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D.C. is the capital city of the United
States of America. "D.C." stands for the "District
of Columbia" which is the federal district containing the city of Washington.
The city is named for George Washington, military leader of the
American Revolution and the first President of the United
States. The District of Columbia and the city of Washington
are coextensive and are governed by a single municipal government,
so for most practical purposes they are considered to be the same
entity. It is known locally as the District or simply D.C. Historically,
it was called the Federal City.
of Columbia, founded on July 16, 1790, is a federal district as
specified by the United States Constitution with limited—and
sometimes contentious—local rule. The District is ruled
"in all cases whatsoever" by the U.S. Congress, while
nevertheless going unrepresented in that body. The land forming
the original District came from the states of Virginia and Maryland. However,
the area south of the Potomac River (39 mi² or about 100
km²) was returned, or "retroceded", to Virginia in 1847 and now is incorporated into Arlington County and the City of
Alexandria. The term "District of Columbia" uses
an old poetic name for the United
States, Columbia, which has otherwise fallen out of common
use since the early 20th century.
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The centers of all
three branches of the U.S. federal government are in Washington,
D.C., as well as the headquarters of most federal agencies. Washington also serves as the headquarters for the World Bank, the International
Monetary Fund, and the Organization of American States, among other
international (and national) institutions. All of this has made Washington the frequent focal point of massive political demonstrations and protests,
particularly on the National Mall. Washington is also the site of numerous national landmarks, museums, and sports
teams, and is a popular destination for tourists.
The population of
the District of Columbia,
as of 2003 U.S. Census Bureau estimates, is 563,384. The Greater Washington,
D.C. metropolitan area includes the District
of Columbia and parts of Maryland, Virginia, and West
Virginia, with a population surpassing 4.7 million. If Washington,
D.C. were considered a state, it would rank last in area behind Rhode Island, 50th in population
ahead of Wyoming, and 36th
in Gross State Product, ahead of 15 states.
Washington D.C. Arial View
Map of Washington D.C.
km² (68.3 mi²)
18.0 km² (6.9 mi²) 10.6%
- Total (2004)
N 77°2'6.72? W
Omnibus (Justice for All)
A Southern site
for the capital was agreed at a dinner between Thomas Jefferson and
Alexander Hamilton. The initial plan for the Federal City was a diamond,
ten miles wide on each side, giving it 100 square miles (260 square
kilometers). The actual site on the Potomac River was chosen by President
Washington. Washington may have chosen the site for its natural scenery,
in the belief that the Potomac would become a great navigable waterway.
The city was officially named "Washington" on September 9,
1791. Out of a sense of modesty, George Washington never referred to
it as such, preferring to call it "the Federal City". Despite
choosing the site and living nearby at Mount Vernon, he rarely visited.
On August 24, 1814,
British forces burnt the capital during the most notable destructive
raid of the War of 1812. President James Madison and U.S. forces fled
and British forces burned public buildings including the Capitol, the
Navy Yard, and the Treasury building. The Presidential Mansion was also
a small city of a few thousand permanent residents until the outbreak
of the U.S. Civil War in 1861. The significant expansion of the federal
government to administer the war—and its legacies, such as veterans'
pensions—led to notable growth in the city's population. But on
April 14, 1865, just days after the end of the war, President Abraham
Lincoln was assassinated by John Wilkes Booth in Ford's Theater.
In the early 1870s,
Washington was given a territorial government, but governor Alexander
Shepherd's reputation for extravagance resulted in Congress abolishing
his office in favor of direct rule. Congressional governance of the
District would continue for a century.
Newspaper Row, Washington, D.C., 1874
The Washington Monument
opened in 1888. Plans were laid to further develop the monumental aspects
of the city, with work contributed by such noted figures as Frederick
Law Olmsted and Daniel Burnham. However, development of the Lincoln
Memorial and other structures on the National Mall did not get underway
until the early 20th century.
Amendment to the United States Constitution was ratified on March 29,
1961 allowing residents of Washington,
D.C. to vote for president and have their votes count in the Electoral
The District's population
peaked in 1950, when the Census for that year recorded a record population
of 802,178 people. At the time, that ranked the city as the ninth-largest
in the country, ahead of Boston and behind Saint Louis. The population
declined in the following decades, mirroring the suburban out-migration
of many of the nation's older urban centers following World War II.
