Barry's tactic to push jobs irks Gray

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Local,DC,Alan Blinder

Marion Barry has always used a four-letter word to win elections: jobs.

In the 1960s, he built Pride Inc., which put unemployed blacks to work throughout the city.

As mayor, he developed the Summer Youth Employment Program, an initiative that drew the participation of more than 15,000 young people in 2012.

In every corner of the city -- but especially in Barry's political base east of the Anacostia River -- people talk about how Barry helped them get their first jobs.

And as one of 12 city lawmakers competing for influence, Barry has championed a scarcely used parliamentary tactic to push his agenda.

D.C. law allows legislators to file disapproval resolutions to object to contracts and effectively stall them for weeks. If the full council doesn't reject the contract during a 45-day period after a lawmaker files a disapproval resolution, the deal moves forward.

But few lawmakers use the method to register their complaints. Since the start of 2011, members of the D.C. Council have proposed 45 disapproval resolutions. Barry authored 36 of them, council records show.

The resolutions also account for a large segment of his total legislative production. Of the 131 bills Barry has introduced since the beginning of 2011, more than one in four have been disapproval resolutions.

For Barry, the resolutions are a signature component of what he says is his strategy to buttress -- and expand on -- Mayor Vincent Gray's economic development efforts.

"I'm not being arbitrary or capricious," Barry said. "This is a systematic and well-thought-out approach to getting jobs."

But they've also proved to be a nuisance for the Gray administration, and the mayor fired off a frustrated letter on Aug. 10 to Barry about a resolution that brought a $4.5 million contract to a halt. Barry's intent was to secure more jobs for D.C. residents.

In an interview Friday with The Washington Examiner, Gray questioned Barry's use of the resolutions.

"I really have not found them to be appropriate. They really slow down the ability to get things done," said Gray, who said he could not recall an instance when he used a disapproval resolution when he was a city lawmaker. "You've got one member, whoever that member may be, that can hold up a contract. Maybe the rules ought to be looked at for the future."

Barry has pledged not to back down, though, in his quest to ensure contracts carry guarantees of jobs for D.C. residents.

"I'm not satisfied with the mayor's job approach," Barry said. "My goal is to keep as much business in the District as I can."

ablinder@washingtonexaminer.com

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Author:

Alan Blinder

Staff Reporter, D.C. City Hall
The Washington Examiner