Marion Barry at Vince Gray's swearing in January 2011

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Funeral plans for mayor-for-life Marion Barry won’t be announced until later this afternoon. That hasn’t stopped Still Mayor Vince Gray from already finding a final resting place for Barry: as a rhetorical bat for District pols looking to beat down their opponents.

Yesterday, Gray saw his deal to swap the Reeves Center for D.C. United stadium land tugged apart by D.C. Council committees at the urging of Almost Mayor Muriel Bowser. Instead, the committees backed a plan to take developer Akridge’s land with eminent domain—-a move that could jeopardize both the swap and the plan to build a new Reeves Center in Barry’s Ward 8.

Through his media office, a frustrated Gray sent out a late-night press release.

“If the Committee’s actions are allowed to stand, it will also represent a tremendous lost opportunity to spur economic development in Ward 8,” Gray said in his statement. “That is no way to honor Marion Barry’s legacy.”

And here LL didn’t think Barry’s body was going to be paraded around until next week. Taste issues aside, though, this is some rhetorical footwork on Gray’s part. While using eminent domain would keep Reeves in the city’s portfolio, it doesn’t stop the District from auctioning off the hot U Street property and building a Ward 8 Reeves Center separate from the stadium deal.

Three minutes after sending out the release, Gray’s media office recalled it. In its place came a more conciliatory statement on the deal with no mention of Barry.

What gives? Via email, Gray spokeswoman Doxie McCoy explains the backtrack on using Barry as a political prop. The Barry release was a draft that wasn’t supposed to be sent out, according to McCoy.

Photo by Darrow Montgomery