A consultant hired to draw up a plan for D.C. Mayor Marion Barry's problem-plagued youth summer jobs program has charged that this year's effort already faces serious difficulties because of a lack of adequate planning and staff and the unwieldy way the city recruits participants.
William W. Treanor, a former D.C. school advocate and consultant, told Ivanhoe Donaldson, the acting director of the D.C. Department of Employment Services, in a Feb. 13 memo that he feared aspects of this year's program could resemble "the memorable fiasco of 1980."
"Much of the opportunity to have an excellent program was lost due to . . . planning and management paralysis during September, October and November of 1980," Treanor wrote in the memo, a copy of which was obtained by The Washington Post.
"Some believe that simply meeting the payroll on time will convince the media and the community that the department has changed a sow's ear into a purse," Treanor wrote, referring to length delays last year in getting paychecks to hundreds of youths. "I doubt if either is to be so easily fooled. Time will tell."
Donaldson called Treanor "one of the best child advocates in the country," but said in an interview that the consultant had no previous experience in designing and running the kind of summer jobs program the city plans. He said Treanor's comments merely represented "one man's view" of the situation within the department.
Treanor was hired in December to develop an overall plan for the summer program, which is supposed to provide temporary employment to some 20,000 youths, many of them from low-income families. He left the city government earlier this month by "mutual agreement," according to city officials. Other sources said Treanor made the initial decision to sever the relationship.
Treanor's chief criticism was that the department has not done adequate planning, particularly in the area of inentifying potential employers. "In Baltimore and other cities, job development is year-round," Treanor wrote. In other cities, he said, employers "compete to get job slots instead of our approach with the city as a salesman ready to thrust the merchandise -- wanted or not -- down any available throat."
In the District, he wrote, staff workers only now are beginning to find employers. Sources close to the department said the department has about six employees working on job development. Treanor recommended that 20 persons be assigned to that task.
Treanor strongly suggested in his memo that the city's program be structured more like the successful summer program in Baltimore, which gives employers more latitude in selecting young workers who they feel will fit into their operations. In effect, employers get to recruit their own summer workers.
The city's past approach, which will continue this year, has been for city officials to assign workers to each employer, giving the employer only the option to accept or reject the worker, not to initiate his own recruiting. This method is tied into the way the city receives federal employment funds, Donaldson said, adding that some exceptions might be made this year.
Treanor said that District youths consider many of the jobs offered by the program "lousy work experiences" and have learned from the past that the more interesting jobs are developed toward the end of registration for the program. He said that as a result the youths wait until the last minute to sign up and thus "jam up" the registration system."
The consultant indicated that he believes a Baltimore-style recruiting program would eliminate this problem as well, as employers would be willing to offer a wider range of jobs if they have more say in whom they hire.
Treanor wrote that the effort to plan this year's program has been "hampered by inadequate clerical support, staff equipment and office space." He wrote that most of the staff is still tied up in resolving pay disputes stemming from last summer's program.
Treanor wrote that the department is spending $30,000 a month in salaries for the summer program as opposed to the $65,000 he believes is necessary. He charged that the department is seeking to help balance its overall budget by "milking" the summer program.
Treanor's memo to Donaldson, who is also the mayor's top political aide, concluded with the criticism that "stream of consciousness management, structurally encouraged infighting and competition, paronoia and indecisiveness [have] not worked thus far to attract and motivate the caliber of people needed to run this program effectively."
Donaldson said that he disagrees with most of the points that Treanor made, and that the plan Treanor developed will not be used, though some elements of it may be retained. "He took a crack at it and gave us a start," Donaldson said. "We're not locked into doing this Bill's way or any other way." He said the department hopes to develop a final plan by April 1, in time for the projected June 23 start of the program.
"I believe we're going to have a dynamite program," he said. "You know, last year's plan was considered excellent. It's just a matter of implementation."