- The Washington Times - Friday, April 5, 2002

They're they go "dissing," as in disrespecting, the District again. How come "we ain't 'representin,'" as in being represented, as the young people would say?

They, in this instance, are the feds or rather, the U.S. Postal Service to be specific. Can you believe that some bungling bureaucrats within this failing federal agency lost track of their own ZIP code? Bad enough they can't make their way to Hometown U.S.A.

How else to explain how postal officials, headquartered right here within the borders of the nation's capital, left the city out of the nationwide lineup when they came up with a "Greetings From America" series of 34-cent stamps to promote travel and tourism in the 50 states in the aftermath of the September 11 terrorist attacks?

The idea was to use the 50-stamp sheet to boost tourism and the economy at the time when many were still afraid to travel. The District had to be near the top of the list after Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport was shut down and many of the primary tourist attractions were closed for security reasons. Tourism is the lifeblood of our regional economy, employing more people than any other industry except the federal government.

Yet another reason this amounts to an outrageous oversight.


Be honest. When American symbols are plastered and broadcast all over the world, what U.S. city "from sea to shining sea" is most represented among those immediately identifiable icons?

It's not Virginia's cardinal or Maryland's crab or the even the Big Apple. Yes, New York City has the Statue of Liberty and the Empire State Building. Philadelphia has the Liberty Bell. California has the Golden Gate Bridge.

But by those standalone structures just don't stack up to the White House, the Washington Monument, the Lincoln Memorial, the Jefferson Memorial, the U.S. Capitol and the Pentagon. Fly into this world capital at night and its beauty will take your breath away.

Anyone who has taken the time to partake of Mother Nature's annual gift the beautiful blossoms blowing in the breeze surrounding the Tidal Basin knows that even some of the gorgeous gardens in Tokyo can't outshine the District's springtime spectacle. ( I've been to Japan so I know of what I speak, biased as I may be.)

April in Paris? Give this native Washingtonian April on the Potomac every time.

How Postal Service workers who daily pass by these American treasures every day could overlook this capital city for a tourism campaign defies common sense. Washington, D.C., ranks as the No. 2 travel destination in the country, trailing only kiddie capital Orlando, Fla., with its Disney World, Sea World and Circus World.

Initially, when the omission was discovered, Postal Service spokesman Don Smeraldi told The Washington Post that the stamps were for honoring states, "So that's it. D.C. isn't a state."

But eagle-eye D.C. Delegate Eleanor Holmes Norton stamped her foot and insisted that the District be included in future printings. "If you take this kind of slight and outrage, it will keep coming," she told me yesterday.

Here's a hoot. Mrs. Norton pointed out that the Postal Service presented the stamp series yesterday during a ceremony that included all the Cherry Blossom queens from all 50 states and the District of Columbia. Ooops.

By day's end, everybody had kissed and made up and offered mea culpas. Mrs. Norton issued a statement saying that she had been assured that all will be fine. She talked with Deborah Willhite, senior vice president of government relations and public policy for the Postal Service who, by the way, was most cooperative with local officials during the Brentwood anthrax disaster, according to the delegate.

But this sin of omission should never have been committed in the first place. And, sadly, it's not the first time. The U.S. Mint omitted the nation's capital from its commemorative 50-state coin collection. Mrs. Norton introduced legislation to right this slight but it may be the end of the decade, if ever, that we see a quarter with a symbol of the nation's capital engraved on its reverse.

Maybe by then the "taxation without representation" mantra will be retired.

All U.S. codes explicitly state that rules and resources are to be granted to the "50 states and the District of Columbia," Mrs. Norton said. The exception is voting rights and Congress must fix that, but that's another battle for another day.

"Every slight reinforces the notion that we are not Americans like everybody else," she said.

No one should forget that the nation's capital took a double dose of terrorism last fall first with the Pentagon attack and then with the anthrax scare. The Brentwood postal facility in Northeast, where two workers contracted anthrax and died, is still contaminated and closed. How long is still anybody's guess.

It is a serious disservice and dishonor to the lives lost and the millions of dollars that disappeared from D.C. cash registers for the Postal Service to "diss" the District. It needs to right this wrong in an apologetic package marked "special delivery."

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