- The Washington Times - Monday, March 25, 2002

No place like home
Washington is a happening place to live, right?
Well, let's just say it's not for everybody.
"Problems on the Potomac" is title of a report prepared by Princeton Survey Research Associates on behalf of the Brookings Institution. It turns out that for potential presidential appointees, it's hard to embrace the idea of living in Washington itself.
"The prospect of relocating to Washington emerged from the survey as one of the most statistically significant barriers to serving as a presidential appointee," says the report. "Most respondents viewed Washington as a somewhat less or much less favorable place to live than their current residences."
And spouses of prospective appointees aren't making the move any easier.
"Almost half said relocating their spouse to Washington would be somewhat or very difficult, and more than two-thirds said a presidential appointment would create much or some disruption in their personal lives," according to the report.
The Brookings report cited the area's high cost of living as one reason why some appointees were reluctant to relocate. (The report doesn't mention Washington's crime rate and hot, humid summers.)
"Whatever the cause," says the report, "fears of moving to Washington increase the likelihood that presidents will appoint Cabinet and sub-Cabinet officials who already live in the Washington area, thereby biasing their administrations toward people who can already afford the cost of living, while giving up the diversity of experience and insight that might come with more talent drawn from outside the Washington beltway.
"No matter how much they promise an administration that looks like America, recent presidents have had increasing difficulty actually appointing administrations that come from across America."
So how can the problem be fixed?
Brookings suggests several remedies, including congressionally authorized assistance for appointees in finding temporary housing, selling a home, buying a home, reimbursement for travel and relocation costs, helping spouses find a job, finding schooling for children, and locating child care.
Finally, and this is very important, the survey suggests that "Washington may not be such an uninviting place to live as potential employees think it is."

Relegated to history
On Jan. 1, 1979, following a dramatic and unexpected move by President Carter, formal ties between the United States and Taiwan were officially terminated in favor of diplomatic relations with communist China.
Mr. Carter's surprise announcement was immediately denounced in Washington, not only by centrist and conservative Republicans, but Democrats who were not consulted.
In Taiwan, an angry mob of thousands of students went so far as to attack a U.S. motorcade, slightly injuring Deputy Secretary of State Warren Christopher, head of the U.S. mission.
While at the U.S. Embassy in Taipei, Ambassador Leonard Unger stood silently as the flags of both nations were simultaneously lowered and ties severed. There hasn't been a U.S. ambassador in Taipei since, and if one should decide to go back anytime soon, he had better first find a place to live.
We read in the Taipei Update that the former U.S. ambassador's residence has now been designated a "historical landmark," reopening this summer as the "Taipei House," a space for public exhibitions. The building came under the custody of the Taipei city government in 1997 when it became clear the U.S. wasn't coming back.
John Tkacik, the Heritage Foundation's Chinese authority, told us Friday that he hasn't heard from Mr. Unger since running into him about a year ago. Mr. Tkacik recalls the termination of ties with Taiwan when Mr. Unger walked away from the embassy "with the flag under his arm," so to speak as "a period of intense uncertainty and low morale" among the U.S. Embassy staff
.
Funeral inquiry
As Rep. Mark Foley sees it, the federal government regulates bank accounts and all manner of other businesses that move money, goods and services interstate.
So why should today's funeral industry be the exception "when the burial of a loved one is every bit as important?" asks the Florida Republican, the first legislator to call for a federal inquiry into recent cases of fraud and desecration at crematoriums and cemeteries.
Mr. Foley has asked Attorney General John Ashcroft to examine federal laws to see if any were violated in the most recent cases, the most prominent being in Georgia and in his own Florida district, where multiple Jewish cemeteries were recently desecrated.
In addition, the General Accounting Office , the investigative arm of the legislative branch, has accepted Mr. Foley's request to conduct its own investigation.
"Although I'm the last lawmaker to suggest that Washington solve all problems," says Mr. Foley, "I cannot sit back and watch families from all across the country continue to suffer needlessly. This atrocity must end now."


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