A massive deal to build a casino in Prince George’s County blows up. One of D.C. Mayor Vincent Gray’s new nominees is haunted by a steamy incident from his recent past. And the firestorm continues to burn over the leadership crisis at the University of Virginia. Join us for our weekly review of the politics, policies, and personalities of the District of Columbia, Maryland and Virginia.

Guests

  • Tom Sherwood Resident Analyst; NBC 4 reporter; and Columnist for the Current Newspapers
  • Allison Silberberg Democratic Candidate, Alexandria City Council
  • Michael Brown Member, D.C. Council (At-Large, Independent)

Related Content

Brown joined the Politics Hour to discuss streetcars and redevelopment, the scandal-plagued council and address questions about his income taxes. Review the social media conversation here.

Politics Hour Video

D.C. Council member Michael Brown said there have been “ethical clouds” over the Wilson Building. But he said the city’s economy is growing and now has one of the highest fund balances in years. Brown said he does not support Initiative 70, which would limit corporate contributions to political campaigns. Instead, he said he endorses public financing of campaigns. Resident analysts and NBC4 reporter Tom Sherwood noted, “It just seems like ethics is a back burner issue when it should be the engine.”

Transcript

  • 12:06:43

    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. There's a lot to talk about today, so I took notes. Tom Sherwood got sunburned at the Nats game Sunday. Mayor Vincent Gray did jury duty Monday.

  • 12:07:14

    MR. KOJO NNAMDII did jury duty Tuesday. I went to the Nats game Wednesday. V.O. is not running for chair. The Nats won the series against the Rays. The Senate bill would allow Frederick Douglass statue at -- wait, V.O. is not running for chair? Tom Sherwood got sunburned at the Nats game Sunday. What's the priority there? Which is more important?

  • 12:07:31

    MR. TOM SHERWOODI think your video, the one that Michael Martinez and Brendan Sullivan (sic) put together, you know, sabotaged his campaign before it got off the ground.

  • 12:07:41

    NNAMDIYou think so? You think that the...

  • 12:07:42

    SHERWOODAlthough it was a pretty good video if you haven't seen it, if people haven't seen it.

  • 12:07:42

    NNAMDI...that -- that tasteless video that we ran here last week...

  • 12:07:46

    SHERWOODI'm the best. I'm the best.

  • 12:07:48

    NNAMDII'm the best.

  • 12:07:48

    SHERWOODUnity, U-N-I-T-Y.

  • 12:07:51

    NNAMDIIt...

  • 12:07:51

    SHERWOODIt was actually a very good video.

  • 12:07:52

    NNAMDIIt really was very good.

  • 12:07:53

    SHERWOODAnd that -- you know, he's got -- if he runs, he'd have to be on the ballot twice. Maybe we'll talk to our guest about it shortly. But it'd be very difficult to be on Election Day on two different ballots, one for chairman, one for at-large. It seems to be, but maybe, you know, multitasking is the way the world these days.

  • 12:08:10

    NNAMDICongratulations to Michael Martinez and Brendan Sweeney for putting that video together.

  • 12:08:14

    SHERWOODDid I say Sweeney or Sullivan?

  • 12:08:16

    NNAMDIIt -- you said Sullivan, but if...

  • 12:08:17

    SHERWOODOh, he's the lawyer. We don't want to mention his name yet.

  • 12:08:19

    NNAMDIHe is somebody else's attorney.

  • 12:08:21

    SHERWOODSweeney, I apologize.

  • 12:08:21

    NNAMDIHe's somebody else's attorney. If in fact, something happened and the mayor was not running for reelection, could there also be a mayoral race in November?

  • 12:08:34

    SHERWOODYes. You know, there are rumors about it.

  • 12:08:34

    NNAMDIAnd would that mean technically that one person could be on three ballots for...

  • 12:08:40

    SHERWOODWell, no, that would be a -- well, I guess, technically, yes...

  • 12:08:42

    NNAMDI...for at-large, for chair and for mayor, theoretically?

  • 12:08:45

    SHERWOODThat person would be -- deserve to be soundly defeated...

  • 12:08:49

    NNAMDIBut, theoretically, it could happen.

  • 12:08:50

    SHERWOODYou know, Mayor Gray is going to China. You know, there's a big rumor this week -- yet another rumor. I was talking to him about it. I said there's -- I even asked him, I said, I heard a rumor that he was going to go China and seek political asylum from the investigation. He said, there are just a lot of rumors out there, but we'll see.

  • 12:09:06

    NNAMDIHow did you get sunburned at the game?

  • 12:09:08

    SHERWOODI sat in seats where the sun was. I think that's pretty simple, was a scientific...

  • 12:09:12

    NNAMDINo. I mean, there's sunblock.

  • 12:09:13

    SHERWOOD...mystery...

  • 12:09:14

    NNAMDIThere's lotion.

  • 12:09:15

    SHERWOODWell, you know, I put sunblock on my ears and the back of my neck, but I forgot about the front of my face and my arms.

  • 12:09:22

    NNAMDIAnd that's why you look so red today.

  • 12:09:23

    SHERWOODI was so excited about the team playing the Yankees and winning that I didn't take care of my own personal business.

  • 12:09:30

    NNAMDISpeaking of excited, should we be excited that a Senate panel has agreed to have the statue of Frederick Douglass placed in Statuary Hall on behalf of the District of Columbia? All states have two statues each there. The District was prevented from having one. Our statues of Frederick Douglass and Pierre L'Enfant have been parked at One Judiciary Square if, in fact, this is approved in the House also. The House did have such a measure last year. It means that it will be entering Statuary Hall. Is this something we should be happy about?

  • 12:10:02

    SHERWOODWell, happy in the sense, yes, that it'd be nice, but, actually, we should be irritated as Congress has taken so long. You know, our good friend Mark Plotkin has beaten this drum for some time.

  • 12:10:13

    NNAMDIYes.

  • 12:10:13

    SHERWOODAnd the fact is we should be angry that it's taken so long. Yes, relieved maybe that it's happened or is going to happen. But is the second statue Pierre L'Enfant or (word?) ?

  • 12:10:26

    NNAMDII'm not sure. I think the second statue is Pierre L'Enfant according to the latest.

  • 12:10:30

    SHERWOODBut Frederick Douglass is one -- you're right -- at least 50 percent right.

  • 12:10:34

    NNAMDIYes. It is L'Enfant. And Plotkin thinks we should have a huge -- make a huge deal of it, invite the president of the United States to attend the ceremony.

  • 12:10:42

    SHERWOODOnly if they were serving food will he come.

  • 12:10:44

    NNAMDIAnd we will see what happens in that situation.

  • 12:10:47

    SHERWOODTell him there's a new restaurant opening on the Hill, and he'll be there.

  • 12:10:49

    NNAMDIWell, there's a lot of other stuff to talk about because this is an issue that we will be continuing to follow. Mayor Vincent Gray has appointed a new housing director, Michael Kelly, but in his previous post in Philadelphia, there was a sex scandal of sorts. He admitted to having an affair with a subordinate in that office. He was accused by others of giving the subordinate unfair promotions and raises. He said it was investigated that did not occur, and he is penitent. And it looks as if the mayor -- the Gray administration is going to stick with Michael Kelly.

  • 12:11:20

    SHERWOODWell, I don't know how much penitent involves, but I think the federal housing and urban development folks investigated this and said that he did not give this person any additional monies and had nothing -- it was wrong for him to sleep with a subordinate. Hello. Welcome to 2012. But he did do that. He apologized. That person has left the employment up in Philadelphia, but, you know, he -- it was wrong. The mayor doesn't need anymore person -- scandals involving his top aides and staff and employees. It's unfortunate 'cause Michael Kelly does have a pretty good reputation.

