Federal officials inject themselves in the debate over Metro safety. Maryland state lawmakers spar over early voting sites in Montgomery County. And Pope Francis' representatives in D.C. make a last-minute plea for a death row inmate in Virginia.
Republican lawmakers in Virginia make a power play to change the Commonwealth’s system for electing presidential candidates. A judge puts a D.C. protester in the ultimate penalty box, banning him from the city completely. And a prominent county executive in Maryland heads to court and tries to stay out of the “sin bin.” 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
- Quentin Kidd Associate Professor of Political Science and Chair of the Department of Government, Christopher Newport University
- Anthony Williams Chief Executive Officer and Executive Director, Federal City Council; Former Mayor, District of Columbia (1999- 2007)
- Dick Saslaw Member, Virginia Senate (D-35th Dist.)
Politics Hour Video
Former D.C. Mayor Anthony Williams talked about how the challenges his administration faced compare with the challenges the current mayor is facing. Williams said there are big differences between now and then. In particular, he said the city has replaced an incentive economy with a demand economy, with many people wanting to invest in the city’s infrastructure. But Williams urged city officials to promote tourism and not rely on federal funding. “The future isn’t as bright as it’s been in the past,” Williams said.
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 who probably should have spent Monday covering the Virginia Senate in Richmond, Va., but spent the day covering an inauguration parade that he apparently doesn't even think should even happened. You have become such a contrarian that in your column in The Current Newspaper you suggested that maybe this parade need not take place at all.
MR. TOM SHERWOODThat is -- well, first of all, I didn't know the Confederate South was gonna rise again, or I would have been in Richmond. But secondly, you know, the -- I love the inaugural parade. I grew up as an Army brat. I like the military bands. I like all the pomp and circumstance, but I really don't like walking pass eight-foot high metal grates and being subjected to all kinds of searchers and seizures in order to celebrate democracy.
MR. TOM SHERWOODAnd I think maybe it's time that parades like this for the president unless we can put him in a popemobile bubble is over. I mean and I realize that a lot of people love that, and they come to town, and it's great for the economy. But I just -- as an American, I just find that excessive or call it extensive security not insulting but I just -- I don't like it.
NNAMDIYou also had the nerve, the unmitigated gall to suggest that this parade should not necessarily honor the military or only the military, but it should honor social servants and...
SHERWOODAgain, there are five divisions of the parade, and there are -- and they are led by the five divisions of the military: Army, Navy, Marine Corps, Coast Guard, Air Force. And that's great. I mean they are terrific. But also why aren't there more people -- I mean I suggested in the column why aren't there nurses marching down from all the hospitals unless just to emphasize that we need many more nurses.
SHERWOODThere's me and other people get much older we're gonna need more nurses. Why don't we do something like that? Why isn't there something specific about the Americans with disabilities to show the heart of America, not just our military strength?
NNAMDISee, he's not being curmudgeonly. He's just thinking about...
NNAMDI...himself first as he gets older.
NNAMDIWell, why should Tom Sherwood have been in Richmond, Va.? Well, joining us now by tell is Quentin Kidd. He's a political science professor, the chair of the Department of Governor -- Government and the director of the Wason Center for Public Policy at Christopher Newport University in Newport News, Va., also the author of the book "The Rationale Southerner: Black Mobilization, Republican Growth and the Partisan Transformation of the American South," which is one of issues we're gonna be discussing right now. Quentin Kidd, thank you for joining us.
PROF. QUENTIN KIDDIt's good to be with you. Thank you.
SHERWOODQuentin, I thought he's gonna read the whole book.
NNAMDIQuentin, things happen fast in the Virginia General Assembly, so fast that if you're distracted by something like, oh, I don't know, a presidential inauguration, a lot can happen when you're not looking, such is the case with what happened on Monday when Virginia Senate Republicans passed a redistricting measure that makes the Commonwealth landscape friendlier to the GOP.
NNAMDIThey pushed it forward when they had the votes because one Democratic senator, Henry Marsh, was out of town attending the inauguration. By the way, Quentin Kidd, why does the Virginia General Assembly worked on the King holiday and in -- on Inauguration Day?
KIDDWell, there's been -- over the years has been discussion about making this a -- the Martin Luther King holiday, more like the King holiday, and I think in Virginia, they recognize not Martin Luther King singularly but several other people -- Robert E. Lee, for example, and they -- in a lot of instances, they don't close down schools or public official -- public offices. I mean it's the vestiges in some ways of the -- of a struggle, a Southern struggle over how to recognize the civil rights leader and how to recognize the changes.
KIDDBut clearly, Senate Republicans were lying in wait. They had, you know, it's -- redistricting is an elaborate process. It takes a lot of time. It takes a lot of work. I mean a lot of computer work and mathematical work. So you could haven't sprung this out of nowhere without having done a lot of work in advanced. So they were clearly lying in wait for the opportunity to do this, and they so the opportunity on the day the president was being inaugurated and took it. And they've thrown the General Assembly into absolute chaos as a result of it.
NNAMDIWhat exactly does this plan call for, and what do you expect is gonna happen from here going forward?
KIDDIt redistricts the Senate, and I've seen numbers that say that the Senate -- if this redistricting plan passes and becomes law, it could make this -- the Virginia Senate as high as 27 Republicans, and right now, it's tied at 20-20. So it could make a 20-20 Senate split, even split into a 27-13 Senate, which would mean the House of Delegates is solidly Republican, and then the Virginia Senate would be solidly Republican.
KIDDAnd the gerrymandering is so good -- that's in parentheses -- that it would be hard to see that changing in my mind for a decade or two, and so it could fundamentally change the way the Virginia Senate works, the way the General Assembly works.
SHERWOODBoth the Republican governor, O'Donnell, and the lieutenant governor, Bill Bolling, have expressed reservations about this sneak attack.
KIDDThe lieutenant governor said he wouldn't have supported it. The governor said, you know, he was surprised by the, you know, he expect -- expressed some hesitation about it. But he's not willing to say that he would veto. There's been some pressure put on him by Democrats and the media to say: What will you do if this arrives at your desk? And he defers and says, "Well, I'll wait until that happens."
KIDDI think there's an enormous amount of pressure on the speaker of the House. I listened to him yesterday morning give a talk, and he essentially said, you know, he had enormous pressure on him, and he was gonna either make 20 Republicans really mad at him or -- excuse me -- or 20 Democrats really mad at him. Here's what's really funny about this. The governor's transportation plan...
