Wilhelmina Rolark said she was struck by the "orderliness" of the city's government. Charlene Drew Jarvis marveled at the low crime rate. And William Spaulding said he was impressed by the towering skyline.
Right away, you know these City Council members weren't talking about their hometown.
Rather, they were offering impressions of Frankfurt, West Germany, which they visited last week as part of a four-day jaunt sponsored by World Airways to inaugurate the airline's new European service. World Airways offered the expense-paid trip to Washington-area officials and to contest winners who are relatives of American military personnel stationed in Germany.
Three other council members--Frank Smith Jr., Nadine P. Winter and H.R. Crawford--went along for the free ride. Rolark's husband, Calvin, publisher of the Washington Informer, also accepted the trip. Lobbyist Woodrow Boggs, a lawyer and a close friend of Jarvis, accompanied the group, but paid his own way, according to airline officials.
Compared to the costly, often ludicrous junkets and "fact-finding missions" taken by members of Congress, this trip was small potatoes. The airline picked up the tab for the round-trip flight, which normally costs $1,018, first-class hotel accommodations for two nights, a tour of Frankfurt and a banquet for the officials and servicemen and their relatives.
But still, some of the council members apparently felt obliged upon their return to paint the excursion as a selfless act of public service.
Jarvis (D-Ward 4) said she hoped to use her experience in her work with the international trade committee of the National League of Cities. She agreed with Rolark (D-Ward 8) that the eight-hour plane trip provided an opportunity for the council members to discuss city business "out of the heat of the political atmosphere."
And Spaulding (D-Ward 5) said the trip helped promote Washington. "I think we should be used more often as ambassadors of good will," he said, noting he would not have gone if he had to spend his own money. Spaulding said Winter has suggested in a letter to Convention Center officials that they keep the council members in mind when promoting that facility.
Council Chairman David A. Clarke, who stayed behind, defended his colleagues' decision to accept the free trip. When a local TV reporter asked him about the propriety of well-paid elected officials accepting free trips, Clarke replied that it was no worse than the reporter's station inviting council members to an elaborate lunch.
Actually, Clarke had seriously considered going himself, but did not want to be accused of keeping the 13-member council from having a quorum for a regularly scheduled meeting last Tuesday.
As it turned out, Clarke could have jetted off with the rest of them. Council member John Ray, who also stayed behind, missed the committee meeting, and there weren't enough members in council chambers to conduct business.
The D.C. Contractors Association, a two-year-old group of minority contractors, held its first awards dinner Saturday night at the Howard Inn.
A crowd of about 200 business representatives, city officials and members of the City Council chatted and dined together and heard Mayor Marion Barry tout his administration's efforts to raise minority contracting awards from about $23 million in 1979 to $154 million in fiscal year 1981.
The mayor, referring to media reports about his personal friends bidding for city contracts, said, "It bothers me that the media . . . implies you get contracts because you know somebody. That may have been true in the past."
Barry said the majority white private sector has made long strides in bringing black businesses into joint ventures to gain government contracts, but that those same white firms are not aggressively seeking to contract with black businesses for their own needs. Barry said he has asked such major local businesses as C&P Telephone, Pepco, private hospitals and Woodies "where they do their purchasing . . . and they have come up short. We're going to get on their case."