  • 12:11:58

    NNAMDIA lot of affordable housing advocates do want him back here...

  • 12:12:02

    SHERWOODYes.

  • 12:12:02

    NNAMDI...but is the District of Columbia setting a low ethical bar by having him back here at a time when we're having (unintelligible) and ethical issues?

  • 12:12:08

    SHERWOODWell, he wasn't accused of -- I mean, he hasn't been accused of any wrongdoing. There's no -- to my knowledge and investigation, there's nothing that's going to occur. He quit abruptly in Philadelphia, come back to work here, where he previously worked. It's just -- again, it's just a cloud over the city that doesn't need to be there. It's unfortunate that that has to happen.

  • 12:12:28

    NNAMDITom Sherwood is our resident analyst. He's an NBC 4 reporter and a columnist for The Current Newspapers. Joining us now in studio is Michael Brown. He's an at-large member of the D.C. Council. He is an independent. Michael Brown, thank you for joining us.

  • 12:12:40

    MR. MICHAEL BROWNKojo. How are you, Tom? Always a pleasure to see the both of you.

  • 12:12:42

    SHERWOODCan we just -- I realize you're the host. But Mr. Brown just came from the ceremony...

  • 12:12:48

    BROWNYes.

  • 12:12:48

    SHERWOOD...where the nine victims of the Metro crash three years ago -- a plaque was established, and maybe you can tell us just briefly what happened there.

  • 12:12:56

    BROWNSure. As you probably -- maybe you don't remember, but I was on the Metro board, Metro/WMATA Board during that crisis and that accident, that tragedy. And today, three years later, they had a victim plaque unveiling ceremony at the bridge in New Hampshire Avenue and the Charles Langley Bridge.

  • 12:13:13

    BROWNAnd it's one of those things where you want to -- you can't forget these things, and you want to remember folks. But, more importantly, you want to make sure this doesn't happen again. So I know the culture at Metro has changed. It's now all about safety and service. And, hopefully, something like this won't happen ever again.

  • 12:13:29

    SHERWOODGood.

  • 12:13:29

    NNAMDIIf you would like to join the conversation with Michael Brown, you can call us at 800-433-8850. And since we have begun this show on a slightly unorthodox manner, I'd like to continue in that vein by going to Ann, who's on the phone in Washington, D.C. Gentlemen, please, don your headphones because she would like to speak to an issue that we just discussed. Ann, you're on the air. Go ahead, please.

  • 12:13:52

    ANNHello. I just wanted to say that I was listening to your initial comments about the -- Eleanor's efforts to get our two statues, Pierre L'Enfant and Frederick Douglass in the Capitol Statuary Hall and that the deal that we're being offered is to put one statute. At the same time, they're also giving it to Guam, the Northern Marianas, American Samoa, Puerto Rico, the Virgin Islands, i.e. we're being treated like another territory, i.e. colony.

  • 12:14:18

    ANNAnd the only way we're going to get two statues and a whole lot of other things that we deserve is if we become a state. And people need to start realizing that the real solution to so many of our problems is the fact that we've got to get out of our colonial status and get the same rights as everybody else through statehood.

  • 12:14:36

    NNAMDII didn't want to start off with a softball for Michael Brown, but, for him, this is truly a softball. Michael Brown?

  • 12:14:42

    BROWNWell, that's -- I know that's Ann Loikow, who's an unbelievable statehood advocate, and she and I have worked unbelievably hard. And she and I are on the same page. Yes. There's -- is voting rights important? Absolutely. Is budgetary and legislative autonomy important? Of course, it is. But until we get statehood -- and that has to be the main focus because all the other things we still have to do the things, and Congress can still put their nose in our business. So statehood is the number one priority relative to our self-democracy.

  • 12:15:11

    NNAMDIAnd...

  • 12:15:11

    SHERWOODHow do you get there?

  • 12:15:13

    BROWNI think -- it's hard. No one -- I don't think anyone suggested it's easy. I think it's continuing to pound the drum. And, frankly, when you look at some of the recent history, we've had two opportunities that I don't think we really took advantage of. If you go back to the Clinton election, depending on what side of the aisle you're on, but the Democrats controlled the Senate and the House, and we had the -- and had the White House, and really did not do much. President Clinton put the license tags on his car. That was about it, late in his term.

  • 12:15:38

    BROWNAnd then President Obama, same dynamic, had the White House, Senate and the House. When I say had, favorable to D.C. statehood. And again, nothing has really been done. President Obama hasn't put the license tags on. I'm a -- as you know, I'm a surrogate speaker for the Obama-Biden campaign, but that's one thing I disagree on. And that's where or how little he's done related to statehood for the District of Columbia.

  • 12:16:00

    SHERWOODAnd to wrap that subject up, you know, Tom Davis, a Republican from Northern Virginia, said, let's have a deal. We'll work out a deal with -- I think it was Utah or something, we'll get at least a voting member of the House, and the leadership of the city said no to that.

  • 12:16:13

    BROWNWell...

  • 12:16:13

    SHERWOODAs an interim step, we could have a voting member right now. Wasn't that a mistake?

  • 12:16:16

    BROWNWell, depends on what you look as a mistake. If you recall, there was some little rider also put on that, something called the gun rider, and that certainly caused folks some problems because it's one thing to take two steps forward relative to democracy. But if you're taking three steps backwards 'cause they're telling you how -- what your gun laws need to look like, that was a problem...

  • 12:16:33

    SHERWOODBut the way to solve the gun problem is let the Congress put -- these -- let the gun law pass, and then we'll put all the gun shops right there on Capitol Hill with them. They can walk by them every day.

  • 12:16:44

    BROWNLittle punitive measure.

  • 12:16:45

    SHERWOODWouldn't that be great, with great big, yellow neon signs flashing like a shotgun right at them.

  • 12:16:50

    BROWNWell, we have to do something to change the narrative, absolutely.

  • 12:16:53

    NNAMDIAnn, thank you very much for your call. Our guest is Michael Brown. He's an at-large member of the D.C. Council. He's an independent. You were smack dab in the middle of the news coming out of the Wilson Building this past two weeks. You were elevated to chairman pro tem last week, but you've also said that a rundown of arguments against your holding that position is not news. But allow me to run it down again...

  • 12:17:16

    BROWNOh, lucky me. Thanks. Go right ahead, Kojo.

  • 12:17:17

    NNAMDIYou'll have the opportunity to respond.

  • 12:17:20

    BROWNGo right ahead.

  • 12:17:20

    NNAMDIThis is from Tim Craig's blog in The Washington Post: In January 2011, The Post reported that Brown and his wife failed to pay property taxes on their Chevy Chase home. Same article noted that the Internal Revenue Service filed a $50,000 lien against Brown in the preceding April for failure to pay income taxes dating to 2004. According to a copy of the lien, Brown failed to pay $7,128 in 2004, $28,625 in 2005, $5,176 in 2007, $11,951 in 2008.

  • 12:17:51

    NNAMDIBrown is on a repayment plan, but his tax issue resurfaced this month after the Washington Times noted that a fresh lien was filed against him in April. According to the Times, the latest lien for $20,000 cites income tax obligations through 2010. Since his election, however, Brown has also had trouble paying his rent on time. In April, The Washington Post reported that Brown missed rent payments on two apartments that have been under his name at the Rittenhouse Apartments on 16th Street NW over the past two years.

  • 12:18:17

    NNAMDIThen there's Jonetta Rose Barras in the Examiner. Brown, after all, is the person who was at the center of the shenanigans surrounding the failed attempt to bring Internet gambling to the nation's capital. Brown also pleaded guilty in 1997 to federal campaign finance violations. According to published reports, he made illegal contributions in his own name. Then he persuaded other people to make donations for which he reimbursed them.

