That first City Council was a feisty, bickering group, trying to organize a new type of government overnight while pushing a full agenda of social change.
"There was a lot of energy, there was a lot of stumbling, there was a lot of ax-wielding. . .," recalls City Council Chairman David A. Clarke, the only lawyer on the first post-home-rule council. "I don't think the council was as cohesive as it is now. It was a lot of quick hits instead of sustained, comprehensive work."
Members of that first council included Marion Barry, Statehood Party activist Julius Hobson Sr., civil rights activist Rev. Douglas E. Moore, Arrington Dixon, Willie Hardy, James E. Coates and Rev. Jerry A. Moore, who recently was defeated for reelection. Original members who are still on the council are Polly Shackleton, John A. Wilson, William R. Spaulding and Nadine P. Winter.
"We were not ready for home rule," recalled Doug Moore, who said that many of his colleagues had difficulty in going beyond their rhetoric to create and operate a new government. "We were not ready. But who's every ready for freedom?"
Tucker, the one-time head of the Washington Urban League and vice chairman of the appointed council, had more ties with the business and political establishment than most of his colleagues. He said he urged the other council members to be deliberative about what they did, to allay concerns that the council would go too far too fast.
"People were afraid of that initial council, both blacks and whites. These elected members were people in the civil rights movement, who had been in the streets, never met a payroll. People said 'Oh, my lord, what's going to happen to this city?'" Tucker said.
The council did pass stringent gun control and a tougher rent control law than Congress would have approved, and probably did not pay as much attention as it should have to economic development, Tucker said.
But on spending, in the end, the city was conservative because it had to be, Clarke said. For one thing, Congress left the city with fiscal problems, some of which still haunt it today, including a massive accumulated deficit, he said.
"The fear was that we were going to be liberal, spending money we didn't have," Clarke recalled. "It turns out Congress was spending money we didn't have, and now we're paying for it."
With the coming of home rule, an elected mayor and council had to answer to a new constituency, the residents of the District, in a way that Congress never had to.
Labor organizations had worked hard for home rule and felt they finally had some leverage after years of taking a back seat to business leaders, who had developed special ties with the congressmen who controlled District affairs.
"Once we could elect a mayor, we could mobilize our members and make sure the City Council and mayor would be responsive to the needs of the working men and women," said Joslyn N. Williams of the AFL-CIO's Metropolitan Washington Council.
Jerry Moore, who lost his reelection bid last year, said the city government has made giant strides in managing its own affairs, despite continued oversight and meddling by Congress.
"What is wrong with home rule is that it is not complete home rule," Moore said. "Congress still controls the most important piece, and that's the money."
The council over the decade has tried to consolidate its power and to counterbalance the predominent power vested in the mayor's office by the home rule charter.
Clarke said that a major breakthrough for the council was gaining an even footing with the mayor in analyzing budget and tax proposals, with the help of a computerized system developed over the past several years.
He said that unlike Walter Washington, Barry spends a lot of time talking with council members to find out where they stand. Clarke said this is helpful to Barry in creating the erroneous impression that the mayor controls votes on the council.
"Marion finds out where we're going an awful lot, then gets out in front and leads us," Clarke said.