D.C. Mayor Marion Barry's plan to return the District of Columbia to financial health received some rave reviews from the city's business community and from some community leaders last night.
However, the same parts of the program that won the most support -- those asking for help from the federal government -- drew expression of caution from labor leaders fearful of more layoffs and from city officials who will have to see the plan through its long and uncertain course.
Everyone interviewed agreed that Congress and the federal government had some responsibility in helping the city erase what Barry said would be a $409 million deficit accumulated by the end of this fiscal year. The only dissension was over whether it was realistic to expect as much aid from the federal government as does the Barry plan. Board of Trade, called the plan "ambitious and gutsy" for outlining a new partnership between the Congress and the local government.
Tydings added, "Obviously, there's going to be a lot of debate about the nature of that partnership, but that will come out of a negotiating process."
He said, "There are so many elements of that plan that it would lead you to doubt all the elements would fly."
"I think he's hitting where he's supposed to hit -- at the Congress," said Everett Scott, president of the D.C. Federation of Civic Association. "Congress has to live up to its responsibility and share the brunt of the blame for the city's financial problems."
William Simons, president of the Washington Teachers Union, said the plan "really would have been more effective if we had not gone through all the fumbling and bumbling initially in trying to get a handle on things."
He said that plan indicates "that more layoffs are coming, and of course that will hurt the teachers," and he criticized the program as "too vague" about where the proposed spending cuts would fall.
Several persons expressed reservations about relying so heavily on Congress, which is not only in a posture of fiscal austerity and an uncertain state itself as an election approaches, but which also may find itself under a different leadership in January.
"We may be facing a Republican administration and a more Republican Congress," which probably would be less sympathetic to the city's financial needs, said Council member Betty Ann Kane (D-At-Large).
"There's a timing problem," said D.C. Auditor Matthew S. Watson. "I can't see anybody in this Congress getting concerned with it before the end of this (calendar) year. The earliest the next Congress could act on it would be March. And that assumes that President Reagan won't veto it then, even if the Congress does go along."
Watson said that a plan to borrow $215 million from the Federal Financing Bank may run into trouble on Capitol Hill. "There may be a backlash from other cities that don't have that option," he said. "Congress may not want to deal with that backlash."
Philip M. Dearborn, vice-president of the Greater Washington Research Center and an expert on D.C. Finances, said the key to the plan's success was a balanced budget. "The 1981 budget is balanced in theory," he said, "But few actions have been taken of any significance to cut back city services."
William N. Hoyle, president of Local 36 of the International Association of Firefighters, which has opposed the mayor's proposed cutbacks, said he had "mixed emotions" on the plan.
"I think the plan has lot of its in it as far as Congress is concerned," he said. "And I think Congress has a responsibility to come up to the expectations. I don't think congress is being fair to the city."
Larry Melton, vice president of Local 442 of the International Brotherhood of Police Officers said "there are too many variables" in Barry's plan. "He is depending upon too many other people to solve the problems," Melton said. "I'm fraid he is grasping at straws and I don't think he is going to come up with all of it."
Melton said he is not "worried about layoffs anymore" in the police department as a result of congressional pressure to keep the force at full strength. "The (threatened) layoffs may be in other agencies, and I can't comment on them," he said.