The first 4.6 miles
(7.4 kilometers) of the Washington Metro subway system opened on March
became the first elected mayor of the District in 1974. Marion Barry
became mayor in 1978, but was arrested for drug use in an FBI sting
on January 18, 1990, and would serve a six-month jail term. His successor,
Sharon Pratt Kelly, became the first black woman to lead a city of that
size and importance in the U.S. But Barry defeated her in the 1994 primary
and was once again elected mayor for his fourth term, during which the
city nearly became insolvent and was forced to give up some home rule
to a Congressionally appointed financial control board.
The Washington area was the target of at least one of the four hijacked planes in the
September 11, 2001 attacks. One plane struck the Pentagon in nearby
Arlington County, Virginia,
killing 125 people in addition to the 64 aboard the plane, while another
that was downed in a field in Pennsylvania is believed by many to have been intended to hit the U.S. Capitol.
Shortly thereafter, Washington endured an anthrax
attack, when what may have been a domestic terrorist sent anthrax-contaminated
mail to numerous members of Congress. Thirty-one staff members were
infected, and two U.S. Postal Service employees at a contaminated mail
sorting facility at Brentwood later died.
During three weeks
of October 2002, John Allen Muhammad and Lee Boyd Malvo killed ten people
and wounded three others in the region in what became known as the Beltway
Sniper attacks. One person was killed in the extreme northern part of
the District. In March 2004, Muhammad was sentenced to death and Malvo
to life imprisonment by a Virginia court.
In November 2003,
the toxin ricin was found in the mailroom of the White House, and in
February 2004, in the mailroom of U.S. Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist.
As with the earlier anthrax attacks, no arrests have been made.
Partly in response
to these events from the past few years, the Washington area has taken many steps to increase security.
When US forces in
Pakistan raided a house suspected of being a terrorist hideout, they
found information several years old, about attacks on Washington,
York City, and Newark,
New Jersey. It was directed to intelligence officials, and on August
1, 2004, the Secretary of Homeland Security put the city on Orange (High)
A few days later
security checkpoints were popping up in and around the Capitol Hill
and Foggy Bottom neighborhoods, and fences were erected on monuments
once freely accessible, such as the Capitol. Tours to the White House
can only be arranged by a member of Congress. Screening devices for
biological agents, metal detectors, and vehicle barriers became much
more commonplace at office buildings as well as government buildings
and in transportation facilities.
security was referred to as "Fortress Washington"—people
protested that "Walling off Washington" due to information
several years old was not acceptable.
Thanks in part to
the renewed expansion of the federal government after the creation of
the Department of Homeland Security, as well as the thriving real estate
market, Washington has
experienced a huge housing boom that has seen thousands of units constructed,
along with thousands of people moving to the District. This has led
the city government to dispute a 2005 estimate made by the Census Bureau
that the District's population will drop to 433,000 by 2030, claiming
that Census officials routinely undercount the city's population and
that the data they employed did not anticipate current economic and
social trends. City officials have also released their own growth reports
that estimate that the District's population will rise to 712,000 by
On September 29,
2004, Major League Baseball announced plans to relocate the Montreal
Expos to Washington for
the 2005 season. On November 22, a new name was announced for the team:
the Washington Nationals. A very public back-and-forth between the city
council and MLB threatened to scuttle the agreement until December 21,
when a plan for a new stadium in Southeast D.C. was finalized. The Nationals
will play at R.F.K. Stadium for the 2005, 2006, and 2007 seasons, with
the new stadium slated to be ready for 2008. The market is also home
to many fans of the Baltimore Orioles whose owner, Peter Angelos, opposed
the move of the Expos to D.C.
On March 8, 2003,
the first of more than 40 arson fires (one of which was fatal) was set
in a 26-month-long series of fires set by a serial arsonist. D.C. resident
and KFC manager Thomas Sweatt, 50, was arrested on April 27, 2005 for
setting the fires. He was sentenced to life in prison on September 12,
Representation in federal
The U.S. Constitution
gives Congress direct jurisdiction for Washington,
D.C. While Congress has delegated various amounts of this authority
to local government, from time to time, Congress still intervenes in
local affairs relating to schools, gun control policy, and other issues.
