It’s a citywide race that could bend the arc of local politics in the District. Democratic candidates are hustling to win over voters in the final stretch of D.C.’s at-large primary. The candidates appearing on the April 3 ballot join us for a special forum on this week’s edition of The Politics Hour.

Guests

  • Tom Sherwood Resident Analyst; NBC 4 reporter; and Columnist for the Current Newspapers
  • E. Gail Anderson Holness Democratic Candidate, D.C. Council (At-Large)
  • Peter Shapiro Democratic Candidate, D.C. Council (At-Large); Former Member, Prince George's County Council
  • Vincent Orange Democratic Candidate, D.C. Council (At-Large); Member, D.C. Council, (D-At Large) Former Member, D.C. Council, D-Ward 5
  • Sekou Biddle Democratic Candidate, D.C. Council (At-Large); Former Member, D.C. Council (D-At Large)

Politics Hour Extra

Part 1 of The Kojo Nnamdi Show’s D.C. Council At-Large candidate debate:

Part 2 of The Kojo Nnamdi Show’s D.C. Council At-Large candidate debate:

Part 3 of The Kojo Nnamdi Show’s D.C. Council At-Large candidate debate:

Transcript

  • 12:06:48

    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. But we've got four candidates in studio today, all running in the Democratic primary for an at-large seat on the council in D.C. Next Tuesday is the primary election, April 3.

  • 12:07:23

    MR. KOJO NNAMDIWe assume you want to hear from those candidates and that you don't want me to waste time prattling on about how Tom Sherwood won the D.C. City Paper Award, Best of D.C. 2012 for being the best local reporter because he's got a lot of sources, because he breaks a lot of stories. He goes after elected officials at news conferences, but they still love him because of his terrific sense of humor. Who cares? Just congratulate him if you must and get it over with. We'd like to hear the candidates. OK. Congratulations.

  • 12:07:53

    MR. TOM SHERWOODThank you very much.

  • 12:07:55

    NNAMDIWhat's this sense of humor thing that I keep hearing about? Where -- what's the evidence of that?

  • 12:07:59

    SHERWOODIt's gotten me in trouble ever since the third grade.

  • 12:08:02

    NNAMDINow, we've never seen any evidence of it on this broadcast.

  • 12:08:05

    SHERWOODYou have to be receptive.

  • 12:08:07

    NNAMDIBut...

  • 12:08:08

    SHERWOODWe may have some cultural issues.

  • 12:08:10

    NNAMDIProbably have to be smart, too. Now, on to the business at hand -- oh, did I mention that Tom Sherwood, Nikita Stewart of The Washington Post and Mark Seagraves of WTOP will be providing analysis of the aforementioned April 3 primary results on Wednesday, April 4 at Hill Center on Capitol Hill at 921 Pennsylvania Ave., SE. Of course, it's free. I mean, who would pay for that stuff? Now...

  • 12:08:37

    NNAMDI...our candidates. I will introduce each individually and ask each candidate to make a 30-second statement telling you exactly who or she is -- I'll raise that to 45 seconds -- in case you did not know. Then they'll take questions from Tom and me in no particular order. We'll ask them to limit all answers to a minute or less. One caution, we, unlike most candidates, don't subscribe to the notion that the person who gets to speak the most wins, wins whatever.

  • 12:09:10

    NNAMDIHaving said that, I will now introduce the candidates individually and ask each after he or she is introduced to make a 45-second statement indicating who he or she is. First, we'll start with E. Gail Anderson Holness, who, as we mentioned, is running for an at-large seat. She's an advisory neighborhood commissioner in Ward 1. Welcome.

  • 12:09:32

    DR. E. GAIL ANDERSON HOLNESSThank you so much, Kojo. Thank you, Tom. Good to see again. I'm going to tell you something about myself. I'm E. Gail Anderson Holness. I am a vice president of the Ward 1 Democrats. I'm ANC commissioner for 1B11, former chair of 1B. I'm president of the InterFaith Conference of Metropolitan Washington. I'm on the mayor's interfaith counsel and the Commission for Women, a graduate of Howard Law School, with a J.D. degree and also Howard School of Divinity with a doctorate of ministry.

  • 12:10:02

    DR. E. GAIL ANDERSON HOLNESSI want to serve the residents of the District of Columbia. I want to be their voice for education, employment, affordable housing and parking. I've been engaged in the community. Even The Post recognizes my rich history of community service, have been engaged in the community for over 35 years here in Howard -- in Washington, D.C. I believe that I'm the fresh face. I'm the only candidate who has not received any corporate contributions, inclusive of the strip club contributions that were made. I'm the only one...

  • 12:10:34

    NNAMDIThat's about all the time.

  • 12:10:35

    HOLNESSThank you so much, Kojo.

  • 12:10:38

    NNAMDIOn now to the next candidate, the incumbent, Vincent Orange. He is also a former councilmember for Ward 5. Vincent Orange.

  • 12:10:47

    MR. VINCENT ORANGEWell, good afternoon, Washington, D.C., and good afternoon, Kojo and Tom. It's an honor and a privilege to be here. My name is Vincent Orange. I currently serve as the at-large councilmember. I also serve as the D.C. Democratic national committee man. Number one on the ballot, and I'm asking all of the voters in D.C., the Democratic voters to come out and vote on April 3. I would like to continue the work that I've been doing, addressing ethics, education, employment and economic development. I have been away from the Council for a while, but the citizens brought me back last year.

  • 12:11:21

    MR. VINCENT ORANGEI've been here less than nine months and have had the opportunity to get three pieces of legislation passed, opened up the movie industry to Washington, D.C., have had oversight over major boxing championship match and fighting to get the dollar to circulate with our small businesses and got the early childhood education bill passed. Number one on the ballot, Vincent Orange, I would love to have your vote.

  • 12:11:43

    NNAMDIOn to Sekou Biddle. Welcome. Sekou Biddle is a former member of the D.C. Council. He held that seat in 2011. Sekou Biddle, welcome.

  • 12:11:52

    MR. SEKOU BIDDLEThank you. It's great to be here today. And thanks for having us on. You know, I'm a 19-year public servant, started my career as a public education -- as a public school teacher and went on to serve in various capacities for many education nonprofits and then served in the capacity on the D.C. -- the old D.C. Board of Education, then which transformed to the state Board of Education, and, obviously, then served briefly a short tenure as an appointee to the Council.

  • 12:12:14

    MR. SEKOU BIDDLEYou know, it's clear that residents right now are clamoring for strong ethical leadership to address some of the most pressing issues in the city. I believe my education background best suits me to tackle the most important issue in the city, which is public education, but I bring the ethical leadership to help us get through the ethical challenges that we're facing today and move this District (word?) forward. So I look forward to the conversation and the questions today. And I believe I'm the best, most qualified person for the job. Thank you.

  • 12:12:38

    NNAMDINow, on to Peter Shapiro, who is a former member of the Prince George's County Council. Peter Shapiro, welcome. Go ahead, please.

  • 12:12:45

    MR. PETER SHAPIROWelcome. Thanks, Kojo. And thanks, Tom, as well. And welcome to the listeners. I am a former member of the Prince George's County Council, and I'm also a longtime D.C. resident. I grew up in Washington, D.C. I spent about half my life here. I'm running because we have a very broken Council right now. We have some of our highest elected officials who are under federal investigation. It's not helpful for the city. More than anything what we need to do is elect leaders with integrity and experience and get us back on track and get us back to work.

  • 12:13:16

    MR. PETER SHAPIROAnd the work of the city really is about creating jobs. It's about continuing the school improvements. It's about revitalizing neighborhoods. We can't do that until we get past the ethical cloud that we have. And I feel like I have the best combination of both integrity and experience to be an effective member of the D.C. Council. I would ask for your vote.

