For D.C. based author and illustrator Juana Medina, learning English in her native Columbia was a requirement she resisted as a child, yet appreciated later as an adult.
Medical marijuana makes its official launch in the District. Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell announces plans to return a number of gifts from a prominent businessman hoping to put an end to questions about them. And Montgomery County’s executive pledges to fight a rate increase recently granted to Pepco in Maryland. Join us for our weekly review of the politics, policies and personalities of the District of Columbia, Maryland and Virginia.
- Patrick Madden Reporter, WAMU 88.5 News
- Vincent Gray Mayor, District of Columbia (D)
Mayor Vincent Gray talks about why a new D.C. United soccer stadium is a good investment for the district, calling it a reasonable but complicated deal. “There’s just an enormous demand for soccer in the city that is growing everyday,” Gray said.
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 today, starring Patrick Madden. I'm Kojo Nnamdi. Tom Sherwood is our resident analyst. He's on vacation this week, so subbing for him is star outfielder Patrick Madden. He is our guest analyst. He's a reporter for WAMU 88.5. Patrick Madden, thank you so much for joining us.
MR. PATRICK MADDENGood afternoon, Kojo.
NNAMDIAnd without further ado because we don't have a great deal of time to spare today, allow me to introduce our first guest and invite your calls at 800-433-8850. You can send email to firstname.lastname@example.org or send us a tweet, @kojoshow, if you have questions or comments for Mayor Vincent Gray. He is mayor of the District of Columbia. He is a Democrat. He joins us in studio. Mayor Gray, thank you so much for joining us.
MAYOR VINCENT GRAYThank you for having me, Kojo. It's always good to be here.
NNAMDIAgain, the number is 800-433-8850 if you have questions or comments for the mayor. Shall we start with the soccer stadium at Buzzard Point? It's more than simply a plan for a sports venue. It's a complex deal that involves hundreds of millions of dollars. The city already put up money for a baseball stadium. The city invested significantly in Verizon Center at the get-go, and it's put up money for upgrades.
NNAMDIWhy, in your view, would another stadium, a soccer stadium, be a good place for the city to invest public money rather than, say, on housing or schools or any other item on the budget?
GRAYWell, let me make one thing clear, Kojo -- and I appreciate the question -- this is not to the exclusion of those investments. And really there's just an enormous demand for soccer in the city that is growing every day. The, you know, the -- D.C. United has wanted to stay in the city. At one point, they were talking about moving to Prince George's County. I think they even entered into some kind of tentative deal.
GRAYThey were talking about moving to Baltimore. And then they actually introduced a new, about a year ago, a new ownership group headed by Jason Levien, and we've been working with him ever since to find a way for the team to be able to stay in the city that would be a reasonable deal for the taxpayers. And we think this is a very reasonable deal. As you indicated, it is very complicated, but one facet of it is that we will be responsible for what we refer to as the horizontal development, and the team will be responsible for the vertical development.
GRAYWhat does that mean? It means that we will do the infrastructure investments, preparing the site for the construction of the stadium. The team, however, will be responsible for actually constructing and paying for the stadium, very much like the Verizon Center deal that Abe Pollin was involved in back in the '90s where the city was responsible for the site, and the -- and Abe Pollin at the time and the teams were responsible for constructing the Verizon Center.
GRAYThere are other facets of this, too, that are, I think, interesting and will have a catalytic effect for us here in the city. For example, we're gonna be involved in land swaps in order to be able to fulfill our part of the commitment. One example, Akridge, the Akridge Company, owns a very substantial piece of land in the site that we're proposing for the stadium. So they're going to give up the land for the stadium, and we're gonna swap with them the site of the Reeves Center, which is at 14th and U Streets Northwest.
GRAYWe then are going to rebuild the Reeves Center over in Anacostia, over in the east end of the city, which we think will have a major impact on economic development in an area that really needs that kind of development.
NNAMDIAs it apparently had an impact on economic development on 14th Street. But I have to quote...
NNAMDI...the Washington City Paper's Mike Madden, who said in a piece this week, "If selling the Reeves Center to a private developer makes sense as part of the stadium deal, shouldn't the city just sell it on its own and keep the money?"
GRAYWell, it is a deal that allows us to be able to get the parcel that we need from Akridge. Akridge owns a parcel that is germane to us being able to construct the stadium. So we want that piece of land. So that's the nexus to the stadium.
GRAYAnd frankly, we've talked about the fact that this is a deal that probably makes sense independent of the stadium, especially to be able to bring that kind of catalytic effect to the east end of the city where we would be moving 700 to 1,000 employees from 14th and U Streets -- and maybe other employees, for that matter, of the District -- over to the Anacostia area, right next to the Department of Housing and Community Development.
MADDENNow, obviously the Akridge is one part of the deal, but there's other parcels that need to be swapped. Mark Ein, Pepco, they own parcels of land where the proposed stadium will be. So what is on the table to give them? We know the Reeves Center could be possibly swapped with Akridge. What parcels are we looking at for Pepco and for Mark Ein?
GRAYWe haven't settled on that yet, Patrick, but it will be the same concept work. As you put it -- you're right. There's Mark Ein, who owns a piece of property there, as well as Pepco, which owns a very substantial piece of property. We are working with them now to try to work through those details of what would satisfy their needs. We know what would satisfy ours, and that is to be able to get control of those properties.
MADDENSo I guess it begs the question, though, why announce this deal now if all the parts haven't been put in -- aren't finalized? And it really puts Mark Ein and Pepco -- they have great leverage now, now knowing that they -- we need to get their pieces of property, and I'm sure they can ask for top dollar. So I'm just wondering about the strategy behind announcing something before all of it seemed ready to go.
