District of Columbia Home Rule Charter Review

in collaboration with

the Federal City Council

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"The District of Columbia

as a National Capital

and the District of Columbia

as a Place to Live:

A History of Local Governance

to Present Day"

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Prepared by

Georgetown University's Graduate Public Policy Program

This policy briefing report is the first of a series of policy seminars supported by Georgetown University's Graduate Public Policy Program (GPPP).
The GPPP's "D.C. Project" provides faculty and student research resources as a community service to support collaborative efforts addressing the needs of the District of Columbia.

I. The History of the Governance of the District of Columbia
and the Movement Toward Partial Home Rule


When the founders of this country reviewed the Articles of Confederation in 1787, they decided to establish a capital district under the control of the federal government. This decision resulted in part because of an incident that occurred earlier in Philadelphia while the Continental Congress was in session. A group of Pennsylvania veterans lodged a peaceful protest outside Independence Hall to demand payment for service in the Revolutionary War. The Congress asked the Pennsylvania state council to address the situation, provide protection, and break up the protest, but the council did nothing. The legislators adjourned and reconvened in Princeton, only after coming to the conclusion that this affront to their power would not have happened had there been a permanent seat of government under the exclusive control of Congress (Green, Washington: Village and Capital, 1800-1878, p. 10). The founders believed that this seat of government should not be contained in a state, but rather should be a separate entity under the federal government's control. Because of the intense interstate competition, they feared that if the capital was under the jurisdiction of any one state that the state could exercise power and authority over federal matters and, consequently, the other states.

As a result, the framers of the Constitution provided for Congressional control of the federal city in article I, section 8, paragraph 17:

The Congress shall have power . . . to exercise exclusive legislation in all cases whatsoever over such district (not exceeding ten miles square) as may by the cession of particular States, and the acceptance of Congress, become the seat of government of the United States. . .

Now that the federal city had been mandated, the most pressing question put before Congress was where to locate it. Most Congressmen believed in the importance of a central location for the nation's capital, but differed on what "central" meant. To some it meant geographically, which would establish the city halfway between Georgia and New Hampshire. To others it meant the center of the population, which would have been much further north of Virginia, even if slaves had been included in the number (Green, Village and Capital, p. 7). Ultimately, neither geography nor demography played as big a role as did politics in determining the location of the new city. Thomas Jefferson, Secretary of State in Washington's first administration, Alexander Hamilton, Secretary of the Treasury, and Richard Bland Lee and Alexander White, Virginia congressmen, arranged a compromise. The Northern congressmen agreed to the placing of the capital in the South in exchange for the Southern Congressmen's support of federal assumption of state Revolutionary war debts.

Congress accepted the plan, officially named The Residence Act of 1790, which gave the president the authority to choose the location of the capital along the Potomac River on land to be ceded by Maryland and Virginia. Washington was also given the authority to hire three commissioners to manage the planning and building of the new capital city. These commissioners, who would become known as the Board of Capital Commissioners, were also charged with the task of purchasing the land chosen by President Washington. The Act also stated that the seat of government would remain in Philadelphia for the next ten years while the city was being constructed. In the meanwhile Maryland and Virginia law would continue to govern the ceded land until Congress officially arrived.

During the ten-year period in which the building of the capital was undertaken, financing the construction of the federal city was an issue. In 1793, the Board of Capital Commissioners sold 3,000 lots in the city to three businessmen in order to raise funds to build the capitol and other federal buildings (Furer, Washington: A Chronological and Documentary History, p. 2).


Congress arrived in the capital in 1800 and realized that decisions had to be made concerning the governance of the people of Washington. With a law passed in 1801, the federal government officially assumed control over the land ceded to the federal district, which included Washington and Alexandria Counties and the cities of Washington, Georgetown and Alexandria.

Form of Government

In addition, through this legislation, Congress:

* appointed three commissioners to govern the city (the same commissioners who had been hired by George Washington to build the capital);
* established a circuit court that called for a chief justice and two associates who held four sessions per year and followed the procedures of the state (V.A. or M.D.) in which the county was located;
* established levy courts, made up of presidentially appointed officials, outside the city limits to assess taxes and manage local affairs;
* called for presidential appointment of marshals and justices of the peace;
* stated that District residents did not have the right to vote in national elections or have representation in Congress.

Within the District of Columbia, the cities of Georgetown and Alexandria continued governing themselves under their own established charters. In 1802, Congress approved a charter to establish a government for the city of Washington within the District.

The charter included provisions for:

* a mayor appointed by the president;
* the mayor to appoint all other offices;
* a twelve-member council elected by the voters with the authority to pass laws and impose taxes;
* all legislation passed by the Council to be sent to the Mayor for approval;
* the Council could override the Mayor's veto by a three-fourths vote,

Congress made changes to the original charter throughout the next 20 years that affected the city's government structure. These changes were as follows:

* In 1804, the charter was amended to give additional powers to the City Council. These included ". . . the power to prohibit gambling, to superintend the health of the city, . . . to provide for the establishment and superintendence of public schools" (Furer, p. 66).
* In 1812, in the second charter of Washington, the City Council was expanded to twenty members and given the power to elect the mayor.
* In 1820, voters were given the right to elect the mayor.

Financing the City

The city of Washington needed funds to pave roads, improve public health, and encourage economic development. The Council levied taxes and license fees in order to raise money to support the city. In 1805, the Council instituted a luxury tax on whiskey, wine, slaves and carriages to pay for two schools. The city also raised funds for two additional schools and the construction of the Washington Monument by holding lotteries (Furer, p. 4).

From the outset, Congress acknowledged the financial constraints the city faced due to the large amount of tax-exempt land owned by the federal government in the District. Throughout this form of government, Congress made no formal arrangements for financial support for the District. Congress gave funds periodically in emergencies, but did not utilize a mechanism for a consistent funding stream. For example, in 1807, Congress appropriated $3,000 for street repairs and tree planting along streets from the Treasury to the Capitol (Furer, p. 4) and in 1819, Congress appropriated $4,500 for two fire engines and the construction of two fire houses, one near the Capitol and one near the White House (Furer, p.9). Congress also appropriated in 1858 $20,000 a year for five years for Washington's public schools (Furer, p. 21).

