Join us for our weekly review of the politics, policies, and personalities of the District of Columbia, Maryland and Virginia.
New polling numbers shake up D.C.’s race for mayor. Computer glitches send shockwaves through the Virginia Department of Motor Vehicles. And the indictment of a longtime Prince George’s County official jolts Maryland’s political scene. Join us for our weekly review of the politics, policies, and personalities of the District of Columbia, Maryland and Virginia.
- Tom Sherwood Resident Analyst; NBC 4 reporter; and Columnist for the Current Newspapers
- Vincent Orange Democratic Candidate, Chairman, D.C. Council; Former Member, D.C. Council, D-Ward 5
- Miranda Spivack Reporter, The Washington Post
- Kwame Brown D.C. Councilmember (D-At-Large); Chairman, Committee on Economic Development
Politics Hour Extra
D.C. Council Chair candidate Vincent Orange answers questions about his position change on same-sex marriage (previously, he was opposed to the measure; now he’s in favor):
D.C. Council Chair candidate Kwame Brown (D-At Large) talks about some of his credit card and other debts after a caller asks him to explain why D.C. voters should trust him to run the council efficiently in light of his own personal financial problems:
The candidates talk about the high cost of parking in the District of Columbia. Both express the view that current rules and fines are excessive.
MR. KOJO NNAMDIFrom WAMU 88.5 at American University in Washington, welcome to The Politics Hour, featuring Tom Sherwood. I'm Kojo Nnamdi. Today, we feature a conversation with two candidates running for city council chair, but first, in the mayoral race, Tom Sherwood. Tom Sherwood is our resident analyst. He's an NBC 4 reporter and a columnist for The Current Newspapers.
MR. KOJO NNAMDITom, what is it with names in this city? There are two Michael Browns, a Michael A. Brown, a Michael D. Brown. And then there's this plethora of Michelles. Michelle Obama, Michelle Rhee and the latest entry in the mayoral sweepstakes this week, Michelle Fenty, the wife of Mayor Adrian Fenty, who, for the first time, gave a public voice to her sentiments about the mayoral race between that and the ongoing expansion of the lead of Vincent Gray in the polls in the mayoral race. So far, those seem to be the two big stories coming out of that race.
MR. TOM SHERWOODWell, clearly, the big story in the mayor's race this week was the forum on Wednesday that WAMU 88.5, NBC 4 and The Washington Post sponsored, where the mayor, in fact, pleaded with voters to give him a second chance for his -- what his aides wanted him to do a year ago. He most forcefully acknowledged that he had not been inclusive with decision making. And then he's taking a lot of tough questions over the last three or four weeks.
MR. TOM SHERWOODAnd then after it was over, a reporter asked Michelle Fenty, who was standing there, what she thought about the criticisms that her husband was completely not in tune with citizens, African-Americans, who, in this city particularly, who feel like he's just run rough shot over their feelings to get things done. And she was quite emotional. It's the first time she's actually spoken up during the campaign. Some people asked, where is -- she's quite the poised lawyer herself and she can speak well for herself and do all of these things, but she's not been out on the campaign trail. And suddenly, there she was near tears, choking up, trying to say her husband is not the horrible person that people think he is.
NNAMDIHer introduction into the campaign, do you think it's a part of campaign strategy at this point to make the...
NNAMDI...mayor seem more personable?
SHERWOODWell, I don't think Michelle Fenty was faking her as a strategy thing. I do say though that Chairman Vincent Gray, who's leading in the polls now, has observed Mayor Fenty's apologies and promises to be better by saying, this is not a change of heart, this is a change in strategy. And that's a pretty strong line. It does come very late in this campaign. It can be seen as insincere by many people. And I think that's the problem. And it is late. Whether it's sincere or not, it is late.
NNAMDIAre you prepared to call the race yet?
SHERWOODWell, even if I were, I wouldn't.
NNAMDINobody would listen to you, right?
SHERWOODWell, somebody might.
SHERWOODMy son might.
SHERWOODBut I think it's not appropriate, I think, for reporters and columnists and opinion people like us to call the race.
NNAMDIYou're exactly right.
SHERWOODBut I did write this week that there are only slivers of hope for Mayor Fenty. One of which is his get-out-to-vote effort. He does have a better ground game. But according to the Gray people, but Gray has all the emotion and the momentum. And just this week, Mary Cheh in Ward 3, a very important ward of the city where many white voters live, she's running for reelection and she, just yesterday, said she's voting for Chairman Gray. That she does not think he'll derail education reform. That's a powerful statement from a council member who likely is appearing to be reelected.
NNAMDIWe'll have to see what happens there. Meanwhile, over in Montgomery County, every single seat on the Montgomery County Council is up for grabs. Joining us now from Dartmouth University is Miranda Spivack, who is a reporter with The Washington Post who covers Montgomery County. Miranda, thank you for joining us.
MS. MIRANDA SPIVACKOh, thanks for having me. I'm usually right there in the Montgomery and Prince George's bureaus at The Post, happened to be out of town today.
NNAMDIMiranda, what are the races to watch heading into primary down Sept. 14. Who's likely to be most competitive in the At-Large Council races?
SPIVACKWell, you know, in the At-Large Council races, the -- there are nine Democrats running for four Democratic nominations. And of course, you know, in Montgomery County, winning the Democratic primary is almost always tantamount to winning the general election in November. So Sept. 14 is really the key. The four incumbents in the at-large races are all out very, very actively campaigning. But two of the challengers, in particular, Becky Wagner, Hans Riemer, and to some extent, I think, the former PTA countywide president, have a chance. That Riemer and Wagner got the endorsement of those teachers union.
SPIVACKAnd, you know, again, in these primaries, it's who can -- as Tom mentioned, the ground game is what counts. Who can get their people to the polls? And the teachers unions and the other unions in Montgomery County have a good record of getting people out even in a primary. A low-turnout primary like this one, there's nobody at the top of the ticket who is really going to draw people out. As you know, Ike Leggett, as my colleague Michael Laris wrote today, is unopposed and going to coast to victory in -- on Sept. 14, and therefore, win the whole ballgame, I'll say.
NNAMDIMuch is being made of endorsements by the Montgomery County Education Association. How important are those endorsements?
