WASHINGTON — Washington
THIS WILL BE a year of hard times for America, with a recession spreading pain, $3 trillion in debt and colossal budget deficits putting us more in the red, and possibly a costly Persian Gulf war. But I know one city that will be better off: Washington, D.C.
Our nation's capital is my candidate for the comeback city of the year, primarily because we have a new mayor, Sharon Pratt Dixon, who is going to erase the reasons for shame and embarrassment that we Washingtonians have felt for many years.
I predict that the tourists and the conventioneers are going to come back to this city that God has flowered with more beauty in springtime than any other urban area that I have seen on any continent.
The Congress, freed of a few Neanderthals like Stan Parris of Virginia, will once again give this city the economic support it deserves as the world beacon of freedom -- all because Mrs. Dixon will create an image of Washington vastly different from the monstrous one created by departed mayor Marion Barry.
Oh, I know that Mayor Dixon faces a budget shortfall of perhaps $300 million this year; that she must pare down the district government by firing hundreds of incompetent cronies of Barry; that she faces heart-breaking chaos in the public schools system; that the drug peddlers and killers will not fade away just because she is new, or female -- that this surprise winner will find city hall one of the most exasperating places she ever entered. Sharon Pratt Dixon won't solve all these problems in one year or 10.
But the difference is ''image,'' her personal bearing that says to citizens here and across the nation that Washington now has a leader who has class, who is not herself a part and promoter of the drug curse, who is not personally corrupting the police department, who will not tolerate arrogant sleaze in the handing out of D.C. contracts.
This image alone will be enough to tell parents and principals in Chicago, Charleston, Chattanooga that in pride and a sense of security they can send their children here to see the great monuments and museums -- all testaments to the people and things that have made this a great society.
Washington isn't going to gain total home rule in 1991. It won't come close to gaining statehood because the horrors of the Barry years will still give the racists and the Doubting Thomases justification for opposing it. But Washington is going to show the nation what a difference it makes when political leaders create a good reputation instead of engaging in unlawful and immoral acts that dismay children and shock an entire society.
I throw in the caveat that Mrs. Dixon is human and thus subject to grave mistakes in her choices as to who is to head her police department, her human services divisions, or try to run the public schools. The broom that she promised will sweep clean the dirty floors of the Barry administration may not reach into some of the darkest, most sordid corners.
Even with that caveat, I say that you can safely lift a toast to oncoming, resurgent splendor in a truly magnificent city -- the capital where the whole world knows the real ''action'' takes place.