Trouble Blooms with Crocuses on the 'Last Plantation'


Washington. -- I try to be cheerful these mornings when I look out at the spring burst of daffodils, violets and tulips; the gorgeous blossoming of cherry, Bradford pear and willow trees; at the forsythia and crocuses and all the things that make this one of the most beautiful cities in the world.

But it is hard to rejoice when you are becoming one of the most highly taxed persons in America, with no meaningful political representation. It is painful to see that "home rule" is vanishing, the feeble dream of statehood is dead, and the nation's capital will soon be ruled by a monstrosity called the District of Columbia Financial Responsibility and Management Assistance Authority.

This city is bankrupt in many ways. Within days it will not be able to pay the employees of a terribly bloated bureaucracy. Its bond rating on Wall Street is "junk." It is in desperate need of short-term loans from the U.S. Treasury.

So the Congress is creating a five-person financial-control board that will in effect make Marion Barry a mayor without power and strip the City Council of budgetary authority.

This drastic step is driven by a desire by many in Congress, the White House, and in privileged black neighborhoods to repair the image of our "national symbol" city.

They are further impelled by the fact that the District of Columbia is also bedeviled by astronomical rates of murder and other violent crimes, of teen-age pregnancies, of the diseases of poverty and deprivation, of deplorable educational achievement and more.

This tragic development in my beloved city must be seen as a symbol of the corrosive drift of the whole nation because of blatant racism, black paranoia and its general lapse into cronyism, and the corruption of national and urban officials.

Deep, unspoken racial passions have guaranteed that the Congress would never allocate enough money for black officials to keep the District financially viable. Congress would never permit the proper taxation of the moneyed professionals, lobbyists and others who make their fortunes in the District but live in Maryland and Virginia.

This and many other things fed the black paranoia and anger that recently has made it impossible for honest blacks with vision and guts to win elections in the District. The black paranoia got so bad that only a demagogue such as Marion Barry, however tainted by years of drug abuse and his corrupt aides, could get a majority of votes.

It was pathetically clear last November when Barry was again elected mayor that he would never make the budget cuts and other financial reforms that were needed, and that he was so despised by leaders of Congress that they would never bail him out.

The recent history of Washington reminds me that when blacks began to gain political power -- and the posts of mayor and police chief -- in our big cities, whites expected their color alone to stop crime and produce tranquility.

We now know that blacks who are desperate for jobs have no more respect for a black mayor who cannot deliver than they do for a white one. The drug peddlers are especially contemptuous of a black official they know is using dope. The lobbyists and fat-cat corrupters are equal-opportunity bribers.

I'll have to get used to this new ruling "authority" in my city, which some long have called "the last plantation."

I just hope that my political powerlessness will make those in other cities take care as to how they use and secure their empowerment.

Carl T. Rowan is a syndicated columnist.

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