City Paper Widget

Friday, October 3, 2014

Cheater's Guide to Dream City -- Part 19 (Resurrection)

This is the nineteenth installment of a series (see the first installment here) summarizing the 1994 book Dream City: Race, Power, and the Decline of Washington, Harry Jaffe and Tom Sherwood. This book has recently been republished as an ebook and a paper book. HBO has plans to use material from the book to make a movie about the life of Marion Barry.

Chapter 16: Resurrection (one of three)

After Marion Barry's 1990 conviction on a single misdemeanor drug charge, there was a five-candidate field for his replacement. The Washington Post decided to throw its weight behind Sharon Pratt Dixon, a power company executive and political outsider.

"A divorced mother raising two teenaged daughters, Dixon was a native Washington, daughter of a judge and member in good standing of the African-American elite, by breeding and by her education at Howard University and its law school. She was the only canddidate who had the temerity to call for Marion Barry's resignation after the Vista bust" (Kindle location 5211).

As a result of a series of "glowing editorials" and op-ed columns, "[t]he shift in momentum was almost immediate. Volunteers and contributions swelled Dixon's campaign" (l. 5228).

Dixon won the Democratic primary with 37 percent of the vote.

"Hope is hard to come by in any city, especially one whose mayor was a drug addict and whose image brought to mind crack dealers and bloody streets. Dixon's ascension rekindled the long-lost feeling that Washingtons could live in harmony. She talked about bringing the city's black and white communities together. She promised reform, efficiency, pride, Indeed, for the first time since 1978, black and white voters cast ballots for the same candidate" (l. 5238).

"Not one Barry-era power broker took a chance on Dixon, and not one gained from her victory" (l. 5245).

Meanwhile, Barry had missed the primary deadline to run as a Democrat, so he filed as an Independent to run for an at-large city council seat. Although it was highly unusual for jail terms for misdemeanor convictions, Judge Thomas Penfield Jackson gave Barry the maximum -- six months in jial.

"If there was any question that Judge Jackson was using his raw power to overrule the jury, the dispelled it in a speech four days later at a forum for students at Harvard Law School. Calling the evidence against Barry 'overwhelming', Jackson said, 'I am not happy with the way the jury addresses the case. Some people on the jury... had their own agendas. They would not convict under any circumstances' " (l. 5274).

"On November 8, the voters rejected Marion Barry at the polls. Although he got over 40,000 votes, he came in a distant third. It was a bitter defeat -- his first. The only part of the city that voted in great numbers for the mayor was Ward Eight, home of the poorest people, segregated and neglected across the Anacostia River. They didn't like what the government had done to him. And many loved Marion Barry, no matter what he said, no matter what he did, and no matter how little he had done to lift them out of poverty and hopelessness" (l. 8591).

"A few weeks later, Effi Barry announced her separation from Barry. She and their ten-year-old son, Christopher, took an apartment on Connecticut Avenue" (l. 5292).

Cheater's Guide to Dream City continues next week

Further installments will appear on successive Fridays. All posts will be cross-posted on the ad-hoc "Cheater's Guide to Dream City" blog.

Full disclosure: I have a commercial relationship with Amazon. I will receive a very small portion of the money people spend after clicking on an Amazon link on this site.

This is a great book and well worth reading in its entirety.

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