NNAMDII was about to get to that, yes.
KIDDYeah. Well, it's gotten wrapped up into this because the Democrats are essentially saying, you know, we're gonna lock things down, and it's gonna hurt your transportation...
NNAMDIThey're gonna become the party of no because he needs Democratic votes to do anything with that transportation plan, right?
KIDDThat's exactly right. Dick Saslaw, the Democrat leader in the Senate, said...
NNAMDIWho will be joining us later in this broadcast, but go ahead, please.
KIDDOK. He has essentially said that he didn't Democrats would vote for getting rid of the gas tax anyway. But the governor really wants this transportation plan to pass, and so I think the governor would rather this just not be happening, redistricting not be happening.
SHERWOODAnd the other thing they're trying to do, as I understand it, is like Maine and Nebraska, is to have the Electoral College a portion by congressional district, which would aid any republican candidate in that state. Where is that on the agenda?
KIDDWell, a lot of people think that that is part of the motivation for this redistricting plan because changing the allocation of Electoral Colleges wouldn't probably be able to get through the Virginia Senate unless it's a more Republican-friendly Senate.
KIDDIf that re-allocation plan becomes law, it would -- let's say that this re-allocation plan was in effect last year. Barack Obama got all 13 Virginia electoral votes. If this re-allocation plan was in place, he would have gotten four electoral votes. So he would have lost the state of Virginia. So it's a major change in how we would allocate Electoral College votes.
NNAMDIQuentin Kidd, thank you so much for joining us. As I said, later in the broadcast, we'll be talking with Dick Saslaw. He's a member of the Virginia Senate and -- Dick Saslaw, and he's the minority leader of the chamber. Quentin Kidd, thank you for joining us.
KIDDThank you. Thanks for having me.
NNAMDIAnd I should mention that Henry Marsh, by the way, the senator who was not there on Monday, is a long time civil rights attorney and the first African-American mayor of Richmond, Va. He used to be Doug Wilder's roommate when they were in law school at Howard University.
SHERWOODWell, I guess that's something he should be proud of. But, you know, he has a long interesting and, I think, distinguished mostly career, so it's unfortunate that he would come to the inaugural and stand behind those eight-foot metal gates and then have this happen in his home state.
NNAMDIWell, joining us now in studio, even as we discuss a variety of issues having to do with the District of Columbia that I'd love for him to weigh in on, is Anthony Williams. He was the mayor of the District of Columbia from 1999 to 2007. He's now the chief executive officer and executive director of the Federal City Council. Mayor Williams, good to see you again.
MR. ANTHONY WILLIAMSPleasure to be with you, Kojo.
SHERWOODIs the city ready for the snowstorm, Mr. Mayor? Aren't you glad you're not gonna have to stand out in it with your boots and say, we are doing it, we are doing it?
WILLIAMSYeah. I mean, you would always go out in a snowstorm and be present. I mean, not much you could do by that time, but people wanted you to be there. I remember traveling back. My wife and I finally took a ride, a valentine day trip to Puerto Rico 'cause everybody said the storm was gonna veer out to sea and that's -- I'm sure as soon as we set foot on Puerto Rico, would turn right toward D.C.
WILLIAMSI'm proud of myself that I came back in on the train. I was here and not sure much what I was actually doing here...
WILLIAMSIt was emotional support. And people wanna see that you're there on top. But all the work has to be done ahead of time. I'm confident the city has done that.
NNAMDI800-433-8850 if you'd like to join the conversation with Mayor Anthony Williams, former mayor of the District of Columbia. A couple of issues before we get specifically to what Mayor Williams is now doing, Tom. One of the things you also may have --or may not have covered. Did you cover the protest of Rives Grogan on inauguration day, when he climbed that tree to make his point about his anti-abortion sentiments within sight of the president and...
SHERWOODNo, but at the risk of going on another rant. This man, who is known protester -- sounds like a known communist -- a known protester...
NNAMDIAnd arrested dozens of times.
SHERWOOD...stood up on a -- got into a tree, wouldn't come down. He was arrested for endangering the tree. And he has...
NNAMDIWell, he was arrested for endangering the people standing under the tree 'cause he broke off a few branches.
SHERWOODWell, endangering the limbs that would fall and break. I was more concerned about the tree limbs and those beautiful trees. But, you know, he'll be back in February 25th for this court hearing. But he's been banned from the city, which people, both conservative and liberal...
NNAMDIMagistrate Judge Karen Howze.
SHERWOOD...are saying is a terrible thing. But, you know, this is more of the protest or the annoyance, and so we have to lock him in. There were three protest groups on the route of the parade, and they were assigned to specific places where they had to pay a park service application fee. They had to say how many people they expected, what they were going to do and be limited in space of where they could stand. And it just seems to me democracy is not neat, but we certainly have made it just kind of bureaucratic.
NNAMDIAnd the prosecution was not asking for him to be banned from the city, only from certain locations. The judge expanded it.
SHERWOODWell, the judge was much more expansive. Surprised she didn't do it inside the Beltway.
NNAMDIYou may remember how some people responded to protests in the District of Columbia. I remember a former mayor being protested against by the New Black Panther Party -- I think it was on H Street Northeast -- and his comment about the demonstration against him was, I don't know who those guys are, but they sure had some cool outfits. Do you remember that, Anthony?
WILLIAMSI remember those, yes.
NNAMDIThat was former Mayor Anthony Williams...
WILLIAMSThey had nothing better to do but shout on me around.
NNAMDI...in that situation. Tom Sherwood, D.C. Councilmember Jim Graham has abruptly dropped his bid to join the board of a government-controlled youth funding organization, saying his point had been made. Council Chairman Mendelson was going to allow him apparently to -- or appoint him to a non-voting seat on the board overseeing the children and youth investment corporation. The chairman of that board, Robert Bobb, objected and objected.
NNAMDIEventually, Jim Graham said he wanted to be there because they weren't cooperating with his oversight of the organization as a member of the council. He complained about not getting their budget -- their audit for 2010 after asking for it for a long time. However, he has finally decided to drop his bid because, I guess, of a perception of conflict of interest.
