Pulitzer Prize-winning critic Margo Jefferson joins Kojo to discuss her new memoir and explore how her experiences growing up in Chicago frame her perspectives about race and opportunity in the United States.
Superstorm “Sandy” jolts the region and its politics. And candidates in D.C., Maryland and Virginia sprint for the finish in the final week of the election. Join us for our weekly review of the politics, policies and personalities of the District of Columbia, Maryland and Virginia.
- Tom Sherwood Resident Analyst; NBC 4 reporter; and Columnist for the Current Newspapers
- David Grosso Independent Candidate, D.C. Council (At-Large)
- Mary Brooks-Beatty Republican Candidate, D.C. Council (At-Large)
- Michael Brown Member, D.C. Council (At-Large, Independent)
Politics Hour Videos
Kojo and resident analyst Tom Sherwood talked with a group of candidates competing for at-large seats on the D.C. Council. The guests included Republican candidate Mary Brooks-Beatty, independent candidate David Grosso and incumbent Michael Brown.
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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. Today, we will be talking with candidates for the at-large seats on the D.C. Council. We'll be talking with two candidates. There should have been three. We will explain why one will not be here today, but that's coming up shortly. First, Tom Sherwood, you have breaking news having to do with how I can drive the city streets.
MR. TOM SHERWOODYes. Within the speed limit, I hope.
NNAMDIRight. Depending on what the speed limit is.
SHERWOODWell, you know, there's been a lot of talk, a lot of irritation among some people, a lot of concern at least about high fines for this very -- the increasing number of speed cameras around the city. Mayor Gray announced this morning that he's not going to wait on the council. He's going to do -- take administrative action to do a couple of things. He's going to lower the fines for some of the people who speed under 25 miles per hour above the limit.
SHERWOODAnywhere from 10 to 25 miles over the limit, he says the fines will be more in the $50 to $75 range, not the...
NNAMDIAs opposed to the $250 and $150.
SHERWOODWell, the maximum $250. No. These are fines are generally in the $75 to $100 range. He's lowering them about $25 each. However, for people who speed over 25 miles per hour in any posted zone, he says the fine will not only be $250, it's going to go to $300 'cause he says that is a safety issue. And he wants to hit hard the people who are speeding faster than 25 miles per hour over whatever the limit is.
NNAMDIIn other words, if the posted limit is 25 miles per hour...
SHERWOODAnd you go 50...
NNAMDI...and you're doing more than 50 or more...
SHERWOODFifty or 51...
SHERWOOD...that will be a $300 fine, not a $250 fine.
SHERWOODSo he's lowering the fines on the low end of speeding and raising them on the high end of speeding. He says that he also -- these are important, too. He says the money -- there's a lot of complaints the city just does this to raise money. It just adds money to the revenue.
NNAMDII was about to bring that up. Yes.
SHERWOODAll right. Gouging the public. The mayor says he's going to dedicate some of these millions -- tens of millions of dollars in revenue to hire an additional 100 police officers on the streets to bring the total police force to 4,000, and he says working with DDOT and public safety issues, they're going to go around to the city where there had been substantial road improvements, like where medians have been put in major roadways, where there are four lanes or so.
SHERWOODThey're going to raise the speed limit from 25 or 30 to something five or 10 miles per -- mile -- 10 or -- I cannot say this -- five to 10 miles per hour higher so that you can go faster on these roads rather than have to go 25 or 30. But all these -- which roads, when are still being worked out.
NNAMDIBut when the mayor himself raised the issue of having to look at the budget to see whether or not it would be appropriate to adjust the fines, that even fueled the speculation that this has a lot to do with -- a lot more to do with money that the city makes than it has to do with controlling the speed of traffic. Of course, it could easily be both.
SHERWOODIt's at least both and there -- Councilmember Tommy Wells from Ward 6 who's working on his own legislation with Mary Cheh from Ward 3 to lower the fines says some of these fines are still too high. He thinks it is still to add revenue to the city coffers rather than do public safety. He praised the mayor for taking action. He just thinks it's not going to forestall any action by the council to take even further action.
NNAMDIWell, I for one appreciate the lower fines and do not plan driving more than 25 miles above the speed limit.
SHERWOODWell, we would like, you know, those of us who live in the city where are families and senior citizens who walk the streets and try to cross the streets would like for you to do the speed limit.
NNAMDISentencing comes up on Nov. 13 for former Council Chairman Kwame Brown, and the recommended sentence by the prosecutor is a sentence of six days spent in jail on weekends and three years of supervised release. The sentence that is being requested by Mr. Brown's attorneys is a sentence of two years of supervised release and 200 hours of community service.
SHERWOODWell, some people thought six days was a typo...
SHERWOOD...because it's so -- two days for three weekends, essentially.
SHERWOODBut I think the key thing you have to remember here the prosecutors making this recommendation as opposed to what they could impose by the judge and what they think should be imposed is that Kwame Brown has already paid a great price. He lost his job and his political career as chairman of the council. That's one thing. Secondly, his crime was not involving public moneys, unlike Harry Thomas who took 350 or so, $400,000 of money intended for youth sports and spent it on his own luxury items. Kwame Brown's personal life funding was screwed up, and that's where he violated the law.
NNAMDICan we say screwed up on the radio?
SHERWOODI think screwed up is appropriate.
NNAMDIOK. Go ahead.
SHERWOODI always think of a bottle cap, screwing a bottle on and off and anyway.
NNAMDIWell, that's not what I think of…
NNAMDI...but go ahead.
SHERWOODYou're the one sidetracking the conversation. So in any event, his crime was not a public crime in the sense of violating his oath of office. So they're saying this, all they want is just a slap on the wrist in terms of time in prison. So let's see what Judge Leon does on Nov. 13 when he sentences Kwame Brown.
NNAMDIThe prosecutor says Brown has already suffered plenty for his sins going from one of the most powerful elected officials in the city to an unemployed convicted felon.
SHERWOODNow, can I also say Kwame Brown wrote a letter to the judge, you know...
NNAMDIYes, I read it.
