News item: D.C. voting rights bill dies.
The headstone should read: Here Lies A Deserving Piece of Legislation, Killed By Parochialism.
The D.C. Voting Rights Amendment would have provided the District of Columbia with voting representation in Congress -- period. It would not have authorized statehood. It would not have opened the floodgates to a tidal wave of red ink. It would not have turned the city over to a bunch of wild-eyed nuts. It would simply have given D.C. residents what every other American has: two senators and one representative.
But only 16 state legislatures saw the justice in this bill. DCVRA needed 38. It wasn't close.
The death of DCVRA had been coming for a long time. In the seven years since Congress passed the amendment and sent it to the states, the measure made it to the floor in only about three dozen legislatures. It was strangled in committee everywhere else -- by legislators who found Washington too black, too unsophisticated or too Democratic to merit congressional representation.
That's not some shirt-sleeve analysis that a columnist heard at a cocktail party. Many state legislators said so, on many occasions.
DCVRA lobbyists worked hard to stress the fairness question, and to downplay concerns about race and political advantage. But politicians apparently cannot help asking, "What's in it for me politically?" The answer in too many state legislatures was, "Bigger federal government, bigger costs and two likely Democratic Senate seats."
So 700,000 Americans still don't have equal rights. How very strange. How very painful.
News item: Prince George's County school officials spend $14,000 to rent the Capital Centre for a rally designed to boost employes' spirits as the new school year begins.
There were songs at this extravaganza. There was dancing. There was a speech by the teacher who'll be an astronaut. The only thing missing was yo-yos autographed by Tiny the dachshund.
But will this frolic in Landover boost spirits? I've got news for P.G. officials: It hasn't, and it won't.
The problems of the county schools should be addressed in the classroom and at the bargaining table, not in a sports arena. Morale will take care of itself when teachers don't have to wait months for books, when new curriculum ideas get a serious hearing -- and when everybody gets paid what they deserve.
The Cap Centre rally will do one thing: it'll give employes something to joke about for the next few weeks. But the biggest joke is on whoever dreamed this idea up. He won't get many lasting benefits for his $14,000 -- and he may not get any.
News item: D.C. athletes "shop" for high schools where their sports skills can be better showcased.
They do it by the oldest sport of all -- lying.
They claim they want to transfer from a neighborhood high school to a school across town because only the faraway school offers classes in, say, mechanical drawing. But the transfer students turn out to be skyscraping slamdunkers who have been lured by the basketball coach.
Neither the kid nor the coach cares a blessed thing about mechanical drawing -- or anything else academic. The coach just wants to win games so he can enhance his reputation. The kid just wants to play on a good team so he can stoke his ego and improve his chances for an athletic scholarship to college.
This is a scandal -- there's no other word for it. But coaches who have done this for years haven't been seriously disciplined. And their superiors are highly skilled at looking the other way.
It's time for the school board to step in and have a look. The D.C. schools have no business being used as sports factories.
News item: 1984 was the safest year for the Metrobus system since 1973. Meanwhile, bus ridership in July, 1985, was the highest it has been in any one month since October, 1981.
I'll admit my bias right up front. I ride Metrobuses nearly every day. They're almost always on schedule, almost always clean and almost always driven by friendly people. I'm not just a regular; I'm a believer.
As a marketing proposition, Metrobuses are a little like restaurants. A bus can show up at a corner right on the dot 100 times in a row, just as a restaurant can serve you a delicious meal 100 times in a row. But keep that bus rider waiting just once -- or serve spoiled fish just once -- and poof! The customer vanishes.
Obviously, Metrobus has won back some of its vanishing customers -- and obviously, it's keeping them. There's no mystery in this. Buses compete with private cars -- and it's mindbogglingly expensive to buy, fuel and park a car these days.
Still, people would go back to their cars in a second if Metrobus didn't deliver. It's plain that the bus system is doing the job. For those of us who don't care to spend our lives at gas pumps, in parking lots and stopped dead in a crush of rush-hour traffic, that's awfully good news.