Today’s release of attorney Robert S. Bennett’s report on the financial misdoings of Ward 8 Councilman Marion Barry comes as a breath of fresh air in the what seems never ending saga usually referred to by the public as “what has Marion Barry done this time?”
Bennett found that Marion Barry personally benefited from a contract that he gave his ex-girlfriend Donna Watts-Brighthaupt, and that “substantial financial benefits” were given to close friends and allies through the use of Council earmarks, many to illegitimate groups formed by Barry’s employees and friends.
Although these findings do not surprise me, they make me long for a day when Ward 8 leadership is elected on the basis of who plans to do the most Good for the ward, rather than who will best perpetuate a lazy and uncreative status quo.
I have been in Anacostia for almost three years now, and have done my best to bring the neighborhood and the city up via social media, good press, community involvement, and hammer to nail construction. When I talk to people about this part of the city I usually highlight the positives – the galleries, the reviving housing stock, the coffee shop, the development plans – while also acknowledging the negatives. Stereotypes exist for a reason, but it is our responsibility to stand for a more just representation of the statistics, images, and people that make up a collective reputation.
This is why it is so difficult to be part of a ward that unabashedly allows for the continued political leadership of ruthlessly selfish people, Marion Barry and many others included. But no matter how hard it is, this city Will. Not. Get. Better. unless new people keeping running for office, keep answering the same old questions about why someone should move to Ward 8, and keep fixing the broken windows that are giving us a bad rap. Change does not happen on its own. It takes a long, patient practice of moving small stones to finally move a mountain. These things take time.
I am a proud Ward 8 resident, but I am not a proud Marion Barry constituent. I believe in forgiveness, but I do not believe there is a right to political longevity, especially in the face of legitimate charges or felony convictions. I hope you that you will join me in publicly condemning the way that Marion Barry has relentlessly embarrassed the District of Columbia, and fought more for his own preservation than for the benefits of those he has sworn to serve.
To Ward 8: keep your chins up, revere the good, and raise your voices for positive change. The wave is on its way.