The Politics Hour

The Politics Hour
Transcript for: 
The Politics Hour

MR. KOJO NNAMDI

12:06:41
From WAMU 88.5 at American University in Washington, welcome to The Politics Hour featuring Tom Sherwood. I'm Kojo Nnamdi. I don't watch reality TV, Tom Sherwood. Tom Sherwood is our resident analyst. He's a reporter at NBC 4 and a columnist for the Current Newspapers. I don't watch reality TV, Tom, so I did not make an exception for this show.

MR. KOJO NNAMDI

12:07:33
That, you may or may not know, is the theme music for the reality show "Mayor for Life," about former D.C. Mayor Marion Barry. But by not watching it, I may have missed one of its major stars in the reality show "Mayor for Life."

MR. MIKE DEBONIS

12:07:47
No.

MARION BERRY

12:07:49
I know used any of those words, never ever.

DEBONIS

12:07:51
Well, I'm going to go back and look up at the council hearings, so you better be sure about this.

DEBONIS

12:07:54
Bennett report is out. Make some very, very tough accusations against Marion Barry, says that he created these groups and sent taxpayer money to his friends. And it says that there's possible criminal wrongdoing.

NNAMDI

12:08:12
So let's start again. Welcome to The Politics Hour featuring Tom Sherwood with a guest appearance by television star Mike DeBonis, who in his spare time is a reporter for The Washington Post. Mike DeBonis.

DEBONIS

12:08:22
Thank you, Kojo. I appreciate that.

NNAMDI

12:08:24
Were you actually paid for this gig? Was this a big television appearance?

DEBONIS

12:08:26
No, I was far from it. I would pay it to have my name taken off as a "cast member." I gave the filmmaker -- Kirk Fraser's a very nice guy, very convincing guy, and I -- you know, I sat for an interview about that whole Marion Barry saga earlier this year. And now the finished product is out. Reality show is sort of an interesting word to use since most of the scenes appear to have been sort of staged. But it's a very impressive product. It's very -- it's well produced, and we'll see if they can actually get it on television.

MR. TOM SHERWOOD

12:09:04
Well, see, I have purposely -- every...

NNAMDI

12:09:06
I was wondering, how come you are not in it?

SHERWOOD

12:09:08
Well, you know, for all those people who know that my career is based on, I have to thank Marion Barry for all the wrongdoing. It's made my career.

NNAMDI

12:09:15
Yes.

SHERWOOD

12:09:16
I have, as he does often -- he says, Sherwood, I made you. And I say, yes, you did, and I appreciate it. Now, the fact is I have avoided -- I have not been involved with this reality. I have not seen it. I have not done anything to be in it, and I'm -- I want to know if -- Mr. DeBonis, did you sign a release form to allow them to use the -- your name and your...

NNAMDI

12:09:37
Of course, that's standard procedure.

DEBONIS

12:09:39
I don't...

SHERWOOD

12:09:39
Well, you know, he looks like he doesn't...

NNAMDI

12:09:40
He probably doesn't remember signing (unintelligible)

DEBONIS

12:09:41
I don't, because I...

SHERWOOD

12:09:41
He doesn't know what that means.

DEBONIS

12:09:42
I may have. I don't -- I mean, for the interview.

SHERWOOD

12:09:45
(unintelligible) I can become his agent and make a few dollars here for him then.

NNAMDI

12:09:49
He probably doesn't remember signing one of these forms.

SHERWOOD

12:09:50
Well, you know, it's -- I think it's good. You know, I think whatever people want to do, Barry is a larger than life character in this city, for good or bad, in many respects. And it's interesting what Barry will do, and he had to get permission for this, right? So he's...

DEBONIS

12:10:05
Something like that. There's...

SHERWOOD

12:10:06
He's -- you know, he's never going to write his book. I mean, he talks about writing his book. He's -- that's never going to happen.

NNAMDI

12:10:11
Well, let's move on to what else happened during the course of this week. Mayor-elect Vincent Gray made announcements about some of the members of his team. City administrator is going to be Allen Lew, who is well-known for getting D.C. construction projects done on time. And Mayor-elect Vincent Gray says, well, he's now going to be the one making the trains run on time.

SHERWOOD

12:10:36
And the problem is there are a lot of trains. You know, Allen Lew is a terrific -- I mean, I'm hearing just, like, really positive things for him. But he's done -- over the last decade, you know, he helped -- he built the convention center, which got a lot of praise for (word?). He built the baseball stadium. And over the last three years, he has remodeled, torn down and rebuilt or constructed new school facilities, much to the delight of people across the city that the schools are working.

NNAMDI

12:11:06
He's not a big talker...

SHERWOOD

12:11:06
Of course, all that, but he's not -- but he -- I mean, he is decisive. He doesn't like -- as he said, I don't like bureaucracies. I like slim operations. I want to hold contractors to their word. I mean, it's going to be interesting to see if his hard-charging personality will go along with the kind of Mr. Nice guy Vince Gray, who wants to get together and talk about things.

DEBONIS

12:11:27
So, yeah, I mean, the challenge of being city administrator running government is different from the challenges, and admittedly large challenges, that he's tackled before. Building a stadium...

SHERWOOD

12:11:38
Capitol projects.

DEBONIS

12:11:39
...or building a convention center. You have a one very large goal in mind. And you -- everything you do is working towards that goal. Running the city, you're thrown a bunch of new different challenges every day, and you got to adapt and figure out how to take care of this stuff that comes up every day while still achieving your long-term goals for the administration, achieving the mayor's vision.

SHERWOOD

12:12:00
I told you of Vince Gray when he was on the verge of announcing -- I said, you know, I've already started calling him the male Michelle Rhee.

DEBONIS

12:12:06
Right.

SHERWOOD

12:12:06
I mean, Michelle Rhee was tough, and she was -- she made decisions, and she didn't care too much about the collateral damage to the left, to the right of her. And Allen Lew says -- you know, jokingly, he said at the press conference that he would depend on his charm to get things done.

DEBONIS

12:12:20
Well, I think the -- one -- another instructive analogy you might pick, you know, Tom, you have reached for Michelle Rhee. I will reach for Rahm Emanuel, who is also famously prickly and, you know, known to use a few words that we couldn't use on this program.

SHERWOOD

12:12:36
Yeah.

NNAMDI

12:12:36
I was reaching for Bobby Bob. But any of the other personnel, Robert Bob (unintelligible)

SHERWOOD

12:12:40
Robert, yeah.

SHERWOOD

12:12:41
Well, the main thing is that Allen Lew doesn't want to run for mayor, and everyone is afraid that if Robert Bob came in, which (word?) and said he would immediately begin preparing to run for mayor.

NNAMDI

12:12:50
Any of the other personal moves made by Mayor-elect Vincent Gray that you think are noteworthy, Mike DeBonis?

DEBONIS

12:12:55
Well, the one that got the most press and most attention was Gabe Klein being informed that his services would no longer be needed. And that was -- you know, he had really generated his own...

