D.C. Councilman Marion Barry proclaimed himself a "jobs czar" in a statement he issued Thursday announcing a local hiring commitment he'd received from a major contractor on the city's St. Elizabeths redevelopment project.
"I am a jobs czar," said Barry, who represents Ward 8 where the project is located. "Jobs and career development have been a top priority for me over the years, as well as ensuring opportunities for minority-owned businesses. I don't just talk about the lack of jobs, I specialize in presenting results."
Barry announced he'd received a commitment from Parkinson-Grunley on its joint-venture contract with the District to make D.C. residents at least 60 percent of its workforce for its $4.5 million project stabilizing four buildings on the St. Elizabeth's East Campus. Barry had placed a hold on the council's approval of the contract, saying earlier this month that he wanted a jobs commitment from Parkinson-Grunley before the council took any action. The hold was met with ire and frustration by Mayor Vincent Gray, who wrote a letter to Barry telling him his actions undermined their mutual goals and would have "negative implications."
In his statement Thursday, Barry -- who also referred to himself by his popular nickname "Mayor-for-Life" -- defended his methods.
"It's my priority to get District residents working, as well as giving opportunities to Black and Hispanic-owned businesses," he said. "This should be the top priority for the Mayor and the administration as well. This method has proven successful, and I will continue to use this method as often as necessary to get District residents employed in careers with upward mobility."
A spokesman for Gray said the mayor was pleased Barry has lifted the hold but remained troubled by his "counter productive" tactic.
"Contrary to his assertions, no terms of the contract have changed," spokesman Pedro Ribiero said. "In the end, and with his hold set to expire on Monday anyway, all the Council member's action did was needlessly delay a project critical to catalyzing economic development and creating jobs in Ward 8."