The Politics Hour

The Politics Hour
Transcript for: 
The Politics Hour

MR. KOJO NNAMDI

12:06:43
From WAMU 88.5 at American University in Washington, welcome to "The Politics Hour," starring the unbelievable, irrepressible Tom Sherwood. I'm Kojo Nnamdi. Tom Sherwood is our resident analyst. He's an NBC 4 reporter and a columnist for The Current Newspapers. And, Tom, do you have the latest update from Potomac Phil on what the weather is likely to be over the next six weeks in Washington?

MR. TOM SHERWOOD

12:07:22
I think it's still dead or stuffed. I'm not sure.

MR. TOM SHERWOOD

12:07:27
You know, I thought it was -- this is the same organization that brought us the snowball fights during the big snow. I mean, they wanted to do something that would be a little funny. And people gather around.

NNAMDI

12:07:37
You like Punxsutawney Phil. We'll give you Potomac Phil.

SHERWOOD

12:07:39
Yes. And then we had Councilmember Jack Evans from Ward 2 who loves, of course, that area, who shows up in his ridiculous hat and vest and tie and goofy as ever. But, you know...

NNAMDI

12:07:50
Couldn't they find a live groundhog?

SHERWOOD

12:07:53
Yeah, I don't think they're that prevalent around here. I told -- I suggested they get...

NNAMDI

12:07:57
Run out to the University of Maryland. You'll find them all over.

SHERWOOD

12:07:59
I suggested they get a Norway rat. You know, those are the big rats in town that are flying all over the place. I thought that'd be great. But, you know, poor Jack, he -- you know, he dressed up like that. Then he went up to New York where today he's up there with the mayor and the council chairman, talking about how good the city's finances are and, you know, how we should have a better bond rating.

NNAMDI

12:08:20
Yeah. $240 million surplus, something that we will get into later on. But given that the groundhog was stuffed, does that mean that the prediction is completely invalid?

SHERWOOD

12:08:29
It's probably as good as some of the predictions that are made in Washington on many subjects.

NNAMDI

12:08:34
Why did Millicent West resign as head of the Homeland Security and Emergency Management Agency in the District of Columbia?

SHERWOOD

12:08:43
And why did Mayor Gray accept her resignation without saying one word about her valuable service?

NNAMDI

12:08:48
Some reports indicated that Mayor Gray might be the one who was calling for her resignation.

SHERWOOD

12:08:54
Well, he didn't get a chance to call for it because, when she heard that she was going to be meeting with the mayor's staff to discuss her employment, she offered her resignation. And our sources are telling us that, you know, when she was called to come meet with the mayor's top officials, she said we don't need to. I'm going to resign.

NNAMDI

12:09:13
What is the informed speculation as to the reason for her resignation?

SHERWOOD

12:09:17
Well, the informed speculation -- actually, it's more than speculation. The fact is her name came up in the Harry Thomas scandal case. She was the head of the organization...

NNAMDI

12:09:29
Children and Youth Investment...

SHERWOOD

12:09:31
Yes.

NNAMDI

12:09:31
...Trust Corporation.

SHERWOOD

12:09:33
A terribly long name. But she ran that organization for the city, was responsible for the dispersal of millions of dollars in grant moneys to various neighborhood organizations, and she gave some money to Thomas. Apparently, she didn't do anything illegal, but she didn't have her ethics antenna high enough that she did some things she should not have done. And so, therefore, she resigned.

NNAMDI

12:10:00
To council...

SHERWOOD

12:10:00
Whether she shows up in the prosecutor's next wave of charges, we don't know yet.

NNAMDI

12:10:07
She helped councilmember -- former Councilmember Harry Thomas Jr. secure more than $100,000 from the organization to pay for an inaugural ball that was held at the Wilson Building in 2009, an action that she defended. But I suspect it was less the legality and more the ethical aspect of it that is causing concern. However, we do not know if there is likely to be any charges as a result of the ongoing investigation.

SHERWOOD

12:10:32
My sources said we should pay attention to it. It'd be like the other two guys who got caught up, the people from the foundation said to pass money from grant money to Mr. Thomas who stole it. It was intended for children. But I think what this suggests in the broader picture is that, while we have an annual audit that just came out in this past week that showed there's $240 million surplus, I'm just not sure that we're doing enough checking -- auditing to government agencies and where the money goes and how it's spent.

SHERWOOD

12:11:01
I think the audit pretty much just says, yes, you had this much money, and, yes, you've accounted for it. Maybe we need more of a quality audit to say what did you do with the money?

NNAMDI

12:11:11
Well, let's step over to Maryland since that's the direction in which we're headed, anyway. Maryland First Lady Catherine Curran ultimately apologizing for a statement she made last week, quoting here, "We didn't expect things that happened to the House of Delegates to occur, but, sadly, they did. And there were some cowards that prevented it from passing," it being same-sex marriage legislation last year in the General Assembly.

SHERWOOD

12:11:35
You know, I don't know if she just spoke off cuff. I don't know if she thought about that. Maybe she thought she, you know -- but calling people cowards because they changed their mind on a vote, I mean, I think you really have to -- you know, people were under tremendous pressure about this vote. And cowards was not the right word, even -- whether you agree with people or not, I would just -- it's the coarseness of the politics that -- and she walked it back. She said she chose the wrong word. But certainly, there were people who were going to vote yes, then voted no. And they had their own reasons.

NNAMDI

12:12:06
Some said they did it out of religious conviction, but it's coming...

SHERWOOD

12:12:10
Well, some people were worried. I mean, they got heavily lobbied on both sides. And some of the people said, look, if you vote for this, you know, we're going to be after you. But, you know, it was a tough thing. I just think cowards is a word we don't need. You have to have a really good case to use that word.

NNAMDI

12:12:23
It's on the agenda again. We'll see how it comes out this time around. Montgomery County could be heading to court soon. A brand new transit center in Silver Spring was scheduled to open soon, but it's going to be delayed again because of concerns about the safety of the concrete. Joining us now in studio is Roger Berliner, president of the Montgomery County Council. He's a Democrat. Roger Berliner, thank you so much for joining us.

COUNCILMEMBER ROGER BERLINER

12:12:48
Nice to be with you.

NNAMDI

12:12:49
Well, the council met on Monday to assess the damage. What did you learn, and where do you go from here?

BERLINER

12:12:55
Well, what we learned was that we had specs in our contract for the construction of this very major facility, which WMATA is a partner in...

NNAMDI

12:13:06
Mm hmm.

BERLINER

12:13:06
...that called for concrete to be poured to a certain thickness, 10." This is a significant structure. The specifications were quite clear. And we saw pictures that indicated that, instead of 10" in some places, it was 8." In some places, it was 8.5." In 50 percent of the second floor, the thickness was not what it needs to be, according to the specs. So that caused a great deal of consternation, obviously.

BERLINER

12:13:37
And now, we are in conversation with the contractor. It is their turn, if you will, to come to the county and say, this is our remediation plan, if they believe remediation is necessary. And then the county will sit down and assess that and figure out what it needs to do.