SPIVACKYou know, I'm always skeptical of how important endorsements are in terms of drawing voters. But I think what endorsements do is lend money and sort of ground support to the candidates that they endorse so they can do phone banks, they can drive people to the polls, they can get out their own committed voters. And that -- and again, in a primary like this where maybe the turnout would be 25 percent if we're lucky, that's good enough.
SHERWOODIs there a tone of opposition for the people who are running, trying to unseat the incumbent? So that we hear it all the time endlessly on the national level that the incumbents are in trouble. The incumbents are in trouble. How in Montgomery County is that playing or specific local issues?
SPIVACKWell, you know, the budget year this year was very tough, and a lot of people think that the executive and the county council were very slow to react that they could have seen this coming a few years ago. Actually, as they did in nearby Prince George's, they started to trim their budget. Montgomery just became a big crisis this year. There were actually furloughs and layoffs in county government, which is just unheard of there.
SPIVACKAnd so there is some sense about the fiscal stewardship or perhaps the lack thereof that may play well for some of the challengers. One of the members of the county council, at-large member Duchy Trachtenberg, who's head of the Fiscal Policy Committee on the council, has incurred the wrath of a lot of the unions for a couple of different positions that she's taken. And, you know, she may have something to overcome there, although she's got a big, fat war chest, so she's got a lot of money at her disposal right now to do mailers and other get-out-the-vote efforts.
NNAMDIWell, I know that former county planner Royce Hanson, who's running for an open seat in District 2, is upset that the Montgomery County Education Association for endorsing candidates before he, Royce Hanson, entered the race. He's going for the Democratic nod in District 2. Why that is particularly interesting is because if he wins that race, he’ll be facing the well-known Republican Robin Ficker.
SPIVACKYeah. Now, that may well be -- that could be an interesting fight, although, you know, I don't think Hanson is a shoo-in by any means. And there are two other Democrats in that race, Sharon Dooley and delegate Craig Rice. Craig Rice is getting a lot of help from the Ike Leggett, you know, ground troops. And Leggett does not want Hanson in. Hanson was a big thorn in his side. Hanson has opposed a lot of Leggett initiatives, saying that some of them are poor for -- you know, poor planning. Live Nation was one of them. Hanson said that, you know, Leggett basically gave away the store to Live Nation and the lease to get that project into downtown Silver Spring.
SHERWOODCan I ask you about -- can I interrupt you just to ask about Live Nation...
SPIVACKYeah, sure. (laugh)
SHERWOOD...for a moment. For those of us who know what Live Nation is...
SHERWOOD...and want to attend the concert, it does seem like what was promising to be a great thing for the county, now, it seems to be a money pit at this point.
SPIVACKYeah, well, I don't know. Tom, are you surprised when they built Strathmore, however, many years ago. That was seven years ago or so, maybe more. That was supposed to be $50 million in public funds. And kaboom, it was a hundred million. And nobody cried then because, of course, times were better, and that was helping a non-profit, actually.
SPIVACKI think what has been a problem here is that the Leggett's people said $8 million in public funds no more for this $4 billion company, Live Nation. It's a little hard to explain why that company is getting a public subsidy to come into a pretty good market. And now, it's going to be 3.2 million more, and Leggett's folks did not inform the council that that came out in a lawsuit by a competitor, Seth Hurwitz of the 9:30 Club. So that's created a flap, but, you know, they had their ceremonial groundbreaking yesterday. And, you know, for Leggett, he's moving on. Man, he thinks that project is a great project, as many people do, and that along the 3.2 million will be long forgotten.
NNAMDIAnd I'm afraid that's all the time we have. Miranda Spivack, thank you very much for joining us.
SPIVACKOh, thanks so much for having me.
NNAMDIMiranda is a reporter with The Washington Post. She covers Montgomery County and Maryland politics. It's The Politics Hour featuring Tom Sherwood. He's our resident analyst, an NBC 4 reporter and a columnist for the Current Newspapers. We will now be having a conversation with two candidates for city council chairman in the District of Columbia. Kwame Brown is a Democratic candidate. He's currently an at-large member of the D.C. Council. He is the chairman of the Economic Development Committee. Councilmember Kwame Brown, welcome. Good to see you.
MR. KWAME BROWNWell, it's good to see, and it's good to be back here on the show, as I have several times. And always a pleasure talking and having conversations with the listeners.
NNAMDIThank you very much for joining us. Vincent Orange, he's the other Democratic candidate for chairman of the D.C. Council. He's a former member of the D.C. Council who represented Ward 5. Vincent Orange, good to see you. Thank you very much for joining us.
MR. VINCENT ORANGEAnd thank you for having me. It's always a pleasure, and I look forward to the conversation with you, Tom and Mr. Brown.
NNAMDIWell, allow me to start the conversation. We'll try to ask you to limit your answers to no more than 60 seconds, 90 at the absolute most. Kwame Brown, if you become chairman of the City Council of the District of Columbia, will you extend mayoral control of the school system regardless of who wins the mayor's race?
BROWNWell, oh, yes. Well, our mayoral control system and the government structure that we currently have, I support. I support the control structure that's currently in place. As a native Washingtonian, a graduate of D.C. public schools, with two small children in D.C. public school, with a wife that used to be a teacher, now works for a charter school, I'm all in on educational reform. And we need to move as quickly as possible to ensure that our young folks get an opportunity to succeed. And I will be fully supportive of the educational reform process, making sure that it moves forward.
NNAMDIVincent Orange, will you, if you are elected chairman of the city council support mayoral continued mayoral control of the school system regardless of who is elected mayor?
ORANGEAbsolutely. As has been indicated before, I was out in front of educational reform long before Mayor Fenty. I was there with Mayor Williams back when I was on the council. It's extremely important. However, I will make some changes within the legislative branch. I will actually establish an education committee, so we can have more involvement in the process.
NNAMDIRight now, it's done by the committee of the whole, what's wrong with that?
ORANGEWell, I think the chairman's role takes up a lot of time, and he's not able to really give the education reform 24/7 priority. However, working with a committee, you can do that and plus you can delegate. For example, the impact study evaluation, I think it's critical that we work with those 737 teachers to make sure they get off the bubble, and they become effective. You can have a councilmember look at the fact that the test scores have gone down by five points for early childhood education.
NNAMDIBut what would you say to those people who say by making it a part of the committee of the whole, it underscores it as a priority, underscores the concern of every city councilmember about education, and that to put it in a specific committee kind of diminishes its importance?
