Kojo and Tom Sherwood chat with D.C. Council Member Elissa Silverman (I-At Large)
D.C. lawmakers contemplate censuring one of their own over an ethics concern. The two chambers of Virginia’s General Assembly offer competing visions for transportation. And Maryland’s House of Delegates takes heat for considering a gun bill behind closed doors. 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
- Ed Davies Executive Director, D.C. Children and Youth Investment Trust Corporation
- Mark Segraves Reporter, NBC 4
- Robert Bobb Chairman, D.C. Children and Youth Investment Trust Corporation; Former President, D.C. State Board of Education
Politics Hour Video
Robert Bobb, chairman of the D.C. Children and Youth Investment Trust Corporation, says he’s not done with politics and won’t shut the door to potential opportunities. “I do intend to become a part of the political scene here in the district,” Bobb 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. How are you this week, Tom?
MR. TOM SHERWOODI'm in great spirits. We've got a good show today.
SHERWOODNot that we don't have a good show every week, but...
NNAMDIIf I say -- are you talking about this show or the...
NNAMDI...other one you do on that other channel? Well, just a few weeks ago, Mark Segraves was a reporter and host at an unnamed commercial radio station down the street that some people might consider to be the competition of "The Politics Hour." Today, after years of badmouthing us, sneering at us...
SHERWOODBeing in the wilderness.
NNAMDI...competing against us, "The Politics Hour" would like to...
MR. MARK SEGRAVESCrashing you in the ratings.
NNAMDI...would like to welcome Mark Segraves to the dark side of the force.
SEGRAVESKojo, thanks very much for having me here.
NNAMDIWelcome to the dark side, Mark Segraves.
SHERWOODBut, I'm sorry, was that "Star Wars"?
NNAMDIThat was "Star Wars."
SHERWOODI don't know what that sound...
NNAMDIThat was the music that Darth Vader enters to in "Star Wars."
SEGRAVESI think there's been...
SEGRAVESIn the Twitterverse, this is the Deathstar of political analysts here.
SHERWOODRight. There you have it.
NNAMDIThank you very much.
SEGRAVESKojo has assembled.
NNAMDIMark Segraves is now a reporter with NBC 4. Mark Segraves, welcome. How do you like your new gig?
SEGRAVESThanks, Kojo. I love my new job, a little questionable about the people I share desks with over there, but I'll get used to my...
NNAMDIYou're not sharing a desk with Tom Sherwood are you?
SEGRAVESI'm across from Tom Sherwood and right next to Pat Collins. So imagine the thrill.
NNAMDIWell, Tom Sherwood is never there, so you don't have to worry about seeing him very much.
SHERWOODWell, we welcome him, you know, for once, you'll look young being next to me and Collins, so...
NNAMDIAre the rumors about him and you really true at all?
SHERWOODWell, which ones?
NNAMDII only know one.
SHERWOODThat -- oh, yes. That Mark is my replacement.
NNAMDIYes. That's the only rumor I'm aware of.
SHERWOODMark is my colleague. I have a lively respectful contract with my station. I think Mark has one now. We're going to work together, and I think that's a great thing.
NNAMDIMay you both be there for a long time. That's my only wish. Now, can we move on to the topics at hand today?
SHERWOODThere can be nothing more important, but go ahead.
NNAMDIApparently, the Washington Redskins put on its website during the course of this past week a number of high school teams around the nation that shared the same nickname, if you will, as the Washington Redskins. And Sally Jenkins in her column in The Washington Post said, "Yes, why would the owner of the Washington Redskins, Dan Snyder, go to high school to justify the name of an adult professional football team?"
SHERWOODWell, you know, it wasn't the best political public relations move. The Washington Redskins are under another assault about the name.
NNAMDIThere seems to be momentum this time.
SHERWOODWell, there's always been -- there's been momentum several times, but it has never gained enough traction to keep going. It's gotten more this time than the past, so maybe at some point there will be a change. The team said this week it's not changing its name.
NNAMDIThat's what Bruce Allen said, yes.
SHERWOODSo there -- so it's an ongoing thing about whether the name is offensive enough and -- or offensive even a little enough to get it changed. And the team says, no, and it's up to the people who are bringing this subject up to keep fighting to make the change if they think it ought to be changed.
NNAMDIA writer on ESPN, Mark Segraves, says Mayor Vincent Gray at one point seemed to be advocating a name change. He seems to have backpedaled somewhat from that position, saying, "Well, if they want to come to RFK Stadium, that's the federal government, they may have to consider making a few changes."
SEGRAVESYeah, the blowback was instantaneous. It was -- Mayor Gray was at a press conference on breathalyzers when Mike DeBonis of The Washington Post as the mayor was walking out of the building asked him about the Redskins. And the mayor said, without hesitation, that it...
SHERWOODThere ought to be a discussion.
SEGRAVESThere should be a discussion. If the Redskins plan on coming back to the District, this has to be part of the discussion. The mayor was asked -- I mean, that made it on TMZ and national news and everywhere. The mayor has since backed off and kind of laying it on the feds. I talked to several people in City Hall who, you know, are part of the somewhat unofficial talks between the Redskins and the city.
SEGRAVESAnd they said this was the worst thing that could have happened to the discussions that the mayor brought this up, and it did not do anything to advance the cause of bringing the Redskins back. And that's why I think you see the mayor backing off of that.
SHERWOODThe mayor has acknowledged publicly that he's -- there have been preliminary conversations, and, you know, these have gone back all the way to Tony Williams. And maybe our guest here knows something about this.
NNAMDII was about to say...
