[from November 1998 issue]

Now that you've promised us that you're going to (hopefully without any "help" from the leftover Marion and Cora cronies with whom you seem to have become so cozy) make things really work around here, we will be expecting results ASAP. After all, it's not as if you haven't been on board for a while. Supposedly you do know about our governmental structure and stuff like that -- although we're not really 100 percent sure about that: after all, it was only last month that you let slip that you thought our local legislators are "aldermen."

You also -- or at least your former financial management office -- apparently didn't know that the Congress has for a number of years prohibited using DC funds for abortions. Now, all of a sudden it's a big revelation to your former subordinates. How could you, as, until recently, the CFO, not have known this? We suppose you were on Mars the whole time, which would explain having no knowledge of something that has rankled our citizens for years. (Of course, being up on Mars will explain why you couldn't vote until you returned in time to become a candidate for mayor.)

Okay, we'll ignore the past and hope for a better future. We might really believe in a better future if we could see some quick evidence that you really mean it when you say you're going to make things work better. You can start at that very unexciting but universally popular place called trash. That's what people really care about. Trash. Get rid of it. But that largely dysfunctional public works department, which you are going to regain authority over (although when you were working for the control board you already had authority over it) still can't make things work right. Oh, yes -- there are some outstanding points of light, such as many of the really dedicated field workers in the sanitation education and enforcement area who really get out and bust their butts. But, overall, management keeps screwing up.

Example No. One lately is the resumption of recycling. Throughout the city too many homes and sections of neighborhoods have not received boxes or have not received the proper number. Living in a high-rise building, you may not know it, but it's very common for a townhouse to have one or two additional apartments. Each (up to three) is entitled to city trash service. Yet, for the most part as far as we could determine, those houses received only one box rather than two or three. That was, we learned, because the city's list given to the contractor is devoid of that information even though it is known to the real estate tax assessment agency.

Well, we can live with start-up glitches, but when the department director's office puts out the word that citizens can call his office and report the need for boxes to be delivered and that they then will be delivered and nothing happens even though the information is recorded, what is a taxpayer to think? We have had numerous complaints that the information about how to do this that we dutifully published on our website was no good because nothing happened when calls were made by residents. Such a little, simple thing, but it's just a replay of the same old, same old.

What's needed to fix these problems is to retool the underlying culture of the government whereby resources will be directed to service delivery and away from time- and personnel-consuming activities revolving around designing more restrictive regulatory schemes or fighting legitimate citizen needs and aspirations at every turn. Let the bureaucracy concentrate on giving us what we pay for and what the city council has determined we are entitled to. Let the council set policy. That will free up the executive departments and agencies to do what we expect of them, which is to give service.

And if you are under any illusion that our complaints here are wacko, just take another look at the city council election results. We voters across the city sent our government a message: Shape up or ship out. We want good government and we want it to be delivered with grace and compassion and respect. To make this come true, you will have to do more than wear that green eyeshade.

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