WASHINGTON – Local government leaders Wednesday reacted favorably to D.C. Mayor Marion Barry’s promise to downsize city government and make the city more efficient and competitive.
In a briefing to the Metropolitan Washington Council of Governments on his vision for “America’s first city,” Barry touted the District as “the heart of the region.”
“I am very supportive of his program,” said College Park Mayor Joseph E. Page, a member of the COG board. “I think that what happens to Washington is very important to what happens to all of us.”
Page said, however, it would be important to have periodic reports of successes achieved.
Barry’s proposals, presented in a slide show that COG members applauded, envisions a D.C. government that is smaller, better-trained, better-equipped and more citizen- and business- friendly.
Central to the program is a plan to reduce the city government work force to less than 30,000 employees by the year 2000. This is a drop of 25 percent from 1995 levels, Barry said.
Twenty-two offices and agencies would be eliminated or consolidated.
Barry said work force reduction is “personally painful” to him. It’s also “politically negative,” he said.
The program calls for D.C. government to be operated like a business, with “retail and wholesale” employees. Those working in “retail” would aid those outside government, such as taxpayers and tourists.
“Our taxpayers are our customers, and without them we have no reason to exist,” Barry said.
“Wholesale” workers would help agencies and people inside government.
The District is $378 million in debt. Since June, the city’s finances have been managed by the D.C. Control Board, which was established by Congress to stabilize finances, improve services and monitor spending. Congress also has oversight over the city budget.
Mark Goldstein, deputy executive director for the D.C. Control Board, said the board is reviewing the mayor’s proposal and thinks there are some good elements to it. “We are pleased that he’s moving forward with a positive plan,” he said.
Goldstein said he could not comment on any part of it. He said the board, which must OK Barry’s plan, will make its comments public next week.
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