  • 12:13:36

    NNAMDIThank you very much. Now, we invite your calls at 800-433-8850. If you have questions or comments for the candidates, you can also join us on Twitter, send us a tweet, @kojoshow, email to kojo@wamu.org, or simply go to our website, kojoshow.org, and ask a question or make a comment there. Please try to keep it as brief as possible. Now, we turn to Tom Sherwood.

  • 12:14:00

    SHERWOODI want to start with a fairly simple question. And the mayor proposed his budget this week, and some people were stunned, shocked and are slowing down when they realized the mayor wants to put red-light cameras all over the city. And these red-light cameras would not only ding you if you run a red light, they'll be retrofitted so that if you even go through the intersection on green going too fast, you'll get a speeding ticket. So I'm just wondering if you like that idea with a quick -- just a 30-second answer. We'll just start with you, Mr. Sekou Biddle.

  • 12:14:30

    NNAMDII happened to read Tom Sherwood's column in The Current this week, and I got the distinct impression that Tom, who is always neutral on these issues, doesn't much like the idea himself.

  • 12:14:41

    SHERWOODNo. Well, I don't want (unintelligible).

  • 12:14:42

    BIDDLEHe didn't sound neutral to me, either.

  • 12:14:43

    SHERWOODWell, let me just say the last sentence of that column says, if you don't like it, slow down. So I think I do accept the concept.

  • 12:14:50

    SHERWOODSo...

  • 12:14:51

    NNAMDII'm sorry. Go right ahead.

  • 12:14:51

    SHERWOOD(unintelligible) misrepresenting me.

  • 12:14:53

    BIDDLEWell -- I mean, putting aside...

  • 12:14:54

    HOLNESSThat was you next to me, Tom.

  • 12:14:55

    BIDDLEYeah.

  • 12:14:55

    SHERWOODRight.

  • 12:14:56

    BIDDLEAnd putting aside the fact...

  • 12:14:57

    SHERWOODOK. Thirty seconds.

  • 12:14:57

    BIDDLE...that these cameras will certainly change Tom's driving habits, I mean, I'm not a big fan of this idea because, frankly, it looks like we're taking what was initially designed to be a public safety tool and turning it into a revenue generator. But the fact that we see in the budget a claim that we're not having tax and fee increases, but we're looking to generate more revenue through speed cameras and then using those cameras to do both speed and red lights, really, really is disconcerting. And we really need to think about what we're using them for.

  • 12:15:20

    SHERWOODMr. Orange, the mayor says $30 million would be raised with this idea. What do you think?

  • 12:15:24

    ORANGEI do no support the idea. We've already raised an excess of $100 million through the speeding cameras and parking tickets and things of that like. I think that now it's become a revenue generator. And to say that we're going to cover the entire city with these -- with this apparatus is not a good idea in my view.

  • 12:15:44

    SHERWOODRev. Holness.

  • 12:15:45

    HOLNESSThank you. I -- thank you, Tom. I don't think it's a good idea, and I think it's a waste of taxpayer money to use the funds to put those cameras in place beside the fact that the individual that is a part of the person that is putting the lights up is making most of the money from that project. I think there are other options to raise funds for the District of Columbia. I'm out there waving in the mornings, and I see Maryland and Virginia tags coming into the District. There ought to be some kind of commuter tax.

  • 12:16:10

    HOLNESSYou don't let the good suffer with the bad in this instance, and those of us who live in Washington, D.C. will -- of course, Tom, some of us go over the speed limit a little bit every now and again. And we're going to be subjected perhaps going through that green light piece is a major issue. So I don't -- I'm not in favor of it all.

  • 12:16:27

    SHERWOODPeter Shapiro.

  • 12:16:28

    SHAPIROYeah. I think there's a little bit of election-year pandering going on with this 'cause it's an important issue. And we have some serious concerns about public safety in the city. Now, the key is around balance. And so, you know, the red-light cameras and even speed on green can be a very healthy thing. Now, the idea of blanketing the city doesn't make a whole lot of sense.

  • 12:16:46

    NNAMDIWhy not?

  • 12:16:47

    SHAPIROAnd -- because there are many, many intersections where the -- if we put this in place, then it's only about generating revenue. There are any number of anecdotes. You'll hear people -- I have my experience of this where it feels like it's essentially a trap for folks. It's not making the community safer. So what you really have to do is make sure that we have a comprehensive plan but that they're located in places where it actually will reduce speed in ways that keeps the community safe.

  • 12:17:14

    SHERWOODAnd...

  • 12:17:14

    NNAMDIWe're talking with the at-large candidates in the primary election on April 3, Tuesday, April 3 in the District of Columbia and taking your calls at 800-433-8850. These are the Democratic candidates: Sekou Biddle, E. Gail Anderson Holness, Vincent Orange and Peter Shapiro.

  • 12:17:31

    SHERWOODI know the quality of life issue in the mayor's budget this week is -- he said he would like to see the bars stay open until 3 a.m. on weekdays and 4 a.m. on weekends. Councilmember Jim Graham said that, well, that would be good with -- everybody will be drunk and they'll run the red lights in the light. It will be just a terrible idea. But, Mr. Shapiro, what do you think about later night hours for bars on the weeks and weekends?

  • 12:17:55

    SHAPIROYou know, I'm open to it, and there's a lot more information that I'd like to see. You know, it's comforting to hear from Chief Lanier that she feels that they'll have the staffing, so the public safety issues won't be that severe. What I'm most concerned about is the neighborhood impact issues from something like this. So one way that we want to be careful about that is to make sure that voluntary agreements that are in place stay in place.

  • 12:18:18

    SHERWOODRev. Holness.

  • 12:18:20

    HOLNESSYes. I'm concerned about it as a commissioner for in 1B. We're affected by it, and I'm in Jim Graham's ward as well. You have to look at the neighborhood issues, whether the noise factor and the number of people in the streets and how the impact it will have on the neighbors, and those are some of the issues that have come before our ANC in terms of ABRA and getting liquor licenses and those sorts.

  • 12:18:42

    HOLNESSBut I'm really not in favor of lengthening those hours unless we do a study to determine what the neighbors' concerns are and whether the neighbors would welcome that because our -- where our bars are located, particularly in Ward 1, there are a lot of neighbors around.

  • 12:18:57

    SHERWOODVincent Orange.

  • 12:18:58

    ORANGEYeah. I think it is a proposal that's worthy of consideration and will generate an excess of $5 million. However, maybe it should be limited to downtown where we're creating a livable and walkable community downtown. Thus far, I believe 11 days out of the year, the bars actually are open an extra hour. I think we should examine those 11 days and see what has been the activity during that time.

  • 12:19:23

    ORANGEBut I definitely think it's time has come to have a good conversation about it. And if we can have a proper balance between downtown and in the community, I think it's something that we can work out, especially since you have Chief Lanier on board.

  • 12:19:34

    SHERWOODSekou Biddle.

  • 12:19:37

    BIDDLEYeah, I'd have to think the primary concern has to be what happens in our neighborhoods. I mean, we've got communities in the city right now. You look at Adams Morgan and Columbia Heights that didn't have significant number of bars or restaurants a decade or two ago that now are threatened to be overrun by them. And to suggest that we're going to lengthen hours in those communities is really going to impact the quality of life for residents who many which moved into a neighborhood that was dramatically different 10, 20, 30 years ago than the one that's being transformed into today.

  • 12:20:02

    BIDDLEYou know, that said, there's also -- you know, while Chief Lanier certainly is willing to take this on, there are other public safety issues to deal with here. I mean, as you know, I was a victim of a crime from somebody who had drank too much at a bar late at night. And, you know, having them open for more hours just opens us up to more and more of these incidents.

  • 12:20:17

    NNAMDIWell, you know, Tom, I'd like to raise with you whether there might be a generational divide on this issue. I distinctly remember in my 20s and 30s hating how early the bars in D.C. closed.

