Illustrating just how inverted things have become, Washington, D.C. is preparing to make disgraced black mayor Marion Barry (1936-2014) a man of utmost honor. A new 8-foot statue of Barry, known as the “Mayor for Life,” is taking shape and set to be erected outside the John A. Wilson Building in downtown. The proto-incarnation of President Dwayne Elizondo Mountain Dew Herbert Camacho comes to town.
The Barry statue’s hand gesture is also symbolic, though it would be more fitting if it were holding a crack pipe, heroin needle, gun, money, condom or a bottle of Thunderbird. The inscription at the base of the pedestal could 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 stemmed from his arrest on Jan. 18, 1990, at the Vista Hotel in Washington, D.C. Prosecutors alleged that the mayor smoked crack cocaine with model Rashita Moore. The following videotape, taken by a hidden camera at the hotel, was introduced as evidence on June 28, 1990, during the mayor’s trial.
DC Governance Under Marion Barry
Marion Barry served as Mayor of the District of Columbia from 1979 to 1991. Despite his crack addiction, voters elected him serve again 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. He 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.
He was not incapable, but he was driven by a misguided Social Justice Warrior mentality combined with unbridled corruption and very serious drug abuse problems. 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 that he 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 girlfriend, 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 by the FBI for the infamous 1990 entrapment video of ol’ Barry.
In January 1984, U.S. Attorney Joseph E. diGenova hauled Barry before a federal grand jury to probe 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’s associates in exchange for her silence.
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 came to a close, he focused on bringing in crooks and embezzlers, such as Employment Services Director Ivanhoe Donaldson. Later, in December 1985, Donaldson pleaded guilty to stealing $190,000 in public funds during Barry’s first and second terms. Three months after that, 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 skulduggery behind the scenes, Wall Street gave D.C. its highest-ever credit rating, thus paving the way for more irresponsible deficit spending, graft and fiscal irresponsibility.
Teflon Barry seemed to have mysterious “immunity protection” for his personal and drug-use indiscretions and his horrific governance. At the same time, a drug epidemic was spreading in D.C.’s black community. The New Nationalist’s takeaway is that all of this was connected. The “Teflon Mayor” amassed a very large campaign war chests, which included 100 paid campaign staff members, 2,000 volunteers and a bevy of major endorsements from newspapers, such as The Washington Post. He won his elections handily. Obviously, Barry would have been a highly compromised and controlled politician and subjected to innumerable brownstone operations.
Barry loved to take vacations and travel at taxpayers’ expense. At the beginning of his third term in January 1987, a pair of blizzards buried Washington in 20 inches of snow while 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 bungled 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 Hilton in Beverly Hills. He then 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 had 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. 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 D.C. 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 an Aug. 10, 1990, conviction for a single count of misdemeanor drug possession. The conviction was not for smoking crack in the Vista with Rasheeda Moore but rather 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, after 20 years of home rule, including 16 under Barry, the District was bankrupt. For two years, Barry had gone back and forth with a Congressional “control board” that 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 “alright 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. Thus, the era of “living large” Marion Barry came to a long-delayed conclusion.