D.C. Mayor Anthony A. Williams kicked off his sandals, stripped off his Eastern High School T-shirt and then executed a neat cannonball into the aqua waters of the public pool at Anacostia Park.
Children cheered and mayoral aides applauded the jump, intended to herald the arrival of the pool season as well as other summery city offerings, including summer camp, summer school and summer jobs.
But yesterday's dive also called attention to a different joy of the season: summer travel.
Williams (D) originally planned his cannonball jump for today. But late Tuesday, aides scrambled to switch the event after Williams decided to travel to Southern California for tomorrow's swearing-in of Antonio Villaraigosa as mayor of Los Angeles.
With the two-day trip, the mayor will have spent all or part of 57 days out of the city so far this year -- nearly one in three. That means Williams's 2005 travel schedule has been busier than any since his 2002 reelection. In 2003, the mayor spent all or part of 107 days out of the city, or about 29 percent. Last year, his trips ate up 97 days, or about one in four.
So far this year, the mayor has visited Beijing, London and Puerto Rico. And there are more trips to come, including Hawaii, Europe and perhaps another brief jaunt to Beijing.
The heavy travel schedule was not unexpected. Williams is serving this year as president of the National League of Cities, and most of the trips have had some connection to his duties. In Los Angeles, for example, Williams said he will be representing the league, which pays for his trips, as Villaraigosa becomes the first Hispanic to lead that city in more than 100 years.
Williams has been trying to make up for his absences by stuffing his days at home full of public events, such as ribbon-cuttings, recreation center openings and yesterday's poolside news conference. But his travel schedule has nonetheless drawn criticism from D.C. Council members Adrian M. Fenty (D-Ward 4) and Vincent B. Orange Sr. (D-Ward 5), who are campaigning to succeed him in 2006.
The mayor has not said whether he will run for a third term. But he has been working overtime to call attention to the achievements of his administration, focusing yesterday on improved summer services for children.
The D.C. Department of Parks and Recreation expects to serve more than 5,000 children in summer camps this year, Williams told reporters, noting that some slots are still available. Nine late-night teen centers will stay open until midnight, offering "structured activities" for older youths. And a variety of summer classes, camps and programs will offer a combined total of more than 1.3 million meals to disadvantaged children during the summer school recess, a 12 percent increase over last year.
"Isn't that good?" the mayor said.
Williams also touted progress in the city's summer jobs program, which has identified 11,397 placements and registered 12,493 youths. Because about 20 percent of those who register for a job will fail to show up or will drop out of the program before the summer is over, the mayor said, "all youth who want to work will be placed."
Gregory Irish, director of the Department of Employment Services, offered even more good news: 600 of the placements are being provided by private businesses, a 100 percent increase over last year. The federal government is offering 308 positions, Irish said, while the D.C. government is picking up 2,252. The vast majority of summer job seekers will be placed with District agencies or nonprofit organizations, he said.
Information on any of the city's summer programs is available at 202-463-6211 or www.summeryouthprogram.dc.gov. And the city is mailing the D.C. Summer Fun guide to residents.