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  •   Dr. Mr. Mayor: Readers Advise Williams

       
    What Your View?
    Photo of  links to letters page.
    Peter Roidakis says this sign on MacArthur Boulevard has been bent for at least 1 1/2 years. (Dayna Smith – The Washington Post)

    Share Your Opinion
    Pick out what you see as the top issue for the new mayor from among the suggestions offered by those letter writers.
     

    The Post asked District residents if they had any advice or close-to-home concerns for the new mayor, and nearly 300 people responded!

    In letters, faxes and e-mail – some starting off "Dear Tony" or congratulating Mayor-elect Anthony A. Williams on his victory – longtime and newly arrived D.C. residents offered general and specific suggestions for improving local government and the quality of life in the nation's capital.

    Clean house in the D.C. bureaucracy. Lower taxes. Raise public school test scores. Revamp the libraries and recreation facilities. Arrest red-light runners. Beautify bridges and other entrances into the city. Help the homeless. Plant more trees. Encourage economic development. Discourage drug dealers. And fix the potholes and street lights and improve trash collection in nearly every neighborhood in the city.

    Just about everyone wished Williams well in the arduous challenges ahead. The excerpts here were edited by The Post for space and clarity. But all of them – even the job resumes – will be delivered to the new mayor after he takes office.

    Help Youths-and Others
    The quality of life for all citizens, especially our youth, must be a priority. This requires not just government spending but government facilitating our use of its agencies. This means not just supporting public education, but reengineering and revitalizing several major neglected city institutions, especially the public libraries and the recreation department. There should be good, well-supervised after-school sports activities and homework help.

    We also should maintain our trees and plants more to keep the beauty which has characterized all parts of this wonderful town. Perhaps a youth program to plant trees and maintain them could be developed with university cooperative extension services, the science curriculum in the schools and the recreation department. Finally, fix the potholes.

    Patsy Evans
    18th Street NW

    Fix or Remove Sign
    There's a metal parking sign in front of 4451 MacArthur Blvd. NW that's been bent down to the ground for a year and a half or more. I wonder if anyone ever trips over it getting out of a parked car. It needs to be removed or fixed.

    Peter Roidakis
    MacArthur Boulevard NW

    Drive Full Speed Ahead
    At the Hillcrest meeting, you said the District is like an overloaded, underpowered car being driven on a bad road by a bad driver. Finally the car went off the road, making it necessary for the D.C. financial control board to step in.

    Now that car is back on the road and has a good driver. But don't cram so many people into the car that you can't see where you're going. Insist on integrity and accountability. Do not apologize for firing employees who are not performing. Do not apologize for cutting programs the city cannot afford. Your willingness to make the tough decisions you made as CFO is what we admire most about you.

    Kathy Chamberlain and Bob Bush
    W Street SE

    Attract More Residents
    I have been a D.C. resident for eight years, and I intend on staying for a very long time. As a single, 47-year-old man, this is perhaps an easier decision for me to make. I believe the District needs to attract more residents, particularly the middle and upper-middle class. That means the new mayor needs to tackle public works, education, human services, crime, parking-the things people cite as reasons for leaving the city.

    Greg Case
    Sigsbee Place NE

    Spend Your Time Wisely
    For your first year, give 50 percent of your time to the small things that create the city's environment, 30 percent of your time to finding the best possible people and 20 percent of your time to the longer-term cures for major problems.

    The "small things" help us believe our city really works: picking up trash and leaves; fixing potholes; removing snow; obeying traffic laws; school discipline and performance; and public safety.

    Getting the "best possible people" means involving yourself in recruiting top-notch individuals committed to serving the public; providing the training that makes for quality performance; and recognizing and rewarding their success. The search for "longer-term cures" can become an intellectual trap.

    This first year, force yourself to limit the time you give it, even though there will be dozens, if not hundreds, of bright and exciting people who will want to absorb your time and energy with their version of "the answer."

    Wyndham Clarke
    Cathedral Avenue NW

    A Few Assorted Tips
    Ambulances, Not Fire Trucks. Sending a fire truck when there's no ambulance available is a poor substitute and a bad use of fire crews.

    End Eviction's Worst Penalty. People get evicted for all sorts of reasons, and most manage to find somewhere to go. Some don't. When they don't, everything they own is dumped on the street. Often, this indignity is worsened by neighbors who help themselves. These evictions are right out of Dickens. You could provide a couple of trucks and locker space for evicted goods.

    Run the Government. Locate your major department directors with you at One Judiciary Square. Keep the bosses within each other's earshot. Put all city procurements and contract awards in one place: on the Web.

    Improve Transportation. Going across town takes a Coast Guard navigator. You can't ride one bus down Massachusetts Avenue or up North Capitol Street. It's time for some decent, London-style bus routes and schedule signs. Also, push the taxi commission to paint "Vacant" on all cab lights. If it's lit, it's available. That way, when it is dark, you'll know what's available, instead of what's not.