SHERWOODWell, I don't know. He probably dropped because he made his point. You know, this is an important organization. I believe it was created during the term of Mayor Anthony Williams. This is an organization of people who are to dispense hundreds, I guess, millions of dollars over a period of time to the people who are trying to do the best social work in town or doing the things that people want done. This is the organization from which Harry Thomas, Tommy Thomas, Jr. stole money.
SHERWOODWell, that's what we know about. So this is an organization that's really important, and Bob Bobb is set to move in and -- to kind of clean it up and get the reports better and make sure it works better, and Jim Graham who oversees it, wanted to be more a part of it, maybe duty on the board. But clearly, this organization needs to be functioning properly 'cause thousands of people depend on it.
NNAMDIAnd as I recall, Mayor Williams, you were the one who brought Bobby Bobb to town. Were you not?
WILLIAMSYeah, we brought -- when John Koskinen left as the city administrator, hired Robert Bobb to come in as the city administrator, and I think he did a great job for our city in a number of different respects. Yeah.
NNAMDIBut is this an ethical conflict, Tom? Robert Bobb is also a part of the financial group that is developing the $145 million mixed-use town center project on Georgia Avenue in the vicinity of Howard University even as he chairs this board that awards contracts. That's...
SHERWOODThat he works contracts for social service issues and nonprofits. It's not the economic development. He's not the deputy mayor for economic development.
NNAMDIBut I just find it troubling that people in the city who are doing business, contractual business, with the government are also heading up government bodies that are distributing money to contractors.
SHERWOODWell, in the representative form of government, the way we're having people in the communities and in the business communities and the neighborhood communities and all kinds of communities are supposed to be participating in the government so that we have a government of the people, not just bureaucrats. So unless someone can show that there is a conflict of what he does in his private business, with what he's doing as a public official, I want more people involved in government, not less.
NNAMDIWhat do you say, Mayor Williams, same thing?
WILLIAMSI think you have to just ensure that you have the right kind of reporting, accountability, transparency. You don't want citizens engaged with our government working with their government. And, you know, you've got to just police like potential conflicts and make sure they're open.
NNAMDIAnd the emotional seesaw over voting rights for the District of Columbia continues. Just last week, we were in a way celebrating the fact that the president was going to put the taxation without representation, license plates on all of the presidential limos. This week, we're apparently very upset because the president snubbed the inauguration host on Monday, declining to walk past the District Building and even wave to the inhabitants thereof when he was walking by and ignoring the huge sign outside the District about voting rights.
WILLIAMSDid he walk by, or did he -- he didn't walk by?
NNAMDIHe entered his limousine just before he got to the District Building.
SHERWOODWhich means he had very good advance intelligence.
NNAMDIPeople were lying in wait for him?
SHERWOODYou know, I pointed out when I was on the air with Jim and Doreen doing the parade that is was terrific that they had to remove everything from Pennsylvania Avenue, America's Main Street, except the bike lines, the new bike lanes that are there. And -- but then someone tweeted, "Tell the president not to walk in the bike lane."
NNAMDII saw that.
WILLIAMSBut, you know, it's interesting. I've been listening to and reading, as the case may be, that Dave Moreno spoke about President Obama and, you know, president's father is from Kenya and, you know, anti-colonial protest against the British, you'd think he'd have some sensitivity to a situation here. I mean, obviously, not a direct parallel, but a lot of, you know, a lot of analogy.
SHERWOODHe did put the license tag on, which...
WILLIAMSHe put the…
SHERWOOD...Bill Clinton did and George Bush did. But, you know, whether or not -- I mean, had I...
NNAMDIGeorge Bush did not.
SHERWOODDid not. You know, we have that inaugural viewing stand at the city and is all, you know, enclosed, weatherized. I would leave it open, and I'd get the Ballou marching band to not be in the parade but to be there and have the biggest drum corps in America start banging on drums where the president would have to look over and see what it is.
NNAMDIThat's city administrator Tom Sherwood, who doubles as our resident analyst and an NBC 4 reporter and columnist for The Current Newspapers.
SHERWOODThat's part of my columnist activity.
WILLIAMSI think it's good, though, that the president put the plate on his car. I think that's a big step. So I think we shouldn't minimize it. That's my view.
NNAMDIMayor Williams, you have been a tough man to pin down for the past several months. Last summer, you took on a new assignment as the head...
SHERWOODThank you for being here. That's what he meant to say.
NNAMDI...of the Federal City Council, an influential and often behind-the-scenes player in local policy here in the District. Yes, thank you for being here. But for those who are not familiar with it, what exactly does the Federal City Council do?
WILLIAMSWell, for a lot of people in the city over the years, the Federal City Council has been part of this kind of multifaceted plot to take over the city. But for those us who know the city and how the city works, I think it's beyond anyone plotting to do anything. So that's that on that. Now, the Federal City Council was started back in the 1950s really as a -- by Phil Graham, father of -- the Graham family. You know, father, you know...
NNAMDIPublisher of The Washington Post.
WILLIAMS...father of Don Graham, publisher, Washington Post -- as a, really, as a pro-civil rights, pro-home rule business group that would, in a none self-interested way, focus on major civic initiatives for the betterment of the city as opposed to the betterment of the bottom line of any its individual business members. So if you think back to everything from Southwest Waterfront to the Metro to Pennsylvania Avenue redevelopment to Union Station...
WILLIAMS...to the South, yeah, to most recently the whole initiative behind the improvement -- emerging improvement in the schools, this is all the work of the Federal City Council. It's a great organization.
SHERWOODAnd as I understand it, you are looking at a way, and you have been talking to Chicago and other places, that infrastructure in this country, not just in this city and this region, but infrastructure around the country, is a huge issue. And there needs to be more done. This plan about $ 7 billion project around the Union Station. But, you know, Metro has just announced some $26 billion, a long-term plan. The infrastructure is one of the things you're looking at as you -- in both -- I guess, you've been around the country, talking about this.
WILLIAMSYeah, exactly right. I mean, the city has come a long way as we know, and, I guess we're announcing a surplus today. So the city's coming a long way on an operating basis in terms of replenishing the reserve balances and all that is good. But we've got a debt cap. We should have a debt cap, which means that governments can strain and what it can do outright in funding the kind of priorities you're talking about, Tom. And so I think it's necessary for us to look at innovative ways that are being already done overseas.
