It's health plan open enrollment season for many employees, including federal workers.The editors of the Consumer Checkbook's annual Guide to Health Plans for Federal Employees join us to discuss what you need to know to make smart choices for 2016.
A soccer stadium proposal kicks off a new political debate in the District. Virginia’s governor issues a public apology after repaying a prominent businessman for loans made to his family and his business. And Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley rolls out new standards for greenhouse gases. 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
- Kenyan McDuffie Member, D.C. Council (D- Ward 5)
- Ralph Northam Democratic Candidate, Lieutenant Governor, Virginia; Member, Virginia Senate (D-6th District)
D.C. Council Member Kenyan McDuffie said he’s cautious about supporting the proposed new D.C. United soccer stadium at Buzzard Point in Southwest Washington. He said he wants the team to stay in the District, but needs to see a financial analysis and the land agreement before backing the deal. “I’m not ready to jump on the bandwagon yet,” McDuffie said. “I need to look at the details. The devil’s always in the details.”
Play The Politics Hour News Quiz
Test your knowledge of local headlines and happenings.
MR. KOJO NNAMDIFrom WAMU 88.5 at American University in Washington, welcome to The Politics Hour, starring blockbuster star Tom Sherwood. I'm Kojo Nnamdi. He only stars in summer blockbusters. Tom Sherwood is our resident analyst. He's an NBC4 reporter and a columnist for The Current Newspapers. It's summertime, so it's time for a blockbuster star.
MR. TOM SHERWOOD...hyperbole. It's out of control.
NNAMDIYes, the heat is really getting...
SHERWOODBut I accepted all that noise.
NNAMDIWell, let's talk about what's going on in the news this week. Here in Washington, D.C., just today, former top campaign aide to Mayor Vincent Gray, Thomas Gore, sentenced to six months in prison and 180 days of home detention for playing a role and secretly paying off candidate Sulaimon Brown, who was running against then-incumbent Adrian Fenty.
NNAMDIThe other aide, Howard Brooks, pleaded guilty to making false statements to investigators and was sentenced to probation in October. What seems to have gotten Thomas Gore the stiffer sentence is that he admitted that he destroyed a notebook that recorded those payoffs.
SHERWOODHe knew what he was doing. You know, the prosecutor, Ronald Machen, has said, you know, that this campaign deceived the voters of Washington. And the judge talked to Mark Segraves from Channel 4 who was down there. The judge did the same thing today. She said, you need to know the enormity of what you've done when you tricked -- she didn't use the word trick, so I shouldn't.
SHERWOODShe said, you altered the results of the election. You altered the fair election process by simply doing what you did, and I want you to know it. And I think that's why he got jail time.
NNAMDIThomas Gore, 57 years old, looking at six months in jail and 180 days on -- what did I say? 180 days…
NNAMDI…of home detention after that.
SHERWOODThat's -- he'll where -- maybe Kwame Brown will give him the...
SHERWOOD...device that he had before. But, you know, I think it's really important to note that because there's been so much about the campaign and the shadow campaign and, you know, Mayor Gray's under federal criminal investigation for all of this, that this was the start. The backhanded, hidden payoffs to Sulaimon Brown to stay in the campaign and to attack Mayor Fenty was the start of this sleaziness, and people have plead guilty now since we are just still -- we're at this -- still at genesis. They were at genesis. We're still waiting for the end of the story.
NNAMDIThe other big news coming out of the city this week is a proposed deal, a deal for a new soccer stadium for D.C. United, the "most decorated Major League Soccer team," in Buzzard Point. It's a complicated, $300 million public-private stadium plan. And because it's complicated, I will leave the room while you explain it in detail.
SHERWOODAnd out of respect for our audience, I won't go into details. I will just say that given the controversy over the expense of the baseball stadium, which has been a very big success, but the 600, $800 million cost, this deal is structured so that the city will be out very little actual cash money. And the new owners of the soccer team -- for 10 years, the soccer team's been wanting a new stadium, but the soccer team owners had no money.
SHERWOODThese owners, Indonesian businessmen, they have money. They're going to build the stadium, may spend up to 150 million to build the stadium. The city will give -- allow them to have the land, and they'll swap the land with developers for some other land across town. So it's -- there's a lot of moving pieces, and we'll talk more about it with one of our guests later. But it is a movement by the city.
SHERWOODAnd Allen Lew, who brought the city the Convention Center, brought the city the baseball stadium and is -- was the city -- is the city administrator -- sorry, Allen -- is the city administrator. He did it...
SHERWOOD...and we'll just explore the details in the coming weeks.
NNAMDIAnd one councilmember supporting it is the man who brought the city the Reeves Municipal Center and who, I guess, will happily accept responsibility for the value of that building right now and who is likely to benefit from moving the Reeves Center into his ward, Ward 8, Marion Barry.
SHERWOODWard 8, in Southeast Washington, south part of Southwest Washington. It's one of the poorest -- is the poorest ward. Marion Barry built the Reeves Center at 14th and U in Northwest when that was a -- still a hellhole...
NNAMDIDecayed area, yes.
SHERWOOD...from the '68 riots, and he built it in '86. It helped spark the revival of that part of the city, which is now an economic engine of the city's economy. The mayor's agreeing that the building can be torn down and redeveloped as long as they take the name of it, Franklin Reeves, who is a civil rights person and professor of law at Howard, make sure the name transfers to Ward 8. And they will build a government building there, where 1,000 city employees will work and will bring some economic development there.
NNAMDISo when will Mr. Barry...
SHERWOODSo they have the mayor's vote, Mayor Barry's vote, if that's what you're asking.
NNAMDIWhen will he announce that he is running for mayor again?
SHERWOODHe will not.
NNAMDIHe will not announce that he's running.
SHERWOODI don't think.
NNAMDITom Sherwood, who knows it all when it comes to the former Mayor Marion Barry Jr., down to the commonwealth of Virginia, where there was the Homestead debate last weekend between gubernatorial candidates Democrat Terry McAuliffe and Republican Ken Cuccinelli, the attorney general of the commonwealth. What did you think about the debate? It seems that both candidates got their points off, but it was the first time that McAuliffe was involved in a debate with the Republican candidate, and the general opinion seems to be that he did fairly well.
