Promises and hopes of better days marked Friday's installation ceremonies for more than 100 of the city's least-known elected officials: the teenage and adult officers of the District's Neighborhood-Planning Councils.
The 20 Neighborhood Planning Councils, called NPC's anually plan and carry out more than $1 million worth of educational and recreational programs for D.C. youth. Ages of the volunteer NPC members - as well as of the relatively few District residents (5,000) who voted in the special April 27 NPC election - are 13 and up.
Friday's ceremonies were staged in one of the National Visitor Center theaters at Union Station, and attended by NPC administrators, D.C. recreation department officials and NPC members. It offered an opportunity to do "some cheerleading, mostly," as one adult NPC officer put it.
"With the money and staff you had," Councilman Doug Moore told the 200 people present, "You did a heck of a good job. You were the first true citizen-participation government - before the Advisory Neighborhood Councils were even thought of."
The NPC's future remained clouded - and provoked several protests - last summer as the City Council made plans to disband the Youth opportunity Services department headed by James L. Jones, under which the NPCs operated Last September a Division of Community-Based Services for Children and Youth was created by the council within the recreation department to administer the NPC program.
Although some of the more than 1,500 youths participating in NPC year-round programs showed up at the District Building several times last summer to protest the dismantling of the youth services department - which critics claimed duplicated many other city services - the current chief of the NPC program said Friday the move to the recreation department did negligible damage, if any.
"We've had no problems whatsoever with the recreation department," said community-based services chief Curtis Taylor. Taylor said the NPCs suffered from largely the same problem he said they've contended with since their creation in 1968: money, or lack of it.
This year's federal Community Services Administration allocation to the NPCs (which constitutes just over half of the NPC annual budget - the District appropriates the rest) was $1.28 million, Taylor said. The figure has decline steadily from a peak of $2.6 million in 1969.
Many of Friday night's promise came from recreation department head William H. Rumsey, who said the NPC program and the department's administration are "growing closer" as the "image of the department taking control" withers. "We want to work with you," he said, emphasizing the "with".
"The planning that goes on right in the communities," Rumsey said later, "is far better than what could be done by a group of planners and administrators sitting aroud a table somewhere.
Rumsey promised monthly meetings with the NPC executive board - comprised of the 20 NPC adult chairmen - to resolve difficulties as they arise.
A committee will be formed within Mayor Walter Washington's office for the same purpose, the gathering was told by attorney Louis Anthony, who represented the mayor at the ceremony.