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Washington Government

Article 1, Section 8 of the United States Constitution grants the U.S. Congress ultimate authority over the District of Columbia. The 1973 Home Rule Act devolved certain Congressional powers over DC to a local government administered by an elected mayor, currently Adrian Fenty, and the thirteen-member Council of the District of Columbia. However, Congress retains the right to review and overturn laws created by the city council and intervene in local affairs. Each of the city's eight wards elects a single member of the council and five members, including the chairman, are elected at large. There are 37 Advisory Neighborhood Commissions (ANCs) elected by small neighbourhood districts. ANCs traditionally wield a great deal of influence and the city government routinely takes their suggestions into careful consideration.

The mayor and council adopt a budget, which Congress has the right to change. Local income, sales and property taxes provide most of the revenue to fund city government agencies and services. Like the 50 states, DC receives funds for federal grants and assistance programs like Medicare. Congress also appropriates money directly to the DC government to help offset some of the city's costs; these funds totalled $38 million in 2007, approximately 0.5% of DC's budget. However, in addition to those funds, the Federal government operates the DC's court system, which had a budget of $272 million in 2008, and federal law enforcement agencies like the US Park Police help provide security in the city.

Historically, the city's local government has earned a reputation for mismanagement and waste, particularly during the mayoralty of Marion Barry. A front-page story in the July 20, 1997 Washington Post reported that Washington had some of the highest-cost yet lowest-quality services in the entire region. The administration of Mayor Anthony Williams oversaw a period greater prosperity, urban renewal and budget surpluses starting in the late 1990s that continues on today. In late 2007, investigators found that employees at the DC Office of Tax and Revenue embezzled over $44 million in city funds by writing fraudulent tax refund checks. The scandal resulted in a black mark for the Fenty administration, which had made regaining the public trust a top priority.

Washington DC observes all Federal holidays. The District also celebrates Emancipation Day on April 16, which commemorates the signing of the Compensated Emancipation Act by President Abraham Lincoln in 1862, nine months prior to the Emancipation Proclamation. The Act ended slavery in the District of Columbia and freed about 3,100 enslaved persons

The flag of Washington DC, consists of three red stars above two red bars on a white background. It is based on the design of the coat of arms of the family of George Washington. For heraldic reasons, the stars are properly called mullets.





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