NNAMDI

12:13:54
If you have questions or comments for Roger Berliner, president of the Montgomery County Council, call us at 800-433-8850, send a tweet, @kojoshow, email to kojo@wamu.org, or you can simply go to our website, kojoshow.org, and ask your question there. Any indication yet of whose fault it is? It's my understanding that there are several contractors involved.

BERLINER

12:14:17
Well, there's a major contractor, and that major contractor has a subcontractor that was in charge of the concrete. And typically what takes place when you pour concrete is somebody goes around and puts a ruler in, if you will, and measures the thickness. As to whether that took place or not, we don't know at this moment in time. All we know is it does not meet the specs, and WMATA is pretty clear that these were important specs.

SHERWOOD

12:14:44
Well, that's what I was going to ask you. Why are they important? Is this a quality issue, a safety issue? Will the building or whatever -- will fall apart if it's not 10" as opposed to 8.5? Is it you can't have that much variation?

BERLINER

12:14:58
And I have to say I am not an engineer, so to ask the president of the county council a structural engineering kind of question, I can't answer that. But I can tell you that the specifications were designed because of load-bearing considerations and durability. This is a structure that needs to last a long time. So...

SHERWOOD

12:15:17
And any indication this was a mistake or just cost-cutting or some changes? How -- don't know?

BERLINER

12:15:23
We do not know that at this moment in time.

SHERWOOD

12:15:25
OK.

NNAMDI

12:15:26
OK. As I said, the project involved different contractors and subcontractors who were involved with the construction. How do you begin to determine who is accountable here?

BERLINER

12:15:37
Well, we know who is accountable.

NNAMDI

12:15:39
Who?

BERLINER

12:15:40
The contractor is accountable.

NNAMDI

12:15:42
In the final analysis.

BERLINER

12:15:43
In the final analysis. It's not the county's obligation to go around and measure the thickness of the concrete, so it is the contractor's responsibility. And now, the question will be precisely as what has been posed as to what is the significance of this deviation from the specs. The preliminary indications from our county seemed to suggest that it's a significant issue.

NNAMDI

12:16:06
A plan to build an 80,000 square mile -- square foot Wal-Mart in Rockville Pike has been delayed due to protests from members of the community, as well as members of the council. You yourself have strongly opposed the development plans. What are your specific complaints about this Wal-Mart proposal?

BERLINER

12:16:23
Well, actually, my specific concerns with respect to the Wal-Mart proposal really relate to urban design. What this particular parcel is currently zoned for is our old-fashioned suburban model. It can only allow for the old-fashioned suburban model. And we have just gone through a great deal of effort to turn that portion of our county into the new urbanism, if you will -- street activated, pedestrian friendly, mixed use.

BERLINER

12:16:53
And this would set us back decades. So what I've proposed -- and I've worked closely with Wal-Mart's developer to come up with an alternative way in which they can proceed as long as they do so consistent with our vision of that portion of our community, which would be mixed-use, which would be small stores around the Wal-Mart. So Wal-Mart actually acts as an attractor for small business and where you have residential units on top. This is within 1,500 feet of a Metro station.

SHERWOOD

12:17:22
This is...

NNAMDI

12:17:22
What power do you...

SHERWOOD

12:17:23
...very similar in Boston, in Virginia. They've done this in Boston, another place that -- just the other day, and I was -- it's impressive. There are stores on the bottom. There are people living above, access to Metro. But it would -- you'd still have a huge giant big-box store and all of that?

BERLINER

12:17:41
It depends on the design. We've seen alternative designs that actually look quite attractive from an urban design perspective. So I have been agnostic with respect to Wal-Mart per se. This isn't pro or con Wal-Mart. It is saying this portion of our community is too important to push us back two decades into the past. So that's the point of this exercise.

NNAMDI

12:18:03
If...

SHERWOOD

12:18:03
Does the...

NNAMDI

12:18:04
If in the final analysis Wal-Mart says we're going to do what we're going to do and that's it, what influence or power do you have to change that?

BERLINER

12:18:13
We have the power to rezone this property, and that is what I've proposed and worked with them towards. So instead of them going forward under the current zoning, which only allows this old suburban-style approach, we are proposing a new zoning approach that will allow them to do mixed use.

NNAMDI

12:18:32
What's your view? Do you think Wal-Mart should be, A, allowed to locate in that area, period, or B, allowed to locate only if it follows the guidelines that the president of the Montgomery County Council has indicated? 800-433-8850. You said in your letter that the potential building of Wal-Mart would turn Rockville Pike into, quoting here, "a throwback to the '50s suburb." What's your view -- in your view, what's wrong with leave it to the -- "Leave It to Beaver"-style suburbs?

BERLINER

12:19:02
We have lots of "Leave It to Beaver"-type suburbs. We have some wonderful residential communities. But if you drive up that portion of Rockville Pike and see all the asphalt, you would say to yourself, we can do better than acres and acres of asphalt. We can have a street activated. We can have a Grand Boulevard. We can have people living in our community and getting on Metro.

BERLINER

12:19:23
So these are all the things that we are trying to do that, as you suggested in Boston has achieved with great success. We haven't achieved it with the same degree of success because our Metro, quite frankly, is more of a suburban-style Metro.

SHERWOOD

12:19:36
Are we losing -- the big picture appears to be that we're losing what we commonly called suburbs. When you look at Virginia, Tysons Corner is trying to reinvent itself to become urban, walkable, sustainable, livable, all those words, which we've all used for urban places, like Washington, is Virginia actually ahead of Maryland in this? I mean, White Flint is -- Bloomingdale's this week started tearing it down, is that correct, this week?

BERLINER

12:20:04
Yes. It is in part because we are going to redo that whole section to be more of a new urban approach.

SHERWOOD

12:20:10
Is -- we're just going to have huge urban places? Is this going to be one giant urban place of walkable, sustainable communities? Are the suburbs dead unless you go way out?

BERLINER

12:20:20
No, because, again, I represent communities like Chevy Chase, Bethesda and Potomac. I promise you, our suburban communities are thriving and alive and well. We have some of the finest residential neighborhoods in America. We -- what we are trying to do is retain those qualities and at the same time look at where we have commercial development and say, is this the kind of commercial development we want and do better by our environment and have smarter growth and achieve the kind of land use that we think the future is dictating?

NNAMDI

12:20:52
Gentlemen, please don your headphones. We are about to go to the telephones. We will start with Corey, who is in Silver Spring, Md. Corey, you're on the air. Go ahead, please.

COREY

12:21:02
Hi. Thanks for having me. Could I ask the council president about bus rapid transit? Traffic's pretty bad up here, and we've got to do something to fix it and get us out of the cars. I wonder if there's a proposal by Councilmember Marc Elrich to get bus rapid transit to solve some of these problems. Is there ever going to move forward?