  • 12:18:36

    NNAMDIThat's called making contributions in the name of another, which is illegal. The reason I say all of those things is because you are absolutely correct. None of that is news. However, it is a part of your record. Why should that not have disqualified you from the position given the ethical issues that brought the chairman down?

  • 12:18:54

    BROWNI'm not sure. I can't speak to those. But on the couple things that you mentioned -- and I know it's easy to use these terms -- fail to pay. None of those things are true. When you're on a payment plan, that doesn't mean you fail to pay. It means you're on a payment plan. The issue with the Sen. Kennedy campaign, I was in my 20s, took unbelievable full responsibility. And, frankly, there was nothing more that could be done to me more than what my father did to me when he found out.

  • 12:19:16

    BROWNAnd so those are issues related to the -- to all of us. We all have issues that the voters take a look at and male decisions on. And I've -- took -- taken responsibility for things that have affected me and impacted me. But the voters seemed satisfied with the things I've done. I have reelection coming up, and we'll see if I've either gained voters or lost voters.

  • 12:19:34

    SHERWOODYou -- just to...

  • 12:19:35

    BROWNBut my legislative record, I hope, will also have some balance and some context relative to the great things I've done in my first three years.

  • 12:19:41

    SHERWOODIt is hard to get to when we -- there was some Rittenhouse Apartment, 16th Street thing filed this year. What is -- it's just, like, three. I just checked the record, and there are three -- at least three moves to get you to pay arrears there. I mean, what is the (unintelligible)...

  • 12:19:58

    BROWNYou mean currently? Well, I'm not going to give a lot of my living status. But I was two days late, and I think that was also reported. But it's easier to say he didn't make his rent. But I was two days late. Some buildings have more aggressive approaches than others and, you know, paid it on the same date.

  • 12:20:11

    SHERWOODAnd I checked. You had this -- and this will be the last thing that I know of that we can talk about. But at the convention center, there's a copying company there back -- you had this big blow-up with a partner in the copying service at the convention center. There was some judgment against you of he had to owe $50,000.

  • 12:20:28

    BROWNJudgment, which was reversed, that wasn't reported either.

  • 12:20:30

    SHERWOODThat judgment was reversed?

  • 12:20:31

    BROWNIt was, against me. It was. I was just on the board.

  • 12:20:33

    SHERWOODBut they -- whatever his name is, he did get some money from you and your partners.

  • 12:20:37

    BROWNNo, from the company, not from me. That is not true.

  • 12:20:39

    SHERWOODSo what is the status of all that, so (unintelligible) ?

  • 12:20:40

    BROWNI'm not really related to the company anymore. I have no idea.

  • 12:20:44

    SHERWOODOK. But you -- I guess, the overall picture is Kwame Brown struggled in his private life, forged a document to buy a boat, which is not more than a struggle. But he had a lot of issues, paying credit card debts, a lot of personal things in the turmoil of his personal life that could and may have affected his public life. How do you separate the two? How can you deal with a $10 billion budget if you have all these issues?

  • 12:21:12

    BROWNWell, I've been doing a good job so far over the last three and half years. I'll put my first term record up against anyone's related to moving the city forward, related to...

  • 12:21:19

    SHERWOODBut the image of the council is all the trouble is whether, you know, whether it was Jim Graham and his chief of staff and whether how close Jim Graham was to that, but no charges were brought. You know, Jack Evans had the JACPAC one year, and he's kind of moved beyond that, tried to in any event. I mean, just -- the people will say, look at that council. We ought to replace them all.

  • 12:21:36

    BROWNWell, that's for the voters to decide. That's what's wonderful about democracy. Voters go into the voting booth, and they weigh on the different things.

  • 12:21:41

    SHERWOODThen what's the deal with Colby King?

  • 12:21:43

    NNAMDIIf...

  • 12:21:44

    BROWNI have no idea...

  • 12:21:44

    SHERWOODColby King, the Post columnist who...

  • 12:21:46

    BROWNHe clearly does not like me. I don't know why.

  • 12:21:49

    SHERWOODHave you talked to him?

  • 12:21:50

    BROWNI've tried to, and we've had some conversations but clearly not successful.

  • 12:21:54

    NNAMDIIf, in fact, we are to move forward from this, what would you say are the three -- two or three most important things the council can do in the near-term to demonstrate to D.C. residents that it is serious about ethics?

  • 12:22:06

    BROWNWell, I think it's two -- I think it's a couple of things, Kojo. I think, first of all, I think, we also have to look to see what great stead our city is in, both economically, financially. And to give it some context, if you go back kind of the late '80s, early '90s when there were clearly issues with some of our elected officials, there did seem to be a correlation between an impact between what was going on in the Wilson -- the District Building then and managing our city properly.

  • 12:22:29

    BROWNBut when you look at it today, we have about 1,100, 1,200 new residents per month climbing on -- in all over themselves to get in our city. Businesses are staying. Businesses want to come here. We have to be more competitive clearly with the surrounding jurisdictions to keep businesses and get more business. Our fund balance has been high. It hasn't been this high in years. So, you know, from our standpoint, we're doing great as a city, but we've got other jurisdictions, Kojo.

  • 12:22:52

    BROWNOther things are happening all over the place. The new social media, I think, is also becoming part of what's going on related to our elected officials. But you know what? We all signed up for this. No one put a gun to our heads to come and run for office. But, frankly, this is the greatest city right now to be in. We have 42 cranes doing wonderful things. We're trying to hire as many D.C. residents as possible working on affordable housing issues. Our city's going great.

  • 12:23:15

    NNAMDIWould you support…

  • 12:23:15

    BROWNDo we have some ethical clouds? Yes. Do have to work on them? Absolutely.

  • 12:23:18

    NNAMDISpeaking of working on them, would you support the ballot initiative that some activists are pushing right now known as Initiative 70 that would limit corporate contributions to political campaigns?

  • 12:23:29

    BROWNNo. I have not -- I do not support. I tell you, I go much further. I have, I think, one of the only people, maybe there are a couple of others, who have really stood up and said I'm for public financing of campaigns. That's how you level the playing field, take the money out. So if you really want to go further, 'cause the corporate -- when you're taking corporate money out of the campaigns, it doesn't really do anything.

  • 12:23:47

    BROWNIf you look at the federal side, when they have corporate campaigns, they still have PACs. They can give unlimited amounts of money. So that doesn't stop the problem. The problem is if you really want to stop it, you do public financing for campaigns.

  • 12:23:56

    SHERWOODBut in the meantime, why don't you have more disclosure? I mean, but why not go ahead and support one step, and I agree with you in a corporation that's barged from contributing one way. We'll find another way to contribute. But, at least, it would send the message. I think people don't feel like either you or the council members or even the mayor, at this point, has a strong opinion that the ethics laws need to be tougher and they need to be enforced.

  • 12:24:18

    SHERWOODI don't hear anyone calling for more investigators into the Ethics offices to really get them going. We've got a new Ethics Committee that still doesn't have an office space, as far as I know, and it's got to start working this fall. It just seems like ethics is a backburner issue when it should be the engine.

  • 12:24:36

    BROWNYeah, I don't know if it's a backburner, Tom. I understand what you're saying, but, you know, we also -- as we deal with ethics, as we deal with campaign finance, which are two separate issues, by the way, we also have to make sure...

  • 12:24:46

    SHERWOODBut not in the public's mind. I realize legally, technically, officially, but yes, but...

  • 12:24:48

    BROWNOh, that's what I mean, but either way...

