Mayor Barry upbeat despite city's financial woes, personal legal problems WASHINGTON, D.C.'S FISCAL CRISIS

June 16, 1995|By Thomas W. Waldron

WASHINGTON -- The nation's capital is reeling, but Mayor Marion S. Barry Jr. keeps smiling.

Wherever he goes, the mayor hugs children and reminds adults that Washington, despite its troubles, is still a great place.

"If we don't cheer for ourselves, who will?" he asks, sounding like William Donald Schaefer in his 15 years as mayor of Baltimore.

If the city's worst fiscal crisis in two decades of home rule weren't enough to worry about, Mr. Barry is also facing his own legal problems. None of it seems to faze the resilient Mr. Barry, a man whose tenure as "mayor for life" was interrupted by a 1990 drug conviction.

His latest troubles began only four months after he reclaimed the mayor's office in January, when federal prosecutors began investigating his dealings with a Washington businessman named Yong Yun.

During Mr. Barry's previous term as mayor, the district entered into a long-term, noncompetitive lease for a building owned by Mr. Yun. Now, investigators are reportedly looking into whether Mr. Barry received a free renovation of the basement of his house from Mr. Yun last year.

In a separate incident, Barbara Mouring, the Barrys' former maid, told the Washington Post in early April that she helped the mayor's wife divert $2,000 in campaign contributions to Mrs. Barry's brother.

As Ms. Mouring's story became known, Mr. Yun reportedly offered her a job if she would recant. Investigators are also looking into Ms. Mouring's claim that members of Mr. Barry's security detail pressured her to back off her story.

Both the mayor and his wife, as well as Mr. Yun, have denied any wrongdoing. Last week, the mayor declined to discuss the investigation.

L Does the inquiry distract him from his duties, he was asked.

"Absolutely not," he said. "I'm out here working 14 or 15 hours a day. I'm keeping my eyes right on the prize."

First elected mayor in 1978, Mr. Barry came under investigation several times over the years. In early 1990, a police sting operation captured Mr. Barry on videotape smoking crack cocaine with a female friend in a Washington hotel room.

He was convicted on a misdemeanor drug charge, resigned from office and served six months in prison.

In 1992, Mr. Barry won a seat on the City Council, representing one of the city's poorest areas. Campaigning as a rehabilitated man who deserved redemption, Mr. Barry won last year a fourth four-year term as mayor.

Despite the district's mounting problems, Mr. Barry, 59, seems thrilled to be back in the action.

At a town meeting last week, Mr. Barry clearly enjoyed the give-and-take with disgruntled residents.

His upbeat attitude doesn't surprise those who know him.

"Even if there is a problem with the budget, it's still the environment where he feels the most comfortable," says Harold Brazil, a second-term member of the City Council.


Jan. 2 -- Marion S. Barry Jr. is sworn in for fourth term as mayor.

Jan. 12 -- Mr. Barry warns of layoffs, higher fees and budget cuts.

Jan. 19 -- Records show the city is late in paying $68 million in bills.

Jan. 24 -- Mr. Barry orders D.C. General Hospital to lay off 260 employees, including one-third of its doctors.

Jan. 25 -- Mayor estimates that city's budget shortfall is $100 million more than his earlier estimate.

Feb. 1 -- Mayor now pegs deficit at $722 million. City proposes cutting employees' wages, closing schools seven days early and eliminating hundreds of jobs.

Feb. 2 -- Mayor asks federal authorities to take over welfare, medical, court and corrections systems.

Feb. 15 -- Moody's Investors Service cuts the district's debt to junk bond status.

Feb. 21 -- Congressional auditors say the district is "insolvent."

Feb. 22 -- Members of Congress warn Mr. Barry that the city's failure to curb spending will lead to greater federal control of district.

Feb. 25 -- Report shows that district school officials took millions of dollars from funds for fire safety codes and other maintenance to pay salaries.

March 6 -- Unionized workers told their pay would be cut 12 percent. Mayor signs agreement with Abe Pollin, owner of Bullets and Capitals, to build arena in the district.

March 8 -- Mr. Barry presents "miracle budget" relying on federal bailout, with no layoffs. Members of Congress call budget irresponsible.

March 27 -- Arrests for felonies and serious misdemeanors decline by 10 percent. Police officers blame pay cut for hurting morale.

April 4 -- Jury finds sexual harassment in city corrections system, opening door to class-action lawsuit. Lawyers identify 2,000 potential plaintiffs.

April 6 -- With bankruptcy looming, the City Council votes to lower property tax rates, increasing deficit by some $40 million.

Late April/Early May -- Mr. Barry leaves for 10 days in Africa. "What crisis in D.C.?" he asks.

May 4 -- City yields control of housing agency to federal government.

May 15 -- Nude, drunken police officers from New York City slide down escalator handrail amid rowdy partying at district hotel. District police make no arrests.

Mid-May -- Garbage pickup suspended in some areas of the city.

May 18 -- Toilet paper shortage in district buildings. "That's embarrassing," says Mr. Barry.

May 19 -- The Washington City Paper discloses investigation by U.S. General Accounting Office of city school system. U.S. attorney's office also investigates Department of Human Services.

May 22 -- A federal judge takes control of city child-welfare system.

Late May/Early June -- President Clinton appoints five members of the control board.

June 9 -- Public schools close seven days early.

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