- The Washington Times - Sunday, June 29, 2003

Memo to friends and associates of D.C. Council member David A. Catania: Don’t ever take him anywhere in a van.

On Thursday at Metro’s Operations Committee meeting, Mr. Catania livened an otherwise dull morning with a colorful attack on vans.

Mr. Catania, who had missed several meetings in the past few months, and was quiet for most of the morning, piped up when Metro reviewed its plan to offer a van-pooling service.

“What’s next? Rickshaws? This is ridiculous,” Mr. Catania said. “Why wouldn’t we purchase buses and not vans?”

Metro General Manager Richard A. White explained that the van-pooling service would be offered where Metro buses did not run.

Mr. Catania was incredulous.

“What I want to know is who made the decision to buy vans? I don’t associate vans with mass transit. I view them more as claustrophobic death traps. I don’t know why anybody would want to sit under that low a roof and that close together,” he said.

Afterward, Mr. Catania said he was attempting to inject some “levity” into the proceedings.

• Hold your breath?

D.C. Delegate Eleanor Holmes Norton has introduced in the House a bill that would require the United States to disable and dismantle all its nuclear weapons.

When?

As soon as all other countries with nukes do the same.

‘Nuff said.

• Something new

City officials are promising that this year’s summer program actually will work.

D.C. Parks and Recreation Director Neal Albert said his staff has been working since the fall to make sure programs, activities and facilities would be ready. After years of locked doors, leaking roofs and ball fields too littered for use, Mr. Albert said, this summer will be different.

Although four of the city’s public swimming pools remain closed for repairs, the rest will be open six days a week throughout the summer.

Mr. Albert said dozens of city-owned ball fields are available and that programs will be run at 67 playgrounds and 47 urban camps.

Mr. Albert also said plans are in the works to introduce some of the city’s young people to less-practiced sports such as rowing, sailing and cycling.

He said that if interest is high, those programs could be available year-round.

• Money back

District officials still are working to recover more than $900,000 mistakenly paid to developer Douglas Jamal.

Deputy Mayor Herbert Tillery said an investigation into leasing problems and city contracts is continuing and that he remains confident that any overpayments will be recovered.

Mr. Jamal is involved in several projects in the city. Mayor Anthony A. Williams has said the developer was making investments in the District’s future when few other investors were doing so.

Mr. Williams also said numerous levels of oversight are in place to monitor city spending. But he also said he wants to know why problems are not surfacing when those contracts are reviewed.

• ‘Win-win’

U.S. Rep. Thomas M. Davis III is calling his school voucher bill a “win-win” plan for D.C. students, but some city officials remain steadfast in their opposition.

Mr. Davis, Northern Virginia Republican, said the measure won’t take money from the city’s public or charter schools.

He said it would provide $15 million in private tuition grants beginning in the fall. Eligible students would come from schools targeted for improvement or restructuring.

The bill was introduced last week before the House Government Reform Committee.

But D.C. Delegate Eleanor Holmes Norton, a Democrat, said the public school system stands to lose more than $12,000 for every student who enrolls in private or religious schools under the voucher program. That is because every school system is funded on a per-student basis.

D.C. Council member Adrian M. Fenty, Ward 4 Democrat, said he will introduce emergency legislation this month opposing vouchers.

Staff writer Jon Ward contributed to this column, which is based in part on wire reports.

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