Government and People
NBC News did a "Fleecing of America" segment on the District on March 6, 1998. Anchor Brian Williams says: "Tonight a special series of reports on Washington, DC, the nation's capital, and in some ways the capital of waste, fraud, and abuse. Infuriating to some, tragic to others. . . ." Reporter Bob Faw reports that, "It's poverty is appalling; almost one person is four is poor here, almost twice the nation's average. Infant mortality a scandal; a baby born in Washington is less likely to celebrate a first birthday than a baby born in Sri Lanka. The TB rate is 50% higher than any other American city. The roads, the schools are crumbling. But the bureaucracy is bloated 64 new city managers now paid more than $100,000 a year. That's more than in Philadelphia, which is three times larger. . . . If your feet don't have to touch the ground here, it's glorious. But with so many eyesores and so many broken promises, Washington's spirit has been ravaged. . . ." Reporter Gwen Ifell says of DC's schools: ". . . the nation's capital, which by nearly any measure has one of the worst school systems in the country. The system spends $7,200 per child on education, $2,600 more than the average urban school district. . . . Schools are literally falling apart." And reporter Pete Williams covers the police, with special attention to Marion Barry's private police detachment, which is called still larger than that of many heads of state; and to Lt. Jeffrey Stowe and former Chief Soulsby's legal problems.
Washington heads Steven Hayward's list of America's "Broken Cities: Liberalism's Urban Legacy," in the March-April 1998 issue of Policy Review. "Even allowing for the notorious corruption and incompetence of Washington's city government, it is nonetheless astonishing that the capital city of the free world finds itself in such straits. Instead of basking in the afterglow of victory in the Cold War, Washington is shriveling, much as vanquished Berlin and Vienna did after World War I while London and Paris thrived. Yet Washington is remarkable not because its infirmity is unique among modern American metropolises, but because it is so common."
Christopher Hitchen's article in the March issue of Vanity Fair, "District of Contempt," is right on the money it's so good that Mayor Barry called it "garbage". "Here, at some very intimate level, was a city that had contempt for its citizens. Contempt for them when they were born, in a town that has banana-republic levels of infant mortality. Contempt for them as they grew up, as evidenced in schools that can't open on termly deadlines and in levels of illiteracy and innumeracy that would disgrace many cities in the Southern Hemisphere. Contempt for them as they struggled to work and pay taxes, in a system bloated and padded by torpid officialdom. . . . Contempt for them as they called for help, and found that the police and fire and ambulance departments were rusted and corroded by neglect and corruption. Contempt for them when they tried to do their mandatory form-filling, at the D.M.V. or anywhere else. Contempt for them as voters, denied the franchise by Congress and delivered up to local small-timers and kickback artists and players of the race card. And, finally, contempt for them when they tried to close their eyes with dignity. Thoroughgoing, jeering, taunting contempt. Insult upon insult from cradle to grave."
Carl Rowan, Jr.'s article on the police department, "D.C. Confidential," in the January 19, 1998, issue of The New Republic also tells it straight: "Perhaps the only thing more disturbing than the low caliber of cops on Washington's streets is the low caliber of senior officials responsible for managing them. In fact, what distresses the D.C. cops I know even more than their low pay and meager benefits is the lack of standards and discipline at the top of the department. . . . The D.C. police need a thorough restructuring of the department's practices everything from recruitment to basic ethics to, yes, grammar and spelling on police reports. We know what works, because not so long ago the MPD itself was a fine department. Alas, recent history also shows that it is much easier to debase standards than it is to restore them."
George Magazine gives further welcome attention to the District in its March 1998 issue, naming us as one of "The 10 Most Corrupt Cities in America." The cities are listed in order of size, and DC is by far the largest corrupt city, more than 200,000 larger than Miami. Like Carl Rowan, George author Craig Offman concentrates on the MPD, saying, "Too often, the police have done little more than wear their uniforms."
Definitely worth reading: Georgetown and Country's take on Congressional- District relations and on what it terms the Washington Post's "racistly-loaded" "vendetta" against Representative Charles Taylor. Taylor's take on the situation: "It's clear that even the Congressionally-mandated Control Board has bought into the 'party on' concept that has ruled the nation's capital for the past 20 years. Clearly, the Senate pushing through its 'no reform, mayor's business as usual' budget has given the green light to continue the mismanagement, waste, fraud, and abuse of the city's $4 billion budget." Don Shannon and M.J. Firestone, "Turf Battle Royal," Georgetown and Country, Holiday 1, 1997, p. A1, and M.J. Firestone, "The Post's Curious Campaign," Georgetown and Country, Holiday 1, 1997, p. A6.
