D.C. City Council member Charlene Drew Jarvis (D-Ward 4), a candidate for mayor, said yesterday that, if elected, she would revamp the Department of Housing and Community Development by creating a separate agency specializing in zoning, building permits and code enforcement.
In outlining plans for government reorganization, Jarvis also promised to strip the Department of Human Services of its responsibility for providing health care and set up a separate public health department. Under the current administration, Jarvis said, programs for combating venereal disease, infant mortality, tuberculosis and other problems are woefully inadequate.
Jarvis said that to reduce crime, she would place more emphasis on rooting out the causes of crime, such as unemployment and drug addiction, rather than hiring more policemen or seeking mandatory prison sentences for certain offenses. "I would start at a different end of the continuum," she said.
During the wide-ranging interview with reporters, editors and editorial writers from The Washington Post, Jarvis also said she would create an economic development corporation to spur development and the creation of jobs, especially in commercial and residential areas outside the downtown area such as the H Street NE corridor.
Jarvis, elected to the City Council 3 1/2 years ago, criticized incumbent mayor Marion Barry for what she called slipshod long-term planning and budgeting policies, inaccurate tax-revenue forecasting and ineffective monitoring of department activities.
"I want to run for mayor because of the absence of planning that goes on in this government--that leads to fiscal mismanagement, that leads to a misuse of our resources, that does not in fact look at what we are doing to say what is it we need to do next on the basis of something that we've collected in the way of data," said Jarvis, a 40-year-old former research scientist at the National Institute of Mental Health who is one of four Democrats vying for the nomination in the Sept. 14 primary.
"I am very solution oriented and very closure oriented and very follow-up oriented because that's my training," she said.
"Politicians are very good at telling you what's wrong. Many are not very good at really making solutions or finding solutions to the problem. I am, and I really think that is the strength I bring to the mayor's office."
Jarvis said that one of her first actions as mayor would be to order extensive audits of all city deparments, to ascertain whether they are spending within their budgets and working towards specific goals. She said she would turn to private think tanks, such as the Brookings Institution, for advice on how to improve revenue forecasts.
She accused Barry of trying to deceive the council and the public about the city's finances by withholding financial information that is essential to determining whether the city is headed for a deficit at the end of the current fiscal year, as some have predicted.
She also said that Barry's handling of the D.C. budget and the accumulated deficit of $308 million has cost the city support on Capitol Hill. "There are many who have said to me, we are afraid that what we're doing is losing the opportunity to continue to march on toward home rule because of the lack of respect in the Congress for the current administration.
"I see a lack of respect on the Hill for the professionalism of this city, and I am distressed about that because we have worked an awfully long time for home rule, only to lose it because of the leadership capabilities or absence thereof of our elected officials."
Jarvis said she cannot propose her own specific solutions to the city's financial problems because she lacks information on which to base new policies. "You have to recognize that I'm in the legislative body while the mayor is in control of all the information," she said.
Jarvis, who is chairman of the Council's committee on Housing and Economic Development, said such a lack of information had made it impossible for her to "get a handle on" the activities of the city's housing department.
Asked how she expects to be able to administer the entire city government when she doesn't fully understand the operations of one department, Jarvis again offered the explanation that Barry has refused to disclose full information about his administration's activities. Jarvis promised to run an open administration if elected.
She said she is not sure what mandates have been given to heads of the city's more than two dozen departments and thus does not know how good a job they are doing. Consequently she could not say which ones, if any, she would remove in a Jarvis administration.
She did say, however, that under the present governmental structure, the directorship of the city's housing department involves "wearing too many hats" and should be changed.
Some of the responsibilities that Jarvis wants to see transferred to a new Department of Housing Regulation include the city's Building and Zoning Regulation Administration and the office that regulates condominium conversions and sales, both of which are currently in the housing department, and the agency that administers the city's rent control law, the Rental Accommodations Office, which is now an independent city agency.
The new department also would include a new division of housing code compliance that could mediate disputes over code violation cases brought by city inspectors, tenants or landlords.
Rather than have the Corporation Counsel's office continue to prosecute code violations with limited success, those violations would be handled as civil matters by administrative officers, with the right of appeal to a Landlord-Tenant Court, under Jarvis's proposal.
"Code enforcement is so important in maintaining the housing stock that it needs its own policy," Jarvis explained. "We're trying to keep this whole thing out of the Corporation Counsel's office."
Nonethless, she said she would substantially increase the Corporation Counsel's budget for enforcing the city's housing code.
She also said she opposes a bill that would permit tenants to withhold part of their rent and use it to make repairs if landlords refuse to make the repairs.
She said this "repair and deduct" legislation would improperly shift liability and responsibility for apartment repairs from landlords to tenants. Stricter enforcement of the building codes, not additional legislation, is the solution, she said.
Jarvis said she would support a general increase in the staff of the Corporation Counsel's office because of backlogs in many areas that she said stem from a shortage of city lawyers. The office currently employs about 100 attorneys.
Jarvis has made shortcomings in the city's public health program a major issue in her campaign against Barry, council member John Ray (D-At-Large) and lawyer Patricia Roberts Harris.
She said that the Barry administration's decision in May 1980 to close the Upshur Street Clinic at 1325 Upshur St. NW, one of the city's busiest public health facilities, underscored the city's insensitivity to the public health problems of indigent patients. The clinic was located in the ward Jarvis represents on the Council.
She promised, if elected mayor, to reopen the clinic and to transfer the city's public health and ambulatory care responsibilites from the Department of Human Services to a new public health department.
During the 1978 mayoral campaign, then council member Barry also promised to establish a separate public health department, but changed his mind after becoming mayor and appointing a committee that recommended otherwise.
Jarvis said her proposal for an economic development corporation to encourage the revitalization in neighborhoods surrounding the downtown area, predates a similar plan unveiled last week by Harris.
Under the Jarvis plan, which would operate in conjunction with the establishment of urban enterprise zones, a public-private investment coporation would assist community-based groups in undertaking commercial ventures with public and private loans.
Jarvis also said during the interview that, as mayor, she would have vetoed the no-fault automobile insurance legislation recently approved by the City Council. Jarvis, who opposed the measure on the council floor, promised to work for its repeal or modification if elected mayor.