Balancing act in D.C. From LBJ: Voters add dash of diversity with gays and majority white City Council.

November 07, 1998

When President Lyndon B. Johnson appointed a new government for the District of Columbia three decades ago, he did so with balance in mind.

It was understood, though unstated, that the government would be predominantly black for the first time, to replace the traditionally white District Commission that had only recently added its first black member.

The president named Walter A. Washington, black, as mayor, and John Hechinger Sr., white, as City Council chairman. Sterling Tucker, black, was council vice chairman; John Nevius was the lone Republican and one of four whites on the nine-member body.

The deft balancing act by the president worked back then. In Tuesday's election, the people of the district, effectively if not as deftly, repeated Lyndon Johnson's performance.

They elected a black man mayor, and, for the first time, a predominantly white council that includes two gay men in a city that is 62 percent African American.

There was grumbling from some whites 30 years ago when the city's government, reflecting its population, changed from white to black.

There was rumbling this time from some blacks in anticipation of what became reality on Tuesday. Mayor Marion Barry led the charge, complaining that "Chocolate City" should not have a predominantly white council.

But Washington residents have spoken in favor of diversity and good government. Congress should return the powers it stripped from the city, the governing Control Board should be put out of business pronto, and Marion Barry should give it a rest.

Pub Date: 11/07/98

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