The District's Political Crisis: What Comes Next?
MR. KOJO NNAMDI
From WAMU 88.5 at American University in Washington, welcome to "The Kojo Nnamdi Show," connecting your neighborhood with the world. It's your turn. The Washington Post has just published a new poll indicating that most D.C. residents say Mayor Vincent Gray should resign. We'd like to hear your opinion of the poll of Mayor Gray's tenure and of all of the news having to do with corruption in the city, why you think it's occurring, what needs to be done about it.
MR. KOJO NNAMDI
The number to call is 800-433-8850 -- 800-433-8850. You can start calling now, but call early because we want you to have the opportunity to have your say. 800-433-8850. You can send us a Tweet at kojoshow, email to email@example.com or go to our website, kojoshow.org, and make your comment there. This is your turn. The poll says that 54 percent overall say that Mayor Gray should resign. Thirty-seven percent say he should not. Nine percent have no opinion. Only 22 percent of residents, according to this poll, say that they view Mayor Gray as honest and trustworthy.
MR. KOJO NNAMDI
I wrote in a an op-ed piece in the Washington Post this past weekend that I still think of him as a decent and thoughtful man. I am not sure that a lot of people necessarily share that point of view. And indeed a lot of people indicate that they think he should resign. East of the Anacostia River where the mayor lives in Ward 7 in an area where 82 percent of voters preferred Gray in the 2010 Democratic primary, a plurality of residents now think he should step down, 48 to 43 percent.
MR. KOJO NNAMDI
Of course, why this is all happening is that some three of the associates of Mayor Vincent Gray's campaign have pleaded guilty to felonies, including charges relating to secret payments to an opponent and the clandestine shadow campaign to get Gray elected. The U.S. Attorney for the District, Ron Machen saying that that shadow campaign means that essentially the 2010 election was corrupted and some people say that invalidates Mayor Gray's leadership as mayor.
MR. KOJO NNAMDI
Mayor Gray, on the other hand, has been pointing out that the city has been running efficiently under his leadership since he took charge and defies anyone to point at any specific issue on which he has failed as a result of what occurred in this campaign. And there are those who support him who say he should, therefore, be allowed to continue to run the city until he is found to have been involved in some way or the other in this shadow campaign or any other illegal activity.
MR. KOJO NNAMDI
800-433-8850. We would like to hear what you think and we will start with Marie in Washington, D.C. Marie, you're on the air. Go ahead, please.
Hi. I think that the article that was written in the Washington Post is highly subjective. I don't recall receiving any calls or correspondences from any polltakers. And I don't...
No, these polls are samples, you know. They don't call everyone. They take a -- what they feel is a representative sample and based on that representative sample come to some conclusions. But go ahead, please.
I've asked my friends and associates and they don't recall being asked their opinions either. I do support Mayor Gray and I'd vote for him again.
What do you think has been the effect of the court cases in which, as I mentioned, three of his associates have pled guilty in one way or another, either to the bribing of Sulaimon Brown during the campaign or to being participants in the shadow campaign? What do you think -- do you think -- what do you think about all of that?
I think that it is pretty disruptive to what he needs to do to continue to run this city. Whatever has happened on that -- in that arena, it really doesn't have too much to do with what he needs to do right now. I think just like what congress -- I'm sorry, what our leader Norton mentioned, he needs to get this cleared up as soon as possible so that he can continue to run this city like he needs to.
Do you think he needs to offer any explanation to the residence of the District of Columbia or to his constituents -- well, the same people, his constituents in the District of Columbia about exactly what his knowledge is of what went on?
Okay. Well, thank you very much for your call. You too can call us at 800-433-8850. Here is Paul on Capitol Hill in Washington. Paul, you're on the air. Go ahead, please.
Hi, Kojo. I'm retired from the navy and I just want to make kind of a parallel here. The mayor is the captain of the ship, of Washington, D.C. And regardless of what he knew he set the climate for his campaign with regards to ethics and execution with regards to the way that it was run. And so it doesn't matter what he knew or didn't know, his people, you know, were following his lead. And I honestly believe that what has come about now and what's coming to light has just, you know, compromised his ability to lead the city as a mayor. So it doesn't matter what he knew or didn't know.
You know, a campaign is easy as compared to what it is to lead a city. So his ability now to lead the city is just completely compromised.
