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Washington D.C.

Washington, D.C. is the capital city of the United States of America. "D.C." stands for the "District of Columbia" which is the federal district containing the city of Washington. The city is named for George Washington, military leader of the American Revolution and the first President of the United States. The District of Columbia and the city of Washington are coextensive and are governed by a single municipal government, so for most practical purposes they are considered to be the same entity. It is known locally as the District or simply D.C. Historically, it was called the Federal City.

The District of Columbia, founded on July 16, 1790, is a federal district as specified by the United States Constitution with limited—and sometimes contentious—local rule. The District is ruled "in all cases whatsoever" by the U.S. Congress, while nevertheless going unrepresented in that body. The land forming the original District came from the states of Virginia and Maryland. However, the area south of the Potomac River (39 mi² or about 100 km²) was returned, or "retroceded", to Virginia in 1847 and now is incorporated into Arlington County and the City of Alexandria. The term "District of Columbia" uses an old poetic name for the United States, Columbia, which has otherwise fallen out of common use since the early 20th century.

The centers of all three branches of the U.S. federal government are in Washington, D.C., as well as the headquarters of most federal agencies. Washington also serves as the headquarters for the World Bank, the International Monetary Fund, and the Organization of American States, among other international (and national) institutions. All of this has made Washington the frequent focal point of massive political demonstrations and protests, particularly on the National Mall. Washington is also the site of numerous national landmarks, museums, and sports teams, and is a popular destination for tourists.

The population of the District of Columbia, as of 2003 U.S. Census Bureau estimates, is 563,384. The Greater Washington, D.C. metropolitan area includes the District of Columbia and parts of Maryland, Virginia, and West Virginia, with a population surpassing 4.7 million. If Washington, D.C. were considered a state, it would rank last in area behind Rhode Island, 50th in population ahead of Wyoming, and 36th in Gross State Product, ahead of 15 states.

Washington DC Arial
Washington D.C. Arial View

County (none) Federal district
- Total
- Water
177.0 km² (68.3 mi²)
18.0 km² (6.9 mi²) 10.6%
- Total (2004)
- Density
- Metropolitan
553,523 (est.)
3,481.3 /km²
Time zone Eastern: UTC–5
Location 38°53'22.56? N 77°2'6.72? W
Mayor (2005) Anthony A. Williams
City Motto Justitia Omnibus (Justice for All)
City Nickname "D.C."
Official Bird Wood Thrush

1888 German Map of Washington D.C.
1888 German Map of Washington D.C.


A Southern site for the capital was agreed at a dinner between Thomas Jefferson and Alexander Hamilton. The initial plan for the Federal City was a diamond, ten miles wide on each side, giving it 100 square miles (260 square kilometers). The actual site on the Potomac River was chosen by President Washington. Washington may have chosen the site for its natural scenery, in the belief that the Potomac would become a great navigable waterway. The city was officially named "Washington" on September 9, 1791. Out of a sense of modesty, George Washington never referred to it as such, preferring to call it "the Federal City". Despite choosing the site and living nearby at Mount Vernon, he rarely visited.

On August 24, 1814, British forces burnt the capital during the most notable destructive raid of the War of 1812. President James Madison and U.S. forces fled and British forces burned public buildings including the Capitol, the Navy Yard, and the Treasury building. The Presidential Mansion was also gutted.

Washington remained a small city of a few thousand permanent residents until the outbreak of the U.S. Civil War in 1861. The significant expansion of the federal government to administer the war—and its legacies, such as veterans' pensions—led to notable growth in the city's population. But on April 14, 1865, just days after the end of the war, President Abraham Lincoln was assassinated by John Wilkes Booth in Ford's Theater.

In the early 1870s, Washington was given a territorial government, but governor Alexander Shepherd's reputation for extravagance resulted in Congress abolishing his office in favor of direct rule. Congressional governance of the District would continue for a century.

Newspaper Row, Washington, D.C., 1874
Newspaper Row, Washington, D.C., 1874

The Washington Monument opened in 1888. Plans were laid to further develop the monumental aspects of the city, with work contributed by such noted figures as Frederick Law Olmsted and Daniel Burnham. However, development of the Lincoln Memorial and other structures on the National Mall did not get underway until the early 20th century.

