Kojo talks with author Colson Whitehead about his new novel "The Underground Railroad" and its resonance at this particular moment in history.
D.C. Council candidates turn up the heat on each other in the final leg of their race. Maryland’s General Assembly session sizzles right up to the final gavel. And questions about an electric car company put Virginia’s Democratic gubernatorial candidate back in the hot seat. Join us for our weekly review of the politics, policies and personalities of the District of Columbia, Maryland and Virginia.
- Kimberly Perry Executive Director, D.C. Vote
- Brian Frosh Maryland State Senator (D- Dist. 16- Montgomery County)
- Alan Suderman "Loose Lips" Columnist, Washington City Paper
- Tom Sherwood Resident Analyst; NBC 4 reporter; and Columnist for the Current Newspapers
Featured Video Clip
Resident analyst and NBC4 reporter Tom Sherwood has long said D.C. won’t win full voting rights without passion from its residents — beyond polite memos and signs. He pressed Kimberly Perry, the new executive director of D.C. Vote, about her “rabble-rousing resume.” “I don’t know of any rights won through incrementalism,” Sherwood said. Perry said many great things have been achieved because of incrementalism. She added that she has a history of activism for children’s health, rights and education.
Politics Hour Quiz
Test your knowledge of the week’s local news, headlines and happenings.
MR. KOJO NNAMDITom Sherwood is our resident analyst. He's an NBC 4 reporter and a columnist for The Current Newspapers. Tom Sherwood, welcome.
MR. TOM SHERWOODHere I am again.
NNAMDIYou were here on Monday even though you did not actively participate in the at-large candidates' debate that we had here for two hours on Monday even though you might just as well have participated because you apparently planted a question in my head and mouth that led to a major controversy over race in this at-large election. I don't know where that question came from.
SHERWOODWell, I thought you handled it very well. Race is a factor. You know, people don't like to -- don't normally in the case of Anita Bonds who's running, make race an issue, but she's talked directly and clearly, I think, without any obfuscation that she wants to be elected only for her positions but because she's an African-American woman.
SHERWOODAnd if she doesn't win and the Statehood Green Party candidate, Paul -- Perry Redd, does win, the Council will be 8-5 white. And she's making that a part of the issue to get the African-American voters come out and vote for her. She's -- it's pretty -- it's unusual to be so direct, but she's done so.
SHERWOODAnd your show on Monday, as good as it was without me, and Patrick Madden sitting in, did a great job, it was a story I did that day, and I've done a previous story the week before 'cause that's the direction of that campaign. She has a good experience on lots of things, but she's pointed out she's an African-American woman.
NNAMDIThose remarks caused the head of the Gay and Lesbian Activists Alliance to demand that both Anita Bonds and the Statehood Party candidate, Perry Redd, apologize for the comments that they made about race. So it's been a bit of a controversy so far. We'll see if our guest analyst wants to join us in talking about it. We've got a bit of sad news earlier this month when our guest analyst today announced he'd be stepping down from his post as "Loose Lips" columnist at Washington City Paper, soon to begin reporting for the Center for Public Integrity.
NNAMDIAt "The Politics Hour," we're going to sorely miss Alan Suderman's relentless reporting, his eloquent writing and his keen sense of humor, at least that's our public position. And speaking of public position, in the Wilson Building, D.C. politicians have also publicly expressed their goodbye wishes to Alan. Marion Barry even tweeted that Alan was the best writer in the history of City Paper.
NNAMDIBut in private, it's been a different story. If you'll all don your headphones, we'll allow you to hear that "The Politics Hour" obtained audio of what it sounded like when word first broke that Alan would be leaving City Paper. Here's a small taste of what happened in the Wilson Building behind closed door.
NNAMDIAlan Suderman is our guest analyst today. He's still the "Loose Lips" columnist for the Washington City Paper.
MR. ALAN SUDERMANNo. I'm tearing up. That was emotional.
NNAMDIYou just started off badly in the Wilson Building. You started off with your first column attacking then-Mayor Adrian Fenty's entire press operation. It was all downhill from there for you in the District -- in the Wilson Building.
SUDERMANI called it a beat poisoner. And it just got worse from there. You're right.
NNAMDIIt got worse from there on in. Well, thank you for the work you've done at "Loose Lips" and tell us what you're moving on to.
SUDERMANI'm going to be investigating money and politics at the Center for Public Integrity. You know, we're going to take a deep dive into where all this money is coming from post-Citizens United on the state level. And hopefully, I can stir up some trouble there.
SHERWOODWhich states are you going to?
SUDERMANAll of them.
SHERWOODWell, but there are 50 of them, and we'll talk about the 51st one in a moment. But do you have -- like Northeast, you're going to start somewhere in particular, or you're just going to do...
SUDERMANThat's classified. That's classified.
SHERWOOD...a deep dive in all 50. It's classified?
SUDERMANI'm not at liberty to say right now.
SHERWOODSee, he's already clamming up.
NNAMDIExactly right. How they change. How quickly they change. You want to weigh in before you part as "Loose Lips" on this at-large race and the role that race may or may not play in it?
SUDERMANAgain, I mean race plays a huge role in every election, and it's what Tom said. It's something that most candidates don't usually talk about so bluntly, but, you know, to ignore the role that race has in the election is just putting your head in the sand. I mean, if you look at the -- how the votes have shaped out and how there's a divide in the city between parts of these that are African-American and part they're white.
SUDERMANI mean you jut can't ignore that, and, you know, it's -- I don't, you know, I don't know what all the -- I don't know understand all this animosity towards Anita for saying it. I can understand how it makes people uncomfortable, but at the same time, you know, there's a lot of people who agree with her.
NNAMDIIt is what it is, Tom Sherwood, and we will see what happens on April 23 when it's voting day for this race and whether or not race plays a significant role in the outcome.
SHERWOODCan we point out that early voting is underway now at the One Judiciary Square, 441 -- right across from the police headquarters. The election -- I voted the first day.
