Mayor Barry declares D.C. safest city in the nation
By Patricia Wilson
WASHINGTON (Reuter) - Washington's controversial Mayor
Marion Barry said Saturday the streets of the nation's capital
were the safest in the United States and blamed the media for
portraying the city as crime-ridden, rundown and traffic-choked.
``It is safe or safer than Topeka, Kansas,'' he declared
during an interview on the CNN program ``Evans and Novak.''
Barry, who won a fourth term as mayor in 1994 after serving
a prison term on a drug conviction, accused the media of
''beating up `` on Washington and complained that the District
of Columbia's unique status made it impossible for him -- or
anyone -- to successfully manage the city.
Washington D.C. is not a state, but must provide some of the
same services as one. It pays for such expensive items as its
own prisons and medical payments for the poor while other U.S.
cities pass along these costs to their state governments.
The city hit financial rock bottom several years ago, unable
to pay its bills or provide basic services for its 600,000
residents, prompting Congress to take away Barry's authority
over spending by naming a chief financial officer who answers to
a control board. A bail-out plan for the nation's capital,
backed by President Clinton, is currently making its way through
Barry blamed his predecessor for Washington's huge deficits
as well as the federal city's inability to tax the thousands of
people who work in the District by day but live
in the suburbs of Maryland and Virginia.
Barry adamantly rejected the notion that Congress, which
represents hundreds of millions of Americans who do not live in
the nation's capital, should have any part at all in
``Absolutely not. You look at Paris, you look at other
nations' capitals, including Communist Beijing, the local people
decide how to manage their government ... Congress has given us
a Trojan Horse,'' he said.
``The best manager in America, in the world, couldn't manage
this government the way it's structured.''
Barry urged visitors to come to Washington -- where tourism
is a major source of income -- declaring that ``the downtown
part of our city is safer than any city in America.''
He said the facts did not substantiate the media's bleak
scenario, despite a recent independent study showing a huge jump
in homicides, robberies, car thefts and assaults between 1985
``New Orleans has a higher homicide rate than Washington.
Atlanta, Newark, another dozen cities have high homicide rates
... homicide and violence is a product of the American society,
in Chicago, in Los Angeles, in New York, in Detroit ... this is
the life if a big city,'' he said.
FBI statistics, quoted in Saturday's Washington Post, said
New Orleans had 351 murders last year while Washington had 397.
Barry declared crime overall was down in Washington, and
took credit for what he called a more efficient and dependable
``I think most people would agree that I have led us from
the valley of despair ... to a mountaintop of happiness and
hope,'' he said.
Barry declined to say whether he would seek a fifth term in
1998, although a recent Washington Post poll showed that 80
percent of people in the District did not want him to run for