A year ago Carmen Quander was working fervently to get then-mayor Walter Washington reelected. But last night she stood resplendent in silky dress and red carnation ushering guests into the ballroom where a first-anniversary party would be held for Mayor Marion Barry. She explained:
"I'm a Democrat. I'm Hispanic. I was born and raised here. My husband's family has been here since 1682. He's the mayor. He deserves our respect."
And last night he got a lot of it -- with a few exceptions. It was -- as the program said -- the First-Anniversary Celebration of Marion S. Barry Jr., Mayor, and his Administration, at the Washington Hilton, one in a daylong series of rather unusual congratulatory events.
"I'm an unusual mayor," said Barry nonchalantly as guests clustered around, toasting his first anniversary in office."Washington's an unusual city. So the District of Columbia Anniversary Committee is an unusual committee. It wasn't my idea. They came to me."
One of those people who conceived the idea was Anita Bonds, special assistant to the mayor for constituent services. "You got to keep spirits up in the city," said Barry.
When Barry went to the podium, musician Barry Felder and his band stopped playing disco to play "Happy Days Are Here Again."
"Sounds like a convention," one guest murmured.
And all of this was going on as plump snowflakes fell outside in the first major snowstorm of the winter. "It is kind of ironic," said one guest and Barry supporter, laughing. Barry did not receive particularly high marks last February in his nonchalant reaction to the mounds of snow that paralyzed Washington for a couple of days.
But the 300 guests -- who ranged from friends to fund-raisers and supporters, both black and white, to a sprinkling of council members -- generally oozed compliments for Barry. Del. Walter Fauntroy, at the podium, spoke of Barry's "brilliance and genius." Said business consultant Frederick Wainwright: "We think he had a year of splendid achievements -- unification of neighborhood concerns, sincerity with respect to delivery of services. I didn't say it's all done now. I said his sincerity."
But among the guests who wandered through the reception, dance and a special anniversary art exhibit last night were a large group of Hispanic city government appointees who needled Barry a bit. At the reception for the Hispanics, according to one guest who was there, Jose Gutierrez, acting director of personnel and the highest-ranking Hispanic in Barry's administration, talked about the strides the office had made. Someone yelled out to Barry, "Why don't you make him more than acting?" The emcee said Barry would discuss the matter later, but someone else jumped in and said, "Don't let him off the dime. Make him answer now."
The mayor then replied, according to the source, "Jose and I have an understanding. I'm happy with it, and he's happy with it, and that's all I have to say about it." The group booed. Barry reportedly offered a little bit more and was greeted with thin applause.
When asked about the incident, Barry downplayed it. "A couple of those people who asked questions live in Maryland," said Barry. "The D.C. Hispanics understand my position."
Barry's wife Effi, who participated in some of the day's earlier events, was not at the Hilton last night. Barry explained that his wife, who is pregnant, did not feel well.
Hilda Mason, one of the City Council members who attended, said about Barry's anniversary celebration, "Ahh, I think it's nice. Let me see . . . I think it's good for people to celebrate together and to look back at what they've done in the past year. But I also hope this has a serious tone. I hope they reflect. It takes time for people in new jobs. I believe in giving people some time to learn, but not too much."
"The problems are vast," said Sara Blunt, a Georgetowner who raised funds for Barry's campaign, "but Marion never gives up. Running a city at this time is a very discouraging business."
"This is sort of like a homecoming. If your team wins," said another Barry supporter, Carol Gidley. "We assume we're winning."