What you said about what we said last week
When news hit that former mayor and Ward 8 Councilmember Marion Barry had died last week, an event foretold by Barry’s visibly declining health and recent hospital visits, the city nevertheless reacted with shock. The death of a 78-year-old shouldn’t be especially surprising, but the news still felt unreal. For many, in and out of the District, D.C. is Marion Barry and Marion Barry is D.C. Washington City Paper’s coverage of his life and death included essays by former City Paper staffers and former political opponent and pal Carol Schwartz; reflections on Barry’s role in developing the city’s downtown; and a story of his last few hours, in which the mayor-for-life made a new friend of a longtime admirer. Readers responded with their impressions of Barry: hero, villain, neither, both.
Skip422 praised Barry’s role in bringing Home Rule to the District and for being “a leader who is also human.” “Let the stone throwers live in glass houses and try to stay warm in the winter…Mayor Barry’s successes for D.C. far outweigh his transgressions.”
John. A Bartelloni didn’t mind throwing some stones, writing, “Barry’s legacy is tarnished. Yes he did provide some folks with their first jobs, but he left the finances of the District in shambles. Barry used D.C. government as a de facto personal employment agency (his own). He raised folks up to the middle class, but when they got there, they moved to PG County.” Kepper piled on: “Any credibility he built in the ’60s regarding race equality he completely burned in the following five decades…It makes me sick that the rest of the D.C. Council are eulogizing him like a saint so they can keep the portion of the voting demographic that continually voted for him happy.”
Carlos the dwarf countered: “The history of America is full of corrupt, racist, philandering big-city mayors. Barry’s corruption was small potatoes compared to, say, what Mayor Daley did in Chicago, or Mayor Menino in Boston. Yet no one is sickened when Bostonians eulogize Menino—and Menino was not even a hundredth of the civil rights hero that Barry indisputably was.”
Typical DC BS found shades of gray in Barry’s legacy. “Barry had a masters degree in chemistry…he was shot in the chest during the Hanafi Muslim takeover of the Wilson Building. Civil rights, politics, women, drugs, recovery, health issues, run-ins with the police. Barry ALWAYS had something going on. Forget the Dos Equis commercials—Marion Barry always seemed to me to be ‘the most interesting man.’”
A less controversial portion of last week’s paper was our annual guide to charitable giving, which prompted a great deal of ecstasy on Twitter from the charitable organizations featured in our pages and their fans. Even Mayor Vince Gray got in on the act, tweeting a link to the guide and imploring the city to support local nonprofits.
At least one reader slyly used the guide to plug his own employer. Wrote WAMU’s Michael Martinez: “Lots of great Giving Tuesday ideas in @wcp. Also a great giving idea? wamu.org. OK, I’ll stop.”
Department of Corrections
Due to an editing error, “Marion Barry and Me” originally incorrectly stated that Carol Schwartz and Marion Barry were the only two members of the D.C. Council to support the death penalty for people who killed cops in the line of duty in 1997. Barry was mayor then, not on the Council.