Following up his recent trip to Paris, the District's peripatetic mayor, Anthony A. Williams, is planning to hit the road again this weekend. His destination: Rome.
The four-day trip, scheduled to commence Saturday and conclude Tuesday, may force the mayor to miss a key date in his battle to take over the city's troubled public school system. The D.C. Council, which last month rejected the mayor's original takeover proposal, has tentatively scheduled a second vote on the schools plan for Tuesday.
The vote originally was scheduled for last week, when Williams was in Paris. But it was canceled because Council member Sharon Ambrose was attending her mother's funeral.
Williams's deputy chief of staff, Gregory McCarthy, conceded this week that "the mayor might not be back" in time for the rescheduled schools vote. But McCarthy said Williams (D) has been "lobbying hard" for his takeover plan and will continue to talk with council members until his departure this weekend.
"Do we have seven votes yet? No. Are we close? Yes," McCarthy said.
So what's drawing the mayor to Rome? Williams is scheduled to participate with music producer Quincy Jones in a global forum to assist children in areas of conflict. Williams spokesman Tony Bullock said Williams has participated in the event for the last two years.
"It's important to the mayor and to Quincy Jones and to mayors from major European cities," Bullock said. "It's an event that's growing in stature."
Bullock said Williams's itinerary isn't all European capitals. For instance, he plans to deliver an address this week in connection with his leadership role in the National League of Cities. The venue? East Plains, Ga.
"You gotta take the glamorous with the East Plains," Bullock said.
Democrats Name Official
Emily Durso Vetter, the former president of the Hotel Association of Washington, D.C., has been named the executive director of the D.C. Democratic Party, Chairman A. Scott Bolden announced Monday. She takes the reins of the D.C. Democratic State Committee less than three months before the District's party leaders head to Boston to cast their ballots in the 2004 presidential race.
Vetter said she enjoyed watching the reaction of longtime associates when she started attending the state committee's meetings.
"They were a little shocked when I started walking in the room," she said. "I was never involved in state politics. I was always involved in supporting candidates."
Vetter, who headed the hotel association from 1990 through mid-2001, is president of E.V. Housing Inc., a Washington-based nonprofit affordable housing development corporation. She was the association's team leader for the development of the new Washington Convention Center.
"Ms. Vetter has a stellar reputation in the D.C. community at large and is well known for her leadership, political and fundraising skills in the business and hospitality industry," Bolden said in a prepared statement. "She is a first-rate manager and administrator, [and] knows the District, its politics and Democratic elected officials."
As the executive director, Vetter said, her first priority will be to lead a push for voting representation in Congress through an aggressive campaign that will include raising funds and getting the message out at the convention.
She said the state committee plans to stage a Boston Tea Party during the convention to bring attention to the District's plight.
"We're still where this country was in the 1700s," Vetter said. "We still don't have a vote in Congress. We're planning to throw tea into the river."
Ex-Agency Head Lands
Former Child and Family Services Agency Director Olivia Golden will join the Urban Institute as a senior fellow in its Labor, Human Services and Population Center in June. Golden headed the District cabinet-level agency from 2001 until April, bringing the agency out from court-ordered receivership. The agency handles child abuse and neglect cases of city children.
Golden came to the city government after working on national child welfare issues, including spending eight years as a senior official at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. Brenda Donald Walker, chief of staff for the District child welfare agency, will temporarily replace Golden. Bullock said there is no timetable for a permanent appointment.
Medicare Plan Opposed
Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton (D) this week joined a growing list of House Democrats by filing a bill to keep Medicare from using the District as a proving ground for a plan to test the ability of the federal program to compete with private health plans.
The Medicare prescription drug law passed in December includes provisions that in 2010 will start "premium support" demonstration projects in six metropolitan areas around the nation. The plan calls for the government to issue vouchers enabling eligible beneficiaries to purchase their health coverage privately. The six cities have not been chosen.
Norton opposes the plan as an attack on Medicare's traditional structure, saying it would undermine the program by steering the healthiest seniors to the health plans and leaving the oldest, sickest people with the most expensive illnesses to be covered by the government. She said she views the demonstration as a first step toward privatization of the entire Medicare program.
Staff writers Theola Labbe and Avram Goldstein contributed to this report.