Pros and Cons

Throughout the early and mid-1800's business leaders and landowners remained hopeful that the location of the national government in the new city would generate business, commerce, and tourism. They believed the economy depended upon the federal government's presence. Therefore, the frequent debates in Congress over the possibility of moving the capital to a Northern city greatly concerned them (Diner, Democracy, Federalism and the Governance of the Nation's Capital, 1790-1974, p.7) The slow economic development of the city of Washington in the early years, coupled by the political disincentives of having no vote for representation in the Congress or the presidential election, spurred discussion of retrocession among the residents almost immediately. In 1846, the residents of Alexandria City successfully won their fight for retrocession into Virginia, thus leaving the District its current size. Residents in the Virginia portion also feared the impending abolition of the slave trade in the federal city as Alexandria was a slave port (Harris, Congress and the Governance of the Nation's Capital: The Conflict of Federal and Local Interests, p. 4).

Advantages to this form of government:

* voters could elect the City Council and the Mayor;
* the City Council had broad legislative powers without interference from Congress.

Disadvantages included:

* Congress did not support the city financially on a regular basis;
* District residents could not elect a representative to Congress nor could they vote in national elections.

Race Relations/Demographics

In the early 1800's, the Washington council passed a series of restrictive measures controlling the activities of slaves and free blacks. In 1850, Congress abolished the slave trade in the District of Columbia. However, the municipal "black code" became more restrictive in the same year. Congress eliminated slavery in the District in 1862 and provided compensation for slave owners nine months before the Emancipation Proclamation. That same year, the Washington council abolished the municipal "black code" in the District. In 1867, two years before Congress passed the 15th Amendment, it provided black men the right to vote in the District of Columbia. This legislation was fought by the City Council and was vetoed by President Andrew Johnson, but still went into effect through a Congressional override of President Johnson's veto (Diner, Statehood and the Governance of the District of Columbia: An Historical Analysis of Policy Issues, p. 395).

In 1850, the population of Washington was 40,001; the total population of the District was 51,687. Blacks made up 26% of the total population. After the Civil War, the concentration of free blacks in the city greatly increased. By 1870, total District population was 131,700, including a black population of 43,422 (Green, Village and Capital, p. 21).

Movement Toward Change

During the Civil War it became increasingly important to Congress that the federal city be the center of power in the country. In order for the District to become a strong seat of government, members of Congress felt they needed to increase their involvement in the city's governance. Continued fear on the part of business leaders that Congress would move the capital further north or west increased the business community's desire to have a strong federal presence. Business leaders in Washington also wanted the federal government to support the city financially. In addition, the established business community began to fear the voting power of the increasing numbers of the enfranchised black electorate, now 33% of the population. Congressional involvement in D.C. affairs would essentially remove this issue by eliminating local elections (Diner, Statehood, p. 395).


Following the Civil War, a group of influential local business leaders, who called themselves the Citizens Reform Association, wanted Congress to increase its involvement in local affairs in Washington. They believed this would provide increased financial support from the federal government and would also address their fear of increasing influence of the black electorate in local elections. As a result, they proposed a territorial form of government for the federal city. After it was approved by the Senate and went through some major changes in the House, the District Territorial Act became law in 1871.

Form of Government

The new territorial government provided for:

* the abolishment of existing city and county governments (Georgetown, Washington city and Washington County);
* a governor, an eleven-member council (the upper house of the legislature), and a Board of Public Works all appointed by the President;
* the governor to approve all legislation; his veto could be overridden by a 2/3 vote in both houses of the legislature;
* Congressional authority to repeal or modify all legislative acts;
* a 22-member House of Delegates (the lower house of the legislature) elected by the voters;
* a non-voting delegate to the House of Representatives elected by the voters;
* the legislative assembly to reach a two-thirds vote to borrow money;
* the legislative assembly to tax residents and non-residents at the same rate;
* the legislative assembly to provide public schools;
* the legislative assembly to appoint justices of the peace and legislate concerning the acts of the courts (Congress. House. Committee on the District of Columbia. Governance of the Nation's Capital: A Summary of the Forms and Powers of Local Government for the District of Columbia, 1790-1973. 101st Cong., 2d Sess., 1990 p. 42).

Financing the City

In the territorial form of government, Congress did not provide any financial support for the city and local taxes did not generate enough money to complete the massive public improvements needed in the city. The Board of Public Works was forced to borrow money from the federal government in order to continue their plan to pave streets and improve drainage and sewer facilities. In 1872, Congress investigated the Board for mismanagement of funds, but eventually cleared the members of all charges. After the investigation, Congress put a limit of $10 million on the District's debt (Diner, Democracy, p. 19).

Pros and Cons

Advantages to this form of government included:

* the District had its first non-voting delegate to the House of Representatives;
* proponents believed that by abolishing other municipal governments, the District of Columbia would be able to consolidate its efforts and manage the metropolitan area more efficiently.

Disadvantages included:

* citizens only had partial participation in choosing their officials;
* the federal government again provided no funds to the city to assist in the upkeep of the capital.

Movement Toward Change

The Board of Public Works, headed by Alexander Shepherd, a man instrumental in lobbying for the creation of the territorial government for the District, spent over $20 million dollars on municipal improvements. These expenditures far exceeded the District's financing capabilities and consequently bankrupted the city. As a result of this fiscal mismanagement by the Board, in 1874 Congress created a Joint Select Committee to Inquire into the Affairs of the District of Columbia, comprised of two Senators and five members of the House. They recommended abolishing the territorial government and replacing it with a temporary commission government.


Congress passed legislation that created a temporary commission form of government for the federal city in 1874. That same year, Congress created a committee to develop a plan to properly divide District expenses between the federal and District governments (Diner, Democracy, p. 20). A group of the city's wealthy business and civic leaders, named the Committee of One Hundred, hoped to make this government a permanent one. They approached Congress and suggested that in exchange for Congressional contribution of half the cost of local government they were willing to give up home rule. Although most residents objected to this new form of government, the politically savvy business leaders, motivated largely by their own self interests, pushed for a stronger federal presence in Washington. They hoped to gain federal funding for oversight to keep property values high; and they wanted to be free from having to respond to the local electorate (Diner, Democracy p. 22). The Organic Act, legislation establishing a permanent commission government in the District, was passed in 1878.

Form of Government

The Organic Act of 1878 established:

* a three-person commission, comprised of two civilians and an officer of the Army Corps of Engineers, to govern the city;
* each commissioner to be responsible for managing certain city departments;
* fifty percent Congressional contribution of the District's budget;
* zero increase in the District's debt;
* Congressional approval of every item in the annual budget;
* no elected City Council or non-voting delegate to the House;
* Congressional approval of all contracts over $1,000 for public works (Diner, Democracy, p. 22 );
* Congressional approval for legislation on more important matters (Diner, Democracy, p. 24).

