- The Washington Times - Tuesday, August 12, 2008

ANALYSIS/OPINION:

Fiscal matters were never District of ColumbiaMayor Adrian Fenty’s strong suit during his years on the D.C. Council, and it is now clear that they just may be his chief weakness amid revelations that the summer jobs program ran $31 million over budget. The popular program was estimated to cost $21 million. How did this happen?

Well, if you believe the Fenty administration, it was a new computer system overwhelmed by the 21,000 youths who signed up for summer jobs. But that’s just like the District.

When D.C. Public Schools paid hundreds of teachers who no longer worked for the system, it was a computer problem. When the D.C. Child and Family Services Agency overpaid a group-home provider by $600,000 but failed to pay foster parents and others, it was a computer problem. When the D.C. Department of Motor Vehicles once discovered motorists had made double payments for parking tickets to the tune of millions of dollars, it was a computer problem. The only computer problem the city has is “garbage in, garbage out.”

Your run-of-the-mill smart phone, like the Blackberry, which the mayor and D.C. employees use, can hold more than 1,000 names, addresses and phone numbers. The D.C. computers were not overwhelmed by data. The problem, again, was that the computers were overwhelmed with bad data.

Mr. Fenty instructed his managers to place anyone who sought a job with a job — even if applicants missed the deadline. Mr. Fenty wanted to be the new and improved Marion Barry (who started the jobs program decades ago) with a bigger, bolder summer jobs program to teach thousands of teens the value of work and proper work etiquette, but he did not bother with the costs or how his wishes to place every youth would affect the city’s budget. Subsequently, some youths who failed to show up for work got paid, and when the money ran out, many who had actually worked received no pay. And as for Mr. Fenty’s more open and transparent government: Summer Spencer, director of the Department of Employment Services, has not been allowed speak with the press.

The mayor’s Utopian view is costing taxpayers an additional $31 million, but with the $2 million he supposedly “found” to keep the libraries open which will cover budget overruns, we’re not surprised. Too bad the mayor can’t fire himself.

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