NNAMDI

12:13:08
As head of the Department of Transportation.

DEBONIS

12:13:09
As head of the Department of Transportation. He had generated his own constituency in a way among a certain set of supporters of what, you know, is referred to as smart growth. And he had a lot of fans, and that is a very difficult position to be in when you're coming in as mayor, and you have to -- you're going to have a guy in your administration who has fans, who has an independent sort of base. And I think that, you know, is one of the things that might have been on his mind when he decided to let him go.

SHERWOOD

12:13:36
Well, he also had clashed with Gray over the streetcars...

DEBONIS

12:13:39
Streetcars, yes.

SHERWOOD

12:13:39
...issue during the summer when Gray -- last spring, I guess it was, when Gray...

DEBONIS

12:13:42
And...

SHERWOOD

12:13:43
...took -- I can't remember what month it was when Gray took the $50 million out of the budget.

NNAMDI

12:13:47
It was May.

DEBONIS

12:13:48
It was in May, yeah.

SHERWOOD

12:13:49
Was that? A lot of things have happened.

DEBONIS

12:13:50
And the...

SHERWOOD

12:13:51
He's a little too new-agey for the Gray people.

DEBONIS

12:13:53
So, you know, one council member described it to me, yesterday, as the difference between an entrepreneurial point of view and a competence point of view. So, you know, Mayor Fenty brought this visionary people in who had these big ideas. They may not have had an extreme amount of experience in their respective subject areas. Vince Gray really values that sort of subject matter experience and somebody who's done it before, so I think you're going to see older people. You're going to see people with pretty good resumes. You're going to see people who sort of do things by the book.

SHERWOOD

12:14:28
But the Department of Transportation under Gabe did a lot of things, which would...

DEBONIS

12:14:33
Absolutely.

SHERWOOD

12:14:33
...completely support his competence, but, again, he was a little bit too new-agey for Gray.

NNAMDI

12:14:39
Some people would be saying, okay, it's one thing to be discussing personnel matters, but the most crucial issue facing the city of the District of Columbia right now is our $188 million budget gap. The city council has approved a midyear course correction on its budget to try to bridge that gap. A few council members tried to include tax increases, but those efforts have failed. There was one very innovative -- some may have another word for it -- proposal by at-large council member Michael Brown that the city legalize and promote online poker and fantasy sports gambling as a way to slash the budget deficit. Tom Sherwood?

SHERWOOD

12:15:16
Well, you know, I believe that we could do very well with a casino in the city, but the Congress is never going to allow it. Taxing Internet gambling operations is a huge deal. It's just not going to happen. The city is not going to be a gambling place as long as Congress controls the city.

DEBONIS

12:15:35
And I think there's -- I mean, there's the simple matter of federal law not allowing -- you know, being unclear whether it would allow what they want to do anyway.

SHERWOOD

12:15:42
We can always change the law.

DEBONIS

12:15:43
You know, they can always change the law, but, you know, Congress would have to change the law. And then Congress would have to sort of sit idly by while they do it. I don't really see that happening.

SHERWOOD

12:15:52
I put this is in the category so far as Marion Barry's yoga tax -- you know, tax on services as opposed to goods.

NNAMDI

12:16:00
What do you think will ultimately happen? It seems to me that next year people are saying that regardless of what happens, there's probably going to be a tax increase lurking somewhere next year, even though Jack Evans said that would be the worst idea that we could possibly have.

SHERWOOD

12:16:12
Here's the short story. Vince Gray is outgoing chairman, incoming mayor, needed to have -- he said no tax increases in this budget fix now. Let's take the next couple of months after I become mayor, and we'll figure out how many taxes we want to raise, how many services we want to cut and what we want to do. But I want -- I don't want to start out my term and ending my term as chairman as raising taxes. So let's get this done, and we'll consider everything. But he's not even that interested in raising taxes in the spring, but there probably will be some. But, you know, the last couple of years, there's been all kinds of fees and different things raised, and some taxes have been raised.

DEBONIS

12:16:48
But he can -- he will be able...

SHERWOOD

12:16:50
He didn't want to start out...

DEBONIS

12:16:51
...in the spring, he will be able to pass the buck. He can propose a budget with no tax increases and let the council, which has a certain...

NNAMDI

12:16:56
Certain tax increases.

SHERWOOD

12:16:57
I don't think he'll do that.

DEBONIS

12:16:57
...number of -- let them do which is what, you know...

SHERWOOD

12:17:00
I think he'll...

DEBONIS

12:17:00
You don't think he will do...

SHERWOOD

12:17:01
I think he will include -- I think he will work with the council, and, you know, some people think he's going to be the mayor and the council chairman...

NNAMDI

12:17:07
Yeah.

SHERWOOD

12:17:08
...because, you know, he's great -- Kwame (unintelligible).

NNAMDI

12:17:08
But the council chairman-elect is Kwame Brown.

SHERWOOD

12:17:12
Kwame Brown is learning the job, but I think he will do one of these thoughtful things and have everybody in for endless hearings, and he'll propose a budget. And it will probably include some taxes.

NNAMDI

12:17:21
Joining us now in studio is Nathan Saunders. He is the new president of the Washington Teachers' Union, which represents teachers in the District of Columbia public schools. We have already started to receive phone calls for Nathan Saunders, but we still have a few lines left open. You can call us at 800-433-8850, or you can send us an e-mail to kojo@wamu.org or a tweet @kojoshow. Nathan Saunders, welcome. Congratulations.

MR. NATHAN SAUNDERS

12:17:46
Thank you very much. It's a pleasure to be here.

NNAMDI

12:17:48
You told The Washington Post's Bill Turque recently that during the past three years when Michelle Rhee was negotiating a new teacher contract with your predecessor, there was a lot of blood left on the floor, and it was all teacher blood. What do you feel went wrong during that period?

SAUNDERS

12:18:04
Well, one of the things that we know for a fact was a success was the fact that many of the teachers who should have been at the table in a form of a negotiating team were not present. And, as a result, there were items included in the contract, which I feel the rank and file would have seriously had problems with at the negotiating table. And, as a result, those items found their way into a final contract.

NNAMDI

12:18:33
I know that both Tom Sherwood and Mike DeBonis have a lot of questions for you, so let me get mine out of the way before they take over. It is fair to say that school reform is not Nathan Saunders' number one priority. Your number priority, as you indicated to Bill Turque of The Washington Post, is compensation, negotiation and working conditions for your members. School reform, as I understand it, is all about teachers, hiring and compensating teachers whose students show good results, retraining and/or firing teachers whose students don't show good results. Two questions. One, what is your view of school reform?

