IF CERTAIN MEMBERS of the D.C. Council can overcome intramural hang-ups about being vetoed, they have an opportunity to enact a significant interstate banking bill -- one that could deliver dollars to parts of town that haven't seen many in a while. That's why Mayor Barry wound up vetoing the too-narrow measure that the council sent to him; he recognized the benefits of rethinking the earlier proposal and reaping the fruits of real competition in banking here. There's money on the table from big banks eager to aid development and attract individual customers -- and the challenge is to pass a bill that will guarantee delivery on all promises.
There are ways to spell this out. Mayor Barry has proposed that those institutions eager for immediate entry into the District's market agree to invest more than $100 million within two years and to hire 200 District residents. They also would be restricted in the initial period to operations in areas designated as having inadequate banking service. Other banks could enter after two years. There's no magic to these specific numbers; the council could revise them -- keeping in mind that the higher the price the more likely that only the biggest banks will move in.
One narrow consideration raised by local bankers who don't relish any more competition outside of a limited region has do with Citicorp's investments in South Africa. Regardless of feelings about Citicorp's policy, council members should consider the banking legislation not as a bill for or against Citicorp -- but as legislation to open competition to any bank fulfilling whatever stipulations the mayor and council may agree to.
The whole point is to enact a measure that can make a difference throughout the city. It is too important a prospect to dismiss for narrow reasons.