Republican Carol Schwartz criticized Democratic Mayor Anthony A. Williams at a Washington Post lunch interview yesterday for failing to bolster police presence in Washington's neighborhoods.
The two candidates for mayor, speaking to Post reporters and editors, clashed frequently and sometimes personally over the city police force, financing plans for a baseball stadium and credit for improved city services.
"I don't think we see police presence in our communities that we want to see," said Schwartz, an at-large member of the D.C. Council. "Hello! You've had four years to get them out of the cars and into the streets. Why hasn't it been done? I can assure you, I would not be satisfied until we got many of our police officers out of the cars and into the streets."
Williams countered that police officials have made strides toward their goal, mandated by the council, of having 3,800 uniformed officers. He said new "precision patrols" are targeting police resources at hot spots. And he spoke glowingly of Chief Charles H. Ramsey, whose contract is up for renewal after five years on the job.
"Crime is down in the city, violent crime is down in the city, and we want that to continue," said Williams, though he acknowledged the homicide rate has risen after last year's recent low. "What we want to do is . . . continue to get more police out in the neighborhoods, continue to move toward 3,800 officers. And we're actually showing headway toward that."
Schwartz repeatedly criticized Williams for taking more credit than he deserves for improvements in some city services. The mayor defended his positions and also accused the Republican of "a little embroidery" in overstating her arguments.
After the lunch, he quipped that the two had bickered like "an old married couple."
This year's campaign, like the interview, has focused more on Williams and his record as mayor than the specifics of what either candidate would do if elected. Both promise more economic development, better services and, if the city's economy permits, more tax relief.
Williams presented an upbeat picture of his tenure, with a government that's leaner and more responsive than when he took office. He said there are 10,000 fewer full-time employees than before.
"I'm proud of the record I've amassed in this city," he said.
Schwartz countered that her years of experience as a civic activist and public official in the city make her better suited to be mayor than Williams, who lived in Washington for only four years before running for mayor in 1998 and still does not own a home in Washington. Schwartz moved to the city in 1966 and raised her family here.
"All three of my children, all three of them, never went anywhere but to D.C. public schools," she said. "So I truly put my children where my mouth was."
Schwartz portrayed Williams as a disengaged manager who is not committed to the city and has displayed little of the financial management expertise that has long been his chief political asset. She particularly criticized the growing number of bureaucrats, both middle managers and those earning more than $100,000. That group, Schwartz said, has grown from 330 to 537 since Williams took office in 1999.
"This bloated bureaucracy that we have today goes untouted by the media," she said. "It's a story that has not been told."
Schwartz also said the mayor has not shared credit for initiatives that started with action by the D.C. Council, such as her proposals to buy new trash trucks, plant more trees and buy new Supercan garbage cans that the government provides in many neighborhoods.
And she distanced herself from Williams on the issue of public financing for a baseball stadium, though she said she wants baseball to return to the city. The mayor has written a letter to Major League Baseball officials offering as much as $200 million in public contributions for a stadium.
Schwartz said, "This huge public financing, I'd like to keep that at a minimum." She also criticized Williams for once speaking highly of the area east of Mount Vernon Square as a possible site for a stadium. That idea has long generated community opposition.
"Carol," Williams replied, "you just glide by and elbow me in the eye."
He said that site, though once appealing, has become problematic because land costs would be at least $150 million higher than at other sites being considered.
In a more puzzling exchange, Williams said that Schwartz was irresponsible to propose more than $400 million of tax cuts when the city is in a fiscal crisis. He said the proposals were on her campaign Web site.
But Schwartz, a stalwart advocate for tax cuts in her three terms on the council, said she had no knowledge of any tax cut proposals.
Soon after the lunch ended, Schwartz campaign officials called to say that the economic plan that appeared on the Web site was from her 1998 campaign and was recently posted by mistake by a volunteer. She has run for mayor three times before, and her campaign has no paid staff.
The economic plan -- which included proposed cuts to the city's sales, income and corporate franchise taxes -- was quickly removed from the site.
"I certainly know that today we can't realistically look at tax cut proposals like that," she said later. "I'm glad it was brought to my attention."