The Twenty-third Amendment to the United States Constitution was ratified on March 29, 1961 allowing residents of Washington, D.C. to vote for president and have their votes count in the Electoral College.

The District's population peaked in 1950, when the Census for that year recorded a record population of 802,178 people. At the time, that ranked the city as the ninth-largest in the country, ahead of Boston and behind Saint Louis. The population declined in the following decades, mirroring the suburban out-migration of many of the nation's older urban centers following World War II.

The first 4.6 miles (7.4 kilometers) of the Washington Metro subway system opened on March 27, 1976.

Walter Washington became the first elected mayor of the District in 1974. Marion Barry became mayor in 1978, but was arrested for drug use in an FBI sting on January 18, 1990, and would serve a six-month jail term. His successor, Sharon Pratt Kelly, became the first black woman to lead a city of that size and importance in the U.S. But Barry defeated her in the 1994 primary and was once again elected mayor for his fourth term, during which the city nearly became insolvent and was forced to give up some home rule to a Congressionally appointed financial control board.

The Washington area was the target of at least one of the four hijacked planes in the September 11, 2001 attacks. One plane struck the Pentagon in nearby Arlington County, Virginia, killing 125 people in addition to the 64 aboard the plane, while another that was downed in a field in Pennsylvania is believed by many to have been intended to hit the U.S. Capitol.

Shortly thereafter, Washington endured an anthrax attack, when what may have been a domestic terrorist sent anthrax-contaminated mail to numerous members of Congress. Thirty-one staff members were infected, and two U.S. Postal Service employees at a contaminated mail sorting facility at Brentwood later died.

During three weeks of October 2002, John Allen Muhammad and Lee Boyd Malvo killed ten people and wounded three others in the region in what became known as the Beltway Sniper attacks. One person was killed in the extreme northern part of the District. In March 2004, Muhammad was sentenced to death and Malvo to life imprisonment by a Virginia court.

In November 2003, the toxin ricin was found in the mailroom of the White House, and in February 2004, in the mailroom of U.S. Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist. As with the earlier anthrax attacks, no arrests have been made.

Partly in response to these events from the past few years, the Washington area has taken many steps to increase security.

When US forces in Pakistan raided a house suspected of being a terrorist hideout, they found information several years old, about attacks on Washington, D.C., New York City, and Newark, New Jersey. It was directed to intelligence officials, and on August 1, 2004, the Secretary of Homeland Security put the city on Orange (High) Alert.

A few days later security checkpoints were popping up in and around the Capitol Hill and Foggy Bottom neighborhoods, and fences were erected on monuments once freely accessible, such as the Capitol. Tours to the White House can only be arranged by a member of Congress. Screening devices for biological agents, metal detectors, and vehicle barriers became much more commonplace at office buildings as well as government buildings and in transportation facilities.

This ultra-tight security was referred to as "Fortress Washington"—people protested that "Walling off Washington" due to information several years old was not acceptable.

Thanks in part to the renewed expansion of the federal government after the creation of the Department of Homeland Security, as well as the thriving real estate market, Washington has experienced a huge housing boom that has seen thousands of units constructed, along with thousands of people moving to the District. This has led the city government to dispute a 2005 estimate made by the Census Bureau that the District's population will drop to 433,000 by 2030, claiming that Census officials routinely undercount the city's population and that the data they employed did not anticipate current economic and social trends. City officials have also released their own growth reports that estimate that the District's population will rise to 712,000 by 2030.

On September 29, 2004, Major League Baseball announced plans to relocate the Montreal Expos to Washington for the 2005 season. On November 22, a new name was announced for the team: the Washington Nationals. A very public back-and-forth between the city council and MLB threatened to scuttle the agreement until December 21, when a plan for a new stadium in Southeast D.C. was finalized. The Nationals will play at R.F.K. Stadium for the 2005, 2006, and 2007 seasons, with the new stadium slated to be ready for 2008. The market is also home to many fans of the Baltimore Orioles whose owner, Peter Angelos, opposed the move of the Expos to D.C.