The legislation specifically states that the commissioners ". . . shall make no contract, nor incur any obligation other than such contracts and obligations as are hereinafter provided for and shall be approved by Congress" (Furer, p. 101).

Financing the City

As stated in The Organic Act, Congress would contribute fifty percent of the District's budget. Property taxes levied on the residents and licensing fees would finance the rest of the budget for the federal city. Congress followed the fifty percent formula until early in this century when new members in Congress who were not aware of the legislative history successfully avoided appropriating enough funds to meet the 50% obligation (Diner, Democracy, p. 25). In 1921, Congress decreased its contribution amount to the District budget to 40 %. It continued to decrease each year so that by 1954 Congress only contributed 8.5% to the District budget (Diner, Education, p.41). In addition, The Organic Act required the Commissioners to submit a yearly plan that specified the work that would take place in the next fiscal year and the necessary budget to the Secretary of the Treasury for his approval (Furer, p. 99).

Pros and Cons

Advantages to this form of government included:

* Initial Congressional commitment to help finance half of the city's budget.
Disadvantages to this form of government included:

* citizens had no representation in Congress;
* citizens had no elected officials - could not govern themselves;
* citizens could not vote in national elections;
* Congress had exclusive control over the budget and legislative matters;
* Congress did not live up to its original financial commitment.

Race Relations/Demographics

Great changes occurred politically through these years due to the increase of the black population in the city. By 1960, 55% of the total population of 763,956 in Washington was black. A black student majority existed in the D.C. public schools by 1950 (Diner, The Governance of Education in the District of Columbia: An Historical Analysis of Current Issues, p.33). In 1935 there were about 33,500 black children in the D.C. Public Schools out of a total student population of 93,000 students. These children were subjected to a segregated school system with separate school facilities for black and white residents. By 1953, black enrollment in the public schools increased to 58,900 out of 104,000 (Diner, Education, p.35). As the civil rights movement gained momentum in the 1950's, citizen groups protested not only segregation, but also the obvious inadequacies of the black schools (Diner, Education, p.36). To manage the overcrowding that now existed in the black schools, the Board of Education transferred 30 buildings from the white to the black system between the start of World War II and 1954 (Diner, Education, p. 36). After the 1954 Supreme Court decision which required the desegregation of the schools, white student enrollment decreased sharply each year. By 1960, black children comprised 70 percent of the student enrollment in the District public schools (Diner, Education, p. 38).

Movement Toward Change

While the Commission form of government existed, an important addition to the Constitution was made with regard to the District. The 23rd Amendment was passed in 1961 allowing the residents of Washington to vote in presidential elections. President Johnson, like other Presidents before him including Eisenhower and Kennedy, took a stand on the issue of home rule and urged the Congress to pass legislation that would allow District residents to govern themselves.

Some members of Congress, in nearly every session throughout the 1950's and 1960's, introduced some form of a home rule bill. The Senate passed four home rule bills, the latest version in 1960, but Congressman John McMillan (D - S.C.) prevented the bills from leaving the House Committee on the District of Columbia and reaching the House floor for a final vote.

By 1960, Washington, D.C. was a majority black city. This demographic shift occurred during the same time as the growing civil rights movement. The movement provided a natural vehicle through which proponents of home rule voiced their demand for representation and self governance. Consequently for many of Washington's residents, the issue of voting rights and home rule became entwined with the national civil rights agenda.


In 1967, in an effort to slowly transform the District government into one resembling home rule, President Johnson pushed through Congress Reorganization Plan Number Three. By reorganizing the local government in this way, Johnson could appoint a majority of black officials who could be elected at a later date when home rule was successfully established.

Form of Government

The newly configured commissioner form of government put forward by President Johnson called for:

* abolition of the three-member board of commissioners;
* one commissioner, a deputy commissioner, and a nine-member council to be appointed by the president;
* the commissioner and council together to assume all legislative and executive powers that formerly rested with the three commissioners.

Another governmental change during this reorganization period was in the court system. From 1800-1869, the court system in the District of Columbia was a federal court system, combining local and federal functions. By the late 1960's, the system consisted of the Court of General Sessions, which heard minor offenses, and the U.S. District Court for Washington, D.C., which heard major felonies. Appeals originating from the Court of General sessions would be heard by the D.C. Court of Appeals and appeals originating from the U.S. District Court were taken up by the U.S. Court of Appeals. Because of this system's inefficient nature, Congress passed the District of Columbia Court Reform and Procedure Act of 1970, which separated federal from local courts. Along with giving local courts the powers of state courts, the legislation required that all original jurisdiction cases go to the Superior Court of the District of Columbia and appellate cases would go to the D.C. Court of Appeals (Diner, Democracy, pp. 56-57).

In 1968, Congress passed Public Law 90-292 which allowed the District voters to elect members of the District's Board of Education. Since 1906, the Board had been appointed by the justices of the Supreme Court of the District of Columbia.
Pros and Cons

Advantages included:

* the Council was now more representative of the city;
* considered by many as a stepping stone to home rule;
* a commissioner/mayor managing the city, although still appointed by the President.

Disadvantages included:
* citizens still had no voting representative in Congress;
* citizens did not vote for local officials.

Race Relations/Demographics

President Johnson appointed Walter E. Washington as the first commissioner/mayor under the new plan, a significant step towards home rule and an important gesture to the black community with the appointment of the first black as presiding executive in the District's history. In 1968, one year after his appointment, Washington helped restore peace after rioting broke out in the District in response to the assassination of Martin Luther King, Jr. President Johnson sent out federal troops to help control the situation. Much of the city's commerical shoping corridors in downtown were severely damaged. Hardest hit were the small businesses in traditionally black neighborhoods such as 14th and U Streets in Shaw and H Street in Northeast, among others. By 1970, the District's total population was 756,510, of which 537,712 were black (Gillette, Between Justice and Beauty: Race, Planning , and the Failure of Urban Policy in Washington, D.C., p.153). Also in 1970, Hugh J. Scott was appointed as the first black official to serve as Superintendent of Schools.