ORANGENo. I would say it would make it much more efficient and much more effective. Now you will have five persons that will be looking and engaged in the education reform. We have to make sure that we don't lose ground. And it looks like we've lost a little ground when the scores have reduced. So we wanna make sure that we're working with the system. We're working with our teachers, 737 teachers, those teachers need help. We'll have council members engaged and working with them. And then as chairman of the council, I will be able to direct the road that we will take for education.
NNAMDICouncilmember Brown, will you keep it in the Committee of the Whole?
BROWNWell, I haven't made that decision yet. Clearly, right now, you have education and the Committee Whole, which I think was the right decision as we started to look at education reform and getting it passed by this particular council. I'm proud to be part of the council that actually got it done. We made sure there was a reality of education reform happen here in the District of Columbia. Inside the Committee of a Whole there's other agencies like the Office of Zoning and others that are there. So it's a lot in the Committee of the Whole. I look forward to having those discussions and making those decisions. Right now, I'm focused on September 14 and getting as many votes as possible to win.
NNAMDI800-433-8850 is the number. If you have questions either for Councilmember Kwame Brown or for Vincent Orange, 800-433-8850 is the number to call. Or you can send email to firstname.lastname@example.org. Or go to our website kojoshow.org. Here is Tom Sherwood.
SHERWOODMr. Orange, you've said that you wanna restructure the Council so that not every councilmember has a committee 'cause there's too many. But I wanna stay on the education committee for a moment because many people do think maybe it would be a good idea to have just an A committee. Because if you have all 13 people in charge of education, then no one really is focusing on it. But you just suggested that this committee could, like, weigh the impact of the teacher evaluations and things like that. It sounded to me like that's dangerously close to getting involved in the management of the schools, not the oversight. 'Cause, you know, I have actually written in my column that the worst thing we need is the 13 councilmembers acting like school board members getting involved in hiring a principal or firing a teacher or whatever. And if you -- with this council committee really look at the evaluation of the teachers?
SHERWOODOr did I -- misunderstand?
ORANGEYeah. I think you misunderstood me. No, we would not…
SHERWOODOr you misspoke.
ORANGENo, I think you...
SHERWOODYou -- did you misspeak or did I misunderstand?
NNAMDII never understand.
ORANGEWell, I think you misunderstood.
SHERWOODOkay. Clear it up for me.
ORANGEWhat I'm saying is that we have an executed contract. The teachers will receive 21 percent increase or $140 million over the next four or five years is now paid for performance. There are 737 teachers that are on the bubble. We just wanna make sure that the process is transparent. We would have oversight, make sure that they get the five evaluation sessions that they're due to help them understand what it will take for them to pass the grade, to move to the effective status. But not to come in and...
SHERWOODBut not to suggest how to do it….
ORANGENot at all. No not at all.
SHERWOOD...whether -- not how it's done but whether it was done.
ORANGENo, to actually work within the balance of the contract.
SHERWOODOkay. Now I know you guys are sick of hearing of being asked are you for Michelle Rhee, but let's ask it anyway. As the chairman of the education committee at this point -- if you were to be elected unless you change it --are you for Michelle Rhee staying or going? Each of you.
ORANGEWell I'm not in favor of her going. I'm in favor of education reform going forward. But I'm -- will work with whatever chancellor's in place. If Mayor Fenty is to become mayor, then the chancellor will remain. And I will work hard with her each and every day to make sure that children get a high school performance.
SHERWOODIs that a council confirmation? I think it's a job where --the mayor just picked her right?
SHERWOODThere's no confirmation. Would you want the council to confirm the next super chancellor?
ORANGEI want us to follow the rules and regulations that are in place. If there is a new chancellor then that would come, you know, come before the council. But at this point in time, there is no process for that.
SHERWOODWhat about you, Mr. Brown? Do you want -- Michelle Rhee has been a lightning rod in the mayor's race, less so in your campaign. But do you want her to go? Do you want her to stay? And do you think the council should approve whoever the next chancellor is if it's not her?
BROWNWell, clearly, I support, excuse me, the council approving whoever the next chancellor may be. If in fact Vincent Gray gets elected and he chooses to go in a different direction, then it would come back to the council like Michelle Rhee did to -- that we initially started with. As a parent of two small children that has personally invested in the system -- and could be one of the first chairman's of the council that actually has small children in D.C. public school -- everything that happens in D.C. public schools affects me personally and professionally.
BROWNAnd as I look at how we move forward as it relates to education reform, I will look forward to supporting Michelle Rhee if she -- if Mayor Fenty wins and she stays. I'll look forward to talking to the chairman Gray about do how we could continue to have some steadfast approach to education reform and not going backwards. So I look forward to support whoever is the chancellor and whoever is the mayor as long as they're open to continued education reform moving forward, we will not go back under Brown – a Kwame Brown chairman as it relates to educational reform.
NNAMDIMr. Orange, the last time you ran for office in this city you were opposed to same sex marriage. You said the people who are also running for the same position were morally unfit to run this city if they believed in same-sex marriage. Now you say your position has changed. Why would you believe that that change should be credible? What caused that change?
ORANGEWell because that change came about long before this election. When I was at Pepco and Rick Rosenthal came to me and told me that Pepco did not recognize domestic partnerships for benefits. And I got it changed immediately. And also, I am the Democratic national committee man.
NNAMDIWhat caused you to change your mind?
ORANGEWell, just getting to know more same -- gay couples and hanging out with them and one conversation in particular. We were looking at a show one day and they were saying, look at these kids. These kids need a home. And how come they can't be in the homes of gay couples that can give them a great quality of life...
NNAMDIBut the last time, you have based it on your interpretation of the Scripture. Has your interpretation of the Scripture changed?
ORANGEYeah. My interpretation of the Scripture is that I, Vincent Orange, am not the judge of mankind. And at this point in time, like I said, I'm the Democratic national committee man. I voted in favor of the same-sex legislation long before I got in the race. So it has nothing to do with me being in the race. I'm on board. You know, we all come a long way in life my position involved. I believe I'm in the right place today. And I'm happy to be in the right place today. And I'm happy to say it happened long before I decided to run for...
SHERWOODSo, your position now that it's not a moral issue for people to be for or against same sex marriages?
SHERWOODOr it's a more -- or is a private matter that should not be brought into the public realm.
