topic index Correspondence
(Edited for conciseness; Listed Most Recent First)

Since NARPAC, Inc.'s inception, we have communicated with individuals in the Washington area who have the authority to make the District a better place. Each letter or fax has contained some suggestions consistent with the overall objectives of the organization.

The key ones from 1998, 1997, and 1996 are listed below. 1999 correspondence is also available:

1998, 1997, 1996

  • 35. The Senate Majority Leader re Committee Dregs
  • 34. The President re State of the Union Address
  • 33. The Speaker of the House re Unfinished Business
  • 32. The President of Howard University
  • 31. NARPAC Survey of MW Council of Governments
  • 30. Press Release to US Newswire July 14th
  • 29. Commentary to DC Story re "Overkilling" 911 Calls
  • 28. Commentary to DC Story re Run-Off Primaries
  • 27. Representative Regula, Senator Jeffords
  • 26. Vice Chairman, Federal Reserve, Rivlin
  • 25. Editors, Washington Post
  • 24. Greater Washington Initiative, GW Bd of Trade
  • 23. OMB Director Raines
  • 22. The President of the United States
  • 21. Administrator David Gilmore, DC Housing Authority
  • 20. The Commandant, US Marine Corps
  • 19. Editor, The Economist
  • 18. Council Member Kathy Patterson, Ward 3
  • 17. Dr. Camille Barnett, DC CMO
  • 16. OMB Director Raines
  • 15. Representative James Moran
  • 14. Councilman Brazil
  • 13. Chief Academic Officer, DCPS
  • 12. Public Buildings Services
  • 11. NRC/NAS DC Governance Task Force
  • 10. Control Board Chairman Brimmer
  • 9. Control Board Vice Chairman Harlan
  • 8. DC Agenda Project Co-Chair
  • 7. The President of the United States
  • 6. Greater Washington Research Center/Tax Revision Committee
  • 5. Chief Executive Office, DC Schools
  • 4. Mayor's Health Policy Council Chairman
  • 3. Control Board Chairman Brimmer
  • 2. Senator Don Nickles
  • 1. Washington Post Metro Editor

35. Fax to the Senate Majority Leader, Trent Lott, December 5, 1998


Your unintentional gaffe yesterday presents a golden opportunity to get rid of four subcom-mittees which are quite rightly the dregs of your Congressional mandate. Although the DC Revitalization Act of 1998 began the important process of restructuring DC's roles and missions, and of restoring national pride in our capital city, the FY99 budget process again proved the absurdity of having four Congressional subcommittees whose sole functions are to meddle in, second-guess, and weaken through compromise, the actions of the DC Council, its elected municipal officials, and its still useful Control Board.

FY99 is the last year in which DC is to receive a direct appropriation from the Congress, and the last year for which there is even a whisper of justification for an authorizations/-appropriations process in the Congress. Ahead lie the far more difficult tasks of rebuilding the very fabric of DC's democratic processes. It is surely none to soon to begin the tough work of forging a solid framework for our 21st century capital city.

NARPAC urges you to take whatever steps are necessary between House and Senate to establish at the outset of the 106th Congress a single

Joint Committee on the National Capital City

charged with oversight of developing--by the end of DC's bicentennial year--the landmark legislation needed to gradually transform DC into the vital core of America's foremost metro area. The existing joint House/Senate committees include two that oversee other national institutions: the Library of Congress and the Government Printing Office; and two that oversee national matters too important to leave to normal Congressional sausage-making: economics and taxation. This new joint committee would replace all four current DC subcommittees and have four major functions:

  • resolve the issue of providing DC citizens with appropriate representation in the Congress, preferably without resort to Constitutional amendments;

  • stimulate the adoption of regional solutions to regional problems and encourage both the DC and its neighboring jurisdictions to work more closely together;

  • assure the fiscal competitiveness of the DC within its metro area by removing the many remaining non-municipal functions, and streamlining current taxes;

  • as part of a new, permanent, structurally balanced, DC home rule, encourage the institution of mature democratic procedures for local elections, and professional municipal government practices for city management.

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page 34. Letter to the President of the United States, November 20, 1998

You and your staff have doubtless started framing the State of the Union address. I would like to suggest an inexpensive, non-partisan initiative that could be completed within your time in office, and yet have a major impact on our long-term national future.

The process of restoring pride in America's capital has only just begun. Much can be done under the new leadership in DC and its Control Board. But fundamental legislative changes are still needed at the federal, regional, and local levels if our nation's capital metro area is to become a unified, lasting exemplar of future American hopes and plans.

Stimulus for such landmark changes can best come from the White House. DC's bicentennial in 2000 provides a unique symbolic occasion to emphasize that metropolitan areas are the key emerging entities for addressing the changing contours of the US socio-economic landscape (haves v have nots), and that DC deserves the primary focus.

DC could thus become the model for leveling the playing field across many unbalanced metro areas. Central cities like DC must learn to reach out to their suburbs for strength, and the suburbs must willingly reach back in to reinvigorate their vital cores.

The landmark legislative changes include: streamlining and refocusing Congressional oversight (perhaps urging a new Joint Committee of the Congress); and providing federal incentives to: a) encourage regional cooperation, b) discourage further urban flight and suburban sprawl, and c) de-emphasize outdated local jurisdictional authorities.

Thank you and your staff for considering this important local--and national-- issue.

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page 33. Fax to the Speaker of the House, Bob Livingston, on November 18,1998 -- and to Dennis Hastert on December 21,1998

At the beginning of Speaker Gingrich's term, his lofty rhetoric about the importance of restoring national pride to our capital city was encouraging to many Americans. After that, however, his actions belied his words. Although the DC Revitalization Act of 1998 began the important process of restructuring the capital city's roles and missions, the FY99 budget process again proved the absurdity of having four subcommittees of the Congress whose sole functions are to meddle in, second-guess, and weaken through compromise, the actions of the DC Council and Control Board.