NNAMDI...let's ask our guest in the studio who shall remain anonymous.
SHERWOODBut there have been preliminary discussions all along about whether the 'Skins would come back to town and build at their own dime, except for city prep money, a new stadium at the site of RFK. And Gray was talking about these conversations, and then he starts challenging this billion-dollar corporation's name just didn't make sense politically. If he wants the team back, he ought to let somebody else run that fight, they're saying.
NNAMDILet's see how politic our guests for the time being shall remain anonymous are if they like to weigh in on this. How about you, Sir? Would you care to comment?
NNAMDIWould you care to comment on this issue at all?
MR. ROBERT BOBBI've been a longtime Washingtonian, a native Washingtonian and longtime supporter of the Redskins and -- but...
NNAMDIWhat do you think about the name change? Do you think the name should be changed?
BOBBI think it's certainly worth the conversation, given that so many are offended by the name that there should be some discussion about whether it should be changed.
NNAMDIOur other anonymous guest is known to be a very plainspoken man. Sir, what do you say about the name of the Washington football team?
MR. ED DAVIESWell, it's not the Saints.
NNAMDIYeah, because he hails from New Orleans originally. And our guest, of course, is Robert Bobb. He is chair of the board of the D.C. Children and Youth Investment Trust Corp. He's also a former president of the D.C. Board of Education and a former city administrator of the District of Columbia.
NNAMDIWe will be talking with him at greater length about the D.C. Children and Youth Investment Trust Corp. that we chose to include him. And Ed Davies, the executive director of the D.C. Children and Youth Investment Trust Corp. in our earlier discussion about the Washington Redskins. You're not going to commit yourself anymore than you just did, are you?
DAVIESNo, I think I'll follow the discussion.
NNAMDII thought as much. The discussion takes us for a minute anyway to Virginia, Tom Sherwood and Mark Segraves, where both the House and the Senate have different positions on how to solve the ongoing transportation problems there. The Senate is now on board, of course, after they've got rid of the whole redistricting matter that tied up the Senate for a while. What do you think is going to happen?
SHERWOODWell, it's on board, but it's on board in a different cabin. The House passed the governor's proposal, and the Senate has passed a version that includes some of the governor's. The big key difference is the governor wants to get rid of the gas tax, and the Senate wants to raise the gas tax and do something with the sales tax. So they've got to go to the conference committee to work this out.
SHERWOODBut the governor is closer than probably any governor in recent times, maybe since Jerry Baliles, really, to get a major change in how Virginia will address its transportation woes.
NNAMDIYour take, Segraves?
SEGRAVESWell, you know, having had the governor on -- in a previous life on my show...
NNAMDIWhich means he's not going to be speaking to you anymore.
SHERWOODRadio station that will not be named.
SEGRAVESI can tell you this is very, very important to Gov. Bob McDonnell. A lot of people have said that this will be his legacy legislation if he's able to pass this transportation bill. It's a paramount importance to everybody in Northern Virginia or anyone who drives through Northern Virginia.
SEGRAVESBut as you alluded to before, Kojo, the redistricting problem that they had and all the infighting between Republicans and then Republicans and Democrats and then Cuccinelli, Bolling and McCullough running for the governor's race, there's so many distractions, and there's such a lack of harmony in Richmond right now that it's hard to see how this gets done in a short of time. I think there's two weeks left to get all this done. So it's really going to -- it's an uphill battle to get anything through.
SHERWOODIt would be good for the Senate Democrats if they did get something, even though it's going to be, you know, McDonnell's leaving office won't matter but they -- the transportation issue is just too important for them to scuttle it out of irritation with the government.
NNAMDIBack to the District before we engage our guests again. The Board of Ethics and Government Accountability last week said that there was a substantial body of evidence to suggest that Ward 1 Councilmember Jim Graham had broken the city's Code of Employee Conduct by intervening in a 2008 contracting matter, dismissed the case, however, saying there is no need for a formal investigation or recommending sanctions because Graham could not have been sanctioned for his behavior under the laws in place when he is alleged to have acted improperly on then to D.C. Council Chairman Phil Mendelson and whether there's going to be any sanction on Councilmember Graham apparently that has been put off. He thought the board should have taken more definitive action, and now, where are we?
SHERWOODWell, where we are is there are no legal charges against Jim Graham about what he did, but he commingled the discussion of a Metro contract with a city contract which both Metro investigation and now the city's ethics office have said was an improper thing to have done. At this point, there's still no allegation that he benefited from it that there's one allegation that he's tried to get this contract to one of his supporters, campaign supporters, but it's really minor amounts of money at this point.
SHERWOODSo where are we? There are some feeling in the Council and maybe Mark can tell us more about this. There are council members who are thinking do they need to bring this to the Council and maybe do a reprimand, not a censure, but a reprimand of commingling these two different contracts. But at this point, there seems to be no legal threat to the councilmember from Ward 1.
SEGRAVESTommy Wells, Ward 6 councilmember who everybody suspects is running for mayor, has said that he wants Phil Mendelson, the chairman, to appoint a committee of some sort to look at this and to take some kind of action. Kojo, as you said, Mendelson kind of pointed the blame at the ethics board, wanting them to do more. So this now becomes as much a problem for Chairman Mendelson as it does for Jim Graham.
SHERWOODBut The Post have already done an editorial hitting them over the head for not being more aggressive about it.
SEGRAVESSo there are a lot of people in the Wilson Building who are questioning, you know, this is a time for leadership, and this is a time for Mendelson to step up and do something. And so far, he has been reluctant to take a real strong stance on this.