  • 12:24:50

    SHERWOODIt's a morass in the public's mind.

  • 12:24:52

    BROWNBut I don't know if we've seen a lot of evidence of pay-to-play politics, though. Have you seen that? I haven't seen any evidence or charges of folks that have been paid by a particular campaign person, and then there were some quid pro quo. I haven't seen that, so I don't know if there's any pay-to-play.

  • 12:25:04

    NNAMDIHow would you feel about your colleague Jack Evans' proposal that transparency would solve everything if we just make sure that all corporate contributions or all contributions have to be disclosed...

  • 12:25:14

    SHERWOODFully disclosed.

  • 12:25:15

    NNAMDI...fully disclosed, that, in his view, that could help or solve the problem?

  • 12:25:19

    BROWNAgain, that's one of the things I've talked about on several occasions. Whether it's public financing or some of these ideas that some of my colleagues have, let's get some experts in in a hearing and hear what either, A, other jurisdictions are doing, what the new trends are. I have no problem opening the door to all those ideas.

  • 12:25:31

    SHERWOODDo you feel like most of your council members are ethical and honest?

  • 12:25:35

    BROWNYes.

  • 12:25:36

    NNAMDIYou have...

  • 12:25:36

    SHERWOODAnd yourself, I'm presuming, included.

  • 12:25:37

    BROWNOh, absolutely. I mean, I think we also have to be careful relative to what is the definition of ethics. And I think it's become such a broad stroke on what that is that, I think, it's becoming a little dangerous.

  • 12:25:50

    NNAMDITom is hoping that one day we'll get an elected official here who says, Tom, now that you really asked me, I'm really dishonest.

  • 12:25:55

    SHERWOODI'm unethical as I can be. What about you? Are you...

  • 12:25:58

    BROWNBut keep in mind, do they -- does the ethics expand? Yes, to the elected officials.

  • 12:26:01

    SHERWOODWhich, I think, is following the laws...

  • 12:26:03

    BROWNWell, absolutely. But -- right. Well, see, to you, to some people, it's that. To other people, it's if you jaywalk, are you now not ethical? If a person is in their basement...

  • 12:26:12

    SHERWOODOnly in the most Buddhist sense of the word, but I would -- but...

  • 12:26:14

    BROWNBut if there's a person who's doing a blog, who's a blogger...

  • 12:26:16

    SHERWOODWhat do you think about the rumors the mayor is going to resign?

  • 12:26:18

    BROWN...who's a blogger in their basement, what ethics -- responsibility do they have? Can they just make up things if they want to? And that...

  • 12:26:23

    SHERWOODWell, they do. That's called the free press.

  • 12:26:26

    BROWNSee, that...

  • 12:26:27

    SHERWOODFree de-pressed.

  • 12:26:27

    BROWNSo that's how the definition going for the press.

  • 12:26:29

    SHERWOODBut what about he rumors that one -- the mayor is going to resign, he's under -- some people say he's going to resign within a matter of weeks, some people, matter of months. He's going to limp to the finish line. What is your own view of how the mayor is handling the fact that he's under federal criminal investigation over his 2010 campaign?

  • 12:26:46

    BROWNWell, I haven't heard any of the rumors you just articulated. Clearly, I hope none of that occurs 'cause I don't think it's good for our city. But I guess we'll have to wait to see what occurs. I know he's continuing to do his job. I can't go anywhere in the city without seeing Mayor Gray at either a ribbon cutting or a jobs program or affordable housing. He's everywhere. So he's still doing his job no matter what's going on now externally.

  • 12:27:07

    NNAMDIMayor Gray wants to bring, as we mentioned earlier, wants to bring Michael Kelly back as the director of the city's Department of Housing and Community Development. He has admitted to having an affair with a subordinate. Is that an ethical issue?

  • 12:27:20

    BROWNWell, in my committee per view, we'll have oversight over his confirmation, and I'm sure I'll ask a question or two about what has been resolved. But I'm not get into any personal matters. This is a personnel matter, and I look forward to -- I know I worked with Michael Kelly before when he was at the House authority, and I look forward to working with him again. But I don't know if that would disqualify someone from...

  • 12:27:39

    SHERWOODWould you recommend that the department heads not sleep with their subordinates?

  • 12:27:43

    BROWNWell, clearly, that's obviously not a good thing in any industry, not just in housing.

  • 12:27:47

    NNAMDIYou have hung your hat on housing issues until recently. You're now the chair of the Committee on Economic Development and Housing. And we have several callers who would like to ask you questions more specifically about economic development issues. We'll start with Barry in Washington, D.C. Barry, you're on the air. Go ahead please.

  • 12:28:05

    BARRYThank you, Kojo, Tom and Councilman Brown. Kojo, you had on last week the deputy mayor's office and the developer and few other callers on McMillan site.

  • 12:28:17

    BARRYAnd I'm wondering, now that Michael Brown is head of economic development committee, what he sees to the future there and moving that plan forward along with potentially moving up the streetcar phase three to coincide with the development of McMillan for an overall economic boom to the area, similar to what Boston experienced with the Silver Line, because that streetcar line will connect most of the universities in the district.

  • 12:28:46

    NNAMDIFor those of our listeners who are unfamiliar with the McMillan site, it's the site that border -- that's bordered on side by North Capitol Avenue, on another by Michigan Avenue and on another by Fourth Street, and there's First Street and all kinds of other streets involved. But it's in the general area of Children's National Medical Center.

  • 12:29:03

    BROWNCorrect. And as you can imagine, I've talked to Councilman Kenney McDuffie, he's our new colleague from Ward 5.

  • 12:29:09

    NNAMDIHe lives right across the street from here.

  • 12:29:10

    BROWNHe's just right -- directly across the street. And as you can imagine there are a lot of different community groups that have different visions for the site. So I'm going to start having some conversations in the community related to that. I know folks want some green space. Folks want some parks because there are a lot of families that live over in that part of the city now. For the young people...

  • 12:29:28

    NNAMDIBut folks are not agreeing.

  • 12:29:29

    BROWNPardon me?

  • 12:29:29

    NNAMDIThey're -- folks are not agreeing. There seems to be (unintelligible).

  • 12:29:30

    BROWNNo. No. No one, and then you got folks that want retail, you know. You have folks that want housing. So you're exactly right, and that's what's, I guess, one of the jobs I'll have is to try to figure that out with Deputy Mayor Hoskins to make sure that we try to get as many people as happy as possible 'cause I don't think 100 percent of happiness (unintelligible).

  • 12:29:45

    NNAMDIWhat do you want there, Barry? Barry, what...

  • 12:29:45

    SHERWOODWhat about the streetcar? The streetcar.

  • 12:29:47

    BROWNOh, and the streetcar -- sorry, Barry. On the streetcar issue, you can imagine a lot of communities now want streetcars. Ward 8 would like to see a streetcar. Ward 4 in Upper George Avenue would like to see a streetcar, and obviously over by McMillan, so -- but all these things cost money. And so we -- the budget is the tail that wags the dog related to these particular issues. So not to say no one wants a streetcar, but we have to figure out how to pay for it.

  • 12:30:09

    NNAMDIThank you for you call, Barry. Tom?

  • 12:30:12

    SHERWOODWell, Mayor Barry, I think, has raised issues. He wants to hold up the streetcar issue on Eighth Street. Do you see streetcars -- some people criticize streetcars, put them in the same category as dog parks and that these new yuppie Washingtonians want these things, that the people who live here a long time don't. Are streetcars more symbolic of something than just transportation?