On March 8, 2003, the first of more than 40 arson fires (one of which was fatal) was set in a 26-month-long series of fires set by a serial arsonist. D.C. resident and KFC manager Thomas Sweatt, 50, was arrested on April 27, 2005 for setting the fires. He was sentenced to life in prison on September 12, 2005.

Representation in federal government

The U.S. Constitution gives Congress direct jurisdiction for Washington, D.C. While Congress has delegated various amounts of this authority to local government, from time to time, Congress still intervenes in local affairs relating to schools, gun control policy, and other issues. Citizens of the District also lack voting representation in Congress, though they do have three electoral votes in the Presidental elections. Citizens of Washington are represented in the House of Representatives by a non-voting delegate (currently Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-DC At-Large)) who sits on committees and participates in debate but cannot vote. D.C. does not have representation in the Senate. Citizens of Washington, D.C. are thus unique in the world, as citizens of the capital city of every other country have the same representation rights as other citizens. Attempts to change this situation, including the proposed District of Columbia Voting Rights Amendment, have been unsuccessful.

The U.S. Capitol The U.S. Capitol, seat of the Legislative Branch of the U.S. Federal Government, sits prominently east of the National Mall in Washington, D.C.


Washington, D.C. is located at 38°53'42? N 77°02'11? W (the coordinates of the Zero Milestone, on The Ellipse). According to the United States Census Bureau, the city has a total area of 177.0 km² (68.3 mi²). 159.0 km² (61.4 mi²) of it is land and 18.0 km² (6.9 mi²) of it is water. The total area is 10.16% water.

Washington is surrounded by the states of Virginia (on its southwest side, and a small part of its northwest one) and Maryland (on its southeast and northeast sides, and most of its northwest one); it interrupts those states' common border, which is the Potomac River both upstream and downstream from the District.

The physical geography of the District of Columbia is very similar to the physical geography of much of Maryland. The District has three natural flowing bodies of water: the Potomac River, the Anacostia River, and Rock Creek. Both Anacostia River and Rock Creek are tributaries of the Potomac. There are also three man-made reservoirs: Dalecarlia Reservoir, which crosses over the northwest border of the District from Maryland, McMillan Reservoir near Howard University, and Georgetown Reservoir upstream of Georgetown.

The highest point in the District of Columbia is 410 feet (125 m) above sea level at Tenleytown. The lowest point is one foot, which occurs at least as far up the Potomac River as 0.35 miles (0.57 km) upstream from the terminus of Rock Creek.

Geographical features of Washington, DC include Theodore Roosevelt Island, Columbia Island, the Three Sisters, and Hains Point.

USGS satellite image of Washington, DC, taken April 26, 2002
USGS satellite image of Washington, DC, taken April 26, 2002.


Cherry BlossomsWashington's weather is highly seasonal with extreme variations between summer and winter, and can be somewhat unpredictable. Summers tend to be very hot and humid, which tends to be exacerbated in the heart of the city with the presence of much concrete and steel. Fall and spring are the best seasons, when chilly but bright, perfect days are the norm. Sudden rain or snowfalls are possible. In winter, the city is subject to heavy snowfalls, averaging 17 inches, and sudden arctic blasts or frozen rainstorms. The highest recorded temperature was 106° F (41° C) in 1918 and 1930, and the lowest recorded temperature was -18° F (-26° C) on February 11, 1899.


As of the census of 2000, there are 572,059 people (2004 estimate: 553,523), 248,338 households, and 114,235 families residing in the city. The population density is 3,597.3/km² (9,316.4/mi²). There are 274,845 housing units at an average density of 1,728.3/km² (4,476.1/mi²). The racial makeup of the city is 60.01% Black or African American, 32.78% White, 2.66% Asian, 0.30% Native American, 0.06% Pacific Islander, 3.84% from other races, and 2.35% from two or more races. 7.86% of the population are Hispanic or Latino of any race, with Salvadorans being the largest Hispanic group. A plurality of whites are of British ancestry.

There are 248,338 households out of which 19.8% have children under the age of 18 living with them, 22.8% are married couples living together, 18.9% have a female householder with no husband present, and 54.0% are non-families. 43.8% of all households are made up of individuals and 10.0% have someone living alone who is 65 years of age or older. The average household size is 2.16 and the average family size is 3.07.

