Mayor Walter F. Washington, asserting that his administration has laid the foundation for greater home rule and prosperity in the District, said yesterday he is the only candidate with the experience and skills to be mayor the next four crucial years.
Washington said that if he is reelected, he would work to persuade Congress to grant the District full budget autonomy. He said he would reorganize the city's sprawling bureaucracy and use new federal funds creatively to build new housing in the city and create more jobs.
"You're going to have to package (these programs) in different ways than we've ever packaged (before)," Washington said during a luncheon interview with Washington Post editors and reporters. "I know one thing: I don't think there's anybody in this nation that packages better than I do."
Washington dismissed as unfounded , politically motivated and simplistic the charge by his opponents that the city government has been mismanaged and become an embarassment to city residents under his leadership.
He portrayed his two major opponents in the Sept. 12 Democratic primary - Council Chairman Sterling Tucker and Council member Marion Barry - as men of promises who backed any of the necessary experience to be mayor.
"One of my opponents says he has had 18 years with the Urban League," Washington said of Tucker, former director of the Washington Urban League. "That's not like running a billion-dollar corporation."
"Marion has run nothing," he said of Barry, who was chairman of the school board in 1972-1974. "The school system was in the most chaotic state of its existence during his administration."
Throughout the interview, Washington, wearing a dark blue suit, with striped tie and a white handkerchief in his suit coat pocket, fervently defended his stewardship of the city during the past decade.
He brought three folders of papers, including hadwritten notes on his agenda for the city, that he often referred to when answering questions. At times he read from reorganization charts and internal reports on existing city programs.
At times, Washington leaned back in his chair, fielding questions with his hands stuffed in his vest pockets. At other times, he leaned forward, speaking forcefully and punctuating his remarks by shaking his clenched fist.
And he spiced the interview with humor. When asked, for example, who he would support if he loses the primary, Washington responded: "Well, to tell you the truth, I have not come to that, I never, never retreat while I'm charging."
Washington said that his priorities for the city were housing, spurring economic development that would produce more jobs and using a combination of newly-available federal grants to revitalize neighborhoods "across the board."
On other matters, Washington said:
He would not name any department heads he would dismiss if reelected but he anticipated that some "new blood" would be placed at the head of various city agencies once the government is reorganized.
He would build more public housing as part of an effort to increase the District's housing stock. Washington said displacement is a serious problem that could be partly alleviated by more public money to help residents purchase and rehabilitate existing homes.
He would support completion of the full 100 miles of the Metro subway system, even though most of the building to be done is outside the District. The completed rail line would be important to city residents for access to jobs in the suburbs, he said.
Many of Washington's comments centered on his 10 years as the city's chief executive, and it was in this area that he refused to talk about the removal of any department heads.
"I don't think I endeavor to get into that hit list activity. First of all, people have some rights. Secondly, I think it's a very demoralizing kind of enterprise," Washington said.
"In looking at another four years, I think the picture changes," he said. "Before you start talking people, you're going to have to start talking function. Then you place the people."
Washington said the current effort to modernize the city's bookkeeping procedures would probably lead to a reorganization of the Department of Finance and Revenue and the Office of Budget and Management Systems. He also said he would favor gaining more control over the semi-independent Redevelopment Land Agency, which has jurisdiction over much of the city's urban renewal programs.
Although opponents have criticized his government as inefficient and mismanaged, Washington quickly dismissed those accusations.
"There's no city in America that does not have problems from time to time," he said."How in the world can you sit here and . . . with 80 agencies out here, with thousands of programs on in comparison to what problems we have, and say there's mismanagement (we're) one of the few cities in America that has met its bills, come out in the black."
Washington was asked about the indictment in April of his general asisstant, Joseph P. Yeldell, on charges of bribery and conspiracy, but he refused to discuss any aspects of the case, which is scheduled to go to trial on Oct. 2.
In the general areas of ethics in government, however, he said, "I have tried to run a government - and I think I have done so - that has been without any blemishes, to the extent that you don't find the trends like you have in most cities.
"I have set the highest example for public service," he said. "For 30 years I've worked in the government and I've never had a relationship with the government of the United States or the District of Columbia that's had a question raised. That's the standard I set. That's the standard I ask for among all of them."
In education, the mayor said his major accomplishment has been construction of some $330 million in school buildings. Washington said he believed that education is "the foundation of the community," but the role the mayor could assume in that field is limited because by statute most of the decisions are made by the independently chosen school board.
Washington acknowledged that during the past four years, his relations with the City Council had at times been strained. But he attributed that to the fact that two members leading members of the council - Tucker and Barry - had begun early to seek his job.
"I started out with a chairman. He was on my ticket," Washington said of Tucker, his running-mate in 1974. "But it wasn't long after that that it became evident that he was going another way.
"I think the relationship could be better. I think in another period it will be better," he said.
Washington said that his list of priorities to take to Congress, if he were reelected, would be headed by full budget autonomy and would also include a fixed federal payment for the city, the authorization to sell bonds and authority to impose a commuter tax.