D.C. City Council member Marion Barry said yesterday that he would fire the current directors of the city's departments of housing, labor, planning, general services, economic development and insurance if he is elected mayor.
Barry, one of three principal candidates in the Sept. 12 Democratic primary, discussed the firings during a two-hour luncheon interview with editors and reporters from The Washington Post in which he described the kind of city government he would lead.
Frequently portraying his two major opponents - Mayor Walter E. Washington and City Council Chairman Sterling Tucker - jointly as insensitive, unimaginative and inefficient, Barry said he is "ready to take the city into . . . a new creative direction for the way the government operates."
"It's the people that have to be the focus of this campaign, what the government does against them, to them or without them," he said. "That's the overriding direction that I look at.
"I think the whole framework for leadership - the style, the vision, the competency, the sensitivity, the ability to bring people together is one issue," Barry said.
"It's leadership and vision," he said. "People are embarrassed to say, 'I'm from the District of Columbia,' not because we don't have representation, but because they're not happy with the kind of leadership and the image this city has to them."
Barry listed jobs, housing education and "the money squeeze" - high rents, utility costs and health care for senior citizens - as principal concerns.
Under his administration, he said, housing displacement would be less "disruptive." There would be racial, economic and social integration in many city neighborhoods. Businesses would be offered more enthusiastic and efficient encouragement to move into the city, bringing with them more jobs. Senators and members of Congress and top White House aides would regularly be invited to visit the District Building to discuss city problems.
On other matters affecting city government, Barry said:
He favors a change in the city's personnel regulations to require firemen and police to work 25 years instead of the current 20 before they are eligible to retire. This would help to ease the city's staggering financial burden from unfunded pension liabilities.
Would support a regional payroll tax to help finance Metro bus and rail. At the same time, Barry said he would favor keeping transit fares stable.
He would reorganize the huge and troubled D.C. Department of Human Resources, keeping DHR Director Albert P. Russo in city government but not neccessarily as head of the new entity. The same would be done with the Office of Budget and Management Systems, headed by Corner S. Coppie.
Throughout the interview, Barry stressed that the operation of the city's $1 billion-a-year bureaucracy could be made more efficient, and the elimination of some of the heads of the 36 major departments is crucial, he said.
There is some uncertainty about the degree of protection from dismissal that civil service laws offer to department heads. But, Barry said, "notwithstanding all this civil service problem and all of this and that, I think I have ways of getting them to resign."
Those he would seek to remove, he said, are Lorenzo W. Jacobs of the Department of Housing and Community Development; Ben W. Gilbert of the Municipal Planning Office; Thomas A. Wilkins of the Department of Labor; James W. Hill of the Department of Economic Development; Maximilian Wallach of the Department of Insurance and Samuel D. Starobin of the Department of General Services.
Barry said those department heads he would keep include William H. Rumsey of the Department of Recreation, Fire Chief Jefferson W. Lewis, Police Chief Burtell M. Jefferson, Library Director Hardy R. Franklin and Transportation Director Douglas N. Schneider Jr.
He said he is "not sure" about Youth Advocacy Director Jimmy Jones, Human Rights Director James W. Baldwin, George R. Harrod, director of the city's personal personnel office and others.
Although Barry was more specific than ever in the past about those who he would ask to leave government, he refused to identify any of the new people he would bring in if he were elected.
"I've had to spend a great deal of my time organizing, raising money and overcoming all of those obstacles to keep a candidacy going," Barry said, "which took a tremendous amount of energy and thinking on my part and the people around me."
Barry did say that he would tend to look first in the city and the current city government. He said he does not especially favor nationwide talent searches for new department leaders.
He said city administrator Julian Dugas would be removed and replaced by "a technocrat . . . person who knows how to get the bureaucracy moving, who may or may not be in the bureaucracy now."
He said he would require department heads to disclose their income tax statements - as he has done in his campaign - and any stock owned in corporations that do business with the city. But, Barry added, he would draw some lines on disclosure by close relatives of the officials who are not involved in City government.
Asked about his vision for the future of the city, Barry tended to respond with proposals for expanding existing programs and making them more efficient and responsive.
He proposed no significant new programs, but emphasized that the existing ones could solve many of the city's problems if they were used more efficiently and imaginatively. That theme was woven throughout Barry's comments on one of the city's most critical problem areas - housing.
He said he would act to renovate the over 4,000 city-owned boarded-up houses and apartments by using a variety of federal programs, keep an unstated percentage of condominium apartments at below market value prices for the elderly and low-income persons. He said he also would seek expanded rent subsidies for low-income earners.
Private real estate developers also would be invited by his administration to develop moderate-income housing at a predetermined price" ranging from $40,000 up to $60,000, Barry added. Barry ran through a list of federal programs that he said could help subsidize private construction of new housing and "expand the city's housing market."
"If the will is there. And if the vision is there. And the leadership is there, it can happen" he claimed. "It can be done. It can be done."
"What I want to see here is a situation where there's a mix (in the city) both racially, economically and educationally," he said.
Another top priority of his, Barry said, is the creation of jobs by encouraging local businesses to the city. He would revitalize the city's office of economic development to help achieve that goal, he said.
"Too many in this city are out of work," he said. "Over 60 percent of the black youth are out of work.
Barry said he would rely heavily on U.S. funds for employment programs, but also would be willing to spend some local government money in this area. He assigned a key role in solving unemployment problems to economic development.
To help in this area, he said he would reorganize the city's office of economic and business development and give it a more aggressive and positive attitude.
"What I hear from business people," he said, "is that they don't feel the D.C. government, the present mayor and that administration (and) Sterling (Tucker) have given them the feeling and the impression that they are wanted here.
Barry indicated that he was troubled by many of the conditions in the city's public school system, including a high number of pregnacies among young girls, lack of reading skills, drug abuse and lack of coordination between the school system and other departments in city government.
As mayor, said Barry, and as the former president of the school board, he would set a cooperative and positive tone for improvement of the school system.
Barry said that Tucker and Washington had failed to actively develop good relations with Congress and the White House, and he said that if elected he would hire two or three lobbyists to monitor and advocate the city's interests on Capitol Hill.