Food Wednesday explores how a catastrophic drought in California is affecting choices people make throughout our food system - all the way down to shoppers at the grocery store in your neighborhood.
Guest Host: Marc Fisher
Social issues are dominating the debates in Richmond and Annapolis. In Maryland, Gov. O’Malley scored a major legislative victory on gay marriage. Meanwhile in Virginia, Gov. McDonnell backed off a controversial bill requiring ultrasounds before abortions. And in the District, lawmakers continued to bicker about the use of foul language. Join us for our weekly review of the politics, policies, and personalities of the District of Columbia, Maryland and Virginia.
- Tom Sherwood Resident Analyst; NBC 4 reporter; and Columnist for the Current Newspapers
- Russ Potts Former Virginia State Senator (R- 27th District, Winchester)
- Marion Barry D.C. Council Member (D-Ward 8)
Politics Hour Extra
Barry talks about maintaining his Twitter feed and who actually sends the tweets. “I never said I was a master tweeter,” Barry said in response to Tom Sherwood’s insinuations that he doesn’t manage his own feed:
Barry talks about gentrification in Ward 8 and says that his highest priority for the ward is education. No schools in the ward have a proficiency over 50 percent, he said:
MR. MARC FISHERFrom 88.5 WAMU, it's The Politics Hour. I'm Marc Fisher sitting in for Kojo Nnamdi. Well, what a week. Maryland is legalizing gay marriage, joining seven other states and the District. That's perhaps an easier move politically in a state where Democrats vastly outnumber Republicans. But Maryland is also a state where three in 10 voters are black. And the black community remains opposed to gay marriage according to several polls. Virginia Republicans thought they had finally achieved dominance in the other direction, having won control of the legislature at all statewide offices.
MR. MARC FISHERBut did they overreach with this week's moves to restrict abortions? Gov. Bob McDonnell found himself in quite the mess, thanks to his Republican colleagues in the legislature. Social conservatives tried to require Virginia women to submit to an invasive ultrasound procedure before having an abortion. But after a wave of outrage from around Virginia, across the nation, and particularly from late-night TV comedians, McDonnell felt compelled to pull back, angering his allies on the right, but perhaps salvaging his chance at winning the vice presidential nomination this summer.
MR. MARC FISHERAnd in the District as the council and mayor continued to battle for relevance in the face of continued investigations by federal prosecutors, new questions are bubbling up about whether the police department is cooking the books as it claims to be solving more and more of the city's murders. We will talk about all of that with former mayor and Ward 8 Council member Marion Barry a little bit later.
MR. MARC FISHERWe'll also talk to Russ Potts, the former state senator from Virginia who warned years ago that the Republicans social conservatives might be pulling the party or pushing the party over the edge of a cliff. But, first, Tom Sherwood is our resident analyst, an NBC 4 reporter and columnist for The Current Newspapers. And, Tom, gay marriage, any minute now, as Gov. O'Malley is about to sign this bill into law, gay marriage will become the law of the state.
MR. MARC FISHERIs Gov. O'Malley calculating here, that if he does lose some black support because of this, that those voters essentially have no where to go in such a Democratic-dominated state?
MR. TOM SHERWOODYou know, ultimately, those conservative African-Americans who don't like this same-sex marriage thing don't have anywhere else to go. Gov. O'Malley is channeling the governor of New York. Maybe he think, we'll make this an issue and get it done. I -- what I think what's interesting about this is, of course, the opponents have said that they will try to get this on the ballot. You know, this year in the Maryland ballot, we could have the DREAM Act for the immigration issue.
MR. TOM SHERWOODWe could have casinos as an issue. We'll have same-sex marriage as an issue. And, of course, there will be President Obama's campaign. So it will be one heck of a ballot, maybe, this fall for...
FISHERSo any fears that Obama supporters have that they will not be able to bring out the same number of votes four years ago might -- I think Maryland might be able to push back.
SHERWOODRight. If it's a huge African-American turnout, as you might expect for the president, well, it's a very conservative street -- some of those voters in terms issues like same-sex marriage, maybe even the immigration issue. And so we'll see how it turns out.
FISHERAnd polls in California and New York and Maryland consistently show now a white majority for gay marriage and a black majority against gay marriage.
FISHERSo it is -- it was a tough issue for a number of Prince George's delegates, a majority of whom, among the black Prince George's delegates, did end up voting for this bill and, in some cases, having switched their vote from last time around last year.
SHERWOODYou know, O'Malley got -- he was on this show last week, and he called in instead of appearing here in the studio 'cause they were -- that was -- the debate was going on. And I do think it's a victory for him. And now, he has to seal the victory by seeing if it, in fact, gets on the ballot, whether it can stay in the law.
FISHERWe'll bring this up with Council member Barry a little bit later. But I want to just briefly mention the story by Cheryl Thompson in The Post about the closure rate for homicides in the District of Columbia, which was startlingly high, 100 percent higher than Baltimore's. And, obviously, D.C. Police Chief Cathy Lanier was crowing about this, as was Mayor Gray. But The Post story argues that this was a statistical bit of trickery and that the true closure rate in the District was not the 94 percent that the city was claiming but, rather, 57 percent.
FISHERAnd what they were doing was they were taking cases from other years that were closed last year and lumping them in. Was there -- is there some juking going on here?
SHERWOODYou know, the chief maintained that the city, as other jurisdictions, is and was reporting the stats as the FBI has requested them. Well, that does not quite cover the whole issue. The fact is if you have -- if someone is murdered in December and the person is not caught till the next year, where do you count that as a solved case, in the year that the person is caught or the year the murder occurred?
SHERWOODIt seems to me that maybe that ought to all just go in the year when the murders occurred, and you just assign them. But it did seem to me like -- well, first of all, the mayor made a mistake, and so did the chief, of bragging about a 94 percent closure rate when its basis was not as firm as it should have been.
