Local officials in D.C. recently convened a convention to draft a constitution that would put the city on the path to statehood. Under the plan, the District would adopt a new name: "New Columbia." But some of those who've been on the front lines of the fight for statehood aren't thrilled about how the process has worked so far - and where it might be going.
Pepco politics are back as workers threaten to strike. Uber returns to the Wilson Building, as D.C. lawmakers wrestle with regulating sedan service and taxi cabs. And federal investigators probe a controversial politician in Northern Virginia. Join us for our weekly review of the politics, policies and personalities of the District of Columbia, Maryland and Virginia.
- Angela Alsobrooks Maryland State's Attorney, Prince George's County
- Jennifer McClellan Member, Virginia House of Delegates (D-71st District); Vice Chair, House Democratic Caucus, Virginia House of Delegates; Former Vice-Chair, Virginia Democratic Party
- Tom Sherwood Resident Analyst; NBC 4 reporter; and Columnist for the Current Newspapers
Politics Hour Video
Jennifer McClellan, a Democratic member of the Virginia House of Delegates, talked about how the looming fiscal cliff will affect the state. “It’s an understatement to say it will have a devastating effect,” McClellan said about sequestration cuts. She added that former Virginia Gov. and current U.S. Senate candidate Tim Kaine and President Barack Obama share similar visions, but their election success is not linked.
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. We both participated in forums last night, Tom. I did one at The Washington Post about the structure and suspicions about D.C. city government.
MR. KOJO NNAMDIIt featured former at-large Councilmember Carol Schwartz, Barbara Lang of the D.C. Chamber of Commerce, Clinton Yates, who edits the Express publication of The Washington Post and writes for The Root DC, and it was a good discussion. But you sound like your discussion was a lot more fun. You moderated a forum in the at-large race in the District of Columbia, and it looks like you had to silence a few people.
MR. TOM SHERWOODWell, you know, I was with the people. That's the difference between the cloistered...
NNAMDII was with the people, too.
SHERWOOD...you know, exclusive, inside the corporate...
NNAMDIThey were just more civil than your people.
SHERWOOD...15th Street headquarters of The Washington Post, special guests invited. I was ignored and excluded. But meanwhile, I was out with the people in Southwest Washington for an at-large race. It's the Michael Brown race essentially. And there was a gentleman who got up to tell a very heartfelt story, but he violated the rules of the forum which is not to give preamble speeches, like I'm doing now. And I had to shush him, and then there was some yelling back and forth.
NNAMDIApparently, one of the panelists accused Michael Brown of orchestrating the man's speech.
SHERWOODA.J. Cooper. Yes. A.J. Cooper. Yes. The guy in the audience stood up and didn't want to ask a question but wanted to praise Michael Brown for something he had done for his family, actually, a very sad thing, the death of his child. But it was just completely out of left field. It was in a -- it slowed the forum down. So there was yelling back and forth.
SHERWOODI had to get up and go over to Mr. A.J. Cooper, one of the candidates, who's answering questions pretty well till that moment, till he starts yelling at the guy in the audience about whether it was a setup, lie or not. So -- but it was (unintelligible) it was called democracy. You know, as somebody once famously said, democracy is not neat, and it certainly wasn't last night, but we had a good forum, good turnout.
NNAMDIWell, in our forum, Carol Schwartz talked...
SHERWOODWestminster Presbyterian Church in Southwest, Washington.
NNAMDICarol Schwartz talked a great deal about her experience on the council and why she is for transparency and accountability, which may be why she says she's not on the council anymore. Barbara Lang talked about initiatives that we could see in terms of small businesses. And Clinton Yates, who is from a younger generation, added a really fresh perspective to the discussion but...
SHERWOODCan -- one question. Did Carol Schwartz speak at a -- of full disclosure and transparency and whatever else?
SHERWOODDid she say she is or is not going to get into the race for mayor if there is one?
NNAMDIShe did not give any indication of whether she would get into the race or not.
SHERWOODSee, that's why you needed me there.
NNAMDII tried to encourage her to get into the race, however, but what...
SHERWOODOh, my goodness.
NNAMDI...we discovered -- what we discovered just before that forum started was that, in the ongoing battle between the city or the city and the Nationals over who would pay when the Nationals' games will go into extra innings when they get to the playoffs, the Nationals said we're not going to pay. Metro said somebody's got to pay. The city said, we're not going to pay. And then along comes LivingSocial and says that's OK. We are willing to pay for it. Willing -- LivingSocial, of course, you know, the -- is the daily deals website. What's the deal, Tom?
SHERWOODWell, you know, Jack Evans, a Ward 2 councilmember, guaranteed -- he personally guaranteed and on the camera that someone...
NNAMDII see his hands all over this deal.
SHERWOODYes. Well, you know, he had met with some people, various business people, including Don Graham of The Washington Post, among others, to talk about, you know, somebody needs to do this. And to make it clear, it's not that you put the money up and spend the money. It's simply a deposit. You get the money back if people use Metro.
NNAMDIIt doesn't really cost very much at all.
SHERWOODSo, I mean, you could have put up the $29,500.
NNAMDIYou put up the money, and then, when the people pay their fares, Metro gives you the money back.
SHERWOODSo LivingSocial, the head of LivingSocial, who just happens to be the son-in-law of Don Graham -- and I don't know if there's any connection between that or not -- but they did a nice thing, you know, as a company that just got a $33 million tax break from the city, said, look, we can guarantee this money. And so it's done. It's kind of a public relations miss maybe for the Nationals. They could have maybe done it 'cause they're -- whoever does it is probably not going to spend any money.
NNAMDIWell, I know...
NNAMDIIt's a good natured thing.
NNAMDI…Matt -- Martin Austermuhle of DCist was tweeting last night. So let's get this straight. The city paid -- the taxpayers' dollars built the stadium, and then the city gave LivingSocial a $32 million tax break in order to keep it in the city. LivingSocial then turns around and says, OK, we will pay for Metro during your -- the taxpayers of the city are basically paying for everything.
SHERWOODWell, the -- but they're not paying. They're only saying they will pay if it comes down to payments. It's not -- they're not going to have -- I could put up the money 'cause the -- it's called a legal deposit so that Metro can legally...
