians with the eery feeling that you might just be having a dream within a dream and that girl from Juno is going to fold the buildings on top of you. Better have your totem on you.

About taxation without representation: D.C. gets a non-voting House member and no Senator, could not vote in a Presidential election until 1961 and gets the same number of Electoral College votes as the least populous state, regardless of actual population.  Yikes.  D.C. is afforded Home Rule but the budget is approved by Congress and every local law must go through a 30-day waiting period within which Congress has review authority.

Also the only respectable professional sports team plays hockey. Hockey? D.C. might as well be a Canadian territory.


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