Citizens of the District also lack voting representation in Congress,
though they do have three electoral votes in the Presidental elections.
Citizens of Washington are represented in the House of Representatives by a non-voting delegate
(currently Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-DC At-Large)) who sits on committees
and participates in debate but cannot vote. D.C. does not have representation
in the Senate. Citizens of Washington,
D.C. are thus unique in the world, as citizens of the capital city
of every other country have the same representation rights as other
citizens. Attempts to change this situation, including the proposed
District of Columbia Voting Rights Amendment, have been unsuccessful.
The U.S. Capitol, seat of the Legislative Branch of the
U.S. Federal Government, sits prominently east of the National Mall
in Washington, D.C.
D.C. is located at 38°53'42? N 77°02'11? W (the coordinates
of the Zero Milestone, on The Ellipse). According to the United States
Census Bureau, the city has a total area of 177.0 km² (68.3 mi²).
159.0 km² (61.4 mi²) of it is land and 18.0 km² (6.9
mi²) of it is water. The total area is 10.16% water.
Washington is surrounded by the states of Virginia (on its southwest side, and a small part of its northwest one) and Maryland (on its southeast and northeast sides, and most of its northwest one);
it interrupts those states' common border, which is the Potomac River
both upstream and downstream from the District.
The physical geography
of the District of Columbia is very similar to the physical geography
of much of Maryland. The
District has three natural flowing bodies of water: the Potomac River,
the Anacostia River, and Rock Creek. Both Anacostia River and Rock Creek
are tributaries of the Potomac. There are also three man-made reservoirs:
Dalecarlia Reservoir, which crosses over the northwest border of the
District from Maryland,
McMillan Reservoir near Howard University, and Georgetown Reservoir
upstream of Georgetown.
The highest point
in the District of Columbia is 410 feet (125 m) above sea level at Tenleytown.
The lowest point is one foot, which occurs at least as far up the Potomac
River as 0.35 miles (0.57 km) upstream from the terminus of Rock Creek.
of Washington, DC include
Theodore Roosevelt Island, Columbia Island, the Three Sisters, and Hains
USGS satellite image of Washington, DC, taken April 26,
weather is highly seasonal with extreme variations between summer and
winter, and can be somewhat unpredictable. Summers tend to be very hot
and humid, which tends to be exacerbated in the heart of the city with
the presence of much concrete and steel. Fall and spring are the best
seasons, when chilly but bright, perfect days are the norm. Sudden rain
or snowfalls are possible. In winter, the city is subject to heavy snowfalls,
averaging 17 inches, and sudden arctic blasts or frozen rainstorms.
The highest recorded temperature was 106° F (41° C) in 1918
and 1930, and the lowest recorded temperature was -18° F (-26°
C) on February 11, 1899.
As of the census of 2000, there are 572,059 people (2004 estimate:
553,523), 248,338 households, and 114,235 families residing in
the city. The population density is 3,597.3/km² (9,316.4/mi²).
There are 274,845 housing units at an average density of 1,728.3/km²
(4,476.1/mi²). The racial makeup of the city is 60.01% Black
or African American, 32.78% White, 2.66% Asian, 0.30% Native American,
0.06% Pacific Islander, 3.84% from other races, and 2.35% from
two or more races. 7.86% of the population are Hispanic or Latino
of any race, with Salvadorans being the largest Hispanic group.
A plurality of whites are of British ancestry.
248,338 households out of which 19.8% have children under the
age of 18 living with them, 22.8% are married couples living together,
18.9% have a female householder with no husband present, and 54.0%
are non-families. 43.8% of all households are made up of individuals
and 10.0% have someone living alone who is 65 years of age or
older. The average household size is 2.16 and the average family
size is 3.07.
In the city
the population is spread out with 20.1% under the age of 18, 12.7%
from 18 to 24, 33.1% from 25 to 44, 21.9% from 45 to 64, and 12.2%
who are 65 years of age or older. The median age is 35 years.