FY99 is the last year in which DC is to receive a direct appropriation from the Congress, and the last year for which there is even a whisper of justification for an authorizations/-appropriations process in the Congress. Ahead lie the far more difficult tasks of rebuilding the very fabric of DC's democratic processes. It is surely none to soon to begin the tough work of forging a solid framework for our 21st century capital city.

NARPAC urges you to take whatever steps are necessary between House and Senate to establish at the outset of the 106th Congress a single

Joint Committee on the National Capital City

charged with oversight of developing--by the end of DC's bicentennial year--the landmark legislation needed to gradually transform DC into the vital core of America's foremost metro area. The existing joint House/Senate committees include two that oversee other national institutions: the Library of Congress and the Government Printing Office; and two that oversee national matters too important to leave to normal Congressional sausage-making: economics and taxation. This new joint committee would replace all four current DC subcommittees and have four major functions:

  • resolve the issue of providing DC citizens with appropriate representation in the Congress, preferably without resort to Constitutional amendments;

  • stimulate the adoption of regional solutions to regional problems and encourage both the DC and its neighboring jurisdictions to work more closely together;

  • assure the fiscal competitiveness of the DC within its metro area by removing the many remaining non-municipal functions, and streamlining current taxes;

  • as part of a new, permanent, structurally balanced, DC home rule, encourage the institution of mature democratic procedures for local elections, and professional municipal government practices for city management.

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page 32. Letter to Dr. Swygert, President, Howard University, November 11, 1998, 1998

NARPAC, Inc. was formed two years ago to draw national attention to the need to restore pride in our nation's capital. Recent newspaper articles about what you hope to do around your campus, the Reservoir, and LeDroit Park indicate we have common goals. We commend you for accepting such a prominent role in rebuilding your part of DC.

Attached is an editorial from our educational web site suggesting the need to consider DC's blighted areas as candidates for "superfund" treatment. You seem to be moving in this direction, and I encourage you to go even further towards a fully integrated "systems approach" to this highly complex socioeconomic problem.

Revitalizing the neighborhoods around you with better infrastructure, parks, housing, and business opportunities is surely an important part of the solution. But there is also a vital companion need to rejuvenate the public education in your area (for both kids and failed adults). Howard U. should be an ideal place to create new multi-use public schools to replace the several unsuccessful ones so close to your campus.

By my count 60-75% of the 3-4000 K-12 students nearby are failing in both reading and math, and several times as many functionally illiterate adults. Isn't there some natural way to apply your educational strengths across the total student spectrum? And couldn't crime reduction and welfare-to-work programs be incorporated too?

I hope you will accept my suggestions as constructive and perhaps find ways to do even more for our capital city! I would be delighted to chat further. Please feel free to visit us at ask your staff and students to find out what we're up to.

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page 31. NARPAC Survey of MW Council of Governments, August 24, 1998

This short report, the NARPACSurvey of COG, was faxed to the following key players in DC's future:

  • Congresswoman Connie Morella
  • Congressman James T. Moran
  • Director of OMB, The Hon. Jacob Lew
  • Chair, DC Control Board, Dr. Alice M. Rivlin
  • Chief Management Officer, Dr. Camille Barnett
  • Chair, COG Board of Directors, Ms. Charlene Drew Jarvis
  • Executive Director, COG, Mr. Michael Rogers
  • ex-Chief Financial Officer, Mr. Anthony Williams

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page 30. Press Release To US Newswire, July 14, 1998

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: Tuesday, July 14, 1998

National Ass'n Challenges DC Candidates to State Their Positions on Key Issues The July web site update of the National Association to Restore Pride in America's Capital, Inc., offers its stand on six crucial issues. NARPAC challenges the District of Columbia's major political candidates to publicly express their own positions on each:

o DC Is A National American Symbol. Its officials should seek help from across the US to make our capital city as good as the nation would like it to be. DC's cultural and economic demography is changing steadily towards a more nationally representative mix. False perceptions of DC as a squalid backwater must be dispelled.

o DC Home Rule Must Be Redeemed--and Dignified. Prior duly-elected municipal officials abused their mandate: a new one has to be earned, not bestowed. DC must find a new accommodation with Congress in which each respects the other's rights, but press for greater representation by the end of its official bicentennial in 2000.

o Democracy Must Be Improved Locally. Needed actions include: adopting run-off primaries; forging obligatory links between the DC Council and neighborhood leaders; and refraining from fanning the outdated flames of racism as a political tool.

o Local Home Rule Government Must Become Fully Professional. The apolitical city manager approach--and other changes introduced by the Control Board and its several receivers--should be institutionalized. The city's worst problems flow from its blighted neighborhoods and require integrated, systemic, actions. Rebuilding the all-important school system must be combined with other key neighborhood improvement projects.

o Balancing the DC Budget Does Not, per se, Cure DC's Basic Ills. DC must rebuild its core municipal services; shed its remaining extra-municipal functions; become regionally competitive fiscally; adopt the Tax Revision Commission's recommendations; and ensure reimbursement for the tangible net costs of hosting the federal presence.

o DC Is the Vital Core of America's Most Important Metro Area. DC's officials must take the initiative in inducing its suburbs to cooperate further for the good of the capital metro area. Existing regional organizations (like the Metro Washington Council of Governments) should be given substantially increased responsibilities.

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page 29. To DC Story. June 27, 1998

Overkilling 911

NARPAC's numerologist has developed some sympathy for the DC 911 operators who are apparently averaging a call every 52 seconds, 24 hours a day, year round. This equates to 598,495 calls per year or almost 1.2 calls per DC resident old enough to use the phone. Many of the calls must be fraudulent. We wonder what the operators have to say--they must know some of the repeat callers by their first name.