SHERWOODWell, Ken Cuccinelli, whether you like him or not, is sure of himself and is confident in a -- in some reassuring ways while Terry McAuliffe was seen, frankly, as too much of a -- I'm going to say this again, I said it to him -- a used car salesman who was just a little too boisterous and over the top in trying to act like he knew what he was talking about. And he did achieve the goal of not being that way during the debate, so it was a win for him to show that he could be gubernatorial.
NNAMDIOur guest will probably have something to say about that debate and about the other topic coming out of the news in Virginia this week that we're going to discuss. So I better go ahead and introduce him right now. He is Ralph Northam, Democratic candidate for lieutenant governor of Virginia. He's a member of the Virginia Senate who represents the commonwealth's 6th District.
NNAMDIAnd if you go to our website, kojoshow.org, and participate in The Politics Hour News Quiz, you will find out just how many physicians have been members of the Virginia General Assembly. Before he did, do you know the answer to that question?
STATE SEN. RALPH NORTHAMNo, sir, I don't. It's probably something I should look up, though.
NNAMDII am not going to give it away. You have to go to our quiz on The Politics Hour News because...
SHERWOODAnd you just heard our guest speaking, and it's just so good to have someone here who doesn't have an accent, you know? It's just so nice to have somebody who just talks like I do.
NNAMDIExactly right. People without accents. But thank you very much for joining us.
NORTHAMThank you so much, Kojo and Tom, for having me on the show today.
NNAMDIMuch of the news coming out of Virginia this week has to do with Gov. Bob McDonnell apologizing to the commonwealth and giving back $124,000 to the wealthy benefactor, Jonnie Williams, and, on Wednesday, traveling to Afghanistan in order to meet troops from Virginia who were there, the announcement representing the first time he's expressed regret or said that his family have embarrassed the state by accepting this.
NNAMDIHe was quite busy during the course of the past few weeks, changing his spokespersons -- or hiring a private spokesperson and switching lawyers. First you, Tom Sherwood. What do you make of this?
SHERWOODWell, you can't buy back your reputation by paying back money that you now say was a loan. I mean, this has just been a devastating blow to Gov. McDonnell, who, in many ways, people give him great credit the way he has comported himself as the governor of the state. But to allow his family life and favors to be done for him and in his name and his wife is just a -- is just so alien to me.
SHERWOODEvery week, I'm astonished by it that it continues. And he needs Jeff Schapiro, the Richmond Times-Dispatch columnist and a man with many opinions, you know, this -- the governor has done a good step. But it is a step, not a clearing of the air. And, you know, the governor went off to Afghanistan, I think it was, to see Virginia troops fighting over there and trying to wrap that up. Well, the governor needs to come home and wrap this up, too, with a little more disclosure.
NNAMDIIf you'd like to join the conversation, give us a call at 800-433-8850 or send email to firstname.lastname@example.org. Sen. Northam, even though this stuff about the governor has been diverting attention from what is a very important campaign that you are involved in, I'm still interested in what's your takeaway from this whole matter.
NORTHAMAbsolutely, Kojo, and I couldn't agree more with Tom. This has been a terrible tragedy for the commonwealth of Virginia. It's been an embarrassment. A public servant shouldn't be in the position where they're allowed to take special perks, and certainly the thousands of dollars that have come in to that family is just inexcusable. And, you know, back in 2010, I introduced legislation that would put more teeth in our ethics violations in the commonwealth. It didn't pass.
NORTHAMBut I suspect that you will see in 2014 session a lot of legislation that deals with that, and certainly Terry McAuliffe, Mark Herring and I have pledged we are all supporting not taking any gifts over $100. It just -- it's just not right. And, you know, Virginians deserve better, and they deserve transparency.
SHERWOODAnd to disclose those gifts...
SHERWOOD...whatever the value of them.
NNAMDIFor those who have had so much of the focus on the race here at the top of the ticket and the stories tailing Bob McDonnell, tell us -- tell our listeners why you're in this race to begin with, and what would you say are the core issues you'd like to address in this position should you win?
NORTHAMWell, Kojo, I'm a physician, and you asked a question earlier, how many physicians have been in the general assembly? I'm the only physician in the Senate right now, and so I bring my experience. We obviously have a lot of challenges in health care, and so I wanna work with the governor and the staff to make sure that we put Virginia in the best possible posture so that all Virginians have access to health care.
NORTHAMBut, you know, I've been in the Senate for six years now. I know the relationships. I have the reputation of working with both sides of the aisle. And we have tremendous challenges in the commonwealth, and we've kind of lost direction in the last couple of years, dealing with these social issues: the ultrasound mandate, the TRAP regulations, the personhood bill. You know, that's not what the general assembly needs to deal with.
NORTHAMWe need to talk about transportation, education, health care, taking care of an environment, making Virginia business-friendly so that we can go back to being the number one state in the country where someone could start a business.
SHERWOODA lot of people don't know the lieutenant governor is decisive and that -- I think -- is this a 40-member Senate, still split 20-20?
NNAMDIYes, it is.
NORTHAMIt is, Tom, 20 Republicans, 20 Democrats, and we've had close to 50 ties in the last couple of years and all except one went in the direction that is against the Democratic values and principles. So it's very important, we feel, to have a lieutenant governor who's a Democrat.
SHERWOODYou're -- you are campaigning for the job, and the Republican candidate is E.W. Jackson, who we haven't had on the show. I think we're trying to get him on the show.
NNAMDIWe're looking forward to that.
SHERWOODLooking -- I'm looking forward to it. There was a lot of ruckus about which debates the gubernatorial candidates would have. Have you had a debate somewhere in the state that I haven't heard about with Rev. Jackson?
NORTHAMNo, sir, we haven't had debates yet, but starting in September, I suspect we'll have four to five. We haven't gotten the dates confirmed, but that's what we're looking at.
SHERWOODCan you characterize why you would be a better lieutenant governor than E.W. Jackson?
NORTHAMWell, I think the...
SHERWOODWhat do you say about him on the campaign trail, though, might make news here today.
NORTHAMYes, sir. Well, I'm talking about, you know, my record and what I intend to do as lieutenant governor, primarily. But, you know, I bring the experience. I've been in the Senate for six years and that, as you all know, the lieutenant governor presides over the Senate, makes sure that things are efficient and really, I think, you know, will help move Gov. McAuliffe's legislative agenda forward.