NNAMDIBut you didn't get a tax break from the District of Columbia.
SHERWOODWell, you know, the mayor said that we have to have some tax breaks for the high-tech firms so they won't go off to Maryland and Virginia.
SHERWOODThere's a big battle for these three jurisdictions.
NNAMDIAt some point, you'll want to hear listeners on this deal. 800-433-8850 is the number to call. Pepco, on the one hand, it is a negotiating dispute with the members of the International Brotherhood of Electric Workers Local 900 who rejected the company's latest offer. On the other hand, the always generous public -- let me not characterize it that way.
NNAMDIThe Public Service Commission of the District of Columbia has decided to give Pepco 60 percent of the rate increase for which Pepco asked. I'm not sure that the residents of the city, or the Washington area in general, think that Pepco should have received a rate increase.
SHERWOODWell, you know, I think the City Paper this week, or recently reported, that 44 percent of the outages at Pepco are based on equipment, while only about 25 percent or so are from trees and other things. People think Pepco has not done enough to build its own house more solidly, so -- and it doesn't need these increases.
NNAMDISo who takes the loss? We do not. The Pepco shareholders?
SHERWOODWell, you know, if you don't -- the Pepco asked for something like $60 million, and they got to, what, $25 million.
NNAMDINo. It got 60 percent of the rate increase that it'd asked for. I don't know the exact dollar figure.
SHERWOODThe numbers, right. It's about $2.50 more per month for each subscriber.
SHERWOODWhile, individually, it's not a lot of money, it is millions of dollars.
NNAMDIThat's a lot of money.
SHERWOODIt's just another sign that Pepco -- I think Mary Cheh called, you know, the Pepco -- the Public Service Commission of the city a lapdog for the...
SHERWOOD...power company. But, you know, this is the kind of intensity -- it's almost storm intensity about how people feel about Pepco, but then don't get into the weeds of what money is it spending on services and what money is it spending on itself.
NNAMDIOK. Well, we do have to move on because we have a guest in studio...
SHERWOODYes. I'm very rude.
NNAMDI...a guest who does not have to worry about Pepco, probably more about Dominion power company, but who kind of works for a utility herself. Well, we'll get to that later. Jennifer McClellan is a member of the Virginia House of Delegates. She's a Democrat whose district includes parts of Richmond and Henrico County. Is that how I pronounce it, Henrico?
MS. JENNIFER MCCLELLANHenrico.
NNAMDIHenrico County. She's...
SHERWOODI knew that. I knew that.
NNAMDIYou know that. Yes, because you...
SHERWOODI was going to correct you if you didn't self-correct.
NNAMDIThank you very much. You know, he once covered long before you were born. He once covered the General Assembly in Virginia.
SHERWOODIt was called Henrico then, too.
NNAMDIShe's also the vice chair of the Virginia Democratic Party. If you have questions or comments for Jennifer McClellan, you can call us at 800-433-8850. Delegate McClellan, thank you so much for joining us.
SHERWOODWe have another correction.
NNAMDIOh, what's the other correction?
SHERWOODAre you vice chairman?
MCCLELLANWell, I used to be vice chair of the party. I'm not anymore, but I am vice chair of the House Democratic caucus.
NNAMDIShe's vice chair of the House Democratic -- she was trying to be nice to me. She didn't want to point out my error to everybody.
SHERWOODYou made two mistakes in, like, 47 seconds.
NNAMDIThere are few places that the presidential candidates are focusing more of their efforts on than the Commonwealth of Virginia. Both Barack Obama and Mitt Romney were stumping in the Old Dominion yesterday, and most polls suggest the president is carrying a lead right now. What are the issues that you think have given the president that edge?
MCCLELLANWell, I think this campaign is a pretty stark choice between -- both the presidential campaign and the Senate race that we have going on are a stark choice between, you know, President Obama and Tim Kaine want to continue to move our country forward with an economy that's built from the middle class out. And Gov. Romney and George Allen sort of want to take us back to the failed policies that got us in the fiscal ditch to begin with.
SHERWOODWell, that's pretty good talking points, but...
SHERWOOD...George Allen at the Fairfax Chamber of Commerce debate said he wants government to focus on owning those things that will create jobs. And he says it's unfair that the Democrats are trying to paint him as going backwards. What kind of specifically, you think, are the issues that that he's out of step with that Tim Kaine might be more in step with just for creating jobs, which is a big issue?
MCCLELLANWell, I think one of them is the whole debate on whether or not the Bush tax cuts should be extended. And I think that's a fundamental difference is, do you believe in sort of the trickle down -- if you give more tax breaks to the wealthy, it will trickle down to the middle class, and it will create more jobs? And I think we saw, in the Bush administration, that didn't work. So I don't think, you know, to give you another talking point, I'll quote President Clinton. I don't think that we want to double-down or trickle-down. It does not work.
SHERWOODThat's a very good line. It works very well.
NNAMDIWhat opportunities do you think exist for the president to find, well, broader momentum nationwide for his message by going through Virginia? This is a place where the fortunes of the private sector, which you are a part of -- you're with Verizon. Did I get that wrong, too?
MCCLELLANNo, that's right.
NNAMDIYes. Where the fortunes of the private sector and government investment are so intricately linked?
MCCLELLANWell, I think, you know, the reason they're spending so much time in Virginia and the reason, I think, doing that will help resonate a message nationwide is we're kind of a microcosm for the rest of the country. We have, you know, sort of the booming tech industry in Northern Virginia and government contracting in Northern Virginia, but we also have, you know, pieces of Appalachia, the suburbs.
MCCLELLANSo it's sort of, you know, something that touches all Americans touches Virginians. And I think when -- that's what -- that's one reason why all eyes are on Virginia. But I also think that Virginia is pretty clearly a purple state and a toss-up state. So, you know, most people believe, and I believe, that whoever wins Virginia is going to win the election.
