Will Macho Braggadocio Work Better than Informed Concern?

(October, 2007)

NARPAC is becoming increasingly concerned that the new Fenty administration has adopted an "in-your-face" management style that will erode the essential public trust of city residents. Here is an example. We had the opportunity to listen to DC's new Chief School Fixer-Upper Allan Lew earlier this Fall, and came away deeply concerned. While most of the attentive audience seemed to think they were witnessing the seventh coming of the DC School Savior, or at least Her archbishop, our reaction was of hearing wildly exaggerated and dangerous assertions, devoid of humility. We do not doubt the endless examples of existing incompetence within the school system, but our management experience suggests that it will not be rectified by a Clint Eastwood wannabe with a posse, blank bullets and one eye. At present, Mr. Lew risks damaging the public trust by showing little understanding of:

o the difference in management style between private sector bravado and public sector prudence;

o the non-transferability of his experience in New York's suburbs to Washington's core city;

o the origins of the urban student culture that leads to requiring "locked-down" schools;

o the urban bureaucratic culture that refuses to exercise common-sense initiative, or its origins;

o the relative cultural impact of a "Disneyland environment" for kids, and mass firings for staff;

o the greater influence of kids' run-down home environment than any gussied-up school house;

o the swelling number of surplus facilities and properties which multiplies upkeep problems;

o the risks of over-focus on repetitive historic preservation, under-focus on kids' real needs now;

o the small chance that more self-sufficient families will bring more kids into this school system;

o the growing advantage of DC's much more prosperous suburbs for raising school-aged kids;

o the need to see the national capital city within the context of its national capital metro area;

o the risks of swapping "bottom-feeding" contractors, for reckless "Blackwater cowboys";

o the need to show some concern (in a 45 minute talk) for realistic limits on public funds;

o the proper protections for civil servants against the excesses of transient political appointees;

o the shear folly of demanding 24/7 responsiveness from a permanent single-shift work force;

o the importance of putting his staff into the schools, rather than keeping school custodians;

o the need for a permanent competent staff, not one that folds the day Clint & posse skip town;


NARPAC provides the following condensation of Mayor Fenty's first annual address. We have tried to retain all of the substance with less than half the oratorical words. It is a remarkable "laundry list" of the day-to-day issues confronting the mayor and his team. We will have to wait and see how it shakes out in future years.

(This is followed by summaries of the earlier inaugural addresses of both Mayor Fenty and Council Chair Gray.)

Moving Forward Faster: Mayor Adrian Fenty's 2007 State of the District Address
Wednesday, March 21, 2007 Congress Heights Senior Wellness Center

......Seventy-eight days ago, I took office as Mayor with a promise of a better future for the entire District of Columbia...recognizing the extraordinary progress our city has made (recently) along with the challenges we must (still) face together. The state of the District has never been stronger...I pledged to move our city forward faster. I have already begun to do so. My vision is one of a world-class city with no neighborhood left behind.

In the past 78 days, we've opened the new Anacostia Interim Library on Good Hope Road... and a new youth court drop-in center on MLK Avenue....We broke ground on a state-of-the-art new facility for the Salvation Army We've awarded $500,000 to 10 community organizations east of the river for HIV services. We have laid the groundwork for affordable housing projects across DC, starting right here in Ward 8. And we're moving forward with more retail in Ward 7 at the Skyland Shopping Center...We will find the best use for the Strand...and the Penn Branch shopping center...115 workforce housing units and 20,000 sqft of retail at 2300 Pennsylvania.

Our police, fire and emergency management agencies have new leadership and new direction. I have given the Council of DC my blueprint for aggressive, accountable education reform. And our government continues to make strides in doing its job more efficiently and effectively. We're picking up the phone when you call. We're opening the mail when you write..We're in your neighborhood....attending community and civic association meetings.

We're serious about public safety. My new police chief...has collected 2,300 community surveys to get a better sense of your priorities. The DC Emergency Management Agency has coordinated 39 special or emergency events in the last 78 days, starting with President Ford's funeral and ending with last weekend's peace march. We've sent the fire trucks out more than 25,000 times.

We're serious about education. One of my first official acts was to create the position of Deputy Mayor for Education and to hire Victor Reinoso to fill it...We've started testing the water for lead in 127 public and public charter schools....We've brought in a $10 million grant from Fannie Mae to upgrade school athletic facilities such as gyms and tracks. The grant will also help pay for teacher certification and help teachers to become homeowners with their down payments.

We're serious about human services, moving to end court supervision over child welfare;....and awarding a contract for the new Dept of Youth Rehabilitation services facility at Oak Hill. We've created a cabinet-level Dept of Disability Services to better serve developmentally-disabled neighbors; ...proposing solutions to the shortage of shelter space for families, and developing a Housing First policy to end homelessness in DC. We went door to door to find residents who don't have heat, ...and gave energy assistance to 22,000 households. We've finished the first year of the grandparent subsidy program, helping 423 kids with subsidies to their 252 grandparents... and awarded $100,000 in grants to provide mentors to 100 young people in our care.

We're serious about health care;...reorganized the Department of Health to serve residents better; developed a new response to the HIV/AIDS epidemic east of the Anacostia River...and handed out 250,000 condoms. ...We've assembled an inter-agency task force on lead in the water; gotten a $10 million federal grant to improve data collection, and are making major changes at St. E's.

We're serious about our infrastructure and environment: we've planted 1,815 trees;... filled 3,400 potholes; picked up 21,000 tons of trash, 4,900 tons of recycling, and made 8,250 bulk trash pickups. We've inspected almost 40,000 vehicles and adjudicated almost 45,000 traffic tickets.

We've started calming traffic in our neighborhoods; put 10 new and upgraded traffic signals online; ...created a new taxi map that's easier to understand and a new map for cyclists too. We extended service on the DC Circulator and (started) a new Georgia Avenue express bus, 'Metro Extra'. We have a new "Street Smart" pedestrian safety program, and bought backup generators to keep important traffic lights running when the power goes out.

We're making sure our parks and recreation facilities are ready for the spring/ summer seasons; opened summer camp registration rebuilt and reopened the Trinidad recreation center; and held the first Teen Nights at our rec centers to give young people something safe and fun to do. We're implementing the Green Building Act; ...and signed the U.S. Conference of Mayors climate protection agreement to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

We're serious about economic opportunity for all. Economic development and affordable housing don't have to be at odds. To make sure they're not, I've put them in the same agency... under my Deputy Mayor for Planning and Economic Development. We're underwriting the construction of up to 2,000 affordable housing units to start this year. We're moving forward on the Southwest and Anacostia Waterfronts; designed a comprehensive workforce development strategy; and started a new, multi-agency program called Operation Nail Gun that targets dishonest contractors. We're serious about making government work better and more openly. To help me make faster, better decisions, I've put all of my top staff together in the same room; and streamlined the offices of the Mayor and City Administrator by eliminating three Deputy Mayor positions. The Office of Human Rights has reduced its backlog of cases by 40 percent, and the Department of Consumer and Regulatory Affairs is building a new permit center. DCRA has issued almost 1,500 basic business licenses and conducted almost 6,000 building inspections in the last 78 days.

The Department of Employment Services is taking unemployment claims over the phone for the first time . That agency has given face-to-face help to almost 4,500 residents, and placed about 1,900 residents in jobs too.

My FY2008 the blueprint that sets our priorities for the coming year and beyond. This $8-billion budget will move DC forward faster for every resident. We've gone agency by agency and line by line, ...result(ing in) a budget that will invest in some areas and reduce in others. We have major improvements in store in the areas of education; public safety; healthcare human services; infrastructure and environment; economic development and affordable housing; and government operations and financing. We will do all of these things without raising taxes.

I am a great quality of life for DC residents of all ages. We have so much to learn from our seniors...They are the living history of our city, out of six DC residents is over the age of 60. ...We will continue to help them receive the best in medical care and transportation, and live independently in their own homes. And in the past 78 days, our Office on Aging has delivered services to more than 13,000 seniors, opened a nutrition site in Ward 1..., and (will soon)open another in Ward 8....We've signed a Triad Agreement putting senior citizens, law enforcement and service organizations together to help keep our seniors safe.

Our senior wellness centers are one of the best examples of how DC agencies can work together to help residents. We have meals, activities, fitness and arts programs under a single roof to help keep our older residents healthy and productive....These centers are doing great, and...we're opening more of them. The Ward Four senior wellness center will open in a matter of weeks, and the Ward One senior wellness center is set to break ground in a matter of months.

I pledged to move public safety forward...Chief Cathy Lanier has begun a customized community policing program. We have 140 more officers on foot and on bicycles, patrolling the streets, and even more soon. Every district commander has the flexibility to do what's best for every neighborhood: forming relationships with the neighbors, and stopping crime before it starts. We're making DC a safer place for our kids, both in school and on the way to and from school through our Safe Schools initiative....Chief Lanier has also brought back the Officer Friendly program, so students can have positive interactions with law enforcement and help prevent crime.

MPD is automating its paperwork, starting with 110 laptops for the top performing officers. The FY08 budget includes funds for 300 new police officers, and 82 new civilians for administrative work. DC isn't an island when it comes to public safety. So we're working with Governor Tim Kaine in Virginia and Governor Martin O'Malley in Maryland on regional homeland security issues. And we've established a first-in-the-nation regional wireless network for law enforcement use. We're also expanding our re-entry programs for ex-offenders. By coaching ex-offenders on literacy, job skills and parenting, we make it less likely that they'll commit more crimes.

Big changes are already underway for our fire and emergency medical services....We have a task force starting a top-to-bottom review of the delivery of all emergency medical services....We've also brought four new ambulances on board to improve response times. I'm also proposing a pilot program to put DC Emergency Medical Services staff at six DC hospitals so we can turn around ambulances faster We're looking at quality control and (a survey of) patient experience ...We're bringing an electronic reporting program online to keep better track of patient records.

I pledged to move education forward...I have proposed...putting someone new in charge of the public schools in DC, and that person is me. I have proposed transforming not just the school system, but the entire infrastructure behind public education in DC. Great schools are not enough. Supports and services are not enough. We must provide all of these things for our children to reach their full potential. ...An old Japanese proverb says, "Vision without action is a daydream. Action without vision is a nightmare"We can't afford any more daydreams or nightmares...My budget proposal increases per-pupil spending by 4 percent. We're fully funding special education but looking for ways to reduce our teaching them here in DC...

I can't underestimate (sic) the importance of higher education...Our DC Tuition Assistance Program is in its seventh year. It has helped more than 11,000 students pay for college. In the seven years since DC TAG has been operating, the number of DC public school students going on to college has doubled. It's now on par with the national average (???). My budget proposal also increases funding for UDC 8 percent and the public libraries by 12 percent. We'll keep our libraries open later and on Sundays, and make sure our kids have exciting educational programs at every branch.

I pledged to move our government forward: We have a strong foundation upon which to build. My predecessor took the DC government to a new level of professionalism. Many of us can remember a time when you picked up the phone to call the DC government and didn't expect anyone to answer. When the government (couldn't) deliver basic services, or didn't have the professional talent to deliver them properly. Those days are behind us.

When you call the Mayor's Call Center at 727-1000, you can put in a service request on anything from abandoned vehicles to yard waste, get a tracking number and find out how long it will take us to do the job. We're combining the DMV and DHS call centers into the Mayor's Call Center and making it a 24-hour operation.. If you've called us, don't be surprised if we call you to find out how we did. We're bringing this quality assurance program online in the next month or so.

Our CapStat program is off to a great start. Every week, a different agency director comes into my office and a team of us review how the agency is doing. For example, we've cut the time it takes to fill a pothole from 72 to 48 hours, and hope to get that down to 24 hours. CapStat will also save you money as we use it to identify inefficiencies and unnecessary government expenses.

Better government also means doing a better job of attracting, hiring and retaining employees. Our DC Office of Personnel is now the DC Department of Human Resources, and it is changing the way we hire our employees. We want only the best and brightest, and we need to speed up the process of bringing them on board. We're also aggressively recruiting bilingual employees...

Better government means doing a better job of spending money. It's time we stopped making headlines for difficulties in our procurement process. We're clearing out the backlog of contract requests and hiring a new Chief Procurement Officer. And we're working on a package of reforms to allow our government to spend money faster, better and at less cost.

We are working on all of these improvements because our residents deserve nothing less. But we have an added responsibility as the nation's seat of government and one of the world's top travel destinations. A distinguished Republican Senator once said, DC should be the model of perfection in municipal government, and showplace for our nation for all who visit the National Capital to see. I believe we can and will be that model of perfection.

But first, we must have the freedom to shape our own destiny. We are the only capital of a democracy in the world that has no vote in the national legislature. Though Congress oversees the way we spend our local tax dollars and has veto power over our local laws, we have no vote in the House or Senate. The United States government has brought democracy to Baghdad before bringing it home to DC. This is shameful,..unjust...but (only) temporary. The House of Representatives is set to pass a bill giving the District a vote in the House. But the Senate must also pass this important legislation. And the President must sign it.

That distinguished Republican Senator I mentioned... earlier...made his comments while supporting voting rights in the House and Senate for DC: his name was Prescott Bush, and he was the current President's grandfather. He spoke those words more than 45 years ago. Let's not wait another 45 years...Put on your walking shoes and spend two hours with me on April 16. We're going to have the largest march ever for voting rights We''re going to march from Freedom Plaza to the Capitol (to)...demand our freedom and our voting rights. Once we get our House vote, we'll keep marching until we get two seats in the Senate. And control over our own budget. And control over our own destiny, like the residents of every other state in the nation.