FISHEROK. Well, we'll see what happens there. We'll also talk to Council member Barry about another controversy in the Metropolitan Police Department where a former commander is accusing the department of having pushed him out for being a whistleblower. We'll get to that in a little bit. But, in Prince George's County, we're seeing a pushback against a new plan by the county executive, Rushern Baker, to support a gambling casino at National Harbor. This would be in direct competition with one that is going into place, the slots palace at Arundel Mills in Anne Arundel County.
SHERWOODWell, that's only slots. Is that right?
FISHERThat's only slots.
SHERWOODThere are no table games.
SHERWOODYou know, National Harbor, since the moment it was planned, the moment the Peterson Company started putting it up, people have said that is the place to put a Washington region casino, to take advantage of the millions of people who come to the District. It would -- it's across the river from Northern Virginia. It would be all of Maryland. It would be the economic place to put a casino.
SHERWOODAnthony Muse, the state senator who's running for the Senate, complains -- and he's very powerful in Prince George's -- that this was done without his knowledge, that they would move forward with this billion-dollar casino. And he says he's following to stop it in this legislative session.
FISHERAnd what does this say about the success thus far of the development at National Harbor, an enormous, as you say, billion-dollar complex: hotels, retail, housing? Clearly, the housing has been a big hit, but maybe the hotel business isn't what people had expected.
SHERWOODI have talked to more than a half dozen groups, people who represent groups who've gone there, and say it's a very nice facility. But some people are coming to that facility, thinking they're coming to Washington. And when they get there, there's no easy access. I'll just -- my sister, who came for a psychiatric nurses' convention, and she said she felt trapped there. As nice as it was, she said you could sit around for a while.
SHERWOODBut she wanted to come down and walk around the Mall, and she said there was no regular shuttle. There was -- the cabs were expensive. They were hard to get. You weren't sure if -- and she thought that that -- it was oddly located for a place that builds itself as a Washington attraction, but is really not here.
FISHERIt looks great, but it is -- and it does feel somewhat...
SHERWOODAnd they are going to do this discount mall adjacent to what -- they say it's going to be an upscale discount mall if you can -- I guess there are those. I've been to some of them. But I'm not sure that's the kind of identity you want.
FISHERAnd I'm not sure that a casino is necessarily what some of those visiting conventions have in mind either, so...
SHERWOODWell, Las Vegas does pretty well with conventions.
FISHERThat's true, quite true. Well, let's welcome in Russ Potts. Russ Potts is a former member of the Virginia Senate, represented a district in Loudoun, Clarke counties, just on the western edge of the Washington area, a Republican who represented the District -- it's the seat that's currently held by Jill Holtzman Vogel. And that's important because she is the author of the legislation that was, this week, considered in Richmond that would have required women to receive ultrasounds before receiving an abortion.
FISHERAnd, as it turned out, the ultrasound procedures would have been not just the jelly on the belly kind that many women are used to, but, because of the very early stage of pregnancy that the legislature had in mind, this would've required a vaginal ultrasound. And that really brought a firestorm of opposition to this law -- to this bill rather. And Gov. Bob McDonnell, an early supporter of the bill, pulled back and said, hold on here, let's not do this.
FISHERAnd so a real -- an embarrassing moment, I would think, for Gov. McDonnell. Russ Potts, welcome to the program. Was this an embarrassment for Gov. McDonnell?
SEN. RUSS POTTSWell, hi, Mark and Tom. Yes, it was. And, you know, I have a very good relationship with Sen. Vogel, and we've had a smooth transition. But on this issue, we agree to disagree. I wish that she would have never taken on the issue. I think it was a mistake to introduce the legislation in the first place. And let me remind you that Gov. McDonnell introduced that same legislation in 1996, which was defeated overwhelmingly.
SEN. RUSS POTTSAnd, as you know, I was chairman of the Senate Health and Education Committee, and we used to kill all those crazy bills that would show up in our committee. And -- you know, and I think the tragedy of this for the Republican Party is that they somehow were under the impression that they had a mandate from the citizens of Virginia to go way off the reservation, when, in fact, you had a 20-20 split in the Senate.
SEN. RUSS POTTSIt was no mandate whatsoever. It was never a mandate. And they misread the electorate terribly. And in my 16-year Senate career, never did I ever see over 1,200 women show up on any issue in Richmond. And, without a doubt -- and I was very proud of the electorate and particularly a lot of moderate-thinking women who stepped up and had their voices heard, you know, to tear down this terrible legislation.
FISHERWhat we heard several times on this program this week from women who voted for Gov. McDonnell, supported him on -- for, you know, many issues, and yet were appalled that he might be, in any way, supporting this -- what they saw as a government intrusion on the lives of women. There is, obviously, a strong social conservative group among the Republicans in Richmond, and they saw this past year's election as a mandate to go ahead with that social conservative agenda.
FISHERBut Gov. McDonnell ran on a much more moderate platform. Despite his own conservative past, he said that he was a moderate kind of guy. And I guess this was the week where he had to show that. Was he doing that out of any personal conviction, do you think? Or was he -- does his eye focus more squarely on his hopes to be a vice presidential candidate this year in the fall election?
POTTSWell, no. In the first place, I believe that this issue alone will prevent him from being a vice presidential nominee because, just this week alone, you've had seven -- I myself watched seven telecasts, all four of the national networks and CNN and MSNBC and Fox that all featured this controversy, so Virginia has been postured on a national basis now as a state that is way off being a moderate state, when, in fact, Virginia is a very moderate state. And it never has been a far-right state.
