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I’VE RESPECTED FOR YEARS the writings of my friend, Jonetta Rose Barras, which makes it all the more dismaying that she could let sloppy journalism undermine what might have been an insightful examination of the District’s control board and the latest incarnation of the shining knight who rides into town to save us from ourselves (“The Man in Control,” 8/11).
1.) There is indeed a “new crop of black leaders” ready to tackle the tough issues, but Ward 6 Councilmember Harold Brazil is hardly one of them. He built his following largely by making irresponsible statements on incendiary issues like parking enforcement. Windmills, he tilts at; tough issues, he ducks like an old pro.
2.) Barras’ prejudices are also showing when she broad-brushes all District workers as slovenly dolts who won’t return telephone calls. I, too, found it easy to slip into the stereotype that all city workers are too lazy to get a real job before I spent a few years working inside the government (I no longer do). I found many dedicated souls who went the extra mile, worked unpaid extra hours to return telephone calls, and yes, went to neighborhood meetings several nights a week and genuinely empathized with the citizens they met there. Control board number-cruncher John W. Hill Jr. recognizes this; why can’t Barras?
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3.) Control board Chair Andrew Brimmer may be playing safe politics by shoving the so-called commuter tax issue into the closet, but however “politically naive” he was to recommend it to former Mayor Sharon Pratt Kelly, he knew then and he knows now that it must be part of any long-term solution for this financially deprived city.
Everyone who is informed about how we got into this mess knows that we can only achieve vitality if we get all the tools of democracy and self-government, including the dreadful (by suburban-flighters) commuter tax, so that what’s earned here is taxed here—the same rule that applies everywhere else. It is the best revenue-building answer, the best economy- rebuilding answer, and the only fair and equitable answer. Whatever else you say about her, Kelly knew that, and didn’t equivocate about it.
4.) Barras’ worst journalistic faux pas was in her paragraphs on Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich’s visit to Eastern High School. She’d have you believe those of us demonstrating outside the school were a “ragtag band of protesters” marching to Lawrence Guyot’s drummer. Yes, Guyot was there playing his race card, always good for a sound bite, but we 50 or so marchers—a healthy mix of blacks and whites, young and old—weren’t there because of Guyot. (If we looked “ragtag,” blame the heat.) We represented Citizens for New Columbia (CNC), the we’ll- never-quit grass-roots movement that knows the ultimate answer for D.C. is statehood. We told it like it is. Barras should have as well.
For all that, Jonetta, I hope we’re still friends.