598,495 calls seems to be a very high number compared to the 75,000 or so patients transferred to hospitals yearly by Emergency Services, compared to the 65,000 or so "part 1" crimes committed annually in all of DC (13,000 against people, 52,000 against property), and compared to the less than 6000 real fires in DC per year. It is more than four times as large as the 144,000 responses a year performed by DC's ridiculously overworked fire companies. These statistics are extrapolated from 1995 data in DC Indices. We have no comparable data from other inner cities, but something doesn't ring true.

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page 28. To DC Story, June 7, 1998

New Numbers for Nerds

Now that members of the Williams Fan Club have successfully lured DC's finest CFO away from finishing the job he has only just begun, it is encumbent on them to maximize his chances for continuing his good work for our nation's capital city. This involves an equally important kind of number crunching: i.e., surviving a 5-man primary without a run-off, but with a not too hidden "wild card".

When the encumbent mayor bowed out, the early straw polls indicated something like a 25%, 25%, 15%, 5% split between the expected candidates with 30% undecided. The addition of a fifth candidate might easily change these to a 20%, 20%, 20%, 15%, 5% split with 20% undecided--perhaps split evenly between slavishly pro-Barry and slavishly anti-Barry voters. If as hinted, Barry indicates oner candidate, the final talley might be closer to 30%, 26%, 23%, 16%, 5%, handily nominating his choice with less than one-third of the votes. The 21% drained off by the extra candidates could obviously change the winner in a 3-man run-off, since most of them are probably not Barry disciples. Hence, in the same order, the run-off results might easily be 32%, 30%, 38%, with a different winner. (Even DC's government unions are wise enough to use run-off elections.)

The Council's evidently self-serving unwillingness to re-institute run-off primaries continues to make our nation's capital look like American democracy at risk, not at work.

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page 27. To Representative Regula, Senator Jeffords. May 15, 1998

NARPAC, Inc.'s June 1998 Editorial

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page 26. To Mrs. Alice M. Rivlin, Vice Chairman, Federal Reserve Bank, May 7, 1998

For whatever's it's worth, Mrs. Rivlin, we think you'd make a great new chairman for the DC Control Board. However, we also think that the Control Board should be reconfigured for its next (and last?) incarnation. Here is our reasoning as expressed in a recent OpEd piece:

NARPAC, Inc.'s April 1998 Editorial

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page 25. To the Editors, Washington Post, May 4, 1998

Appeared May 16, 1998

Colbert King's commentaries on civic affairs are usually insightful, but his column on 5/2/98 missed the mark by fantasizing DC as a "city without a country" solely because Congress dislikes Marion Barry. Capricious as DC's amateur substitute mayor Faircloth may be, he did not appoint Barry to four terms, "rape" the innocent citizenry of our nation's capital, nor poison its school system. The Senator is simply demonstrating the frighteningly unpredictable consequences when this local electorate fails too long to bear the true burdens of citizenship: i.e., responsible, accountable self-government.

The apologists' mantra that a democracy entitles its people to keep choosing embarrassingly bad government is, thank heavens, a myth--at least at the local level! Thoughtful Americans everywhere are waiting for their capital city to earn back home rule by tough actions, not easy finger-pointing.

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page 24. To Mr. Kurt Foreman, Greater Washington Initiative, GW Bd of Trade. April 20, 1998

My organization exists solely to help make Washington a model American metro area in which to live and to work. We believe that alleviating the disgraceful conditions that exist in many parts of the District beyond the federal enclave is a matter that should concern all Americans--and surely those that benefit from living in DC's suburbs.

We fully support the notion that a significant part of the cure will come from increased self-assurance and a favorable, futuristic public relations image. Selecting a suitable "moniker", as the Sunday Washington Post article calls it, is surely part of that process, and could well be adopted as part of DC's Yr2000 bicentennial celebration.

Although you are probably drowning in suggestions, NARPAC, Inc. would like to add its own. We think it would be appropriate to call the Washington metro area:

"America's information capital"

This is consistent with the concept of the "information revolution" and of the 2lst century as the "information century". It includes subliminally the various high-tech computer, internet, and data base businesses, but adds the more important ingredient of providing the basis for knowledge and decision- making. It is consistent with many of the government and non-government organizations here, across the spectrum from the Smithsonian, Library of Congress, and National Geographic to the data capabilities of the Census Bureau, Labor Dept, Federal Reserve, NOAH, NIH, IMF, World Bank, etc. and even to security functions such as FBI, DIA, and CIA. We hope this is a useful input.

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page 23. To OMB Director Franklin D. Raines, April 6, 1998

This responds to your excellent address to the Urban Land Institute luncheon on March 31th. I am taking you up on your invitation to submit ideas for enhancing regionalization in the capital metro area. NARPAC, Inc. sees regionalism as key to the socio-economic future of all US metro areas, and believes DC should lead the way.

Most experts and practitioners seem to speak of regionalism in grand terms of global economic competitiveness. We envision lesser included objectives for more palatable initial steps, and would stress the desirability of:

o increasing local governmental efficiency;

o leveling the 'socioeconomic' playing field between interdependent jurisdictions;

o defining new roles for central cities and local neighborhoods in metro areas;

o "normalizing" the quality of life throughout each metro area to the extent possible;

o assuring balanced Congressional representation for all US metro residents; and

o developing proper public and private sector incentives to accept regionalism.

These aims stop short of threatening another (higher) tier of government, and most are not unique to the nation's capital. I am attaching a bulletized list of some incomplete notions in each of these categories, should you chose to explore them.

(for attachment, see regionalism initiatives)

Much visionary work is needed to collect and winnow the full gamut of these ideas. DC's bicentennial celebration in Y2000 (as well as the end of this Administration) sets a unique target to have a basic strategy and implementing legislation in place.

We urge you to focus the power of your office and the presidency on these landmark issues which are key to America's socioeconomic future. NARPAC, Inc. would welcome the opportunity to help you pursue these initiatives.

