D.C. Democratic mayoral candidate John L. Ray announced an ambitious program of "participatory government" yesterday, which he said he would follow if he is elected this fall.
Ray pledged to hold weekly open house meetings in his office with citizens, to have regular meetings throughout the city and order his department heads to do likewise; to meet with any of the city's 365 Advisory Neighborhood Commissioners on 72 hours notice and to have press conferences "at least every two months." Department heads also would have weekly open house sessions.
He also said he would visit one of the city's 11 correctional facilities "once every four months," one of the city's 198 public schools every month and require department heads to visit a school once every three months.
"The current lack of close and continuing communications between citizens and their leaders goes to the heart of many of the problems this city suffers today," Ray said in a written statement accompanying his position paper on "participatory government."
"I believe the current city leaders have lost sight of the city's real problems and have failed to find solutions because they have shut the citizens out of the government," Ray said. "It's no wonder that many citizens feel no one cares."
Council member Marion Barry (D-At-Large), who also is an announced candidate for mayor, said that Ray's program was an understandable one for a new candidate but unnecessary for an incumbent city official such as himself.
"I don't need any new magical programs. I don't have to have those special gimmicks," Barry said. "I just have to continue my outward reach." Barry said that he already has visited all the city correctional facilities frequently and 160 city schools.
"If he just visits one school a month," Barry said, "He will never finish."
City Council Chairman Sterling Tucker, who also is a candidate for mayor, had no comment on Ray's plan. Nor did Mayor Walter E. Washington, who also is considering running in the fall elections.
Rhawn Anderson, Ray's press secretary, said that the organization has not calculated how much extra it might cost to keep city buildings open at night for meetings with department heads and the mayor.
"We feel that the benefits of the meetings with the public outweigh the costs," Anderson said. "If it gets to be excessive, we would make some adjustments; this is an outline, it's flexible."
Ray is a 34-year-old lawyer who used to be on the staff of the Senate Antitrust and Monopoly Subcommittee. The primary election will be held Sept. 12.