Marion Barry: Phoenix or a Political Pariah?

Article excerpt

Marion Barry, the once and perhaps future mayor of the District of Columbia, does nothing in a small way.

Four years after being arrested by city police and the FBI for cocaine possession and three years after serving a six-month sentence for the misdemeanor, Barry is running for the office he left in disgrace.

He is no stranger to political comebacks. He trounced longtime City Councilwoman Wilhelmina Rolark in November 1991 to win the right to represent one of the city's poorest neighborhoods.

Now he has begun an all-out drive to unseat Mayor Sharon Pratt Kelly in the city's Democratic primary in September. The campaign's theme will be "Lessons from the Past, Visions for the Future," Barry said last week as he picked up nominating petitions from the elections board.

In a statement Thursday, Barry described district children worrying "not about failing classes, but about gunshots in the classroom," and complained that the city was suffering from the flight of residents and businesses to the suburbs.

He proposed establishing a "gun court" to deal with crimes involving guns and violent offenses; a District of Columbia residency requirement for government employees; and an office to teach entrepreneurship to citizens.

Barry may be primed for the ultimate political resurrection, but the question remains: Is he the phoenix risen from the ashes, repentant and wiser after his fall from grace, or is he a political pariah who will further divide a racially and economically polarized city and worsen its tenuous relationship with Congress? …