Seventy-eight days ago, I took office as DC's Mayor, touched by the confidence, faith and optimism of those who elected me. I'm prepared to face all of the challenges I have spoken about this afternoon and others. We have much work to do on human services, healthcare, affordable housing and infrastructure. I'm going to need your help.

NARPAC Commentary:

Seventy-eight days into the first year of his first term, Mayor Fenty cannot be expected to have settled into a long-term rhythm with a clear set of long-term priorities. Old timers might remember the juggler's trick of getting more plates spinning on top of more upright pool cues than anyone could imagine, before turning to his major tricks, which he would masterfully finish before the first plate wobbled and needed re-spinning. Unfortunately, while NARPAC admires the energy that emanates from his spirited bull-pen approach, we will have to wait and see how he does on our five highest priority issues spelled out recently for a challenging web site reader. All have yet to be addressed:

1. Redressing DC's persistent and nationally-embarrassing poverty;

2. Accepting the regional responsibilities of being the core city of our national capital metro area;

3. Developing a real plan for continued sustainable urban growth;

4. Developing a fundamental long-range plan for the city's future transportation needs;

5. Balancing preservation of the capital city's historic past, with its role in guiding its future.


While DC's more cynical pundits reject the inaugural speeches of local politicos, NARPAC believes that these newly arriving city leaders put substantial effort into their opening statements, uninfluenced by the outside constraints that will doubtless soon emerge to limit their ambitions and freedom of action. In this spirit, NARPAC offers abbreviated versions of both Mayor Fenty's ("Mayor") and DC Council Chairman Gray's ("Chair') addresses, and offers its own commentary on their strengths and weakness relative to NARPAC's own "agenda" for DC. They clearly intend to place social infrastructure before physical infrastructure, and are probably right in so doing.

Mayor Adrian Fenty's Inaugural Address on January 3, 2007:
(Highly abridged by NARPAC)

Today begins a new chapter in our City's history........Together, we pledge, steadfastly, that our goal is to become the 51st State. None of us can, or should, rest easy until we all have the opportunity to participate fully in our great democracy.

There is no real peer in the world for our City for we have, within our borders, everything that makes this Country great and that makes this world vibrant.....our City is just at the beginning of an exciting journey that will take all of us to a right future...(and) an ever more vibrant, exciting, healthy and prominent city.

....significant progress has given way to a new set of expectations. Washingtonians are cognizant of the problems of the past....but hungry for more improvement. ...our Administration focus passionately on unrealized challenges.

For those around the world who recall (DC's) dark days of fiscal ruin, we promise that the fiscal resolve of the preceding (administration)...will continue.

To those throughout...(the US who remember) the mismanagement and unprofessionalism of yesteryear, we ...(offer) one of the most experienced and accomplished groups of managers....a first-term administration has ever started out with.

We couple this experience with private sector ideals and best practices, which will yield responsibility, accountability, transparency and efficiency....

To our regional and business partners, we share your vision that (DC) will continue to be an economic engine, working collaboratively to improve the fortunes of all in the greater Washington Metropolitan Area. We (also pledge) to our residents to build a world-class city beginning at the doorsteps of your homes and the shops in your neighborhood.

We pledge, to those who know that our streets still can be even safer, ...(knowing that) only when the smallest of crimes are taken seriously and enforced that we are most prepared for serious threats to our person or to our City.

...Our pledge to be the next great world class city is not based just on locking people up...As we... aggressively enforce the law, we double our commitment to invest in the preventive strategies of recreation; workforce development and rehabilitation. Thoughtful solutions, rooted in rebuilding the family and the fabric of the community, will be the cornerstone of our City's future, including making our streets safe.

We....(decry DC's) miserable health statistics...worse here than in many impoverished nations (around)...the globe. If we are serious about being an example to the rest of the world, (all) residents must have access to medicine, physicians and insurance....

....we will work with our end oversight of (DC) agencies.

....we intend to be measured most for how much we do for the least. As ...President J. F. Kennedy said ... "If a free society cannot help the many who are poor, it cannot save the few who are rich."

Finally, to those who question whether this city can ever boast a world-class school system, I .....(say) that this Government will settle for nothing less.

That this will no longer be the jurisdiction that spends the most and gets the least.

That our young people, of all means, will never wonder again why their bathrooms, ceilings and playgrounds are unsafe or unsanitary.

That no parent ...(need) feel that the only way to guarantee an excellent education in the Nation's Capital is to take their child out of...public school....

That our teachers and principals never again have to dip into their own modest salaries, or ask of the PTA, to pay for the basics of education.

And that our Superintendent have all of the freedom, power, responsibility and authority as the private industry or every other agency in the government, so that reform will be in deeds and action rather than words and promises.

....We pledge to be deliberate...inclusive...engaged and attentive. But we pledge, most affirmatively, to get results.

This, and other, challenges must be addressed if we are to realize our City's destiny...Let us... begin to build more inclusive housing, educate more students, clean more parks and rivers, and save more lives....people from all over the world (will) come to the Nation's Capital to find out the best ways to run a government and revitalize a city.

I leave here today...(with) the sure knowledge that we have, right here in (DC)..., the talent and abilities with which to solve our remaining problems and build our world-class city.

....we will build ...(a) better life for all...and be a model for the nation on how a great city can continue to grow and prosper. We will be a beacon to the world on how a city with a diverse population can harness that diversity to achieve greatness.


Council Chairman Vincent Gray's Inaugural Address, January 3rd, 2007
(Highly abridged, by NARPAC)

I want to thank all who have traveled this journey with me, especially the people of Ward 7 who have been with me since our successful become the Ward 7 Councilmember...

...I am proud to (be)...a native Washingtonian;...a graduate of DCPS;...(and of) GWU.... including the (chance while there) to strike a blow for racial justice and equality.....etc....

As council chair, I look forward to building upon the legacy of those who have gone before me -- treating members in a respectful, even-handed and dignified way...etc....

Building on one of the most solid financial positions of any (US) municipality, we (can).... address those difficult issues whose solutions will make us an even greater city. campaign...(made) public education the top priority... (Hence) I am recommending... we (make) education (the) province of the Committee of the Whole....(to) send a resounding message ..(that we)...consider this important enough to: involve every member...remove a layer in our own decision-making; and take bold steps to ensure our (kids) can read, write and do arithmetic.

What those approaches entail will be decided in the months ahead...(but) let's also open the door to comprehensive and enduring answers.

Surely few support the status quo where failure has become the expectation for so many of our children, where high school dropout rates have hovered around 50% for more than a decade and where large numbers of young people never go to high school in the first place, simply throwing in the towel in the face of overwhelming academic deficiencies.

...I commend Mayor Fenty for having the courage to raise (the question of governance)... (and) place education squarely at the center of the radar screen, ensuring a vigorous debate.

....let's also recognize the rare opportunity we have before us. Governance is indisputably important but there are numerous other factors essential to positive educational outcomes.

...we must...address the health and social influences that play such a vital role in the lives of (kids) long before they get to school, often predisposing them to failure. Only integrated approaches to education, health and social services can effectively address these concerns.

Rebuilding our schools much be accelerated so that children feel they are walking into decent, modern places which send the message they are valued and valuable.

And...there are four key points of intervention that must grab our attention:

1. We need to move towards universal Pre-K better prepare all children for a successful educational experience, ....(since many lack the benefit of strong parent support;
2. We need a full court academic press during the kindergarten through 3rd grade because children begin to fall hopelessly behind as early as the 3rd grade;
3....(to lower) high school dropouts, (we must) diversify secondary education. (We need).... vocational and career education programs so (kids)..have immediate job opportunities; and
4. ...(Ignoring) a 37% functional illiteracy rate...will guarantee DC a permanent underclass.

....housing policy...may be the single most important social and economic we seek the right balance between market forces and government regulation to assure a diverse (city) population...(Hence) I am recommending... a Housing and Urban Affairs Committee (to)... shape... housing policy by addressing such difficult issues as:...developing workforce housing (so more)...people (will) who both live and work in (DC); fashioning other affordable housing options (to)...attract and retain young families; implementing inclusionary zoning; deconcentrating large pockets of low-income housing to create more economically diverse communities; and continuing to oversee/refine rent control so that those...not wishing to be home owners, can live (here).

...I intend to propose (other initiatives) to expand the council's capacity to perform:....

o ...orientation for new members was (held) in December to facilitate their adjustment...
o ...(we are building) a policy office to support the work of councilmembers in tackling broad, cross-cutting policy issues;
o We (will) expand use of technology to increase efficiency, accessibility and community with those we represent;
o We are (strengthening our) communications office (to speed up) information flow; and.
o I (will) propose... increased access to the Wilson Building so...students (can) learn more about their government and (DC) visitors (can) learn more about (our) unique disenfranchisement.

...this is an exciting time -- an opportunity for us to build on the progress spearheaded by outgoing Mayor Anthony Williams and Council Chairperson Linda Cropp.

Often, we are likened to Charles Dickens' Tale of Two Cities, one a place of prosperity, opportunity and bustling life. The other more evident as we travel east in the city to places where: life is hard; educational underachievement is routine; poverty is rampant; healthcare inadequate; crime disproportionately high; housing patterns contribute to epidemic levels of social pathology; and hopes and dreams are snuffed out by the absence of a fair chance.

...I (hope to)..adopt a collective vision for ONE CITY (as) a framework for our legislation... that connects education, housing, healthcare, economic development and public safety policy, because they clearly are the basic planks in an orderly society... if we truly are committed to achieving ONE CITY, then the quest for such unity should impel us to collective action.

...(DC) is in far better shape financially than most (cities, so we can)...look ahead to...uniting our city so that everyone has an opportunity to live the good live. The economic gap between the top (and bottom) 20% (is) wider than at any time in (DC's) history...It will be solved only with emphasis on education, housing and jobs.

...I look forward over the next four years to communicating the good news that ONE CITY is possible if...we truly embrace that goal as the purpose of our actions.

NARPAC's (Mostly Positive) Commentary:

o Mayor's commitment to developing a "world-class city" appears remarkably strong; but is mentioned only once among Chair's goals;

o Mayor refers frequently to DC's global and national image, its role in metro area, and becoming "model US city", encouraging business, economic growth: Chair says nothing;

o Any undercurrent of "neighborhoods uber allis" appears to be missing from both principals;

o There appears to be complete assurance that DC's previous financial problems or gone forever, and no suggestion of budget allocation problems;

o The focus on education is clearly the highest priority for both;

o The strong influence of family and "community fabric" in educational outcomes is stressed;

o Chair and Mayor refer openly to the extent of the city's "third world" quality of life;

o The clear linkage between all quality of life problems is noted by both;

o Addition of "policy staff" at Council mentioned only by Chair (should include "analysis" too?) o Affordable housing is stressed (too much?) by Chair, hardly at all by Mayor;

o Both ignore the skewing of DC's operating budget by poverty-related demands for city services; o Mayor makes strong (much too strong) for statehood, Chair ignores;

o There is no mention by either of all the key elements making up a "world-class city";

o There is no mention by either of infrastructure needs in general;

o There is no mention by either of specific needs for transportation growth;

Our capital is threatened more by its dysfunctional social infrastructure than by terrorism or global warming. This decay is rooted in urban poverty and squalor, in turn rooted in inadequate family education. Solutions will require real change: "extraordinary measures" granting greater line authority with less compromise; better integration of agencies with similar cross-cutting tasks; and separation of functionally dissimilar tasks. The US has often used "czars" to resolve critical problems. Other DC agencies can benefit from the same streamlined solutions (e.g., contracting). Fenty promises accountability for those given the authority to achieve their goals. How about equal accountability for those blocking his way with sneers, negativism, and delaying tactics?

Major efforts to "take DC to the next level" will necessarily involve significant risks. These could include: lightweight "czars"; inappropriate targets based on excessive expectations in time and/or performance; and inadequate bases for assessing accountability. To NARPAC, the greatest risk would be to assume that DC schools, comprised mostly of family-disadvantaged kids can aspire to meet any time soon the (average) standards of schools with mostly family-advantaged kids. There is a world of difference between replacing missing plumbing fixtures, and substituting for missing functional parents. NARPAC has tried to analyze these problems from a number of different viewpoints. We encourage serious readers to review our conclusions at:

NAEP score variations by race in representative school districts
clear relations between education, poverty and ignorance
clear relationships between parental and their kids' educational achievements
NARPAC's approach to "recycling" high school drop- outs

return to the top of the pageDC'S MAYOR HIGHLIGHTS HIS 2004 ACCOMPLISHMENTS

(This section has been added as background material to NARPAC's new chapter on encouraging the DC Council to apply more forsesight and less oversight. It demonstrates that in most activities, the city's executive branch is mainly consumed by taking tiny steps towards bigger objectives. NARPAC believes the Council should have a much firmer grip on those bigger objectives.)

During his weekly press briefing on December 15th, Mayor Williams highlighted DC's accomplishments for 2004, primarily in public safety, education, housing and economic development. NARPAC summarizes this press release both to illustrate where the successes have come, and the areas in which progress appears to be illusory or non-existent. The mayor began by citing the July 2004 issue of Black Enterprise magazine which selected Washington, DC, as the second best city in the country to live and work in for African Americans. While certainly not objecting to this achievement, NARPAC does not consider this a major goal for his administration. Below is a very abbreviated version of the mayor's press release:

public safety

Excellent progress is being made in public safety with significant declines in reported crime, particularly in the newly-devised 14 crime "hot spots". Emergency call pickup time is being shortened in the 911 center, and the Public Safety Wireless Network has been expanded into Metro tunnels so emergency personnel can communicate above and below ground clearly and seamlessly.

