It's health plan open enrollment season for many employees, including federal workers.The editors of the Consumer Checkbook's annual Guide to Health Plans for Federal Employees join us to discuss what you need to know to make smart choices for 2016.
March Madness begins. Virginia lawmakers gird up for a potential government shut down. D.C. politicians play hardball for seats at the Democratic National Convention this summer. And Maryland’s General Assembly pivots away from same-sex marriage to other hot-button issues like alcohol sales and pension reform. 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
- Jack Evans D.C. Council member (D-Ward 2); Chairman of the Committee on Finance and Revenue
- Jamin Raskin Member, Maryland State Senate (D- Dist. 20 Montgomery County); and Professor of Law, American University's Washington College of Law
Politics Hour Video
A caller who identified as an ANC commissioner from the area near RFK expressed dismay at what may be the city’s plans to build a new Redskins training facility in the area known as “Reservation 13.” The commissioner said plans have been in the works for a long time to use that area for commercial, residential, and retail purposes. He said no one from the city has been to the neighborhood to discuss the plans publicly with residents. Councilmember Jack Evans said he and the mayor are committed to come to the area within the next few weeks and that the city currently has no solid plan to build a sporting facility there:
Maryland State Senator Jamin Raskin (D – Dist. 20 Montgomery County) answered a caller’s question about whether or not a referendum that could overturn the state’s new law allowing same-sex marriage would also mean that out-of-state marriages would be rendered invalid. Raskin said the outcome is not certain, but he believes that even if the law is overturned, Maryland would still recognize same-sex marriages performed in other states. “I really believe that we’ve got a solid pro-marriage majority in the state and I think that Maryland can be the ground zero turning this whole issue around and saying, ‘Let’s put the culture wars behind us; let’s give everybody equal rights in our state and let’s move on to deal with the common economic and policy problems that we’re dealing with'” Raskin said:
MR. KOJO NNAMDIFrom WAMU 88.5 at American University in Washington, welcome to "The Politics Hour," starring 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. He has written an entire book on former Mayor, now councilmember, Marion Barry -- had him on the show last week. I was out of the country. And when I checked my email and when I checked online, the biggest news you could get out of that entire hour was Marion Barry tweeting two words: Tom Sherwood?
MR. TOM SHERWOODWell, you know, he did it in front of me. Otherwise, I would not have believed he actually did it. And I thought he was sending a message to someone, an email telling them to tweet my name, but I actually saw him type out the tweet.
NNAMDIIt made news everywhere around the world.
SHERWOODI know. The Twittersphere blew up.
NNAMDISo it would appear. That was the biggest news coming out of that. Out of Virginia this week, however, after a final day of passionate debate, reports The Times, the special House of Delegates on Thursday agreed to Senate amendments to an ultrasound abortion bill that has raised eyebrows around the country, sending it on to Gov. Bob McDonnell for his signature. Bob McDonnell will undoubtedly sign this bill. But there are some questions about what it is likely to do or how it may affect his national aspirations.
SHERWOODWell, they're going to have do an ultrasound to find his chances to be the vice presidential candidate because this is like a twofer. Back when the Republicans won control of the Senate in last November's elections, all the stories were: How far to the right would the Republicans of Virginia pull this governor who's trying to do a moderate-right leadership of the state? And, of course, he's kind of gotten the worst at both ends now.
SHERWOODHe -- he said this ultrasound bill, which would require invasive techniques for women, which I just don't understand that because, you know, if you're a conservative, you don't want the government requiring invasive techniques. But, in any event, so that irritated women on the left or center of the spectrum, and then he pulled back from that to try to get -- moderate the law. And, now, he's irritated the conservatives, so he's in a perfect storm.
NNAMDIWell, consider this, if you will, he says he will sign this legislation. And there are those who say that, you know, Mitt Romney, maybe if he wins the nomination trying to please a disgruntled, right Tea Party sector, if you will, of the Republican Party, and so Gov. McDonnell's signing of the ultrasound bill might work for him in that regard as a vice presidential possibility.
SHERWOODWell, the right edge of the Republican Party is not happy. And if McDonnell is going to be the nominee, he'll have to have bona fides for these guys. I think -- we know Romney is going to have a hard time finding someone who is compatible enough with him, who will be compatible enough for the right to be compatible enough for the middle of the country, and, probably, the most happy person around town is Barack Obama.
NNAMDIWell, speaking of the Virginia General Assembly, you know, the way it works in the Senate, there is an equal number of Democrats and Republicans. And on most votes, Lt. Gov. Bill Bolling can break the tie. What he cannot do that on are votes having to do with the state budget, so the Democrats apparently killed the $85 billion budget plan...
NNAMDI...after the House had approved it -- looks like they're going to have to go into special session. The Washington Post editorializing that what this was really all about is not the budget. It's about sharing power. And Democrats want it, and Republicans don't.
SHERWOODWell, the Democrats wanted co-sharing of committee assignments, which is, of course, where everything is done in legislative sessions. They didn't get it, so Republicans pushed hard and took control of the Senate. And, lo and behold, the Democrats in the legislature are pushing back now. And, again, it's a mirror minor image of what's happening on Capitol Hill. It's all partisanship as opposed to governance.
NNAMDIIf you were homeschooled when you were growing up and wanted to play football with your high school team, you couldn't. There was an effort in Virginia to have homeschooled kids -- because the Republicans who supported it essentially argued that they pay taxes just like people who go to school, and so there was the so-called Tebow bill introduced in the General Assembly. But, apparently, it went down in the Senate. And there was one Republican, Sen. Harry Blevins of Chesapeake, who's a retired public school principal, who voted against it. And that made the difference.
SHERWOODWell, you know, it's -- if you're homeschooled, you're home schooled. I mean, it doesn't mean you can -- do you pick -- if you're homeschooled and you live in Henrico County or wherever, does that mean you can only play for high school teams in Henrico County? Or could you, like, sell yourself out to, you know, Chesterfield County in Richmond or something like that? So if -- I would just say, if you're homeschooled, just be homeschooled and play school -- sports at home.
