Mayor Marion Barry said yesterday that the District of Columbia enters the 1980s as a city where confidence in the police is up despite an increase in reported crime; where shrinking population and race relations are not problems; and where city government is doing "more with less."
"By and large," Barry said in his upbeat report on his first year in office, "we have been able to accomplish more than any other previous administration has done in the first year in office."
"It's the recipients [of city services] who have said to us that [they] see a great difference in the way things are done," Barry said, surrounded by dozens of beaming cabinet members and top mayoral aides crowded into the City Council chambers in the District Building.
The accomplishments of Barry's first term were described in a 118-page booklet entitled, "The Barry Administration One Year Later, A Progress Report on Fast Track Performance."
The booklet, a compilation of reports from city departments and agencies, indicated that Barry's administration had improved operations "in virtually every aspect of District government."
Police and fire response times are shorter, waiting lines at many city agencies have been reduced, city playgrounds are in better shape and welfare overpayments have been cut down, according to the report. Minority-owned businesses are better off, the D.C. Register is produced and circulated at less cost and backlogs for license applications have been eliminated, the document said.
The 118-page report offered a unique glimpse into how the $2-billion-a-year 47,000-worker District bureaucracy views itself and the kinds of nuts and bolts and unheralded accomplishments that are considered progress.
The police department, for example, reported that it intends to reduce crime through "increased productivity measures, optimal resource allocation, management improvements in other areas and a more effective labor management relations program." It made no mention of an estimated 10 percent increase in reported crime during 1979.
For the recreation department, progress was being able to carry out a "putt-putt golf program" for 450 inner-city youth, a softball league with 140 participants, a cheerleading camp and a two-day kickoff for summer programs "including a parade downtown."
The city surveyor's office noted that "a complete report about the backlog problems has been submitted to the city administrator, which includes recommendations for resolving the problem." But the office has not resolved the backlog.
The Department of Transportation reported that 170,755 operator's permits were issued, 28,861 road tests and 65,504 written driver tests administered, 309,711 vehicle inspections performed and 86,301 new auto titles issued -- "all without the delays or problems of previous years."
Referring to police reports indicating a 10 percent increase in crimes, Barry said he did not believe the actual number of crimes committed had increased by that much. Rather, he said, the increase in reported crimes came "because people have more faith and confidence in our department and they call in and report those crimes."
"The drug situation goes in cycles," he said. "It goes and it comes. My understanding is when the crops are good in South America and Turkey, they get good here." Barry said the federal government would have to reduce international drug traffic before local drug use declines.
Last year the city lost about 15,000 residents as its population fell to 656,000, according to U.S. Census Bureau estimates. But Barry and James O. Gibson, the city's planning director, said the population decline was not unusual for large cities and should reverse itself early in this decade.
Gibson said the reduced population also would lessen the demand for city services in the future and thereby increase the city's ability to care for its residents.
Barry, a former black community activist, was most optimistic on the issue of race relations. Despite reports of occasional frayed relations among blacks, whites and Latinos, Barry said he didn't think it (race) was "a big problem." He said no one had told him of any racial flaps, and he does not necessarily believe what he reads in the newspapers.
He said his administration would not make appointments or promotions based on race. "I think we've come beyond where race ought to be the determining factor," Barry said.
Barry, who as a candidate for mayor had said that he believed the city's police and fire chiefs should be black, said that he would not eliminate whites from consideration in his current search for a new fire chief.
"Race is a factor, but not THE factor," Barry said. "The problem with the fire chief is not race, but there are a number of prominent people. He said a decision on a new fire chief would be made in two or three weeks.
At the end of the press conference, Barry was asked if he had also abandoned his view that the city, which is 70 percent black, should have a black police chief. Glancing back at Police Chief Burtell M. Jefferson, who is black, Barry Said, "We have one."
The mayors upbeat assessment of his first year was in sharp contrast to that of some neighborhood and community spokesmen who were interviewed.
"I haven't seen any drastic differences, said Charles Logan, president of the Congress Heights Civic Association in far Southeast Washington. "City government is city government. You still have the same kind of problems getting things done."
Joe Davis, co-convener of the Metropolitan Washington Gray Panthers, took issue with Barry's claims of having improved services for senior citizens."I don't think he has made any significant contribution. "I don't think Marion Barry has lived up to his promises," Davis said. "They make token moves toward correcting evils, but nothing is done."
Etta Horn, director of the D.C. Citywide Welfare Rights Organization, said the Barry administration has improved services to welfare mothers and is moving to correct problems more quickly than the previous administration.
"He's trying, and a mayor isn't a mayor until the people make him one," Horn said. "He's going to have to meet the needs of low income people and welfare people, and people, period . . . The honeymoon is over, so now he's got to get down to business."
William Atkins of the East Capitol Dwellings Residents Council said drug problems have increased in his neighborhood on the far eastern tip of the city during Barry's first year. "It's gotten worse," Atkins said. "The heroin has come to the surface."