GRAYWell, we've also agreed that there will be a valuation process so that we don't get gouged in the course of this. That will be done independently of them. That will be done independently of us. We'll do the same thing with Akridge so that there will be an objective, independent way of determining the value of the property so that we don't overpay and, you know, they don't undersell.
NNAMDIThere's a backstory here involving, well, us, the media. Tom Sherwood wrote in his weekly column for The Current about the media strategy that your office pursued when rolling out this plan. The Washington Post was given exclusive details in advance, including photos and graphics, while other media were basically shut out. Then he says your officers complain when outlets like his, NBC4, paid you little attention in their pieces. What Tom seems to be essentially saying is that you snub us, we snub you. What would be your response to this?
GRAYWell, the reality is is that someone from The Post, a reporter, got wind of us working on this deal well before it was announced and had details. How those details were obtained, I really don't know. But in order to be able to not undermine the deal itself, we did say, we will work with you guys in order to roll this out. But we'd appreciate you not rolling this out now because you may undermine the whole effort to bring the stadium to Buzzard's Point.
GRAYSo it was less of an effort to cut other people out and more of an effort to try to not have the premature release and writing of the story that, had it been released, would probably have undermined our effort to get this done.
NNAMDISo you're saying you did not show The Washington Post favoritism because it is the newspaper of note in this town. That was not the reason you did it.
GRAYNo. The reason was that they had the story. They already had it. How they got it, I don't know, but they had it, and we were simply trying to keep this as much under wraps as we possibly could until we got to a point where we had something to announce.
NNAMDII must say that I spoke with Jonathan O'Connell of The Washington Post this morning, and he essentially told me the story that you -- he -- that you told me, adding, of course, that he and Steve Goff and, lately, more lately, Mike DeBonis, but in his case, for more than five years, has been the front reporter breaking stories on this story.
NNAMDIBut there are other reporters like, oh, Patrick Madden who want to know why it is that your spokesperson kept telling them before the announcement was made that they could not tell them what the announcement was about when, in fact, The Washington Post already knew it. Couldn't they have at least said, well, it's about a stadium deal that we've got?
GRAYWell, I don't know what the interaction was, but I know this. I know that the people who were speaking on our behalf were instructed that we could not provide details on this because of not wanting to undermine the possibility of being able to strike this deal in the first place. I mean, Jonathan O'Connell was certainly involved. He's an excellent reporter.
GRAYYou know, he's -- he was a business reporter at one point for the Washington Business Journal, and then he went to The Washington Post, and he was very much on this. So, again, we wanted to get to a deal that we thought would be good for the District of Columbia, the taxpayers, the people who care about soccer in the city, and that's the way we went at it. I wanna underscore, again, this had nothing to do with keeping other members of the media out of this. It was an effort simply not to have a story released prematurely and have it contaminate the outcome.
MADDENDid this force your hand, though, in terms of announcing something before you would have ideally liked to have announced it basically in terms of having the other folks on board?
GRAYActually, no, Patrick. As a matter of fact, when we were working with the ownership group of D.C. United, they had wanted to announce it roughly the same day as the one-year anniversary of them having taken over the team. And we knew at that stage it really -- there were other details that needed to be worked out. So we put it back a few weeks in order to be able to get to the stage we're at now. So the answer is no to that.
NNAMDIBut you do understand how there are reporters in this town who feel that because The Washington Post has such a large footprint, that politicians in this town, elected officials in this town, seem to have a tendency to defer to The Washington Post.
GRAYI understand it, but I'm telling you what the facts were in this situation. You know, perhaps they had the resources to be able to go out and research this story, to go out and uncover the discussions that were ongoing at the time. I really don't know. But the dynamics for us were exactly what we've talked about and apparently Jonathan O'Connell corroborated with you, and that is he knew what was coming. It was going on. He's covered soccer particularly for a very long time. And we just simply didn't want the story out there before it was ready for prime time.
NNAMDIThat's why The Washington Post...
MADDENI just think the bigger question is -- it seems also to follow a pattern. There was a story today in The Washington Post about the fire chief, who -- the press, particularly Paul Wagner of Fox 5, has tried long and hard to get public interview...
NNAMDIAlways following him down the street.
MADDENYes, with the chief. And once again, it's, you know, an exclusive interview with The Post about ambulance times, an issue that I know Paul has been doggedly following.
GRAYWell, I can tell you, in my case, Patrick, I've actually done -- you know, I've done things with the electronic media that try to create as much equity, you know, and equality as we possibly can. I'll give you -- since you bring it up, we had a situation with NBC4 recently where I was doing a walk-through in a community and had them come with us.
GRAYIt was a story around synthetic marijuana, and it was -- you know, the purpose of the walk-through was to identify folks who may have been, you know, engaged in selling or selling drug paraphernalia or having other, you know, untoward relationships with synthetic marijuana. The story winds up being one about a language barrier rather than what the story was about, and I'm not gonna make any bombs about it.
GRAYIt just was ridiculous to me the way that story was done. Those are the kinds of things, too, that leave you with a bad taste in your mouth when you evaluate who you're working with. I can't dictate what a story would be, but frankly, it would be helpful if the story was on the story line.
NNAMDIThat story was reported by Mark Segraves about the apparent confrontation, as he characterized it, that you had with a person who was behind the counter in one of those stores. Mayor Gray apparently wanted the focus of the story to be on the synthetic marijuana issue.
