Text of Mayoral Candidate's Debate
Carol Schwartz, the Republican nominee for D.C. mayor, and Anthony A. Williams, the Democratic candidate, answered questions from Post editors and reporters on many of the campaign's top issues. The session opened with a question about the legacy of Mayor Marion Barry.
Schwartz: There was great hope for [Barry] when he was first elected in 1978. I thought he had the energy and the commitment to our city in those years. I think after two terms though, I think that because of personal problems that ultimately came out a few years later, that he had stopped being a constructive force in our city and that's why I ran against him in 1986 because I was aware as a member of the council as well as someone who just worked here aware of those personal problems and also aware of the fact that I felt we needed new energy for our city.
. . . And I felt that because of his ability to touch people and to lead people that in so many ways he could have done so much more than he did. And I do think the last two terms of his being mayor were not in our city's best interest. And so I give him a lot of credit for leadership ability but I do not think our city is in better shape having had him for 16 years as our mayor.
Williams: I'd say it's a giant, I'd call it, Shakespearian tragedy read large. I think Act I was a good Act. You know, just building up. He came in, he built a coalition that united the city for the first time in a long time. That's a good thing. He focused the city's efforts on inclusion, on incorporation of minorities in the government -- a good thing. In contracting, a good thing. Focused on youth, youth leadership, senior citizens. All these are good things. Development -- did a tremendous job in the '80s in development in our city. Act I.
Act II started undermining by over-promising and under-delivering. Didn't have the accountability. Didn't have the openness. Didn't have the integrity in the government. In Act II personal lack of leadership in providing a role model for children, his personal problems. That [was the] end of Act II.
Comes back Act III. This is not necessarily a bad thing. He came back, I think. . . . He came back with a tremendous opportunity to use, not only as Carol said, just his charisma, but his understanding of the government, his understanding of the city to turn the city around. This paper editorialized favorably when he came out with the 1997 budget and his transformation plan. You know my calculation is the city could have saved over $100 million if we had aggressively followed that strategy and I will tell you, sitting there at the table, as I've said to people before, sitting there at the table, 40-50 percent of these ideas came at the table by Marion Barry because of his knowledge of the government but he never followed through.
He never followed though on that conversion, that transformation of government moving to a new generation of leadership which gets to my final point. I think that I would want to honor the positive contributions the mayor has made, certainly in development, in commitment to youth and commitment to senior citizens, commitment to education but do it in a different way and fundamentally that different way is a government that's about accountability, holding people to consequences. A government that's open and information open in discourse. In involvement of citizens and a government that's about integrity.
Q: I'd like to ask a slightly different question. As the city slid into bankruptcy slowly, each of you in different ways was a critic. You for a long time, as you said, running twice against Mayor Barry and voting . . . on the council . . . and Mr. Williams as chief financial officer cutting back programs, reducing head counts and what not. During the campaign, you told critics of that that you've grown, you've changed and you have been at pains to assure people that your Republican Party affiliation does not mean, I guess what I'm asking is, are you running now seeking the votes of the citizens as somebody who strongly opposed business as usual in Washington, wanted a change, wanted something different? . . .
Williams: Well, I mean just to start what I'm saying is that I've always been about is CFO: openness in information, of freedom of information, openness of information on meeting with citizens. Accountability, holding myself and the people who work for me accountable. About integrity in the affairs of the government and I will, that I will continue [to] grow as a person not necessarily in how I manage the government but in how I relate, how I connect, how I emphasize if you will, with people because I think that is an important part of being a political leader as opposed to simply a government manager.
Schwartz: Well, I presume your question to me is about the Republicans? The Republican aspect?
Q: Are you running as a force for a dramatic change or as a force for continuity?
Schwartz: I'm running as a force for dramatic change. I think we have to make dramatic changes. I think we have to make dramatic changes in the way our services are delivered and stop studying these problems. We study these problems ad nauseam. All anyone had to do was read the Rivlin Commission Report from 1990 for free instead of this millions of dollars that have spent on studying the problems that I think any of us who are familiar with the city know about and I think we need dramatic change and lots of it.
I think you got to really, we talk about regulatory reform ad nauseam and meanwhile you know to get licenses and permits you still have nightmarish experiences. You still have to hire some fancy consultants who well-wired to maneuver the process for you so I'm, I'm always been about dramatic change and I think have the courage to make dramatic change. I also, I, you know, I don't mean to be confrontational with my opponent here, but he talks about openness of information. We've not been able as council members to get the contracts that Mr. Williams has let.
Those are contracts that have been paid for by the D.C. taxpayers and so you know, I find that this openness of information to be a little bit ingenuous when it has been impossible to get the contracts. Kevin Chavous tried to get them. I just find that an intersting point. The other is . . .
Williams: Could I just say something or?