For every 100 females there are 89.0 males. For every 100 females
age 18 and over, there are 86.1 males.
income for a household in the city is $40,127, and the median
income for a family is $46,283. Males have a median income of
$40,513 versus $36,361 for females. The per capita income for
the city is $28,659. 20.2% of the population and 16.7% of families
are below the poverty line. Out of the total population, 31.1%
of those under the age of 18 and 16.4% of those 65 and older are
living below the poverty line.
As of 2000,
83.2% of Washington,
D.C. residents age 5 and older speak English at home and 9.2%
speak Spanish. French is the third most spoken language at 1.8%,
followed by African languages at 1.0% and Chinese at 0.5%.
to the 2001 American Religious Identification Survey, nearly four
out of five District residents self-identified as Christians.
This breaks down to 72% Christian (27% Catholic, 19% Baptist,
and 26% as some other form of Protestant), 13% stating no religion,
and minor religions including 4% Buddhist, 2% Muslim, and 1% Jewish.
As with all survey data, the estimates are subject to sampling
error and non-response bias. For instance, given that most African
Americans are Baptist or Methodist and blacks comprise 60% of
DC's population, it appears that Baptists and Methodists were
During the violent
crime wave of the early 1990s, Washington,
D.C. was known as the murder capital of the United
States. The number of homicides peaked in 1991 at 482, with violence
declining drastically since then. Once plagued with violent crime, many
D.C. neighborhoods, such as Columbia Heights, are becoming safe and
vibrant areas as a result of gentrification. While not as intensely
violent, crime hot spots have since displaced further into the eastern
sections of Washington, D.C. and across the border into Maryland.
Although the eastern side of the city has developed a reputation of
being unsafe, these crime hot spots are generally concentrated in very
specific areas that are associated with drugs and gangs. Other areas
east of the U.S. Capitol, as well as the city's wealthier Northwest
neighborhoods, experience low levels of crime. Despite the declining
trends, Washington D.C. crime rates (2004) remain among the highest
of U.S. cities — behind only Camden,
New Jersey, Detroit,
Louis, Missouri, and Gary,
Landmarks and Museums
Washington is the home of numerous national landmarks and is one of the most popular
tourist destinations in the United
States. The National Mall is a large, open area in the center of
town that features many of the monuments to American leaders, as well
as connects the White House and the United States Capitol buildings.
Located prominently in the center is the Washington Monument. Other
notable points of interest here include the Jefferson Memorial, Lincoln
Memorial, Franklin Delano Roosevelt Memorial, National World War II
Memorial, Korean War Veterans Memorial, Vietnam Veterans Memorial, and
the Albert Einstein Memorial.
The world famous
Smithsonian Institution, is also located in Washington.
This is a collection of museums including the Anacostia Museum, Arthur
M. Sackler Gallery, Hirshhorn Museum, National Air and Space Museum,
National Museum of American History, National Museum of the American
Indian, National Museum of Natural History, National Portrait Gallery,
National Postal Museum, Smithsonian American Art Museum, and the National
There are also many
art museums in town, in addition to those in the Smithsonian, including
the National Gallery of Art, National Museum of Women in the Arts, and
the Corcoran Museum of Art.
The Library of Congress
and the National Archives also house thousands of documents covering
every period in American history. Some of the more notable documents
in the National Archives include the Declaration of Independence and
the United States Constitution.
Other exciting points
of interest in the District include Arena Stage, Basilica of the National
Shrine of the Immaculate Conception, Blair House, Folger Shakespeare
Library, Ford's Theatre, Frederick Douglass National Historic Site,
International Spy Museum, National Building Museum, Old Post Office
Building, The Phillips Collection, Theodore Roosevelt Island, United
States Holocaust Memorial Museum, and the Washington National Cathedral.
Post is the oldest and most read daily newspaper in Washington,
and has developed into one of the most reputable daily newspapers in
the U.S., perhaps most notable for cracking the Watergate Scandal, among
other achievements. The daily Washington Times and the free weekly Washington
City Paper also have substantial readership in the District. On February
1, 2005 the free daily tabloid Washington Examiner debuted, having been
formed from a chain of suburban newspapers known as the Journal Newspapers.