NNAMDITom Sherwood, he's our resident analyst. He's an NBC 4 reporter and a columnist for The Current Newspapers. Homeschooled children will be restricted to Xbox in his world. Today, Tom, we begin, in earnest, our conversations with candidates running for the D.C. Council in the April 3 primary, and we're starting with the candidates whose names will appear on the ballot in Ward 2.
SHERWOOD...do we have room to list them all?
SHERWOODDo we have room to list them all?
NNAMDIJack Evans is a member of the D.C. Council. He's a Democrat for Ward 2 who chairs the Committee on Finance and Revenue. Jack Evans, welcome.
MR. JACK EVANSThank you. Always pleased to be here.
SHERWOODI thought this was the year against the incumbent.
SHERWOODAnd I just thought that you -- everyone who was an incumbent was going to lose. And, now, you don't even have any opposition.
EVANSI know. I'm very pleased not to have any opposition and looking forward to serving.
SHERWOODWell, you have no opposition on the ballot. Let me be clear.
EVANSOn the ballot, yes.
NNAMDIHowever, if you give out the phone number, 800-433-8850...
NNAMDI...some opposition may surface.
EVANSWe'll have some opposition.
NNAMDI800-433-8850. Councilmember Evans, if you win this race, you'll likely to be the longest-serving elected official, at least continuously so in history.
NNAMDIIs that important to you?
EVANSWell, I don't know how important it is. But it does say a couple of things, how committed I remain to the District of Columbia, and I do. I love this job. I think we've seen enormous accomplishments since I got on the council back in April of 1991. And I'm looking forward to continuing those accomplishments as we go forward. I did see in The Washington Post yesterday where it said I had been on the council 7,540-some days. So I wasn't sure what to make of that number. But it's been a great experience, and I continue to enjoy it.
NNAMDIIt has not been such a great experience for you in recent times when you said this is the worst council you have ever served on. Despite that, you continue to want to serve. Talk about the relationship between, on the one hand, liking to serve your constituents and, on the other hand, being in a body that doesn't give you great pleasure at this point.
EVANSWell, I -- and I think that's an important distinction to make. I enjoy the job. I enjoy serving the constituents. I enjoy making the city a better place. What concerns me about the current council that I'm serving on is some of the decisions that get made, like raising the income tax and things of that nature, which I think fly in the face of good government and in, you know, promoting our city.
EVANSAnd I'm not happy with a lot of the ethical things that are going on, just a whole host of things that have made it less appealing than it has been in the past. Having said all that that, that does not mean that there's -- hope springs eternal, that, as we go forward, that the council will not become a better governing body and that we won't continue to make a lot of progress here. So I see an exciting time for the future.
NNAMDIPlus, it's his ticket to being invited into the studio every now and then. (unintelligible) never wants to leave.
EVANSOtherwise, how would I get here?
SHERWOODYou know, last year, there was a contentious fight over raising income taxes on the wealthiest, of cutting various government programs, balance it all out. And it turns out that after the play's over, that the city had a $240 million, roughly, surplus...
SHERWOOD...that year. And now -- and to this current year, there's an -- just this week, there was another $35 million of revenues, over-expenditures, as Dr. Gandhi likes to call it. And it's, like, $70 million this year. Is the availability of an eased budget situation going to improve the battling among the council members 'cause you have more to work with? Or...
EVANSWell, I certainly hope it does, Tom. But here's the dilemma we find ourselves in. The mayor and I were talking about this yesterday. Even though we have a $240 million surplus, that falls right to the bottom line and can't be spent, which is a good thing 'cause nobody can actually spend the money. And another 70 -- it was 42 and 35, another $77 million in additional revenue in the fiscal year we're in right now. The CFO has put us in a box, that the budget we're planning for 2013, he indicates we're $100 million short of where we need to be.
EVANSAnd it's very -- it's almost now impossible for the mayor and I to go out to the community and say we have to trim our budget by $100 million in the face of 240 and now a $77 million increase. So I understand why we are where we are, but it's very hard to explain this to the public. I think what the mayor and I have tried to do is get Dr. Gandhi to really look at these numbers more carefully and give us a revenue estimate in 2013 that doesn't require us to cut back another $100 million.
SHERWOODWell, when would that come next, the June revenue (unintelligible) ?
EVANSYeah. It won't be helpful if it's in June. If he doesn't do something before that...
SHERWOODWell, that's right. You got to have the budget done by then.
EVANSYeah, we'll have the budget done, and, see, you know, the arguments I've made the last two years...
SHERWOODWell, he's up for reappointment...
SHERWOOD...so just tell him to change the numbers.
SHERWOODAnd then -- or he won't be reappointed.
EVANSNo job for you. But even last year, when I argued about these tax increases and things -- we shouldn't do them. If you're -- if we're facing a shortfall, make the shortfall in programic areas. And then if we get extra money, it's easy to add it back. But I got to tell you, when you raise the income tax and then you get this windfall, there's not a great groundswell to put the tax back down again.
EVANSAnd I think that's -- the furlough days is a better example that we furloughed out staff, including myself, three or four days last year and then ended up with this $240 million. And many people who work for the government are saying, I want my money back. And I think there's a lot of truth to that, that we shouldn't find ourselves having to take these draconian actions and then not being able to fix them afterwards.
NNAMDIThere's a lot of talk right now about your involvement in at least two efforts, one being to go to the Democratic National Convention in Charlotte, N.C., the other being to get the Redskins to return to D.C. I'll start with the latter first. When former Mayor Barry appeared on this broadcast last week, apparently he said a lot of the talk about getting the Redskins back -- the training facility that is -- is fantasyland.
NNAMDIWhat is your response to that? And what would the city get out of the Redskins opening a practice facility here or even eventually building a new stadium?
SHERWOODAnd where do we stand on it?
EVANSOK. Let me say right out -- and that's the -- I was going to start with that, Tom. There was no agreement. There have been discussions. There's no agreement. There's no nothing, as far as the training facility coming to the District of Columbia. However, it is well-known that the Redskins would like to relocate their training facility from where it is in Ashburn because, frankly, it's one of the worst in the league. I've had the opportunity, as everybody knows, to go down to Tampa and visit the best in the league.
