With the results of Tuesday’s election in, two important figures that loomed over the District of Columbia through some of its darkest hours have passed from the scene. Sen. Lauch Faircloth (R-N.C.) was defeated in a close election, and Mayor Marion Barry (D) chose not to run for another term.
Faircloth was chair of the congressional subcommittee that oversaw the District. Barry was at the city’s helm for most of the past two decades, some of the bleakest days this city ever has seen. With the two men out of office, a new dawn may be rising for D.C.
Faircloth sat on the Senate Appropriations subcommittee that revoked much of the D.C. mayor’s power in the past several years and gave it to a federally appointed financial control board. In the time Faircloth was the subcommittee’s chair, the city’s mayor was turned into a virtual figurehead. Many of the strides the District had made toward home rule were turned back by Faircloth and the Republican-dominated Congress. With Faircloth’s election loss, all District residents hold their breath to see who will be the next chair of the subcommittee – whether home rule’s flame was completely snuffed out or whether a flicker of hope remains.
Barry was one of the most charismatic figures in this city’s history. From his rise to the national scene during the civil rights struggles of the 1960s to his infamous drug bust two decades later, Barry personified the city in both its glory days and its troubled times. His administration’s ineffectiveness, cronyism and irresponsibility led to Faircloth’s removal of mayoral powers. Barry’s tenure ended, proverbially, not with a bang, but with a whimper.
Anthony Williams represents the best hope this city has seen in a long time. There’s already talk that the financial control board could return to the mayor’s office some of its responsibilities and powers.
The era of Barry and Faircloth now belongs to the history books. It is time to start rebuilding this city. The mistakes of the past, which resulted in the current undemocratic state of the city, must never be repeated. A new era is dawning on Washington – it must not be wasted.