  • 12:30:38

    BROWNI don't think so. You've probably heard me talk about some of the issues related to gentrification, and which I am in favor of. I have no problem with revitalizing some of our older neighborhoods to give them the services they need as long as you don't displace people. That seems to be the fear. But I don't think so. When you have 1,200 new residents coming in per month, and assuming a large percentage of them are going to still have cars, we have to do something different related to transportation.

  • 12:31:00

    BROWNSo I understand what some of our residents who have been here for quite sometime -- I think the larger issue is when the construction comes to do those streetcars, it really hurts businesses. The residents are frustrated by it. And then we still have to talk economics because these streetcar -- laying these tracks is extremely expensive and to the businesses 'cause the businesses lose money as well.

  • 12:31:20

    NNAMDIYou said, once we don't displace people. And it seems to me -- and you've said that you're willing to work with Michael Kelly. It seems to me that the District of Columbia is becoming increasingly difficult for middle-class families to be able to afford to live in. What do you think we need to do about affordable housing so that we don't essentially run a lot more people out of the city, especially young married couples who would like to raise children here?

  • 12:31:43

    BROWNAbsolutely, and that's one of the things I'm proud of. My record over the last three-and-a-half years was really fighting for affordable housing. And do not take my word for it. If you ask some of the more prominent housing advocates in our city who has moved the affordable housing agenda far, they would say me. And I'm proud of that. But it's an ongoing effort. It's not going to happen overnight.

  • 12:31:59

    BROWNThe political will that my colleagues show to restore some of the money for the housing production trust fund for the 2013 budget and restoring some for the 2012 budget is exactly what we have to do. We have to make a concerted effort to make sure if you're a teacher, a police officer, a firefighter, a retired person, if you want to be here, you should be able to be here right now. A $320,000 condominium is not affordable housing.

  • 12:32:22

    NNAMDIOn now to..

  • 12:32:22

    SHERWOODOne bedroom.

  • 12:32:23

    BROWNOne -- right.

  • 12:32:23

    NNAMDIOn to Phil in Bethesda, Md. Phil, you're on the air. Go ahead, please.

  • 12:32:29

    PHILYes. Hi. Thank you for taking my call. First of all, I want to say thank you for all of your work. I just want to remind the listeners that...

  • 12:32:35

    NNAMDIYou're welcome.

  • 12:32:36

    SHERWOODYou're welcome.

  • 12:32:38

    BROWNYou're welcome.

  • 12:32:38

    PHIL(unintelligible) and then the Senate and the House do all this together, so you're doing a great job there. My question is I've been (word?) with the Walter Reid situation. And I'm very concerned because there's going to be a vote on Tuesday. And, frankly, Kojo, I'd love it if you could do a show on Monday because the council is getting ready to support a plan that is gonna short change the Ward 4 community, and, frankly, the whole D.C. area because it's a chance to get some free land from the federal government and get a lot of services for the Ward 4, particularly the George Avenue corridor.

  • 12:33:11

    PHILAnd instead, the plan that's been put forward by the W -- the Walter Reed LRA does not address that. They say they have -- had a fair and open process. But, quite frankly, 50 meetings where people are listened to but not heard is not fair. And I just was at a meeting at the D.C. Council talking with some people. I know some people I've talked to was Councilmember Brown, and he's very open. Frankly, he could be our knight on this. He could help to make sure that the process is (word?).

  • 12:33:36

    NNAMDIWell, it is my understanding that, clearly, this is not a done deal yet. The federal government has not even yet handed over the land to us. And in order for the federal government to do that, it's my understanding that we have to satisfy some requirements in terms of the homeless population.

  • 12:33:49

    BROWNAnd this is -- he's exactly right on the concerns of a lot of community members that live not that just near Walter Reed.

  • 12:33:54

    NNAMDII live right in the community.

  • 12:33:55

    BROWNI know. I know exactly where you live in. And so -- but this is just the first phase. This is not saying what retail shops are coming, what the end use will be. But the first phase is extremely important because until we take care of this first phase, the land transfer process can't even begin. And that's going to take several years even for the first parcels of land. So I understand his concern.

  • 12:34:15

    BROWNAs you can imagine, just like McMillan, a lot of different people want different things on the Walter Reed site, which is going to be the anchor for the economic development moving up George Avenue 'cause we have to do something with upper George Avenue as well. As anyone knows, downtown Silver Spring, we're losing so much revenue for folks who lived in that part of the city that go to downtown Silver Spring to shop, to eat, to watch movies, to do whatever they want to do.

  • 12:34:35

    BROWNWhen we should keep that all that income here and revenue here, we have to do something with upper George Avenue. Certainly, Walter Reed is going to be part of it, but it has to be on two parallel economic development tracks. We can't wait for Walter Reed to deal with upper George Avenue because Walter Reed may take some time. And in the meantime, we have to deal with the homelessness issue first.

  • 12:34:53

    SHERWOODAnd can we just do one more development project on...

  • 12:34:55

    NNAMDISure. Phil, thank you for your call.

  • 12:34:56

    SHERWOOD...the other side of the city, which would be the Reservation 13, the Capitol Hill, the RFK Stadium, D.C. General site there? Where are you now on that? You know, the Redskins are not making any move to move the training facility there or...

  • 12:35:09

    BROWNNot yet.

  • 12:35:10

    SHERWOODNot yet. But do you think that can be incorporated up there in some reasonable way that the people will still get park space, open space, riverside space, retail and still make room for the Redskins, or are they too incompatible?

  • 12:35:24

    BROWNWell, you know, we had somewhat of a town hall meeting in Ward 6 a couple months ago...

  • 12:35:28

    SHERWOOD(unintelligible)

  • 12:35:28

    BROWN...the mayor, myself, Councilmember Evans. I think Councilmember Alexander was there. I don't think Councilmember Wells was there. I'm not 100 percent sure. And we discussed it. The plot is so large at Reservation 13. You could do several things. Yes, you could still do green space. Yes, you could do kind of the park environment. Yes, you could do some housing. And yes, if we get the opportunity, I would love to explore, trying to figure out how to get the training facility here because it's a revenue driver and a jobs producer.

  • 12:35:53

    BROWNBut you also don't want to do anything that the community doesn't want, and clearly, there are lot of folks that don't want those kind of facilities on Reservation 13, but then again, there are some that do. That's why it's never going to be 100 percent of community agreement on any project you do. You just have to try to keep as many people happy as possible.

  • 12:36:10

    NNAMDII'd like to go to Chuck in Washington, D.C. Chuck, you're on the air. We're running out of time with Councilmember Brown, so please make your question or comment brief.

  • 12:36:18

    CHUCKSure. Hank's Oyster Bar in particular has had a lot of problems with the ABC recently, as well as other bars and restaurants in the inner Northwest area, particularly in terms of the concept of a protest of a group of five or more citizens that would supposedly be affected by it. Right now, Hank's went through a hearing at the ABC, and the results could take up to 90 days. In the meantime, this business person who's brought a really good restaurant and something that's very popular to Dupont Circle has been forced to close half of her patio, which is a pretty significant economic...

  • 12:37:08

    NNAMDIAs I said, we're running out of time. Any plans to change the five-protester rule?

  • 12:37:12

    BROWNI understand what he's saying. That's some things that we've had major discussion about. We'll continue to have a major discussion about. That's just happening in that part of the city. It seems to be happening all over the city related to our bar and restaurant explosion here in our city, which is a good thing. But, clearly, some neighbors don't like that.

  • 12:37:27

    SHERWOODYou mean -- and it's 17th (unintelligible), this particular place does have a long history. But it does seem that the democracy can get very low to one or two or three people, a handful, stopping projects that other people are had -- glad to have.

