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Senator CASE. The Advisory Council has no power. It cannot initiate legislation. It cannot pass an ordinance to appropriate money, or anything of that sort.
General ROBINSON. That is correct; yes, sir.
Senator DWORSHAK. Mr. Chairman, I had intended to make similar comments to these made by Senator Case on the potential duties of the Citizens' Advisory Council. We hear so much about home rule in the District. And I think it is very important that the Commissioners of the District realize that they give a measure of home rule by permitting the Council to reflect the thinking of the people in the District on various controversial issues.
On the other hand, as Senator Case pointed out, we in Congress ridicule the status of advisory boards which have been set up in the past by the executive branch of the Government, where members of boards are called in to Washington not to submit advice, or to be consulted with, but rather to pass upon some plan, some policy, already formulated by the various boards and agencies in Washington. And they have had no real authority. If you follow that same plan in the District with your Advisory Council, of course, it will be meaningless.
I believe the Commissioners in the District do recognize the need of expanding the participation of the people here in Government, and to this extent at least the members of the Council should be permitted to be more than mere rubber stamps. I think the Commission recognizes that. General ROBINSON. Yes, sir. The CHAIRMAN. All right. Proceed, General. General ROBINSON. The next steps expected in the basic reorganization are the integration of agencies into a Department of General Administration and the organization of this Department on a sound basis; delegating authority on a temporary basis to all existing agencies to continue the functions presently assigned, and to continue as presently constituted, until the details of the organization can be worked out; and subsequently assigning such agencies to departments, and defining their duties and responsibilities. It should be apparent that this is a long-term process which, if not to disrupt the government, must be carried out methodically and carefully. However, it is expected that the initial reorganization can be completed within a year. Thereafter, further organizational adjustments can be made as conditions require.
9. Conclusion: Primary initial benefits from these reorganizations take the form of improvements in administration and services. Eventually economies are expected, although some initial increases in costs will probably result from the new positions necessary to set up the new services, which in turn are necessary to develop such economies. To accomplish this the Board of Commissioners has requested in separate legislation the appropriation of the sum of $100,000 from funds on deposit in the Treasury to the credit of the District of Columbia. Many benefits in improved operations are probable in the next years, and it is expected that these will result in a reduction of expenditures as compared with those that would otherwise be necessary. Any itemization of such reductions in advance of actual experience under this plan is not practicable.
The Commissioners recognize and appreciate the outstanding help and advice they have received from the many individuals and groups which have assisted in the formulation of this plan and made it possible. Chief among these are the large number of District officers and employees who have worked so hard on the plan; the numerous citizen, civic, business, and other groups which have supported it so stanchly; the many citizens who have advised us on difficult and controversial issues, and the officials of the Congress, the executive offices, and other Federal offices who have helped develop the plan in its final form, including the White House staff, the Civil Service Commission, the Bureau of the Budget, and the Department of Justice.
This is essentially the people's plan—not alone the Commissioners'. It would not have been possible without the help of the citizens of Washington. At the same time it has put the Commissioners and the entire District government in a position where they must succeed. Reorganization must go ahead, sensibly, logically, effectively, and the Commissioners are determined that it shall provided this plan becomes law. They hope that the Congress has the same confidence in them that the vast majority of citizens have expressed, and is prepared to grant them this broad authority.
The Board of Commissioners deeply appreciates the President's action in forwarding this plan to Congress, and at the same time humbly recognizes its profound obligation to the people of the District of Columbia and to the Congress to make the most of this splendid opportunity better to serve them.
Mr. Chairman, when I entered this hearing room I was handed a copy of a staff report (staff memorandum No. 82–2–33), which has been made a part of this record. There are numerous statements in that paper to which I take exception, particularly those listed on page 2 under "Defects of Plan No. 5 of 1952."
I would like to comment briefly on the questions raised there.
The first criticism is that the plan is a carte blanche. That is true; however, I feel that we need the flexibility. We need to straighten out the legal status and background of these agencies. And I think that the presentation I have made and the data I have furnished the committee as a matter of public record indicate in detail how we intend to use this authority, and constitute an obligation on the part of the Board of Commissioners to do exactly that to which we have testified here this morning.