Movement Toward Change

President Johnson's Reorganization Plan provided a bridge to home rule. By appointing blacks to executive positions and by appointing a majority black council, Johnson created a local government more representative of the city. The newly elected Board of Education and the re-establishment the office of the non-voting delegate for the District of Columbia by President Nixon in 1970 provided further momentum for home rule proponents.
II. Background on the District of Columbia Self-Government and Governmental Reorganization Act

The District of Columbia Self-Government and Governmental Reorganization Act of 1973, more commonly known as the Home Rule Act, has served as the governmental structure of the nation's capital since January 2, 1975. The final legislation reflected the input of the Congressional Commission on the Organization of the Government of the District of Columbia (the Nelsen Commission), thirty-eight days of public hearings, and months of Congressional debates and conference committee meetings. Though not the first experiment with home rule in the District of Columbia, the Home Rule Act provides the most far-reaching grant of self-government since the nation's founding.

The Home Rule Act was by no means the first proposal for self-government in the District since the end of the territorial government in 1874. Past initiatives ranged from statehood to retrocession to variations on commission and city-manager forms of government. Between 1949-1972, the Senate passed eight home rule bills alone which ultimately died or were defeated in large part by the efforts of then-Chairman of the House Committee on the District of Columbia, John McMillan (D-S.C.), who lead the committee from 1945-1972. McMillan was an avowed conservative and segregationist, and staunch opponent of home rule. Attempts to mobilize local and nationwide support for home rule were undertaken by a variety of groups such as Free D.C., the national Coalition for Self-Determination for the District of Columbia, the NAACP, Common Cause, and the League of Women Voters, and individuals like civil rights' activist Marion Barry, D.C. Delegate Walter Fauntroy and Mayor/Commissioner Walter Washington.

President Lyndon Johnson had long been a supporter of home rule, and had "always considered the passage of a home rule charter... part of his civil rights agenda" (Jaffe and Sherwood, Dream City: Race, Power, and the Decline of Washington, D.C., p. 44). After failed passage of a 1965 home rule bill, activists Marion Barry and L.D. Pratt from the Free D.C. movement organized a city-wide boycott of all businesses in the District that refused to display pro-home rule stickers in opposition to the Washington Board of Trade's efforts to defeat home rule (Gillette, p. 191-2). Meanwhile, President Johnson's Reorganization Plan No. 3, the "half-step toward an independent city government" and the appointments of Walter Washington, the first black mayor/commissioner, and several prominent members of D.C.'s black community to the new city council and marked important steps toward the return to self-government in the District (Jaffe and Sherwood, p. 60-63). In addition, the Coalition for the Self -Determination for the District of Columbia mobilized thousands of concerned citizens throughout the country to lobby their congressmen in support of home rule (Harris, p. 7). Even with the past support of Presidents Eisenhower, Kennedy, Johnson and Nixon (see Appendix 2), and the Senate and numerous citizens' groups, however, passage of home rule legislation was impossible without supportive leadership in the House.

The turning point in the home rule movement came with the defeat of chairman McMillan's bid for reelection to the Congress in 1972. After twenty-four years as chairman, the efforts of Delegate Fauntroy, the Urban League's Sterling Tucker and others to mobilize black voters in South Carolina led to McMillan's downfall, "thereby removing the single most entrenched opponent to home rule for Washington" (Gillette, p. 190). In his place, the first black member of the committee, Charles Diggs (D-M.I.), assumed leadership in 1973. Chairman Diggs wasted no time in making self-government for the District a top priority.

The Civil Rights movement provided the backdrop to deliberations over the proposed Home Rule Act. Up until home rule, Washington, D.C. was the only majority-black city in the country whose citizens could not elect a black mayor and legislative branch (Jaffe and Sherwood, p. 100). For many Americans, including recent Presidents, the issue of whether District residents should have self-government was not solely a debate over the most efficient way to run the city, but a debate over equal rights and citizenship. To deny the then 750,000 residents of the nation's capital the right to vote in any local or national election (with the exception of the School Board and the President--only recently granted in the mid-1960s) seemed the ultimate hypocrisy. Tax-paying, draft-serving, and law-abiding citizens of the freest and most powerful democratic nation in the world were distinguished from their fellow Americans merely by their place of residence.

While many politicians agreed that the restoration of some form of self-government was long overdue, the type and substance of the government was subject to much controversy. The majority of the 1973 debates centered around the conflict between local and federal interests, though historically underlying the discussion were elements of racism and the fact that some members of Congress believed the residents of the District were not ready for or were incapable of governing themselves. A. GENERAL ARGUMENTS IN FAVOR OF HOME RULE

* D.C. residents are no different than other U.S. citizens and they should be able to elect and be governed by their own representatives.
Along with several Presidents and citizen advocacy groups, some congresspeople, like Charles Rangel (D-N.Y.), Chairman Diggs, Ted Kennedy (D-M.A.) and Ronald Dellums (D-C.A.), argued that self-government for the residents of the nation's capital was simply an issue of equal rights. Often under the banner, "no taxation without representation," these groups pointed out that law-abiding, tax-paying citizens of the District deserved the same rights to self-government as every other American. Residing in the District should not exempt people from their civil rights.

* Local issues should be dealt with by local officials, not federal officials.
Many citizens and congresspeople alike argued that residents were best equipped to address the needs of the city's citizens. The argument that the nation's capital belongs to all Americans, they argued, pertains to the Federal government buildings, museums, and monuments, not the local neighborhoods. In addition, some in Congress said that turning over local control to the District would be more efficient and would free up valuable time for Congress to devote to truly national issues. Congress should release itself from what Chairman Diggs called the burdensome task of sitting as City Council for the District. Just as Congress had delegated control of the schools to a locally-elected school board in 1968, so should it delegate authority over other local issues to a locally-elected government.

* The Founding Fathers intended to allow the District to be locally self-governed.
James Madison's Federalist Paper #43 was utilized by home rule proponents to justify their insistence that the framers of the Constitution had never intended to deny D.C. residents self-government. As Madison wrote, "...the inhabitants will find sufficient inducements of interest to become willing parties to the cession [of the land by the States]: as they will have had their voice in the election of the government which is to exercise authority over them; as a municipal legislature for local purposes, derived from their own suffrages, will of course be allowed them..." (Federalist Paper #43). D.C. had been granted some self-government during the early years of the republic, a period during which many of the Founding Fathers held high positions in the federal government.

* Home Rule would establish a clear system of accountability.
Under federal control, proponents argued people who ran the city were unaccountable to the city's residents. Local control would set up a system of direct accountability that would lead to a more efficient government. Popularly-elected, as opposed to presidentially-appointed, officials would further citizen involvement and government responsiveness.

