Dr. Mr. Mayor: Readers Advise Williams
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
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.
Fix or Remove Sign
Drive Full Speed Ahead
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
Attract More Residents
Spend Your Time Wisely
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."
A Few Assorted Tips
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.
Make Drivers Behave
Some jurisdictions are photographing cars that run red lights. Why not do something like that in these instances?
James H. Quinn
Focus on Teachers
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.
Tame Traffic on 34th Street NW
Cooperate with Barry
Albert H. Coleman
Check Out Police Officials
Eldon Pittman Jr.
Get Rid of Graffiti
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
Instill a Sense of Teamwork
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.
Create a State-of-the-Art Web Site
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
Start a Bulk Trash Day
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.
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
Fix No-Parking Signs
And please make lots of changes to correct the "Barry years."
Don't Ignore Low-Income Areas
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.
Reduce 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
Restrict Strip Clubs
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?
Address Quality of Life
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
Improve Our Schools
Repair the Streets
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.
Bring Residents Back to City
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.
Clean My Street
Increase Police Patrols
Claudia C. Foster
Focus on Crime, Schools
Also, work on the underpass at Thomas Circle should be completed and the road reopened. Drivers have been inconvenienced long enough.
Get Rid of 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
Stop Aggressive Drivers
Address Income Inequality
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?
Clean Up Dupont Circle Park