If you’re looking for a crash course in D.C. politics, all you need to do is take a look at the past five days. In that time, news broke of a fabled politician breaking rules with no shame, our city’s longest-serving lawmaker proudly declaring a run for mayor on a platform of gentrification, and a once promising native son going to court on federal bribery charges. You could call it an allegory for the past, present and future of this city’s leadership.
Thursday, The Post’s Mike DeBonis reported that Council member Marion Barry, (D), disclosed gifts that he received from two city contractors upwards of $6,000. Which is technically, well above the $20 legal limit for gifts. I say, technically, because I can only presume that the Mayor-for- Life disclosed them at all because he and his camp believe the ethics policies are toothless. It appears that so-called honesty is at a premium over, actual ethical behavior, as Barry effectively flouted the rule entirely and then had no problems admitting that he has done so.
“My forms speak for themselves,” Barry said of the matter. Alrighty then, I guess that’s that. Breaking the rules is okay, as long as you don’t get caught breaking them, and admit to them yourself, it appears.
Saturday, Jack Evans, the Ward 2 Democrat that likes to take credit for bringing the Nationals to D.C., announced his mayoral bid, standing outside of La Diplomate on 14th Street. For years, that corner held an old dry cleaners, long vacant, which is still what you see if you look up 14th and Q Streets NW on Google Maps.
“This is the city I want to lead in the future,” he said. The 14th Street corridor is a prime example of D.C.’s change. A couple dozen restaurants have popped up there recently, to go along with the somewhat controversial coffee shops, bars and speakeasies. There’s a luxury complex named Louis at Fourteenth under construction, presumably a nod the French monarch Louis XIV, whose opulent tastes gifted the world with the palace of Versailles.
What used to be a Foot Locker, a Taco Bell and a KFC will now be condos fit for a king. Evans, whose Georgetown home one could argue is similarly suited for royalty, wants more of this and is proud of it.
Then of course, there’s Michael A. Brown. The high-profile former Council member finally came clean with the reason he dropped out of the city council at-large race earlier this year. He’s facing federal charges for bribery and plans to plead guilty today. I’ve said before that I thought Brown had an attitude problem. Who knows if that will change.
But I wonder, what this will mean for the 3 Amigos of D.C. politics. Back in 2011, Washington City Paper’s Alan Suderman profiled Kwame Brown, Harry Thomas Jr., and MIchael A. Brown. They were a “a generation of legacy pols,” Suderman wrote.
But these three men will never really be able to fade away from public life, not in a city this small. When they all finally get out of jail, it’ll be interesting to see what choices they make. In a sense, they’re all linked. Are they destined to be maligned in the public eye forever for their actions? None of these men have the respect from a generation of voters that Marion Barry has earned over 40 years in politics. But this country, never mind this city, has produced some incredible second acts in its history. I’m curious to see if these three can re-write their own narratives.
So, in less than a week, we’ve been forced to confront multiple faces of the monster we’ve created with this city’s unique political history. But will we continue to let that monster roam in the proverbial hills? I’d like to believe that this weekend’s Pride Festival events, which featured residents and people of all creeds coming together to celebrate themselves is the best representative of who we can be.
The past and its exploits still haunt us. The present seems to be unfolding at a pace some residents can barely keep up with. And the future- who is being left to? Those are the questions we’ve thought about all weekend, and the ones we’ll think about for a lifetime as long as we fight about which one is more important than another.