City Desk

Barry: Expect Weekly Hearings on Summer Jobs

This morning, Mayor Adrian M. Fenty provided yet another update on the status of his beloved summer jobs program. Nearly 24,000 kids have signed up, "the highest level of enrollment in decades" with a "record number of job opportunities," according to a news release.

Fenty has committed to accommodating all comers, even though last year's program went more than $30 million over budget under a similar lack of constraints.

In recent days, the spiritual godfather of D.C. summer jobs has made it clear he doesn't share Hizzoner's expansive view of the program.

"I'm not going to participate in this craziness," says Ward 8 Councilmember Marion Barry, who started the Summer Youth Employment Program as mayor in 1979. It's widely regarded as one of Barry's political masterstrokes, engendering almost unanimous and endless goodwill from an entire generation of Washingtonians.

Barry, however, is not sold on Fenty's plans, he tells LL.

For one thing, through his council committee, he has proposed cutting $20 million from Fenty's proposed $42.9 million budget for the 2010 program. To do that, he recommends that the program be scaled back from 10 weeks to 6 weeks, that registrations close on April 1 rather than continue through the summer, and that participation be capped at 21,000.

And, as far as this year's program goes, he wants to see a spending plan. Two weeks ago, Fenty announced he was seeking to double the $21 million he'd originally budgeted. To do that, he's asking the council to tap a "community benefit fund" associated with the Nationals Park authorization, though no spending plan has yet to be submitted.

"You're asking for trouble," Barry tells LL—intimating a tough council fight to get the supplemental spending approved.

Fenty's approach to the program, Barry says, "teaches these kids bad habits"—that anyone who applies is simply handed a job. Some of the placements are made in the private sector and federal government, but the vast majority of kids are employed by the District government.

Barry's objections come at the same time that the Brookings Institute's Greater Washington Research program has raised questions about summer jobs—a effort providing "uncertain, uneven, and sometimes really bad outcomes"—sucking up the vast majority of the local dollars spent on employment programs in the city.

No matter what happens with the funding, Barry says he vows to hold weekly oversight hearings into the operations of the program—all 10 weeks of the program, "even during the council recess."

"I'm gonna put pressure on him," Barry says of Fenty. "I'm gonna blow the whistle if it ain't right."

Photo by Darrow Montgomery

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  • Unbelievable

    I am speechless. Marion Barry believes that the entire premise of his 1980s and 1990s government "teaches kids bad habits."

    I have heard it all now.

  • Tom

    Just because he was also a bad example, does not mean his criticism of the current mayor is not correct.

  • Skipper

    So Barry got a new kidney AND fiscal responsibility implanted at the same time?

  • Downtown rez

    More likely Barry wants to designate and get credit for where Community benefit Funds go to- he was very interested in that at the stadium hearings.

  • Stating the Obvious

    What has the council done with the real Marion Barry?

  • Wrack

    Fenty's Nixonesque paranoid self-indulgent self-interested anti-checks-and-balances approach to mayoring -- as filtered through AG Nickles, who is a very small lonely man with a Napoleon complex -- seems to have this kind of effect on people.

  • Ciroc Jones

    I hope Mr. Barry does hold WEEKLY meetings someone needs to keep an eye on the Summer programs so another fiasco does not happen like last year and who better then the man who started it all. Say what you want about Barry but he is for the PEOPLE of the city wish I could say that about the current Mayor.

  • Ward 8 Voter

    LL, since when did Hizzoner start giving you interviews??? LOL..

  • Mike DeBonis
  • Q

    "the spiritual godfather of D.C. summer jobs"...that is an awesome description. It almost brought tears to my eyes. LOL! Barry being fiscally responsible is nothing new. In his last mayoral campaign he called himself a "financial wizard". Still, it is sad to see what the "Mayor Barry Summer Jobs Program" has become.

    In better economies, kids could actually work from late-June to mid-July (similar to the 10 weeks Fenty is trying to do). Not only that but the program was expansive in that high school graduates (up to the age of 21) could qualify. However, the jobs were not a guarantee to DC residents. The jobs were COMPETITIVE, were based on family income (need) and early registration was crucial in getting assigned. With that I agree with Barry that the open registration and promises to all don't really fit.

    Many of summers in the '80's (until I got my Work-Study job in the Federal Government) was spent developing job skills that helped me get to where I am today. Kids need that. Some of my collegues in MD were envious of the "Mayor Barry" DC jobs, as they didn't involve working in retail, but true government experience.

    Bringing us back to the current era, cutting the time back to 6 weeks is bad (so I agree with Fenty on this one), but if the budget isn't there, hopefully there are ways to make up for it. If things weren't so corrupt and mismanaged, I'm certain DC residents would "donate" above taxes to keep things going. I'd rather pay $5 a month for this than $4 a month for street lights and 5 cents for grocery bags. Our kids need consistency, stability, and the regimen of employment to help build responsibility.

