When last we left him, Marion Barry had been shipped off to the Federal Correction Institution in Petersburg, VA to serve out his six month term. Naturally, he couldn't keep himself out of trouble, so he was transferred to a higher security facility in Loretto, Pennsylvania. But the Man couldn't keep Prisoner No. 14856016 down forever, and on April 23, 1992, six busloads of hundreds of cheering supporters escorted the Mayor-for-Life home.
Barry promptly moved to new digs in Ward 8, which had been the only part of the city to support him in a failed at-large bid in 1990, and ran for Councilmember for that district, bumping off Wilhelminia Rolark in a 3:1 victory. He ran, apparently without irony, under the slogan "He may not be perfect, but he's perfect for DC", reinforcing our low bar for political leaders. While at the time he professed no desire for the mayor's seat, people had long since stopped believing him and no one was surprised when he ran again in 1994, defeating Republican Carol Schwartz with 56% of the vote, making Carol's 42% he highest percentage ever for a Republican in the District.
Unfortunately for DC, Barry had failed to pick up any new administrative skills in the joint, and his mismanagement led to a Federal takeover of Washington, DC in 1995, thereby giving real weight to the unfortunate argument that DC can't handle our own affairs. Barry's decision not to run for re-election in 1998 was greeted by a sigh of relief by many Washingtonians, who hopped he would fade gently into that good night.
Well, of course we all must have been smoking crack, because Barry would not be kept down. He announced plans to run again in 2002 for an at-large seat on the Council but they came to a halt when Barry was caught with $5 in crack and a "powdery substance" on his nose in his parked Jaguar in Buzzard's Point, SW on March 23, 2002. While he flung the usual accusations of police entrapment and racism, Barry did resign from the Council race for personal reasons. His fourth wife had just left him, perhaps because a young "campaign worker" had been with him when he was stopped that night.
With an attempt to win a District-wide seat in tatters, Barry fell back to Ward 8 again. Being the only place that would have him at this point, he displaced incumbent Sandy Allen, who joined the long list of folks who have felt betrayed by Marion Barry. This is the seat he holds today.
Just a year or so into his new term came news that he had failed to file income taxes in like, forever. He pled guilty to misdemeanor tax charges on October 28, 2005 and as part of the terms of his release while he waited to be sentenced, he was required to submit to drug screening, which of course he failed. This caused some speculation/wishful thinking that this would be the end of Barry's political life, but he only received three years of probation. Nor was any action taken the next year when he again failed to file taxes. Makes me wonder why I bother paying mine.
In early January of 2006, Barry spent some time talking to police as a crime victim instead of his usual position as a suspect, which I can only imagine would be a refreshing change for him. After helping him load his groceries into his apartment on the 2600 block of Douglas Place SE, two young men from the community held him up. Interestingly, Barry seemed more shocked not that a mugging would take place in his high-crime neighborhood, but rather that he personally would be a target. "There's sort of an unwritten code in Washington among the underworld, the hustlers, and these other guys that I'm their friend." he claimed. Who are we to dispute that?
A few weeks later, Barry decided to join a new church, leaving Union Temple for the 12,000 member Temple of Praise. Barry had been feuding for some time with Union's Rev. Willie Wilson, most memorably after "Barry called a press conference to unveil a giant machine, which he says turns garbage into electricity and drinking water, in the parking lot across from Wilson's church." Yes, you read that correctly.
The hits kept on coming for Barry in '06. In May, he was sited for a light night fender bender where he hit a car when pulling out of a parking spot. By all accounts he was sober at the time. On September 10, 2006, the Secret Service pulled him over for running a red light a block from the White House. They noticed he He was also cited for by the Park Police for driving too slowly in a separate incident at 25th and Alabama Ave., SE. He would be acquitted in both incidents. And, my personal favorite, On September 28, 2007 a "break-in" at his new apartment on Orange St., SE robbed the Councilmember of his five Rolexes, seven Omegas, eight Seikos, and 50 assorted cuff links, many of which were acquired while Barry was not filing his income taxes. Assuming they existed anyway, Barry was curiously reluctant to have MPD investigate the "crime". Oh, and he continued to escape jail time while repeatedly violating his probation.
And then, most recently, on July 4th of last year, a Park Police Officer stumbled upon Barry and his girlfriend Donna Watts-Brighthaupt having an argument in Anacostia Park. While the charges of stalking wouldn't stick, subsequent investigation revealed that Barry had been awarding Watts-Brighthaupt earmarked city contracts and receiving kickbacks from her. And, as always, Barry continued to treat his girlfriend with his traditional gallantry (see clip 10, NSFW).
Which is where we stand today. In the wake of the overwhelming evidence the Council report came to the "conclusion that Mr. Barry's conduct not only created an appearance of impropriety, but was in fact improper". Barry was censured this week in a unanimous vote and stripped of his committee assignments. While this would no doubt be the end of any ordinary politician, the rousing reception he received in the recent State of Ward 8 address indicates that those residents seem perfectly happy with their representation. For their sake, I hope that crowd is not indicative of voters there.
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