We chat with journalist and author Masha Gessen, whose newest book explores the complicated family history behind bombings at the 2013 Boston Marathon.
Casino operators launch a high-stakes bidding war over a proposed project in Prince Georges County, Md. Virginia’s gubernatorial candidates up the ante as they roll out more specific parts of their platforms. And pro-gun protesters plot to force the hands of D.C. law enforcement with an “open carry” march on the Fourth of July. 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
- Walter Tejada Chairman, Arlington County Board (D)
- Marion Barry D.C. Council Member (D-Ward 8)
Video From Inside The Studio
Marion Barry, Ward 8 Council member and former D.C. mayor, said “Redskins” is offensive to Native Americans and urged the Washington football team to change its name. But Barry said the team’s name wouldn’t be an issue if owner Dan Snyder applied to build a new stadium inside the District. “It’s wishful thinking. They’re not going to come here,” he said. Barry added that Snyder has invested too much in the Redskins home stadium at FedEx Field in Landover, Md., to move to D.C.
Politics Hour News Quiz
Test your knowledge of local headlines and happenings with our weekly news quiz.
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. Tom, welcome. And since we'll be starting off talking about D.C. issues, I guess we better include our in-studio guest early in the conversation. What do you think?
MR. TOM SHERWOODI don't know if he has any real insight into the city, but I guess we can give him a shot at it.
NNAMDIDo you think he knows enough about the city to participate in this conversation?
SHERWOODHe's a newcomer. He's a newcomer.
NNAMDIHe's only been here about 50 years or so.
SHERWOODAlmost 50 years.
NNAMDIOur guest is Marion Barry.
NNAMDIHe's a member of the D.C. Council. He's a Democrat from Ward 8 who chairs the Council's Committee on Workforce and Community Affairs. He's also a former mayor of the District of Columbia.
MR. MARION BARRYFor 16 long years.
NNAMDIMayor Barry, welcome to the broadcast.
BARRYThank you very much, Kojo.
NNAMDIYou too can join the conversation, call us at 800-433-8850. The Washington Post reporting today, Tom Sherwood, that directors of two city agencies planned to identify more than 150 prime locations for mobile vendors in the central business district. You wrote in your column in The Current Newspapers this week about the protest that was launched by the Food Truck Association. The Post article seems to imply that the Food Truck Association may be satisfied with these 150 locations, but what's the issue here?
SHERWOODThe issue is food trucks are a phenomena in many urban areas. They've sprung up entrepreneurs -- get a truck. They cook some food either in the truck or bring it to the truck, come downtown during the lunch hour, principally, park in the street, sell fresh food right to the people who come up to the trucks, and then they drive away. And they've been doing that, and the city has been struggling for two to three, almost four years now to have regulations on where they might park, how they might take over parking spaces.
SHERWOODThe restaurant association in town has been concerned because some of the brick-and-mortar restaurants, which pay property taxes and have to adhere to all kinds of other rules say these trucks pull up almost in front of their businesses, sell food at lunch, then leave, leaving the restaurants. They're struggling for other customers. Today, the Council is -- I think it's happening right now...
SHERWOOD...is discussing new regulations, just like the fourth iteration of the regulations that would decide where they will go. There might be a lottery for some of the food truck locations. They can park at meters, but they can only stay as long as the meter says one or two hours. So this is a lot of consternation. But I do have to say before we discuss this any further, my son Peyton is in the restaurant business. One of his partners is a food truck operator, so I always disclose that. I have no personal opinion one way or other about it.
NNAMDISo your son's partner is both in the food truck business and in the brick-and-mortar restaurant business?
NNAMDICouncilmember Barry, obviously, these food trucks are not going to go away. They've become very popular in the city, but I guess, the owners of brick-and-mortar businesses say, look, these guys need to be regulated like we are.
BARRYWe've had a constant struggle with this. This just didn't happen last week. It happened when I was mayor, trying to figure out what to do with them. And it's a very delicate area.
NNAMDIBefore sidewalks when you were mayor but these...
SHERWOOD...now, they're the big trucks.
BARRYBig trucks, I know, like on 15th Street, you have a whole line of trucks down there...
BARRY...in tourist areas. And you have them down Pennsylvania Avenue. It has to be a balance. I mean, these persons who invest their money in building a business that enclose, et cetera, et cetera, et cetera, against the right to small entrepreneurs. They're the same (unintelligible) businesses. In that case, we make sure that the vendors were not in front of a store that sold the same products. It's much more difficult for the restaurants. But there are some other issues too that are going on.
NNAMDIOne of them, Oscar -- put on your headphones, Tom. Oscar in Northwest Washington, wants to talk about one of those other issues. Oscar, you're on the air. Go ahead, please.
OSCARYes. I find -- and I'm surprised at Mayor Barry. I mean, small businesses are struggling right now. And I don't suspect that the city Council's going to treat food trucks any better they've done cab drivers. They overregulate to the point that they force them out of business, and especially when most of the major brick-and-mortars, I mean, they contribute so much money to the D.C. Council, it's almost impossible to get any fair hearing and fair shake from the D.C. Council. They overregulate too much until what is left is not even worth doing business and not going to make any money.
NNAMDISo you see the food trucks -- you see, Oscar, the food trucks as the little guys who are going to get pushed around by the big guys?
OSCARThey're going to get pushed around to the point where they can not establish (unintelligible).
NNAMDI...has a reputation of standing up for the little guy.
BARRYAre you a food truck driver?
SHERWOODHe sounds like a cab driver.
BARRYAre you a cab driver?
OSCARYes, yes, I'm a cabdriver, and I'm in a small business. And, I mean, I just looked at what you've done to the cab industry. Cab drivers are not making any money -- overregulated. Uber cabs, no regulation at all (unintelligible).