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page22. To The President of the United States, March 30, 1998

Thank you for responding so warmly (3/17/98) to my "open letter" and agreeing the federal government can do more to help DC excel. A unique opportunity exists right now by reconfiguring the Control Board. It has made a good start in restoring fiscal solvency and a functional government, but there are compelling reasons for expanding the Board to about ten members rather than simply refreshing it with a few new faces:

1. the Board's responsibilities have been greatly expanded--sadly with little help from local elected officials or activists. To maintain continuity and cover all city functions, several seasoned municipal practitioners are needed;

2. the time horizon has been shortened by the unexpected--if not premature--balancing of the 1997 city budget. Less time is now available to do more work: balanced budgets per se will not assure a greatly improved and sustainable quality of city life;

3. the School Board should be represented on the Control Board. A major, well-coordinated management effort is required between schools, housing, welfare, public works, and human services to "recycle" DC's most embarrassing blighted areas;

4. the newly constituted Board must plan from its outset to transition back to democratic control and hopefully, greatly reduced Congressional intervention. It should be enlarged to include two or three locally elected officials; and

5. the Board must aim to raise regional cooperation and responsibility. Two members from DC's suburbs should be added with recent hands-on experience at the county/state levels.

We sincerely urge you not to let this unique opportunity pass by default.

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page21. To Mr. David Gilmore, Administrator, DC Housing Authority, March 9, 1998

My organization is trying to bring national attention to the plight of our nation's capital, and to encourage managers like yourself who are making a real difference. We applaud your efforts.

We are persuaded that rejuvenating both urban neighborhoods and public education are very closely intertwined, but see no mechanism to effectuate a combined effort to rebuild the people along with their homes and communities.

We would like to bring to your attention the attached editorial--featured on our NARPAC web site this month (March, 1998)--which addresses the need for a common "superfund" approach to both sides of the problem.

We wish you well, and would like to help if we can.

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page20. To General Charles Krulak, Commandant, US Marine Corps, March 9, 1998

I would like to encourage you any way I can to support the efforts of David Gilmore of the DC Housing Authority--and others--to rejuvenate Southeast DC (re Washington Post 3/8).

I founded this non-profit organization some 18 months ago to bring national attention to the disgraceful condition of our nation's capital. Since then, I have learned a lot about the decaying cores of American cities, and the difficulty of reversing the "blight" that infects the slum areas and, more important, the people who live in them.

I believe that one of the greatest threats to our country's future lies not abroad, but in a growing confrontation between urban "have-nots", and suburban "haves" in sprawling US metro areas. This is no longer a race struggle so much as a class struggle. We are facing the consequences of allowing the human equivalent of "toxic waste" to accumulate for generations. Most inner city problems flow from these "dumps". First the housing is poisoned, then the schools, then the residents' minds, then the neighbors'.

But the problem seems more complicated than just buying up or tearing down dilapidated structures--somebody has got to "recycle" the people who didn't make it the first time, give them the rudiments of an education, and some hope. This is a "nation-building" effort for which I think our military-- and the Marines in particular--are well suited. Beyond buying the buildings, you would have to adopt the neighborhood and help "process" its residents back into productive American lives. I hope you will give it a try.

cc: General Becton, Mr. John Hill

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page19. To the Editor, The Economist, January 14, 1998

The problems with America's cities are far more systemic than indicated by your upbeat article. NARPAC, Inc. hopes to focus national attention on solving the endemic urban problems of our US capital city. Suitable long-term solutions for DC will apply to other troubled American metro areas as well.

Only landmark legislation at each government level will relieve the functional gridlock caused by fifty years of metro spill-over across fixed, outdated municipal boundaries. These jurisdictional hedgerows hem in the slow-movers, while pushing out the high-fliers, leaving each to fend for themselves. Apologists for mediocrity assert that "democracy includes the right to poor government", implying such right extends to unsafe streets and dysfunctional schools. In many cities like DC, these problems can no longer fix themselves: the inmates quite legally run their asylums.

Local legislation is needed to restore functioning democracy, and to eliminate the administrative fiefdoms which dissociate the left hand from the right (such as public education and public housing). County and state legislation is needed to ordain new regional authorities to manage regional issues at the expense of local ones (transportation, health services, welfare, etc.). Federal legislation is needed to provide incentives for local and regional legislatures to overcome parochialism (e.g., provide relevant federal grants only to regional bodies). This is a major undertaking. NARPAC, Inc. proposes to set the bicentennial celebration of Washington, DC (2000AD) as the target date for enacting such landmark legislation. So far, the inmates aren't listening.

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page18. Open Note to Council Member Kathy Patterson, Ward 3, via Your Electronic Backfence at DC Story, December 30, 1997

Your examples of focusing on a) zapping local job training funds, and thereby improving local procurement contracting, and b) delving into details of contract language and thereby having an acting DOES director resign, are two perfect examples of legislative micromanagement. They are precisely the actions that the Constitution tried to avoid by putting legislative, executive, and judicial in separate departments. It is the same abuse of the "separation of powers" for which DC officialdom constantly criticizes the Congress. You seem to be trying to do more of what NARPAC, Inc. agrees "Mayors" Taylor and Faircloth shouldn't do. This type of oversight--really "microsight"--tends to grow til legislators are only doing what the executors are paid to do--and, in DC, what the Control Board has been ordered by Congress to do.

The worse consequence, however, is that the legislative body isn't doing what it is uniquely empowered to do: develop a body of law that will produce a competent (talented, if you prefer) and responsive executive branch and a well-functioning jurisdiction. Why isn't the Council concentrating on:
a) making democracy work better in DC;
b) making DC's executive branch accountable and responsible;
c) finding generic solutions to DC's closely related housing/schooling debacles;
d) certifying the continuing needs for federal funds to defray the costs of the federal/international presence;
e) finding ways to encourage equal-partner cooperation with the neighboring metro areas;
f) finding ways to get Congress out of DC's knickers; and
g) developing alternate schemes (besides statehood!) for getting full representation in Congress for DC residents.
These long-term needs may be tougher than rewriting contracts, but aren't they what the Council is elected to do?