NORTHAMSo I have the experience. I know the people. I know how to move things forward. For example, Tom, I was the patron of the smoking ban in restaurants that was passed in 2009. I've done a lot of work with concussions in our student athletes. So I know how to move things forward, and I'll continue to do that as lieutenant governor.
SHERWOODDo you think the fact that Mr. Jackson, Rev. Jackson, doesn't have any elective experience would cut against him trying to deal with a bipartisan Senate?
NORTHAMWell, certainly, as having been in the Senate for six years, I think that whoever presides over the Senate should really know how it runs and how to get things done. And, again, I bring that to the table.
NNAMDIYour opponent wants to boost funding for home schooling. You have called his proposal extreme. Why?
NORTHAMWell, Kojo, you know, our education -- our public education system is, really, the crown jewel of the commonwealth. It's our future, making sure that our children have a world-class education. And so ideas like my opponents, all they do, really, is take money away from public education, which, you know, we've already have our issues with public education. Our teachers are underpaid. Our classroom sizes are too large. We don't wanna go in that direction. It's just not a good idea.
NNAMDIYou have said that proposal for equal funding for home-school children would take $100 million out of the state. Public school system is also opposed by the Virginia Education Association. But here to help us move on to another issue, please don your headphones, please, is Pam in Fairfax, Va. Pam, you are now on the air. Go ahead, please.
PAMThank you. Thank you so much, Kojo, for having Mr. Northam. And thank you, senator, for your service to our state. I'm thrilled that you are there and for bringing your common sense and your higher level of thinking to our state debates. So my question for you as a legislator and especially as a medical doctor is, what you think will be the impact to us women of Virginia, that is, if these two bills that we -- to us -- are most offensive and outrageous were to be approved by the Senate and Gov. McDonnell? And, of course, I'm referring to the personhood bill and the forced ultrasound bill.
NNAMDIStanding up for women's rights is the first issue listed on your campaign page.
NORTHAMWell, thank you for the question. And just to talk briefly about the personhood bill that, you know, says that life starts at conception, what that would do in the commonwealth of Virginia is it would criminalize most forms of women's contraception that are used today. The other thing that a lot of people don't realize is it would also criminalize in vitro fertilization. And there have been thousands of families in the commonwealth and, actually, across the country that have been helped with in vitro.
NORTHAMAnd I suspect that there will be families to come that would need that help. So for us to move backwards into the 20th and 19th century with some of these ideas is insane and, again, embarrassing. And, you know, at the end of the day, and I appreciate your question, but at the end of the day, legislators, most of whom are men, really shouldn't be telling women what they should and shouldn't be doing with their bodies. It needs to stop, and we need to move forward.
NNAMDIOur guest is Ralph Northam. He is the Democratic candidate for lieutenant governor of Virginia. He's a member of the Virginia Senate. He represents the commonwealth's 6th District. Tom Sherwood is our resident analyst. He's an NBC 4 reporter and a columnist for the Current Newspapers. If you'd like to call, the number is 800-433-8850, for your comments or questions. Pam, thank you for your call. Tom?
SHERWOODI'm almost afraid to ask this question because we could be lost in the mire of it. ObamaCare. Should Virginia be doing more to get ready for ObamaCare?
NORTHAMWell, you know...
SHERWOODI'll fix this because you're on television. I have to fix you cord there. You got to look -- you have to look distinguished there.
NNAMDIThat's our technician, Tom Sherwood.
NORTHAMThank you, Tom. My wife would appreciate that. So...
NORTHAM...you know, you have to give President Barack Obama a lot of credit for putting the Affordable Care Act on the table. Nobody had been able to do that until he did. The Medicaid expansion, a big deal for the commonwealth of Virginia right now, we should be moving forward with that. Open up -- opening up coverage to about 400,000 hardworking Virginians, 30,000 of whom are veterans returning from Afghanistan. It's an economic driver for the commonwealth of Virginia.
NORTHAMIt's about the quality of life for Virginians that need health care coverage. And the governor has chosen not to move forward with it. That's why we need a new governor in January. We need to take advantage of the Medicaid expansion. If we don't, surrounding states, such as Maryland, Delaware, New Jersey, Florida, have all opted in the for it. We're literally -- we will be literally throwing millions -- billions of dollars out the window to other states if we don't take advantage of that.
SHERWOODI was just going to say, in taking these issues, do you see Virginia as a purple state, which is in play? Do you think it now tilts more Democratic, given the national elections? But the Republicans are pretty firmly in charge in the House.
NORTHAMWell, I think that we're...
SHERWOODA new state House.
NORTHAM...we're trending in that direction, Tom. And, you know, if the Republicans continue on their social agenda, such as the ultrasound mandate and the personhood bills and the voter suppression laws, those things are going to turn it much bluer, and we're going to work in that direction.
NNAMDIAre the commonwealth's new regulations for abortion providers, the ones that require hospital-type facilities, in your view, reversible? Is this a policy, you think, can be rolled back?
NORTHAMWell, I think that we can start with a new governor, Kojo, but we're going to need legislation as well. But, you know, that -- we call them the TRAP laws. They were advertised as being about safety for women. There's nothing that says that the procedures are unsafe. It's all about decreasing access for women to health care.
NORTHAMAnd you know, what people across the commonwealth need to realize is that these clinics, in addition to offering that service, they do a lot of other cancer screening, treatment for sexually transmitted diseases, counseling, those types of things. And it is a travesty that those clinics are having to close.
NNAMDIOn to Brad in Burke, Va. Brad, you're on the air. Go ahead, please. Hi, Brad.
BRADHi. I think Sen. Northam had touched on this from the beginning. But I was just wondering what he plans to do clean up the corruption. Right now, it's going on Richmond.
NORTHAMYeah. That's a great question, Brad. And as I said earlier, I introduced legislation back in 2010. And, you know, I have an interesting perspective on this. As a physician, we have very strong ethical rules in medicine. We don't accept gifts from pharmaceutical companies, et cetera. That's the direction that the Commonwealth of Virginia needs to go in politically, and my legislation back in 2010 within Ward Armstrong was unsuccessful. But again, I think you'll see a lot of legislation this year.