    Carl Bergman
    Geranium Street NW

    Make Drivers Behave
    The gridlock at rush hour caused by drivers who enter intersections when it is obvious they cannot clear them before the light changes is simply abominable. It makes an already intolerable traffic situation worse, and it will never stop until the police start ticketing these drivers.

    Some jurisdictions are photographing cars that run red lights. Why not do something like that in these instances?

    James H. Quinn
    S Street NW

    Focus on Teachers
    My four children attended or are attending D.C. public schools. I hope you and [Superintendent Arlene] Ackerman will focus on paying teachers more and hiring the best and the brightest. Also, raise the driving age or at least grant only provisional licenses until young people have driven a year with a parent or licensed driver. So many tragic accidents happen to young, inexperienced drivers.

    Can we get the street signs dusted or washed and the trees in parking strips trimmed? On Albemarle Street between 42nd and 49th, several stop signs are blocked by tree limbs. Cars go right through the intersections.

    Patty Fabrikant
    Tilden Street NW

    Tame Traffic on 34th Street NW
    Can you please look into the horrible speeding problem on 34th Street NW? The traffic could be slowed by taking one of the outbound lanes and turning it into a turning lane, thereby creating one lane in both directions. The rest of Reno Road is set up in that manor. Also, installing a traffic light at Newark and 34th streets would be an additional help.

    Mike Johnson
    34th Street NW

    Cooperate with Barry
    May I suggest that you avoid the media-moderated "feud" with Mayor Barry over appointments that he made while he is still legally mayor. Cooperation, not competition, will launch your administration off to the strong, focused start needed to bring about the progress and improvements you have promised.

    Albert H. Coleman
    First Street NE

    Check Out Police Officials
    Look into the management of the Metropolitan Police Department, especially the telecommunications division. This division is severely lacking in managerial skills. There have been numerous troubling incidents. I do not want you to take my word for it; please investigate for yourself.

    Eldon Pittman Jr.
    Third Street SW

    Get Rid of Graffiti
    Chicago has a truck called "Graffiti Busters." It roams the city and cleans up all the graffiti. It has buckets, hoses, brushes, cleaning chemicals and other paraphernalia in plain view. Please, could you bring to Washington such a marvelous contraption?

    It is so very distressing to see our beautiful art deco bridges and beautiful old buildings with these disgusting markings. When we citizens see the graffiti gone, then we will know that the city is achieving positive change.

    George H. Brock
    30th Street NW

    Instill a Sense of Teamwork
    I renewed my driver's license on Sept. 14 at the H Street location. I stood in line for 2½ hours! Most of the time, there was only one clerk available to process the applications. There were three cashiers who sat around looking very bored and waiting for business. I have a temporary physical condition that makes standing more than 10 minutes excruciatingly painful. Other people in line had brought their small children, who got hungry, restless, bored-and quite vocal with their displeasure.

    Why hasn't somebody trained the cashiers so that they can fill in as clerks when needed? Even switching one cashier to a clerk's role would have cut waiting time in half. We need someone who can instill a sense of teamwork into city employees to expedite services.

    Susan Beale
    Warren Street NW

    Create a State-of-the-Art Web Site
    The mayor-elect has said that phones in city government offices will be answered promptly and courteously. That's welcome news, but a citizen must first know which number to call to get a specific problem solved.

    The District needs a Web site with a clear-cut description in understandable English of what each office does and its correct telephone number. It would also be helpful to have the office's fax number and e-mail address and the names of the people who head the office and the office's mailing address. That Web site needs to be kept up to date so you don't waste time talking to successions of people trying to get to the proper person who will take care of a problem.

    For those who don't have access to the Web, an accurate list of the same information should be printed in The Washington Post and other local newspapers. The mayor should be sure such a list is readily available in every public library and government office.

    Also, when police officers see graffiti, potholes, traffic and parking signs that have been hit and are aslant or crushed, a field or path belonging to the D.C. government overgrown with grass, or trash dumped in parks or on streets and in alleys, they should fill out forms directed to the appropriate departments apprising them of the need for immediate attention to the problems.

    Barbara Lock Goodman
    16th Street NW

    Start a Bulk Trash Day
    It would be nice to have a bulk trash day, like they do in Maryland and Virginia. We could put out old furniture and old vacuums. Otherwise, we have to pay someone to pick them up.

    More books and computers should be given to our libraries. The old libraries should be given face lifts. There should be incentives for being a D.C. resident, such as discounts at nearby stores or a decrease in your water bill. Also, I think the water bill should come every month like other bills. Every three months seems to shock you when you finally get it.

    Alicia Reeves
    Sherman Circle NW

    Williams on the Web
    Click here to see a larger image.