The MPD has now established its Family Liaison Specialist Unit, which will offer survivors of homicide victims a wide range of services, and has also established an Office of Victim Services. In March, DC broke ground on a state-of-the-art communications facility for public safety and government operations, the Unified Communications Center on the East Campus of St. Elizabeth's Hospital. The UCC will serve as the call-taking and dispatch center for Police and Fire 911 and 311 calls, the Mayor's Call Center and Emergency Command Center, as well as the DC Emergency Management Agency and the Regional Incident Command and Control Center. In July, the District's new citizen emergency notification system, "Alert DC", was unveiled.

With the hiring of 20 officers in September, the MPD reached its goal of 3,800 sworn members on the force, a milestone that will further enhance neighborhood safety. In October, a "Connected Communities" initiative was launched together with Prince George's County which will work to improve the quality of life for residents who live on or near the borders of the two jurisdictions.

In November, the omnibus Juvenile Justice Act was signed into law to ensure fair treatment of juveniles in the criminal justice system. Legislation was also passed establishing the Youth Rehabilitation Services Agency, a Cabinet-level agency that will ensure a high and sustained level of effort in advancing the Blueprint of Reform for the juvenile justice system. With the termination of Women Prisoners of DC v. DC class action lawsuit, the DC Department of Corrections ended 33 years of court oversight and court orders.


Dr. Clifford B. Janey began serving as DCPS superintendent before the opening of School in September. The Mayor supports efforts to: find ways that DC agencies can better coordinate with DCPS to provide services for young people; introduce rigorous new academic standards and curriculum; and together with MPD, improve school security. In November, the DC Education Compact was launched to develop, implement and monitor new education policies necessary "to improve outcomes for students and restore trust in our public school system".

In August, DC launched the Lifelong Learning Initiative, a $20 million, three-year citywide program designed to help at least 10,000 District residents achieve their learning goals, and a new public service campaign called "Read Out Loud" will encourage adult learners to take advantage of the city' improved "lifelong learning services".

Congress approved the mayor's for school choice in DC. This program has brought $40 million of new federal funding to our public education system -- $13 million for scholarships, $13 million for DCPS and $13 million for charter schools. There are currently 1,015 scholarship students attending 53 non-public schools. Congress also funded $25.6 million for DC's Tuition Assistance Grant program for '05 and re-authorized it through '07. Existing funds are currently helping more than 6,600 DC kids attend eligible colleges and universities across the US.

The Summer Food Service Program served 1.17 million meals to 25,500 needy kids during the summer, up 20% from '03. In December a Blue Ribbon Commission on the Future of DC Libraries was formed to assess the current state of DC's public library system. The City Build Charter School Initiative, a new Congressionally-funded program, will provide $1 million in incentive grants to charter schools that plan to locate within 12 designated neighborhoods. In June ground was broken for St. Coletta of Greater Washington, the first special education charter school in the city dedicated to serving children with severe and multiple disabilities.


Between the city's and private developments, there are more than 37,000 units of housing either complete, in production, or in the citywide pipeline. Besides new housing, the DC's Housing Authority (DCHA) operates 8,997 units of public housing, with 99 percent Housing Choice Voucher Program utilization rate, 98 percent public housing occupancy rate, 11,555 Section 8 voucher residents, 9,355 HCVP tenant-based residents and 2,200 Project based residents.

In April, the DC's Housing Finance Agency released $340 million in mortgage revenue bonds for the acquisition, rehab or construction of affordable housing in DC. From Columbia Heights to Congress Heights, HFA-financed apartment buildings have helped transform neighborhoods into vibrant, new communities. In June, the DCHA received a $20 million HOPE VI Grant from HUD to revitalize Eastgate Gardens, a 230-unit public housing development in Marshall Heights.

In June, the mayor released a draft plan to "end homelessness" by 2014, based on suggestions from a broad spectrum of city and business leaders and homeless providers Its goal is to develop 6,000 units of affordable, supportive permanent housing. DC plans to transform its worn out and sometimes dangerous emergency shelters into Homelessness Assistance Centers. Health screening and follow-up care as well as job readiness training and employment assistance are being built into the centers, to help people towards self sufficiency. The first two Homelessness Assistance Centers have been acquired and renovated. Located at 1355 NY Avenue, NE, and in the 801 East Building on the St Elizabeths campus, they have been well received Design work is underway on another three more, and the city is : new searching for two more sites for centers.

health care

DC has a new director and a new senior deputy for HIV/AIDS, both well-qualified, enthusiastic health professionals. DC's Department of Health has opened its first multi-service center offering substance abuse treatment and prevention programs in the Latino community, and worked with national agencies to create a model plan to address the nation's flu vaccine shortage.

At the beginning of '04-'05 school year, 94% of all kids enrolled in DC's public schools had up-to-date for immunizations. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention presented DoH's Immunization Registry with the 2004 "Protect" Registry Award for its outstanding work in improving the DC's public school immunization rates.

DoH has developed a comprehensive web-based tracking system that enables Medicaid providers to access valuable and much needed child health data. It collected $7 million through third party liability activities, an increase of $4.6 million over FY03. It implemented the requisite Managed Care Casualty Collection effort, and released DC's most comprehensive ever report on diabetes.

The mayor assembled a team to lead the development of the National Capital Medical Center on the old DC General campus. DC is working with Howard University on a shared vision for a comprehensive academic medical center to serve the National Capital region and bring economic (and health!) benefits to the surrounding community.

DC residents can now dial 211 to receive social services information and referrals from DC's Human Services Department concerning food and medical care and relevant agencies and community-based organizations. In January, DC's Adoption Resource Center opened to provide support for parents, families and kids in any stage of the adoption process. In April, DC's Language Access Act was signed to provide greater access and participation in public services for residents with little or no English proficiency.

economic development

DC is helping residents find jobs. In July, Project Empowerment Plus was initiated, a $2M federally funded pilot program to help serious and violent ex-offenders as they seek economic self-sufficiency. It is authorized to serve 205 individuals during its first year. Effective January 1, 2005, DC's standard minimum wage for employees will increase from $6.15 per hour to $6.60 per hour, the first minimum wage increase since 1997.

Major League Baseball decided to bring the Washington Nationals to DC. The new team and ballpark could mean billions of new development dollars to revitalize Southeast DC and create jobs and economic opportunity. Ballpark construction could bring 3,500 jobs and $5M in new tax revenues. Annual operations may create 350 + new jobs and nearly $30M in tax revenues.

The DC Council has OK'd over $120M in tax increment financing to catalyze neighborhood economic development, including: a family-oriented (DC-USA) retail center in Ward 1; a new Frank Gehry wing of the Corcoran Gallery of Art in Ward 2; a parking garage at Rhode Island Place to support mixed-use retail and residential development in Ward 5; and new shopping centers in Ward 5's Fort Lincoln neighborhood and Ward 7's Skyland Shopping Center.

In July, the Council OK'd legislation to establish the Anacostia Waterfront Corporation, a new public entity formed to lead the revitalization of DC's Anacostia Waterfront. This corporation will be the springboard for fundamentally remaking life along the river's shores, and will coordinate implementation of a 25-year plan calling for the extensive land redevelopment.

Throughout the city, cranes are traversing the skyline, and every effort is being made to get those cranes into DC's communities. 12,000 units of affordable housing have been planned, half east of the Anacostia River and another 4,500 units for the Anacostia Waterfront. DC has a new Best Buy and Container Store in Tenleytown, a true retail center at Skyland; and hopefully a Costco at Ft. Lincoln. Target has signed a purchase agreement to build its first store in DC in Columbia Heights. In December, the Tivoli Theatre was re-opened in the same neighborhood, and is expected to be a catalyst for more development. The Pavilion has been opened at Gallery Place, DC's newest "urban destination" with movies, stores and other entertainment.

In March, the new Washington Convention Center celebrated its first anniversary. It attracted nearly one million attendees and generated 438,000 hotel-room nights, netting $426.5M in new DC spending. (The old Convention Center was later imploded.). In November, work began on a six-station, 2.7-mile passenger rail demonstration project to serve the Anacostia area.

In April, Moody's Investors Service improved DC's bond rating from Baa1 to A2, its first A rating for DC since 1990 In November, Standard & Poor's upgraded the DC's general obligation bonds for A- to A with a stable outlook. The Milken Institute's 2004 report on America's best performing cities ranked Washington, DC ranked 11th from 19th in 2003.

Finally, DC's mayor was elected president of the National League of Cities, a position from which he can enlighten thousands of city officials about DC's efforts for autonomy from the federal government and voting rights in the U.S. Congress.

NOTE: The materials in this chapter from here on have not been updated in two or more years. They still contain useful historical materials, but cannot be considered as "current events".

Summary of Earlier Materials


City management capabilities clearly rests squarely on the competence of its personnel (human resources)and the successful use of modern administrative technology. The Control Board has explored the District's capabilities in both of these areas, and the resulting "indictments" of the current management are very serious indeed. NARPAC, Inc. has summarized each of these reports and they are presented herein.

An additional report on the Department of Consumer and Regulatory Affairs (DCRA), a key organization in keeping and attracting business to the District, has also been summarized thereafter. A brief summary of the survey of residents' views of current service quality and priorities commissioned by the Control Board in the spring of 1997 is also provided.

However, tangible progress is being made and reported to the Congress on an annual basis. NARPAC, Inc. has summarized both the 1998 Annual Report of the Chief Management Officer; the 1998 Annual Report of the Chair, Control Board; and the 1999 Annual Report of the Chair, Control Board immediately below:

In December of 1998, the Washington Post asked residents to express their views on what new Mayor Williams should do early-on in his administration. They received over 300 "Dear Mayor" responses, and published the top 100, whose subjects are listed to indicate where DC's public focus lies. The mayor's short-term plan for "tangible improvements", drawn in part from the above, is included.

By February of 2000, an extensive poll by the Washington Post of DC residents provided strong indications of popular support for his efforts.

A year later, in February, 2001, a poll by the DC Marketing Center of DC business executives showed very substantial improvements in the DC business climate compared to five years ago--although the main reasons for locating in DC are to be close to the federal government or other businesses, not to the District itself!

Another year later, in March 2002, the Mayor gave an up-beat, laid-back State of the District Address for 2002, which seems to be vintage Williams, although it lacks some aspects of "the bigger picture"that NARPAC finds disappointing.

The absence of the "bigger picture"was even more apparent in his second Inaugural Address in January, 2003.

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A Report on Service Improvements and Management Reform

This report, published on October 30, 1998 presents an illuminating summary of the efforts of the Control Board to bring management reforms to the DC government and service improvements to DC's residents. These efforts initially applied to nine District agencies: administrative Services; Consumer and Regulatory Affairs; Corrections; Fire and Emergency Services; Human Services; Health; Public Works; Employment Services; and Housing and Community Development and are under the purview of the Chief Management Officer (CM). Subsequently, these efforts were extended to the Metropolitan Police Department; the Public School System; the Office of Corporation Counsel; the Commission of Mental Health Services; and the University of DC. Progress is reported separately for those reforms under the guidance of the CMO, and those outside her purview.

The reform projects were originally identified by the consultants' reports from which a total of 269 specific projects were identified for action and funded. Some 11 were subsequently discarded, and 7 delayed until 1999. This report notes progress on each of about 150 projects under the CMO and another 60-odd outside. A random sampling of these items is shown below for illustrative purposes only, subdivided by the CMO's four goals for the city:

1. Improve Customer Service:

CMO Purview

  • Mailed out renewal reminder notices for drivers' licenses for first time in four

  • Removed 2000 dead trees, trimmed 6000 more, and planted 500;

  • Increased the number of fire inspections from 24,400 to 33,800 buildings;

  • Cleaned up and barricaded 375 vacant nuisance properties serving as open air drug markets (using 119 recovering addicts);

  • Reduced turnaround time for renewing nurses' licenses from 5 days to 1;

  • Conducted a training workshop in conjunction with MPD for 100 youths in the Mayor's Youth Leadership Institute;

  • Renovated the DC animal shelter--ventilation system, new roof, asbestos removal;

  • Established the Medical Examiner's first-ever forensics investigation unit;

  • Cleared the Medical Examiner's backlog of 114 unburied bodies and 300 cremations;

  • etc.

Outside CMO Purview

  • Established an environmental crimes unit

  • Established a prostitution task force;

  • Opened schools on time;

  • Opened a ward at St. Elizabeth's for consumers awaiting outplacement

  • Developed a dishonored check database to reduce recording errors by 25%;

  • etc.

2. Reform the Way We Do Business:

CMO Purview

  • Reduced disaster response time from`90 to 30 minutes;

  • Initiated an accelerated disability retirement hearing process for police, firefighters;

  • Paid off a $52 million, 3-year backlog of supplier invoices;

  • Decreased contract review time from 93 to 41 days;

  • Reduced unplanned, at-risk contracts from 80% in 1997 to 35% in 1998;

  • Collaborated with 35 training providers, colleges and universities to include links to their homepages on the Employment Services' homepage;

  • Installed a new automated management information system that complies with all Job Training Partnership Act (JTPA) reporting requirements;

  • Installed a new computer system for the school transit subsidy program;

  • etc.

Outside CMO purview

  • Proposed legislation to raise the educational standards for new police applicants to two years of college;

  • Reduced the overall taxi license renewal time from 10 to 5 days;

  • Published and distributed the first two issues of a newsletter Community Policing Chronicle;

  • Automated the Government Documents library program;

  • Launched a $48.9 million information technology initiative by MPD;

  • etc.

