If stories about the internecine competition for economic development among local government jurisdictions appeared on the sports pages, last week's results would look like this: Arlington over the District, 1-0; Alexandria over the District, 1-0.
As often has been the case in recent decades, the city and people of Washington were the losers of record in these important confrontations. But the metropolitan area as a whole will suffer, if rout of D.C. is allowed to continue unchecked.
The city's biggest loss came at a secret meeting of the Federal Communications Commission, which voted 4-1 to move the regulatory agency out of the District and into two controversial Rosslyn high-rise tower, starting in the fall.
Another substantial licking came when the American Trucking Associations executive committee decided to move that large trade association's headquarters from the District of Alexandria, after several years of squabbles with ATA neighbors in the Dupont Circle area about the trucking group's expansion plans.
There is irony in both instances. The ATA vote was revealed on Thursday, the very day that the D.C. Zoning Commission voted to approve the trucking association's planned development project. Although the planning agency's decision could be challenged by in the courts, it amounted to a full victory for the association.
Apparently, ATA is too far along to turn back from negotiations on a $12 million headquarters in Alexandria for its 500 employes. Unless there is a change of heart or a snag in the talks, the city tax base has lost those jobs.
The FCC, meanwhile, is not a private sector employer but a federal agency which itself has been cutting back on regulatory red tape and is supposed to be headed for retrenchment in the Reagan era. It decided that its current space is inadequate.
The timing of the FCC vote is such that it presents an early test of the government's sincerity about reducing regulation -- never mind the voting behind closed doors on a matter that doesn't affect national security. Maybe a slimmed-down FCC could survive in smaller quarters?
More substantive is the impact on the District of a federal agency's decision to take 1,700 employes to Northern Virginia. Thus, the projected FCC bailout from the city becomes another test for the Reagan White House -- an initial tussle that may demonstrate the president's degree of interest in the nation's federal capital.
There is nothing inherently wrong with a federal agency deciding to move to new quarters, if new offices indeed are warranted. And there would be nothing wrong with a move to the suburbs in a perfect world, if all of the region's jurisdictions had relatively equal economic health.
But this is not the case today: at a time of severe financial crisis and a dwindling tax base for the District, there is booming affluence in most Northern Virginia areas and in Montgomery County, an increasingly successful drive to improve the economic climate in Prince George's County, and the successes in attracting the region's tax base of the future in exurban counties such as Charles, Stafford and Frederick.
If most of the suburbs advance as the District declines, that can only breed despair among the city's young people, add to the unemployment lines, lead to more crime and provide an even less adequate educatonal system with reduced resources.
The key matter is jobs for city residents. The FCC offices, when vacated, surely will be occupied by professional people, mostly residents of the suburbs. Current employes of offices that move to the suburbs will go along but the likelihood is that suburban residents will get many of those jobs as vacancies occur in the future.
A large number of the FCC employes are clerical workers who live in the District. In addition, hundreds of other businesses deal with the FCC or its employes from law firms and trade associations to the corner drug store, taxi drivers and restaurants.
The surface loss to the District economy is 1,700 jobs, money those wage-earners spend in the city and taxes on their spending that goes to the District Building. D.C. residents who are tranferred to Rosslyn will start spending some of their money there. The deeper loss will be magnified by the losses associated with related businesses.
Commissioner Abbott Washburn, a Republican and resident of the District whose daughter attends a D.C. public school, was the lone dissenter in the FCC meeting. He revealed that alternative sites were available to the agency in the District, in the "same general" price range as that negotiated in Rosslyn ($6.8 million a year rent for 22 floors).
But no direct talks were held with developers of such potential sites as Judiciary Plaza (Raymond Brophy Inc.) and the Federal Center Plaza (Donohue Construction Co.), two complexes between the city's old downtown core and Capital Hill.
Acting FCC Chairman Robert E. Lee had said after the vote that "there is no feasible alternative to Rosslyn." But Washburn said such a conclusion is premature, because the agency did not have adequate information about alternatives "to act on this important decision which affects the working lives of so many of our own employes and affects directly hundreds of organizations in the District of Columbia that have regular business with the commission."
As Washburn noted, the 4-1 vote "opens the commission to charges of irresponsibility which could have been avoided."
Among other things Washburn mentioned was a controversy surrounding the sole-source lease agreement in Rosslyn, pushed by the outgoing chairman, Charles Ferris. In addition, the Justice Department, Interior Department and the National Capital Planning Commission all criticized the 30-story twin towers to which the FCC now plans to move, and opposed unsuccessfully in court the construction of the compelx in the first place as a violation of the capital area's historic, low skyline.
A presidential directive, albeit not from the current White House occupant, urges that U.S. facilities be kept in Washington. Mayor Marion Barry and Del. Water Fauntoy (D-D.C.) have emphasized the importance of the FCC's remaining the city. The FCC employes urged the commissioners to find a suitable site in D.C.
Congress must approve what the four federal regulators have decided, but that raises another interesting factor in the unequal standing of area jurisdictions: The residents of D.C. have no voting power on Capitol Hill. That cannot be said about the suburbs.