POTTSAnd for anyone to interpret it that way is wrong. I think that -- I do believe that Gov. McDonnell has tried to govern in a moderate fashion, but, that being said, he said that he was going to address transportation, for example. But he signed a no tax increase pledge. You can't build roads without money. The person never lived that can ever build roads without money.
SHERWOODMr. Potts, this is Tom Sherwood. Right after the elections last fall, there were all the stories that McDonnell might be pushed too far to the right from what he wanted to do to what he might have to do. Is this the worst example of it, this issue? It seems to me that the conservatives would not want the government intrusion like this themselves. I was surprised they pushed this so hard. But is this an example and the only example that -- of where he's been pushed too far to the right?
POTTSI think it's an outstanding example. But, you know, now, let's look at the so-called mandate that the Republicans assumed that they had. Now, they've gone to Richmond, and they've pursued homeschooling participation by youngsters to participate in athletics. They've introduced the ultrasound bill. They've introduced the personhood bill. They have eliminated the one handgun per month legislation that we passed in 1993, which was great legislation.
POTTSAnd now, again, Virginia has the unfortunate spectacle of possibly being the handgun capital of the world. And the Saturday night specials that were so prevalent in New Jersey and New York for years are going to be back on the street again. And, you know, we desperately need moderate leadership like John Chichester, who was the Senate majority leader, and Sen. Fred Quayle who was chairman of the local government committee, and Sen. Warren Barry who was a strong advocate for education and transportation.
SHERWOODHow is this going to affect the Allen-Kaine race, do you think? Will it bleed over into that Senate campaign, which is being watched nationally?
POTTSI do believe -- yes, I do. I do believe it will affect that race because anyone that assumes that Virginia's electorate, particularly women -- and I might add there are more women who have voted in the last six elections in Virginia than men. If you think for a minute that there aren't going to be repercussions from this, then you're naive politically. So, yes, I do believe that it will have an impact on the United States Senate race in November. You know, God, guns and gay is not the theme of Virginia politics.
POTTSWhen you look at our two United States senators, Senators Webb and Sen. Warner, they're very, very moderate in their approach. And they're free enterprise, pro-business elected officials, and so this is an aberration.
FISHERBut they're also -- you can join our conversation with former State Senator Russ Potts at 1-800-433-8850, or email us at kojo -- K-O-J-O -- @wamu.org. And Sen. Potts, there is a presidential race in Virginia this fall as well. And, obviously, President Obama is not nearly as popular in the state as he was four years ago. The state has been trending back toward the Republican side in the last couple of elections with its governor, with Atty. Gen. Cuccinelli. And you ran as an independent for governor against Tim Kaine and Terry Kilgore in 2005.
FISHERSo, clearly, you see Virginia as something of a purple state. In as much as Virginia is going to be a bellwether for the presidential election this fall, how do you -- I mean, how do you square this sort of trending Republican over the last two, three years with what you see as this sort of overreach on the part of social conservatives in the last few months?
POTTSWell, I do believe that this overreach by the Republicans will help President Obama, but I still believe that if Romney is the nominee that he'll carry Virginia. It's very, very hard for a Democratic candidate, for a president to carry Virginia. That's happened only twice in the last 50 years, Lyndon Johnson and President Obama. And -- so I don't see Obama carrying Virginia. But, that being said, I think it is going to make it more difficult for the Republican nominee because you have a lot of very angry, very, very angry women right now who are disgusted with the Republican Party.
POTTSAnd whatever happened to the thrust for jobs, jobs, jobs? Am I missing something here? Have you seen one major piece of legislation to address jobs? How about a statewide infrastructure bill to address our transportation needs that could've easily passed in a bipartisan fashion? The reason that nothing like that came forward is because you've got all these right-wing Republicans who have signed the no tax increase pledge, so you can't address the jobs, jobs, jobs.
SHERWOODHave they learned their lesson with this pullback on the ultrasound?
POTTSOh, oh, I don't think they've ever learned their lesson. What they'll do -- that measure will surface again and again and again, and the only way they learn their lesson is when enough people get involved. Thank goodness some people, who have stood on the sidelines and were silent, now came forward. I'm very, very proud of the women who stepped forward and said, enough is enough, and I believe that'll determine the November elections, the extent of the involvement by women in Virginia.
FISHERSen. Potts, I want to switch gears for a moment before we go. There have been, for many years, cries from basketball fans, where's the Georgetown-Maryland match-up that -- from days of yore? And our crack research squad here found out that you were actually the last person to bring together those two teams. It was your efforts back in 1993 that got the teams to play at the old USAir Arena. Is that right?
POTTSYes, it was. And this is a great rivalry, and we should -- that game should be played every year. But you should never negotiate something like this publicly. This is something -- in that negotiation, we had months and months and months of negotiation, which we did that quietly and below the radar screen. And you don't -- never, never negotiate an event of this magnitude publicly.
POTTSAnd that was the same way when I put together the Virginia-Georgetown game with Sampson versus Ewing in the battle of the 7-footers, which was a very first major sport event -- sporting event ever covered on cable television. You do that in a low-key fashion. And Kevin Anderson and I are good friends, and I think a lot of him. But, in this instance, if he and I were sitting down right now, I would say, look, don't tie in the other schedules of the other team sports, and let this be a standalone event.
POTTSThere's no reason in the world we shouldn't have a home and a home event here, and particularly when you look at college athletics who need so much revenue right now to support Title IX and all the other non-revenue sports.
FISHERKevin Anderson, of course, being the Maryland athletic director...
FISHER...who caused a stir recently by saying that his school should boycott Georgetown in all sports because of their refusal to play them in basketball. Thanks very much, Senator. Great to have you with us. Sen. Russ Potts, the former senator from the Loudoun Clark County area just west of Washington. And we'll be joined momentarily by former mayor -- ,D.C. Mayor Marion Barry, but first...
POTTSThank you, Marc and Tom.
