US capital pays for its $4bn rescue

President Bill Clinton yesterday unveiled a $4bn (pounds 2.4bn) five- year rescue package for Washington DC, which at last offers a real prospect of recovery for the battered US capital - but effectively destroys any lingering hopes of it becoming the 51st state of the union.

The plan, to be submitted as part of the 1998 federal budget, fulfils Mr Clinton's promise of speedy aid for a city which has lurched from crisis to crisis over the past five years. It was quickly supported by Mayor Marion Barry and most municipal leaders, and is broadly in line with steps advocated by the Speaker, Newt Gingrich, which can only raise the chances of approval by the Republican Congress.

The scheme is essentially a trade-off. The federal government will end its $660m annual grant to the District of Columbia. In return it will take over the massively underfunded $5bn pension scheme for DC employees, as well as the city's prison system, and most of its health care responsibilities to the poor, and spend $1.4bn on Washington's decrepit roads and infrastructure. In all, say White House officials, a modest $339m will be added to the federal budget deficit between 1998 and 2003.

The announcement has been timed to coincide with Mr Clinton's second inauguration next Monday, when America and the world will see the familiar Washington of broad avenues, gleaming public buildings and some of the most handsome urban vistas on earth.

A few blocks away, however, lurks the other Washington, a case study in the problems of America's decaying, predominantly black, inner cities. Thus far this decade alone, 50,000 people - a tenth of its population - have fled to suburban Maryland and Virginia, further eroding a shrinking tax base.

A financial control board imposed by Congress to take over management of the city from Mr Barry is struggling to correct a 1996 budget deficit of $90m. In the first 13 days of 1997, 19 people were murdered in the District. A headline in yesterday's Washington Post proclaimed that DC's infant mortality rate had fallen to a record low of 16 per 1,000 live births. That is still double the national average.

If the plan works, the haemorrhage of people and businesses will be staunched and perhaps reversed. Meanwhile, the federal government's relationship to the capital will be placed on the same footing as a state's to a large city, of Illinois to Chicago, or of Colorado to Denver. In practice however, Washington's limited autonomy will be even more circumscribed.

Before financial difficulties became overwhelming in the early 1990s, the city had dreamed of extending the "home rule" it achieved in 1974 into full statehood as New Colombia, electing its own US senators and congressman. Then came economic downturn, the Barry drug debacle, his subsequent re-election as Mayor, and an ever-accelerating flight to the suburbs.

The White House plan would place many city services under direct control of federal agencies and still leave Congress with ultimate authority for the city budget - seen by many local residents as an injustice comparable to the "no taxation without representation" outcry that boiled over in the war for independence from Britain in 1776.

News
people
Arts and Entertainment
Lena Dunham
booksLena Dunham's memoirs - written at the age of 28 - are honest to the point of making you squirm
News
Jacqueline Bisset has claimed that young women today are obsessed with being 'hot', rather than 'charming', 'romantic' or 'beautiful'
people
Arts and Entertainment
A bit rich: Maggie Smith in Downton Abbey
tvDownton Abbey review: It's six months since we last caught up with the Crawley clan
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
Sport
Frank Lampard and his non-celebration
premier leagueManchester City vs Chelsea match report from the Etihad Stadium
Life and Style
A new app has been launched that enables people to have a cuddle from a stranger
techNew app offers 'PG alternative' to dating services like Tinder
Arts and Entertainment
Jake Quickenden sings his heart out in his second audition
tvX Factor: How did the Jakes - and Charlie Martinez - fare?
Sport
premier league
Arts and Entertainment
'New Tricks' star Dennis Waterman is departing from the show after he completes filming on two more episodes
tvOnly remaining original cast-member to leave crime series
Sport
Mario Balotelli celebrates his first Liverpool goal
premier leagueLiverpool striker expressed his opinion about the 5-3 thriller with Leicester - then this happened
News
Britain's shadow chancellor Ed Balls (L) challenges reporter Rob Merrick for the ball during the Labour Party versus the media soccer match,
peopleReporter left bleeding after tackle from shadow Chancellor in annual political football match
Arts and Entertainment
Female fans want more explicit male sex in Game of Thrones, George R R Martin says
tvSpoiler warning: Star of George RR Martin's hit series says viewers have 'not seen the last' of him/her
News
i100
News
i100
Sport
Plenty to ponder: Amir Khan has had repeated problems with US immigration because of his Muslim faith and now American television may shun him
boxing
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Head of Marketing and Communications - London - up to £80,000

£70000 - £80000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Group Head of Marketing and Communic...

Nursery Nurse

Negotiable: Randstad Education Manchester: Level 3 Nursery Nurse required for ...

Nursery Nurse

Negotiable: Randstad Education Manchester: L3 Nursery Nurses urgently required...

SEN Teaching Assistant

Negotiable: Randstad Education Manchester: We have a number of schools based S...

Day In a Page

A roller-coaster tale from the 'voice of a generation'

Not That Kind of Girl:

A roller-coaster tale from 'voice of a generation' Lena Dunham
London is not bedlam or a cradle of vice. In fact it, as much as anywhere, deserves independence

London is not bedlam or a cradle of vice

In fact it, as much as anywhere, deserves independence
Vivienne Westwood 'didn’t want' relationship with Malcolm McLaren

Vivienne Westwood 'didn’t want' relationship with McLaren

Designer 'felt pressured' into going out with Sex Pistols manager
Jourdan Dunn: Model mother

Model mother

Jordan Dunn became one of the best-paid models in the world
Apple still coolest brand – despite U2 PR disaster

Apple still the coolest brand

Despite PR disaster of free U2 album
Scottish referendum: The Yes vote was the love that dared speak its name, but it was not to be

Despite the result, this is the end of the status quo

Boyd Tonkin on the fall-out from the Scottish referendum
Manolo Blahnik: The high priest of heels talks flats, Englishness, and why he loves Mary Beard

Manolo Blahnik: Flats, Englishness, and Mary Beard

The shoe designer who has been dubbed 'the patron saint of the stiletto'
The Beatles biographer reveals exclusive original manuscripts of some of the best pop songs ever written

Scrambled eggs and LSD

Behind The Beatles' lyrics - thanks to Hunter Davis's original manuscript copies
'Normcore' fashion: Blending in is the new standing out in latest catwalk non-trend

'Normcore': Blending in is the new standing out

Just when fashion was in grave danger of running out of trends, it only went and invented the non-trend. Rebecca Gonsalves investigates
Dance’s new leading ladies fight back: How female vocalists are now writing their own hits

New leading ladies of dance fight back

How female vocalists are now writing their own hits
Mystery of the Ground Zero wedding photo

A shot in the dark

Mystery of the wedding photo from Ground Zero
His life, the universe and everything

His life, the universe and everything

New biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
Save us from small screen superheroes

Save us from small screen superheroes

Shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
Reach for the skies

Reach for the skies

From pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
These are the 12 best hotel spas in the UK

12 best hotel spas in the UK

Some hotels go all out on facilities; others stand out for the sheer quality of treatments