The weekly Washington Blade focuses on gay issues, and the Washington
Informer on African-American issues. Many neighborhoods in the city
have their own small-circulation newspaper, usually published by the
neighborhood association on a weekly basis. Some of these papers included
the Dupont Current (Dupont Circle), Georgetown Current (Georgetown),
In-Towner (Dupont Circle, Logan Circle, & Adams Morgan), Northwest
Current (Upper Northwest), and the Voice of the Hill and the Hill Rag
(Capitol Hill), and East of the River (Anacostia).
The metro area
is well served by several local broadcast television stations, and is
the eighth largest designated market area in the U.S., with 2,252,550
homes (2.04% of the U.S. population). Major television network affiliates
include WUSA 9 (CBS), WJLA 7 (ABC), WRC 4, (NBC), WTTG 5 (Fox), WBDC
50 (WB), WDCA 20 (UPN), as well as WETA 26 and WHUT 32 (PBS) stations.
Public Access on Cable Television is also provided by the Public Access
Corporation of the District of Columbia on two channels simulcast to
both local cable TV Systems. One channel is devoted to religious programming
and the other channel provides a diversity of offerings.
Several cable television
networks have their headquarters in the Washington area including C-SPAN on Capitol Hill, Black Entertainment Television
(BET) in Northeast Washington, and Discovery Communications in Silver
Spring, Maryland. Major national broadcasters and cable outlets
including NBC, ABC, CBS, Fox, and CNN also maintain a significant presence
in Washington, as do those
from around the world including the BBC, CBC, and Al Jazeera.
There are also several
major radio stations serving the metro area, with a wide variety of
musical interests. Rock stations include WARW 94.7 FM (classic rock),
WIHT 99.5 FM (top 40), WWDC, 101.1 FM (alternative rock), and WWZZ 104.1
FM (alternative rock). Urban stations include WPGC 95.5 FM (Rhythmic
CHR/Mainstream Urban), WHUR 96.3 FM (student-run Howard University Urban
AC station), WMMJ 102.3FM (Urban Adult Contemporary|Urban AC]], WKYS
93.9 FM (Mainstream Urban), and Radio CPR 97.5 FM (a popular pirate
radio station broadcasting the area around Mount Pleasant, Adams Morgan
and Columbia Heights). Stations that concentrate on talk and sports
include WJFK 106.7 FM, WMAL 630 AM (conservative), WPGC 1580 AM (Urban
Gospel), WTEM 980 AM (sports talk), and WTOP 1500 AM (all news).
There are also two
NPR affiliates: WAMU 88.5 FM (usual NPR programs, community programming,
and BBC news) and WETA 90.9 FM (round-the-clock news/analysis, broadcasting
shows originating mainly from NPR, PRI, and BBC). Other stations include
WASH 97.1 FM (adult contemporary), WMZQ 98.7 FM (country music), WLZL
99.1 FM (Latin/Hispanic), WGMS 103.5 FM (classical music), and WJZW
105.9 FM (smooth jazz).
XM Satellite Radio
is based in Washington,
as is National Public Radio.
There are a number
of venues for the performing arts in the city. Arena Stage, one of the
first not-for-profit regional theaters in the nation is rich with history
and produces an eight-show season ranging from classics to world premieres,
dedicated to the American cannon of theater. The Kennedy Center for
the Performing Arts hosts the National Symphony Orchestra, the Washington
National Opera, the Washington Ballet, and a variety of other musical
and stage performances. Notable local music clubs include Madam's Organ
Blues Bar in Adams Morgan, and the black cat, the 9:30 Club, and the
historic Bohemian Caverns jazz club, all in the U Street NW area.
The only native
D.C. music genre is go-go, a post-funk, percussion-driven flavor of
R&B that blends live sets with relentless dance rhythms (that "go
and go and go.") The most accomplished practitioner of go-go was
D.C. bandleader Chuck Brown, who brought go-go to the brink of national
recognition with his 1979 LP Bustin' Loose. Go-Go band and Washington
natives Experience Unlimited hit the American pop charts in 1988 with
their memorable dance tune "Da Butt".
Washington was also an important center in the genesis of punk rock in the United
States. Punk bands of note from Washington include Fugazi, Bad Brains, and Minor Threat. Native Washingtonians
continue to support punk bands, long after the punk movement's peak
in popularity. The region also has a storied indie rock history and
was home to TeenBeat and Simple Machines, among other indie record labels.