3. Be Financially Strong:

CMO Purview

  • Reduced program and support staff in Housing department realignment to save $758,000 annually;

  • MRDDA recovered $750,000 in Medicaid revenues;

  • Redesigned DHCD processes to ensure compliance with new HUD eligibility, national objective and documentation requirements;

  • Completed all requisite steps to sell vacant 105 acre Cedar Knolls property (in Maryland) for $1.8M;

  • Increased Medicaid recoveries from 3rd party insurers from $2.7 in 1997 to $8.7M in 1998;

  • Got grant award of $4.6M for welfare-to-work program;

  • Entered MOU with GSA to manage hazardous waster clean-up at Lorton, DC Jail;

  • etc.

Outside CMO Purview

  • Improved tax refund time to 15 days from receipt of return ;

  • Acquired 88 new MPD vehicles in start of new 200/year program;

  • Brought two firing ranges into OSHA compliance (EPA next year)

  • Reduced police overtime by 24%

  • Spent 95% of available police grant funds rather than 36% in 1997

  • etc.

4. Invest in the Workforce:

CMO Purview

  • Reassigned two fire engines for training and one aerial ladder truck for driver training;

  • Conducted leadership training for 84 senior managers, 78 supervisors, and 332 front-line employees;

  • Conducted over 350 hours of advanced computer system training for 29 Local Area Network administrators and computer specialists;

  • Issued 5,055 skill training certificates to DC government employees out of 5,683 enrolled in Skills Development Institute courses in basic skills and computer office applications;

  • Reduced corrections employee attrition from 14.2% to 7.6% by modifying employee pay plan consistent with the Federal Bureau of Prisons;

  • etc.

Outside CMO Purview

  • Various training and educational programs for the Public Benefits Corporation staff;

  • Purchased almost 1000 new police radios for off duty officers;

  • Trained each contract appeals administrative judge in basic Alternative Dispute Resolution techniques;

  • etc.

Please note that this is a random selection from a much longer list of accomplishments, some of much greater importance, and some of less importance.

NARPAC, Inc. Analysis

On the positive side of the ledger, it is clear that many small steps are being taken which may cumulatively have a significant impact on the operation of the DC government, and hence, indirectly on "customer satisfaction" with services provided.

It also seems clear that the CMO is doing what has been expected of her by the Control Board, within the letter of the National Capital Revitalization and Self- Government Improvement Act (PL105-33) of 1997. It should be noted that the Control Board Chair's annual report deals more broadly with the progress of reforms, relegating this report to the nuts and bolts.

On the negative side of the ledger, it seems appalling that so many things have needed fixing. If nothing else, it amply proves the thesis that the DC government was in many respects dysfunctional. It also seems remarkable that so few of these actions involve the development of reform legislation. It is almost as if the DC Council were free to criticize the DC executive branch without taking stock of the continued inadequacy of the DC legislative base.

But with a larger perspective, there are several more basic issues:

a) it seems abundantly clear that the manifold problems of the DC government will not have been solved when these 269 recommendations have been completely satisfied. One suspects that it will simply bring to the surface 269 more niggling problems that require attention.

b) there does not seem to be the slightest connection between all of these detailed actions and the realization of the CMO's vision for the city: "to make the District of Columbia a model for the very best of American cities".

c) there does not appear to be any evolving list of quantitative criteria by which to judge how DC ranks relative to other American cities. Such parameters as the number of government employees per resident; the number of functionally illiterate kids per enrolled student; the number of serious crimes solved by the police department; the number of welfare recipients per capita; the infant mortality rate; the backlog in capital investment as a share of total capital assets; and so forth.

NARPAC, Inc. suggests that at least two comparative criteria sets should be developed:

  • How DC ranks relative to other American central cities of similar size, and

  • How DC ranks relative to its own metropolitan area

There seems to be little if any indication that DC is very far from dead last in both categories.

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On October 30, 1998, Chairman Rivlin of the DC Control Board submitted to Congress her annual report on the progress of "the Authority" in helping "to alleviate the immediate financial crisis that the District faced, and improve its prospects for future stability and growth". Her summary states that



The Authority is pleased to report that many initial objectives of the Financial Responsibility and Management Assistance Act have been met. With the assistance of the Federal government and many people who cared strongly about the District, the City's crisis conditions no longer exist. Not only is the District safely past the point of bankruptcy, it is running a significant surplus in its operating budget. The District, and such independent entities as the Convention Center, now gain access to the private credit markets at favorable rates. At the same time, the Authority has begun to strengthen public services in a number of critical areas, including public education, public safety, and supported improvements to the District's roads, bridges and public buildings. A sustained effort to effect long-term management reform and improve customer services is starting to achieve tangible results.

Some of the most important results that the Authority has achieved include the following:

  • Stabilizing the District's cash flow to pay employees, service providers and vendors regularly;

  • Restoring the District's ability to obtain favorable credit market access;

  • Significantly reducing the District's general fund deficits for FY95 and FY96;

  • Generating a surplus for FY97, and a projected surplus for FY98;

  • Implementing a new Financial Management System to provide accurate and timely information on financial and budget policies and processes;

  • Creating a more equitable partnership between the Federal and District Governments to better align responsibilities;

  • Creating a structure to reform regulations and streamline government administrative procedures.

.... Much remains to be done. The Authority is acutely aware that the District's Financial recovery, though promising, is tenuous. The recovery must be maintained -- and strengthened. Moreover, the District's provision of basic public services does not always meet citizen expectations or compare favorably with the delivery of service in other major cities. The Authority's priorities for the coming year strive to address these concerns. As the Authority continues to oversee the City's management and operations, it also must encourage elected officials and public administrators to operate the city at the same time. Now that the District has reached a turning point, the Board must help prepare the City for the return of Home Rule, which means returning governance, operations and oversight to the elected officials. This is no easy task, and it requires that all principal stakeholders collaborate in setting criteria by which the District will be evaluated. The conditions under which democracy is returned to elected officials and the structure by which it is achieved are of central import to the quality of municipal administration in the future and -- equally critical -- to the stability of democracy in the District.

.... Management reform has begun to make District agencies more effective and to improve service delivery....Through management reform, the District is finally taking important steps toward becoming a performance-based organization--a government that responds to the District's citizens in a timely and effective manner.....the Authority recognizes that--despite some initial improvements--much work remains to be done.

This is probably as good a summary of the views, priorities, and objectives of the Control Board Chairman as can be found anywhere. The purpose of the report is "to highlight accomplishments and progress during the year", as driven by its priorities which "beyond financial stability,.....have always centered on public education, public safety, and public works.... These basic improvements can halt the migration to the suburbs, as well as retain and attract economic development and improve the quality of life in the City."

The 32-page report is divided into two major categories, and progress is described in a number of distinct areas. These are summarized briefly here:

Financial Improvements

o improved funds control and a balanced FY98 budget;

o a consensus budget for FY99 which includes a 5-year plan to spend $1.6 billion on capital projects;

o the continuing need to develop a "tax reform package which creates a more equitable tax structure and encourages a growing residential and business base" (based on the DC Tax Revision Commission report);

o a modern financial control system and internal control procedures;

o somewhat restored access to private capital markets based on reduced long-term and short-term debt;

o decisions on and financing for, the new Convention Center;

o continued presence of District receivers, accounting for some $200 million in DC expenditures, which cannot be removed until DC complies with the mandated levels of service; and

o a clean bill of health on its FY97 audit.

Management Improvements

o management reform efforts are ongoing in virtually every DC government agency, and consumed some $1089.5 million in operating funds and $177.7 million in capital investment. Many of these actions are "internal" and do not reflect directly on customer services;

o the Authority made 49 legislative recommendations to the mayor and issued "almost 200" orders for new regulations and administrative procedures in the DC government. Elimination unnecessary regulations and streamlining the permits process is an on-going effort that will take time. Additionally, the initial analysis in certain regulatory areas such as rent control has not yet been completed.

o medical malpractice reform has so far been rejected, but the door "is left open";

o the MOU Partnership established to reduce crime and "improve the quality of life in the District's neighborhoods" has produced "dramatic results", with overall crime at its lowest level in 20 years. Steps have been taken to: hire a new police chief; investigate allegations of widespread corruption within the police department; increase police presence on the streets--including implementation of community policing strategies; civilianize many administrative jobs; develop an effective civilian complaint process; increase the homicide case closure rate (from 57% in '96 to 70% in '97); and hire a highly qualified medical examiner.

o transition of DC's sentenced felon population will be transferred from the DC Department of Corrections to the Federal Bureau of Prisons by the end of 2001;

o the Authority has replaced the Chair of the Emergency Transitional Educational Board of Trustees and the CEO/Superintendent of Schools and is in the process of returning the governance of the school system to the elected School Board. The Parents United suit has been settled; higher academic standards have been introduced; disciplinary policies have been strengthened to include a "zero tolerance policy" for student expulsion. The Authority claims to have a more accurate count of the student body (about 77,500), and expects a full 11,000 of these to be in the special education program in FY99--up from 7,700 in FY98(!) at a cost of $125 million. Expansion of the charter school program is expected to continue, and the development of a long range facilities plan "is a high priority".

o the Authority has made considerable progress in improving labor relations with the DC government, and in streamlining government agencies to make them more effective. Since the fall of 1995, 10,285 full-time-equivalent employees have been dropped from DC payrolls--6,053 by transfers to independent enterprises or the federal government, while over 4,200 have been dismissed (or retired?). Nonetheless, the DC government still had more than 30,000 FTEs as o March 1998, at an annual cost of $1.8 billion, or 44% of DC's general fund expenditures.

o The Authority considers the passage of the Omnibus Personnel Reform Amendment Act of 1998 to be a "key accomplishment" in designing a system of incentives and disincentives for both employees and top managers. Steps are also being taken to redress the imbalance between the city's union (higher) and non- union (lower) pay scales.

o significant reductions are being made in the backlog of potholes, dead trees, uncleaned alleys; and street signs. Removal of abandoned and junked vehicles is a high prior for 1999 in a coordinated effort between MPD and DPW.

o improvements in human services include restructuring the organization; developing a comprehensive information systems plan; and improving management of the Oak Hill juvenile facility. DHS has also increased the child care subsidy to attract more providers; and achieved the lowest food stamp error rate in the Mid- Atlantic region.

o On October 1, 1997, operational responsibility for the DC General Hospital and the public health clinics was transferred to the DC Health and Hospitals Public Benefits Corporation (PBC). PBC receives a very high share of its revenues from Medicaid and a much mower share from Medicare. The ambulatory care system is being restructured into a customer-centered, neighborhood-bases system, and efforts are underway to reform the billing system and repair rundown facilities. DC has expanded its eligibility criterions for Medicaid to families with children whose family income is less than 200% of the federal poverty level, hoping to reduced a 25% drop in uninsured residents.

o .welfare reforms include achieving a 30% level of TANF caseload population engaged in "demonstrable work activity"; restructuring the child care program; and creating a program with UDC to "reinforce employable skills, life management strategies, and provide information on entry-level jobs. Implementation of a Electronic Benefits Transfer (EBT) program is expected to limit abuse of public assistance checks and food stamps.

o UDC has undertaken the "most drastic cutbacks in its history" to arrest its deteriorating financial condition, making its actual per-student cost among the highest in the country. The Authority is insisting that UDC revise its mission, its academic structure, its education environment, and its inadequate management by presidents and trustees.(see section on UDC).

o progress in economic development includes improving the regulatory environment; applying for a joint empowerment zone with Prince George's County; and developing a new strategic economic development plan (see section on DC Economic Resurgence).
o DC's major procurement problems are now being addressed by a new Chief Procurement Officer (CPO), making it possible for the Authority to limit its contract review functions to items in excess of $1 million.

o DC has also established a Chief Technology Officer (CTO) to provide centralized leadership, issue DC-wide technology standards and architecture, and deal (belatedly) with the Year 2000 remediation.

NARPAC, Inc. Analysis

Despite what appears in some cases to be undue optimism, there can be little question but that the nation's capital city has begun to dig itself out of a very deep hole under the guidance of the Control Board. And there is reason to believe that many of the changes underway can be self-sustaining. The DC government management has begun the difficult task of converting from a patronage-based, self-serving organization to a competence-based, customer-serving organization. Such a transition is bound to be slow, agonizing, and fraught with setbacks. Clearly, the emphasis of the Control Board must continue to shift away from the narrower goals of financial stability, towards the provision of world-class services.

NARPAC would also like to suggest--without meaning to quibble--that the popular objective of "halting the migration to the suburbs" is an unrealistic objective. It should be possible to eventually halt the net migration, but much of the capital city's population of students, federal government officials (elected and appointed), military, embassy personnel, corporate lobbyists, interns and staffers is migratory by nature. Even the permanent residents ("cliff dwellers", as some are known) have natural migratory patterns as children grow up, marry, buy their first homes and cars, raise families, "spread their wings", get promoted, retire, and enter nursing homes. The suburbs--and other parts of the US--have some significant advantages during certain stages of life. The nation's capital city will never be "Soccer Mom Heaven". To risk a "corny" metaphor, the District can never become a static pool of residents: it should instead view itself as a ever- changing, self-renewing fountain of competent, dynamic people who are here by purpose, not accident.

