The D.C. Pipeline, normally a bland little newsletter cranked out by city employes for city employes, and scattered about government desks and corridors, is suddenly being thrust out to the public.
Aides to Mayor Walter E. Washington, mobilizing many of their resources, have instantly quadrupled the circulation of the paper, to upwards of 90,000 copies, and it's brimming with banner headlines and stories saluting the mayor.
There has been some speculation about town lately that there might be some relationship between the emergency of this little newsletter and rumors that the mayor may announce soon that he will run for reelection.
A spokesman for the mayor explained yesterday that it's a coincidence.
The March issue, which came out yesterday, was headlined "Mayor Announces Tax Relief Plan." The first three of the eight pages are devoted to his tax proposals.
A second March issue of what is noramally a monthly paper, is to come out Monday, if printers can complete the work on a crash scheduled. The headlines of that paper will deal with some of the mayor's thoughts on urban development.
The city's Department of General Services is to set to distribute 24,500 copies of each of these latest issues to community groups.
No one seemed to know, or was willing to say yesterday, how much all this is going ot cost.
Sam Eastman, the chief spokeman for the mayor, said he believed the cost of each normal printing run is about $2,000. A normal printing run is 23,500 copies.There were 70,000 released last Thursday and 90,000 scheduled for release on Monday.
Eastman, a confidant of the mayor, has taken over publication of the Pipeline, replacing William Hairston, a rank-and-file member of the city's personnel department who had put the paper out for five years.
Hairston was reported on leave on the West Coast yesterday. His deputy, Mario Schowers, confirmed that Eastman had taken over the operation, but refuse further comment.
Asked who was responsible for the changes, Eastman said, "The Initiative came from me in response to the mayor's interest."
Eastman also said that the new circulation and format is the result of a number of things that have come together recently, including the expiration of a contract with one printer, and the "enthusiam and cooperation" of many city agencies in this new venture.
The basic reason (this is being done) is to provide information," Eastman said. "If the mayor does decided to run I would hope this additional channel to the community would be helpful to him as mayor and as a candidate."
Asked, if there were any political overtones at all to the timing of these changes, Eastman smiled and considered his answer carefully. "I'd feel a lot more comfortable if this whole thing had been wrapped up a year ago," he said.
Eastman said he himself started a little city government newsletter, called "Moving Forward," in the late 1960s. It centered around the mayor's programs and policies. The Nelson commission which was looking into efficiency in the city government, recommended it be expanded to include more about employes, such as their suggestions, transfers and promotions.
The personnel department then took over the newsletter in 1973, but Eastman said he has not been satisfied with the product.
Eastman quickly added that he wasn't faulting Hairston, because Hairston had many other responsibilities. "I just think we haven't been successful in getting out basic information on programs and services the city offers," Eastman said.
The new newsletter, which he plans to rename "City News" will include news about city employes, the mayor's programs and policies, and guides to citizens seeking city services, Eastman said.
Because the city is eliminating color and switching to a cheaper paper, the cost of producing the "City News," should be about the same $2,000 a month needed for the D.C. Pipeline, in spite of the increase in circulation, Eastman said.
Top city officials were working feverishly late yesterday to work out the distribution of the new product to the community.
"We've got boxes and boxes sitting outside our mailroom," said a school spokesman. Yesterday afternoon Eastman said the schools had not agreed to accept the newsletter, and said "we won't force them" upon the school system. After a reporter's inquiry he said school officials had accepted the bundles of newsletters.
The distribution plan calls for 11,000 copies to the school system, 5,000 to metropolitan police, 9,500 to human resources, 2,400 to the District of Columbia University and 500 to D.C. Columbia University and 500 to agencies.