    We know the high unemployment rates in DC as well as the nation. We often complain about the kids just "hanging around" or committing crimes without nothing viable to do. The Summer Employment program DOES have a legacy in that at least two generations of DC kids have benefited from it. However, it needs to be viable, run responsibly, and not some crusade to get someone (re)elected. It is actually an example of something in DC that used to work for the kids and building future generations.

    Cut Barry and Fenty some slack this time and let them work to a REAL solution instead of political jockeying. Hopefully they will roll up their sleeves and not have a p*ssing contest about this will be out in a little over a month.

  • Q

    I meant mid-August. Doh! That and a few typos are NOT a reflection of my DC Summer Youth Employment experience.

  • OPY Whistleblower

    24,000 youth registered huh??? Thats Kanye West AMAZING. In a month and a half he has signed up, verified documents, and gotten 24,000 kids into the system. WOW.

    Thats a pretty round number, and its almost IMPOSSIBLE. I sat outside for 2 days taking applications and gone to almost every rec center, outdoor event, church, and youth summit in DC last year and maybe, just maybe took in about 1000 applications. At the 24 hour event we maybe pulled in 6,000 and that was with news and radio advertising the event.

    In the words of Jay Z--"Men lie, Women lie, Numbers dont". I want an audit so that we dont spend millions of dollars on Doritos, pears, and soda again.

    I want the competent employees of OYP to be recognized for their hard work and determination. And not be walked out of the office so that a 19 year old with bad manners and no clue on how to use a computer can replace them. That office should not be staffed by friends and neighbors. It was wrong when Yasha Williams did it and its wrong when Jerrianne Anthony does it. The District is losing good workers to "he say she say" and "I dont like you cause you from NE"... Who runs that office? And its not getting better, its getting worse. If you visit 625 H St today, it looks abandoned, moral in the office is low from all of the abuse and the mismanagement. Its not Youth Friendly and thats who the OYP staff are there to service. There was a time when youth were always in that building, now its a distant memory. When will it stop?

    Because for me and some of the workers at OYP--it isn't a paycheck, its a passion and its that passion that makes them stand up to the abuse, its the passion that makes them smile and provide excellent customer service, and its the passion that makes them work hard for the youth of DC.

    24,000??? Doubt it.

    But for the OYP Staff that actually does work hard and are in it for the youth, keep up the good work. And even if nobody appreciates you because the mayor makes the whole office look bad, I do.

  • DCNatives

    Given the current vacuous administration, thank God the council isn't delusional like Fenty! The council did propose to slash Fenty’s 2010 Summer Youth budget by $20 million. Unfortunately, Hizzoner is willing to sacrifice city services and government jobs in 2009 to prove a childish point—“my Summer Youth Program is bigger and better than Marion Barry’s!”
    Where is the rationale for implementing an employment program that has no parameters? An unconscionable $30 million were misappropriated on last year’s Summer Youth Program due to Fenty’s open door policy – come one, come all, come young, come old, come from every state in the Nation!
    While Fenty and his Follies are playing one-up on Marion Barry, the District’s taxpayers will experience Déjà Vu this Summer—our coffer will again be pillaged! It’s projected that in 2010--under the leadership of our wastrel Mayor--the District will face a BILLION DOLLAR deficit. If Fenty continues his irresponsible fiscal management of the District’s dollars, Déjà Vu will again visit the residents in the form of a congressional appointed Financial Control Board, as was the case in 1997.

  • Downtown Rez

    Oh, please. Barry would be the first to bitch and moan if any of his ward 8 least last or lost wasn't fully employed this summer. And the thing about busting the budget? You do remember that he bankrupted the city and brought on the control board, don't you?

  • DCNatives

    Absolutely, I remember and Hizzoner is leading the District down the same path!

    Downtown Rez, it’s not a popularity contest with us, it’s about taxpayers’ dollars being played with like monopoly money! Do we need a repeat? The District was a BILLION dollars in the hole in 1997 when Congress foreclosed on us.

    In 2010, Gandhi is projecting a BILLION dollar deficit and Fenty refuses to limit the number of participants—according to Hizzoner, 24,000 kids have signed up, “the highest level of enrollment in decades.” Where is the rationale in continuing an open-door policy when the same approach in 2008 wasted $30 million taxpayers’ dollars?

    I say it is child’s play! Fenty does want to prove an inane point— my program is bigger than Barry’s! Downtown Rez, if you have insight into the madness, please enlighten us.

  • bullpen2010

    Some random thoughts this morning.

    I keep hearing again and again "Marion Burry has done more for black-poor-minorities" than anyone else.

    Examples? Anyone?

    In no way am I Fenty supporter, but let us not forget the years of corruption during Barry days as mayor.

    Beyond the federal agents popping up from under the bed at the Mayflower Hotel catching Barry hitting the crack pipe there was and still is A LOT of dirt when it comes to Barry.

    Cronyism make me Fenty's crack, but it is a vice for Marion Barry as well.

  • bullpen2010

    Let's not forget the laundry list of crooks hired and arrests that occured during Barry's reign, his deputy mayor was a arrested and a handful of other Barry's dark liquor drinking womanizing friends.