As promised, the D.C. Chamber of Commerce has responded to D.C. Councilman Marion Barry’s caustic criticism of the organization and its leader, CEO Barbara Lang.
Matt Klein, the chamber’s outgoing 2012 board chairman, and Antwayne Ford, the incoming 2013 chairman, have signed their names to a retort that is at times a reflection of the chamber’s priorities, and at others, a castigation of Barry. The chamber’s letter to Council Chairman Phil Mendelson was to be delivered Tuesday evening.
“We understand that differences of perspective can, and often do, occur, but we hope that our discourse can be respectful and at least civil,” wrote Klein, president of Akridge Inc., and Ford, president of Enlightened Inc. “Mr. Barry’s letter was well beneath the stature of the position he holds.”
This fight started eight days ago, when the council rejected Barry’s legislation that would bar hiring discrimination against ex-offenders. The council, with the business community’s support, instead adopted a watered-down version offered by Mendelson.
That set Barry off. On Friday, he delivered a pair of letters — one chastising the seven council members who voted for Mendelson’s bill, and another that accused Lang, who is black, the chamber and the Greater Washington Board of Trade of supporting discrimination and refusing to hire D.C. residents or ex-offenders.
The chamber, in its response, argued it has an “impeccable record of working with local businesses to hire DC residents and to ensure our great City remains a viable place to do business.” It “is entirely supportive of pro-active efforts to assist ex-offenders in returning to the workplace.”
Barry’s letter, the chamber states, was replete with “significant misrepresentations, disparagement and vitriol.” Its attacks on Lang, per the letter, are “inexcusable.”
There is one more council session scheduled before the winter break. As Anita Bonds, a longtime Barry ally, was sworn-in as an interim council member Tuesday — to fill Mendelson's at-large seat — the ex-offender fight will likely be waged again.
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