NNAMDIOh, you didn't wait. You're not waiting until April 23.
SHERWOODI made up my mind early.
SUDERMANWho did you vote for, Tom?
SHERWOODI voted for a candidate who's legally on the ballot.
SUDERMANSee, how he clams up. I mean...
NNAMDIHe voted for Vincent Orange because he suggested...
SHERWOODYou know, he should be on every ballot.
SHERWOODHe's running for so many things. You just put -- I'll vote for Vincent for everything.
NNAMDIThat's what Tom Sherwood said. And when we talk about race in this city, we talk about the impact that race has on the culture of the city, but there may be in another phenomenon that's going to have an impact on the culture of this city, a phenomenon known as Donald Trump. Tom Sherwood was there at The Washington Post this past week when Donald Trump and his daughter talked about their plans for the old post office building on the corner of Pennsylvania and -- what Northwest that is -- 12th, on the corner of 12th and Pennsylvania Northwest.
SHERWOOD12th and Pennsylvania.
NNAMDII want to talk about what you think the impact that -- I mean, it just seems to me that the city -- this is obviously a relationship between the federal government and Donald Trump, but it also seems as if the city is offering a warm welcome to Donald Trump. And I'd just like to know what effect you think that's likely to have on the culture of the city.
SHERWOODWell, I think -- well, first of all, that's a great building built in the late 1890s, the old post office...
NNAMDIWhy don't we get a great developer to develop it?
SHERWOODWell, you know, he has -- I mean, I'm not going to stand up for Donald Trump in any -- he can do it for himself. In fact, the -- he was -- everything at that meeting at The Post, everything was great. I've got the best people. We got the best ideas. We've got the best this. The General Service Administration is negotiating. They're the best negotiators I've ever faced. All of this is to say that he wants a presence in Washington.
SHERWOODHe says it will be a hotel, 261 rooms -- excuse me -- that will be a -- more than a five-star hotel. He says it's $700-plus a room per night. It's going to be a signature thing. It's a historic building. He said that there will be modest signage. I don't know what that means in his mind. I think the big news for that day is his hair doesn't look nearly as bad in person as it does when you are seeing it on television.
SUDERMANWell, the one weird thing, he keeps talking about how he doesn't expect to make any money off the deal, how he keeps calling it...
SHERWOODWell, he's paying $200 million to renovate the building, and that's just the going-in number. And he said, in a couple of weeks, he will work out the final details with the General Services Administration. My sources are saying that they're really discussing, in a tough way, some historic preservation things to make sure that building remains essentially like it is on the exterior.
NNAMDIAnd this past Tuesday was -- depending on how you look at it, either Honor the Nationals Day at the Wilson Building or Suck Up for Nationals Tickets Day at the Wilson Building. Which was it?
SUDERMANWell, they don't need tickets. It was let's meet some celebrity baseball figures at the Wilson Building.
NNAMDISo they had Bryce Harper...
SHERWOODAnd listen, I enjoyed -- I was there. I liked it. That was cool. I thought it was good that Davey Johnson came, the manager, and Bryce Harper, the young superstar that Jack Evans, the councilmember, pointed out that he had -- Jack Evans had been on the Council longer than Bryce Harper had been alive. But it was good because, you know, we -- and I talked to Bryce Harper about this.
SHERWOODI said, you know, some people in this city still have not forgiven the city for building this $700 million stadium and haven't felt like the Nationals have done enough to say thank you. And he's almost monosyllabic, so he said thank you and went on with that -- but it was good for them to be there...
NNAMDIThat's two syllables.
SHERWOOD...and see some of the people who represent the people who built that stadium, which is now alive because of how well they're playing.
NNAMDIJust another case of the Council patting itself on the back for building this stadium.
SHERWOODAnd they do have their own taxpayer-paid seats.
NNAMDITom Sherwood is our resident analyst. He's an NBC 4 reporter and a columnist for The Current Newspapers. Alan Suderman is our guest analyst today. He is the "Loose Lips" columnist...
NNAMDI...for Washington City Paper. Four years ago, groups like DC Vote had hopes that the stars were aligning. The Democratic Party, the party that's been more open to the cause of DC Vote controlled both chambers of Congress and the White House. Yet here we are, and the District still has little to show for it in terms of the representation that city residents have in Congress. Joining us in studio is Kimberly Perry. She is the relatively new executive director of DC Vote. Kimberly Perry, thank you so much for joining us.
MS. KIMBERLY PERRYWell, thank you, Kojo. It's great to be here with you all.
NNAMDIIf you'd like to join this conversation about D.C. voting rights with Kimberly Perry, call us at 800-433-8850 or send email to email@example.com. What's gone wrong in the past when it comes to the Push for D.C. voting rights, and what vision are you bringing to your new position at DC Vote?
PERRYIt's interesting. I don't think -- clearly, there's been a tough road, right, but actually, there's a whole lot to celebrate now. This is so timely that you've had us on the show today. I, like Tom, took advantage of early voting. You were there day one.
PERRYI was there day two, walked in about 8:45, 9 a.m. It was me and 25 other volunteers. There was nobody else there. So it was, you know, convenient for me to go ahead and vote. But also, I wanted to -- it just reminded me that people need to realize that early voting is here. It's now --it's available. I think it's a little inconvenient in most folks' mind because it is a judiciary square. But people have the opportunity. And then the other piece is, in addition to voting early, they need to remember there's a special election.
PERRYAlso, that in addition to selecting a councilmember, an at-large councilmember, that there's the opportunity to vote for budget autonomy. Most folks have no idea that we're the only city in the country that needs congressional approval of our budget before we spend our own tax dollars. So thanks for giving us this opportunity to say, you know, we're still moving. This movement is strong. People are very excited and thrilled about this opportunity to take our budget back.
