No one can expect Marion Barry to have become accustomed yet to being the mayor. He's been in office for only a month. Even some of his top aides are still getting used to calling him "the mayor." Some also note that Barry still uses the phrase "the mayor" in public to refer to his predecessor, Walter E. Washington.
Now comes a report from one of Barry's department heads who gets telephone calls from the mayor on his hotline. They begin with Barry saying somewhat authoritatively, "This is the mayor."
"I feel like telling him sometime, 'I know who you are. After all, this is the mayor's hotline.' But then I remember some of his secretaries have called on it, too," the aide said.
When City Council member David A. Clarke (D-Ward 1) recently withdrew his candidacy from the May 1 special election to complete Marion Barry's term on the council, his action caused somewhat of a setback for the political strategy of ex-council member Douglas E. Moore, who is running for the Barry seat.
Absalom Jordan Sr., one of Moore's most loyal supporters, cast the deciding vote last month when the D.C. Democratic State Committee chose John Ray to succeed Barry until the May 1 election. Barry also had endorsed Ray for the post. For the first five ballots, Jordan had stubbornly supported Moore, who never got more than three of the 49 votes cast.
Many of Moore's supporters believed Ray's selection would benefit Moore.By being the choice of Barry, Ray could be expected to get significant backing from the whites in Wards 1, 2, 3 and 6, who so strongly supported Barry.
And with a prominent white, Clarke, also in the race, the "white vote" could be split between Ray and Clarke, the Moore theory went. It was this "white vote" that decisively defeated former D.C. School Superintendent Barbara A. Sizemore in a similar special City Council election in 1977.
Now, however, Clarke has dropped out of the race. That knocks the theory a little out of line, Moore acknowledged recently, but not enough to stop, in Moore's opinion, the election of a still undefined "new Doug Moore" on May 1.
Three weeks into her job as chairman of the City Council's newly created Committee on Housing and Economic Development, council member Willie J. Hardy (D-Ward 7) has drawn a sharp line between what she will and will not do as head of a panel with topical jurisdiction over two of the most pressing areas in city life.
"It has come to my attention," Hardy wrote in a Jan. 23 memo to her council colleagues, "that an increasing number of calls from constituents from wards other than the seventh ward (which I represent) are being referred to my office by your staff members, when the problems pertain to their housing problems and non-receipt of unemployment compensation, worker's compensation, etc.
"These constituents are being told that since these concerns fall under the purview of this committee, they should call me.
"Since their requests do not deal with legislation before my committee, I have instructed my staff to refer them to the offices of their council-members. May I suggest that I be made aware of situations you feel can be remedied only through our legislative process. Your cooperation in this matter would be greatly appreciated."
Hardy's limited view of her responsibilities indirectly underscores a point made earlier this month by council member David A. Clarke (D-Ward 1), who contended that when it comes to committee chairmanships, the council not only breaks with party traditions, but also the underlying logic of some framers of the Home Rule Charter.
Clarke believes that the four at-large seats on the 13-person council were originally viewed as offices similar to senate seats in a state legislature.
Since at-large members were elected by a broader, citywide constituency than their ward colleagues (each of whom theoretically represents one-eighth of the city), the at-large members should have first crack at broader, more important and prestigious responsibilities. So Clarke told a recent meeting of the D.C. Democratic State Committee.
When the first elected council took office in 1975, the two most important committee chairmanships were in fact given to at-large members -- the Finance and Revenue Committee chairmanship to Marion Barry and the Budget Committee chairmanship to Douglas E. Moore.
Both of the other at-large members were also committee chairmen.
This year, only one of the council's four at-large members has a committee chairmanship -- Republican Jerry Moore. Statehood Party member Hilda Mason and Democrat Betty Ann Kane were passed over. The second Democrat, John Ray, was elected after the committee chairmanships were passed out.
The key committee chairmanships now are in the hands of ward representatives. John A. Wilson (D-Ward 2) is the new Finance and Revenue chairman.
Nadine P. Winter (D-Ward 6) is council chairman pro tempore, even though the home rule charter forbids her from being elected as interim leader of the council -- in the event that the office is vacated prematurely by Dixon -- because she is not an at-large council member.