GRAYCan I add one more piece to that? We came...
NNAMDINo. No. Go ahead. Go ahead. Go ahead. Go ahead.
GRAYWe came outside, and a man walked up to us -- myself and a whole group of people who -- he says, that store you just came out of? He said, I know that they are selling synthetic marijuana in there because -- K2 he called it -- he says -- Spice -- because they sold it to my son. And I asked the reporter about it. I said, did you hear that that man said? And he said, no, I didn't hear it. Well, to me, good reporting would have been to raise the question at least, but go back and ask that man exactly what he said.
NNAMDIAs I said earlier, didn't want to make this a focus on the media, so we will move back to the stadium deal and Charles in Washington, D.C. Charles, you're on the air. Go ahead, please.
CHARLESHello. My question is about the swap -- the land swap.
CHARLESOne of the casualties of the land swap is going to be the D.C. Center for the LGBT Community. Right now, we're in the process of moving into the Reeves Center, and the timing of this announcement has just completely devastated us. We've leveraged money to make this happen. We thought we were getting a permanent home, and now that doesn't seem to be the case. And I was wondering what you, the mayor, are planning to do specifically to remedy that.
GRAYWell, first of all, I'm sorry you feel that way about it. What wasn't said is that I was responsible for helping to get the D.C. Center in to its, you know, its location in the first place. I've worked with the D.C. Center now really since I was chair of the Council and helped them get into the Reeves Center. We have since met. I know the city administrator has met with the officials of the D.C. Center and indicated that we will make sure that the D.C. Center has a location, you know, at such point that the Reeves Center is relocated, which really won't happen tomorrow.
GRAYIt's gonna be a couple three years probably before that is fully consummated since the new facility will have to be built, and that hasn't even been started yet. We have other agencies that are in -- spaced in the corridor -- in the U Street Corridor, but what the commitment that was made is that we will make sure that the D.C. Center has space. That's a commitment we've made. That's a commitment we will live up to.
MADDENJust -- we've talked about favoritism in the media, so I wanna give you a chance, Mr. Mayor, to show some favoritism to WAMU and make some news on this Friday because I just wanna ask you about your plans, your re-election plans. It's a topic that you have not answered so far, whether you will run for mayor, and I'm just wondering why you have waited -- why you are waiting to make this announcement.
GRAYWell, I waited because I wanna be sure that that's what I wanna do, Patrick. It's kinda that simple, you know? And interestingly enough, somebody asked me about this the other day. And I've never gotten into any race that I run this early. When you go back and look at Ward 7, I got in about four months, 3 1/2 months before the primary. The chair's race I got in, I think, was in March or April for a September primary, and I got in at the end of March and early -- or early April. Official announcement was towards the end of April for the seat that I occupy now so...
NNAMDIBut you're late entry into that campaign, the last one led to all kinds of complications. We're looking now at an April 1 primary. Your campaign, if you're gonna run again, likely has to be up and running in December to effectively turn in campaign petitions in January to get on the ballot. Aren't you a little scared that if you entered this race too late complications could arise again?
GRAYWell, complications could arise with anything, Kojo. That could rise if you were into something two years before it takes place. And yeah, we know the concerns. We have the same concerns about the, you know, the last race, the questions that have been raised about that. But I think we'll, you know, should we get in, I think we'll be prepared to be able to address that.
MADDENBut if some of the -- your supporters will say -- well, in terms of what happened in 2010, one of the main reasons was that it was thrown together at the last minute and that there were so many moving parts and everything happened so quickly. And it just seems like you might be setting yourself up again for a situation like that and you're asking voters, I guess, to trust you. But the track record suggests that issues can happen when it's thrown together at the last second.
GRAYWell, remember this, too, Patrick, that I'm the incumbent this time and, you know, people have evaluated me in this job over the last now two, you know, two years and seven months. So I'm in a very different position than I was before. And frankly, I think people will have and will continue to look at the track record that we have amassed. There were certain things we said we would do. For example, bring fiscal stability back to the city. I think there's a very strong argument to be made for that.
GRAYWe've gotten a bond upgrade from Standard & Poor's. The city was taken off of negative watch by Moody's just the other day, a couple of days ago. We're now considered stable. You look at the education results that we got earlier this week. We've made substantial progress there. Unemployment has come down from 11.2 percent to 8.5 percent since I've been in office. Look at the cranes that are all over the city (unintelligible)
MADDENSo it sounds like you want to run to -- you want to run again, it sounds like.
GRAYWell, what it sounds like is I'm telling you why there's a very powerful case to be made for this being a different situation than it was last time. Running as an incumbent with a record like this is a very powerful position to be in. It's one of the reasons why I think so many people ask me what I'm going to do because I think that this administration has really demonstrated the ability to move the city forward. You know, talking to you earlier, you were talking about, you know, the new cycle that we're in now.
GRAYAnd you don't hear a lot of things that are negative in the city at this stage. The city is running extremely well and virtually everybody acknowledges that. We got a great administration. I've never worked with a group of people as talented as the ones who are involved in leadership positions in this administration. And I think people across the city know that.
NNAMDIYou haven't yet made a final decision about whether you'll veto legislation to require large retailers to pay higher wages because the last we heard you still haven't received the bill from the Council...
GRAYI have not.
NNAMDI...and it's been nearly three weeks since it passed the Council. You talked a little bit about why you don't think the bill has been sent to you in an interview earlier this week. Have you had any conversations with the chairman of the Council since this bill was passed about when you should expect to get it?