  • 12:20:27

    NNAMDINowadays, I feel somewhat differently.

  • 12:20:29

    SHERWOODRight. You can't believe they're open so late.

  • 12:20:31

    NNAMDIExactly right.

  • 12:20:32

    HOLNESSHe's not up that late.

  • 12:20:34

    NNAMDII don't understand it. Vincent Orange, this one for you. It appears the U.S. attorney for the District of Columbia has launched a full-blown investigation into how political campaigns are financed and executed in the city. Federal agents raided the offices of Jeffrey Thompson last month, a prolific fundraiser of D.C. campaigns, including the one in which you won this seat last year, a race where you basically did laps around your opponents on the fundraising front.

  • 12:20:59

    NNAMDIWe actually went back through the audio of our forum from last year's special election and noticed one caller had a question for you about money. Here it is.

  • 12:21:09

    NNAMDIHere is Steve at Eastern Market.

  • 12:21:13

    STEVEHi. This is question is for Mr. Orange. Mr. Orange, you go after Council Chair Brown for over $100,000 in unaccounted-for campaign expenditures, but in your last campaign finance report, you reported over $60,000 in money order contributions, which are essentially cash contributions that are 100 percent untraceable. So I'm just curious how you square your campaign criticisms of Council Chair Brown against, you know, what you don't practice with your own campaign.

  • 12:21:43

    NNAMDIThat was last year, and after that, Loose Lips did a piece on it. And this year, Patrick Madden of WAMU talked about the campaign contributions you received from Jeffrey Thompson, and, ultimately, you responded to queries from The Washington Post about this. But you're a CPA. And since this issue was raised such a long time ago, I guess, voters want to know why you never paid any attention to it until it was raised finally by The Washington Post and Patrick Madden.

  • 12:22:09

    ORANGEWell, first of all, let's examine the question that was raised by the caller. The caller said unaccounted-for monies in the chairman's race. The dollars that I raised are not unaccounted for. They were properly reported, properly coded, and also, I was subject to an audit, which I passed. In fact, that is -- now that I've gone back and reviewed what happened in the special election, I was audited twice, once before the election, where the OCF requested 70 documents, where they actually reviewed 12 of the money orders and gave it a clean bill of health.

  • 12:22:45

    ORANGEAnd then, after the election, I was audited again where they requested more information and given a clean bill of health and never heard from them. So, generally, when a person is audited by the Office of Campaign Finance that regulates this area and you pass, you don't look back. And now, when it came to the forefront and The Washington Post actually provided...

  • 12:23:06

    NNAMDIOh, you're out of time, so I'm going to ask you another a question so that you can have a few more seconds to respond to it.

  • 12:23:11

    ORANGESure.

  • 12:23:12

    NNAMDIAnd that is -- I mentioned earlier that you were a CPA. And it's fine to say that you were audited by other people. But I think voters expect you to be careful about your own campaign contributions and to look over them yourself. And a lot of these money orders were sequential. They were in sequential numbers. Why did it never occur to you, even after questions were raised in public forums, to take a look at them yourself?

  • 12:23:35

    ORANGEWell, also, let's -- first, again, let's get the timetable correctly established. Mr. Thompson was raided on March 2. I believe I had my interview with The Washington Post that following Wednesday. And by that following Monday, I provided them the information. And also, the money orders did not come in sequential order. Look at my office campaign report. The way it came in is the way it was reported. Vincent Orange put on his CPA hat and put everything in order. It took me an entire weekend, and I put the document together that I provided to The Post and to the media.

  • 12:24:10

    ORANGEAnd that's what they show on the air now. But it did not come in that way. Also, another point you need to establish because I believe the City Paper said the money orders were purchased at seven o'clock. The report was due that night at midnight. Our people were entering in information, you know, at eight, nine and entered $190,000. And Tim Craig from The Washington Post indicates that the questionable items represented 8 percent. So there was not an opportunity to look at it. And I personally did not enter any information because that's the finance chair and his team that does that.

  • 12:24:43

    NNAMDIId' like to ask the others a question about this, and I'll make it a combined question. I'll start with you, Sekou Biddle. What is your concern over these money order transactions, and, two, would you support a proposal that has been raised by activists in the city that would ban all corporate contributions to campaigns for members of the council?

  • 12:25:03

    BIDDLESo, yeah, I certainly support Ballot Initiative 70. I'm actually carrying a petition with me. So, if you haven't signed it yet, feel free to sign it after the show. So that answers the second question.

  • 12:25:11

    BIDDLEWhat concerns me about this question with the money orders and Councilmember Orange's campaign finances is that the notion that, during this process, when they're being received by the campaign, when they're being entered by the campaign into campaign finance's website, when they're being requested by Office of Campaign Finance and being returned to them, that nobody within the organization ever noticed anything amiss.

  • 12:25:33

    BIDDLEYou know, the notion that money orders are so rare in campaigns that somebody would not say, we've got an excessive number of these money orders. And it would never occur to them -- and, you know, Councilmember Orange puts forth as his credentials for the job that he's a CPA and a lawyer. And one would have to ask, if you can't provide the level of oversight for your campaign to not be part of what looks like potentially a criminal conspiracy, how can you provide the correct oversight we need for the city government?

  • 12:25:57

    NNAMDIAnd now your turn, Peter Shapiro.

  • 12:26:00

    SHAPIROI have some serious concerns about the money orders. First of all, in terms of Ballot Initiative 70, yes, I support that. We should ban corporate contributions. We -- you know, we should go many steps further, which is banning contributions from contractors with the city. But on the specific issues related to Mr. Orange, it's so disingenuous what he's saying. And I think the reason why he even feels comfortable saying this is because it's actually quite business as usual in the city, and that's what we're seeing more than anything else.

  • 12:26:28

    SHAPIROThis is a very, very broken political culture right now when it comes to campaign finance. Jeff Thompson didn't just do this with Mr. Orange. Mr. Orange just may have been the largest recipient of his largesse. But a number of council members have received these contributions. And there is money order contributions in the mayor's coffers as well. But for Mr. Orange to say that...

  • 12:26:49

    NNAMDIOut of time.

  • 12:26:49

    SHAPIRO...he just noticed it is disingenuous at best.

  • 12:26:53

    NNAMDIE. Gail Anderson Holness.

  • 12:26:54

    HOLNESSYes. My concern is -- and it's been said before that the campaign -- Office of Campaign Finance has been understaffed. So there were some things that could've slipped through, even as it slipped through Mr. Orange's campaign. But I am in favor of Initiative 70. I'm the only candidate of the four candidates that have not received any corporate contributions. So I think all of them saying now, now, they're in favor of it -- before, they weren't in favor of it. So that, to me, is a deceptive move on their part.

  • 12:27:22

    HOLNESSAnd I think when we're dealing with these ethical issues and these campaign issues, campaign financial issues are the distraction to the real issues that we have in the District. We have a problem with education. We have a problem with employment for D.C. residents. We have a problem with parking. We have a problem with affordable housing in the District. And all of these issues are basically centered around those who represent -- and they're city council persons.

  • 12:27:45

    NNAMDIYou're out of time.

  • 12:27:45

    HOLNESSAnd so we need people with integrity on the council.

  • 12:27:47

    NNAMDIMr. Orange, would you support the ballot initiative that would ban corporate contributions?

  • 12:27:52

    ORANGEWhat I'm supporting is a bill that I introduced that would ban corporate contributions and council members from holding outside employment with those corporations and those who do business with the city. That's where Mr. Biddle and I part company. Mr. Biddle is supported by Councilmember David Catania, who has a -- who's on the payroll of M.C. Dean that has a $13 million contract with the city and controls all the street lights, and he makes $240,000.