BARRYWell, Oscar, you must not know my history fighting hard for those who are most vulnerable, who are left out, particularly out of the cab industry. I've had that support on 25, 30 years. And, you know, had this debate about meters and about zones, et cetera...
SHERWOODCredit cards and all that stuff.
BARRY...all that kind of stuff. And the mayor jumped the gun to try to implement this. We just stopped him, and so we're losing thousands of dollars. But I'm with you. I'm for the small business person. I am.
NNAMDII'm glad you brought that up, Oscar, because D.C. taxi cabs are going to be getting credit card readers by August 31. The Taxicab Commission voting this past Wednesday to publish those regulations requiring all city cabs to accept credit and debit card payments by August 31, looks like it's going to happen.
SHERWOODWell initially, you know, they were going to -- the Taxi Commission -- Ron Linton, the chairman who was on this show recently -- there initially was going to be one vendor who was going to outfit all the cabs with the same devices, so they'd be uniform in the cabs. And that got shut down because the contract process didn't work out properly.
SHERWOODAnd so now they're going to -- there's like a dozen different vendors from which the cab drivers can choose to have a device where they can -- they must be able to accept credit cards or debit cards for their fares. It's -- and then Linton said it's good for the cab drivers. You don't have to carry wads of cash around anymore.
BARRYI think it's divided half and half as to what will happen. But it's going to happen. A taxi industry is an integral part of our hospitality. We attract about 18 million people here a year, do conventions and do visits, et cetera. And the taxicab has been kicked around, put somewhere else. And I was wondering will we have the effort to create a separate commission.
BARRYIt used to be in public works. But it's a very vital part of our industry. What is happening in Washington, the demographics are changing drastically, gentrifiers everywhere. And I welcome all people here but not at the expense of displacing our long-term or even short-term D.C. residents.
SHERWOODAre gentrifiers displacing cab drivers? I don't think they're doing cab driving.
BARRYI wasn't talking about that, Tom. You know that.
SHERWOODI know you weren't. But I was...
NNAMDIYou know, but I remember a time, and talking about how the city is changing, when Marion Barry used to talk about the inefficiency of the ambulance service because people in poor areas of the cities used to have to call taxicabs to go to the hospital because the ambulance has used to take so long to get there. We're still having some trouble with the ambulance service. But now the city is changing in such a way that the taxicab industry is changing to accommodate tourists more than it's accommodating residents of the city.
SHERWOODWell, let's be clear about the cab industry. Linton says there are 20 million cab rides a year in the city. Over half of them, more than 10 million, more than 10 million of the rides, are from people who are not from here.
SHERWOODBut there's also the, you know, there's a little old lady who lives in far Southern to the Northeast who needs to get her groceries home. She needs a cab too, and she wants a cab that's clean, reliable with a certain fare. And so it's not just gentrified.
BARRYAnd a good -- I wasn't talking about that. I'm talking about the overall demographics of the city. It changes some of the priorities of the city.
SHERWOODAre we talking about the well -- more well-to-do people or give her...
BARRYYou know, well -- oh, you know, well-to-do people, I bet 30,000 who come in the last two years, and the great majority of them, 95 percent are white and also have jobs. So they don't need job training. They don't need education. Seriously, most of them don't have any children in school. And so that's what I mean by it's changing the nature of the government. Our City Council is more conservative now than it used to be.
BARRYAnd so the plight of the poor people is going to be a big fight as we move forward. As the demographic change, the priorities change where they should not. We should be fighting poverty. We should be fighting for jobs, jobs and more jobs. Seventy percent of all the workers in the businesses live outside the city, 70 percent.
SHERWOODSeventy percent of the jobs in the city are held by people who don't live here.
BARRYAbsolutely. There are 300,000 jobs in the private sector. And so our people are just suffering of not having that. You know, everybody bragging about unemployment is going down. But those in Anacostia and in Ward 7, some parts of five, the unemployment is the same as it was this time last year or even higher.
NNAMDIIn case you're just joining us, our guest is Marion Barry. He's a member of the D.C. City Council. He's a Democrat. I shouldn't say City Council, the D.C. Council. He's a Democrat from Ward 8 who chairs the Council's Committee on Workforce and Community Affairs. He's also a former mayor of the District. You can call us at 800-433-8850. You talked about the city's changing. You are one of the stronger supporters of Anita Bonds in the at-large race that was settled last month. What did you see at stake for the city in this race? And why were you so strongly in support of her?
BARRYWell, people don't want to talk about this, but I do. The composition of the Council has changed, seven white people and six -- nine white-black people, African-Americans, and they were losing power. And you see African-American community in the poor community, we're losing power because we are not represented in the towers of power. That doesn't mean, if you're white, you can't represent poor people, but look at the vote in the composition in the City Council now.
BARRYThe votes are much more leaning towards -- let me give an example. Mary Cheh wants to eliminate the out-of-state bond, some $33 million we're losing in the city. We look at who's buying them. Almost 7 percent of them are making over $100,000 besides all of this investment. And look at the racial color, you're talking about maybe 5 percent.
SHERWOODBut not to defend her, but she'd also say, I think, that she just proposed a plan with another councilmember whose name escapes me that wants to end homelessness in 10 years.
BARRYAll right. I'll support that. That doesn't negate the fact that the composition of the Council is more conservative and that poor people in -- low-income people are going to suffer more, so...
NNAMDIFor all the impact that...
BARRYJim Graham and I just got through fighting on the (word?) situation.
SHERWOODThat's the (word?) ...
BARRYYeah. What we need is jobs, jobs, jobs, more jobs. The way you get children out of poverty, get their parents out of poverty. And the same people who are in poverty this time last year and poverty this time last year. And so I'm going to be pushing hard to try to get the Council in the city to focus on poverty because it shows itself.
NNAMDIDo you think that as the racial composition of the Council changes, its focus on poverty grows less and less the whiter the Council gets?
