The City Council has entered a new two-year legislative period and Council Chairman David A. Clarke wants the body to establish a "collective agenda" to give the public and the individual members a "sense of vision."
Although the council has begun its fiscal 1986 budget hearings and the debate over the soon-to-expire rent-control law is well under way, council members are still in the process of preparing their legislative agendas.
Few members, however, expressed any desire to decide on a joint-approach to the city's problems.
While some members indicated that a collective agenda was a good idea, they were convinced that the political nature of the body would doom such an approach.
"Some of us share the same consituents so you cannot forecast where you are going or someone will get ahead of you politically and you lose your control," said one member.
John Ray (D-At Large), agreed with that assessment and said he would announce his own program.
"It is a matter of people not wanting someone else to steal their thunder," Ray said, adding that it is easy to question whether Clarke's request for a collective agenda is "part of his agenda to run for reelection."
Ray, who has pitted his proposed rent-control bill against one that Clarke introduced, is viewed by some as a potential candidate for council chairman in 1986.
The Council member who ran against Mayor Marion Barry in 1982 said nothing could be further from the truth.
"John Ray has no interest in being chairman," said Ray. "If I were chairman, everything I do would be perceived as a step to run for mayor."
Council member Betty Ann Kane (D-At Large) added, "This is not the board of directors for General Motors. We don't all have to agree. It's one thing to say housing is a problem but to decide on an agenda is like deciding on the solution before we hold public hearings."
In a memorandum, Clarke asked that council members identify their concerns and any legislation or projects they planned to introduce.
"I believe that it would be good for the council to have a legislative plan for the council period VI, something we can all point to as our collective agenda for the period," Clarke said.
Although Clarke said he had received responses from the majority of the members, he declined to discuss them until after he meets with the entire group.
Nevertheless, some members questioned why the council should even get involved in establishing an agenda.
They said that the emphasis will shift from special interest legislation to issues that concern the majority of District residents.
During interviews, one member after another predicted that housing, crime, drug abuse, health care and unemployment would be the priority issues for the next two years.
Ray, for example, said he would emphasize rebuilding the city's rental housing stock and introducing legislation that would help the city establish a comprehensive drug treatment program.
Nadine P. Winter (D-Ward 6), the new chairman of the council's public works committee, hinted that she is working on a plan that would involve present or former prisoners in a public works program to beautify the city.
"I know we cannot continue to do business as usual," said Winter. "I'm looking carefully at public works."
Other members said that some of the most controversial legislation would center around what to do about overcrowding in the city's prison system and whether the city should take a new approach to the rehabilitation of inmates.