There have also
been a number of television series that have featured the District.
Most of these have been related to government (The West Wing) or security
organizations (The District, Get Smart). Other programs had the nation's
capital as a secondary focus, telling stories on their own that were
not always tied to the infrastructure of the government either in the
district or for the country. (Murphy Brown, which focused on the lives
of the reporters of a Washington-based television newsmagazine, FYI).
The soap opera Capitol allowed for stories about political intrigue
alongside the traditional class struggle sagas. The sitcom 227 portrayed
the life of the African-American majority as seen through the eyes of
residents in a Washington apartment building.
- Washington Redskins
Football, National Football League
- Washington Nationals
Baseball, Major League Baseball
- Washington Wizards
Basketball, National Basketball Association
- Washington Mystics
Basketball, Women's National Basketball Association
- Washington Capitals
Ice Hockey, National Hockey League
- D.C. United Soccer,
Major League Soccer
Metro area is home to several professional sports teams: the MLS
D.C. United, the NHL Washington Capitals, the NBA Washington Wizards,
the WNBA Washington Mystics, the MLB Washington Nationals, and the NFL
Washington Redskins (now based at FedEx Field in Landover,
and semi-professional teams based in D.C. include the USAFL Baltimore
Washington Eagles, the NWFA D.C. Divas, the Minor League Football D.C.
Explosion, and the Washington Cricket League. It was also home to the
WUSA Washington Freedom, and, during the 2000–2002 NLL seasons,
the Washington Power was based in the city.
There were two Major
League Baseball teams named the Washington Senators in the early and
mid-20th century, which left to become respectively the Minnesota Twins
and the Texas Rangers. In the 19th century, the town was home to teams
called the Washington Nationals, Washington Statesmen, and Washington
Senators on and off from the 1870s to the turn of the century.
Washington was also home to several Negro League teams, including the Homestead
Grays, Washington Black Senators, Washington Elite Giants, Washington
Pilots, and Washington Potomacs.
The MCI Center in
Chinatown, home to the Capitals, Mystics, Wizards, and the Georgetown
Hoyas, is also a major venue for concerts, WWE professional wrestling,
and other events.
hosts the annual Legg Mason Tennis Classic tennis tournament.
D.C. is first and foremost a company town, with the primary company
being, of course, the federal government. A significant portion of the
metro area's population has some sort of connection to the federal government.
Also, the presence of many major government agencies, including the
Department of Defense, National Institutes of Health, or the Food and
Drug Administration, has led to a significant amount of business development
both in the District itself as well as in the suburbs of northern Virginia and Maryland. These businesses
include federal contractors (defense and civilian), numerous nonprofit
organizations, law firms and lobbying firms, catering and administrative
services companies, and several other industries that are sustained
by the enormous economic presence of the federal government.
has the effect of making the Washington economy virtually recession
proof relative to the rest of the country, because the federal government
will still operate no matter the state of the general economy—and
often grows during recessions.
The metro area includes
fourteen major Fortune 500 companies, including Freddie Mac (McLean);
Fannie Mae; electric utility Pepco Holdings Incorporated; manufacturing
company Danaher; communications giant Nextel (Reston);
the credit card company Capital One (McLean);
AES Corporation (Arlington);
US Airways (Arlington,
soon to be moving to Phoenix,
Arizona upon completion of merger with America West Airlines); Gannett
publisher of USA Today; SLM Corporation (Reston);
NVR Incorporated (McLean);
hotel services company Marriott International (Bethesda);
Coventry Healthcare Incorporated (Bethesda);
as well as defense contractors General Dynamics (Falls
Church) and Lockheed Martin (Bethesda).
In addition to Nextel,
several other major network and communications companies are located
in the area, including America Online (Dulles)
and MCI Communications (Ashburn).
Other media companies located in the DC metro area include the new XM
Satellite Radio and Al Hurra (Springfield),
a new cable new channel marketed towards Arabic countries. The Public
Broadcasting Service is also based in suburban Alexandria,
while Discovery Communications, the parent company such cable networks
as the Discovery Channel, is based in Silver
The largest private
employer in DC is the Bureau of National Affairs, a publishing company
based in the west end of the city since the early 1950s.