BERLINER

12:21:22
It is my hope that it will move forward. Thank you for your question. It -- Councilmember Elrich has really done a great a service for our community for advancing this concept that is now become the subject of a county executive transit task force that has worked very hard for over a good part of the last year. And we are talking about a system that, in my judgment, is a potential game changer for our county and is transformational.

BERLINER

12:21:48
It is a system that is practically indistinguishable from light rail, much less expensive, much more flexible and will move so many people so that the number quality of life issue in our community like many communities in this region is congestion. And we need to get people out of their cars.

NNAMDI

12:22:07
Well, you say it's practically the same as light rail. But a lot of people are skeptical about buses. They think slow, they think traffic, they think, why not just drive my own car? How is the bus rapid transit system different, and will people actually ride it?

BERLINER

12:22:23
This is not your father's bus, OK? This is -- the most important message you can send to people is that this is a very different vehicle, more like a bullet train in look and dedicated lanes. That's the key. If you have your buses as we do today in traffic with everybody else, you're absolutely right. What's the benefit here? So in the absence of dedicated lanes, yeah, then I wouldn't be making this pitch.

BERLINER

12:22:50
But we will have dedicated lanes for vehicles that look like bullet trains, very sleek that you get on with a fare card, much like you do our subway, so it will be a service that's indistinguishable and will attract people who, otherwise, would not be attracted.

NNAMDI

12:23:07
Corey, thank you very much for your call. You, too, can call us at 800-433-8850. Tom.

SHERWOOD

12:23:12
What do you think of street cars? The District of Columbia, going back to the future, back to the past, whatever the hell it is, they're going to have street cars again.

BERLINER

12:23:21
I like that approach. I commend the...

SHERWOOD

12:23:24
We have a street car down Wisconsin Avenue in the middle of Bethesda to White -- no, you couldn't go to White Flint.

BERLINER

12:23:29
Well, we hope to have rapid transit vehicles literally down the middle of our White Flint redevelopment. We want to turn White -- that part of Rockville Pike into a grand boulevard with rapid transit running right down the middle, so, yes.

NNAMDI

12:23:42
Can we talk Pepco? The State of Maryland and Montgomery County have been at war with Pepco for much of the past two years. Pepco was recently fined at the state level for failing to provide reliable service to Maryland customers. What's the county strategy going forward to improve reliability at Pepco?

BERLINER

12:23:59
Well, I think I'm quite proud of our county's contribution to that result. Our county has been pushing very hard, and it was a result of our request for an investigation that the Maryland Public Service Commission actually launched an investigation into Pepco's reliability. So we participated heavily. We argued that Pepco should be found to be imprudent because its reliability was so terrible, and the commission ruled that Pepco was imprudent and gave them the biggest fine in the Maryland Public Service Commission's history.

BERLINER

12:24:30
Quite frankly, I think that $1 million was more of slap on the wrist to a corporation of Pepco size, but have we gotten their attention? I think we have.

NNAMDI

12:24:40
Well, what concerns do you have about, now that you've gotten Pepco's attention, whether the pressure on Pepco will result in steeper rates for Pepco customers?

BERLINER

12:24:51
Well, that's going to be the ongoing debate is when they seek to recover from our ratepayers, from our residents, the cost of improving the reliability, how much of those costs should be borne by shareholders as opposed to our residents? And that is a debate that will define the next couple of rate cases.

NNAMDI

12:25:11
Is it a debate that the Maryland Public Service Commission would have a say in?

BERLINER

12:25:15
Maryland Public Service Commission has 100 percent say in all of these things. I wish our county council had 100 percent share -- say in this. We have zero say in it, other than being an advocate before the Maryland Public Service Commission, which is the regulator of Pepco.

SHERWOOD

12:25:32
There's no one happier about this unusually warm winter than Pepco.

BERLINER

12:25:37
Other than our residents.

SHERWOOD

12:25:39
Well, no. I don't think -- I think Pepco's joy is...

NNAMDI

12:25:41
And you seemed happier than the residents.

SHERWOOD

12:25:42
... is because they needed this break after 2010 with the snowmageddon and the problems last year with sudden storm last January a year ago. So they -- they're at least getting a breather here to get some more work done.

BERLINER

12:25:54
Absolutely.

SHERWOOD

12:25:55
Do you think there's been a culture change at Pepco? I mean, we see the ads on the -- hear the ads on radio and see them on television, that they are, in fact, changing, that they are much more aggressive in getting reading to be in place to provide power and react to storms?

BERLINER

12:26:11
I do think there's been a change, and the proof will be in the pudding that we need to see the statistics. We need to see the reliability increase. As you know, they were in the lowest quartile in the nation in...

SHERWOOD

12:26:23
The Washington Post.

BERLINER

12:26:24
...in reliability. They're also the most hated company in America, but they were the lowest quartile in the nation in reliability on sunny day outages. We're not talking about big storms. We're talking about the normal operations, and they were in the lowest quartile in the nation. In my judgment, they need to be in the top quartile in the nation.

NNAMDI

12:26:43
We got an email from someone who says, "The governor is pushing forward a plan that would essentially force counties to shoulder cost for pensions. What concerns do you have about the governor's plan, and what are you telling members of the county's delegation in Annapolis to do?"

BERLINER

12:26:57
Well, it's funny you should ask because I just drove from Annapolis after making a presentation to our delegation on precisely this point. We cannot afford them shifting to us this financial burden. We've struggled just as the state has struggled. We've cut our budgets just as the state has cut its budgets. And...

SHERWOOD

12:27:15
And you're one of the most wealthy counties.

BERLINER

12:27:17
...and we're one of the most wealthy, and we will...

SHERWOOD

12:27:18
If not the most.

BERLINER

12:27:20
And so if you look at the -- we will bear a disproportionate share of the pension cost shift, and we will contribute a disproportionate share of any tax increases that come about as a result of this session. So it's sort of a double whammy. We will pay the most and we would be shifted to the most, so we're arguing very strongly that this really can't happen in this manner.

SHERWOOD

12:27:41
I read something where -- that Fairfax and Montgomery County each get, like, 25 cents on the dollar back for every dollar you send to the state. It's a very small amount of money that you got.

SHERWOOD

12:27:52
It is and it's one of the burdens of having been a relatively prosperous community.

NNAMDI

12:27:59
On to Toni in Southwest Washington. Toni, you're on the air. Go ahead, please

TONI

12:28:05
Well, I feel a little bit embarrassed about going back to suburbs. But I have a question about suburbs. Who would want to keep them? I mean, suburbs don't encourage walking. Suburbs don't have walkways or accessible doors or, you know, why wouldn't we want to get rid of them? I heard a comment that, you know, won't that destroy our suburbs? Well, I hope it does.

SHERWOOD

12:28:28
But do you live in near Southwest or far Southwest?

TONI

12:28:32
I live at River Park, which is...

SHERWOOD

12:28:34
Oh, you're my neighbor.

TONI

12:28:34
...somewhere -- oh, I'm quite surprised.

