Members of the D.C. City Council strongly criticized yesterday Mayor Marion Barry's proposals to reduce trash collection east of the Anacostia River, close three neighborhood health clinics and slash $10 million from the public school's budget as a way of balancing the city's fiscal 1981 budget.
The criticism came during a 90-minute give-and-take session on the budget, which the City Council is scheduled to begin hearings on today.
Barry, armed with multicolored charts and praising his own move to "bite the political bullet" and make "tough decisions," spoke to the council in what he called a "State of the City" address. It was actually a detailed reiteration of the budget message the mayor delivered last week.
After the mayor finished speaking, council members took to their microphones, one by one, to voice opposition to the planned service cuts, calling them "ill-advised," insensitive, biased and illogical.
The biggest criticism was aimed at the mayor's proposal to save nearly $700,000 and eliminate 38 jobs by instituting a once-a-week trash collection system east of the Anacostia River in Wards 7 and 8 and part of Ward 6. Trash currently is picked up twice a week.
The city would provide free 82-gallon trash cans that could hold up to one week's accumulation of trash. Barry said that in addition to saving money, the use of the containers would help reduce rat control and odor problems in those areas of the city where trash is most often found outside the cans.
Council member Nadine P. Winter (D-Ward 6), who represents part of the area that would be affected said that was illogical because, she said, trash would remain in the cans for twice as long. "To take the three poorest wards over there and decide there is no smell over there, I just don't see how you're going to cover up the odor," Winter said.
Council member Willie J. Hardy (D-Ward 7), whose ward would also be affected, asked Barry why he had proposed the once-a-week collection for her area, which includes some of the poorest city neighborhoods, and proposed a newspaper recycling plan in Ward 4, one of the most affluent. Hardy suggested that the proposals could have been switched.
"It's this whole thing that people are saying, "Look what he thinks of us.' They're saying 'he thinks we don't read,'" Hardy said.
Barry responded, "I'm not picking on Ward 7." He said he had not decided which wards would be covered by the plan. The three wards specified in the budget were only a staff recommendation, he said.
"If you're not married to (Wards) 7 and 8 I wish you would have thrown out 3 and 4," Hardy said.
Another budget-balancing measure proposed by the mayor in the $1.5 billion spending package would close three of the city's 15 health clinics -- Northwest, 1325 Upshur St. NW; Parkside at 701 Kenilworth Ter. NW, and Arthur Capper at 1011 Seventh St. SE. That would save $1.5 million.
Barry said yesterday that the Northwest facility was in bad physical shape.
"If you go up there, it's falling down. It's not conducive to treat anything," Barry said. The other two centers are being run with funds shifted from other projects. "I'm just determined that if there's no money budgeted for these things, cut it out," Barry said.
He said residents in affected areas would be able to go to nearby clinics. In the case of the Arthur Capper facility, the alternative clinic would be seven blocks away. "It doesn't make sense in 1979, in a city this size, that you can't walk seven blocks to get service," Barry said.
Council member Charlene D. Jarvis(D-Ward 4), whose ward includes the Northwest clinic, joined Hardy in criticizing the decision to close the health centers. She suggested that rather than closing the clinic, money should be spent to renovate it.
Barry said most of the patients who come to the clinic come from throughout the city and use the facility for venereal disease treatment.Rather than spend the money on renovating that facility, he said, he would prefer to spend the funds for something like housing.
Several members of the council are former members of the Board of Education and they offered expected criticism of Barry's decision to reduce the school budget by $10 million because enrollment is decreasing.
To determine the amount of the cut, Barry calculated a per-pupil expenditure, based on current figures but allowing for growth due to inflation. eBut he would cut overall spending in proportion to the decline in enrollment.
Council member Betty Ann Kane (D-at large), a former school board member, called that formation "simplistic."
Council member Hilda Mason (Statehood-at large), who also is a former school board member, asked Barry if he planned to increase the number of nurses and physicians in the schools. City schools have long had an inadequate number.
As a mayoral candidate, Barry underscored the mayor's ability to correct such problems because the medical personnel are paid by the Department of Human Resources, which is under the mayor's control, rather than the independent, elected school board.
"philosophically and programatically, I think we need an additional 104 nurses," Barry said. "But in order to meet that we would need $1.6 million. quite frankly, I don't know how to fund that kind of program in this tight budget." There are now 68 nurses for the city's 172 schools.
Council Chairman Arrington Dixon said he thought Barry's decision to abandon the city's two-year-old drive for an unprecedented $317 million annual federal payment could hurt the efforts of city legislators to negotiate a formula-based federal payment that would far exceed that amount.
Dixon said Barry's action could undercut those efforts because while legislators are arguing for one amount, the city administration has said the government can operate with a lesser amount.
Barry said he would continue to "advocate" a higher payment but could not base his budget on more than the $300 million maximum that is now authorized by Congress. "I think I'm bringing us into reality on what we're gonna get," Barry said.
Dixon responded, "I understand that it may be realistic. But there is no equity in that figure . . . It seems to me to be rather strategically ill-advised."