SHERWOODFormer Republican Congressman Tom Davis said on this program a short while ago that the social issues, the -- that many of the conservative Republicans want to push simply don't play well in Northern Virginia. And he pointed out that Northern Virginia has lopsidedly voted on the Democratic side for, like, 200,000-plus-thousand votes that Republicans have to make elsewhere. When I talked to you in Charlotte, we talked about the women's issues that you -- and Sandra Fluke was the student -- Georgetown student who was going to be speaking.
SHERWOODYou had not heard her speak yet. But -- and people were saying that there's a war on women. I asked you if you thought there was a war on women, and you said, well, if not a war, a disregard for women's issues. Has that changed any? Those same issues do seem to have faded a bit in this presidential campaign.
MCCLELLANWell, I guess, it depends on who you talk to. I mean, they are definitely still on everybody's mind. I mean, just yesterday in Virginia, Ken Cuccinelli certified...
SHERWOODAttorney general (unintelligible).
MCCLELLANOh, sorry. Yeah, Atty. Gen. Ken Cuccinelli certified the regulations on abortion clinics that are medically unnecessary and are basically targeted to put them out of business. And so it's still on people's minds, and when you have, you know, Todd Akin saying all kinds of interesting things and periodically...
SHERWOODHe's the candidate for the Senate in Missouri.
NNAMDIFor the Senate in Missouri.
MCCLELLANThe Senate in Missouri.
SHERWOODI'm just trying to help our viewers.
NNAMDICurrently a member of the House of Representatives. But go ahead, please.
MCCLELLANRight. And you have -- you know, every time an issue comes up in the States and the candidates weigh in on it, they reinforce that the Republican Party seems to want to look at women's health issues through some black-and-white prism and don't fully understand women's health when they want to make decisions about women's health decisions. And that doesn't play well in Northern Virginia.
MCCLELLANIt doesn't play well in Central Virginia. It doesn't play well all across the country. And there are a lot of women who had not been paying attention to politics before this January, who woke up and said, wait a minute. We thought we had fought these battles. We thought this was over. Why are we even having conversations about contraception again? Why are we having conversations about personhood when people don't -- who want to have personhood legislation don't fully understand the ramifications?
NNAMDIWell, Congressman Tom Davis, when he spoke to us a few weeks ago, also talked about turnout. He said that the president has some attributes that will strengthen him or that strengthened him both in North Carolina and Virginia. Quoting him here, he said, "We call it elevated African-American turnout, elevated student turnout. The last time around, the turnout model for Virginia was completely changed over what had been done before. We don't know what the turnout model will be this year."
NNAMDIWhat will the turnout model for Virginia be this year? And do you think it's something that works broadly for your party and not just for candidates with President Obama's specific attributes?
MCCLELLANWell, I think the president's attributes help in that he's charismatic and can connect with people. But what we are very focused on is a ground game, and the campaign that has the best ground game is going to win. And...
NNAMDIWhat do you mean by ground game?
MCCLELLANWell, we've -- knocking on doors, phone calls, reaching out to the undecided voters, persuading them and then turning them out, making sure that those voters we know are with us are registered, that they bring their ID to the polls, they do everything that they need to to cast their vote. We're going to make sure that all of the votes that can be cast for President Obama are cast for President Obama.
NNAMDIThe president said at the Democratic National Convention that he really didn't think that the plethora of television ads that we're seeing are making that much difference, yet he seems to be pulling ahead in some of the swing states. Do you think that's the ground game that you're talking about?
MCCLELLANNo. That's not the ground game. That's part of the process. But what I'm talking about is person-to-person contact, which the Obama campaign in '08 had an unprecedented process for friends and neighbors talking to friends and neighbors, reaching people on the phone, going door-to-door and making sure that we persuade people who aren't decided to vote for President Obama.
MCCLELLANAnd for those that are decided to President Obama that they actually come out. You can show all the TV commercials that you want. But if the person that sees the commercial -- they may like the commercial. They may even agree with the commercial, but if they don't come out on Election Day, that commercial has no impact.
NNAMDIWe're talking with Jennifer McClellan. She's a member of the Virginia House of Delegates, a Democrat whose District's -- District includes parts of Richmond and Henrico County. She's also the vice chair of the House Democratic Caucus in the House of Delegates and a member of the Legislative Black Caucus. Please put on your headphones. Tom, we have a call from Nathan in Fairfax, Va. Nathan, you're on the air. Go ahead, please.
NATHANHi, Kojo. I was just wondering if your guest could speak very briefly to the looming question of the fiscal cliff and how that might play out in the campaign, whereas both candidates would try to point the finger of blame as it were at the other one, and the impact the cuts in defense spending might have in the local jobs economy in Virginia. Thanks a lot.
NNAMDISequestration, sequestration. But go ahead, please, Delegate McClellan.
MCCLELLANWell, I think sequestration would have -- I think it's an understatement to say it would have a pretty devastating effect on Virginia. But I think in the Senate race, at least, Tim Kaine has put forth the plan to try to avoid that, and that starts with, let's let the Bush tax cuts expire. Let's close some of the tax loopholes, particularly for big oil industries, and that's a start.
MCCLELLANAnd I think part of the problem that we have in Washington today is one party is just saying no to everything and is not coming up with any ideas whatsoever and -- which is why I think we need folks like Tim Kaine who can reach across the aisle and say, look, I'm willing to compromise but a compromise that won't throw the middle class under the bus.
NNAMDIGlad that you brought up Tim Kaine. How do you feel the dynamics of the presidential race compared to those in Tim Kaine's race, the race for U.S. Senate, against his opponent, former Gov. George Allen? Do you think Kaine's fortunes are linked to President Obama and vice versa?
MCCLELLANI don't think they're linked, but I do think that they both have similar visions on the big picture items. You know, I think obviously the difference is in the Senate race, you have, you two former governors who each have a record of what Virginia looked like when they were governors. You also have former Sen. Allen's Senate record, which is different from what he's running on now.
MCCLELLANAnd so Virginians already know them a little better. I think a lot of people are still getting to know Mitt Romney in the presidential race and are curious about what they see. But they both have the same big picture, which is we need to move this economy forward by focusing on helping the middle class.
NNAMDIAre you always this thoughtful, or is it just because you're on this broadcast?
