Barry, Gray: Ward 8 is on the Move
4/3/2013, 9:51 a.m.
Gray and Barry offered assurances that these scenarios will not play out as expected but not everyone is convinced.
"Hope is restored and transformation realized," Gray said after a rousing welcome. "I wish people could come here to see the enthusiasm here. This is a ward on the rise."
To illustrate this, Gray talked about the collaboration between himself and Barry which has produced a slew of new projects including the upcoming $120 million modernization of Ballou Senior High School; $26.3 million allocated to build a new recreation center at Barry Farm; new housing that is springing up all over the ward; renovations to public schools including Johnson, Hart, Kramer, Turner and Leckie; and an initial $20 million investment to build a new hospital.
"He's a man who is a legend, someone I'm proud to call friend and an inspiration to people here," said Gray, 70. "The state of the ward is growing and getting better. We have to right historical wrongs, look across the city and say we have the same things as everybody else. It's time for everyone in this city to have the opportunities of everyone else!"
At that point, Barry jumped up from his seat onstage and approached the lectern as Gray wrapped up.
"Being mayor is a very difficult job," he said. "There are no textbooks on how to be mayor. D.C. is the most complex city in the world and we're run by Congress. Thank you for your love, thank you for coming to the people of Ward 8. Mayor Gray loves this city. He went to jail for statehood. I would have gone to jail too but I was out of town."
Despite much of the evening resembling a love fest, there were pockets of resistance, discontent and hard feelings from some in the audience who chided Barry, Gray and other elected officials for doing little to reverse the myriad problems affecting Ward 8 residents.
Almost a dozen men and women sat in pews close to the front and they vocalized their unhappiness with the status quo and impatience with the slow pace of change.
"They ain't serious, man. There's work that needs to be done in this ward and they need to come on with it," said an unidentified man as he waited for 45 minutes before the 6 p.m. address began.
A man seated in front of him called Gray and Barry crooks and refused to stand up during the national anthem or when Barry and his entourage walked into the church.
Schyla Pondexter-Moore said she is bitterly disappointed and deeply angered by what she sees playing out among the poor in Ward 8.
"I'm angry because Marion Barry supports redevelopment that's pushing out poor people," said Pondexter-Moore, a housing advocate with Empower DC, a grassroots organization in Northwest. "People are living in slum-lord conditions. They are purposely making these areas distressed."
"There are new communities coming and plans to demolish housing. I can't keep supporting a man who doesn't support public housing. They need to repair and renovate existing public housing. People clap and support what he used to be. Now, he's aggressively supporting developers."
Detrice Belt, a resident at Barry Farm agreed.
"I've lived here for 17 years," she said. "You have cabinets hanging off, floors lifting up, mold, mildew and mushrooms coming up through the floor in some apartments. It's crazy."
A 62-year-old woman complained that there are not enough services for seniors, and applauded when Alethea Campbell, a resident of Ward 8 for 47 years, detailed the amenities, services and classes, home-delivered meals, four-course lunches and pharmacy services offered by the Congress Heights Senior Wellness Center for which she credits Barry.