In the city the population is spread out with 20.1% under the age of 18, 12.7% from 18 to 24, 33.1% from 25 to 44, 21.9% from 45 to 64, and 12.2% who are 65 years of age or older. The median age is 35 years. For every 100 females there are 89.0 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there are 86.1 males.

The median income for a household in the city is $40,127, and the median income for a family is $46,283. Males have a median income of $40,513 versus $36,361 for females. The per capita income for the city is $28,659. 20.2% of the population and 16.7% of families are below the poverty line. Out of the total population, 31.1% of those under the age of 18 and 16.4% of those 65 and older are living below the poverty line.

As of 2000, 83.2% of Washington, D.C. residents age 5 and older speak English at home and 9.2% speak Spanish. French is the third most spoken language at 1.8%, followed by African languages at 1.0% and Chinese at 0.5%.

According to the 2001 American Religious Identification Survey, nearly four out of five District residents self-identified as Christians. This breaks down to 72% Christian (27% Catholic, 19% Baptist, and 26% as some other form of Protestant), 13% stating no religion, and minor religions including 4% Buddhist, 2% Muslim, and 1% Jewish. As with all survey data, the estimates are subject to sampling error and non-response bias. For instance, given that most African Americans are Baptist or Methodist and blacks comprise 60% of DC's population, it appears that Baptists and Methodists were undersampled.

Historical populations


During the violent crime wave of the early 1990s, Washington, D.C. was known as the murder capital of the United States. The number of homicides peaked in 1991 at 482, with violence declining drastically since then. Once plagued with violent crime, many D.C. neighborhoods, such as Columbia Heights, are becoming safe and vibrant areas as a result of gentrification. While not as intensely violent, crime hot spots have since displaced further into the eastern sections of Washington, D.C. and across the border into Maryland. Although the eastern side of the city has developed a reputation of being unsafe, these crime hot spots are generally concentrated in very specific areas that are associated with drugs and gangs. Other areas east of the U.S. Capitol, as well as the city's wealthier Northwest neighborhoods, experience low levels of crime. Despite the declining trends, Washington D.C. crime rates (2004) remain among the highest of U.S. cities — behind only Camden, New Jersey, Detroit, Michigan, St. Louis, Missouri, and Gary, Indiana.

Landmarks and Museums

Washington is the home of numerous national landmarks and is one of the most popular tourist destinations in the United States. The National Mall is a large, open area in the center of town that features many of the monuments to American leaders, as well as connects the White House and the United States Capitol buildings. Located prominently in the center is the Washington Monument. Other notable points of interest here include the Jefferson Memorial, Lincoln Memorial, Franklin Delano Roosevelt Memorial, National World War II Memorial, Korean War Veterans Memorial, Vietnam Veterans Memorial, and the Albert Einstein Memorial.

The world famous Smithsonian Institution, is also located in Washington. This is a collection of museums including the Anacostia Museum, Arthur M. Sackler Gallery, Hirshhorn Museum, National Air and Space Museum, National Museum of American History, National Museum of the American Indian, National Museum of Natural History, National Portrait Gallery, National Postal Museum, Smithsonian American Art Museum, and the National Zoo.

There are also many art museums in town, in addition to those in the Smithsonian, including the National Gallery of Art, National Museum of Women in the Arts, and the Corcoran Museum of Art.

The Library of Congress and the National Archives also house thousands of documents covering every period in American history. Some of the more notable documents in the National Archives include the Declaration of Independence and the United States Constitution.

Other exciting points of interest in the District include Arena Stage, Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception, Blair House, Folger Shakespeare Library, Ford's Theatre, Frederick Douglass National Historic Site, International Spy Museum, National Building Museum, Old Post Office Building, The Phillips Collection, Theodore Roosevelt Island, United States Holocaust Memorial Museum, and the Washington National Cathedral.

