Mayor Marion Barry is eliminating chauffeur service for everyone in city government -- everyone, that is, but himself.
Barry has signed an executive order eliminating a service that provided five cars and drivers for city employes on official business. Though the service was theoretically available to any worker who needed it, in practice it was primarily used by members of the City Council.
The order, designed to cut costs at a time of budget problems, will not affect Barry's own chauffeur service and its staff of three -- two full-time and one part-time.
Asked why he didn't follow the example of officials like New York City Mayor Edward Koch, who often takes the subway, Barry replied:
"I could eliminate all the chauffeur service and take the Metro. That would not bother me. But if you eliminate it entirely the question is whether I become so inefficient that I may cost the government even more by making a bad decision -- by being hurried, rather than having time to sit and think. I do a lot of work in my car."
The mayor has been criticized for not making cuts in his own staff -- even symbolic ones -- in his efforts to make up a city budget deficit of up to $172 million for this fiscal year.
Officials said eliminating the chauffeur service might save little money this fiscal year but could save as much as $80,000 next year.
According to James E. Reynolds, controller of the city's transportation department, the savings would be realized by laying off the five drivers. But because the city government must first give the drivers 30 days' notice and then severance pay, Reynolds said, savings will be negligible before the fiscal year ends Sept. 30.
Reynolds said one of the drivers would be retained until then to chauffeur council members. "After that, it's up to the council (to come up with the funds) if they want to get around," he said.
Reynolds said that four cars currently at the disposal of council members will be retained. But unless they use the one temporary chauffeur, he said, members will have to drive themselves.
The chauffeur service exists, Reynolds said, for government workers who must travel to D.C. government offices not served by a government shuttle bus.
But several sources said that in practice, the service is often used by council members or high-salaried workers to reach destinations that could be reached by the shuttle bus or through regular forms of public transportation.
The five cars previously used in the chauffeur service will probably be transferred to a "drive yourself" service for city workers, Reynolds said.