President George Washington selected 10 square miles of Maryland and Virginia for the District of Columbia. He picked an excellent location, midway between the 13 original states and central in terms of population. It was also near his family’s estate at Mt. Vernon.
The northern states wanted Philadelphia, the Quaker home of abolitionists for the capital, but this did not please the southern slave-holding states. (Slavery was a major cause of the Civil War.)
Of the 100 square miles, 39 were south of the Potomac River but were never part of the federal district. This area was returned to Virginia by Act of Congress in 1846. It remains as Arlington County and the City of Alexandria.
Washington functioned quite well as our capital for over two centuries. Over time, the city has become more and more an unsatisfactory place for laws to be made, for the executive and judicial branches to operate and for staff members to live and function effectively. Combined with much untaxable federal property, questionable municipal leadership and high rates of unemployment and poverty, the city is a disaster area in spite of its many beautiful buildings, monuments and parks. It is a worn-out edifice to18th-century thinking.
Washington has withstood one terrorist attack. It is a sitting target for another from the sea or air. The partially restored Pentagon, the center of our national defense, is itself difficult to defend.
The population center of the country has drifted from 23 miles east of Baltimore in Revolutionary days to about 820 miles southwest near Steelville, Mo., because of the admission of the western states and population growth. The District is no longer easily accessible, even from nearby regions, because of constant traffic snarls. The Virginia General Assembly has wrestled with a transportation problem for years and has not been able to agree upon a satisfactory plan. Northern Virginia roads are strangled with traffic. D.C. is the problem. It is also a national concern.
Like many large metropolitan areas, the District has deteriorated, giving way to urban blight, poverty, crime and drug abuse. Residents consider gunshots background noise, the school buildings and the school system have reached near collapse and even the city’s drinking water was, for a brief time, declared unsafe. The National Guard has been called into service to keep order in the city’s streets. Workers and tourists alike are warned to seek safety in quiet or well-guarded neighborhoods and in well-lit areas after dark.
A new, centrally located and updated capital needs to be built elsewhere based on geographic factors. For example, a good location might be where the borders of Missouri, Kansas, Arkansas, and Oklahoma nearly meet. This would be much closer to the present geographic and population centers and would give all U.S. citizens better access to the capital.
Using modern technology, the new district could operate more efficiently and with greater security. Housing for elected officials and staff could be built as satellite villages connected by high-speed subway trains. The computer-assisted government would require fewer meetings of Congress and committees. Members could meet face-to-face through interactive television and could more easily attend to their personal business at home and increase their availability to constituents.
Brazil opened its new capital city, Brasilia, in 1960 in the central part of the country. Just five years before, the area resembled a desert, with no people, scarce water supply, few animals and vegetation. It is now a city of over 2 million people.
The District of Columbia could be leased to Walt Disney, Inc., which tried without success in 1994 to build an historical theme park near Haymarket, Va. Disney could build the ultimate park using the old Capitol, White House, museums, monuments, art galleries and other attractions.
A Redskins’ coliseum of gigantic proportions could be built for athletic events, making Washington a world-class sports center. In addition, Washington could become an outstanding convention city using the Reagan and Dulles Airports, many fine hotels and cultural centers already in place.
The federally-owned property could be sold and returned to private ownership where it would provide a strong tax base, as well as employment opportunities for those now drawing welfare. With D. C. returned to Maryland and Virginia, its citizens would have equal voting rights, and there would be no need to consider making it the 51st state with elected representatives and senators.
In February 2010, the entire federal government was shut down for a week because of a three-foot snowfall. As announced, “only essential federal personnel need to report to work.” One observer stated later that, “After much soul-searching, 99 percent of employees stayed home.” It turned out that only custodians were needed to make certain that the heating systems were working – and the nation survived.