Stonewalling, as at least one recent national political figure learned, is not the most productive technique for winning the hearts and minds of one's constituents. But D.C. Mayor Marion Barry, having been stung early in his first term when his aides denied the severity of city budget problems, has now resorted to bafflegab in trying to assure local taxpayers that things are at least C-OK, if not A-OK.
Let me repeat one of the most remarkable comments ever recorded, a quote from Barry at Wednesday's news conference on his refusal to disclose spending cutbacks, reported by colleague Eric Pianin:
"I made the decision that really we ought to communicate better with people by not getting them confused with all these numbers."
Early in Barry's administration, I was this newspaper's District Building reporter. One day, word leaked out that an impending deficit was forcing a cutback of, if memory serves, $27 million in spending. The raw, unexplained information caused a frantic reaction.
In the days that followed, Barry and his aides, notably City Administrator Elijah B. Rogers, stonewalled further disclosures. Reporters worked doubly hard to get at the facts, producing high-pitched stories about disclosures that would have been yawners if Barry's minions had made the same facts known through routine announcements.
MetroScene's unsolicited advice to the mayor: give the people the numbers and an explanation of what they mean. The result, we'd bet, would be less confusion.