Councilman Marion Barry
Marion Barry really does know how to tweet.
Barry, who will be 76 in March, grudgingly displayed his new technology skills during his appearance last Friday on the Kojo Nnamdi “Politics Hour” on WAMU 88.5 FM.
Guest host Marc Fisher of The Washington Post and the Notebook had wondered if the D.C. Council member and former mayor truly was the author of tweets slamming Redskins owner Dan Snyder and other snippy remarks.
“I’d like to see you tweet right now,” your Notebook taunted.
“I don’t have to prove anything,” Barry parried.
“I don’t believe you can do it,” we tried again.
“You’re not going to bait me into that, either,” Barry said. Moments earlier, he had deflected questions about the conviction of former Ward 5 D.C. Council member Harry Thomas Jr. for stealing and the ongoing probes into campaigns of Mayor Vincent Gray and Chairman Kwame Brown.
“Those are distractions” from his Ward 8 re-election campaign, said Barry.
But as the show was ending, Barry took out his cell phone and sure enough, after a bit of fumbling around, tweeted two words: “Tom Sherwood.”
The Twitter world came alive as Barry’s many followers retweeted the former mayor.
(If you are not into the world of Twitter, this all may be incomprehensible.)
So Barry proved to his skeptics he could tweet. But he also acknowledged that he has two people who do most of the actual tweeting for him based on what he dictates.
“The news story is that most of my tweets are done by somebody I talk to about doing it,” Barry said, adding he only really taps out about 1 percent of his tweets.
“The secret comes out,” exclaimed host Fisher.
“It’s not a secret. I’ve said that all along. I’ve never said I was a master tweeter.”
• Cheating’s aftermath.
The crimes of Harry Thomas Jr. are still reverberating in city government. Thomas is to be sentenced May 3 after pleading guilty to two felonies. He could get nearly four years in prison.
The council’s Committee on Human Services held a hearing Monday on the embattled Children and Youth Investment Trust Corp. That’s the city agency Thomas looted by allocating money from the trust to nonprofits that then funneled the money to him.
Both the council and Ellen London, a longtime trust official who currently heads the organization, noted that the U.S. Attorney’s Office asked that any council inquiry stay away from too much review because the criminal probe continues.
“The trust has cooperated fully, and of course we will continue to do so,” London said.
But committee chair and Ward 1 Council member Jim Graham and Ward 6 Council member Tommy Wells warned that the trust’s very existence is at stake. The members said serious reforms are needed in terms of how the trust doles out millions of dollars. Its budget, now about $3 million, used to be as much as $10 million. It’s unclear whether Mayor Vincent Gray even will include the agency in his 2013 budget, due out soon.
The trust began under former Mayor Tony Williams. It was set up to get 50 percent of its money from the government, with the rest to come from private donations. Officials suggested a trust is better able to monitor the money and get the grants out the door than any other bureaucratic government agency.
Well, there’s no question gobs of money went out the door.
Council member Graham said he has been reviewing the trust’s operations since last summer when D.C. Attorney General Irving Nathan reached a civil settlement with Thomas requiring him to pay back the stolen $300,000. (Thomas more recently has missed a $50,000 payment that was due Jan. 1. Nathan is considering taking Thomas to court, but Thomas more likely is simply headed to jail, insiders say.)
All in all, it’s a sorry, sordid mess. The trust has seen its reputation more than tarnished, and dozens of legitimate, well-meaning community nonprofits are at risk of losing money. The head of the trust said its grants are down by 40 percent.
Tanya Sherman, representing the National Center for Children and Families and a summer program for 200 youths in Ward 7, was on the list to testify on Monday. “I know that [many] programs need that money,” she told NBC4. “It made me feel very empty inside that someone would take advantage of such a good program.”
• A leap laggard.
Once again, Leap Year sneaked up on the Notebook.
We always think we’ll do something special for the extra day in February, but it never seems to happen. No planning, no nothing.
But there’s always “next year,” which actually is four years from now. Maybe if we start planning something now …
• Good news.
We’re proud to say that folks stepped up and helped raise $30,000 Sunday night for Jan’s Tutoring House on Capitol Hill. It’s a tutoring program that has helped hundreds of D.C. children and families. It was begun by the late Jan Eichhorn and it’s named in her honor.
As the emcee for the party, we drew a few laughs when we said that it was our hope that we’d raise so much money that Harry Thomas Jr. would consider trying to steal it.