Smoking Ban Finds an Unlikely Backer

By Eric M. Weiss and Lori Montgomery
Washington Post Staff Writers
Thursday, May 26, 2005

Anti-smoking advocates were delighted -- but extremely surprised -- when Council member David A. Catania (I-At Large) rode to their rescue last week and pledged to support a bill to outlaw smoking in bars and restaurants. After all, Catania last year urged the D.C. elections board to reject a ballot measure that would have instituted such a ban.

Was it the cogent debate that finally got him to switch sides? The incessant lobbying? The overwhelming poll results?

None of the above. It turns out Catania's conversion owes more to the politics of pique.

Catania, it seems, got into a bit of a feud with Council member Carol Schwartz (R-At Large), the council's leading opponent of a smoking ban, who has refused to move the bill out of her Committee on Public Works and the Environment. On May 9, during a closed-door meeting of the full council, Schwartz began questioning a series of no-bid grants Catania added to the Health Department budget.

Presto chango! According to numerous witnesses, Catania blew up at Schwartz. Then he turned dramatically to Council member Kathy Patterson (D-Ward 3), a leading proponent of the smoking ban, and undercut Schwartz's authority. Catania told Patterson: Get that ban bill ready and send it to his committee! He'd move it out.

If the bill gets out of committee -- any committee -- supporters say they have the votes to push it through to final passage.

Asked this week about his conversion, Catania said he has long favored a compromise on the smoking issue that would not hurt the city's hospitality industry.

"Frankly, I had been deferring to Councilwoman Schwartz," he said. But "as soon as I felt that respect for a chairman's prerogatives was not being reciprocated, I felt I didn't need to be restrained anymore."

Mayoral Meanderings

A defensive D.C. Mayor Anthony A. Williams took off for the West Coast last Friday for his longest sojourn outside the city limits since January. The mayor's itinerary, originally scheduled to stretch across six full days, included:

· San Diego and a tour of Petco Park, a state-of-the-art urban ballpark that cost $450 million and opened in April 2004.

· San Jose and a tour of Santana Row, a European-style "shopping village" in the heart of the Silicon Valley that opened in 2002.

· Las Vegas and the International Council of Shopping Centers convention, where the mayor and other city officials met with scores of retailers eager to hear about opportunities in the nation's capital.

The peripatetic Williams (D) often draws fire for his travels, so he launched a preemptive strike at his news conference last week. Petco Park, the mayor said, "we really view . . . as a model" for the District's new ballpark. Santana Row could offer other ideas for integrating the stadium into the community. And Las Vegas, he said, is the granddaddy of all useful junkets: More than 70 retailers opened stores or signed leases in the District last year, many of them thanks to contacts made at past shopping center conventions.

"Have I drilled home the value of this enough for you?" Williams asked the crowd of amused reporters.

On Monday, the mayor interrupted the trip and returned briefly to D.C. for the funeral of Joseph Pozell , a volunteer officer who was killed while directing traffic in Georgetown. Still, Williams, who was expected back from Las Vegas late yesterday, will have spent all or part of 36 days out of town this year, about one in four.

Look for renewed scrutiny of his travel habits next month, when he is scheduled to make a five-day trip to China as president of the National League of Cities.

Just Exploring

Council member Jack Evans (D-Ward 2) finally is moving forward with this running-for-mayor business. Evans hired pollster Diane Feldman to survey 1,000 D.C. voters. The calls started going out Sunday night.

Chuck Thies , a "volunteer adviser" to Evans, said the poll is being funded by Friends of Jack Evans, a committee that has yet to raise any money. It also has yet to file paperwork with the D.C. Office of Campaign Finance. But that may be okay. Thies said Friends of Jack Evans is likely to be an exploratory committee, which does not have to file public reports under D.C. law.

Evans, who has criticized the concept of exploratory committees, did not return calls made to his cell phone.

In the Running, Probably

Vincent B. Orange Sr. (D-Ward 5), meanwhile, wants the world to know that he "is more likely than not to become a candidate for Mayor this summer."

Orange, who has flogged his exploratory efforts for the past six months, made this revelation more than a week ago at Greater Mount Calvary Holy Church, according to his latest news release. There, the release says, Orange told the congregation that he just "stopped by to let you know" his plans.The release notes that the moment "was electrifying and recorded on tape."

Why is Orange likely to run for mayor in 2006? Because 85 percent of the 451 people who responded to his mail-in/Internet survey said he should.

Moreover, he is "riding high" right now, according to the release, with a profile in the May issue of GolfStyles Washington magazine. (The magazine notes that Orange would be "the first avid golfer ever to be elected mayor in the nation's capital.")

Between the golfing profile and the "large crowds" the release says are flocking to Orange events, it says the chant has begun: "run Orange run."

© 2005 The Washington Post Company