We're in really deep trouble here on home rule. Some of it has to do with the mood of Congress, some with the kind of legislation being passed by the City Council and signed by you, the mayor. But I'm not sure that these really serious troubles can be explained by simply complaining that Congress is sticking its nose into our affairs. In short, I think you must share some of the blame for the walloping the city is taking.

Four times in recent days, Congress has inflicted deep wounds. The latest was the worst. The House struck down the city's sexual reform law, a purely local matter. Before that, it scuttled the lottery you devised to eliminate racial and sexual bias in hiring those 200 police officers Congress had earlier ordered you to hire. They put our sludge disposal program on hold. They overruled the local electorate and killed the funds for a city-run lottery and numbers game approved last year by referendum.

It can get worse. We have still another budget that must clear the Hill. You're asking Congress for bonding authority to end our financial woes. We're talking about the financial future of the city -- our very lifeblood. The way you handle Congress on city finances over the next few months will be your big test.

I know you're a smart man, Mr. Mayor. But I just haven't seen evidence that the city has done enough to avoid the walloping we're taking on the Hill. I know you appointed a former Hill aide as your chief lobbyist. I know you said you would have regular breakfasts and keep the city's congressional account in good standing. Maybe you are having the breakfasts. Maybe the menu's wrong. But something isn't working.

Your style of politics is confrontational. That won support on the streets during the civil rights movement. It wins enemies on Capitol Hill. Take the time when you locked horns with congressional leaders over the size of the police department. They said hire more. You said no. The issue went unresolved for months, and you lost friends in the process. I know you didn't want to do that. I remember your saying years ago that Washington already had too many policemen. But as mayor, it doesn't make good political sense to simply ignore a congressional directive.

How's your reputation on the Hill these days, Mr. Mayor? Some members of Congress think you say one thing to them and another thing when you get before audiences down in the city. They don't know what to believe, they say.

Maybe that's your style. After all, you were elected because you were different from Walter Washington, with his soft-on-Congress posture. But no one's asking you to be a pushover. Just realize that the Hill plays the political game pretty much according to the old traditions and the lawmakers are going to hold you to what you say privately.

Are you proud of the way you've handled the budget crisis? Some on the Hill are not. They think you cried wolf and used different formulas to calculate the deficit. Some even think inflated figures were used from time to time. All this hurt the city's credibility -- and yours, too, Mr. Mayor.

And what about timing? With the Moral Majority running loose on the Hill, did anybody think to count the votes on that sexual assault bill? With the city's budget crunch, was this really the time to push that measure through a conservative Congress?

So it's more than the mood on the Hill, more than simply the backlash of a conservative Congress against a liberal government. It's almost as if the Hill's confidence in the city is eroding, that the Congress sees a leadership void and is stepping into it.

It never should have reached this point. Things certainly should not have gotten completely out of hand, but they have.

And the way things are going, I'm beginning to wonder if we've got the leadership at the District Building to take us through this mine field.

I'm really hoping that you can work this thing out, Mr. Mayor. I would love to see some evidence that would diminish my fears. So far, all I can see is that your leadership has helped Congress hurt us all.

But times change, and people change, too. It's time you changed, Mr. Mayor. Someone has to lead us out of these troubled times.

Yours truly, Dorothy Gilliam