SHERWOODShe's a lawyer.
NNAMDIIs that what it is?
SHERWOODYeah. She's a lawyer.
NNAMDIShe's too thoughtful to be a politician.
MCCLELLANI do think a lot.
NNAMDIGo ahead, please.
SHERWOODNow, I'm so -- I think I may have lost my question. Actually, I get the sense listening to a lot of the national news shows -- and I try to listen to all of them -- that the Democrats are getting too confident, that it's still 40 days plus or whatever it is to the election, that, yes, there -- the polls, all the polling, even the Republicans acknowledge how the polling shows a much wider race and that Obama ahead.
SHERWOODAnd I get this sense that watching some of the Democrats on television say, oh, it's still a tough race. We've got a lot of work to do. But they don't seem to have the heart in what they're saying. They feel like they've won it. I'm just wondering if that's a danger for the Democrats.
MCCLELLANIt is, and I think we are definitely focusing on not taking anything for granted. Again, the…
SHERWOODYou're hearing Democrats say, hey, we've got this.
MCCLELLANNo. Well, I'm not hearing -- I'm hearing Democrats say, I feel really good. But, again, the only poll that matters is the poll on Election Day. And we cannot take anything for granted. And don't necessarily believe all the polls. You know, we need to run like we're behind, regardless of what the polls say, and we're doing that on the ground. And...
SHERWOODSo you have -- and you're -- when you talk about the ground -- somebody tweeted out, I think, it was North Carolina, that the Obama campaign had just opened its 100th office. I don't know who many you have in Virginia. But are you targeting the state, or are you all over the state? Shenandoah Republicans...
MCCLELLANWell, I mean, a bit of both. We've got -- I mean, there are different levels of offices, I guess. But we're trying to have a presence. You know, there's an office in Amherst. There are certainly many offices in Northern Virginia, Hampton Roads, in the suburbs. You know, some offices are small, and some are pretty big organizations.
MCCLELLANBut Virginia, as a state, is a definite target, and all over, because you're not sure -- you know, this could come down to a few hundred votes, but you don't know where they're coming from. It could be, you know, five in Amherst that put you over the top. So we're just reaching out everywhere that we can.
SHERWOODCan Tim Kaine win if Obama loses?
MCCLELLANI think he can.
NNAMDICan Obama win if Tim Kaine loses?
MCCLELLANI don't know that he'd win Virginia if Tim Kaine loses, but I think he can win. There is a way to win the presidency without Virginia. But we're working as hard to make sure they both win.
NNAMDIA year after President Obama won Virginia in 2008, the Virginia Democratic Party was trashed in every statehouse race. In 2009, the Republicans won the races for governor, lieutenant governor and attorney general in Virginia. How would you explain what happened to your party then?
MCCLELLANI think a lot of people got complacent. There were two things that happened. There are a lot of people who vote in the federal races and, for whatever reason, don't pay attention to the state races. And so there was some of that. Then there were a lot of people who felt -- who voted for the first time in '08 who said, you know, we've reached the Promised Land. Why do I care about the state races? And part of it was, I think, our campaigns didn't necessarily -- weren't the strongest we've ever run.
MCCLELLANSo -- but, since then -- and I think we saw the same thing in 2011 when the Senate became a 20-20 split. Then you got the 2012 session, and I tell everybody, look, the 2012 General Assembly session and all of its anti-woman, anti-immigrant, voter-suppression crazy was brought to you by everybody that voted in 2008 and stayed home in '09 and 2011. And people got that message.
SHERWOODAnd we have -- the statewide races in Virginia are already under way. Has -- who's -- have any -- has anyone announced for governor and from the Democratic side? Jerry McCullough is running but hasn't really announced, has he?
MCCLELLANWell, I don't think officially, and I think, you know, he, like everyone, is focused on the 2012 election. But it's widely understood that if -- that he will run.
NNAMDIYeah. He basically said on our broadcast in Charlotte that he's going to run, but he's not announcing as yet whether or not...
SHERWOODRight. He's made it every county. Can we ask her -- she's been talking about him as a potential statewide candidate. Can you give us your polite, demurring of that until actually the Nov. 6 election?
MCCLELLANI am not running in 2013.
NNAMDIYou're not prepared to look any farther than that. But here you are today. You have to give us what the Democratic Party line is and your own thinking on how these elections are likely to turn out. But you're also on the board of the Sorensen Institute, which is an interesting organization at the University of Virginia because it works with elected leaders and up-and-comers within public policy to forge better government and a spirit of bipartisan problem solving. I think that last part is particularly important. Have Virginia politicians lost the ability to disagree without being disagreeable?
MCCLELLANI don't think -- no, not across the board. I mean, obviously, we have a handful, but the Virginia way sort of is try to get along even if you disagree with each other. And, you know, I'm in the minority in the House of Delegates, and the only way I'm going to accomplish anything is to work with Republicans.
MCCLELLANAnd I've been able -- lots of us have been able to forge friendships across the aisle and find common ground. And I wish we had a Sorensen Institute at the national level to address what's going on in Congress. I do think, in Congress, we've lost the ability to be civil. But we haven't lost it yet in Virginia.
SHERWOODThere's the gentlewoman from and the gentleman from in the state phrase. And, actually, I did find and do find that the state politicians, even though there is that intensity, do -- because you're actually just close with each other and you talk to each other. And you hear in the Capitol Hill, the one thing is that people don't sit down together any more.
MCCLELLANThat is true, and a big function is just time. I mean, there are a lot more bills than ever before on the House side. A lot of that is handled in sub-committees, which have to meet before 9 a.m. and after 5 p.m. So, by the time you're done with the business of the day, you're just -- you're tired. And, for me, you know, I live in the District, so I want to go home and be with my family. But we do try to find some time to get together, usually by classes. You know, I came in with the class of 2005, and we try to have some sort of class event periodically.
NNAMDIOn to the telephones again. Here is Jeff in Baltimore, Md. Jeff, you're on the air. Go ahead, please.