NNAMDITheir state-of-the-art facility.
EVANSAnd it's fabulous. And the Redskins recognize they need to do something.
SHERWOODThat's where Bruce Allen -- that's where Bruce Allen was before he...
EVANSYes. He came to the Redskins, and he's...
SHERWOOD...came to the Redskins. And he knows what's he's talking...
SHERWOODHe's a -- what's his -- he's -- I don't know what his title is.
EVANSI don't know what his title is, but he's fairly high up there.
EVANSHe's the one who recommended we go down there. So, I mean, it's no secret how he ended up in Tampa, and we took a look at it. And so whether they stay in Ashburn and recreate it there where they move to Maryland and build it by the stadium or they come to the District is anybody's guess. But our point is that if it is in play, we want to have an opportunity to take a look at it. Now...
SHERWOODBut this story was new last...
EVANSOh, God, months ago.
SHERWOODWhat was new in The Post story?
EVANSNothing. There was nothing new in The Post story today. I don't know why they wrote the article, other than, as you and I talked about. The community around Reservation 13, for whatever reason, has decided...
SHERWOODWhich Reservation 13 being up by RFK Stadium.
EVANSBy RFK Stadium there -- has decided that today they're going to be concerned about this. And The Post wrote in response to that. But there's no new news to report.
EVANSAnd to answer your question, Kojo...
EVANS...what we learned in Tampa is the practice facility is not just the four fields. It's -- there's a Hall of Fame involved. There's a hotel involved. There's other things that are attractive, and they use that facility 50 weeks a year, is what they told us. And so it's something that's more than just the team shows up to practice. And, in the Redskins' case, there is an enormous -- I'm not saying the people who live right next door to RFK feel this way. But, beyond that, there's enormous love for this team.
EVANSAnd people love to go watch them practice. They love to go to the games. But if you had a facility there, I can tell you, you would have a lot of people who are -- and to make it much more accessible. It's on a Metro stop. There's four highways lead in to that area. You'd have a lot more people...
SHERWOODHere's the -- here's what...
NNAMDI800-433-8850. Are you for or against a Redskins training facility in Washington? Go ahead, Tom.
SHERWOODHere's kind of the core fear I've heard from people who don't pay a lot of attention...
SHERWOOD...and whether we just -- and we'll get to maybe the Verizon Center, the convention center, the baseball center, is that the city did, in fact, spend a heck of a lot of money on the baseball stadium and built an $800 million, nearly, dollars, all that. And people don't really want to spend the money. I heard people say, well, I'd be all right if Dan Snyder, who everyone apparently hates -- if he builds it himself and it doesn't cost the city money, if the city can make money, then I'm for it. But I'm not for the city spending a dime to help Dan Snyder build anything Redskin (unintelligible).
NNAMDIGreater Greater Washington David Alpert writes, it's doubtful that Dan Snyder would build a facility that enhances a neighborhood.
EVANSYeah. I just want to stress what Tom is talking about. It is not possible -- I'll state this again and again -- for the city put one dime into building a new sports facility. Our debt cap puts us in a position that we cannot, and we won't the raise the debt cap 'cause when we were up in Wall Street in February, we really made that commitment. So the city would not be able to pay for this. The only thing cities and counties and states traditionally do in these areas is the infrastructure.
EVANSYou know, you have to have the -- we own the site. It's our site, or we rent it, actually, from the federal government and lease it. You can clear a site, as we did with the Verizon Center. Keep in mind, the city presented to Abe Pollin a clean site, and he built the arena on top of it. And so, as far as your -- as people are concerned, they have to understand the city would not be putting any money into a practice facility or...
SHERWOODThis is not a baseball stadium they're building.
EVANSNo. Baseball stadium is a different animal, and, without going into any more detail than this, keep in mind, we did not have a baseball team. Major League's baseball's criteria for a team moving here was to have a stadium, 'cause they own the team. They then sold the team. People say we built the stadium for the Lerners. Lerners didn't own the team. Baseball owned the team. We built the stadium. They then sold the team to the Lerners for the incredible price at that time of $425 million. Had the Lerners not had to buy the team, they could've put that money into the stadium.
EVANSSo this -- the baseball stadium was a different animal.
SHERWOODBut what about Tommy -- oh, we got a phone call.
NNAMDIPut your headphones on, gentlemen. Here is Dan on Capitol Hill East. Dan, you're on the air. Go ahead, please.
DANI'm so thrilled you guys are having this conversation because the conversation the citizens of the Hill East have been wanting to have for a long, long time, this development -- not move forward. I'm shocked that we're going to give away beautiful prime waterfront areas of a city to a sporting complex, something that, in the end, cost the city a lot more than, frankly, it does give back and witness all the sporting complexes around the area.
NNAMDIWhat would you prefer to see there, Dan?
DANHonestly, look at any major city and what they've done with the beautiful, rich areas that are around the waterfronts, Toronto, Chicago, name any city. The Anacostia has an incredible history that we're just ignoring.
NNAMDISo you're saying mixed-use development is what you'd rather see?
DANAbsolutely, at least mixed-use. It should be something open to the public, beautiful green spaces. Our city is in need of some better lovely green spaces. This is right on the beautiful (unintelligible).
NNAMDIOK. Jack Evans, how do you balance the argument for mixed-use development with the argument for enriched training facilities?
SHERWOODAnd Councilmember Wells, who represents Ward 6, has said he doesn't want to turn over 38 acres of land to a training facility. He thinks it should be either development or open space or more residential.
EVANSYeah. Well, I want to preface by saying there is no plan to do anything. So with our ongoing -- not even ongoing -- there are discussions, period. So I don't want people to feel this is a fait accompli because nothing may ever come from any of these conversations. But, having said that, just assume, for the purpose of this conversation, that there was some interest in moving those facilities here. How I would envision it, knowing Reservation 13 the way I do, it is a huge piece of land down there. This would take up less than a third of the land that is closest to the stadium.