SHERWOODI can see you were looking at your notes. They're very good notes. I've tried to explain to people even this morning your campaign has signs all over the city saying free D.C.'s budget. Can you, in the simplest terms, tell people why they should vote Yes on 8, April 23, without getting into the whole congressional oversight? In just like two or three sentences, why should they vote Yes on 8? I'm going to do a story about that today. I thought maybe you could help me out.
SUDERMANI think you should. I think the education piece is key.
SHERWOODSo what is the answer?
SUDERMANAnd so I think buzz language doesn't work for people. I think it does work for people to say when D.C. sets its budget, it has to go to Congress, on the Hill, to congressmen and women that don't live here, and they have to approve our budget before we can spend our own tax dollars. And we want to reverse that.
SHERWOODAnd what would this referendum do?
PERRYIt will amend the charter that says we now have to send our budget to the Hill, wait 35 days for Congress to approve it or not approve it, and bring it back.
SHERWOODBut doesn't Congress have to approve this referendum?
PERRYThey will definitely have the opportunity to approve it.
SHERWOODNo. Well, they don't have the opportunity. They...
SHERWOODThey have to, right. They either go up or down.
PERRYIt will go through this 35-day process, absolutely.
SHERWOODRight. So they can either do it -- so...
PERRYSo when we win, we'll get 51 percent of this vote in this special election. It'll go through a 35-day process. It'll come back from the Hill. And it will go into law. And that's something...
SHERWOODIf the Congress allows it.
PERRYIf the Congress allows it, we don't know that there is any opposition so far.
SHERWOODThe Republican House hasn't been warm to it. The Republican House hasn't been that warm to it.
NNAMDIWell, we have...
PERRYNo opposition has come out so far.
SHERWOODI still haven't said...
NNAMDIWe have a caller on the line who wants to talk about whether or not this is even going to happen. Here is Mike. Don your headphones, please. Mike in Martinsburg, W. Va. Mike, you're on the air. Go ahead, please.
MIKEYes. I thought the topic was home rule for the District. I think that's what you're talking about. But I haven't been listening here for a couple of minutes. But I have a one-word response to why this is really difficult to do and that's the word filibuster. As long as the Senate can be tied up by a filibuster, it's going to be really hard.
NNAMDIWe'll get to the Senate in just one second. But I wanted Kimberly Perry to talk a little bit about if -- what the chances are you think of even in the House if the voters approve our budget autonomy. Do you think that it's likely to be held up in the House?
PERRYBut here's what -- I think we're still missing the really key point here, and that is that there these dual tracks, right, that we've had tracks in the past that were highly dependent on bills running through the Congress. And so now we have this alternative track, which is our referendum that where our District residents and people get to make the choice and vote on their own. Yes, we know that it still needs to go to the Hill for approval. We don't know that there is any opposition so far. But I think we're going to come out on top.
SUDERMANYou know, budget autonomy is the lowest of the hanging fruit here for the D.C. Vote movement. I mean, let's say, OK, you get, you know, budget autonomy for the District. You know, most people, you know -- then what? I mean, that's not a, you know, it'd be nice for the District to have. It's not -- certainly not what D.C. Vote's end goal is.
SUDERMANYou know, there's people who want statehood. You know, it seems like you're having a hard time getting -- or I don't know if you are. But, you know, a lot of people just don't seem to care about these kind of issues even people who live in D.C.
PERRYThat's why the 23rd is so important, right? One, we get a chance to see who we care 'cause the people will have a chance to vote.
SUDERMANRight. But like you said, you know, hardly anyone's voting in this election so far, and it's probably going to get a low out -- low turnout.
PERRYSo more and more reason we have to get the word out.
SUDERMANBut the larger point I'm trying to make is, you know...
SUDERMAN...is, what's next, and then how you generate enthusiasm for D.C. Vote?
NNAMDITom Sherwood and others have said that D.C. voting rights activists have been far too polite over time. You indicated that we may have something to "celebrate" if we vote for our own budget autonomy. And Tom and others say that nothing significant is going to change until there's real heat on this issue. Shedding light is one thing, but...
SHERWOODAnd don't just quote me. Quote Ben Jealous, the head of the NAACP...
SHERWOOD...who sat right here with your predecessor, Ilir Zherka, and said, you can do all the polite lobbying and discussing you want. But you have to put some other kind of street heat -- if I can take of a union term -- and do something that's more than, once every two years, somebody being (word?) down the Hill. That's what seems to be missing.
PERRYSo here's what's heat. But here's what's heat: Power is heat. And so you get power by building power, by educating people, empowering people. That's exactly what this alternative track of this referendum does. Don't you guys think this will build the confidence of residents in the city...
SHERWOODActually, I think it will work...
PERRY...if their voices are heard, if this -- when this bill or when this referendum goes up to the Hill, it's passed, and we are able to amend the charter, and this becomes a law. That is powerful.
SHERWOODBut -- and I think actually if I were an activist, I might say it'd be better for me than if we -- if the people said we want to spend our $6 billion a year that we raise in local taxes on ourselves and we don't want to -- these congressmen and women from around the country telling us what to do with it, and then the Congress shot that down, that might be more energetic than if they say, OK.
SUDERMANBut how do you...
PERRYAnd if that happens, guess what, that's -- we're going to build off of that.
SUDERMANBut how do you make the case that people...
PERRYGet people outraged.
SUDERMAN...people need to care? I mean, for the people who don't follow local politics that closely, you know, there's not a huge difference. You know, when I lived in the District and when I was younger and wasn't paying close attention and then when I moved out, I didn't notice that I didn't have congressional representation when I lived in the District.
PERRYRight. Right. Yeah.
SUDERMANAnd I would hazard a bet that many people don't notice.
PERRYAbsolute -- I always tell this great story...
SUDERMANSo it doesn't really affect their daily lives, right?
PERRYIt doesn't. I think it's fascinating. I always tell this story when I first moved into the District from Maryland. I had no idea that, one, my relocation to the District was going to mean I was giving up my voice in Congress. I kind of didn't think about it at the time. And you guys know, what is it now, 1,000 new residents per month enter the District to live here, excited about being here and then suddenly realize when they go to the ballot, there's not an option for Congress anymore. So I think it's just simple education.