JEFFI am shocked to be on. This is so exiting. Two urgent items about the election: one is, how can we make a bumper sticker out of the NFL's players' union crossing a picket line to play under scabs and risk their knees and their brains in concussions and what not? There should be a bumper sticker in there some way that impacts Scott Walker and other Tea Party and Koch -- David and Charles Koch-funded people. And number two is related to this.
JEFFI haven't heard on NPR or other sources, really, very much about the horse race being unimportant, where Congress is so important to, hopefully, have a Democratic Congress, in my opinion. But somebody -- I mean, whatever president gets in there won't be able to do anything. Three National Labor Relations Board were appointed this morning, recess appointments or something like that. He can't fill any judges or anything -- get anything done with the Congress he's got.
NNAMDIWe'd like to hear Jennifer McClellan's thought on that. Delegate McClellan.
MCCLELLANWell, I'm not creative enough to come up with a bumper sticker. I'm sorry about that. But I think that you're absolutely right that the congressional races are just as important, and we're focusing on those in Virginia. I just read this morning that the 2nd House District race between Congressman Rigell and Paul Hirschbiel is a toss-up. So we're definitely focused on those as well. I think you'll see that across the country and would love to have Democrats take control of the Senate -- of the House and keep control of the Senate.
NNAMDIThank you very much for your call, Jeff. Tom.
SHERWOODWell, I just wonder if the horse race -- and the people always like to say the horse race is not that important. You know, there's the big policy issues, but you know, the horse races are what -- in the races that you can discuss the policy issues, people are going to have a way of disparaging politics when, in fact, you have to win. I mean, the history of American politics going back to its founding has been rough and tumble.
SHERWOODIt's just maybe now with Twitter and all the other social media, it's more incessant. It just never seems to stop. But it's not like we have -- there was ever a period back in the '50s, '40s, '30s, '20s, '10s, 1800s when politics wasn't tough.
MCCLELLANI mean, if you read some of the accounts of, you know, things that they call, you know, Andrew Jackson's wife and things that they said and, you know, Thomas Jefferson's election, between him and John Adams, it's always been really ugly. But, like you said, back then it was a few people that heard it. Now, it's instantaneously viral on the Internet.
SHERWOODI wonder if Jefferson would've been able to tweet in his (word?) language.
NNAMDIWell, you got Marion Barry to tweet. You might've been able to get Jefferson to tweet.
NNAMDIRunning out of time, but it's my understanding that Virginia is in the process of looking at proposals for a monument to honor women in Richmond.
NNAMDIYou sat on the Civil Rights Memorial Commission. What do you think should be the focus of those planning the women's monument in Virginia?
MCCLELLANWell, you know, I think it's very tough to point to one moment in 400 years of women in Virginia. But I -- if it was me, I'd focus on the suffrage movement or women getting the right to vote because I think that really turned the tide for women's rights in Virginia. You know, we were lucky on the Civil Rights Memorial that we had a shorter window of time to look at, and everybody agreed that you have to have Oliver Hill somehow depicted on that monument.
MCCLELLANAnd once we decided we want to focus on the Brown v. Board and integration of schools and we looked at the story of Barbara Johns leading a walkout at Moton school to protest their conditions, and we thought, here's a 16-year-old girl who kind of made a huge impact. And we want this monument to be alive to children and individuals today. It was a lot easier for us. I think it's hard to point to one moment for women. But, again, I think women getting the right to vote sort of started us being equal citizens. And I think I would focus more on that.
NNAMDIJennifer McClellan is a member of the Virginia House of Delegates. She's a Democrat. Her district includes parts of Richmond and Henrico County. She's also the vice chair of the House Democratic caucus in the House of Delegates and a member of the Legislative Black Caucus. You should know we'd prefer our guest to be thoughtless. That way, they can say things that actually make the news.
SHERWOODRight. We need some news, you know?
MCCLELLANWell, you know...
SHERWOODIf everyone gets along, we'll go out of business.
MCCLELLANMy parents worked at a university. So there's a lot of thinking going on in our family.
NNAMDIAnd exactly what do you do at Verizon?
MCCLELLANI do state legal affairs.
NNAMDIYou are a vice president at Verizon?
SHERWOODState legal affairs. Is that lobbying?
NNAMDIOh, I mean, what's the title?
MCCLELLANNo, it's -- I'm an assistant general counsel, and I give legal advice on different state laws and regulations that impact the company and...
SHERWOODI'm glad we didn't talk about that.
NNAMDIDelegate McClellan, thank you so much for much joining us.
MCCLELLANThank you. Thank you.
NNAMDIHope to see you again. You're listening to The Politics Hour with Tom Sherwood. He is our resident analyst. He is an NBC 4 reporter and a columnist for The Current Newspapers. Tom, you wrote in your current column this week about what's going on at the University of the District of Columbia. Apparently there's dissatisfaction both with the college and with the community college.
SHERWOODYes. The -- there was a panel, an advisory panel that put out a big report, and I referred to it in my column. The -- they said that the -- not only is the community college -- does not need to be part of and shouldn't be part of University of the District, that it should be independent and separate so that it can build its own base with the type -- and to provide the jobs and education that people need. But the University of the District itself has languished and has lost students.
SHERWOODIt's -- the money continues to be spent by the tens of millions. And the back -- the next big event is on Monday, the board of regents or directors -- whatever they call them at the University of the District -- is to issue its own report about how it thinks the University of the District can be restructured and to move forward. It has less than -- fewer than 5,000 students.
SHERWOODIt has a 60 -- nearly $100 million budget. Things are just in quite a bit of a mess, and this education panel said, look, we need an independent community college, be more responsive to -- providing for the jobs people need and for education basis, for people to go on to four-year institutions, and UDC needs to find out what's its future if there is one.
NNAMDIAnd you mentioned the significance, in your view, of the fact that no UDC administrators were presented in this news conference.
SHERWOODThat and that the president, Allen Sessoms' name was not even mentioned until I asked after almost 40 minutes. No -- I said no one has complimented the president for cooperating with this task force. No one said anything about what he's doing or plans to do. And the mayor mentioned his name once only after I kind of browbeat him over it. And there are people who are saying that when this contract is up next spring, it may not be renewed.