Georgetown Town and Country details how the Control Board continues the tradition of doing city business as dirty insider deals. After four years of work by the Georgetown Residents Alliance, the Citizens Association of George, ANC 2E, and the Georgetown residential parking task force, the Department of Public Works agreed to implement a new parking plan for Georgetown that would increase reserved residential parking. But Ward 2 Councilmember Jack Evans, acting on behalf of Georgetown business interests, killed the plan by getting Stephen Harlan, vice-chairman of the Control Board, to order Cel Bernadino, director of the DPW, to drop it. "Evans Kills Residents' Parking Plan," Georgetown and Country, Holiday1, 1997, p. A5, and Don Shannon, "Barry Actually Looks Better than Some of His Political Colleagues," Georgetown and Country, Holiday 1, 1997, p. A7.
The Emergency Board of Trustees for the school system has proposed selling Hardy School and Wormley School to Georgetown University and l Fillmore School to the Corcoran Gallery of Art without getting any community input or holding any public hearings. Both Kathy Patterson and Jack Evans have joined community leaders in opposing the sale of Hardy School. Bill Rice, "Trustees tap Georgetown U. as Hardy buyer," The Northwest Current, November 19, 1997, November 19, 1997, p. 1.
After four years of contentious fighting with the surrounding community, the Methodist Home in Forest Hills seems to have agreed to modify its plans to meet the objections of the neighborhood, and a compromise seems to have been reached -- largely through the efforts of its architect. Chris Kain, "Methodist Home nears accord with neighbors," The Northwest Current, November 19, 1997, p. 5.
The tax breaks given to District businesses by Congress in August contain some "quirks, contradictions and even some surprising loopholes available to businesses outside the city," that have been pointed out by an analysis done by the DC Tax Revision Commission. Thomas C. Hall, "Tax Breaks Need Fixing: Congress May Amend DC Plan's Quirks," Washington Business Journal, October 3, 1997, p. 1.
The first step in getting DC tax returns computerized? "It took most of the summer to sort and organize the jumble of tax returns. . ." that were piled in boxes on the floor. Thomas C. Hall, "Many Unhappy Returns: District Addresses Income Tax Chaos," Washington Business Journal, October 3, 1997, p. 3.
A Wilkes, Artis, Hedrick & Lane lawyer attacks environmental protections, claiming that the D.C. Environmental Policy Act, the local equivalent of the National Environmental Policy Act, should be completely abolished because it's bad for business. Christopher H. Collins, "D.C. EPA Threatens Economic Revitalization," The Business Regulatory Reform Commission has come up with the same recommendation. Washington Business Journal, September 12, 1997 p. 91.
Mayor Marion Barry offered Richard Monteilh, executive director of the Metropolitan Atlanta Olympic Games Authority, three positions in: Deputy City Administrator for Economic Development, director of the Department of Consumer and Regulatory Affairs, and chairmanship of the Washington Convention Center Authority. Monteilh turned him down, and the Control Board has said that the Convention Center chair should be independent, and not a DC government official. Thomas C. Hall, "Hunt for DC Economic Development Czar Stalls," Washington Business Journal, September 12, 1997, p. 6.
Abner J. Mikva, former chief judge of the US Court of Appeals, DC Circuit, says that the only explanation for why Washington continues to fail, while other cities are experiencing a turnaround, "is the kind of leadership that has been provided by their mayors." Abner J. Mikva, "The City That Doesn't Work: When Other Cities Are Rising, Why Is Washington Falling Again?" Legal Times, September 8, 1997, p. 23.
A scandal of "rampant cheating" is brewing at Howard University Law School, and there are charges that the Law School's teachers and administrators aren't "doing a lot to stop it." Karen Alexander, "Honor Charges Rock Howard Class: Students Blast Inaction on Academic Discipline," Legal Times, September 8, 1997, p. 8.
The City Council passed emergency legislation on September 8, 1997, to exempt DC Public Schools' before- and after-school child care development programs from having to be licensed as child-care facilities. Bill Rice, "Council Intervenes on Child Care Ruling," Northwest Current, September 10, 1997, p. 1.
The court challenge to registering college students as DC voters when their primary residents are out-of-state is on-going. Charles Berenpohl, "Judge Holds Hearings on Student Voting Case," Northwest Current, September 10, 1997, p. 1
The Regional Mobility Panel's draft report on metropolitan bus routes faces stiff criticism and protests from public transportation advocates and Metro bus drivers, who think it will lead to widespread cutbacks, higher costs, and privatization of local bus routes. Jennifer Coderre, "Bus Study Could Result in Cuts, Foes Warn," Northwest Current, September 10, 1997, p. 1
Eleanor Holmes Norton answers a critical article by Bill Rice by claiming that she has always been critical of the Barry Administration, but that she helps the city by not criticizing Mayor Barry directly. Huh? Eleanor Holmes Norton, "Avoiding Divisive Attacks Helps City," Northwest Current, September 10, 1997, p. 21.
