A Foolproof Formula for a Mayor-for-Life

Article excerpt

Just like Bill Clinton, all Marion Barry wants is to hold on to his job for life.

Like the president, His Honor relishes the big car, the big cigar, the endless talk-talk, the high quality of the bimbos who cross his line of sight.

The president has Dick Morris for advice, by telephone if no longer in person, though the president probably isn't sure what Dick means by wanting to keep his client on his toes.

The mayor, on the other hand, needs help. So here's a little advice, guaranteed to make the title mayor-for-life more than merely an accusation:

"Collect the garbage, fill the potholes, catch the crooks and put out the fires, and find someone with big boots to kick the widebutts in parking and traffic control from here to Peoria, and the middle class, both black and white, will call your name blessed. Or at least desist from calling you names at all, and vote accordingly."

This would enable the mayor to continue playing the big shot to his constituency in Anacostia, and the middle-class voters, who don't want much from the government but to be left alone, will avert their eyes to monkey business.

This is the formula that worked for others who aspired to ruling municipal satraps, such as Boss Hague in Jersey City, Tom Pendergast in Kansas City, Ed Crump in Memphis, and, closer to our own time, Richard J. Daley in Chicago. They provided a minimum of services, never lowering that minimum standard, and their constituents let them do whatever else they wanted to do.

Expectations of government have shrunk considerably since then, and nowhere more than in Washington, where nobody really expects Congress to turn the District's finances loose again, and short of the kind of educational reforms impossible until the national teachers unions are broken, public-school parents will be satisfied when they can send their kids to school with a reasonable hope that they'll be alive to come home at the end of the day.

Cynical or not, this leaves a large opening for the likes of Marion Barry, who, with just a little exertion - he wouldn't have to pop a sweat - would be mayor for six months after he's in the graveyard.

Signs of despair are all around. Officials in the Public Works Department report that nearly 2,000 of the District's 16,000 parking meters have been battered into ruin, and there's no money to repair or replace them. This means the city is missing the chance to collect $3 million this year from the quarters that would otherwise be gouged out of motorists. …