SAUNDERS

12:19:08
Well, what we need to do, firstly, is get it straight. And that question -- the statement of premises of the statement pertain to, what does unions do? They focus on those three items that you previously mentioned. Now, school reform is a high priority of mine. The reality is that teachers are in an environment where reform is being pushed, not only in the District but all around the country, so you have to pay attention. I'm for school progress. What I'm not for is rushed reform. We have some instances here where change for the sake of change is being pushed forward, and, as a result, many of our members are the victims of change. They are losing their jobs. They are losing pay. They are being tossed about in this ocean with no real recourse.

NNAMDI

12:20:05
One more. What role do you see race playing in this equation we call school reform? You've talked about the role of teachers as a bastion of the African-American middle class on this broadcast. A lot of people think school reform in this town was just a cover for getting rid of older African-American teachers. What do you think?

SAUNDERS

12:20:25
Well, you have to be sensitive to that issue. You have to be sensitive to some other racial issues, one of which is that the vast majority of the children in the District of Columbia Public School, 90-plus percent are African-American or Hispanic or of Hispanic origin. So you must consider how the impact of reform in terms of what it does to their families, what it does to their communities. Many of the teachers not only have taught -- are teaching the children but have taught the parents and, in some instances, the grandparents. Teachers are stable senses of parental influence in children's lives, and, as I previously mentioned, in that case, in families' lives.

NNAMDI

12:21:12
Okay. Tom Sherwood? Mike DeBonis?

DEBONIS

12:21:14
Well, I would...

NNAMDI

12:21:15
Well, Tom Sherwood first.

SHERWOOD

12:21:16
Before we get too much looking back about what's happened, you won. You beat George Parker. I was surprised that fewer than 1,000 of the 4,000 or so teachers voted, but I want to look ahead. Kaya Henderson is the interim chancellor of the school system now. For three years, she was Michelle Rhee's deputy. Kaya Henderson was the person who carried out the IMPACT assessment program for the teachers. She helped negotiate the contract, about what you have some problems. What is your view -- should Vince Gray, the incoming mayor, select Kaya Henderson to be the school's chancellor? And are you looking forward to working with her if you think that's so?

SAUNDERS

12:21:53
Okay. And those are two questions. First of all, your statement is a statement of fact. Kaya Henderson...

SHERWOOD

12:22:01
All of my statements are statements of fact.

NNAMDI

12:22:04
You go, Tom.

SHERWOOD

12:22:06
I'm sorry for interrupting you. Go ahead.

SAUNDERS

12:22:08
Yeah, somewhat. I had the opportunity to meet with Kaya Henderson this weekend.

SHERWOOD

12:22:14
Oh, good.

SAUNDERS

12:22:16
Should Vincent Gray choose her as chancellor, is a decision that is solely within his purview. The Public School Reform Act gives the mayor the opportunity to choose the chancellor of the DC Public School.

DEBONIS

12:22:29
No one is disputing that fact. But should you -- should he, is the question.

SHERWOOD

12:22:32
Doesn't she have to be confirmed by the Council?

SAUNDERS

12:22:34
She -- yes.

SHERWOOD

12:22:35
So...

SAUNDERS

12:22:36
How many questions at a time here, Kojo?

DEBONIS

12:22:38
Do you like her? Do you like her?

SHERWOOD

12:22:38
Are you for Kaya Henderson? That's what I want to know.

SAUNDERS

12:22:40
Oh, let me tell you something.

SHERWOOD

12:22:40
Whoever gets to choose her, are you for her?

SAUNDERS

12:22:43
Despite what many people think, it's not about Kaya Henderson. Whoever is standing in that role, if that individual -- whether it's Michelle Rhee or Kaya Henderson -- proves to be a danger, a threat to our membership and our interest, we're going to stand up. We're going to be aggressive about our position. And so it's not about Kaya Henderson. It's about the agenda. We've got some problems with the agenda as left on the table by Michelle Rhee.

SAUNDERS

12:23:12
Many of it -- no one asked that question more aggressively than you, Tom and Mike, than my members. My members -- I got calls on the way here. My members are very concerned about the prior relationship between Kaya Henderson and Michelle Rhee. And it is going to prove to be a tremendous burden or hurdle for Kaya Henderson to overcome, not Nathan Saunders. It's about the agenda with Nathan Saunders.

DEBONIS

12:23:39
So, as you mentioned, tremendous amount of baggage with your members, and with a lot of other people with the name Michelle Rhee.

SAUNDERS

12:23:46
Sure.

DEBONIS

12:23:46
So, I mean, what is your thought on Kaya Henderson vis-à-vis Michelle Rhee? Do you -- I mean, is she just Michelle Rhee with a smile?

SAUNDERS

12:23:55
Well, listen. In my conversation with Kaya Henderson, it was made clear about some of the things that I would have a problem with if she engaged in and some of the things that possibly we could get to -- done together. It is not see Kaya Henderson, see red, attack. See anything Michelle Rhee, attack. That's not what the -- what it's all about. It's about making progress in this city for children and for the individuals who teach those children, which happens to be my members -- teachers.

NNAMDI

12:24:29
In case you were just joining us, this is the Politics Hour featuring Tom Sherwood. He's our resident analysts and a reporter at NBC 4, a columnist for the Current Newspapers. Our guest analyst is Mike DeBonis of The Washington Post. Our guest is Nathan Saunders, president of the Washington Teachers' Union, recently elected to that position. That union represents teachers in the District of Columbia Public Schools. Here is Jack in Washington, D.C. Jack, you're on the air. Go ahead, please.

JACK

12:24:55
Hi, Kojo. Thanks for taking my call. I had a question for Mr. Saunders, that if there's so many problems with the contract, as he stated, why did his membership so overwhelmingly approve it?

NNAMDI

12:25:09
Nathan Saunders?

SAUNDERS

12:25:10
Well, that's one of the questions that we are in a process of finding out. What we do know about the approval of that collective bargaining agreement is that it was not done through an elections committee. It was -- while it was counted by the AAA, we did not have an elections committee that was actively involved in the process.

NNAMDI

12:25:34
Explain to our listeners...

DEBONIS

12:25:34
So are you saying…

NNAMDI

12:25:35
...what that means. (unintelligible)

DEBONIS

12:25:36
Are you saying that you're trying to go back and look at the underpinnings of the vote and challenge the vote?

SHERWOOD

12:25:41
Well, let's first explain for the listeners, AAA is -- that's the private firm that did the...

DEBONIS

12:25:46
American Arbitration Association.

SHERWOOD

12:25:48
...the vote.

SAUNDERS

12:25:49
The American Arbitration Association is the entity that counted the ballots when they came in.

SHERWOOD

12:25:54
And you're questioning the ballot?

SAUNDERS

12:25:56
No, I'm not.

SHERWOOD

12:25:57
Okay. Okay.

NNAMDI

12:25:58
What is the elections commission? And what role could it have played?