ORANGEIt's my position today that, you know, it is morally fit for same sex couples to be married, to love each other, to raise a family. And that the citizens of the District of Columbia have spoken. The Court of Appeals has spoken and we're all happy. Now, let's move forward.
SHERWOODMr. -- will do at this -- Mr. Brown get a chance to comment on this?
NNAMDIIf he'd like to.
BROWNWhen, I would know, thank you. I've been a supporter of same-sex marriage. And Rick Rosenthal has supported and endorsed my campaign.
SHERWOODHe's a Gay Activist Alliance. (unintelligible)...
SHERWOOD...from Rosenthal for a long time.
BROWNFor a long time, he's been in the trenches ever since I was a kid. Gertrude Stein has endorsed my campaign because -- I've been the first to hold an economic development summit for the GLBT community and try to make sure that everyone as we move forward here in the District of Columbia, the question is how do we make sure that we have a fair, open and transparent process, but more importantly that we bring people together. Right now, this city is becoming divided on who is gonna be the best person in the best position and do the best job. So I look forward and I'm excited that it's passed. I'm excited that we have loving couples who are gonna make sure that they have the same rights as everyone else.
ORANGEAnd Kojo, if I could just say real quickly that?
NNAMDIVery quickly please.
ORANGEI'm the one that established them, LGBT Office of Affairs on a permanent basis so it could never be abolished. I'm the one that changed the Human Rights Act to make sure that transgenders would not be discriminated against -- I worked well with Councilmember Jim Graham and Councilmember David Catania on a number of these issues. So my record is clear. I'm a friend of the LGBT community, and no one could ever say that I've ever officially voted against any initiative that would hurt that community.
NNAMDIOn to Mytria (sp?) in Washington, D.C. Mytria, you're on the air. Go ahead, please.
MYTRIAYes, my question is actually for Vincent Orange. Mr. Orange, I was reading in The Washington Post that you were part of the selective (unintelligible) household.
NNAMDIYour phone is breaking up, Mytria.
NNAMDICould you repeat your question? And hope it doesn’t break up.
ORANGETurn in the phone.
MYTRIAMy question is for Mr. Orange. I read in the Post that he was instrumental in bringing smart electricity meters to District households. And I was just wondering while he was at Pepco, what special plans or initiatives did he put in place to ensure that the jobs for installing those meters went to District residents?
ORANGEThat's a great, great question. The three years that I was at Pepco, I was in charge in bringing Smart Grid technology to the District of Columbia. And that's initiative of President Obama that's nationwide $3 and a half billion. The cost in the District of Columbia's $89 million. I secured, nearly $46 million to reduce the cost for D.C. residents. And right now, there will be 288,000 Smart meters and Smart thermostats installed.
NNAMDIMytria's question though has to do...
ORANGEAnd the question...
NNAMDI...with the jobs.
ORANGEYeah and I've been there...
NNAMDIWhat did you do to make sure that the jobs for installing those would go to D.C. residents.?
ORANGERight. I just want to give the basis where everybody understands. Today, right now, they're on the seventh training class at Goodwill Industries. The classes are made up of a maximum of 15 and it's a 90-day course for folks to become installers, who -- it will create 100 jobs. And that's just for the Smart Grid Technology. Also, the Washington Interfaith Network is working with the Sustainable Energy Utility to create weatherization programs. And that will create more jobs starting at $13.25 per hour up to $25 per hour. So the green economy is alive in the District of Columbia and will create tremendous amount of jobs.
NNAMDICouncilmember Brown, you are chairman of the Economic Development Committee in the city council and that has a great deal to do with jobs. However, if you become chairman of the city council, period, you will be leading the council in all areas. Can you talk about one or two examples where the council has followed your leadership on any issues starting with the issue of jobs?
BROWNWell, first, I'd like to -- the caller who called in and talked about the weatherization jobs. That legislation came to the council and Councilmember Mary Che and others worked very hard. And I made sure my amendment required the opportunity to be trained, as well as actually jobs go to D.C. residents. When you talk about the Washington Interfaith Network, I worked with them, on an amendment to actually put it in the bill, to make it law that training does take place and that they do go to D.C. residents. When you look at vocational education, which we had seven vocational schools that have been closed here in the District of Columbia and while -- when I joined the council's baseball was the main focus -- and actually was able to get their focus back to ensuring that we reopen Phelps Architect Engineering and Construction High School, which is open today.
BROWNBut not only opening for our young folks which will have the first graduating class next year but to keep it open nights, weekends and summer for our adult population, the same with hospitality...
NNAMDIAnd those were your initiatives, not amendments to someone else's?
BROWNNo, those were my initiatives to get vocational education back and going. And not only Phelps Architect Engineering Construction (laugh) High School. But also (laugh) Hospitality High. Keep it open nights, weekends and summer, as well as Cardoza Construction. Keep it open nights, weekends and summer and expand into this last budget cycle, to give money, to ensure that 300 JDC (sp?) resident adults are being trained, come the beginning of next year.
ORANGENow, Mr. Kojo, that's not exactly true. The Phelps vocational school was my initiative. Initially, I had McKinley Technology School that was reopened. Remember, there was no schools that were being renovated.
NNAMDIAnd McKinley is in Ward 5.
NNAMDIMcKinley is in Ward 5, $85 million renovation project.
SHERWOODWhat did you do for Phelps?
SHERWOODAnd for Phelps, I actually worked with Tommy Wells. We had a major plan. It was -- we were -- gonna treat that area like the area down in Atlanta, East Lake. I actually toured Phelps -- was there with Peter Green. I mean, Mr. Green and others toured the facility, had economic development summits talking about the vocational training school, reopening it. Actually, Pepco -- actually was running a program through Spingarn and -- would also would be in Association with Phelps. And then Kwame Brown came on to the council and Chairman Crop carved out a piece for him, local small businesses, which I was overseeing and then he came in on Phelps. Phelps is in Ward 5.
NNAMDIRemember, you can join this conversation by calling 800-433-8850 or by going to our website, kojoshow.org. Asking a question or making a comment there. Tom Sherwood.
SHERWOODWhoever is chairman of the council will be the leader of the council that deals with the budget. The budget issues are horrible, as you both know. The question I ask -- I'm gonna ask Mr. Brown this. Mr. Brown, on the finances, can you name the three Wall Street bond rating agencies that control the city's debt ratings?
