The year 1985 was one of renewed social activism in the District, as hundreds of officials, prominent figures and just plain folks demonstrated against apartheid outside the South African Embassy while debate raged on about the plight of the homeless.

It also was the Year of the Scandal in D.C. politics: Mayor Marion Barry's closest and most trusted political adviser, Ivanhoe Donaldson, admitted in court to having defrauded the city of more than $190,000 and then trying to cover up what he had done.

Barry, who is three-quarters of the way through his second term and who for years has dominated local politics, suddenly found himself on the defensive this year, hammered by the City Council on several key issues: interstate banking and pay raises for police officers, to name two. It was an unusual posture for a mayor more accustomed to the role of the Sherman tank.

There was no sign of a letup in the downtown building boom. But the city's once-glorious plans for installing a state-of-the-art cable television system hit a major snag, as the contractor kept coming back demanding more and more financial concessions before beginning construction.

By year's end, there were lots of cable promises. But there was still no HBO.

Politically, the District took a back seat to Virginia and Maryland, but there still was plenty of action here: Voters narrowly passed a referendum restoring some rent controls that were lifted by the City Council, and longtime school board member Barbara Lett Simmons was unseated.

And activist Mitch Snyder and his followers faced federal efforts to close their downtown shelter for the homeless, a facility that President Reagan once promised to convert to a model shelter before the federal government had a falling out with Snyder. THE WINNERS

1.RANDALL ROBINSON.

Apartheid protest.

Coordinator of the year-long apartheid protests at the South African Embassy, Robinson helped to get the American people and policymakers to take a closer look at racial oppression in white-ruled South Africa. President Reagan signed an executive order imposing limited sanctions against South Africa. But Robinson, co-chairman of the Free South Africa Movement and executive director of TransAfrica, says he wants tougher economic measures and intends to expand the antiapartheid campaign to corporate America.

2.JOSEPH E. diGENOVA.

Man of convictions.

A year ago, the publicity-conscious U.S. attorney was on the hot seat, under pressure to put up or shut up in his investigations of Mayor Marion Barry's administration. This year, diGenova's office helped convict two former developers of the city's troubled Bates Street development on federal tax-related charges; sent two former employes of the Department of Employment Services and a private contractor to prison for using city funds for personal expenses, and obtained guilty pleas from former deputy mayor Ivanhoe Donaldson to three felony counts. DiGenova's office got a big assist from G. Donald Hickman, a special agent of the FBI, in the Donaldson case.

3.JOYCE BLALOCK.

Had the guts.

She was the D.C. inspector general who helped turn up incriminating evidence against Ivanhoe Donaldson during an audit of the Department of Employment Services, and then had the guts to take the bad news to Mayor Marion Barry. "I didn't hesitate at all," said Blalock, a lawyer who climbs mountains for relaxation. Blalock left her D.C. job in March to become inspector general of the U.S. Government Printing Office.

4.THE CITY COUNCIL.

Flexed muscles.

For years the 13-member council has lived in Mayor Barry's shadow. This year, the council became far more assertive and delivered several startling setbacks to the mayor, including votes on three occasions to override his veto. The council flexed its muscles by wresting control of the D.C. Housing Finance Agency's bonding authority, over Barry's objring with some of his work. interstate regional banking legislation. Barry backed down from yet another confrontation over a pay raise for city police officers when he realized he lacked the votes to block it.

5.HERBERT MILLER.

Portal developer.

The multimillionaire president of Western Development Corp. is becoming a regular in this space. This year, Western continued its sweep of high-profile development projects, winning the right from the city to develop the Portal site at the foot of 14th Street, the last remaining major piece of urban renewal land here. Western beat out a team led by Conrad Cafritz and another headed by Boston builder Mortimer B. Zuckerman, the owner of U.S. News & World Report.

6.GARY HANKINS.

Police pay raise.

As chairman of the labor committee of the Fraternal Order of Police, the union that represents about 3,300 District police officers, Hankins stood his ground in a bitterly fought contest with the mayor to win a 15 percent pay increase as part of a new three-year contract. An arbitration panel endorsed the raise, which for the first time gave police a heftier increase than was granted firemen, but the mayor said it was too expensive and tried to get it overturned. Hankins persevered, the mayor finally relented and the City Council ratified the new contract.

7.MANUTE BOL.

Towering rookie.

