Council member Carol Schwartz (R-At Large) is relearning the elementary school lesson that sometimes things said in jest can still hurt people's feelings.
That is apparently the case with Michael Ferens, a now-former Schwartz political supporter who was not amused when she proposed a ban on alcohol as a satire on a very real smoking ban in bars and restaurants the D.C. Council is considering. ("I'm also now looking at some other legal choices to ban -- like driving, or sex -- for they, too, can be dangerous to your health and the health of others," Schwartz said in her wink-wink proposal.)
Ferens, 41, of Dupont Circle, was president of Log Cabin DC, an organization of gay and lesbian Republicans, in 2001-2002 and said he helped raise $20,000 for Schwartz's campaigns.
In a recent letter to Schwartz, Ferens wrote about the effects of secondhand smoke he experienced when he was a bartender and the pain of losing his father last year to lung cancer. His father had smoked for five decades.
"If you were drowning and counting your final days, unable to escape the pure agony of a slow death from lung cancer due to your smoking, or if you had to watch one of your children dying from disease due to years of your second-hand smoke, would you be laughing?" Ferens wrote. "Wouldn't that be REAL funny to lose a son or daughter to lung cancer? Would you be still chuckling if a government leader released mock legislation poking fun at people who want a smoke-free environment when you just lost a close relative?"
Ferens cited his work on Schwartz's campaigns and added, "as a result, I receive this mockery and laughing at me because I suffered second hand smoke, and my father died.
"Thanks a lot Carol.
"I used to have high thoughts about you as a community leader. All that is gone now. You should feel ashamed of yourself, but, with this hateful attitude you have displayed lately, I feel you have no shame."
Schwartz did not return a phone call Tuesday requesting a comment.
Although Ferens didn't like it, Schwartz won some laughs, kudos and perhaps converts to her side two weeks ago when she mockingly proposed banning alcohol in the city, using the same arguments that anti-smoking activists have used when arguing in favor of a smoking ban. An alcohol ban bill was actually introduced and formally referred to the council's consumer and regulatory affairs committee, chaired by Jim Graham (D-Ward 1).
But soon after the meeting, Schwartz withdrew the bill.
Schwartz is the leading opponent of a smoking ban, having bottled up the ban bills in her public works and environment committee until a "compromise" arises that is acceptable to her. Smoking ban supporters wonder whether Schwartz withdrew the bill after she got wind that Graham was considering holding a hearing on her alcohol ban, amending it to convert it to a smoking ban bill and then sending it to the full council, where a majority favors the smoking ban.
Nonsense, Schwartz said. She had always planned on yanking the joke bill.
D.C. Mayor Anthony A. Williams sent a supplemental budget to the council last week proposing to spend $54.7 million in excess cash.
Using surplus funds accumulated in a number of reserve accounts, the mayor offered an extra $4.2 million for mental health, $3.8 million for economic development, $8.3 million for technology, $3.6 million for Metro, $7 million for the Anacostia Waterfront Corp., $7.3 million for senior wellness centers, $2.2 million for housing vouchers, $2.8 million to establish storefront libraries and $2 million for the Fort Lincoln Ice Rink.
But some of the smaller appropriations offered more interesting reading.
For example, the mayor offered to dedicate $200,000 to the D.C. Office of Campaign Finance for costs associated with keeping track of political exploratory committees, which were completely unregulated until this spring.
The council last month adopted reforms that would require "exploring" candidates to file twice-yearly reports. But the new law does not require those reports to be posted electronically or even reviewed by campaign finance officials, who complained that the job would be too taxing without additional funds.
With the latest appropriation, the author of the exploratory measure, Council member Vincent B. Orange Sr. (D-Ward 5), said the council "can possibly take another shot at" a more comprehensive bill.
Then there's $100,000 "for the relocation of the office of the D.C. shadow Senators."
Shadow Sen. Paul Strauss (D) said the 10th floor of the city office building at Judiciary Square, where he and shadow Rep. Ray Browne (D) are now ensconced, is scheduled to be renovated. It's unclear where the city will move them in the meantime.
"But if there's all this money going around and available, then they could spare a few dollars to house us in decent quarters," Strauss said.
Moving and Shaking
* The city delivered its glossy 20-page Summer Fun Guide to D.C. households last week, long after many parents had made their summer camping arrangements. Mayoral spokeswoman Sharon Gang said the brochure took a while to put together because it incorporates information from a variety of nonprofit organizations, in addition to city agencies. "The fact that it came out with very few mistakes is a triumph," she said.
* The Office of Cable Television and Telecommunications is now broadcasting the mayor's weekly press conference live on the Web and Cable Channel 16. Said Gang: "We get great attendance from local media, but this is potentially a national market, so now reporters who cover national news will be able to watch it."