  • 12:28:21

    ORANGESo I said we should stop that activity. There are other members on the council that are on the payrolls of folks that are doing business with the city. That is unethical, and it must stop. And I don't understand why Mr. Biddle cannot go the full step and says that he supports my bill. He only wants to support that part that does not approach...

  • 12:28:40

    NNAMDIYou're out of time.

  • 12:28:40

    ORANGE...his supporters.

  • 12:28:42

    NNAMDIIn case you're just joining us, we're talking with candidates in the primary on Tuesday, April 3, for the Democratic nomination for the at-large seat on the Washington, D.C. council. The candidates are E. Gail Anderson Holness, Sekou Biddle, Peter Shapiro and the incumbent Vincent Orange. Tom Sherwood is our resident analyst. He's an NBC 4 reporter and a columnist for The Current Newspapers. If you have already called at 800-433-8850, we will get to your call. You can also send email to kojo@wamu.org. Tom.

  • 12:29:14

    SHERWOODEthics is not the wet blanket that's hanging over the city. It's the wet mattress. It really hangs over. And, Mr. Orange, you're on the council. You're, in many ways, in politics. You know, you get guilt by association there. I think it's fair to point out at this point, you have not been charged with any ethical violations. Is that correct?

  • 12:29:32

    ORANGEYeah. I'm not under...

  • 12:29:34

    SHERWOODThat's not a 30-second answer.

  • 12:29:35

    ORANGEI understand, but we need to be very clear. Vincent Orange is not under federal investigation, not under local investigation, have not been accused of any wrongdoing or whatsoever.

  • 12:29:45

    SHERWOODBut Harry Thomas Jr. will be sentenced on May 3, the expectation is. He was former Ward 5 councilmember who was convicted, or actually plead guilty to stealing money from youth programs in the city. I looked back. I was trying to find a place where, Mr. Orange, where you criticized him, either after the attorney general made him pay back -- agree to pay back the $300,000 or even leading up to his pleading guilty.

  • 12:30:11

    SHERWOODI personally knew him since he was a much younger guy, and I'm personally furious at what he did, stealing from the -- but I don't -- I didn't see anything in the record. I just wonder, when did you first criticize him for what he did?

  • 12:30:22

    ORANGEWell...

  • 12:30:22

    SHERWOODOr have you?

  • 12:30:23

    ORANGEWell, you know, there were internal meetings with Mr. Thomas and the council. There were recommendations that we put to him. And, you know, that was an internal process. Also, it's very clear that if there was going to be an internal process in the council, I wanted to chair the committee.

  • 12:30:43

    SHERWOODI'm talking about the weight of public opinion.

  • 12:30:46

    ORANGEWell, that's what I'm talking about. If you -- in order to start our process in the council, our rule says if the person starts the censorship process, then you cannot be a part of the committee that the chairman is required (unintelligible).

  • 12:30:58

    SHERWOODNo, and I'm just talking about just saying publicly, as I did.

  • 12:31:01

    ORANGEOh, no, that's what I'm saying.

  • 12:31:02

    SHERWOOD(unintelligible) and that's what he did.

  • 12:31:04

    ORANGEYeah. What I'm saying is...

  • 12:31:05

    SHERWOODNot some process at the council which is lethargic and slow moving.

  • 12:31:09

    ORANGENo. What I'm saying is that there's 13 council members. Three council members came out and spoke out publicly. And there was 10 council members that did not.

  • 12:31:17

    SHERWOODRight.

  • 12:31:18

    ORANGEAnd so the 10 of us...

  • 12:31:19

    SHERWOODAnd you were in the group of 10?

  • 12:31:20

    ORANGEI was in the group of 10. No, I did not. And I had my specific reasons because I thought there was going to be a censorship process, and I wanted to chair that committee. Under our rules, there's a five-person committee.

  • 12:31:30

    NNAMDIBut, Mr. Orange, do you understand that there is or may be a public perception that what we have in the District of Columbia is an old boy network in the council despite the fact that there happened to be women who are members of the council and that what they do is they...

  • 12:31:45

    HOLNESSThank you, Kojo.

  • 12:31:46

    NNAMDI...is that they circle the wagons around one another and simply refuse to criticize one another in public? And that raises questions in the minds of the public about what else are council members not talking about that they may not know about. How can you convince the voters in the District of Columbia that everything that goes on in this council is transparent if, in fact, you don't come out and openly criticize your fellow council members when they seem to be guilty of wrongdoing?

  • 12:32:14

    ORANGEWell, first of all, Kojo, personnel matters are matters that are not discussed in public. It's just under our rules. That's the system that we have in place. In addition to that...

  • 12:32:25

    SHERWOODIs it a personnel matter?

  • 12:32:27

    ORANGEYes, it was...

  • 12:32:27

    BIDDLEIt's astounding to think it's just a personnel matter.

  • 12:32:28

    ORANGEIt was a personnel matter. As you know, the council chair had several executive beatings on this issue, and the press was not allowed in. There was a vote in the beginning of the meeting, and under our rules, that's how it was addressed.

  • 12:32:41

    SHERWOOD(unintelligible)

  • 12:32:41

    ORANGEBut, look, can I just make just one point?

  • 12:32:43

    SHERWOODI don't want to go -- what I want to know is, were you personally offended by the theft of $300,000?

  • 12:32:48

    ORANGEAbsolutely.

  • 12:32:48

    SHERWOODI mean, I just don't think I ever heard you say that. I want to hear you say it.

  • 12:32:52

    ORANGEAbsolutely, I was personally offended.

  • 12:32:54

    SHERWOODYou think he should go to jail?

  • 12:32:56

    ORANGEWell, you know, that is up to the judge. And we already know that he will probably look at a minimum of three years and maximum of five years.

  • 12:33:02

    SHERWOODOK. What about the rest of the...

  • 12:33:05

    ORANGEBut there's one point I want to make, just one point.

  • 12:33:06

    SHERWOODVery quickly 'cause I want to hear (unintelligible)...

  • 12:33:07

    NNAMDIVery quickly.

  • 12:33:07

    ORANGEAlso, what -- I think what gave some people pause is that when the government entered into a settlement agreement with Mr. Thomas, they did not require him to state admission of guilt. And Mr. Thomas used that to say that, see, even the government knows that, you know, I'm not guilty. I promised to pay the money back, but they stopped short of having him to have an admission of guilt.

  • 12:33:29

    SHERWOODWell, I thought Yvette Alexander had the greatest answer on that. She said, I wouldn't pay back $300,000 if I didn't think I took it illegally. But, anyway...

  • 12:33:35

    HOLNESSTom?

  • 12:33:36

    SHERWOOD...what about the attitude of ethics? And there's 15 seconds on this -- is the attitude that, well, it's all kind of a matter process, we'll work it all out, it seems to me people I talk to on the streets just don't like that at all. They just think people ought to be more -- not avenging angels -- pardon me, Rev. Holness, but they're just angered.

  • 12:33:51

    HOLNESSYeah, that's all right.

  • 12:33:52

    NNAMDII'm going to get to Rev….

  • 12:33:52

    HOLNESSThere's some -- there are a lot of demons around. Trust me, Tom. And when we talk about -- if you don't stand for something, you will fall for anything. And not answering the question and not being receptive to the community is what we need in new leadership. We need leadership that is going to speak truth to power, leadership that is going to speak out when it's wrong.

  • 12:34:10

    NNAMDIWell, you said that these campaign ethics issues are a distraction, and Tom...

  • 12:34:13

    HOLNESSI think they are a distraction.

  • 12:34:14

    NNAMDI...characterizes them not as a blanket but as more like a wet mattress.

  • 12:34:16

    HOLNESSIt is a wet blanket because -- it's a mattress. We can't get up -- we can't get from under it.