So you're suggesting that if, for the sake of argument, there was a rogue operation in his campaign of which he was unaware, than the city, by comparison, is a much larger operation and that therefore there could be rogue operations in the city of which he is also unaware? And so the fact that he was not aware of it in his campaign makes him unqualified to run the city?
Well, what do you say to people who say that, look, if you look at what he has actually been doing in running the city, you can't point to any specific activity that he has not been participating in that he should have.? You can't point to the fact that he has been distracted from running the city. What would you say to those people?
And I would point right from the beginning of when he took over the city, I mean, you have the whole hiring of, you know, children of friends and paying people salaries that were out of whack with regards to the set schedule for those positions. So right from the beginning, that same kind of, you know, command climate that he started from the beginning were letting people who worked for him, including his chief of staff, do things that were already out of whack and unethical.
Okay. Thank you very much for your call. The article in today's edition of The Washington Post says more than six in ten residents say the mayor's doing a less than satisfactory job on his main policy priority, and that is creating jobs for city residents. Of course, his supporters would point out that in the same edition of the paper, there's an article on the summer jobs program for youth, which seems to show a distinct improvement in the summer jobs programs for youths from previous years. But over half of those polls say the mayor is not doing well on also improving schools or services.
It's your turn. What do you think? Call us now, 800-433-8850. Here's Lola in Ward 6. Lola, you're on the air. Go ahead, please.
Hi, good afternoon, Kojo. Thanks for taking my call.
Good afternoon, Lola.
I don't know who they polled but I didn't get a call. We really should have an on-air poll that's more representative of the Washington area. I think your show would be a good forum for that. But we need to understand that there is a larger agenda that's not that much hidden right now. And we need to support our city leadership and encourage them to do -- be the best that they can be. I am a -- vote for Mayor Gray. I think he's doing a good job...
What do you see as -- what do you see as being this larger agenda?
There's a move by certain forces to take over the district. And...
Is this your city? Do you consider this your city?
Yes, I do.
Why do you not take ownership of the city? I am very skeptical of people who say there is -- they used to call it a plan. Now they say there is another agenda. If indeed there is a plan or another agenda, why are you not, as a resident of the city, seeing this as your city? What is your agenda? Why don't you have a plan?
I do the best I can at the community level. Within my community, I attend my meetings and I make sure that my neighbors and friends in my neighborhood are getting the services that they deserve and understanding how their city is run. So each one teach one.
Okay, but go ahead, you weren't finished with saying earlier that...
So we just need to understand that with the fight we're having right now for statehood and to be in charge of our own finances and the larger issue of not having to be under the foot of the congress, all of these things play a large part in the things that the man's trying to do. Kudos to him and his team for going (unintelligible) ...
Yeah, but what do you say when people in his campaign say, look we did conspire to bribe Sulaimon Brown? We did run a shadow campaign. You seem to be suggesting that those things should be...
That's their integrity at stake and we got to be plain. And there was wrong doing on all sides because I witnessed some of it in all the campaigns. So if we're going to look at all the campaigns, let's look at all the campaigns and not just pick on one campaign.
You think the U.S. Attorney's office is picking on one campaign? You think that Ron Machen, you think that Vinnie Cohen, Jr. are biased and only looking at one campaign?
Well, we need to look at all the campaigns. There were reports that were made at the time on the other side also, the incumbent at the time.
Well, apparently, the U.S. Attorney was not able to find anything in that campaign. He has found things in the Gray campaign.
Yeah, well, maybe they need to dig a little deeper.
Thank you very much for your call, Lola. We move on to John in Mt. Pleasant. John, you're on the air. Go ahead, please.
Hi, Kojo. I just wanted to kind of say that a lot of -- for me, it's all about kind of fairness and, you know, the -- you know, I understand that the corruption and the shadow campaign was a small portion of his overall funding that he received for his campaign. But, you know, him -- you know, his being elected mayor was the result of that shadow campaign along with his normal campaign and, you know, his continuing to, you know, stay -- you know, stay mayor. To me...
So you question -- you question his legitimacy, period.
Well, I -- well, I mean...
I'm saying that's a valid question if that's the question you're raising.
It is and, you know, whether he -- you know, his election was the result of these, you know, illegal activities, whether, you know, is he, in effect, condoning that activity for future elections? You know, I mean, I understand that it's just a small portion...