    Transition Site
    Hours after Williams was elected mayor, he had a "Transition" Web site. The e-mail address is dc@williams98transition.org
    Help Our Trees
    Emergency medical care, namely ambulance and paramedical treatment, is a fundamental service of city government that needs immediate attention.

    A second concern is the lack of an agency or bureau concerned with the trees in the District. As you know, the trees of our city are among the glories of our environment. Years ago, in a mistaken economy measure, the group that tended to the care of the trees was abolished. A new unit needs to be instituted as soon as possible.

    Not only are trees necessary for the health of the environment, but, if unattended, they pose dangers to the lives and property of District residents. An economic consequence is that the District might be liable to costly lawsuits if trees in its care are the cause of property damage or personal injury. In older neighborhoods, many trees are subject to destruction during the frequent thunderstorms experienced in the summer or during windstorms in other seasons.

    Claire R. Sherman
    Q Lane NW

    Fix No-Parking Signs
    Parking on Capitol Hill, where I live, is very difficult to find. One reason is the misplacement of the "No Parking" and other parking restriction signs. Many signs are implanted in tree boxes or other areas that did not require drilling or digging. These signs are often located a full car length from the legal parking zones. The result is a multitude of signs that restrict what would and should be legal parking.

    And please make lots of changes to correct the "Barry years."

    Alan Keffer
    11th Street NE

    Don't Ignore Low-Income Areas
    Residents in Ward 8 want to live a decent life, but we're always overlooked in developments because of the crime in our area, which is not our fault. Maybe if we had a better police force, the streets would be a lot safer. Set up a residents' complaint center, and follow up on the complaints about police officers who are not performing their duties.

    Schools in the lower-class areas of the city need adequate funding. My son is an excellent student, yet schools in Southeast lack materials because of where they are located.

    There are programs that really show the importance of getting off public assistance and bettering your life. I'm a Covenant House Washington graduate with a GED who is attending college. Maybe if the city would join forces with Covenant House, it could reach a lot more youths and get them on the right track to a better life.

    Davena Archie
    Ninth Street SE

    Reduce Water-Sewer Rates
    If there is a [budget] surplus, consider reducing the exorbitant water-sewer rates.

    Also, I've seen the pitiful written messages and dying flowers left at the sight of automobile accidents. They always remind me of my responsibilities as a driver, and I notice others slow down and take more care. However, all too soon they are gone, and it's back to business as usual. Would the Metropolitan [Washington] Council of Governments consider placing permanent signs? I've heard of some toll ways that left car wrecks by the side of the road as reminders to slow down and pay attention.

    Are there plans to set up a permanent e-mail address or Web site to facilitate the flow of ideas/complaints/solutions to your office?

    Lynne T. Sluger
    30th Place NW

    Restrict Strip Clubs
    I am truly appalled at the number of strip clubs or exotic dancer clubs (where women take off all of their clothes and expose themselves to a roomful of men), and their close proximity to schools, neighborhoods and recreation areas. I can name three in my neighborhood, and I'm sure there are many others in other neighborhoods.

    It is obvious from seeing the men slipping into the doorways of these "businesses," the kind of clientele they attract. I, for one, do not want the clubs or those who frequent them near my children or me. Why can't the District government adopt a law restricting these types of places from being located 500 feet or closer to schools, churches, homes, parks, or other family-oriented areas?

    Ivana Williams
    Gallatin Place NE

    Address Quality of Life
    I hope that you will be able to address quality of life issues that help maintain residential neighborhoods and urban home ownership. Chief among such considerations are education and safety, of course, but many of us are also worried about the general deterioration of the city's stock of beautiful trees.

    In recent years, routine trimming ceased, and it has even been difficult to get dead trees removed that were gradually falling into the street. As a resident and homeowner here for more than 21 years, I would be most appreciative if more attention could be paid to such matters because they generally sustain and enhance our living environment.

    Marion F. Connell
    Cumberland Street NW

    Improve Our Schools
    We can't really fix the city's problems unless we fix the public schools. Improving the school system will help revive the tax base, because middle-class families with children will no longer flee to the suburbs as soon as their kids are of school age. It will reduce crime and welfare spending, since city residents will be better educated and can get jobs. It will make the city a more attractive place to live and work, which will attract investments. It will save money, because the current public school system is a tremendous waste.

    Nate Tassler
    N Street NW

    Repair the Streets
    At age 20, I have been a citizen of the District all my life. I am very proud of where I live-Ward 7 in Southeast. But the potholes in the city are terrible. If you want to cut down on some of the traffic, repair the streets. I have literally bent my rim and busted a tire driving in the city. I have lost hubcaps on the 11th Street bridge. Who wants to visit the nation's capital and hit a pothole every minute or two?

