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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-council 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 affairs 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.
I recommend legislation to give the District government an ample quota of its own top erecutive level positions--supergrades and levels ĪV 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 government 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.
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 Hawai 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
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
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 computerized law enforcement information system for the metropolitan area.
Additional mobile units. The District of Columbia Commissioners have issued orders reorganizing the Police Department and the Department of Corrections to increase their efficiency and effectiveness.
These are significant steps forward. But more-much moreremains to be done.
In December 1966, the President's Commission on Crime in the District of Columbia submitted a comprehensive report on the nature 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 must
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.
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.
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.
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 ill, 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:
No civilized community in the 20th century should permit a situation such as this to exist. Experience in cities that regulate the purchase and possession of handguns and the studies of the Crime Commission clearly show that strict controls can strengthen our efforts to reduce violent crimes. Such controls cannot eliminate the danger of violence in our society. But they can help keep lethal weapons out of dangerous and irresponsible hands.
As the District Crime Commission emphasized, New York City, with the most stringent pistol control law in the country, has many crimes committed with handguns, but the relative number of such crimes is significantly less than in the District.
The District had a handgun murder rate of 9.1 per 100,000 of population in fiscal 1966, New York City had a rate of only 1.7.' The handgun assault rate was 79.8 in the District, but only 20 in New York. The handgun robbery rate was 141.7 in the District, but only 45.4 in New York. I recommend legislation to
Prohibit possession of firearms by minors, chronic alcoholics, and the mentally ill, as well as felons and drug addicts who are covered by existing law.
Prohibit purchase of firearms by chronic alcoholics, as well as minors, the mentally ill, felons, and drug addicts who are now covered.
Require that any person desiring to purchase, possess, or carry a pistol in public obtain a license which will be granted only if he can show that he needs the weapon to protect his person or property.
Prohibit anyone from carrying rifles and shotguns in public, unless unloaded and properly encased.
Authorize the courts to impose increased penalties where a fire
arm is used in the commission of a robbery. 2. Power to arrest without a warrant
At present, District police officers are authorized to arrest without a warrant only when they have reason to believe that the person has committed an armed robbery, murder, or some other felony, or one of a limited number of misdemeanors, such as possession of narcotics or carrying a concealed weapon. The police today may not arrest a person whom they believe has committed other serious offenses, such as an assault or unlawful entry, without first obtaining a warrant for his arrest.
I recommend legislation to extend the authority of police to arrest without a warrant to additional serious offenses, such as assault
, unlawful entry, and attempted housebreaking. This will allow the police to respond more quickly and effectively to criminal acts threatening serious harm to our citizens. 3. Witnesses
Of vital importance to crime control and any criminal prosecution is the availability of witnesses and their freedom from threats and intimidation.
Existing laws provide ample protections against intimidation of witnesses—but only after charges have been filed. It is not a crime to bribe or threaten persons with vital information before charges have been filed.