PERRYOne of the things we've been doing to push the referendum is a series of happy hours, which actually are fascinating in getting to the demographic you're specifically talking about of folks who are young, maybe politics is their thing, maybe it isn't and what is the sort of I don't care factor I think it is that they've actually lost something in the midst of thinking they were gaining something by being a resident of our fabulous and great city.
SUDERMANRight. But it's one thing to educate someone about the fact they don't have, you know, congressional voting representation. It's another thing to get them fired up to a point where they'd actually do something about it, right?
NNAMDIWe're talking with Kimberly Perry. She is the executive director of D.C. Vote. Alan Suderman is our guest analyst. He's the "Loose Lips" columnist for Washington City Paper. Tom Sherwood, he's our resident analyst. He's an NBC 4 reporter and a columnist for The Current Newspapers. You can call us at 800-433-8850 if you have questions or comments. Speaking of D.C. Vote, I don't know how you feel about statehood. But I mentioned earlier that we were talking about how you ignite the heat.
NNAMDIAllow me to tell you a little bit about some heat I've been learning about lately. In his role as a Fox 5 journalist and analyst, Mark Plotkin is going to be reporting that he has been asking around about the D.C. statehood bill in the Senate, and that the chair of the Government Affairs and Homeland Security Committee, Tom Carper of Delaware, says he will be holding hearings on the D.C. statehood bill. It'll be the first time in history that hearings have been held.
NNAMDIAnd unusually, our Maryland senators, Mikulski and Ben Cardin, have both signed as co-sponsors to this bill. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid said if this bill is reported out of Carper's committee, he will bring it to a vote on the House floor, all of which is likely to be historic if it occurs, and all of which, as I said, Plotkin will be reporting on later. How would D.C. Vote feel about something like this? Is this something that you would push for and sign on to?
PERRYAbsolutely. We support it. We have talked about these multiple tracks happening, and obviously, if there are hearings, we would support it 100 percent. In the meantime, we're still focused on the referendum and the outcome -- the successful outcome of that.
NNAMDIGo ahead, Tom.
SHERWOODCongressman Gerry Connolly, talking mainly about economic development set out the region yesterday in an event, said the region needs to work together, Maryland, Virginia and D.C. because out in the country, we're all seeing is just Washington. And in the image of Washington, the Congress is one of its lowest points in the world. And every time I talk to people who are not knowledgeable about this, they say -- they just think Washington wants to be a state. D.C. wants to be a state. It's the seat of the government.
SHERWOODIt's outrageous that the people would there. And then you talked about, well, there's 636,000 citizens who don't have the rights everyone outside has, and they still look at you like you've landed from Mars to suggest that we, the nation's capital is -- wants to be in the Congress. I just -- but again, I go back to the activism. Maybe you tell us a little bit of that 'cause we don't know much about you yet.
SHERWOODWhere's your activism background where -- I said the other night on Capitol Hill in an event, I said, look, if I were not a journalist just looking at these issues and I were an activist, none of the leaders of the Congress would be able to go home at night and sleep until there would be drums at night. There would be -- who knows what. But the 10 leaders of the Congress on each House and Senate couldn't rest until something was done.
NNAMDIWhat's your rabble-rousing resume?
SHERWOODRabble -- where is your rabble-rousing pass that you guys won't just be writing memos and putting up signs and...
NNAMDIYou're being polite and nice.
SHERWOODOr is this going to be incremental? I don't know of any rights won through incrementalism.
NNAMDIYou're been accused of being...
SHERWOODI'm trying to provoke you.
NNAMDIWay too civilized.
PERRYYou are provoking me.
SUDERMANTom wants you to get arrested right now.
SHERWOODI am provoking her. What -- why isn't this all incrementalism?
PERRYSo let me say a couple of things. Let me say a couple of things.
PERRYIncremental change is a good thing, but let me just go back and say many great things have happened because of that. And also, I think it is a really big question about what people think outside of the District of Columbia. You guys know that we did a poll, 2005 or so, and most Americans agreed that D.C. should have rights just like everybody else across the country. We need to update that poll, and we'll do that soon.
PERRYYou know, my background in history has been rabble-rousing, mostly around children's rights, children's health, education, making people really uncomfortable if they don't do the right thing or vote the right way on behalf of kids. My work started with health care back when SCHIP was up for debate.
PERRYIt finally passed in '96, so that's grassroots organizing from the very beginning. And then taking my expertise to the state level and actually helping state advocacy groups lobby their state legislator to assure a comprehensive health plan was put together. And a lot of that rabble- rousing is getting, really, the average person engaged and involved. And that's what we're going to to more. At D.C. Vote, we've been doing it.
SHERWOODOne person who's not so average is the mayor of the city who is not that enthusiastic about this and thinks it might, in fact, irritate the members of the House. And Darrell Issa, who runs the committee -- I haven't heard what he just said about this. But the mayor is not campaigning for this item, and he's the one who deals the most with the Hill. Why hasn't -- he hadn't persuaded the mayor. How do you persuade America?
PERRYMayor Gray isn't support of this. He's given his support. It's been documented on...
SUDERMANBut he has expressed strong reservations about it.
PERRYObviously, in the beginning, there were some questions.
SUDERMANSo, I mean, it's one thing for him, this kind of wishy-washy support, it'll be another for him to be out in front leading the charge for it, you know? Like Tom -- that's a good question from Tom. You can't even get the mayor on.
SHERWOODAll my questions are good.
SUDERMANThis is an oddly good question from Tom. If you can't get the mayor onboard...
PERRYAnd I would say he's a lot more there than maybe he was in the beginning. He's there.
SUDERMANWell, how do you say that, 'cause we've -- you know -- we've not seen any, you know, big public display from him on this.
PERRYI would say he's there.
NNAMDIHere now -- put your headphones on again. Here's Dave in Kent Island, Md. Dave, you're on the air. Go ahead, please.