SHERWOOD

12:28:37
This is Tom Sherwood. I live next door at Harvard Square, or nearby.

TONI

12:28:40
Do you?

SHERWOOD

12:28:41
Yes.

TONI

12:28:41
Good.

SHERWOOD

12:28:42
So very smart...

NNAMDI

12:28:42
This is making me sick.

SHERWOOD

12:28:43
...very smart person calling in here.

NNAMDI

12:28:45
This is making me completely ill.

NNAMDI

12:28:49
But, Roger Berliner, people moved to the suburbs in the first place to get away from the city.

SHERWOOD

12:28:54
From urban.

NNAMDI

12:28:55
Now, suburbs are -- seem to be transforming themselves into cities.

BERLINER

12:28:59
And I think the caller has a good point. And as an environmentalist, I think we also have to recognize that the old suburban model-created sprawl so that in our community, for example, we have so many people driving through our community to the extent to which, again, our number one issue in quality of life is congestion. We want to get people out of their cars.

BERLINER

12:29:20
We want to reduce the number of miles people are driving in their cars, then this new urbanism approach really works very well as long as we can assure our community that their residential neighborhoods are preserved so that this is at their expense that we can have the best of both worlds.

SHERWOOD

12:29:39
Did you take a bus to Annapolis?

BERLINER

12:29:41
I did not.

SHERWOOD

12:29:42
How many cars do you own?

BERLINER

12:29:44
I have a Prius.

SHERWOOD

12:29:45
A Prius.

BERLINER

12:29:45
I have one car, OK?

SHERWOOD

12:29:46
It's one of those insufferable people with a Prius.

BERLINER

12:29:49
I have a Prius.

NNAMDI

12:29:50
I, too, drive a hybrid. Thank you very much.

SHERWOOD

12:29:53
Oh, they just -- they drive down. You see that smile on their face.

BERLINER

12:29:55
Exactly. We are so self-satisfied.

NNAMDI

12:29:57
That's for you and for Toni who often (unintelligible).

SHERWOOD

12:29:59
Do you also own a bicycle? No bike?

NNAMDI

12:30:02
Here is...

BERLINER

12:30:03
No bike.

SHERWOOD

12:30:03
OK. All right.

NNAMDI

12:30:04
OK, Sherwood owns a bicycle. Here is another...

BERLINER

12:30:05
I used to have a motorcycle.

NNAMDI

12:30:05
...caller in Rockville -- on Rockville Pike. Tom, you're on the air. Go ahead, please.

TOM

12:30:12
Yes. I wanted just to chime in on the proposed new Wal-Mart that's coming across the street from a center that I have on Rockville Pike. I'm a small businessman. We have 2,500 square foot retail shopping center with eight tenants in it. And since our last hearing -- from time to time, I'll go see the tenants if they need anything or if there are any repairs or maintenance. And I broached was what going on across the street 'cause a lot of them have been asking questions.

TOM

12:30:45
Every one of them, unanimously, all eight of the tenants -- and these are big tenants. There's Original Pancake House, Nighttime Pediatrics Hospital, Men's Wearhouse, Sleepy's, a hair salon, a Yang's Alterations and a chiropractor. Every one of them thought it was great to have that development across the street. They're all positive about it.

SHERWOOD

12:31:11
Because it will bring more customers who will see your signs and their signs, and go into their stores?

TOM

12:31:17
Well, not only bringing in more customers -- and I understand since they just opened up Nebel Street, you know, that now brings a lot of traffic off of the Pike, and that cut-through seems to bring more people directly to our center, which has benefited, but more importantly, with their employees. There must be -- between the eight tenants, there must be 50 employees, and, you know, they're hardworking people. They're there early in the morning till late at night. And specifically what they like is the ability to have food and sandwiches and bread there from the deli.

NNAMDI

12:31:51
But, Tom, allow me to interrupt. I don't know where you come down on the size of the Wal-Mart.

TOM

12:31:58
I'm sorry. I don't understand your question.

NNAMDI

12:32:00
Allow me to have Roger Berliner address what you raised and talk about what he is proposing then to clarify.

BERLINER

12:32:06
Tom, I appreciate your point of view. As you know, Wal-Mart is controversial in a lot of communities because it doesn't pay as well in its wages. Its benefits aren't as good. But as you observed, it also provides low-cost purchasing opportunities, and in this economic climate, that is so terribly important for so many people. It is one of the reasons why am I am "agnostic" with respect to the benefits and the costs associated with Wal-Mart.

BERLINER

12:32:34
And my approach, I think, you will actually find appropriate is just to make sure that as it goes forward, that it goes forward in a way that it's consistent with our vision of wide flint and that it actually helps small businesses, that we ring the Wal-Mart with small businesses and that we have residential units there, which ought to also be a help to your mall.

NNAMDI

12:32:56
Does this sound appealing to you, Tom?

TOM

12:32:58
Oh, it definitely does...

NNAMDI

12:32:59
OK.

TOM

12:32:59
...and the way I understood it, when I went to that town meeting is that this is a smaller Wal-Mart. We're not talking about 80- or 100- or 120,000 square foot box. We're talking about 40,000 square feet, which...

NNAMDI

12:33:11
Oh, no, we were talking about 80. We were talking about 80. Here is Roger Berliner again.

BERLINER

12:33:16
Yes, sir. As originally proposed, it was going to be an 80,000 square foot big-box sitting all by itself. And it was that design feature that prompted a number of us to sit down with them and say, can't we do something better? Can't we do something that is going to serve us well into the future?

SHERWOOD

12:33:35
I thought this caller Tom was going to say he was worried about the big box coming because the small stores he described, the Pancake House and Men's Wearhouse and Sleepy's, would...

NNAMDI

12:33:45
Oh, he sees more business coming his way.

SHERWOOD

12:33:47
But they would be put out of business 'cause people would go on to the big store to buy those things.

NNAMDI

12:33:53
Apparently that is not Tom's concern.

SHERWOOD

12:33:55
Well...

NNAMDI

12:33:55
Tom, you seem to feel that other businesses will benefit by Wal-Mart's presence, but I'm afraid we're just about out of time. So, Tom, thank you very much for calling. And, Roger Berliner, thank you very much for visiting with us.

BERLINER

12:34:05
Nice to be with you again.

SHERWOOD

12:34:06
No Purple Line discussion.

NNAMDI

12:34:07
Ah, you want to meant -- you want to ask something about the Purple Line?

SHERWOOD

12:34:10
When it's going to be built?

BERLINER

12:34:13
Talk to the federal government for us. As soon as we can get them to say yes, yes, yes, that's when it'll be built.

SHERWOOD

12:34:18
OK.

NNAMDI

12:34:18
Roger Berliner is the president of the Montgomery County Council. He is a Democrat. Roger Berliner, thank you so much for joining us.

BERLINER

12:34:25
Nice to be with you.