BROWNYes. Moody, Fitch and Standards & Poor.
SHERWOODVery good. You know Mayor Fenty couldn't -- he couldn't do that four years ago (unintelligible)
NNAMDIIt's the old got-you question, yes. (laugh)
SHERWOODIt's the old and (unintelligible)
BROWNBut the interesting thing is that I've worked for Citibank and First Union on the investment side.
SHERWOODSo it's good that you know the answer to that. Mr, Orange, what does the rating -- bond ratings mean?
ORANGEWell, the bond means, really what it means is it determines how much interest you're gonna have to pay. Like right now, well, when I first got into council...
SHERWOODThat's the answer.
ORANGEThat's the answer.
SHERWOODYou don't have to give me a 90-second because that's the answer.
NNAMDIHe is a CPA. That was a softball question for him.
SHERWOODI know. But the issue is the city -- the federal government just this -- I think, this past week, it cut back the Medicaid funds coming to the city. It's, like, $38 million less than what the city budgeted for in the coming year. The CFO's office is indicating there's another 50 million dollar revenue shortfall. By the time you guys get into office, whichever one of you it is, you're gonna have to start cutting the budget, and I presume you don't wanna raise taxes. How will you do it, Mr. Brown?
BROWNWell, first of all, we're gonna have to address that before Oct. 1. As I think the CFO has indicated, I've actually reached out to the CFO and Chairman Gray to begin the discussions on how we deal with this. Once we can get back in session after Sept. 14, and I think you're absolutely right, is that we all knew that this one was gonna come where we're gonna have to make some major decisions and making sure that we -- two things happen, if in fact we don't get the additional dollars from the federal government, then we're gonna have to look at how do we cut services or cut spending in certain areas. And I think, this is appropriate and responsible thing to do is to, you know, continue to have this conversation with the CFO and the Chairman and other members before articulating with that vision could be.
NNAMDIOn to the telephone. Here's Cathy in Washington, D.C. Cathy, you're on the air. Go ahead, please.
CATHYWell, thank you. My question is for Councilmember Brown. I'd like to know what compelling reason can you give voters to select you as chairman, when it's been reported that you have $700,000 in personal debt, that you've been sued by three credit card companies for $55,000 in unpaid fees, you've been sued for failure to pay $25,000 in home renovations, that you owed the IRS, that you're campaigns for 2004 and 2008 are $90,000 in debt and you have four unpaid speeding tickets? The chairman of the council is supposed to lead the city in dealing with, approximately $5.2 billion budget. And I just wanna hear your perspective on what compelling reason can you give voters to select you, given that background of personal mounting debt?
BROWNWell, no, thank you. Let me thank you for your question, because what you received was something that was said out from my opponent. Let me say, the first thing, as it relates to my credit card situation. There's been numerous stories. I've had an opportunity to address it. And that is something that I'm not proud of. I take full responsibility and we've made arrangements to make sure that those thing -- those credit cards are taken care of. As it relates to the personal $700,00 in personal debts, which includes my house -- I think it's very important to say that it includes my house -- and as you know, houses are over a 30-year period.
BROWNSecondly, as you said, being sued for failure to pay $25,000 in home renovations, which was thrown out of court, and which I won that case, which was a case that was brought against me that just was not correct. As it relates to the IRS, that it has to do with the $15,000, which is not true. The IRS has been paid. And we are now in the process of applying for the application for reimbursements. And when it says, the 2004 and 2008 campaigns are in debt. The Office of Campaign Finance which sent me a letter and which we responded to within four hours, and now, they have the information as required down at the Office of Campaign right now, that's just not true and it does not exist. As it relates to four unpaid speeding tickets, which is interesting in the sense that -- which is not true either, it was one speeding ticket and three traffic tickets 17 years ago when I was probably, I think either a junior or sophomore in college, which has been paid for.
SHERWOODCan I be, before (unintelligible) Orange, can I just say -- because I did this first story on Mr. Brown's debt. And I just -- someone characterized it to me this way, they said just as you, Mr. Brown, said on education, you have family and you have children in the schools, and so you're personally and professionally affected by education decisions. This person said to me, well, doesn't Mr. Brown realize that his personal finances are in such disarray, credit card suits and all of that? Won't that inevitably affect how you are as a chairman and what you do?
BROWNAnd -- no, it did not, and it's old news. We have addressed this information a number of times. We've had an opportunity to take that message to those -- whether it's the Board of Trade, the Chamber of Commerce, who look to that information. And matter of fact, Mr. Sherwood, you know you've had a lot of this information for a while, that we've discussed it at candidates' forums. We've discussed them on meet and greets. We've discussed it when we're at the subways. And overwhelmingly, not only my colleagues have looked to this information and double checked this information and they still have endorsed me, as well as the 38 other organizations that stepped up to the plate.
BROWNThe Northwest current took a second look at it and I went in and reviewed all of these and laid out the information, and then they still endorsed my campaign. Now, you know, they say it was sloppy accounting work on my campaign filing, you know, you take responsibility for that. The credit cards, I take responsibility for that. But in terms of what I've done professionally, I've always had the utmost character and I've been never accused of anything as it relates to (unintelligible)
NNAMDIWhich brings to this question for you...
BROWNWhat residents wanna know is how we gonna move the city forward, and when you don't have the planning to articulate it...
SHERWOODCan we have Mr. Orange?
NNAMDIThis brings me to this question for you, Vincent Orange. Mr. Brown's personal financial problems have been widely publicized. You have been endorsed by no less than The Washington Post. What is your explanation for -- why you trail him so badly in the polls?
ORANGEWell, first of all, Kojo, this has not been widely dispersed. The mayoral race...
NNAMDIYou mean nobody watches Sherwood?
ORANGENo. The mayoral race has over shined all of this. There's only been one article on this. But let me get back to what Mr. Brown has indicated that...
NNAMDIBut why would you say you -- I will give you a chance to do that. But given the fact that it's been publicized, given the fact that The Washington Post endorsed you, which is supposed to mean something in this town, what's your explanation for why you're trailing (unintelligible) ?