  • 12:37:41

    BROWNAnd that's part of -- the tough part of being -- about a public servant. You got to balance the two.

  • 12:37:45

    NNAMDIChuck, thank you very much for your call. Michael Brown, thank you for joining us.

  • 12:37:47

    BROWNKojo, thank you for having me. Tom, always a pleasure to see you.

  • 12:37:48

    SHERWOODAll right.

  • 12:37:49

    NNAMDIMichael Brown is an at-large member of the D.C. council. He is an independent. Tom Sherwood is our resident analyst. He's an NBC 4 reporter and a columnist for The Current Newspapers. Tom, we'll be doing a show on Monday about the situation at the University of Virginia, which seems to be getting messier and messier. Right now, the latest is that there's a move afoot to bring back ousted president Teresa Sullivan and...

  • 12:38:09

    SHERWOODOn Tuesday.

  • 12:38:09

    NNAMDI...and they looked like they may have the votes to do that. But I can't help, when I look at this situation, thinking of something that you say all the time, and that is transparency, transparency, transparency. It seems that a great deal of the outrage over what's happening on that campus has to do with the manner in which it was done by the board, because on the campus itself, among students and among faculty and among staff, there was no inkling that there was even a problem with the president of the university.

  • 12:38:37

    NNAMDIAnd then the board simply moves and ousts the president. And people want to know, well, what the heck happened? Had there been greater transparency, they might not be finding themselves in this situation.

  • 12:38:46

    SHERWOODIt would be. You know, this is -- she -- Teresa Sullivan is -- well, she's been there two years. She's the first female president. There hadn't been that many presidents at the university. So even if people who wanted to remove her, which one of them said, we did the right thing the wrong way. Helen Dragas – Dragas, however she says her name. And -- but it just -- once again, it is a matter of transparency in moving.

  • 12:39:10

    SHERWOODIf they – if there were concerns about this president, whether she was doing -- moving quickly enough into the Internet age, whether she's raising enough money, whether she was doing the things the board wanted, I want to know, do they – where there discussions with her? Did they -- I mean, what happened that had suddenly happened? There was this scandalous email about a cabal getting together to move her out.

  • 12:39:31

    SHERWOODIt just sounds like -- it does sound not like the University of Virginia. And it's unfortunate that such a distinguished university -- I like to call it the -- Harvard as the University of Virginia as opposed the other way around. And it's a great place, has tremendous history, and it's an embarrassment to see this kind of falling around.

  • 12:39:51

    NNAMDIWhat happened to the casino deal in Maryland? It looked as if there was going to be a casino coming to National Harbor in Prince George's County. County Executive Rushern Baker seemed to think that the deal was done. He thinks that he got promises from the House Speaker Michael Busch, of course, who represents Anne Arundel, which is where that other casino happens to be...

  • 12:40:12

    SHERWOODMaryland Live!

  • 12:40:13

    NNAMDI…happened to be located. And then, all of a sudden, a deal that was supposed to lower the tax rate for all of the casinos there, that they thought was agreed on, the members from Anne Arundel suddenly said, no, no, we don't think you should lower the tax rate.

  • 12:40:26

    SHERWOODWell, you know, Anne Arundel was worried they're building this big slots parlor in the place there, and they're concerned that if you open a big, sprawling casino in Prince George's County, that it'll -- it will bleed people from their facilities. I don't blame them for that. But that's -- the governor was saying here at the end of the week that he was going to try to have some more conversation to see if he can restart this thing. But, so far, they've rolled snake eyes.

  • 12:40:48

    NNAMDIAnd, so far, it seems as if conversations are not -- seems to be what's working here...

  • 12:40:53

    SHERWOODWe're talking big -- no, this is...

  • 12:40:54

    NNAMDIYes.

  • 12:40:54

    SHERWOODThis is huge money over a long period of time, and the casino is a huge deal for Prince George's County. It could solve a lot of their economic issues, but the rest of Maryland has to go along.

  • 12:41:06

    NNAMDII got to tell you, Rushern Baker is usually a very polite guy. But when he said he was lied to, clearly indicated that he was lied to by Speaker Michael Busch, you know he's got to be really upset.

  • 12:41:16

    SHERWOODThat's true. I think that was a good example of how tough this fight is.

  • 12:41:19

    NNAMDIYeah, he's generally a very diplomatic kind of guy. Joining us now in studio is Allison Silberberg. She is a Democratic candidate for the Alexandria City Council. Allison Silberberg, thank you for joining us.

  • 12:41:30

    MS. ALLISON SILBERBERGThank you so much. Pleasure to be here.

  • 12:41:32

    NNAMDIYou're one of the newcomers who emerged victorious in a knockdown, drag-out primary in Alexandria two weeks ago. It seems like two issues -- the development of the city's waterfront and the development plan for the Beauregard area -- split the Alexandria Democratic Party into factions. What were the issues you ran on in the primary, and in what direction you think the Alexandria City Council needs to be going?

  • 12:41:55

    SILBERBERGWell, first of all, thank you, Kojo.

  • 12:41:57

    NNAMDIYou're welcome.

  • 12:41:57

    SILBERBERGIt's a pleasure to be here. And, Tom, good to see you. I am honored to be one of the six to go forward to the general election, and all the candidates ran excellent campaigns and worked really hard. There is a lot at stake. I love Alexandria, and the city is a great city, remarkable city. But I think we can do even better. And given what happened with the waterfront plan, which, I felt, was not visionary enough...

  • 12:42:27

    NNAMDIWell, you have said that you had voted with the Republican councilmember and the independent councilmember against the current waterfront plan. Why?

  • 12:42:37

    SILBERBERGBecause I felt and I feel that the waterfront plan, while it improved over time, was not visionary enough.

  • 12:42:43

    SHERWOODWhat did it not have? When you say visionary, I'm...

  • 12:42:46

    SILBERBERGOK.

  • 12:42:46

    SHERWOOD...trying to picture...

  • 12:42:47

    SILBERBERGYeah.

  • 12:42:47

    SHERWOOD...other than angels. What did it have? What is not visionary enough...

  • 12:42:52

    SILBERBERGWell, the original plan called for three large hotels on the waterfront, and then it was switched to three boutique hotels with 150 rooms each. And then the eventual deal that they struck, that they voted on, that they passed in late January, as you probably know, was for two -- up to two hotels on the waterfront with 150 rooms each. I felt that the traffic and that the character of Old Town wasn't really -- that wasn't the focus of this -- of the Old Town that what I felt what we needed was.

  • 12:43:30

    SILBERBERGAnd there were some good things in the plan like flood mitigation, which, I felt, should have been done years ago. But the thing that it needed was something remarkable. And one thing I mentioned in a column, a guest column I had in The Post in December, in the Metro section, was I talked about the idea of a small band shell, a permanent arts band shell at the north...

  • 12:43:52

    SHERWOODSo less development rather than more is what I'm trying to...

  • 12:43:55

    SILBERBERGYes.

  • 12:43:56

    SHERWOODYou thought it's overly developed as opposed to...

  • 12:43:59

    SILBERBERGWell, it wasn't...

  • 12:43:59

    SHERWOOD...developing the character of Alexandria as it is now.

  • 12:44:02

    SILBERBERGYes, Tom.

  • 12:44:03

    SHERWOODOK.

  • 12:44:03

    SILBERBERGAnd that it wasn't creative or remarkable just to say three hotels on the waterfront. I do think we need some small, little cafes where we can have a bite or a glass of wine or a cappuccino on the waterfront somewhere. There's only the Chart House right now where you can do that, and I think that needs to be fixed. But we want people along the waterfront.