NNAMDISpeaking of names, I mentioned the name Clinton Yates earlier as editor of the Express of The Washington Post. He is the editor of the local section of the paper. The executive editor of The Washington Post Express is Dan Caccavaro. Did I pronounce his name correctly?
SHERWOODNo, but I was just thinking that's the third correction in this show. I mean, we're going to have a record here.
NNAMDIWell, I got somebody filling in for me next week. Hopefully, he'll be able to get everything right next week when...
SHERWOODWell, I'm -- it'll be good. I'm sure it'll be a fine show, and I hope everyone tunes in.
NNAMDII will not be here next week because I have to attend the funeral of my friend, Henry Champ...
SHERWOODWell, that's a great...
NNAMDI...longtime correspondent for NBC and the Canadian Broadcasting Company. He passed this week, and...
SHERWOODAnd a delightful person, even though he was a friend of Mark Plotkin's.
NNAMDIYes. This is true. Henry Champ was a...
SHERWOODAnd Mark is not speaking at the services.
NNAMDI...a delightful person. Well, if I'm the emcee, I'll do my best to prevent him from speaking.
SHERWOODHenry Champ -- actually, it probably will be a fitting thing to have Mark speak.
NNAMDIWhy was former D.C. Council Chairman Kwame Brooks (sic) in -- back in court this week?
NNAMDIKwame Brown. Five errors this week.
SHERWOODKwame Brown has been on release. He's pled guilty to a crime. He's going to be sentenced. And part of that being on release is you have to get permission when you travel, and you have to get -- you have to check in. I don't know if it's weekly, but on a regular basis. And my sources tell me that he has failed three times to check in when he was supposed to, and so he's going before the judge on Oct. 9, I guess, to apologize or to say he won't do it anymore.
SHERWOODBut, you know, it's not good, when you're awaiting sentence, for a judge, and he puts you out on the street for you then not to follow his orders to the T. So it's a question -- it shows that you're not contrite about your pleading guilty and that you want to do better, and it insults the judge if you don't follow his or her instructions. So this will be a slap-on-the-wrist type of meeting in the court for Kwame Brown.
NNAMDIThat is a perfect way of introducing our next guest. Angela Alsobrooks is Maryland State's attorney for Prince George's County. She is a Democrat. Angela Alsobrooks, thank you for joining us.
MS. ANGELA ALSOBROOKSThank you for having me.
NNAMDITom Sherwood is our resident analyst. He's an NBC4 reporter and a columnist for The Current Newspapers and today the official keeper of errors of the host. Angela Alsobrooks, about a year ago...
ALSOBROOKSOh, my goodness.
SHERWOODFortunately, you're not playing for the Nats. You wouldn't be in this playoff situation.
NNAMDIYou should have been one of the temporary replacement referees. About a year ago, a student at Bowie State died after an alleged scuffle with her roommate over an iPod. It is my understanding that you were so shaken by that case that you organized a Sisterhood Summit to take place next week that will focus on issues young women face, and violence. What was it about that crime that stuck with you, and what are you aiming to accomplish by holding this event?
ALSOBROOKSYou know, you're right. That -- I was -- I'm always devastated to watch our young people hurt each other. But in this particular case, we had two young women who had so much promise. Both were straight-A students. They were their mothers' only children. And it just really, I think, not only shook me, but I believe it was felt throughout our community that these young women found themselves in a predicament where, no matter how it's resolved -- and the legal matters will be resolved Nov. 13 -- but one is dead, and the other one is currently incarcerated.
ALSOBROOKSAnd, for me, this was a devastating result and thought that I couldn't stand by and watch our young women harm each other -- young men, either -- but thought we had an opportunity to really try to look at the underlying issues for the incivility that I've been seeing and the violence. Women have been victims of violence for a long time. We're watching them now be perpetrators of violence against each other, and I think it's time for us to save our children, daughters and sons alike.
NNAMDIAccording to crime statistics from the FBI, the number of assault cases among girls in the United States rose 24 percent while the number among boys declined 4.1 percent from 1996 to 2005. What patterns have you been noticing in the cases that come in front of you that involve young women or teens in violent behavior?
ALSOBROOKSThe violence, really, is escalating. We had another case, Tamara Jackson, where a young woman threw acid in the face of another woman and her 3-year-old child. And so the kind of violence we're seeing as well is extremely disturbing. I've not only seen it in the courthouse, but had an opportunity to speak as well with several administrators from the school system who have said to me quite plainly, we can control, in many cases, the young boys, but we cannot control the young women in our system. And this is a major problem.
SHERWOODWhy is this -- why are women acting out, young women acting out? This -- what -- is it just the culture, the coarseness of the culture? What?
ALSOBROOKSThat's part of what we want to learn. I think that many of us believe that it is. There are, I think, multiple reasons. One is we are -- our children are growing up in a culture of violence where we celebrate incivility and celebrate violence. Many of -- I've heard so many people talk about the "Housewives" show, for example.
NNAMDIThe coarsening of the culture.
ALSOBROOKSCoarsening of the culture is, I think, a major issue. And then some of it is the experience of young women and young men who have parents, for example, who have been victims of violence, who have observed violence in their household. And they repeat what they see. So it's modeling, what we model for our children. The incivility doesn't start with the children. It, many times, starts with their households.
ALSOBROOKSI have principals, again, who tell me that their parents are showing up, and they beat up teachers and curse out principals. And so when we are tolerating that sort of incivility, then there's no wonder that some of it has to come out in our children as well.
NNAMDIOf course, there are two particularly disturbing ongoing stories in Prince George's County right now involving high school students who are murdered with no suspects yet identified. One, Amber Stanley, was murdered in her home. Marckel Ross was shot on Sept. 11 on the way to school. Any updates about those cases at all?
ALSOBROOKSYou know, I know that Chief Magaw, our chief of police, interviewed this week, and I know that they are working diligently along with the FBI. I believe we're definitely going to have updates in those cases very soon. I fully expect that the police will resolve those cases. In fact, I have complete confidence that they will bring the individuals to justice who committed both of those crimes. And our police department, if you give me a second to say, is second to none. I know they're going to resolve those cases, and we're going to prosecute them as soon as they bring them to justice.
