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Scene: The mayor’s penthouse suite at 1 Judiciary Square

Time: Last Sunday evening.

[Cora Masters Lady MacBarry enters.]

Lady MacBarry: Ah, m’lord. Or should I say, my professor? Welcome home from Memphis.

MacBarry: Not so fast, m’lady. Thou hast been drawn to false hope by thy fantasy. The Consortium of Universities’ design to host me as a visiting professor is but a bird that has not left its nest. If I leapt at such an offer so carelessly, I would be mocked and laughed at as a man easily bribed from his station.

Lady MacBarry [failing to mask her disappointment]: But, m’lord, thou hast much to teach the young about our heritage. I watched thee on TV this weekend speak so eloquently about remembering the legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

And if thou were free of the burden of filling every pothole on these impassible streets and giving a job to every seeker—worthy or not—thou could teach and write thy book setting forth thy legacy for all the world to read. And those movie moguls in Hollywood would pour millions of dollars upon our table to put thy story on the silver screen. That handsome Denzel Washington could play thee, and Whitney Houston could take my role.

MacBarry [muttering to himself]: Oprah Winfrey would be more likely.

Lady MacBarry [not hearing the insult]: M’lord cannot possibly think that thy people would consider the offer of a visiting professorship a foul bribe to keep thee from the mayor’s office a fifth time.

MacBarry: The people will know a sow’s ear when they see it. But do not fret, m’lady. Thy master has not sent these gift-bearers to flight; I have only kept them waiting. It is an April fool who believes I will accept such an offer now when this decision is better made in summer. Let my rivals pant to know my decision; I keep my own time.

Lady MacBarry [relieved]: Yes, m’lord. Thou art so wise to remember there is nothing so easily stepped over as a lame duck. The professorship can wait a bit longer.

MacBarry: That jackal David Wilmot must work a little harder. He says he has raised $2 million to endow a seat for me with the Consortium of Universities; let him raise $3 million. And if the university presidents quake at the thought of me in their midst, Wilmot can find a foundation or think tank willing to follow his scheme.

This is his attempt to replace me with that repulsive at-large councilman, Harold Brazil, who is no less than a stuffed man whose soul is in his garments. But Wilmot is even more repulsive. I would rather hear a cow moan in difficult birth than to have Wilmot say he still supports me. His kisses are Judas’ own children.

Lady MacBarry: Yes. Wilmot can squeeze more from the likes of that unctuous businessman Herb Miller. That developer has profited well from m’lord’s favors; now he can give back a little in gratitude, even if he is secretly loyal to that fair-haired knave, Ward 2 Councilman Jack Evans, who also covets thy station.

MacBarry [laughing]: Ah, but on his way to the mayor’s office, Evans has become lost in a fog of foul body odors emitted by exiled Metropolitan Police Department (MPD) Chief Larry Soulsby. The councilman now has to answer for every foul odor that emanates from the portly chief. M’lady should marvel in thy lord’s feat to go blameless, even though I chose the bumbling Soulsby, who had not so much brain as earwax.

Lady MacBarry: I do marvel at my master’s cunning, especially last week when m’lord wielded such wizardry over the selection of new police chief Charles Ramsey.

MacBarry: That was masterful, wasn’t it? The pronouncement flowed from my chambers one floor below, not that despicable control board’s headquarters. And I picked the time to proclaim Ramsey’s hiring, moving it up to Thursday so I could keep my plans to depart for Memphis on Friday. Cheryl Thompson of that despicable Washington Post wouldn’t have gotten to Chicago in time to fly back with Ramsey if I hadn’t tipped her off. I hope the Post doth remember this favor, and stops twisting the knife with such gusto. The very notion that my travels about this city are for anything but the people’s business brings the bile to the top of my gullet.

Lady MacBarry [scowling]: Yes, well, I do not want to darken my master’s mood, nor mine, by bringing up such an inclement matter. My husband’s roving eye and groping hand sometimes have no equal, not even in that rascal Bill Clinton, whose exploits with the fairer sex seem as countless as the grains of beach sand.

MacBarry [feigning hurt]: Surely m’lady doth not believe these lies passed out by my traitorous security guard—stories that I give my security detail the slip, visit strange parlors, and appear in doorways half-naked? Such rubbish should not be harvested! That was a bald-faced lie by interim MPD Chief Sonya Proctor, to silence me because I did not think her worthy of being named chief permanently. Her bait of falsehood did not fool the carp of truth.

Lady MacBarry: But that font of windbaggery, Sen. Lauch Faircloth, struck at the lure Proctor dangled before him.

MacBarry: It was not Proctor who baited Faircloth, but some false tale-bearer from within the knights of the Memorandum of Understanding. Our meetings are to be as silent as a coven of assassins, but the dastardly Republican senator from North Carolina had his spy planted in our camp. It was he who who bore him details about negotiations with New Orleans Police Superintendent Richard Pennington that no one outside that room should have known. Faircloth used that purloined information to threaten to block Pennington’s appointment, which sent him scurrying back to his adopted fiefdom of New Orleans.

But Pennington can’t feel slighted. He got $40,000 of freshly minted gold coin on virtue of my solicitations to bring him back to D.C.

Lady MacBarry: Perhaps Pennington can make a contribution to the Marion Barry Professorship Endowment.

MacBarry [with a dismissive wave of his hand]: Enough! It’s time to resume negotiations on the budget, and keep the people guessing about my intentions, until I know myself.

[The MacBarrys head for the elevators, accompanied by security guards.]