GRAYWell, I have, and the chairman has basically said to me, in a few weeks, in a few weeks, in a few weeks. And my, you know, what I've said about why I haven't gotten it, really, is speculation on my part because he hasn't given me a reason. But, you know, having been the chair of the Council, Kojo and Patrick, I understand some of the rules that they're operating under. And one of those is that you have, you know, let's say the bill was sent to me tomorrow.
GRAYI would have 10 days, 10 business days within which to make a decision. The Council will then have 30 days what they wish to do whatever it chooses to do. And I think the chairman is concerned about not having all of his members available to him because the Council is in recess until Sept. 17. So I suspect he doesn't wanna be in a position where his time would run out before he has a chance to be able even to convene the Council to address whatever action may be needed to -- may need to be addressed. Now...
NNAMDIEverything you've said so far suggests to me that you are tending or leaning in the direction of vetoing this bill.
GRAYNo. I gave you an answer based on what the chairman, you know, may be using as his factors for not having sent the bill. And I perfectly understand what it is. There are three actions that I could take. The first action is to sign the bill and then move it forward. That doesn't require anything further on the part of the Council. The second action is to send it back unsigned, which wouldn't require any action on the part of the Council either, you know? Well, it could to do in this period 'cause it could be perceived as a pocket veto.
GRAYAnd then the third action would be if it were vetoed and then, of course, the Council would have to convene to overwrite the veto. So in two instances, he is faced with the possibility of something happening here that would not approve, let's put it that way, would not approve a bill which he sponsored. He's the architect of it, and he's been very proactive in trying to move the bill forward.
NNAMDILet's talk about the politics for a second. If, in fact, you do veto it, what would you say to the person who sees the combination of this, the public investment in the soccer stadium, the land swap to a developer that gives them 14th and U Street? And that person says, the mayor is showing up pattern of taking sides with the people who have the most money at the expense of working class people who are trying to get affordable housing, trying to be able to afford to live in Washington, D.C. What would you say to that person?
GRAYWell, since you used affordable housing, the first thing I would say is, don't forget that I made what I think is the single largest investment in this upcoming budget for fiscal year '14 that's ever been made in the history of a budget in the city, $100 million going into affordable housing. We just appointed yesterday the housing production trust fund advisory board, and we're now working with the private sector to use that $100 million to be able to leverage additional private sector funds.
GRAYSo that would be my first response, and that is, look at my record in terms of affordable housing here in the city. And then if you look at this deal in particular, a lot of this is involving jobs. You know, what a lot of people don't understand, and Patrick and I were talking about this as we came in, and that is people have tagged this as "Wal-Mart bill." There are so many other retailers that are affected by this bill.
GRAYWegmans, if they would choose to come to the District of Columbia, would be affected by it, Lowe's, which is in the throes of determining whether they're gonna build a store right here in the city, Home Depot, Macy's, Costco, which talked to us in Las Vegas at the shopping center convention about opening a second site. All of those entities would be affected by this.
GRAYThe other thing that a lot of people don't realize also is that some of the retailers who otherwise would be, you know, would be included in this bill are exempted. Safeway and Giant, for example, would be exempted from this because they have collective bargaining agreements. So the bill itself...
NNAMDIBut, see, those are all arguments for vetoing the bill. What argument have you heard or would you make for signing the bill?
GRAYWell, the argument -- I haven't made an argument on one side or the other. People asked me a question, and I've tried to make that -- to answer the questions that I have been asked. And what I have done is I have opened the door to anybody who wants to come in. We still got some meetings that we have to set up, and we obviously have time to do that, to say, come in and tell me why you think this bill is good, tell me why you think this bill is not good.
GRAYA lot of what I've heard are arguments around people will now make $12.50 an hour. And I say, well, how can you come to that conclusion? Because I've met with Wal-Mart. Wal-Mart, to use them as a for instance 'cause that's what people talk about, Wal-Mart has said, first of all, forget the three stores on which construction has not been started. We're not gonna do that. And we're now looking at how we can get out of three stores that are already under construction.
GRAYSo when people tell me, it's the difference between, let's say, $9 an hour and 12.50, I said, can you explain to me how that's the case? Because the way it's crafted at this stage is the difference between $9 and nothing because the store that you are targeting for this or the corporation you're targeting has essentially said, we're not coming. We're not coming to the city.
NNAMDIThere are several people who want to ask about all kinds of things who have been waiting patiently on the line, and we're running out of time. So let me go to Frank in Washington, D.C. Frank, you're on the air. Go ahead, please.
FRANKYes. Good afternoon, Kojo and Mr. Mayor. Thank you for taking my call. I am calling regarding as a representative of the citizens -- Concerned U Street Citizens who have united because your deputy mayor's office of planning's decision this week announced on Monday selecting MRP and a farmer's market concept versus our preferred -- community-wide preferral of JBG and a Harris Teeter that would bring more jobs, more tax revenue.
FRANKAnd we're fearful that the wrong decision has been made not on the merit. And this is a lose-lose situation for the city and my community and will result in a multi-generational failure to a sorely lacking commercial district.
NNAMDIAllow me to have the mayor respond.
GRAYWell, first of all, I take great exception to the allegation that this was done without -- not on the merits. Every decision we've made has been on the merits no matter if it's this one or another one. If you go back, I mean, and, of course, the losing, which is JBG, I think, was the losing bidder on this one, that issue was addressed in an article, I think, in the Washington Business Journal yesterday by the deputy mayor's office. It laid out some of the factors. JBG has options to it. If it chooses to appeal the decision that was made, it has options to it.