EVANSAnd it would only make sense to develop Reservation 13 along the lines that we have planned for 10 years with mixed-use, residential, kind of along the lines of the RFP that went out several years ago. And if you remember -- if the caller is familiar with this, or may or may not be -- there were two final bids on that, the Hayney bid and the Smith bid, I believe, both of which would make sense in this context.
EVANSI view it kind of like this, that building a training facility, again, which is a very small portion of that land, might be the jumpstart or the catalyst that gets the rest of Reservation 13 going, which has been sitting there, languishing for years. And then, keep in mind, the site where the RFK Stadium currently sits is -- it can only be a stadium under the lease with the federal government for that land. You can't tear down RFK Stadium and build a hotel there or something. It's prohibited by law from doing that.
EVANSAnd so I think it's an -- what I would love to see everybody do is, since everything is very much in the conceptual stage right now, just take a step back and look at everything, rather than immediately opposing any ideas that come out of the box.
NNAMDIOur guest is Jack Evans. He's a member of the D.C. Council, a Democrat from Ward 2, who chairs the Committee on Finance and Revenue. If you have questions or comments for Jack Evans, call us at 800-433-8850. Tom Sherwood is our resident analyst. He's an NBC 4 reporter and a columnist for The Current Newspapers. If you have questions or comments for Tom Sherwood, well, keep it to yourself. But, no, go ahead, Tom.
SHERWOODI'll take them offline.
SHERWOODYou know, Chuck Thies was tweeting. He's a commentator, activist...
EVANSYes, very good, very good guy.
SHERWOODWell, you know, he said something positive about this.
EVANSNo, I don't. I just know Chuck, and I like -- I just like Chuck. I don't necessarily agree with him on everything, but he -- good guy.
SHERWOODOK. But he was saying that this is almost out of the box, even the last November when we first did it.
SHERWOODNow that the people have jumped to the emotional yes or emotional no...
SHERWOODAnd he said it really does require -- I think the caller said, well, you know, we know that stadiums don't make money. Well, in many cases, that has been an issue, and in many stadiums. But can we have...
NNAMDINew York Times reports today that, in Minnesota, they've voted to build a 957 -- or reached an agreement, $957 million stadium. The Vikings are going to pay for half. The state will somehow pay for the rest of it.
SHERWOODRight. So there's a huge fight of whether, you know -- I remember -- I'm getting too old. I remember the fight over the Verizon Center at the MCI Center -- cannot be downtown.
SHERWOODThe streets -- the space is too small.
SHERWOODThe sidewalks will be jammed. They'll be -- it'll snuff out all the businesses down there. And, of course, it's now an economic engine, which no one disputes. We've had the same fight over the convention center.
SHERWOODI think the city still subsidizes the convention center, but there are arguments for and against. But it seems to (unintelligible). And the baseball stadium is paying the bonds. Is that correct?
EVANSOh, yeah, more than double. We raised more than double than we need to pay the bonds.
SHERWOODBut just the visceral reaction about the Redskins, I hear it all the time. They said, we'll end up paying more than we should for something that will lie foul during the summer, you know, the spring and summer and will just -- it's not economically feasible.
EVANSYeah. And, again, on the practice fields, they are -- as Tampa shows, they're in use about 50 out of 52 weeks a year, the complex. And so -- but, again, it's important for discussions. And, Tom, you're right. I've been involved in every one of those deals you talked about: the Verizon Center, convention center, baseball stadium. There is an opposition that will always be there, and it's hard to convince them that, indeed, these are economic generators.
EVANSIt depends on where you build them and how you do it. I think it would be very hard to argue in Baltimore that those two stadiums are not economic generators. But I could probably go to, you know, a place like -- in Detroit, they've worked very successfully...
SHERWOODI -- oh, we have another phone call?
EVANSYeah, go ahead.
NNAMDIThere's something that's being left out of this discussion, and Joseph in Ellicott City, Md., would like to remind us of it.
NNAMDIJoseph, you're on the air. Go ahead, please.
JOSEPHYeah, thank you. I just don't hear anything about D.C. United. And, this year, they could very well be a championship team in the MLS. The MLS is growing. And I don't see D.C. moving very quickly to get them a stadium, which every team in the MLS is really moving towards. I could see D.C. leaving -- I could see D.C. United leaving the District (unintelligible) and I would...
EVANSBut let me...
NNAMDIWe got a tweet also, Joseph, from @randomduck, (sp?) who says, "Why not fight to keep D.C. United in the District?"
EVANSWell, let me -- can I address that, too, quickly? I...
EVANS...think it's very important D.C. United stays in the District, have worked with them for years on this. We just entered into a new two-year lease with them at RFK Stadium and, in this ensuing two years, want to finalize the plans to build a new stadium. The site we're looking at for that is down by Nationals Stadium across South Capitol Street. The problem again with D.C. United, like everywhere else, is they want us to pay for the stadium.
EVANSAnd the bottom line is, with D.C. United, with the Redskins, with anybody else, the city has a debt cap. I cannot get the city to pay for a stadium. I'm very happy to work with D.C. United with assembling the land. That we can do.
SHERWOODThe developer, Chip Akridge, owns some of that land.
EVANSYeah, he owns some of that land. Exactly.
SHERWOODAnd he's -- and, of course, he won't talk about it, but he has said that they're looking to see what could be done, how it could be done to finance a stadium.
SHERWOODWe're talking about maybe a 25,000...
EVANSOh, yeah, it's a 25- to 24,000-seat stadium, and it would cost, you know, about $100 million or less, different scale than a football stadium. Very important, and I would love to get it done. But, again, Major League Soccer and D.C. United have got to come to the table with something to contribute to the construction of the stadium. Whether it's here or whether it's Maryland, whether it's anywhere else, everybody is always threatening to move.
EVANSBut there's no jurisdiction in the country that's going to pony up 100 percent or even 50 percent of the money to build a new soccer stadium, or any other kind of stadium for that matter. Those days have come and gone.
