- The Washington Times - Thursday, November 7, 2002

Anthony A. Williams claims to be a better mayor because of the self-inflicted travails that have plagued his administration in the last four years.
He is allowed the favorable self-assessment in the absence of a serious challenge from Carol Schwartz, the Pat Paulsen of city politics who couldn't help herself after his petition scandal.
Mrs. Schwartz has promised again not to run in the city's mayoral election, the promise of a four-time loser determined to take a hint one of these election years.
Mr. Williams owes part of his renewed vigor to Dudley Moore, one of the two featured dead men of the Democratic Party this election season. Walter Mondale, the party's other dead man, was revived in Lake Wobegon, if only for a week.
It was Mr. Moore's endorsement, among others, that called into question the capacity of Mr. Williams to notice the small details, either in his campaign or around the city. In either case, the details threatened to overwhelm the well-meaning intentions of Mr. Williams.
Mr. Moore was the follow-up to Ronnie Few, the former D.C. fire chief who helped put out the Great Chicago Fire in 1871 and was referred to the city by Mrs. O'Leary's cow. Mr. Few became an apt symbol of the city's doctored resume, a succession of them that indicated a certain lack of thoroughness on the part of those in charge of running the city.
The rise of Saamir Kaiser was emblematic of the institutional blindness, of the blind leading the blind. Kaiser pretended to practice law on behalf of the city, and pretended so well that the city promoted him again and again, to greater positions of trust. Kaiser eventually helped himself to $248,105 in city funds and purchased a Mercedes-Benz and went on a honeymoon. This was against the law, as Kaiser might have known if only he had the law degree that he claimed to have.
The significant number of impostors working in city government reflected poorly on an administration looking to undo a generation's worth of indifference inspired by the political machine of Marion S. Barry. The cradle-to-grave feature of the Barry machine produced votes from the lackeys, plus a lifelong career in sharpening pencils in various departments. The bloat has been harder to eliminate than previously envisioned, the same with the do-nothing attitude.
There are good days and bad in city services, excluding the parking-enforcement brigade, the city's leading growth industry. The city's tow-truck operators, the gypsies and otherwise, are only too eager to provide the muscle behind the itchy writing fingers.
Mr. Williams aims to improve the city's quality of life, no doubt, and has been responsive to the notion that he is the only person in the city who is responsive to the concerns of voters. Picking up the phone at City Hall is a start, often a 50-50 proposition. At least the city's 911 operators are no longer allergic to the phone, and rescue personnel no longer hang out in Alexandria. That is a measure of progress.
Meanwhile, the sleepyheads with the Department of Motor Vehicles have been put on notice to leave their pillows, blankets and pajamas at home, if only because it sends a discouraging message to a public that must take off a day of work to spend it in a slow-moving line. That is even inefficient by the city's inefficient standards.
The last four years in the stewardship of Mr. Williams have been a boon to red-light cameras, the extra pair of revenue-generating eyes that take pictures and purport to tell no lies. There probably is a camera coming to an intersection near you, and possibly to your home. This is a matter of public safety, the contention that goes with the increasing planting of concrete barriers, the unofficial flower of the city.
The city hit the election season with a $323 million budget shortfall and a "structural imbalance," the political euphemism for fiscal irresponsibility. D.C. Council members granted themselves free parking in response. This coincided with the "no" from the U.S. Olympic Committee, a most fortunate no for a city in financial need.
As it is, Mr. Williams has responded well to the issue of the city's flying manhole covers, shutting down an irregular mode of transportation that unnerved the locals and tourists alike.
So Mr. Williams has earned another four years to make a better impression, to implement his vision with greater clarity, notwithstanding the tepid voice of approval from the city.
It remains his city, for better or worse, a cover-your-backside city ever resistant to genuine change.

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