SAUNDERS

12:26:02
The elections committee is a committee of teachers, as defined by the WTU constitution, 15 teachers who are responsible, for the most part, in conducting all elections. Those of us who are active in the union know the elections committee to be the entity designed to conduct the vote on the contract. My predecessor thought differently and conducted the vote on the contract. When that results -- when those results were released, many teachers had questions about them, and, frankly, I did, too. At that time, I said, if 400 teachers voted against it, I must know all 400 because it was questionable. But we -- the question is, how do we move forward? Where do we address the deficiencies in the contract? And is it economical or efficient in order to address it in that fashion?

SHERWOOD

12:27:02
When is the contract up?

SAUNDERS

12:27:04
2012.

SHERWOOD

12:27:05
So it's -- okay. Well, would -- can you address the contract until the negotiations start late next year?

NNAMDI

12:27:11
When you talk about blood on the floor, where do you think teachers have been asked under that contract to make the sacrifices that you find most unreasonable?

SAUNDERS

12:27:20
Well, most specifically in the area of the IMPACT.

NNAMDI

12:27:24
This is the evaluation process for teachers.

SAUNDERS

12:27:26
Yes, the teacher evaluation tool. A number of the teachers, as you know, over the summer recently were terminated under IMPACT. And that tool, which was not piloted with the D.C. Public Schools, created tremendous victims in our system. And it did not give them the opportunity to be supported, to move forward positively. And you have, for example, just two sections which pertain to performance-based access based on IMPACT, performance bonuses based on IMPACT. So that is two of the areas which my members were damaged.

DEBONIS

12:28:09
Mr. Saunders, is there a city, a school system, a district anywhere in the country that you think has got it right, in terms of teacher evaluations?

SAUNDERS

12:28:17
A number of systems have it right. Teachers -- the systems, not just in the United States, but also in Europe -- teacher evaluation tools, across the board, that don't focus solely on student scores as a major...

DEBONIS

12:28:37
Well, IMPACT...

SAUNDERS

12:28:37
...component.

DEBONIS

12:28:38
Right. IMPACT doesn't focus solely on student scores. It's one portion in a number of different things. But...

SAUNDERS

12:28:44
And what I said is as a major component.

DEBONIS

12:28:47
Mm hmm.

SAUNDERS

12:28:47
IMPACT and testing grades comprise 50 percent of the teacher evaluation. Another 5 percent, which deals with the teacher's involvement in the community and school and environment, that's 55 percent. So you can have an excellent teacher who is doing a great job in a classroom, and that teacher can -- abilities will only reflect 45 or 50 percent, whereas 55 percent could be based on a student's score.

NNAMDI

12:29:19
But first, 800-433-8850.

SHERWOOD

12:29:22
So the contract's in place now. What is your immediate -- what are your immediate short-term goals that you're -- you took office, what date?

SAUNDERS

12:29:31
Ten days ago.

SHERWOOD

12:29:32
Ten days ago.

SAUNDERS

12:29:32
Dec. 1.

SHERWOOD

12:29:33
So what have you done in those 10 days, or you plan to do in the next 10 days? What is your immediate short-term -- I'm going to do this now that I'm in charge. What have you done or are about to do?

SAUNDERS

12:29:43
Well, in terms of my campaign, what I promised teachers I would do in the first 30 days, a great deal has already been accomplished. The first thing was to go about reestablishing union democracy. We're about to have our first membership meeting this coming week -- 16th I believe it is -- in which member will have the opportunity to provide some direction to the Washington Teachers' Union. In doing that, we will also publish at that time a list of all of the delicate assembly and general membership meetings for the rest of the year. So that's incredibly important when members were clearly stating we hadn't had a membership meeting in two years.

SAUNDERS

12:30:28
They felt that they were isolated from the union so that's a major component that we're going to conduct. The next component is that I promised the members that I would meet with the mayor, and I would meet with the president of AFT, Randi Weingarten. Those things have been accomplished as well.

NNAMDI

12:30:48
You've met with the mayor-elect?

SAUNDERS

12:30:50
Let me be real clear. I met with the mayor-elect's education transition team, Michael Lomax and Katherine Bradley. This coming week, I will have a sit-down directly with the mayor.

SHERWOOD

12:31:05
Mayor-elect.

SAUNDERS

12:31:06
Mayor-elect.

SHERWOOD

12:31:08
You're not going to meet with Mayor Fenty. We know that, right? You don't need to.

SAUNDERS

12:31:12
I'm going to meet with mayor-elect Gray. And, nextly, (sic) I met with Deputy Chancellor Kaya Henderson. I've -- I brought in a new law firm, Joseph, Greenwald & Laake, in order to assist with the transition in some level high-level education issues, labor issues. And I've done any number of things in order to help move teachers' agenda and promote the (unintelligible).

NNAMDI

12:31:38
But...

SHERWOOD

12:31:38
Have you met...

NNAMDI

12:31:39
But in the eyes of some, you still have some unfinished business. Here is Mike in Washington, D.C. Mike, you're on the air. Go ahead, please.

MIKE

12:31:47
Hey, Nathan. How are you today, sir?

SAUNDERS

12:31:49
I'm fine. Thank you.

MIKE

12:31:49
My question is, now that you're the Washington Teacher's Union president, what are you going to -- what's your plans with the 266 and how to get those people back in their jobs? And, also, some of...

NNAMDI

12:32:01
When you say the 266, that's an inside teacher phrase, meaning the 266 teachers who, in the view of Mike and others, were terminated or wrongly terminated in your view. Is that right, mike?

MIKE

12:32:13
Wrongfully terminated.

NNAMDI

12:32:14
Wrongfully terminated.

SAUNDERS

12:32:14
2009.

MIKE

12:32:14
Wrongfully terminated.

NNAMDI

12:32:16
In 2009.

MIKE

12:32:16
And some of those people are on a do-not-hire list by DC Public Schools.

NNAMDI

12:32:20
Nathan Saunders.

SAUNDERS

12:32:21
Sure. Excellent, excellent question. That was part of the reason why I brought in a new law firm. I wanted to make sure I had an independent analysis of the case, which is still in superior court. Nextly, I'm going to meet with the 266 within the first 30 days. And, nextly, I'm doing some investigation to determine whether or not there is, in fact, a do-not-hire list with these individual names on it. Now, I can speak from experience. I do no know that DCPS' practices in the past have included what was known as a do-no-hire stamp.

SAUNDERS

12:33:02
I actually saw it myself. It was maybe four or five years ago where there were certain individuals where, on their personnel records, they stamped do-not-hire. So that whole issue remains out there, and I would hope we get a ruling that they weren't to use that anymore. And I would hope I do not find that that exists.

DEBONIS

12:33:25
Mr. Saunders, have you met with Randi Weingarten, your national union head? And, you know, her and your predecessor were quite very much arm-in-arm on the approval of the contract, and you -- during a time in which you were not. How are you getting along with Randi?

SAUNDERS

12:33:42
Well, I have talked with Randi at least two times. And I have a sit-down meeting with her coming up, the early part of this week.