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page17. To Dr. Camille Barnett, DC CMO, December 29, 1997

My organization would like to offer you our congratulations and thanks for accepting such a challenging job. We set up this small, non-profit, all-volunteer organization earlier this year to focus national attention on the plight of our nation's capital--via Internet. We are convinced of several tenets--with which you seem to agree:

1. DC cannot become a national--if not a global--model metro area unless it draws on regional and national resources (like yourself). We have been dismayed by the past selection of control and school board members only from among left-over DC residents;

2. DC cannot draw on such resources until it is somehow linked to its enormously successful suburbs (as all "urbanologists" seem to agree). It has been trying to become a state when it is not even a properly dependent inner city;

3. DC cannot get properly linked to its metro region or the US until it finds some state-like alternative to Congressional oversight; some neighboring- state involvement, and some local political sophistication--like run-off primaries (see our "open letter" to the President);

4. DC cannot shed its embarrassingly bad image until it humanely solves the root problem of scores of outdated, rundown, public/subsidized housing projects which have dragged the school system down with them. When you drive around the rest of the city (black and white), you will wonder where the problem is.

If you had time, you might find our web site useful. It summarizes many of DC's problems, Control Board reports, 1997 Washington Post headlines, regional financial comparisons, etc. You could be our key beneficiary, and we wish to help you any way we can.

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page16. To OMB Director Franklin D. Raines, December 4, 1997

We understand Tuesday's White House meeting with DC officials was a prelude to some address to be given soon by the President. Some appropriate initial short- term steps have now been taken, but much more must be done at the federal level to help convert DC into the thriving core of a 21st century model American metro area. We think it is time to take a longer range view of the ultimate objectives, and set goals to accomplish them.

Congress has decreed Yr2000 as our capital city's bicentennial. This could provide a unique target date for landmark federal legislation directed at the DC area's long-term well-being. Several general federal policy objectives could then be established, such as:

o Control of DC's municipal affairs should promptly revert to locally elected officials;

o DC's democratic processes must encourage majority rule, not plurality rule;

o DC residents must somehow gain full Congressional representation, but not as a state;

o State-level functions cannot be performed by 4 diverse committees of Congress;

o Congress cannot provide valid oversight with suburban conflicts of interest;

o Neither inner city nor suburbs can long prosper without full regional cooperation;

o The inner city cannot prosper if it pays more than its proportional regional share;

o DC cannot reasonably absorb the costs of servicing the federal/international presence;

We sincerely hope these suggestions are useful--and hope you'll visit our web site,

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page15. To Representative James P. Moran, Ranking Democrat, DC House Operations Subcommittee, November 22, 1997

Our young organization is devoted to drawing national attention to the need to make our nation's capital the model inner city of our country's finest metropolitan area. As you surely realize, this will require several major structural changes in governance.

Your recent comments (WASHINGTON POST;11/13) on DC's FY98 budget approval process are right on the mark, and we hope they were not made lightly. Eventually, DC must accept a fully responsible role within an equally responsible metro area. Then Congress's four--or five, when the Speaker plays--amateur mayors of DC could be abolished, and Hill oversight revert to the various relevant Subcommittees (such as oversee HUD).

We do not believe it is too early to plan how these changes could be effected, and encourage you to do so. Several steps may be involved, such as creating federal incentives for Maryland and Virginia to form--on a par with the District--regional authorities that can provide "virtual state functions" for this metro area.

Substantial impetus could be imparted to this effort by targeting some as yet unspecified landmark legislation to be passed during DC's bicentennial celebration in Yr2000. We hope to begin defining the content of such legislation, as well as any precursor actions needed. Would you or your staff informally encourage such an effort?

We have spent much of the past year scoping and defining the District's problems, and now plan to turn more of our attention to practical, but far-reaching solutions. We invite you to visit our web site at and give us your comments.

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page14. To Council Member Harold Brazil, November 7, 1997

We are trying to draw national attention to the plight of DC because we do not believe the District can convert itself into our nation's proudest inner city without the full attention of the American people.

One way or the other all Americans are going to pay for the success or failure of this city, and surely it is in their best interests to help achieve success. But it is also true that Americans outside the metro area cannot "fix" the District if it is not willing to pull its own weight to the best of its ability--and by accepted American standards.

The reason for pressing you on the primary run-off issue is because we believe the citizens of the District have got to show the rest of America that they are willing to make some tough decisions for themselves, and get their priorities right. Only then can we expect to earn the essential cooperation of our region. We will never become (Alice Rivlin's) "thriving core of a successful metro area" without suburban participation. And only then will Congress back away from superimposing four or five more amateur mayors (subcommittee chairmen) on the two we've already got (one elected, one appointed).

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page13. To Dr. Ackerman, Chief Academic Officer, DCPS, November 4, 1997

We welcome you to the Washington area and wish you well in a very difficult new task. Surely all Americans should be able to be proud of the schools in their nation's capital. Your DCPS' Year One Academic Plan seems to be a major step in that direction, and we commend you for producing it so promptly.

NARPAC, Inc. respectfully suggests that you keep three notions in the back of your busy mind that could help make this our model US metropolitan area for the 21st Century:

1) Our nation's capital should be as good as all Americans can make it, not just as good as the remaining DC residents can make it. We hope you will reach out across both our own metro area and the whole US to find the best people, ideas, and support. Our suburbs have world class school systems: we hope you will engage them in revitalizing the inner city on which they thrive, but too frequently ignore.

2) Our District public education needs extend well beyond the present student body. A great many former students remain outcasts in modern America, victims of their missing skills. Be they teenaged mothers--or their parents; past or present inmates of our jails and prisons; depressed occupants of our housing projects; or workers with jobs they cannot perform competitively, they are all part of the capital legacy that disgraces us.

3) Finally, your success here will redound elsewhere across our nation. Washingtonians may have gotten into difficulty in unique ways, but the way out is likely to be the same for most urban residents struggling to share the prosperity that surrounds them.