FISHERThank you. Appreciate it.
FISHERFirst, I want to hear from Alison in Washington, who has some important information about the upcoming election in the District, the primary election, or special election rather, coming up. It's April 3, is that right?
ALISONYes, it is.
SHERWOODOh, is this Alison from the Board of Elections?
FISHERFrom the Board of Elections.
ALISONYes, it is. Hi.
ALISONI wanted to just urge your viewers who are listening from here in D.C., Friday, March 5 is the last day for voters to change their political party in D.C. If they want to vote in the primary election that we have on April 3, we have 80,000 independent voters in D.C. And if those voters want to vote here in our primary election on April 3, they're going to need to go to our website -- that's dcboee.org -- and check that political party status and change it if they want to vote in the party primary.
SHERWOODAnd if you do that, can you change your status back the next week or the next day?
ALISONWell, the way our system works is that, between March 5 and the primary election itself, any changes to your political party are locked out. We can't make any changes between March 5 and the primary. But, yes, we do have voters who change their political parties from time to time, from election to election.
SHERWOODOK. All right.
FISHERGreat. Well, thank you very much. Thanks...
SHERWOODI got my voter card in the mail yesterday.
FISHERExcellent. I got mine, too. It's -- although it's not card anymore. Now, it's just a piece of paper.
SHERWOODWell, I got the envelope. I didn't -- I haven't opened it.
FISHERYeah. Exactly. We're joined now by former mayor Marion Barry, the Ward 8 council member, Democrat, who is -- we're proud to have you with us. And, Mr. Mayor, the council chairman this week led an effort to ban profane language in the council, this following the meeting, I guess, a week ago or so where David Catania used very harsh language. And you and he had an exchange that, I guess, others on the council felt was intemperate. Was this a necessary move by the chairman?
MR. MARION BARRYWell, first of all, let me get it straight. I did not have an exchange with David Catania. At our retreat, Dr. Gandhi had spent about an hour-and-a-half going over the city's finances. I had talked to him earlier about the finances. And he had a medical center, which is very perilous right now. And so near the end of Dr. Gandhi's presentation, I asked him, Dr. Gandhi, can you give us more information on United Medical Center? At that point, David Catania jumped up and cursing and other kind of derogatory things, so it wasn't between me and David Catania.
SHERWOODOh, you didn't curse?
BARRYI didn't start it. No.
SHERWOODThe -- oh, wait -- no, wait a minute. I didn't ask that question.
BARRYI didn't curse at all.
SHERWOODYou didn't curse at all?
BARRYNo, I did not.
SHERWOODI was told by people who were there that you both exchanged...
SHERWOODI mean, he had said more words than you.
BARRYTom, get it straight.
SHERWOODWell, that's -- I'm trying. That's why you're here.
BARRYNo, I'm telling you right now. Get it straight. I sat there. I got up for a minute and sat back down.
BARRYAnd David went on and on and on. So I'm not going to make this a discussion between David Catania and myself. It's David Catania violating the code of conduct of us council members. It was -- he violated...
SHERWOODAnd he said he doesn't apologize.
BARRYYou know, I'm not going to spend any time on that. It's not between David and myself. That's for the chairman to deal with. The chairman has the responsibility, which he exercised last week, of expanding the scope of code of conduct to cover any and all our meetings that we have. And I'm not going to spend any time talking about it anymore. It's not between David Catania and myself.
SHERWOODWell, let me say what...
BARRYIt's David Catania and the council.
SHERWOODWell, Mr. Catania said -- afterwards, he says he found it odd that the council chairman and the council would even pay attention to what the code of conduct might be for your conversation when you've got one council member who's just resigned, admitting stealing money from children's programs...
BARRYTom, I'm not going to spend one more minute on that.
SHERWOODWell, this is about the council itself.
BARRYNo. I don't want to spend one more minute on that now.
SHERWOODOh, I'm talking about the council.
BARRYIt's been resolved. The chairman expanded the scope, and that's it.
SHERWOODNo, that won't -- I want to make it broader. Is the issue -- some people -- some of the council members have said...
BARRYNo, I don't -- Tom, I'm not going to discuss it.
SHERWOODNo, this is -- I'm going beyond cussing.
BARRYI'm not going to discuss it.
SHERWOODI want you to ask about speaking to the chairman of the council. Is he running the council? Several members are saying he's not strong enough. He's not running the council as a strong chairman.
BARRYI'm not getting to that either.
BARRYVery simple, because Kwame Brown is our chairman. He's exercising leadership. I support him emphatically when he -- for the election, and I supported him emphatically for the way he runs the council. I'm not going to get into that kind of squabble. There are more important issues to discuss...
BARRY...and -- wait a minute. Ward 8 has 73,000 citizens in it. I'm running for re-election, and I'm not going to get sidetracked and distracted by these kind of things. I want to talk about what the needs of the people are in Ward 8, the great things I've done to meet those needs, and where I'm going, going forward. Simple as that.
FISHERWell, two things that have come up in that Ward 8 election: one is the allegation by Councilmember Catania and others, that he says you have not paid attention to the needs of the hospital, that you have not been involved in the details of healthcare in the ward, and the other is the co-question of the effectiveness of this council given the ethical cloud over it.
BARRYWell, let me just say this. There's more to the problems of Ward 8 than United Medical Center. Ward 8 has the highest unemployment. And I've done as much as I could about it. Mayor Gray has not done nearly enough. We had a housing problem. We've developed -- given leadership to 10,000 new, affordable and renovated housing.
SHERWOODThe face of Ward 8 is changing when it comes to the housing. I'll take...