BARRYAbsolutely. Absolutely. Absolutely, it does. And not just true here, but it's true all over America. People who feel this pain more than others would tend to be more supportive of that.
SHERWOODWell, as -- I guess as a white reporter...
SHERWOODI understand the...
BARRYBut, Tom, I think...
SHERWOODI agree with you on the overall issue that as any place gets wealthier, then the concern for the poorest may drop. But, you know, someone like David Catania would say he spent the last X number of years fighting for the United Medical Center with you, in fact, in Ward 7 or Ward 8 and the health care across the river. You could the talk to Tommy Wells who talked about how he tried to fix Child and Family Services. I mean, and virtually, every councilmember I know without defending...
BARRYThose -- Tom...
BARRY...issues that D.C. is fast becoming the haves and have-nots. Two-thirds of our public school students are in poverty, two-thirds, 2.7.
SHERWOODWell, that's not a new statistic, though.
BARRYYeah -- no. Well, what I'm saying is that...
BARRYEvery year, we ought to be doing better.
SHERWOODSubsidizes lunches and breakfasts and afternoon snacks.
BARRYTom, every year we ought to be doing better in this country. The average income in Ward 8 is 25,000 compared to 100,000 in Ward 3 and Ward 4. So it's the issue of race, but more importantly, issue of economics. That's all.
NNAMDIFor all of the impact that new residents are having on how the city looks, how the city feels, what kind of impact do you think these residents are having on city politics? Let's look at some of the winners of recent city-wide races: Vincent Orange, Anita Bonds, Vincent Gray, what does that say to you?
BARRYIt says that that's an unusual situation.
SHERWOODUnusual or not usual? What'd you say? Unusual?
BARRYNot usual. What happened -- look at Vince Gray's race. He had 83 percent of the black vote and 17 percent of the white vote. Adrian Fenty had almost 87 percent of the white vote and only 17, 18 percent of the black vote. Let me tell you something...
SHERWOODWell, it says, you know, they're both African-Americans.
BARRYNo. What I mean is, is who would be attracted. Now I'm going to fall for that one. There's an attract...
SHERWOODNo. But I know they are both African-American candidates…
BARRYNo. The point I'm making that this city is racially divided. I didn't...
NNAMDIWhat do you feel it will take to bring it together?
BARRYA lot of jobs and people who are in low income started making money and started living well, they start not having the same priorities that they had when they were poor, as simple as that.
NNAMDILast week, a group of older citizens protested to demand more funding in the budget for senior services. You made a case before your colleagues for increasing those fundings this week. The majority of the Council ended up disagreeing with you. Some called your willingness to pay for this increase in funding for senior services by taking away from the city reserve funds irresponsible. What would you say?
BARRYWell, that was enemies of the people who talk like that. This effort, I discovered how to get $100 million out of this surplus, which is legal. Joint council, seeing we had that thought, didn't do it. I wrote an appeal and distributed the money among people. I'm not interested in satisfying Wall Street investors. I'm not interested in that. That's the same fight (unintelligible) had. The bankers are making money off of us at the expense of us. We have 100,000 seniors in this town, 100,000. Yet, we only have a budget of $30 million.
NNAMDIBut what do you say to people who say, OK. If we take that money out of the reserve funds, it helps seniors, but it also lowers the city's bond rating.
BARRYThat's not true.
BARRYIt's not true. Absolutely not true. I know that. I talked with the people on Wall Street about this. And $100 million out of -- you got $1.5 billion. I believe it would've take care of people first, that's all. Our bond rating would not be affected by that. Gandhi knows that. The mayor knows that.
SHERWOODWell, the rating agencies have been pretty clear about it. When Mayor Fenty got the reserve fund down from 1.5 billion to around 600, almost 700 million, their rating agencies were really upset. They're not upset now because there's that 1.5 million.
BARRYYeah. It would not upset -- that Gandhi wasn't upset, neither than Adrian Fenty rate the savings account by $700 million. If I'm out here alone by myself, I'm going to thank for those who need help the most. At the same time, we're moving from dependency to self-sufficiency. I think it's cruel. The richest country in the world, Washington is flowing -- flush with money.
SHERWOODBut this gentleman who just called a moment ago, a small businessman, I hear from small business people all the time that they feel like they're overregulated and overtaxed and underappreciated.
BARRYThat's a different issue.
SHERWOODBut these small businesses are the ones who, in fact, hire many of the people you're trying to get out of poverty.
BARRYTom, that's a different issue about regulations. The issue is there is an economic gap between the haves and the have-not. And until we begin to close that gap, we will be here this time next year talking about the same thing. I just seen you -- I seen you at the (word?).
SHERWOODWell, I don't think you want to disagree with me about the gap. It's just what you do to effectively close it.
BARRYWell, a few men made efforts to stop on that. And that just shows...
BARRYChairman of the city council. But again, my point is I'm going to fight along with my colleagues to help get some help for those who don't have any hope or (unintelligible).
NNAMDIGot to go to the phones. Here is Chris in Fairfax, Va. Chris, you're on the air. Go ahead, please.
CHRISThank you, Kojo, for having me. I just want to say it's an honor to be able to have a word with former Mayor Barry. You are a transformative figure in the history of the District. And I mean that sincerely. I've been living here for 30 years. Sir, my question is more along the lines of, you know, since you have been involved in the District for decades, I would be interested to hear your thoughts about what you see as the future of the District. If we were to look out, you know, 10, 20, 30 years in the future, where do you see the District going? And I'll go ahead and take my answer offline.
NNAMDIThanks for your call, Chris.
BARRYThank you. That's a hard question because I don't know who it will be in the next five years. It depends on the composition of the Council, the philosophy of the Council, a fair amount of citizens on Medicaid, 200,000 on Medicaid out of 600,000. It means that the poor is getting poorer and the rich is getting richer. And so we need to turn that paradigm around. We can increase monies and help for the poor, not taking it from the rich.