DEBONIS

12:33:49
What is your assessment of her approach to the national teachers' union right now? Right now, we seem to be in a moment in the country where there's a lot of attention, a lot of scrutiny on teachers' unions, you know. Obviously, you have Michelle Rhee on the cover of magazines. You have her in this documentary, "Waiting for Superman," as very much critical of Teacher's Unions -- Randi Weingarten, too.

SHERWOOD

12:34:14
And then she started a national political organization to...

DEBONIS

12:34:16
She just started national political organization to harness...

SHERWOOD

12:34:18
Right.

DEBONIS

12:34:18
...and specifically said to be the anti-teachers' union, sort of, counterbalance.

SHERWOOD

12:34:23
With (unintelligible)

DEBONIS

12:34:25
And where -- how do you think Randi is approaching this? Do you agree with her approach, which is, you know, we got to get out in front of this, which is very much your predecessor, George Parker's attitude, too?

SAUNDERS

12:34:36
Well, let me say that there is much dynamic action within national and local teacher unions around the country. Randi has a fair amount of proponents on her position, and she has a fair amount of critics. Some of the things that Randi Weingarten, as president, has been involved in I agree with. Others, I don't. But I'm not unlike a lot of local presidents around the country. There are local presidents, like Karen Lewis in Chicago, others in L.A. and Florida that are more in line with my type of thinking.

SAUNDERS

12:35:22
Now, getting out in front of it suggests to me that something should have been done a whole lot early and not -- you don't get out in front of the train after it's going 100 miles an hour, and it is clearly going 100 miles an hour. And just like I said to my predecessor, the problem is we weren't out in front of it. The problem is the train started. It's picking up speed. It's impossible to get out in front of it. Now, what we have to have is an agenda for progress. These people are moving against members, and we've got to be able to address the critical issues.

DEBONIS

12:35:58
To extend your train analysis, you're trying to derail that train or slow it down or what?

SHERWOOD

12:36:03
Or get on it?

DEBONIS

12:36:04
Or get on it?

SAUNDERS

12:36:05
Well, let's stay with the...

NNAMDI

12:36:06
Either drive it.

SAUNDERS

12:36:08
Let's stay with the train analogy. We need to, first of all, decide where our tracks are going. If our tracks are going in the same direction, then we can get on that train, and we can participate. However, this whole issue of reform and how we approach it has got to be the result of our thoughts, our initiatives and our ideas, not simply trying to fall lockstep in with what's already going on because we haven't done the hard work in terms of preparing our members in doing the hard thinking and analysis.

NNAMDI

12:36:46
We got an e-mail from J.P. who says, "Mr. Saunders, I've been listening to you for over 20 minutes, and the word children has come out of your mouth once. This is the precise reason why teachers are fired under Michelle Rhee." And we have John on the phone in Washington, D.C., who seems to share that sentiment. John, you're on the air. Go ahead, please.

JOHN

12:37:06
Thank you, Kojo. Yes, Mr. Saunders, I hear you're talking about our members and our agenda. And I've never heard a thing about my children, who are in the D.C. public schools. I think that's what got you in trouble in the first place with these no-show, no-fire jobs with no accountability. And I haven't heard anything about the students and the quality of education. Could you please address that?

NNAMDI

12:37:29
Nathan Saunders?

SAUNDERS

12:37:30
Sure. John appears to be very angry. I don't know what for, but, nevertheless, the -- let me say this. Our members, all 4,200, go to schools every day and teach children, and they do a heck of a job. And what's unfortunate is that we do this because we care. We're committed, and we are overly compensated from time and time again on behalf of children. Now, the teachers pay union dues. By law, I'm required to talk about my members and to promote and advocate their interests by law. I argue I'm always promoting the interests of good education for children when I promote the interests of people who deal with children every single day.

SAUNDERS

12:38:19
My members don't get enough credit for thousands of teachers showing up every day and taking care of 56 -- 50,000 kids with very few disruptions, every single day for 180 days a year. So I'm proud to represent them. Just because I don't -- every other word out my mouth isn't children doesn't mean I don't care about children. I'm a licensed, certified and highly-qualified teacher myself. My role at this particular point is to help to promote the interests of our members who spent dollars so that they can be -- and do the hard work in the classroom with your children, so that I can make sure that they are taken care of.

SHERWOOD

12:38:58
Well, I was just wondering, what do you teach? Or what have you taught when you've been a teacher? What do you...

SAUNDERS

12:39:04
Sure.

SHERWOOD

12:39:04
What are your qualifications?

SAUNDERS

12:39:05
I'm certified in social studies. I've taught high school social studies.

NNAMDI

12:39:08
I know that.

SHERWOOD

12:39:08
High school social studies?

SAUNDERS

12:39:10
Yeah, with -- I'm sorry?

SHERWOOD

12:39:11
High school social studies?

SAUNDERS

12:39:12
Yes, government, economics, social studies...

SHERWOOD

12:39:16
Name the three branches -- no, I'm sorry.

NNAMDI

12:39:17
All the classes (unintelligible)...

SAUNDERS

12:39:18
That would be the judicial, the legislative...

DEBONIS

12:39:21
I would -- just want to say before we move on, I agree with you, Mr. Saunders, that, you know, I think it's kind of silly for a lot of people to expect the teachers' union leader not to be interested in the interests -- you know, representing the interests of his members. But, you know, you referred to the 4,200 teachers that you represent. You said, they do heck of a job. But what percentage do you think do a heck of a job? Because if IMPACT -- under IMPACT -- I forget the exact percentage, but the percentage that need improvement or have been rated already ineffective in that first round it was, what, 40 -- 30, 40 percent, somewhere in there?

SHERWOOD

12:39:55
There's 700-something teachers who are on probation this year.

DEBONIS

12:39:58
On probation. It might be a little less than that. So what do you -- what percentage for the 42,000 teachers you represent are doing a heck of a job or effective or highly effective?

SAUNDERS

12:40:06
I believe about 95-plus percent of our members are excellent teachers, and I think it's roughly the same percentage that...

DEBONIS

12:40:17
And that's excellent? That's not just...

SHERWOOD

12:40:20
Satisfactory.

DEBONIS

12:40:21
...satisfactory?

SAUNDERS

12:40:21
Well, let me say, in my category, I have good and bad in this particular answer. And, listen, this group of teachers are very good. It's equivalent to the same percentage of bad lawyers and bad doctors and bad bankers and bad news reporters.

NNAMDI

12:40:36
This is a first visit for Nathan Saunders as president of the Washington Teachers' Union. Tom Sherwood and Mike DeBonis, you should know, held back their punches.

DEBONIS

12:40:45
Oh.

NNAMDI

12:40:46
But next time.

DEBONIS

12:40:46
Ho.

SAUNDERS

12:40:47
After that, Kojo...

SHERWOOD

12:40:48
What about radio host? Would you say Kojo is an excellent -- is he an excellent radio host? Or is he a bad radio host?