SHERWOODBut he's not a very good person when it comes to mob scenes. I think he already thinks that he wants to think this through before he does something. The problem is it's a touchy spot for the Council. If it does nothing, even if it has authoritative reasons to do nothing, it will appear like they're protecting Jim Graham. And if they go to heavy on this, then it will look like they're just railroading Jim Graham. So it's a very difficult spot for them.
NNAMDITom Sherwood, he's our resident analyst. He's an NBC 4 reporter and a columnist for The Current Newspapers. Mark Segraves is our guest analyst today. He's a reporter with NBC 4. That's right. You heard me right. NBC 4. Also joining us in studio is Ed Davies. He is the executive director of the D.C. Children and Youth Investment Trust Corp. This is a formal welcome to you, Ed Davies. Thank you for joining us.
DAVIESThank you, Sir.
NNAMDIAnd Robert Bobb, he's back. He's chair of the board of the D.C. Children and Youth Investment Trust Corp. He's also a former president of the D.C. State Board of Education and a former city administrator of the District of Columbia. What brings you back to town?
BOBBI never left town, Kojo.
NNAMDII thought you were in Detroit.
SHERWOODHe kept his house.
BOBBNo. I commuted back and forth.
NNAMDIOh, Sherwood on these things.
SHERWOODDid you remain a District -- legal District citizen while you were in -- was it Detroit? You're trying to save the schools there.
NNAMDIShould we be checking his voting record, you think?
BOBBAbsolutely. Check my voting records.
SHERWOODAnd you remain a District citizen, pay taxes here?
BOBBPay taxes here, remain...
SHERWOODIt's probably cheaper than Detroit.
NNAMDILet's get to the business at hand, please.
NNAMDIEd Davies, from time to time an organization or an entity becomes a part of so many different stories in our local politics that it does our audience good to learn more exactly about what it is and what it does, especially in the wake of its involvement in the scheme that ultimately sent former Councilmember Harry Thomas Jr. to prison. So let's start from the basic. This is a public-private partnership that does what?
DAVIESIt's a public-private partnership that leverages government and private resources to create opportunities to support children and youth here in D.C. We do it through providing grants to community-based organizations that serve young people during the hours after school and during the summer months. We also provide research and evaluation to inform those who are working with the children and youth on best practices and different trends to improve their lives and improving the programming that they participate in.
DAVIESWe also do a lot of round workforce development. We provide primary training for all youth workers, whether they're working for district government agencies or with community-based organizations, to improve their skills around working with children and youth. It's one of the more under-resourced, like, profession out there right now, and so we're trying to bring a level of quality and standard to that so that we have better outcomes for our youth.
DAVIESAnd the last thing that we do, which is sort of a new role, is taking on this role of helping to coordinate citywide efforts and strategic initiatives that are focused on increasing, whether it's academic outcomes, healthy lifestyle outcomes, workforce development and focusing on safety of children in D.C.
NNAMDIOne more question along that line, if you will. Where does the money that goes into the trust come from? City Paper reported not long ago that recent tax records indicate that about 95 -- 97 percent of that money comes from the city.
DAVIESYes, about 97 percent of our funding comes from the D.C. government in various forms, as a direct-to-line item in the city's budget but also through grants that we manage on behalf of several district agencies. We also receive money from the federal government as a part of administering the federal voucher program here, so that is direct appropriation we receive from the Department Of Education.
SHERWOODWhat private contributions come to the trust? The federal government -- so you have 97 percent that's government money local. What percentage is federal? I just want to get the math done here.
DAVIESWell, that federal would be rolled into that 97.
SHERWOODTo the 97.
SHERWOODSo where does the 3 percent -- who's your biggest contributor?
NNAMDIIn the private sector?
SHERWOODIn the private sector.
DAVIESMost recently, it's been the Honda Foundation. We received a grant in the amount of $50,000 that we used to -- for a STEM initiative, a science, technology, engineering and math initiative.
SHERWOODBut what's your total budget?
DAVIESOur total budget is around $33 million.
NNAMDIWhat's the process that the trust follows, Robert Bobb, for determining who receives funding?
BOBBYeah, that's a really good question and one that I was really concerned about before I chose to step in as chairman of the board of the trust, what specific actions were taken following the Harry Thomas situation. And the trust board change its process for awarding grants, which that means now all of the grants are -- goes through a very rigorous outside evaluation process and then all the deed awards comes before the board. And we have made sure that the board doesn't just accept what comes to it from the staff but the board is very much engaged and involved in the process for deed awards.
BOBBAnd on several occasions over the last year, we've actually sent grant request, contract request back for additional information because, you know, at the end of the day, once deed awards are granted, you want to be able to open up a drawer and everyone can see how the decisions were made, who made the decisions and then what action did the board take pursuant to those grants. I will go back to the question regarding -- in the past, the trust has received significant private funding. And, as I recall, one of the largest funds -- one of the largest grants was from the Wallace Foundation...
BOBB...a grant of about $8 million.
DAVIESAnd in fact...
SHERWOODBut not recently.
DAVIESNot recent, but...
BOBBNot recently. And quite frankly, it is very -- it's going to be very difficult for the trust to receive private donations until we at the board of the trust can demonstrate to the larger community, in particular the philanthropy and the private community, that, in fact, the trust is not going to -- has its house in order.
SHERWOODThat you can trust the trust.
BOBBThat you can trust the trust. And I have been on two presentations to private companies on behalf of the trust to -- then I have another one coming up next week with respect to seeking private donation, planning to see that things are different. And, in fact, one of the other things we've done at the trust is we've changed the management structure at the trust. And so we have new leadership at the trust at all levels. So all of the leaders of key departments who were there in the past have now all gone.
