Mayor Marion Barry, a one-time organizer for the militant Student Non-Violent Coordinating Committee (SNCC), dusted off some of his old civil-rights rhetoric last weekend in a brief address to the estimated 300,000 people gathered here for March on Washington II.
"You have come to declare to our nation that our feet are tired, our patience has expired and some national leaders must be retired," Barry, one of more than 70 speakers, told the crowd at the Lincoln Memorial.
"We have had enough of the shameless suffering of millions of unemployed workers who have been forced to stand in bread lines and unemployment lines, rather than in the pay lines," Barry said. "We are marching with feet that are tired from standing in unemployment lines."
During the 20 years since Martin Luther King Jr. led the original march on Washington, Barry and hundreds of other former black activists have taken advantage of the impact of voting-rights legislation and other reforms to assume positions of political power.
In the process, though, the street rhetoric of the 1960s, calling for more jobs and economic security for the poor, gave way to talk of the harsh new economic realities that limit what any local government can do--even those headed by former civil rights figures.
In line with those new realities, the mayor has exhorted the District's poor to learn to be less reliant on government programs. He cut $1 million from the city's 1983 job training program. And he has shown a reluctance to ask D.C. residents to pay more in taxes to bolster jobs programs, preferring instead to leave it up to the federal government to provide more resources.
"I've never said that this administation would be able to solve the problem of joblessness," Barry insisted at a recent press conference.
Barry no doubt scored some points at the march with his sharp denunciation of the Reagan administration for spending too much on defense and not enough for social services.
"It's midnight in the social order," the mayor said in his prepared text, "when Pharaoh and his lieutenants eat jelly beans at mahogany tables in mansions of power, while 15 million unemployed people are forced to stand in unemployment lines begging for food stamps."
But he might have been a bit truer to his own evolving philosophy of government if he had borrowed a page from his second inaugural address in January. In it, he told the city: "The new economic realities require us to consider carefully and chart cautiously the course we will follow over the next four years. The needs of our citizens are as real as the limitations of our resources."
The District may get the next best thing to its long-sought championship boxing match next month if D.C. Auditor Otis H. Troupe agrees to climb into the ring with Robert Moore, former housing director.
Two weeks ago, Troupe charged the housing department with "a pattern" of mismanagement and said he was starting two new audits into the city's troubled Bates Street project and the Kenesaw apartments at 16th and Irving streets NW.
The auditor's office had just finished a draft report of a facade renovation project on H Street NW that was highly critical of the housing department's alleged lack of monitoring of the program.
Upon reading Troupe's comments about the department, Moore, who was housing director during much of the time these projects were being administered, shot off a three-page challenge to the auditor.
"Since your attributed comments reflect on my stewardship of the department, fairness dictates that I be allowed to respond in a public forum relative to the integrity of my administration," Moore wrote.
The letter described the charges as "shallow and unsubstantiated . . . " and "a continuing diatribe of frankly unprofessional revelations . . . common to your administration of the auditor's office." Next, City Council member Nadine P. Winter (D-Ward 6) weighed into the escalating conflict. Having received a copy of Moore's letter to Troupe, Winter offered to host the forum Moore requested. She suggested Sept. 19 at the District Building for the rumble.
Moore said he had just received Winter's letter and didn't know if the date was acceptable but would try to clear his calendar for it. Troupe could not be reached for comment on the proposed forum.
Meanwhile, current D.C. Housing Director James E. Clay, who has declined to comment on Troupe's criticisms, sighed "Oh, God" when told the latest on the gauntlet-throwing. "I'm not sure I want to be involved in this."