Although the CMO's "vision" includes making DC a model for the very best of American cities, there is no such promise in the Control Board's report. One wonders just how much less the Authority is willing to settle for. It is somewhat encouraging that the Control Board does not actually "go out of business" when home rule is returned to the DC government, but rather goes quiescent for a substantial period with "one ear cocked", so to speak. But serious questions do remain:

o Will the Control Board move too fast to return home rule to a government still in transition?

o Will the Control Board work as hard to get a financially competitive city as it did to get a fiscally sound city?

o Does the Control Board fully understand how much more difficult it is to deliver wold-class services than to balance the books?

o Will the DC government seek to be the best, or just "good enough"?

Perhaps the most cryptic statement in this report is repeated here:

Now that the District has reached a turning point, the Board must help prepare the City for the return of home rule, which means returning governance, operations, and oversight to the elected officials. This is no easy task, and it requires that all principal stakeholders collaborate in setting criteria by which the District will be evaluated.

NARPAC would like to add...."both before and after the transition". There is a very big difference between becoming an average American city, and becoming our nation's leading metropolitan area.

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Despite the return of most operational functions to the mayor, the Control Board, or the "Authority" as it prefers to call itself, retains all of its statutory oversight responsibilities. It is obliged to submit an annual report to the Congress describing the progress made by the DC government in meeting the purposes for which the Authority was established.


The report starts out by acknowledging that "although a severe financial crisis no longer threatens the District, the City has not fully addressed many of its underlying problems". It suggests that "actions taken by the Authority to strengthen public services in a number of critical areas are beginning to show success", although in what NARPAC considers a masterful understatement, it admits that "the District's provision of basic public services does not always meet citizen expectations or compare favorably with the delivery of services in other major cities".

Nevertheless, it continues, "now that the District has reached a turning point, the Authority must turn its attention to preparing the city for a return to normal governance". This will require that "all principal stakeholders collaborate in setting criteria by which the District's progress will be measured", concluding that "the conditions under which governance is to be returned to the elected officials and the structure by which it is achieved are of central import to the quality of municipal administration to the District's stability in the future."

The Authority states that its report and its activities are "driven by its priorities of financial responsibility and management assistance", and that "beyond financial stability, the Authority's concerns about the District's future have always centered on delivery of services, public education and public safety." The report then discusses twenty-one different topics dealing with these objectives:

Finances and Financial Management:

The report devotes about 40% of its attention to finances, and indicates that the FY99 and FY00 budgets are well balanced, providing four straight years of budget surpluses It points particularly to the major increase in capital funds--but notes that infrastructure needs greatly exceed that plan. It also commends the restructuring of the long-term debt, and the prudence of keeping the mandated reserve fund.

On a more cautionary note, it asserts that "temporary improvement in revenues does not represent a new permanent base from which the District might stabilize its finances and increase expenditures to meet important needs. Real gains in revenue base will be achieved only when the tax structure is reformed, when the tax base is strengthened, when economic development gathers momentum, and when the City's residential population begins to grow."

The Authority admits to growing pains in all three of the major financial systems:


o The System of Accounting and Reporting (SOAR) in considered "the linchpin" in the effort to transform the District into a national model for financial reform". This program is currently coming on line--in a remarkably short period of time.

o The Integrated Tax System will require 4 years if all goes according to plan, but this effort was only begun in early 1999. Nonetheless, early modules should be on line before the end of this year.

o The Comprehensive Payroll and Personnel System will keep track of and pay all DC's personnel. As of September, 1999 35 agencies with 6000 personnel were using the system--but glitches still exist.

The Authority also notes with pride that the FY98 audit contains an "unqualified" opinion on the financial statements and reports on compliance with laws, regulations, contracts, and grants, and on the Authority's internal control structure.

Management Assistance:

About 25% of the annual report deals with matters of management. It dwells on its plans for a ""Scorecard" system for assessing progress on issues important to residents and other uses of city services, acknowledging that "a great deal of work remains in developing meaningful outcome measures for all District agencies." It also notes that the Authority received and reviewed 322 Acts of the Council, approving 314 and returning 8 due to inadequate fiscal impact analysis. Of those approved, 154 were permanent or temporary, and 160 were emergency pieces of legislation. There is no elaboration whatsoever on the value of any of this legislation.

The Authority dwells at length on those District agencies operating under receiverships and special masters, noting that such external forces "impede the ability of the executive and legislative branches of government to define programs, to control the budgets of all government agencies, and to leverage resources across departments". It asserts that "vast resources have been spent as a consequence of receiverships and other court orders over the past years", but that "the quality of service to thousands of the District's children and families has not improved appreciably except in the areas of public housing and medical/mental health services for jail inmates".

The report falls short of claiming that the DC government or the Authority could have done better, but does urge the development of a plan to vacate all receiverships as part of the Authority's mandate. In fact, it notes that the continued existence of these court-ordered controls--and the risk of more--"indicates that service delivery has not improved sufficiently across the board, thereby jeopardizing the District's long-term financial recovery".

The report devotes a third of a page to personnel and labor relations, noting that DC still has about 33,000 full-time-equivalent employees whose salaries and benefits make up "the most significant budget component", and the overwhelming majority of total expenditures for many key agencies. It notes that "effective management of these resources is an extremely important component of the District's fiscal and management recovery"--but avoids any suggestion that employment levels may need adjusting.

The as yet unfulfilled need for a sound labor strategy is emphasized in view of the approaching expiration of many labor agreements in calendar year 2000. Progress in complying with Y2K problems is also discussed--as well as the development of contingency plans for the 94 mission critical business processes.

City Services

A quarter of the report discusses city services, devoting most of its attention to issues of public safety, stressing at length the importance of the emerging Criminal Justice Coordinating Council as the mechanism for improving the effectiveness of all aspects of the justice system. It also notes the MPD's new organization into Regional Command Centers and Patrol Service Areas. It credits these and other programs with substantial reductions in crime (as occurred elsewhere across the US without ROCs or PSAs.).

A short section on public education notes some improvement in test scores, the 25,000 kid summer school program, the more accurate enrollment count, the increasing use of charter schools--and continued concerns for the numbers and costs of DCPS's special education programs. It also notes the significance of the collective bargaining agreement with the Washington Teachers Union which will in FY2000 link teacher pay increases to performance--for the first time--and close the gap between DC and suburban teachers' salaries. New compensation agreements for school principals and other officers, as well as bus drivers, are in the works.

The Authority also notes that it has continued to "work cooperatively with UDC to affect positive change in the educational environment", indicating some success in fostering a positive relationship between UDC and DCPS which could lead to collaboration on educational programs.

DC's health programs are summarized noting progress in expanding Medicaid coverage to needy children and their parents, and the addition of 2900 low income residents to comprehensive health insurance coverage "without requiring additional local expenditures". It notes its role in seeking solutions to the problems of Greater SE Hospital.

Finally, it devotes six lines to the restructuring of the Department of Human Services by streamlining its management, drafting new position descriptions, and reassigning management personnel.

Economic Development

The last 10% of the Authority's report deals with its strategy to "remove the barriers to economic development activities". The Authority played a role in obtaining Congressional approval for a National Capital Revitalization Corporation, and expresses concern over the DC government's failure to complete the requisite appointment process. It recounts its role in stimulating DC's "economic resurgence strategy and restates its determination to "make the District more attractive to new business, retaining those businesses and federal agencies that are already located in the City, and creating greater opportunity for neighborhood development--not just activity in the central business district."

It revisits the progress made in Regulatory Reforms in 1998, noting that the Council enacted legislation "substantially consistent" with the Authority's recommendations in December, 1998. It also notes with pleasure the progress made in developing the new Convention Center and its conviction that the Center Authority "has done a good job in balancing numerous complicated issues with respect to its design, location, and construction"--to say nothing of the Shaw neighborhood activists.


The Authority notes that 'bringing permanent and positive change for the citizens of the Nation's Capital continues to be our goal. Much remains to be done. The Authority recognizes that the District's financial recovery, though promising, is precarious, and still lacks some of the underpinnings necessary to a full and lasting recovery. The Authority is committed to maintaining and strengthening this recovery in the year ahead and will work to ensure that the provision of basic public services continues to improve."

NARPAC Commentary

One should not underestimate the difficulties in writing an annual report to the Congress stating one's own progress in exercising unwanted oversight over a hypersensitive, hyperactive, partially disenfranchised, central city. In fact, accomplishing the task of providing leadership without ruffling feathers may be not only impossible but counterproductive. That said, NARPAC still has an uneasy feeling that the Authority is overly interested in the financial aspects of the city's governance, and too little interested in the efficient provision of not just average, but outstanding city services. Hence, at the risk of alienating yet another player in DC's future, we note the following shortcomings in this annual report:


o There is no reference whatsoever to the inefficiencies and debilitating impact of inappropriate Congressional micromanagement of DC affairs;

o The is no reference to the basic issues of Congressional representation for DC's "second-class" citizenry--surely an element in assuring the long-term success of this central city;

o The precariousness of the financial balance seems almost certainly overstated. One only has to look at the amount of construction going on virtually everywhere in the city, and the rise in real estate sales, both in numbers and prices, to know that expectations for DC are already outrunning accomplishments;

o The implication that the only solution to DC's financial problems is revenue increases--rather than expenditure reductions--fails to address the fundamental issues of a) decreasing the excessive levels of poverty in the city, and b) raising the efficiency with which services are provided primarily to those in need;

o The suggestion that the preferred way to increase revenues is to increase the number of (hopefully net taypaying?) residents--rather than taxpaying businesses--is also subject to question, particularly if those residents place higher demands on already over stressed, inefficient city services. Furthermore, the shortage of upscale homes for taxpayers puts a limit on the rate of re-population;

o The total absence of any reference to the inefficiencies in providing DC government services is disturbing. So is the present lack of any "Scorecard" indicators dealing with the costs of providing satisfactory services--compared to other cities. The lack of such pressures from the Control Board does not help the city negotiate with its workforce, unionized or not;

o The lack of expressed concern for both the effectiveness and efficiency in providing public safety, public health, and public education appears risky. The failure to effectively grapple with those entrenched bureaucracies (or with their real long-term capital needs, for that matter) may amount to a permanent defeat, as the ability of a "new broom to sweep clean" declines with time in office (bristle wilt);

o The stated desire to get rid of all receivers and masters also seems somewhat premature, particularly if its major purpose is simply better budgetary control. The failure to provide the requisite services is the basic problem that needs to be addressed, and authoritarian actions may be essential;

o There is no reference whatsoever to the development of better cooperation within the metro area. The pursuit of regionalism, once a staple of Chair Rivlin's philosophy, appears to have evaporated. Concepts for metrowide sharing of the burdens of poverty, transportation, safety, education, and health are sadly missing.

o The Authority makes no mention of the need for controlling the helter-skelter build-up in economic development that is already underway. Although the Authority's role in the economic resurgence plans is commendable and successfully stimulating DC redevelopment, the need for proper citywide and metro area wide long range planning is not mentioned;

The stated intention of the Authority to shift its focus further towards economic development seems somewhat opportunistic. The tough problems involve dispersing widespread blight and increasing government productivity. NARPAC sees a strong need to maintain a "good cop, bad cop" team relationship between the mayor and the Control Board, not a "good cop, better cop" contest.

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(Summarized from April 1997 Rpt on Performance Measures. May Rpt on Human Resources)

The DC government employs more than 33,000 full-time equivalent (FTE) personnel, at a FY96 cost of $1.9 billion--42% of the $4.4 billion General Fund Expenditures. Thousands more employees are hired to administer federal grant programs. Current DC agencies are the product of some 25 years of accumulated roles and responsibilities, so that by now, many individual agencies lack clear missions and goals, and related agencies' efforts are not complementary.

Although its workforce is a key resource, DC has not been effective in planning for, or controlling its employees. In fact, it has no strategic planning process. Hence current personnel reductions appear haphazard, there are severe shortages of personnel with critical skills, and overtime costs are staggering and not well-planned. Upper level pay is often limited, and there is no labor relations strategy. Several agencies have major payroll and personnel records problems.

Personnel controls and budgeting are weak. Thousands of personnel--perhaps one-third of the total--are not actually working in the agency or responsibility center to which they are assigned. Moreover, the District's personnel system was largely inherited from the federal government at the beginning of home rule, and that system has been heavily criticized. It is not used by most surrounding jurisdictions. As was noted by the Director of OMB in 1993: "Most of the federal personnel laws now in use were written for a troubled civil service of 1883".

The Control Board believes that the DC government must institute a program to systematically assess its programs through strategic planning, including human resource planning. Personnel decisions must be tied to the budget process, records must be corrected, pay levels adjusted. Reforms must also include a more flexible pay and classification system; pay linked to performance; a streamlined adverse action process; limited severance pay; and strong programs to improve agency supervisors and managers.

Some other jurisdictions--including the federal government--have recently undertaken strong strategic planning efforts. Cities like Charlotte, NC, Milwaukee, MN, Phoenix, AZ, and Portland, OR also exemplary programs which the DC can emulate. The International City and County Association has developed a consortium of 44 cities to develop benchmarks and performance measures for critical city functions. DC is now participating in that effort. In addition, consulting firms are analyzing the needs of a few DC agencies such as the MPD, the DHS, UDC, and DCPS. The Board recognizes that much more effort is needed.

DC personnel reductions have begun in an effort to meet Control Board goals to get down from 40,200 FTEs in 1995, to 35,800 by end FY96, and to 30,000 by FY00. However, some 4000 of the reductions so far have resulted from transferring FTEs to new independent agencies like Public Housing, Water and Sewer, and the DC General Hospital. Not surprisingly, most of the real reductions are in the lower grade levels.