BARRYYeah. When you drive through Ward 8 now, the face is 180 degrees different. When you go down Martin Luther King, when you go down Alabama Avenue, you go down Minnesota Avenue, when you go down Mississippi Avenue, you know, the high rise on Mississippi and Wheeler. I have given nothing but leadership. And to get 10,000 units, it took a miraculous kind of leadership to do that. And I've got -- we've gotten hundreds of jobs for people under the circumstances, but the mayor has not done nearly enough in that area.
BARRYThat's his responsibility. And in terms of healthcare, we have a healthcare council that's been in the forefront, who are trying to push forward the situation. I have talked to Dr. (unintelligible) about diabetic -- diabetes program where we test everybody who goes to a doctor for diabetes. And then we figure out a way to get them treated (unintelligible)...
SHERWOODOne big economic...
BARRYBut we have another, though, which is missing, that is I have lifted the spirits and lifted the aspiration of the people in Ward 8. Right when I came in, their spirits were down, the hairs were down. People were sort of ashamed to be known to live in Ward 8. We had a negative reputation. Business people wouldn't come over there. We've attracted almost 40 new businesses since I've been council member. You know, and we've...
SHERWOODI wanted to ask you about business. Let me ask you about...
BARRYHey, wait a second now...
SHERWOOD...the Saint East -- but this is -- you were -- they've -- they have now put a hold on the big Saint East development for maybe five years. That was going to bring a lot a more business to...
BARRYWho put a hold on it?
SHERWOODThey're just -- the Feds don't have the money to complete the Homeland Security Project.
BARRYThat doesn't affect us as much...
SHERWOODBut -- the people would be on Martin Luther King to shop and to eat in the restaurants.
BARRYLet me say this, Tom. There are 13,000 people working on a joint Air Force base, 13,000. And they only have about 5 percent D.C. residents of 13,000. And unless we get the federal government to change these policies, we end up -- and 14,000 people at the West Campus that -- about the same kind of numbers. But I'm excited about the East side. We're on our way to developing one of the major areas in Ward 8, a hundred and some acres. We have already been doing the planning and (unintelligible) a couple of months.
BARRYWe have a number of projects underway into the housing. We have a number of efforts to try to attract business people. As you -- we only have one grocery chain in all of Ward 8. Now, we shop at Skyland, and that helps. But most of people in Ward 8 shop at, as you know, Eastover in Maryland. And so that's kind of the thing I want to focus on...
FISHERWard 8 Councilmember...
BARRY...is the vision and the direction of Ward 8 is on the move.
FISHERWard 8 Councilmember Marion Barry is our guest on The Politics Hour. You can join our conversation at 1-800-433-8850 or send us an email at firstname.lastname@example.org. I'm Marc Fisher of The Washington Post, sitting in for Kojo. And our resident analyst is Tom Sherwood of NBC 4 and The Current Newspapers.
FISHERAnd, Councilmember, there is -- in addition to the healthcare issue, there's this question of social services in Ward 8 and -- charged by some of your opponents in the upcoming election that Ward 8 has become a dumping ground for social service agencies and that prominent retail spaces that could be places for private business are actually being filled by social service agencies and services. Is there an imbalance there?
BARRYWard 8 has been a dumping ground for the last 40 years. When Southwest was closed down with all the (unintelligible) incentives, they sent them to Ward 8. These are three white commissioners. When Shaw was – back with urban renewal, send them to Ward 8. Georgetown, early on, send them to Ward 8. Georgetown used to be almost a majority black community. Foggy Bottom, the same way. And so the planners at that time sent poor people...
SHERWOODAcross the river.
BARRY...across the river, out of sight, out of mind. As a result of that, even in zoning, we have the highest number of R5, which is apartment buildings, in Ward 8 and the lowest number of R1, which is detached housing. So, as a result of that, there are 75 percent of the residents of Ward 8 are renters. I love renters. But if you rent, you can't get any equity in your property set up, and so I've led the efforts for homeownership. We are going to push forward.
BARRYWe're landlocked, don't have much land to go -- so I, Marion Barry, is not responsible for the poor being sent to Ward 8. I welcome them there. But 75 percent home rentals is ridiculous, and we're going to do at least 6,000 homeownership. We're going to take the boards off of those boarded up apartment buildings, turn them into condos. We're going to try to take every bit of land we can find that has not developed, and we're going to work to develop it.
BARRYWe're going to change the face of Martin Luther King Avenue, tear down that junk there at Martin Luther King and Malcolm X on both sides of the street. We're going to renovate -- we're going to work to revitalize the whole road where it doesn't look like it looks now. And I'm committed to uplifting not only the spirits but bringing resources. For instance, in the seven years I have been on the council, we've been able to, in spite of Adrian Fenty, Michelle Rhee, bring over $250 million to Ward 8 for modernization of schools. We're going to have a brand-new Ballou Senior High School.
SHERWOODHow's that coming?
BARRYYou know, it's coming very well. We're getting -- they've already recommended an architectural firm. I don't like it 'cause it's an all-white firm, but we're going to deal with that. We want Ballou to be an example of local, disadvantaged business participation because 99.9 percent of the students at Ballou are African-Americans. And I'm tired of these developers coming in, developing, say, a school, and then the majority of the money goes outside the city. We're going to stop that.
FISHERThe vision you are describing of Ward 8, as it changes, the condos and the new retail, it sounds awfully like gentrification, which is something you've been -- had mixed views of in other parts of the city.
BARRYNo. I don't have mixed views about gentrification. I have one solid view. We welcome any and everybody into Ward 8 into the city. But we're not going to tolerate people coming in, pushing out long-term residents who've been there during the good times and the bad times. And so we welcome that. And so what's going to happen in St. Elizabeth's East Campus is going to have to be a mixture of people. We're not displacing anybody. There's going to be a mixture of people.
SHERWOODRight. That's open land to be able to develop.
BARRYThat's right. Poplar Point is this housing (unintelligible) if the mayor does something about it, which I'm doubtful at this point.
