The Slate Gist

Washington, D.C.

Washington, D.C. By David Plotz (1,225 words; posted Saturday, Jan. 11; to be composted Saturday, Jan. 18)

      For the better part of the 1980s, Washington, D.C., boomed. Property values and incomes soared in the District, filling the local treasury with tax revenues. A surge in downtown office construction and an increase in federal spending also fueled the rise. But in 1989, the real-estate market crashed and local federal spending began to decline. Over the next six years, the city’s fiscal affairs steadily deteriorated. In 1995, Congress and the president seized direct control of the District and its finances by appointing a financial control board to oversee (and overrule) Mayor Marion Barry and the City Council.       What is the condition of the District today? How did it become so troubled? And can the control board–or anyone else–save it?
     Washington’s woes are similar to those of other East Coast cities: Its shrinking tax base can no longer support the costly bureaucracy and social-welfare programs its citizens take for granted.