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Washington, D.C. The Subcommittee met, pursuant to notice, at 10:15 a.m., in Room 1310, Longworth House Office Building, the Hon. Thomas G. Abernethy, (Chairman of the Subcommittee)

presiding. Present: Messrs. McMillan (Chairman, Full Committee), Abernethy (Chairman of the Subcommittee), Whitener, Fraser, Jacobs, Nelsen and Broyhill.

Also Present: James T. Clark, Clerk; Hayden S. Garber, Counsel; Sara Watson, Assistant Counsel; Donald Pubridy, Min. Clerk, and Leonard O. Hilder, Investigator.

Mr. ABERNETHY. The Subcommittee will come to order, please.

We have with us this morning Mr. Samuel Spencer, a former District Commissioner. It is nice to have you back here. You were on the Commission from August 6, 1953 to April 6, 1956, were you not? STATEMENT OF HON. SAMUEL SPENCER, FORMER PRESIDENT,


Mr. ABERNETHY. You served as President of the Board of Commissioners

Mr. SPENCER. I was President of the Board during the whole time I was in office.

Mr. ABERNETHY. It has been a long time since you were here. We are glad to see you back.

Mr. SPENCER. Thank you.
Mr. ABERNETHY. You may proceed.

Mr. SPENCER. Mr. Chairman, several weeks ago Congressman Nelsen wrote me a letter through Mr. Tubridy requesting my comments on Reorganization Plan 3. This letter reached me in Rhode Island where I was on vacation. I would like to read to the committee this morning my letter in reply and to make that letter my statement to the committee.

Mr. ABERNETHY. That will be fine.
Mr. SPENCER. This letter is dated July 19, 1967.

NARRAGANSETT, R.I., July 19, 1967. Hon. ANCHER NELSEN, House of Representatives, Washington, D.C.

DEAR CONGRESSMAN NELSEN: "Your letter of July 11, 1967, requesting my comments on the President's plan #3 for the Reorganization of the District of Columbia Government and enclosing a copy of the testimony of management consultant Merrill J. Collett before the House District Committee has been forwarded to me here on vacation. Since I do not have the library facilities available which I would have in Washington, I will not be able to answer your letter as fully and precisely as if I were there, but I am glad to make a few general comments regarding the Reorganization Plan.

“I have studied Mr. Collett's testimony. What he says about the combination of policy-making functions and administrative functions in the Commissioners and the division of administrative responsibilities among the three Commissioners is of course true. I think, however, that he has painted the picture in the darkest possible terms and that in practice the District Government has functioned a lot better than reading his statement might lead one to believe. Although over the years there have no doubt been occasions when disagreements between the Commissioners have tended to slow up decision making, I believe that generally the Commissioners have made decisions with reasonable promptness and that delay from this source has not been a major problem in the District Government. The serious delays and stalemates have occurred when conflicts have arisen between District departments and such agencies as the National Capital Planning Commission and the National Park Service which are not controlled by the Commissioners. The Reorganization Plan would not resolve situations of this type.

"A three man Board is small enough so that the members can readily keep in close touch with one another, both formally and informally, know one another's thinking, and ordinarily reach decisions very quickly. The usual situation has been a good working relationship among the three Commissioners and a readiness to cooperate in the interest of efficiency and getting things done. Of the thousands of decisions made by the Commissioners the overwhelming majority have been unanimous and have been reached without extended controversy or disagreement. A split Board has been the exception rather than the rule. Although the President of the Board does not have any more authority legally than the other Commissioners, I think that there has been a tendency, both on the part of the public and among the Commissioners themselves, to look to him as the head of the Government and to be receptive to his leadership. Of course, such things depend to a certain extent on the personalities and abilities of the people involved, and the effectiveness of the system obviously suffers if a serious antagonism develops between the Commissioners. However, over the years such antagonisms have, I believe, been infrequent.

"Mr. Collett says very little about the Department of General Administration, which has now been functioning for about fifteen years and which has been most useful in pulling together the administration of the District Government and in coordinating the operation of the various departments. The Director of the Department of General Administration has been the central administrative figure in the D.C. Government and a most useful person in initiating and executing all sorts of administrative improvements throughout the Government. The Commissioners have relied heavily upon his judgment and recommendations. He has been a powerful coordinating force among the various departments and has shouldered a tremendous amount of the administrative load.