NORTHAMWe shouldn't be accepting gifts over $100. We should be disclosing any gift that we receive if it is less than $100, and there should be a board set up that deals with ethics violations that has some teeth in it.
NNAMDIThank you very much for your call, Brad. Betty in Alexandria, Va., describes herself as an independent voter who doesn't know anything about you. She wants to know why she should vote for you. Betty, have you heard anything so far at all that would persuade you one way or the other?
BETTYOh, geez. Kojo, you just framed the whole question. I was going to add some more stuff to it. (laugh) Thank you. No, I haven't. I happen to be working in health care -- I've worked in health care. I understand the women's issues, yes, that is serious. But, no, I haven't. I don’t know a thing about you. I think you're running for lieutenant governor. You're not going to create jobs. I mean, I'm so tired of hearing the talking points on both sides. So -- and I've also worked mental health with the military.
BETTYAnd docs, you are not held accountable. You know, you slap each other on the wrists and say, naughty, naughty, don't do that. So tell me, why should I vote for you? What are you going to do for me? Are you going to bring rent control back into Virginia? What kind of jobs are you going to create? Are you going to fix this Affordable Care Act (word?) all, 99% of mental health providers are not accepting insurance or Medicare. And for Medicaid patients, where are the docs going to come from and the rest of the (word?) care?
NNAMDIWell, we've only got so much time here on this broadcast, Betty. I'll allow Ralph Northam to pick which one of those he like to respond to.
NORTHAMWell, Betty, that's a great question. And I think the first step -- and I am a business owner. I employ over 250 people in my practice, children specialty group down in Norfolk, Va. But, you know, the first rule about having a good business is to welcome new people, and we have to be all inclusive. As the Commonwealth of Virginia, we shouldn't be assaulting women's reproductive health care. We shouldn't be discriminating against the LGBT community.
NORTHAMWe need to have the light on that says, we're open for business. As far as health care, you made some good points. And just very briefly, there's an evolution right now going on in health care, and I think it's a good evolution. And that is we're moving from a quantity-based system. In other words, I'm incentivized by how many patients I see a day, how many tests I order.
NORTHAMWe're moving from that to an outcome-based system or a quality-based system so that we should be incentivized as providers on how healthy the population of patients we take care of. So again, as a physician, as a provider, I look forward to being at the table and making sure that Virginians have access to quality health care.
SHERWOODDid that help, Betty?
NNAMDIBetty, did that help at all?
BETTYWell, what I'd like to -- what I would really like -- would you please describe your job? You're interviewing to -- you want me to hire you. Could you please describe your job duties and responsibilities?
NORTHAMThank you, and that's a good question. And I guess your question is what is the -- what does the lieutenant governor do? The lieutenant governor presides over the Senate, makes sure that things are efficiently run, making sure that legislation moves forward. And the other thing, Betty, that I'd like to comment on is that the lieutenant governor, you know, checks on the governor's health. Every morning, we'll put a little mirror under his nose and make sure he's still breathing, and what better person to do that than a physician.
SHERWOODDo you appoint committees?
NORTHAMI don't appoint committees, but I will participate in the committees.
SHERWOODAnd you only vote if there's a tie. Will you talk about the 50 instances under Bill Bolling?
NORTHAMYes, sir. We -- the lieutenant governor votes in the event of a tie except for anything that has to do with financing.
SHERWOODWould you use the seat, as everyone else seems to do, to prepare to run for governor in four years since you don't have succession ability in that state?
NORTHAMWell, my intentions are to be a good lieutenant governor and to preside over the Senate and really bring people together. That's my reputation in the Senate, working with both sides of the House and at the end of the day doing what's in the best interest for the commonwealth.
SHERWOODShould we mention transportation?
NNAMDITom Sherwood, what do you think the response would have been had he said, yes, I intend to be a lieutenant governor for four years, and then I plan on running for governor?
SHERWOODI believe the hallelujah chorus would break out but I can't say that word. But that's just important because, you know, it is an opportunity -- a statewide opportunity as a part-time job. Was it -- it used to pat $18,000 a year or something like that. Do you know what it pays?
NORTHAMI think it pays around $36,000.
NNAMDIBetty, thank you very much for you call. Tom was about to bring up transpiration as an issue. Go ahead.
SHERWOODWell, you know, just because we're in Northern Virginia or we're almost in Northern Virginia -- we would get there except the roads are all blocked. You can’t get there.
NNAMDIStop that. Just stop that.
NNAMDIIt is so true. I toured Northern Virginia just a week or so ago just to see how much I could spend in time. It's safe to text and drive in Virginia because you're not moving.
NNAMDIOK. Move on.
SHERWOODI'm sorry. (laugh) There was a big plan. I mean, it did pass the legislation. Bob McDonnell got good credit for it. The Democrats have praised it. Terry McAuliffe, a candidate for governor, has praised it. What if -- how is it going to be -- when can we see the impact of that on Northern Virginia?
NORTHAMWell, the package you're talking about...
SHERWOODAnd I know in Norfolk, you guys have traffic problems too.
NORTHAMWe do have some issues in Hampton Roads, but transportation is an important issue. And we talked just recently with Betty about jobs and how are we going to do that. But first of all, we need to make sure that we have a good transportation system that we take care of our infrastructure. And the general assembly had put that off year after year. And finally, this year, and it's not perfect by any means, but the bill puts about $1.3 billion, with a B, of new revenue for transportation that we haven't had since 1986.
NORTHAMSo I think folks, I mean, they are already making plans here in Northern Virginia for certain projects that are going to be completed. We've put money into rail and transit. We're doing the same in Hampton Roads. And so I think the constituents throughout Virginia will see improvements in the upcoming months.
NNAMDISpeaking of Northern Virginia, there's a pretty fierce debate right now about building new transportation infrastructure out to Dulles Airport. Do you think the proposed Bi-County Parkway between Prince William and Loudoun Counties is a good idea?
NORTHAMWell, Kojo, I'm not that familiar with that particular project. But I can tell you that the Dulles rail project is something that the transportation package this year dealt with. It puts about $300 million into that, and I think that that's going to be an important step in the right direction for Northern Virginia.
NNAMDIHe's not jumping into that debate quite yet. Here now are -- is Cain in Vienna, Va. Hi, Cain. You're on the air. Go ahead, please. Raise some Cain, Cain.
