The first victim of the Dixon administration became known within hours of last week's inauguration: It was Marion Barry's signature Lincoln Town Car.
Mayor Sharon Pratt Dixon is returning the leased Lincoln, her aides say, because it evokes the wrong images: Barry darting from one downtown hotel to another, the former mayor pulling up to a crack dealer's house in Northwest; the mayor with his chauffeur and bodyguard whizzing through red lights with the siren blaring.
But when Dixon decided to shelve Barry's Town Car, she nearly created an image problem of her own. Dixon at first seriously considered replacing the large sedan with an even larger "mini-stretch" limousine, according to several government sources.
In addition to the darkened glass, leather seats and twin cellular phones that adorned Barry's Town Car, Dixon wanted a 13-inch color television, a videocassette recorder and a soundproof glass divider in her new limousine, the sources said.
Needless to say, the negative fallout from such a move would have been tremendous for a politician who rode to office pledging to "clean house." Dixon would have had a tough time justifying the purchase of a $40,000 stretch limo at the same time she was unveiling $200 million in spending cuts and deferring pay raises for city workers.
An inquiry about the mayor's plans for a replacement vehicle sent Dixon's media specialists into high gear.
Paul Costello, a Washington public relations executive working for the Dixon administration for free, said any speculation about a replacement car is premature and false. No, he insisted, Dixon will not have a television and VCR in her car. No, he said, she will not be riding in a limousine.
One of her options, Costello said, was a slightly stretched version of the Lincoln Town Car, about 10 inches longer than the usual model. The mayor "vetoed that idea," he said.
Dixon is temporarily riding around town in a Ford Crown Victoria sedan owned by the police department. The sedan is a comfortable car, aides say, but it lacks the pizazz one associates with a mayoral vehicle.
The cost of Dixon's decision to get a new car is unknown. The lease on the Town Car and a Mercury Grand Marquis driven by Barry's wife, Effi, expires at the end of January, a Ford Motor Co. spokesman said. The Lincoln Town Car is likely to go to a dealer auction and wind up on a local used-car lot.
Costello said Dixon has not decided what kind of car she wants, and it is not clear whether the city would be better off buying or leasing it. He said the mayor probably would end up in a full-sized, four-door sedan.
Several of Dixon's aides are betting she will end up in another Lincoln Town Car.
Not only will Dixon not be using Barry's car, she also will not be using Barry's driver, Walter Bracey.
It was Bracey who drove Barry on hundreds of personal visits during much of his administration, but who could recall only one when he testified for the mayor at Barry's cocaine and perjury trial in July.
The one trip Bracey remembered was to a grocery store grand opening that was unremarkable except for its importance to Barry's alibi defense to one of the 10 cocaine possession charges he faced.
Bracey has been reassigned to the street maintenance division of the Department of Public Works. Inauguration Scorecard
D.C. contractors, firms and other assorted bigwigs anted up for last week's inaugural ball at Union Station and other festivities marking Dixon's ascension as mayor.
Among the sponsors contributing at least $10,000 for the day's events were utility firms Washington Gas Light Co. and Potomac Electric Power Co.; the Medlantic Healthcare Group, which operates Washington Hospital Center; major law firms such as Washington, Perito & Dubuc and Wilkes, Artis Hedricks & Lane; and investment banking outfits W.R. Lazard & Co., Goldman Sachs, and Merrill Lynch.
Contributing at least $2,500 were the John Akridge Co.; American Security Bank; the Hotel Association of Washington; Independence Federal Savings Bank; the law firm Leftwich, Moore & Douglas; city contractor National Capital Industries; and a variety of other firms and groups.
The day's events cost about $500,000, inaugural officials said. All the money was raised from the private sector, they said.