WILLIAMSWe're beginning to see in this country innovative ways to finance public investments, whether it be in everything from -- we've seen in New York, for example, where they've actually financed reduction and recidivism. In Chicago, you've seen infrastructure funding that's gonna go toward, for example, greening the city and reducing the environmental impact. Here, we've talked about Union Station, WMATA environmental initiatives here. There are a lot of things...
SHERWOODD.C. Water has been in a couple of billion dollars, joint talk and just doing it.
WILLIAMSYeah. So the potential uses of funding -- capital funding and the actual sources of that funding, the use is far outstripping our ability. And so we've got to look for some innovative ways to do it. And I think that this is, first and foremost, one of the most important things we can do, and our members are excited about it. You know, start with the District, and what can we do with the District -- working with Nat Gandhi, he's already beginning doing some work on this -- what can we do as a District, and then I hope, what can we do as region on a regional basis.
SHERWOODCan I -- you -- when you were mayor, you said, at that time, that the city could not continue its kind of downward spiral on any number of things, but one was population. It was either static or reducing. And you said, you thought you wanted to make policies that get 100,000 people into the city. Well, since then, the population is growing up, I think, about 36,000 or 40,000 people in a period of time, and it continues to grow.
SHERWOODBut the side of card to that is people worry about gentrification, that the poor, our people, the housing stock for low income has reduced. And while the city gets better economically, some people are being disadvantaged. What's your own view of it now, knowing that these are the kinds of issues you have to deal with? How is the gentrification of the city doing, and what are the worries that you might have?
SHERWOODYou got to like, I guess, what happening because the city is economically doing much better.
WILLIAMSYeah. I love what's happening. I think that our projection of new residents to the city, you know, I'm happy that Mayor Fenty has continued a lot this, the same policy direction. Mayor Grey, a lot of the same policy direction as resulting in new investment to the city. Think about it, gentrification, people criticize gentrification saying new people come in the city. This is zero sum. It really isn't a zero sum. You're adding new investment to the city.
WILLIAMSThat's money that the city can use for the kind of -- we're taking about the children investment fund -- the kind of programs we need in early childhood, in recreation, in education. The money has to come from somewhere. It has to come from that investment that's there. I was saying at a community event the other day, you know, I ride the bus to work. And I think that if there are people like me on the bus -- and we've got a mix of different people on the bus -- oh, I'm proud to say, I get on the bus from the home I own.
NNAMDIWhere the children's museum used to be.
WILLIAMSChildren's museum used to be. But I own a place. So...
SHERWOODEighth Street is an example, though, of extraordinary change. And as soon as -- when is that Giant Food gonna open across the street from here?
WILLIAMSLooking like June and July. But anyways, so I get on the bus. People like me on the bus, you have a mix of incomes on the bus.
NNAMDII'm glad you mentioned the owning of the homes.
SHERWOODYou're stepping on the sound bite I might use on Channel 4.
WILLIAMSYou have a mix of incomes on the bus. That's a positive side of investment because kids have role models here, people they could look up too and, you know, aspire to.
SHERWOODDo people recognize you on the bus...
WILLIAMSOh, yeah. They do.
SHERWOOD...and they talk to you?
WILLIAMSAbsolutely, all the time. And I was really proud. The other day, I heard somebody mumble. Somebody said, isn't that -- what's his name? Or isn't that, so and so? And they don't really know who I am. They know, you know...
NNAMDIDidn't you used to be Anthony Williams?
WILLIAMSUsed to be -- yeah, didn't you used to be somebody? But then I heard one lady in the bus say, well, no, he wouldn't be on the bus with us poor people. And, you know, it made me feel great that, you know, I am on the bus, you know. We're all in this city together.
NNAMDIWell, speaking of poor people, the other side...
WILLIAMSBut let me answer -- finish answering his question. From all those...
NNAMDII'm stepping on the lines again.
SHERWOODYes, you are.
WILLIAMSNo, no. So -- no. So those are positive sides of gentrification. Needless to say, the displacement is a problem. And, you know, everything -- when you talk about affordable housing and the provision for affordable housing and the investment and all of that, inclusionary zoning, all these different tools are efforts to try to get at, you know, creating revived neighborhoods of mixed incomes as opposed to revived neighborhoods, you know, where you only have one income class.
SHERWOODHope VI worked -- has worked pretty well. I can't -- I never remember the name of it -- one near the baseball stadium, I think it was Carrollsburg.
WILLIAMSWell, think about Hope VI. When we started -- and this was just in our administration...
SHERWOODExcuse me, that's a federal program that allowed to tear down old public housing and you build new housing for both market rate people to buy and for the people to live in who have subsidized housing -- I'm sorry.
WILLIAMSYeah. Bottom line, when we started out with Hope VI, there was some displacement. You weren't replacing all the low-income units in the new community. By the time we got to Capper/Carrollsburg, and I think that was a fifth or sixth one we were doing, we basically had one-for-one replacement. So...
SHERWOODYeah. I went over and checked. There was like 700 people who were moved out. But this time, you kept track of them.
SHERWOODAnd I was told, if not all of them, nearly all of them, have moved back in to the units.
NNAMDIWhen you talk about -- to older residents of the District of Columbia, particularly those who are African-American, they go back to talking about the plan and that the plan would result in the removal of poor black citizens from the city. And they say that's what they're seeing right now. I put it a little differently. What will you say are the fundamental differences in the challenges facing this council and this mayor compared to the ones that you took on when you became mayor back in 1998? Affordable housing would be near the top of that list?
WILLIAMSWell, the -- now, you're -- I mean, the way to think about it is cities have a incentive economy, and they have a demand economy. An incentive economy is where you're trying to create mechanisms to encourage and foster investment because it's really under par. It's -- your investment is underperforming, so you need incentives to bring -- flow resources into your economy, in your community.
WILLIAMSA demand economy, people are standing in line to come in and invest, to come in and live, you're managing issues like gentrification. Back in 19 -- whatever date you want to pick, '94, '95, '98, 2000, you were trying to turn the city around. And where you had people standing on line, where they wanted to be here, a great example is just -- one of many is, you know, I started, Mayor Fenty continued, Mayor Grey to this day, we go out to Las Vegas, this thing called the International Convention for Shopping Centers.