The aerospace and
commercial air travel industries also have a major presence in the area,
in addition to the aforementioned General Dynamics, Lockheed Martin,
and US Airways. Independence Air, based in Dulles,
started service in 2004, and operates as a low-cost air carrier to many
major airports in the United States.
The regional airline Colgan Air, based in Manassas,
also operates out of the DC area. Defense contractor Orbital Sciences
Corporation is also based in Dulles and specializes in satellite launch and manufacture.
Due to the proximity
to the National Institutes of Health in Bethesda,
the American genomics industry has recently sprouted in the Maryland suburbs of Washington. Prominent players are Celera Genomics, The Institute
for Genomic Research (also known as "TIGR") and Human Genome
Sciences (all of which are in the city of Rockville).
The gross state
product of the District in 2004 was $75.264 billion, ranking it #36
when compared with the fifty states.
The city is run
by an elected mayor (currently in 2005 Anthony A. Williams) and a city
council. The city council is composed of 13 members — a representative
elected from each of the eight wards and five members, including the
chairman, elected at large. The council conducts its work through standing
committees and special committees established as needed. District schools
are administered by a school board that has both elected and appointed
members. There are also 37 elected Advisory Neighborhood Commissions
that provide the most direct access for residents to their local government.
However, the U.S. Congress has the ultimate plenary power over the district.
It has the right to review and overrule laws created locally, and has
often done so. The Tenth Amendment to the United States Constitution
does not apply to the District of Columbia.
D.C. residents do
pay all federal taxes, such as income tax, as well as local taxes. The
mayor and council adopt a budget of local money with Congress reserving
the right to make any changes. Much of the valuable property in the
District is federally owned and hence exempt from local property taxes;
at the same time, the city is burdened with the extraordinary expenses
related to its role as the capital, such as police overtime and street
cleaning for D.C.'s frequent parades and festivals. These factors are
often used to explain why the city's budget is frequently overstretched.
However, the federal government also appropriates funds for the city.
For instance, according to Public Law 108-7, the federal government
provided, among other funds, an estimated 25% of the District's operating
budget in 2003.
city's local government has earned somewhat of a reputation for mismanagement
and waste, particularly during the mayoralty of Marion Barry. A front
page story in the July 21, 1997 Washington Post reported that Washington
had some of the highest cost, lowest quality services in the region.
Prosperity in the late 1990s and early 2000s has lessened public pressure
on Mayor Williams, who still faces daunting urban renewal, public health,
and public education challenges.
The public school
system in the city is operated by District of Columbia Public Schools
(DCPS), and consists of 167 schools and learning centers, which breakdown
into 101 elementary schools, 11 middle schools, 9 junior high schools,
20 senior high schools, 6 education centers, and 20 special schools.
Other schools in
the city include the Sheridan School, Reformed Theological Seminary,
Washington Theological Union, and German School, Washington, D.C.
Colleges and universities
The city also is
home to one publicly-funded university and several private universities.
The University of the District of Columbia is the city's public school,
and is also a historically black college and the nation's only urban
land-grant university. The prestigious Georgetown University, the alma
mater of former U.S. President Bill Clinton (as well as many other notable
alumni) is also located in the northwest quadrant of the city. The George
Washington University, founded by an act of Congress in 1821, is the
largest institution of higher education in the national's capital with
its main campus in Foggy Bottom and its Mount Vernon campus in the Foxhall
neighborhood of Northwest Washington. George Washington University is
also the second-largest landholder and employer in the District—second
only to the federal government. The American University, chartered by
act of Congress in 1893, is situated on a 72 square acre campus in upper
northwest DC and is well known for its School of International Service
and the Washington College of Law (originally founded as a law school
for women). Also known for international affairs is the world renowned
Johns Hopkins University Paul H. Nitze School of Advanced International
Studies (SAIS), which is dedicated to the graduate study of international
relations and international economics and is located on Dupont Circle's
Embassy Row. The District is also home to three private Catholic schools
which are also located in Washington, D.C., including The Catholic University
of America, Trinity University and Georgetown University mentioned above.