  • 12:44:24

    SILBERBERGWe want it -- I want it to be a people's waterfront. That's what I envision. And the people who came out and supported me felt the same way, that the plan wasn't visionary enough, and people of Old Town and across the city felt that the plan needed…

  • 12:44:39

    NNAMDIIn case you'd like to join the conversation, have questions or comments for Allison Silberberg, you can call us at 800-433-8850. Allison Silberberg is a Democratic candidate for the Alexandria City Council.

  • 12:44:51

    SHERWOODShould it be a revenue generator? Isn't -- for Alexandria to make money to keep revenue -- property taxes and other things low in other parts of the government? Should it be a revenue generator, the new Alexandria waterfront?

  • 12:45:06

    SILBERBERGWell, I think that that was one of the concerns at the...

  • 12:45:07

    SHERWOODSmall cafes and parkland don't generate revenue.

  • 12:45:10

    SILBERBERGI understand, and I am very concerned about taxes. I don't want -- I want us to continue to maintain our AAA bond rating and be fiscally responsible, of course. I don't see our tax -- I don't -- we have certain financial obligations that are coming down the pike in terms of schools and other infrastructure issues. But I don't think that you ruin what is a remarkable honor to -- we are -- you know, the waterfront and Old Town itself is hundreds of years old, 400 years old.

  • 12:45:41

    SILBERBERGSo you can't -- you have to be very careful and smart and creative and do something remarkable and visionary with such a place. Millions of people, over 3 million people came to visit Old Town Alexandria last year. It's a one of a kind place in the country, and I always say that we are all the temporary stewards of this national treasure called Alexandria.

  • 12:46:02

    NNAMDIWell, let's talk politics for a second because it seems that most of the incumbents...

  • 12:46:05

    SHERWOODI thought we were.

  • 12:46:06

    NNAMDII mean more specifically electoral politics. Most of the incumbents who got -- who made it past the primary support the waterfront plan. It would also appear that quite a few of the non-incumbents on the Democratic side who made it past the primary also support the waterfront plan. If you get on this council, it looks like you're likely to be outvoted, does it? Am I miscounting?

  • 12:46:29

    SILBERBERGWell, it's a great point, Kojo. First of all, there were a number of candidates who ran, who, I think, were in agreement with my perspective. Second, I am -- I have a wide spectrum of friendships among people who agree and disagree with my point of view. So I am someone who's always been able to work across many different perspectives.

  • 12:46:53

    SILBERBERGSo I feel like I will be able to build bridges of understanding. Patsy Ticer, our former mayor of Alexandria and former state senator, not only endorsed me, but called me a voice of reason. I tend to be very balanced and careful and try to reach across the breach, if you will.

  • 12:47:13

    SHERWOODWould that mean that if you are elected in the fall that you will seek significant changes in the waterfront plan as it now exists?

  • 12:47:22

    SILBERBERGI would love for us to reconsider some of the plans, yes.

  • 12:47:27

    NNAMDIIt's my understanding you served on the city's Economic Opportunities Commission and that you like to hang your hat on housing issues. Where do you think Alexandria's priority should be when it comes to housing?

  • 12:47:39

    SILBERBERGWell, I've been honored to be appointed to the city's Economic Opportunities Commission.

  • 12:47:42

    NNAMDIThe only thing so far you have not said you've been honored to be on is this show today.

  • 12:47:46

    SILBERBERGOh, I am honored, Kojo. No. I thanked you.

  • 12:47:50

    SHERWOODI thought she was very polite, saying she thanked us for being here.

  • 12:47:53

    SILBERBERGI...

  • 12:47:54

    NNAMDIShe didn't say she was honored, though.

  • 12:47:56

    SILBERBERGI -- well, then...

  • 12:47:56

    SHERWOODWell, she's waiting to see how the show goes. I'm not sure she's going to...

  • 12:47:59

    SILBERBERGI'm honored to be on your show, Kojo Nnamdi.

  • 12:48:02

    NNAMDIJust joking.

  • 12:48:02

    SILBERBERGOK.

  • 12:48:03

    SHERWOODBut you've got a serious housing problem in Alexandria.

  • 12:48:05

    SILBERBERGYeah. Well -- and I've spoken...

  • 12:48:06

    SHERWOODYou're booming in Alexandria, and affordable housing is burying.

  • 12:48:09

    SILBERBERGIt's a huge issue, and I've spoken a great deal about it as the chair of the Economic Opportunities Commission for the city. One of our main areas of focus is affordable housing as well as job creation. So the Beauregard plan and other areas of the city need to -- we have to focus on this. I'm lucky that I've been focused on it for eight years on the commission. But we need to think differently about affordable housing.

  • 12:48:36

    SILBERBERGThis is a national issue. But in the city of Alexandria, about 10,000 units, affordable housing units have been lost in the last decade. As we approach every plan, we need to continue to have affordable housing units set aside, and we have to negotiate stronger with developers. And we need to think -- and we have to make this a top priority. I think that the city is trying, but I think we have to do better.

  • 12:49:03

    SILBERBERGAnd we need public-private partnerships. And one thing I've talked about is partnering with nonprofits, like the Enterprise Foundation and other nonprofits that exist, and thinking differently about affordable housing and workforce housing so that we have a vibrant community for all.

  • 12:49:19

    SHERWOODWell, you had mentioned work. I was going to say a lot of people say affordable housing, and they say that's essentially a modern-day version of public housing and that affordable housing is for people who are middle income or lower-middle income who are just trying to survive in your city. That's who you're talking about, both of those groups.

  • 12:49:36

    SILBERBERGAll of it applies. But in terms of police officers and firefighters and teachers and staff for the city, for years, for over a decade I've asked people, do you live in the city? And most of them that I've met have said, no, they can't afford to. So that's, you know, we would love -- I would love to see that people could live in the city that they serve.

  • 12:49:57

    SHERWOODFinancially, is the city all right financially in terms of budget? I mean, you have to balance your budget (unintelligible).

  • 12:50:02

    SILBERBERGAbsolutely. We're...

  • 12:50:03

    SHERWOODWhat is the overall budget of the city of Alexandria?

  • 12:50:05

    SILBERBERGAbout $600 million.

  • 12:50:06

    SHERWOODSix-hundred million dollars.

  • 12:50:08

    NNAMDIWe're talking with Allison Silberberg. She's a Democratic candidate for the Alexandria City Council. She's author of the bestselling book "Visionaries I Our Midst: Ordinary People Who Are Changing Our World," a book about individuals who are making a difference. She lists among her accomplishments initiating and leading the commission's citywide effort. That is the -- what commission are we talking about here?

  • 12:50:30

    SILBERBERGIs that the Economic Opportunities Commission?

  • 12:50:31

    NNAMDIYes, called All Hands On Deck. And last summer, along with two dozen donors, including Home Depot and 100 volunteers, they jointly renovated the city's homeless shelter. I think that tells people a little bit about where your housing priorities are. Tom in Alexandria, Va. would like to know about some other issues. Would you don the headphones, please, so we can all hear Tom? Tom, you are now on the air. Go ahead, please.

  • 12:50:52

    TOMHi, Allison. Congratulations on your victory. I'm an old friend.

  • 12:50:56

    SILBERBERGThank you.

  • 12:50:57

    TOMAnd I wanted to ask you a little about your vision for, sort of, the west end of Alexandria. I know you're from the Parkfairfax area but also interested in what you plan for, sort of, Cameron Station as well.

  • 12:51:13

    SILBERBERGWell, Cameron Station specifically is an incredible community that has...

  • 12:51:21

    NNAMDIWhere is Cameron Station?

  • 12:51:22

    SILBERBERGIt's near the Beatley Library off of Duke Street.

  • 12:51:25

    NNAMDIOK.

