AFTER WATCHING Mayor Barry's televised speech, we were left with much the same question about the particulars of his plan that we had before. The mayor did say that some city services will have to be eliminated to meet the accumulated deficit of $409 million. And he did say that certain city agencies will have fewer workers as a result of cuts he will make. But he did not say which programs would be cut or which agencies would have their staffs reduced. These specifics were left unanswered.
The concrete information Mr. Barry provided was that he would like the city government to sell $215 million in bonds to the Federal Financing Bank and to institute a savings plan of $10 million for each of the next 20 years to pay of the rest of the deficit. Both plans are subject to the approval of the federal government. And, despite the mayor's public disclosure of the plan, city administrator Elijah Rogers says that the city government has no pledge of support for the proposals from members of Congress or the White House. As of now, the plans are nothing more than proposals.
Similarly, mayor's plan to have the federal government pay $175 million per year for the next 29 years in order to bring the city's pension fund account out of the red is only an idea, which has limited backing in Congress at this point; and it is not likely to attract backing easily. The final part of the financial plan would have the city reduce its spending, possibly by cutting 2,100 more employes in the fiscal year beginning Oct. 1, 1981.
Though not yet definite, the mayor's three-step proposition -- bonds, federal assistance with the pension plan and reduced city spending -- is basically a sound one. For example, reductions in the size of the City's work force are long overdue. Also, asking the federal government to pay its share of the pension plan -- which it created and which it underfunded -- is another good idea. The sale of bonds is yet another idea that holds promise for the city government. But it is unclear if the city's finances are in good enough shape yet for the city to save $20 million a year for the next 30 years in order to repay the cost of the bonds plus interest. It is also unclear if Congress would buy this idea.
In other words, even though the mayor's speech did not give city residents specific plans, there were signs that he has the beginning of a good program in hand. The test will be to get it translated into practical specific steps that work.