SEGRAVESAre they gone as a result of the...
NNAMDIAllow me to give out the phone number. In case you have questions or comments, 800-433-8850. You can send email to firstname.lastname@example.org or send us a tweet, @kojoshow. Mark?
SEGRAVESWhen you talk about these grants coming from the private sector, how have grants trended since the Harry Thomas scandal? Can you tell me how much private money you raised in the time between Harry Thomas pled guilty and now?
BOBBThat's a great question. And quite frankly, the answer to that question is little to nothing, zero because, you know, I, the private business person, until the trust came to me for an award, I want to make sure that things are done -- being done appropriately. Now what we have done is we have a new director for development. And we have a new story...
SHERWOODWho is that?
BOBBWe have a new story to tell going forward.
SHERWOODWho is that?
DAVIESOur new director of development and communications is Keva Sturdevant.
SEGRAVESHave -- are any of the people who left, did they -- did any of them leave involuntarily? Did they leave as a result of the Thomas investigation in your audits, your subject on audits?
BOBBNo, they didn't leave as a result of the Thomas investigation. But they left in terms of the need to evaluate the current staff, to evaluate, you know, where are we going with this organization in the future. And then what is the level of expertise that we need at every level of the organization to kick it forward?
SEGRAVESAnd then you talked about how you've changed the process and the oversight as far as the money out. What have you done about watching the money when it's out? That's a lot, you know, a lot of grant makers are very particular about following up and making sure that the money they've handed out is actually going to where it was intended. Have you beefed up that process?
BOBBAbsolutely. That's another great question because on the one hand, and you can say to a grant, someone awarding the funds, we've done all of these things. But once the funds are there, what have we done to ensure that those funds are spent appropriately? And so we have regular progress reports. I mean, Ed can speak more specifically. But from the board's perspective, we want to know that, A, the funds are being awarded appropriately, but more importantly, that there are staff persons who are following up.
BOBBAnd there's been a couple of examples where the board has challenged the staff to go back and ensure that the funding that we receive are appropriately received. Now, I might also add just one other final comment just from the internal operations of the trust, having the appropriate financial systems to, A, track the funds, and then B, to show that there is accountability, is one of those areas where the trust, in the past, was woefully inadequate. And now, we have a new director and -- a new finance director and new systems that are being put in place.
DAVIESAnd specifically to the question about what we're doing to track the dollar, so we require 100 percent source documentation for every dollar that's expended under a grant. And what that means is that a receipt has to be turned in down to the penny to justify the dollar that is spent.
DAVIESAnd we've, in fact, had grantees who have had to return money to us because they didn't fully expend the dollars under a grant or payments have been held until we've received that source documentation. So in addition to the programmatic site visits on the financial side, every penny has to be accounted for to satisfy the grant.
NNAMDI800-433-8850 is the number. Here's Tom Sherwood.
SHERWOODCouncilmember Jim Graham, who oversees this, and some other people that I've talked to have expressed a couple of concerns. Graham has not (unintelligible) he's brought that I've read about. One is that the board is -- even though you've done a re-organization of yourself, I think it was Graham that proposed a task force of private entities to kind of look at this investment trust organization from an outside point of view to see if more can't be done to make it more transparent, more visible, more -- and that that task force idea has not gone anywhere.
SHERWOODAnd secondly, there's a concern -- one of the private organizations said to me that you guys won't release your audit. Now, this sounds like the Gandhi thing of the internal audits. But that you had a 2010 audit, which would give us some guidance as to what happened with Harry Thomas and others. But that hasn't been released, and there's been no audit for '11, no audit for '12. And where is the accounting outside the organization so people can be confident that what you say you're doing you are doing?
BOBBYou know, one of the thing -- one of, you know, among many things, when I came there is I did find out that the audit was woefully behind. And I have been, you know, dog it with respect to -- with BDO auditors.
SHERWOODWho is the auditor?
BOBBBDO. You know, they're an international...
SHERWOODRight. That's the one -- what we're going to do in a crisis, bring in BDO. I've seen those commercials on TV.
BOBBI don't know about their commercials. But they were there when I arrived. They were under contract. And then there were some question as to whether the, you know, the urgency of their work and also ability of the trust to provide the auditors with the work that they need. The good news now, of course, is that the audit work will be released within the next few weeks.
SHERWOODThe 2010 audit?
BOBBThe 2010 audit and the 2011 audit will be completed by April of this year. So we're on track. The board is on track to make sure...
SEGRAVESCan you give us a preview? Have you seen a preliminary draft?
BOBBYes. I have received -- I've seen the preliminary draft. It does speak to -- it's an unqualified audit. That's the good news. It does speak to some of the issues in the past, and it will be released fully to the public where the public...
NNAMDII'd like to address some of those issues in the past because The Washington Post reported a few years ago...
SHERWOODI apologize. They didn't answer the task force issue that to get an outside view of the idea...
NNAMDIYeah. You used the term outside evaluation also...
SEGRAVESYeah. Yeah. Quickly, the...
NNAMDI...when you were talking about the grant. Yes.
SHERWOODHe wanted the mayor and the council to appoint outside members of the nonprofit world to review how this is working to see if it can be fixed rather than having just the internal re-organization that you've done.
BOBBYeah, yeah. Quickly, it's not the trust -- the trust board is not authorized to appoint a committee. And so...
SHERWOODHow about the mayor and the council would?
BOBBSo -- but if the mayor and council have legislation to make that happen, go for it. It's the trust board to take the legislation and appoint a committee.