DEBONIS

12:40:52
Well, let me -- let's get one hardball in. Mr. Saunders, do you have -- I've just been curious. You are known for showing up at political events, being involved in a lot of, you know -- showing up for a lot of these things. Do you have political ambitions of your own? Are you, perhaps, running for office down the road?

SAUNDERS

12:41:08
Well, considering I just won a very important office, in my mind, I want to do this job well. I want to be the best president WTU has ever seen, and...

NNAMDI

12:41:18
A sure sign that this man is seeking higher office.

SAUNDERS

12:41:18
...I'm excited.

DEBONIS

12:41:19
Tom. Tom Sherwood would call that a political answer.

SHERWOOD

12:41:22
That's a nice answer.

NNAMDI

12:41:22
A sure sign that he's seeking higher office.

SHERWOOD

12:41:23
That's a good answer, and I congratulate you on formulating it.

NNAMDI

12:41:26
Nathan Saunders is the president of the Washington Teachers' Union, recently elected. Nathan Saunders, thank you for joining for us. Good luck to you.

SAUNDERS

12:41:32
Thank you, gentlemen.

NNAMDI

12:41:34
Here's something we just got. Here's what Loose Lips wrote just a few moments ago. The first casualty of Ward 8 Council member Marion Barry's reality show appears to be Andre Johnson, a former communications aide for Barry who is currently, but not for long, the communications director for Ward 7 Council member Yvette Alexander. Alexander called Loose Lips this morning to say that Johnson will be out of a job because she says he lied to her about his involvement in the show. It's over, his gig is up, says Alexander. She also mentioned it in the comments section of a post written on the Loose Lips blog yesterday. Alexander says she asked Johnson repeatedly whether he was involved in the show, and he told her no.

NNAMDI

12:42:16
Alexander also pulled no punches when it to the appearances made in the show by her council colleagues, including incoming Chairman Kwame Brown, at-large Council member Michael A. Brown, and Ward 5 Council member Harry Thomas Jr., quoting here, "I can't believe elected officials are involved in this. I am truly shocked," she says, adding that she wants to give her colleagues a message, "Please stick to the council. Hollywood is not in the stars for you." Apparently, Hollywood is in the stars...

DEBONIS

12:42:42
I saw that comment on Alan's post yesterday, and I wondered whether it was her. And I actually spoke to the council member yesterday, and she was not happy at all. So I can't say I'm surprised. But Andre is -- Andre is a really nice guy, and, yeah, he works really hard. I hope that he lands on his feet.

SHERWOOD

12:42:57
He work for (unintelligible)

NNAMDI

12:42:57
Hollywood is in the stars from Mike DeBonis because he appeared frequently in that reality show called...

SHERWOOD

12:43:02
Well, he was a non-paid...

DEBONIS

12:43:03
Frequent? Come on.

SHERWOOD

12:43:04
... walk-on bit...

DEBONIS

12:43:05
I gave an interview...

SHERWOOD

12:43:07
…walk-on bit part.

DEBONIS

12:43:07
...and they filmed me surreptitiously.

NNAMDI

12:43:09
He is our guest analyst today. He's a reporter of The Washington Post. Tom Sherwood, who did not appear in the reality show, but who owes his entire journalistic career to Marion Barry is a reporter at NBC 4 and a columnist for the Current Newspapers. A new county executive and new council members were sworn in in Prince George's County this week. Joining us in studio now is Will Campos who is a member of the Prince George's County council. He is a Democrat. Will Campos, good to see you again. Thank you for joining us.

MR. WILLIAM CAMPOS

12:43:39
It's always good to see you, Kojo. Thank you for having me.

NNAMDI

12:43:41
Leslie Johnson, the wife of former county executive Jack Johnson, they're under -- they are involved in a bribery investigation by the FBI. Leslie Johnson was among the new council members who took the oath. You were among the council members who wanted her to abstain from doing so. Why did you feel that way? And now that she has taken the oath, what concerns do you have moving forward?

CAMPOS

12:44:03
Well, Kojo, I mean, for obvious reasons. I mean, it definitely is a black eye in Prince George's County politics. Now, this is -- a couple of things, first of all. This is nothing personal against Leslie Johnson or Jack Johnson for that matter, and you definitely don't want to go ahead and judge anybody before the legal process has its due. But the fact is that, clearly, it does not look good for an entity the size of Prince George's County in the D.C. metro region, or anywhere for that matter, but obviously to being so close in a such a large entity in the Maryland state politics, where the outgoing county executive and the potential coming in county council member, one of my colleagues, is under these serious allegations and charges.

CAMPOS

12:44:46
So for the benefit of the image of Prince George's County and our new government coming in, because I thought that it was going to take away from what we should be focusing on, which is we have a new administration, we have majority new council, and it's a step in the right direction coming in together and moving forward. I thought it was going to take away from that, and it clearly has. And that's one of the reasons why I asked her not to take the oath.

NNAMDI

12:45:08
The council has barred Leslie Johnson from sitting on any of the council's committees where a lot of the key decisions are made. But as part of the deal struck during a closed door session, she will be allowed to attend committee meetings and, most importantly, to vote on bills that come before nine -- before the full nine-member body. Do you have concerns about her ability to vote?

CAMPOS

12:45:30
Well, one of the things that we try to figure out as a council as a whole was to see how it is during the -- at least during the investigation -- how we can be at least proactive in the event that anything happens in the District 6 seat, that we are ready for whatever it is to come, whether it's -- the seat becomes empty or somebody comes in, somebody new. And so what we did was, basically, we voted to not have Leslie Johnson serve on any committees. We have four different committees, education, public safety, zoning and...

NNAMDI

12:46:08
The other one.

CAMPOS

12:46:10
...and environment -- and environment. And, basically, what we wanted to do is just -- I hate to say the word limit, but that's basically what -- you know, we wanted to see how it is that we can at least, in the meantime, prevent her from voting on anything that may be potentially controversial.

DEBONIS

12:46:25
Now, Council member...

NNAMDI

12:46:26
That was the part where we say, release the hounds.

SHERWOOD

12:46:29
In the executive committee where the -- all these decisions were made, what was her demeanor? How did she behave? There was some word that she wasn't too happy, but did she express that? Did she sit there mournfully? Did she lash out at you guys? What -- tell us something about how the demeanor was inside this private meeting.

CAMPOS

12:46:45
Well, naturally, she wasn't very happy about it. I mean, it's understandable, but I hope that -- and I made it a point to say that, you know, we're all this -- in a tough situation here. And we're trying to do what it is that we think is the best for the image and for the government of the county. No, but she definitely was not very happy, by any means.

SHERWOOD

12:47:02
But did she -- I mean, did she lash out at you? I mean...

CAMPOS

12:47:05
No, she -- I mean, it was...

SHERWOOD

12:47:06
We don't get much image of her. She was very cool to reporters on the cameras when she was -- took the oath of office that she's going to represent her constituents. So I don't have any sense of how -- was she embarrassed?