WILLIAMSI remember when I first went out there, we didn't have a booth. We weren't even allowed in the building. You basically kinda had to grab people with -- and our brochure was like a paper like this -- could you please talk to us, begging people to come. Now, we're actually talking to people, well, if you come, what are you willing to do? What conditions are you willing to meet? That's a demand economy. So there's a big difference between where we were and where the city is now.
WILLIAMSBut there is a challenge for this administration for the cause. And now -- and I think they're aware of it and that is, I think, Steve Fuller is right. The presence of the federal government isn't going to be what it's been in the future, and we need to make accommodations for that. One of the -- for example, to give -- we talked about an infrastructure funding. One of the things we think we can finance and we oughta really underwrite and support is increase in tourism.
WILLIAMSIn New York, for example, you've seen a huge increase in tourism. This is all money going into city coffers from all the various, you know, fees and taxes, jobs and everything related to tourism. That's an important industry here that we need to pay attention to because, again, the future isn't as bright as it's been in the past, and we need to anticipate that and get on top of it.
NNAMDIThe votes rights starts running about the ads for Destination D.C. that will launch this week saying that the charms of H Street and U Street and Logan Circle should be made more attractive to tourist. Obviously, that's the kind of thing you think we need to be doing.
WILLIAMSMore, we need to get public, private sector, local government, federal government all on the same page, the higher level that we've been in the past.
SHERWOODI know that -- I know -- and the Smithsonian is a tremendous draw for people to come to the city. But I don't think -- do they collect sales taxes? I don't…
SHERWOODThey don't. I don't know…
WILLIAMSBut, you know, our strategy and the succeeding administration's strategy has been, you know, we ought to have that discussion about the ability, you know, the city's tax base, it's underperforming tax bases relate of lack -- as a result of lack of representation. But while all that's going on, let's maximize our effort to get people from the mall who are already here into the downtown. You've obviously seen that over the last 10 or so years. And that's all, you know, 8 percent sales tax.
SHERWOODNow, you are another…
NNAMDIAnthony Williams is our guest. He was mayor of the District of Columbia from 1999 to 2007. He's now the chief executive officer and executive director of the Federal City Council. Tom Sherwood is our resident analyst. He's an NBC 4 reporter and a columnist for the Current Newspapers. Allow me to go to the phones. Tom, don your earphones so you can hear Ted in Washington, D.C. Ted, you're on the air. Go ahead, please.
TEDHi. Mayor Williams, how are you?
TEDGlad to hear from you. We miss you. I'm a D.C. resident. I have one question for you, and I'll be the first one to be in line to be a volunteer, would you run for mayor for the next election? Please.
WILLIAMSNo, sir. No, I have no plans, categorical Shermanesque. No. No, I'm not running. I wouldn't take a job like this. It would be disservice for the people in the Federal City Council, undermine its role in the city if I were to use this job as a platform to run for mayor. And two, I think I had my opportunity. I was proud to serve. I think I made an impact, and I'm off the stage now. I think we've got to move on now and move on with a new cast of characters.
SHERWOODI was talking to someone, if not for mayor, he said, you would be a great person to replace Eleanor Holmes Norton if she chose not to run.
WILLIAMSAnd I wouldn't use this job to replace Eleanor's. I love Eleanor. We've always had a great working relationship, strong supporter of her.
SHERWOODBut I mean, should she not run, I mean, in the future.
WILLIAMSThat's just hypothetical.
NNAMDIHe's not considering.
SHERWOODBut that's -- is that Shermanesque?
WILLIAMSI would come pretty much Shermanesque on that too. I'm not here to be running for an office.
NNAMDIHere now is Melissa in Washington, D.C. Melissa, you're on the air. Go ahead, please.
WILLIAMSI'm sure it's delighted many people. One or two people I've disappointed, I'm sorry.
NNAMDIMelissa just dropped off, so that gives the opportunity to go to Deborah in Petworth in D.C. Deborah, you're on the air. Go ahead, please.
DEBORAHMy question is to the -- hi. My question is to you, Mayor Tony Williams. I was in a D.C. fire paramedic for 23 years. And I can no longer work after a stretcher fell on me, and now, I'm being evicted from our home by Freddie Mac. And I understand that you are on this board as director.
DEBORAHNow, and have not stop this. But I wanted to know, where did they fail us in as far as the eviction -- modification eviction program that they offered for people of low income?
NNAMDICan you address that issue, Mayor Williams?
WILLIAMSWell, I think everybody agrees that we would wanna do more as a matter of national policy, the (unintelligible) as a financial history in general to try to address the displacement and all the impact from the recession. But I don't think it's good business for me as a board member to be involved in individual transactions of the company.
NNAMDIDeborah, thank you very much for your call. You too can call us at 800-433-8850. Tom Sherwood.
SHERWOODYou are, I think, chairman -- I don't know what title it is -- the Tax Revision Commission? The tax -- what is it called? The tax revision…
WILLIAMSTax Revision Commission, right, and chartered by the consul last year, yeah.
SHERWOODAnd you're -- you'll be reporting this summer, this spring?
WILLIAMSThe summer -- some time this summer, yeah. And our goals in the Tax Revision Commission are really to look at -- we've got a great panel. We've got people, professionals, business people, people from non-profit, social service, whatever I am. So you've got, you know, a really good panel looking at, you know, couple of basic issues.
WILLIAMSOne, how do we ensure that we're achieving equity in our system so that people in the same class, let's say income class, are paying the same equity in our system. And that if I'm a high-income earner versus a low-income earner, we're paying the appropriate amount, are we competitive? What is our tax system doing to make our city competitive for a new investment for people who wanna live here?
WILLIAMSIs it efficient? Lord knows we've had issues over the years, during my time, I will readily admit with the administration of the tax system, an issue like that. And hope to come out with a report that rather than sitting on the shelf somewhere, not that anyone prints anything anymore, but not a report that sits on shelf but that a report that the...
SHERWOODSits in the cloud.
WILLIAMSThank you. Just sitting in the cloud, but that the council can actually use and will actually help inform and shape our city's -- our District's policy.
SHERWOODSixty-five percent of the income earned in the city goes to the suburbs.
SHERWOODThat according to a tweet by the D.C. Tax Revision Commission. Darrell Issa, the congressman from California, who, last fall, suggested that maybe there ought -- the Congress ought to look at allowing the District to have a commuter tax, a tax that the commuters would pay and then deduct from their own state income taxes. Is that something the commission, the Tax Review Commission, is looking at...