NNAMDIBut what do you say to a candidate like Elissa Silverman in the last at-large campaign, who said, look, one the one hand, I'm white. On the other hand, I hang my hat on affordable housing. That, I see, is the number one issue.
BARRYAffordable housing, that number one issue. If you don't have a job, you can't pay any rent. You can't do anything. You can't -- with food stamps, you can't do anything, so -- in this grand race. But people get mistaken, including Vince Gray, putting $100 million into housing and $7.7 million in new jobs. We got to put the emphasis on job. People need to work. People want to work. And in the business sector, you got to open up to getting around to helping D.C. revenue.
SHERWOODChris raised a question about -- let me add the future. I talked to Mayor Gray this week about the -- this huge sewage thing, which is too boring to talk about, very important, though, sewage for the next 99 years could be taken cared of in the metro region. He said, we expect 250,000 more residents of the District of Columbia, 250,000 more in the next, roughly, 20 years.
BARRYWhere are they going to go?
SHERWOODWell, we had 800,000 people -- that's why they're opening up alleys to live in, alley dwellings and...
BARRYThat's just a smaller number. Where are they going to go? People...
SHERWOODWe're going to go up. We're going to get rid of the height limit. And we're going to put high-rise apartments on New York Avenue.
BARRYWho said that?
SHERWOODWell, I'm just predicting 'cause you're not predicting.
NNAMDITom Sherwood said that.
SHERWOODI thought I'd throw in a few predictions.
BARRYIt's not going to happen. You missed a point. We cannot have a beautiful city. We have a third of this population living below poverty. For instance...
SHERWOODA lot of that poverty is moving to Price George's and other places.
BARRYNo. This is bad in Prince George's in terms of money. And so what happens, a family of four, lady with one to three children, gets less than $500 a month of cash assistance. You tell me how you can live on that next time you're in.
NNAMDIWhat do you see as the best way to job creation in the District of Columbia?
BARRYWe have pending jobs in District of Columbia. We have 700,000 jobs including farmer job. The best way is for the business community to open up and say, we're going to hire everybody. We just had a great example of that this week. The hospital association came in to see me about something else. I say, let's have a job demonstration and stuff. And all the hospitals contributed all the vacancies and put them in a pot. And the Department of Employment and Services, they did free screening. That's what we have to do, more and more of that wherein thousands of people is going to work.
NNAMDIWell, there are some people who fear that education is the best route to jobs. And now, at least publicly, you seemed to be getting along a lot better with David Catania, the chair of the Council's new education committee instead of the cussing matches you two were famous for not that long ago. You're now working with him on education as you joined with him on a bill to impose criminal penalties on parents of truant students. How would you describe your relationship with Mr. Catania, and how would you characterize the advice that you are giving him on education issues?
BARRYWell, obviously, there are philosophical differences. I'm a liberal Democrat, and he's now an independent. But philosophically, we have some differences to some extent. But we've pledged to ourselves, the two of us, that we would look out after the parents and the students. Whatever personal difficulties we have, they'll be pushed aside. As an example on that was the recent budget that we voted out of committee, five to zero, with me being sort of pushing harder for some things, and David pushing harder for other things. And we just sort of put it together for the good of the children. That's all.
BARRYPeople want us to fight.
SHERWOODI know you don't like to talk about...
BARRYWe got news here.
NNAMDIYeah. Well, we don't have to do much prodding to make your fight, but that's -- you do seemed to have reached some accommodation with each other that you're going to -- where you agree you're going to fight hard together or you disagree, you're just going to say it and move on.
SHERWOODOK. Let's move on, Tom.
BARRYYou know, that's a big move.
SHERWOODWell, that's why politics actually works.
BARRYYou know how much Dave and I are disagreeing on in the health committee about some things, and he wouldn't have take credit for every saying. But in terms of the education piece of it, he's working hard to, I guess, to gather...
NNAMDII'm just pointing out that Tom Sherwood is lecturing you on how politics actually works.
SHERWOODWell, no. I was saying that he knows that this is how you fight when you have to. It's not personal, it's politics. You've said that 1 million times.
NNAMDIOh, he exemplifies it.
BARRYBut I know it comes from (word?) no permanent friends--
SHERWOODNo permanent enemies.
BARRYNo permanent enemies, just permanent interest.
SHERWOODWell, that was -- Charlene Drew Jarvis used to say that all the time.
SHERWOODAlthough some of her enemies weren't sure about that. Anyway, let's go on to the mayor's race. This is going forward now. We've got Muriel Bowser from Ward 4 has already announced. Tommy Wells is going to announce on the 18th. Jack Evans says he's going to get in. And David Catania is, I know, he hadn't given any kind of time table yet. I think he's waiting to see who shall be the Democratic nominee.
SHERWOODBut what do you think about the mayor's race coming out? Vince Gray has indicated, privately, he's going to run again. But we all know the U.S. attorney is still investigating him. How does that factor into the race? The mayor's got to worry about the prosecutor on the one hand and getting the votes on the other.
BARRYWell, I believe very strongly in a strong democracy whereas many people who wants to run, run. My attitude about myself -- 'cause I won't wait and see who's out there. I'm not committing myself in one. I'm a strong supporter of Mayor Gray, but I have to see if he's going to run, that's the first thing. And secondly, I'm going to support the candidate who support the interest on the people who in Ward 8 and Ward 7.
SHERWOODAre there potential candidates among those other than Mayor Gray at this moment? Are there other candidates? Are they people you might support?
NNAMDISherwood is trying to get some news here.
BARRYYou know, I -- he knows better than that. I've been around too long.
BARRYPosition is very simple. I'm going to support as my supporters just...
SHERWOODWell, that's good.
BARRYThat person, male or female, that would give us the kind of respect we need and to put resources in Ward 8 and Ward 7, and who do all they can to uplift.
