SHOULD THE BARRY administration be asking Congress at this time to authorize the city to sell $184 million worth of bonds? There are two parts to this question. One is whether it is a good idea for the city to make its debut on the bond market in an effort to erase a deficit. The second is whether the city should go to Congress to ask for permission now, when Congress has given every indication that it will reject the proposal the moment it appears. This second question may be the more important of the two because a negative vote would do more than prevent the city from selling bonds. It would also deny the District the right to make a decision on its own affairs and do so on a scale that has not been approached since the coming of home rule.

Behind all this maneuvering, the basic issue remains unchanged: the sale of bonds for deficit financing may be an initial success, but it would be a move that would mark the city as a mismanaged bureaucracy that had come to the money market even to gain solvency. That reputation would cost the city in future years when bonds would have to be sold for improvements to roads and sewers. Congress is right to raise questions about the risk of bond sales. Under the current home-rule system Congress has oversight responsibilities. But Congress should not use that power to prevent the city from making the final decision on such an important matter. The city council and mayor are the elected officials who should make the final decision --and carefully.