* Home Rule is inconsistent with the view of D.C. as a federal city.
Opponents argued that D.C.'s status as the nation's capital precluded it from being governed by local residents. The city belongs to all the citizens of the U.S., they said, and simply because an American chooses to reside in the city does not mean he or she should have more control over how it is run than does a citizen living elsewhere. District residents already reaped the benefits of both federal generosity and the prestige of living in the nation's capital; self-government wasn't necessary. Maintaining federal control over the District is the only way to insure it remains every American's city.

* It is not in the nation's best interest to turn the city over to local control.
Opponents claimed that giving local residents any control over the city endangered the nation as a whole. Congressman Rarick of Louisiana asserted that, "the very concept of home rule for the District would give the inhabitants of this area unprecedented influence and advantage over the inhabitants of every other state in the U.S. In fact, it may even be safe to say that without home rule, they, by close proximity and influence through the news media now enjoy an advantage over citizens of other States which is tantamount to a violation of the equal protection of the law" (Congressional Record, October 10, 1973). Others expressed concern that granting local citizens police power would threaten the protection of the capital, particularly in light of the 1968 riots and recent civil rights and anti-war demonstrations that had occurred in the city in the 1960's and 70's.

* Home Rule goes against the intent of the Founding Fathers.
Because article I, section 8 of Constitution specifically states that Congress "shall have power to exercise exclusive legislation in all cases whatsoever" over the District of Columbia and makes no mention of local government or voting rights for D.C. residents, home rule opponents claimed self-government contradicted the framers' intent. If the Founding Fathers had intended D.C. residents to have self-government, wouldn't they have included such a provision in the Constitution? Evidence used to support this claim included the clause in the Constitution and the section of James Madison's Federalist #43 that said, "The indispensable necessity of complete authority at the seat of government, carries its own evidence with it... Without it, not only the public authority might be insulted and its proceedings interrupted with impunity; but a dependence of the members of the general government on the State comprehending the seat of the government... might bring on the national councils an imputation of awe or influence..." (Federalist #43).

* D.C. residents are not ready for or capable of self-government.
One Congresswoman in particular, Edith Green (D-O.R.), claimed that, as indicated by the financial disaster (so-called "Shepherd's Folly") during the last experiment with self-government--the territorial government of 1871-1874--D.C. residents were unable to handle home rule. The recent forced resignation of an elected school superintendent added further flame to this argument.

* Home Rule would benefit wealthy government workers who lived in the District.
Though not an argument often used to deny home rule, some congresspeople expressed concern that D.C. residents (alleged to be wealthy employees of the government) already benefited from their access to lucrative government jobs and home rule would merely give them more power.

* Limited Home Rule would defeat the Statehood Drive.
Some statehood proponents, like activist Julius Hobson, were opposed to home rule legislation in general and the specific Home Rule Act being debated because they felt none of the proposals went far enough in granting self-government and representation to D.C. residents. True civil rights and local control could only be achieved, they argued, if D.C. became a sovereign state which possessed the taxing authority and representation on par with the other states.


In addition to utilizing the general arguments listed above, home rule opponents in Congress wrote a lengthy report delineating their opposition to the specific legislation as introduced in the House (H.R. 9682) by Chairman Diggs, the other Democrat members of the Committee on the District of Columbia, and three Republican members, including Gilbert Gude of Maryland. The dissenters were all Republican members of the committee.

* The Home Rule Act is "dangerously long and excessive in its grant of legislative authority and short on reserving to Congress 'ultimate legislative authority.'" (Congress, The District of Columbia Self-Government and Reorganization Act: Report Together with Dissenting View [to accompany H.R. 9682, p. 116)
The legislation was accused of being tediously long and confusing in addition to going far beyond the scope of self-government granted in the 1871 territorial government. Representatives feared that H.R. 9682 would "delegate the full range of legislative authority from the Congress to the local government. The District would be able freely to 'experiment' with legislation," they argued, "in such areas as social welfare, that the Congress would refuse to enact, or that could damage the spirit as well as the substance of the Federal interests" (Congress, Dissenting Views, p. 121).

* The President would no longer have adequate control over the local government.
Opponents claimed that denying the President appointive authority over the executive and legislative branches of the local government would "constitute a clear and present danger that the Federal interest would be damaged when the local authority is not used or is misused" (Congress, Dissenting Views, p. 122).

* The financial management system is unnecessarily "complicated, confusing, and contradictory."
The original bill granted D.C. autonomy over how to spend its money, both locally raised revenue and that received in the Federal payment. Representatives in opposition successfully fought for Congressional line-item control over the D.C. budget. Despite this change, however, several Representatives raised the issue of how the local government could possibly cover the costs associated with running the city, and expressed concern that H.R. 9682 "contains little that should inspire the District taxpayer to look with confidence to the long-range financial stability of the Nation's Capital, or the Congress to continue its constructive and fair-share approach toward meeting the District's rapidly increasing financial needs and commitments" (Congress, Dissenting Views, p. 131).

* Congress is abdicating its role as the State legislature for the District.
Opponents argued that Congress was constitutionally mandated to act as the State legislature for the District and that turning over any legislative authority to a locally governing body was Congressional negligence. They feared a "legislative dance" in which the local government would pass a bill, Congress would reject it, and the local government would re-enact the legislation over and over (Congress, Dissenting Views, p. 142).

* Local residents will have too much control over the Capital planning process.
Despite the fact that the Home Rule Act gave the revised National Capital Planning Commission (NCPC) final say over Capital improvements, opponents feared that the combination of local representation on the NCPC and the Zoning Commission gave D.C. residents too much power over the planning process. The NCPC is composed of: ex officio, the Secretary of the Interior, the Secretary of Defense, the Administrator of GSA, the Mayor, the chairman of the Council, and the chairmen of the congressional committees on the District of Columbia; and, as voting members, three members appointed by the President, and two District residents appointed by the mayor. The Zoning Commission consists of the Architect of the Capitol, the Director of the National Park Service, and three members appointed by the mayor.

* The Home Rule Act gives the Board of Education too much autonomy.
Opponents argued that the provision granting the Board of Education free reign over how to spend the money allocated to it through the budgetary process gave the Board too much autonomy.