  • 12:34:18

    NNAMDIBut it seems to me this distraction, however, has become the main focus of attention both for the media and for the criminal justice system and for a lot of people in the city.

  • 12:34:29

    SHAPIROWhat I think, Kojo...

  • 12:34:30

    NNAMDIHow would your presence on the council change that?

  • 12:34:33

    HOLNESSI think my presence on the council would bring the integrity and the ethical behavior that we need because what we're seeing now are people who disrespect each other, people, obviously, who have no morals. I think we need to change that. If we change the culture -- and we're change agents in life, and we're either a part of the problem or we are part of the solution. If we keep doing the same thing that we've always done, we're going to get the same results we've always got.

  • 12:34:55

    HOLNESSIf we keep the same councils -- this is the worst council that I have seen in my years of being in Washington, D.C. since 1978. And I mean worst. There have not always been good ones. But when we have an ethical cloud hanging over us in this mattress, it is something that we can't get over. We can't get to the issues of education. We can't get to the issues of employment for D.C. residents. We can't get to the issues of parking. We can't get to the issues of affordable health care.

  • 12:35:18

    NNAMDIPeter Shapiro, I want to stay on ethics for a second because you were a part of an ethics task force put together in Prince George's County in the wake of the scandal that sent former executive Jack Johnson to prison. You used to serve, as we mentioned, on the council there, but I read this week that you only attended a handful of the ethics board's meetings. Why is that?

  • 12:35:37

    SHAPIROI actually attended a majority of the meetings, and a good chunk of the work was done outside of the work of the meetings as well, so...

  • 12:35:42

    NNAMDIWell, you missed four of seven. I mean, you missed three of seven, so you attended four of seven.

  • 12:35:45

    SHAPIRORight. Exactly.

  • 12:35:47

    NNAMDISo technically you attended a majority...

  • 12:35:47

    SHAPIROI worked very hard on that commission. And I think if you speak to Dean Schmoke -- Kurt Schmoke was the co-chair of that -- and Judge Missouri, I think they would attest to you how much work I put into that.

  • 12:35:57

    NNAMDIWhat ethical defense do you think you'd make on the D.C. council?

  • 12:36:01

    SHAPIROFirst of all, leading by example, and I want to pick up on what Mr. Orange just said. And I want to use your words, Kojo, which is this is about a good old boy network. It makes no sense. It's not in the interest of the residents to say that I'm not going to speak out against a colleague who is clearly in the midst of some serious wrongdoing because I want to make sure I have a seat at the table. For me, that's a terrible leadership style, and it's not in the interest of the residents of the city to take up that kind of a leadership style.

  • 12:36:30

    NNAMDIAnd, Sekou Biddle, you've been quite so far, but I'm going to allow Michael on Dupont Circle to address a question specifically to you. Will all of you put on your headsets, please, so that we could hear the questioner? Michael, you are now on the air. Go ahead, please.

  • 12:36:45

    MICHAELYeah, this is a question for Sekou Biddle. He was supported on the council by Kwame and -- Kwame Brown and the mayor during his last term. He never mentions on the -- when he's campaigning that he was on the city council last year. So, Sekou Biddle, what makes this year and last year different? Are you still being supported by Kwame Brown and Marion Barry?

  • 12:37:16

    NNAMDISekou Biddle. And it's not...

  • 12:37:17

    SHERWOODMayor Gray, I think.

  • 12:37:18

    NNAMDI...the city council. I make that mistake from time to time myself.

  • 12:37:20

    SHERWOODYes. It's a bad mistake to make.

  • 12:37:22

    BIDDLECouncil of the District of Columbia?

  • 12:37:23

    NNAMDIYes.

  • 12:37:24

    BIDDLESo, you know, several things make this different. Obviously, you know, in the intro today, I mentioned I served briefly as an appointee on the council. I think we could check the audio from today's show and verify that's the case. You know, I think Michael also overlooks the fact that last year, I was in a situation in which I was supported by a number of elected officials, including the mayor and the chair, but also several other colleagues on the council. This year, I am not. I've been running very, very hard.

  • 12:37:46

    BIDDLEI've received the support endorsement of numerous institutions, newspapers, including The Washington Post, the Washington City Paper, The Northwest Current. I think that, you know, there's a consensus building that I am the right and best choice for the seat on the council, and I've been earning that each day going out, talking to residents.

  • 12:38:01

    SHERWOODDoes your website note your previous service on the council? I don't think I've looked -- I don't remember. Does it? I don't think it does.

  • 12:38:07

    BIDDLEYou know, I'll have to look (unintelligible).

  • 12:38:09

    SHAPIROOr the recent mailings that have gone out.

  • 12:38:11

    BIDDLEWe could.

  • 12:38:12

    NNAMDIWell, can you name, Sekou Biddle, one or two things that you did during your time on the council that...

  • 12:38:17

    BIDDLESure.

  • 12:38:17

    NNAMDI...demonstrated leadership or demonstrated that you are trying to upset the setup, shake the status quo?

  • 12:38:23

    BIDDLEYeah. Well, you know, I took on the issue of truancy, which is a huge issue in the District of Columbia. Obviously, as a former school teacher, I can assure you that children who are not in school aren't learning any things that we're doing and providing for them in school. So I run a Special Committee on School Truancy -- on Truancy and School Safety. And this was a committee that wasn't funded. We didn't have a budget for. I recruited a set of volunteers to help us put together a task force and commission to work on this issue.

  • 12:38:44

    BIDDLEWe issued a report through recommendations on how to address the issue of truancy. So, you know, I clearly went after some issues I thought were important that I could accomplish something in the four months that -- we all know the legislative process doesn't allow you a lot to accomplish in that short period of time.

  • 12:38:59

    NNAMDISekou Biddle is a Democratic candidate for the D.C. Council. He's running for an at-large seat in next Tuesday's primary. He joins us in studio along with E. Gail Anderson Holness, Vincent Orange, the incumbent, and Peter Shapiro. They are all participating in that primary election on Tuesday, April 4. Tom Sherwood is our resident analyst, an NBC 4 reporter and a columnist for The Current Newspapers. Tom.

  • 12:39:20

    SHERWOODWell, we're kind of beaten up on three -- two of the candidates. Let's go to Peter Shapiro.

  • 12:39:23

    NNAMDILet's beat up on somebody else.

  • 12:39:25

    SHERWOODI look at your website bio then, and I couldn't tell. What do you do for a living? How do you earn money?

  • 12:39:30

    SHAPIROI'm a leadership consultant. I work with individuals and organizations. I train. I teach. For a numbers of years, I ran a leadership center at the University of Maryland. And that leadership center actually trained public leaders to be more effective leaders, worked with undergraduates as well.

  • 12:39:43

    SHERWOODOK. Your bio has nothing about your ever earning a job. It just talks about your community stuff. Is there a reason for that? Is that a -- you don't want to call yourself a consultant and -- I mean...

  • 12:39:52

    SHAPIRONo. I like my work. Actually, I'm proud of it. I'm very effective at it. I work with both, again, at the individual level, the organization level. I work with public leaders. I work with corporate leaders. I have all sorts of experience.

  • 12:40:07

    SHERWOODWould this be a raise, the $125,000? Would that be a raise for you?

  • 12:40:10

    SHAPIRONo. It would be a pay cut, actually.

  • 12:40:12

    SHERWOODWill be a pay cut. Rev. Holness?

  • 12:40:15

    HOLNESSWould it be a pay cut...

  • 12:40:16

    SHERWOODWhat -- I mean, you're -- what are you...

  • 12:40:17

    HOLNESSWhat do I do?

  • 12:40:18

    SHERWOODYou're the head of the Interfaith Council -- metropolitan -- but what do you do -- how do you earn money?