Well, I'll tell you what he said, this is not the campaign we intended to run. But the U.S. Attorney said...
But it is the campaign that was run.
Precisely. What the U.S. Attorney said is that this is the campaign that was run and it was a shadow campaign. So the question of the validity or the legitimacy of his mayoralty is, as I suggest, a valid question. So you think he should step down.
I think that he needs to address all these issues and try and just -- you know, whether he knew about it or not, you know, he needs to accept that that was the campaign that was run by the staff that he hired.
Okay. Thank you very much for your call.
Yeah thanks, Kojo.
We go on to Lisa who is in Ward 6. Lisa, your turn.
I just want to say I think it all comes from the top. And if you're running a campaign or you're running for mayor and you're the head of the campaign, you're the secret head for that campaign as Mayor Gray was, and you don't know that there's stuff going on behind your back and there's a shadow or rogue operation, how does that reflect on him as a mayor of the city?
Well, let me put this question to you. What did you think of the term of Anthony Williams as mayor?
You know, I don't know enough to be able to comment on it, but all I know is...
Because -- the reason I raise that question is because there was something going on in his campaign that he apparently did not know about. Signatures were being solicited by people who were running his campaign. Signatures were being forged by people who were running his campaign. And they threw out all of his signatures. He could not run on the basis of that. He had to run a write-in campaign because it turned out that his signatures were not satisfactory so his name could not even be on the ballot. He ran a write-in campaign and he won.
All I can say is no matter how good of a mayor he may or may not have been, if you're at the top, if you're the president, if you're the mayor, if you're the governor you can't claim to be an effective leader if you can't keep control of what goes down, you know, on the lower ranks of your campaign or your government. And I think it's the same on all accounts. And what really...
I do have to say that Anthony Williams apologized to the voters of the District of Columbia for what went on in his campaign. He did take responsibility for it even though there were individuals in the campaign who were identified as having done those things. And he won the write-in campaign.
Well, that may be but I do think that if you're incapable of keeping control of what's going on in the lower ranks of any body of leadership, whether you're running a company, whether you're running a city or a state, I think that really does delegitimize you once this all comes out. And also I would it's infuriating to think that Gray ran and convinced people he was going to be the counter to Fenty. He was going to be the one who wasn't going to be hiring fraternity brothers and whatnot. And of course, once again we find there is corruption. And it's sort of a shame because I would've liked to have seen what Fenty could've done for a second term.
Okay. Thank you very much for your call, Lisa. We move on to Samang in Washington, D.C. Samang, you're on the air. Go ahead, please.
How are you, Kojo?
I am well.
Look, they have -- they never accepted the defeat, the other side. And Fenty supporters, who are billionaires and who have millions of dollars for him, two weeks before the election are campaigning nonstop. And they have created such a hype now, people are doubting the mayor. This is an answer and this is a danger to democracy itself. If some opponent just goes on accusing and accusing and with no valid reason...
Well, allow me to say that there are three individuals in the Gray campaign who have admitted to wrongdoing. And so it is not correct to say that there is no validity to charges that the mayor may have known about what went on in his campaign. But, Samang, your turn.
Has it been proved that he had a hand in it?
It has not. It has not.
What is the reason for -- to call the mayor to quit? This is politics. This is not...
No, no, allow me to finish. The peopled who are calling on the mayor to resign offer at least a couple of reasons. One is that since there was a shadow campaign that contributed to getting him elected that his mayoralty is not legitimate. And that the other is, as you heard our last caller say, if there were these kinds of shenanigans going on in his campaign under his leadership than that is a reflection of his leadership. What do you say?
Somebody is guilty only when he is proved to be guilty by a court. If I accuse you of something and keep on hyping how are you going to defend yourself?
This is not democracy. This is a political campaign by the right wing.
Okay. Thank you very much. Although in Washington politics there is not much of what you would normally consider a right wing but thank you for your call. Here is Roberto in Washington, D.C. Roberto, you're on the air. Go ahead, please.
Good afternoon, Kojo. How are you doing?
Good afternoon, Roberto.
Unfortunately, Mayor Gray is bringing our city back to the days of his mentor, Marion Barry.
Well, allow me to interrupt. Mayor Gray has not ever talked of himself as being mentored by Marion Barry. I think he would object to that characterization of him, but go ahead, please.
