So it is official: Jonetta Rose Barras is no reporter. She is a hired gun. She let it be known to me and others well before writing “Kevin Can Wait” (8/28) that the editors of City Paper had hired her to do a “hatchet job on Kevin Chavous.” She delivered.

As a former reporter, I won’t even get into what this contract-on-Kevin says about the journalistic principles of City Paper and its editors. Did somebody say “agenda”? Barras, knowing better, added outright malice to the media stampede to enshrine Tony Williams as our next mayor, like it or not.

Start with charisma. I recall when charisma in a candidate was a good thing. Although Barras doesn’t bestow that term on Chavous (too many positive connotations would be evoked), she ascribes to him all its components: energy, charm, instant connection with voters, empathy with the “people.” (I should also point out that Williams has the antithesis of charisma, whatever that is called.) To Barras, charisma has now become a bad word. Better to be bored to death, I guess, by the head number-cruncher.

Worse, she judges Chavous (and, no doubt about it, she “reports” nothing new; she “judges” everything, and it all comes out badly for Chavous, as assigned) by some strange standard: that he should have done as a councilmember all the things that a congressionally empowered minipotentate like Tony Williams could do. Give councilmembers powers to fire poor employees instantly, without hearings or due process, and just imagine what they, too, might achieve.

Barras seems to need reminding that councilmembers do not pave streets or pick up trash. They enact legislation—or defeat it when it is unwise, as Kevin Chavous did on so many occasions.

That Chavous was able to accomplish as much as he has in his few short years on the council (as measured in Barry time) is a tribute to his ability to work with only the most minimal of powers. Remember, it took a Chavous to finally subpoena Gen. Julius Becton and bring him to account for his sorry handling of our schools, to cite but one achievement that Barras disparages as too little, too late. It was a heck of a lot more than anyone else had done by that point. And it came after months of trying to get to the bottom of things without flexing that rarest of council powers.

I will concede that Barras did quote me correctly: Chavous indeed was the only councilmember who dared stand, march, and even go to jail with scores of citizens demanding their rights as American citizens. Barras, ever the hanging (or is it haranguing?) judge, thinks that was an easy “gig” for Chavous, a mere rhetorical effort against an easy target.

Congress easy??? And if the action was so easy, why weren’t Councilmembers Jack Evans and Harold Brazil and all the others on the council out there with us, too? I’ll certainly take Chavous’ show of commitment over Tony Williams’ style of local governance: unhappy with his all-too-considerable powers, he had to sneak around behind everyone’s back and go beg for more from his Republican pals in Congress, the very same devils who are hellbent on keeping the District as their private plantation. No thanks.

(And Tony, why didn’t you move into the District when you came here to work in the Agriculture Department in 1993? Wanted to take advantage of that no-commuter-tax law, didn’t you? That is, until you got your big-money, big-ego job with the control-board-sized omnipotence and were embarrassed into moving into D.C.)

We are all waiting for City Paper, or the Post, or the Times, to weigh in with some real investigative reporting of this Tony-come-lately’s background in Connecticut, Missouri, California, and wherever else he settled briefly en route to building a resume for his post-mayoral career on Wall Street. (And don’t tell me the Post did it. They did the equivalent of asking my mother what kind of son she had.) I, for one, am not holding my breath. I can’t: I have to keep guffawing at the three of you tucked into bed with each other, doing all kinds of who-knows-what nasty political foreplay.

Adams Morgan

via the Internet