As reported under Procurement and Contracting, a very small percentage of the contracting workforce is professionally certified. Similar problems exist elsewhere: the new DC Chief Financial Officer has removed over 200 unqualified personnel; DPW has only two skilled computer technicians even though there are more than 1200 stations in the agency's network; MPD has few highly skilled people in its Information Systems Division; the Water and Sewer Authority has too few environmental engineers.

Overtime costs are staggering and not well-planned. In FY96, $85M was used for overtime where only $33M was budgeted. In a typical FY97 two-week pay period, well over 100 employees work more than 160 hours, with the maximum sometimes logging more than 240 hours .

On the other hand, pay for some positions is $10-15K less than comparable jobs in neighboring jurisdictions. Top federal senior executive service officials make $50-60K more than the $81,885 cap set just below the mayor's current salary of $87,984. That cap equates to a federal mid-level manager at GS-14 Step 8. About 235 DC employees are now at the same cap level, while roughly 400 lower ranking managers make more than the mayor without over, and another 300 exceed the mayor's salary when overtime is added in. In the school system, similar inequities exist. DC entry-level teachers are paid from $1200 to $3500 less than those in surrounding jurisdictions, and that pay gap widens to as high as $24,000 for school principals.

These problems have also led to a remarkable proliferation of labor bargaining units for a municipal workforce of DC's size: 20 labor organizations, with about 60 local unions, and 123 bargaining units. No progress has been made to enter into new labor union contracts. Most negotiations are stalled, and there have been no labor union contracts agreed to by the District in the 18 months the Control Board has been in existence.

Personnel planning is not Integrated with the budget process, and complicated by other personnel positions funded by grants and user fees. Personnel controls are also weak, with thousands of personnel not actually working in the agency where their costs are charged. Hence the responsibility centers' budgets do not reflect true costs, and agency funds control and accountability is virtually impossible. For instance, the Office of the Mayor and its related agencies budget for 85 FTEs, but grows 70% to 142 FTEs through persons detailed from other parts of the DC government.

As mentioned earlier, there are large discrepancies in staffing in most DC government agencies, even in the headquarters components themselves. In one DHS office, officials claimed 39 FTEs, but are paying for 51. In the school system, literally thousands of employees are not working in the responsibility centers to which they are assigned, and at least 228 are assigned to locations that do not officially exist, and for which there are no budgets.

Personnel reforms are apparently getting underway in a cooperative effort between the Control Board, the DC Council and the Mayor's Office. New proposals have been made by both the Mayor's office and the Greater Washington Board of Trade. Both have agreed to a more flexible job classification system, and have offered different approaches to tying pay--and pay raises--to some new performance evaluation system, with the Mayor's proposal including "customer satisfaction" among the evaluation criteria.

The DC government also has a very cumbersome process for disciplining or firing government employees. Employees can be reprimanded, demoted, or terminated for 22 different reasons, but the process takes months and is fraught with ambiguities. "Normal" RIF (reduction in force) procedures result in downward "bumping", thus resulting in several persons changing jobs to accommodate one removal or demotion. Reforming these procedures is part of both the Mayor's and the Board of Trade's proposals. Relief from these procedures is included in this year's Reform Act passed by the Congress. Furthermore, DC severance procedures now allows up to 52 weeks' pay. The maximum in Fairfax County is 6 weeks, and in Montgomery County, 12 weeks. The Control Board hopes DC will adopt a maximum of 12-13 weeks.

Many other personnel problems exist. On the positive side, much greater training is needed for supervisors and managers, but there should also be far few managers and supervisors per employee. The ratio of employees to managers is currently about 8:1, but the Mayor hopes that can be cut to 15:1. A new executive service more like that of other jurisdictions is needed.

At the other end of the spectrum, the current timekeeping and payroll process is antiquated and involves almost 5000 people every two weeks, with an annual waste of $6-8M. The District employs 184 central payroll staff as compared to 7-17 in Montgomery and Fairfax Counties, and in the Montgomery County Public School System.

Furthermore, from the findings of the "management letters" associated with DC's annual financial audit, there are numerous problems with incomplete personnel records across a variety of agencies from the public school system and UDC to the Water and Sewer Authority. In addition, DC has been paying health benefits to employees no longer on the payroll. It is hoped that a new automated personnel and payroll system due to be installed momentarily will vastly increaser the efficiency and accuracy of the various personnel functions.


(Summarized from April 8, 1997 Report)

Finally, there are efforts underway to enhance the information technology capabilities of the DC government. Once a major linchpin in the Mayor's own revitalization program, there now seems to be a growing realization that there are neither the plans, the resources, nor the people to catch up with the present, let alone leap into the future. Currently used computer systems are differ between agencies, but share in common outdated hardware, software, and skills (for both operators and maintainers). The Department of Public Works has 1200 computers, but only two staff technicians to support them. The equipment is too old to benefit from new software, the infrastructure is failing, and the system is hard to maintain. There is no documentation for the system.

The minicomputer system in the Department of Consumer and Regulatory Affairs is 13 years old. Within the Department of Employment Services, the authorized staff in its Management Information and Data Systems Office is 72 FTEs, not including those responsible for telecommunications. That staff has not received any comprehensive training in over 15 years, for either mainframe hardware or software. The MPD maintains six different department-wide networks, but none of them can share information easily.

Across the District government there are clear signs that the staffs really do not know where to begin to get into the world of high-tech administration. The existing strategic plan is incomplete, has not been fully embraced by senior DC management; and its milestones are not being met. The District has not invested enough in either information technology or trained personnel to even address the performance deficiencies in the agencies. Control Board recommendations essentially involve starting over from scratch with a revised plan, new personnel, new reporting arrangements, a new steering committee, a new capital investment plan, and so forth.

NARPAC, Inc. believes it will be years, at best, before the DC government can adopt and benefit from the advantages of modern automation.


(Summarized from KPMG report of October 8, 1997)

This high visibility agency has been succinctly evaluated by a leading national consulting firm and reaches two familiar conclusions:

o The body of regulations that DCRA is responsible for enforcing is too complex, is self-contradictory in places, and makes no effort to balance private costs with public benefits; and

o The hallmarks of a well functioning organization are either inadequate or missing entirely from DCRA.

A department once recognized nationally as a model of innovation in local government has deteriorated over the past decade into an example of a failed bureaucracy. It is a department in trouble.

DCRA is primarily a regulatory agency, enforcing requirements on various professionals and businesses the laws passed by the DC Council, and reinterpreted by various courts, commissions, and others. Clearly, DCRA has no control over the proliferation of these laws and regulations which are to blame for many slow processes and poor service. It licenses more than 90 separate professions and trades and 129 different types of businesses. Housing Codes regulate nearly every interaction between housing providers and tenants. Conflicting guidance results from overlapping authorities. Unfortunately, legislative and judicial decision-making do not take into account these inconsistencies, or the costs and resources needed to enforce these regulatory requirements.

The report goes on to list the many shortcomings of DCRA:

Strategic management suffers from the fact that: the mission of the organization is in disarray (between protecting residents and supporting business); there is a lack of committed leadership; and DCRA does not gather, track, report or assess key information necessary to lead and guide its efforts. The organizational structure has not been adjusted to fully reflect the decline in its staffing, and there is no performance measurement of efficiency and outcomes--only workload tallies.

As elsewhere, DCRA has difficulty attracting and retaining technical and experienced personnel , and offers inappropriate training. Its main facility is in terrible shape, with shabby floors, walls, and ceilings. In fact employees are afraid to drink the water. The report states simply that "the DCRA facility--where some businesses receive their first impression of the District-- is an embarrassment ".

Work processes are still primarily manual, simple equipment such as copiers are not available, and the "information technology" has not changed in the 15 years of the agency's existence. As is mentioned for most DC government agencies, even the telephone system is totally inadequate to deal with 18,000 calls per year. Answering machines do not take messages, and calls cannot be forwarded. Phones are literally falling apart, and DCRA has run out of basic repair parts like cords and receivers. This may be the only city outside the Third World where telephones are considered a major--as well as dysfunctional-- part of its information technology assets.

Finally, financial management and administrative practices reflect inadequate systems, training, and experience. And as everywhere, the procurement process is branded as slow, cumbersome, and often an impediment to operations.

(Belden and Russonello Report released June 1997)

As CMO Dr. Barnett does her rounds of DC citizens' associations and other interested organizations, she frequently asks if her audience is familiar with the recent survey of residents. She claims that she took this assignment in DC despite having read that report, and is always surprised that so few of her audience are familiar with it. For her, it seems to be a baseline of dissatisfaction against which she intends to measure her own progress. NARPAC, Inc. summarizes this 150-page report here, and makes some interpretations of its own.

In March and April of 1997, the polling firm of Belden and Russonello randomly interviewed 1201 DC residents over the age of 18 that had working telephones. They were asked two distinct questions about 27 different DC public services: a) how do residents rate the present quality of that service, and b) what priority would they give, if running the DC government, to providing that service. Answers fell into the standard five categories from best to worst, highest to lowest. Based on the sample size, the researchers believe the sampling error is within plus or minus 2.8% of what all DC households would have answered, 95% of the time.

The table below lists the 27 services inquired about, and the percent of the respondents who: a) would give high or extremely high priority to providing that service; and b) thought the current quality of service was good or excellent. Note that the services range from public schools to tree maintenance, and from metro bus service to car registration.


Percent of 1201 Respondents Who Evaluated:

Priority as High or Extremely High

Present Quality as Good or Excellent

Public Service Priority Quality
Public Schools 92% 11%
Citywide Crime Prevention 92% 24%
Neighborhood Crime Prevention 88% 42%
Safe Drinking Water 87% 14%
Ambulance/Emergency Medical 86% 36%
Fire Protection 82% 48%
Youth Counter-gang Programs 80% 12%
Drug Prevention Programs 78% 10%
Job Training/Placement 77% 8%
Efforts to Attract New Business 77% 17%
Low Income Resident Programs 73% 15%
Street Repair and Maintenances 72% 8%
Services for the Homeless 67% 15%
Restaurant Health Inspection 65% 21%
Trash Collection 63% 44%
Public Libraries 63% 51%
Bus Service 56% 55%
Metro-rail Service 56% 79%
Snow Removal 54% 25%
Traffic Law Enforcement 54% 35%
Property/Income Tax Handling 48% 26%
Recycling Programs 44% 16%
Park Maintenance 42% 51%
Arts and Cultural Events 40% 57%
Driver's License Processing 39% 34%
Car Inspection/Registration 38% 35%
Tree Maintenance 25% 29%
Average: 60% 29%

In short, 60% of the respondents believe these services deserve high or extremely high priority, and only 29% of them found the present quality to be good or excellent. The survey was also able to break out the respondents by race, sex, age group, income group, marital status, duration of DC residency, and present Ward. In general, there were no substantial differences between these groupings, and some minor differences appeared quite counter-intuitive (non-parents judged the public schools worse than parents). However, a significant number of the services applied to only a fraction of the residents. Only 24% of the residents had dialed 911 in the past year for instance, and the "don't know" response exceeded 20% of the respondents in seven categories: emergency medical services; health inspection of restaurants; services for low income residents--and the homeless; youth program to counter gang activities; drug prevention programs; and job training and placement.

NARPAC, Inc. devised a simple method to combine high priority and low quality (excluding the "don't know" cohorts) to produce a single "government focus index", and then sorted out the 12 neediest of the 27 services. An index of 100 would mean all respondents thought the service was high or extremely high in priority, and no respondents thought current service quality was good or excellent.

The results are shown in the table below for the city as a whole, and for three distinctive wards: Ward 3, the richest and whitest; Ward 4, the richest predominantly black ward; and Ward 8, the poorest and blackest ward.


(Product of Priority and Poor Quality

(NARPAC, Inc. Summary Measure)

Public Service Citywide Ward 3 Ward 4 Ward 8
Public Schools 80.5 95.2 76.1 73.6
Safe Drinking Water 74.3 82.3 76.2 63.8
Citywide Crime Prevention 69.2 80.1 65.1 63.7
Job Training/Placement 67.7 62.9 66.7 66.4
Drug Prevention Programs 66.7 70.2 68.8 64.6
Youth Counter-gang Programs 66.3 63.0 65.6 68.8
Street Repair and Maintenance 66.2 69.6 61.8 70.1
Efforts to Attract New Business 61.2 74.9 52.0 53.9
Low Income Resident Programs 58.4 56.7 55.7 52.2
Services for the Homeless 54.1 49.0 51.8 62.9
Neighborhood Crime Prevention 50.3 37.6 56.0 54.6
Ambulance/Emergency Medical 46.8 44.8 44.6 46.0
"Average Discontent": 63.5 65.5 61.7 61.8

These 12 services get combined ratings such that 81% think they should be high or extremely high priority, and 79% judge that current quality is less than good. Between the wards, there are minor differences in the government focus index, but in general there is quite remarkable agreement. The average discontent index (average of the twelve scores) for Ward 3 is about 3% above the city norm, and for Wards 4 and 8, it is about 3% below. NARPAC, Inc. concludes from this that there is remarkable unanimity in residential dissatisfaction with the most needed city services.

There is only one curious anomaly in these data, and that deals with residents' perceptions of crime in their own neighborhood compared to crime elsewhere in the city. Rather than each resident feeling that he has it worse than his neighbors, he seems convinced that his neighbors have it worse than he does. Residents put a higher priority on crime prevention citywide (92%) than on their own neighborhood (88%), and evaluate police quality in their own neighborhood to be significantly better (42%--if you can call that better) than citywide (24%). Figure that one out, Chief Ramsey.

