Page images
PDF
EPUB

I recommend a three-point program to bring new vitality and strength to the District's government:

Home rule.
Reorganization and strengthening of the District government.
Representation in the Congress.

HOME RULE

To provide a system of government appropriate for the people who live here and worthy of our heritage, the residents of the District of Columbia must be given a voice in the selection of their local officials.

The citizens of the District today have no voice in the government of their city. Despite the principle so long cherished in this country they are taxed without representation. They are asked to assume the responsibilities of citizenship and at the same time denied one of its most fundamental rights.

This continuing denial of democracy is an affront to our traditions and to the citizens who make the District their home.

The need for home rule stems from practical considerations as well. Management of any large metropolitan center, in this era of rapid technological and social change, must be promptly responsive to new demands and new conditions. The Congress, preoccupied as it should be with the problems of this great Nation, cannot be expected to provide the day-to-day management that should be provided by locally elected officials. The 535 Members of Congress should not be expected to serve as city councilmen for the city of Washington.

The bill to provide self-government for the District which I transmitted to the 89th Congress, was designed to afford local citizens a full voice in their affairs and at the same time provide adequate safeguards for the legitimate interest of the Federal Government in our Nation's Capital. "The Senate passed that bill. While the House of Representatives did not pass the bill I submitted, a majority of its Members clearly went on record in support of the principle of home rule.

I again endorse the home rule bill.

As I said in my message on the District of Columbia budget, "I believe that the last Congress should have granted home rule to the citizens of the District, and I urge the present Congress to give them home rule.

1

REORGANIZATION OF THE DISTRICT GOVERNMENT

Improvements in District government need not await the passage of home rule legislation. Interim action under the reorganization act can bring urgently needed improvements to make the present unwieldy structure into an efficient and effective instrument of municipal government.

I will shortly transmit to the Congress a reorganization proposal to strengthen and modernize the government of the District of Columbia. The

present District government organization was established almost a century ago. The District was then a community of 150,000 people. Less than 500 persons were employed by its government.

Today the District has 800,000 residents. Its government employs some 30,000 people. Its 1968 budget is more than half a billion dollars. This major metropolis cannot be properly governed with the cumbersome machinery of an archaic and obsolete structure.

[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]

The District is entitled to have the best and most efficient municipal government we can provide. The Nation's Capital should lead the country in applying the techniques of modern management to the organization and administration of its programs.

The reorganization plan i propose would create a mayor-counci form of government--the form which has been found most successful in the Nation's 27 largest cities.

Under the reorganization plan, the President, subject to Senate confirmation, would appoint from among District residents a single Commissioner as chief executive and a Council of nine members.

The single Commissioner would serve at the pleasure of the President. Council members would serve 2-year terms, five to be appointed 1 year and four the next. The staggered terms would insure continuity of experience on the Council.

The powers and responsibilities which the three-man Board of Commissioners presently have would be apportioned between the single Commissioner and the Council. The Commissioner would be assigned the executive functions now vested in the Board of Commissioners. Like most mayors, he would be given responsibility and authority to organize and manage the District government, to administer its programs and to prepare its budget of revenues and expenses.

The Council would be responsible primarily for making local rules and regulations—the District's city ordinances. This would include the quasi-legislative functions which are now performed by the Board of Commissioners, such as licensing rules, the issuance of police regulations and the establishment of rates for property taxation. It would also review and approve the Commissioner's budget for submission to the President.

This reorganization would unify executive and administrative authority in a single Commissioner. While the District has been fortunate in the caliber and dedication of men who have become Commissioners, divided executive authority cannot provide effective management for the municipal affnirs of a city of almost 1 million people.

The Capital City of this Nation can no longer afford government by three heads---each wearing several hats. To achieve their maximum potential, District programs--and federally assisted programs in the District--require clear-cut executive authority and flexible government machinery at the local level, not divided authority which too often produces prolonged negotiations and inaction. A single executive can bring effective management, direction, and control to the task of meeting increasingly complex needs.

But reorganization alone will not assure the Nation's Capital the best municipal government. The District must also be able to attract and hold top men in the widely varying fields required for effective city government. city recommend legislation to give the District government an ample quota of its own top executive level positions--supergrades and levels IV and V. The District government must be able to offer attractive salaries and opportunities for career advancement if it is to draw the caliber of person which the government of the Nation's Capital deserves.

As these fundamental changes are made, it will be possible to effect further improvements, both in the structure of the District govern

ment and in its relationships to other agencies serving the Nation's Capital.

'i'hese proposals in no way substitute for home rule. The single Commissioner and the nine-man Council will give the District a better organized and more efficient government, but they will have no functions beyond those the three Commissioners now possess. The new structure will make the transition to self-government easier, but only home rule will provide the District with a democratic government-of, by, and for its citizens.

[ocr errors][ocr errors]

REPRESENTATION IN THE CONGRESS A proper complement to locally elected District officials is locally elected voting representation in the Congress.

I recommend that the Constitution be amended to authorize one Representative for the District of Columbia in the House and such additional representation in the House and the Senate as the Congress may from time to time provide.

Upon ratification, this would give the District of Columbia at least one sure voice—the minimum possible voting representation in the Congress. At the same time, it would provide, through the Congress, the ability to adjust the representation for the District as population increases and as other changes make such adjustments appropriate and fair.

Ratification by the States and enactment of the necessary implementing legislation will take some time. But District citizens should not be left completely without a voice in the Congress during this vital interim period. They are entitled to some representation in the Congress now.