    Secondly, abandoned buildings can really make a neighborhood look horrible. I suggest you either tear them down and make a nice playground, park, etc., or reconstruct them for housing or community centers. It makes no sense for a vacant apartment to have grass growing out of it instead of making it a beautiful place for kids or seniors.

    Tamika Smith
    28th Street SE

    Bring Residents Back to City
    I believe most of the new mayor's actions should be guided by one overriding goal: increase the number of people living in the District, particularly downtown and the city's historic neighborhoods. Home ownership should be encouraged over renting. Each new homeowner becomes an agent for neighborhood improvement and economic revitalization.

    The city's homeowner population could be increased by improving basic services such as public works, sanitation, schools, policing and dealing with homelessness to make more of the city safe and appealing; creating incentives for rental properties to be converted to condominiums or cooperatives; and creating incentives for new housing to be built downtown.

    Anibal Escobar
    Hopkins Street NW

    Clean My Street
    I have resided in the 3800 Block of Upton Street for almost 10 years and not once has my street been cleaned. Being right off Wisconsin Avenue, the street gutters fill with trash and debris and nothing has ever been done. I am a taxpayer and pay for this service. I contacted the D.C. government under Barry's reign, and my requests were ignored. Also, I have never received my recycling bin.

    Christine Molkentine
    Upton Street NW

    Increase Police Patrols
    The neighbors at 25th and Irving streets NE are seeking your aid in providing steady police patroling at night from about 11 p.m. The corner needs a brighter light because it is the corner where the drug dealers, etc., are hanging out. All kinds of cars congregate on this corner late at night, and drivers sleep in their cars. We need your help desperately!

    Claudia C. Foster
    Irving Street NE

    Focus on Crime, Schools
    Areas the mayor should tackle first: crime and schools. Safer schools and neighborhoods will improve our quality of life. Adequate education will prepare students for independent careers and everyone will benefit from that.

    Also, work on the underpass at Thomas Circle should be completed and the road reopened. Drivers have been inconvenienced long enough.

    Glenn Bratcher
    Pennsylvania Avenue NW

    Get Rid of Rodents
    I believe that with the subway system, the museums, parks, etc., you cannot find a more convenient place to live. But I have a real problem with the rodent population that seems to have taken over the city. We need more employees in the Vector Control office, or the whole city will be taken over by rodents.

    Also, is there no way that the homeless can be given a place to live where they do not have to stand outside all day? The shelters where they stay at night just turn them out during the day. There are abandoned buildings that could be fixed up by volunteers to house some of the people who do not have a home. What about the schools that were closed that just sit there? Let the people who need homes do some of the work which will help them be productive. People need to contribute to our city and not be pushed from street to street by police.

    Deborah E. Gale
    Hunt Place NE

    Stop Aggressive Drivers
    I hope that Mayor Williams will consider it a high priority to help stop aggressive drivers in the city. Red-light runners are so numerous that I wonder if most people are color blind. I walk a lot in the city, and it is a dangerous undertaking. Cars do not stop before turning on red. They go through red turn arrows, and they run red lights. Let's stop this madness!!

    Nancy Saltford
    Ellicott Street NW

    Address Income Inequality
    You have a unique opportunity to address an issue that I believe deserves priority attention, namely the growing income inequality in the District and its negative impact on the well-being of our residents, especially on our children. There is mounting evidence that income inequality results in shorter life spans.

    It is appalling that drastic budget/staff cuts were made in public health in the last few years. These cuts in our safety net for our children, poor, disabled and elderly have included reductions in homeless shelter space and drug treatment programs, elimination of emergency assistance and the Tenant Assistance Program.

    It is evident that the present budget "surplus" exists in large part because of these hurtful budget cuts. A very modest increase in income tax rate on the wealthiest bracket would have generated hundreds of millions of dollars in revenue, preventing these cuts.

    Instead of so-called "tough love" for the poor, which has amounted to callous indifference, why not try tough love for the rich-sharing the wealth of our community to meet basic human needs and improve the quality of life for all, whatever their income or neighborhood? Isn't it time to change course and stand up for our most vulnerable residents?

    David Schwartzman
    Montague Street NW

    Clean Up Dupont Circle Park
    I walk through Dupont Circle every day on my way to work and am dismayed at the condition of this once beautiful park. There is litter everywhere. There are huge bald patches of dirt. The paint on the benches is completely worn off. I often smell marijuana smoke, and I wonder if the park is being turned into a place for drug dealing. Neighborhood residents avoid the park because it has become a camp for the homeless. Perhaps area businesses would be interested in working in partnership with the city to form the type of business improvement district that has been so successful downtown. I think CVS, Starbucks and Burger King need to take some responsibility for the amount of trash their customers generate in the park. The trash cans are filled to overflowing every morning.

    Susannah Wood
    S Street NW

    Continues on next page.

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