THERE WERE two sets of verdicts in the trial of Marion Barry, one provided by the jury and one by Mr. Barry himself.
The jury gave the answer to specific criminal charges. To the question that had troubled the city -- was the mayor a drug user? -- the answer came from his defense attorney, R. Kenneth Mundy. "We do not mean for one moment to give you the impression that there was not a use of cocaine, occasional use of cocaine by Mr. Barry," he told the courtroom. The jury reinforced Mr. Mundy's words by finding the mayor guilty of one count of cocaine possession.
In his initial public response to this verdict, Mr. Barry chose to exult, to invite congratulation for himself and condemnation for those who had called his drug use to public attention. The mayor also said that the reason he had got into trouble in the first place was that he was so preoccupied doing good for others that he neglected his own well-being.
We think he got it backward. Marion Barry did much good in his early years as mayor of Washington but has since become so wrapped up in serving and saving himself that he ignored the effect of his conduct on the city's well-being. As Vincent H. Cohen, an early political associate of Mr. Barry, observes in an article on the opposite page, while the mayor now preaches about "healing," he does all he can to prevent the healing of either himself or the city.
What does the city need to be "healed" of? Three things primarily, products in part of the inattentive, out-of-gas government of Mayor Barry's late years.
A continuing drug and murder crisis in which the city seems headed for a third year of near record homicides. Here Mr. Barry has provided uncertain and faltering leadership, and a crippling example.
A serious financial crisis. Some of this problem the city has in common with every local government in the Eastern United States. Part of it is uniquely Mr. Barry's responsibility. He has bloated the city's payroll; a committee of his own choosing is finding thousands of unnecessary positions.
Then there is the aftermath of the trial itself. Quite aside from the various misgivings that so many have rightly had about aspects of the government's "sting" arrest, or some of the pretrial bargaining transactions, Mr. Barry's conduct exacted a heavy toll. He inflamed racial resentments for purposes of his own defense, and this has left the city in a state of uncommonly ragged racial feeling. He publicly celebrated, as if it were something to be proud of, the verdict of the jury, so that the message both to those kids whom others are try to dissuade from drug use and to the country at large was that so far as the mayor of the District of Columbia is concerned, conviction on a drug count is no big deal.
The wreckage can be picked up, but it is going to take a lot of work from everyone. Let's start with statehood, which has become the catchall term for those measures of increased self-government and representation that District citizens -- payers of taxes and servers in the armed forces -- have been so unfairly, even outrageously, denied. The Barry performance has dealt all this a terrible blow. That is itself unfair, but it is a fact. It seems to us that the way for the people of the District to combat this situation is to concentrate on the essential and inarguable elements of statehood, the missing democratic prerogatives that should be ours.
These are: full, unconditional representation in the Senate and the House; authority to decide ourselves how the local tax monies we raise shall be spent; liberation from congressional jurisdiction over our local affairs on other budgetary and legislative matters (if the Barry affair is cited as reason to refuse this, we should point to the abundance of personal squalors our congressional overseers have become famous for in recent years); authority to enter into agreements with states on matters legally reserved to the states; responsibility for our local court system, and an automatic and reliable payment formula -- as distinct from the chancy one in use now -- for the untaxed land, services and other benefits the federal government appropriates from District taxpayers. Whether statehood is necessary to provide all these things remains to be seen. And certainly statehood should not mean another layer of government or another dollar of bureaucratic expense. But the people of this city deserve the kind of representation that citizens of all other capital cities have.
The troubled racial relationships need to be salvaged too. Marion Barry became a point of raw animus between blacks and whites. He had the conceit to insist that his fate was bigger than the man himself, that he was a stand-in, a kind of proxy for all blacks in his self-inflicted ordeal. Too many people bought this ultimately demeaning assumption, some by defending the indefensible conduct, others by mindlessly and meanly projecting it on to all blacks. Something like this is what is at work in the unfair national perception of Marion Barry as representative of majority standards of behavior in this city. Will the ultimate cruel irony be that black and white citizens of the District compound this bias by accepting the premise themselves?
We don't think so. We believe that most of the people in town, including many who were in some sense his defenders during the recent trial and many, like ourselves, who were onetime strong supporters of the mayor and increasingly came to see him in later years as a man who was yielding to cynicism, arrogance and destructive self-indulgence, want to see Marion Barry -- the man, the issue, turmoil -- behind us. Washington is preeminently ready for life after Marion Barry. It is our hope that Mr. Barry will be defeated in his run for D.C. Council. But even if he is not, we believe that the politics of the city is strong and that it is thoroughly capable of undoing the damage, of rebuilding interracial trust, of resuming the essential efforts against the drug culture and its violence and for the guarantee of those democratic rights that will give the District first-class citizenship of which it has been so unfairly deprived.
There are excellent people running for the local offices up for election this year. It is testimony to the strength and resilience of our politics in this city that some of the choices among them are going to be very hard. Marion Barry has had his day in office and his day in court. As he himself said (in admittedly another context) enough is enough. Let's get on with it.