SHERWOOD...publicly again acknowledging how he feels terrible about this and this is something wrong. He takes full responsibility. There's -- there are still some people who meet with and see Kwame Brown in private who say he ought to be a little bit more careful what he says privately because he doesn't sound as remorseful in private as he does in public.
NNAMDILet me forward promote that we will be speaking with two candidates for the at-large seats on the D.C. Council -- David Grosso and Mary Brooks-Beatty. And if you have questions or comments for them, you can start calling now at 800-433-8850 or start sending email to firstname.lastname@example.org, a tweet, @kojoshow, or ask a question or make a comment at our website, kojoshow.org. Sandy, the storm, the aftermath, Tom Sherwood.
NNAMDIThe storm did not turn out to be as bad here as it was predicted. Obviously, it was a lot worse in places north and east, in New Jersey and New York, but, of course, here, it wasn't that bad. And many people's lights happened to stay on who, in previous storms in the now infamous derecho at the end of June, people lost a lot of power. That didn't happen in this situation. And so the mayor and other officials in the city seem to be handing out a lot of praise to Pepco, not so much loose lips, but what's your take on that?
SHERWOODWell, the difference is there was enough advanced warning for people to prepare. That's two things. One, there was advanced warning to prepare, and, two, the eye of the storm shifted ever so slightly north. The cone that came ashore brought us high winds, but we were on the south side of the storm which I'm told by the weather folks -- I don't know all this myself -- that we were on the softer side of the storm as opposed on the north side where the winds are the strongest and where the water was pushed.
SHERWOODSo, yes, we did dodge a bullet in many respects. The rain came over a longer period of time, so a neighborhood like Bloomingdale which floods when there's flash flood -- when there are flash rainstorms did not flood. We didn't lose power and those types of things, but it was an inconvenience. And the city and the region was ready for it which is a good thing, so people should not snicker at the government for being ready for something that didn't happen as bad as we thought it would.
NNAMDIAnd I see that you made it to Bloomingdale, but I noticed you didn't get as far as Ocean City. You don't have to pull these kinds of weather gigs now where you stand in the rain and wind in far away places.
SHERWOODI did that on I think it was Monday night. I was on the Southwest waterfront as someone, you know, unfairly...
NNAMDIThat's not Ocean City. You live two minutes away.
SHERWOOD...pointed out, I could have walked home because it was right around the corner of where I live.
SHERWOODBut I was there. The wind and the rain was in my face. I -- you know, I was leaning slightly into the wind so I'd look like I knew what I was doing, but, you know, I didn't do as much...
SHERWOOD...as some other reporters. We had people, you know, at the beaches and everywhere else from Channel 4.
SHERWOODAnd they went through a lot of suffering.
NNAMDINext time, make sure you send Tom Sherwood on one of those gigs, Mr. News director.
SHERWOODYou know, I am not the yellow slicker reporter.
NNAMDIWho's been sending D.C. voters all of these kind of weirdo texts? Mike DeBonis was talking about solicited anti-Obama text messages, and other reporters have been seeing them. And he tracked them down to the source but couldn't speak with the person who apparently runs the operation. What do you know about this?
SHERWOODWell, I know that the -- everyone thought that it was illegal to text like this, but, apparently, there's a little loophole in the law, the federal communications law, that you can send an email by text, and it's technically an email, not a text, so therefore it doesn't fall under the same restriction. Again, I'm not a lawyer or meteorologist, so I'm not going to get too deep in any of these subjects.
SHERWOODBut the texts are not, you know, they're not offensive. They are -- they're quite -- I mean, they're quite conservative. You might call them radically right about abortion and other matters involving the president, but they're not obscene.
NNAMDIWhat particular races will you be following in the elections come this Tuesday? I know that the Virginia Senate race -- that is apart from the race that we will be discussing shortly here which is a race to be followed closely. But the Virginia Senate race, Kaine versus Allen, is one, having been a former Virginia reporter yourself, I'm assuming you're looking at that closely.
SHERWOODWell, I think anybody in the region they'd look to see if in Virginia whether former Gov. Tim Kaine or former Gov. George Allen is going to carry that state and affect the balance of power in the Senate. So I think that's really important for Obama if he should win reelection or for Romney should he win. If it remains a Democratic Senate, that will change the course of politics in the nation.
NNAMDIMaryland ballot questions, which ones are you looking at most, same-sex marriage, congressional redistricting, DREAM Act and (unintelligible) ?
SHERWOODWell, I think same-sex marriage if it were to pass in Maryland, it may become the first state to pass it.
SHERWOODThere are a couple of chances and a couple of other states also in the ballot, but Maryland could be in the forefront of that if it were to pass. I think the DREAM Act, allow the children of illegal immigrants to have education in the state, is really important. It has gotten less attention partly because the opponents of that have just simply not mounted a campaign, or that is -- that the supporters are able to block it. They simply haven't mounted a campaign. And, of course, then gambling.
NNAMDII was about to say the fact that you carry a pair of dice in your pocket doesn't necessarily mean that you're watching that race, the casino gambling initiative.
SHERWOODWell, I think, you know, it's not gaming. It's gambling. People hate it when we call it gaming.
SHERWOODIt's like a sofa, instead of a...
SHERWOODBut in any event, it's gambling. And whether or not it passes, it looks like it may not pass. I mean, a lot of people are who -- there are a lot of ads out for this to -- on both sides. And there is some concern of -- by the people who are for it that it won't pass. And Prince George's County thinks it's a real big economic development issue for that county. So I will be watching that very carefully, not because I gamble. I'll go -- just for everyone to know, once every year or so, I go to Atlantic City. It's not like I'm on some computer program eight hours a day.
NNAMDIYes. And I'm sorry if I gave you that impression.
SHERWOODAs you do every time we mention gambling.
NNAMDIHe carries dice around in his pocket. Did I mention that before? In D.C., the race we're about to discuss, the at-large race, we want to follow closely, Ward 7, even though most of the incumbents here are likely to win, Ward 7, is that interesting because just Ron Moten is in it, and he tends to attract attention?
SHERWOODWell, Ron Moten, who is a Johnny Come Lately...
NNAMDIWho's a Republican candidate, yes.
