Barry Defends DHS against Budget Cuts: Mismanagement at Issue, Brimmer Says of Funding
Mercurio, John, The Washington Times (Washington, DC)
Defending a bureaucracy widely viewed as mismanaged, Mayor Marion Barry yesterday said the District must close a $135 million deficit in the upcoming fiscal year without touching the $1.5 billion Department of Human Services.
"DHS has had enough. Enough is enough, and we're not going to do it again," Mr. Barry said during a 45-minute interview in his office at One Judiciary Square. "It's cruel and inhumane for people who are already down to be kicked in the butt like they are. . . . There's blood all over the floor."
The mayor's remarks marked the beginning of a heated budget battle he is expected to wage this year with the D.C. financial control board.
President Clinton's new plan to help revive the District requires the city to balance its $5.1 billion budget in the fiscal year that begins Oct. 1, which means the city could face a shortfall of $135 million. One D.C. Council member said that deficit could rise by $20 million.
Board Chairman Andrew F. Brimmer, who met with Mr. Barry and the council yesterday to discuss the fiscal 1998 budget, said the board only would consider the mayor's plan if Mr. Barry balances the budget by cutting other programs.
"It's a zero-sum game," said Mr. Brimmer, who previously has said the city fails to provide health-related services for its neediest residents because of mismanagement, not a lack of funds.
Mr. Barry said he would balance the budget by shifting funds from the Department of Corrections to the DHS.
But board spokesman Mark Goldstein said the board will consider cutting any service not mandated by law, including DHS programs. "The critical issues are where mandatory spending is required," he said. "That has to come first."
Peter Nickles, a lawyer who has represented a group of mental health patients at St. Elizabeths Hospital in a lawsuit against the city since 1975, said the department's problems are rooted in mismanagement, not underfunding.
"It has never been suggested that the problem was funds. …