Thursday, March 02, 2006

Things to Know about DC

I thought I try to clear up some common misconceptions about our wonderful capital city of Washington, DC - where I grew up.

It's not a swamp.
When the C&O Canal was completed, all that standing water attracted a larger amount of mosquitoes, which combined with the humidity of the summer gave the place a swampy feel.

Streets have a clear pattern (except for a few weird places where they think the rules don't apply to them).
The city was designed by Pierre L'Enfant. The Capitol is the center, with state streets spoking out diagonally from there. The number streets go north/south - starting at the Capitol and moving east and west. (So there is a 2nd Street in the west side of the Capitol and on the east side. This is why the quadrant - NE, NW, SE, SW - is important in locating an address.) The letter streets go east/west starting at the Capitol (leading to to C Streets, one north and one south). Once the alphabet is finished, the name streets start. The streets (for the most part) are alphabetical and arranged by number of syllables. So the first run through the alphabet is all the single syllable streets, then the two syllable streets, then the three syllable streets. The numbers on each block move by the hundreds, and are based on the number street (or for north south streets, the first block counting from the capitol is unit, then one hundreds, and so on.) So 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue is at the corner of Pennsylvania Avenue and 16th Street. Now, how easy is that.

We don't all work for the government.
I've lived her most of my life and never worked for the government, or any politically affiliated organizations. (And yes, this means I do not get all the pretty holidays.) We do exist.

He's just as much your president as mine.
Just because he lives her doesn't mean I had any more to do with electing him than you did. Check out the electoral college rules if you're confused. I'm not disowning him (so far all hims) necessarily, but just because I live near him doesn't mean I see him or have any more or less to do with him than you.

Taxation without representation is alive and well.
DC was carved out of Maryland and Virginia. One of the rules put into place since these people ended up in a new locale without moving was that they should not lose any of their existing rights. Sadly, no one seems to think this applies to voting rights. DC has requested statehood, but gotten nowhere. In 1963, the twenty-third amendment to the constitution deemed that DC resident would be allowed to participate in Presidential elections. DC is under the jurisdiction of the US Congress. DC has a shadow representative and shadow senators. They are allowed to make speeches and participate in Congressional committees, but they have no voting power. DC does have a mayor and a city council, but the budget is approved by congress, and Congress can (and has) intervene at any time should they not like the local decisions being made. However, unlike Puerto Rico, American Guam and American Samoa - which are territories also without voting rights - DC residents do have to pay Federal taxes. DC is the only capital city in the world, that affords its residents lesser rights than the rest of its citizens.

The crackhead was set up and he's not mayor anymore and even if he was trust me you people have elected same major dinks too.
People often mention this when I bring up the lack of rights (as I did above). And here's the thing, the joy of democracy is that the people get to elect whomever they want. And personally, I think the FBI went to a lot of effort to get a guy for possession of drugs (especially since he wasn't even the one who purchased them). But whatever, the place you live has elected plenty of idiots. It's the joy of democracy at work.

We are not murder capital (anymore).
We were in the late 1980's. But since 1991 (knock on wood) the murder rate has gone down and other cities have taken on that dubious distinction. So, get over it.

We are in the South.
Look, I know there's the geographic south and the Deep South and all sorts of other hair splitting things. And it's a city with more than it's share of politicians and such so perhaps that lends people to think it must seem more Northern. And it certainly is more Northern (geographically, psychologically) than Atlanta for example. But the Mason-Dixon line - is separating Maryland from Pennsylvania. And part of the politicking in deciding on the placement of DC, was that it be in the South. So there you go.

We are the Chocolate City.
Mayor Nagin got a lot of attention for say that New Orleans would be a Chocolate city again. But he didn't invent the term. The term started in the 1970's, and was used by local stations to describe the predominately black racial make-up of the city. At one time DC was 75% black. That number has dwindled (as has the DC population due to urban flight) and is now around 60%.

Our museums are free (mostly).
The entire Smithsonian Institution (National Zoo, Air & Space Museum, Museum of American Art, etc) is free. There are some non-institution museums and most of them do charge for entrance, but the Smithsonian does not.

And PS. - that suburb to the north - is not named after an actor.