OHIO CONGRESSMAN Ralph Regula is right to think that the District government is running its minority contracting badly. He has heard all of the claims that the city's program favors only a few with political connections to the mayor. Accusations are flying in all directions and a 17-month-old FBI investigation into certain contracts is continuing.
But Mr. Regula is wrong to try to fix it by congressional legislation. Mr. Regula succeeded in gaining the approval of the House D.C. Appropriations subcommittee this week for an amendment that would prohibit the city from renewing sole-source contracts without competitive bidding.
Mr. Regula's concern is fine. If he wants to suggest or strongly urge the District government or the D.C. Council to take action, that's fine too. But pushing legislation that seeks to run the affairs of this city from the Capitol is an assault on self-government. Action such as Mr. Regula recommends is within the scope of the mayor's office and the council. City officials have taken at least one good step in stripping the broad powers of the Minority Business Opportunity Commission, which will no longer be allowed to exclude other minority firms from bids or unilaterally extend contracts. In a sense, however, the District government's own lethargy is to blame for the actions in Congress.
In February of 1986, the D.C. Council passed its own procurement and practices law. By all accounts, it is a good law that requires sealed, competitive bidding in all but a few circumstances. According to the city's own timetables, the District government was supposed to have drafted regulations for the law and should have sent them to the council for approval by August of 1986. It is now mid-June of 1987, and the District government is still in the preliminary process of posting proposed regulations in the D.C. Register. The law should have been well in place by now.
Home rule is strongest when the city's elected government and its officials act decisively and promptly. That is how they can prevent embarrassing and ill-considered initiatives by Congress, such as Mr. Regula'