Washington Monument and arial view of Washington D.C.
Washington Monument
Jefferson Memorial
Jefferson Memorial
Lincoln Memorial
Lincoln Memorial



The Washington Post is the oldest and most read daily newspaper in Washington, and has developed into one of the most reputable daily newspapers in the U.S., perhaps most notable for cracking the Watergate Scandal, among other achievements. The daily Washington Times and the free weekly Washington City Paper also have substantial readership in the District. On February 1, 2005 the free daily tabloid Washington Examiner debuted, having been formed from a chain of suburban newspapers known as the Journal Newspapers. The weekly Washington Blade focuses on gay issues, and the Washington Informer on African-American issues. Many neighborhoods in the city have their own small-circulation newspaper, usually published by the neighborhood association on a weekly basis. Some of these papers included the Dupont Current (Dupont Circle), Georgetown Current (Georgetown), In-Towner (Dupont Circle, Logan Circle, & Adams Morgan), Northwest Current (Upper Northwest), and the Voice of the Hill and the Hill Rag (Capitol Hill), and East of the River (Anacostia).


The metro area is well served by several local broadcast television stations, and is the eighth largest designated market area in the U.S., with 2,252,550 homes (2.04% of the U.S. population). Major television network affiliates include WUSA 9 (CBS), WJLA 7 (ABC), WRC 4, (NBC), WTTG 5 (Fox), WBDC 50 (WB), WDCA 20 (UPN), as well as WETA 26 and WHUT 32 (PBS) stations. Public Access on Cable Television is also provided by the Public Access Corporation of the District of Columbia on two channels simulcast to both local cable TV Systems. One channel is devoted to religious programming and the other channel provides a diversity of offerings.

Several cable television networks have their headquarters in the Washington area including C-SPAN on Capitol Hill, Black Entertainment Television (BET) in Northeast Washington, and Discovery Communications in Silver Spring, Maryland. Major national broadcasters and cable outlets including NBC, ABC, CBS, Fox, and CNN also maintain a significant presence in Washington, as do those from around the world including the BBC, CBC, and Al Jazeera.


There are also several major radio stations serving the metro area, with a wide variety of musical interests. Rock stations include WARW 94.7 FM (classic rock), WIHT 99.5 FM (top 40), WWDC, 101.1 FM (alternative rock), and WWZZ 104.1 FM (alternative rock). Urban stations include WPGC 95.5 FM (Rhythmic CHR/Mainstream Urban), WHUR 96.3 FM (student-run Howard University Urban AC station), WMMJ 102.3FM (Urban Adult Contemporary|Urban AC]], WKYS 93.9 FM (Mainstream Urban), and Radio CPR 97.5 FM (a popular pirate radio station broadcasting the area around Mount Pleasant, Adams Morgan and Columbia Heights). Stations that concentrate on talk and sports include WJFK 106.7 FM, WMAL 630 AM (conservative), WPGC 1580 AM (Urban Gospel), WTEM 980 AM (sports talk), and WTOP 1500 AM (all news).

There are also two NPR affiliates: WAMU 88.5 FM (usual NPR programs, community programming, and BBC news) and WETA 90.9 FM (round-the-clock news/analysis, broadcasting shows originating mainly from NPR, PRI, and BBC). Other stations include WASH 97.1 FM (adult contemporary), WMZQ 98.7 FM (country music), WLZL 99.1 FM (Latin/Hispanic), WGMS 103.5 FM (classical music), and WJZW 105.9 FM (smooth jazz).

XM Satellite Radio is based in Washington, as is National Public Radio.


Performing arts

There are a number of venues for the performing arts in the city. Arena Stage, one of the first not-for-profit regional theaters in the nation is rich with history and produces an eight-show season ranging from classics to world premieres, dedicated to the American cannon of theater. The Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts hosts the National Symphony Orchestra, the Washington National Opera, the Washington Ballet, and a variety of other musical and stage performances. Notable local music clubs include Madam's Organ Blues Bar in Adams Morgan, and the black cat, the 9:30 Club, and the historic Bohemian Caverns jazz club, all in the U Street NW area.

The only native D.C. music genre is go-go, a post-funk, percussion-driven flavor of R&B that blends live sets with relentless dance rhythms (that "go and go and go.") The most accomplished practitioner of go-go was D.C. bandleader Chuck Brown, who brought go-go to the brink of national recognition with his 1979 LP Bustin' Loose. Go-Go band and Washington natives Experience Unlimited hit the American pop charts in 1988 with their memorable dance tune "Da Butt".