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page12. To Mr. Robert Peck, Commissioner of Public Buildings Services, GSA, October 20, 1997

NARPAC, Inc. believes the socio-economic ailments that disgrace our nation's capital afflict many other US metro areas as well. Growing disparities and tensions between inner city "have nots" and suburban "haves" threaten our national fabric. We believe that a) serious national focus is needed to convert our "capital metro area" into a model of American aspirations, and b) federal government has a vital role in that effort through better integrated use of current federal resources as well as new legislation.

Federal buildings, as you so eloquently show, have often been elegant symbols of American strength, resolution, and promise. But they should also reflect the real needs of those most dependent on federal help to become part of the American dream. I applaud your efforts in new federal "installations" to combine federal office space with retail markets and even (102?) child-care centers. Encompassing affordable housing--hopefully eliminating public housing slums thereby (viz., DC's Navy Yard)--is an excellent next step.

To go even further, you might well consider including educational facilities--possibly for kids during working hours, but also for essential adult education (civics, American language, small business, computer skills, etc.) after hours--possibly operated by local colleges, or even the National Guard. Such federal installations can provide parttime/-summertime jobs--and even community service jobs for minor offenders. From there it is a short step to adding low-security correctional facilities--another reality of American life.

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page11. To the Director, Dr. Mitchell, DC Governance Task Force, NRC/NAS, July 14, 1997

Your subject matter is absolutely crucial to our national future, and I hope your Governance Committee will take the following points into consideration:

o The growing conflict between inner cities and their suburbs will be the center of socioeconomic discontent in the US in the next century;

o The need to shift towards integrated regional solutions to common metro area problems is clear across the US;

o Washington, DC is one inner city in trouble, disconnected from its suburbs, and with its troubles largely masked by the majesty of the Federal Enclave;

o Washington, DC should be highlighted in any proposed shifts towards regionalization, particularly because it lacks its own state government (and representation in Congress):

o 21st Century inner cities should develop unique roles as the essential core of their metro areas, and not try to mimic the things American suburbs do best.

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page10. To Control Board Chairman Brimmer, May 20, 1997

NARPAC, Inc. only supports the shift to a city manager as a means of increasing the professionalism of our capital city government, and feels that there would be nothing "undemocratic" about such a change being mandated by the Congress. As you well know, democracy does not extend down to local jurisdictions picking their own government styles: that is classically a state function.

On the other hand,NARPAC, Inc. is concerned that you may kill this very essential permanent change by proposing to put it under your control from the outset. Though it may well come to that, we believe it should be instituted as an instrument of the City Council, and only temporarily transferred to you if later demonstrated to be necessary.

We urge you not to jeopardize this basic improvement to municipal government by combining it with the more contentious, and probably premature, secondary issue.

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page 9. To the Vice Chairman, DC Control Board, Mr. Harlan, February 7, 1997

In essence, we would like to see the Greater Washington Metro Area become as representative of America's future hopes as Americans can make it, not just see the DC become as good as its inner city residents can make it. It seems pointless to address DC's problems in isolation from its surrounding metro area--and other metro areas.

We sense that the socioeconomic tensions plaguing our country have largely devolved into stresses between underprivileged central cities and their overprivileged suburbs. DC's version of these problems may have some unique causes, but the solutions should have more general applicability. Beyond financial reconstruction, we believe those solutions are primarily related to replacing obsolete, fragmented metro area governance.

If you could do a stellar and creative job in this metro area, you could initiate a change in outlook for growth and solidarity in our country for many years. Although such a grandiose objective is clearly beyond the Authority's charter, it should not be beyond its vision. If there is any way we could stimulate more interest in "regionalizing" both the assistance you seek in framing the problems, and the solutions you pursue, we would be glad to try. Do not hesitate to call if interested.

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page8. To DC Agenda Co-Chair Charles Miller, February 8, 1997

I sense that your group--like the Control Board and the School Board--is tending to "sub-optimize" its efforts three ways: a) by looking for solutions to problems only within the DC's limited boundaries; b) by looking only to DC residents and organizations to divine and implement those solutions; and c) by not looking for solutions potentially applicable to other similarly infected metropolitan areas. Clearly, many of DC's problems are not unique. Some have been avoided or overcome by neighboring jurisdictions, and others are at the very core of American socioeconomic discord likely to persist for years to come.

My suggestion, which may or may not be "new", is that at least some portion of your remaining effort should be devoted to using a broader set of resources (regional at least) to look at regional solutions which might also be applicable to other troubled metropolitan areas socially and economically distorted by their antiquated jurisdictional boundaries. Some new hierarchial set of regional jurisdictions may well be in order for most of our metro areas in the next century. If you choose not to look in depth at such broader options, perhaps you should at least recommend (as I did to the President) that some kind of national commission be empowered to do so.

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page7. To the President of the United States, December 16, 1996

NARPAC, Inc. is delighted to read of your more visible interest in the future of our nation's capital. We agree that major changes are needed to restore pride in our Capital City. The nation's capital has slowly become a national disgrace, and can only accede to its proper leading role by attracting informed national attention and action. We submit that:

Our Nation's Capital should be as good as the American people can make it--not just as good as it can be using DC residents, government, and business interests--or the Financial Control Board and Congressional subcommittees, for that matter.

Our Capital City must be the fully integrated core of a National Metropolitan Area--not just an artificially and charitably propped-up inner city "theme park" which contradicts fundamental American democratic and market economic ideals.

Many of our metro areas are in trouble--well beyond housing, transportation, or beautification. Growing tensions between lagging inner cities and prospering suburbs are due mainly to antiquated, divided, and competing local jurisdictions. Governance of US metropolitan areas must be fundamentally rethought, and Washington is the place to start.

State-level governmental functions are engrained in our national multi- tiered governance system--DC's unique "missing" state functions--and standards--cannot be exercised realistically by the Congress, or by adding federal appropriations to local authority budgets. They might be solved by "contracting out" to Maryland or Virginia.