NNAMDIAngela Alsobrooks is Maryland State's attorney for Prince George's County. She joins us in studio. If you have comments or questions for her, call her -- call us at 800-433-8850. You can send email to firstname.lastname@example.org, send us a tweet, @kojoshow, or simply go to our website, kojoshow.org, and join the conversation there. Tom?
SHERWOODI've -- I'm trying to be more hopeful. I've heard so much about bullying, and I'm thinking, well, I remember as a child, being an older person, that there's always some bullying going on. Why are parents, as you just described them, coming in and physically assaulting and screaming at teachers? I mean, if you -- if a child learns, that's one thing, but what are these adults doing? I mean, were you -- is it really that bad, that we have a couple of generations now of people who have lost ability to conduct themselves socially?
ALSOBROOKSYou know, I think, unfortunately, many of our parents haven't learned the skill of conflict resolution, and it's difficult to teach it if you have not learned it. And so I think many of our parents lack the basic skills. And I know that somebody will call and say bad things about me for saying that, but we need to support our parents as well.
ALSOBROOKSWe have, in many instances, younger parents raising children, and some of them, I think, struggle with the same issues that their children struggle with. And so we, at this summit, for example, have a different track for parents. We're offering seminars on raising healthy teenagers.
SHERWOODWhen is this going to be?
ALSOBROOKSThis is tomorrow.
ALSOBROOKSYes, it's tomorrow at Prince George's Community College at eight o'clock in the morning. And the interest has been so great that we are at capacity for this particular summit, but we will be hosting another summit. One will be for our sons, our children, our boys, and we'll have one as well for 18- to 25-year-old men.
SHERWOODIs there a concern that the people who come to the summit are the people who already agree and know that something needs to be done? I mean…
NNAMDIPreaching to the choir?
SHERWOODYes. Why not have it in the late afternoon or evening so the -- some of the -- other people might come who won't come at 8 o'clock in the morning?
ALSOBROOKSYou know, I think we will see a mixture. We have Judge Dawson, for example, at the courthouse who I know has instructed many of the young women who have been in juvenile court to come. We have several other organizations, mentoring organizations who we hope will bring the type of women that we want to communicate with. But the truth is that all of our children, I believe, need this sort of advice and information because you can't tell by looking at the young women that they are in need.
ALSOBROOKSI think that's what the case at Bowie State University demonstrates for us, is because you are college-educated or straight-A student doesn't mean that you don't need the support that we're going to offer through resources. We have over 30 vendors to borrow.
SHERWOODWill this be, in any way, online for people to watch any of it online as it happens or there's a website for any of these?
ALSOBROOKSIt will not be online, although I know CTV, I believe, will be filming part of it tomorrow. We want to encourage as well parents. We'd like to say we're at capacity, but we have over 30 resource vendors. We want to invite them to come out tomorrow to take advantage of the resource vendors who will be present to offer mentoring services and health care services and such for (unintelligible).
NNAMDIAnd your keynote speaker is Judge Hatchett.
NNAMDITom doesn't know who she is. Tell Tom who Judge Hatchett is.
ALSOBROOKSOh, wow, what a treat they are all in for tomorrow. Judge Hatchett is coming here from Atlanta, Ga. And I should tell you, she had to change her plans. She said this was urgent enough for her to fly in and fly right back out. But she is recognized as an authority on juvenile justice and social issues, and she is going to be phenomenal. So the young women and their mothers...
SHERWOODIs she a juvenile court judge?
ALSOBROOKSShe has presided over juvenile court.
NNAMDIBut she is now star of the nationally syndicated television show "Judge Hatchett." She is Judge Glenda Hatchett.
ALSOBROOKSJudge Glenda Hatchett. Yes.
SHERWOODI have to admit, I do not know her, but she's from Atlanta.
NNAMDIHe doesn't watch a lot of reality television.
SHERWOODShe's got to be -- if she's from Atlanta, she's got to be good 'cause that's where I'm from.
ALSOBROOKSOh, she is good. Let me tell you, she is phenomenal, so we are very fortunate that she agreed to come. Tracee Wilkins will be there doing a surviving the lows of high school. She is excellent as well, and we have a number of other facilitators. The FBI sent an agent to conduct a seminar on conflict resolution. We have professors and such, so we're going to have a wonderful time.
NNAMDIOnto the telephones, here is Amir in Bethesda, Md. Amir, you're on the air. Go ahead, please.
AMIRHow's it going, Kojo?
NNAMDIYes. Go right ahead.
AMIRYes. So the comments that were made earlier about, I guess, coursing over society or celebration of violence and the things that need dramatic shift, I couldn't agree less. Let's be honest, you know, our culture is inherently violent. We're taught to celebrate a revolution to -- that brought about the democracy of our country and our nation. And our high schoolers are taught to celebrate and are respected for the blood sports they engage in in high school.
NNAMDINow, what do you think, therefore, accounts for the increase in violence being perpetrated by girls and women?
AMIRBy girls and women?
AMIRWell, you know, the broadening of the -- or not the broadening, the closing of the gender gap. And to be completely honest, I can't really imagine that women are getting less violent. It's probably just a matter of it being reported more, just like our society is...
NNAMDIDo you think it's a matter of things simply being reported more, Angela Alsobrooks?
ALSOBROOKSI think some of it's reported, and some of it is just sensational. I think we are unaccustomed to watching women throw acid on each other and unaccustomed to seeing honor students stab each other. So I think some of it is also the kind of violence we're seeing. And I think social media helps us to be able to be more aware, so I think some of it is also just awareness.
NNAMDIWell, our caller seems to think this should just be expected, that women are just catching up, so to speak.
ALSOBROOKSNo, we disagree. We disagree.
SHERWOODYou know, I had to say, I just saw a bus go past me the other day, and it's an ad for the roller derby, the women's roller derby. That's pretty violent.
NNAMDISorry you should bring that up. We're planning on doing a show about that at some point.
NNAMDIYes, on the women's roller derby. And it's coming back to popularity again. Why...
SHERWOODYes, it is.