SHERWOODAnd some supporters of Mayor Gray are complaining that the prosecutor is taking too long. You had your troubles with prosecutors and you had -- you've dealt with all of that and you kind of moved on. But your own thoughts about the mayor being under investigation for two years.
BARRYNow you know I'm not going to discuss that, don't you? You know that?
NNAMDIWe just got a tweet from David Catania who said, "The Straight A Act does not impose criminal penalties. They exist in law already. That's the truancy nature. Straight A Act notifies parents of responsibilities." Thank you very much for that clarification.
BARRYThank you, David.
BARRYWe're on the same page on that.
SHERWOODYou could tweet him back something maybe after the program.
NNAMDISpeaking of tweeting, since people want to know, what's up with you being such a big fan of the show "Scandal." You've been live tweeting during the episodes, recapping the action, all for a show based on your former crisis manager, Judy Smith. How come you're such a big fan of this show?
BARRYI don't know. I guess I sort of fell into it in terms of -- I would say, for instance, you know, television one night and it hit -- I heard no damn thing about it going in.
BARRYBut it has a mind of a -- the real kind of situations in it in terms of the president being involved. In terms of -- but Judy Smith herself I've known long, long time. In fact, she was at one of our retreats about two or three months ago.
BARRYTalking about crisis management, you know? But...
SHERWOODWell, she certainly knows about that.
BARRYI'm just having a lot of fun, that's all.
SHERWOODCan I -- can we have -- probably our own tweeting, can I ask something seriously about...
BARRYI like (unintelligible) best.
SHERWOODIt's about you tweeted -- tweeting is, well we had -- it's a silly word, but we all -- a lot of us do it because it's important. You tweeted though about something very serious this week, about a 3-year-old being shot on the balcony.
SHERWOODTell me about that.
BARRYThat was hard. Happened to me on this road in Ward 8, and a 3-year-old was on the balcony. There was a gun battle going on down below. And, fortunately, she just got hit in the leg. Well, we got to stop this violence. It was just overwhelming as I mentioned in some community. Again, that's a direct relationship to the violence and poverty. In low-income communities you got more violence going on than in non, you know, low-income communities. And so I talked with the chief about that yesterday. We got to do more and do better.
NNAMDICircling back to the issue of race and poverty, put on your headphones, Tom, 'cause here is Jack in Washington, D.C. Jack, you're on the air. Go ahead, please.
JACKThanks, Kojo. I'm (unintelligible) and I have to say somewhat of a fan of the former mayor, the councilmember. You know, we've done a lot of work. My friends and I worked with me over at Fort Dupont to keep that rank open and contributing, raising a lot of money for the Thurgood Marshall Fund. And I've only been a, you know, full time resident now since back in the city since December and, you know, I built -- I poured $400,000 into renovating a townhouse in Columbia Heights and, you know, created a basement garden apartment there.
JACKAnd so I feel like I'm contributing to the community, but I could not believe from my ANC commissioner to my immediate neighbors how many people were against me moving in and I'm upset. And I'm undergraduate of American University, too, undergrad. And so I've been in and out of the city for almost 30 years now.
SHERWOODWhy were they against you moving in?
JACKThey thought I was going to turn it into apartments, you know, build a condo and -- or flip it or something along those lines, and I had to talk to my neighbors. I had to get permission, you know, to work. I had them sign letters saying the work was going on with a party law and the two kids, you know? And so I'm looking forward to being a long-term resident of the District. I go over. I skate over at Fort Dupont and, you know, there is so much that I do in the District and I...
NNAMDIWhat's your concern, Jack.
JACKThat the racial overtone are just being perpetuated by, you know, the Council in this latest election and, you know, I have one neighbor spray a hose on my mason because she was just upset that someone else was coming in to gentrify. And...
NNAMDIThis is obviously a white, a returning white resident to the city.
BARRYYeah. Well, the point is he's caught up in this anti-gentrifying movement. (unintelligible) oh, my God.
SHERWOODIt is not gentrifying. We don't know the decision. It's gentrified.
BARRYGentrified. I'm sorry.
BARRYOh, at Capitol Hill, I used to live at Capitol Hill. It is there. I'm going to make it very clear. I'm for any and all people coming into Washington, welcome them. But if you look at what has happened, the gentrifying, not them personally, but the whole movement, it's displaced hundreds of African American people who are seniors, who took these (word?) and ran with it.
BARRYFor instance, look at Ward 8, 70 percent, 75 percent of our families and neighbor, they rent apartments. Twenty-five percent homeowners, which mean they can't build any equity, can't have an asset, et cetera. And this is done on purpose back when they moved people from (word?) through Southwest...
BARRY...and in Georgetown, send them to Ward 8. Send them to Ward 8. Try to pack all the low income people in together. And so I think it's wrong for any neighbor to harass anybody. But let's face it, whether we like it or not, race is a very prominent in America. And the more you do to perpetuate it, the more people get upset.
SHERWOODAnd the more -- as this guy did, he said he reached out and try to talk to his neighbors and get -- let them know what he was doing so that he can reach some agreement to live among each other.
BARRYI said it's personally, individually. It's a whole movement.
NNAMDIThat won't stop the resentment, Jack. Gentrification has always been controversial, and when you throw in the issue of race, it becomes even more controversial.
SHERWOODDo we mean gentrification? Does that mean white people or just more well to do, which are mostly white?
NNAMDIGentrification throughout history has meant...
NNAMDIMore -- gentrification throughout history has meant more well-to-do people replacing poor people.
SHERWOODPrincipally white people.
NNAMDIWell, no, when you add race to it...
SHERWOODOK. Just want to make sure we know what we're talking about.
NNAMDII mean, there was gentrification in the Middle Ages. When you add race to it, it becomes even more...
SHERWOODActually, before he goes, I have a general...
NNAMDIWell, you got to hurry up 'cause we got to move.