DC residents are not leaving because of excessive taxes-- primarily younger (black) families are leaving because the capital's physical and human infrastructure is collapsing, along with the traditionally lucrative governmental job base. Nevertheless, DC's tax expenditures do far exceed those normally expected of an inner city, and must be reallocated.

We can't save DC's economy--or pride--by bribing Americans to live here--an area so small and economically skewed that a "flat tax" could not possibly generate significant "trickle down" revenues for the DC government. Moreover, Inappropriate inducements are likely to attract new residents even less representative of the American norm.

If you generally agree with these basic formulations, then you might be interested in the following two suggestions:

Establish a Federal Trust Fund for Capital City Investment

Surely it is as important to modernize our national Capital City (not just the federal enclave) as our national airways and highways. Rather than forego federal tax receipts, particularly from DC's unusually wealthy top tax bracket, why not earmark them for federally-monitored investment in our dilapidated schools, hospitals, police and rescue systems? Only when these local services are regionally competitive will typical American families return to the inner city.

Establish a National Commission on 21st Century Metro Area Governance"

It seems to be high time to look seriously at encouraging streamlining and integrating the governance of many US metropolitan areas, perhaps using the Washington area as a model. Several authorities on urban problems have recently written on this basic socioeconomic problem. A solution could be formulated prior to Washington's 200th anniversary as the nation's capital in 2000AD.

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page6. To Director Dearborn, Greater Washington Research Center, December 12, 1996

Thank you for allowing us to contribute to the deliberations of the DC Tax Revision Committee. NARPAC, Inc. was founded because our capital city has become a national disgrace, and needs national attention to effect major change. We seek to foster a model metropolitan area representing American hopes and ambitions for the 21st Century.

A sound financial basis is clearly essential to any longterm solution, but it cannot per se reverse DC's embarrassingly poor quality of life. In fact, DC's root problems in governance have caused the financial crisis, not vice versa. But there is a crisis, requiring short- and longterm attention. Barring major changes in city functions, operating expenditures will surely remain excessive until the woefully neglected capital investment in both the physical and human infrastructure has been replenished, as in other declining US inner cities. Our outdated, oversized, ill-equipped and ill-staffed schools are a key example.

Revenues, then, must be increased in the nearterm. We do not favor tax relief gimmicks. One of our initial efforts is to challenge the notion that a "flat tax" could ever draw enough residents back to DC to lessen its revenue problems: it is difficult to imagine a place less likely to respond to "trickle down economics". The attached paper presents our views on that issue and provides the quantitative basis for our more generalized views which follow. We think four basic principles should guide your tax revision efforts:

DC could not possibly become a functioning independent state in the forseeable future:
Local (and Congressionally reinforced) fantasies about statehood have created needs for per capita revenues far in excess of other inner cities or inner counties. Sensible tax policy revisions must confront this myth. As much as one-third of DC expenditures are for functions normally performed 10-20% more efficiently and prudently at state levels (welfare, prisons, etc.). State-level costs must be raised from a far larger taxpayer base. Reference comparisons of realistic DC per-taxpayer revenue and expenditure burdens should be made with jurisdictions like Baltimore County--not Maryland.

DC will never prosper until it is more closely affiliated with its suburbs and their states:
DC does not even qualify as a full partner in a metropolitan area. It has in fact, become the "Impoverished hole in a hugely prosperous donut". From a tax standpoint, taxes need to be balanced across the metro region to neutralize tendencies towards economic segregation (as so well analyzed in David Rusk's book "Cities without Suburbs"). Tap water and liquor should not be cheaper in DC than the suburbs, and welfare payments, property and income taxes should not be significantly higher. And commuters should surely pay their share of the costs of their workplace. We urge you to weigh any tax revision proposals in the light of leveling the cost--and quality--of living and working throughout the metro area. The overall metro area surely does not need tax-based economic stimulus.

The costs of hosting the world's capital cannot possibly outweigh the region's benefits:

For many, the real and perceived benefits of living within sight of the center of world power is an "essential luxury" readily susceptible to taxation. The "economic demography" of the DC includes a larger than average poorer class, a smaller than average middle class, and a much richer than average upper class. Progressive real estate, business, and income taxes levied against the region's wealthiest individuals and lobbying firms (and embassies, for that matter) would be paid without a whimper. Other kinds of "payments in lieu of taxes" are certainly acceptable where more expedient.

The nation's capital belongs to all its citizens, not just those within the beltway:
Many of DC's longterm, but strictly financial, problems could be solved with the infusion of less than one billion dollars annually for infrastructure investment over the next ten years--from outside the fixed city limits if not beyond its suburbs. That amounts to $4 a year per American, $9 per federal tax return, $200 per GWMA federal tax return, or one less operational B-2 bomber each year. Even tourists might be expected to share more of the burden for maintaining their "National Theme Park". There is no sound reason not to seek a larger regional and/or national payment to rebuild and sustain our national capital city.

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page5. To Chief Executive Officer, DC Schools, General Becton, November 27, 1996

We congratulate you for accepting the very difficult task of rejuvenating the DC school system. We would be more than willing--within our very limited resources--to assist you in creating a truly outstanding system of which all Americans can be proud.

Our (fledgling) organization is devoted to trying to assist objectively in converting the District, by whatever means necessary and practical, into a place worthy of being home to our nation's capital and properly symbolic of America's hopes for the future. We consider this to be a national issue, requiring national attention. The attached copy of our preliminary "flier" explains what we hope to accomplish over the next few years.

To use old Pentagon terminology, we believe we must work towards a "total force" and "purple-suited" solution. We doubt that the city's school system can be "fixed" without solving many of the DC's other problems in finance and governance. We also doubt that the District can become a model inner city without properly integrating the total resources of one of America's finest and most progressive metropolitan areas.