III. The Home Rule Act

Once it became clear the momentum for passage of some form of home rule was virtually guaranteed, contentious Congressional debates over the form and substance of the self-government took center stage. Highest on the list of concerns was how much power would be given to a locally-elected body. It was clear early on that any legislation granting D.C. residents exclusive control over legislation, appropriations (including how to spend locally-raised revenues), or taxation would not pass both houses of Congress. The final product reflected numerous compromises made during debates and in conference committee meetings. The Home Rule Act's Statement of Purposes (Sec.102) clearly states Congress's maintenance of the ultimate authority over the District:

Subject to the retention by Congress of the ultimate legislative authority over the Nation's Capitol granted by article 1, section 8 of the Constitution, the intent of Congress is to delegate certain legislative powers to the government of the District of Columbia; authorize the election of certain local officials by the registered qualified electors in the District of Columbia; grant to the inhabitants of the District of Columbia powers of local self-government to modernize, reorganize, and otherwise improve the governmental structure of the District of Columbia; and, to the greatest extent possible, consistent with the constitutional mandate, relieve Congress of the burden of legislation upon essentially local matters.


The general structure of the District of Columbia government resembles the federal model of three separate branches--executive, legislative, and judicial. The Home Rule Act established a strong mayor form of government led by a chief executive elected on a partisan basis for a four-year term. The mayor's powers are far-reaching, including, among many others:

* appointing a city administrator to serve at the mayor's discretion;
* appointing, promoting, and supervising all personnel in the executive department of the District government;
* supervising and directing all activities of all offices and divisions of the executive branch;
* vetoing Council legislation and line item-vetoing Council budget acts (both subject to two-thirds override); and,
* serving as the "central planning agency" for the District.

The legislative branch is an elected 13-member Council chosen for a four-year term in a partisan election. The chairman and four members are elected at-large with the remaining eight elected in eight election wards. No more than two at-large members can be from the same party. With the exception of the full-time Chairman, council members work part-time. The Council's powers include, among others:

* creating, abolishing, or organizing any office, agency, department, or instrumentality of the government of the District;
* legislating for the District, subject to mayoral and Congressional veto;
* amending the Charter of the District by act, subject to referendum approval by the electorate and no resolution of disapproval by the Congress;
* adopting a balanced budget;
* taxing;
* enacting 90-day emergency legislation by two-thirds vote; and,
* adjusting levels of compensation to its members and setting the level of compensation for the mayor.

The Home Rule Act left the court system as it had been established in the District of Columbia Court Reform and Criminal Procedure Act of 1970. The Superior Court of the District of Columbia is assigned all cases of original jurisdiction, the District Court is given "essentially the powers of state courts," and the District of Columbia Court of Appeals serves as the local appellate court (Diner, Democracy, p. 57). The Home Rule Act authorizes the president to appoint the judges of the District courts from a list of three names submitted to him by a nominating commission that includes local representation. The mayor and the Council may not amend the Court's budget and must grant it whatever amount is requested. Furthermore, a presidentially-appointed U.S. attorney, not an official elected by citizens of the District or appointed by the mayor, is responsible for prosecuting all crimes other than some minor offenses.

The Home Rule Act revised the National Capital Planning Commission (NCPC) to be the central Federal planning agency for the Federal Government in D.C. and turned over the planning functions for the District to the mayor. The NCPC is charged with preserving the important historical and natural features in the city, with the exception of those buildings and grounds under the jurisdiction of the Architect of the Capitol. The Home Rule Act also turned federal government control of the Manpower Administration (now called the Department of Employment Services) and the National Capital Housing Authority (now called the Department of Public Assisted Housing) over to the mayor.

The Home Rule Act provided for the establishment of advisory neighborhood commissions (ANCs) if a majority of the District's residents voted in favor of them on the ratification ballot for the Home Rule Charter. The ANCs are charged with advising the District government on issues specific to their allotted neighborhoods, including, among others, concerns about safety, sanitation, recreation, and streets. The ANCs' expenses are covered by funds from the general revenues of the District.

Finally, the Home Rule Act established and delineated the National Capital Service Area (often called the Federal Enclave), the portion of the District which includes the principal monuments, Federal buildings, and the Mall. The National Capital Service Director, to be appointed by the President, would assure that adequate fire and police protection, street maintenance, and sanitation services were provided to the Area. The Director (though one has never been appointed) would have the authority to utilize District of Columbia governmental services "to the extent practicable" to achieve these goals.


* Congressional veto of any local government legislation
In order both to avoid delineating the distinction between federal and local issues and to clearly state Congressional retention of ultimate legislative authority over the District, the Home Rule Act includes the following clause:

Notwithstanding other provisions of this Act, the Congress retains the right, at any time, to exercise its constitutional authority as legislature of the District, by enacting legislation for the District on any subject, whether within or without the scope of legislative power granted to the Council by this Act, including legislation to amend or repeal any law in force in the District prior to or after enactment of this Act and any act passed by the Council (Sec.601).

Since passage of the Home Rule Act, Congress has put forth thirty-eight challenges to District legislation, considered ten resolutions of disapproval, and issued three resolutions (vetoes). In addition to addressing specific District legislation, Congress often legislates through the appropriations process in a variety of policy areas (see Appendix 3). For example, District appropriations bills have included provisions forbidding use of funds to: perform abortions unless the life of the mother is endangered; close a specific firehouse; and, change the taxicab pricing system to metered fares, among others. One appropriation bill mandated that the District put a death penalty referendum on a 1992 ballot.

* Oversight of the District's budget
Congress retained the right to line-item veto any section of the District's proposed budget, including how D.C. spends revenues raised from taxes on its citizens. The Council must receive Congressional approval before it spends any money. In addition, the Home Rule Act requires the Council to submit a balanced budget, and with a few exceptions, prohibits the Council from issuing general obligation bonds or borrowing money from the Treasury that would cause the amount of principal and interest required to exceed 14% of that year's budget.

* Congressional control over appropriation of the annual Federal payment
The mayor must prepare a request for the annual Federal payment based on his or her analysis of the "cost and benefits to the District which result from the unusual role of the District as the Nation's Capital" (Home Rule Act, Sec.501). The request is given to the Council, which, if it approves, submits it to the Office of Management and Budget and then to the Congress. The Home Rule Act specified the level of the federal payment through fiscal year 1985, but provided no guidance thereafter. Many home rule proponents requested, to no avail, that the federal payment be based on a statutory formula that would provide a predictable figure, in order to make the budgetary process simpler and more accurate. In 1991, President Bush signed legislation establishing a formula setting the payment at 24% of the local revenues for fiscal years 1993-1995, but the process has never been utilized (Harris, p. 213).