NNAMDIJoseph, thank you very much for your call. Tomorrow, District Democrats are going to the University of the District of Columbia to vote, to fill 14 delegate slots to the Democratic National Convention in Charlotte. There are those who say that two members of the council, Marion Barry and Jack Evans, should not be involved in this because the council will be getting three slots of their own to go to the convention. Why, pray tell, is there a D.C.'s official Obama 2012 slate, House member Evans?
EVANSWell, every convention that has happened since 1992, I've gone as a delegate or attempted to go as a delegate and, on many of those times, have run for a spot, just like I'm doing on Saturday. And I know Councilmember Barry feels the same way. The spots that are reserved for the council, so to speak, actually are not reserved for the council. I believe the chairman's got one, but the other are reserved for elected officials. And you have to run at the state committee to win. And so they're not automatic to anybody. So I have always run in my congressional district, CD1, for a spot.
EVANSSo, as a citizen of the city, I am doing so, and I'm glad to team up with Councilmember Barry. 'Cause the way it works, Congressional District 1 is Wards 1, 2, 6 and 8, and so, if you're looking for someone to get votes in Ward 8, who better than Councilmember Barry?
SHERWOODWell, you know, he's not here, but, you know, in 2008 in Denver, Mayor Barry, of course, made news by having a fight with his girlfriend, had infamous city paper front page.
SHERWOODI still have two copies of that at home as a souvenir. But, you know, people are worried Barry will do something to embarrass the city. And I know what he would say, stop hating on me, Tom. But what about that? I mean, you're...
NNAMDIAllow me to have Hector in Washington, D.C. address this issue. Hector, you're on the air. Go ahead, please.
HECTORYes. Thank you very much. Hello, Councilman Evans.
HECTORI'm a veteran and a delegate candidate for the first -- 51st slate for Obama, which is the citizen slate, and there are other slates around the city. And we want a level playing field to run as delegates to our party's convention. Now, I find out that you and Marion Barry are competing against us, two major councilmen who have, for years, been elected, financially supported by us, voted in by us, and now you are running against rank-and-file Democrats.
HECTORI truly feel that you should withdraw your candidacy. I feel that you're acting as political bullies here in this political background. You've had, you know, your time. You're dealing with important issues. Let us go to the convention and fight for our city for statehood and for Obama. People like us can spread out through the Northeast and work for Obama -- that's our goal -- and work for statehood. So I don't understand why you're in there.
NNAMDIHector has a strategy. Jack Evans.
EVANSWell, why wouldn't you want someone who has experience like I have had, not only going to conventions but in running the city and in working with the current administration, to be at the convention to promote our city just as you would do? I would think it would be as important to have your elected leadership at the convention as delegates as it would be the -- anyone else who wants to do it.
EVANSAnd I think -- again, I've done this every time since 1992 and have been quite successful, not only at the convention but with the delegation. I think it's very important to have -- we have 39 members to that delegation -- to have people who can help the delegation be more successful there, whether it's through fundraising or other methods. And I think that's important to keep in mind that having some elected officials who are very interested makes the delegation a better delegation.
SHERWOODWell, I'm wondering why Democrats even care about what happens with Obama. It's going to be a pro forma convention at this point unless something dramatic happens. And, you know, the city gave him 93 percent of the votes alone in 2008. And the best he's done is just go out to eat in city restaurants and not done anything to help the city. He's given a token acknowledgement that the city ought to control its finances but hadn't included within the budget. I mean, what's the big deal about Obama?
NNAMDIHector, have you...
NNAMDIHector, have you been to a convention before?
HECTORMany, many years ago as an alternate -- and I'm going to date myself -- for the Carter -- when Carter was elected.
HECTORBut what I want to do at the convention...
NNAMDI...in response to what Tom Sherwood just raised, what do see you as being the value of going to the convention when, as Tom says, the president has practically ignored the city's constitutional and political dilemma?
HECTORAbsolutely important. Number one, we can go there and make sure that we get support for statehood. We've got to go there and work those delegations. Secondly, I'm a Latino. I'm going to talk to those Latinos who are there and make sure that they support a statehood for D.C. We're the...
HECTOR...turn vote for Obama. We can help Obama get elected. We've got a slate that's mixed. It's a great slate, and I think we can do a good job for there.
HECTOREvans has been there for a long time, and that's fine. But how about giving (unintelligible)...
NNAMDIWell, Hector, I do have to move on. But, as I pointed out, there are 14 delegate seats available there. We'll have to see whether both you and the councilmember can win one. I, unfortunately, deviated away from the issue that Tom raised about the embarrassment some people feel that was caused by Councilmember Barry's last trip to a Democratic National Convention and whether you felt that there was a potential here for embarrassment.
EVANSHopefully, there is no potential here for embarrassment.
SHERWOODOh, yes, there is potential. There is potential.
SHERWOODListen, you hope there is no embarrassment, but there is potential for embarrassment.
EVANSAlways potential, huh? So I'll have to let Councilmember Barry speak for himself on that.
NNAMDIThank you very much for your call. Here is Neil in Washington, D.C. Neil, you're on the air. Go ahead, please.
NEILHey, thank you for taking my call, Kojo. So I'm an ANC commissioner near RFK Stadium, near the -- what we call -- what's called Reservation 13, which is the proposed site for this Redskins' training facility. And, you know, the city, over the past 12 years -- I've been a commissioner for a dozen years now. The city has worked on a plan with the communities. We've spent thousands of hours on rezoning that to be a multi-purpose 62-acre area, where we have commercial development, where we have residential development, and we have retail development.
NEILAnd now, it's changed. You know, all these plans and all that zoning is going to be tossed out the window, you know, into the ashbin of history, and a real -- and it's almost, in a way, slanderous to the community that worked so hard to try to see something come along.
NNAMDIYou should be...
NEILAnd we've been promised...
NNAMDINeil, you seem to be suggesting that there should be no discussion whatsoever of having a Redskins' facility -- training facility there, regardless of advantages or disadvantages. It shouldn't be in the conversation.
NEILWell, you know what would be -- I think, the real disrespect is coming is that why am I having to call in to a radio show to discuss this? Why hasn't anybody from the city come to the neighborhood to discuss these plans and show these plans, instead of having secret meetings? (unintelligible)...