The naming of the commission form of government as “defective,” "outmoded,” and “discredited," is entirely incorrect, as applied to Washington. In fact it is peculiarly fitting to our special conditions.
We have an outstanding government now. In many departments we have been nationally recognized as outstanding leaders and pioneers in good city management. In our Police Department, our solution of crime is above the national average; and we have received national recognition for the statistical methods which are used.
In our Fire Department, the loss per capita is 20 percent under the national average. Our Veterans Service is not only the best but it is the cheapest in the country. No word of criticism has ever been made in press or radio concerning this office. · Our Department of Corrections is a recognized leader. It has been used as a model, at least in part, by the State of Michigan, the city of Philadelphia, by the Territory of Hawaii, and by at least four foreign countries. Our highway department has received national awards for structures which we have built.
Under Public Health, we were the first to coordinate public health and medical care. We are the first city in the land to introduce bacteriological examination of restaurants. We were the first city in the land to establish a rehabilitation hospital for tubercular patients.
We are also leaders in the field of stream pollution control. In the field of sanitation the head of our Sanitation Department received a national award just a few months ago for his excellent work, including the design of a transfer station which is unique in the country.
We have a long-range water-supply program which assures the citizens of Washington and surrounding territories that they will not lack for water, as has been the case in many other cities of the country.
And in the field of traffic safety, it is almost an annual occurrence that we receive one of the top three awards. I received word just this morning that Washington has again been awarded the No. 1 spot in its group for traffic safety in the country.
I submit that such criticism of the commission form of government is unwarranted when these things have occurred under that form.
Senator DWORSHAK. General, which Commissioner currently has supervision over regulating traffic on the District streets?
General ROBINSON. That is the Engineer Commissioner, sir; myself.
Senator DWORSHAK. I would like to make a suggestion, in all sincerity. A few weeks ago, and during the past few weeks at various intervals, there have been receptions held at the White House. Recently I went down Constitution Avenue, and to avoid the traffic rush, I drove over to Pennsylvania Avenue. I do not think it took me over 25 minutes to traverse about six city blocks. And I shuddered as I realized what might happen if a fire broke out in that downtown business section, with thousands of automobiles bumper to bumper, requiring four or five light changes to traverse one block. I was wondering whether the police, who have the responsible authority, realize the jeopardizing of public safety by permitting such a situation to develop.
There were many dozens of police, in fact, trying to regulate traffic, but they were doing a very, very poor job. Many of the streets in the vicinity of the White House were blocked off, which concentrated traffic on the remaining open thoroughfares. And it seemed to me, while I have no particular interest except as a resident of the District at this time, that someone is remiss in his duties in not seeing that that traffic is regulated in a manner that will enable fire trucks, for instance, to get into the business district. I am sure that you were taking a very hazardous risk in jeopardizing the safety of the people of the District on such occasions. I certainly hope that something will be done to eliminate those hazards.
General ROBINSON. Yes, sir.
Senator DWORSHAK. I would like to have the General's comment on my observation.
General ROBINSON. Well, we would be glad to take that under study. I did not mean to imply that the Department of Vehicles and Traffic had the responsibility for managing traffic, which is under the Police Department.
Senator DWORSIIAK. I thought it might be the Police Department.
General ROBINSON. Also, without knowing the details of this particular incident, I do not know whether the Park Police or White House Police might also be involved, because part of that territory is under them. I would be glad to look into this specific instance.
Senator DWORSHAK. It does not make any difference who specifically is responsible. That is precisely the reason-we have divided responsibility. But that does not eliminate this real hazard to the business section of the city.
General ROBINSON. But I think it is something that the Board of Commissioners should concern itself with.
Senator DWORSHAK. Before and not after some holocaust occurs.
General ROBINSON. We accept that responsibility and will certainly go into it.
Senator DWORSHAK. I submitted that in a spirit of friendliness, because I think it does deserve serious consideration.