GRAYYou know, and the assertion that Harris Teeter -- what I read, Harris Teeter said they might consider coming. I don't think that there's an iron-clad commitment of Harris Teeter to come to that project. So again, we'd be happy to address it. We've already tried to address some of the questions that had been raised. But I think somewhat what the caller has asserted just simply is not born out with the facts.
NNAMDIFrank, thank you very much for your call. We move on to Colden (sp?) in Washington, D.C. Colden, you're on the air with Mayor Gray. Go ahead, please.
COLDENThe disparity in parks and recreation on the eastern side of the city has been unacceptable for generations. And objective urban planning would have created a system here of parks, hiking trails, wooded areas that are lacking. Your plan to surplus McMillan and hand it over to this massive development team is opposed by thousands of D.C. residents who want McMillan Park restored, the entire park, and a system of trails and wooded areas. We need a Glen Echo-type Park here. The...
NNAMDIAll right. Allow me to have the mayor respond to that.
GRAYWell, first of all, we have lots of parks. We have 7,600 acres of parks in the District of Columbia, and parks is very much a part of the Department of Parks and Recreation planning and execution every day. I've followed McMillan, and I haven't seen thousands of people who have indicated a resistance, you know, or overwhelmingly come forward and said, we wanna see parks at McMillan.
GRAYFor those who don't know, McMillan is right at the intersection of Michigan Avenue and North Capitol Street. And certainly, the plan would include green space. You know, all one has to do is go to our sustainable D.C. plan and recognize our commitment to the preservation of green space and environment in the District of Columbia. Also, that -- it characterizes the eastern end. That is not the eastern end in the city. That's right in the center of the city.
GRAYAnd if one wants to go to the eastern end to see what we've done, go look at Fort Stanton, which we just dedicated a little over a week ago, a week and a half ago. It is a phenomenal facility. We have invested a great deal in parks and recreation. The Play DC program is a program that I started less than a year ago to invest in the -- $30 million in playgrounds in the city, 32 playgrounds that are being upgraded all over the District of Columbia.
GRAYAnd we, right now, have a planning process being directed by Jesus Aguirre and his staff, DPR, that will evolve a master plan for parks and recreation in the city, and I would invite the caller to participate in that.
NNAMDIColden, thank you very much for your call. Patrick, we're running out of time.
MADDENMr. Mayor, I just wanna ask you about another controversial decision by your administration, and that's the bailout for Chartered. We're talking 40, $50 million to help pay the debts. Now, granted, this money will go to small firms that are providing valuable services, but it's also helping out businessman Jeffrey Thompson, who clearly -- his former company has a lot of debts. And at the same time, you know, Thompson is at the center of this investigation into your 2010 campaign.
MADDENAnd I'm just wondering, you know, do you think that it's appropriate for your administration to be getting into this business and whether it's the right call?
GRAYI think it's appropriate for us to preserve the health care system in the District of Columbia. And that's exactly what this is about. Our health care finance director, Wayne Turnage, who I think is one of the finest in the nation, has given a detailed explanation of what this is about. We have got practitioners in the city who are part of our Medicaid and Healthcare Alliance program who did not receive payments. And what would people have us do?
MADDENBut why not -- I guess they would say, go after his personal -- go after Thompson's assets.
GRAYBut -- yeah. But what happens right now? That's the issue. What happens right now when you've got people who are not able to make their payments, you know? They pay their rent, pay their staff, pay their overhead. We have an obligation, I think, to make sure that we continue to have a health care system for those who are in economic need in the District of Columbia. And that is the sole purpose for being able to do this. We've got people who are now at the brink of bankruptcy because they haven't had the payments made.
MADDENDo you think the city should go after Thompson's assets?
GRAYI think that's exactly what Wayne has talked about. And it's really Chartered at this stage 'cause he's not involved with Chartered anymore. But that's gonna take a really protracted period of time. In the meantime, we can sit here and do that and watch the, you know, watch the health care system for indigent folks, people in need disintegrate.
NNAMDIIn Nikita Stewart's profile of Jeffrey Thompson, one individual claims that you had a private meeting in Jeanne Harris's apartment with Jeffrey Thompson. Did such a meeting take place?
GRAYYou're getting into this campaign is -- this has nothing to do with Chartered Health, and I'm not gonna address that, Kojo.
NNAMDIWell, before you go, I do have a trivia question for you. Garry Davis, a long-time peace advocate, died this past Wednesday. He was a song and dance man, self-declared world citizen number one, widely regarded as dean of the One World movement, a quest to erase national boundaries. He was 91 years old. There is a relationship to the District of Columbia. Do you what it is?
GRAYI do not.
NNAMDIIn 1986, Gary Davis ran for mayor of Washington, D.C., and received 585 votes. I win that trivia question, but Mayor Gray...
GRAYI'm gonna use the question at some point, Kojo.
NNAMDIThank you so much for joining us.
GRAYThank you very much. Thank you, Kojo.
NNAMDIVincent Gray is mayor of the District of Columbia. He is a Democrat. He joined us in studio. If you have called, stay on the line. We will get to your calls because Patrick Madden and I will still be here for the next 15 minutes or so even as Mayor Gray has to leave to keep other appointments. Patrick Madden, he's our guest analyst. He is a reporter for WAMU 88.5. Mayor Gray, you may take your leave.
GRAYThank you, sir. Gentlemen.
NNAMDIIf you have questions or comments about any other thing, 800-433-8850. Patrick Madden, you and I have a lot to talk about. Let's jump over to the Commonwealth of Virginia for a second where Gov. Bob McDonnell has been on a kind of apology tour on Tuesday.
