[TEXT OMITTED FROM SOURCE] Boom! The House of Representatives, after ordering the city to hire 200 additional police officers, rules that the hiring can not be accomplished through a lottery devised by Barry to eliminate racial and sexual bias that he said existed in an entrance exam. Rep. Stanford Parris, a Republican from Fairfax County, was behind the measure.
Boom! A House panel kills funds that would have been used to set up the city-run lottery and numbers game approved by District voters last year. A conservative member of the panel, whose home state of Pennsylvania runs a lottery, argues that it is not becoming for the nation's capital to condone gambling.
Boom! Resolutions of disapproval are introduced in both the House and the Senate to kill the recently passed reform of the city's sexual assault laws. The measure would legalize most homosexual conduct, among other provisions that are anathema to the Moral Majority and its supporters on Capitol Hill.
Boom! A Pennsylvania congressman convinces the House to keep the city from sending its sewage sludge to a landfill in his district, potentially leaving the District no way to comply with a federal court order.
"There's nothing we can do about it but complain," Barry said last week in an unguarded moment. In general, Barry professes optimism that what seems like a potent attack on home rule will prove only a temporary aberration, brought on by the naivete of inexperienced congressmen and the personal political ambitions of others.
But the recent activism on the Hill regarding affairs of the District of Columbia has had an indisputable effect: to make Washington seem more a pawn of Congress than at any time since the advent of limited home rule with the swearing-in of the city's first elected mayor in 1975.
A broadly based coalition of prominent individuals, Citizens for Home Rule, has formed specifically to fight the challenge to the sexual assault law reform and intends to remain active on other home rule issues as well. It includes former League of Women Voters president Ruth Dixon, American Civil Liberties Union director Leslie Harris, Rev. David Eaton of All Souls Church, and others.
And a variety of groups, while not actually a part of the coalition, have drafted letters supporting the coalition's aims. Among them are the League of Women Voters, Common Cause, and the Jewish Community Council of Greater Washington.
"I think it's a serious attack on the concept of home rule," Eaton said. "Under the veneer of decency and democratic process has always been the racism and possessiveness that many people in Congress have toward the District of Columbia. When things are going well, the racism implied in limited home rule -- the fact that we have a majority of Afro-Americans in the city -- is hidden under the veneer. When you have rough times, the racism around the country rears its angry head."
"Somehow there seems to be an opening again to comment from any source on what we consider our own affairs," said Sue Panzer, president of the League of Women Voters, which has long advocated greater home rule for the District.
She noted that the only piece of D.C. legislation struck down by Congress prior to the current flurry of activity was a City Council bill limiting the location of embassy chanceries, an issue which Panzer said could be construed to hold a significant federal interest. But the most recent congressional intervention, she said, has been on issues in which no federal interest is apparent.
"The current president has indicated that he does not support the D.C. Voting Rights Amendment," Panzer said, referring to the Constitutional amendment now pending before the state legislatures to give the city two voting senators and at least one voting member of the House of Representatives. "Perhaps that gives a certain license to some people to comment on what we do here in the District."
Joe Tom Easley, an Antioch School of Law professor who is involved with Citizens for Home Rule, said he believes that while home rule is threatened, reports of its demise are premature.
"Home rule is not dead by any means," he said. "We're just going to have to watch what's happening, do a lot of lobbying on the Hill. We're going to have to stop just assuming that D.C. legislation goes up to the Hill, sits 30 days and becomes law."
"It's not just D.C. The whole mood of Congress is changing," Barry said. "It's not as progressive as it used to be." That shift in mood, Barry said, has created a backlash against the District and its primarily liberal government.
"When I lose a battle for home rule, the citizens lose," Barry says. "It's the citizens who lost their right to participate in the democratic process on the local level."