Q: Go ahead.
Williams: As of June 1, I think it was, I no longer run the CFO's office. I've had no contact with the CFO's office on how they've handled these issues. I know that a CFO, and in my previous government career, I have never interfered in a judgment on a contract by my subordinates, period. Not once have I ever intervened in a contract. All of them have been done above-board. All through solicitation. And in the case of the District here, all through the proper channels and many, many of them, the vast majority, were brought on my own initiative through the council because we wanted elected leaders involved, so I don't think there's any there, there.
Schwartz: Well, we don't know that. I mean until we can see those contracts.
Williams: I'm all for it.
Schwartz: We don't know if they all went to the council or they didn't go to the council.
Williams: I am all for, I am personally all in favor of everything being out on the table. I don't run the CFO's office, but I have no problem with information being out on the table.
Schwartz: Well, since you did appoint the person who does run it, you might tell him it would be good to release that information.
Schwartz: It is surely helpful. On the Republican aspect, I think you know of all the handicaps that I obviously carry in this city, I think that one is probably the most difficult one to overcome with an 11 to 1 voter registration. I do think, though, that most people have, have really watched me all these years and have seen that I'm not a partisan person. I never rubbed anybody's nose in partisan politics and I think they know I'm not about to start now.
I've not taken any money or help from the National Party. It was offered to me four years ago. They sent me a check when I ran against Marion Barry. I returned the money and said thank you but no thank you. That this was a local election. We have enough federal interference in the city as it is without having that.
So I think that it is my most difficult handicap to overcome, but I think most of the citizens out there have watched me long enough, known me long enough, trust me and therefore going to cross party lines when they get into the voting booth and give me their vote on November 3rd, and I didn't say that before.
In fact my, my campaign workers in my other campaigns for mayor have always said, you know got frustrated with me because you're supposed to say when I win and I always say if I win because -- and they say you don't say that. You're supposed to say when you win, and I said well I'm an honest, straight-forward person. It's hard for me to look people in the eye and not be honest with them and I mean, barring a miracle, that I probably was not going to win. But I think this time there's something happening out that I feel and I think regardless of Mr. Williams' polls that were taken that were written about extensively in the paper today, I think that there is a whole different thing going out there in the community.
Q: I'd like to see if I can have each of you go beyond the generalities of your campaign rhetoric today and be very specific with us. Given the current powers available to the mayor, the current relationship with the control board and the current relationship with the council if you could be -- give us specific examples of the things that each of you intends to do as you begin office to begin to make changes in the city, to begin to affect city services and so on. How with very specific actions are you going to be able to do this, starting with Tony Williams.
Williams: Well, my three initiatives that I intend to pursue over the first three, four, five -- I'm not sure exactly how many months, but initially in office -- are better preparation for our children, turning around our government agencies and working in that effort to really focus on some key areas of improvement in customer service and economic development, and the different aspects of economic development where I think our city has vast potential.
And I'll start with public education with a conference on preparing children, bringing in, for the first time I think, not only the city leadership, but regional business leadership, the leaders of our city to talk about how we can focus. The leverage I think the mayor has on preparing a structure, preparing support for very conditioning for children outside of the classroom.
I'm a big believer in the First Lady's argument that "it takes a village to raise a child," and I think the mayor can be a key player in assembling that bill, assembling that village. So for example, part of support for that child in school is that mother who's looking for work. We know that we have a huge percentage of, a percentage of children who come from single parent homes or mothers looking for work.
It's working with the business community on transportation issues, placement issues, readiness and training issues, childcare issues. It's working with the business community in providing support for children outside of school in terms of enrichment and a structure for their study habits. I know for a fact in our education system, cause I've talked to business leaders and non-profit leaders. There have been many, many offers to help. They've gone wanting. There have been sometimes offers for help with computer equipment.
It sits around in the schools because no one for some reason or other's got the incentive to actually take that equipment, put it in place and get it operating for children. I think that whole, that whole aspect of summer use opportunities -- school to work opportunities, after-school opportunities is something that, yes, our government has to make an additional investment in, but it cannot do alone. It's got to be I think the entire community picking up the weight, picking up the burden and moving forward.
On turning around government agencies, I think that one of the things that we have not done over the last 3-4 years in our turnaround is really bring labor to the table and really come face-to-face with labor in solid, frankly negotiation. Everybody at the table getting labor as a partner, but labor contributing to this turnaround. And I think a key part of this, moving this forward, is not necessarily about wages, it is about work rules, it's about flexibility, it's about performance and I actually happen to think this is a part of the tragedy I talked about.
The mayor put out a really good program that really borrowed a lot of Indianapolis. Something called managed competetion where we introduce competition into our government, not necessarily by just outright outsourcing and privatizing everything but by working with employees, giving them the tools, giving them the ability to compete.