NNAMDIHe announced he would return all of the gifts that he received from businessman Johnny Williams Sr.: the $6,500 Rolex, $1,500 to cover part of a catering bill for the wedding of his daughter, another $1,500 run up by Mrs. McDonnell and more and more, more than $124,000 in loans and interest. But a lot of people are saying that returning the gifts is not enough.
MADDENThat's right. And, you know, the call -- there have been calls for his resignation. Obviously, he's near the very end of his term. But you're right. I mean, I think one thing people have called for, and I'm surprised that the governor hasn't been more forceful in this, is changing the state's ethics laws. I mean, clearly, people have identified this issue as the reporting of gifts and its very lax reporting requirements.
MADDENI think the state integrity project gave Virginia an F in terms of, you know, all the different ethics in campaign finance laws. So it's been surprising that the governor, at least, hasn't said, yes, we really, you know, we need to get the, you know, we need to call everyone back together and really take, you know, take this issue head on.
NNAMDIAs a matter of fact, there have been calls from a number of sources that the ethics, rules and laws in the Commonwealth of Virginia need to be revisited. So far, the governor himself has not agreed to do that. But what looked for a while like a promising future in politics seems to have been at the very least, if not, way late completely, certainly delayed by these revelations. And the governor is gonna have a hard time overcoming them.
MADDENIt's amazing. It's also is -- it's affecting the current governor's race because with Cuccinelli. But you're right, McDonnell was talked about as a clear...
NNAMDIVice-presidential or presidential, yeah.
MADDEN...he's a frontrunner, you know, a person that was talked about as a vice-president, someone who, you know, would be in the top tier of candidates in 2016. But it's hard to see how that can happen given the way this scandal is played out.
NNAMDIBack to the District of Columbia and some of the calls that were for Mayor Gray. But even though he has left us because by previous arrangement that's when he had to leave, I'd like to hear what some of these people have to say. So let's go to Rob in Alexandria, Va. Rob, you're on the air. Go ahead, please. Rob, are you there? Rob. Rob might be following Mayor Gray. Let's see what EW, in Upper Marlboro, Ma., if he's still around. EW, you're on the air, he or she.
EWHey, Kojo. How you doing?
EWGood. Hey, I know you guys can answer my question because you guys are very familiar with the District. I am not. And where will the new Buzzard Point Stadium be relative to the Southwest Waterfront and the new stadium? That's just one question, and I have another.
NNAMDIWell, you know, the National Stadium is on the southeast side of North Capitol Street. The D.C. United Stadium will be on the southwest side, which is where Buzzard Point is, right down there on the Waterfront.
EWOh, wow. OK, great. And my next question was going to be...
NNAMDIOr South Capitol Street. Go ahead.
EWOh, OK. Yeah, my next question was gonna be about the Waterfront, but since you answered that, how likely does this make it -- if ever the Redskins wanted to come back into the District -- I mean, the fact that we have two large stadiums already, does that make it more likely or not?
NNAMDITalk to Jack Evans. But, no, here's Patrick Madden.
MADDENWell, that's interesting because that question actually came up during the United Stadium press conference. The mayor hinted at that RFK would now be the ideal place for the Redskins if they were able to get the Redskins to return to Washington. But again, that is -- that may be a pipe dream.
NNAMDIBut I said talk to Jack Evans because Jack is the one who is, in large measure, responsible for what happened at Verizon and at some measure for what occurred at the National Stadium and has identified himself as one of the people who wants to bring the Washington football team, Redskins, back to Washington, D.C. But thank you very much for your call, EW. We move on now to Pearl in Washington, D.C. Pearl, you're on the air. Go ahead please.
PEARLThanks for taking my call, Kojo. Sorry the mayor is gone because I wanna talk about the Reeves Center. Trading a valuable piece of property for some swampland for a soccer stadium is appalling on its face. The Reeves Center is the only building that actually brings daytime foot traffic to the 14th and U Street Corridor. We've been struggling for years to develop a better use and development plan for this area and now this kind of backroom deal being proposed to remove the only viable office building in the neighborhood.
NNAMDIWell, Pearl, allow me to make this argument on behalf of the Ward 8 councilmember, Marion Barry. Do you know who brought the Reeves Center to 14th and U Street?
PEARLOh, yes, I do.
NNAMDIDo you know who approves of Reeves Center being a part of this deal and the -- well, the building being a part of this deal and the Reeves Center moving to Anacostia where, in his opinion, it could help to spur development?
PEARLOh, yes, I do. But I'd actually suggest there's plenty of other agencies he could move to that area to spur development without removing the Reeves...
NNAMDINo, I'm not talking about the mayor. I'm not talking about the mayor. I'm talking about the former mayor, Marion Barry Jr., who brought the Reeves Center to 14th and U. He is the one who approves of this deal. He is the one who approves of Reeve going to Anacostia.
PEARLYes, I understand that.
PEARLThat doesn't make it a good decision.
NNAMDIThis is true. But...
PEARLYou know, many, you know, the Reeves Center, really, is the only office building in the area, the only reason people come to this area in the daytime. By removing that, we remove any hope of any real future development so that we have a daytime foot traffic in this area, and it becomes...
PEARL...a strictly nighttime destination.
NNAMDIPatrick, Pearl makes an interesting argument because that was the reason that then mayor, Marion Barry, had the Reeves Center constructed. But ever since the construction of metro and so much other development...
NNAMDI...there are people who will argue that people do not only go to U Street at nighttime, that they go there in the daytime for a variety of other options.