SHERWOODOh, you -- that's the second criticism you've made of Mayor Gray here. What's wrong with Mayor Gray?
BARRYWell, I don't want to discuss Mayor Gray.
SHERWOODWell, you've brought him up twice.
BARRYI'm stating in facts, that I have a responsibility to represent the views and values of the people in Ward 8 and then take them higher than their values are.
SHERWOODThen Mayor Gray needs to do more.
BARRYThat's what people tell me about that.
SHERWOODOK. Mayor Gray needs to do more.
BARRYPeople are very upset about Poplar Point. It's going to cost about $56 million to get the transfer. And I want to demand of Mayor Gray and his administration that that $56 million be put into the pot so that we can get the land transferred and then get it developed. And so what the point I'm making here is that Ward 8 is on the move. What I've said to the five candidates, let's talk about the issues. Don't talk about me. I'm not the issue. Talk about my great performances since I've been in that office and before that and what they're going to do to change it.
SHERWOODYou certainly are (word?)...
BARRYI know more than any of them know. I know how to get money from the budget that they don't know how to do. I know how to legislate and get bills to the council.
SHERWOODThey say you've been there too long.
BARRYWell, that's what you...
SHERWOODNatalie Williams, Sandra Seegers, Jacque Patterson, Darrell Gaston.
BARRYWhat do you expect them to say? They don't have any issues, so they attack me, been there too long.
SHERWOODWell, you're the incumbent.
BARRYWell, I don't worry about that. The people of Ward 8 want a positive campaign. They want you to tell people what you have done and what you will do, that they can count on you. The people of Ward 8 can depend on Marion Barry to stand up, to fight, to deliver resources and to get something done. That's the issue here.
FISHERDo you feel that your ability to get something done for the ward has been hampered by the fact that the mayor has not been able to push forward his agenda because of all the ethical questions, because of all the investigations going on of himself, his staff and the council?
BARRYNo, it hasn't. The mayor had an economic development summit that was very, very successful. I was there. I was supposed to go to a funeral of a good friend of mine in Alabama. I canceled that. We got a follow-up session at the hearing yesterday with Victor Hoskins. I couldn't stay for that because I had to go to another meeting. But I (word?) with Victor. He and I had a long talk for an hour about how we're going to proceed to develop Ward 8. We have been not distracted because the day-to-day operations on what happens to Ward 8 is Victor Hoskins. And the mayor...
SHERWOODHe's the deputy mayor for economic development.
BARRYDeputy mayor, right. And so now it distracted -- not from Ward 8. It might have distracted from other city project, but the highest pride I have for Ward 8 is education. We have 15 elementary schools, have three middle schools and two high schools, Anacostia and Ballou. And the reading scores at elementary schools are in the 40s, at the most. We don't have one school in Ward 8 that has proficiency over 50 percent. Anacostia, around 19 percent. I'm working on increasing that.
BARRYThe chancellor just announced yesterday that she's going to focus on 40 schools, in five years, moving them 40 points. That's an ambitious goal. It can't happen unless we have the community involved, unless we have Mayor Gray's administration giving the support services, which I'm sure he's going to do. Those are the issues of Ward 8. These are the issues you are talking about. The people are fighting for survival in Ward 8, finding food, money to buy food, keep their rents on.
BARRYWe've had almost 2- or 3,000 calls to Jackie Ward about utilities being turned off. That's what we're working on. How do you get them turned on? We're working on -- we've had 44,000 eviction notices in the District...
SHERWOODBut what is the -- well, I -- all of those are the serious issues. I agree with that. But what, I think, Marc was asking, and I'll try to ask in a different way, is that how can the chairman of the Council and the mayor, the two top leaders of the city, focus on those kinds of things, those day-to-day life -- those survival issues when they're simply trying to also survive these criminal investigations of their campaigns? How do you do it?
BARRYHere's what happens. The mayor has made education the top priority.
SHERWOODI thought it was jobs?
BARRYNo, it's not. Kwame Brown has made education the top -- he's going to have some announcements fairly soon. I made the education of these young people, in both charter and public schools, the highest priority for me. I'm going to announce a major program with me being in these schools, try to get my colleagues to be in these schools. And so the policy decisions have not been hampered by any of this, and you all try to get us distracted on it. We're not going to get distracted by that.
SHERWOODWe're not trying to get you distracted.
BARRYYou are, too.
SHERWOODNo, we're not. We're not -- I'm trying to get you address a serious issue. Tommy Thomas, a young man that you respect, stole money from children and went to jail -- or is going to jail May 3 when he gets sentenced. That's not something we could just brush aside, oh, that just happened.
BARRYI don't brush it aside. I believe in the Constitution of the United States of America.
SHERWOODNow, what was your reaction to that?
BARRYI believe in the Constitution of the United States of America...
SHERWOODOK. Well, good.
BARRY…that you're innocent until proven guilty.
SHERWOODWell, he was proven guilty.
BARRYWait a minute. You have the U.S. attorney prosecuting the case. It's been resolved. And I'm not going to spend any time talking about it.
SHERWOODBut -- well, did you -- you know him. You knew his dad.
BARRYI'm not going to spend any time, Tom, talking about it...
SHERWOODWhy not? It's ethics, Mr. Mayor.
BARRY...because this distracts from the needs of the people of Ward 8.
SHERWOODWell, ethics is not a distraction. It's a foundation.
BARRYWait a second. Wait a minute. I voted for the strongest ethics bill in America. That's been done.
BARRYThe Council passed it. It's in the process of being set up. And so for me to spend time talking about all of that...
SHERWOODWhy can't you just say you're personally angry and disappointed at what he did?
BARRYNo. I'm not going to say that because that distracts from the discussion.
SHERWOODIt's not a distraction. It's...