SHERWOOD...Republican, you know, the Peaceoholics founder, very close to the Fenty administration. What? Chase after mayor -- or Vincent Gray when he was running for mayor around, you know, bull horning him and everything else. He decided he would run against Yvette Alexander by being a Republican. He won't say -- I don't think he said he was voting for the Republican candidate.
NNAMDIHe says he's a Frederick Douglas Republican.
SHERWOODFrederick Douglas Republican. He's a little bit late historically for that.
SHERWOODBut, you know, The Washington Post endorsed Ron Moten, which I thought was pretty interesting, because they thought Yvette Alexander, The Post said, is kind of a so-so councilmember.
NNAMDITom Sherwood, he is our resident analyst. He's an NBC 4 reporter and a columnist for The Current Newspapers, who does not carry a pair of dice in his pocket. I keep lying about that. I should...
SHERWOODI do have a 666 dog tag that I carry.
NNAMDIOn to the business at hand. Joining us in studio is Mary Brooks-Beatty. She is a Republican candidate for the D.C. Council running for an at-large seat. Mary Brooks-Beatty, welcome. Thank you so much for joining us.
MS. MARY BROOKS-BEATTYThank you. Glad to be here.
NNAMDIAlso with is us is David Grosso. He is an independent candidate for the D.C. Council running for an at-large seat. David Grosso, welcome. Good to have you.
MR. DAVID GROSSOThank you. Thank you, Kojo and Tom.
NNAMDIMichael Brown, the incumbent at-large member of the D.C. Council who's running to retain his independent seat, was not able to join today's program in the studio. A hearing of the council's Government Operations Committee is taking place today in the Wilson Building, where they'll be examining legislation that he has written that would set up a task force to study public financing of D.C. campaigns.
NNAMDIThat hearing notice has been on the council's schedule on its website since Oct. 16, the same day Mr. Brown's campaign agreed to participate in this forum, an oversight that he apologized for. He offered to participate in today's broadcast by phone, an offer we have declined out of fairness to the other candidates who have made the trip to join us in studio. And, of course, Tom Sherwood, Michael A. Brown is a personable individual.
NNAMDIBut it is his personal financial problems that have drawn attention in this campaign and great deal of time in debates in which you moderated and participated in the past was spent dealing with his personal problems. So by not being here today, he avoids, I guess, having to defend himself on that issue, even though he did say that he was willing to join us by telephone.
SHERWOODWhat the councilmember has said, he told me in an interview when I talked to him on the phone about not showing up today that, you know, he thinks he's gotten a raw deal from the media, particularly The Washington Post. You know, I said to him, well, you know, if you don't come on this program because you have a late-breaking committee assignment that you've known about for a couple of weeks, it just looks funny. It just looks like you're not in control. And one of the big issues against him has been that his personal life in terms of his paying taxes on time, paying his rent, all these other things.
SHERWOODYou know, as I've said and tweeted or put on Facebook again today in response to somebody, you know, if Michael Brown is so careless with his personal finances, what would you think he'll do with your public money? And -- but there's been no allegation of wrongdoing about his public duties. So it's just a very bad thing in the final days of an election.
SHERWOODA forum that was long scheduled on WAMU, which reaches so many voters, so many citizens, for him not to be here is unfortunate. And the reason he gave -- while it's a real one, there is a committee meeting, it's not a last-minute breaking thing and it should've been treated that way.
NNAMDIIf you have questions or comments for David Grosso or Mary Brooks-Beatty, call us at 800-433-8850. This time, Tom, if you don't mind, I'll start the questioning.
SHERWOODWell, I might question that, but go ahead.
NNAMDIHe minds. Who cares?
NNAMDIDuring the past year, two members of the council that both of you would like to be a part of have pled guilty to federal crimes. More council members are under federal investigation, as is the mayor. What steps do you take -- do you think that the council needs to take to restore trust and accountability in D.C. government? I'm going to ask you both to keep your answers as brief as possible 'cause the person who speaks the longest doesn't necessarily win the debate. But first, you, Mary Brooks-Beatty.
BROOKS-BEATTYWell, I think it's -- it is two factors. You need to change the people. You know, you have to look at the people who are on the council and look at their character. So I think that's one of the first things. The voters need to do that. But then beyond that, I think there are a lot of things you can do with process, you know, I think both on campaign finance reform and on contracting reform.
BROOKS-BEATTYThere is, you know, I think you could get to the whole issue of the pay-to-play culture that we have right now through contracting reform. So I've been saying this for, you know, really since the primary that that would be one of the first things that I would do, is to look at the involvement of the council members within contracting and also look at the, you know, basically just overhaul the entire contracting process because it's not very efficient as we -- as the process works right now.
GROSSOThanks, Kojo. You know, the District of Columbia is really at a crossroads right now. And I think we have a decision to make on how we want to move forward and what path we want to take. We've had issues, like you mentioned, ethical lapses on the council and in the government in general. And really, as we move forward, to try to take advantage of the opportunities we have in D.C., what we need to do is figure out what type of person we're going to put on the council and really get the entire community engaged.
GROSSOAnd I think that's the core of the issue here. For too long, the special interest and the corporations have been the ones that have dictated what's happened in the District of Columbia when it comes to politics, and it's time for the people in the District of Columbia to step up and be a part of that process and be engaged. And that's what I've tried to do in my campaign. I try to pull people in that don't normally get engaged in these issues.
GROSSOAnd it's remarkable how many people have done that, have agreed to be a part of the process. You know, we're still a fairly young government. We're still developing and maturing, and I think this is part of the process. And so once we get past this and choose the right path, I think you'll see, I think, vast improvements on the council and our credibility will continue to rise.
NNAMDII should've mentioned that at the end of the broadcast, each of you will have a minute to make a final statement. Tom Sherwood.
BROOKS-BEATTYAnd can we talk to one another? I mean, can we ask each other questions about...
NNAMDIYou certainly can ask each other questions.
BROOKS-BEATTY…because I'd like to know really on that response -- that's kind of a very generic kind of, you know, feel-good answer. But what would you do on the council? What part of the process would you change? How would you impact it?