MADDENRight. And I would argue that, I think, the green line is more responsible for having -- and the metro station rather was having sort of uptick in development and the people that are coming there. And I just don't know -- I mean, I travel to the Reeves Center 'cause that's where the Office of Campaign Finance is, and there are some other agencies. But it's not the destination for a lot of folks as you might think. It's not where the DMV is.
MADDENSo I bet the caller, you know, she races a point about, I guess, the employees that work there and the foot traffic. But just having, you know, going by there during the day, I just don't think that's the driver.
NNAMDIAnd we probably be hearing from a lot more people like Pearl because this is not a done deal yet. Green paint, the judge ordered the suspect in the National Cathedral vandalism held without bond on Tuesday. The suspect identified on her Chinese passport as 58-year-old Jiamei Tian was taken into custody Monday and charged with defacing property after allegedly spattering green paint inside two chapels at the National Cathedral.
NNAMDIIt seems that the mystery of who is solving the green paint may have been solved but not in a very happy way when you see the person seems to have some serious mental issues.
MADDENExactly. I think -- I mean, the mystery will now be why.
MADDENDid this -- what's this woman doing? And it's not clear. And as you mentioned, it sounds like there is some mental problems going on. It's -- the police had a hard time figuring out who she was, where she lived...
MADDEN...how she got to D.C., into the country. I mean, clearly, I think someone at the National Cathedral, a spokesperson, put it best because they suffered damage. They said we just -- we want this woman to get the help she needs.
NNAMDIYeah. And it's turned out that it was not just a local story. It became a national story for a while there.
NNAMDIOn to the telephones again. Here now is Cordelia in Herndon, Va. Cordelia, you're on the air. Go ahead, please.
CORDELIAYes. Hi. I'm calling about our governor of our wonderful state. And, you know, he doesn't get it, and Republicans in general, I don't, think get it -- this because something it says or doesn't say that you don't -- you can do it doesn't mean that you can go ahead and do it. It's like -- I don't know people -- enough to remember at times went into restaurant, they brought that basket of crackers to the table.
CORDELIAAnd my grandma was about body slam us kids to keep from grabbing up all those crackers. And that she said, yes, this is for their guests, but it doesn't mean that you clean it out to the last crumb. I don't know if that's just southern good manners. You know, we've got deep roots in this state so...
MADDENMaybe it's all Southern hospitality. That's the root cause here.
CORDELIAYeah. It's just basic good manners.
NNAMDISo you're saying that because the law in the Commonwealth of Virginia said there is no limit to the amount of gifts or the value of gifts that you can accept, that you simply have to report those gifts. That doesn't mean you have to accept every gift that you're offered.
MADDENWell, maybe the governor just felt bad about turning down gifts.
CORDELIAExactly. Well, you know, how -- 'cause I just don't see how you can think that if have any kind of credibility of self-restraint...
NNAMDIWell, how do you feel about...
CORDELIA...if you just get your hand out going, oh, yeah. Can I have another present?
NNAMDIHow do you feel about the governor's argument that, in this case, the donor, Johnny William Sr., got nothing in return for the gifts that he gives -- gave. That there was no quid pro quo. It gave him no significant advantage or benefit or return in the Commonwealth of Virginia.
CORDELIAOh, I see. I think there's still a bridge for sale in New York City.
NNAMDIOK, Cordelia. So do you think that there should be a change in the ethics laws in the Commonwealth?
CORDELIAOh, my God, yes. I mean, I had no idea that it was that much open range on this.
CORDELIAI just figured -- like I said, Virginia, there's a history to us of financial restraints and even on both sides of the aisle. And just that they -- actually something like this got flipped in somewhere in the legislative history was pretty shocking.
NNAMDICordelia, thank you very much for your call. Patrick, I think the best headline I have seen was someone who tweeted the headline from the Express today, having to do with the birth that took place at the L'Enfant Plaza Metro. Somebody...
MADDENI was gonna say that's the best headline I've ever seen on the Express.
NNAMDIThem blanking on the headline now.
MADDENI am too.
NNAMDIIf -- however, the headline had to do with the fact that it was the first time in memory that metro riders saw an early arrival.
MADDENRight. Right, right.
NNAMDIAn early arrival the first time in history. But the fact that the birth took place and then it took place at L'Enfant, which of course means "The Child," was particularly significant.
NNAMDIHappily, the baby was born healthily, and the mother seems to be doing well. But what kind of experience that must have been.
MADDENAnd the craziest thing, Kojo, is that there were no delays.
MADDENThere's not one time metro -- there were no delays on metro even when a woman was able to give birth. I mean, I guess, it turns out it was really fast, I think 10 minutes.
MADDENAnd there was an off-duty EMT in the car that was able to deliver the baby or on the platform. But it's just...
NNAMDISo many things just came together.
MADDENYeah. And in L'Enfant -- I mean, you couldn't make this stuff up.
NNAMDIShavonnte Taylor was the mother. The baby boy was delivered on the platform. Shavonnte said, "It wasn't the way I wanted to happen, but it went fine." Well, Unsuck Metro finally has something positive to report about metro.
MADDENRight, right. Yeah.
NNAMDIBack to the telephones now. Here is Lee in Washington D.C. Lee, you're on the air. Go ahead, please.
LEEHi, Kojo. I was just commenting on something that -- dealing with mayors and the press in general. And I'm thinking of the mayor for candidate, obviously, in New York City. But it speaks to me of how press focuses on one thing when they see blood. I mean, Weiner obviously has problems, but I think there's a responsibility for the press here or anywhere else to talk about balance. You never hear anything about his policies as a candidate. It's all focusing on his private life and what that may mean.
