By Russ Winter
In a demonstration of just how inverted the situation has become, the city of Washington DC is set to make the disgraced Marion Barry (1936-2014) the man of utmost honor. A new 8 foot statue to the man known as the “Mayor for Life” is taking shape. It’s set to be erected outside the John A. Wilson Building in downtown D.C. The proto-incarnation of President Dwayne Elizondo Mountain Dew Herbert Camacho comes to town.
The hand gesture is also symbolic- it could hold a crack pipe, a heroin needle, a gun, money, condoms, a bottle of Thunderbird, etc. Then they could change it every year. The inscription at the base of the pedestal would read as a beacon of justice to the downtrodden, GODDAMN BITCH SET ME UP.
Mayor Barry was charged with drug possession and lying to a grand jury. One of the possession charges stems from his arrest on January 18, 1990, at the Vista Hotel in Washington, DC. Prosecutors alleged that the mayor smoked crack cocaine with model Rashita Moore. This videotape, taken by a hidden camera at the hotel, was introduced on June 28, 1990, as evidence in the mayor’s trial.
The Governance of Marion Barry
Barry was Mayor of the District of Columbia from 1979 to 1991. He was again elected after his crack troubles and served from 1995 to 1999.
Barry is a prime example of why one term governance makes sense. His first three years in office were characterized by increased efficiency in city administration and government services, in particular the sanitation department. Barry also instituted his signature summer jobs program, in which summer employment was made available to every school-age resident. Each year of his first term saw a budget surplus.
Barry was not incapable, but he was driven by the misguided social justice warrior mentality combined with unbridled corruption and very serious drug use. He pushed through large scale layoffs in what he called the “oppressive” police department. This resulted in a crime wave and a downward spiral of public safety.
Later in his first term he suddenly morphed from progressive reformer into power broker. The fiscal restraint from his first three years in office gave way to an election-year budget with $180 million in new spending for jobs, housing and programs for the elderly. Costs ballooned under the weight of union contracts he had struck to cement political support.
Not helping the matter, Barry’s otherwise intelligent mind became drug addled. This was going on for a decade before his infamous 1990 crack cocaine smoking video. Toward the end of his first term there were reports of partying and cocaine use in the company of a young girl friend, Karen Johnson.
Next Barry met an unemployed “model” named Hazel Diane “Rasheeda” Moore. Moore later testified that she and Barry (who was then married to his third wife, Effi) became lovers, carrying on a torrid affair with drugs and exotic rendezvous for the next two years. Moore also became a city contractor, receiving $180,000 over the next three years to run a modeling and “image consciousness” program for youths called Project Me. Moore was utilized later for the FBI 1990 entrapment of Barry in the infamous video.
In January 1984, U.S. Attorney Joseph E. diGenova hauled Barry before a federal grand jury probing allegations that Karen Johnson, the woman he had met in 1980, had sold cocaine to the mayor and other high-ranking D.C. officials. Federal prosecutors had obtained a tape from Johnson’s boyfriend, a federal informant, on which Johnson spoke of selling drugs to Barry 20 to 30 times. Johnson refused to testify and it was later revealed that she received about $20,000 from Barry associates in exchange for her silence before the 1984 grand jury.
In February 1982, Mary Treadwell, the mayor’s former wife, was indicted on charges of stealing thousands of dollars in federal funds that had been paid to Pride Inc., the jobs program Barry founded in 1967, for managing the Clifton Terrace apartments.
As his first term finished he focused on bringing in crooks and embezzlers such as Employment Services director Ivanhoe Donaldson. Donaldson pleaded guilty in December 1985 to stealing $190,000 in public funds during Barry’s first and second terms. Three months later, Alphonse G. Hill, Barry’s deputy mayor for finance, resigned as a federal grand jury investigated his acceptance of $3,000 in payments from a city auditing contractor.
Despite the fiscal warning signs and skullduggery behind the scenes, Wall Street gave DC its highest credit rating, thus opening the way for more irresponsible deficit spending, graft and fiscal irresponsibility.