* Congressional veto of alterations to the Charter
The Council can amend the Charter (Title IV of the Home Rule Act) with a majority vote and ratification by a majority of District voters. If Congress opposes the amendment, it can submit a joint resolution disapproving the amendment to the President. If the President signs the resolution, the amendment is repealed.

* Special use of the Metropolitan Police
When requested by the Director of the Secret Service, the Chief of the Metropolitan Police must provide officers to assist the Secret Service and the Executive Protective Service on a non-reimbursable basis. Theoretically, the District is compensated for these costs through the federal payment. In addition, the President may direct the mayor to provide Metropolitan Police Force officers whenever the president determines conditions of emergency exist. Inclusion of the latter provision was essential to gaining House support for the legislation.


* Prohibition on imposing a nonresident income tax on income earned in the District
Virginia and Maryland representatives were well-supported in their arguments that their constituents would be unfairly burdened if nonresident income taxation wasn't prohibited. Some also feared that taxing nonresident income would discourage people from working in the District and discourage organizations and businesses from locating there. Though the estimates are largely disputed, numbers in the range of $300-$400 million during the 1980s were given as estimated lost revenues due to this prohibition. Theoretically, the federal payment takes into account this figure.

* Prohibition on passage of legislation allowing for construction of any structure whose height would violate the restrictions established in the Height of Buildings Act of 1910
In order to preserve the physical beauty of the nation's capital, this provision was included. While many Americans support this in principle, the lost revenue due to the inability to build tall office space, apartment buildings, etc., cannot be denied. In 1990, the mayor and the Council passed legislation to amend the Schedule of Heights to allow for construction of the proposed Market Square North complex in downtown D.C. The legislation was overturned by Congress.
* Prohibition on the taxation of U.S. government property or property of any of the States
The federal payment to the District is meant to make up for, among other things, the lost revenue due to the fact that over 50% of the District's land is non-taxable as U.S. government or foreign government property.


Despite assertions from statehood activist Julius Hobson that the Home Rule Act was "home fool," a watered down series of compromises that ultimately left all the real power with the federal government, the legislation was passed by Congress, signed by President Nixon, and ratified by the District's residents by a vote of 83,530-18,037. In 1975, Walter Washington became the first elected black mayor of the District, and Sterling Tucker became the first black chairman of the city council. Passage and implementation of home rule did not end the controversy over the lack of Congressional representation for the District's residents and specific sections of the legislation (such as prohibition on a nonresident income tax). Groups like the national Coalition for the Self-Determination for the District of Columbia continued efforts to gain these rights.

Walter Washington served one term as mayor and was defeated in his 1978 bid for reelection by Marion Barry, a founder of the Student Non-Violent Coordinating Committee, home rule advocate, and former member of the District School Board. As mayor, Barry worked to increase business with minority contractors, improve housing and services to the elderly, and reform the city's "bloated and largely unresponsive bureaucracy" in the midst of a reduced payment from the federal government (Gillette, pp. 195-96). Barry's "most visible achievement came in promoting business in Washington" and by 1986, the District's downtown core had undergone substantial revitalization (Gillette, p. 197). In 1990, Sharon Pratt Dixon replaced Barry as mayor, promising to weed out alleged corruption and mismanagement in the city government, earn back the trust of the city's residents, and streamline the government. With a financial crisis looming, she was defeated in her 1994 bid for reelection by former mayor Barry. In Barry's first year of office, Congress installed the D.C. Financial Responsibility and Management Assistance Authority (the control board) with the mandate to "review all D.C. budgets and other financial actions, overturn those it felt necessary, replace D.C. actions with spending plans of their own, and eliminate red ink before the millennium" (Meyers, p. 31).

Throughout the home rule period, statehood and civil rights advocates have continued to push for national representation and more substantial self-government for the residents of the District. With backing from President Carter's Administration, an amendment providing D.C. residents representation in the Senate and the House was ratified by the required two-thirds majority in Congress in 1978, but died when the required three-fourths of the states failed to ratify it within the required time period. Later, in 1982, the District of Columbia Statehood Constitutional Convention completed a state constitution for "New Columbia" which was subsequently approved by the D.C. voters by a narrow margin. The constitution was then sent to the Congress, where it underwent major revisions over a several year period. Finally, in 1993, a bill to admit New Columbia into the Union was voted on by the full House, which defeated it by a vote of 277-153.


The future of governance in the District of Columbia is a particularly pressing topic for national legislators, locally-elected officials, and D.C. residents given the current financial crisis. Most argue that the economic state of the District is due in part to mismanagement and over-commitment by the District government and in part to the impossibility of a city managing state, county, and municipal responsibilities with a restricted tax base and a needy population. The financial obligations imposed by the transfer of an unfunded pension liability which is now over $3.5 billion, and responsibility for a public health system, income maintenance programs, and a prison system, among others, have stretched the fiscal and managerial capabilities of the city government past its limit. "Congressional meddling" (Harris, p. 271), local mismanagement, and continued ambiguities about the relationship between the District and the national government have all played a role in creating the current crisis.

The final words in Charles Harris' book, Congress and the Governance of the Nation's Capital, written before the establishment of the financial control board, most clearly delineate the task before us:

"The challenge of dual democracy requires the nation to take a double-minded approach to the local governance of the federal district:

The District of Columbia as a national capital


The District of Columbia as a place to live.

In the spirit of the advice of Thomas Jefferson, who was confident of the wisdom of each generation to resolve its own issues, this is our time to respond to the problem of democracy in the nation's capital" (Harris, p. 276).


Congress. Conference Committee. The District of Columbia Self-Government and Reorganization Act of 1973 Conference Report [to accompany S.1435]. Report 93-703, December 6, 1973.

Congress. House. Committee on the District of Columbia. Governance of the Nation's Capital: A Summary of the Forms and Powers of Local Government for the District of Columbia, 1790-1973. 101st Cong., 2d sess., 1990.

Congress. House. Committee on the District of Columbia. The District of Columbia Self-Government and Governmental Reorganization Act of 1973, as Amended or Modified. 101st Cong., 1st sess., 1989.

Congress. House. Committee on the District of Columbia. The District of Columbia Self-Government and Reorganization Act: Report Together with Dissenting Views [to accompany H.R. 9682]. Report 93-492, U.S. Government Printing Office, 1973. (referred to as Dissenting Views in the briefing report)

Congress. Senate. Providing for the District of Columbia an Elected Mayor and City Council, and for Other Purposes: Report [to accompany S.1435]. Report No.93-219, 93d Cong., 1st sess., 1973.

