Nov 1, 2022 - News

Effort to rename D.C. street after Marion Barry sparks political drama

Marion Barry statue

Statue of Marion Barry on Pennsylvania Avenue NW. Photo: Brian Stukes/WireImage

A proposal to rename a Southeast D.C. thoroughfare after Marion Barry is inflaming passions and sending threats flying.

Why it matters: The idea would turn Good Hope Road into Marion Barry Avenue, in the heart of Barry’s constituency when he was mayor for four terms and a Ward 8 council member.

  • It’s a bonafide renaming, not just a ceremonial street name. Approximately 1,000 addresses would need to be updated, according to the council. You would one day be able to stand on the intersection of Marion Barry and Martin Luther King Jr. avenues.
  • The proposal has been floated in some fashion since Barry died in 2014. A statue of Barry was erected outside of the Wilson Building on Pennsylvania Avenue NW in 2018.

But the politics have gotten messy.

  • Ward 8 Council member Trayon White wanted to approve the renaming quickly through an emergency bill, but Council Chair Phil Mendelson took it off Tuesday's agenda, opting to first schedule a public hearing on Dec. 13.

What they’re saying: Mendelson says that he does not oppose the legislation.

But White is fuming. “You’re displaying dictatorship and I’m not going to let it rest,” White told Mendelson in a text message on Sunday night, according to Mendelson.

  • On Monday morning, White told his Instagram followers to call Mendelson’s office to voice support for the bill.
  • One caller threatened Mendelson and the incident was reported to D.C. protective services, Mendelson told reporters at a press conference Monday.
  • White’s office did not return a request for comment.

What's next: The legislation is likely to eventually pass, because the permanent version of the bill is co-introduced by all council members except Mendelson.

  • But the timing of the late hearing means it’ll likely need to be reintroduced next year.

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