General ROBINSON. Yes, sir. It is certainly our responsibility.
As to the next comment concerning the reports which have been made, reference is made to the 1939 Griffenhagen report in which a manager form of government was recommended for the District. The representative of the Griffenhagen firm who made this report was in my office a few months ago in connection with our reorganization plan. At that time he stated that the change in the size and complexity of the government of the District of Columbia since 1939 had considerably increased its problems, that his 1939 report concerned legislation which also provided for the franchise, that he was not in favor of a manager form of government at this time under the Reorganization Act, and that he doubted that he was in favor of a manager in any city of the present size of Washington.
(See letter to chairman from Dr. George B. Galloway, p. 97, May 20 hearing.) :
The CHAIRMAN. First, may I make this statement. The purpose of this staff report is to bring before this committee all the divergent views, opinions, and reports which have been made upon this matter. It is not intended as a criticism of the Board of Commissioners of the District of Columbia or necessarily as a condemnation of the operations of the District of Columbia government under their direction. But there is controversy, there are honest differences of opinion as to which system of municipal government is the best, and the purpose of this staff report is to point this up. We should be apprised of all the facts, for the benefit of all concerned. I think frankly the Bureau of the Budget disagrees with you as to the form of government, does it not?
General ROBINSON. Yes, sir; they disagree violently.
The CHAIRMAN. The Congress is here to make a decision. We can only make a decision to accept or reject what is proposed. We cannot amend this plan to provide for a managerial form of government.
General ROBINSON. I am not criticizing the people who made the report, but I would like the opportunity to comment on these statements, with which I disagree.
The CHAIRMAN. Yes. But I did not want you to feel that the purpose of this report was to try to develop a lot of controversy or criticism. It was simply to bring the facts before us, and, I might say, I take the responsibility for that, because I instructed this staff to bring before us as far as possible a complete analysis, with all pertinent facts, explanations, and criticisms, as to what is proposed by other authorities, so that we can weigh all appropriate information and give it proper consideration before coming to a final conclusion.
Go right ahead.
General ROBINSON. Reference is also made to the Auchincloss report and the mention of abolition of the Board of Commissioners in that report.
I wish only to say in that regard that Congressman Auchincloss called me on the phone a few days ago and told me, “I will support your plan."
(See letter to Chairman from Dr. George B. Galloway, p. 97, May 20 hearing.)
The CHAIRMAN. Some of these authorities may have changed their minds, as conditions changed, of course. And as you say, some of their reports were made 15 or 20 years ago.
General ROBINSON. As to the next paragraph, which was addressed to the alleged defect that a constitutional principle as to separation of powers has been violated, I wish to point out in this connection that the District possesses no sovereign or legislative powers, for Congress is our city council. The policy-making powers that the Commissioners have are purely interpretive and administrative. So there already exists a separation of power, as between Congress and the Board of Commissioners. If this plan is adopted, it will still further permit the Commissioners to delegate their operational powers, leaving them still freer on matters of policy which they would have to determine.
The CHAIRMAN. Does this plan confer any legislative powers upon the Commission?
General ROBINSON. None at all, sir. So we already have the separation of power that this principle states.
Senator Case. But, Mr. Chairman, the Commissioners do have considerable ordinance making powers under delegations already made by the Congress. General ROBINSON. Which we already have, yes, sir.
The CHAIRMAN. What I meant was that this plan does not increase those.
Senator CASE. It does not increase them.
Inasmuch as reference here is made to the Bureau of the Budget plan, Mr. Chairman, I have here in my hand, but which has not been furnished your committee, a memorandum to the President under date of April 7, 1952, subject “District of Columbia reorganization plan,” which was submitted by the Board of Commissioners to the President, which analyzes the two plans from the standpoint of the Board of Commissioners, and I feel it might be in order to introduce this also into the record.
The CHAIRMAN. That may be filed. I should like to examine it be. fore ordering it printed. The other plan is actually not before us.
General ROBINSON. I raise this point only because it was mentioned in the staff report, which has been entered into the record. It is 16 pages long, with a chart and a list, double spaced.