GROSSOI think that's great. You know, in August, I published an ethics paper to try to lay out what my thoughts are and what my plans are in this regard. And there's three parts of it that, I think, are really important here. You know, first, I think we do need to look closely at the, you know, council approval of contracts over $1 million. It was put there for a reason, and perhaps that reason's time has come. And we need to re-evaluate and remove that from the process. The second thing that I've campaigned on and talked a lot about is looking at open primaries.
GROSSOYou know, in the District of Columbia, it was discussed when we were first founded, you know, first given home room. The question is now whether or not we're willing to step up and elect people based on the issues and less on the parties. You know, and finally, you know, I think council members need to figure out how they're going to be engaged in the council full time. You know, this is an opportunity for us to all commit a certain period of our lives to working full time on the council. And I think there's real value in that. So I've committed to doing that.
SHERWOODLet me just go to one -- I don't want to get too deep in the weeds on this, but I think it's important. There has been this discussion that the council really doesn't need to be messing around with million contracts and reviewing them and injecting maybe politics to $1 million contracts. This was begun in the early '90s when John Wilson, the council chairman, was concerned that Sharon Pratt Kelly didn't know what she was doing with city money. And he thought that the council should have -- at least that was his public view, that they ought to look at these contracts.
SHERWOODBut what no one on the council has ever done is get into the weeds. Some people who were actually convicted of wrongdoing said, Tom, the problem is with the subcontracting, getting -- when somebody gets a big contract, where is the money going? He says, no one looks at the subcontracting. Rather than eliminating council review of these, why not make it -- disclose it on the Web somewhere, not only the contract, but every subcontractor and the principal owners of those subcontractors. So everyone can see in a public forum who's getting what, when and where.
GROSSOThat's a great point, Tom. You know, and the reality is, is that the more transparency we have in our entire budgeting process is really important. And that's, I think, one of the ways that we've lost credibility on the council, you know, and in the government. You know, the budget is given -- you know, when I was up there on the staff of Councilmember Ambrose, the budget was given in a book.
GROSSOAnd, you know, and you had to, you know, go through that whole long book to figure out what was going on. My last year there, it came in a CD, which had a PDF on it, which you couldn't search. You know, really to get to the bottom and the core of this -- and contracting is a great example. Where is the money going? How's it being spent? You know, where, you know, where is it all being allocated?
SHERWOODWho's getting it?
GROSSOWho's getting it?
SHERWOODLet me ask Mary Brooks-Beatty about this. What in your -- 'cause a lot of people don't know you. I think one of the issues both of you have in this campaign is people don't really know you as well as they -- maybe they could decide to vote for you. But, Mary Brooks-Beatty, we have an $11 billion government. What in your background says that you can handle the high finance, the contracting, the bureaucracy issues and the tax policy issues that have to be handled in order to handle an $11 billion budget? What in your background?
BROOKS-BEATTYWell, my background is all in policy, and it's all in legislation. And...
SHERWOODWhat type of policy?
BROOKS-BEATTYIt's been everything from energy legislation to working on, you know, things like eminent domain, air quality. So a lot of the...
SHERWOODLobbyists? I mean, what...
BROOKS-BEATTYIn government relations, yeah. So...
SHERWOODLobby. You can say the word lobby.
BROOKS-BEATTYWell, but also working on policy, for instance, as an executive director of a policy organization.
BROOKS-BEATTYAnd -- National Environmental Policy Institute, executive director, also president of Women in Government, which is a group of female state legislators, so within the Women in Government, that was every issue you could possibly imagine of everything from women's health to transportation, so forth and so on. So, you know, what we did was to bring resources for that legislation.
BROOKS-BEATTYBut also, I worked really collaboratively throughout my career. Everything I've done is about, you know, in fact, one of my greatest heroes is Henry Clay, the great compromiser, because I really do feel like that's what government's all about. It's about making hard decisions. And it's about coming up with a solution that satisfies the problem. And, you know, basically, you have to choose winners and losers. So there's a lot of hard decisions.
SHERWOODCan I ask David just -- you worked for a councilmember for a while, and you've been working in the health care field as what -- are you a lobbyist with the health care field? Tell people what that is.
GROSSOI actually am the vice president for public policy of CareFirst, Blue Cross, Blue Shield. I have -- I'm not a lobbyist. I actually am the person behind the scenes that does the studies and, you know, thinks through the issues and work a lot on President Obama's Affordable Care Act and how to implement that.
SHERWOODOK, and then -- but on the council, you work for the former Ward 6 councilmember.
SHERWOODYou dealt with the city's budget although it's a lot smaller then.
GROSSOOh, big time. Yeah. Well, it was a lot smaller which is...
SHERWOODSomewhere like five or six.
GROSSO...interesting how it grows and grows. You know, I worked for Sharon Ambrose, who's the chair of my campaign today. I worked for her for six years right after law school. But I also then, you know, during that time was a different council. We had Ms. Cropp as the chair of the council, Tony Williams was the mayor. I think we worked in a way that really was moving our city forward and creating great vision.
GROSSOI should note also that I also worked with Congresswoman Norton for two years as her chief council where I was, again, you know, if you want to talk about getting stuff done, there is an example of somebody who knows how to do it in a way that is kind of unlike anyone else without a vote on the Hill and being able to continue to be the most effective, you know, one of the top 20 most effective members of Congress.
NNAMDITrying to juggle several balls here at the same time, so, please, don your headphones because you mentioned that you worked for Councilmember Sharon Ambrose. And our first caller, Carl, has a question about that time of your life, so to speak. Carl, you're on the air. Go ahead, please.
CARLHi. Ms. Ambrose sponsored the gross budget act a number of years ago which required that the city federal grant funds be budgeted the same way as appropriated except it wouldn't go to Congress. It was singed into law but has never been enforced. And as a result, the council only looks at a portion of the city spending, not all of it as she intended. I wonder what position he would take on that.
NNAMDIWhat position David Grosso would take on that?
GROSSOYou know, I couldn't agree with you more. I don't exactly remember that particularly law. But I think it makes sense for the council to be able to look at the whole thing and all of the budget money. And again, this goes back to the point I made earlier, Tom, you know, about making sure that the budget is more transparent, that it's online. Right now, it's still in this PDF format, and really, you can't take advantage of all the opportunities that we have to, you know, streamline it, make it more effective and more efficient.