CAINHi. I'm sorry, what? (laugh)
NNAMDINever mind, Cain. I was being silly. Please go ahead.
CAINOK. My question is the seat that would be vacated by the coming lieutenant governor. How politically safe is that to maintain at least the 50-50 split?
NORTHAM...Cain, that is an excellent question and certainly something that we have addressed. And as I tell people up here in Northern Virginia, Sen. Dick Saslaw would have never let me run for lieutenant governor if he didn't think he could keep that seat. But just to give you some numbers, it's a blue district. Fifty-nine percent of the voters in 2013 voted for Tim Kaine for Senate and 58 percent for President Barack Obama. So it's a safe seat. But if I'm successful, we're going to be very aggressive to make sure that that seat stays Democratic.
SHERWOODHow quickly would there be an election for that seat? What's the number for the Senate seat because someone wants to look it up?
NORTHAMYes, sir. It's the sixth district and, you know, that election would be very quick and obviously before the start of the session in 2014.
SHERWOODWow. That would be fast.
NNAMDICain, thank you very much for your call. On the issue of education, you mentioned the public school. Virginia has also many highly rated public and private colleges and universities. You apparently consider North Carolina schools as models for growth and innovation at research universities. What are they doing there that you think should be happening in the commonwealth?
NORTHAMWell, I think, what we're talking about there, Kojo, is the relationship between businesses and our public education system. And we're starting to do that in the commonwealth. It's working well. But there's still a lot of room for improvement. And just, you know, while we're talking about education, one of the things that I have been an advocate for and I will continue to be, and especially as a pediatric neurologist, is access to pre-K education for all of our Virginia students.
NORTHAMYou know, there's a tremendous learning potential at that age, and when one family has the means to send their children to pre-K and another doesn't, that's where the gap between the haves and the have-not start. We know that when children aren't reading by the third grade that those are some of the statistics that are being used to design how many prison cells we need. It's one of those things we can either pay for it now or we can pay for it later.
NORTHAMSo as lieutenant governor, I will continue to make sure that we have access for all our children to pre-K. And, you know, you mentioned colleges and universities. We've got great colleges and universities, but they're being under-funded, and we need to make that a priority here in Virginia.
SHERWOODAre you a native Virginian?
NORTHAMI am, Tom. I grew up on the Eastern Shore of Virginia in a small town called Onancock.
NNAMDIBefore heading on to the VMI, correct?
SHERWOODOne of the prettiest places in the entire state.
NNAMDIWell, here is Sheila in Herndon, Va. Sheila, you're on the air. Go ahead, please. Hi, Sheila. Are you there?
SHEILAI'm here. How are you? I'm going to turn my radio off.
NNAMDIYes, please do.
SHEILAOK. Good afternoon, Dr. Sen. Northam. I have a question about this parenthood bill, but I haven't heard anyone discuss that. I've had numerous friends over the years have fallopian pregnancies. What on Earth are those women going to do if we have a personhood bill?
NORTHAMWell, again, that's a great question. And, you know, there are all kinds of medical issues that come up, and that's one of the problems when people are introducing this type of legislation that don't understand the consequences of their legislation. But, you know, as you just mentioned -- and that's called an ectopic pregnancy, and that can be deadly to the mother.
NORTHAMSo I would hope, as a husband and a father, that my wife and I would be able to make the decision on what to do with an ectopic pregnancy with the help of our provider or physician. That shouldn't be a decision that is made by a group of legislators, again, most of whom are men.
NNAMDIThank you very much for you call, Sheila. We're running out of time in this segment. But in Virginian's gubernatorial elections, the governor and lieutenant governor do not run on a joint ticket. Republican governor candidate Cuccinelli said that voters should view candidates independently since he apparently does not share certain views with his lieutenant governor candidate E.W. Jackson. What is your campaigning relationship with Terry McAuliffe like?
NORTHAMWell, we have an excellent relationship, Terry McAuliffe, Mark Herring and myself. Mark actually is my seatmate in the Senate, so we've been friends for a number of years. But, you know, we have a similar message. We don't obviously agree on everything, but we're running a coordinated campaign. And at the end of the day, we're interested in keeping good businesses here in Virginia, attracting new businesses, making it a welcome state for businesses and really moving Virginia in a positive direction.
NNAMDIRalph Northam. He is the Democratic candidate for lieutenant governor of Virginia. He's a member of the Virginia Senate. He represents the commonwealth's sixth district. Well, as our caller said, Dr. Senator, thank you so much for joining us, (laugh) and good luck to you.
NORTHAMThank you. Thank you, Kojo and Tom. I appreciate the opportunity to be here.
SHERWOODOK. Work on that accent.
NNAMDI(laugh) You're -- try to get one. We're listening -- you're listening to The Politics Hour. Tom Sherwood is our resident analyst. He's an NBC 4 reporter and a columnist for The Current Newspapers. Tom Sherwood, there was another campaign launched for mayor of the District this week, Christian Carter, but it would appear that even before he had left the podium, questions began to arise about all kinds of problems Christian Carter is having.
NNAMDIHe is a contractor with the D.C. government, and there are questions about money he owes to his subcontractors. And before that had even died down, there was another indication that he has been evicted from his offices. His business is called New Columbia Enterprises. He was evicted from its offices in March. He's now being sued for unpaid rent in D.C. It doesn't look like he's going to be able to have a lot of time to devote to focusing on running for mayor.
SHERWOODWell, Mike DeBonis, I think, laid out a lot of his troubles in The Washington Post. But I would just say this. This would be my general advice to any candidate anywhere. In that horrible ad about the -- some motel, La Quinta, whatever the hotel was...
NNAMDII don't know. I don't look at ads. I don't watch ads.
SHERWOOD...or whatever it is, the point being get your ducks in a row. You know, if you're going to run for public office, have, you know, assess what people are going to think when they found out that you've been evicted from your office or that you owe money or that you are fighting with everybody around you. It's just not a good way to get out of the box. And I think that's where Mr. Carter finds himself.
NNAMDIThe day they invented remote control is the day I stopped watching ads. Rep. Darrell Issa is giving it another shot. The California Republican introducing another bill this week that would give the District some budget autonomy, passed the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee on Wednesday. It would allow, according to the City Paper, the District to spend its own money if Congress has not passed the budget by the start of the fiscal year.