SHERWOODNo, no. This -- he's proposal was the mayor and the council appoint members of the nonprofit private community outside the government to review how this trust is set up going forward.
SEGRAVESWhat they would learn from...
SHERWOODBut if it's all right with you, I mean, you wouldn't do it, but would it be all right with you?
BOBBWell, absolutely. I mean, we know what happens in government. Every time there is an issue, we do one or two things: We add more staff, or we form yet another committee. And I think to give in this instance, it would be a good thing if we have -- if the council does a couple of things. Number one, at the time I arrived on the trust board, the council had not made its appointment of board members.
BOBBAnd we had a board chair who resigned when I arrived and we had two members of the board whose terms expired almost two years ago. And so we've been pressing the board, and now the new chair of the city council will appoint the council. So the council will -- the mayor's appointees are in place. We need the city council's appointees in place.
SHERWOODAnd if someone said that this is very similar to the time when Fenty was in charge that all his appointees were on the board, the Council's weren't, and that's how the money started slipping out.
BOBBWell, the Council needs to make its appointment, and the chair has assured us that those appointments will be made. You know, my hope into there is that the appointees will bring yet a new level of not only commitment but ability to help us outreach to the greater and to the larger communities as well.
NNAMDIYou mentioned earlier that each grant proposal will get an outside evaluation. What do you mean by outside evaluation?
DAVIESWe have independent reviewers that review all of our grants. For this past grant cycle in FY12, we had over 85 independent reviewers who received...
NNAMDIWhat or who constitutes an independent reviewer?
DAVIESIndependent reviewers are those are external stakeholders who have either community interest or come from the non-profit world and have an expertise on understanding of grant making for community-based organizations. They are given a matrix to score the proposals that they receive, and I believe each reviewer receives, you know, less than five proposals.
DAVIESAll those scores are then complied, and then the independent reviewers meet to discuss their scores and their final -- and before final recommendations are given to our staff to then present to the board the score sheets and then grants selections are made from that.
NNAMDIThe Washington Post reported a few years ago that D.C. council members used the trust to direct million of dollars to favored groups and to avoid earmark rules. What assurances can you provide that that will both not and never happen again?
BOBBIt is my understanding, and Ed can correct me, I think that the Council has now eliminated the...
SEGRAVESEarmarks. The use of...
BOBB...earmarking process. So I take that...
SHERWOODAnd Mayor Gray did that as council chairman.
DAVIESYeah. And also the...
NNAMDIBut they used the trust to avoid earmark rules. So...
SEGRAVESRight, to get around that by...
NNAMDITo get around that.
SEGRAVESRight, letting you, in fact, make the earmarks for them. So what role will the Council have in directing funds through your agency?
DAVIESWell, in terms of directing funds through our agency, we work with the City Council and with the mayor's office around specific initiatives, and sometimes, that funding does get directed to the trust to support a specific initiative. But there are no -- there is no opportunity for specific organizations to be designated to receive those funds, and that's where our independent competitive process comes into play. Any dollars that we receive that we grant out have to go through this independent competitive process.
DAVIESSo that means the independent reviewers who are -- have no affiliation or ties to the trust either financially or programmatically review and make recommendations from the grants, so based on objective criteria. All of those grants are then presented to the board those who score at a particular level for the board to review and then approve when this happens.
NNAMDIWhat happens therefore when a councilmember makes a recommendation for whom he or she thinks should be the recipient of a grant?
DAVIESWe tell them that they would have to apply as a part of the RFP process for whichever grant is available, that they would be independently and objectively scored for that grant. And if they make the cut and are one of the final grantees selected with the board approval, they would receive a grant. But that happens independent of their recommendation.
NNAMDIThat's the voice of Ed Davies. He is the executive director of the D.C. Children and Youth Investment Trust Corp. He joins us in studio along with Robert Bobb, chair of the board of the trust corporation. Robert Bobb is also a former president of the D.C. Board of Education and a former city administrator of the District of Columbia. This is a group that provides grants to organizations, mostly non-profits, in the districts, in millions of dollars. So if you have comments or questions, please call us at 800-433-8850 before Tom Sherwood and Mark Segraves dominate the entire conversation.
SHERWOODWhile the phone is ringing, let's talk about the need that you addressed now that we've been talking about the money and the process of it. Given the recession in the last couple of years, non-profit groups have suffered from donations. The government, to some degree, has stepped in. We've had this ongoing controversy of 600 children over at D.C. General.
SHERWOODI keep asking, what are the suburbs doing? Why is this -- it's just the city issue that people focus on? But how much is the need that you see -- that you're getting from the non-profits you're asking for money as opposed to how much money can you really give out?
DAVIESWell, the need is great and tremendous. I mean, you...
SHERWOODIs it three times, five times what you actually have money for? Is it 10 times?
SHERWOODDo you have a sense of how big the need is compared to the money you have available?
DAVIESWell, it would be hard to qualify how many, to what degree. It's based on individual issues. You know, we try and focus on a range of issues and some that there's a lot of movement around.
SHERWOODAre you involved at all when the people are doing homeless services for the children at D.C. General and their families?
DAVIESAbsolutely. Last summer, we actually provided summer programming at D.C. General for families that are there. We participate in the homelessness task force and focus on youth homelessness. I think that brings up a greater point around the trust. We spent a lot of time talking about the money and how we grant out money. It's important to remember that the trust was created to be more than just a grant maker.
DAVIESWe also work with many city agencies and community-based organizations to develop the strategies that are necessary to affect the lives of children and youth. So we look at truancy. We don't just say, how do we get more kids to go back to school? We look at what are the underlying reasons why they're not attending school and use our power, our research to address that issue and work with the other supervisors...