NNAMDI

12:34:26
Tom Sherwood, let's go to Virginia for a second because the Virginia Senate is up and busy because it now has technically a Republican majority. It's evenly divided, 20-20, but, of course, the Republicans have that one tie-breaking vote there. And they passed a bill Wednesday that would require women to have an ultrasound before an abortion. And it's the first, apparently, of several legislative measures that are expected to dramatically alter abortion law in the Senate.

SHERWOOD

12:34:53
Yes. This was expected once the Republicans essentially won the control of the Senate. And some of the people who are opposed to abortion believe that if a mother is shown the fetus that she is about to abort that maybe they won't. Some people -- others have said that's a cruel and emotionally stressful thing to do to a woman who's already struggling with the idea of having the pregnancy or not. But I think we'll see -- and the vote was, I think, 21-18. I think you'll see -- nibbling around the edges on the abortion issue, you know, I covered the big light -- March for Life January.

SHERWOOD

12:35:34
And people -- or people who are anti-abortion wanted out. They wanted -- in almost no case. And I think you'll see in every place they can to find a soft spot, they are going to do so, and that's what the Virginia legislature has done.

NNAMDI

12:35:48
And the Virginia Senate is also expected to do away with the one-gun per-month cap on purchasing handguns. They are expected to vote today on that. And with that purchase limit apparently headed for extinction, we now have a Virginia that is more friendly to gun rights than ever. The House passed a bill allowing government employees to store guns and ammunition in personal cars parked in workplace lots, including those at child care centers and parks.

SHERWOOD

12:36:16
I don't want to be too flippant about this 'cause it's too serious of an issue. But if I were pro-life, I think, I'd be anti-gun.

NNAMDI

12:36:22
Yeah. Well...

SHERWOOD

12:36:23
But, you know, Doug Wilder was a governor in 1993. He wanted to do something that would curve gun sales because Virginia is nationally known is a place where you can go get guns. So he managed to get the legislature and say, well, at least you can only buy one gun a month. And so 12, you know, like the a-gun-a-month club. And now, that's going to go away. And there's this, again, is -- the gun folks who want no impingement on the Second Amendment right to have a gun want to be able to carry a gun wherever they can, and they don't see an end to their campaign either.

NNAMDI

12:36:58
You cover D.C. politics very closely. You cover the issues of voting rights and statehood. Did you make the trip to New Hampshire last week in the company of the mayor and several members of the council in the attempt to persuade the New Hampshire state legislature to come out in favor of statehood for the District?

SHERWOOD

12:37:16
No. I did not go, and we'll be talking maybe about what the results of that trip were because I'm not sure -- I mean, I have written in my newspaper column somewhat critically about D.C. vote and how it's polite lobbying organization when we basically need someone to set himself on fire on the National Mall, as long as he's not Marion Barry. But...

SHERWOOD

12:37:38
It's my standard speech joke. I apologize. But, you know, it's an important issue. But -- the -- I think what these folks found up there is woeful ignorance about exactly who we are here in the District of Columbia. They all think we work for the federal government. I have said before, I actually interviewed a guy on the Mall from Kentucky or Indiana, and he thought that I work for the federal government. And I was so dumbfounded by his view that I almost couldn't talk to him. And I think some of that is in New Hampshire, too.

NNAMDI

12:38:09
Well, they may have found a misinformed state legislature, but what they also found was a majority Republican state legislature. And one of the individuals who was involved in that trip as an organizer and a councilmember is Michael Brown. He's a member of the D.C. council. He's an independent who joins us now in studio. Michael Brown, welcome. Thank you for joining us.

COUNCILMEMBER MICHAEL BROWN

12:38:30
And thank you for having me, Kojo. Tom, how are you?

SHERWOOD

12:38:32
I'm good. Mr. Councilmember, it's woeful ignorance, isn't it?

BROWN

12:38:35
It is.

SHERWOOD

12:38:36
It's almost as if we're not even -- that we don't exist.

BROWN

12:38:39
It's too bad.

NNAMDI

12:38:39
I beg to differ, but go ahead.

BROWN

12:38:41
No. It's too bad. One of the things -- there are two pieces that you raise.

NNAMDI

12:38:43
Didn't you guys Google New Hampshire state legislature before you went and saw that it was a majority Republican state, but just to make sure that (unintelligible) chances?

BROWN

12:38:47
We sure, but it's not -- Kojo, it's not just -- yes. But it also not just about getting votes where we need to get votes. It's about raising awareness. It's about educating people about what we're trying to get accomplished. There's no question. We have to have some kind of Republican strategy related to it because just on politics alone, you could have Republicans say, why would I want to support something that'll probably guarantee two left leaning senators to the United States Senate? So...

NNAMDI

12:39:12
Two Democratic senators.

BROWN

12:39:13
Yeah. Well, left leaning, Democratic.

SHERWOOD

12:39:14
Well, it's same thing.

BROWN

12:39:15
Yeah. So from my standpoint, I understand the politics of it, so we do need to have a Republican strategy. We've reached out to the D.C. GOP a little bit to try to figure out some of these pieces 'cause it's makes it probably challenging for them because if that's not part of their plank, it's probably going to be difficult for them to be helpful. But we're still going to go around the country and educate folks. We're going to win some states. We'll lose some states. Hawaii and Alaska weren't perfect either, and we'll figure it out. But we got to be more aggressive. We're going to let down this baton.

SHERWOOD

12:39:40
The vote was eight to three, and several of the members of the legislature committee said, well, you know, we don't know if this is constitutional. You know, the Constitution says bluntly that the Congress has full legislative authority over the District. And to which I would say, well, if it does, then it can grant us statehood irrespective of the other conditions of the Constitution 'cause it has full legislative authority.

BROWN

12:40:02
Correct.

NNAMDI

12:40:02
Well, what's the overarching strategy...

BROWN

12:40:03
In fact, I like that. You should've called me. You could've testified with...

NNAMDI

12:40:05
What's the overarching strategy here? Because you're heading down to Florida in the coming weeks on a similar mission, what's the overarching strategy? Why...

SHERWOOD

12:40:14
It's not the Super Bowl week. And you're going this weekend when there's...

BROWN

12:40:16
No. No. No. No.

SHERWOOD

12:40:17
Not to Indianapolis anyway.

NNAMDI

12:40:17
Why does that strategy not include the members of Congress right here in Washington in Capitol Hill?

BROWN

12:40:24
It actually will be. We're talking to folks in Maryland now. We're talking to Virginia. Well, we have to talk all over the country. But you're right. We are talking regionally as well. And there'll be different thresholds in different parts of the country, again, in Florida. A lot of it just -- I'm going to be honest about it. A lot of it is -- it is pomp and circumstances. It is about educating people.

BROWN

12:40:40
It is about getting attention to this issue even if we know we're not going to get the votes in particular states, but that doesn't mean you stop fighting. We have to fight for statehood. This is too important, and it doesn't matter how many hurdles are in place.

NNAMDI

12:40:50
You are a known supporter statehood, but during the course of the past few weeks when people hear the name Michael Brown, statehood is not the first thing that comes to mind.

