The House District Appropriations Subcommittee got a new chairman yesterday, who immediately promised to be sympathetic when the beleaguered District government goes to Congress next week for help with its growing financial crisis.
Freshman Rep. Julian C. Dixon (D-Calif.), a member of the Congressional Black Caucus and a District native, replaced Rep. Charles Wilson (D-Tex.) who gave up the chairmanship for a seat on the more prestigious Defense Appropriations subcommittee.
Dixon pledged to cooperate with Mayor Marion Barry in "working to correct the financial deficit" the city faces. He also said he would work to achieve complete budget autonomy for the city.
Dixon's elevation means that the two House committees that deal with District affairs are now headed by blacks who are friendly to the mayor and his administration's goal of full self-government.
Dixon said one of the persons he consulted with yesterday before taking the chairmanship was a fellow Californian, Democratic Rep. Ronald V. Dellums of Berkeley who is chairman of the House District of Columbia Committee.
While choosing not to criticize Wilson, Dixon said that he will "probably bring a different approach" to the assignment than the lanky Texan did.
For openers, Dixon said he believes that the city's budget deficit -- which could run as high as $172.4 million -- "obviously is not due to one particular thing. Correction will take close cooperation among Dellums' committee, my committee, the whole of Congress and the city administration. We all must work together."
Mayor Barry said late yesterday that he was "delighted" with the selection of Dixon, but the mayor stopped short of saying that he expected an immediate turnaround in the stance of the subcommittee because of its new chairman. "I don't want to prejudge it," Barry said.
"I would think that when a person comes from a city, if they don't agree with us, at least they would be sympathetic to what the problems are," Barry said. "Charles Wilson was too tough and too rough and not quite together on what our problems were."
Barry was asked if he felt Dixon would be more sympathetic to the District, which has a majority black population, because Dixon is also black. d"I don't think it's a matter of race," Barry responded. "Its a matter of understanding."
Last week, with reports of the size of the budget deficit growing daily, Wilson said, "I can't help but say, 'I told you so.' Their idea of fiscal autonomy (at the District Building) is to do what they want to and then have Congress pick up the check for the difference. Well, that's not going to happen; that's not going to ever happen."
Wilson warned that "any supplemental appropriation is problematical. We appropriated what we thought was appropriate (last year). You never appropriate all that is authorized . . . You will stay in a mess in the city until you face up to the fact that there are 44,000 people doing what 30,000 could."
During the year he chaired the subcommittee, Wilson repeatedly complained that the city pays 130 to 160 employes to do what 100 workers do in comparably sized cities.
D.C. Del. Walter E. Fauntroy praised Dixon's selection and predicted that "he will be thorough in his examination of budget proposals, and he will be fair, to the country and to the city."
Fauntroy said Dixon's congressional district, which is in Los Angeles County, "has many of the same urban problems we experience in the District."
Before moving to Congress 14 months ago, Dixon served six years in the California General Assembly. In August 1978, Dixon helped lead the unsuccessful effort to make the California legislature the first to ratify the proposed constitutional amendment to give the District full voting rights in Congress.
Dixon said he talked with the mayor yesterday morning, before he knew for sure that he would get the chairmanship, and told Barry, "If the opportunity presents itself, I will take it with enthusiasm."
First-term House members generally don't get the chance to chair subcommittees. But the House District Appropriations chairmanship, while important to the city, is a job that goes begging on Capitol Hill. Rep. Louis Stokes (D-Ohio) was next in line behind Wilson for the position, but didn't want it.
Stokes, however, agreed to stay on as a member of the D.C. subcommittee.
"I am particularly happy that Lou remained on the subcommittee," Dixon said. "With his experience, and the help of Mr. Natcher and Mr. Wilson, we will have a good subcommittee," (Wilson also agreed to stay on as a member, as did longtime chairman Rep. William N. Natcher of Kentucky.)
Dixon said he learned last weekend that Wilson might give up the chairmanship to seek a vacancy on the defense subcommittee that was created by the resignation from Congress of Rep. Daniel J. Flood (D-Pa.).
"I discussed it with my wife," Dixon said, "and concluded that because of my background in dealing with urban problems in the state legislature, and my fondness for the District by way of birth, I would take it if it became available.'
Dixon was born 45 years ago at 749 Hobart Pl., NW. He attended Monroe Elementary School until he was 11, when he and his mother moved to Los Angeles. Dixon's father, a longtime postal worker, lives in Silver Spring, and he has aunts and uncles in the District. Dixon is a graduate of Los Angeles State College and the law school of Southwestern University in Los Angeles.
He and his wife, Felicia Bragg, now live in a high-rise apartment in Southwest Washington.