Councilmember David Catania: responses to GLAA questionnaire

Responses of Councilmember Catania to
GLAA 1998 Questionnaire for Council Candidates

1. If elected, what will you do to encourage the Council to exercise its powers more responsibly and thereby facilitate a speedy return of home rule powers to the District?

The future of home rule depends, in part, on improving the structure of the District's government. During last year's campaign, I advocated the creation of an Attorney General of the District of Columbia. In March, I introduced a "Sense of the Council Resolution" which would establish an elected Attorney General of the District of Columbia. Six Councilmembers co-sponsored my resolution.

At present, the United States Attorney for the District of Columbia is responsible for prosecuting the District's felonies and major misdemeanors. The D.C. Corporation Counsel is responsible for prosecuting minor misdemeanors, juvenile offenders, and representing the District government.

Under such a system, the District government is unable to prosecute, among other important matters, issues of public corruption, voter fraud, and D.C. tax evasion. I believe that a government that is unable to protect itself is not a whole government. Therefore, the resolution that I have proposed would take the D.C. Corporation Counsel's Office out from under the Mayor's jurisdiction and would put it under the control of an elected Attorney General. At the same time, the powers of the office would be expanded to permit the District's chief prosecutor to protect the integrity of our government.

In addition to the creation of a better system of government, the Council must be more proactive in the pursuit of accountable government. Specifically, the Council must be willing to scrutinize and when necessary reject mayoral nominations to Boards, Commissions, and other governmental posts. In addition, the respective Council committees must be prepared to hold aggressive oversight hearings that clearly establish performance standards and goals.

Finally, the Council must continue to act in a fiscally responsible manner in order to facilitate a speedy return of home rule powers. Provided the Council can produce two more years of balanced budgets, the Control Board's authority over the District will expire. I am committed to this goal.

2. The Council has seldom aggressively exercised its oversight powers over the District government. Instead, too often it has been passive and reactive in addressing the mismanagement problems which routinely plague the District government's administration. What will you do to improve the Council's performance of its oversight responsibilities?

During my brief tenure on the Council, I have taken my oversight responsibilities very seriously. Among the subjects that I believe have benefited from my oversight participation include: the proposed convention center at Mt. Vernon; the Special Committee on Police Misconduct and Mismanagement; the Addiction, Prevention, and Recovery Administration; the Administration of HIV/AIDS; and the Job Training Partnership Act contracts.

Effective oversight begins with preparation. I have made it my practice to be well prepared for Council hearings. Prior to Council proceedings, I meet with individuals who have a strong understanding of the relevant issues. I supplement these meetings with additional research on the respective matters to further my understanding.

Another key component of effective oversight includes a willingness to demand answers from our bureaucracy regarding the state of our government. Part of this process includes offering constructive options and alternatives.

The final ingredient of effective oversight is rigorous follow-up. I have made it my practice to send follow-up letters to members of the D.C. government who have testified before me. Specifically, I have requested both additional information and progress reports on matters that were not resolved to my satisfaction at the respective hearing. Moreover, my staff and I have made it a point to make site visits to various parts of our government to confirm testimony given to the Council, as well as to monitor the quality of services offered by our government.

If elected, I intend to continue my efforts to ensure that our government is efficient, effective, and responsive.

3. Do you support passage and full funding for the new civilian complaint review system to be established by Bill 12-521, the "Citizen Complaint Review Act of 1998"?

Yes. I fully support the passage of the Citizen Complaint Review Act of 1998. In July, as part of the Council's first reading on the Bill, I cast my vote in support of the measure. The final vote on the Bill is expected in September.

Because the Council's deliberation on the Bill occurred following the FY 1999 budget process, no funds were put in the budget for the Citizen Complaint Review Board ("CCRB"). During the first reading of the Bill, many Councilmembers expressed concern regarding the ability of the District to reprogram the funds necessary to operate the CCRB in FY 1999.

In an effort to have a functioning CCRB as quickly as possible, I approached one of Congressman Taylor's staff members about the possibility of adding additional federal dollars to the District's budget for the purpose of funding the CCRB in FY1999. As a result of my request, $1.2 million was placed in the District's budget for this purpose.

