Almost daily now, as the pace of the D.C. Democratic mayoral primary campaign quickens. City Council Chairman Sterling Tucker is aiming his political shots at the man he believes is his chief opponent in the Sept. 12 election, Mayor Walter E. Washington.
While Tucker does not ignore the other major contender in the race, Councilman Marion Barry, he more frequently chides "the mayor and his mismanagers" for what he claims is their inept performance in office in the last four years.
"I think we have to look at the incumbent as the principal opponent," Tucker said yesterday as he canvassed prospective voters in the affluent Cleveland Park neighborhood in Northwest Washington. "And if there is going to be a change, my experiences are far greater than Marion's."
Tucker has issued a stream of statements depicting the Washington administration as snarled in bureaucratic red tape and unresponsive to constituents needs.
"They're aimed at showing that things can be different, to let voters know that we are aware that things are different elsewhere," Tucker said. "We're talking about government the way it is and the way it can be."
One Tucker broadside last week cited a congressional study reporting that the District spends 34 percent of its federal community development housing funds on administrative overhead, the largest percentage of any major city in the country. While disputing some of the statistics cited in the congressional study, a Washington housing aide largely conceded the report's accuracy.
But yesterday's Tucker allegation was a different matter.
Tucker charged that the District's Office of Human Rights takes "far longer" to consider employment and housing discrimination cases than similar agencies in other major cities do.
He cited a 1977 study by the D.C. auditor showing that it took an average of 279 days to determine whether a complaint had any merit. Tucker then cited statistics from eight other cities showing that the time it takes to determine the validity of a complaint ranges from five days in Cleveland and Atlanta to 180 days in Boston.
"We have people here who have despaired over ever getting action government because the incumbent has achieved so little over so many years," Tucker said. "I want to tell people that there is hope, that other cities are making gains, whether in processing bias complaints or turning housing dreams to realities because there is a competent team in charge."
However, James W. Baldwin, director of D.C.'s human rights office, said a new complaint processing system was created in June 1977 and that it now takes only 69.4 days to consider a complaint's validity.
"We feel it's unfair to keep referring back to the auditor's report," Baldwin said. "I defy anyone, including Sterling Tucker, to find any agency that is closing more cases" than the D.C. human rights office. He also said that 28 percent of the people who have filed discrimination complaints with his office, mostly in employment cases, have gotten what they asked for, compared to a national average of 19 percent.
"Mr. Tucker used data that is 1 1/2 to three years outdated," Baldwin said.
"The mayor's human rights program is far in advance of most other cities," said Lacy Streeter, Washington's campaign manager. "We're quite distressed that the Tucker campaign made to effort to contact the Office of Human Rights to determine the current status of the program."
For his part, Tucker held to his claim about the human rights office. "There's no demonstrable change in expediting the cases," Tucker said. "In terms of the way the department functions, it's very weak and inefficient."