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Barry vs. Fenty in Budget Slugfest?

Today may bring some intense exchanges between Marion Barry and Mayor Adrian M. Fenty. Barry is trying to push the mayor to set aside as much as $200 million in anti-poverty program funds. When Fenty comes before the District Council today, Barry promises it won't be a lovefest.

Fenty will testify on his 2009 fiscal year $5.6 billion budget at 11 a.m. in the chambers of the John A. Wilson Building. And Barry (D-Ward 8) says he'll be waiting. Barry supported Fenty during the 2006 campaign, but lately the four-term mayor hasn't been feeling Fenty.

Sczerina Perot, staff attorney for the Washington Legal Clinic for the Homeless Inc., leads a group discussion at Matthews Memorial Baptist Church in February during Marion Barry's anti-poverty initiative.(Sarah L. Voisin)

"I'm on six committees.... I want to influence the council and set the tone for next year," Barry said. "We spend more on repairing streets than we do repairing lives."

Barry represents the poorest ward in the city, but he may get some help from a neighbor, Council Chairman Vincent C. Gray (D), who also lives east of the Anacostia River.

"How can you argue against fighting poverty?" Gray asked.

For the past two weeks, Barry has met with several community activists, homeless advocates and social service providers, and business and religious leaders to urge them to come to the council's budget hearings during April. The Poverty Reduction Coalition, led by Barry, is strategizing about how to tackle entrenched proverty in the District.

"This is the first time we had a coalition of 200," Barry said. "It's not just Marion Barry. We're going to fight as hard as we can fight."

Barry said he's not pleased with the money that Fenty has allocated in the budget for homeless families, rent subsidies, affordable housing, ex-offenders, childcare and healthcare. He has repeatedly asked Fenty to include more funds for low-income families. Fenty promised $117 million to homeless advocates for affordable housing, Barry said.

"I have not been able to identify it in the budget," he said. "The mayor wants to hear from us on this and in some instances we'll be able to work together in identifying resources. You put your budget where your mouth is."

By Yolanda Woodlee  |  March 31, 2008; 7:30 AM ET
Categories:  D.C. Council  
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Next: Fenty's Budget Testimony (*Updated)


Does the Barry plan include any sort of personal responsibility component?

Part of the reason we have generation after generation of poverty in DC is because we do not require those receiving government largesse (free or reduced housing, etc.) to actually show any personal responsibility. We often reward them for not working, rather than encouraging them to work. And we often overlook criminal activity, preferring instead to pretend it doesn't exist.

Only when we address personal responsibility issues will poverty issues actually start to improve.

DC has been throwing money at the problem for 40 years.

Has no one notice it's not working?

Posted by: HillMan | March 31, 2008 7:56 AM | Report abuse

Maybe if Barry paid his taxes, he would have room to argue how those tax dollars are spent. But alas, he is above "the system" and thinks the IRS "set him up".

Posted by: ssolomo | March 31, 2008 8:47 AM | Report abuse

I'm going to take the high road to hillman and ssolomo.....Personal responsibility? If developers can get hundreds of millions of dollars in tax credits and the city can use tax dollars to build a baseball stadium. I would hope it wouldn't be asking too much to provide wrap around services that help families address barriers to a better life by using some of those tax dollars to provide affordable child care, after school programs, workforce development programs that don't just count bodies to receive contracts, preventative health care and yes substance abuse help. DC is my home of some 50 plus years and I know that the city has changed incredibly, entire neighborhoods have been changed some for the better. That development has not touched ward 15, that's both 7 & 8. The Mayor ran on a human service and education platform, and Councilmember Barry is right to hold the Mayor and his budget accountable to those less entitled. Only then will we begin to cut into the hidden poverty that so often leads to the nightly news leads.

Posted by: Masonlee | March 31, 2008 9:51 AM | Report abuse

There are many variables to consider here. The first is the programs that have created a mentality of entitlement amongst many of the disadvanted-not all but too many. Isn't it ironic that people that are here illegally can find work but many disadvantaged residents can't. I distinctly remember Marion Barry confronting a woman who had eight kids by 6 or 7 different fathers. The problem is that you cannot punish the parents without punishing the innocent children. Another is the crime in the city. If something doesn't happen to abate the crime, the poor will pay even more. Money that can go to services for "the of these" will go to more police.

Posted by: bofarrow | March 31, 2008 10:22 AM | Report abuse


Most people don't "choose" to live in a cycle of poverty. If you are born into that environment, chances are, the chips will be stacked against you, on many fronts, such that you will, without assistance, remain in that circumstance.

There is an adage that I have come to understand very well: "It takes money to make money..."

I think what Marian Barry is doing is holding the Mayor accountable to the campaign promises that put him in office, promises that propelled him into office with a sweep of all wards, with 30% of the registered elecorate actually voting.

If Marion Barry is speaking of programs that give the impoverished a boost, that is, a break that allows for them to take advantage of the free market, then, I can support that. And do support that. Those born in poverty have to work twice as hard as those that are not, and yet not receive even a modest return. Does that make them lazy, no, not at all. Just Dis-advantaged. Advantages that supposedly you and I can take for granted.

Fenty ran on a populist agenda, he cannot duck into the shadows from that when it comes to funding city services and programs. The rich have expectations from government and so to should the poor. None greater than the other.

Marion Barry, or whomever represents Ward 8 in the future, are, by that fact, compelled to lobby on behalf of their constituents. I think that it is awful that because we don't want to hear about the impoverished that one would wish to marginalize their circumstances.

Posted by: concernedaboutdc | March 31, 2008 10:25 AM | Report abuse

"Most people don't "choose" to live in a cycle of poverty. If you are born into that environment, chances are, the chips will be stacked against you, on many fronts, such that you will, without assistance, remain in that circumstance."

Very true. My own father picked up trash by the side of the road to provide for his family.

I'm just saying that so much of the $$ we spend in DC is not geared toward helping people out of poverty. Instead, it actually traps people in a poverty cycle, as they are punished if they go to work and make 'too much' money to get subsidized housing, etc.

So instead they are encouraged to exist in the welfare state only, with far too much time on their hands, in an environment that we will not or cannot make safe.

Posted by: HillMan | March 31, 2008 12:27 PM | Report abuse

"That development has not touched ward 15, that's both 7 & 8. "

That's simply not true. There is a record amount of development in Wards 7 and 8, both already broken ground and planned for.

For instance, the first new grocery store in decades. New housing developments.

And the baseball stadium is irrelevant to the argument at hand. Your stance loses credibility when you cloud the issue with an emotional and factually inaccurate reference to baseball stadium funding, which did NOT come from the average DC taxpayer.... it came ONLY from large DC businesses, who would not have supported a similar tax for yet more welfare programs.

Posted by: HillMan | March 31, 2008 12:30 PM | Report abuse

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