Washington, D.C. is run by peo­ple who don’t even live there

Pakistan Observer - - INTERNACIONAL -

DCOLBERT I. KING UR­ING a 2012 pub­lic hear­ing on res­i­dency re­quire ments for D.C. gov­ern­ment work­ers, Mayor Muriel E. Bowser (D), then chair of the D.C. Coun­cil’s gov­ern­ment op­er­a­tions com­mit­tee, bluntly as­serted: “You want to run this city — you have to live here.” She’s not alone in that sen­ti­ment. D.C. of­fi­cials have long con­tended that city res­i­dents should, as much as pos­si­ble, con­sti­tute the D.C. gov­ern­ment’s work­force.

They say that it makes sense to award jobs funded with D.C. tax dol­lars to qual­i­fied D.C. res­i­dents. This re­sults in more tax rev­enue for the city and re­duces the out­flow of city salaries to the sub­urbs at the end of the workday. Hir­ing D.C. res­i­dents also helps take pres­sure off the D.C. bud­get be­cause Congress pro­hibits the city from tax­ing the in­comes of work­ers who live out­side the na­tion’s cap­i­tal.

But be­sides fuss and fume about D.C. dol­lars cir­cu­lat­ing beyond city lim­its, what have the elected lead­ers done about it? The facts, please. To pin down in­for­ma­tion on the em­ploy­ment of D.C. res­i­dents vs. non­res­i­dents within the D.C. gov­ern­ment, I filed a free­dom of in­for­ma­tion re­quest with the De­part­ment of Hu­man Re­sources (DHR), the city’s per­son­nel agency.

Re­sults re­ceived from the DHR sug­gest that city lead­ers have been all talk and lit­tle ac­tion. Ac­cord­ing to the DHR, non­res­i­dents con­sti­tute a ma­jor­ity of the 35,302 em­ploy­ees in the var­i­ous “ca­reer,” “ed­u­ca­tional,” “ex­cepted,” “ex­ec­u­tive,” “le­gal” and “man­age­ment su­per­vi­sory” ser­vices of the D.C. gov­ern­ment. Non­res­i­dents hold that ad­van­tage de­spite a 10-point res­i­dency pref­er­ence added to the em­ploy­ment scores of qual­i­fied Distric­tres­i­dent ap­pli­cants.

Non-District res­i­dents dom­i­nated the D.C. gov­ern­ment: 16,103 Mary­lan­ders, 3,579 Vir­gini­ans and 429 res­i­dents of other ju­ris­dic­tions vs. 15,191 D.C. res­i­dents, ac­cord­ing to DHR data.

Non­res­i­dents also hold the ma­jor­ity of higher-pay­ing jobs in the ca­reer ser­vice, based upon an ex­am­i­na­tion of gov­ern­ment pay­grade lev­els.

For ex­am­ple, at Grade 11, where salaries range from $55,195 to $71,161, D.C. res­i­dents hold only 1,100 po­si­tions, while more than 1,500 are filled by non-D.C. res­i­dents. Like­wise, at Grade 15, where salaries run from $98,697 to $139,288, non-D.C. res­i­dents hold 3,185 po­si­tions and D.C. res­i­dents 2,397. Sim­i­larly lop­sided break­downs are re­flected in Grades 8 (start­ing salary $41,648) through 18 (start­ing salary $119,650).

Ar­guably, D.C. gov­ern­ment em­ploy­ment is a path­way to the mid­dle class — in Mary­land, Vir­ginia and points beyond. The DHR data also raise ques­tions about the hir­ing sys­tem it­self.

The ex­cepted and ex­ec­u­tive ser­vices rep­re­sent the top tiers of the D.C. gov­ern­ment. Most em­ploy­ees in the ex­cepted ser­vice are on the mayor’s per­sonal staff or serve in pol­icy po­si­tions. These po­si­tions are filled non­com­pet­i­tively.

Ex­ec­u­tive ser­vice ap­pointees, on the other hand, are agency heads who are sub­or­di­nate to the mayor and serve at her plea­sure. Ex­cepted and ex­ec­u­tive ser­vice em­ploy­ees, how­ever, have one thing in com­mon: They are re­quired, by city rules, to live in the District. They have 180 days from the date of their ap­point­ment to es­tab­lish and pro­vide proof of res­i­dency. Ac­cord­ing to 2016 data, 53 ex­cepted ser­vice em­ploy­ees and 20 ex­ec­u­tive ser­vice em­ploy­ees live in Mary­land, while 31 ex­cepted ser­vice and five ex­ec­u­tive ser­vice em­ploy­ees live in Vir­ginia. Re­sponses for 2015 show sim­i­lar re­sults. The num­bers cry out for ex­pla­na­tion. So, too, the stark un­der­rep­re­sen­ta­tion of D.C. gov­ern­ment’s broader work­force.

What ac­counts for non-District res­i­dents fill­ing most of the city’s jobs? Are Mary­lan­ders, Vir­gini­ans and other non­res­i­dents get­ting hired be­cause they are more qual­i­fied? Do D.C. res­i­dents lack the skills nec­es­sary to per­form at higher lev­els of pub­lic ser­vice? How do those dis­parate res­i­dent vs. non­res­i­dent re­sults re­flect on us as a city — our school sys­tem, train­ing and job readi­ness?

This week, I sought an­swers via email from Kevin Don­ahue, the deputy city ad­min­is­tra­tor and deputy mayor who over­sees the hu­man re­sources de­part­ment. Don­ahue replied: “The DC De­part­ment of Hu­man Re­sources (DCHR) and other District agen­cies have ac­tively en­gaged District res­i­dents to not only in­crease District res­i­dents as em­ploy­ees, but to pro­vide train­ing and ed­u­ca­tion in re­sume build­ing and in­ter­view­ing to sup­port the Mayor’s ini­tia­tive in cre­at­ing path­ways to the mid­dle class.”

He added: “Mayor Bowser launched the LEAP pro­gram in March 2015 to con­nect District res­i­dents to District gov­ern­ment jobs. These are typ­i­cally en­try-level jobs, but there are some ex­cep­tions. For ex­am­ple, at [the De­part­ment of Pub­lic Works] more than 10 peo­ple are in train­ing to be me­chan­ics for District fleet ve­hi­cles.”

Don­ahue said that all of Bowser’s ex­ec­u­tive and ex­cepted ser­vice ap­pointees live in the city or are still within the 180-day tran­si­tion pe­riod. res­i­dents in the —Courtesy: WP

District Mayor Muriel Bowser.

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