SHERWOODI thought the deputy mayor for economic development came up and met with the Hill East community. Did he not?
NEILNo. He just met privately with a few of the ANC commissioners.
SHERWOODOh, OK. All right.
NEILAnd I was at that meeting. We've had nothing for the community. And even the deputy mayor for economic development, he said, I don't know. This is above me. This is like I don't -- I have no information...
NNAMDIJack Evans, you might want to talk about what stage these conversations...
EVANSWell, no, I mean, I have been an ANC commissioner. I was one before I was on the council. I've been a councilmember and been a councilmember for the ward that has done the largest amount of development in the city by far. And you're raising a good point. But the problem with the -- what we're talking about is it is such a preliminary elementary stage. It's almost the chicken and the egg. Do you go out to the community and say, we are going to ask -- it looks like they might be willing to move, so we're going to ask if they have some interest in our area -- in our city.
EVANSI mean, when do you do which is the bottom line. What is -- and there's never a good time, whether it was the Verizon Center, the convention center. It's never the right time when you're supposed to say, hey, look, this might have some legs to it. I think the mayor has committed to come to the community within the next two or three weeks. And I'll be with them to see what peoples' concerns are and to see how -- what the reaction is. Now, on your -- talking about the plan, I'm very familiar with that. Actually, there was a plan, a small area plan that was passed by the council back in 2002.
EVANSAnd I have the plan. And it's not as specific as you would say it is. It has a lot of uses. It even talks about building a baseball stadium there if you look at the plan, which is -- makes it somewhat obsolete. And so that plan has not now been acted on since the council voted on it. I believe in 2003 is when it was adopted, and so there's a lot of things that need to be updated. And that's why I'm saying that the city and the community need to really work together, as we will do, on whatever happens there. And it's, by no means, certain that there's going to be any sports facility at all.
NNAMDINeil, thank you very much for your call. And we're running out of time very quickly. We have a guest waiting on the line. But inquiring minds want to know, Councilmember Evans, why were you hanging out with a stuffed groundhog last month?
EVANSYou know, the answer is, because we waited so long, that all the real groundhogs had booked the day.
EVANSBut next year, we are putting in our reservations early to get a real groundhog, and the answer is because we have -- we're going to have -- coming from Pennsylvania, where Punxsutawney Phil is located. I think it's a great idea. It wasn't my idea but a great idea to replicate what they do there. And, eventually, we'll have a movie called, as Bill Murray did -- what's the name of the movie?
EVANS"Groundhog Day." You got it.
SHERWOODThere you go. Are you going to wear that ridiculous suit again?
EVANSWith the hat and the suit and the groundhog. In all my 21 years on the Council, that was the first time I was on The Washington Post above the fold. So that's what it takes.
NNAMDISo it takes Potomac Phil to get Jack Evans above the fold of The Washington Post.
EVANSAnd the silly hat, the silly hat.
NNAMDIIt takes nothing at all to get him in this studio on a regular basis. He's a member of the D.C. Council, Democrat for Ward 2...
EVANSOh, no. I have to leave.
NNAMDI...who chairs the committee on finance and revenue.
EVANSI just got (unintelligible).
NNAMDIHe has to leave because his friend Jamie Raskin is awaiting us on the telephone. Jamie Raskin is a member...
EVANSWe could talk about the Metro again.
NNAMDIJamie Raskin is a member of the Maryland Senate. He's a Democrat for Montgomery County. Jamie Raskin, thank you so much for joining us.
SEN. JAMIE RASKINKojo, the pleasure's all mine.
NNAMDIJamie, Gov. O'Malley made it official yesterday when he signed into law a bill authorizing the performance of same-sex marriages in Maryland. You led the floor effort in your chamber to get this bill passed. What was this debate about to you?
RASKINWell, to me, it was about vindicating the great and somewhat lost tradition of toleration which Maryland inaugurated back in the 17th century. You know, when they were still burning witches at the stake and hanging Quakers in Massachusetts, Maryland proclaimed an act of toleration, saying that, basically, everyone will live freely together and as harmoniously as possible. So I -- you know, my main point on the floor was that we can vindicate both the principle of equal rights under law for all citizens and the principle of religious freedom.
RASKINAnd no church under our legislation will ever have to solemnize, celebrate or promote same-sex marriage or, indeed, interfaith marriage or interracial marriage or any other marriage that they disagree with. But we can all live together by just respecting everybody's equal rights across the state.
SHERWOODThis is Tom Sherwood, Jamie. Nice of you to join us. One of the compromises to get the bill passed was to have its effective date be, I think, January so that the opponents can try to move this to a referendum. What's the process now? What should we see going forward, now that the governor signed the bill?
RASKINWell, article 16, Tom, of our Constitution guarantees the people a right to petition to referendum any piece of legislation that they disagree with, except for those relating to the budget. And we moved the effective date to Jan. 1, 2013 just to make certain that they would have the opportunity to get through the whole petitioning process and any court challenges could be resolved.
RASKINSo, presumably, while I understand there's an effort underway and they may indeed be able to get the signatures, but I'm confident that Maryland will become the first jurisdiction in the country to approve equal rights for everybody under law. And so, you know, we've got the opportunity to live up to our name as the Free State.
NNAMDI800-433-8850 if you'd like to join this conversation with Jamie Raskin of the Maryland Senate. He's a Democrat from Montgomery County. Tom Sherwood is our resident analyst. He's an NBC 4 reporter and a columnist for The Current Newspapers. Here is Gary in Washington, D.C. Gary, you're on the air. Go ahead, please.
GARYGood afternoon. Since Maryland currently recognizes marriages that take place between the same gender in the District of Columbia and other countries and states, would the referendum, as proposed, not only overturn marriages in Maryland, but would they overturn the recognition of same-gender marriages that currently exist based upon the attorney general's finding and the court's recognition?
RASKINWell, that is a complicated question, and it's not completely certain whether it is or whether it's not. I mean, right now, the attorney general has rendered an opinion that he predicts that the courts would find that out-of-state marriages are valid in Maryland, and so the government has been treating them as valid. If there is a definitive statement by the people against same-sex marriage, it could throw that into doubt.
