Mayor Barry is reunited with God
Known for his commentary on international relations and US politics, Rupert Cornwell also contributes obituaries and occasionally even a column for the sports pages. With The Independent since its launch in 1986, he was the paper's first Moscow correspondent - covering the collapse of the Soviet Union – during which time he won two British Press Awards. Previously a foreign correspondent for the Financial Times and Reuters, he has also been a diplomatic correspondent, leader writer and columnist, and has served as Washington bureau editor. In 1983 he published God's Banker, about Roberto Calvi, the Italian banker found hanging from Blackfriars Bridge.
Tuesday 14 May 1996
Thus ended, with a public address that better belonged at a Southern Baptist revivalist meeting than a gathering of senior administrative aides, an impromptu break that led to fevered speculation that after some 16 years, one of the country's most controversial elected officials might be about to step down.
But nothing of the sort. The search for "spiritual and physical renewal" had succeeded, the mayor proclaimed. At retreats first on the Maryland shore and then in St Louis, he had "met every goal", and was "spiritually reconnected with God".
The performance was quintessential Barry. The mood was that special blend of apology, redemption and celebration, and his reception was little short of ecstatic.
"Our leader is a visionary, who can encourage others," exulted Michael Rogers, a city administrator. Mr Barry himself filled the air with promises. He was more determined than ever "to bring hope to where hope has died, faith to where faith has been lost". But words alone will not restore the city's faith.
Contrary to rumour, Mr Barry denied he had slipped back into alcoholism, or the drug use which led in 1990 to his arrest on crack cocaine charges and subsequent six-month jail term.
But only last week, contracting powers of the DC Department of Human Services were taken from the mayor's hands. While the immediate threat of bankruptcy has receded, within months the city will again have to borrow massively. And its infrastructure continues to crumble. Spring is here, and foot-deep potholes still stud the streets.
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