Lyndon B. Johnson photo

Letter to the Speaker of the House Urging Support of the Reorganization Plan for the District of Columbia.

August 08, 1967

Dear Mr. Speaker:

Tomorrow, the House of Representatives can strike the antiquated shackles from the government of the District of Columbia.

For a hundred years, the Nation's Capital has been run by a three-man board of commissioners. That system has never worked well. No matter how able, diligent or energetic the Commissioners, they have never been able to overcome the defects of the machinery they inherited.

That machinery has bred confusion; it has produced tangled and uncertain lines of authority; it has hobbled our Capital by wasteful and inefficient practices.

At the turn of the century--in a small and serene community--those defects may have been tolerable.

Today--amidst the complexities of America's fastest growing metropolitan area--they are inexcusable.

The crime rate in the District is rising. Its streets and shops are in danger. And the conditions which breed crime worsen each passing day. These problems will not yield to archaic and obsolete government installed as a temporary solution just after the Civil War. They cry out for strong and decisive leadership. They demand efficient and responsive authority.

That is the clear purpose of the reorganization plan I submitted to the Congress some two months ago.

This plan has received the strong endorsement of the present Commissioners, the Chief of Police, the city's leading clergy, the U.S. Conference of Mayors and concerned citizens from all walks of life.

The plan calls for a single Commissioner to replace the three commissioners. He will be the Chief Executive of the entire District Government in our Nation's Capital and I will try to secure the best City Executive in this Nation for this great responsibility. One of his top priorities will be to control crime.

The plan would also create a bipartisan city Council to work with the Commissioner.

The Government Operations Committee of the House of Representatives approved this plan last Wednesday by a vote of 26 to 4, with 15 Democrats voting for approval and only 2 against, with 11 Republicans voting for approval and only 2 against. These men and women, who must make judgments about these problems after hearing and considering all the evidence, voted better than 6 to 1 for the plan. I urge the House to follow the bipartisan course set by that Committee and bring Twentieth Century government to the Nation's Capital.

In the hands of the House is the long awaited chance to replace a jerry-built government of the 1870's with a new government for the new problems of the 1960's.

I ask for bipartisan support of this reorganization plan. What is at stake is good local government in the Capital that belongs to all of us.

Time and opportunity will not wait. We just must not lose the chance we have now.



[Honorable John W. McCormack, Speaker of the House of Representatives, Washington, D.C.]

Note: For the President's message to the Congress transmitting Reorganization Plan 3 of 1967, see Item 247.

For subsequent statements by the President commending favorable House action on the plan and requesting recommendations for appointments to the Council for the District of Columbia, see Items 339, 341.

Lyndon B. Johnson, Letter to the Speaker of the House Urging Support of the Reorganization Plan for the District of Columbia. Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

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