Ward 8 Councilmember Marion Barry was in full-on campaign mode last Friday on the Politics Hour, stubbornly resisting Tom Sherwood‘s attempts to interrupt his re-election stump speech with various “distractions.” Besides his tweeting habits, a few remarks are worthy of note:

10,000 units of housing during his tenure on the Council? “When you go around Ward 8, The face is 180 degrees different. When you go down Martin Luther King Avenue, go down Minnesota Avenue, go down Alabama Avenue, the highrises on Mississippi and Wheeler….To get 10,000 units? it took a miraculous kind of leadership to do that.”

  • Those corridors have improved a bit, sure, but “180 degrees different” is world-class hyperbole. Also, I’m not sure where he’s getting his housing numbers, but if there are 10,000 more housing units, they’re not necessarily occupied: The Ward’s population stayed essentially flat from 2000 to 2010, while the rest of the city grew. 

On the Department of Homeland Security’s new headquarters at St. Elizabeths west campus: “That doesn’t affect us. There are 13,000 people working on the Joint Airforce Base. And they only have about five percent D.C. residents, out of 13,000. And unless we get the federal government to change its policies, we will get 14,000 people, with the same numbers. But I’m excited about the east side. 100-some acres, the first RFP should go out in the next couple months.”

  • Opinion is somewhat split on whether the DHS consolidation will actually do Ward 8 any good, what with the walled-off campus, tight security requirements, and low percentage of employees who are District residents. And Barry is right to draw the analogy with Joint Base Anacostia Bolling, which is for all intents and purposes not a part of the city at all. But federal attitudes towards relating with the communities around their secure campuses are evolving, and while it’s not smart to depend entirely on DHS for revitalization, the Ward’s next councilmember should try their hardest to attract employees and ancillary businesses to move there.

On encouraging homeownership: “I’ve led the efforts for homeownership. We’re going to do at least 6,000 units homeownership, take the boards off those houses, turn them into condos. Going to try to take every available land we can find that’s not developed and work to develop it.”

  • Barry’s certainly on the right track when he talks about restoring vacant properties, which Ward 8 residents voted as their top development priority at a summit a few months back. But it’s not clear how, exactly, he proposes to accomplish this. His most recent “effort for homeownership” was prohibiting new apartment buildings. So at least he’s not talking about that anymore.

On the recommended architecture team for new Ballou Senior High School: “I don’t like it, because it’s an all white firm, but we’re going to deal with that. We want Ballou to be an example of local, disadvantaged business participation, because 99.9 percent of students at Ballou are African American, and I’m tired of these developers coming in and developing, say a school, and the majority of the money goes outside the city. We’re going to stop that.”

  • I certainly hope he doesn’t mean that he’s going to put the kibosh on a contractor just because they’re white, but I wouldn’t put it past him.

On gentrification: “We welcome any and everybody into Ward 8 into the city. But we’re not going to tolerate people coming in, pushing out long-term residents who’ve been there during the good times and the bad times. And so we welcome that. And so what’s going to happen in St. Elizabeth’s East Campus is going to have to be a mixture of people. We’re not displacing anybody. There’s going to be a mixture of people.”

  • Bravo!

Photo by Darrow Montgomery