SHERWOODDon't we know why children don't go to school? I mean, it's because they don't have family enforcement at home, or they come from families where there are no family members at home. I mean, do...
NNAMDIHe doesn't need a committee to study these things.
SHERWOODI mean, I know if someone says strategic initiative, one more time, I'm going to scream, but what do you do? I mean, so you find out the children are not going to school. I mean, what do you do?
SHERWOODPeople want to pay kids to go to school and tell them it's a job.
DAVIESRight. Well, when you look at the issue related to family members, one area that we support our parent centers where through our grants to parent centers, we are trying to support parents to be better parents and give them the skills that they need to, you know, given their limited resources to be a more effective advocates for their children.
SHERWOODYou know, that one -- you know, David Catania, the councilmember who's chairman of the Education Committee, is recommending that if caretakers, kind of guardians or parents of children don't go to school that the city have a law that these parents must attend school as community service. And he's saying that if the kids don't go, at least the parents are going to -- he says, somebody is going to go to school. Is that -- would that be something you guys might support, Mr. Bobb?
BOBBYou know, I -- you've come off of running...
SHERWOODYou've dealt with this situation in Detroit, right? That's where you tried to save the city school system?
BOBBRight. Correct. I mean, when I...
NNAMDIAnd years ago, they tried coercion in Milwaukee, too, but go ahead.
BOBBYeah. When I was in Detroit, the truancy rate was, for the Detroit public school, was 26 percent of the kids were truant. And when we left, about 19 percent, and it continued. The national average is somewhere around seven or 8 percent on the national average. I mean, there are various reasons why children are not in school. You have to create an environment for kids to be in school.
BOBBI know a lot of times we say, you know, it's the parents, it's poverty, and those sort of things. But at the end of the day is what is the environment that we want to create in the community, in the neighborhood, where it says the school is important to children? And parents have a responsibility. I also believe that the school district also has a responsibility, and we have truant officers. We have all of those things.
BOBBWe have systems in many school districts now wherein if a child does not show up at the time the bell rings, a buzz -- something goes off, and then there's contact with that child's household. There are all these types of systems that are there. But to lay it on the fact that, you know, a mom or a dad, for some reason, do not want their child to go to school, we have to -- you know, it's a total -- it takes...
SHERWOODIt's more than that, obviously.
BOBBIt's more than that.
SHERWOODKids -- they can take the kids to school, and then they walk -- as soon as they drive off, they walk away.
BOBBI also found there are other issues as well. In certain neighborhoods, wherein you have the crews or the gangs and that sort of thing, whatever happened or occurred on a weekend or at a basketball game or at a concert, sometimes those kids do not want to attend school...
BOBB...for a variety of reasons, and therefore -- that's why it takes all of those efforts. But when a child is not in school, other things happen in the community, and those are not good things that happen.
NNAMDII wanted to get back to politics for a second because Jim Graham is the councilmember whose committee provides oversight of the trust. He tried very hard to be a part of the trust board, which he said was necessary for oversight because he thought you've been less than forthcoming about your finances. He has since given up the push to be on the board because there was a significant pushback from you.
NNAMDIAnd I know your concern had something to do with how you would continue to raise money from the private sector. What reservations have people from the private sector expressed to you about the trust and your fundraising efforts, and what specifically did the people you spoke with say about the councilmember's potential involvement?
BOBBWell, candidly, I did not go out and canvass the private sector. But when you look at the overall landscape of -- we have a city councilmember who's -- he has oversight authority over the organization. And now he wants to be on the board so that he's going to have oversight over himself? Doesn't make any logical sense to me. Additionally...
SEGRAVESSo would you be open to having a different councilmember who doesn't -- isn't on the community that oversight -- oversees you?
BOBBI'm not aware of any example where a city council person who has oversight over large city agencies, in fact, sit on the...
SEGRAVESRight. But, say, a councilmember who's not on that committee.
BOBBWell, if -- I'm not saying that -- I don't think that I would have an issue with that, if that's where a council person wants to spend his or her time to be on the committee. But remember, the council also approves the budget for the trust. So there's budgetary approval as well.
BOBBI think, too, given the atmosphere in the -- in larger community over the last several years around earmarks that are still being questioned around some of these other things, I think the extent to which there's a bright wall between the trust and its ability to raise money in the private sector and what may appear, real or imagined, as more political, I think that does create a problem.
NNAMDILet me speak in words that you would probably use in private. Are you concerned that people in the private sector see this as a slush fund for politicians in the city, the mayor and the council, and is that the view that you're trying to change?
BOBBThe answer to that question is yes because even the fact that although there is no longer the what do you call it...
BOBB...earmarks, I think how we communicate that in a -- I mean, this show today maybe gives more insight, the workings of the trust, in that those earmarks are no longer there. But, candidly, when there are conversations about the trust, almost invariably the issue of direction, being able to direct specific funding and earmarks, we have to have that conversation fairly consistently that the trust no longer -- their city council has a no-earmarks policy as it relates to the Children and Youth Investment Trust.
SEGRAVESDo you get calls from council members?
NNAMDIA hands-off approach.
SEGRAVESDo you get calls from council members asking you or urging you to fund a particular...
BOBBNo, we don't.
NNAMDIAnd if so, which councilmember? We'd like to know.
BOBBI personally have never received a call from a councilmember.
DAVIESTo answer it candidly, no, we don't receive calls. And actually, as a part of our contract with the city, we have to report any contact that we have with City Council for the sake of transparency. So on a weekly report, we document any calls that we receive, whether it is to follow-up on a particular grant or requesting more information. And in my tenure at the trust, we haven't received any calls from council members.