DAVEHi. Thanks for taking my call. It's a very quick one. I'm going to travel upstream for some of us in Maryland here who don't know why. Why isn't the District of Columbia represented at all? It doesn't -- it makes perfect sense that there should be. But why is that the case? Thank you.
NNAMDIWe're represented, we just don't have a vote on the (unintelligible).
SHERWOODWell, initially, when the Capital was formed, there was representation. But then, I forgot this, you may know the precise year the city lost it's representation, and half of the Virginia in 1848, I think it was, the Virginia retrocession went back to Virginia, and we just never had it since. That's a short history answer. But the right there, these are Americans here, just like the other Americans in the country. We ought to have voting rights in Congress.
NNAMDIAnd I suspect our next caller, Kathleen, wants to challenge you, Kimberly Perry, on something. Here is Kathleen in Washington. Kathleen, you're on the air. Go ahead, please.
KATHLEENHi. No. I don't want to challenge her. I have a couple of questions. We need people to connect the dot for us. So first of all, what is the opposition's rationale for why Congress had approved how D.C. spends money? And second and this is the biggest one, can you provide two or three specific examples that demonstrate how congressional approval negatively impact D.C. residents?
NNAMDIWhat is the opposition argument and examples of how congressional approval negatively affects D.C. residents?
PERRYMm hmm. So I'll start with the last first. You know, when the D.C. budget is wrangled into federal politics and the federal government, Congress is not able to pass their own budget, and we get caught up in appropriations, it delays our ability to spend our own dollars. So, for example, our local school system needs to know how much money it has before the school year starts, and often, if, again, we're mixed up in the wrangling, we are unable to do that. So a lot of costs goes into it.
PERRYAnother example is with the recent sequester, if the government -- if the federal government shuts down. You know, D.C. spends a lot of time and money trying to come up with a plan and an alternative for what we will do here at the local level. And so that is a waste of our time and our money. That could be better well spent in other places.
SHERWOODAnd to follow up on her question, you know, in the past, Congress has put what they call riders on the city budget and says, you may not spend money to advocate for statehood, city tax dollars. You may not spend money for abortion. And you may not spend money for clean needle programs for drugs.
SHERWOODIf this were to pass, if Congress were to allow the city to spend its 6 billion local dollars out of its $10 billion budget, would those things be then possible? Would we be able to fund abortion clinics? Would we be able to fund clean needle programs? Would we be able to fund statehood advocacy, things that in the past have been barred by Congress?
PERRYYou know, on things where there is a federal ban, I'm not sure. But, obviously, we would have a lot more control over our budget and would not have to be susceptible to that kind of -- those kinds of harmful amendments for sure.
NNAMDIHere is John in Washington, D.C. John, you're on the air. Go ahead, please.
JOHNThanks, Kojo. I seem to remember on this very show, not too long ago, Carol Schwartz talking about an initiative that she was trying to gain traction for, where D.C. residents would boycott paying their federal taxes until we got a vote. Has there been any traction with that? Is D.C. Vote involved with that at all?
PERRYWe're not involved with that at all, actually. And I don't know a lot about efforts like that.
SHERWOODShe said that here on this program that if she -- if there had not been progress made that she would not file her federal taxes or she would put them in abeyance. And I think there was some modest progress or something that she never did actually...
PERRYWho was that?
SHERWOOD...go through with Carol Schwartz, the former councilmember.
NNAMDIFormer at-large city councilmember.
SHERWOODFour-time candidate for mayor.
PERRYI remember Carol.
NNAMDIAnd I think we have one more. No. He wants to talk about the Anita Bonds comment, which is something we will get to later. Do you have any more questions for Kimberly Perry, Tom Sherwood?
SHERWOODRight. I just saw there's a new poll showing -- everybody looks to Puerto Rico as, you know, this city passed up having at least one vote in Congress by not going along with the Tom Davis-Utah compromise, where there would be a Congress person for Utah additional, and we would get one voting member of Congress. And then everyone says, well, maybe we could become a state, Puerto Rico could become a state and then we could go in the same time just like Hawaii and Alaska did. But -- and there's a new poll that says, you know, 70 percent of the people in Puerto Rico want to be a state.
SHERWOODAnd -- but that there doesn't seem to be any movement on this at all. Again, I'll just go back to get traction. Power doesn't concede easily. And the power -- people say this city doesn't need the kind of voting rights that you guys spend your lives talking about. So I'm just wondering -- I want to move beyond talking what.
PERRYSo do we. And so we're in the middle of action. Again, this referendum, this opportunity on the 23rd is D.C. residents' final chance. Not final, but one of many, I hope, opportunities to finally step up. This is the thing that everybody's been wanting, hoping for. We've been saying, why aren't D.C. residents pissed off and, you know, again, boycotting, calling members of Congress every day? This is an opportunity. They're going to actually speak their voice at the ballot box.
SHERWOODMy fear is you're going to get -- you'd probably win with 70 or 80 percent of the vote because people who know about it will vote for it 'cause there's nothing outrageous for people to oppose it. So then you'll be able to look around and say, 80 percent of the people in Washington, in this very small turnout election, want control over the local budget. I'm just wondering beyond that. Maybe this -- again, maybe this is just another step on a very long staircase.
PERRYI think we take this and we keep going. That's exactly right. We take this and we keep going. We're not going stop the movement and strong. We've got a brain trust of super smart folks around the table thinking through this nonstop, 24/7, thinking about all the opportunities.
SHERWOODDo you still get city money? You got some city money.
NNAMDIAnd I'm afraid that's all the time we have. Kimberly Perry, thank you for joining us.
PERRYThank you for having me.
NNAMDIKimberly Perry is the executive director of D.C. Vote. Alan Suderman is staying with us. He is our guest analyst. He's the "Loose Lips" columnist for Washington City Paper. Tom Sherwood is our resident analyst. He's an NBC 4 reporter and a columnist for The Current Newspapers. It's significant that he works for NBC because I remember, when the late Tim Russert worked for NBC and was hosting "Meet The Press," he lived on a place that used to be called Klingle Road.