SHERWOODAnd the federal fund simply -- we just don't see where the money goes. We just don't see it.
GROSSOExactly and you got to see it.
SHERWOODCarl, thank you very much for your call. Our guests are David Grosso -- he's an Independent candidate for the D.C. council running for at-large seats -- and Mary Brooks-Beatty, Republican candidate for the D.C. council running for an at-large seat. Councilmember Michael A. Brown could not make it here today. He says he has his -- a priority of a hearing involving a bill he is involved in on the council. But you can call us at 800-433-8850.
NNAMDIMary Brooks-Beatty, I'd like to follow up on a couple of things from you. First, David Grosso indicated that he is for open primaries. Are you also for open elections that no partisan primaries in the District?
BROOKS-BEATTYI would be in favor of non-partisan offices on the council.
NNAMDINon-partisan offices, period.
SHERWOODI'm sorry. Is that a yes? I mean, you agree with Kojo that the elections would not be based on partying? You wouldn't have Republican primaries.
BROOKS-BEATTYLobby based on party. Right.
SHERWOODOK then. Just -- OK.
NNAMDIAnd, David Grosso, I wanted to follow up on that in a slightly different way with you. Last week, I said tongue and cheek that if anybody loses in this at-large race, if there is another one come next spring to replace Council Chairman Phil Mendelson, if indeed he wins that position then it would be quite easy for people who did not win this election to switch their affiliation to Democratic so they could be in that primary to run in an at-large seat. Is that something you would consider doing if you lost? Not that you'll lose this one.
GROSSOYeah. I mean, I would have to say first and foremost that there's only one real big rule in my campaign, you're not allowed to talk about anything but this campaign. I'm going to adhere to that rule. We have absolute every expectation that we're going to win this race. But I will say on one note that -- and I think it's important to explain this. I'm running as an independent because I believe that's where I line up. And so...
NNAMDIBut you've worked for two Democrats.
GROSSOI've worked for two Democrats. I've been to different party before that. But I think the whole world is shifting, and that's why I think an open primary is an important thing in the District. But, you know, if I were to run again down the road, I'll run as an Independent. I think that's who I am. That's why I chose to run that way the very first time that I that ran because it allows me opportunity to represent everybody, the independents, the Democrats and the Republicans.
NNAMDIAnd, Mary Brooks-Beatty, you weighed in on contracts. How do you feel about constituent service funds? Do you think the council should eliminate them or keep them?
BROOKS-BEATTYEliminate them. Definitely. I've been, you know, and actually I testified to that in the Ethics Committee when we are at the ethics...
GROSSOCan I make a note on that? Because we had constituent services funds when I was working on the council and it was an important aspect 'cause you -- there are people that need help. You can't just ignore the fact that people need help with funeral payments, with sometimes paying their electric bill and stuff like that. What we had is LIHEAP money back then. If you remember...
GROSSOThe LIHEAP money.
SHERWOODYou have to tell people what LIHEAP is.
GROSSOWell, I'd let you know. It's the federal...
SHERWOODOnce you start heaping laws on us, we have to have something else here.
GROSSOIt's the federal -- it's federal funding to help people pay their utility bills, basically. And it comes to various jurisdiction based on need. That money, though, was done through the executive branch. And if the council members had somebody that needed some money, they would call the executive branch, work with them to make sure they got that. There are better checks and balances that can be done with this kind of money than what's going to happen in the past. I certainly don't support it being used on baseball tickets.
BROOKS-BEATTYWell, you know what, and also one of the recommendations that I made during the committee hearing was that if you needed constituent services funds, they still don't need to go directly to an individual council member. You could have constituent services funds that are, you know, basically controlled by the council if there are real needs.
SHERWOODWho would it pass the money out?
BROOKS-BEATTYSo it would be the same thing that we do on the ANC, we take a vote on them. I mean, we basically have one pot money, and we decide where that money is going to be distributed.
SHERWOODWell, you know, the...
NNAMDIThey vote against mine. I'll vote against yours. But go ahead.
SHERWOODThat constituent service fund, I think, was raised to $80,000. It used to be 40,000. There are legitimate ways the money can be used and that would argue even maybe in sports tickets if the tickets are given to youth groups and things like that as opposed to friends. But I just think the constituent service fund thing is abused because we don't see it. Then again, there's no disclosure.
SHERWOODCampaign finance form...
BROOKS-BEATTYNeeds to be transparent.
SHERWOODReporters know how to read campaign finance reform. But other people don't. You have to -- it's very difficult to go in there and find out who people are. There ought to be huge fines for people who don't fill out the campaign finance forms. They say requested. And under the law, you only have to ask someone just to say who they are once. If they don't say, there's no obligation for you to say who's giving you money, it just seems to me that we need a lot more public disclosure.
GROSSOAnd, in fact, just to add on the...
SHERWOODOn every subject we mentioned, it seems public disclosure is part of the answer.
GROSSOAnd, in fact, Tom, you know, in corporate money, it's even harder to know who's giving money because in that requirement, all you have to give is the name of the company and their address which, as you know, from all the problems we've been having, anything could happen.
GROSSOSo in my campaign last February, I issued a transparency challenge to all the other candidates saying, basically, if you're going to take corporate money, you need to do a better job telling people where the money's coming from and put it on your website. So we have it listed on our website all the corporate donors with more information because of the transparency needs.
NNAMDIWe're talking with two candidates for at-large seats on the D.C. council. David Grosso is an independent. Mary Brooks-Beatty is a Republican. We're taking your calls at 800-433-8850. You can send email to email@example.com.
BROOKS-BEATTYCan I bring another topic up?
SHERWOODBut if you don't mind, I'll be first, but save it, write your topic down because you're both here and maybe we're going to have Michael Brown. We're going to have him on the program here. You essentially have campaigned against Michael Brown. Vincent Orange is also running. He was on here last week. But the campaigns have been toted against Michael Brown. So he's not here to defend himself. But tell me, David, or Mary, I'll start with you. Why should Michael Brown be replaced, as succinctly as possible?