ORANGEWell, I would say, Kojo, let's look at the timeline. The Washington Post endorsed me on August 9, okay? And this information on Mr. Brown as it relates to campaign finance only came out on August 30, so you can't correlate the two. This is a evolving story on the $73,000 that's missing from his campaign that has not been accounted for. This is a evolving story about the IRS debt. He only filed these documents on August 13. This was not in public view. So let's look at the timeline and let's make sure that we're (unintelligible)
SHERWOODWhat do you think it says, I guess? What I want to know is why does his personal financial problems, and there are many people with financial problems with their houses being worth less than they are, all those things. But why is this significant to you as to why it affects how he would be as chairman?
ORANGEWell, I think it's...
SHERWOODNot getting admired and all the details.
NNAMDII think he acknowledged he's had this various debt.
ORANGEI understand. First of all, it's something that's of concern to all the residents of D.C., and it's not just personal finances. Personal finance and now campaign finance. Is this the person you want to send to Wall Street to represent us? Hey, this guy. Look at -- what's his credit score? He didn't take responsibility. The courts took responsibility. He had three judgments entered against him. Do you know what it takes in order to get three judgments?
BROWNThat is not true.
ORANGESo he just walked away from these things until they got his attention. And like The Washington Post indicated, I didn't write this. The Washington Post says you should've cleaned this up before you even thought about running. These campaign finance debts had been on the books since 2004. I did not file the report on August 13. Mr. Brown did. And on August 13, he filed a report that said he paid $8,093 in IRS debt. He didn't pay the $13,000 that he told The Washington Post. Look at his records. I didn't create his records. I examined the records. And then the 2004 campaign debt, $56,791. Go to the Office of Campaigns website. Vincent Orange didn't create that number. That's his number. The 2008 campaign debt. That's Kwame Brown's number.
SHERWOODWhat does it mean?
ORANGEIt means that Kwame Brown is not responsible, that he lacks judgment, that he should have cleaned this up before he came forward. It also indicates that Kwame Brown tried to hide this information. When you talk to the Board of Trade, they didn't know about this. When you talk to those council members when he got those endorsements, they did not know that Kwame Brown had been sued three times.
NNAMDIDo you think they should have withdrawn their endorsements when this information came out? And if they should have, why have they not?
ORANGEWell, I -- what I think is that any elected official should provide relevant information for someone to make an informed decision. And that's why...
NNAMDII will allow Mr. Brown to respond and then we do have to move on.
ORANGE...it's important to the citizens of District of Columbia.
BROWNThank you. The residents I talked to have looked at this record, have examined this record and said that I'm best lead, that Northwest Current said I'm the best person to do the job. After the situation that's related to credit cards, in which I take full responsibility, the Northwest Current endorsed me, the Sierra Club endorsed me, the Federal Order Police endorsed me, the hotel associations endorsed me, the Mid-Atlantic Cooperatives endorsed me, the U.S. Postal Workers Union endorsed me, Councilmember Phil Mendelson endorsed me and Councilmember Muriel Bowser has endorsed me, not only have Mary Cheh been here from the beginning but what, what people want to know is how do we move forward? How are we gonna ensure that our children are getting quality education? How are we gonna ensure that when we get off the Metro that we're gonna be able to make it home safely? How do we get our residents back to work? How do we ensure that domestic violence is dealt with, and our women that are being abused that is unacceptable and we start to move in the direction to do something about it? But more importantly, how do we have the best leader to do the best job, to bring our city together to move forward? And 38 organizations and 12 colleagues of mine have said that Kwame Brown is the best to do that. And I look forward to...
NNAMDIHere is Lewis in Alexandria, Va. Lewis, you're in the air. Go ahead please.
LEWISThank you, Kojo. I was a District resident for many years. Now, I live in Alexandria. And I wanted to ask either councilmember how they feel about the parking meter increases, which have skyrocketed? The parking meters involved...
NNAMDILewis, if one of these council members promises to lower parking meter fees, would you move back to the District?
LEWISI certainly would consider it. The other problem is...
NNAMDIBecause that's the only basis on which I'm going to allow your question because you moved out of the city, but you want a word on the city election.
LEWISIt has become a factor for people, for example, in Alexandria, Darlington, Maryland suburbs who would like to come in for an evening because the meters now extend to 10 p.m., which makes it very difficult to park in the street for evening events. The other question I have...
NNAMDINot to mention the ones outside this station, which has seven and a half minutes for a quarter. But go ahead, please.
NNAMDINot that I'm complaining.
LEWISThe other question I had is on the speed cameras, which are apparently slated for big increase in the number of speed cameras. And a lot of people both in and outside the District have questioned the -- whether that will really impact safety and whether it's done primarily for financial reasons. And I'll pull it up here.
NNAMDIOkay. First here, Mr. Orange. Thank you for your question, Lewis. Mr. Orange.
LEWISFirst of all, what I would say to Mr. Lewis, if he called up his elected officials and get them to agree to stand away and stop blocking the commuter's tax, then I can feel a little sympathy for him. The fact of the matter is that we don't have a commuter's tax. We have a structural imbalance. We lose $2 billion on an annual basis. The federal government is exempt from tax. All the nonprofits are exempt from tax. And so we have a shrinking tax base.
SHERWOODSo are parking tickets our revenue raiser as opposed to a safety issue?
ORANGEIt should be a safety issue. However, for this administration, it has been a revenue...
SHERWOODIt's commuter tax.
ORANGEIt's a commuter tax. I mean, basically, that's what it is. But I think at the end of the day, we don't want to hurt the citizens of the District of Columbia. I mean, a lot of times, I go to meetings and I'm worried about the meter outside, you know, because these tickets pile up. A lot of our folks that are, you know, unemployed, 30 percent unemployment in Ward 8, 20 percent unemployment in Ward 7. We can't afford these tickets. And at one point, you know, they were imposing a $500 ticket if officer could not see taxation without representation on your license plate. They just recently backed away from that policy.
NNAMDIMr. Brown, what's your position on this issue? Are you prepared to wipe out all parking fees in the District of Columbia?
BROWNWell, first of all, I appreciate the caller's call, and I want him to join our fight for full representation and statehood in the District of Columbia so we can have a voice as it relates to our budget in getting more federal resources sent here to the District of Columbia. As it relates to the parking tickets, they're -- that's not what safety is all about. It's the speeding ticket that is what people say are safety. And as my wife always says that if you don't speed, you don't get a ticket. And so as it relates to the parking tickets, clearly when we're downtown, small businesses and restaurants in place, in order to see a play and get something to eat, and then still get a $25 ticket is something that we will address under Kwame Brown as chairman because what's interesting about this is that restaurants are telling us that people are skipping desert, or they're not buying a whole bottle of wine because they want to actually have to get out and pay a ticket. We need to look at how we -- either the hours that we extended to 10 p.m. and bring it back. But it will be a way, and we're gonna have to shift dollars to actually plug that gap in. But it's a serious problem. It's something that we're gonna have to address.
