Bald is beautiful
D.C. Councilmember David Catania (SFS ’90, LAW ’94) spoke to students today (as part of the Michael Jurist (SFS ’07) Distinguished Alumni Roundtable series), and man, is he awesome.
Catania (Ind. – At Large) waxed philosophical on a number of subjects, blending serious information, like the roots of the D.C. HIV/AIDS epidemic, with jokes and anecdotes, like “Raise your hand if you think sex doesn’t happen in jail.” He also talked about whatever happened to the gay marriage rights bill he had planned to introduce in January.
The conversation started focused on how Catania’s SFS education got him started on the path he’s on today. While he was here, Catania was a research assistant for Madeline Albright (jealous?). He became an energy lawyer after he graduated from law school, albeit not a very enthusiastic one, and ran for public office on a whim. Not his own whim, but his neighbor’s. He explained:
“I was first elected to the DC City Council in ’96 because neighbor of mine had talked me into running. Jean would have been about 86 years old… She took me up on the roof of my building and fed me gin and tonics until I agreed to run. And let me tell you, the best way to run is unopposed” He’s served on the Council ever since.
The gay marriage bill and a Catania-Pat Dowd heart-to-heart after the jump.
As Chair of the DC Council’s Committee on Health, a lot of what Catania had to say was about medical issues in the District. He shed some light on D.C.’s high HIV/AIDS rate firstly by recalling the dysfunctional state of the Department of Health in 2005. The DOH didn’t know how to hire people to fill some of its most basic positions, he said, and they were basing their funding off of numbers from 15 years earlier.
“It was like a total lunar meltdown,” Catania said. “Anyone want to guess why we have high rates? Voila, as they say, that’s it.”
Catania also highlighted the progress D.C. (he) has made. He’s settling with CVS today to get them to stop the practices of selling their customers’ data to subsidiaries and switching their customers’ drugs without notifying them. Good stuff.
Catania also gave a status update on the gay marriage bill he planned to introduce in January. He said that introducing the bill now would jeopardize the success of D.C. Voting Rights legislation, but reassured his audience that he hasn’t forgotten the cause.
“It’s the undying civil rights issue of our time and I intend to go forward with it,” he said.
Catania talked about everything from the misconception that D.C.’s problems stem from a lack of cash, to his hometown in Osawatomie, KS, before he told the assembled students was how to be an effective politician.
“I have no interest in doing this forever,” he said. “I think having a full-time job [outside of politics]… keeps you sharp. It keeps you grounded. [Campaigns are about] going in front of the voters and being honest… You have to get up every day willing to lose. Once the aversion sets in, you become a joke. It means telling even your supportes ‘no’ once in a while.”
Former GUSA President Pat Dowd (SFS ’09) seemed particularly interested in that train of thought. So interested, in fact he talked to Catania about it afterwards. I hope Catania’s answer to Dowd’s question for him—Where did he really develop intellectually, the SFS or law school?—didn’t let him down.
“I didn’t. Totally arrested development. I haven’t developed since I was 17.”
Photo by Helen Burton for the Voice.