SHERWOOD...at which it is looking?
WILLIAMSWell, I'll put it this way. We're looking at the entire gamut, comprehensively, of our tax structure, and that's obviously got to be included in it. But that said, and I'm just speaking for myself -- I can't speak for my colleagues in the commission -- I don't think we wanna have the commission simply be another kind of like refrain in the chorus of we, you know, we need to get at the commuter tax. I mean, that, I don't think, would be serving anyone because we've been down that road.
SHERWOODI've always thought you should just make -- pitch the argument the other 48 states are subsidizing not the District of Columbia, but Maryland and Virginia. And that's the way to pitch that argument.
WILLIAMSOr another way to think about it is the infrastructure and, you know...
SHERWOODThat's my fifth rant today. I think that'll be my last one.
WILLIAMSNo, but Congresswoman Norton has talked about this. I remember talking about this when I was mayor. You know, the infrastructure in the city is shared by everyone in the region. If we had a "commuter tax," it's really gonna be basically chucked off against Maryland and Virginia. So one way to think about it is this ought to be considered their contribution to regional infrastructure. Or you could put it...
SHERWOODOne or 2 percent, one or 2 percent. They could deduct it.
WILLIAMSOr you could put it their fair share of the national, you know, support for the District. This notion that the District is living high off the hog on the national government, I think, is misplaced.
SHERWOODCan we mention it? 'Cause he said...
SHERWOOD...The New York Times Magazine had an article I think two weeks ago and which the mayor tweeted about...
NNAMDIWe had a conversation on "The Kojo Nnamdi Show" about it.
SHERWOOD...and it said -- oh, yeah, go ahead. Just -- we're all wards of the federal government. We just exist here because of the federal government...
SHERWOOD...an insulting, insensitive and inaccurate -- somebody wants to -- sixth rant.
WILLIAMSYeah, I tweeted, you know, who knew it was so easy? Just sit back, relax and enjoy the federal largesse. I mean, please, give me a break. It just was stunningly clueless, and it had, you know, obviously had this patina of the New York kind of arrogance and kind of, you know, disdain for the lower classes down here in Washington.
NNAMDIIn her defense, the writer of that...
WILLIAMSAnd I read The New York Times all the time. It's a great paper, yada, yada, yada. But, I mean, there's -- whenever they deal with the District, it's like, oh, run for the hills, you know?
NNAMDIIn her defense, when we interviewed the writer of that article, along with The Post's Marc Fisher, who seemed to share your position to some extent, she said that she has never lived in New York and that she has been living in D.C. for the last decade.
SHERWOODWell, she needs to read the local...
SHERWOOD...media a little more.
NNAMDINevertheless, you mentioned earlier, Mr. Mayor, about the federal government's...
WILLIAMSI mean, will anyone say, well, the reason why New York is back where it is is simply because everybody was sitting around up there, watching TV, and Wall Street happened to come back?
NNAMDIWell, someone just said it, I think.
WILLIAMSNo, no, no. I mean, you wouldn't say that because it's obviously much more nuanced and complicated than that.
NNAMDIBut you did mention that the federal role in the District is likely to be diminished in the future. So when it comes to creating new jobs in the District outside the orbit of the federal government, where do you see the potential for the city to anchor itself? You hear a lot of talk about startups and high-tech work, and we know that the city gave LivingSocial what's been pretty much considered a sweetheart deal.
NNAMDIBut how do you translate that into opportunities for workers who are not carrying graduate degrees, those who may be among the chronically unemployed here in D.C.?
SHERWOODAnd anyway -- but you did mention tourism, which is an entry level...
WILLIAMSThat's why I think tourism -- yeah, exactly. That's why I think tourism is a big win for us if we can really increase the numbers and the investment there. But I think, in general, what you're seeing -- and we're working on this, Federal City Council, Mike Harreld, the leader of PNC Bank here in the city, working with people around the city, including Charlene Drew Jarvis.
WILLIAMSYou know, the modern thinking about getting people into jobs is really not just thinking about equipping people in the workforce, but looking at -- and this is kind of embedded in your question -- looking at the industries and what are the opportunities emerging in our different industries, and how do we get people ready for those fields?
WILLIAMSLike you mentioned the parade of nurses. I'm not sure this prevails right now, but certainly about five, six years ago, there was a critical need for nurses, but we completely missed that boat. So you wanna be ready to do that better.
NNAMDIOn to the telephones again. Here is Melissa in Washington, D.C. Melissa, you're on the air. Go ahead, please.
MELISSAHi. So, Mr. Mayor, I have a question with your role. You're on the board of directors of Freddie Mac?
MELISSAAnd last year, more than 500,000 Americans were foreclosed upon. I was wondering since you don't wanna help out individuals like Deborah to serve...
WILLIAMSI think that, you know, this is just part of a series of people asking me questions. It's all programmed. Go ahead.
MELISSALet me finish.
MELISSASince you have the ability of being on the board of directors of Freddie Mac to push for national principal reduction and to be able to bind the bank and Freddie Mac into modifying loans to keep people into their homes and to end the homelessness and the violent evictions that happen when these -- when people are evicted from their homes, it's not the average person like Deborah's fault that the bankers on Wall Street and the insurance people at AIG created credit default swaps and crashed our economy. What will you do as a board member of Freddie Mac to bring back justice for home owners and renters across the country?
WILLIAMSOh, so you finished reading your statement. OK. So what basically is happening here is that the -- and you really don't understand the situation. Freddie Mac is under conservatorship. We operate under the authority of the Federal Housing Finance Agency. I'm not hiding behind anyone's apron, but the simple fact of the matter is we operate under the direct -- general direction and policy guidance of the agency, and they ultimately have made a call on that, and I would direct your inquiry to them.
NNAMDIThank you very much for your call, Vicky. We move on now to Lorissa (sp?) in Washington, D.C. Lorissa, you're on the air. Go ahead, please.
LORISSAThank you, Kojo, for taking my call. And I have a comment-question type of thing. Mr. Mayor, do you think that if President Obama changes the status of Washington, D.C., and we'll have...
NNAMDIWhat do you mean if President Obama -- how would President Obama be able to change the status of Washington, D.C.? Lorissa?