  • 12:51:28

    SILBERBERGI spent some time there, of course, during the campaign trail, but before that, of course, I spent a lot of time there. It's a beautiful community with a park space. The Landmark Mall is probably the next big area to be developed on the west end. But, of course, they've been talking about that for, I don't know, how many years, maybe 15 years. I would hope that we could do something wonderful and remarkable there that is mix use and a great deal of affordable housing.

  • 12:52:01

    SILBERBERGThe big issue that I see is that we need to think about transit first and how we can incorporate smart, creative development that's around mass transit hubs. We don't have a Metro stop nearby, as you know, Tom, over there. So we need to think about either light rail or bus rapid transit or BRT or anything that we can -- some people are talking about streetcars. But we need to think about transit first and then think about housing.

  • 12:52:38

    SILBERBERGAnd, of course, the west end, what it just went through with the Beauregard plan and then subsequent to the BRAC Building -- for those who are listening and don't know, there's a massive building at Seminary Road and 395 that is part of DOD, and it's called the BRAC Building for short or Mark Center...

  • 12:52:55

    NNAMDIBase Realignment and Closure, yes.

  • 12:52:56

    SILBERBERGYes. And it houses about 6,000 employees. And there's no mass transit anywhere nearby. And it just -- it's -- a lot of people would like answers, how this came to be. How do you build a building that large in this era?

  • 12:53:11

    SHERWOODI mean, what do you do about it now? However it came about, there's not much you can do. It's there.

  • 12:53:14

    SILBERBERGThat's right. But, I think, Tom, that we have to figure out how that happened so that it doesn't happen again so that -- why wasn't that built next to a Metro stop? And that building isn't necessarily going to bring in any tax revenue for the city as well because it is DOD.

  • 12:53:28

    NNAMDITom, thank you very much for your call. Here is John in Alexandria, Va. John, your turn.

  • 12:53:34

    JOHNHey, Allison. Good on you for speaking outside the box and going against generally conventional wisdom of money, money, money, generate more money.

  • 12:53:42

    SILBERBERGThank you.

  • 12:53:42

    JOHNAnd so I do appreciate that. For the residents of Alexandria, it's a common two-sided issue primarily because we want people to come in, but there isn't enough space for more. So what, you know, I think part of this challenge with Alexandria is accessibility. You were mentioning a mass transit. And as far as I'm concerned, affordable housing in Alexandria is the same thing, almost as affordable housing in Manhattan. It's a high-demand area.

  • 12:54:13

    TOMUnfortunately, more and more people who work there or want to go there are going to have to fit right away to get in and out without actually having to live there. But this waterfront plan seems to be too focused on the waterfront in Old Town. And its great, I really do appreciate it. But what's in it for the residents of Alexandria, primarily more revenue, or is it going to be a place where they can go and enjoy it?

  • 12:54:38

    SILBERBERGWell, that's a great question. Thanks, John, for calling in. I think that the waterfront needs to be a people's waterfront and that access is critical and that people -- that families can go. And that's why I mentioned the small permanent band shell probably at the north end or somewhere along the waterfront where people can gather and have a picnic and sit there and listen to bluegrass music or something, as I was just listening as I waited to come on in here.

  • 12:55:09

    NNAMDIWe try to entertain you.

  • 12:55:10

    SILBERBERGYeah, WAM...

  • 12:55:10

    NNAMDI…'cause Tom brought a band with him, yes.

  • 12:55:12

    SILBERBERGIt's a wonderful bluegrass band out there in -- here in the hall. You know, we want to build community, and that's what we have to think about. And I have -- I think that I would bring a sense of mission to our remarkable city. We just have to do better. And we can't -- we do have bills to pay, of course, and we don't want to increase taxes. We have to be very cognizant of that. We have to deal with what we have. But the waterfront is a very special place, and we have to be very careful. And we have to be creative and do something remarkable.

  • 12:55:50

    SHERWOODWhat about this thought that Alexandria, much like the District of Columbia, are becoming mini Manhattans where, in fact, if you're not well to do or already established with a home, you have a very difficult time moving in?

  • 12:56:01

    NNAMDIAnd that follows what this question we got from Michelle. Michelle, I'm sorry I can't put you on the air 'cause we're running out of time. But she wants to know how you're going to incorporate low-income housing into the city, concentrated areas or spreading it out.

  • 12:56:14

    SILBERBERGWell, the city just released its housing master plan recently, and it's still under -- they're still working on it. We have to work across a wide spectrum with all these experts to figure this out, but we want a city that is vibrant for all. And the city does have an issue, like a lot of communities around D.C., where, you know, the medium price of a home as of December 2011 for Alexandria is around 500-, $550,000.

  • 12:56:42

    SHERWOODThat's not low income, moderate or anything.

  • 12:56:43

    NNAMDIIf you're low income...

  • 12:56:43

    SILBERBERGThat's not low -- no.

  • 12:56:45

    SHERWOODThat's not even near moderate.

  • 12:56:46

    SILBERBERGNo, it's very expensive. And so...

  • 12:56:48

    SHERWOODAnd it's only going to get worse.

  • 12:56:49

    SILBERBERGThat's right, it is. And so we have to work on this.

  • 12:56:52

    SHERWOODOr better, depending on your point of view.

  • 12:56:54

    SILBERBERGRight. Well, we have to work on this and -- but we want it to be a viable, vibrant city for all. That's what I would think. But we can't just go and build, you know, the city can't go broke building affordable housing. But by the same token, it can be a top priority that we build with nonprofit communities, entities that already exist, and we need to preserve what we can of it, not demolish what we have.

  • 12:57:21

    NNAMDIAnd I'm afraid we're just about out of time. Allison Silberberg is a Democratic candidate for the Alexandria City Council. Thank you for joining us. Good luck to you.

  • 12:57:28

    SILBERBERGThank you. It was an honor to be on your show.

  • 12:57:32

    SILBERBERGI hope to come back some time.

  • 12:57:33

    NNAMDIHad to squeeze that out of her.

  • 12:57:34

    SILBERBERGThank you very much.

  • 12:57:34

    NNAMDITom, we got this email from Andrea, "Can you, please, make sure to mention the Post article from this past week? Is Terry Lynch the most annoying man in town? I laughed out loud when I read that headline. He can sure be annoying, but he also gets things done. Squeaky wheel perhaps? The pictures in the Post were funny, too. You'll notice they didn't show his face."

  • 12:57:50

    SHERWOODWell, you know, but Terry's a great guy. People ought to have more citizens like him. I just wish he would soften that voice a little bit. But can I just add one quick thing?

  • 12:57:57

    NNAMDISure.

  • 12:57:58

    SHERWOODThe Nats are playing the Baltimore Orioles this weekend starting tonight. Let's have a sweep by the Nats.

  • 12:58:03

    NNAMDIYou know that our producer Michael Martinez is a huge fan of the Baltimore Orioles.

  • 12:58:07

    SHERWOODWell, that's because he's got his priorities wrong.

  • 12:58:10

    NNAMDIWell, see, there, Michael?

  • 12:58:12

    SHERWOODHe lives here. He lives here.

  • 12:58:14

    NNAMDIWas born and raised here as a matter of fact.

  • 12:58:16

    SHERWOODWell, I know. He needs...

  • 12:58:17

    NNAMDIHe didn't have a team for so long...

  • 12:58:18

    SHERWOODHe needs to let those Orioles go.

  • 12:58:19

    NNAMDI...he migrated over to the Baltimore. Tom Sherwood, he's our current resident analyst. He's an NBC 4 reporter and a columnist for The Current Newspapers. Thank you all for listening. I'm Kojo Nnamdi.

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