  • 12:40:23

    HOLNESSI'm pastor of Christ Our Redeemer AME Church in Washington, D.C., formerly at the University of District of Columbia until last year as a director of community outreach and involvement, formerly special assistant to the president of the University of District of Columbia. And I also have a not-for-profit that I run, the Anderson Holness Group. And I speak all over this world. I just got back from Israel. I've...

  • 12:40:45

    SHERWOODPaid to speak.

  • 12:40:45

    HOLNESSAbsolutely.

  • 12:40:46

    NNAMDIWell, let me ask you to speak on another issue because the city is in the process of rolling out a medical marijuana regime, the Washington Post reporting today that the health department is expected to announce the winning bidders for growing plants that will feed dispensaries. What concerns do you have about the city's medical marijuana program as it's, well, rolled out on a citywide basis?

  • 12:41:05

    HOLNESSYeah. My concern are the concerns of the resident. I was at five -- one of ANC 5's meeting, and the residents were strongly against the numbers that were coming into their community. Again, we need to listen to the individuals in the community before we make decisions. They did not want -- they didn't necessarily say they didn't want the dispensaries in Washington, D.C. Their major concern was that the dispensaries would be in their neighborhood. We know that people -- there are different drugs in our community, all kind of drugs. Everybody in America is almost on some kind of drugs.

  • 12:41:37

    HOLNESSOur children are on Ritalin, all kinds of other -- Valium that people are on. So this is a drug that will be used for medicinal purposes, from my understanding. But to be -- put it in one particular place -- I was there the night that even Montel Williams was there as one of the persons who was trying to bring it in. But the residents were adamantly against all of them coming in their community. And so I think, again, we should listen to the concerns of the neighbors, find out what their issues are and shell them out and not just put them in one place because (unintelligible).

  • 12:42:05

    NNAMDIOK.

  • 12:42:06

    SHERWOODYou want to put in ward -- where would you put one in Ward 3?

  • 12:42:11

    HOLNESSWard 3, we'd have to review where there is space for it to go.

  • 12:42:14

    NNAMDIOn to Roberto in Washington, D.C. Roberto, you're on the air. Go ahead, please. Please don your headphones again, please. Roberto, your turn.

  • 12:42:23

    ROBERTOYes. Mr. Orange said that he would like to ban second jobs of council members. But this was not his position last April. Why the change? And do the other candidates want to ban outside employment?

  • 12:42:40

    ORANGEWell, today, the Council and this government is under a big cloud. And these issues have come to the forefront. When I came on the Council, when the citizens brought me back, that was part of my platform, that I would change the culture and that I would introduce ethics legislation. I introduced four of the 10 bills. One was to ban outside employment. One was term limits and the other one was to put together a task force. And the other one was to have ethics certification.

  • 12:43:12

    ORANGEAnd I accomplished in putting those pieces of legislation forward. Now, today, we see that we have council members that are actually working for organizations that do business with the city while, at the same time, they want to ban corporate contributions. And, to me, I don't believe that that is a good approach. I think you should ban both. We should take the cloud away. Let's remove that cloud. So that's the reason why I have put that piece of legislation forward. And I'd like to ask people to join in.

  • 12:43:41

    NNAMDITom Sherwood.

  • 12:43:42

    SHERWOODYou complained about how much David Catania makes. How much money did you make at Pepco, Mr. Orange?

  • 12:43:46

    ORANGEWell...

  • 12:43:47

    SHERWOODJust a rough annual figure, not a detail.

  • 12:43:49

    ORANGEWell, let me say, when I was at Pepco, that was my only job.

  • 12:43:52

    SHERWOODI know.

  • 12:43:53

    ORANGEThat was my only job at Pepco (unintelligible).

  • 12:43:55

    SHERWOODAll right. So you made about how much?

  • 12:43:58

    ORANGEI made about $160,000, but (unintelligible) about 200.

  • 12:44:01

    SHERWOODAll of you are looking for a job on the Council, and we all know that joblessness in the city is one the most severe issues. Elissa Silverman of the D.C. Fiscal Policy Institute did a study that showed there are 30 different programs, a dozen agencies on the city that are -- have a finger or a toe in the job effort. But the city needs to radically change employment services just as it tried -- it has tried to change its school system.

  • 12:44:31

    SHERWOODThe Associated Builders and Contractors of Metro Washington, the business people, say the first source is not being used right, that the -- no one gets any credit for job training, the city simply is not doing job training. Everyone talks about it, and nothing gets done. How can you move the ball farther down the road to the people who most need employment, can get employment?

  • 12:44:52

    ORANGEWell, Tom...

  • 12:44:53

    SHERWOODAllow me to start with Mr. Biddle, who is closest to...

  • 12:44:54

    BIDDLESure. So I think the first thing with -- the approach to job training has to be outcomes, focused and based. So it's got to be not that we're running people through some series of activities that we claim...

  • 12:45:03

    SHERWOODWould you blow up employment services and (unintelligible) ?

  • 12:45:04

    BIDDLEYeah, I know. I think the analogy to the school system is right. We need to radically reform how we approach employment services and make sure that we're actually putting people through a set of experiences that will actually get them prepared to go to work. I mean, I think about little things like the Summer Youth Employment Program, which has devolved as just a summer jobs programs. It's not helping young people develop the necessary skills to be competitive in the workforce once they get out there. And I think the entire agency needs to just completely be rebuilt and rethought.

  • 12:45:29

    SHERWOODWhat did Mr. Orange -- what about making summer jobs programs a year-round program and then what (unintelligible) 30 seconds?

  • 12:45:32

    ORANGEWell, first of all, I would just like to answer your question there. You know, we have the laws on the books. We need champions to enforce those laws like I champion the law that says that 50 percent of the agency's budget must be spent with our local small disadvantaged businesses. I took that spending from $98 million to $567 million. Since I've been back, I've exposed that the government shortchanged our business community to the tune of $400 million in the fiscal year 2011, $180 million in the fiscal year 2010.

  • 12:46:06

    ORANGEI was the one that championed the Living Wage Act of 2006. And now that I'm back, we found out that it was never implemented. So it's calling folks in.

  • 12:46:11

    SHERWOODYou agree that the system doesn't work. All these agencies are not working because people are -- the unemployment lines are longer.

  • 12:46:16

    ORANGEIt's because we don't have leaders that is willing to bring people in and hold them accountable, and I've shown...

  • 12:46:21

    SHERWOODRev. Holness.

  • 12:46:22

    HOLNESSAnd that's why we need new leadership, Tom, because we don't have leaders who...

  • 12:46:24

    ORANGEAnd I've shown that I can and I have done that in the areas in which I have jurisdiction over.

  • 12:46:29

    HOLNESSExactly.

  • 12:46:30

    SHERWOODRev. Holness, you're out and around the city. You see people. They need jobs. But, more importantly, they need training first.

  • 12:46:33

    HOLNESSYeah. They need training. And as I said, Tom, I'm an educator for over 25 years. I was a part of the individuals at UDC that were structuring the community college. Workforce development is a major issue, but we're talking about bringing Wal-Mart and Home Depot and those kinds of jobs into the District. Well, how much training do you need to hold a sign that says, stop or go or yield? How much training do you need to stand in Wal-Mart and wave at somebody and say, welcome to Wal-Mart? How much training do you need to...

  • 12:47:00

    SHERWOODWell, actually, a lot of people need training for those jobs. They don't even know how to do that.

  • 12:47:02

    HOLNESSTraining for attitude, but not holding a sign. But I think we need to hold DOES accountable. I was at a meeting the other day with the director of DOES. My questions were, who's enforcing the first source agreement?

  • 12:47:16

    SHERWOODOK.

  • 12:47:16

    HOLNESSWho's enforcing the preference for D.C. residents to get jobs in the District...

  • 12:47:19

    SHERWOODPeter Shapiro, first source, many people are saying it doesn't work. It's got grand ideas, but first source doesn't work.

