Your View: City’s inclusiveness statement runs against Dillon Rule

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Your View: City’s inclusiveness statement runs against Dillon Rule
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By Dino Drudi, Alexandria (File photo)

To the editor:
Virginia is blessed with the Dillon Rule, which the Virginia Supreme Court adopted in 1896. The Dillon Rule limits local governments to topics that the state legislature has given them clear authority on.

Thanks to the Dillon Rule, Alexandria cannot place a moratorium on rezoning land, adopt nondiscrimination protections for the city’s private employers, or require developers to compensate nearby property owners for lowering nearby property values.

A careful reading of city council’s November 18 “Hate-Free Zone” statement (“Local immigrant community braces for Trump presidency,” November 24) shows how hostile our city council is to these restraints. Several of the statement’s enumerated categories go beyond the protected categories in federal and Virginia law.

One, immigration status, even contradicts federal law which allows, and sometimes requires, such discrimination (e.g. federal employees must be U.S. citizens).

City council’s statement more closely parallels the D.C. Human Rights Act, whose stated purpose is to end dis- crimination “for any reason other than … individual merit” and ensure every individual has “an equal opportunity to participate fully in the [city’s] economic, cultural and intellectual life” and even to prohibit practices that indirectly might discriminate. Its catalog of protected classes includes the same ones as Alexandria City Council’s statement.

D.C. operates under the Cooley doctrine of municipal corporations, usually called “home rule,” the antithesis of the Dillon Rule.

Justice Thomas Cooley of the Michigan Supreme Court in the 19th century insisted “the continued and permanent existence of local government is … assumed in all state constitutions … [as] a … constitutional right, even when not … expressly provided for,” with which not even state law can dispense. City council’s statement shows it would rather operate under the Cooley doctrine.

This is yet another example suggesting Alexandria’s local government should be inclined to join D.C.’s thus far quixotic statehood bid, because the District’s “home rule” status closely parallels how City Hall would prefer to do business.

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