BARRYWell, I'll tell you what you want. I don't care.
SHERWOODI know you don't.
BARRYThe people at Ward 8 want some jobs. They want some...
SHERWOODThey want honest politicians, too.
BARRYThey want -- they got one in me.
SHERWOODWell, they're -- that's important.
BARRYYou know, even my most adversaries (unintelligible) and others will admit that I have never ever been accused, in my 31 years of service, of taking money or taking bribes or doing things that are illegal. Even they admit that. And so if you look at the history of Marion Barry, the issues have not been about money.
SHERWOODWell, it sounds like it's important to you. If it's important to you, why can't it be important to the citizens and important...
BARRYYeah, because that's not -- because that's all solved. The U.S. attorney has gotten a jury, I mean, gotten a judge (unintelligible).
SHERWOODNo -- but we still have the mayor and the chairman under investigation.
BARRYWell, that's what the U.S. attorney should be doing. I'm not going to be distracted by those investigations (unintelligible).
SHERWOODYou keep going to distraction. It's a foundation.
BARRYNo. I can't influence what the U.S. attorney does with Kwame Brown. I can't influence what the Campaign Finance does with him or the U.S. attorney does with Mayor Gray. So why do I have to spend my time talking about something I can't do anything about?
FISHERWell, one thing you…
BARRYIt's in the system. It's working its way through the system as American justice supposed to. Let's wait until justice comes or that come. And let's keep talking about the people of Ward 8. We have such great needs over there. I'm not going to be distracted by you all trying to ask these side questions.
FISHERWell, one thing...
SHERWOODThey're not side questions.
BARRYI think they are.
SHERWOODWell, I don't.
BARRYThe people of Ward 8 want some jobs. Let's talk about that.
FISHERCouncilmember Barry, one thing you can influence is -- and you have influenced over the years. You've talked about this for many years, the idea that throughout your career, you were trying to create a follow-on successor generation of young black leaders who could come along and take on your role and carry the city to a greater height. Now, we're at a point where the council has a number of members who are under some suspicion.
FISHERThere is general unhappiness across the city with the situation the council is facing. Where is that new generation? Why are we not seeing more serious challenges from a new generation of leaders?
BARRYEverywhere I go, I had to (unintelligible). We had mock collections for youth mayor, youth council members. That has been put on the back of the bus somewhere now. And I'm going to urge Mayor Gray to bring it back to the front where it ought to be. In terms of the challenges, even in Ward 5 -- I mean, Ward 8, I've encouraged every one of them to run, so they can get the experience of running. And it's no question that people of Ward 8 has great confidence in me. We got 77 percent of the vote in '08. And we're certainly going to work as hard as we can to get that and more.
BARRYWell, I mean, I'm the first to admit I did not do enough when I was mayor to bring this generation into it. But the problem is, there are only so many seats around. And maybe, I think, 20, 23, 25, four seats, and some of them don't want to be ANC commissioners.
SHERWOODWell, your legacy is that you opened up the business aspects of the government and...
BARRYOh, I did in a big way right now.
SHERWOODIs that -- do you think that's your biggest legacy? What do you think your biggest legacy is? You may not have already achieved it yet, but what -- so far, what's your biggest legacy?
BARRYProbably caring for those who need caring about the most in terms of just a general philosophy of fighting for the underdog, fighting for those who are most vulnerable, fighting for those who don't have anybody to fight for them, except me. You know, try to empower them, give them a sense of hope and spirit. But, specifically, I think the summer job was my most successful program where you had 100,000 young people going through it. I see them every day, cops and other people, who talk about it. I'm going to push Mayor Gray hard to provide a summer job for everyone who wants it.
SHERWOODI'm keeping track. That's the fourth criticism of Mayor Gray on this program. I just want you to know.
BARRYThat's -- that's who -- what I'm -- that's a democracy.
BARRYDon't take it as anything. I'm one of Mayor Gray's strongest supporters on the council. But when it goes -- some things are not happening and it affect my constituents, I'm going to speak out on it. I urged him last summer not to put 12,000. He finally agreed to do 3,000 more. And when I urged him and Miss Mary to go after the heart of fine young people and put them to work -- 20,000. But I'm also going to encourage him to put 15,000 year-round jobs in our schools, so young people will have some place to go.
BARRYRight now, the public schools in the District of Columbia and some of the charter schools are graduating people not from high school, graduate into the streets, graduate into a life of crime and a life of bleakness. And I'm going to work that as hard I can to change that. I don't care what anybody says. I'm not criticizing Mayor Gray personally. I'm talking about the programs, have to be done. Last year, when the budget came over, I gave them a little break 'cause it went all to his budget.
BARRYBut I have a responsibility to my constituents to speak up and speak out and vote out and vote for those things that they need because they have not gotten equity. They have not gotten parity.
SHERWOODAre you worried about this race? You sound like -- you're already campaigning hard here.
BARRYWell, that's my style. You know, I have had 11 elections. I won 10 of them. The tougher one was the (word?) one.
SHERWOODAre you worried about this one?
BARRYWorried about it?
BARRYOf course, I think about it. But I'm going to take my case again to the people of Ward 8. Anyways, I was riding down the street this morning. A guy told me, stopped me down Martin Luther King. Mayor Barry, we're proud of you. Keep it up, keep going. And that's happening all over Ward 8. People are proud of what I've been able to do. They have -- they know I have integrity, but they can have dependability.
SHERWOODI thought integrity was a distraction.
BARRYNo, I didn't say that. I say for you to keep raising something that's already going on and something that already happened is a distraction. And I'm not going to let it happen. The people of Ward 8 deserves excellent leadership, which they're getting from me, but they also deserve -- the young people who are running, the five candidates who are running, ought to be listened to and give them a chance to go through the process to learn.
