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The worst city government.

So far, the contest for the Worst City Government remains a close race between New York City and Washington. Here are three reports from the front:

New York City has a law requiring landlords to install window guards in apartments that house children, and 15 inspectors in the health department's Window Guard Unit ostensibly enforce it. An audit in July found that these inspectors routinely falsify their time sheets. in one week they reported working 142 hours when, in fact, they worked 99 hours-and that was when the auditors were accompanying them on their rounds.

In February the U.S. attorney indicted eight employees of the Queens Department of Motor Vehicles in a bribery scheme. Undercover cops paid as much as $1,600 for a driver's license; drugs were an acceptable form of payment. The truly painful part is that the bribers were able to cut to the front of the lines. . . .

-James Ledbetter

Mayor Marion Barry claims the District of Columbia's program to combat infant mortality is "the most comprehensive on planet earth." In fact, the District's infant mortality rate is the wont of all major cities in the country. Here's what happens when a pregnant woman on Medicaid calls the District's Medicaid Information Service to find an ob/gyn in the city's largely black Southeast who accepts Medicaid payments: Of the four numbers listed in District files, two are wrong, one is disconnected, and one reaches a doctor who won't take Medicaid. A month after being informed of the problem, Medicaid Information continues to pass out wrong numbers. . . . -Katherine Boo

"Washington, D.C. spends $5,800 a year per student on public education, nearly 50 percent above the national rate. It pays its teachers at the second highest level in the nation, close to a $35,000 a year average. Yet its dropout rate (48 percent) is the worst in the nation and its SAT scores are third from the bottom.

"Washington's streets are among the worst-maintained in the nation. Yet Washington spends 43 percent more than all cities spend on road and street maintenance, and double or triple what is being spent in cities like Chicago, Philadelphia, or Boston. The city govemment employs 633 city workers for every 10,000 people. The national average for big cities is 224. Even if you accept that D.C. is more like a city-state than a city alone, its payroll level is 43 percent above the average for all state and local governments combined . . . .

-Warren Brookes in The Washington Times

Please send your nominations to: Worst City Government The Washington Monthly 1611 Connecticut Ave. NW Washington, DC 20009.
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Title Annotation:Washington, D.C.
Author:Brookes, Warren
Publication:Washington Monthly
Date:May 1, 1989
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