The Washington Bullets' 7-foot-7-inch rookie from the Sudan can touch both sides of the backboard while flatfooted and can dunk a ball without leaving his feet. Legend has it that Bol once was a shepherd who killed a lion with a spear. The Milwaukee Bucks got a taste of Bol's awesome power earler this month when he blocked a team-record 12 shots against the Bucks, scored 18 points and grabbed nine rebounds in the Bullets' 110-108 overtime victory.

8.MAURICE ELDRIDGE.

Curtain raiser.

Principal of the Duke Ellington School of the Arts for the last seven years, Eldridge presided this year over the opening of the school's plush, Gay Nineties-style theater at 3500 R St. NW. For the Washington area arts community, this means that groups that cannot afford to book the Kennedy Center and other toney theaters will have a less expensive but high-quality alternative. Eldridge, a native Washingtonian, previously worked as an educational consultant in Massachusetts.

9.PHYLLIS YOUNG.

Persistence pays off.

It took her three tries over 12 years, but Young finally won election this year to the D.C. Board of Education, knocking off incumbent Barbara Lett Simmons see far right in a hard-fought race for an at-large seat. Young, who grew up in Washington and holds undergraduate and graduate degrees in math from Howard University, is a branch chief with the U.S. Department of Transportation. She is a founder of a public school lobbying group called Parents United for Full Funding. Young, who is black, received overwhelming support from white voters in Ward 3, west of Rock Creek Park, and also in Wards 1, 2 and 6. She topped Simmons by 3,000 votes.

10.ARLEN SPECTER.

D.C. overseer.

The Republican senator may be facing an uphill fight to win reelection in Pennsylvania next year, but here in the District Specter's stock is soaring. As chairman of the Senate's D.C. appropriations subcommittee, which reviews the city's budgets, Specter has profound influence over city officials. In the last two years, he pushed the city into adopting tougher parole and probation guidelines, got seven new judgeships on the D.C. Superior Court, initiated a school truancy program and began a pilot education program at Lorton Reformatory. His biggest coup: persuading Mayor Barry to change his mind and publicly endorse the building of a new prison in the city. THE LOSERS

1.IVANHOE DONALDSON.

Pleads guilty.

Once the second most powerful man in D.C. government, the former deputy mayor and longtime political adviser to Mayor Marion Barry pleaded guilty in federal court this month to defrauding the city ring with some of his work. guilty plea stunned the D.C. political community, which both revered and feared the one-time civil rights activist. It also raised further doubts about Barry's oft-stated assertion that his administration is "relatively scandal free."

2.ROBERT L. GREEN.

Reveled in perks.

When he arrived here in the fall of 1983 as the new president of the University of the District of Columbia, there were high hopes that Green would end the years of internal bickering and raise the standards of the urban university. But instead, Green, a former civil rights activist and dean at Michigan State University, reveled in the perks of office and showered jobs and contracts on cronies. Green resigned under fire in August amid allegations that he misused university funds.

3.BARBARA LETT SIMMONS.

Ousted.

First elected to the school board in 1973, the feisty Simmons was at the center of a number of bitter controversies during her long career. As a vocal critic of school administrators, Simmons built a reputation as a sharp-tongued, combative and at times disruptive member of the board. Phyllis Young, who defeated her, allied herself with what she described as the growing "harmonious majority" on the board. For her part, Simmons said she leaves office proud of her record as an advocate of inner-city schoolchildren and a supporter of vocational education.

4.MARION BARRY.

Took a beating.

Just about any way you slice it, this has not been a good year for Hizzoner. The mayor saw his closest adviser, Ivanhoe Donaldson, plead guilty to bilking the city; his former wife, Mary Treadwell, begin serving a prison sentence; two former developers of the city's Bates Street housing project convicted of tax evasion charges, and himself the subject of much inquiry and rumor -- but no charges -- in the Karen Johnson drug case. Barry took a beating as well on the legislative front. Despite this, the Teflon mayor keeps rolling along and appears to be in solid political shape going into his 1986 reelection campaign.

5.ANDREW D. McBRIDE.

Hot water.

The good doctor was appointed the city's public health commissioner in 1984, replacing Ernest Hardaway, who resigned under a cloud. But within a year, McBride, too, was in hot water, after reports that he billed the city for more than $5,000 in long-distance car phone calls, most to an old college friend in Minnesota who McBride had hired as a consultant, and more than $900 for six personal trips in his government car to Spencertown, N.Y. A sheepish McBride agreed to reimburse the District for most of those expenses.

