Get our free newsletter
Yearly trend shows District getting up off the canvas.
Blizzard buries residents and city is frozen in its tracks. Mayor Barry promises all neighborhoods will be emancipated, then says it may take a while, and eventually blames the feds. After two crippling weeks, temperatures finally rise, proving that only God could plow the District. City’s inability to function is the talk of the nation.
Barry announces vaunted “Transformation Plan,” a multipoint prescription for D.C. renaissance. Residents doubt that a guy who can’t get the streets plowed is going to make over one of the most recalcitrant bureaucracies in the nation. Skepticism mixes with occasional snow flurries.
UDC students block Connecticut Avenue, temporarily sealing the exit for people who are trying to flee the District. St. Elizabeths Hospital passes inspection, guaranteeing clean, safe digs for Reagan assassin manque John Hinckley. President Clinton, control board chief Andrew Brimmer, and the National Education Association all publicly support additional federal funding for the District. Residents are encouraged that Clinton feels their pain.
Woman loses both legs in freak Metrobus accident. District repair garages are full of all manner of emergency and police vehicles, which are permanently parked behind the city’s archaic requisition process. Thousands of potholes linger from winter storms. District dysfunction stories fill the daily paper.
Watergate chef Jean Louis Palladin bolts town and takes incessant snotty whining with him. Barry, responding to hounding from press and close friends, finally admits he inhaled…cigarettes. D.C. police get permission from the feds to buy 225 new cruisers and hire 200 officers. Residents take comfort in the fact that Big Brother is finally watching.
Biograph Theater closes down to make way for yet another CVS, leaving tourist camcorders as the only local source for independent films. In a stunning bit of solipsism, House Speaker Newt Gingrich declares, “The control board is the only hope D.C. has to retain home rule.” Locals begin to understand that increased federal attention is a knife that cuts both ways.
D.C. water fails bacteria tests over July 4th weekend, putting thousands of tourists on notice that the District has relocated to the Third Word. Viper Room opens and decides it will have to import people to profile as the hipoisie. Investigation reveals that 650 corrections officers are themselves convicted criminals. District residents stock up on bottled water and drink to a summer of discontent.
Judge threatens school closings. Gangs from Maryland and Virginia stage shootout in front of FBI building at annual Latino festival. AAA rates D.C. bridges as second-worst in the country. Student riding on MacArthur Boulevard is clubbed on the head by baseball bat-wielding attackers riding in a van. One of the coolest summers on record fails to bring a sense of relief to D.C. residents.
District finds over $80 million in savings from its Medicaid program. Washington Business Journal reports record-low rate of personal bankruptcies, but also reports that it’s because many District residents have no assets to protect. D.C. Delegate Eleanor Holmes Norton petitions for restoration of her vote in the House; Republican majority responds with a collective smirk. Control board and CFO have citizens thinking that some order may be brought out of all the chaos.
D.C. Taxicab Commission OKs plan to remove cabs from the streets after six years of use. District liberates itself from shadow Sen. Jesse Jackson. For the first time since spring, D.C. tap water passes bacteria tests. Schools that were closed for fire-code violations open for business. The city’s leaders prove that they can actually lead—as long as the courts and the control board order them to.
Control board wins citywide admiration by deposing D.C. school board and Superintendent Franklin Smith. The coup gives citizenry a clear message that there is a new sheriff in town and the same old way ain’t going to cut it anymore.
The control board steps forward and says the District doesn’t just have a spending problem; there’s revenue problem as well. President Clinton acknowledges the “series of purgatories” in D.C. history and pledges increased federal aid for city. District balances its budget under watchful eye of the control board. Washingtonians step into the New Year hoping that city’s tenure as a punch line in a national joke may actually end someday.