SHERWOODSpeed cameras. Can I just quickly say this parking? Because I was on U Street the other day going to buy -- I spent a lot of money in a furniture store. And the fact is, I could not figure out the parking meter. I had to put a credit card in. I could not figure out. People who recognize me from TV were laughing at me and then agreeing with me that parking meters are ridiculous and complex for people. I thought if it were snowing or if it were raining, it would -- I would have been very upset.
NNAMDII find it very simple myself, don't you? (laugh)
BROWNI just wanna know. Did you go by Ben's Chili Bowl in this lane?
SHERWOODYou know, I'm dieting.
BROWNThey have chili dogs. (laugh)
NNAMDIHere's this email we got from Doris in Washington. "Can either of the candidates name two things they would have done differently than the current chairman, Vincent Gray, during his time as chairman? What would they say are the mistakes that he made?" First you, Vincent Orange.
ORANGEWell, one of the things -- I think I would have took a little bit more control of the budget. The fact of the matter is that this administration went up to Wall Street and told Wall Street that it would not go below $920 million in our savings account, and then came back and passed the budget that took us down to $600 million. And now we're looking at a deficit of 3 to $400 million that can wipe out our entire savings account. I think, you know, I would have made sure that we spend within our means, and I would have been more of a safe guarder of the reserve.
ORANGEAnd the second item is I certainly will have forced the issue of building a relationship with the executive branch. I would not have let that gone. I heard that Chairman Gray has not met with Mayor Fenty in about nine months, then he started meeting with Peter Nickles. I think I would have alerted the public. I would have put pressure because there's no way that you can really govern without the legislative, the executive and the independent financial officer working together.
NNAMDIKwame Brown, one or two things you would have done differently than Council Chairman Gray?
BROWNWell, let me say that Councilman and Chairman Gray has done a phenomenal job as chair of the Council, really working with all his colleagues to bring things together, making some tough decisions. One of the things I would have done a little bit different was probably really moved it from the budget standpoint to put the two funds that we put in place, where surplus comes in, that a certain percentage would go to pay that -- pay down our debt, and a certain percentage would go to replenish our reserves. I probably would have implemented that a little bit earlier and actually start the budget process a little bit earlier, too, as it relates to it, ensuring that we stay on top of the overspending that's taking place within a couple of agencies.
SHERWOODCan I very quickly ask about the United Medical Center, the only hospital significantly on the far side of the river? The chief financial officer, and I think Councilmember Jack Evans, who's the chairman of the Financial Revenue Committee, has said it was a mistake for this city to take over the finances of the United Medical Center, even though there were some good intentions, and that the city is risking its bond ratings, and that if the city doesn't sell that within six months, we are going to pay a horrific price on Wall Street, plus we are not serving the people who need quality health care. What can you say the Council would do to avoid a D.C. General-like operation? Mr. Orange.
ORANGEWell, that's a -- one thing is we have to exercise...
SHERWOODSell the hospital?
ORANGE...exercise leadership. Sell the hospital, but we have to package it in the proper manner. In order for that hospital to be attractive to someone who wants to purchase it, we have to probably provide also the land next to it so they can develop it and create a package that can be financially viable.
BROWNWell, I mean, first of all, I mean I don't know if he answered...
SHERWOODBut I said Mr. Orange instead of Mr. Brown.
BROWNYeah. I don't know if he answered...
BROWNI don't know if he answered the question, but it's a good question. One, the hospital does not have audited financials right now.
BROWNAnd as you noted, it's gonna be part of the cavers that comes out. So clearly we will have two...
SHERWOODA caver is the audit.
BROWNIt's the audit in 2010. And then Dr. Gandhi, who I have spoken to in several occasions, is now working with getting the audited financials of 2009. So, one, you can sell the hospital. Two, the land around the hospital itself, the land was actually already given to a developer, and the only way to get it back was to actually for the city to buy it and then we must sell it. Jack Evans is right. What he's saying is that, you know, we cannot hold on to the hospital. We must sell the hospital, and in order to sell the hospital, you have to have audited financials. And that's what we're doing now. And Dr. Gandhi says it's gonna be about five months before we have that completed, and then we can go out and sell this hospital. But let me just say one thing that I think is important, and that is that for the first time, east of the Anacostia River, you do have MRI that -- people could go and get an MRI. You do have a hospital up and running. And if in fact we had done nothing, that hospital would be gone today.
ORANGEYeah, but if I can just weigh in, we've put $100 million into United Medical Center. It has not worked. We've lost a tremendous amount of money. They hit the reserve again. This government created a non-profit where they bought the hospital. And so here we go down that slippery slope again. That's the reason why Dr. Gandhi is alarmed today. That's the reason why Wall Street is looking at it as like, what's going on down here? There's two things that we have told Wall Street that have shaken their credibility. We told them we would not spend below $920 million in our reserve. We came back and we got us down...
NNAMDILet me anticipate Mr. Brown's question. What would you have done?
ORANGEI would not have took ownership of United Medical Center.
NNAMDIYou would have let it fail?
ORANGEI would have redid a temporary deal with the folks at Specialty, who was at the table. This really came down to politics. It came to some bruised feelings with the -- inside the government. So you really have to have been there at that seat there.
BROWNWe want to make it work. It would have failed, Mr. Orange. And let me just say this, Wall Street...
ORANGENo, it would not have failed. It would fail -- from your point of view, it would have failed.
ORANGEBut from a different point of view, I don’t think it would fail.
BROWNRight. For someone who wasn't there, then clearly you have your opinion. Let me just say that what's important -- and I've talked to Dr. Gandhi about this. We had a conversation, he said look, the way the council is set up, its two funds is really giving Wall Street some -- giving some confidence. It's not all the confidence that is needed, but to finally say, we are gonna replenish our reserves. We are gonna pay down on your debt. We are dealing with tough financial times like America is dealing with tough economic times. He's chair of the metropolitan council of governments. And Maryland and Virginia is -- are facing the same thing. And as it comes to Councilmember Evans who has articulated that we need to sell this hospital, we are. And I think that we're doing all the necessary steps to make sure that we actually get the best return of investments.