NNAMDICity Paper says that's not the full budget autonomy proposed in this April successful referendum. But providing Congress cannot agree on passing a budget, it's getting there. It would also allow the District to set its own fiscal year, raise the chief financial officer's salary up to $230,700.
SHERWOODWell, the principal thing is that with the gridlock in Congress and the federal government, the city worries that its budget, you know, which has to go through Congress, is held up for non-germane issues and that is the principal thing to have budget autonomy. The city has gone farther and would love to have the right to spend all its money without condition every year because that sounds like an American thing to do. But Darrell Issa is trying to split this issue and get the city some autonomy but not go as far as the referendum that people approved.
NNAMDIThe talk of the town, as we discussed earlier, late in the week here in Washington was all about the plan Mayor Gray floated for a new soccer stadium at Buzzard Point. D.C. United has played at RFK Stadium since the team was formed in 1996. But the plan for this new stadium revolves around a complicated series of land swaps and substantial public investment that require approval by the Council. So it's particularly important that we are now joined in studio by a member of the Council.
NNAMDIKenyan McDuffie is a Democrat from Ward 5. He chairs the Council's committee on government operations. Council Member McDuffie, thank you for joining us.
COUNCIL MEMBER KENYAN MCDUFFIEThank you for having me, Kojo.
SHERWOODI didn't see you at the announcement for the big soccer stadium deal. Were you there?
MCDUFFIEI was not there. I was actually attending to some very important business back at the Council.
NNAMDIGo ahead, Tom.
SHERWOODSo I was there. The -- Allen Lew made a very good presentation for this, swapping some land, not a lot of money out of the city's pocket. I know you'll have to study the proposal because you haven't had time to read at all.
NNAMDIYou've already cut off the first part of his response. (laugh)
SHERWOODYeah. Well, I'm cutting off (word?) I think Mark Plotkin used to be very good at that. I know you'll going to say this and that, but I want you to get to what I want you to say, which is how confident are you? How do you feel as you go into it? Are you optimistic? Are you supportive? Some people have jumped on the bandwagon pretty quickly.
MCDUFFIEWell, I never do jump on a bandwagon yet, guys, I got to tell you. You did take the first part of my answer, Tom, and that is I need to look at the details. You know, the devil is always in the details, and this is, as you mentioned, a very complicated scheme that the city administrator and the mayor have put together.
MCDUFFIEObviously, my biggest concern, as I imagine are concerns of residents of District of Columbia, is what are the costs going to be to the District and how our District residents going to benefit from the stadium being built. And so until I'm able to see the details, figure out how they're going to acquire their additional land that's necessary to make the deal happen, you know, I really can't comment much.
SHERWOODOne citizen who spoke to me yesterday said, let me get this straight. We're going to take a couple of acres of property from, I think it was Chip (word?) developer's land, and he's going to get this booming piece of property at 14th and U with that space. And we'll tear the garage down there at the office building and the building itself down. That's a huge -- one of the hardest places in the city to build, and we're going to do a straight-up swap for his vacant industrial land?
MCDUFFIEIt's a very important question. I have not had a chance to review the term sheet and detail. But, I mean, that constituent raises a very important question about the value of land that's going to be swapped, the value of the District-owned land and whether or not there's been -- and I imagine there is, but I haven't seen it, whether or not there's been a financial allowances that really puts a value on the District's land that's going to be swapped in order to make this deal work.'
NNAMDII can't tell you how many people have already contacted me today, knowing I am a soccer fan, saying, tell Kenyan McDuffie that this deal should go ahead, that this deal should work. They feel that D.C. United, compared to the Nationals, compared to the Wizards, compared to the Capitals, D.C. United, they feel, is the little engine that could. It's the most decorated team in the MLS. It's been playing out of RFK Stadium for a long time. Why would anybody possibly oppose it getting a new stadium in D.C.?
MCDUFFIELet me say...
SHERWOODThe preceding message was brought to you by...
NNAMDIThank you. Thank you. So...
MCDUFFIELet me say, I'm a fan as well, and it's a great team and I want them to stay here in the District of Columbia. But I can't make a decision whether I support or oppose it until I know the details.
NNAMDIHaving said that, even though you are not a member of the Council at the time, were you in favor of the taxpayers' money building the $635 million that was spent to build Nationals Park? Do you think it's been a good investment for the city?
MCDUFFIEWell, I think, you know, hindsight is always 20/20. And I think the folks who opposed it back when it was being discussed had some legitimate reasons for doing so. I think what's been shown since is that the stadium has been a boom and an engine for economic development in that area. We're seeing a lot of people coming to that area. We're seeing residential development. We're seeing office. We're seeing a lot of things occurring.
MCDUFFIEAnd all you have to do is go to a game and see how many people are down there, folks who are going to attend the Nats games, particularly when they're winning, but also just the economic vitality of that community in that area right now.
SHERWOODAnd the bonds are being paid off...
SHERWOOD...faster than expected.
MCDUFFIEAnybody expected. Yeah, absolutely.
NNAMDIThis commercial was brought to you by?
MCDUFFIENo, Jack is -- he's always quick to (word?) about that.
NNAMDIThat houses that Jack built.
SHERWOODWell, I think everybody does. I mean, everybody wants -- have we ever asked you on this program, do you want the city to do a good deal for the city to have the Redskins, the Washington football team, build at RFK now that RFK is going to be empty when the team moves?
MCDUFFIEYou never asked me that question here on this program. I love...
SHERWOODConsider it asked.
MCDUFFIEI would welcome the Redskins back into the city in open arms. I guess the question is, how does the deal look? You know, again, what are the costs to District residents? I know that we've got a lot of very pressing issues that are impacting scores of D.C. residents like, you know, issues on affordable housing, issues around unemployment that we need to address and, I think, our larger priorities this time.
NNAMDIGlad you brought up affordable housing. What would you say to the argument that by offering public investment for this kind of project and by especially offering up the Reeves property center to developers, the city will be just accelerating, the pace of gentrification and making neighborhoods less affordable for a lot of folks who want to be there?
