District of Columbia

Local government

Local government in the District of Columbia operates under authority delegated by Congress. In 1973, for the first time in more than a century, Congress provided the District with a home-rule charter, allowing Washington, D.C., residents to elect their own mayor and city council. Residents of the District approved the charter on 7 May 1974, and a new elected government took office on 1 January 1975.

The mayor has traditionally been the District's chief executive, and the council is the legislative branch; however, under constitutional authority, Congress can enact laws on any subject affecting the District, and all legislation enacted by the District is subject to congressional veto. In response to both a managerial and budgetary crisis, Congress passed the District of Columbia Financial Responsibility and Management Assistance Act of 1995. This law established a Control Board that has broad powers to review all actions of the D.C. government and must approve the financial plans and budget for the city before submission to Congress. Home rule was further eroded when in 1997 Congress took responsibility for most major agencies away from the mayor and gave them to the Control Board.

The council consists of 13 members: the council chairman and 4 members elected at large, and 8 elected by wards. The 12-member Board of Education consists of eight officials elected by ward and four elected at-large, including one at-large member elected by students. They serve for four years. As of 2002, there were two public school systems in the District. The charter also provides for 36 neighborhood advisory commissions, whose seats are filled through nonpartisan elections.