SHERWOODOK. Dan Snyder -- this is a more lighter question, but it's an issue about race and prejudice. A lot of people -- a number of people think that the Washington Redskins name is inappropriate and shouldn't be the Redskins anymore. It ought to change. Dan Snyder said this week, after all this uproar over the last few weeks, he will never...
SHERWOOD...change. Now, when someone says it that emphatically, I always think it might change. But -- because I know politics. But what do you think? Is the name offensive, and what do you think should be done?
BARRYThe name is offensive to Native Americans.
SHERWOODAnd to people who support it.
BARRYThat's right. And all...
SHERWOODShould it change?
BARRYAll 13 of us in the Council signed a resolution asking Dan Snyder to change their name.
SHERWOODYou're a football fan. Would you let -- would you vote to let the team come in and build a new stadium if it doesn't change its name?
BARRYYeah, but that has to do with economics.
SHERWOODRight, right. It's a billion-dollar corporation.
SHERWOODIf it wants to move into town, take a new stadium at RFK or something, if it can fit in over there, would you support that?
NNAMDII know how he'll answer that. He'll say they're separate issues.
BARRYNo, they are.
SHERWOODNo. But if you -- you're going to let the Redskins with that name come in over in the stadium?
BARRYWell, first of all, it's wishful thinking. They're not going to come here. Dan Snyder has too much investment in FedEx. The stadium's full every Sunday whether -- every Sunday they're there.
SHERWOODWell, he took out 20,000 seats though.
NNAMDIWishful thinking. They're not coming.
BARRYWishful thinking. They're not coming. And all we got to do is support our baseball team, our soccer team and our hockey team...
NNAMDIMarion Barry is a member of the D.C. Council. He's a Democrat from Ward 8 who chairs the Council's Committee on Workforce and Community Affairs. He's also a former mayor of the District of Columbia. Mayor Barry, thank you very much for coming.
BARRYThank you. Let's get some jobs from D.C. residents.
NNAMDITom Sherwood. He's our resident analyst. He's an NBC4 reporter and a columnist for The Current Newspapers who built a career on the career -- political career of Mayor Marion Barry.
SHERWOODYes. Now for my on the record thanks right here.
BARRYWell, send me my commission.
SHERWOODWell, you know, I got -- my old age, you know? I'm not as old as you are, but I had to prepare for my old age.
NNAMDITom Sherwood, next year, there's a governor's race coming up in the state of Maryland. There is only one announced candidate, and that happens today. Lt. Gov. Anthony Brown, he is going to be laying out his priorities to run for this post. But we already know that his likely most formidable competitor is the attorney general, Doug Gansler, who's got a huge war chest that he's raised already. And Howard County Executive Ken Ulman is thinking about it. Delegate Heather Mizeur in Montgomery is thinking about it. What are you thinking about?
SHERWOODWell, I'm thinking it's fairly early in this race, but -- and Doug Gansler is not really -- he's not really thinking about him. He's privately talking. He's got $5 million. He's got far more money than Lt. Gov. Brown. Brown, his role is he's got to prove that he's somebody other than the sidekick to the current governor, and that's what in his speech he's thrown out, how he's an independent -- what he wants to do more so than O'Malley has done.
SHERWOODBut that, you know, in the -- Peter Franchot, the -- could have run, but he chose not to do it. I think we've got a good Maryland race for governor on our hands.
SHERWOODAnd if Ulman gets in, it would just be quite interesting how he would play Howard County.
NNAMDII think that even though he is lieutenant governor, Anthony Brown still got that major money hurdle to overcome in the form of the...
SHERWOODAnd also Brown and Ulman apparently are talking about maybe...
NNAMDII'm just getting to get -- we will see how that ends.
SHERWOODThat lieutenant governor's job, so it's kind of like being vice president.
NNAMDIBut Walter Tejada is now with us. He is the chairman of the Arlington County Board. He's a Democrat. Walter Tejada joins us in studio. Good to see you.
MR. WALTER TEJADAGood to be here, Kojo. Thanks for inviting me. Tom?
NNAMDIIf you have questions or comments about Arlington County, give us a call: 800-433-8850. A few weeks ago, Arlington County was turned down by a federal transportation program that it hoped would help kick-start a streetcar line that would connect Arlington and Fairfax. But county officials have said this will not step -- stop Arlington from moving ahead with the project.
NNAMDIWhat is the plan from here, and what do you see at stake for the streetcar plan on the whole? In case you're just joining us, the number is 800-433-8850. Walter Tejada is chairman of the Arlington County Board. Go ahead.
TEJADAYeah. Good afternoon, everyone. Well, Kojo, that actually is not entirely correct. I think what's happened is a misunderstanding of what the process is about. What the Federal Transit Administration has is a number of rounds in which applicants from around the country -- and the streetcar line, modern streetcar lines are getting more and more popular -- are applying for federal funds.
TEJADAAnd so this round was selecting a pool of 10 that then go to the -- another around in which they have to improve their designs in order for them to qualify for fund. For us, I think we are excited about the new transportation bill that was signed in Virginia where state funds will be available for transportation as well as regional dollars to the Northern Virginia Transportation Authority and our own Transportation Capital Fund.
TEJADASo we actually see that the feedback we got from the FTA was that our application was very strong, that this small grant segment in -- section where we were, we were better off in something called the New Start program which has more funding available, up to 80 percent, possibly, of the cost on the federal grant, but more likely more like 50 percent perhaps. So 310 million is what the FTA now says our project will probably cost with overruns and all kinds of stuff.
TEJADAAnd so that's a more realistic fear. And so we feel that if we would get 80 percent of that, if you can do the math, that would be much more than the 75 million we were aiming on the initial one. But the most important thing is, too, that we are moving full steam ahead, moving forward, with the modern streetcar line in the Columbia Pike area with our own state dollars, regional transportation dollars and our own Transportation Capital Fund.