SHERWOODYou mean support statehood or voting rights?
WILLIAMSI mean, I think she means like will support full representation for us?
LORISSAWhat can change the status of D.C. so we won't be taking taxes and not have -- having representatives in Senate and...
NNAMDIAnd the House. OK.
WILLIAMSThe president really -- I think most people would agree the president can unilaterally do something that really -- it's got to have at least a statutory, some would argue, constitution. I would agree just a legislative base. In other words, I think a lot of this can be solved legislatively by the Congress, and there are a lot of different ways to do that: addressing budget autonomy, legislative autonomy, voting rights for our congresswomen.
WILLIAMSAll this can be done legislatively. The president can unilaterally do it. And while I think the president has been supportive of the city in many, many different ways, I would suggest respectfully and politely that one thing the administration can do that President Clinton did that was very, very helpful was, during President Clinton's administration, I remember Carol Thompson Cole was the point person for the administration for the District, and this, I think, was very, very helpful just on a day-to-day basis in making things happen for the betterment of our community, vis-a-vis the federal government.
NNAMDILorissa, thank you very much for your call. Tom, we're running out of time, but you clearly have a question.
SHERWOODWell, you know, homicides this year -- this past year, 88 homicides. When you were mayor, there was a couple hundred. I can't remember the exact numbers. There are reductions in New York and other places, not in Chicago. But your own thoughts about public safety. Chief Lanier, she's one of the most popular, according to The Washington Post polls, the most popular officials in town. How is -- how do you see the city just in terms of policing and those types of issues?
WILLIAMSYou know, I feel like the honored uncle. I remember Chief Lanier when she was just a little girl, you know? Oh, you know, I remember Chief Lanier when she was at, you know, what, special operations, she was in 3D, one that -- yeah? Yeah.
WILLIAMSYeah, 40. Yeah. Forty...
SHERWOODForty -- that's where Tony -- that's where Mayor Fenty met her.
WILLIAMSRight, exactly. I mean, I think she was spectacular there. She's been a spectacular police chief. And what is really becoming about Chief Lanier is her way of relating both personally and institutionally with the community, the way she oversee and the way she conducts her business and the way she manages her schedule to, you know, make it clear that she, as the representative of the police department, cares.
WILLIAMSAnd I have to say I think it's been great the way Mayor Gray -- I just -- without criticizing anybody, I just think it's been great the way Mayor Gray has allowed her to step into her own ride a little bit more.
NNAMDIShe joined us yesterday for a debate of sorts with the representative of Human Rights Watch over the issue of sexual assault in the city. But as I said, we're running out of time, and I know Tom Sherwood wants to weigh in on this one. The Nationals are announcing the addition of a fifth racing president this weekend. Who should it be?
WILLIAMSYeah. I was reading about that today in the paper, wasn't it?
SHERWOODYes, we're gonna have a new one.
WILLIAMSYou know, I think it ought to be who is a real fighter of, you know, David McCullough, a great book about him, Harry Truman.
NNAMDIHarry Truman is Mayor Williams' pick. Who is your pick?
SHERWOODCalvin Coolidge, Silent Cal, because a puppet doesn't speak.
WILLIAMSYeah, well, that's true.
SHERWOODAnd also, he was president -- and I forgot the year when the Senators won the World Series or whatever it was they won, and he had -- there were 100,000 people who showed up at the White House when he gave a speech and praised them. So I'll say Cal Coolidge.
WILLIAMSBut I'm thinking about political balance or, you know, you got...
SHERWOODJFK is what everyone thinks is going to be.
WILLIAMSJFK. I think we should have Democrats and Republicans. You know, I'm trying to balance it.
SHERWOODWhat about the baseball team? They finally did well.
SHERWOODVery quickly, I mean, you were, you know, you still have a couple bumps on your head from the baseball stadium. But there's nothing yet at the stadium to honor you. Someone suggested we ought to name home plate after you or something.
WILLIAMSNo. We're not looking for in anything except some good games like all the other fans. My family have tickets. We love going to the games. It's a great experience.
SHERWOODThese are some pretty good seats behind home plate.
NNAMDIWe are out...
WILLIAMSNo, no, no. Those are -- when I'm with some friends, I have some seats here.
NNAMDIWe are out of time and the baseball...
WILLIAMSWe've got regular people seats. They are good regular people seats here, yeah.
NNAMDIAnthony Williams was mayor...
WILLIAMSThank you, my friend.
NNAMDI...of the District of Columbia from 1999 to 2007.
WILLIAMSAnd further more -- no.
NNAMDIHe's now the chief executive officer and executive director of the Federal...
WILLIAMSI haven't been able to speak for years. Let me say something.
NNAMDI...City Council. Mayor Williams, thank you so much for joining us. Joining us now...
NNAMDI...by telephone is Richard Saslaw. He is a member of the Virginia Senate. He is a Democrat from Fairfax County and the minority leader of the chamber. Thank you so much for joining us, Richard Saslaw.
STATE SENATOR RICHARD SASLAWGlad to be here. Thank you for having me on.
SHERWOODDid they take away your seat? This is Tom Sherwood. Did they take away your seat?
SASLAWNo. They've changed at some, but haven't taken it away, no.
NNAMDIEarlier this week, you compared the redistricting vote to the sneak attack on Pearl Harbor. What sense did you have for whether this was coming, if at all? And what conversations did you have with your Republican colleagues about redistricting earlier this session?
SASLAWWe had no comments from them. We were told by a couple of their people that they would give us plenty of advance notice, and, of course, that never occurred. And they sprung this on us, you know, altogether once -- at once. Didn't consult anybody. When we redistricted the Senate in 2011, I got input from everyone of them. In fact, virtually all but a handful were satisfied with their districts.
SHERWOODAnd how do you feel Gov. McDonnell's gonna handle this? He's a Republican.
SASLAWWell, you know, if it went to him, my guess would be sign it.
NNAMDIAnd if he signs it, what consequences would that have for us?
SASLAWWell, I think it's gonna upset the applecart here considerably.
SHERWOODIs there any legal recourse, or is this the legislature working its will?
SASLAWOh, no, this is a legal recourse. The Virginia Constitution says that we'll redistrict ourselves in 2011 and every 10 years thereafter.
SHERWOODSo this would be out of the box?
SASLAWThis would be subject to a constitutional challenge if the -- if that would happened.
