SEVEN MEMBERS of Congress have just sent District of Columbia citizens a rude reminder of who's still in charge around here. In one fiscal swoop, members of a House Appropriations subcommittee have recklessly ripped apart the city's budget for the coming year. Only one member, Rep. Louis L. Stokes (D-Ohio) voted to respect the District's proposals, while the new chairman. Charles Wilson (D-Tex.) and the others had a heyday cutting and curbing revenue, programs jobs, pay, help for black businesses and any other municipal proposals they cared to second-guess.
No one would seriosly defend every last dollar in they city's request, for any budget can be cut or rearranged. The idea of local self-government, of course, is that the people who do this cutting and reaaranging are responsible to the affected local citizens. True, there is a federal payment to the District; and yes, Vongress is the ultimate overseer of this and, until things are changed, of every D.C. spending proposal, line item by line item. So the subcommittee members have seized this opportunity to please the folks back home.
The effect sin the District would be devastating, though. The federal payment would be dropped to the lowest level since 1974 - $125.5 million below the $317 million that the local government and President Carter requested. Beyond that, Mr. Wilson and Co. recommended cuts that would reduce the city payroll by 1,700 workers for the full fiscal year or cut the annual pay increase for all employees down to 2.1 percent. The subcommittee also refused initially to provide money for the Minority Business Oportunity Commission, created to help small, mostly black entrepreneurs. After some pleading by Mr. Stokes, the group did agree to remove employees from the Office of Human Rights to handle the business.
In taking this action, Mr. Wilson wisecracked on the need for the minority commission, commenting that "It's like Madisonville, Tex., setting up a commission to see that cowboys get their share - they're all cowboys." What Mr. Wilson overlooks, of course, is that here the cowboys don't have the horses - a majority black population doesn't get a majority share of the business. And so as little groups of congressmen can capricously decimate a city's orderly spending plan - all District citizens are getting short shrift.