SHERWOODSo the federal transit didn't kill it, but -- so it sounds incredibly more bureaucratic that you have to redo proposals. When can the people of Arlington realistically expect that you might have a firm answer on federal funding for this project?
TEJADAYeah. Well, there's a question...
SHERWOODNext year, 2015?
TEJADAWell, the question is when are we going to actually seek additional federal dollars because the process is cumbersome and so long. We'd like to see it done sooner than later, and I'd like to see it within my lifetime. So, for us, we feel that we will be in more control with our own dollars, both for my own Transportation Capital Funds, which has been collecting funds since 2008, that are exclusive, by the way, only and solely for transportation.
TEJADAThey cannot be used for something else, only for transportation. So there's a question whether we actually would go after federal dollars or not because it's a lengthy process, and we want to get it done sooner.
NNAMDIWell, is anybody listening at all to County Councilmember Libby Garvey, who says that you should take a pause to reconsider bus transit?
TEJADAWell, it's always good to hear everybody's opinions and dissenting voice is nothing new in a democratic process. But we've had decades in the making of the realization of Columbia Pike. Some people date it back as the 1986.
TEJADAAnd so after a lengthy, extensive, intensive public process for different parts of the infrastructure that we need to establish, including, to give you an example, street space master plan just to see how wide Columbia Pike is, the space and sidewalks and all that from west to east or from east to west, however you want to do it, methodically having a lengthy process to do that with -- they call it the centerpiece of it being a modern line streetcar in the Columbia Pike area.
TEJADASo -- and that's just one -- we don't have time to go into many of the different segments of planning. And I'll tell you this last one that is critical for me particularly. Last year, I said that -- going into the July debate about the neighborhood plan, which had the housing study -- I would not continue supporting the streetcar unless we protect it, not some, but all of the affordable housing that we have in that area because I have studied it around the country, what has happened, and there have been many instances where there's no deliberate plan to protect affordable housing.
TEJADASo the two treasures that I had as requirement for me to support (unintelligible) one, not protecting some, but all of the affordable housing, and, the second, to have a plan to protect small businesses so that we can strengthen that mom-and-pop shops in the pike. So...
NNAMDIThis streetcar project is going ahead, in other words. 800-433-8850. Tom?
SHERWOODStreetcars bring or expect to bring development. Mayor Gray has talked about them in the city. Some transportation people are worried that streetcars are the latest fad, that this is an idea that you ease congestion by putting in streetcars, put the tracks back in. To what extent are streetcars critical to what you see along Columbia Pike to, you know, in Fairfax County and Arlington and the suburbs where you guys are more urban every day, but, you know, you can't drive around now?
SHERWOODDo you have a war on cars?
TEJADAAbsolutely not. But the streets were meant for pedestrians, for human beings, and we have to design things to actually have increased capacity.
SHERWOODThe streets were meant for pedestrians?
TEJADAYeah. You know, we -- the whole thing is to make safer for pedestrians, for human beings to move around in areas, and the whole thing for streetcars, the main thing is for capacity, be able to deter the use of vehicles, and we know some people are still going to drive. Hopefully, they will drive electric vehicles or hybrids as we do, a lot of people in Arlington and so on.
TEJADASo -- but the -- and I'm glad you mentioned Fairfax County 'cause both the -- both supervisor in Fairfax and the Arlington County Board have voted not once but twice in 2006 and 2012 to support and move forward with the modern streetcar line. And so the point, it's valid about -- as we are a -- I wouldn't describe the victims of our own success. We are very an attractive community to come and live with. They are already coming.
TEJADAAnd the question for us is, how are we going to manage growth, how we're going to be able to handle the people that are coming? And then with the modern streetcar line, which spurs economic development, we can then may -- create some pockets of development where with the profit of the development, we can pay for the amenities that includes the protection and increase of affordable housing.
SHERWOODHow big is Arlington going? I mentioned the mayor has said 250,000 more District citizens in the next 20 years. We get it closer to 850,000 people. With Arlington, what, 200 -- how many people in Arlington?
TEJADARight now, we have 215,000.
SHERWOODTwo hundred -- what do you -- you're planning for what?
TEJADAWell, as you know, I'm very active in the Metropolitan Washington Council of Governments.
SHERWOODYeah. That's why I asked the question.
TEJADAThe work -- the area..
SHERWOODSaw you this week there.
TEJADA...the areas forecast have -- will be increasing. Hundreds of thousands of people will be getting our own share. We're not going to get (unintelligible).
SHERWOODBut is there a target figure that you guys expect in 20 years? What would Arlington be, 300,000?
TEJADANo. Well, we have about 13,000 new jobs we're forecasting, about 41,000 new residents, about 21,000 dwellings -- new dwellings that we need to build in our area to absorb the forecast to the population areas. So the question again is, how we're going to manage growth? And just doing business as usual isn't going to cut it. We need to add capacity to be able to move more people and disincentivize the use of automobile.
NNAMDIOutside of the streetcar project, there's still a pretty heated conversation about the differences in how North and South Arlington have developed, South Arlington being the part of the county that's farther away from the Metrorail network. What else beside transit do you think is important to tackling any inequity issues that people see between North and South Arlington?
TEJADAWell, that's always been a popular saying in a community, you know, whether its validity or not as people can make their own judgment. But I'm talking about West Arlington. And I'm talking about East Arlington. And I'm talking about Central Arlington. One of my initiatives this year is to have neighborhood town halls. And the very first one that was in the historical African-American community knot. My -- the last one I did in April was in Northern Arlington where permanent, very wealthy folks resigned, so on so.
TEJADAThis thing about -- and people want to create an illusion of that. We need to break those barriers. I want to treat all residents with the same equality that I demand and that we should have in Arlington. So, you know, people like to make those comments. Our goal is to treat the wealthy residents as well as no-income resident equally. And I want to remind you I'm the honorary co-chair of our 10-Year Plan to End Homelessness in Arlington.
