Democratic mayoral nominee Sharon Pratt Dixon vowed yesterday that if she is elected, she will never cut funding for the library, education or recreation in the District.
"I have a great concern about our city's skewed priorities," she said while standing in the Southeast branch of the D.C. public library system, on Capitol Hill, surrounded by more than two dozen children.
At a time when the drug crisis demands that the city's youth have alternatives to the streets, Dixon said it is incumbent upon city government to "engage their minds" with libraries and recreation.
"It's a sad set of priorities that anyone would contemplate closing any of the libraries," she said. "Anything of this regard I would reverse."
Trustees of the library system, responding to an executive order by Mayor Marion Barry to restrict spending in fiscal 1991 to fiscal 1990 levels, proposed on Oct. 11 closing seven of the city's 26 neighborhood libraries and ending Sunday hours at the main library. Those steps would save the system $2.2 million.
Among those listening to Dixon was Hardy R. Franklin Sr., director of the system. "She talks precisely to the needs of the public library," he said.
Meanwhile, Maurice T. Turner Jr., Dixon's Republican opponent in the Nov. 6 election, held a series of meetings with two dozen religious leaders in Northeast and Southeast Washington. They peppered the former D.C. police chief with questions about the record homicide rates during his eight-year tenure.
Turner said that while police under his leadership made tens of thousands of arrests every year, the department was not by itself able to stem the onset of crack cocaine and other drugs that contributed to the surge in homicides.
"The police are not the sole answer," Turner told members of the Wednesday Clergy Fellowship, which met yesterday at St. John Baptist Church in Southeast.
Later, Turner told an association of ministers in Far Northeast that "everybody looks upon the police department as the final solution to the problem."
"The police department is not going to be the final and concluding solution to the problem," Turner added.
Also yesterday, Turner took time off from campaigning to travel to Montgomery County for the wake of John J. Kinney Sr., a retired D.C. police inspector who took Turner under his wing in the late 1960s, when Turner became one of six black police sergeants on the city force.
Dixon's afternoon news conference yesterday followed an almost triumphant lunchtime appearance before a group of minority businessmen, many of whom had attended a similar lunch in August for Dixon's primary rival, John Ray. Among the guests at the luncheon, at the Hyatt Regency on Capitol Hill, was another former opponent in the Democratic primary, Charlene Drew Jarvis. She and Dixon hugged warmly before Dixon spoke to the crowd of 300.
Others attending the luncheon, which some said illustrated the Democrats' unity in the city, included Ronald Jessamy, Ray's former campaign treasurer, and D.C. Chamber of Commerce President Pedro Alfonso, another high-profile Ray supporter.
In a 20-minute speech punctuated by frequent applause, Dixon again outlined a plan that she said would create economic parity in the city, and attack a root cause of the city's drug epidemic.
"We're in the middle of an overwhelming drug problem due, in part, to an economic polarization," she said.
Saying that the economic landscape is changing and that the District is becoming a city of commerce instead of government, Dixon called on the minority business people present to grasp the opportunity and spread the wealth in the city.
Dixon repeated a proposal to create a $100 million capital growth fund to encourage minority business ventures in the city to begin or expand. The fund would be run by the public and private sectors.
This economic expansion, she said, "needs to hit all major corridors, just as it hit Pennsylvania Avenue."
Dixon was endorsed yesterday by the region's major business lobbying group, the Greater Washington Board of Trade.
In a prepared statement, the group announced its support for Dixon "as the best qualified candidate . . . based on her management and corporate experience and her position on key issues affecting citizens and businesses in the District."