Mayor Marion Barry said yesterday that he came away from a dinner given by President-elect Ronald Reagan on Tuesday night "convinced that this administration is going to be receptive" to the concerns of the District government.
But the Mayor, who in the past has expressed grave reservations about a Reagan presidency, said his new optimism was based more on a general impression than on specifics. "We don't have a commitment for millions of dollars for the city, or anything like that," Barry said. "It wasn't that kind of session."
The dinner was held at the exclusive F Street Club in Foggy Bottom, and Barry joked at a press conference that he hoped his next dinner with Reagan would be at the Florida Avenue Grill, a popular soul food restaurant. "We could eat some chitterlings and some hog maws," the mayor said.
About 40 movers and shakers from around the metropolitan area attended the dinner, and most described it afterward as a social gathering that allowed Reagan, Vice President-elect George Bush and their wives to meet their new neighbors.
But Barry said he went to the dinner determined to get some lobbying done and the seating arrangement facilitated his effort.Barry's wife, Effi, sat next to the president-elect and Barry next to Reagan's wife Nancy.
"Effi and I had agreed that she would raise some questions with him, and I would do the same with Mrs. Reagan," the mayor said. "I made the point that Washington is not a city of bureaucrats, and that in fact only 38 percent of the people who live here work for the federal government."
Barry said he got to chat with Reagan alone for about five minutes during the cocktail hour and for several minutes later. "I made it my business to get as close and talk to him as much as I could," he said.
Reagan was "very receptive to the idea of looking at Washington as a unique city," Barry said. He said the president-elect raised the issue of unemployment and the notion of starting a program to help occupants of public housing buy their units. Barry said he replied that such a program could perhaps be established in the District, but no details were worked out.
"It wasn't a situation where you could talk in detail," Barry said.
Of the three major presidential candidates this year, Reagan was the most reluctant to embrace the home-rule issues touted by most District politicians, including Barry. Reagan opposes both statehood and full voting rights in Congress for the District, and has taken no position on a number of other key city issues.
Barry said he told Mrs. Reagan that he wanted to have an opportunity to discuss the federal payment with her husband. The payment is the amount the federal government pays the District each year in lieu of tax revenues for federally owned land. Barry and other D.C. officials are seeking a fixed formula that would guarantee the size of the annual payment.
The mayor said his staff would prepare a "detailed analysis" of the District and its relationship with the federal government for the president-elect sometime later this year.
"One thing you find that's very clear is that there's just a lot of misunderstanding about the District of Columbia," the mayor said.
No future meetings between Barry and Reagan have been scheduled, the mayor said.