Washington was also an important center in the genesis of punk rock in the United States. Punk bands of note from Washington include Fugazi, Bad Brains, and Minor Threat. Native Washingtonians continue to support punk bands, long after the punk movement's peak in popularity. The region also has a storied indie rock history and was home to TeenBeat and Simple Machines, among other indie record labels.

There have also been a number of television series that have featured the District. Most of these have been related to government (The West Wing) or security organizations (The District, Get Smart). Other programs had the nation's capital as a secondary focus, telling stories on their own that were not always tied to the infrastructure of the government either in the district or for the country. (Murphy Brown, which focused on the lives of the reporters of a Washington-based television newsmagazine, FYI). The soap opera Capitol allowed for stories about political intrigue alongside the traditional class struggle sagas. The sitcom 227 portrayed the life of the African-American majority as seen through the eyes of residents in a Washington apartment building.


  • Washington Redskins Football, National Football League
  • Washington Nationals Baseball, Major League Baseball
  • Washington Wizards Basketball, National Basketball Association
  • Washington Mystics Basketball, Women's National Basketball Association
  • Washington Capitals Ice Hockey, National Hockey League
  • D.C. United Soccer, Major League Soccer

Washington Metro area is home to several professional sports teams: the MLS D.C. United, the NHL Washington Capitals, the NBA Washington Wizards, the WNBA Washington Mystics, the MLB Washington Nationals, and the NFL Washington Redskins (now based at FedEx Field in Landover, Maryland).

Other professional and semi-professional teams based in D.C. include the USAFL Baltimore Washington Eagles, the NWFA D.C. Divas, the Minor League Football D.C. Explosion, and the Washington Cricket League. It was also home to the WUSA Washington Freedom, and, during the 2000–2002 NLL seasons, the Washington Power was based in the city.

There were two Major League Baseball teams named the Washington Senators in the early and mid-20th century, which left to become respectively the Minnesota Twins and the Texas Rangers. In the 19th century, the town was home to teams called the Washington Nationals, Washington Statesmen, and Washington Senators on and off from the 1870s to the turn of the century.

Washington was also home to several Negro League teams, including the Homestead Grays, Washington Black Senators, Washington Elite Giants, Washington Pilots, and Washington Potomacs.

The MCI Center in Chinatown, home to the Capitals, Mystics, Wizards, and the Georgetown Hoyas, is also a major venue for concerts, WWE professional wrestling, and other events.

Washington also hosts the annual Legg Mason Tennis Classic tennis tournament.


The U.S. Department of Commerce Building in Washington, D.C.Washington, D.C. is first and foremost a company town, with the primary company being, of course, the federal government. A significant portion of the metro area's population has some sort of connection to the federal government. Also, the presence of many major government agencies, including the Department of Defense, National Institutes of Health, or the Food and Drug Administration, has led to a significant amount of business development both in the District itself as well as in the suburbs of northern Virginia and Maryland. These businesses include federal contractors (defense and civilian), numerous nonprofit organizations, law firms and lobbying firms, catering and administrative services companies, and several other industries that are sustained by the enormous economic presence of the federal government.

This arrangement has the effect of making the Washington economy virtually recession proof relative to the rest of the country, because the federal government will still operate no matter the state of the general economy—and often grows during recessions.

The metro area includes fourteen major Fortune 500 companies, including Freddie Mac (McLean); Fannie Mae; electric utility Pepco Holdings Incorporated; manufacturing company Danaher; communications giant Nextel (Reston); the credit card company Capital One (McLean); AES Corporation (Arlington); US Airways (Arlington, soon to be moving to Phoenix, Arizona upon completion of merger with America West Airlines); Gannett (McLean), the publisher of USA Today; SLM Corporation (Reston); NVR Incorporated (McLean); hotel services company Marriott International (Bethesda); Coventry Healthcare Incorporated (Bethesda); as well as defense contractors General Dynamics (Falls Church) and Lockheed Martin (Bethesda).

In addition to Nextel, several other major network and communications companies are located in the area, including America Online (Dulles) and MCI Communications (Ashburn). Other media companies located in the DC metro area include the new XM Satellite Radio and Al Hurra (Springfield), a new cable new channel marketed towards Arabic countries. The Public Broadcasting Service is also based in suburban Alexandria, while Discovery Communications, the parent company such cable networks as the Discovery Channel, is based in Silver Spring.