To be continued…

POLITICAL POTPOURRI

Endangered Ward 1 Councilmember Frank Smith is latching onto the coattails of the city’s most popular and revered leaders, alive and dead, in his bid for a fifth council term. In a recent typo-ridden mailing to constituents, Smith noted that highly regarded Chief Financial Officer (CFO) Anthony Williams “reports to my committee” on finance and revenue. Oh yeah, LL can just see Tony the Tiger jumping through the hoops of ringmaster Smith.

However absurd the claim, Smith has compelling reasons to make it. After all, it enables him to share credit for the current budget surpluses the city is enjoying after years of deficits.

“As chairman of the powerful Committee on Finance and Revenue, I am leading the reform movement here at the council,” Smith stated in the letter.

That would probably come as news to many of his colleagues.

Smith made the same claim in his campaign announcement for re-election last weekend at Goodwill Baptist Church on Kalorama Road NW. His self-reinvention features a plank on reforming the District government. Although Smith helped found the unruly D.C. bureaucracy, he now supports a referendum to switch to a city manager form of government—a position that could place the councilmember on the wave of support for new Chief Management Officer (CMO) Camille Cates Barnett.

Only a year ago, Smith would have been panned for pissing on the sainted home rule charter, which provides for a strong mayoral structure. But that was before Congress, in essence, imposed a city manager on D.C. by creating the office of CMO.

In his campaign kickoff, Smith also invoked the memories of civil rights leaders Martin Luther King Jr. and Fannie Lou Hamer, and fallen D.C. Council chairmen Dave Clarke and John Wilson. The councilmember warned that these four leaders’ “blood will cry from the grave” if D.C. voters again avoid polling sites like open-air drug markets.

Smith is sounding the alarm against low voter turnout, which helped unlikely Republican newcomer David Catania pull off a stunning upset in last December’s special election to fill an at-large council vacancy.

Clarke’s widow, Carol Clarke, stood alongside the incumbent last weekend to validate Smith’s invocation of her late husband. Carol Clarke endorsed Smith even though he was the first councilmember last year to suggest that Clarke relinquish the chairmanship after he fell ill to brain cancer. Smith briefly considered a run for council chair after Clarke died but decided he’d have his hands full just hanging on to his ward seat. He faces a stiff challenge from Whitman-Walker Clinic Director Jim Graham, who entered the race last month.

Last week’s well-attended debate between Catania and Ward 2 Councilmember Jack Evans over the proposed convention center contained all the high drama of the famed Lincoln-Douglas debates. But Abraham Lincoln and Stephen A. Douglas probably never had to call in the cops to evict an unruly audience member aroused by their rhetorical volleys.

Moderator Leslie Miles ordered a police officer to remove Teamster Michael Logan from the hall of the current convention center after Logan, a convention center employee, repeatedly heckled Catania, a staunch opponent of plans to build the new center at Mount Vernon Square. As the officer escorted Logan out, dozens of vocal audience members followed in protest. But cooler heads prevailed, and Logan was issued a $25 ticket for disorderly conduct.

Back inside, Catania and Evans seemed unusually cordial as they sparred over the feasibility of Mount Vernon Square vs. a less-heralded site several blocks north of Union Station. Evans steadfastly defended the Mount Vernon Square site, warning that if the new convention center isn’t built there, it could end up in the suburbs.

Catania countered that the city was making the same mistake it made 15 years ago when it built the current $98 million convention center, now considered obsolete even though D.C. could be paying off the 30-year bonds for it well into the next millennium. The proposed Mount Vernon Square center could also be obsolete by the time it opens in 2001, Catania cautioned.

Afterward, he had no reservations about holding more debates between councilmembers.

“I thought it was a great exercise,” Catania exulted. “This city is long overdue in having its elected officials debate policy.”

D.C. residents apparently think so, too. Nearly 300 turned out for the event.

Ward 7 Councilmember and mayoral contender Kevin Chavous may soon be forced to explain to voters why he has been negligent, as chairman of the council’s education committee, in tackling the city’s school crisis. Just as judiciary committee Chairman Jack Evans is being held accountable for the failures of Soulsby and the police department’s ongoing problems, Chavous is finding that the city’s hottest issue can quickly turn from political expressway to mayoral train wreck.

The councilmember is being urged to get out in front of the latest school failure—the $70 million overspending by the administration of retired Gen. Julius Becton that is threatening this year’s projected budget surplus. One way to frame himself as part of the solution would be to make rare use of the council’s subpoena powers and put the outgoing Becton and his cronies on the hot seat.

But Chavous hasn’t exactly distinguished himself in standing up to the city’s appointocracy. When the control board last summer stole away nine agencies from the mayor, Chavous huffed and puffed and vented his spleen in a letter to members of Congress. The cautious councilmember, as usual, seems reluctant to take bold steps.

Georgetown activist Westy Byrd is getting no help from Hizzoner in her fight to keep university students out of District politics. During his March 27 appearance before George Washington University college Dems, Barry encouraged GW students to become politically active and seek local offices.

In a Kennedy-like appeal, he told the audience, Ask not what D.C. can do for you but what you can do for ol’ D.C.

His message didn’t seem to get through. Among the first questions Barry fielded was one appealing for discounted subway and bus fares for college students.

Barry just said no. Perhaps the mayor will

have to rethink his potential career move of becoming a roving visiting professor among 13

of the area’s universities.

That move is reportedly the brainchild of GW president Stephen Joel Trachtenberg, to help dissuade Barry from running for a fifth term. The plan got a satirical thumbs up from the editorial board of a GW student newspaper.

“For once, Trachtenberg is using his powers for something other than the glorification of his own ego,” wrote the editors of Independence Magazine in their April Fool’s issue.

“Frankly, anything that removes Barry from control of the District’s government/patronage machine is good.

“Professor Barry would be able to relate to students on their level—he can party down with the best of us.”