Thursday, September 16, 2004

Former D.C. Mayor Marion S. Barry, fresh from victory in Tuesday’s Democratic primary, said yesterday he would demand a leadership position on the D.C. Council, introduce legislation to stiffen penalties for teenage car thieves and put a sharper focus on the problems facing poor people, especially on the city’s east side.

Mr. Barry, 68, a Democrat who unseated incumbent D.C. Council member Sandy Allen in Ward 8 with 57 percent of the vote, wasted no time in letting city leaders know that he would be a political force to be reckoned with.

“It’s not a social club, it’s politics,” said Mr. Barry, whose primary victory virtually assures him of victory in November in the race to represent the largely black, impoverished and solidly Democratic neighborhoods on the east side of the Anacostia River.

“Politics is not a spectator sport,” he said in an interview at his campaign office on Martin Luther King Jr. Avenue in Southeast. “It’s a contact sport — contact with the people, contact with the decision makers.”

D.C. Council Chairman Linda W. Cropp telephoned Mr. Barry yesterday and suggested they meet to discuss his future on the council. Mr. Barry told The Washington Times that he knew what he would tell her.

“I want a committee [chairmanship],” said Mr. Barry, “You can’t count me as a freshman, I’ve been in city government too long.” He said he wanted to run either the judiciary or the human services committee.

However, Mrs. Cropp yesterday said Mr. Barry would be considered a junior member because his terms have been nonconsecutive.

Mr. Barry entered D.C. politics in the 1970s and served three terms as mayor before a 1990 crack cocaine bust sent him to federal prison for six months. He returned to win the Ward 8 council seat in 1992 and the mayor’s office again in 1994.

Mr. Barry said that this time around he wanted to lead the council in providing more social services and economic development in the downtrodden and seemingly forgotten neighborhoods east of the river.

And the price tag, he said, isn’t relevant when it comes to implementing some of his initiatives, including his plan to give every D.C. teenager a summer job and hire enough social workers to give personal attention to every youth offender.

“Money is not the issue. Vision is the issue,” Mr. Barry said. “A $5.5 billion [city] budget and you tell me we haven’t got the money?”

Mr. Barry was often blamed for the financial mismanagement of the District that prompted Congress to install a control board to run the city’s government and finances in 1995, the year after Mr. Barry returned for a fourth term.

After the general election in November, Mr. Barry and the two other new Democratic D.C. Council members are expected to be sworn in on Jan. 2.

The former “mayor for life” says he then plans to push for, among other things, building a major-league baseball park on the site of RFK Stadium on East Capitol Street and redeveloping the sprawling St. Elizabeths Hospital compound in Southeast with a new mental institution, a general hospital and possibly a mix of commercial and residential buildings.

“I’m going to talk to the mayor about the ideas. Hopefully, he will support them,” Mr. Barry said. “Jobs and housing ought to be our focus, not speed cameras — that should not be a major issue. … It’s a waste of time.”

In addition to providing social services to lift teenagers out of the downward spiral of crime, he said he wanted to crack down on juvenile crime. He vowed to introduce legislation to increase the penalty for teenagers who steal cars.

He also said the election had produced a new dynamic on the council that would help his push for more affordable housing and job opportunities in his Southeast ward.

“You now got three council members — Kwame Brown, Vincent Gray and Marion Barry — east of the river, and you have a natural link between the three of us. … There’s going to be a big change. … You have to demand change.”

He said Southeast has been neglected and disparaged for too long.

“Right now, they’ll do anything to us, you know, push stuff on us that we don’t want to do,” Mr. Barry said. “Not any more.”

• Matthew Cella contributed to this report.

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