FISHERAnother issue that directly affects people in Ward 8 and other city service that people depend on is the police service. And I wonder if you have any thoughts about this latest allegation that the police chief has been sort of cooking the books when it comes to the closure rates on homicides and presenting numbers that are rather inflated.
BARRYI'm not going to get sidetracked on that either. In a sense, that what people in Ward 8 and rest of the city want, and not only want to have -- be safe but feel safe. And so I urge chief could take 300 or 400 officers out of these desk jobs, transfer them to the East patrol district and let's see more police officers on the street.
SHERWOODHer contract's up.
BARRYWe have 3,900 -- 3,800 officers. At one time we had 3,000. And so I'm pushing on that side of it.
SHERWOODHer contract's up. Would you -- if you were mayor, would you renew her?
BARRYWait a minute. The numbers that -- I'm not getting into that either. It hadn't come to us. I'm going to focus on getting more police officers on the street, getting police officers to patrol (unintelligible) they don't do. We're one of the few jurisdictions that don't have the police officers (unintelligible)...
SHERWOODIs the police chief doing a good job?
BARRY...you know? And I'm not getting distracted by that either. I'm going to go move ahead with a positive program of delivering the results that people need.
FISHERBut isn't part of your job on the council to oversee the operations of the city government...
SHERWOODApprove the contract.
FISHER...and approve the contract of the police chief?
BARRYIt's not my job to approve the contract. You know better than that. That's the mayor's job. You know better than that. What the council does is set the parameters of the salary for certain agencies, all agencies, but we've done that. We're out of it. The mayor has to decide whether or not he's gonna extend the contract, not the council. We have nothing to do with it at all. But the area that's most lacking, though, I'm going to tell you...
SHERWOODCan I ask...
BARRY...is that the city spent $1 billion (unintelligible) under Mayor Fenty.
SHERWOODCan we do -- can we talk about sports for a minute?
BARRYAnd we only got about $100 million...
BARRYVery quickly. Let's talk about sports real quick. You want -- do you want the soccer stadium on Poplar Point? Would you like to see a soccer stadium -- very quickly, we'll go through three things. Where are you on the soccer stadium?
BARRYI want a soccer stadium. It is unlikely going to be at Poplar Point.
SHERWOODWhat about the Redskins moving back to town on the side of the (word?) ?
BARRYThat's fantasy land. I told Jack Evans the other day, that's fantasy land.
BARRYWell, because, number one, Dan Snyder is making money. (unintelligible) as they say. There's no incentive for him to move back to the District. Like (word?) Field, 92,000, whether Redskins win or lose, and that it costs -- what should happen, I told Jack this. I said, Jack, if you're so interested in the Redskins coming back, first of all, they wouldn't have left if I continued to be mayor. And Jack came this close to building a stadium. Do a study. Let's do a cost-benefit study. Let's see what happens.
SHERWOODOkay. And how are the baseball -- you were against the baseball stadium. Then you voted for it, and it's paying its bonds. Are you -- is it doing the right thing?
BARRYOne more important thing, the development around the stadium is great. I wouldn't have voted for just a stadium by itself. Vince Gray wouldn't have. Kwame Brown wouldn't have, and Carol Schwartz wouldn't have. We voted for it because it would have all that -- look at the development down there.
SHERWOODRight. I see.
FISHERAnd do you think that...
BARRY…property taxes from it. We get the sales taxes from it outside of people coming to the stadium. Even now, it's not relevant to me as much as the development around it.
FISHERWill the soccer stadium be built at Buzzard Point?
BARRYI don't know. I don't want to discuss the soccer stadium right now.
SHERWOODYou've got a long list of things -- a long list.
FISHERYou got a long list you don't want to do discuss.
BARRYYeah. Well, I'm not going to be distracted by them.
BARRYThat's the issue they have made...
SHERWOODI think we should charge you $2 every time you say distracted.
BARRYYou know, you don't charge me. (unintelligible) and that's serious because the owners of the D.C. United has changed ownership.
SHERWOODRight. They don't...
BARRYAnd the ownership there has not come forward and proposed...
FISHERVery quickly before we go, we're getting great tweets from Marion Barry. When you kicked off your campaign, you tweeted, "The Barry machine has been activated."
FISHERThen you tweeted, "Dan Snyder sucks." Are you really the one doing -- writing these tweets?
SHERWOODYeah. I don't believe it.
BARRYIt's a combination. I do some myself.
FISHERDo you have an official...
SHERWOOD...I'd like to see you tweet right now.
BARRYI'm not going -- I don't have to prove anything.
SHERWOODI don't believe you can do it.
SHERWOODI don't believe you can tweet. I want to physically see...
FISHERLet's see those thumbs in action.
SHERWOODI've got to -- I'm on Channel 4 tonight. If you show me a tweet, I'll put it on my news story tonight.
BARRY(unintelligible) The news story is that most of my tweets are done by somebody who I talk to about doing them.
SHERWOODYou just dictate.
FISHERThe secret comes out.
BARRYAnd in occasion -- it's not a secret. I said it all along.
BARRYI said it all along when I set up my tweet account.
BARRYI never said that I was a master tweeter. I said I'm going to tweet good information to people. It's working. We've got over (unintelligible).
FISHERWe've got to run.
SHERWOODWe've got 13 seconds, Mr. Mayor.
BARRYOver 3800 followers.
FISHERMarion Barry is our...
SHERWOODThat's a distraction.
BARRYIf you (unintelligible)...
FISHERMarion Barry is the tweeter of the week. Tom Sherwood is the tweet police. I'm Marc Fisher...
SHERWOODI'm the distraction of the week.
SHERWOOD...sitting in for Kojo Nnamdi.
FISHERThanks for listening.
BARRYI'm surprised that Marc has not been as distracted...
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