ANNAPOLIS – Del. Dana Dembrow wants to do his part to help out with the District of Columbia’s financial problems.
The Montgomery County Democrat introduced a constitutional amendment Monday to annex parts of Northwest Washington to his home district.
The “New Montgomery County” would extend south to the Potomac River, encompassing Georgetown and American Universities, the National Cathedral, Adams Morgan, the National Zoo and most embassies.
Dembrow is quick to point out that most of the federal government’s landmarks would be left in Washington.
“I didn’t think it was appropriate to take any of the federal monuments or the Capitol itself,” he said. “This way [Montgomery County] would have a nice, straight, even border.”
He added, “This is a healthy reminder to those kicking around the District that there are plenty of parts we’d like to have back.”
Dembrow said he proposed the plan as a compromise between Gov. Parris N. Glendening and U.S. House Speaker Newt Gingrich, who recently proposed giving the District and its budget deficit back to Maryland. Glendening rejected the plan, offering instead to hand Washington over to Georgia’s Sixth Congressional District, the speaker’s home.
A Glendening spokesman said Tuesday the governor would not comment further. “It’s the federal government’s responsibility to deal with those problems,” said Chuck Porcari, deputy press secretary.
But Montgomery County Executive Douglas Duncan was not enthusiastic. “He has no interest in annexing any part of D.C.,” said Mark Weaver, Duncan’s press secretary.
Some of Dembrow’s colleagues were also apprehensive.
“Obviously the federal government is not going to allow us to annex only the Northwest,” Kumar Barve, D-Montgomery, the House Delegation leader, said with a chuckle.
Sen. Ida Rubin, D-Montgomery and head of the Senate delegation, took the amendment more seriously.
“To get into a fray with Newt Gingrich would be a little dangerous,” she said. “I would hate to see them impose any retaliation on Maryland.”
Del. Raymond Beck, R-Montgomery, thought the amendment would be a tough sell with the House of Delegates. “I would be afraid Maryland would wind up with all of [D.C.] and we certainly don’t want that,” he said.
Del. Adrienne Mandel, D-Montgomery, said she thought it was a federal issue, but was nevertheless concerned about Washington’s financial state.
“We have our own needs in Montgomery County but we do empathize with the citizens of our capital city,” Mandel said.
However, Del. Carol Petzold, D-Montgomery, liked the idea.
“This is a lovely part of the District,” she said. “If you’re going to take a portion of D.C. back into Montgomery County, this is the most attractive part.”
Many delegates said they would like Gingrich’s reaction to Dembrow’s proposal. However, Gingrich’s office did not return phone calls late Tuesday. Washington Mayor Marion Barry also could not be reached.
Montgomery County Democrats Sen. Jennie Forehand and Del. Peter Franchot refused to comment on the proposed amendment.
To be enacted, the measure would require approval by a three-fifths majority of both houses of the General Assembly and would be subject to voter ratification in Washington and Maryland in 1996. The U.S. Congress would also have to approve.
Dembrow acknowledges he made the proposal with tongue in cheek. But he believes it has merit. District residents suffer from a lack of representation in Congress and would fare better living in Montgomery County, he said.
“We’re having fun,” Dembrow added. “If I ever cease to enjoy the legislative process, then I’ll quit.” -30-