- The Washington Times - Monday, May 1, 2000

Marion Barry was never forgiven for being in sunny California when the city struggled with back-to-back blizzards some years back. It's not that he and his administrators responded to the resulting problems inadequately. It's that they didn't respond at all. These days the reverse is true. Mayor Williams keeps promising to smooth the disruptions caused by various roads projects, but he just can't seem to get it right.
First, as chief financial officer (CFO) in the late 1990s, Mr. Williams stalled attempts by public works officials to establish strict policies and fee guidelines for utility firms that needed to dig up the streets. Then, as mayor last fall, he ignored pleas from the council to "come together and agree on stronger policies to assure taxpayer value for roadwork undertaken." To date, despite promises to do better, the madness and work continue unabated.
Motorists are unhappy about both the amount of work obstructing city streets and the poor quality of the repairs. It doesn't seem to matter which company is doing the work. Potholes, ragged street patches and three-inch trenches cut by, say, waterworks crews are as jarring as those cut by a telephone company.
While moratoriums on permits for road work and new construction and threatened fines may provide a respite, the bottom line is the Williams administration's handling of public works projects is abominable and the mayor was warned about it months ago in writing, way back in October, and from three D.C. Council chairmen at that. In their joint letter, Public Works Chairman Carol Schwartz, Consumer and Regulatory Affairs Chairman Sharon Ambrose and Government Oversight Chairman Kathy Patterson urged the mayor not just to declare a moratorium on road work but, more importantly, to establish stronger guidelines for "the extraordinary pace of roadwork now underway."
Because there were no guidelines and because no one was monitoring the road work that was ongoing or upcoming, the Williams administration is desperately trying to play catch up. It has to play catch up because the bad moves Williams & Co. made in recent years are only now surfacing.
Obviously the mayor must take responsibility for this mess; he is the boss. There's also Deputy Mayor Norman S. Dong, who worked with Mr. Williams when he was CFO. Mr. Dong has many responsibilities, and overseeing public works is just one of them. But for the most part, motorists and businesses in this city aren't complaining about the way he performs his other duties. Short of setting up a hotline to reimburse motorists for blown tires, lost hubcaps and front-end damage, the mayor has got to get Mr. Dong to focus on the problem.
In the meantime, the administration plans to hire new contractors to repair road damages made by the old contractors and to get the old contractors to reimburse the city. Next thing you know, the city will hire still more contractors to oversee the work of the contractors hired to review the work of the first contractors. Bureaucrats and contractors look to benefit from all this work. When can motorists and taxpayers do so?

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