Mayor Barry is reunited with God

After a two-week provincial tour, the Marion Barry show came home yesterday. Saying that "God chose me, God working through the people put me in the mayor's office," Mr Barry was back in Washington, pronouncing himself drug-free, drink-free and now cigarette- free, ready to take back the helm of hapless Washington DC.

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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