The glittering charms of Paris in the springtime will sparkle without Mayor Marion Barry and City Council Chairman Arrington Dixon, who yesterday abruptly canceled plans to leave Thursday on a free trip to the French capital.
Barry said in a prepared statement that he was staying home to lobby the City Council's finance committee for passage of a tax package, which Barry has proposed as part of a plan to erase the city's projected $170 million budget deficit.
But sources close to the mayor indicated the overriding reason for canceling the trip was to avoid the image of Barry strolling in the shadow of the Eiffel Tower while the city faces the worst financial crisis in its history.
"I think most of the people who talked to the mayor expressed a sentiment that this was bad timing," said one high-ranking city official who asked not to be named. "It's just a matter of symbolism."
Dixon twice told reporters yesterday morning that he would go on the trip. But after Barry announced at midday that he was staying home, Dixon quickly followed suit, citing "the District's fiscal situation and other pressing matters" as his reason for staying. Their wives, Effi Barry and Sharon Dixon, will also be staying home, officials announced.
Ivanhoe Donaldson, Barry's chief of staff and top polictical aide, was also scheduled to make the trip and could not be reached for comment yesterday on whether his plans had changed. City administrator Elijah B. Rogers said donaldson would go. Board of elections and Ethics Chairman James L. Denson, who is also scheduled to go, also could not be reached.
The trip, sponsored by Trans World Airlines, was to inaugurate the airline's wide-body jet service to Paris. The airline invited civic and business leaders, and hoped to have acceptances from 50 of them before take-off time Thursday at 6:55 p.m.
The decision by Barry, a former community activist and street worker, to make the trip was shaprly criticized by several organizers of a march scheduled for Saturday to criticize budget cuts ordered by the mayor.
The protest leaders, who include Barry's minister and representatives of a number of grass-roots community groups, charged that the cuts would be most damaging to the low-income residents for whom Barry once spoke. One scheduled rally speaker berated Barry for "picking up to go to Paris when the city is in turmoil."
The Barrys and the Dixons would have traveled first-class over the Atlantic, and upon their arrival been treated to a fashion show and reception at the salon of Hermes, the accessories designer.
Barry blamed his cancellation on the failure of the council's finance committee to act this week on the tax package. "It would be unwise of me . . . to leave the city with the fate of the tax package in doubt and no date set for the committee's crucial vote," he said.
TWA spokesman John Corris said he was sorry that Barry and Dixon had decided not to make the trip, but added that the flight would go on without them.
"We certainly wanted both of them to come," he said. "On the other hand, we certainly understand the mitigating circumstances."