D.A.: Street has 'failed'

She hits budget cuts, his 'indifference' to violence victims

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D.A. Lynne Abraham warns City Council yesterday of consequences if her office's budget is cut.

IT REALLY was déjà vu all over again.

In early January, District Attorney Lynne Abraham ripped Mayor Street for what she considers his failed leadership in handling the epidemic of violence and homicide washing over the city. "Do something" was her hard-edged mantra for Street.

She also complained bitterly about the Street administration's proposed 2.5 percent cut for her next budget, starting July 1, which she asserted would force her to lay off a dozen or more prosecutors.

Yesterday, before a City Council that was totally in her camp, Abraham blasted away at Street as Council members promised to help her get more money for her office.

During her formal testimony, Abraham focused on her budget problems and had little to say of Street. But in her written testimony and in a media scrum after testifying, Abraham was cutting.

With the year's homicide rate at 128 as of Monday night, Abraham said Street's response to the "bloodbath" has been "indifference to victims, unconcern for the safety of the city, lack of commitment to the neighborhoods and his back turned" on the budget needs of her office.

Government is supposed to make life safe for its citizens, she said, and by that measure Street "has utterly failed to do what he needs to do."

"People are dying on our streets while the mayor is busy redeploying police officers from other beleaguered neighborhoods and reviewing the troops like some generalissimo without a white horse," Abraham said. "I mean, this is absurd. People are dying, people are fearful of coming here, people are fearful of living here, people are thinking about moving elsewhere. I mean, we are a city that needs leadership and in seven or eight more months we'll have it. We'll hope the next person learns from lessons of the past."

After hosting an event with ministers who will work with the administration to reduce violence, Street said Abraham "started saying ugly things about me" after he named Seth Williams, her 2005 primary-election opponent, to the office of inspector general. "She has not yet gotten over it," he said. "And it's all personal with her. She has a vendetta and it's very personal, and all you have to do is listen to the way she talks and you know it's personal. It's not business."

And clearly, there's been no business between the two leaders in many months. Street is proposing to increase the D.A.'s budget from $30.6 million to $31.3 million.

But Abraham sees it differently, with the administration giving $1.1 million for raises but also making a 2.5 percent cut of $643,000 for a net increase of just $467,000. To balance her budget, she says she's forced to cut the equivalent of 13 prosecutors.

She wants Council to set aside the 2.5 percent cut and give her an additional $730,000 for 13 positions, including nine prosecutors.

Abraham said that the "bean counters" should not prevail in responding to the crime emergency, and that she had been disrespected because Street's budget office never asked her what she needed.

Street said that while most criminal-justice departments were held harmless from the 2.5 percent cut, Abraham is acting "in a grossly irresponsible way in order to stampede people into giving her a budget."

Street said that he is willing to sit down with Abraham or her representatives to discuss what she needs and why. "We need an explanation from her of why she thinks she can't absorb a 2.5 percent cut, and if it is a reasonable explanation, we would cooperate with her," he said. "But she doesn't think it's necessary to come and talk to us about it." *