LAST WEEK Mayor Barry sent a letter to members of Congress asking for their addresses if they live in the city. The mayor wants this information so that he and his staff can, in the words of the mayor's chief congressional lobbyist, "do what we can do to make certain that members (of Congress) do not have to go through what is considered the bureaucratic maze."
That "maze" must include parts of city life familiar to all, such as outrageously high water bills, mistaken tax assessments and the frustration that comes in trying to get a city permit. Barbara Washington, the mayor's congressional lobbyist, explains that the mayor wants to help congressmen avoid these hazards of District life because Congress has control of the city budget and veto power over local legislation. To smooth the congressmen's dealings with the city government, she said, is in the District's best interest.
The idea of helping people with the frustrations of the city's bureaucracy is wonderful. But the mayor's approach is backward. The nation's capital does not need a new class of important people who are not to be exposed to the realities of life in the form of a badly run bureaucracy. What the city needs is a well-run bureaucracy that works for all. People who are not members of Congress can testify to having had enough of gruff, often ill-informed bureaucrats--if they have even had the luck to get one of the bureaucrats on the phone. The idea that members of Congress will think the city is going along fine if they are nicely cared for--while the rest of the city is snarled in red tape--is somewhat naive.
As a public relations maneuver, to keep the well- known congressmen from criticizing the city and the Barry administration, the mayor's move is also a loser. What the mayor should do is send a letter to congressmen telling them that, if they live in the city, they will be pleased to know that he is hard at work to correct the wayward habits of the bureaucracy--for everyone.