Should Maryland Take D.C. Back?
||Sunday, July 10, 2011
||Takoma Park Patch
Who thinks democracy is a good idea? And would Marylanders join with our D.C. neighbors to restore it?
Curtis Gans thinks so. He wrote a provocative opinion piece last week in the Washington Post that started a lot of people talking in Maryland and the District of Columbia about a little thing called "retrocession."
Retrocession is a process, already used once by Virginia, to return all or part of the land that was given to the federal government when the District of Columbia was created in 1791. Of the original 100 square miles, Virginia retroceded all the land South of the Potomac in 1847, taking back about 31 square miles in what is now Alexandria and Arlington, Virginia.
Gans argues that retroceding most of the rest back to Maryland may be the best way to restore full voting rights to the 600,000-plus Americans who live in the District. A smaller federal District would remain, as required in the Constitution, around the key federal buildings downtown, in mainly commercial areas where few people live.
Sounds good for the people of D.C., but why should we care about this in Maryland? It's simple: Our neighbors in D.C. pay their taxes, just like the rest of us, but they have no say in how any of it is spent. That, to me, sounds like something we should all rise up and fight a revolution over!
Oh, wait. We already did that.
The status quo here is fundamentally unjust, and so it must be changed. This goes beyond partisanship or self-interest. There is a moral imperative that requires us to find a solution, whether it's easy or not. That is, if we truly believe in democracy like we say we do.
The mechanism for retrocession is relatively simple and doesn't necessarily require a constitutional amendment. Changing the boundaries could only require legislation approved by the U.S. Congress and the relevant state governments.
Mr. Gans argues that it's time for D.C. residents to throw in the towel on the "statehood" movement. He's right, of course, it's going nowhere. That leaves retrocession as the only available remedy, and giving the land back to Maryland as the only realistic option. Maryland would never allow the territory it ceded to the federal government to be given to Virginia. They already take enough of our jobs, must they take our land too?
District residents clearly have a lot to think about here, but so do we in Maryland. Economically, would the District's strong economy, cultural assets, tourism revenue and huge employment base be a windfall for Maryland taxpayers? Or, would the added revenue be outweighed by increased social needs? We need to find out. Politically, Maryland would gain influence in Congress with a new congressional seat. In presidential elections it's less clear. We may or may not add more electors, as there are some legitimate constitutional issues on this point. In any case, we'll have more voters and more clout, and that's a good thing.
The big question for the Free State is: Do we want this? The moral imperative to restore voting rights to our fellow Americans demands that we do something, and this may be the only way to remedy a status quo that is indefensible. At least we ought to start the conversation.
We owe each other that much, don't we?