I recommend legislation to permit the citizens of the District to elect a nonvoting delegate to the House of Representatives. Such a delegate would be comparable to the delegates who formerly represented Hawaii and Alaska and to the present Resident Commissioner for the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico.

A delegate from the District in the House of Representatives would be of benefit to both the Congress and the District in providing a more adequate line of communication on District matters. A collateral benefit would be the opportunity for District citizens, through the experience of biennial elections, to develop additional local leadership and more effective political organizations responsive to the citizens who live here.

II. THE WAR ON CRIME In my message to the Congress on crime in America, I said: Lawlessness is like a plague. Its costs, whether economic, physical, or psychological, are spread through every alley and every street in every neighborhood. It creates a climate in which people make choices, not out of confidence, but out of fear.

That plague has struck our Nation's Capital. But, as I said in that same message:

We can control crime if we will. We must act boldly, now, to treat ancient evils and to insure the public safety.

In my 1965 message on the District of Columbia, I announced the establishment of the Commission on Crime in the District of Columbia and asked for

[ocr errors]
[ocr errors][ocr errors]

Additional policemen.
Special incentives to attract and hold first-rate policemen.

Improvements in our courts to handle the growing criminal
caseload.

New correctional techniques to break the cycle of crime, prison,
release, and crime.
The Congress responded and in the past 2 years there have been
significant advances. Working together, we have increased police
salaries, authorized overtime compensation for police officers, provided
additional judgeships in the court of general sessions, established a
work release program for misdemeanor offenders and created the
District of Columbia Bail Agency.

Through the Law Enforcement Assistance Act, the Department of
Justice has provided funds to support-

Development of a model police radio communications system.
A police planning bureau.
An in-service police training program for all staff levels.

A computerized law enforcement information system for the
metropolitan area.

Additional mobile units.
The District of Columbia Commissioners have issued orders reor-
ganizing the Police Department and the Department of Corrections
to increase their efficiency and effectiveness.

These are significant steps forward. But more--much more
remains to be done.

In December 1966, the President's Commission on Crime in the
District of Columbia submitted a comprehensive report on the natur
and extent of the District's crime problem and on the quality of the
District's response to it. The report assembled facts, carefully
explored alternatives, and presented a broad and practical program
for action.
The Crime Commission reported that since 1960:

The rate of homicides and housebreakings in the District has
doubled.

The rate of robberies and auto thefts has almost tripled.

The rate of grand larcenies has increased by more than 50 percent. The Commission's report emphasizes that any meaningful attack on crime involves comprehensive and persistent action over a period of several years. The report makes the priorities clear. We musta

Develop new programs to deal with juvenile delinquency..

Develop and use the most effective law enforcement machinery available.

Strengthen our courts and prosecutors so that persons charged with crime can be tried quickly and fairly.

Guarantee that our rehabilitative efforts reflect the wisest experience in the field of corrections, so that we can break the vicious cycle of crime, prison, and more crime.

Develop an information and evaluation system which permits rapid appraisal of our efforts to control crime. Measured against the demands of these goals, piecemeal efforts will not suffice.

Crime will not be controlled by strengthening just one or two agencies in the field. All parts of the government with law enforcement and criminal justice responsibilities must be strengthened.

[ocr errors][merged small][merged small]

Private citizens must participate at every level—from support for the police and promptly reporting crimes, to testifying in court and employing good risk offenders.

THE COMMITMENT

Crime in the sixties and seventies can no more be fought with inadequate budgets and obsolete tools than with words of public indignation. The District of Columbia needs financial resources to provide the manpower, training, new facilities, and equipment and information systems—to prevent crime before it occurs, to process offenders swiftly and to develop programs which prevent repetition of crime by offenders and return them to useful lives.

Equally important, the police and government officials of the District need the personal support of every citizen who lives here and of the Congress. So long as I am President, I will take every step necessary to control crime in the District and to make it a community of safe streets and homes, free from crime and the fear of crime.

My message on the District's budget described some of the efforts we must make

A further increase in police salaries.

Additional funds to improve police planning, communications, and transportation.

More police officers, particularly sergeants, to improve supervision.

Additional funds for our efforts to curb juvenile delinquency.

Expanded assistance for the planning, construction, and modernization of our courts and correctional facilities. To support these efforts, I am requesting $11.6 million-a 20-percent increase in the fiscal 1908 appropriations for the District police, courts, and correctional activities. I urge the Congress to act promptly on this vital request.

LAW ENFORCEMENT Action on the District's budget alone is not enough. Our laws and the weapons of those who enforce our laws-must be strengthened. I propose a 10-point program to achieve this objective. 1. Gun control

Pistols are relatively easy to purchase in the District of Columbia. As the Crime Commission found, "almost anyone who is willing to fill out a form and wait for 48 hours can buy a handgun.” The only persons who may not purchase handguns are minors, the mentally ili, drug addicts, and convicted felons. It makes no difference whether the individual has any need to purchase a pistol. Pistols may also be purchased by mail without restriction.

Any person who is not a felon or drug addict may possess a pistol in the District. It makes no difference whether he is mentally ill, a minor, or a chronic alcoholic, whether the weapon was obtained legally or illegally, or whether there is any need for possession of the weapon.

Between July 1, 1965, and June 30, 1966, 1,850 major crimes were committed in the District of Columbia with pistols:

73 homicides.
640 assaults.
1,137 robberies and attempted robberies.

« PreviousContinue »