GARYWell, that's dangerous.
RASKINOh, it's very dangerous. I mean, look, you know, there's very big stakes riding on a referendum if it happens. And, you know, I really believe that we've got a solid pro-marriage majority in the state, and think that Maryland can be the ground zero for turning this whole issue around and saying, let's put these culture wars behind us. Let's give everybody equal rights in our state, and let's move on to deal with, you know, the common economic, you know, policy problems that we're dealing with.
NNAMDIAren't you at all nervous about that? You have said that supporters of the bill did, quoting here, "triple back flips" to make sure that the process was open for petitions to be collected that could eventually challenge the new law with that voter referendum this fall? That was one of the compromises you made. Are you fairly certain about that or pretty nervous?
RASKINOh, yeah. Well, no. I -- look, I feel really confident that when the -- if there's going to be a referendum -- and I don't think it's a foregone conclusion. But if there's going to be one, I am confident that Maryland is going to stand up for equal rights for everybody. I mean, it's an opportunity for us to make a statement about what kind of state we are. And, look, public opinion is shifting dramatically almost by the day on this question. And if you talk to any young person, they will tell you they think it's absolutely crazy that we would be denying equal rights to families.
RASKINAnd they know these families. You know, they're -- we've got thousands of families in Maryland with gay parents, and the kids are in school. And they say, why should we be treated like second-class citizens?
SHERWOODIf this, in fact, gets to the November ballot, it's possible you'll have the DREAM Act on there, casino gambling. But, also, with President Obama likely to be the nominee again on the ballot, large numbers of African Americans are expected again to vote for him, as they did four years ago. But it's also, from Prince George's County and elsewhere, where a large number of African-Americans tend to be opposed to the same-sex marriage issue. Seems to me that could be a double-edged sword for the Democrats going forward unless President Obama were to come out for same-sex marriage.
RASKINWell, you know, the president has said that his views on this subject are in motion, like that of (unintelligible)...
RASKIN…part of the population. Evolving.
RASKINThey're evolving, and I think that's true of the culture. Look, this is wrenching change. I mean, one of the most moving statements in this whole debate was made by the president of the Senate, Mike Miller, who voted against it. But he said, I know that history is moving in this direction, and I know that's where we have to go. But, essentially -- I'm not quoting directly, but he said, basically, I'm a product of my past and my upbringing. And I can't get myself there.
RASKINWell, I thought that was a very frank and honest statement because, when you peel away, you know, a lot of the objections that we addressed in the legislation having to do with churches and church-operated institutions -- and I think we met every single valid objection that was raised -- when you peel that stuff away, really, what we have is people just saying, I'm not comfortable with it.
RASKINAnd I appreciate the honesty and candor there, but there's too much at stake in terms of other people's lives, their ability to raise their kids, to have the rights of inheritance and medical decision-making and the hundreds of rights that are bound up with marriage to say because someone else isn't comfortable with it, we're going to deny them equal rights under the law. I think we're just beyond that now.
SHERWOODAnd in the states -- and -- I don't believe there's been any popular vote in favor of this yet. Is that correct? I think the opponents say no jurisdiction state has voted for this. It's all been done legislatively or through courts. Is that correct?
RASKINThat is correct. I mean -- but they -- you know, they don't call us the Free State for nothing. And I was even reflecting that we could put marry back in Maryland, you know? Marriage is in our name, and we should, you know, give that right to everybody. I really do believe that everything is lined up for a big victory at the polls. But there's a lot of organizing that's got to be done. And I think it is a challenge to the young generation to get out and to organize and knock on doors and to, you know, engage in this campaign for equal rights.
SHERWOODIs there a campaign against the -- urging people not to sign the petition? Or is that just kind of wait and see?
RASKINYeah. I don't know of an active campaign. I mean, certainly, I would urge everybody to watch carefully what they're signing, as always. But, you know, there is going to be a referendum -- as, I think, you mentioned, Tom, or maybe Kojo did -- about the DREAM Act.
RASKINAnd it's possible other things, too, you know, could be on the ballot, so...
NNAMDIThere was a line in today's Washington Post, suggesting that this fall could essentially be a referendum on how liberal Maryland has become because voters are casting ballots on gay marriage and the DREAM Act.
NNAMDIHow do you see it?
RASKINWell, you know, the heart of the word liberal is liberty. I mean, it comes from the root of freedom. And so I do think that this involves freedom and equality and basic principles of toleration. But, you know, I think that there is a legitimate debate and discussion that's got to be had on all these things. And we've got to go out and engage with it, and that's not anything anybody should be afraid of.
RASKINYou know, ordinarily, Maryland is ignored and overlooked in presidential elections. In 2008, we sent everybody to Virginia to go and work for Obama on the Democratic side. But this time we're going to need people here both fighting for the president's re-election and also fighting for the basic values that, I think, define us.
NNAMDIHere's John in New York City. John, you're on the air. Go ahead, please.
JOHNOh, thanks very much. I feel extremely unfortunate that this is happening this year. I think, because of the presidential election year, there are going to be a great number of churchgoing African-American and Latino voters out for Obama who are going to vote against same-sex marriage. I think that's exactly what happened in California.
NNAMDIWhat do you say, Jamie?
RASKINWell, OK. The first thing we...
JOHNThat is, they wait till next year if they go -- if this were to happen next year, there would be fewer voters who -- out to support Obama, many of whom are against same-sex marriage because of...
RASKINThe first thing we have to recognize is that there are churches on all sides of this issue. I mean, there was very active religious advocacy for same-sex marriage. And we also had very active support from African-American elected officials, including the mayor of Baltimore and numerous African-American senators who were leaders of this. Sen. Lisa Gladden from Baltimore was a very big champion. And so, you know, we shouldn't really racialize the issue.