NNAMDIAnd then it was closed off, and it was called Klingle Park. And those people who wanted to get it re-opened again felt that Mr. Russert was using some kind of influence or the other because he didn't want people driving by his home. Now, it would appear that the person who replaced him at NBC, David Gregory, doesn't want people parking outside his house over here on -- in Ward 3 in this part of town.
NNAMDIBecause the Design House was apparently located close to his house, and people were parked out there, and apparently, he felt that his camera crews couldn't get access to his house. The only time we seem to get attention from your NBC anchors is when the city apparently gets in their way, Tom Sherwood.
SHERWOODWell, you know, I am not a spokesman for the corporation known as Comcast NBC.
NNAMDII'm making you that.
SHERWOODHowever, I will say, you know, that you, you know, I don't anything other than what I read in a reliable source, a post about that he got apparently angry. According to the reliable source, he went out -- I hadn't -- I saw him in the hallway the other day, but I didn't stop to ask him 'cause he was in a hurry somewhere else.
NNAMDI'Cause he's much taller than you, yes.
SHERWOODI would just say this. So I don't know enough about the incident to comment 'cause I haven't spoken to him, but I -- except to say -- and I've learned this as myself, and I taught it to my son -- if you're in the television world or you're in the public world, even as "Loose Lips" is and you are, you must be aware that what you do in public, whether you cut someone off or shoot them the finger in an angry moment in traffic, that is likely to come back.
SHERWOODSo I have a personal policy of trying not to lose my temper or to be overly exaggerated about things in public because it's always subject to interpretation. And I just try not to do it. And I don't know again what David did, but I do know that that's a very crowded street.
NNAMDIYour turn, Loose Lips.
SUDERMANOh, you think he would've -- he'd lay low for a little while after the incident with the gun magazine. You know, he dodged a bullet there.
SUDERMANAnd no prosecution. And, you know, he very well could have been charged. But now he's causing a scene.
NNAMDIJoining us now in studio is Brian Frosh. He is a member of the Maryland Senate. He's a Democrat from Montgomery County who chairs the Senate's Judicial Proceedings Committee. Sen. Frosh, thank you for joining us. Good to see you.
SEN. BRIAN FROSHThanks for having me, Kojo.
SHERWOODHave you announced for attorney general yet? When is that going to happen?
FROSHNot quite yet. Soon.
SHERWOODYou can't -- it's not a teaser. It's just a matter of scheduling, right? I mean...
FROSHIt's not a teaser. No, I'm very seriously considering, and I'm running. I'm working. I'm all over the state, meeting with people and figuring out what's next.
SUDERMANWhat's with this almost announcement? Because, you know, we have Tommy Wells in D.C. who's...
SUDERMAN...virtually running for mayor but won't come out and say it. You told the -- I think it was -- I read in the Post. You said you're 95 percent. I mean, what's this 5 percent holding you back here?
NNAMDIAnd we've tried to get your lieutenant governor to announce here, and I just read in today's paper that he's soon going to be announcing his campaign for governor.
FROSHRight, right. He does...
NNAMDIAs Alan said, what's up with that?
SHERWOODIs it a legal matter just for getting your campaign apparatus in place to do it, you being a lawyer?
FROSHSome of it has to do with putting the final pieces in place in the campaign. But also, I don't want to step on the toes of the incumbent attorney general, who -- Doug Gansler, everyone expects to run for governor. I'm as certain as I can be that he will, but...
SHERWOODYes. He said he is.
SUDERMANHe's 95 percent. He's 95 percent...
NNAMDIHe's waiting to announce his candidacy on this...
SUDERMANThey're waiting for Tommy Wells.
SHERWOODHe will tell you -- he's a candidate -- he's going to be -- he is going to be a candidate for governor. So...
FROSHYes. He hasn't made an official announcement, not in the same boat.
NNAMDISen. Frosh, guns are dominating the headlines on Capitol Hill this week, where lawmakers are now debating legislation to enact new firearm restrictions at the federal level. But at the local level, you and your colleagues in Annapolis just passed a pretty sweeping gun law. Before we get into what happens next, what do these new restrictions call for?
FROSHWell, the law that we passed, I really think, is one of the best in the country. It will save lives, and it does a number of different things. We have a ban on assault weapons. We limit magazine clips to 10 rounds. We require licensing for new purchases of regulated firearms, mostly handguns.
FROSHAnd we give our state police greater oversight over gun dealers, and just a small number of gun dealers, 1 percent, account for about 60 percent of the guns that end up in crime. So that's a very important component of the legislation. In combination, we think we can reduce gun violence and gun deaths by a significant amount.
NNAMDIWhat do you hope members of Congress can learn from what you and your colleagues did in this session on guns?
FROSHWell, if they did what we did, the whole country would be safer. We -- the measures that we took, especially the gun licensing provisions, make it much more difficult for straw purchasers to get guns for criminals. We still have the problem that Virginia's laws are not as tough as Maryland's. And so we -- criminals can import guns from our neighboring jurisdictions. But in Maryland, if a felon wants his girlfriend to buy him a gun, he can give her 500 bucks, and she can go today.
FROSHAnd if she gets a clean background check, she could buy the gun, put it on the night table. If he uses it to stick up a 7-Eleven, she could say, you know, I just left it on the night table. I didn't give it to him. It -- I'm really sorry about that. If she has to go to the police first, give her fingerprints. She may say, look, I really love you, but I don't love you enough to take the risk of going to jail myself for something like this.
NNAMDIOne more quick question on this. The president of the NRA lives in your state, Maryland. He's already said that they will challenge the constitutionality of the new law and that people are already moving to put the matter up to referendum. You've told opponents of your plan to bring it on. What gives you that kind of confidence?