A "zero tolerance" police enforcement policy is meant to deter serious crimes by cracking down on little ones but the way it is being interpreted by the Metropolitan Police Force has lead to unreasonable arrests and abuse, such as arrests of people drinking a bear on their own front porch. Justen Michael Bennett-McCubbin, "Police Storm Front Porch, Arrest Residents Without Explanation Crime: A Beer," The InTowner, September 1997, p. 1.
Howard University is still letting historic properties that it owns in LeDroit Park deteriorate, to the detriment of neighboring property owners and the neighborhood. Paul K. Williams, "Howard University Accused of Arrogance Toward Its Neighbors in Historic Area," The InTowner, September 1997, p. 1
Think the City Paper can't say anything nice about anybody? A glowing article about Delabian Rice-Thurston proves you wrong. The only criticism comes from school trustee Maudine Cooper, who accuses her of actually caring about schools in Ward Three which seems to earn her Cooper's disdain. Adrian Havill, "Raising the Roof: Fourteen Years After Joining Parents United, Delabian Rice-Thurston Tracks a School Crisis that Has No End," The Washington City Paper, September 19-25, 1997, p. 25.
Amid the euphoria over the appointment of Sonya Proctor as the first black woman police chief in DC, some things are being overlooked. Her résumé is an impressive chronicle of advancement within the Metropolitan Police Department, but it lacks a few other things such as any mention of education, or of any work experience at all except for the MPD. 11-26-97
Larry Soulsby, the Emergency Board of Trustees for the schools, David Watts, Jeraldine Williams, Cel Bernadino, and the skybox perk in the MCI Center the Control Board turns a blind eye to incompetence and a deaf ear to scandal, and won't admit its mistakes. They've proven they can't run things any better than Barry and the Council, and their mistakes and missteps have made them more determined than ever to shut the citizens of the District out of their deliberations and considerations. Perhaps they can hire some more consultants to give them advice on governing. 11-25-97
Some of the most prominent political commentators in town, including Tom Sherwood, Mark Plotkin, and Derek McGinty, have said directly that they just don't understand what the problem is with Barry's MCI boondoggle, or why there's a fuss about it. Since all three complained mightily when Sharon Pratt Kelly spent a few thousand dollars of public funds on a mark-up artist, why do they give Barry and Brimmer a pass on spending hundreds of thousands of dollars of public funds on game tickets? Is it that their standards for Barry are so much lower, or is it just the love of boys for their toys? 11-24-97
Chief Management Officer Camille Cates Barnett on Washington: I thought we were kind of backwards in Texas until I got here. Austin American Statesman, August 2, 1998, quoted in the Washington City Paper, September 25, 1998.
Control Board Chairman Alice Rivlin, on her preference for conducting government business in secrecy, rather than in public meetings: I used to believe way back in the good old days that sunshine and open meetings, public meetings, were a good thing. Im less sure than I used to be. There must be public information. . . . All of that is good. But in the end youre always making a compromise of several positions in order to get anything done. Whether those conversations can be productively held in public is not clear to me. Well, let me put it more strongly: In general, they cant. The Washington Times, September 23, 1998.
Councilmember Harry Thomas, Sr., on losing his race for reelection, It is like Christ being crucified on the cross. The Washington Post, September 22, 1998.
I do not think I am qualified to be the long-term Inspector General of the entire D.C. government. Elijah Barrett Prettyman, Jr., at the press conference at which he accepted the appointment to be the Inspector General, December 30, 1997. [Prettyman's résumé; testimony by Dorothy Brizill on the nomination.]
"Hell, yes, I'm a goddamn convicted felon. You've got people with murder convictions, with rape convictions, working all over this city. I never had a handcuff on me, and I paid my dues." Louis Richardson, bragging about his felonious record after being appointed by Mayor Marion Barry to the Taxicab Commission. (Michael Powell, "In City Politics, A Forgiving Habit," The Washington Post, November 1, 1997, p. B3.) [Richardson's appointment bill, with his résumé.]
"I'm an intellectual giant, too." Mayor Marion Barry, on the occasion of his appointment of John M. Ferren as the new Corporation Counsel. (Vernon Loeb, "Judge to Be D.C.'s New Legal Voice," The Washington Post, September 22, 1997, p. A1.)
"If youre saying that we need more parents involved, to go to the kind of screaming sessions where one hundred parents scream at the top of their voice, and we spend two hours listening to that, then I dont think we have much productivity coming out of that." Retired General Julius Becton, Superintendent of Schools, expressing his contempt for the parents of DC public school students, when asked why he had so few consultations with the public, September 3, 1997, in press conference with House Speaker Newt Gingrich.
"It ain't over till the fat lady sings. And I'm fat." Martyr Mary "Mama" Anigbo, August 8, 1997, after her conviction for assaulting Washington Times reporter Susan Ferrichio and Washington Police, in the same press conference in which she compared her fate to that of Jesus.
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