And what we've found in other experiences is that they will produce more and cost less and I think that that is something that our government has to do. I think we also finally have to identify 5 or 10 things, working with the Control Board and the Management Review Team, that we really want to focus this government in doing. Maybe it's answering the phones. Maybe it's cleaning the streets, cleaning the storm drains, licensing or permits -- getting your plate renewed -- things that if we can turn around we restore hope and confidence in government and I use the example of sending back tax refunds where we were 55th among the states -- and there are only 50 states -- and we've moved up now to the first rank of states and sent back over 150,000 tax refunds under 30 days.
And that's something the District can be proud of is restored hope and confidence in part of the District government.
Finally, ... economic development. As mayor, I want to bring into each of our key neighborhoods a project manager who's skilled in business support, skilled in commercial development, housing, human services -- all the different things that go into a building a neighborhood strategy to stabilize and improve our neighborhoods, because I think our neighborhoods are going to be brought forward by coordinating and concentrating the impact of government in each of our neighborhoods and I'll give you an exmaple.
We can go in and blow up a drug market but if we don't go back, if we don't immediately follow through with securing abandoned housing, converting it to active use, we're inviting that decay again. If we don't work with neighborhood leaders to move graffiti from the walls and keep it off the walls, we're inviting that sense of disorder. It's the same thing with cleaning streets, the same thing with supporting youth which I talked about.
I also think that our city can do, and finally in economic development, a much better job of defining itself better than we do. I think our real competition is to situate ourselves as a vital center of a regional economy in a global economy and present to our region how we can mutually share gain by competing on that basis. And I'll give you an example.
I think we have tremendous potential as a city in that we're the center of the second largest concentration of technology in the world. We are in I think potentially catbird seat in creating a real center for international trade. We have 23 million tourists who come here every year who can be drawn not only into our downtown but into our neighborhoods. Because, frankly, our neighborhoods are beautiful, and I think actually, because I'm not from Washington but come here form another place, I recognize the beauty of our neighborhoods.
... In many of the neighborhoods, the African American history is something that I think we can use to build demand for neighborhood commercial development and the renaissance and revitalization of our neighborhoods so it is really public education. It is coverting our agencies and getting them on the ball in economic development.
Q: Before we turn to Carol, I just want to make clear about the specifics ... After six months to one year of the Tony Williams' term if you were elected mayor, we would see specifically that an education conference was held, and a number of steps were taken in the public schools as a result of that conference.
We would see that you held negotiations with labor unions that would change work rules in the city and open up different kinds of city services to competition between city workers and other companies like in Indianapolis. And we would see a specific list of city services that would be improved after you conferred with the control board.
Williams: Six months to a year it would be turned around and we would, and I said the other day in talking about accountability, I believe the mayor ought to have a report card -- hold myself, hold Camille, we all, the control board and the mayor, all hold ourselves accountable to the voters and have that report card validated by somebody outside of our group.
Q: We'll be around.
Schwartz: Well, I think first and foremost we got to change the culture of government. I think this government has always, at least in all the years in my memory, has acted like it is doing you a favor to do any of things government does naturally.
I mean we pay very high taxes here, among the highest in the nation and yet everytime government works the way it supposed to, we're supposed to write a thank you note. Mr. Williams was talking about you know, tax returns. We got our tax returns on time. Bravo. I mean are we supposed to do a standing ovation?
Are we supposed to elect him mayor because he finally did something right, and he was paid six figures to do that something right plus a bonus. Plus a bonus. But that's how ... we have been in this city: that if government does anything right, we really feel like that we should be grateful.
Well, I can assure you in Montgomery County, Maryland, they're not writing thank you notes everytime the trash is picked up or the snow is plowed. And I think you've got to change the whole culture. And anybody that has watched me in political life, my office has always been responsive and I've had small council offices and we have answered every single letter and every single phone call and we've not asked for thank you notes because of it.
And my, people that work for me, have always known that that's our job. Public service means just that -- serving the public. Not doing anybody a favor, not being rude to them, but doing -- we are there to serve them. We are there to serve the customers who are residents of this city so I think attitudinally -- a media blitz.
I will change the culture and I will hold people accountable. I will appoint people to manage these agencies that have experience. That have that same kind of attitude and they will then start holding people accountable all down the line. I'm also impatient. I am impatient. I don't need on public education to hold a conference. I have been a public school parent. I have been on the Board of Education where I hired [former school superintendents] Vince Reed and Floretta McKenzie and where real change took better -- took place for the better.
I have been a, considered a national expert in the field of education, having been appointed by both the president of the United States and the secretary of the Department of Education to be vice-chair of a major national education commission. So I can hit the ground running on all of these issues. I am familiar with the city. I am familiar with the neighborhoods.
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