CAMPOS

12:47:16
She doesn't -- she didn't let -- no...

SHERWOOD

12:47:18
Did she even apologize in private for the situation in which she's in?

CAMPOS

12:47:23
No, she, you know -- she did mention that she was very appalled for what we -- what it is that we were doing as far as the council is concerned, but there was no apologies. There was no -- it was very -- I'll tell you this. It was a very uncomfortable situation. It really was. But I did try to make sure that I explained that it was a tough issue for all of us, and this is what we were trying to -- we thought was the best thing that we were doing.

NNAMDI

12:47:45
We are talking -- Prince George's County -- with County Council member Will Campos and taking your calls at 800-433-8850. Here's Mike DeBonis.

DEBONIS

12:47:52
Council member, on Monday, right after -- you know, after the ceremony was completed, I spoke to former Gov. Glendening, a former county executive himself, and he thought that Council member Johnson should recuse herself from all business. And he suggested that any vote that she take in, particularly a single-vote margin, would be, you know, subject to suspicion, under a cloud. Would you agree with that assessment?

CAMPOS

12:48:16
Well -- and that's basically the reason why we suggested not having her serve on any committees. And that's why she will not be...

DEBONIS

12:48:21
Right.

CAMPOS

12:48:22
...serving on any committees.

DEBONIS

12:48:22
But any -- in a general council vote...

NNAMDI

12:48:23
But let me take the opposite position for one second.

DEBONIS

12:48:25
Yeah.

NNAMDI

12:48:25
If you happen to be a resident of District 6 in Prince George's County, and you're told that because your representative is under indictment, you now have no voice in county council affairs whatsoever?

CAMPOS

12:48:36
That's one of the things -- there's a couple of things that we could have done also. Legally, we could also take in her staff, and as well as her budget from her so that she essentially was a one-person...

SHERWOOD

12:48:47
Island.

CAMPOS

12:48:48
Basically. And we didn't want to do that because of the same reason that you just brought up. Because we don't have -- want the District 6 constituents to have no representation, to have no constituent service or anything along those lines. However, there may be some issues that come along, whether it's zoning cases, whether -- it may be, you know, legislation, that we also want her to be -- as far as what you just mentioned, you know, prevent such a -- the next media outline -- or media headline, I'm sorry, saying, Leslie Johnson is the deciding vote on X.

CAMPOS

12:49:18
And, you know, then what's going to come from that? You know, there's all the different things. The allegations are going to come back on. This is the person that's under investigation. We didn't want to do anything. We didn't want to have anything like that happen to us in Prince George's County, so that's why we kept her from doing that.

DEBONIS

12:49:32
Yeah.

CAMPOS

12:49:32
And, yes, I do agree with what Mr. Glendening said.

DEBONIS

12:49:35
Yeah, the -- I mean, it should be noted that close votes like that are fairly uncommon in county council votes. There's a lot of 9-0 votes for it in my experience, but that may or may not be fair. I'm sorry. Can you sort of describe, on Monday -- you know, I was there on Monday, and everyone is out there freezing their butts off waiting for this to go, and we're going through the -- all the county council, District 1, District 2 -- Will Campos takes the oath of office. And everyone is waiting to see what's going to happen with Leslie. What were you thinking? You're sitting up there in that dais while everybody is waiting for this to happen. What's going through your mind?

CAMPOS

12:50:14
I can honestly tell you it was definitely a very uncomfortable feeling because I didn't know it was going to happen. You didn't know if there were was going to be people that protested. There was definitely people in the audience that are very verbal, and, literally, we were just waiting for them to come out. But nobody said anything negative-wise. We had quite the opposite. She did have a large fan base, and she got very large applause, I mean, as well as Jack Johnson. So it was good in the sense that it did not ruin a great moment for the rest of the council members, as well as Rushern Baker, that, you know, we're trying to move forward on a positive note. So, in that sense, it was good, but it was definitely surprising that nobody came out and said anything.

NNAMDI

12:50:53
I can tell you what was going through Mike DeBonis' mind 'cause I read his tweet. Doug Gansler, the Maryland attorney general, is not wearing a coat, and it's freezing outside.

DEBONIS

12:51:00
I don't know how he did that.

CAMPOS

12:51:01
I noticed that also.

SHERWOOD

12:51:02
Whose decision was it to be outdoors?

DEBONIS

12:51:03
He must have had long underwear on.

SHERWOOD

12:51:05
I mean, who made that decision to be outdoors? Is that the first bad decision by Rushern Baker?

CAMPOS

12:51:08
You know, I'm not...

SHERWOOD

12:51:09
I mean, goodness gracious.

CAMPOS

12:51:10
I'm not going to blame anybody, but I am -- I'm getting rid of a little 24-hour flu that I caught from that day.

DEBONIS

12:51:15
Yeah, so the man had the William Henry Harrison moment.

NNAMDI

12:51:18
Yeah.

DEBONIS

12:51:18
You know, he catches the bug in his inauguration. He's dead in a month.

NNAMDI

12:51:22
Rushern Baker didn't waste a lot of time this week. On his first day, he fired or he accepted resignations from about a dozen top officials from Jack Johnson's administration, including Police Chief Roberto Hylton. Starting with Chief Hylton, what did you make of the personal moves that Rushern Baker made this week?

CAMPOS

12:51:37
You know, every new administration is going to come in, and they're going to put the people that they feel are the most adequate for those positions. It doesn't matter whether it's the -- it's a mayor, county executive, a new director. I mean, that's just going to happen. That's just natural whenever you start a new government. So, in that sense, it's not surprising. Now, I like Roberto Hylton. I thought he was...

NNAMDI

12:51:56
He's got a lot of supporters. A lot of people believe that he was out front on all of the corruption issues, that he was trying to clean house, that he was trying to discipline people, and, particularly in the Hispanic and Caribbean communities, a lot of people are upset.

CAMPOS

12:52:10
No, I do agree with you. He was the first and only Latino chief that we have had -- Afro-Latino that we have had in Prince George's County. And he was very well-liked. Unfortunately -- now, this is not to say that it's necessarily his fault, by any means -- unfortunately, there was an issue. There's been several issues in Prince George's County Police in the last couple of years of corruption. And whether you like it or not, whether you agree with it or not, or whether he deserves it or not, sometimes, you know, you got to go to the top. You got to put the blame or the responsibility on the person who's on top. And so, unfortunately, it's tough to overlook the different things...

NNAMDI

12:52:46
Yeah, but speaking of the person on top, crime is down to a record low in Prince George's County -- the numbers of the numbers. What concerns do you have about how changing the leadership of the police department are going to affect that aspect of its performance?