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On the eve of the new year, 1999, the Post published some of the almost 300 letters it received in response to a solicitation for citizens to express their needs to the new mayor. It is a clear indication of the near-term needs to make their city a better place. Here are the Post's titles for those letters:

Improve the Libraries
Restore Old Properties
Spend More on Schools
Help Youths and Others
Drive Full Speed Ahead
Attract More Residents
Spend Your Time Wisely
Improve Transportation
Fix or Remove a Sign
Make Drivers Behave
Focus on Teachers
Tame 34th St Traffic
Cooperate with Barry
Fix School Heat
Get Rid of Graffiti
Get Teamwork at DMV
Create Good Web Site
Start Bulk Trash Day
Help Our Trees
Fix No-Parking Signs
Restrict Strip Clubs
Address Quality of Life
Improve Our Schools
Repair the Streets
Bring Residents Back
Shore Up the Tax Base
Stop Aggressive Drivers
Get Rid of Rodents
Focus on Crime, Schools
Increase Police Patrols
Clean My Street
Tax Commuters
Bring Back City of Trees
Fix Potholes on SE Street
Show Flair for Dramatic

Support the Arts
Improve Trash Service
Stop Fire Hydrant Leak
Stop Non-stoppers
Improve Trash Service
Fill Potholes, Fix Streets
Improve the Schools
Save Next Generation
Provide 4-Way Stop Sign
Boost Adult Education
Need New Street Signs
Fight the Blight
Fix Safety Nets
Reroute Heavy Trucks
Serve Young and Old
Neighborhood/Parks Day
Visit Homes to Help Kids
Take Back the Streets
Plant a Tree--and Water It
Clear Off the Corners
Keep DC Clean
Educate Adults, Too
Help SW, Waterside Mall
Treat the Mentally Ill
Clean Up a Park
Besieged by Blight, Debris
Homeless Need Help
Petty Criminals--and Rats
Speed Up Street Work
Remove Dead Tree in SW
Keep the Traffic Moving
Serve the Customer
Fight for Home Rule
Fix 6th Street Pothole

Reduce Local Tax Burden
Repaint Eyesore Building
Ambulances, not Fire Trucks
Less Security, More Response
Lower Taxes to Bring Residents
Make Government Responsive
Vendors Add Downtown Blight
Better Teachers, Better Schools
Commuters Ruin Local Streets
Get the Right Phone Number
Get Rid of Hump on Rte 295
Help Neighborhood Groups
Clean Up Street in LeDroit Park
Ease Traffic on Local Streets
Make City Workers Answer Phones
More Car Inspection Facilities
Establish Fellowship Program
Install Cameras at Intersections
Ease Way for Small Business
Display Visible Street Numbers
Don't Ignore Low Income Areas
Review Police Management
Reduce Water-Sewer Rates
Clean Up DuPont Circle Park
Repave Underwood Street
Address Income Inequality
Encourage Use of Libraries
Street Needs Curbs, Lights
Bring Back Trash Container
Create Safe Havens for Kids
Fix House Ruined by Metro
Grade the Superintendent

At the end of January, 1999, Mayor Williams announced a set of near-term goals to produce "visible, concrete, tangible benefits" for city residents within six months, and his intentions to hold people accountable for delivering on them. They include:

o Keeping DC government offices open late on Wednesdays to speed licensing, and other "customer-related" business--and monitoring actual waiting times;

o Setting up a telephone service to provide prompt and courteous service to people needing to do business with the DC government;

o Creating a multi-agency "Rat Raid" in disadvantaged neighborhoods;

o Improving graffiti removal capabilities;

o Expanding pothole-repair efforts with more people, longer hours;

o Selling 100 boarded-up, government-owned buildings;

o Opening three new recreation centers;

o Broadening the training and availability of inspectors in blighted areas;

o Establishing computer learning and after-school homework clinics at 13 recreation centers in distressed neighborhoods;

o Eliminate some high-profile public embarrassments, like the dispute-delayed Thomas Circle underpass re-opening; and

o Writing performance contracts for top city administrators and middle managers to assure that goals are met.

Skeptics are already writing off these promises as hopelessly optimistic. But these are the stuff of day-to-day city management, and the near-term stuff of restoring pride to the nation's capital--and its residents. NARPAC wishes the mayor well--even if it takes him a year. Here are the specific dates promised for each of these initiatives:

DateFocusHigh Visibility Action
2/15Clean UpRe-open Thomas Circle Underpass by temporary repairs
2/28BusinessReduce Regulatory Hassles--'Ambassadors' to Developers
2/28BusinessExpedited Electrical Inspectons Backlog---2 days v 4 mos
2/28BusinessExpedited Building Plan Reviews in 1-30 days, v. 180 days
2/28Clean UpExtended Hours 10-hr, 6-day Pot Hole Blitz by DPW + contractor
2/28Clean UpComplete Gateway Beautification GA Ave; NY Ave; E. Capitol St
2/28Clean UpMajor Rat Abatement Project--extermination, garbage cans
2/28EmploymentDecentralize TANF-to-work guidance to 8 local organizations
3/17Customer ServiceExtended Wednesday Office Hours at DHS, DCRA, DOES, DMV
3/30NeighborhoodsPut 32 DC 'Anti-blight/crime' Inspectors w/local Associations
3/31Clean UpEradicate Graffiti in targeted neighborhoods--with 6 teams
3/31Clean UpPartnership with DoE--train, cure, homeless welfarers to work
3/31Customer ServiceReduced Waiting Times at DMV with 5 additional workers
3/31Customer ServiceOne Phone Number for all inquiries to DC Government
3/31Customer ServiceUpgrade Service Center: lights, paint, one stop counters
3/31EmploymentSatellite One-Stop Career Center for Latinos--replicate later
4/30Customer ServiceMotor Vehicle Drop Off Boxes to avoid going downtown
4/30EmploymentProvide Funds for vocational training for TANF recipients
4/30EmploymentNon-Traditional Child Care Hours for odd-hours TANF workers
5/31Customer ServiceConsumer Affairs Dept will go on line for assistance
5/31EmploymentYouth Summer Jobs for 6500 kids in public, private sectors
6/30Clean UpDemolish abandoned buildings on NY Ave Rte 350 to H St
6/30Customer Service'Answers, Please' Social Service referral system
6/30NeighborhoodsEliminate Backlog of 75 home improvement loans 1-yr old
7/31NeighborhoodsSell 100 of 300 boarded-up houses in 180 days w/HUD help
8/30NeighborhoodsCreate 13 Neighborhood-based Computer-learning Centers
8/31EmploymentApply New Approach to employment services w/Fed Help
9/30NeighborhoodsDevelop 3 New Recreational Centers for after-school sports

By the end of February, 1999 Williams scored 4 out of 8 of his initial short-term goals. By early April, 1999, the mayor was credited with meeting 13 of the 16 goals he had set for himself by the end of March--a very creditable score indeed. By the beginning of 2000, the Washington Post credited him with fully meeting 20 of his 28 goals, plus substantial progress on five more.


In early February, 2000, the Washington Post polled 811 DC residents on their views of the current prospects for their city. The results provide a strong endorsement for the actual--and anticipated--accomplishments of the new mayor. With a remarkably small number of respondents with "no opinions", 75% have a favorable impression of the mayor (compared to 82% for DC Delegate Eleanor Holmes Norton); 77% approve of the way he is handling his job (compared to 50% for the DC Council); and 74% like living in the city and wouldn't move if they could. Only 10% of those asked think DC's quality of life is below the average of US cities; only 7% think its getting worse, although 22% still think the city is "off on the wrong track". These may be the same 21% that claim recent cuts in spending have "hurt them or their families directly" (see below). 11% think their neighborhood has gotten worse in "recent years", while only 37% think theirs has gotten better.

Three times as many respondents believe the mayor "should have the most power in DC government" (compared to the DC Council), while 12% think that power should be shared equally. 72% currently believe that Congress or the Control Board are in the driver's seat. When asked how the mayor is dealing with specific issues (given his perceived lack of power), over 67% believe he is doing a good-to- excellent job in: improving the national image of the city; improving city services; eliminating waste and inefficiency; and dealing with Congress. Between half and two thirds applaud his dealings with the DC Council; reducing local government corruption; attracting new businesses, creating more jobs and keeping the middle class from leaving; and improving race relations (see below). In the sole area of improving DC's schools does the mayor fall to half, with 44% saying his efforts are not-so-good or poor, and 45% saying they're good to excellent.

It is also somewhat ironic that although 71% accept that the mayor's attempts at involving communities in city policy-making are sincere and not just for show, and 59% believe meaningful policy changes will result, only 49% feel they have a clear idea where the mayor is headed, and 35% don't think the mayor understands their problems.

The four problem areas most on the respondents' minds, on which they want the mayor to "work hardest to solve", are crime/violence (21%); public education (17%); city services (14%); and jobs/economic development (11%). Even so, 63% believe the police are doing a good/excellent job (the fire department gets an 82% approval); 47-57% commend the city's services workers, and leave their greatest criticisms of "not good/poor" rating for street repair (65%) and DC schools (56%). More startling (at least to NARPAC) is that among the remaining 29% of those polled with opinions, four percent or less place high priority (in descending order) on improving:

  • 4%: government efficiency, honesty

  • 4%: race relations/equal opportunity

  • 3%: self-governance/Congressional representation

  • 3%: poverty/homelessness

  • 3%: social services

  • 3%: traffic/parking

  • 2%: city budget/finances

  • 2%: affordable housing

  • 2%: tax structure

  • 1%: keeping/attracting residents

  • 1%: cooperation with DC Council

  • 1%: national image

NARPAC cannot help but note that regional cooperation did not make the list at all, and that many of its own favored longer-term issues are simply overwhelmed by the nearer-term problems of crime, education, and services. One might also speculate that the higher priority issues are clearly local issues, whereas some of the broader issues are normally addressed by state-level jurisdictions. Nevertheless, two issues deserve additional highlighting:

The matter of race relations is never far below the surface in this city polarized by racial activists for almost 40 years. 22% of those polled believe race relations are improving (11% think they're getting worse), and 49% think the mayor can improve them, while 50% say he can't. Only 4% think it Is a top priority. Less blacks (72%) than whites (88%) think the mayor is handling his job well, far fewer blacks (31%) than whites (82%) want the mayor to streamline local government and cut jobs, and far fewer blacks (34%) than whites (55%) favor an appointed school board overseeing a mostly black student body. NARPAC back-figures statistically that about 68% of the respondents must have been black, and a large number of them must support the mayor's efforts. Assuming that it is mainly lower-income blacks that have been hurt by the mayor's government streamlining, then the differences in voting patterns may be due more to economic status than skin color. It also explains in part the relatively high concern for crime, schools, and city services over other city functions. (20% of those polled do not feel safe in their own neighborhoods.)

The matter of neighborhood economic redevelopment is also key to DC's future, and excessive concerns over "gentrification"--which tends to force out lower income blacks--can be detrimental to the city's future growth. Here again, 85% of whites polled found economic redevelopment "mainly good", while 21% of blacks consider it "mainly bad". More germane, 92% of "the rich" consider development mainly good, while 29% of "the poor" consider it mainly bad. Nevertheless, 78% of all those polled felt that economic development would be good for themselves and their neighborhoods (14% disagree), and a whopping 86% believe such development is good for the city as a whole, while 10% do not. This provides a very firm foundation for forging ahead with economic redevelopment despite the ideosyncratic whims of various special interest groups.

NARPAC concludes that the mayor has resounding support citywide from all except the economically disadvantaged, and that race does not appear to be a major issue. It is immaterial whether the facts yet support the newfound optimism within the city--any more than stock prices in February '00 reflect realistic P/E ratios. Rather, the question is whether this level of support for the current administration can accelerate the realization of a substantially improved national capital city. Clearly, it can.

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In early February, 2001, the Washington Post published some of the results of a recent poll by the DC Marketing Center, under their DC Business Connections program funded by DC and the Potomac Electric Power Company. It provides both encouragement and pause for thought:

1. 81% of the 300 business executive respondents claimed that they felt 'somewhat positive' (46%) or 'very positive' (35%) about doing business in DC, while less than 7% were 'negative' and 11% remain neutral;

2. 86% of those respondents though that the business climate was "somewhat better'(45%) or'much better' (41%) than 5 years ago, while 4% thought it 'worse' and 10% found it 'unchanged';

3. When asked the 'single greatest problem facing DC today', 35% chose the public schools; 25% the local government--for underprotection and overregulation--while 14% picked crime, and 12% singled out 'transportation'--including parking. Perhaps more interesting, however, was that only 7% picked 'taxes', 4% picked 'poverty' and 2% chose 'affordable housing'.

4. When asked why their businesses were located in DC, 45% said to be near the Federal Gov't and 22% said to be near other private sector customers or vendors. Only 4% picked DC's 'qulity of life' and only 2% chose 'concentration of residents" (i.e., direct retail market); another 2% said to be near the DC Gov't, and only 1% opted for 'concentration of workers' (i.e., a labor pool). The answers for the remaining 24% are apparently "other"!

5. More than half of the respondents indicated that more than 75% of their employees lived outside DC, and 26% of those complained about the commute.

NARPAC Commentary

From 1 and 2 above, NARPAC finds ample evidence that the economic climate within DC is improving substantially. However, from 3 above, NARPAC finds it informative that the business leaders have not focused more on the debilitating impacts of poverty and inadequate housing that plague the city and its quality of life. They also seem little concerned by the tax structure.