  • 12:47:25

    SHAPIROWell, grand is the operative word here 'cause I think there's a lot of grandstanding on this issue. And I think that every time I hear Mr. Orange speak about this, I'm just convinced that the next thing he's going to say is that he invented the Internet 'cause it's just -- it just -- it gets bigger and bigger what his role is with this. You know, I think...

  • 12:47:40

    HOLNESSI agree, Peter.

  • 12:47:40

    SHAPIRO...what's missing is absolute clarity around how -- our vision for how we want to grow jobs in the city. So it's about identifying the specific sectors of the economy where we want to grow jobs.

  • 12:47:50

    SHERWOODYear-round summer jobs?

  • 12:47:52

    SHAPIROIf it's part of the plan, but this is part of it. We don't have enough transparency. We don't have enough accountability. We're not identifying the specific neighborhoods where we want to create the jobs. You know, there's -- we don't have performance requirements when we support economic development. We don't have job quality standards. I mean, Tom, it -- we need a -- the equivalent of a Marshall Plan when it comes to revitalizing our job training program. There's nothing more important to...

  • 12:48:17

    NNAMDIWell, E. Gail Anderson Holness, the Rev. Holness, talked about her interest and participation in education in this city. And, Sekou Biddle, you have put education right at the top of your own interest in running and your background in education. Do you think the city is wise to continue with the current system, with mayoral control of schools? Do you think that system should be modified to give control back to a school board?

  • 12:48:41

    BIDDLEI think that the mayoral control has gotten us a lot. I mean, let's look at what we've accomplished over the last five and six years. We have radically transformed just the physical facilities we have in the city. Now, there's no one that can argue that the change we've made have not radically improved the facilities in the city. It's abundantly clear, and it's because we allowed the school system to focus on its core business, which is educating young people and allow different agencies to focus on facilities, like that was a huge thing right there.

  • 12:49:04

    SHERWOODBut -- no, I'm sorry. The question was, do you support continuing mayoral control?

  • 12:49:06

    NNAMDIContinuing mayoral control.

  • 12:49:07

    BIDDLEYeah. So I absolutely support continuing mayoral control 'cause it creates a clear line of accountability, who's responsible for the improvement of our school system. The residents and the voters have the ability to look at who's responsible. You know, prior to this, we had a system in which the Council pointed out the board. The board pointed out the superintendent. The superintendent pointed everybody else, and things just did not get done.

  • 12:49:26

    SHERWOODRev. Holness, do you support continuing the mayoral control of the school system?

  • 12:49:29

    HOLNESSAbsolutely not. You need educators controlling the school system. You need parents involved on the school board and elected school. We already have elected school board, yes, but we need an effective elected school board. We need parental involvement. I recommend that we would get our educators that are retired in the District of Columbia something to do, and that would engage our seniors.

  • 12:49:47

    SHERWOODOK. Mr. Shapiro, what about it, the mayoral control?

  • 12:49:49

    SHAPIROYes, I support mayoral control. And I think it's moving us in the right direction. I just want to say this is an example of where the -- 'cause this is a leadership issue, and this is an example of where the Council is quite broken around this. There's not even an education committee on the Council anymore. And the editorial around 13 chancellors, 13 council members and 13 chancellors is exactly what I feel.

  • 12:50:09

    SHERWOODMr. Orange, do you think that the Council is sinking back into micromanaging schools? Do you like the way the system is designed?

  • 12:50:14

    NNAMDIThere was an article -- a letter to The Washington Post today from Council Chairman Kwame Brown, who made a specific suggestion about when students in schools should be taking a certain standardized test. And The Post seems to feel that that represents the Council interfering in education again.

  • 12:50:31

    ORANGEWell, first of all, let's really take a good look at the educational system. You know, our children did not have books for their course...

  • 12:50:37

    SHERWOODOh, excuse me. Do you support continuing the mayor to be in charge? All right. You have 20 seconds to go.

  • 12:50:40

    ORANGEYes, yes, yes. But let's -- well, let's take a look at the school system. This school system did not provide our children books for their course subjects. It took legislation that I passed to make sure that they get books by the second week of school. Just recently, the Council passed my legislation that mandates that the chancellor prepare our 3- and 4-year-olds for kindergarten and create a curriculum where our children can read independently by entering the fourth grade and can add, subtract, multiply and divide. So you do need oversight. You just can't say, I'm just going to leave this to the chancellor.

  • 12:51:12

    HOLNESSWe need educators.

  • 12:51:12

    ORANGESo raising expectations is a good thing. Now, Mr. Biddle keeps saying he's the education expert. He is not. He does not have one particular thing that he can show. I can show that I started school modernization programs through re-opening McKinley Tech as McKinley Technology High School...

  • 12:51:26

    NNAMDIOh, yeah, you're out of time, I should point out.

  • 12:51:28

    ORANGE...getting the books...

  • 12:51:28

    HOLNESSWe need educators running our education system...

  • 12:51:29

    ORANGE...getting all kind of legislation passed.

  • 12:51:31

    HOLNESS...bottom line.

  • 12:51:32

    ORANGEHe has not one piece of legislation that he got passed.

  • 12:51:32

    NNAMDISekou Biddle, what can you point to one thing that qualifies you to be the education candidate in this group?

  • 12:51:40

    BIDDLEWell, I can point to 19 years of service, including classroom teaching. I can point to the standards we passed when I was in the State Board of Education. You know, Mr. Orange's, like, loose hold on the facts notwithstanding, I have a clear track record of accomplishment. My work on the Board of Education, coupled with partnership with the chancellor and the Office of the State Superintendent, led to the city receiving a $75 million grant to support education reform from the U.S. Department of Education.

  • 12:52:01

    ORANGEThat was done by the mayor.

  • 12:52:03

    BIDDLEAnd, once again, Mr. Orange...

  • 12:52:04

    ORANGEIt was done by the mayor.

  • 12:52:04

    BIDDLE...doesn't know what he's talking about, which is why we need...

  • 12:52:06

    ORANGEIt was done by the mayor.

  • 12:52:06

    BIDDLE...people who have experience on the issue, real credibility and real expertise to drive the issue forward.

  • 12:52:10

    NNAMDII need to go back to the telephones. Here now is Joanna in Washington, D.C. Put your headsets on, please. Joanna, you're on the air. We're running out of time, so, please, make your question or comment brief.

  • 12:52:22

    JOANNAThank you. Well, I favor the traffic lights, the cameras, I must say. But I'm concerned about the tremendous divide in the city. We have 37 percent functional illiteracy, and we have the highest rate of people with advanced degrees. We have a lot of poor people, and yet we pay the highest per capita federal taxes in the country, so there got to be a lot of rich people here. What are you going to do to bridge the divide?

  • 12:52:50

    NNAMDIStarting with you, Peter Shapiro.

  • 12:52:51

    SHAPIROYeah, it's a great question, Joanna. Thank you for that. This is one of the biggest challenges that we face in the city right now, and I believe this is the best example where the Council has just taken their eye off the ball. So, really, what we need to do is focus on the job creation, more than anything else. If we can find ways to give people more of a means to make money, if we can grow the sectors of the economy that will bring in more jobs, if people are able to support their families, so many of the other issues that we face will go away.

  • 12:53:25

    SHERWOODMr. Biddle?

  • 12:53:27

    BIDDLEYeah. I mean, I think Joanna pointed out one of the major issues, was -- which is illiteracy which is leading to our large unemployment. We have, unfortunately, had a broken school system over the years that has not provided young people the skills they need to be competitive in the workforce, which has led to the spiraling out of control of unemployment across the city. It's also just difficult to be living in the District of Columbia and be in middle class, which is why we're losing residents to the suburbs that provide a decent school system for middle class families to put their children in.

