Home rule has not delivered power to those who have always called this city home. Most of the prominent people in Mayor Marion Barry's administration - like those in the administration of Barry's predecessor - are not natives of the District of Columbia.
Barry, born in Mississippi and reared in Memphis, came here 14 years ago to stir up this city's social conscience. Now he's the mayor. Effi Slaughter Barry, a native of Toledo, came here from New York four years ago as a health inspector, and now she's the District's first lady.
Jamaican-born civil rights organizer Ivanhoe Donaldson left his native New York in the mid-'60s and sought a base in the District of Columbia. Now Donaldson, a longtime friend of Barry, is general assistant to the mayor. Colin Walters first came to Washington as a soldier in the British army in 1961. Now the native of Weston-Super-Mare, England, is assistant city administrator for financial management.
Not all of those who climbed - or catapulted - to the top of D.C. government are aliens. City Council Chairman Arrington Dixon, reared on the hillsides of Anacostia, is a native Washingtonian. So is Police Chief Burtell M. Jefferson, Recreation Director William H. Rumsey and Environmental Services Director Herbert L. Tucker.
Dwight S. Cropp, executive secretary to the mayor, grew up in the Langston Terrace and Lincoln Heights housing projects in Northeast Washington. Valerie Barry, special assistant to the mayor but no relation to him, lives in the same two-story brick rowhouse near 10th Street and Spring Road NW where she grew up.
Still, the Barry administration is for the most part a government of outsiders.
The predominance of outsiders is at times an annoyance to some who were born and raised here.
The interlopers compete for power and prestige with members of the traditional black middle class, who for so long were considered the people to consult whenever the interests of black Washington were in question.
"There's a real sense of paranoia that, with the help of whites, these people (from outside) are going to take over the city. We're going to lose control of the influence we had," said one lifetime city resident, asking not to be named for fear of being perceived as a disgrunted voice from the blue-blooded past.
Radio talk show host Ralph "Petey" Greene, who grew up in Foggy Bottom and Georgetown, puts it on the record. "There are no key guys in the District of Columbia government running anything who are from D.C.," Greene said. "And now Marion Barry says he wants everybody who works here to live here because that makes them do better. That's my problem with Marion. Why didn't he stay in Mississippi if he believes that?"
There is no written or unwritten rule that hometown folks do better or worse in municipal government. Washington is by its nature one of the most transient areas in the country. Many top people in Washington-area suburban governments, like those in the District, are not natives of their respective municipalities, either. By contrast, most of Baltimore Mayor William Donald Schaefer's top aides are city natives. The same is true in St. Louis, according to mayoral aides.
But in Indianapolis, press secretary Tom Henry has serious doubts that most of Mayor William H. Hudnut's top aides and department heads are homegrown. "Most of these people made their reputations in business or in their areas of expertise, then moved to Indianapolis and got caught up in government," Henry said.
To those who have grown up here, Washington's history offers the best explanation for the absence of natives in the upper crust of their own government.
"I think it has to do with the colonial mentality. Growing up in Washington, the emphasis was on stability," said Cropp, "playing it safe, not rocking the boat. Life in D.C. has been rather secure and comfortable.
"People who come here are obviously coming because they're looking for something better than they have. They're strivers to begin with. They find most of the people here are very comfortable and they find it's fertile ground."
Police Chief Jefferson said few Washingtonians have really been interested in local government, preferring instead to focus on the federal jobs which, before home rule, were indisputably more prestigious.
"Being native Washingtonians, they were already established in a certain job situation when home rule came, and never saw fit to take advantage of the few (local) job situations that were available. Everybody went for the few federal jobs that were around," Jefferson said.
Greene said the problem is that those who grew up in Washington are too concerned with being associated with power rather than accepting the responsiblity of wielding it.
"Most of the Washington, D.C. guys are just walk-beside'ers because they don't want to carry no weight," Greene said.
Valerie Barry said she at first was excited and full of anxiety about helping to run the government in her home town. Now she gets frustrated because many of those she grew up with are still apathetic.
"We grew up knowing that the federal government was going to take care of us and we didn't get involved," she said. "My neighbors aren't any more interested (in local government) now than they were when I was growing up."
James O. Gibson, Barry's planning director and a native of Atlanta, will not blame the citizens of the District per se. The real problem, he says philosophically, is trying to be an agent of change in a place where one has been part of the status quo. When he tried to change things in Atlanta, Gibson recalled, he immediately ran into problems.
"The first reaction from some of the elders was, 'I know your momma. I know your daddy.Why you want to come and change everything?' I think it's endemic to a change orientation," Gibson said. "You need to feel distant enough to not resist persisting against the prevailing tide. The willingness to jostle a bit is easier for people who come into relations as they have been before and haven't had to share in those relations becoming what they are."
Washington native Valerie Barry seems to agree with Gibson and said having some outsiders at the top might be one of the best things that ever happened to local government here.
"I knew that we needed someone like Marion to be our conscience, not so much Marion the street dude, but someone who has an understanding of that apathy," she said.
Cropp said being from the outside may even be an asset to some in the Barry regime. "They are able to put the government in a perspective and are better able to do that than people from the inside," he said. "I think this administration may be more objective because of its experiences elsewhere."