BROWN

12:40:59
I hope they're talking about jobs, right?

NNAMDI

12:41:00
Online gambling...

BROWN

12:41:01
Oh, I thought you're going to say jobs and housing and...

NNAMDI

12:41:03
Online gambling is the first thing.

BROWN

12:41:04
My kids are getting to go to college. I don't know what you're talking...

NNAMDI

12:41:06
No, online gambling.

BROWN

12:41:07
Oh.

NNAMDI

12:41:07
We've had you on this broadcast several times to talk about your plan to roll out Internet gaming, gambling, whatever we choose to call it. But now, it seems that the council, your council is ready to roll back that plan before we get into what happened this week. Allow me to channel a recent column by The Washington Post Colbert King who wrote this past weekend that the entire issue is emblematic of an amorality. He made the distinction. He said, not an immorality in D.C. 'cause amorality means a lack of morality in D.C. government. How would you respond?

BROWN

12:41:41
Well, I think that's part of what's going on with the repeal legislation. I think there's a lot of media intimidation going on that have...

SHERWOOD

12:41:48
Media intimidation.

BROWN

12:41:49
Media intimidation.

SHERWOOD

12:41:50
What does that mean?

BROWN

12:41:50
That means...

NNAMDI

12:41:51
You.

BROWN

12:41:51
That means if folks don't do what particular newspapers want them to do, then they're going to write bad things about you. I'm -- you know, I guess I have a different level of threshold. I really don't necessarily care. I want to do right by the residents of the District of Columbia. And as we went through this process, three to one residents were in favor of online gaming.

BROWN

12:42:09
So, in fact, when you use the term roll back, folks are actually going against what the political will is and what the people's will is relative to this particular issue. That's why I raised the issue about the casinos must be now involved in trying to block this because it is in their benefit for us not to have this.

NNAMDI

12:42:24
My own unofficial, disorganized poll agrees, indicates that people from the majority...

SHERWOOD

12:42:29
You agreed?

NNAMDI

12:42:30
...seemed to be in favor of Internet gambling in the District of Columbia. If that is indeed the case, why did you not introduce it simply as a separate piece of legislation that the council would have been able to consider and have hearings on rather than the method by which it was introduced? And the inspector general criticized the chief financial officer of the District of Columbia for putting it in a lottery bill that nobody noticed that it was in.

BROWN

12:42:55
Yeah. Well, I can't speak for why no one noticed it. I mean, when anytime you put something in the budget, it's in bold type. It's hard to miss. And I can't speak for folks who didn't read it, who didn't read it. But there were also two readings in the council. I came on your show. I was on countless TV shows. It was in the press. The fact that people are using they didn't know that is -- that's -- it's curious. But I think more curious -- keep in mind, the inspector general also vindicated all the different issues related to online gaming.

BROWN

12:43:22
And everything was vindicated relative to process, council rules. When they attack me and my council members, my fellow council members personally, that was all vindicated. Everything has been debunked.

SHERWOOD

12:43:32
Except the inspector.

BROWN

12:43:32
We went around the city...

SHERWOOD

12:43:35
I know -- well, there was no -- you know, that's that stand, is, no laws broken and kind of -- that's the base standard. But didn't the inspector general say that the contract itself was changed after the fact that it should've gone back to the council?

BROWN

12:43:47
And I have no -- that part is legitimate for discussion. All that stuff started, though, well before I was on the council

NNAMDI

12:43:52
OK.

BROWN

12:43:52
I was talking about the process of online gaming, which was done properly amongst council rules. The question now is what's the solution? Why would we as a city want to walk away from an asset that everyone else wants? States are now clamoring to do the same thing we did. They want to get in before the federal legislation comes 'cause keep in mind, once it's federalized, local jurisdictions will not get the revenue. People need to understand that, so we have an opportunity...

SHERWOOD

12:44:13
You mean if the federal does it, then the states will have to stop doing it?

BROWN

12:44:17
Unless you're grandfathered in.

SHERWOOD

12:44:18
OK.

BROWN

12:44:18
Hence, why so many states are trying to get in like we did before the federal law is passed.

NNAMDI

12:44:22
Well...

SHERWOOD

12:44:23
I think we -- you said two things, which I don't think we should just let slide by because I asked you about one of them. You said that there are -- you think there are casino interests doing this. But we asked you, is there any evidence of that? You haven't said anything. You just think there might be.

BROWN

12:44:38
Well...

SHERWOOD

12:44:39
Everyone I've asked has said that's -- no one's been contacted by anyone who's obviously from a casino interest. Do you know of some?

BROWN

12:44:45
I have -- I've heard some names, yes.

SHERWOOD

12:44:47
Any council members?

BROWN

12:44:48
Oh, I don't know. I don't sit in their offices to monitor it.

SHERWOOD

12:44:49
OK. The other thing is you said that news media is in some way playing -- are you -- do you mean the news media, are you specifically talking about The Washington Post editorial page or...

BROWN

12:44:57
No, I thinkā€¦.

SHERWOOD

12:44:58
I mean, be a little more specific 'cause I'm in the news media. I mean, I don't know that I'm got any scheme. I haven't gotten any marching orders from some power.

BROWN

12:45:05
Fair enough. Fair enough.

SHERWOOD

12:45:07
So who are you talking about?

BROWN

12:45:08
There have been some other print newspapers that have done countless editorials, other stories that have done -- and they're all leaning negative. Even after facts came out that cleared up particular issues, they continue to report the same thing that's not factually correct.

SHERWOOD

12:45:21
So -- but you think they're doing that as a conspiratorial thing because they oppose you or 'cause they're ignorant?

BROWN

12:45:26
I don't know if there was a conference call that said it, but I think as elected officials, people are always very sensitive about what's written about them. And I think there has been some level of intimidation by folks, that if you don't do what we say, what we think is wrong for our city, we're going to write bad things about you.

NNAMDI

12:45:42
Well, let...

SHERWOOD

12:45:43
I would just say as a reporter -- can I just say one more thing?

NNAMDI

12:45:44
Sure.

SHERWOOD

12:45:44
As a reporter who writes a column and such, I will say, though, I think the big stumbling block was that this was done without public hearings. And even people I know who are for gambling, who come up to me in the grocery, as they do you as an elected official, will say, well, why we didn't we discuss this first 'cause I think it's a good idea?

BROWN

12:46:01
But you know what's interesting, Tom? Of community meetings I've gone to -- and I'm at-large. I get around the city -- I could count on one hand how many times I was asked about online gaming. I was asked about jobs bill. We've passed the biggest jobs bill in the city's history. I've been asked about making the city a more business-friendly place. We gave a business incentive bill that, if you hire D.C. residents, you get a tax break.

BROWN

12:46:19
No one wants to talk about that stuff, which really involves D.C. residents across this city. They want to talk about this, which is fine. I don't know. I still don't know why we want to...

