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Residents, officials rate Williams

(Published January 10, 2000)

BY EMORY JULIAN MILLS

Staff Writer

Despite a slow start for his administration, D.C. residents and city council members still praise Mayor Anthony A. Williams for improving services and creating a positive image for the District during his first year in office.

Councilman Jack Evans, D-Ward 2, who was among Williams’ opponents for the Democratic mayoral nomination, said he gives the mayor high marks for changing the city’s image in a short time.

"The perception of the District as a corrupt, fumbling, inept city has changed enormously," he said. "The view from outside, as well as inside, is a city that really is on the rebound. I think the mayor is starting to get his bearings."

Advisory Neighborhood Commissioner Mark Wright of Ward 1 gives the mayor high marks for improving the Department of Motor Vehicles. When he first walked into the motor vehicles bureau in the early 1990s, Wright said he was "mortified" by the disorganization and resultant confusion about where to receive services and by the staff’s negative attitude toward residents seeking those services.

But Wright said when he visited the DMV in December to renew his license tags, he noticed a "sea change" in the staff’s attitude and in the department’s organization. Wright, who said he supported Williams’ election, said he was especially pleased that he could complete his DMV business within half an hour.

Ian Alexander, Ward 5 Republican Committee chairman and an ANC commissioner, described Williams’ tenure as an improvement over former mayor Marion Barry’s.

"Returning basic services to even a mediocre level is better than what we’ve had before," said Alexander, describing Barry as "out to lunch" when it came to taking care of the city.

But Councilman Jim Graham, D-Ward 1, said Williams and Barry had different leadership styles, which makes a direct comparison impossible.

"It’s a little bit like comparing apples to streetlights," Graham said.

Graham noted that Williams has been responsive and accessible as mayor, but he expressed disappointment with the mayor’s position on development of the Columbia Heights neighborhood in his ward. Graham said he wants the council to be involved in the decision-making process, something the mayor opposes.

Michael Gould, president of the Kalorama Citizens Association, said the mayor is doing "an excellent job" because garbage collection in his neighborhood has improved and the process of obtaining a driver’s license has been simplified.

"My sense is that he’s dealing with a lot of people who are not service-oriented," Gould said.

Gould said he wants to see educational reform, which includes replacing bad teachers.

Other residents called Williams’ first year in office a period of adjustment and said they feel he has done the best job he possibly could.

"He could have done a better job of reaching out or building bridges, but that year is over now," said Ronnie Edwards, president of the Northwest Boundary Civic Association.

Jeffrey Singer, president of the Dupont Circle Civic Association, said that the next mayor would have to continue Williams’ efforts to reform the crime and education problems facing the city because these problems cannot be solved quickly.

"It’s such a huge job," Singer said. "It’s not a four-year job. The next mayor is going to have to pick up the ball."

While Philip Pannell, president of the Ward 8 Democrats, gave the mayor an A-plus in leadership because of his ability to inspire Washingtonians with the Nov. 20 citizen summit, he gave the mayor a C-minus in administration.

He said that he is pleased with the mayor’s rhetoric about solving problems for residents living east of the Anacostia River -- in Ward 7, where the movement began to draft the city’s then-Chief Financial Officer Williams to run for mayor, and in Ward 8, where the mayor managed to garner only lukewarm electoral support. But Pannell added that the mayor’s walk through open-air drug markets last fall was not enough to solve the problem of businesses selling drug paraphernalia.

Copyright 2000, The Common Denominator