Congressional Record--1973: June 20, July 10, October 8-10, 16 and 17, December 6, 17 and 19.

Diner, Steven J. Democracy, Federalism and the Governance of the Nation's Capital, 1790-1974. Center for Applied Research and Urban Policy, Washington, D.C., 1987. (referred to as Democracy in the briefing report)

Diner, Steven J. The Governance of Education in the District of Columbia: An Historical Analysis of Current Issues. UDC Fund/History -Policy Project, 1982.

Diner, Steven, J. "Statehood and the Governance of the District of Columbia: An Historical Analysis of Policy Issues." Journal of Policy History. Vol. 4, No. 4, 1992, pp. 389-417.

Federalist Paper #43

Furer, Howard B., ed. Washington: A Chronological and Documentary History 1790-1970. Oceana Publications, Inc., 1975.

Gillette, Howard. Between Justice and Beauty: Race, Planning, and the Failure of Urban Policy in Washington, D.C. Johns Hopkins University Press, 1995.

Green, Constance McLaughlin. The Secret City: A History of Race Relations in the Nation's Capital. Princeton University Press, Princeton, New Jersey, 1967.

Green, Constance McLaughlin. Washington, Capital City: 1879-1950. Princeton University Press, Princeton, New Jersey, 1963.

Green, Constance McLaughlin. Washington, Village and Capital: 1800-1878. Princeton University Press, Princeton, New Jersey, 1962. (referred to as Village and Capital in the briefing report)

Harris, Charles Wesley. Congress and the Governance of the Nation's Capital: The Conflict of Federal and Local Interests. Georgetown University Press, Washington, DC, 1995.

Jaffe, Harry and Tom Sherwood. Dream City: Race, Power, and the Decline of Washington, D.C. Simon and Schuster, New York, 1994.

Meyers, Edward M. Public Opinion and the Political Future of the Nation's Capital. Georgetown University Press, Washington, D.C., 1996.

Upton, Helen. "D.C.'s Financial Crisis." Cross Sections. Vol. 13, No., 2, Summer 1996, pp. 1-9.


Quotes from Presidents in Favor of Home Rule

The following quotes are all taken from the publication, The District of Columbia Self-Government and Reorganization Act of 1973: Report Together with Dissenting Views [to accompany H.R. 9682].

Dwight D. Eisenhower, in his Jan. 19, 1959 budget message to the Congress: "I again recommend that the Congress enact legislation to admit Hawaii into the Union as a State, and to grant home rule to the District of Columbia. It would be unconscionable if either of these actions were delayed any longer."

John F. Kennedy on July 15, 1961 to Congress: "Restoration of suffrage and the responsibility to the people of the District for dealing with their municipal problems is long overdue. It is time to eliminate the last legal and constitutional anomaly in the United States and to reaffirm our belief in the principle that government should be responsible to the governed."

Lyndon B. Johnson (date unknown): "Our Federal, State, and local governments rest on the principle of democratic representation--the people elect those who govern them. We cherish the creed declared by our forefathers: No taxation without representation. We know full well that men and women give the most of themselves when they are permitted to attack problems which directly affect them. Yet the citizens of the District of Columbia, at the very seat of the Government created by our Constitution, have no vote in the government of their city. They are taxed without representation. They are asked to assume the responsibilities of citizenship while denied one of its basic rights. No major capital in the free world is in a comparable condition of disenfranchisement."

Richard M. Nixon, in his 1969 and 1970 messages to the Congress on the Nation's Capital: "The District's citizens should not be expected to pay taxes for a government which they have no part in choosing--or to bear the full burdens of citizenship without the full rights of citizenship." (1969)

"I share the chagrin that most Americans feel at the fact that Congress continues to deny self-government to the Nation's Capital. I would remind the Congress that the founding fathers did nothing of the sort. Home rule was taken from the District only after more than seventy years of self-government, and this was done on grounds that were either factually shaky or morally doubtful." (1970)


Foreign Models

Listed below are brief synopses of how foreign countries govern their districts. These and other alternative models for city governance will be discussed at a later session held by D.C. Agenda. Most important to note is that the capital of the United States is the only federal district whose residents are denied representation in the national legislative body.

All information in this appendix is taken from the chapter, "The Challenge of Dual Democracy: Foreign Models" in Charles Harris' book, Congress and the Governance of the Nation's Capital.

Australia (Canberra)
* Federal district (Australian Capital Territory) has representation in both houses of the Commonwealth Parliament
* Since 1988, federal district given self-governing powers and responsibilities similar to the states
* Legislative Assembly of 17 members
* Executive consisting of chief minister and three other ministers
* Federal government maintains powers over the courts, the police, and the local electoral system, and can disallow actions of the Legislative Assembly and dissolve the Assembly
* Local government receives a payment from the national government
* Australian planning body has no representatives from the local government

Brazil (Brasilia)
* Governor and vice governor elected by popular vote
* Local legislative body elected by popular vote with powers similar to the states, but not allowed to divide itself into municipalities
* Representation in both chambers of the national legislature
* Federal district has control over the courts in its territory and can tax and raise revenue on par with the states
* Full budget authority granted to the local government
* District's budget and the district receives a special payment for being the seat of the government
* Planning is under the control of the local government

Mexico (Mexico City)
* Chancellor of the federal district appointed and approved by the president
* Appointed council under the chancellor discharges executive functions
* Representative Assembly of 66 members elected by popular vote handles municipal matters on an advisory basis, but cannot legislate
* Federal district governed by the national government through the chief of the department of the federal district, a member of the president's cabinet (basically, the city is run like a government department)
* Judicial authority exercised by district judges and magistrates (appointed by the president with approval of the Chamber of Deputies), as is the case in the rest of the country
* Budget proposal presented to the national legislature; chief of the federal district is required to give an annual report to the national legislature on the implementation of the local budget

Venezuela (Caracas)
* Two municipalities comprise the federal district, each electing its own council and mayor
* Mayors assume administrative functions in each of the municipalities
* Governor appointed by the president of the Republic represents the federal government and has jurisdiction over the whole federal district
* Governance of the federal territory is divided into district and municipal functions

Argentina (Buenos Aires)
* City council with limited powers; no elected mayor
* National congress enacts basic laws applicable to the federal district, including establishing the municipal governance structure and the court system
* Citizens elect representatives to the national legislature--25 deputies to the Chamber of Deputies and two members to the Senate

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