All around City Council Chairman Arrington Dixon's house, last night, the candles were glowing, the fire place was blazing, the champagne was bubbling, even though the conversations weren't.
The art of political nonspeak was waxed to a holiday shine last night at Dixon's gathering for his personal friends and political associates. "This is not a political party. I have a responsibility. I want to keep in touch with friends," said Dixon, as he and his wife, lawyer Sharon Pratt Dixon, artfully jubled the introductions from the Smithsonian's S. Dillon Ripley to Africare's C. Payne Lucas, to their dauthers' playmates.
Even the discussions about the incoming Republican administration from the largely Democratic gathering got the benefit of the season's doubt. And even those colleagues who might be burned by Dixon's reorganization proposal last week were cheerfully polite.
"It's a bit too early to characterize the relationship between the city and the new administration. I am going to reserve judgement," said Robert Washington, an attorney and the head of the local Democratic Party. Paul Reichardt, the chairman of Washington Gas Light Co., said, "I have a wait-and-see attitude. They have a great opportunity to do good for the city." Flaxie Pinkett, a well known Democratic businesswoman, said, "I'm hopeful they will continue what they have started. I liked that little party over at the F Street Club. It's going to be tough, but I think Reagan wants to be a good president."
David Clark, the Ward One city councilman, will also "wait and see," but added, "If you put aside the home rule fight, civil rights and the prospects of a war, in which our population will probably serve more heavily than other cities', then we are fine." Arthur Fletcher, the best-known Republican in the room offered, "I don't have a view one way or another. I'm busy taking care of my clients."
The Dixons' annual party can be viewed as a barometer of the city leadership: what issues are pressing, who's in and who's out, what weight Dixon carries in the Fauntroy-Barry Dixon triumvirate. His support among the quietly powerful of upper Portal Estates seems solid Neighbors flowed in and out, ignoring the chilling air outside. Guests represented the Dixons' varied corporate and organizational ties. There were representatives from IBM and the League of Cities and young, politically mobile attorneys like James Hudson and Ronald Brown. Topic of discussion ranged from School Superintendent Vincent Reed's resignation announcement to Dixon's reorganization to Christmas shopping. "The big question this week is how we are going to save Vince," said businessman Frank Rich, who has had five children in the public schools. "He's done so well, the competency-based cirriculum, making those kids earn their keep. He's the best thing that happened in Washington." Betty Ann Kane, a city councilwoman-at-large, felt slighted by Dixon's proposal last week. "Talent, seniority and party were overlooked," said Kane. "When I first got on the council, Arrington said wait until you have some seniority. Well, here I am." But any animosity was buried in the evening's good times. And she was just as happy to join her husband in teasing one of Dixon's staff members about her "Nancy Reagan white and black suit."