SEGRAVESMr. Bobb said the private funding has all but dried up. How much money do you have on hand right now?
DAVIESRight now, with our budget, our budget right now is $33 million, and we spend that in grants and in operations.
SEGRAVESSo that's what you have right now on hand?
SEGRAVESAnd how much of that -- that's -- I guess...
NNAMDINinety-seven percent of that comes from the city, correct?
SEGRAVESIs all government.
SHERWOODNow, the mayor, in his State of the District speech, which lasted for 61 minutes...
NNAMDIWhy do you have to bring that up?
SHERWOOD...just an aside -- I think it's still going on -- suggested $15 million total in job training and youth development. I think -- would that money come to you guys?
DAVIESWe have not had any discussions with the mayor's office yet about that. That question has been asked, and until we have a discussion about it, I can't answer it.
NNAMDIAbout this 97 percent coming from the government, Robert Bobb, you once served as the city administrator, and by now I'm pretty sure you've got a firm sense of what works and what doesn't when it comes to how to run a city. Where do you think public-private partnerships like this one fit into creating an efficient, well-managed city, and how important is the private in that public-private partnership? Because, right now, it's only playing a minimal role, and we still expect this trust to go forward just based on my tax dollars.
BOBBI would -- well, I would expect the trust to go forward if it continues to do great work for children and youth in the community. If it fails in that effort, then the trust should be dissolved. And...
NNAMDIHow important is private dollars...
BOBBThe private dollars are extremely important. I mean, when I was in Detroit, I saw PNC Bank, who has a program called Grow Up Great. And the bank itself commits about $100 million to its foundation in various markets. And in Detroit, we're able to receive somewhere between three to $5 million for these small kids in the school district. We also re-established in Detroit the Detroit Public Schools Foundation, and as a result, we're able to get -- you know, when GM came out with its first car, the...
SHERWOODThe electric car?
BOBB...the electric car, well, the award, the first -- the second one. The first one went to the museum. The second one was auctioned for $125,000 or more, I believe. And those funds went to the Detroit Public Schools Foundation.
SHERWOODWell, PNC is a big organization here in Washington. Have you gone over there with a baseball bat?
BOBBI didn't take a baseball bat, but definitely I have met with them because I wanted to, you know, say the program that we did in Detroit -- and it's an excellent program. But more specifically, the way in which the Grow Up Great program could be -- if it's not in the District, brought to the District, and it's something that the trust could manage as well.
SHERWOODThe private funds going to...
BOBBBut the private sector -- public-private partnership is extremely important. The government cannot fund every...
SHERWOODRight. The private money that Michelle Rhee brought into the school system now, I think that's -- we're getting near the end of that money, and the city is going to have to do something to pick it up or get some more donations.
DAVIESLet's be clear. We're extremely focused on raising private funds, and we've recognized the need and the importance for it. We have received small grants from the Diane & Norman Bernstein Foundation, the Carter & Melissa Cafritz Foundation as well.
DAVIESAnd through the efforts of just showing our good work and also showing what a strong investment that we are in terms of what our outcomes are, we're hoping that getting past these governance issues, getting past these issues of the past that we can move forward and really work with our business community who, I think, in many ways, has been underrepresented in supporting these type of efforts and bringing them back to the table in a real and strong way.
NNAMDIUnderrepresented as an understatement. Ed Davies is the executive director of the D.C. Children and Youth Investment Trust Corp. He joins us in studio along with Robert Bobb, chair of the board of the Trust Corp. and former president of the D.C. Board of Education, former city administrator of the District of Columbia. Mark Segraves is our guest analysts. He is a reporter with NBC 4. Mark.
SEGRAVESMr. Bobb, I'm getting some text messages from people who want to know if you're finished with politics.
SEGRAVESAll right. Well, let's expand on that a little bit. Do you plan on running again for office, maybe mayor?
BOBBWell, I think -- I mean, I've had individuals who've asked me if I'll, you know, different -- I mean, if you recall when we had the council chair at-large, you know, there were people who asked me about that position.
SHERWOODEvery race for the last five or six years, your name has come up.
BOBBYeah. My name has come up. And, you know, no one can, at least I -- and I won't speak to anyone about myself. I'm not going to shut the door for any potential opportunity, but I do intend to, you know, become a part of the political scene here in the District.
NNAMDIWell, you are...
SEGRAVESSo you plan on running for some office at some point?
BOBBI want to look at all of the options that are in front of me. I mean, I'm -- you know, I've been in local government. I really enjoy the District of Columbia. I love the city. I know where its potentials are. I mean, I work for one of the city's greatest mayors. I mean, I think he -- his accomplishments now are fully understood now that he's out of office than when he was in office.
BOBBAnd I see the fruits of what -- and the foundation that was laid by former Mayor Williams and the way that he administered the government. And so, you know, there's a lot to be said from -- in terms of what -- how the government function under Mayor Williams.
DAVIESLet's not forget, he created the Trust.
SHERWOODRight. He did (unintelligible)...
NNAMDIHe certainly did create...
SHERWOODHe was very distressed about it when he was here a couple of weeks ago, about the condition of it and what's happened to it, and he recognized you guys are trying to fix it.
SHERWOODI was going to say, I do plan to become a part of the political scene. Did I write that down correctly?
BOBBYes, Tom. You heard me exactly. Correct.
SHERWOODOK. I'm just testing my reportorial skills and writing skills.
