ONCE AGAIN Congress is trying unwisely to intervene in District affairs. Rep. Sidney R. Yates (D-Ill.) has attached a policy statement to the $1.9 million federal appropriation for the Pennsylvania Avenue Development Corporation. It instructs PADC that Congress is opposed to allowing minorities to become partners in PADC development projects unless they make cash investments. Mr. Yates directed the PADC staff to inform him of "any pressure being exerted from other units of government urging otherwise."
The question of whether lawyers, architects and others with some expertise to give to a development project should be allowed to obtain a percentage of equity for no cash investment can be debated. So can the practice of setting hard minority-participation goals for development projects. But there should be no question about who decides these questions: local leaders representing local citizens. At the least, local leaders should be involved in making the policy. For the congressman to enter the debate with an almighty declaration -- subject to no argument or question from local leaders -- is an infringement of the prerogatives and the independence of people who live here.
The congressional action initiated by Rep. Yates is especially bad because it runs directly contrary to what local officials favor. The absence of blacks with sufficient capital to invest has forced the local government to look for alternative ways to involve them in the development process. The PADC has a goal of 15 percent minority participation and is deep in discussion about how to achieve it. But the congressman did not even let the PADC's affirmative action committee comment on his policy before it was made a part of the budget.
Actions such as that of Mr. Yates can only encourage businessmen and others to run to Congress whenever a local official makes a decision thay don't like. The congressman's actions offers further proof of the need for legislation permitting the District to conduct its own affairs more freely -- to let the District plan its own budget and to limit congressional review to those statutes directly affecting the federal interest in the city. Ever the optimists, we say this: if Mr. Yates' action helps illustrate the importance of such changes, he will have been of great help in the fight for local autonomy.