FROSHWell, you know, they did the same thing in 1988. We passed a ban on Saturday night specials, and they challenged it. And they're a very passionate people who support their position. Our bill does not tread on anyone's Second Amendment rights, number one. Number two, it is supported overwhelmingly by the people of Maryland.
FROSHPublic opinion polls have shown that over 80 percent of the folks in the state support the reasonable measures that we've taken. So they -- if they want to pick that fight, I do say, bring it on. They spent 6 million, 7 million bucks in 1988 and lost, and I think it was 60 percent to 40 percent. I think this will be an even bigger victory.
SHERWOODWell, what about the -- I was just reading the Gazette about the victory for Martin O'Malley. Since I started with a political question about when are you going to run for attorney general, what do you see in terms of Martin O'Malley now as he moves on and people talk about him as potential presidential candidate? Do you want him to do something like that, given the death penalty repeal, given this gun legislation, same-sex marriage? Lots of things have occurred in the last two years.
FROSHGov. O'Malley -- I'm a great admirer of Gov. O'Malley's. And if he were to run for president, he could count me as one of his supporters. I think, as you say, we've made landmark legislation every year for the past several years. The gun legislation this year repealed the death penalty.
SHERWOODGas tax is not as popular.
FROSHIt's not as popular, but it's critically important. You know, The Washington Post had an article last week, I think, where they point out the 60 -- 50-year-old Washington Beltway is turning to mush. We don't have the money to fix it without the revenues that will come from this new bill this year. And we've got the worst traffic congestion in the country.
FROSHWe need to do something about it, and we just don't have the resources without it. And so that's a tough thing for a governor to do. And he had the guts to do it. He had the guts to get out in front on death penalty, on guns and marriage equality, and I think he's been a great leader. He's had a great first and second term, this governor.
SHERWOODI can't -- I want -- one more question on politics 'cause I can't resist. You know, Delegate Williams, Frick, has suggested he could run for attorney general. Maybe you can update me on it. I just can't wait for a Frosh and Frick...
NNAMDIYou're just going to need to say that, ain't you?
SHERWOODI'm afraid it's like Frick and Frack, you know….
SHERWOOD...just Frosh and Frick campaign for attorney general. Have you guys talked about who should run and who should do something else?
FROSHWell, you know, I think that my qualifications for the office stand up to anybody because I've been chairman of the Judicial Proceedings Committee for the past 11 years, a member of the Senate for 19 and have a long list of accomplishments, starting with the Maryland Recycling Act and ending this year, if you want, with the gun control measure.
SHERWOODThere's no personal animosity between the two of you.
FROSHThere's not, there's not. But I've also been a practicing attorney and practicing in Maryland courts for the past 35 years. And I think that of the folks who are in the race, I'd stack my experience and accomplishments up against any other.
SUDERMANI have a political question. I know Tom said that was his last one, but who are you going to support for the county executive in Montgomery County? Seems like everyone and their mom is weighing a potential run there.
FROSHWell, I think if Ike Leggett runs again, I'm in his corner. I think he's been a terrific county executive. There are a number of other very good candidates, but I think if he's willing to do it and wants to do it, he deserves another term.
SHERWOODDoug Duncan, who's talked about making a comeback after being out of politics for a while, have you talked to him about what his plans are? He's been -- he says he's been gauging the county.
FROSHI have -- I have -- I've seen him at a -- at several events, and I have good feelings about him. I think he did a good job as county executive, but Ike has really moved the county forward, and I think he, if he wants to do it, ought to be given a chance for another term.
NNAMDIOur guest is Brian Frosh. He is a member of the Maryland Senate. He's a Democrat from Montgomery County. He chairs the Senate's Judicial Proceedings Committee. Alan Suderman is our guest analyst. He's Loose Lips columnist for Washington City Paper. Tom Sherwood is our resident analyst. He's an NBC4 reporter and a columnist for The Current Newspapers. We do have a call -- please don your headphones -- from Ali in Gaithersburg, Md. Ali, you're on the air. Go ahead, please.
ALI (CALLERHi. I'm one of those people that you hear about that, you know, has issues with their mortgage. You know, I've tried -- I know the rates are very low right now, but when I've tried to refi, I don't have enough equity in my house to take advantage of those rates. And I've heard President Obama talking about, you know, trying to help people like me. But I want to know if there's anything that a attorney general could do in that respect to help people with their mortgage's, I mean, success. That's my number one pressing issue.
FROSHIf I may, Kojo...
NNAMDIEspecially if he lives in your district, yes.
FROSHRight. Well, actually, I sponsored legislation this year along with Delegate Sam Arora that may be of use to you today or as soon as it becomes effective. It would allow you to refinance your first mortgage. If you have a second mortgage right now, you can't refinance without permission to the second mortgage and with that second mortgage holder.
FROSHAnd what that means is folks who are underwater as a result of secondary loan can't get the advantage of today's low interest rates by refinancing their first that may still be below the market value of the property. And this legislation would allow you to refinance your home without the permission of the second trust holder. So if you're at a 6 percent rate, you could get down to a 3 percent rate.
FROSHIt will reduce your payments, allow you to stay in your home, and it's also, not incidentally, good for the second mortgage holder because your financial obligations are somewhat more flexible. You have more disposable income, greater ability to pay your second mortgage as well. And I think it'll keep a lot of people in their homes who otherwise might just jump ship.
NNAMDIAli brought up the attorney general issue. We talked about your possible candidacy for that before. What issues would be more central to you in a campaign for attorney general? On top of your most recent committee work, you've been very involved in environmental issues. And, Ali, I thought that's what you were going to ask about.
ALIWell, I mean, I do care for the environment, too, so what is he going to do if he gets to be the attorney general? Does he care about the environment? Can he help out?
SHERWOODListen, being underwater is an environmental issue.
SHERWOODA very serious one.
FROSHYes, it is. But on the more traditional issue of the water in our state, the Chesapeake Bay, it is something I'm passionate about. It is something that I would be very concerned about as attorney general. I think that enforcement for environmental issues and actions has to be targeted, strategic. Because I've been involved in environmental issues and was the chair of the environment subcommittee for many years, I know what the laws are.