BROOKS-BEATTYWell, I think he's lost public trust. I mean, you know, the types of things, a lot of them are personal. They are personal issues. But I think that they do, you know, that that...
SHERWOODSomebody's business deals, his -- the late payment of taxes, all those things.
BROOKS-BEATTYYeah. All -- yeah. Late payment of taxes. If he's not paying -- if he's not playing by the rules, how can he make the rules? You know...
GROSSOI think he has been more interested in having this job on his resume than he is and actually doing the job. And it's been no better demonstration of that than the actual WMATA Board, you know, he actually removed himself from the WMATA Board because he wasn't attending any of the meetings. That just shows ineffective, you know, ineffective councilmember work. And, you know, just all the distractions add up. I mean, that's just the reality. When you have so many pressures on your life and so many issues going on, it's very hard to do a good job.
SHERWOODMay I ask the two candidates: Are your personal finances in order? If I would look, would there be any lawsuits against you or any failure to pay your taxes, owed to the city or the IRS or any of that?
BROOKS-BEATTYMine are all in order.
GROSSOYep. Same with me. Yeah, I take great pride in that.
BROOKS-BEATTYThey're not very -- they're not very good but mine are in order.
SHERWOODKojo, should I ask you?
GROSSOI just take great pride in that. I pay my bills.
NNAMDIGlad you didn't ask me that question. David Grosso, why should Vincent Orange not hold an at-large seat on the Council?
GROSSOYou know, I think Vincent Orange, over the years, has shown an inability to actually close a deal on things. And that's hard to say, but, in fact, he is -- he's worked hard on issues, but you're just never sure where he's going to come down on it. And, you know, I personally don't agree with him on a lot of his approaches towards development. You know, I live in Ward 5. I think a lot of people felt in Ward 5 that we got dumped on a lot.
GROSSOYou know, you talk about, you know, the various dispensaries. You talk about the strip clubs. You talk about, you know, the Home Depot and the Costco. He's very proud of the Home Depot. But, in fact, wouldn't it have been great to have a mixed-income, mixed-use development there on that site instead of the, you know, big-box stores? Yeah, I just think he has a different outlook and different priority on what's happening.
NNAMDIMary Brooks-Beatty, Michael A. Brown has said, look, I may have messed up my personal finances, but I have never been accused of violating the public trust in any way. And so I'm asking people to vote for me on the basis of my public record. Why should his personal finances have anything to do with it?
BROOKS-BEATTYWell, you know, I do think, again, it shows character. It also shows really how responsible you are. So I think it's going back to characteristics that you don't want on the council. But also, you know, there are some things that he's done that actually kind of motivated me to even run for the District -- office, and that is on the I-gambling because it was the way that that legislation was passed: the lack of transparency, the fact that, you know, that was...
NNAMDIWe're talking about Internet gambling, yes.
BROOKS-BEATTYInternet gambling, yes. The fact that that was going to be such a huge policy shift in this city, and it didn't have a committee hearing, it had no public hearings, it was attached to a budget bill, I think that's outrageous, you know?
NNAMDIWhy should Vincent Orange not be on the council as an at-large member?
BROOKS-BEATTYWell, I think Vincent Orange has done some good things for the city. So -- but I do think it is time to kind of clean out, you know, clean the slate. You know, I do think, you know, there's the issue of Jeffrey Thompson and, you know, the contributions to Vincent Orange. Again, I don't think he's been accused of anything, but I think, again, you have that whole culture of corruption, and you've lost trust with people.
NNAMDIJeffrey Thompson is the former head of Chartered health care who is under investigation by the U.S. attorney for campaign contributions.
SHERWOODI think we ought to say, since Vincent Orange was on last week and is not here to answer these -- your question yourself, that he has said on campaign stops and here on this show that he has a record of support for economic development, including the baseball stadium, that he was the person who, when the schools were not getting textbooks, got a law changed that they had to be in early. So there's a number of things that Vince Orange will say he has done as a council member. So since he's not here to defend himself, I just want to give that 30-second comment.
NNAMDIDo you think that council members should be able to hold outside jobs?
BROOKS-BEATTYI do not. I've said that from the very beginning.
NNAMDIHow about you, David Grosso?
GROSSONo, I'm committed to working full time, and I think that there should be a way that we can grandfather in those who currently have jobs so that, you know, as they wall of the Council, we get full-time workers on there. I think it's just the opportunities.
SHERWOODDo you think that Councilmember David Catania and Jack Evans and Mary Cheh, who's a law professor, you think they're -- they don't give full time to their jobs?
GROSSOYou know, I don't think it's possible, but, you know, I just think -- I'm not saying they're not doing a good job. They're doing a fine job. But the problem is, you know, what better could they be doing if they weren't -- you know, if they're working full-time...
SHERWOODWhat -- has -- what -- I thought -- what about the concept of city -- of citizen legislators, that you bring people in from the private sector who have political careers, but they have experience and -- from the private sector so they don't just become career politicians where they -- they're there 100 percent of the time worried about how they're going to get reelected?
GROSSOWell, I think that makes sense in places where you have a legislative session that's a month or six weeks or so.
SHERWOODWhy not -- good. That's exactly what I was going to bring up. Why doesn't the city figure out a way to have a legislative session just for the first few months of the year -- like Maryland and Virginia and most states do -- and then the rest of the year just have a small committee to handle municipal affairs that might come up?
BROOKS-BEATTYI think that makes sense.
GROSSOWell, because we have -- we are actually operating as more than just a city. We're operating as a state rather than as a county.
SHERWOODCity, county and state.
GROSSOI mean -- and I think that we have a lot of work to do here to make sure we stand up for our rights. I mean, the reality is we don't have a vote in Congress. We don't have senators. And so I think you should have a strong legislative body that works year-round.
BROOKS-BEATTYYou know, another problem with the -- with outside employment is actually the conflict of interest. I mean -- and in the case of several of the current council members, that has come up.
SHERWOODWell, has come up, but no one has defined the specific conflict of interest where there's been an actual charge.
BROOKS-BEATTYNot where there's been a charge, but there's been plenty of indication that there may be a conflict of interest.
