D.C. labor leaders and youth advocates yesterday accused Mayor Marion Barry of making ordinary citizens bear the brunt of his proposed budget-balancing cuts in city services while failing to give the local business community "its fair share."
The criticisms by the D.C. Jobs for Youth Committee and the Greater Washington Central Labor Council were among the sharpest to date of Barry's proposed solution to the city's financial crisis.
The young people said that if the summer jobs program is cut back, the city would suffer an increase in teenage drug use, crime and pregnancy.
No sooner had the youth group collected the notes and press releases from its press conference than the labor leaders strode into the same room in the District Building to put their points across before a line of still-warm TV cameras.
The labor leaders criticized Barry's plans to eliminate 1,223 city jobs, including 546 through layoffs, and raised the specter of future job actions and strikes.
"Instead of providing more jobs and job-training programs, Mayor Barry wants to cut back on jobs, he wants to close recreation centers and public schools," said Laura Ginsburg, spokeswoman for the jobs committee, an umbrella group supported by various Advisory Neighborhood Councils, youth organizations and public officials.
Robert E. Peterson, president of the labor council, meanwhile, said the city's current financial crisis is "an out-growth of mismanagement by the District government and a rip-off of the city by Congress and the business community."
The mayor and his financial experts have said the city is facing a potential budget deficit of up to $172 million and have asked for cutbacks in all city agencies.
Yesterday, Peterson, joined by William Simons of the Washington Teachers Union, Don McIntire of the American Federation of Government Employes and Larry Simons of the International Brotherhood of Police Officers, criticized city officials for their uncertainty about the size of the deficit.
"Depending on which day of the week it is, the figures vary from $17 million to $172 million. At this date, we're not quite sure what the exact amount of the deficit is," Peterson said. He added that his council has met with Barry on the issue but failed to receive enough information to assess the crisis.
Saying that unemployment is "the biggest problem" facing the city's youth, jobs committee spokeswoman Ginsburg called on the city to provide some 60,000 jobs in its summer jobs program for young people.
But city labor officials are only promising about 17,600 jobs this year in the public sector. The Board of Trade is expected to develop about 2,000 to 3,000 more jobs in private businesses.
The city has decreased its appropriation for the summer jobs program by some $600,000, according to Adolph Slaughter, spokesman for the city Labor Department.
Slaughter said, however, that federal Comprehensive Employment and Training Act (CETA) funds for the program had actually increased by about $300,000 over last year.
Ginsburg, who was joined by teenagers Terrence Hill and Samuel Smith, said the committee plans to organize a youth rally tomorrow at Dunbar High School to press for more jobs.
The jouths also plans to picket the Board of Trade, which, they said in a statement read by Ginsburg, would "always promise youth jobs, give them few, and those few at subhuman wages."
Both groups said local businesses should be paying more taxes to the city. Barry is already seeking to increase the business real estate tax rate, and has proposed a $20.2 million package of new taxes on gasoline sales, professional and trade services, hotel rooms and deeds.