The largest private employer in DC is the Bureau of National Affairs, a publishing company based in the west end of the city since the early 1950s.

The aerospace and commercial air travel industries also have a major presence in the area, in addition to the aforementioned General Dynamics, Lockheed Martin, and US Airways. Independence Air, based in Dulles, started service in 2004, and operates as a low-cost air carrier to many major airports in the United States. The regional airline Colgan Air, based in Manassas, also operates out of the DC area. Defense contractor Orbital Sciences Corporation is also based in Dulles and specializes in satellite launch and manufacture.

Due to the proximity to the National Institutes of Health in Bethesda, the American genomics industry has recently sprouted in the Maryland suburbs of Washington. Prominent players are Celera Genomics, The Institute for Genomic Research (also known as "TIGR") and Human Genome Sciences (all of which are in the city of Rockville).

The gross state product of the District in 2004 was $75.264 billion, ranking it #36 when compared with the fifty states.

Local Government

The city is run by an elected mayor (currently in 2005 Anthony A. Williams) and a city council. The city council is composed of 13 members — a representative elected from each of the eight wards and five members, including the chairman, elected at large. The council conducts its work through standing committees and special committees established as needed. District schools are administered by a school board that has both elected and appointed members. There are also 37 elected Advisory Neighborhood Commissions that provide the most direct access for residents to their local government. However, the U.S. Congress has the ultimate plenary power over the district. It has the right to review and overrule laws created locally, and has often done so. The Tenth Amendment to the United States Constitution does not apply to the District of Columbia.

D.C. residents do pay all federal taxes, such as income tax, as well as local taxes. The mayor and council adopt a budget of local money with Congress reserving the right to make any changes. Much of the valuable property in the District is federally owned and hence exempt from local property taxes; at the same time, the city is burdened with the extraordinary expenses related to its role as the capital, such as police overtime and street cleaning for D.C.'s frequent parades and festivals. These factors are often used to explain why the city's budget is frequently overstretched. However, the federal government also appropriates funds for the city. For instance, according to Public Law 108-7, the federal government provided, among other funds, an estimated 25% of the District's operating budget in 2003.

Historically, the city's local government has earned somewhat of a reputation for mismanagement and waste, particularly during the mayoralty of Marion Barry. A front page story in the July 21, 1997 Washington Post reported that Washington had some of the highest cost, lowest quality services in the region. Prosperity in the late 1990s and early 2000s has lessened public pressure on Mayor Williams, who still faces daunting urban renewal, public health, and public education challenges.


Public schools

The public school system in the city is operated by District of Columbia Public Schools (DCPS), and consists of 167 schools and learning centers, which breakdown into 101 elementary schools, 11 middle schools, 9 junior high schools, 20 senior high schools, 6 education centers, and 20 special schools.

Private schools

Other schools in the city include the Sheridan School, Reformed Theological Seminary, Washington Theological Union, and German School, Washington, D.C.

Colleges and universities

The city also is home to one publicly-funded university and several private universities. The University of the District of Columbia is the city's public school, and is also a historically black college and the nation's only urban land-grant university. The prestigious Georgetown University, the alma mater of former U.S. President Bill Clinton (as well as many other notable alumni) is also located in the northwest quadrant of the city. The George Washington University, founded by an act of Congress in 1821, is the largest institution of higher education in the national's capital with its main campus in Foggy Bottom and its Mount Vernon campus in the Foxhall neighborhood of Northwest Washington. George Washington University is also the second-largest landholder and employer in the District—second only to the federal government. The American University, chartered by act of Congress in 1893, is situated on a 72 square acre campus in upper northwest DC and is well known for its School of International Service and the Washington College of Law (originally founded as a law school for women). Also known for international affairs is the world renowned Johns Hopkins University Paul H. Nitze School of Advanced International Studies (SAIS), which is dedicated to the graduate study of international relations and international economics and is located on Dupont Circle's Embassy Row. The District is also home to three private Catholic schools which are also located in Washington, D.C., including The Catholic University of America, Trinity University and Georgetown University mentioned above. Other notable private colleges in the District include Gallaudet University (the first school for the advanced education of the deaf and hard-of-hearing Howard University (a highly prestigious historically black college), and Southeastern University. The Corcoran College of Art and Design has a very reputable art program and museum downtown. The for-profit career school, Strayer University, has a campus in Washington, D.C. The USDA Graduate School, is a continuing education school located in the District.