Well, that is until proven guilty that he did serve...
No, he worked in the administration of Sharon Pratt Kelly. That was the mayor whose administration he is most prominently known for working in. But go ahead.
Okay. But anyway, the shadow campaign in his knowledge proves that he is corrupt and for this reason, he should resign.
You think the shadow campaign proves that he is corrupt, even if he didn't know about it?
He had to know about it. As a leader, you must know what is going inside. If not, you end up like Enron.
Okay. Thank you very much for your call. We move on now to Emmanuel in Upper Marlboro, Md. Emmanuel, you're on the air. Go ahead, please.
Hey, Kojo man. First I must applaud you for your patience and your clarity. You do a great job at making it clear and you have great patience with callers, so thank you.
Hey -- yes, sir. The one thing that's always puzzled me, and I've been somewhat insulted by -- and I don't know if he's guilty or innocent and I don't have an answer on whether he should step down or not -- but when Sulaimon Brown came forth about picking up some money at Union Station from one of Mayor Gray's people, if there was some young person stealing something or carjacking, they would go to surveillances and looking at cameras everywhere across the city to capture that person, which they should do.
But I'm pretty sure in Union Station there's a hundred cameras everywhere in every store, every hallway. That could've easily been, you know, found out. But I think because who he was and, you know, of course his position, they did not take that as an avenue in which to, you know, go to Union Station and say, let me see your surveillance cameras. But things like that make it very hard for us to really, you know, trust that any, you know, authority that says that they're really trying to clamp down and do the right thing. What's your take on that?
Well, Emmanuel, I am not at all sure that there are surveillance cameras everywhere in Union Station. And if indeed there are, I am pretty sure that the U.S. Attorney's office or whoever was conducting the lead on that investigation probably did ask to access those cameras. But it's often difficult for cameras to pick up that "a bribe" was given to Sulaimon Brown. If one person passes another piece of paper to a person it could be a press release, it could be a note, it can be all kinds of things.
So I don't think there was anything that those cameras could have shown that would have offered definitive proof unless they actually showed dollars being passed or unless it was so visible that you could see it was a check and that you could see whose name was on it. But thank you very much for your call. Here is Crystal Marie in Northwest Washington. Crystal Marie, your turn.
Hi. I just want to say when I lived in Northwest D.C. in 2010 when I was voting, deciding about Vincent Gray and I was really torn. And I remember reading a City Paper article that came out right before the election and it said -- it went on and on about how Mayor Fenty was a jerk. He was a, you know, a horrible person, he didn't show up, he wasn't very friendly. But he was D.C.'s jerk. He was dedicated to the city. He did his job. He just wasn't the most charismatic.
And I think what we're seeing now and I'm learning as a young and relatively new voter, that sometimes personality isn't necessarily the best way to decide who is a better candidate. And I think right now, Mayor Gray was much more involved in the community, much more friendly, much more likely to be seen with leadership in the area that people felt comfortable with, you know, ministers. But that doesn't necessarily mean he was the best person for the job.
And I kind of wish that maybe we could've seen what it would've been like to have Fenty for a second term.
Well, you know what a lot of people bemoaned, Crystal Marie, was what they saw as the kind of transformation of Adrian Fenty. When he was a Ward 4 council member, he was arguably the most accessibly council member that constituents in this city had ever seen period, anyplace. He was so responsive. After he became mayor and his responsibilities broadened, he was not quite as accessible and an increasing number of people began to see him as being aloof. And I think he may have underestimated just how widespread that sentiment was.
Oh, it was very widespread, absolutely.
Thank you very much for your call. And we got an email from Jonathan asking us "if Gray were to step down, who would be in charge? It seems like we've got politician problems with more than just the major." Who would be in charge would be the current chairman of the city council, who is Phil Mendelson, who has indicated that he does not want to run for mayor. He does not aspire to be mayor. But if Mayor Gray were to step down, he is the one who would be next in line for succession to that position. And some people would argue that it's a good thing if the person who is going to step up is someone who does not necessarily want to run for that position.
But I'm afraid that's all the time we have. Thank you very much for your participation in your turn. We'll do this again very soon. When we come back, the man who negotiates the relationships between Hollywood and the military. Philip Strub joins us. I'm Kojo Nnamdi.
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