City Desk

Crack-Smoking Mayors: Not Just for D.C. Anymore

Gawker broke the news yesterday that colorful Toronto Mayor Rob Ford can reportedly be seen smoking crack cocaine on a cell phone video, as long as you're willing to pay $100,000 for the tape. While this will have some impact on Canada, probably something to do with moose and ketchup-flavored chips, it means something else for the District: Finally, we're not the only city whose mayor has been caught on tape smoking crack.

I asked Mayor-for-Life Marion Barry—convicted in 1990 for misdemeanor drug possession—for his take on Ford, but the D.C. councilmember says his own videotaped crack use is too different from Ford's reported tape to compare.

"Unless he was entrapped by the government, it's not similar," Barry says. Barry declined to offer advice for Ford, saying that he's too focused on the residents of Ward 8.

Without Barry, it falls to us to glean lessons for Ford from Barry's scandal. First, it's worth noting, as Barry does, that there are differences. Barry's downfall came at the hands of the FBI as part of a lengthy investigation, while Ford appears to have been videotaped by Somali-Canadian drug dealers. But the embattled Toronto mayor, currently lying low, could learn a lot from Barry.

• Trust Your Gut

This comes too late for Ford, but crack-smoking mayors seem to have a special ability to suss out when they're being videotaped. In their book Dream City, Tom Sherwood and Harry Jaffe describe Barry worrying about "Nosey Rosies" just before smoking crack at the Vista International Hotel with former lover Rasheeda Moore. "He knew that a hotel room was a perfect place to set him up," Sherwood and Jaffe write.

Ford also seemed to sense that he was being filmed, warning the cell phone operator that the phone ought to be turned off. If only the boisterous mayor had trusted his instincts.

• Don't Mount A Comeback Too Soon

Just two weeks after he was sentenced to six months in jail, Barry tried to regain public office, running as an independent in the at-large race. But the bad feelings from his trial were still around, and Barry came in third. Ford hasn't lost his mayoralty yet, but if he does, he's got to lay low for a while—maybe by coaching the football team of "f—ing minorities" he reportedly describes on the tape.

• Tweet About Scandal

Nowadays, Barry passes the time when he's not in the Wilson Building by watching a popular television show (and singing blues at Madam's Organ). Ford could do the same, getting re-elected to represent the suburban voters who love him and tweeting about a Canadian TV showmaybe Degrassi?

Photo by Darrow Montgomery

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