City Paper is not for tourists
Time: Election Night
Place: The MacBarry home in Southeast
Lady MacBarry: (Frantically pacing to and fro) O, foul creatures of the ward! O, heartless idiots full of sound and fury! How could those quislings do this to my Eydie Whittington? How could they summarily cast out one who has served so nobly on the council?
(Turning on her cowering husband) Didst thou not have it within thy command to prevent this unholy injury?
Lord Mayor MacBarry: (Feeling helpless before his outraged wife) I didst my best. No man or heavenly host could have toiled more feverishly. I knocked on countless doors in our public housing villages. I beseeched those who greeted my face to take leave immediately and cast their ballots for your precious one. Even members of my palace guard were ferrying voters to and fro. Those two jackals from the Washington Post sighted that, and tomorrow morning they will spear me on the front page of that paper not even fit for fish-wrapping.
Lady MacBarry: (Calming herself a bit) Perhaps your immense powers run dry, like the canal that once flowed through Georgetown.
MacBarry: (Pricked by his wife’s insult) It was not I who plucked that fair flower from the garden and cast her into the filth and villainy of politics. Thou pressed that decision upon me, thou who call’st thyself the sorcerer of political science. But now it is I who suffers from thy science; I whose judgment is questioned.
Lady MacBarry: O, my Eydie! My poor Eydie! I must go to her at once.
MacBarry: And I must go humble myself before Sandy Allen, who now sings her victory song at Player’s Lounge.
Lady MacBarry: I forbid you to batter my ears or blister thy tongue with that name!
MacBarry: Then I shall not enter her camp. But I must call and leave a message.
Lady MacBarry: O, what is that sound that torments me so? Out! Out! Damn ringing that threatens to burst my brain.
MacBarry: It’s the telephone again. Joslyn Williams, that spleenless master of the labor council, call’st me thrice already tonight. He seeks to know whether I shall run anon in two years. But his unions of tradesmen doth not deliver. He sends legions of teamsters to help your Eydie today, and they defect to the enemy.
Lady MacBarry: O, what treachery! What foul plague has befallen my tender Eydie.
MacBarry: Now those lords of labor stand ready to deal with the devil himself to stop the march of that lazy jackal, Harold Brazil—Williams is ready to cast in his lot with that half-soul Bill Lightfoot if only I give the nod that I am ready to step down from my station. He thinks he smells my blood on the water after today’s defeats, when it is really his own blood and the blood of labor he sniffs.
Lady MacBarry: Lightfoot? That cur who fled, his tail between his legs, at the mere sight of you two years ago? How dost Williams think his future lies with such a weak-kneed one?
MacBarry: He and his union lords so despiseth that empty-suit Brazil that their uncertainty groweth like kudzu over whether I have another winning campaign left within me.
If I have one, I have only one. I grow so weary of these wars. But if I relinquish my kingdom, where will I go? What will I do? I would have to content myself with the company of dim acolytes like Roweshea Burruss, whereas I once dined with kings and queens, diplomats and ambassadors, presidents and high secretaries.
Lady MacBarry: (Seeing her husband weakened by doubt, rushes to him) Be not lost so poorly in your thoughts. Show no infirmity of purpose. The likes of Brazil and Lightfoot cannot match thy skill and cunning. They can only dream of turning out the legions on election day who come out eagerly for my husband, my master.
MacBarry: What is this strange turn? Was it not thou who only a short while ago beseeched me to give up my station when my term expires? Is this the same woman who now speaks so boldly before me who not even days ago instructed me the time is approaching when we must leave the bonfires for the serenity of the garden?
Lady MacBarry: Yes, all that you say is true. But when we go, I’ll not have it appear as if we were driven out, like skittish sheep fleeing the wolves. I want to march out beside my husband, his head held high for all to fear and love.
MacBarry: I, too, wish to exit to the herald of trumpets.
Lady MacBarry: Come. We must go to my Eydie. She needs our comforting.
(They exit into the treachery-filled night.)
To be continued…
Since last week’s primary elections, in which nearly six out of every seven registered voters in the city stayed home, local activists have been wringing their hands over the persistent apathy plaguing the D.C. electorate.
Well, LL has a news flash for all the groaners.
Last week’s turnout, just under 15 percent citywide, was the second highest for the September council primary in the District’s 22-year history of electing its own leaders.
Voter apathy is the norm in D.C., not the exception.
The highest turnout came four years ago, when 22 percent of the total electorate trudged to the polls. Back then, Mayor-for-Life Marion S. Barry Jr. was running for the Ward 8 council seat to launch his political comeback, and the Washington Post actually reported on council races weeks in advance of the primary—a move that heightened voter interest.
This time, the Post virtually ignored the campaigns, which suggests that the city’s dominant news medium can only shed its apathy about council elections when Barry is on the ballot.
“Unless this city wakes up and understands the Democratic primary is the most important election in this town, then there’s very little reason for people to open their mouths about what happens in this town,” vanquished at-large council contender Joe Yeldell observed after losing the Sept. 10 Democratic primary.
Yeldell finished a distant second in last week’s primary to Ward 6 Councilmember Harold Brazil, who pulled over 17,000 votes. Although Brazil’s vote total represents approval from only one in every 13 registered Democrats, it was enough to capture the primary and virtually guarantee victory in November.
In D.C., key political decisions rest in the hands of a tiny minority.
By staying away from the ballot box, the vast majority of the city’s Democratic voters are sending local politicos a strong message: We would be just as happy if the District’s dominant party disbanded. But Democratic leaders keep ignoring the message.