Other notable private colleges in the District include Gallaudet University
(the first school for the advanced education of the deaf and hard-of-hearing
Howard University (a highly prestigious historically black college),
and Southeastern University. The Corcoran College of Art and Design
has a very reputable art program and museum downtown. The for-profit
career school, Strayer University, has a campus in Washington, D.C.
The USDA Graduate School, is a continuing education school located in
D.C. is served by three major airports, two of them located in suburban Virginia and one located
in Maryland. Ronald Reagan
Washington National Airport ((IATA: DCA, ICAO: KDCA)) is the closest,
being only 4.3 miles (6.9 km) south of the city in Arlington.
The airport is conveniently located to the downtown area, however has
somewhat restricted flights to airports within the United
States due to noise and security concerns. Most major international
flights arrive and depart from Washington Dulles International Airport
((IATA: IAD, ICAO: KIAD)), located 26.3 miles (42.3 km) west of the
city in Fairfax County and Loudoun County, Virginia.
Dulles is the busiest airport in the region by passengers served, and
the second busiest international gateway on the Eastern Seaboard. Baltimore-Washington
International Thurgood Marshall Airport ((IATA: BWI, ICAO: KBWI)), is
located 31.7 miles (51.0 km) northeast of the city in Anne Arundel County, Maryland, near Baltimore.
BWI is notable for its variety of low-cost carriers, such as Southwest
is additionally available at several smaller airfields, including Montgomery
County Airpark (Gaithersburg,
Maryland), College Park Airport (College
Park, Maryland), Potomac Airfield (Friendly CDP of Prince George's
County, Maryland), and Manassas
Regional Airport (Manassas,
The Capital Beltway
creates an artificial boundary for the inner suburbs of Washington and
is the root of the phrase "inside the Beltway". Almost completely
circling Washington, D.C., it crosses a tiny portion of the District
at its southernmost point. I-66 runs from the eastern edge of Georgetown,
connects with the Beltway, and continues through northern Virginia to I-81. I-295 comes up from the south starting at the eastern edge
of the Woodrow Wilson Bridge on the Beltway and crosses the Anacostia
River into downtown, linking up with I-395, a major commuter route extending
from New York Avenue to the Beltway and Interstate 95 in Springfield,
Virginia, and the unsigned I-695.
Other expressways and parkways
The Anacostia Freeway
(DC-295) splits from I-295 on the south side of the Anacostia, and links
with the unnumbered Baltimore-Washington Parkway via a short section
of Maryland State Highway 201. The Suitland Parkway connects the city
with the southeastern suburbs in Prince George's County, Maryland.
The Whitehurst Freeway, an elevated freeway over K Street in Georgetown,
allows U.S. Highway 29 traffic to bypass Georgetown between the Key
Bridge and K Street downtown. The E Street Expressway connects I-66
with the city's Foggy Bottom area and the areas immediately to the west
of the White House. The Rock Creek and Potomac Parkway provides access
to downtown from the northern and western ends of the city.
City streets in
the district are organized primarily in a grid-like fashion, with several
streets (typically named after states) intersecting at a diagonal. Among
the major roads in the city are MacArthur Boulevard, 14th Street NW,
16th Street NW, Connecticut Avenue, K Street NW, Wisconsin Avenue, M
Street NW, Pennsylvania Avenue, Constitution Avenue, Independence Avenue,
Massachusetts Avenue, U Street NW, North Capitol Street, South Capitol
Street, East Capitol Street, Georgia Avenue, Minnesota Avenue, Nannie
Helen Boroughs Avenue, Martin Luther King Jr. Avenue, New York Avenue,
and Rhode Island Avenue.
area is also serviced by the Washington Metro public transportation
system, which operates public buses (Metrobus) and the region's subway
system (Metrorail). Many of the jurisdictions around the region also
run public buses that interconnect with the Metrobus/Metrorail system.
Union Station is served by MARC and VRE commuter trains, and Amtrak
intercity rail. Intercity bus service is available from the Greyhound
Bus Terminal in Northeast and from dragon buses leaving from Chinatown.
has three sister cities: Bangkok (Thailand), Beijing (China), and Dakar
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