Dissatisifed with some appointments and doubtful of their own influence in Mayor Marion Barry's two-week-old administration, many of those in the scrappy and diverse political coalition responsible for Barry's election are clamoring for more attention from the new mayor.
While many people in the city -- even some who were initially leery about the former black activist's election -- generally have been impressed by Barry's first 15 days in office, the first flurry of appointments has not been altogether satisfactory to some in Barry's self-styled army of early supporters.
A group of black women activists were in Barry's office yesterday. They were concerned, they said, that their unique interests could be forgotten or confused with the interests of white women activists or gay rights advocates.
The Hispanics hope to see the new mayor later this week. They have received only one third-level appointment so far, despite their solid support for Barry in the election. "We really have trusted this man," said leader Sonia Gutierrez, whose husband is Barry's lone Hispanic appointee. "Now he's too busy to see us. We're more hurt than angry... He promised to deliver and he has not."
An associate of Gutierrez said last night, however, that Barry had called Gutierrez and requested that she and other community leaders meet with him at 3 p.m. Friday in Barry's office.
Barry's initial appointments have forced him to carry out a precarious balancing act among the diverse and sometimes antagonistic interest groups in his narrow political base.
Barry is, for example, said to be giving serious consideration to appointing Ruby B. McZier, a black lawyer and member of the D.C. Zoning Commission, as corporation counsel -- the kind of legal superstar Barry is looking for to boost the image of the city's lowly regarded law office.
But as a zoning commissioner, McZier has come to be regarded as an opponent of some Barry campaign supporters who have been battling against a zoning commission proposal they feel would encourage higher density development in some areas of the city.
And just when it appeared that the crowd was warming up to Barry Tuesday night in his speech to the Robert T. Freeman Dental Society, a predominantly black organization of area dentists, someone wanted to know why no special assistant for health had been appointed.
There simply were not enough special assistantships for everyone, Barry explained.
Barry press secretary Florence Tate listened a bit impatiently yesterday as a reporter ticked off the complaints. "I don't know what they expect him to do this quick," she said.
The scramble for appointments and influence in a new administration is a traditional part of politics.That infighting appears to have become particularly noteworthy in Barry's still young administration because his is the first change of government in the District in 11 years and his political base includes some often mutually antagonistic elements.
The 26 women who met with Barry for 90 minutes yesterday were members of the Organization of Black Activist Women.
They said their concern was that the two persons Barry appointed as special assistants to monitor the operations of city boards and commissions -- Betty King and Valerie Barry -- were both from a citywide women's group not completely concerned with the unique interests of black women.
Carolyn B. Lewis, who spoke on behalf of the group, said black women are "the real majority" of the city's population."We don't want policy to be put in place and appointments to be made without input from that majority."
"Within the women's focus a lot of things can get lost," Lewis said. She said Barry had assured them that special assistants King and Barry would not actually choose persons to serve on city panels, but would only make recommendations to him.
Gutierrez, whose husband Jose has been appointed as a GS-14 special assistant to the assistant city administrator for operations, Carroll B. Harvey, said the Hispanic community is hoping Barry will appoint Hispanics to more visible and influential positions.
"There isn't one damn Latino in his cabinet," she said, claiming that faith in the Barry administration is fading among the estimated 75,000 Hispanics in the District of Columbia.