'Kooky' or not, D.C. retrocession has its supporters
||Washington Times (DC)
||Sunday, April 14, 1996
Spring. Time for the return of the robins, cherry blossoms - and talk of
returning most of the District to Maryland.
This year, the perennial discussion is led by a new group headed by a former
government insider with ties to both the District and Capitol Hill.
The Committee for the Capital City has a new twist on the old pitch about
remedying taxation-without-representation: They are hoping to persuade
Marylanders to join their crusade, arguing that becoming home to the capital
city could be an economic boost for the state.
Retrocession, as it is called, would be a boon to all sides, argues Lawrence
H. Mirel, the committee's president, in a 20-page report outlining the group's
D.C. residents would gain representation in Congress, and the city
government would no longer be saddled with the costs of running prisons and
other state tasks, says Mr. Mirel, a former attorney to the D.C. Council who
also worked on Capitol Hill and is now a lobbyist for the District of Columbia
For Maryland, becoming the home of the capital city would bring more
tourism, leading to an economic boost to the state, proponents say.
The group has no specific timetable, but hopes to gather signatures on a
petition to present to Congress showing there is support for such a scheme,
said Dee Ann McIntyre, the committee's spokeswoman.
But there's little interest among the parties who have the power to make
retrocession a reality.
Rep. Thomas M. Davis III, Virginia Republican and chairman of the Government
Reform and Oversight subcommittee on the District, rejects the idea as "kooky," Miss McIntyre concedes.
D.C. Delegate Eleanor Holmes Norton, a Democrat who gets no vote in
Congress, prefers her proposal to make city residents partially exempt from
federal income taxes.
And a spokesman for Maryland's Democratic Party said it's not even "on
our radar screen."
But the 20 or so activists who make up the committee - including Clayton A.
Mitchell, son of former Maryland House Speaker Clayton Mitchell - are getting
used to that reaction, and are determined to get city residents and Marylanders
to talk about it seriously, Miss McIntyre said.
"That goes along with the blank stares you get at first," she
said. "It's so abstract."
The idea is not a new one - it was first raised in 1803, just two years
after Maryland and Virginia ceded land to the federal government to create a
federal city, according to a history compiled by the committee.
In 1846, Congress and Virginia agreed to retrocede the former Virginia
portion of the District back to Virginia, creating what is now Arlington County
and part of Alexandria.
More recently, Rep. Ralph Regula, Ohio Republican, has introduced a bill for
the last three sessions of Congress to return to Maryland most of the District,
except for a small federal enclave. Those bills have died quietly, and a
spokeswoman said there has been no action on the most recent bill, which Mr.
Regula introduced in February 1995.
Last spring, House Speaker Newt Gingrich, a Republican, researched a plan
that would give D.C. residents full voting representation in Congress as
Marylanders, without making the city part of the state. That proposal would
make the nation's capital Maryland's 9th Congressional District for federal
voting purposes only, with D.C. residents electing a full-fledged member of the
House and casting votes for Maryland's two Senate seats.
Mrs. Norton, Maryland's Democratic Gov. Parris
Glendening and the Maryland Republican Party balked, and no formal proposal was