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  • D.C. Voters' Guide

  •   The Mayoral Survey
    Question 1

    Thursday, July 23, 1998; Page J04

    Nine mayoral candidates whose names will appear on the ballot in the Sept. 15 party primary elections responded in writing to a series of questions posed by The Washington Post. The following is the first question and the candidates' answers.

    Question 1: As you know there have been discussions about what form city government should take after the D.C. financial control board goes out of existence. Describe the governmental structure that you believe would best serve the District and, specifically, what role, if any, a professional city manager should play.

    Democratic Party

    Harold Brazil: I believe we need more democracy, not less. We need more accountability by elected officials, not another layer of government. Washington, D.C., is different from cities with professional city managers, like Charlotte or Denver; those cities have elected officials at every level. District residents cannot vote for a state legislator or governor, a county commissioner, or a Congressman or Senator. If we are to be respectful of their wish to have elected leaders, accountable each election year for the job they do, we should consult with the residents of the District before making a change. Washington, D.C., needs a mayor who can work with Congress and the President to repair the flaws in the Home Rule Charter and forge a new alliance with the federal government to ensure the success of the city we share with them. My experience as both a Congressional staff member and a member of the City Council will allow me to build a working partnership. My record of working for economic and management reform is evidence not only of my capacity for meeting this challenge, but also of my commitment to making this city work.

    Kevin P. Chavous: I do not support any change in the structure of the District government that reduces the role of elected officials. Many citizens have fought for these rights and the District will not give up representation easily. The choice to make these structural changes belongs to District citizens -- not the mayor -- and must be made in open forum, ratified by referendum and clarified in law. As mayor, I will facilitate these discussions. More important, my task as mayor is to reconnect District citizens to their government. Citizens must understand their government and have effective say in its operation. Truly democratic governments have nothing to fear through greater public participation in the decision-making process. After two years of balanced budgets, the District is moving rapidly toward return to elected government. We've paid over $20 million to consultants to verify what District citizens and civic organizations have already defined as our problems and solutions. It's time we got down and implemented the reforms and delivered the services our taxpayers expect. It's time we got over the belief that merely changing personalities or governing structures will ensure a viable reform.

    Jack Evans: I favor a "strong mayor" form of government, whereby an empowered chief executive is responsible for day-to-day management of municipal functions and an elected City Council has important oversight, budgeting, and policy responsibilities. This does not mean, however, that the city should not have a professional management team. As mayor, I would choose a professional city administrator with a proven track record in municipal management. This individual would operate free of political agendas, concentrating on the most efficient delivery of services to our citizens. Accountability would be the touchstone of an Evans administration. Under a "strong mayor" system, the mayor is directly accountable to citizens who have maximum opportunities for influencing governance in the District.

    Jeffrey Gildenhorn: I am in favor of a strong mayoral form of government, with significant changes being made at the city council level. I propose an elected, five-member, full-time city council consisting of four at-large council members and a chairperson to replace its 12 part-time council members each making $80,000 dollars a year salary. Taxpayers would save over a half a million dollars yearly under this concept. In legislative matters the majority of the five members would rule. The executive branch (mayor), would have the same power as he had before the control board took charge of District affairs. The mayor would have authority to fire any mayoral appointee, whether it be a member of a commission or board, the police chief, school superintendent, chief financial officer or city manager. I would recommend the appointment of a city manager to run the day-to-day affairs of the government, and be accountable to the mayor. Additionally, I propose an elected attorney general for the District of Columbia to monitor or investigate any wrongdoing or negligence by the mayor or city council. Our public servants must be held accountable to the people.

    Anthony A. Williams: Our nation was founded on the right to self-government. The people who live in the nation's capital must have the right to elect our own leaders and to determine our own form of government. If there is to be change in our governance, the decision must be made by the voters of the District. No one ever suggested that New York City, Cleveland or Philadelphia should move to a city manager government in response to their financial crises. The District should not be treated differently. The District also needs good government that protects our citizens, educates our children, and makes our neighborhoods places where families flourish. We need a mayor with vision, a record of effective management, and demonstrated ability to fix a broken bureaucracy. But a good mayor is not enough. The District needs an inspector general with complete autonomy and the budget necessary to stop waste, fraud and abuse. The District should also continue to build professional management in government by providing an appropriate level of autonomy for the city administrator and the chief financial officer. As with the IG and the CFO, the city administrator should be appointed by the mayor and [be] accountable to the mayor and city council.

    Republican Party

    James Caviness: I feel very strongly in the concept of home rule the way it was before the creation of the control board. There should be a strong mayor, with the major agencies of the city government coming under his/her control, along with the oversight of the city council. I feel the city manager plays a vital role in running the overall day-to-day operations of the city, but they still should be answerable to the mayor and city council, the federal government.

    David P. Mugan: Frankly, I am not convinced that the form of government is of paramount importance to the welfare of our citizens. Let me explain. Essentially, we are talking about people, and we can have a city run by one, three, ten, or 50 people elected or appointed, it doesn't matter -- we might still have schools that don't open on time let alone educate our children; we might still have an 8.9 percent unemployment rate while the rest of the country prospers; we might still have 300-plus murders every year and the list goes on. What is most important, and what people should begin to realize, is that there is a very pronounced paradigmatic shift and revolution taking place in the marketplace of ideas. Take a look at what the new generation of innovative mayors have accomplished -- Mayor Stephen Goldsmith of Indianapolis has "competed out" 70 municipal services and believe it or not, union backed auto mechanics actually chose to forgo pay raises so that they could compete for a citywide contract. On school vouchers, Cleveland's Michael White, an African-American Democrat, is sparring against his city's traditionally Democratic teacher's union and the NAACP. So, ladies and gentlemen, I am only suggesting to you that governmental structure notwithstanding, there are certain innovative ideas and principles that are far superior to the "old way of doing things." Your job then, is to find these people and elect them.

    Carol Schwartz: I am running for Mayor of the District of Columbia which is unfortunately only a shadow today of the same office I sought in 1986 and 1994. There is nothing wrong with the strong mayor form of government put in place a quarter of a century ago when home rule was enacted. The form has not been the problem, the substance has been. As in any governmental structure, conscientious, competent and courageous leadership is the answer. Since the enactment of home rule there exists the position of city administrator. That is the opportunity I would use to get that top-notch experienced "city manager" type to run the day-to-day operations of the city. But that person would report to me as mayor and be accountable to me and the citizens who elected me. City managers per se are no panacea. Miami had one and failed abysmally. New York has a strong-mayor form of government and has succeeded. There again, it is not the form, but the leadership. Any decision related to the structure of government after the control board should be decided by the citizens of D.C. I would be happy to lead that discussion as mayor.

    D.C. Statehood Party

    John Gloster: We should have a unicameral state legislature, with 40 members selected from 40 separate "wards", and a chair elected at-large. The advantage obtained will be greater responsiveness to the needs of the people. Smaller wards will mean a greater level of representation, and more grass-roots-based campaigns that are less affected by outside monied interests. This new, more democratic legislature, and a mayor of the people, will be geared toward the will of the citizens of the District of Columbia. The role of the city manager, and other non-elected officials, will need to be restricted to that of an obedient public servant.

    Next Week: The candidates are asked to detail the single most important step they would take as mayor to improve the city's schools.

    © Copyright 1998 The Washington Post Company

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