Barry seemed to have a mysterious “Teflon immunity protection” for his personal and drug use indiscretions and horrific governance. At the same time a drug epidemic was spreading in the DC black community. TNN’s takeaway is that all of this was connected. The “Teflon Mayor” amassed very large campaign war chests, 100 paid campaign staff members, 2,000 volunteers and a bevy of major endorsements including The Washington Post. He won his elections handily. Obviously Barry would have been a highly compromised and controlled politician subjected to innumerable brownstone operations.
Barry loved to take vacations and travel at taxpayer expense. At the beginning of his third term in January, 1987, a pair of blizzards buried Washington in 20 inches of snow. Barry was relaxing in sunny California on a six-day Super Bowl vacation trip. The day after the game, as Barry’s public works crews badly fumbled the city’s road clearing effort, the mayor partied with a friend named A. Jeffrey Mitchell, played tennis and enjoyed a manicure at the Beverly Hills Hilton. Then he collapsed and was rushed to the hospital in an ambulance.
Later at Barry’s drug trial, Lloyd N. Moore Jr., another close friend, testified that Mitchell had told him Barry collapsed after smoking “cocaine laced with something.” Mitchell took the stand and testified only that the mayor used cocaine in addition to drinking four bottles of champagne and a bottle of cognac.
Next prosecutors revealed the existence of a 17-month undercover “sting” in which an FBI agent posed as a city contractor and set up a dummy firm in an attempt to show that a web of corrupt connections existed between officials at the highest levels of Barry’s government and an array of prominent contractors, developers and bankers.
In early March 1988, at a time when the District’s finances were deteriorating, Barry led a delegation of 17 city officials on a four-day mission to St. Thomas, Virgin Islands, to help the territory improve its personnel system. To hide his next vacation in September, 1988, Barry stationed two D.C. police detectives at the Hilton Hotel in midtown Manhattan as decoys for a week vacation elsewhere. This hit taxpayers for more than $4,000.
As he was running for successful reelection to a third term, a crony, one Charles Lewis — told the FBI that he and the mayor had smoked crack at the Ramada Inn in DC the previous year, as well as in the Virgin Islands.
After all the trouble and expense of setting up the 1990 sting with the “bitch” Moore, Teflon Barry received a Aug. 10, 1990 conviction, on a single count of misdemeanor drug possession. The conviction was not for smoking crack in the Vista with Rasheeda Moore, but for using the drug in another hotel room with a different woman — Doris Crenshaw — two months earlier.
However in October, Judge Thomas Penfield Jackson sentenced Barry to six months in prison, saying the mayor “has given aid, comfort and encouragement to the drug culture at large, and contributed to the anguish that illegal drugs have inflicted on this city.”
Barry went to a minimum-security federal prison in Petersburg, Va., in October 1991. Even in prison, Barry made headlines: In late December, a fellow inmate said he saw a female visitor perform oral sex on Barry in the prison’s family reception room. Prison officials ruled that Barry had engaged in sexual misconduct with a visitor and transferred him to a medium-security facility in Loretto, Pa.
After his release, Barry returned to power in 1995 for his fourth term as Mayor. At this point and after twenty years of self-rule, including sixteen under Barry, the District was bankrupt. For two years Barry went back and forth with a Congressional “control board” and mostly stalled against austerity.
In the midst of it, in 1996, Barry stunned the city by announcing that he was headed for a rural Maryland retreat to deal with “the telltale signs of spiritual relapse and physical exhaustion.” He denied relapsing into drug or alcohol abuse but invoked the guiding principles of 12-step addiction treatment and returned to work two weeks later, declaring himself “all right and ready to move forward.”
In 1997 Congress stripped nearly all of Barry’s remaining power, transferring day-to-day control over nine major operating departments to the control board. Thusly the era of “living large” Marion Barry came to a long, long delayed conclusion.