Mayor of DC seeks 'personal renewal'

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The Independent Online
Marion Barry has stunned his beleaguered city by announcing he plans to take time off for "rejuvenation," and acknowledged signs of "spiritual relapse" which have kindled speculation that the once-disgraced Mayor of Washington DC may again be suffering from alcohol and drug problems.

Mr Barry dropped his bombshell yesterday at an emergency meeting of his top aides, none of whom had been informed in advance of the Mayor's intentions. He told them he was going to spend "at least a week" at a Maryland retreat to seek "personal renewal".

The Mayor, who served six months in jail for cocaine possession in 1992 before staging a remarkable political comeback, gave no details. One factor is an over-hasty return to full-time work after his operation for prostate cancer last winter. But a subsequent media statement, couched in religious language, contained several indirect references to the Narcotics Anonymous and Alcoholic Anonymous programmes for addicts, which Mr Barry is known to have been attending.

In an interview with the Washington Post yesterday, Corry Barry, the Mayor's wife, insisted that her husband had not returned to his old ways, and Dave Clarke, the chairman of the DC Council, the city's elected "parliament" declared he had detected no sign Mr Barry was using drugs or alcohol.

Ostensibly, Mr Barry's leave of absence could not come at a worse time, as the city confronts painful choices over spending reductions, impending redundancies, and cuts in services.