The pitiful turnout foiled Ward 2 Councilmember Jack Evans’ well-publicized goal of pulling 4,000 votes. Evans threw down the 4,000-vote gantlet for himself as a means of proving his mettle for a run at mayor in 1998. Even if Evans had gotten every vote cast, he would have come up nearly 150 votes short of his goal. Challenger James McLeod garnered 22 percent of the vote, holding Evans’ tally to just over 3,000 votes.
“It was not like there was an anti-Jack vote,” Evans said this week. “People just didn’t come out.”
Yeldell gave the most gracious concession speech election night. He said, in effect, that it was time for the old political horses like himself to go back into the barn and give newcomers a chance. Yeldell praised at-large also-rans John Capozzi and Phil Mendelson and urged his supporters to consider independent at-large council candidate James Baxter in November.
Speaking of Capozzi, he is now fighting to shed the Barry taint he picked up in the at-large race, when he craftily courted Hizzoner’s endorsement. Capozzi never got the endorsement he coveted, and the campaign check Cora Masters Lady MacBarry kept promising never arrived. Although Capozzi apparently felt Barry’s support would serve him well in the citywide race, it would do him little good in a possible run for Brazil’s council seat in Ward 6 early next year.
“I sought everybody’s support. Now I have to fight this label,” Capozzi groused this week. “First of all, he never did endorse. Secondly, he’s never supported me on my issues. Unfortunately, I get saddled with this.”
Ward 7 school board member Terry Hairston could end up being the biggest loser from last week’s primary. Not only did he get clobbered by incumbent Ward 7 Councilmember Kevin Chavous, Hairston is now fighting to keep his school board seat.
The U.S. Office of Special Counsel is currently investigating Hairston for violating the Hatch Act by running in last week’s Democratic primary. The 1993 Hatch Act revisions bar D.C. school board members from partisan political races.
Hairston has hired attorney John Floyd to fend off possible disciplinary action by the Special Counsel and to fight the law in court if necessary. He claims he took “a leave of absence” for the campaign and therefore did not violate the law.
Hairston is also facing a recall election for blocking the contract renewal of Woodson High School principal Lucille Christian at the end of the last school year. “There was a lot of dissension at Woodson,” Hairston claimed this week. “We actually did the students a favor, we did the parents a favor, and we did the teachers a favor.”
Not so, says Ward 7 civic leader Sam Bost, head of the recall effort. Bost claims Hairston ignored the wish of the community that Christian’s contract be renewed.
Recall petitions began circulating last month, along with details of Hairston’s arrest record while a student at Morehouse College in Atlanta during the 1980s. He was arrested in October 1988 for armed robbery and assault. Hairston said that was “a case of mistaken identity, and it never even went to court.”
He was also arrested that same month for obstructing a police officer. Hairston said the arrest occurred during a protest demonstration, and he claims the charge was later dropped. However, Fulton County court records indicate he was given a 12-month suspended sentence on the misdemeanor charge.
Atlanta area court records list two other arrests in 1989, one for driving under the influence and the other for passing a bad check. Hairston settled the bad-check charge in May 1989, but he failed to appear for a court date on the traffic charge, and the case remains open.
Hairston’s latest arrest occurred on February 26, 1996 in D.C. for driving under the influence. Hairston has plead not guilty to that charge, and a trial is scheduled for Oct. 1 in D.C. Superior Court.
“We didn’t know about any of this when we started the recall,” Bost said this week…
Meanwhile, town-and-gown warfare flared up again in Georgetown last week after Advisory Neighborhood Commissioner Westy Byrd printed and circulated fliers that appeared to be aimed at discouraging Georgetown University students from getting involved in local politics.
Byrd is facing a November challenge from GU student Jim Fogarty for her ANC 2E seat.
The fliers, distributed in campus dorms, warned students that if they registered to vote in D.C. they risk losing their grant money from their home states. The leaflets also warned that students could be forced to pay D.C. income taxes, register their cars in the District, and obtain D.C. driver’s licenses.
An article in the Sept. 12 edition of the Georgetown Voice, a campus newspaper, headlined “Commissioner discourages student voting,” reported that Byrd paid for the fliers on the ANC 2E account at Staples on M Street NW.
But Byrd told LL this week, “I paid for it with my own funds.”
Instead of getting out the vote, Byrd wants to keep the vote in, especially if the voters are GU students.
“The students have made it clear that they want to take over our ANC,” she said, “And we know the Jesuits are behind one of those students [Fogarty] running for the ANC.”
“I tried to make clear that being a resident carries certain privileges, like voting, but it also carries certain responsibilities,” she added.
“There are some big projects the university wants, and I think they’re ready to take over the ANC, or would like to,” she claimed. “There’s big money involved here.”
GU student association member Dan Leistkow has asked the D.C. Board of Elections to investigate whether Byrd’s flier “constitutes an unethical act intended to intentionally mislead or intimidate a specific class of individuals from registering to vote in the District.” Leistkow also requested an investigation into whether Byrd used ANC 2E funds to reproduce the fliers.
At present, GU student voting strength is diluted among five ANC 2E single-member districts, thanks, in part, to Byrd, who helped redraw the ANC boundary lines after the 1990 census. The current configuration avoids lumping GU’s five dorms into one ANC 2E district, which would all but assure the students a representative on the neighborhood commission.
LL can sympathize if GU students are upset over being disenfranchised. After all, St. Elizabeths has its own single-member district and an elected representative on ANC 8A. CP
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