Mayor Marion Barry told supervisory employes of the District of Columbia's huge and troubled Department of Human Resources yesterday that their agency, like all others, must shape up and deliver services to the public effectively and politely.
Although departmental officials cite a tight budget for shortcomings, Barry warned that there is little prospect for getting more money.
"Money is a real problem," the mayor said. "The citizens... have said to me that they are taxed enough... and nationally, the federal government is cutting back funding for human services -- that's a fact."
Barry said he finds himself "having to make tough choices -- its good over good, not good over bad. If it were good over bad, it would be easy... it's (either) $5 for education or $5 for a mental health clihic."
DHR, with 6,000 employes, is the city's biggest department. Its health and welfare programs, often criticized for ineffective delivery of services, cost more than $430 million a year -- nearly a third of the city's total spending.
During last year's campaign, Barry said he would split the department and recreate an independent health department. His transition team urged more study.
"I have not yet come to a decision on how to reorganize DHR," Barry said yesterday. He also said he had not decided who would head the reorganized units.
DHR director Albert P. Russo, a 15-year veteran of D.C. government service, said during his introduction of Barry that he would "remain... only as long as Mr. Barry wants me. I strongly believe Mayor Barry has the perfect right to name his own people."
Barry has removed the heads of the city's housing and licensing departments and its human rights enforcement office, all headed by people he had criticized previously. He has not been similarly critical of Russo.
The mayor said he asked Russo to call yesterday's meeting in the cavernous Interdepartmental Auditorium on Constitution Avenue as part of his round robin of visits to city agencies.
Applause was infrequent and restrained. The loudest clapping came when Barry remarked that "this government has tended to reward the incompetent... Those who don't work get the goodies... Well, believe me, we're going to stop that system."
Following a now-familiar theme, he urged employes to be courteous even to antagonistic citizens.
Barry spoke and answered questions for about 75 minutes, and the first question was blunt. "What," asked DHR employe Henry Gates, "are you going to do about eliminating the inefficiency, incompetency and waste in DHR?"
Barry said he planned a new reporting system, a series of goals and insistence "that people stop passing the buck as to why the job was not done."
DHR employe James T. Horton was applauded by the audience when he suggested that he would get good advice on improving the department by talking to the people who work in it. "The people you should talk to are here (in the auditorium)," Horton said. Barry urged anyone with an idea to send him a note.