Furthermore, from 3 and 4 above, NARPAC concludes that the vast majority of the businesses in DC are not here because of some specific attributes of DC city life itself, but to be the near the federal government or each other. There is nothing in this poll that suggests the city would attract business if the Federal Gov't wasn't here. This, in turn, makes it more difficult for DC residents to claim that the Federal Gov't owes them more federal payments for city services provided.

Finally, with so little reference to 'taxes', it seems unlikely that providing lower taxes as incentives for new businesses to locate in DC is relevant--or that increasing taxes for businesses currently getting a relatively free ride would be deleterious.


On March 5th, 2002. Mayor Williams presents his "State of the District" address to a generally favorable audience at Dunbar High School in Southeast DC. In fact, two months later, no serious contender has emerged to challenge him for a second term. The mayor's remarks were an interesting combination of humor, serious note on progress made, and still needed, and a substantial pitch for getting Congress to solve the city's financial structural imbalance.

The mayor opened his remarks with typical self-deprecating humor:

Thank you all and welcome. Bienvenidos y gracias por su apoyo. Just be glad that I didn't try out my piano lessons on you as well!

And quickly acknowledged the city's black majority:

It's only fitting to have a conversation about the past and the future here--at a place that embodies both. When people want to learn about our rich African American history and heritage, they come to DC--they come to Howard University, to the homes of Frederick Douglass and Duke Ellington, and to Dunbar, where African Americans flocked to get a first rate education during the darkest days of segregation.

Pointing out the change in the mood of the city and the problems it still has:

There is a renewed sense of pride in the District these days. I hear it everywhere I go: from people who are driving down our streets--and instead of finding potholes the size of the Potomac--they are seeing more than 1500 blocks of streets and alleys resurfaced.

I hear this optimism from people, once out of work, who have one of 5,000 new jobs created last year. Or those who hope to move into the 17,000 new homes and apartments planned or under construction around the city. I hear it from people who used to be surprised to reach a human voice at the DC government, and now they find a helpful one. Or from those who feel safer, because the homicide rate is now the lowest it's been in 15 years. And, I hear this optimism from people who are hiring moving vans again--but this time to move back into our city.

So I say to every single person in the District: bring it on. Because, while we are no longer the city we once were, we are not yet the city we can become.

It's no secret to any of us that Washington, DC still isn't there yet--that our story is still in many ways a tale of two cities. We have been named the "Top Wired City" and shamed by having the highest child poverty rate in America. e have been named the second best city for African Americans, and shamed by having the lowest average life span--57 years--for African American men.

Let's face it. We are still a city too often divided by skin color, income, and geography.

And highlighting the continuing problems in DC's schools:

Now, I may not have direct responsibility for our schools, but, like the rest of our city's leaders, I have a responsibility to these children. At the same time that I've decreased other spending, I've fought to increase the public school budget by more than 40 percent. But that means increasing our expectations as well.

But, quite frankly, despite the good efforts of our new School Board, change is still not coming fast enough. And much of that is because of skyrocketing Special Education costs. Special Ed students are roughly 16 percent of the school population, but serving them eats up more than 30 percent of the school budget--$200 million.

In 2000, we had nearly 1,500 Special Ed hearings, compared to 24 in Chicago, a city four times our size. There is something seriously wrong when there is more focus on Special Ed in DC courtrooms than DC classrooms. Two of the biggest Special Ed costs--out of state tuition and transportation--are state responsibilities, and I hope Congress will work with us to address them.

But, we also have to get real about fixing Special Education ourselves--so that all children can attend schools in their own communities.

Next year, I don't want to hear about what we're going to do to improve education. I want to hear about what we've done to give all children what they deserve--from well-kept schools to good teachers.

And arguing for his emphasis both on downtown and neighborhoods:

If we are going to be one magnificent city, then every neighborhood must be a place people want to call home. This is especially important now. We know that people flocked to our cities during the Industrial Revolution, and fled from them after World War II. But, today, cities like ours are attracting people back--to listen to jazz on U Street, to spend more time reading to their kids than sitting in rush hour on the Beltway, and, most important, to seek economic opportunity in a new information age.....when I became your mayor, I knew we could create a vibrant downtown, healthy commercial corridors, thriving neighborhoods, and an Anacostia waterfront that becomes one of the nation's greatest.

And we are. Today, no one disputes the incredible progress that has been made downtown, where vacant storefronts have turned into restaurants, offices, art galleries, and, now, homes. Some have criticized my focus on downtown, but I'm not going to apologize for bringing prosperity to a city that struggled for so long. Let me be clear: what we're doing downtown matters across town -- whether we're talking about creating jobs for people who have been out of work or taking $25 million from one sale on Pennsylvania Avenue, and using it to develop affordable housing in neighborhoods where rising property values are threatening our hardworking families.

From day one, I have said that we need to build this city, neighborhood by neighborhood. That means turning the empty parking lot near Rhode Island Avenue into a $60 million shopping center, the first in Northeast in decades. That means helping to create almost 5,000 homes for low-and-moderate-income families in Ward 8 alone, the result of almost half a billion dollars in public and private investment.

Yes, we are helping to build more than 11,000 homes and apartments for low-and moderate-income families. And yes, we passed landmark housing legislation to help develop new homes, preserve affordable housing, and convert dilapidated buildings. But, ladies and gentlemen: we will not bridge the housing divide until we make the District a national leader in home ownership.

And special emphasis on his remarkable Anacostia Waterfront Initiative:

Nothing would better symbolize our success in bridging these divides than finally restoring the Anacostia waterfront. I always take visitors up to St. Elizabeth's to see the breathtaking view of the District, and the Anacostia River that runs through it. It was on the river's banks that I made my first campaign promises. That day, I said that the Anacostia must become one of our most valued natural resources. And we're on our way. We've joined 18 federal agencies to commit more than $600 million for the Anacostia Waterfront Initiative.

Which leads to his expansive remarks on home rule and DC's "structural imbalance":

Of course, the legacy of the Anacostia, just like the legacy we leave for our children's education and the neighborhoods they will grow up in, won't happen overnight. And it won't happen unless our citizens and our elected officials have the power to determine our future. And that is the final point I want to make tonight.

Some may characterize our unique status as a mere bureaucratic oddity. But it's much more than that. It is a civil rights violation. African Americans and women have fought for and died for the right to vote. Yet here, in the capital of democracy, live one of the largest blocs of disenfranchised voters in the world. District residents fight for freedom abroad and pay more than $2 billion a year in federal taxes at home. It is time to give us a vote in both the House and the Senate.

This is also an issue of self-government. It took ten years for the District to be able to honor the will of the voters and provide domestic partnership benefits to gays, lesbians, bisexuals, and transgender couples. But now we have. Thanks to our Committee Chairs, we've seen a welcome reduction in the number of federal restrictions on our budget. But there is no guarantee that we won't see more Congressional meddling, if they leave.

No other jurisdiction must submit its budget to an outside authority nine months in advance. No other jurisdiction must wait to invest funds in new programs while members of Congress from other states play politics with its budget. It is time for the District of Columbia to have self-government--not student government.

This is also an economic issue. The residents of the District are forced to shoulder about $450 million in state costs, including spiraling Special Ed and Medicaid burdens, without a state tax base to support them. Unlike other states, Congress prohibits the District from taxing the more than one million non-residents who use our services every day without paying a dime in income taxes. Unlike other cities and states, fully 53 percent of property in DC cannot be taxed.

And unlike other states, we provide services--$225 million this year alone--that allow the federal government to perform its duties, and even more when disaster strikes. here is no federal fire truck for the White House, no federal hazardous materials team to be first on the scene when anthrax is reported. District taxpayers foot the bill.

Right now, we are operating one emergency away from financial cris. When I started as CFO, our problems were mostly a blend of management (lack of it), revenue collection (lack of it), and the unbalanced federal relationship. But we changed much of that. There is still room for improvement, believe me, I know. But our biggest challenge now is a structural one.

It's simple. No other jurisdiction has to perform city, state, and county functions--and we have to do it with the smallest tax base of any city our size. This is not about dealing with 9/11 or national economic trends. This is about a problem that is unique to the District, and one that experts have been warning us about for a decade. Unless we address it, the government services that you and I count on today cannot be sustained--let alone expanded--next year.

Because of our unique status, there is a $400 million annual gap between the revenue we can expect and the levels of services that we all want for our Nation's Capital. And so everyone in the District who worked so hard to turn our city around now needs to ask Congress to fix this problem. I know Congress wants to help. So contact your Senators and educate them about--oh wait, you don't have a Senator!

And, if we are going to ask the federal government to step up, we need to do the same. I've already talked about Special Ed, but we also must do a much better job with Medicaid--a much better job. We don't even bill correctly for the money we're owed. I'm also telling agencies to tighten their belts, and live within their means. This we must do, but understand: this won't solve all our problems.

So, I say to the Council: let's put everything on the table, and that includes holding off on tax cuts until we can afford them. Look, I'm a politician in an election year. I'd love to tell you that we can cut your taxes. But, you didn't elect me because I'm a good politician. You elected me to make the right choices--not to go back to the days of fiscal recklessness. Not to slash our services and reverse the progress we've made. The Control Board is not coming back on my watch.

And an upbeat conclusion:

Tonight, we are planting seeds that will grow into children who have good schools and the other opportunities they need to achieve their greatest dreams. We are planting seeds that will grow into a true center of democracy where the voices of all residents are heard in town meetings, in city hall, and yes, the in halls of Congress. And we are planting seeds that will grow into thriving neighborhoods in every corner of our city.

And how will we know when these seeds have grown into the one magnificent city that we are destined to be? We will know when we stand on the hill at St. Elizabeth's and look out at the Anacostia, and see people shopping, working, eating, swimming, boating, and bringing their out-of-town guests to see the jewel of our city.

NARPAC Commentary:

NARPAC believes that this speech, including the 80% not reproduced here, is an accurate reflection of the mayor's priorities and goals. He is clearly interested in making the whole city a better place, from its most run-down neighborhoods to its sparkling downtown next to the federal enclave. His support for home rule is genuine, as is his belief that the federal government owes the District additional resources.

But some of the basic aspects of restoring pride in America's capital are also missing and do not appear to be oversights. NARPAC would have been more enthusiastic about the mayor's views if they had contained clear references to:

o DC's fundamental role as the nation's capital city;

o The strong need to develop regional cooperation between all jurisdictions in the metro area;

o The risks implicit in not developing a more robust metro area-wide transportation infrastructure;

o More emphasis on means to solve DC's financial risks and so-called "structural imbalance" other than becoming a ward of the federal government.

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On the evening of January 2nd, 2003, Mayor Williams delivered his second inaugural address. He had been elected by a very substantial majority, but nonetheless, his "squeaky clean" image had been tarnished by a number of serious gaffes, including significant campaign irregularities at the time of the primaries. The mayor gave an impassioned speech focusing almost entirely on the local population and its needs, both real and imagined. You can read the entire speech by clicking here. In short, the entire address is well summarized by his final paragraph:


Three messages, three values, three themes. The voice of the people. The wisdom of our elders. Three priorities for the next four years: educate our children, expand opportunity for all, and keep our neighborhoods safe. These are important ideals, critical to achieving our vision for the District. A city that is financially stable because we expanded our economy and negotiated a fair and equitable annual federal contribution. A city where every neighborhood has been touched by its resurgence, with restaurants along Georgia Avenue, shopping in Columbia Heights, and small businesses flourishing in every neighborhood. A city where the Anacostia River is the true asset it should be, surrounded by thriving and prosperous neighborhoods. A city dedicated to learning. A city that provides timely, reliable and cost-effective services even when it snows.

Standing here today, I see before me the face of Washington. We are a magnificent tapestry made up of many peoples. It is the community we build from that diversity that makes us strong and proud. Today, we have the chance to live up to Dr. King's great dream of inclusiveness, of true democracy, of opportunity for all. Let today be a clarion call that brings together everyone to create a city of learning, a beacon of hope that shines for all the world. One City. One Future.

For NARPAC, this rigorously populist address does not bode well for the following four years. As we have hinted in several recent editorials it has not been clear whether the mayor intended to be the Mayor of His Neighborhoods or the Mayor of Our Capital City. Based on this inaugural address, he is opting for the former, and the latter is likely to suffer accordingly.

While simple word counts in his 3400 word speech may not be a good reflection of what he said, or even intended, it is a pretty good indicator of what he did not say. The words that best suggest the focus of his talk by their repetition are as follows:

o "neighborhood" - 24 times
o "community" - 8 times

Words that slipped out a few times included:

o "economy" - 6 times
o "education" - 4 times
o "federal" - 3 times
o "nation's capital" - 3 times
o "poverty" - twice
o "pride" - twice
o "regional" - once
o "business" - once
o "taxpayers" - once
o "visitors" - once

Words that never crossed the mayor's teleprompter screen include:

o "metro area ", or "metropolitan area"
o "city-wide"
o "capital city"
o "economic development"
o "transportation", "mass transit", or "Metro"
o "revenues" or "land use"
o "commuters", "tourists", or "federal workers"
o "sprawl", or "blight"
o "pregnancy", or "clinic"
o "plan", "planning", or "comprehensive plan"

It seems clear that State of the District addresses prepared by the Mayor with his speech writers, and one prepared by NARPAC would, at best, contain a few of the same articles and prepositions. He may well be addressing his constituents to the exclusion of those in the national and international bleachers, but it smacks of 'followership', not leadership.

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This page was updated on Dec15, 2007

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