Washington, D.C. is served by three major airports, two of them located in suburban Virginia and one located in Maryland. Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport ((IATA: DCA, ICAO: KDCA)) is the closest, being only 4.3 miles (6.9 km) south of the city in Arlington. The airport is conveniently located to the downtown area, however has somewhat restricted flights to airports within the United States due to noise and security concerns. Most major international flights arrive and depart from Washington Dulles International Airport ((IATA: IAD, ICAO: KIAD)), located 26.3 miles (42.3 km) west of the city in Fairfax County and Loudoun County, Virginia. Dulles is the busiest airport in the region by passengers served, and the second busiest international gateway on the Eastern Seaboard. Baltimore-Washington International Thurgood Marshall Airport ((IATA: BWI, ICAO: KBWI)), is located 31.7 miles (51.0 km) northeast of the city in Anne Arundel County, Maryland, near Baltimore. BWI is notable for its variety of low-cost carriers, such as Southwest Airlines.

General aviation is additionally available at several smaller airfields, including Montgomery County Airpark (Gaithersburg, Maryland), College Park Airport (College Park, Maryland), Potomac Airfield (Friendly CDP of Prince George's County, Maryland), and Manassas Regional Airport (Manassas, Virginia).


Interstate highways

The Capital Beltway creates an artificial boundary for the inner suburbs of Washington and is the root of the phrase "inside the Beltway". Almost completely circling Washington, D.C., it crosses a tiny portion of the District at its southernmost point. I-66 runs from the eastern edge of Georgetown, connects with the Beltway, and continues through northern Virginia to I-81. I-295 comes up from the south starting at the eastern edge of the Woodrow Wilson Bridge on the Beltway and crosses the Anacostia River into downtown, linking up with I-395, a major commuter route extending from New York Avenue to the Beltway and Interstate 95 in Springfield, Virginia, and the unsigned I-695.

Other expressways and parkways

The Anacostia Freeway (DC-295) splits from I-295 on the south side of the Anacostia, and links with the unnumbered Baltimore-Washington Parkway via a short section of Maryland State Highway 201. The Suitland Parkway connects the city with the southeastern suburbs in Prince George's County, Maryland. The Whitehurst Freeway, an elevated freeway over K Street in Georgetown, allows U.S. Highway 29 traffic to bypass Georgetown between the Key Bridge and K Street downtown. The E Street Expressway connects I-66 with the city's Foggy Bottom area and the areas immediately to the west of the White House. The Rock Creek and Potomac Parkway provides access to downtown from the northern and western ends of the city.

City streets

City streets in the district are organized primarily in a grid-like fashion, with several streets (typically named after states) intersecting at a diagonal. Among the major roads in the city are MacArthur Boulevard, 14th Street NW, 16th Street NW, Connecticut Avenue, K Street NW, Wisconsin Avenue, M Street NW, Pennsylvania Avenue, Constitution Avenue, Independence Avenue, Massachusetts Avenue, U Street NW, North Capitol Street, South Capitol Street, East Capitol Street, Georgia Avenue, Minnesota Avenue, Nannie Helen Boroughs Avenue, Martin Luther King Jr. Avenue, New York Avenue, and Rhode Island Avenue.

Mass transit

The Washington area is also serviced by the Washington Metro public transportation system, which operates public buses (Metrobus) and the region's subway system (Metrorail). Many of the jurisdictions around the region also run public buses that interconnect with the Metrobus/Metrorail system. Union Station is served by MARC and VRE commuter trains, and Amtrak intercity rail. Intercity bus service is available from the Greyhound Bus Terminal in Northeast and from dragon buses leaving from Chinatown.

Sister cities

Washington, D.C. has three sister cities: Bangkok (Thailand), Beijing (China), and Dakar (Senegal).

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