NNAMDIWe got to go to Solomon in Washington, D.C. Solomon, you're on the air. Go ahead, please.
SOLOMONYes. Hi, Kojo. Thank you very much. You know, I'm just -- I got a question for both men that's about cab drivers. I'm a cab driver in Washington, D.C. And, you know, cab drivers are -- we are suffering, nobody hear about our problem. And we're making less money than any Virginia cabs or Maryland cabs. And these -- both guys, if one of them win, what they gonna do about it? Thank you.
NNAMDIWe have heard that complaint consistently on this broadcast from cab drivers, that under the metered system, they are no longer making the kind of money that will allow a cab driver in the District of Columbia to support and raise a family. Mr. Orange, what would you do about that?
ORANGEWell, one thing is I'm gonna bring the cab drivers in and try to work out a solution. And one thing that I don't agree with is this $19 cap on fares. And I think that that is the problem. I've gone over and I've talked with Jerry Schaeffer and his group. I've talked with the yellow cab folks. And the major problem is there is a cap on the fee. And I do not think that's right. So I think there's -- there was a compromise or the meters were imposed. That's a good thing. So everyone knows when you get in the cab, the meter is running. But I do not think there should be a cap on the fare of $19.
SHERWOODSo the people who live in farthest or across town would pay -- would there be an open-ended fee? I mean, it would just be whatever the cab driver runs up and taking you where you're going?
NNAMDIFor a person living in southeast traveling to northwest, no cap on the fare?
ORANGENo. If you look at the meter and the meter is the same meters that they use in...
ORANGE...other jurisdictions, why only in the District of Columbia you gonna cap the fare at $19, and you're hurting the person that's there trying to provide the service? I will open that discussion up and not take away the meter. I think the meter is great.
SHERWOODNo, I'm not talking about taking the meter...
ORANGEYeah. But examine the cap...
SHERWOOD...I'm talking about the lower income person trying to take a cab ride home after working 12 hours and then having to pay much more than $19 to get home.
ORANGEAnd that's -- that would be...
SHERWOODSo you're saying no cap?
ORANGEThat would be taken under consideration. I say we should reevaluate the cap.
ORANGEA 19 -- I mean, I can't even get a haircut for $19. I mean, $19 is a low fare.
NNAMDII don't know where you cut your hair, Mr. Orange. (laugh) Well, Kwame Brown?
SHERWOODMr. Brown, what about a cab?
BROWNIt was no -- Let me just thank you. And let me thank the cab driver that called in. I have a special love for cab drivers. My father didn't have a car until I was in 11th grade and he used to have a cab that use to come and get my brother and I when we lived with my mom. And it was just something special about making sure that they have opportunity to have a decent living.
BROWNAs it relates to the cap, the cap may not be something -- we need to reevaluate the cap. So I agree with Mr. Orange, and we need to take a look and reevaluate the cap, but not on people that live in Ward 8. What the cab driver is saying, why when I go to the airport that is $19, but other people get to charge more than that? If you look at Chicago, you look at New York, and you look at cab drivers taking people to and back and forth from the airport and what they charge and what we charge, it is unacceptable. It's something that we need to deal with.
NNAMDILike to give each of you one minute for a closing statement. And we're running out of time. Very rapidly. First you, Vincent Orange.
ORANGEWell, first of all, thank you very much for giving me opportunity to be here. This is a very critical race. We need someone that can provide us leadership, maturity and accountability. I was there in the council when we had $518 million deficit. I helped dig us out of the hole and presented a $1.6 billion surplus. Mr. Kwame Brown has problems with his personal finances, his campaign finances and even his explanation about replenishing the surplus. It's not accurate. It hasn't been implemented. That something that they're gonna try. That's pie in the sky. They pun it this year. They pun it with that budget and that's the reason why Jack Evans, for the first time in 19 years, has voted against the budget.
ORANGETwo critical issues, finances and education. Vincent Orange is gonna provide leadership on finances. When I go to Wall Street, they gonna see a gentlemen that's an attorney, certified public accountant with a master laws in taxation from Georgetown and a clean bill of health on his credit, campaign finance and personal finances.
NNAMDIKwame Brown, your turn.
BROWNWell, thank you. I wanna thank all of the listeners. And let me thank those that have stepped to the table or they're working on my campaign. I wanna thank those that were waving this morning on Wisconsin Avenue at my campaign. I wanna thank all of my colleagues who stood there and looked at the record, examined the record and endorsed my campaign. And I wanna thank the firefighters, the police officers, the board of trade. I wanna thank SCIU and Leona that everyone has looked at the record at Northwest Current, the Georgetown Current, the Foggy Bottom Current, the Dupont Current, they looked at the record…
SHERWOODThey're all the same papers, excuse me. (laugh)
BROWN...that said, hey, that basically looked and said, how do we move forward and who's best able to work, not only with your colleagues, but with other organizations to make this city better? That's what this campaign is about, making sure that we -- our kids will get a quality education, that people feel have a quality life no matter where they live. We tackle and grow small businesses and entrepreneurs here in the District of Columbia. And we make sure that you're safe where you are. So with that, I wanna thank all of the people that had stepped up to the table and continue to support my candidacy.
NNAMDIKwame Brown is a Democratic candidate for chairman of the D.C. Council. He's currently an At-Large member of the council. He's the chairman of the Economic Development committee. Vincent Orange is also a candidate for chairman of the D.C. City Council. He's a former member of the council who represented Ward 5. Gentlemen, thank you both for joining us. And good luck to you both.
BROWNThank you very much, Kojo.
Most Recent Shows
In author Jabari Asim's fictionalized St. Louis -- the 'Gateway City' first introduced in his short story collection 'A Taste of Honey' –- characters come to grips with the fallout of the civil rights era in surprising ways. We talk with Asim about the fictional world he created and examine the realities of how we deal with race in America today.
We explore the lessons from cities that have boosted their minimum wage as D.C. activists try to get a minimum wage hike on the ballot next year.
Kojo sits down with Baltimore City Health Commissioner Dr. Leana Wen to talk about her first months on the job, how she's prioritizing public health needs, and how her personal story instructs her vision for health policy and progress in Baltimore.