6.JAMES PALMER.

Faulty beeper.

One thing you can say about our embattled director of the D.C. Department of Corrections, he sure knows how to dress well. But when it comes to keeping tabs on the city's troubled and overcrowded Lorton Reformatory, Palmer has his problems. In September, guards at the prison used shotguns and tear gas to quell a riot. Palmer was unreachable and didn't find out what had happened until the following day. Palmer's explanation: The message beeper he carries with him didn't go off. Perhaps he'd better check the batteries.

7.GEICO.

Bye-bye no-fault.

The Government Employees Insurance Co., the largest automobile insurer in the District, took it on the chops this year. The city's two-year-old no-fault car insurance program, which Geico lobbied vigorously to enact, was gutted by the City Council in the face of an even more persuasive lobbying campaign by trial lawyers. City Council member Nadine P. Winter (D-Ward 6), an erstwhile no-fault supporter who cast a key vote in ending no-fault, claimed that a lot of her constituents were unhappy with the program because it denied them the right to sue for damages in many instances.

8.BATES STREET DEVELOPERS.

Bates Street blues.

For years there had been rumors and complaints of financial improprieties at the city's Bates Street redevelopment project, but no one, including Mayor ring with some of his work. year, criminal charges were filed against three of the project's principal developers: George Holmes, Jack W. White and Lawrence Brailsford. Holmes and White are awaiting sentencing after having pleaded guilty to tax charges, and Brailsford is awaiting trial on charges that he evaded taxes on more than $400,000 in project funds.

9.JOSE GUTIERREZ.

Stripped of power.

For nearly seven years, Gutierrez was a loyal lieutenant and the highest-ranking Hispanic in the Barry administration, with responsibility for personnel and city contracts. But after a falling out, Gutierrez publicly accused City Administrator Thomas Downs and Barry of playing politics in the awarding of major contracts. An enraged Barry stripped Gutierrez of power, made him the target of an internal investigation, and then kicked him out of government.

10.LING-LING.

False alarm.

The National Zoo's star-crossed panda has failed yet again to produce a healthy offspring in a mating dance with companion Hsing-Hsing that has dragged on for years. This month, zoo officials removed Ling-Ling from isolation after the latest pregnancy watch proved to be another false alarm. The finicky, bamboo-chomping beast is getting on in years, and some fear she soon may be too old to conceive. FIVE TO WATCH IN 1986:

1.ROBERT JOHNSON.

Time to deliver.

A year ago, Johnson was flying high as president of District Cablevision Inc., a minority-controlled firm that was granted the franchise to bring cable television to the District. Since then, the City Council has been forced to grant a series of financial concessions to make the project "financially feasible." The question is, Can Johnson and the big money behind him deliver? 2.CHARLENE DREW JARVIS.

Growing ambition.

The highly ambitious City Council member from Ward 4 made waves this year as chairman of the Housing and Community Development Committee. Now there's plenty of speculation that she may challenge Council Chairman David A. Clarke, who is up for reelection in 1986.

3. THEODIS R. (TED) GAY.

Possible challenger.

The former chairman of the D.C. Democratic State Committee is being touted as a likely challenger to City Council member Nadine P. Winter (D-Ward 6) in next year's election. Gay, who operates a picture frame shop, hopes to galvanize the support of tenants who are mad at Winter for supporting legislation to lift certain rent controls.

THOMAS DOWNS.

Career decisions.

The city administrator, who has taken his share of political bumps in the last year, has gotten job feelers from a number of other cities. He must make some tough career decisions as Mayor Barry prepares to seek a third term next year.

MITCH SNYDER.

Mounting frustration.

A year ago, this nationally renowned champion of the homeless led our lists of winners, but things have soured since then. Snyder winced last month when Rep. Henry Gonzalez (D-Tex.) mistakenly referred to Snyder's group as the Community for Non-Creative Violence (the group calls itself the Community for Creative Non-Violence). Despite the group's unusual turn-the-other-cheek approach, Snyder admitted to mounting frustration after a year of trying to block the federal government's plan to close CCNV's downtown shelter. But President Reagan gave the shelter a reprieve last weekend.