- The Washington Times - Wednesday, February 28, 2001

Mayor Anthony A. Williams yesterday said the District of Columbia government workers still have a long way to go in meeting higher standards, suggesting those who don't perform their jobs well should find other employment.

"You have people who are star performers," Mr. Williams said during his monthly "Ask the Mayor" show on WTOP Radio (AM-1500). "Then you have people down at the bottom who need to be let go and find another line of work."

Mr. Williams said initiatives to improve the quality of the work force and customer service like better training, testing telephone operators' manners and improved technology have made residents feel a little better about living in a city that continues to have trouble picking up the trash.

Still, Mr. Williams said the city's government employees including public school teachers need to be held accountable.

His comments about the quality of the city's work force, including teachers, were prompted by a question about D.C. school board President Peggy Cooper Cafritz's pronouncement that half the city's school teachers are incompetent.

While not necessarily agreeing with Mrs. Cafritz, Mr. Williams did say he and others should discuss ways to "rebuild [the District's] teaching corps."

"Maybe buyouts are an option for getting fresh faces in the classroom," Mr. Williams said, adding that better evaluations and performance pay also could help weed out poor teachers.

The city also needs to do a better job of providing services to residents, Mr. Williams said.

"You've got to understand that people are calling in for service because they didn't get it in the first place, and that's something where you need work," Mr. Williams said.

A few areas where city officials are doubling their efforts because of residents' complaints include illegal dumping, abandoned cars and doing a better job of cleaning and sweeping alleys.

Next month and in April, the city will issue a more complete and thorough schedule for city services, like trash pickup and street cleaning.

Mr. Williams said he expects residents to call and complain, too, if services are not delivered as promised.

Part of delivering better customer service, the mayor said, means having long-range plans that go beyond reacting to crises and disaster.

Mr. Williams said his blueprint for fixing streets that constantly need repair because of potholes is just one example of planning for the future.

"A lot of the streets just need to be repaved," Mr. Williams said.

He tiptoed around the thorny issue of whether he would move into a $16.5 million mansion on Foxhall Road in Northwest that was donated to the city by Betty Brown Casey for use as a mayoral residence.

"This isn't about me. It's not about where I chose to live or, for that matter, where I could afford to live," Mr. Williams said.

Rather, he said, the donation of the neo-Georgian mansion, which sits on 17 acres in one of the most exclusive sections of the city, shows the District's "emerging status" and should be thought of as "a tremendous offer to our city" and not to him.

Mr. Williams and his wife, Diane, currently live in a two-bedroom condo in Foggy Bottom.

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