RASKINYou know, the religious question was raised in terms of whether churches or their entities would have to engage in any same-sex weddings or, you know, marriages or ceremonies. And they don't, and it's very clear. And it's not even being said anymore. So now the question is just we disapprove of what these people are going to do with their lives. But, look, there are people who disapprove of interfaith marriages. There are people who disapprove of, you know, interracial marriages. And we just have to accept that as the price of living in a pluralistic society. People will disagree about how to live.
NNAMDIJohn, thank you very much for your call. Sen. Raskin, you're the lead sponsor of another bill that made it before a committee in Annapolis this week, a bill that targets discrimination against transgendered people. What specifically does your bill aim to do, and what are your hopes for getting it through the legislature?
RASKINWell, yeah, we didn't have quite enough controversy, so I decided this was the right time to bring this one out, too. No, this is basically just a very simple bill saying you can't discriminate against the transgendered in public accommodations and in housing and in employment. And it obviously affects a very small group of people. But for them, equal treatment under the law is a lifeline.
RASKINBaltimore County and Howard County just recently passed protection for the transgendered after some really just appalling episodes of violence against transgendered people. And so this is a lifeline for a tiny group of people. And, again, it's a test of our tolerance and our maturity, I think, as a people.
NNAMDIWell, we know about the story when Chrissy Lee Polis, a 22-year-old transgender woman, was attacked as she tried to use the bathroom at a Rosedale McDonald restaurant. But allow me to be an agent provocateur here. Does this mean that anybody can walk into any restroom, male or female, regardless of gender once that person says, well, hey, I'm transgendered?
JOHNNo, because the legislation that, you know, we've had in Montgomery County for a long time now and that has been passed in these other jurisdictions says that you need to have a persistent and bona fide gender identity. So, in other words, you can't decide one day, I'll be a man, the next day, I'll be a woman.
NNAMDIIf I got to go in a hurry, I become transgendered?
SHERWOODWell, you know, that happens. You know, I've seen -- you know, I was waiting in line at a sandwich shop downtown. There were only two restrooms, one single room for men, and one for women. And I waited and waited and waited. And this lady came out, and she says, I'm sorry, I just couldn't wait for the other one. But, you know, but I think that's kind of a, actually, disrespectful approach to this. People are not going to be wanting to pretend to be trans in order to go into bathrooms. People who'd do something like that might have...
RASKINWell, you know, that was the poignant part about the testimony at this hearing, that bathrooms are, you know, the transgender people testified, said that they do everything they can to avoid public bathrooms because it's a dangerous place as we saw from that awful footage of a woman being attacked. And, you know, Montgomery County has had this in place for a couple of decades. And there are no known cases of anybody, you know, pretending to be transgendered in order to commit a sexual assault.
RASKINIf they did, it would be a crime. I mean, if a heterosexual male rapist decided to pretend to be a transgender person to go into a bathroom, that person should go to jail for it. But it's got nothing to do, you know, with this legislation.
SHERWOODWe're talking about job discrimination and other kinds of discrimination of people just simply trying to live their lives.
RASKINYeah, and lots of states have it. It is a basic thing. It may be too much to do in one session. I've had several senators say, we can't do two gay bills in the same year. It's not a gay bill, but so be it. You know, this is the frailty of the human mind, and we may not be able to deal with it.
SHERWOODWhen will you know whether you're going to put it over to next year?
RASKINWell, we should know within the next couple of weeks. As you know, Tom, we've got a short session. We just go to the beginning of April, and we still have a lot of big issues to tackle, including the budget and taxes. So there are other things that are starting to squeeze out space.
NNAMDIHave you had any conversation with Gov. O'Malley about this bill?
RASKINOh, the governor has expressed his support for it and, I think, has consistently expressed his support for it. I mean, it's really not that controversial. You know, obviously, it plays into the people's anxieties about sex, which are always out there. But, in truth, we're talking about protecting a very vulnerable minority that has been the subject of a lot of discrimination and a lot of violence.
SHERWOODQuick question about...
SHERWOODI think I lost track of where the county is paying for pension -- teacher pensions issue in the budget. Has that been resolved?
RASKINWell, the governor has suggested sending it back to the counties. In Montgomery County, we've been resisting. I'm the chair of the Montgomery Delegation, and, you know, since I've been in office, we've been resisting this very hard. But the governor is pushing it now. The leadership is pushing it. So the pressure, the political pressure is building to do something on it. And if we can't stop it, we will at least try to dilute this proposal and do whatever we can to stage it out and phase it in over a much longer period of time than what they're saying, which is 100 percent in the first year.
NNAMDIWe have time for one more caller -- Michael in Washington, D.C. Michael, go ahead, please.
MICHAELHi. I was just -- I wanted to call and ask about -- you were talking about the gay marriage bill. And I was wondering if we -- in the future, we foresee brothers and sisters or fathers and daughters being able to marry.
RASKINYeah. And this is one of the objections that I heard from my friends across the aisle on this. If we're going to allow, you know, Sen. Madaleno, who is openly gay, to marry his partner so that their two adopted children can be part of a family, then will we have to allow brothers and sisters or uncles and nieces to get married? And, of course, I think the fallacy there is to confuse what is an intimate, amorous, romantic relationship with one that's based on, you know, people being relatives or brothers and sisters. So there's nothing in here about incest.
RASKINAnd I think that the question invites us to disregard the reality of tens of thousands of people's lives in our state. I mean, these are real families. And I know some people don't want to recognize that, and I know it's tough. But the general assembly has done the right thing. It wasn't easy getting there, but we're going to defend this victory. And we're going to defend the equal recognition of the rights under law of all of our citizens.
NNAMDIMichael, thank you very much for your call. Jamie Raskin, you've got to go vote. Thank you very much for joining us.
RASKINMy pleasure, Kojo. See you guys soon.
NNAMDIJamie Raskin is a member of the Maryland Senate. He's a Democrat from Montgomery County. Tom Sherwood is our resident analyst and NBC 4 reporter and the columnist for The Current Newspapers. What are you working on today?
SHERWOODI'm doing the -- I'm going to update my Redskins story from last November, what is happening on bringing the Redskins' training facility here.
NNAMDIThank you all for listening. Make sure you watch Tom. I'm Kojo Nnamdi.
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