NNAMDIHere is Allen in Washington, D.C. Don your headphones, please. Allen, you're on the air. Go ahead, please.
ALLENThank you. My question is the polls suggest that the real challenge is between Mr. Grosso and Mr. Brown for second place and Vincent Orange has first place. And so my question is that I know a lot of people are very interested in the zoning, the comprehensive plan, rewrite, and a lot of people, especially on the smart growth side, a lot of, you know, urban professionals who come to the city and really want it to be a great place.
ALLENAnd I'm looking at Mr. Grosso's response to the current or an article on the current, and it seems that both Mr. Grosso and Mr. Brown are big supporters of affordable housing. One big part of that is whether or not we require that parking be built in with housing when people are willing to live without cars. And I want to ask Mr. Grosso. There's a quote in here that says you don't think no parking makes a lot of sense. Limited parking does make sense. But what about no parking when people don't want parking? What about...
NNAMDIBabe's Billiards right across the street from where we sit is now scheduled for redevelopment, and there are going to be no parking spaces for residents of that building. And I suspect that's one of the things that Allen is talking about, David Grosso, no parking.
GROSSOYou know, I think this goes to the overall zoning discussion about, you know, do we include neighborhoods, neighborhood by neighborhood, in the discussion or not and how you do it in a way that makes sure that everybody gets their thoughts heard. I think there are times when parking can be limited or even no parking if it creates more affordable options in those buildings. You know, the argument that the developers make, I think, is an important one to note.
GROSSOYou know, they say basically, look, we are required to put a certain number of parking spaces in. We spend all this money, and then the cost of the housing goes up. And then we have a bunch of spaces that are never taken. You know, the parking spaces are never used, especially around the Metro, like the one right here. You know, you're sitting right on the Metro. You have got a lot of other opportunities for transportation. There's just no reason to overburden it with parking...
SHERWOODIt sounds like -- some people would say, that's a war on cars that you -- that people have cars. You have social events to go to. Metro, it's not necessarily reliable for cross-town traffic or going in other places other than, like, where the Metro is and that there ought to be some cars available, that we're not New York. But I believe AAA said this before: It sounds like a war on cars when you're eliminating the possibility of cars.
GROSSOWell, I mean, this is, you know, this is a city. This is an urban area, and I think there should be all the options available. And to require a blanket requirement that you have to have a certain number of parking places in every single building doesn't recognize the reality.
SHERWOODWell -- and we've had this problem over in Columbia Heights where the -- or commercial development was. There was a big demand that there be 1,000 parking spaces...
NNAMDII know half of them go empty.
SHERWOODAnd most of them are empty, and people use them in emergencies.
GROSSOI mean, in fact, I use a car every day. I mean, you know, I think it's important that we have options for cars. But I would never rent or buy an apartment, you know, where I didn't have a place to put my car.
SHERWOODAnd also we have car to go and the other options.
GROSSOLots of other options.
BROOKS-BEATTYBut, you know, the residents really do take a different view. They take more of a view, the ones I have spoken to, that this is a war on cars, you know, that basically that those -- you know, that's shifting now. If there's no parking available at Babe's, for instance, where are they going to park? So it doesn't mean that a person won't own a car. It just means they're going to be parking it now in the neighborhood.
NNAMDIThank you very much for your call, Allen. Data released earlier this fall by the Census Bureau showed that the city is becoming more and more economically divided and that since 2007, poverty among D.C. children has gone up by a third. What would you say explains that economic inequality in the District, and what would you do about it if you are elected to the Council, Mary Brooks-Beatty?
BROOKS-BEATTYWell, you know, I think this is, you know, it's a big problem in D.C., but it's a problem all across the United States that the economic conditions of the country are worsening. But, you know, there are lot of things again that you can do. I mean, there's, you know, short of -- you know, we can't control the overall U.S. economy, of course.
BROOKS-BEATTYBut there are lot of programs that, you know, by job creation, I think those are the kinds of things that we need to be looking at. There's an organization called Defeat Poverty that has, like, three or four points in their plan of how to do that and job training and so forth. So I think you can -- there are policies that can help us get out of this situation.
NNAMDIYou think that there are policies that can lead to job creation into the District? Can you name one of those policies that you would favor?
BROOKS-BEATTYWell, you know, I think right now our, you know, we've mandated certain -- First Source mandates jobs. What I would do is try to go back and improve upon that law so that, basically, that the job training looks at what the future job is going to be and train for those jobs. So I think that's one of the key things you could do.
NNAMDIDavid Grosso, same question.
GROSSOYeah. You know, the first thing that I'd like to raise is the fact that, you know, poverty does exist, and there is a major issue about it here in D.C. And the government has to step up and provide services and make sure, you know, that our people are taking care of it in every respect of the way, whether it'd be health care, food, you know, mental health services, housing. Whatever we do, we need to make sure that there is a way for the people to thrive in the District.
GROSSOThat includes creation of more affordable housing and creation of better job opportunities. And job opportunities come in my mind through two different ways, certainly a lot more in there but two specific. Our education system has got to come around. We have got -- a reform education in the District from Pre-K all the way up to until somebody becomes a productive member of society. That is a challenge that we've taken on, and it's a challenge that I look forward to working on very, very intently when I'm on the council.
SHERWOODI'm sorry. Go ahead.
GROSSOI'm sorry. The second thing is, you know, we have an opportunity here, a golden opportunity. And we just read a forum the other night about this. The Community College in District of Columbia is an opportunity for people to get the training they need, get the education they need in order to spin out into great jobs from there, and not just jobs but careers. And I think that's when you start seeing poverty be alleviated, and you start seeing people being able to rise up and, you know, take hold of their lives.
SHERWOODAdult education is -- it seems to me really important to you. You've got people who -- we talk about vocational education where people who are not going to college need to learn some skills. We do have enough young people, some of whom have children already but don't have jobs, but there's no real effort to get them trained. The Department...
SHERWOOD...of Employment Services has programs where they try to match people with employers, and they subsidized the money for the employer. I mean, there are lot of programs around if you -- I guess if you whisk them all together, there might be something there. But it doesn't sound like it's a real important.