CAMPOS

12:52:58
You know, that is true. There's a couple of things in politics that you got to look at. You want to look at what it is that the person has done. You look at numbers. And, in this case, we see the crime has gone down quite significantly in violent crime, so that is great. But there's more to it than just numbers regardless of what position you're in, regardless of what -- as an elected official, regardless of -- you know, there's more than just legislation. It's how it is that you get along with the community. It's how it is that, you know, you present yourself or in the district of Prince George's County. And certain things, unfortunately, not only -- if they're -- even if they're out of your control, they're going to -- you're going to be responsible for it.

DEBONIS

12:53:36
Can you sort of -- you know, sort of put a point on that? Because it seemed that Chief Hylton had -- generally got good reviews for his community relations.

CAMPOS

12:53:43
No, and he did. He did.

DEBONIS

12:53:44
And...

CAMPOS

12:53:44
What I'm saying is, you know, sometimes -- there's two things...

DEBONIS

12:53:46
Just to have these constant sort of issues with the police department, whether it's, you know, the beating of this kid at...

SHERWOOD

12:53:53
Second job, so and so.

DEBONIS

12:53:53
...whatever, these issues with the police academy testing and all this other stuff? It's that sort of thing.

CAMPOS

12:53:59
The testing, the FBI investigation, the beatings, I mean, the corrections facility with the issues that we had there with the cell phone situation. I mean, all that adds up now.

DEBONIS

12:54:08
Well, would you like to see the new county executive -- you know, eight years ago, when Jack Johnson first came in, the same sort of situation, but he really went outside of the sort of -- you know, outside of the department to bring in Melvin High in from the...

CAMPOS

12:54:21
No. I'll tell you a couple things first.

DEBONIS

12:54:23
Sure.

CAMPOS

12:54:23
My personal -- just on -- just to finish off with Chief Hylton, I think he should have deserved at least a little bit more time. He's only been there for two years. Two years isn't -- one to two years is not enough to change a whole entire system. So, in that sense, I would like to have at least seen him work out with Rushern to see what it is that he could brought to the table once with the new administration. So that's one thing.

CAMPOS

12:54:41
Now, as far as bringing somebody in from the outside? No, absolutely not. I think we have people in our department that know the system very well, that have gone up the ranks and are very well-deserving of being the next chief of police in Prince George's County. We have people that have grown up in the county that know it very well, and I would like to see them come to the leadership position. But, no, in my opinion, I think we have more than adequate talent to bring up. I think it would be -- personally, I think it'd be insulting to bring somebody from the outside.

SHERWOOD

12:55:08
For many years of the reputation of the Prince George's police with the brutality issues, it just has taken forever for that to fade away. Now, you have all these officers who are -- the guys who are accused of protecting cigarettes and booze, illegal booze running, the guys who -- officers who are, you know, have these questionable private jobs, off-duty jobs. There was some suggestion that there was -- the new acting Chief Mark Magaw was going to have what he called a office of secondary employment up and running by today. Do you happen to know if, in fact, that office is up to monitor more what the officers do in their private time?

CAMPOS

12:55:48
Honestly, I don't know.

SHERWOOD

12:55:49
Okay.

CAMPOS

12:55:49
This is the first time I hear about it, so I couldn't comment on that.

NNAMDI

12:55:51
Back to the county council for a second, what do you think should be the immediate legislative priorities for the council moving forward?

CAMPOS

12:55:57
Well, right now, to be honest with you, everybody is so new and fresh into county politics as far as the government is concerned, between administration and the council, we literally need to come together to learn the process and figure out how it is that we're going to move together within the administration and the council. 'Cause I think that's one of the things that we, unfortunately, did not do very well this last time around, is getting together with the administration and being in sync. So...

SHERWOOD

12:56:20
How many council members are new? How many there are?

CAMPOS

12:56:23
Five, five out of the nine.

SHERWOOD

12:56:25
Five of the nine are new.

CAMPOS

12:56:25
Four of us are returning, five are brand-new, and we -- also we have, obviously, the new county executive and his administration. So, right now, quite frankly, we need to find out what the numbers are for the budget. We need to get briefed all together to find out if there -- which, I'm sure there will be a deficit -- and how we it is that we move forward and also be in sync with our legislative officials at the general assembly.

DEBONIS

12:56:49
How...

NNAMDI

12:56:49
We don't have much time left.

DEBONIS

12:56:50
Given all the changes, all the different people, things sort of feel different down at the county administration building these days?

CAMPOS

12:56:57
Well, naturally because everything is just -- we're so new. On the positive note, we are looking forward to moving ahead with a new council with new members. I think from the little bit that I know of them, they seem like great people, and I'm very...

SHERWOOD

12:57:13
I got to ask this question 'cause I haven't been out to the council chamber. Somebody told me that in order to get in to see a council member, you have to go through two security stations. Is that true?

CAMPOS

12:57:21
Yes. Well, you had to go through the first floor security station.

SHERWOOD

12:57:24
And then another one to get to the council member?

CAMPOS

12:57:26
On the second floor.

SHERWOOD

12:57:26
Why is that? What are you guys afraid of?

CAMPOS

12:57:29
I'm not afraid of anything, to be honest with you. These are changes...

SHERWOOD

12:57:31
I'm just -- it just seems -- these are the elected of the people, and the people are proud.

DEBONIS

12:57:34
Well, it seems -- would there be any -- from a reportorial standpoint, I mean, a lot of my colleagues have always been frustrated, you know, getting in touch with a council member. Council Member Campos, you have a very good reputation for returning phone calls. But some of your...

CAMPOS

12:57:46
Thank you. I appreciate it.

DEBONIS

12:57:47
…predecessors...

SHERWOOD

12:57:48
Oh, good grief.

DEBONIS

12:57:48
...and colleagues do not. I mean, and, you know, we got funneled through this person...

SHERWOOD

12:57:51
And they also get to go into this closed office in an inner sanctum.

DEBONIS

12:57:54
Right. And we get funneled to this one person...

NNAMDI

12:57:55
I'm afraid we're just about out of time. Will Campos...

DEBONIS

12:57:58
Can you give some -- address some changes on that front?

CAMPOS

12:58:01
That's something that I would like to change.

NNAMDI

12:58:01
Will Campos...

SHERWOOD

12:58:02
Open the doors.

NNAMDI

12:58:03
Will Campos...

CAMPOS

12:58:04
I agree.

NNAMDI

12:58:04
...is a member of the Prince George's County council. He's a Democrat. Will Campos, thank you very much for joining us.

CAMPOS

12:58:09
Thank you, Kojo.

NNAMDI

12:58:09
Mike DeBonis is our guest analyst. He's a reporter at The Washington Post and a sometime television star. Mike DeBonis, thank you for joining us. Tom Sherwood is our resident analyst, who, unfortunately, was not able to indulge in his usual rant against all security procedures today. He's a reporter at NBC 4 and a columnist for the Current...

SHERWOOD

12:58:25
And I'll be doing Festivus in Adams Morgan, Saturday, at 1.

NNAMDI

12:58:28
I'm Kojo Nnamdi.
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