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  •   Evans Says Management Is Key Issue

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    Jack Evans
    (File Photo)

    By Vanessa Williams
    Washington Post Staff Writer
    Friday, May 29, 1998; Page D10

    Mayoral candidate Jack Evans acknowledged yesterday that he faces a hard-core bloc of District voters -- both blacks and whites -- who do not think a white person should be elected mayor of the city. But he said that a larger number of voters are "looking for someone to lead, looking for someone who can deliver services."

    "There is no white or black way to pick up the trash," Evans said during a luncheon with Washington Post reporters and editors. Noting that other cities with majority-black populations have elected white mayors in recent years, Evans argued that "the trend is to elect people who can run the city, who are good leaders, who are progressive, who can make a difference, rather than to focus on race."

    Evans, 44, who for the last seven years has represented Ward 2 on the D.C. Council, said a bigger problem facing him and two council colleagues who are seeking the Democratic nomination for mayor is that voters don't know who they are and what they have accomplished as elected officials.

    During the last 1 1/2 years, Evans has headed one of the council's most visible committees, the Judiciary Committee, which oversees the D.C. police.

    "As chairman," he said, "I have taken a very, very dysfunctional police department and, along with a number of others, have led it through dramatic changes."

    But he also has been criticized for staying too long at the side of former police chief Larry D. Soulsby, who abruptly resigned last fall after one of his close friends in the department, with whom he shared a luxury downtown apartment, was arrested on charges of extortion and misappropriating police department funds.

    Evans said that a reported drop in the city's crime rate last year, along with a new management team -- the so-called MOU partners -- agreed to by the mayor, the council and the D.C. financial control board, masked problems with Soulsby. MOU stands for "memorandum of understanding," a document that was signed by elected city leaders and appointed law enforcement officials that detailed a reform plan for the police department.

    "The measure by which you judge a police chief in a department is by how they're dealing with crime," Evans said. And despite a consultant's report that found serious managerial and ethical ruptures in the department -- which Soulsby said he knew nothing about -- "at the same time, crime-wise, things seemed to be getting better," Evans said.

    "That's probably the explanation for why we stayed with Soulsby long after, in retrospect, we should have," he said. "I will say for myself, it certainly is a learning curve. It made me much more conscious about dealing with people in the government."

    Asked to cite improvements that the MOU partners have made in the police department, Evans pointed to the implementation of "police service areas" and said that more officers have been deployed on city streets.

    "It's still hard to get an accurate number, but somewhere between" 500 and 900 additional officers are patrolling the streets, he said.

    When those figures were challenged by reporters who had talked to district commanders, Evans said his figures were based on a list of "the 1,400 or whatever police officers who are assigned to PSA duty. That's what we had to go by."

    He acknowledged that resident complaints and news reports raised his suspicions. Asked if he thought the police department was providing misleading figures, he said, "Well, that's one way of putting it." Officials who had provided inaccurate or misleading information should be "replaced or gone," he said.

    Evans defended his oversight of the police department and the work of the MOU partners. "In 1997, you had a dysfunctional police department that nobody was doing anything about. . . . And, if anything, in the last year and a half this police department has been shaken up. We still have a long way to go, but it has been shaken up."

    He argued that he has used his subpoena power to haul police officials before the council to testify about mismanagement and possible corruption.

    Evans said he saw no need for the MOU partners to open their meetings to the public. When asked if he thought there was a lack of openness in the D.C. government, he said he thought "things work pretty well the way they are."

    He offered few specifics on how he would improve the quality of life for city residents, arguing -- as some other candidates have -- that the authority for basic services is now in the hands of a chief management officer who reports to the control board.

    In the area of education, he said he would seek a change in the city's charter to permit the city's mayor to hire and fire the superintendent of the D.C. public schools.

    © Copyright 1998 The Washington Post Company

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