4. Do you support Bill 12-612, the "Opened Alcoholic Beverage Containers Amendment Act of 1998" (a.k.a. the "Chardonnay Lady Bill"), that would allow people to drink alcoholic beverages on their porches without fear of arrest?

Yes. I am a co-sponsor of this legislation and I voted for it during the first reading of the Bill. I fully support the right of individuals to drink alcoholic beverages on their porches without fear of arrest. The existing law criminalizes behavior that, by itself, should not concern the government.

5. In an apparent effort to bolster his standing with some segments of the District community, the recently-ousted chief of the Department of Consumer & Regulatory Affairs, David Watts, instituted a zoning regulation earlier this year barring video stores from deriving more than 15% of their revenue from sexually-oriented videos. Do you agree that this attack on the rights of adult consumers is utterly unwarranted and that there should be no limits on the proportion of video store revenues derived from adult videos?

Yes. I do not favor placing limits on the proportion of video store revenues derived from adult videos. At the same time, I do favor placing sexually-oriented videos out of the view of children. Thus, rather than impose a limit on the proportion of video store revenues that can be derived from adult videos, DCRA could regulate the placement of sexually-oriented videos to ensure that they are inaccessible to children. For example, DCRA could require that such materials be segregated from other videos and located in a separate part of the store.

Notwithstanding my answer, I am very sympathetic to those communities, which do not want "adult video" stores in their midst.

6. Will you support legislation to authorize and regulate the issuance of liquor licenses to establishments (in designated non-residential commercial districts) that want to offer nude dancing as entertainment?

Yes. I would support legislation permitting the authorization and regulation of liquor licenses to establishments offering nude dancing in designated non-residential commercial districts. My basic philosophical framework requires the government to have a compelling interest in a matter as a prerequisite for prohibiting conduct of consensual adults. In this instance, I fail to see the government's interest in banning this activity. Nude dancing—by itself—does not endanger the health, safety, or welfare of the community.

7. Do you support Initiative 59 (or similar legislation) to legalize the use of medical marijuana when a patient's doctor recommends it as a means to combat some of the effects of AIDS, cancer, and other diseases?

Yes. The medical use of marijuana is humane and effective. I have a friend alive today because of its use. Some individuals, who oppose the medical use of marijuana, fear that it will lead to the further legalization of the substance. I believe this concern is unfounded. Provided that the medical use of marijuana is ever legalized, I would support a public media campaign to alleviate the public's concern about the further legalization of the drug. The central theme of the public media campaign would educate the population concerning how the medical use of marijuana prolongs, and qualitatively improves, the lives of sick individuals.

I am pleased to report that members of my Council staff, at my direction, assisted during their off-hours in collecting signatures for Initiative 59.

8. The New York State Legislature recently passed legislation saying that: (1) doctors must report the names of people who test positive for HIV to public health officials; and that (2) health workers must attempt to have infected patients identify their sex of or drug-use partners and then must notify those partners of possible exposure. Such measures are invariable counter-productive and discourage those most at risk from being tested and treated for HIV. Will you oppose any such legislation in the District?

Yes. I believe very strongly in the right to privacy. An individual's health is an intensely private matter. It stands to reason that if an individual's HIV results will be reported to the public health officials that his/her privacy is compromised, which would undoubtedly discourage individuals from being tested. I would oppose a policy, which would discourage individuals from being tested and treated for HIV. Moreover, while I absolutely believe an HIV positive individual should discuss the matter with his/her sex or drug-use partners, I do not believe the government should be compelling this practice. Such a practice might lead to unintended consequences for which the government is not prepared.

9. Do you support an increase in District government funding to combat AIDS in line with the continuing increase in the caseload?

Yes. During the FY1999 budget process, I fought for additional dollars for the Administration for HIV/AIDS ("AHA"). However, more money by itself is not enough! AHA failed to spend millions of appropriated dollars in FY1997 and is on target to underspend its FY1998 budget.

AHA desperately needs dynamic and capable leadership. AHA Administrator Ron Lewis inherited a completely dysfunctional organization, which has failed to meet the prevention and treatment needs of our population.