NNAMDIYou are involved in development deals that have gone before the Council, matters that Tom Sherwood has schooled me again over and over that I separate from youth services and the business of the investment trust that you chair. You're on a development team that -- in your group that received the tax break for the development of the Howard Town Center on Georgia Avenue. It's separate. But it seems like you're both receiving or at least benefiting from my tax dollars and distributing or giving them away. Do you see any conflict there at all?
BOBBI don't see a conflict at all. I mean, this project had been in the works for the last six years, longer as it were. You know, I'm a small part of a development team for the Howard University Town Center. And there is project before the City Council, one of which the mayor has great consternation as to whether or not it, in fact, should receive the request, and those conversation continues to take place with the mayor's office.
BOBBBut I would also add, in the larger scheme of things, I mean, there are executives whose firms are doing business with the District, who sit on very important city board and make contributions.
NNAMDITom Sherwood said these things are very important to get people who are outside of the electoral process and the appointment process involved in being participants in how the city is running.
BOBBAnd I might also add, I am a taxpayer in the District as well.
NNAMDIOh, we'll be checking your...
SHERWOODI think it's important. The city is only as good as the people active in it.
NNAMDIThank you very much. You spent a lot of time in Detroit working with Dave Bing as an emergency financial manager for the city schools. That city is facing the possibility of being assigned as state-appointed financial manager. It sounds eerie like the situation that we faced when the budget crisis brought about the control board in this city. What is your sense for how things are going to play out in Detroit, if you don't mind my asking? And how would you compare to the financial situation that we faced here in the '90s?
BOBBOh, I think it compared for every -- I mean, there is a direct comparison to where we were in the '90s with what was happening in Detroit. And, of course, Detroit is a city of 139 square miles what at one time in its history has had 2 million people. Today, there's 700,000 people. There are whole areas of the city that are totally devastated. But then there is a growing downtown in Detroit. GM stayed in Detroit at the request of Mayor Bing. Quicken Loans brought its headquarters into downtown.
BOBBBlue Cross Blue Shield brought its headquarters. Compuware brought its headquarters into -- built its headquarters into downtown Detroit. Wayne State University area is growing and booming. But it's almost a tale of, you know, three or four different cities. But the mayor in Detroit faced significant financial problems in terms of the cash flow, layoffs, union issues, and so there is the threat of an emergency financial manager. Having been one, it's a very difficult situation.
SHERWOODWill this be imposed by the state government, or is this something they would do voluntarily in Detroit?
BOBBNo. And there is no city that would volunteer.
SHERWOODYeah. I didn't think so. Maybe it would be a state, unlike...
BOBBIt would be...
SHERWOODWe don't have -- they don't have the Congress telling them what to do. It would be the state of...
BOBBNo. It would be the state. It would be the state. I was appointed by former Gov. Jennifer Granholm as the emergency manager over the Detroit school districts, so, in essence then, Mayor Schneider would appoint a financial manager. And I think a decision is going to be made as to whether he does that or not within a matter of weeks.
NNAMDIIf you are still in contact with the mayor of Detroit, Dave Bing, don't tell him that they're closing his high school in the District of Columbia.
SHERWOODOh, The Post has already talked to him about that.
NNAMDIWell, he doesn't read The Post. He is...
SHERWOODThat's the problem. Who does?
NNAMDIHe is, of course, one of the greatest basketball stars ever to emerge from Spingarn High School in the District.
SEGRAVESOne of the greatest...
SEGRAVES...NBA players of all time. Yes.
NNAMDIBut since we were talking about budgets and control boards, should D.C. CFO remain independent, Tom Sherwood? Mayor Gray recently raised the idea of returning direct control of city finances to elected city officials.
SHERWOODWell, The Washington Post, which has paid attention to this, said in an editorial in the last day or so that at a time when the mayor is under some investigation, at a time when the city is doing well, it's really not -- one of the reasons is because we've had an independent CFO who is isolated from or is insulated from the politics of raising the money and saying how much money is available to spend.
SHERWOODSo I think the mayor who has suggested that maybe we ought to have less independent CFO is going to have a hard time persuading Congress, Darrell Issa, to do this. Tom Davis who helped set up the independent CFO told The Post in a story that he thought this would be a bad move.
NNAMDIAnd for those of you who may not remember it, before he became mayor of the District of Columbia, the mayor under whom Robert Bobb served, Anthony Williams served as the chief financial officer.
SHERWOODThe first one.
BOBBI do have a comment.
SHERWOODA political comment or observation?
BOBBYeah. This is, you know, from being on the inside and political as it were...
SEGRAVESObservation about running for mayor?
BOBB...very definitely, the CFO should be independent totally. I mean, there should be no equivocation with respect to that at all.
NNAMDIWhy do you feel that way?
BOBBI feel that way because I've seen -- I work in troubled cities now. And it's kind of interesting, I think D.C. has benefited from having an independent CFO who can stand his or her ground with respect to pushing how the city's finances are being administered. Now, having said that, I do think -- as I look at the structure of the CFO's office as they go forward in the future and think these things through, I think structurally, they should consider whether or not the lottery department should be part of the CFO's office. There is -- to me, there is no connection. The second piece that I think they might...
NNAMDIAnd we got about 20 seconds.
BOBBYeah, quickly, the second thing they might want to consider is the whole issue of how property assessments are made. In a lot of these areas, the property assessments are independent because you don't want the person who is driving your revenues to have an influence over that process.
NNAMDIRobert Bobb, he is chair of the board of the D.C. Children and Youth Investment Trust Corp. Ed Davies is the executive director of said corporation. Mark Segraves is a reporter with NBC 4. And Tom Sherwood, 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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