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Officials are out of touch
(Published February 26, 2001)

It is extremely difficult to comprehend exactly what is driving the passionate swiftness — or should we call it "haste"? — with which the Williams administration, the presidentially appointed control board and the Congress are disregarding legitimate public concerns in their drive to dismantle D.C. General Hospital.

It appears to have nothing to do with good government, representative government or even common sense.

The public servants who are moving full-speed ahead in secretive negotiations to turn over the city’s public health care network to a private, profit-making company need to stop, take a deep breath and ask themselves why American government exists.

Hint: The answer has nothing to do with "customer service," "stakeholders" or "the bottom line."

It has everything to do with people.

And in this instance, the people are being ignored.

The people are being told by their elected mayor and his administration — and by the control board and Congress, who seem intent to impose their will at all costs to the taxpaying District of Columbia public — that budgetary concerns dictate that the city’s only public hospital must cease to exist.

At the same time, the people and a majority of their elected D.C. City Council have been trying to tell the mayor’s representatives at meeting after meeting across this city that they want their tax dollars spent to maintain D.C. General Hospital and its network of health-care services as public entities. Dr. Ivan Walks, the city’s highly paid health director and a driving force in defending the effort to eliminate the District’s public health-care system, even walked out of a meeting of the Kingman Park Civic Association on Feb. 13 when it became clear that the crowd did not support his position.

What is really going on here?

It is NOT a sign of good financial management for a municipal government to amass multimillion-dollar budget surpluses for four years. Those surpluses signal poor financial management for a government, just as deficits would, because they mean the budgets are NOT balanced as they should be.

Municipal governments are not supposed to turn a profit. A government that profits off the backs of taxpayers, while telling the taxpayers that the government cannot afford to provide the services that the public wants, is not doing its job.

Providing government services is supposed to cost money. That’s why taxes exist.

And government officials who are being paid high salaries that are competitive with private industry pay should be able to deliver efficient government-run services without needing private companies to do it for them.

So who is really being served — at outrageously high taxpayer expense — by dismantling D.C. General Hospital? It’s certainly not D.C. taxpayers.



Copyright © 2001 The Common Denominator