GROSSOWell, this is a problem -- this is what...
SHERWOODIt's a front burner issue.
GROSSOYou know, this is a problem of Councilmember Brown that's a pretty serious problem. He was the head of the Workforce Development Committee during the time when the Community College was coming online. And, Tom, exactly what you're talking about is the value of not just the Community College but UDC and other universities in the area in order to help us get our population, you know, into jobs and get educated and get training and get the things they need.
GROSSOYou know, during Michael Brown's tenure on the committee, he is the one that -- we had a wonderful president of the Community College, Dr. Jonathan Gueverra, who was here for a period of three years, who was getting private investment, who is just -- somebody who I have lot of respect for. And, you know, the number one reason he left and went to Florida, besides probably the weather, is the fact that Michael Brown and the rest of the council was not supporting him and supporting the Community College the way they should have been in order to make sure that these job opportunities came open.
NNAMDIMary Brooks-Beatty, when it comes to economic opportunity, do you think the city is getting good return on its investment in the baseball stadium? And would you support the use of public funds to build a stadium for D.C. United, the soccer team?
BROOKS-BEATTYI do think that the returns on the baseball stadium have been great. You know, I do think that that was a well worth of the investment. You know, I think that we need more study on the soccer stadium, you know, we still haven't got in the sense that it's something that the population necessarily wants to.
NNAMDIWell, they're still playing in RFK. And because of the weather, they were supposed to play their first home game at RFK next week, but Sandy has forced them to reschedule the game tomorrow against New York. That starts at 8 p.m. at old RFK Stadium. David Grosso.
SHERWOODAnd I was -- answer this before he answers. Also, Jack Evans, who supported the baseball stadium, the Verizon Center and the Convention Center, has said about a soccer stadium. That the owner of the soccer stadium have to step forward and put the money out. The city will help with the infrastructure, but the city shouldn't build a soccer stadium 'cause it didn't have the same economic scale that the baseball stadium does.
GROSSOYou know, I think this is a great question. Of course, I was the committee clerk for the Committee on Economic Development when we brought baseball back to the District of Columbia. And I'm really proud of the role I played there. And, you know, there's a couple of facets of that deal that I think make it successful that we worked hard to have -- happened in the council. The first is the business community was engaged and involved in this from the beginning.
GROSSOAnd they agreed to be taxed in order to build the stadium. It made it possible. We wouldn't have been able to do it. The second this is that we are -- as we make more and more money on the stadium off the baseball team as they win more and more games, we are actually paying down the debt faster because we made a requirement -- we put a requirement that they do that. And that's a really valuable part of this.
GROSSOSo, you know, when it comes to soccer, you know, I am huge fan of D.C. United and think that D.C. United should have a home here in the District of Columbia. And I'm very supportive of Jack's proposal to get the infrastructure done by the city if that's necessary and work with the owners to figure out how to build a stadium.
SHERWOODWhat about the Redskins to RFK? If Dan Snyder says he'll build a $2 billion stadium or more than half-billion dollar stadium at the site of RFK if you'd let him build there, would you be supportive of that?
GROSSOThey pay for the whole thing?
SHERWOODWell, I think the city infrastructure...
GROSSODream on. No way. He'll never do that.
GROSSOHe'll never do that. I don't think we can deal with that guy very well.
SHERWOODOK. What about you, Mary?
BROOKS-BEATTYYeah, I would think that, you know, if he would pay for the whole thing, fine. But...
GROSSOI'm not saying that. I don't know if I want to deal with Dan Snyder. You know, I just think that's a mistake.
NNAMDIAnd I'm afraid we've come to the time where each of you has run out of time to freelance. And you now have...
NNAMDI...one minute in which to make a final statement. I'll start with you, Mary Brooks-Beatty.
BROOKS-BEATTYYeah. Well, you know, I offer a real fresh start for D.C. And in particular, it's because I'm different than the other candidates. One of the things that I'll never be is part of the old good old boys network. I'm basically never going to be part of the cronyism, and, you know, basically I'm doing this for one reason and one reason only. And that's because I love this city. I want to use the experience that I have in legislative affairs and all of the policy work I've done to contribute to the city. I think I would get a lot of problems.
BROOKS-BEATTYI know I can help solve those problems, so that's why I'm running. But another reason I'm different is because I am the true non-majority candidate. The other candidates are Democrats or disguised as independents, and so you're getting part of the group thing. You're still getting a one-party system. And that type of thing leads to corruption. So, you know, I offer a real fresh start for the city.
NNAMDIThank you very much. David Grosso.
GROSSOWell, thank you, Kojo. Thank you, Tom. You know, it's been a real honor to be on the show today, and I appreciate the invitation. You know, the D.C. government, as I said, is at a crossroads, and the people of the District of Columbia are starting to recognize that. Everywhere I go throughout the city during early voting and all throughout the year -- we've been campaigning since last year. We had 101 meet and greets all over the District of Columbia.
GROSSOPeople are saying that they're sick and tired of having council members that are not acting in the proper way and actually have unethical lapses. So we move forward with great hope in this campaign and think that as we get to Nov. 6, we're going to be able to pull this off. I just want to note about the grassroots element of my campaign. You know, we have had over 800 donors from all over the city, averaging $131 per donation. It's remarkable.
GROSSOWe have people putting yard signs in their yards that never before in their lives have ever put a yard sign in their yard. And, in fact, just the other day at the Ward 4 race -- anyway, we're extremely proud of what we're doing. And I hope everyone will come out and vote on Nov. 6 and support my campaign.
NNAMDIDavid Grosso, he is an independent candidate for D.C. Council running for an at-large seat. Mary Brooks-Beatty is a Republican candidate running for an at-large seat. Thank you both for joining us, and good luck to both of you. Tom Sherwood, we should remind people that Eleanor Holmes-Norton, Muriel Bowser, Jack Evans, Marion Barry, Yvette Alexander are all on...
SHERWOODAnd once again, I didn't get a closing statement.
NNAMDINext time, we'll make sure that Tom Sherwood gets a closing statement.
NNAMDIThank you all for listening. I'm Kojo Nnamdi.
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