LEEBut I think it's really unfair in general for the press to be obsessed on one issue and not look at the larger picture. And I think there's a lesson to be learned in any city including the one that I've just cited.
NNAMDIWell, there was a focus on Anthony Weiner's policies during this campaign for mayor before it was reveal that after having conducted interview saying that he has changed his ways that he had not, that's when the focus shifted to his personal and sexual proclivities.
MADDENAnd also I think the two differences between D.C. and New York, the New York Post and the New York Daily News.
MADDENWhen you have those two tabloids...
MADDEN...competing against each other and you have a politician with the last name Weiner in a sex scandal, it's not surprising what's gonna happen.
NNAMDIBut you think in general, Lee, that the media tend to focus too much on the personal scandals of politicians? Do you think those -- well, I'll tell you, the media think that those personal scandals have to do with how people evaluate their politicians because they go to the question of judgment.
LEEI absolutely think that's an important part of anybody's record, and not to talk about these type of issues would be a lack of responsibility. But I think the responsibility also has to be the continued talking about policies and encouraging that debate. And after a while, it's get one sided, and even more -- as your guest speaker said, it's even more inviting when you have a name like Weiner. There's no excuse for still trying to stick to that. I agree, they may have started talking about the policies, but it's just getting started.
LEEAnd I think it should be continued that they talk and get reactions in the public of how they think of his policies. I just think the balance needs to continue.
NNAMDILet the record show that both Lee and Patrick went in the direction of...
NNAMDI...name and I didn't. Here is Ken in Gettysburg, Md. Ken, you're on the air. Go ahead, please.
KENThank you, Kojo. My question is again regarding the highly esteemed governor of Virginia. His receipt of gifts and not reporting them, it seems to me, is an underuse of influence regardless of whether he got a quid pro quo. I seem to remember similar circumstances resulting in federal indictments or at least federal investigation. How is this -- how is that not happening here?
NNAMDIThere is a federal investigation taking place for Gov. McDonnell.
KENOh, is it?
NNAMDIYes, there is. The U.S. Attorney's Office is investigating.
KENOK. Well, I guess...
NNAMDIAnd that's one of the reasons why the -- there are questions about Mr. McDonnell's use of the state council -- well, the council, who is appointed by Atty. Gen. Cuccinelli to defend him. And then he has a defense fund of his own at which there's another lawyer. It's all very, very complicated.
MADDENAnd it's messy.
NNAMDIBut that's all because there is a federal investigation, Ken.
KENI thought so. OK. Right. Thank you.
NNAMDIThank you very much for your call. We move on now to Walter in Washington, D.C., who has a question that only Patrick Madden can answer. Walter...
MADDENThis is a New York Mets question?
NNAMDINo. Walter, go ahead, please. It's not a New York Mets question.
WALTERYes. Having recently moved back to the District from a five-year hiatus in Los Angeles, I was really surprised to find that there are three DMV offices in Northeast and none anywhere else in the city and only one inspection station, which is just appallingly overworked. I'm just wondering what is the story there, and are they planning to fix that?
NNAMDII can't answer it. Patrick Madden might be able to.
MADDENMy answer is get a bike.
NNAMDIYeah. In this...
MADDENIn this city...
NNAMDIWell, I think one of the reasons for that may be that with so much business being conducted online these days, Walter, the city does not see the need for as many physical presences of DMV offices. But like you, there are quite a few people who are dissatisfied with that.
MADDENAnd -- but the city's website doesn't even work half the time.
WALTERRight. And I'd agree with you because you can't get license plates online. You can't get a license online.
NNAMDIGet registration either. I mean -- I'm sorry -- you can't get registration in person anymore.
NNAMDIYou either have to get it online or by mail.
WALTERRight. Right. And inspection station, that's a whole another kind of help.
NNAMDIOK. Thank you very much for your call, Walter. We have time for one more. Here is Joseph in Woodbridge, Va. Joseph, you're on the air. Go ahead, please.
JOSEPHHow it's going, Kojo?
JOSEPHIt's going well.
JOSEPHHey, that's good to hear, that's good to hear. Hey, I'm just calling. I'm a new NPR listener. Man, I've been trying to get some discernment from the biased opinions of all the other news outlets. And I just wanted to thank you guys just for, you know, just some great broadcasting. You know, just keep doing what you're doing. And I appreciate the service you guys do.
NNAMDIYou are more than welcome, Joseph.
NNAMDIThank you very much for your call. It's why we have people like Patrick Madden here on WAMU...
MADDENIf all callers were like that.
NNAMDI...88.5 for his reporting and input in general and his investigative reporting in particular. Patrick Madden, he was our guest analyst today. He's a reporter for WAMU 88.5. Patrick, thank you so much for joining us.
MADDENThank you, Kojo.
NNAMDINext week, our resident analyst, Tom Sherwood, will be back. He's a reporter for NBC 4 and a columnist for The Current Newspapers. Thank you all for listening. I'm Kojo Nnamdi.
Most Recent Shows
Fresh off the presidential campaign trail, U.S. Sen. Tim Kaine is back at work on Capitol Hill on issues affecting both Virginia and the greater Washington region.
Since election day, the incoming Trump administration has slowly taken up residence in the Washington region. We look at how welcoming the region has been to new residents.
We talk with Chevy Chase business owners and residents about the reaction to the Sunday gun scare at Comet Ping Pong.