SHERWOOD

12:46:27
People disputed the -- how well-known it was because, I must say, when I went to the lottery back in the spring to do a story in it a year ago, I was a little bit surprised when I learned that they have done this and all that. But all that aside...

BROWN

12:46:37
Bt then, Tom -- but then we went to every ward in the city. An unprecedented community...

SHERWOOD

12:46:42
Yeah. But that was -- 300 people, most, out of the whole thing, came (unintelligible).

BROWN

12:46:45
But that's how many people come to most of our hearings. We don't get that many for most of our hearings.

SHERWOOD

12:46:47
Here's the deal. When the Council rejects -- and the mayor -- even after seven people in the Council indicated they'll vote against it, the mayor, you know, took a bold stand and came out and said he would be against it. So how long will it be after Tuesday's vote before you reintroduce the bill?

BROWN

12:47:02
Well, that's if the repeal passes. I'm not confident that whoever has been handicapping these votes is accurate.

SHERWOOD

12:47:09
I thought you told me on camera Monday or so that the votes were likely to take it down on Tuesday.

BROWN

12:47:12
No. I actually said I didn't believe in what was being down on the handicap. I thought I said that on The Desk, but...

SHERWOOD

12:47:17
You did on The Desk, but I'm talking about Monday.

BROWN

12:47:19
Oh. Well, if I said that, I misspoke 'cause I don't believe that those numbers are accurate. We have a couple of days to see if people really want to do walk away from this asset.

NNAMDI

12:47:24
I would like to walk back the reasons you give why your colleagues, you think, decided themselves to walk this back. And allow me to channel Maryland first lady Catherine Curran for a while. You seem to be suggesting that your colleagues lack a certain intestinal fortitude.

BROWN

12:47:43
No. No. People have the ability. From my standpoint, this is a legitimate public policy debate. If you don't think you should vote to have online gaming in the District of Columbia 'cause it's the nation's capital, that is a legitimate concern. But to raise...

NNAMDI

12:47:54
But that's not what you said, that the reason they...

BROWN

12:47:56
Oh, no, no.

NNAMDI

12:47:56
They were intimidated. They were intimidated.

BROWN

12:47:58
No. I said that's one of the issues...

SHERWOOD

12:47:59
No. He says they are bought by some unseen casino hand.

BROWN

12:48:02
No. I didn't say that either. What I said is two things. I said, yes, I think there's some media intimidation. I did say that. I did say there's some external interest from outside our the city that are (unintelligible) keep in mind, when I -- early on in this process, I said the two things that concerned me wasn't process, wasn't legality. The concern to me was Capitol Hill and outside interest. And now I think outside interest are playing a role in this.

NNAMDI

12:48:22
Well, what I'm hearing is that Michael Brown does not back down from media intimidation, but some of my colleagues do. Care to comment?

SHERWOOD

12:48:35
Well -- and I'd like to k now more about what the media intimidation is. I mean, The Post reporters have been aggressive in writing about this story. The editorial page is certainly been questioning the process about it. But I just -- it just sounds conspiratorial, like, you know, they are out to do something. I wonder who the they is.

BROWN

12:48:51
Again, I said I don't know...

SHERWOOD

12:48:52
I'll do a story about them.

BROWN

12:48:53
I wish -- I don't know who the they are. I don't know who -- if there was a conference call...

SHERWOOD

12:48:56
I worked at The Post, and I would do stories. And people would say, well, in the editorial page, he's making us do this. And that was just total crock. In the 15 years I worked there, I did -- there was one story that I thought an editor had too big of a hand in, and I didn't do that story. I just...

BROWN

12:49:11
What would you consider too many editorials on a particular issue, two, three, four?

SHERWOOD

12:49:13
Well, I think the editorial page can write -- they can have one every day. The editorial page is...

BROWN

12:49:17
Right. I'm not suggesting they can't, but have you seen an issue in this many editorials by a particular paper, on one issue?

SHERWOOD

12:49:25
I've -- oh, I think so. There are quite a few editorials about Harry Thomas.

BROWN

12:49:30
OK.

SHERWOOD

12:49:31
I never -- did you...

BROWN

12:49:31
But, I mean, there are not that many.

NNAMDI

12:49:31
Wait, wait, wait. I got to get the listeners in. Here's Jim.

SHERWOOD

12:49:34
Well, the listeners, what do they know?

NNAMDI

12:49:35
Here's Jim in Washington, D.C. We're hogging the conversation to ourselves. Jim, your turn. Jump in aggressively.

JIM

12:49:41
Yes. Thank you, sir. Councilmember Brown -- Jim Edley (sp?) -- do you acknowledge that gambling can be addictive for people, but there -- that if we have gambling, we're going to have people who will become compulsive gamblers and that there will be an impact in that, a fiscal impact and a social impact as a result of that?

BROWN

12:50:00
Jim, you raised two points. One, you and I have talked about this. You're -- and just let me say, Jim. If I can say publicly, Jim, you're certainly correct. Jim is a supporter of mine, but he and I happen to disagree -- have agreed to disagree on this particular issue. Absolutely, that's something we're concerned about. If you've heard from the lottery folks, they have talked quite a bit about having extremely aggressive treatment plans.

BROWN

12:50:19
We've made sure that that will be included. So I understand what you're saying. You also mentioned something about a budget, and we would be having a negative fiscal impact if this were repealed, that we would have to plug up that 14 -- just about $14 million hole in this out-year. So there are some other issues, but Jim is exactly right. Yes, we're doing everything we can, and, Jim, you're right.

BROWN

12:50:37
But, Jim, keep in mind -- you and I have talked about this too -- this is happening already. There are thousands of D.C. residents that are already playing unregulated in our city.

SHERWOOD

12:50:45
You can also ban alcohol and cigarettes if you want to keep people from having addictive behaviors.

BROWN

12:50:50
True.

SHERWOOD

12:50:50
So we can see that amendment coming.

NNAMDI

12:50:51
Jim, thank you very much for your call. Here is Anne...

BROWN

12:50:54
Some revenue challenges, in fact, too.

NNAMDI

12:50:55
...also in Washington, D.C. Anne, you're on the air. Go ahead, please.

ANNE

12:50:59
I would just like to say that the biggest problem with this whole thing is that there's no there, there. The statute that was passed had no requirement for regulations. It's had a -- said there could be. It had no real guidelines on how it's to be handled. There are no regulations that have been published, even proposals by the lottery board, except one for demonstration games, which would be basically just to hook you on free games so that you'll keep on gambling.

ANNE

12:51:28
When the lottery board held their community meetings, the -- what they said changed at every different -- at every meeting. There's nothing that binds them to anything. And the only thing that gives any indication about what it's going to be going on was appendix A to the contract, which was the part that was added several months after the Council approved the contract. And if anyone -- I don't know if anyone besides Mr. Brown has read it.

ANNE

12:51:55
It is absolutely appalling. It looks like Intralot is eating our lunch. It is full of all kinds of fees that go straight to them. It has all kinds of promotions and loyalty...