FROSHI know where the bodies are buried. I think I know what actions need to be taken by the attorney general, and it would be an important focus of my job there if I'm lucky enough to be elected. Consumer protection is another. I helped, and Gov. O'Malley took the lead on reforming Maryland's foreclosure process.
FROSHWe had the fastest in the nation. That's not a good thing. We've made it fairer to homeowners, and we did the same thing with ground leases in Baltimore City. We made it much fairer to folks who own homes and prevented many people -- thousands of people -- from being dispossessed, helping senior citizens and improving our juvenile justice system are several other.
SHERWOODMay I briefly go back to the environment? 'Cause I've taken the several trips up and own the Anacostia River. Someone told me 80 percent of the Anacostia is in Maryland, the head waters in Maryland.
SHERWOODIt's one of the most polluted areas. Why -- I'd said at one point, maybe the city ought to sue Maryland 'cause most of it is Maryland. But there's a pollution there that people talked about of cleaning the Potomac. It's better than it was. What can be done about the Potomac River to help both Maryland and the District bring that river back other than suing Maryland?
FROSHWell, the, you know, and Maryland suing Pennsylvania, et cetera. Look, the best hope that we have now, and it's a very strong one, is the Clean Water Act. The EPA, Environmental Protection Agency, has told all of the bay states that we've going to clean up -- we got to clean our streams, rivers...
SHERWOODYes. And the District is spending billions of dollars on tunneling sewage pipes and all kinds of things.
FROSHBut that's right. And they will impose -- EPA will impose what they call total maximum daily loads on each one of the tributaries to the Chesapeake Bay. And what that means is that each one of the states and the District of Columbia have to find ways to reduce the pollutants that get into the bay, that reduce the runoff from storm water. And Maryland is moving in that direction strongly.
SHERWOODI guess the reason I'm asking is 'cause the District is not planning. They're actually spending the money, $2.6 billion or something like that, to stop the combined sewer on overflow problems with these huge tunnels. But I'm not aware that Maryland has started doing anything but planning.
FROSHOh, no, no. We've -- first of all, we cracked down on our sewage treatment plants a number of years ago, and we required them to reduce the nitrogen and phosphorus that comes out of those plants by significant amounts. Really, we're at the top tier on the country in that regard. We've done the same for our utilities in major manufacturers.
FROSHWe've reduced the emissions that can come out of their smoke stacks because, you know, when it rains or snows, all the pollution is coming out of those stacks. Lands in the bay watershed makes its way into the bay. We've also adapted the California vehicle emissions standard. So we are -- we're moving toward reducing the emissions from our -- the tail pipes of our automobiles.
NNAMDIAli, thank you very much for your call. Since you will probably be running for statewide office, a lot of people want to know a little bit more about Brian Frosh. I mentioned earlier that you chair the Senate's Judicial Proceedings Committee. You said recently that as chairman of that committee, it's important for you to lose every once in a while. What did you mean by that?
FROSHWell, the -- being chairman isn't just about imposing your will on other people. You have to listen, you have to be fair. That's the most important part of the job. If I win every vote, if I win every amendment and every bill, other people don't feel that they have a stake in the process. It doesn't look fair, and it isn't fair. I've served on committees where the chairman won every time by hook or by crook.
FROSHAnd it's not fun. It's not a good work environment, and it's not good for public policy. So the people on my committee and I work together really well. We have a great relationship. I'm friends with the folks on the committee, and we disagree. That's not surprising. They represent different areas of the state than I do, and their opinions are important not just to me but to their constituents.
SHERWOODSomeone I know likes you and would support you says that you're too mild-mannered. Maybe it's my act up day. I was doing the same thing with our previous guest.
SHERWOOD(unintelligible) more little passion. Do you have enough passion for the job or you just...
FROSH...polite -- I mean, Democratic Montgomery County guy?
FROSHI don't think you have to lose your temper in order to be effective.
SHERWOODWhat is your passion?
FROSHYeah. Well, I mean, if you look at my record, you see the things that I'm passionate about, the environment, about justice, about reducing gun violence. And if you look at the things that I have been instrumental in getting enacted, I think you have to have a passion in order to do that. But you don't have to raise your voice.
NNAMDILoose Lips gets the last question.
SUDERMANOne thing I didn't hear -- I haven't heard you talk about yet is ethics or political corruption. You know, that's a huge topic here in D.C. races. But, you know, it's only a few years since Jack Johnson was recorded by the FBI telling his wife to shove the money in her bra. You know, you had this -- that huge scandal in Prince George's County. You know, what is -- what can the attorney general do to kind of prevent things like that from happening again? You know, what are your plans on then? And what's...
FROSHWell, the attorney general has limited criminal jurisdiction. There is a criminal investigative division, but mostly, public corruption is prosecuted by the special prosecutor in Maryland. We have a separate office that goes after public corruption. And the attorney general has the ability to participate but in less direct and (word?) ways.
FROSHYou know, I participated in the reform of lobbyist ethics and of legislative ethics at various different times during my career. My wife was a decade-long employee of Common Cause, and so we have a household standard that is much more rigid than that in law, and I tried to abide by it.
NNAMDIBrian Frosh is a member of the Maryland Senate. He is a Democrat from Montgomery County who chairs the Senate's Judicial Proceedings Committee. Thank you for joining us.
FROSHThanks for having me, Kojo.
NNAMDIAlan Suderman is our guest analyst. He is the "Loose Lips" columnist for the Washington City Paper, moving at the end of this month. Thank you for joining us. Good luck to you.
SUDERMANThank you, Kojo.
NNAMDITom Sherwood, he is our resident analyst. He's an NBC 4 reporter and columnist for The Current Newspapers. Any big plans this week, Tom?
SHERWOODNo. I'm sorry. We didn't get to talk about Rand Paul at Howard, maybe next week.
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