Mayor Marion Barry whooped it up with Redskins fans in Pasadena last weekend and will continue celebrating with Washington's post-Super Bowl parade today--a grand finale to a fun-filled fortnight of activities he has engaged in from coast to coast.
In the past two weeks, Barry has toasted Gov. Harry Hughes' inaugural in Baltimore, played host to Virginia Gov. Charles S. Robb to enlist support for bringing the 1984 Democratic National Convention to the District, and hobnobbed with other mayors who gathered here for a midwinter conference. He even squeezed in a chat with Muhammad Ali.
No one can blame a mayor for wanting to cheer his home team on to victory or to occasionally bask in the political limelight, especially Barry, who so obviously wants more national attention.
But Barry may be carrying this a bit too far and risks appearing aloof from the city's dismal financial problems and a growing list of unfinished business items facing his newly reshuffled administration.
Barry released his new fiscal 1984 budget nearly a month ago, but he has yet to hold a press conference to discuss the thinking behind many of the proposed cuts that will bring hardships to the poor and reductions in many services.
Nor has the mayor leveled with the public on how he intends to finance a goodly portion of that budget. His proposed tax package already has run into legal and political problems, and the mayor has been cryptic at best in saying whether property tax rates will rise this year.
Barry irritated his critics by granting $42,500 in bonuses to his top aides in the midst of the flurry over his new budget. He has rebuffed questions about the bonuses, although council member John A. Wilson, chairman of the Finance and Revenue Committee, is sticking by his pledge not to vote for any tax measures until Barry rescinds the gifts.
The mayor also has failed to comment on efforts to delay this year's school board elections as part of an unusual effort to clear up the chaos in voter registration.
Barry hasn't formally met with the press since Dec. 23, when he announced his new appointments at a well-orchestrated event, packed with his supporters, in the City Council chambers. He canceled his monthly press conference in January because, according to his press secretary, he was "too busy."
Meanwhile, since winning election to his second term, Barry has cracked down on his aides, admonishing them not to speak out too frankly on affairs of government.
Concern has grown among the news media and public interest groups, including the American Civil Liberties Union, that Barry's "one voice" dictum has unfairly intimidated city employes who are afraid to give out even routine information.
"There's a kind of attitude of us against him, even though we voted for him," a housing activist said last week in describing the political mood in the District Building.
A longtime Barry supporter who worked hard for his reelection now wonders whether Barry "understands the alienation" of some of his former campaign workers.
Maybe this is all the result of Barry's professed desire to try to lower his local profile in the press while at the same time trying to enhance his image nationally. He said he wants his top aides and department heads to explain administration policy to the public. But a lot of his aides are timid, and the message getting out is a confused one.
Barry's transition team made a host of recommendations on how to change the government, some of them controversial, and Barry has said he has accepted the vast majority of them. But he has yet to say which ones he rejected. Still under official wraps is the mayor's long-promised rescue plan to take care of a potential $110 million deficit in the current budget year.
Instead, word of the city's current financial status was released piecemeal by seemingly ill-prepared department heads as they paraded last week before a hostile City Council that is trying to make sense of the mayor's 1984 budget proposals.
"Agency after agency after agency has come in here without answers," council chairman David A. Clarke complained during one hearing last week, echoing the comments of his colleagues.
Council member Polly Shackleton (D-Ward 3), perhaps Barry's strongest supporter on the council, was appalled--and said so publicly--by the lack of documentation in the Department of Human Services budget to justify severe cuts in programs to the needy.
Acting Fire Chief Theodore Coleman said his budget would take care of his needs but then acknowledged he wants to eliminate one position from each of the city's firefighting crews.
Police Chief Maurice Turner also said his budget was sufficient. But in response to pointed questions from council members, Turner revealed that his department would fall short by about 35 officers of the congressionally mandated strength of 3,880 officers.
With this growing parade of problems passing through the District Building, one could hardly blame Barry if he preferred to linger over the Super Bowl festivities. But those problems won't go away, and some of Barry's aides privately say they wish he would spend a little more of his time on them.
Welcome home, Mr. Mayor.