MCDUFFIEI have an issue and anything that speeds up the level of gentrification that makes the city more unaffordable for residents I have a problem with. I think that, you know, in all that I do in my ward, I consistently hear concerns raised from residents, not just long-term residents but, you know, newer residents. In fact, folks who live in the suburbs who want to be District of Columbia residents who complain about the increasingly expensive cost of housing here in the District of Columbia and it's something that we've yet to really put our hands around. I think we got to do a better job.
MCDUFFIEI think over the last 10 years or so, we've seen the increase in apartment buildings and high-end condos that were being built. You know, I don't know, we paid enough attention to make sure that we maintain some level of affordability in the housing that we have, which is why one of the things that I did most recently at the legislative meeting before we went on recess was to introduce a bill that spoke to affordable housing. As a matter of fact, I called it truth in affordability act.
MCDUFFIEAnd what it will do is to take the first step to really shine the light increasing transparency around what we deemed to be affordable here in the District of Columbia. As you two know, affordable housing is based on AMI, Area Median Income. And quite frankly, what's affordable in Tyson's Corner, with all respect for my folks in Virginia, is not necessarily affordable here in the District of Columbia.
MCDUFFIESo we want the CFO, when they're calculating AMI, to also calculate D.C. family median income so that people know what the actual median income is for D.C. families. And we also want to take a step further. When we are advertising these homes in the development that's supported by District of Columbia financing, we want them to also produce the numbers that is going to cost a family to actually live in the housing. If it's going to cost you $60,000 a year for a family of four, then we want you to know that.
MCDUFFIEWe don't want you have to go through a humiliating process where trying to apply for something and wait and then be denied. We want you to see in plain English how much it's going to cost for you to live in a development that's subsidized by District of Columbia money.
NNAMDIThat's Kenyan McDuffie. He's a member of the D.C. Council, a Democrat from Ward 5. He chairs the Council's committee on government operations. We're taking your calls at 800-433-8850.
SHERWOODWhat the soccer deal is specifically, you know, it's industrial land down where the Coast Guard is moving out to Saint (word?) And there's no displacement there. There is some public housing nearby, St. James and a couple of other places. But the economic forces are ripping through the city in every direction, in your ward, the unbelievable development adjacent to Catholic University. I just went by there and saw the sign saying the town homes are $600,000. Who's buying them?
MCDUFFIEWell, you know what, we've yet to see who's buying. Imagine they're going to sell, and they're going to sale fairly quickly because we've seen the influx of residents. I think 1,100 new residents coming into the District of Columbia...
MCDUFFIE...every single month. And people are buying these homes. These homes aren't staying on the market long. I could use my own neighborhood. I live on North Capitol Street in Northeast. And generally, houses are going for three something, 400 something. There was a house that sold a block up from me just about a month ago.
MCDUFFIEThe family who had been living in that home for decades who grew up with my dad in that neighborhood probably since the 50s or 60s, I sold the home for $280,000 in September 2012. Someone bought it. They flipped it, and it sold for $700,000. I don't know who's going to buy these houses, but we got to make sure that...
NNAMDIWait a minute. You're saying that a house that's sold for $280,000 last year sold for 700...
SHERWOODAfter it was renovated, yeah.
MCDUFFIEThat's -- you heard it correct, Kojo.
NNAMDIYeah. But these things are supposed to be location, location.
SHERWOODWell, it is location up there and what's going to happen upon 16th Street with the redevelopment of Walter Reed. What, that's like 60 something acres, half of it is for the State Department, the other half the city's going to do.
MCDUFFIESure. And we got to do more. And I've had conversations with my colleagues on the Council and particularly with Council Member Bowser who chairs the committee on economic development. I've spoken to the mayor about these issues. I think they both understand fundamentally, particularly as native Washingtonians as I am, how important it is that we make sure we preserve some level of affordability throughout the District of Columbia. So we keep the balance.
SHERWOODAre you talking about workforce housing? Workforce housing, meaning you -- there are places in town that are built specifically with the police officer or the teacher...
MCDUFFIEBut you know what, that's a misleading phrase, which is -- and I speak to that in a bill that I introduced, workforce housing. Did you know, Tom, that you can make upwards of $120,000 a year and qualify for workforce housing? That's not my idea of workforce housing.
SHERWOODSo are you talking about public housing?
MCDUFFIEWell, I'm talking about workforce housing. But I'm talking about making sure that workforce housing is targeted to the people who actually needed it most like the teachers, like the police officers, like the firefighters, like your municipal workers, the folks who are graduating from college who are coming back. We're encouraging them to go off to college, and we ask them to get an education. Then they come back home, and they can't afford to live.
MCDUFFIEAnd they got to move in with their parents, and I think that's something that we need to look at to see how we spread it across the town. And we have housing that meets the needs of individuals who also have incomes across the spectrum.
NNAMDIYou're chair of the ad hoc committee of council members tasked with determining whether the Council itself should punish Ward 8 Council Member Marion Barry. He was fined and sanctioned by the city's ethics board early this summer for taking illegal gifts from city contractors. You occupy a seat on the Council that was open because your predecessor, Harry Thomas Jr., committed federal crimes, went to jail. What opportunity do you see with this process to demonstrate that the Council is moving in a different direction when it comes to ethics?
MCDUFFIEI don't know that we necessarily need to use this process to make that demonstration. I think, quite frankly, that as members of the Council, elected officials in general in the District of Columbia, is we need to conduct ourselves in a manner that does not invite the type of scrutiny that we've seen as of late. I think that, you know, the public has really lost confidence in a lot of the elected officials who are here in the District of Columbia and not by virtue of the actions of all elected officials but just by some.
MCDUFFIEAnd I think that its been damaging to the public's trust. And I think we need to do everything that we can simply to restore the public's faith in our government. And we've got to take very concrete steps. It's not by singling out any individual member of the Council, but it's about making sure...
SHERWOODWell, Mayor Barry...
MCDUFFIE….we introduce concrete bills like the bills that I've introduced...
SHERWOODRight. But your committee is not tasked in rewriting that law. You're tasked by the chairman to say, what should the Council do about the fact that Mayor Barry took six-something thousand dollars from two contractors, reported the money on his form because his lawyer told him to, but now has been fined twice at almost $13,000.
MCDUFFIE$13,600 to be exact.