“However, I certainly do not say that the administrative structure of the D.C. Government is perfect or could not be improved. I think that there probably should be a further concentration of administrative authority and that study should be given as to how this can best be accomplished. I believe that ways of increasing the administrative authority of the President of the Board should be explored, also the possibility of employing a city manager, under the Commissioners, who would have fuil administrative authority over all the departments. In addition, I think that the President should appoint the President of the Board rather than having him elected by the Board as is done at present.

“It seems to me that the chief difficulty with the proposed Reorganization Plan and the part of it that would work considerably less well than the present system is the nine member Council. Under the Plan all of the so-called policy-making functions of the Commissioners are turned over to the Council, which would be composed of part-time people paid a relatively small salary. The Council would have many duties and responsibilities of a very varied nature. Approximately twenty-seven pages of the President's Reorganization Plan is devoted to a mere enumeration of these duties and responsibilities. Many of them are of the utmost importance. Although the administrative functions may be somewhat more cumbersome under the Board of Commissioners than under a single executive, the policy making functions are certainly far more streamlined under the present three-man Board of Commissioners than they would be under a nine man Council which must work with the single executive and be subject to his veto power. The nine member Council would be much more cumbersome than the Board of Commissioners, and I believe that its decisions would be less expert than those of the Commissioners, who devote their full time and energy to the District Government.

"The range of functions of the District Government is broader than that of any state or local government in the country. It includes what are normally municipal, county and state functions. Thus, the knowledge and information needed to render sound decisions respecting these manifold operations is very great and taxes even full time people of considerable ability. I believe that it is easier for the President to find two persons who have the requisite ability to serve as civilian Commissioners on full time salaries than to find nine part-time people who are capable of doing a good job on the Council. Councilmen will have a hard and thankless job with relatively little prestige and heavy responsibilities.

“As an example of the manner in which the Council will operate, let us take the budget. Under the President's proposed Reorganization Plan the single Commissioner sends his proposals to the Council which

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is responsible for making up the budget, which is then sent to the Federal Bureau of the Budget and finally to Congress. To make sound decisions on the budget requires an intimate knowledge of the District Government in all its various aspects. In my view, the Commissioners are far better equipped to make these decisions than the members of the Council would be. Moreover, the new system would be far more cumbersome than the present one. At the present time the department heads make recommendations regarding the budget, the Commissioners then hold hearings on these recommendations and determine the budget, which is then sent to the Federal Bureau of the Budget and to Congress.

“Under the President's new proposal, presumably the single Commissioner would have to go through much the same process as the present Commissioners now do in order to develop his recommendations to the Council. The Council would then hold hearings and make its decisions, which would be slower and more difficult because nine people instead of three would be making the decisions. The Council's decisions would then be subject to review and possible veto by the Commissioner. In the case of a veto, the budget would probably go back to the Council for further consideration and possible overriding of the veto."

Mr. ABERNETHY. Mr. Spencer, I think this is the first time this point has been made. In my judgment it is a rather impressive one.

The Council, as I understand it, under the Reorganization Plan, is intended to be a part-time legislative body, as you suggested, with the Commissioner serving as the executive. I don't know of any government within the United States, from the federal government down through the state governments and the city governments, where a council fixes the budget or has anything to do with it. The Congress has nothing to do with the preparation of the national budget. Where you have a Mayor and City Council form of government, my understanding is that the budget is generally fixed by the executive or through some kind of a budget bureau, which is an office of the chief of state.

At any rate, I think you make a good point and I am glad you brought this up.

Mr. SPENCER. This procedure, it seems to me, is extraordinarily cumbersome, Mr. Chairman, because even after the signing, the Commissioner and this council get through with the budget, then it goes up through the Congress and you have a whole federal procedure on top of that. The system is now cumbersome and it necessarily is, but this thing would make it considerably more so, and it is a very important aspect of the whole government.

Mr. ABERNETHY. You make another point that bothers me considerably, which is the part-time character of this council. I think it is going to be very difficult to get nine able men to serve on this council, businessmen and professional people, people of experience and judgment and have them say, “Well, I will give part of my time as a councilman to the District of Columbia for $7,500 a year," or whatever it is. I just don't think we can find men to do that, and with them serving on a part-time basis, the District is not going to get much service out of them.


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