NNAMDI

12:52:07
What would you like to see happen, Anne?

ANNE

12:52:09
I think it -- I think the -- what's happening is what needs to happen, which is the law needs to be repealed. And if we want to get into Internet gambling, we need to actually have a full public discussion and have binding legislation that sets out what the program is going to be, and binding regulations that are very detailed. And if we look at other states that are doing this such as the...

NNAMDI

12:52:33
OK. I got to allow Michael Brown to respond because we're running out of time.

BROWN

12:52:36
I agree with her. We need to make sure the regulations are as tight as possible, and what I would propose is we do that now. We have an exhaustive public hearing related to the regulations. Keep in mind -- that's what's so interesting and curious also about the opposition -- they never weighed in on the regulations for the free games, which is interesting. They had an opportunity to do that through public notice. They chose not to do that. But I agree. They should be very tight. But if this -- once I re-introduce this, Anne mentioned, on the dais, it'll never get past Congress again.

SHERWOOD

12:53:02
Well, here's -- Tommy Wells and other council members expressed concerns that the lottery board, specifically Mr. Roogow, who runs it, can make a lot of decisions that he thought ought to be made by the elected leaders, of what games would be played, all those kinds of things, the limits of $250 a week and how that's going to work and why it would be -- change it to $500 if the revenues don't come in. It seemed to me that it was like Wild West, open, do pretty much what you want without enough oversight.

BROWN

12:53:32
Well, no. I don't think anyone can question that that hearing was not the best face that those particular agencies have put forward. But what Councilmember Wells -- one of the things I've talked about, too, is let's take the power out of that office, and every game that goes live, let the Council approve it, and let the public weigh in that.

SHERWOOD

12:53:47
Well, I'm not sure you guys are the best group either...

BROWN

12:53:50
But, no.

SHERWOOD

12:53:50
...with all those casino interests after you.

BROWN

12:53:52
At least let the public have a say in what games go live. I've no problem considering that. I just think it's a mistake, Tom, for us to walk away from a $200 million asset. That's a mistake.

NNAMDI

12:54:02
And one of the reasons you think it's a mistake is because you've consistently said that the District cannot afford to turn down revenue from gambling, that the city needs it to pay for its social safety net. You tweeted this week about how, unlike Mitt Romney, you have real concerns about very poor people. But an audit released this week found that the city is sitting on $240 million surplus. How does the surplus affect your argument?

BROWN

12:54:27
Well, no. Well, first of all, I think everyone is pleased about that, but we still have to do a lot of restorations with these cuts. I don't know if that includes the shortfalls we have in 2013 and 2014. As you know, I'm on the financial revenue committee. And so we still have shortfalls in the out-years, and that will be great. But we have to spend that money responsibly, or we have to put it back in the fund balance. So those are budget discussions that have to occur. And...

SHERWOOD

12:54:47
Does this money go to the fund balance to -- unless you overtly choose to spend it?

BROWN

12:54:55
Well, you better -- people have already started emailing and calling, saying, hey, we want housing production trust fund restored. What about rental housing assistance? What about our TANF recipients? So folks -- what about -- the University of District of Columbia needs more money...

SHERWOOD

12:55:07
There's tax on pensions also that people are getting out.

BROWN

12:55:09
That's right. Charter schools want more money. DCPS wants more money. So everyone saw the surplus, so everyone got in line to come feed at the trough.

NNAMDI

12:55:17
Well, nevertheless, I press on.

BROWN

12:55:19
Yes.

NNAMDI

12:55:19
A lot of people are saying that the surplus is evidence that the Council acted in a knee jerk fashion last fall when it passed a tax hike on high-income earners, a tax hike that you supported. How do you see it now?

BROWN

12:55:30
Well, obviously, any -- if the surplus was sitting there then, probably I would have had some different thinking, but at that time we didn't know about the surplus. I wish we had a crystal ball sometimes when we make decisions.

NNAMDI

12:55:40
So would you be willing to take a second look at the tax hike the Council enacted last year?

BROWN

12:55:43
If -- after we do some little vetting on it to make sure that it does plug the whole 13, 14 and those out-years. If it does, I don't see why anyone wouldn't want to have that discussion. However, I don't think I would be supporting it. I think once that tax is there, we need to be in line with other folks in the region.

NNAMDI

12:55:59
On to Larry in Annapolis, Md., who wants to talk statehood. Larry, you're on the air. Go ahead, please.

LARRY

12:56:05
OK. Thank you. Can you hear me?

NNAMDI

12:56:07
We can.

LARRY

12:56:09
My -- I've been watching this thing for years, and it's actually the fact that I can't believe that the Tea Party would actually violate the major premise of the original Tea Party, which was representation and not support D.C. Be that as it may, there is a possible solution. One is that there's always really -- as far as the federal entity goes in the District, there's only two -- one, possibly two legal residents. That's the president of the United States and the vice president. Everybody else is -- something -- somewhere -- all the employees and so forth actually should not be residents of a federal enclave.

NNAMDI

12:56:59
I'm afraid we're running out of time, Larry, and the argument you're making seems to be one that will require a lot more time to discuss. So I'm going to have to move on. I'd like to share this email we got from Michael Lipin, who said, "Just heard mentioned on the show that the folks who organized the recent Dupont Circle snowball fights were also responsible for the Groundhog Day spectacle in the park yesterday."

NNAMDI

12:57:22
That's actually incorrect. The Dupont snowball fights were organized by myself and my friend Ami Greener. And Aaron and the Dupont festival had no role in the snowball fights, and Ami and myself had no role in the Groundhog Day...

SHERWOOD

12:57:34
What? I made an error? Well, I won't quote my source 'cause I'll embarrass him. I'll take the blame for that. I'll throw a snowball if we ever get snow.

NNAMDI

12:57:41
Michael Brown, good to see you. Thank you so much for joining us.

BROWN

12:57:42
Kojo, this is also just bad business for the District of Columbia. I mean, folks wonder why...

SHERWOOD

12:57:46
Snowball fights?

BROWN

12:57:47
No. Folks wonder why...

SHERWOOD

12:57:48
Oh, lotteries.

BROWN

12:57:49
...we rank 51st in doing business in the country. We can't just rip the rug out of businesses that have acted in good faith for the residents of District of Columbia.

SHERWOOD

12:57:56
Public hearings...

NNAMDI

12:57:56
We can't go without noting the passing of beloved radio host and music historian Jerry Gray. Though he retired from WAMU some 10 years ago, he was a member of our WAMU family for more than 30 years. Our condolences go out to his family and friends. Information about memorial services or tributes will be posted at bluegrasscountry.org. Tom Sherwood, always a pleasure.

SHERWOOD

12:58:19
Happy week.

NNAMDI

12:58:20
Tom Sherwood is our resident analyst. He's an NBC4 reporter and a columnist for The Current Newspapers. Thank you all for listening. Have a great weekend. I'm Kojo Nnamdi.
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