SHERWOODWhen will you -- I know you guys have had one secret or private reporters-not-there meeting. What is the work plan here? Are you going to by -- when you come back in September, will you have a proposal for the chairman on what should happen to Mayor Barry?
SHERWOODAre you suggesting that nothing will happen now because that's behind us, we're going to move forward?
MCDUFFIESo we -- I'm not going to speak to the details of the work or the deliberations of the ad hoc committee that was appointed by the chairman in which I chair.
NNAMDIThat's the Government Operations Committee.
MCDUFFIEWell, it's actually...
SHERWOODHe's the head of the special committee.
MCDUFFIEIt's not -- I'm chairman of the Government Operations Committee, but this committee is specifically outlined in the Council's rules to be stood up when a member of the Council has been center in this automatic trigger. And the chairman was required to bring together (word?)...
SHERWOODAnd you can recommend up to expulsion, which I don't think you're going to do.
MCDUFFIESo the charge of the committee, Tom, is to review the findings of the Board of Ethics and Government Accountability that relates to Council Member Barry's actions and to figure out whether or not we're going to engage in a broad comprehensive investigation of this matter and to, if necessary, issue a report and recommendations for additional penalties in this matter. And that's something...
NNAMDIGot a timeframe for it?
SHERWOODWhat's the time -- yeah, timeframe?
MCDUFFIEWell, the chairman and his memo to the members has asked us to have a report to prepare for the full Council by the time we reconvene on Sept. 17 of this year.
NNAMDIOn to the telephones, here is Anthony in Ward 5. Anthony, you're on the air. Go ahead, please.
ANTHONYGood afternoon to all. I just wanted to -- good afternoon, Tom and Kojo...
ANTHONY...also Council Member McDuffie. I just wanted to ask you, what was the status -- I appreciate you stepping out and creating a task force on Ward 5 land use industrial areas. What is the status, and how is that coming along?
MCDUFFIEWell, I appreciate the question, Anthony. And we heard Tom mention industrial land early as it relates to the baseball stadium. What a lot of folks don't know is that Ward 5 has the majority of all the industrial land in the city. We have uproots of about 60 percent of all the industrial land in the city that's in our backyard. And so I created, with the work of Mayor Gray, an industrial land transformation task force.
MCDUFFIEAnd we've been convening over the last six months to really look and evaluate what the industrial land is here in Ward 5 and to work with stakeholders, community members, businesses about how we attract new businesses to this industrial land so we don't have to suffer through the same ill effects associated with some of the industrial land that exist right now.
MCDUFFIEWe've got trash transfer stations. We've got, you know, shops that are painting our cabs that are really having environmental problems on a lot of the residents. And so what we're doing is looking at that to see how we can mitigate and buffer some of those existing environmental hazards but also to attract new business, like movie theaters, like, you know, green businesses, like environmentally friendly businesses into the ward.
MCDUFFIEAnd so the timeframe is we're going to have a report that the committee is going to issue at the end of this year to make recommendations about how we move forward.
NNAMDIGo ahead, Tom.
SHERWOODPolitics, you know, time is coming up on this. You have -- you can help decide whether or not we're going to have an April Fools' election on April 1 of next year. Maryland has switched its Election Day to June 24, I believe. Do you anticipate that the city will change its date from this embarrassing April Fools' Day, or do you think you'll stick with it, the committee?
MCDUFFIEWell, I hope we will. I hope we will. The issues...
SHERWOODHope you will change it or stick with it?
MCDUFFIEI hope we'll move the primary back into the second week of June. I think it was what was proposed by the...
SHERWOODWhy don't you and line it up with Maryland so we just have politics in...
MCDUFFIEWell, I think that we've got to make that decision within the District. I think a lot of folks who I've spoken to in the community agree that the primary should be moved back to June. I think one of the large concerns that I have is having a lame duck elected official in office nine months after they lost a primary.
MCDUFFIEI think it doesn't do anybody any good to have somebody who's not focused on the issues, particularly in these wards that are struggling throughout the city if they aren't focus on the issues throughout the duration of their term. And that's the concern that I have, as well as concern of getting out there too early during the holidays after campaign.
SHERWOODWe're almost out of time. Mayor Gray is still under federal criminal investigation for his campaign activities. A lot of people think he's done some good things in the city. Would you support him if he ran for re-election? And where are you on that?
MCDUFFIEI haven't even begun to evaluate anybody's election. I haven't even begun to really evaluate my own election, so I'm not going to comment on that at this point. I know that I'm going to run for re-election. I'm going to be focus on re-electing Kenyan McDuffie to the Ward 5 seat.
NNAMDILet's talk ethics for one second. We only have a minute left. But you yourself had to terminate a member of your staff recently for allegedly using your constituent service fund to pay his bar tab. What kinds of things can you say you're using your fund for? But forget that. In light of what happened with your staffer, do you think it's worth having a conversation about eliminating constituent service funds altogether?
MCDUFFIEI think it's always worth having conversation about constituent service funds, how we can improve the operation of those funds to make sure (word?) ...
NNAMDIHow about getting rid of them altogether?
MCDUFFIEWe can have that conversation. That's quite, frankly, something that I grapple with when I took office. And it took me some -- maybe -- I don't know exactly how long, but it took me months to actually establish. I didn't establish it until we got into the holidays where I saw that pressing needs of residents in Ward 5 around Thanksgiving and the holidays.
NNAMDIHe is willing to have that conversation. Kenyan McDuffie is a member of the Council. He is a Democrat from Ward 5, who chairs the Council's Committee on Government Operations. Thank you for joining us.
MCDUFFIEThank you for having me.
NNAMDITom Sherwood is our resident analyst. He's an NBC 4 reporter and a columnist for The Current Newspapers who proudly has no accent whatsoever. Tom Sherwood.
SHERWOODAnd I'm on vacation next week.
NNAMDIThank you all for listening. I'm Kojo Nnamdi.
Most Recent Shows
Kojo learns about our region's very first "Living Building" in Prince George's County, and finds out how the District's own plans for supergreen affordable homes and sustainable buildings could impact residents and the environment.
On Food Wednesday, we explore the new ways recipes are being presented, with everything from GIFs to scientific method.
Tired of driving in circles around the Verizon Center looking for a parking spot? D.C. thinks they may have the solution: "surge" pricing systems at meters.