  • 12:53:49

    SHERWOODReverend Holness?

  • 12:53:50

    HOLNESSYes. The first thing we need to do is deal with our education and training system. And education, if we are educating our residents, that will bring employment. Employment will bring health care. Health care will bring the ability for affordable housing. So that would bridge our gap, through our workforce development programs, through our education programs, through our institutions. We need to use UDC more. We need to use our education because education is the way out...

  • 12:54:09

    SHERWOODWell, some people think...

  • 12:54:11

    HOLNESS...of most of these things.

  • 12:54:12

    SHERWOOD...UDC is wasting money, the way it's running now, but that's another issue.

  • 12:54:15

    HOLNESSThat's another issue for another time...

  • 12:54:16

    SHERWOODBut, Mr. Orange...

  • 12:54:18

    HOLNESS...and I agree.

  • 12:54:18

    SHERWOOD...the fact is you can't educate the people who are, right now, out of job. You can't let them grow up and educate the future people. But what about the people right now?

  • 12:54:26

    ORANGEYeah. The people right now must be connected to the jobs that are coming online in the city. Over the next decade, we will create 55,000 jobs. We have 35,000 unemployed people. We need to make the connection. That's the reason why I introduced the bill, training to the job, to create training programs at our community college to connect them to the jobs. As it relates to illiteracy, that's why my bill just got passed two weeks ago, to address literacy once and for all.

  • 12:54:51

    ORANGEMr. Biddle, he didn't introduce any educational bills when he was on the council. He didn't even come and testify in favor of this very practical bill, train our 3- and 4-year-olds for kindergarten and make sure that upon entering the fourth grade our children can add, subtract, multiply and divide and be independent.

  • 12:55:04

    SHERWOODMr. Biddle, 15 seconds to respond to that, then we got move on.

  • 12:55:06

    BIDDLESure. Sure, sure. And if watch Mr. Orange's hearing, you know, what you'll learn is that his bill raises the issues that have already been addressed, right? As a member of the board of education, we passed standards for 3- and 4-year-olds. It's like we made it clear exactly what it was our young children should know and be able to do at 3- and 4-years-old, but he's trying to micromanage the school system for political purposes.

  • 12:55:24

    SHERWOODAll right. We're almost out of time, but I want to ask you a practical question. We've had early voting, and I've seen some buses and some people come down from Mr. Orange voting downtown. We've got the sites around the city. Mr. Shapiro, about how many people do you expect to turnout? A lot of people don't even know there's election on April 3.

  • 12:55:38

    NNAMDITuesday, April 3.

  • 12:55:38

    SHERWOODAnd so how many do you expect to turn out?

  • 12:55:39

    SHAPIROYou know, it's more art than science, but I would imagine there'd be somewhere between 45- and 50,000 people who vote, which means less than 15 percent turnout. That's what I would imagine.

  • 12:55:47

    SHERWOODSo what about you, Mr. Biddle? Do you have sense of -- 'cause you have to know how many votes you need to win?

  • 12:55:50

    BIDDLESure, sure.

  • 12:55:51

    SHERWOODWhat's your rough estimate of how many people are going to come out?

  • 12:55:53

    BIDDLEThe rough estimate, give or take, a couple of thousand. Let's call it 45,000.

  • 12:55:56

    SHERWOODMr. Orange, what do you think?

  • 12:55:57

    ORANGEForty-five to 50,000.

  • 12:55:59

    HOLNESSI would go with the 45 to 50,000.

  • 12:56:00

    SHERWOODPretty low turnout now.

  • 12:56:01

    HOLNESSPretty low turnout compared to what we have.

  • 12:56:02

    NNAMDIYes.

  • 12:56:02

    BIDDLEShould have made us pick a number. We could have gone the "Price is Right" route.

  • 12:56:05

    HOLNESSYeah.

  • 12:56:05

    SHERWOODLet's don't ever have an April primary again. It just seems like a horrible time.

  • 12:56:08

    ORANGEIt is a tough time.

  • 12:56:09

    HOLNESSWell, a lot of people don't know it's election.

  • 12:56:10

    ORANGERight.

  • 12:56:11

    NNAMDII want to get back to the issue that Tom, our caller Joanna raised earlier about that income gap in the city. Are there parts of the local safety net that you consider to be sacrosanct, the parts of the safety net that you think the city needs to be looking at to improve what to consider reductions and benefits, Rev. Holness?

  • 12:56:25

    HOLNESSWell, when we look at the divide, one of the things we need to look at the amount of money. According to the D.C. Fiscal Institute, a portion of our city's median income is 425. The other portion of the neighborhood is $60,000. So how do you bridge that gap? And this goes back to that same issue, what do you need to do to bridge that gap? And, yes, we cannot educate people at a certain point now. But we can get them prepared for other jobs. And need to start early with our education system so that we won't get to this point.

  • 12:56:50

    HOLNESSAnd if we are not educating and doing the right now, we will not have a district. We will have a very illiterate district. We won't have people that are employed. Well, so as a result, we will see those Maryland and Virginia cars coming to Washington, D.C., which is what we see every morning when we are out waving. And at the subway stops, people are coming in from Maryland and Virginia. They are the ones who are getting our jobs. That money is not staying in Washington, D.C.

  • 12:57:10

    NNAMDIPeter Shapiro, same question to you.

  • 12:57:12

    SHAPIROIf you look at the budget, the proposed budget, I think, in this way, with the social safety net, it sends us in the wrong direction. So there will be reductions in TANF support for low-income folks. There will be a raid on the Housing Production Trust Fund to help support the Local Rent Supplement Program, but that's robbing Peter to pay Paul. We're reducing health care coverage. The social safety net is broken now, and it's getting more broke.

  • 12:57:38

    NNAMDIPeter Shapiro is a Democratic candidate for the at-large seat in the D.C. Council in the primary on Tuesday, April 3. Thank you for joining for us. Good luck to you.

  • 12:57:47

    SHAPIROThank you, Kojo. Thank you, Tom.

  • 12:57:48

    NNAMDIE. Gail Anderson Holness is also such a candidate. Thank you for joining us. Good luck to you.

  • 12:57:53

    HOLNESSThank you, Kojo.

  • 12:57:54

    NNAMDIVincent Orange is the incumbent and a candidate. Thank you for joining us. Good luck to you.

  • 12:57:58

    ORANGEThank you for having me.

  • 12:57:59

    NNAMDISekou Biddle held that seat in 2011. He is now a candidate again. Thank you for joining us. Good luck to you.

  • 12:58:07

    BIDDLEThanks for having us. Make sure you come out and vote before the end of April 3.

  • 12:58:10

    NNAMDIIt's Tuesday, April 3. Tom Sherwood has already voted. Is that my understanding?

  • 12:58:14

    SHERWOODI voted on the very first day.

  • 12:58:16

    SHAPIRODid you? I hope you voted for a break from the past, Tom.

  • 12:58:18

    HOLNESSYes, and that's number two in the ballot (unintelligible).

  • 12:58:20

    NNAMDIAnd, hopefully, you won't be trying to vote again.

  • 12:58:23

    HOLNESSI just hope that he do an early (unintelligible)...

  • 12:58:23

    SHERWOODDid you mention my seat? Did you mention my...

  • 12:58:24

    HOLNESS...MC Hammer earlier. I just went to Helen Reddy yesterday. I am woman. Hear me roar.

  • 12:58:29

    NNAMDII'm Kojo Nnamdi.

  • 12:58:30

    SHERWOODDid you mention my city paper

Topics + Tags

Comments

comments powered by Disqus
Most Recent Shows

The Politics Hour – Nov. 21, 2014

Friday, Nov 21 2014Sorting political fact from fiction, and having fun while we're at it. Join us for our weekly review of the politics, policies and personalities of the District of Columbia, Maryland and Virginia.