NNAMDI...and why we are -- we've been talking about that.
NNAMDIGo right ahead, please.
ALSOBROOKS...I'd like to make the point, too, that it's not just our young women. As I say, we're concerned about the young men as well, and it's just our children are exposed in general to this violence. And we're seeing it just play itself out. They are at war with each other, is how it feels from watching of it.
SHERWOODSome people might say, well, we just need to be tougher on the punishment, that there needs to be a certainty that if you are violent that you can stop -- I would say stop coddling people who are violent and make them suffer penalties. You're a prosecutor.
ALSOBROOKSI agree with that, too. I agree with that. You know, I think we must do both is my philosophy, is that we must be firm and prosecuting individuals who commit acts of violence. We will not tolerate it. But at the same time, the smartest strategy we have is prevention. So prosecuting alone isn't adequate. We must prevent and intervene and prosecute once the action has occurred or the act has occurred.
NNAMDIPeople across the country were shaken up the movie theater shooting this summer in Colorado. And Marylanders were given a scare a few weeks later when a Crofton man threatened to carry out a shooting in his office, calling himself a Joker. You've said it's time for stricter gun laws for people with mental health issues. You've also called tougher laws against making threats. It's my understanding that you want to lobby the legislature next year for tougher laws against making threats. What, in your view, is the model of what that kind of law would look like?
ALSOBROOKSI think it ought to be a crime to communicate a threat. I think Washington, D.C. has that legislation that a generalized threat should be a crime. You should not be allowed to call in to your workplace and threaten to blow up the building, for example. But that is not, as it stands, a crime.
SHERWOODThat's not a crime?
ALSOBROOKSIt is not a crime. It is a crime to use telephone facilities, but if you text message or email, we don't have a law that specifically deals with that sort of threat on the books. And so we have to change that, and we will, in fact, be lobbying in Annapolis against that sort of conduct.
NNAMDIAnd what political will do you think there is for stricter gun laws in Maryland and, more specifically, in Prince George's County?
ALSOBROOKSWell, you know, I think that's a tougher issue, dealing with guns and individuals who have been identified with documented histories of mental illness. The governor has convened a task force. We are a part of that task force. We are studying the issue, and we will have recommendations in January. And after we receive those recommendations, we will make intelligent suggestions about that sort of legislation we think will be necessary to stop those crimes. We saw those last year.
ALSOBROOKSFar too many of them were individuals who were suffering from mental health disabilities, called the police, for example, and said, come kill me, I want to die. And when the police arrived at the home, they would come out shooting.
NNAMDISuicide by cop.
ALSOBROOKSSuicide by cop. And, you know, and so we've seen it over and over again, and we need to do something about it.
SHERWOODI don't know what the gun penalties are. Are there stiffer penalties for persons who use guns in the commission of crimes in Maryland?
ALSOBROOKSOh, absolutely. There is a mandatory that goes with that as well, that..
SHERWOODIs there a...
ALSOBROOKS...mandatory five without parole for individuals who used handguns in the commission of a crime.
SHERWOODIs there a concealed carry law in Maryland also?
ALSOBROOKSThere is. Exactly, that...
SHERWOOD'Cause the District, of course, is trying to adjust itself to all of these laws and has tried to ban handguns, and that was found out to be illegal from the Supreme Court.
ALSOBROOKSWe have stiffened our gun laws. We were in the legislature last year. Mayor Rawlings Blake from Baltimore was really wise enough to put forth a law that would not distinguish handguns from long guns from shotguns to make it illegal to use either in a commission of a crime of violence. And so we've been really working to stiffen the gun laws in Maryland not to relax them.
SHERWOODWell, we have to say in the District, I mean, there's been no demonstrable impact on the change in the gun laws here. People are now allowed to have them in their home and register them, so...
ALSOBROOKSAnd we're not against gun possession in general, but we don't want dangerous and violent individuals to have them. We do not want individuals who have documented mental health histories, not just for the sake of our community, but I regard it as cruel to those individuals. If you are a person who suffers from a mental health disorder, I believe that in -- out of care and concern for those individuals as well, we ought to be careful about allowing them to possess handguns.
NNAMDIWe're almost out of time, but a few months ago, your office indicted about half a dozen so-called illegal nightclubs in the county for breaking tax, alcohol and licensing laws. What broader concerns do you have about how nightlife in the county might be attracting criminal activity?
ALSOBROOKSWe are concerned about what we call...
NNAMDIParty pooper -- no, I'm sorry. Go ahead.
ALSOBROOKSWell, you're not alone in feeling that way about me.
NNAMDIGo ahead, please.
ALSOBROOKSAnd let me tell you, we don't mind because we are concerned about our quality of life. And many of these nightclubs, we have the spillage after the nightclubs end, and they wreak havoc on our neighborhoods. And so we have individuals who own businesses -- and we are pro-business, but we want you to pay your taxes. We want you to follow all of the licensing requirements.
ALSOBROOKSAnd we were able to cut nonviolent shootings in areas around these nightclubs by a substantial amount, up to 40 percent in the area where we closed the MSG nightclub on Central Avenue. After that club was closed, we saw a dramatic cut in crime and nonviolent shootings and other crimes, so it makes a big difference for our community.
SHERWOODWe only have 10 seconds left. Do you -- have you taken -- how about position on the gambling initiative? 'Cause some people are saying you bring in gambling more, you'll have more crime? Do you -- have you taken a position on whether we should have casinos in Maryland?
ALSOBROOKSNo. You know what, I think our...
SHERWOODAnd we have 10 seconds to answer.
ALSOBROOKSI think our county executive and the legislature and others will study that and do what is...
NNAMDIAngela Alsobrooks is Maryland State's attorney for Prince George's County. She is a Democrat. Thank you for joining us.
ALSOBROOKSThank you for having me.
NNAMDITom Sherwood is our resident analyst. He is an NBC 4 reporter and a columnist for The Current Newspapers. Always a pleasure.
SHERWOODSouthwest Arts Fest tomorrow and go Nets.
NNAMDIArlington Latino festival. Thank you all for listening. I'm Kojo Nnamdi.
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