Post-Barry Washington

With Marion Barry's announcement a week ago that he won't seek another term as mayor of Washington, D.C., the capital can begin the hard work of reclaiming its lost home rule.

This year's mayoral contest will now be competitive. Mr. Barry, still highly popular, could have dominated the race had he remained in it. Candidates should focus on solidifying key financial reforms.

Those reforms are demanded by a fed-up Congress. Exercising their oversight of the District, the lawmakers have imposed a number of new governmental structures, including a powerful financial control board. These boards now virtually run the city. Last summer, Congress stripped the mayor of nearly all his powers, emphatically putting on hold the home rule won in the early 1970s.

Such emergency measures have proved necessary to get reform rolling, but they should be short-term. The city's post-Barry leaders will have to prove they've left the former mayor's patronage-ridden political style behind. They'll have to show they're committed to the basic job of providing dependable city services and keeping the books in balance.

This can't happen too soon. Democracy's capital should have functioning democratic processes.

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