Ranking members of the Senate D.C. Appropriations subcommittee scolded Mayor Marion Barry yesterday for recent cutbacks in police overtime, and warned that Congress might alter the District's budget unless the city government puts more resources into law enforcement.
"This puts a cloud on the whole process of moving the D.C. appropriations bill," said Sen. Brock Adams (D-Wash.), the subcommittee chairman. "The one thing I don't want to do is rewrite the District of Columbia appropriations bill . . . and yet that is the threat."
Sen. Phil Gramm (R-Tex.), the ranking Republican, was more explicit, telling Barry during a hearing that the city's $3.2 billion budget for fiscal 1991 lacks sufficient funds for police protection and threatening a floor fight unless more money is shifted into law enforcement areas.
"I'm not interested in playing mayor of the District of Columbia," Gramm said. "But something is wrong when we are giving citizens notification from the police department that people need to stay out of Georgetown late at night because we don't have the police officers to provide for public safety."
Meanwhile, President Bush restated his opposition to statehood for the District during a White House news conference, saying he would not sign statehood bills recently introduced in the House and the Senate. Bush said he is opposed to D.C. statehood "because this is a federal city."
The president's comments drew sharp criticism from Jesse L. Jackson, a leading statehood advocate, who said Bush has been "consistent in his resistance to social justice."
Adams and Gramm made their comments at a session called to hear Barry and D.C. Council Chairman David A. Clarke (D) present the city's 1991 budget. The hearing turned largely into a forum on the police department and the recent controversy over overtime.
The lawmakers expressed anger over the city's move last week to cut back police overtime for special programs, including weekend patrols in Georgetown. The Barry administration cited budget cutbacks by the council, but Adams questioned why the city had not dipped into a special $17 million appropriations authorized last year by Congress for new police officers that has gone largely unspent.
Barry and Police Chief Isaac Fulwood Jr. told the committee they were planning to use those funds, but that the department's rate of overtime spending was so great that it would have exhausted even those additional funds. Fulwood announced plans this week to restore the special patrols to 50 percent of previous overtime levels.
"No one in this country is more concerned about public safety than I am," Barry told the panel.