SHERWOODIs this is a statement on the political status in Richmond between Republicans and Democrats similar to the Congress in -- here in Washington?
SASLAWYeah, it's moving in the direction of D.C.
NNAMDIWhat concerns did you have at all about Henry Marsh's absence before...
SASLAWWell, that I would have figured that, you know, they would be, you know, true to their word and give us an advance notice. And then we would have told Henry to stay here, which he would have done.
NNAMDIYeah. But you weren't into -- what's the tone going to be like for the rest of session particularly if the governor signs this bill? Do you expect the Democrats in either chamber…
SASLAWOne of, you know, it's gonna upset a lot of things -- transportation, education and the budget.
SHERWOODWell, transportation is -- for any number of governors, who've had their one term as governor -- has been transportation. And it seemed to me whether you like the governor's plan or not, the $3 billion plan, getting rid of the sales tax, the gasoline tax, slight increase in...
SASLAWThat's a big mistake.
SHERWOODWell, whether the details of it but the idea to -- at least, you would have something to discuss if you're not in the backroom fighting each other over what they've done to you in terms of redistricting.
SASLAWWell, that may be, but they needed our cooperation in order to get anything through.
NNAMDISen. Saslaw, what has this sneak -- what you characterized as a sneak attack done to relations? You know, here in Washington you said, we -- they're moving towards being like Washington, but here in Washington, we bemoan all this partisanship that's taking place. In the wake of Monday, what have relations been like between you and your Republican colleagues in the Senate?
SASLAWWell, it's been pretty chilly. And like I said, I mean, they're moving in the direction of D.C., and, in fact, you're seeing this all across the country. And the fact that they also wanna change the way electoral votes are distributed now that they can't win Virginia, you know, they -- all the years they were winning, they didn't offer to put in any bills to distribute votes on the basis of congressional districts. And what they're saying is that urban votes count less than rural votes.
SHERWOODAre all the seats up in the legislature this fall ?
SASLAWJust the -- Tom, just the House.
SHERWOODJust the House, a 100-member House.
SHERWOODAnd then, of course, a governor's race.
WILLIAMSThat's subject to challenge too.
SASLAWAnd the statewide races.
NNAMDIFor those who've had trouble...
WILLIAMSOne man, one vote, you can't make rural votes count more than urban votes.
NNAMDIThat's former District Mayor Anthony Williams popping in today.
SASLAWWell, that's the...
WILLIAMSThat's Baker v. Carr, right? Yeah.
SASLAW...you can't make them count. You do it on the basis of congressional districts.
SASLAWI'll just give you an example. Had that been in effect during election, Romney would have been president. In Virginia, he would carried nine electoral votes instead of zero because he won seven of the 11 congressional districts. And under the bill, whoever wins the most congressional districts gets the two extra electors that are, I guess, for the senators.
SHERWOODDo you think we should just go to a popular vote for president?
SASLAWI would support that.
NNAMDIFor those who had trouble following this process, Sen. Saslaw, you reminded us that lawmakers took on redistricting two years ago in Richmond. The governor vetoed those plans. What would those maps have looked like compared today's?
SASLAWYeah. Well, he vetoed the first bill that we sent him, and he signed the second one.
NNAMDIOK. How would those maps -- well, let me get to another question. Any sense yet for what this will all mean for the candidates who are angling to the government of D.C.?
SASLAWWell, what it did was it gutted most to the democratic districts and made about seven or eight of them substantially more Republican and pretty difficult to win. It would give them a shot at picking up five or six seats in the next election.
NNAMDIWould it mean anything for the candidacy for governor of Atty. McCullough?
SASLAWNo, it doesn't affect that race.
NNAMDIIt doesn't affect that race at all.
SHERWOODBut there are other states or Republican-leaning states that are looking to this very same thing to switch to this congressional district thing.
SHERWOODIt's like a half dozen or more of them.
SASLAWThat is correct. Yeah.
SHERWOODSo do you have any...
SASLAWThat may not pay us here because there are some Republicans who opposed to -- my understanding is -- are opposed to changing it.
NNAMDISo even if the governor signs on to this, you're saying...
SASLAWNo, I'm talking about -- wait a minute, switching gears.
SASLAWI'm talking about the...
SHERWOODWe're trying to confuse you.
SASLAW...distribution of electoral votes.
NNAMDIOK. Well, I was just gonna ask if the governor signs on to the redistricting measure that comes out of the Senate, is that likely to be challenged in court? You say...
SHERWOODWhat is the next step? Where are we? Is anything gonna happen immediately, or what happens next? Has it passed the House?
SASLAWWell, the speaker of the House is holding it.
NNAMDIWell, we'll see what happens. Richard Saslaw...
NNAMDI...thank you for joining us.
SASLAWOK. Thank you very much for having me.
NNAMDISen. Richard Saslaw, he's a member of the Virginia Senate. He's a Democrat from Fairfax County and the minority leader of...
SHERWOODYou know, he's gotten older and much milder. When I covered the Virginia legislation in the early -- I'm not gonna do history here -- in the early '80s, he was much more of a firebrand.
NNAMDIAnd, of course, Anthony Williams knew our police chief when she was just a little girl.
SHERWOODWe're all getting old.
NNAMDIWe're all getting old. That's the message here. Mayor Anthony Williams, thank you for staying with us.
WILLIAMSThank you. It's great being with you.
SHERWOODI didn't get a chance to ask him about the City Center, one another project he started, finally being...
NNAMDIYou got 30 seconds.
SHERWOOD10th street is gonna reopen for the first time since like 1982 or '81.
NNAMDIWe had a caller who can stay on the line, who wanted to know, when is the Giant scheduled to open. She didn't know there was a Giant gonna be opening on H Street Northeast, and she wanted to know when.
SHERWOODIt's a big project right across the street from where you lived.
WILLIAMSI think its June, July this year.
NNAMDIYeah. It used to be a gas station where that...
SHERWOODAnd I'm on vacation next week, if I may announce personal plans.
NNAMDIVacation from NBC 4. We're looking for you to be here. Tom Sherwood…
SHERWOODI will be back. I'm going to Florida for a few days.
NNAMDIHe is our resident analyst. He is an NBC 4 reporter and a columnist for The Current Newspapers. Thank you all for listening. I'm Kojo Nnamdi.
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