Among other matters, Mr. Lewis must establish comprehensive prevention programs aimed at existing and emerging communities at risk. I have personally championed the hiring of an HIV prevention coordinator aimed exclusively at women. In addition, Mr. Lewis must immediately fill the vacant positions within AHA. Too many important positions remain unfilled. Moreover, Mr. Lewis must engage in strategic planning to ensure that our AHA dollars are spent on a timely basis, which includes beginning the contracting process early enough to navigate the District's cumbersome procurement process.

More money is undoubtedly needed, but so too is effective management and accountability. The Committee on Human Services has initiated oversight hearings to monitor AHA's performance. Under the leadership of the Committee's Chairperson, we have started making progress on the above-mentioned fronts.

10. Do you support continued District government funding for the needle exchange program to combat the spread of AIDS?

Yes. I recently testified before the House D.C. Subcommittee to urge them to pass the D.C. budget without adding a prohibition on the use of local funding for needle exchange. Since testifying, I have continued to urge members of the House to allow this program to continue.

According to one estimate, there are over 16,000 IV drug-users in the District. In the absence of a needle exchange program, many of these IV drug-users will become infected with HIV. Presently, the District's Addiction, Prevention, and Recovery Administration ("APRA") is incapable of offering meaningful treatment to these IV drug-users. Until APRA is turned around, the existence of clean needles is a necessity. Once APRA is on the right track, we can use the needle exchange program to guide individuals to comprehensive drug treatment. In July, the Committee on Human Services held an oversight hearing on APRA. I was appalled at the state of APRA. APRA, like AHA, has been mismanaged and non-responsive to the community that it serves. I am committed to transforming APRA. I will not be satisfied until the District is in a position to offer drug treatment on demand.

As a final note, I have had a member of my staff perform site visits to confirm the effectiveness of the District's needle exchange program.

11. Do you support legal recognition of marriages between partners of the same sex?

Yes. The government should encourage the formation of stable families. If two individuals of the same sex choose to form a family, the government should permit a civil marriage to occur. However, I do not support requiring religious institutions to provide the actual service.

12. Do you support the current District policy, sanctioned by a court rule, of allowing adoptions by unmarried couples?

Yes. During the recent Congressional debate on the District's Authorization Bill, my staff and I met with Republicans on the Hill and encouraged them to permit the District's policy to continue. In addition, I testified before the House D.C Subcommittee to urge them to pass the D.C Budget without adding the adoption prohibition. You can be assured that I will work with the Congress to ensure the current House position on adoption does not become law. In my opinion, the best interests of the child should guide the issue of adoption. Placing children in stable homes with loving care-providers should be the primary goal of any adoption system.

13. Do you support both an increased budget for the Office of Human Rights (OHR) so that its heavy case backlog can be eliminated, and the re-establishment of OHR as an independent, Cabinet-level agency whose Director has direct access to the Mayor?

Yes. The ability of our citizens to have redress against discrimination is extremely important to me. Recently, I have been working with members of the transgendered and transsexual community who have been denied access to Lorton due to the Department of Corrections policy prohibiting individuals from visiting the facility if their gender appearance does not match their personal identification. A suit has been pending within the OHR for almost a year on the subject. The staffing shortage at OHR makes a timely resolution of this subject—and others like it—hard to obtain. In my opinion, justice delayed is justice denied. I will continue working to broker a settlement on the matter. However, a fully-staffed and funded OHR could have resolved the matter by now without the fear of timely and costly litigation.

14. Will you support legislation codifying OHR's current practice of granting top priority to discrimination complaints from those afflicted with AIDS or other life-shortening conditions?

Yes. It would be a miscarriage of justice to deny someone with a life-shortening condition priority within the OHR system.

15. Proposals for establishing a system of vouchers for private schools, whether here or elsewhere around the country, would funnel taxpayer dollars to religious schools controlled by denominations that fr3equently are aggressively homophobic. Will you oppose any legislation authorizing vouchers for religious schools?

Yes. I do not support the use of vouchers for religious schools. I do not believe that tax dollars should support religious schools.