fb-pixel Skip to main content

Rethinking the District of Columbia, for real

District of Columbia Mayor Muriel Bowser wears a mask with the number 51 over a map of the District of Columbia during a news conference on D.C. statehood on Capitol Hill on June 16.Andrew Harnik/Associated Press

D.C. has been changed before, and it can be changed again

As a resident of Washington, D.C., I was sorry to see Jeff Jacoby’s column “The Constitution says no to D.C. statehood” (Ideas, June 21). Jacoby argues that it would violate the Constitution to shrink the federal district to a tiny part of central D.C., leaving the rest of the city as a new, 51st state.

But D.C. has been changed in this way before, with no constitutional amendment needed: The District of Columbia used to be 100 square miles; today, it’s only about 68 square miles. What happened? A large chunk of the city was retroceded in 1847 (it is now a part of Virginia). This is perfectly constitutional, because the Constitution sets a maximum size for the capital district (“not exceeding ten Miles square”), not a minimum size.


As for Jacoby’s suggestion that we Washingtonians should accept our lack of statehood because we get access to the many fine and free museums on the National Mall, I happen to think that the value of representation in our own government is worth more than the price of a museum ticket. The more than 705,000 people who call D.C. home deserve a voice in Congress just like the residents of the other 50 states.

Ezra Deutsch-Feldman

Washington, D.C.

Argument against statehood has a faint ring of colonialism

Jeff Jacoby points out that it will take a constitutional amendment to make the District of Columbia into a state. However, he observes that D.C. residents do not have to endure “taxation without representation,” since, as law professor Jonathan Turley testified, they are represented by the entire Congress, and the entire Congress bears a special interest in the District’s operation.

That same excuse was proffered by the British, when colonial claims of taxation without representation were leveled at the British government. It was said that Parliament represented all Britons, and that there was no need to have members of Parliament elected from the various colonies. We all know how that worked out.


As the son and grandson of D.C. natives, I can also attest that many members of Congress could not care less about the District’s operations, except where they can use their power to impose their will on the residents. Those residents have no one representative, and no two senators, who are primarily responsible to them for their tenure in office, and in 21st-century America, that is a disgrace.

I am not sure it is necessary to have the District of Columbia become a state. Perhaps the easiest remedy is to retrocede D.C. to Maryland, as was done with the Virginia portion before the Civil War. Canada, Britain, France, and Germany, to name but four countries, do just fine without a so-called federal district. I now wonder why we can’t do the same.

Jonathan T. Melick


Denying D.C. residents full rights is a racial justice issue

I live in Washington, D.C., as do four generations of my family. I was struck by Jeff Jacoby’s column tossing aside D.C. statehood, as if our rights don’t matter. From my vantage point, my community does not have among “the highest average household and individual incomes in the country.”

D.C. is 46 percent Black. This month’s protests over police brutality against Black people are shining a light on the lasting impact of slavery and Jim Crow. In response, President Trump sent out-of-state prison guards and military helicopters to intimidate D.C. residents and broke up a peaceful protest with tear gas for a photo op in front of a church. It’s as clear as black and white — denying D.C. residents full voting rights and representation is a racial justice issue.


It is time to right this wrong and give the more than 705,000 D.C. residents the same rights other Americans have. Massachusetts Senators Edward Markey and Elizabeth Warren deserve thanks for supporting the D.C. statehood bill, and I hope their neighbors, Rhode Island Senators Jack Reed and Sheldon Whitehouse, join them.

Glenda Blackmon

Washington, D.C.