The District Building's confusion over the fact that Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.'s Jan. 15 birthday falls on Saturday this year was resolved yesterday.
A 1975 City Council act clearly made Jan. 15 a legal holiday. But it made no provision for a weekday observance when that date fell on a weekend.
So the mayor's office last month granted city employees a holiday today for King's birthday. But the mayor's office last week rescinded that order, declaring today a regular work day.
And then yesterday, the mayor's office restored today as a holiday for some 3,500 city employees because their union contract mandates a day off for King's birthday. The District school system also will be closed today, meaning that about 12,000 school employees also will be off.
This means that more than 40 per cent of the city's work force - except for essential workers - will be off.
City Council members David A. Clarke and Douglas E. Moore, sponsors of the 1975 bill, introduced a measure yesterday, with new member Wilhelmina Rolark, to have King's birthday celebrated "on Friday when it falls on Saturdays and on Mondays when it falls on Sundays."
Clarke said he and Moore intended such an arrangement in the earlier bill, but the Council passed it without that provision. The confusion began with the mayor's December order for a Jan. 14 holiday, Clarke said.
Clarke said he was "disgusted" with "this vacillation (that) has caused city workers untold problems." The mayor should have sent an emergency bill to the Council instead of issuing a second order revoking the holiday, he said.
The confusion began with the mayor's original day-off order, which came after advice from the City Council's lawyers. But the corporation counsel subsequently contended that the mayor doesn't have authority to proclaim such a holiday.
Under the mayor's final decision for today, however, about 1,500 Department of Environmental Services workers and 2,000 Department of Human Resources employees will have the day off, or receive double pay if they are needed for duty in essential services.
These workers, members of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees, are trash collectors, construction and sewer maintenance workers and lower level DHR employees. The usual Friday collection of trash is canceled today.
On Saturday, the actual holiday, fire, police and other essential service employees will get holiday pay. Traffic restrictions, including parking meter fees and time limit parking will be lifted.
Mayor Washington and City Council Chairman Sterling Tucker will participate with other officials in the fifth annual King birthday celebration at the Martin Luther King Memorial Library, 901 G St. NW, at 10 a.m. today.