It's Thursday. Do you know where your mayor is?
Last month, accurate answers would have included Greece, Frankfurt and Vienna. This month, the mayor's itinerary has taken him to California, North Carolina and Chongqing, China. At nearly every stop, Mayor Anthony A. Williams has chosen to serve you, the D.C. taxpayer, by attending . . . a conference.
What's so all-fired important about these conferences that Williams (D) regularly travels thousands of miles to attend them? We stopped by the fourth annual Glocalization Conference this month to get a taste of the action.
The Glocalization Conference is the meeting of the Glocal Forum, a Rome-based nonprofit group "devoted to peace-building and development through a decentralized city-to-city approach to international cooperation," according to the Glocalization Manifesto.
Last year, Williams had to go all the way to Rome for the big meeting. This year, it was held at Gallup headquarters near Gallery Place, just a short hop across town.
On the first day, Williams greeted the Glocal Youth Parliament steering committee and attended a welcome reception and dinner. On the second day, he appeared at two sessions, including a panel discussion of Gallup's new "World Poll" and its polling strategy to assess the "soul" of cities.
During that session, Williams sat on the dais for more than an hour, listening to fellow panel members chat about the new polls (or, more frequently, ramble onto other topics). He listened as a Microsoft representative announced that Microsoft products can be a huge help to city leaders. He listened as the mayor of Salt Lake City touted his decision to put high-efficiency bulbs in traffic lights to reduce emissions and help meet the standards of the Kyoto accords on global warming. He donned headphones to hear a translator relate the mayor of Sarajevo's sad tale of trying to rebuild his war-torn and economically devastated city.
When Williams finally got the chance to speak, he joked about his political irrelevance since announcing that he will not run again ("Frankly, I'm glad anybody's willing to listen to me," he told the international crowd). Then he boasted about his accomplishments as mayor, including the revitalization of Washington's spiffy downtown.
What was accomplished? Hard to tell. Williams usually defends such events, saying his appearance enhances the reputation of the nation's capital. He says big conferences also provide a wide audience for his plea for D.C. voting rights.
In any case, Williams clearly sees these things as a vital part of his tenure. Because today, it so happens, he is scheduled to travel to Massachusetts to attend yet another symposium, this one at Harvard.
Candidates Court Gay Vote
Last weekend's Millions More Movement was billed as an event to bring the African American family together. But some D.C. mayoral contenders used it as an opportunity to bring the votes of the city's large gay and lesbian community together for their candidacies.
Early Saturday morning, D.C. Council Chairman Linda W. Cropp (D) and lobbyist Michael A. Brown (D) addressed a rally of black gays and lesbians who were angry about being denied a speaking slot during the Millions More program. Cropp talked about the importance of inclusion and acceptance.
"Everyone is part of the overall picture," she said. "We all need to be there working on these important issues -- not divided."
As she spoke, campaign workers in neat red polo shirts embossed with Cropp's campaign logo handed out fliers. Later that afternoon, it was Brown's turn to speak.
"When people are discriminated against, I'm on their side," he announced.
But where, oh, where was council member Adrian M. Fenty (D-Ward 4), the candidate who usually shows up anywhere two or more District voters of any race, gender, ethnicity or sexual orientation gather? After all, Fenty last week sent out a press release boasting that he had been named "Best Straight Ally" by readers of the Washington Blade, which provides news for the gay community.
In an interview, Fenty said he was not asleep at the switch. The Ward 4 council member attended an "Us Helping Us" event the night before, where he spoke about issues of significance to the gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender community.
Fear Factor: Bar Exam
Sarah-Elizabeth Langford is doing her part to change the perception of the typical D.C. government worker.
The 27-year-old employee in the chief financial officer's legal department is not only Miss D.C. USA but a reality TV champion.
After competing in the Miss USA pageant in Atlantic City this year, she competed in an arguably tougher venue: "Fear Factor," the reality show that makes its contestants do things that shock, scare and gross out its viewers.
During the show, which can be seen on reruns, Langford hangs from a helicopter, walks a plank over water and crawls through a tunnel filled with fish and worms. She won $50,000, half of which went to charity.
Now, the Howard University School of Law graduate is nervously awaiting the results of her bar exam.
"Pray for me," she said.