Correction to This Article
An earlier version of the photo caption referred to Vincent C. Gray as D.C. mayor. He is D.C.'s mayor-elect.

No more meddling

Mayor-elect Vincent C. Gray (D) addresses his supporters on election night at Love nightclub on Nov. 2.
Mayor-elect Vincent C. Gray (D) addresses his supporters on election night at Love nightclub on Nov. 2. (Richard A. Lipski)

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Saturday, November 6, 2010

THE MOMENTUM behind the Republican Party's rout in Tuesday's midterm elections was fueled, in part, by the belief that the federal government was becoming too intrusive. Let's hope that the GOP stays true to this sentiment as it concerns the District of Columbia. Instead of meddling - as they have done in the past - with Washington's local concerns, Republicans, once they take over the House in January, should respect the right of D.C. residents to govern themselves.

Actions taken by the D.C. government are subject to congressional approval or veto, an indignity that no other city is subject to. Despite the failure to achieve long-sought voting rights, the last four years of House Democratic rule witnessed important strides for District self-determination. Noxious limitations on what the city could do with its money were removed, so critical programs, such as those promoting needle exchanges to control the spread of AIDS, could go forward. Medical marijuana, blocked for a decade, became law. The city's same-sex marriage law was protected from congressional interference. There was progress on legislation that would give the city autonomy over its budget.

Many city officials are expecting some Republicans to use the District to score political points on controversial social issues or as a laboratory for pet programs. The concern is well-founded in history, but D.C. Delegate Eleanor Holmes Norton is right to warn against snap judgments. Ms. Norton has spent most of her 19 years in Congress in the minority, with a Republican president, but she's been able to advance the city's interests. At times, she was helped by Republicans sympathetic to the District's needs. The city wouldn't have come as close as it did to winning voting rights, for example, without the work of then-Rep. Tom Davis (R-Va.); there probably would not be the thriving community of charter schools in the District if not for former House speaker Newt Gingrich (R-Ga.). An early indicator of how the District will fare will be seen in whether the Republican leadership decides to be churlish and rescind Ms. Norton's vote in the committee of the whole.

Mayor-elect Vincent C. Gray (D) is smart to reach out to Republicans and remind them of the city's record, now well entrenched, of governing itself responsibly. But it's also good he's having lunch with President Obama on Dec. 1 so that he can ask him not to hesitate to wield his veto pen to protect the rights of D.C. residents.


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