MAY WE remind those of you who may not drop in on us except to celebrate the odd presidential inauguration that Washington, the capital, is also a place where some three million people live? If you will forgive a little boosterism, we'd like to point out how it has changed since you may have seen it last.

The federal government has produced some new public attractions, such as Constitution Gardens and the marvelous new Smithsonian Air and Space Museum. The city of Washington, meanwhile, has cleaned up (at least) the old riot corridors. Construction has begun on an areawide rapid transit system, Metro. There is a new public college. Federal City, and a new Washington Technical Institute.

The quality of community life has improved measurably. Forget those earlier allegations about this city's being the "crime capital of the world." Serious crimes have decreased dramatically, to the point where Washington is now down to No. 17 on the federal crime-ranking of the 20 cities with more than 500,000 population.

Since the more troubled times of the late 1960s and early '70s, the residents of the city and the suburbs have built new ties. The Potomac River may be a little cleaner. Citizens are participating more in local affairs. In the suburbs, a vigorous effort has been made to balance out competing considerations of economics and the environment. By and large, police-community relations are better throughout the region. There is a new sports arena in nearby Maryland. All of this has helped erode much of the fear, racial tension and isolation that seemed to prevail so oppressively a few years ago.TIt helps, too, that the city government today is elected by the residents rather than appointed by a President. Though we are still denied full representation in Congress, people here are working on it. We could use help from those who represent you on Capitol Hill. City hall has had its ups and downs, but these are no different, we suspect, from the experiences of other urban areas. They concern such questions as how to make municipal ends meet, how to deliver services efficiently to those most in need, how to provide adequate housing at prices people can afford and how to improve a public school system.

In short, we've done a lot since you were last here. We plan to do more.