As Alice Rivlin has said, DC "cannot be an impoverished hole in a donut of suburbs". David Rusk's more analytical study of US urban areas ("Cities without Suburbs") concludes that "inelastic" central cities with fragmented suburbs can in fact pass a point of no return, and essentially never recover. We hope you will resist trying to "suboptimize" and take full advantage of, if not mobilize, all the resources this area--and the US--can bring to bear.

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page4. To the Mayor's Health Policy Council Chairman, Dr. Aktur, September 26, 1996

I enjoyed your presentation last evening before the DC Affairs Section of the DC Bar Association, though I am neither lawyer, doctor, nor DC resident. I learned much about DC's health crisis and those charged with alleviating it.

My (fledgling) foundation is devoted to trying to assist objectively in converting the District, by whatever means practical, into a place worthy of being home to our nation's capital and properly symbolic of America's hopes for the future. It is a national issue.

Major structural changes in governance may well be needed eventually to eliminate the jurisdictional incongruities within the Washington area that accentuate DC's current disgraceful circumstances. It seems ludicrous that so many DC inner city residents aspire to statehood when they are not even part of an integral metropolitan area.

Characterization of your constituency as "older, sicker, and poorer"--and I might add depressed and shrinking--seems incomplete, however, without recognizing its immediate surrounds. DC is not an island, a desert oasis, or a clearing in a jungle. It is the core of a younger, healthier, prospering, optimistic, and expanding metropolitan region, permanently nourished by proximity to the seat of American government.

A better public-private partnership in health care within the District seems at best incomplete. Shouldn't your policy council be looking for a better intra-regional consortium to help "level the healing field"? Why maintain local separations and/or inequities that serve as one-way membranes to filter in/out the disadvantaged? Couldn't you and your council be instrumental in shifting towards full regional concordance in health care?

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page3. To Control Board Chairman Brimmer, September 23, 1996

Congratulations on your swift action on the DC lottery board. Establishing fiscal competence is surely one precursor to restoring national pride in our nation's capital. Even then, however, many other endemic problems will require creative long-term solutions.

My fledgling new organization hopes to offer alternatives worthy of consideration. Many of these will be based on the need to eliminate the jurisdictional incongruities within the Washington metropolitan area that accentuate these embarrassing circumstances.

DC's greatest single disgrace remains its decrepit and dysfunctional school system. You face an enormous challenge in laying new foundations that can support a credible new approach. We offer two hopefully creative suggestions for your consideration:

A federally-controlled DC Capital Investment Trust Fund:

The Holmes-Norton proposal for a federal flat-tax "bribe" to keep DC residents from "bugging out" is another national embarrassment. "Trickle-down" economics is dubious at best for the US as a whole: the notion that it might work within DC's boundaries is absurd. But if Congress can make do without that $750 million annually, why not collect and earmark those revenues for investment in our capital's collapsing infrastructure? Surely the antiquated DC school system would be one prime beneficiary--along with jails, hospitals, etc..

An Ad Hoc Intra-Regional Emergency School Board:

How can DC's school system perform so poorly while those of its world-class suburbs perform so well? Why not oblige our neighboring jurisdictions to help solve the dire problems of the central city on which their prosperity depends? DC may not be able to tax the earnings of its Maryland/Virginia beneficiaries, but surely it should be able to tap temporarily their admirable expertise.

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page2. To Senator Don Nickles, September 19, 1996

Congratulations on your stand opposing the dubious waiver for the District of Columbia in meeting welfare reform objectives. This precipitous action only heaps further disgrace on our nation's capital city.

My organization (albeit only in the formative stages) believes Congress must make major structural changes in DC's governance before Americans can regain pride in their capital. Clearly it should not become the sump that collects all the region's disadvantaged.

Some of DC's problems flow directly from past Congressional acts--and inattention. Others are endemic to American inner cities. But these problems are magnified because: a) DC has no state affiliation; b) it is functionally isolated from its prospering suburbs (in two different states); and c) it cannot avoid the spotlight of national symbolism.

Unfortunately this "central city" has come to symbolize American fears--while its suburbs symbolize American hopes for the future. It has become the "rusty hole in the golden doughnut". Fresh, positive, non- partisan alternatives are needed.

One hopefully constructive future-looking alternative (to simply rescinding the waiver) might be for Congress to authorize an interstate commission to develop an innovative, but common, welfare reform plan for the Greater Washington Metropolitan Area. This would recognize that some government functions (in some metropolitan areas) should become regionally-consistent to avoid unintended intra-regional imbalances. A regional (GWMA) waiver could subsequently be approved, if necessary.

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page1. To WASHINGTON POST Editor for Metro, Ms. Townsend, August 21, 1996

I enjoyed listening to you at the July meeting of the DC Bar Assn, and am pleased the Post is keeping DC's feet to the fire: it is an ever-increasing national embarrassment.

At that meeting, I admonished the press to remember a) DC's special role as the nation's capital; b) the need for solutions that treat the metropolitan area as an entity; and c) to try to keep the statistics honest--which is why I am writing to you now.

To me, the DC-ERA bill to bribe citizens to live in their nation's dysfunctional capital is a ghastly mistake--we need to fix DC's basic problems, not paper them over. Norton's basic premises really don't hold water. Not only aren't people leaving because of taxes,

a) DC has never had a "normal"-sized "middle class" cohort (because of the nature of the city's business), and that group is not the centroid of those leaving;

b) DC has a tiny, atypically rich, upper class, which isn't leaving at all (ask upscale real estate agents--or the IRS) and surely does not need a $300M annual bribe; and

c) Using a tax break to fill DC's coffers must be the ultimate hoax: if there is anywhere "flat tax trickle-down" won't work, it is within DC's limited city boundaries.

Finally, I see no mention of alternate uses for the $750 million in federal revenues that would be lost via the Norton charade. For instance, why not have the federal government use those funds to re-capitalize DC's crumbling infrastructure? My attached paper expands on these thoughts.

This page was updated on Sept 5, 1999


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