NNAMDII was about to say that if there's a link between those two, it's affordable housing. You've said that affordable housing is your top priority as chairman.
NNAMDIWhat are the kinds of concrete things that the Council can do to make housing more affordable?
TEJADASure. The county board is second to none on the efforts to add and supply the affordable housing. Every site plan project that comes before the board has a percentage that has to be either on-site units or dollars the amount that can go to our affordable housing investment fund in order to be able to give us opportunities to invest in housing.
TEJADAAnd I'm very proud that this budget that we just approved in April, we have made the highest investment ever for affordable housing, including adding (unintelligible) three additional million dollars into our AHIF fund, for a total of 12 million. So, you know, we're trying to make the...
SHERWOODIs 12 million to -- is that to leverage more moneys, or is that 12 million maximum money to spend?
TEJADATo leverage. And that goes into the AHIF fund, the Affordable Housing Investment Fund, which where -- there maybe an opportunity that we need to take advantage of at any moment. And plus, we also have folks that are paying back dollars we've lend in the past, and this funding continues to grow. That's one element. There are many others. In June of this year, I've asked the (word?) to come back with a proposal in establishing what I call a transit-oriented affordable housing fund out of the value-added in Columbia Pike. So we can help low-income people...
NNAMDIWe're glad you mentioned transit-oriented affordable housing fund...
NNAMDI...because rents in the region follow up pretty hard and fast rule. The closer you are to transit, the more you pay. What concerns do you have about whether the streetcar will drive up rents to the point of pricing some people out?
TEJADAThat's precisely why I had deliberate -- told people I will not support streetcar unless we deliberately set out to protect all of -- people were saying, well, we're unable to support -- to protect 60 percent.
TEJADAAnd I would say, well, how would you like to live in the 40 percent that's going to be protected? And so I have -- the evaluations I've done around the country in -- on modern line streetcar is that there is no deliberate plan put in place to protect affordable housing and the protection of low-income residents no matter what race, gender or background they are. Low-income people, we need to do a better job, we'll make sure that we retain our diversity in our regions.
SHERWOODAre you retaining a middle class diversity? I mean, you -- we are -- you're talking about the poorest to the poor and riches...
SHERWOODIs the middle class being squeezed out of Arlington?
TEJADAI think we're all grappling with that in the region because we have been given the downturn in the economy. This has been the best region in the country. And so with that, it's going to lay the challenge of affordability for all of us, so it's a work in progress. But if we just ignore it and don't do anything about it then, you know, we're going to continue to fall further behind.
TEJADASo our plan is to create and increase affordable housing, assist low-income tenants with housing grants and a number of other elements that assist people. That's not the key for (unintelligible) for everything. Seniors in particular, we want to make sure the seniors want to live in the county, can stay in the county. We have programs to be able to do that.
NNAMDIOne last question on transportation. A lot of people are questioning the wisdom of the design of the so-called super stops plan for Columbia Pike. Construction was halted on the first stop after reports surfaced that it was going to cost more than $1 million. It's my understanding that the first stop's construction was managed by Metro, and the rest will be overseeing by the county. What lessons do you think you, the county, have taken out of this for the rest of the process?
TEJADAOh, there are many lessons. First of all, it's absurd that you have $1 million bus stop. And there are some details in between. First of all, the management clearly was wrong. I mean, it just took too darn long. And you have to remember that Arlington County was actually asked to submit a proposal to get federal grants and state grants in order to build this -- 23 super stops, $24 million to be able to build 23 super stops.
TEJADASo clearly, this one was way too much high in the cost, and then the design is terrible, that's why there's been a pause, and we've supported the manager. The county board supports the manager pausing and then rechecking with constituents to make sure that we redesigned it so that it does the job that it's supposed to be. It's really a good -- a part of our infrastructure down the line because it will also accommodate the stop we need for the streetcar. So overall, it's a good thing to do. It just cannot cost this -- and it has to be done better.
NNAMDIWe're running out of time very quickly, but I wanted to get in Matt in Rockville, Md. Matt, you only have about 30 seconds.
MATTYeah. Well, just to make it very short. I asked the people who has the foot in the streetcars to look at Philadelphia. And I really -- it actually takes away the beauty from the city. And with all this, you know, every time you all drop to Philadelphia and I got to come back, I got to get the weird alignment done on my car because of the rails in the road.
NNAMDIHave you looked at Philadelphia, Walter Tejada? It destroys the beauty, it's wrecking his rims on his car.
TEJADAWell, I've looked at Portland and Seattle and other places around the country where there are successful streetcar lines there that run. And, you know, that's not the old style streetcar that people think. They used the word trolley when -- usually when they oppose it. This is a modern streetcar line that is steady. It provides a steady ride.
TEJADACars, trucks, buses are able to share the lane. This is critical. This is not taking the lane away from transit at all. It's a shared line, and it's a steady ride.
NNAMDIWalter Tejada is the chairman of the Arlington County Board. He's a Democrat who agrees with me that we got to get D.C. United back on a winning track.
TEJADAAbsolutely. We have to reverse the record.
NNAMDIThank you. Tom Sherwood is our resident analyst. He's an NBC 4 reporter and a columnist for The Current Newspapers. Tom, always a pleasure.
SHERWOODHave a good weekend.
NNAMDIAnd thank you all for listening. I'm Kojo Nnamdi.
Most Recent Shows
More women on screen and more exploration are among the trends in video gaming this year. Tech Tuesday explores how pop culture and new technology are changing the gaming experience.
Airline profits are soaring but passengers feel squeezed. We explore the economics of flying as the busy summer travel season takes off.
Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan has authorized a proposal to build a light rail line connecting Montgomery and Prince George's Counties. But he wants local jurisdictions to pay more for it. We explore where the debate heads from here.