Kojo talks with author Colson Whitehead about his new novel "The Underground Railroad" and its resonance at this particular moment in history.
A front-runner in Maryland’s 2014 campaign for governor, the current attorney general, takes heat for comments about the role of race in the contest. A veteran campaign operative in the District pleads guilty in the investigation into the controversial 2010 race for mayor. And Virginia’s gubernatorial candidates carpet the airwaves with negative ads about each other. Join us for our weekly review of the politics, policies and personalities of the District of Columbia, Maryland and Virginia.
- Graylan Hagler Senior Minister, Plymouth Congregational United Church of Christ (Washington, D.C.)
- Douglas Gansler Maryland Attorney General (D)
- Tom Sherwood Resident Analyst; NBC 4 reporter; and Columnist for the Current Newspapers
Maryland Attorney General Douglas Gansler said his opponent, Lt. Gov. Anthony Brown, has been relying on his race to get elected as governor. Gansler also said the person who recorded his controversial comments at a volunteer campaign event committed “felony wiretapping.” On The Politics Hour, Gansler expands on the issue of race and on wiretapping.
MR. KOJO NNAMDIFrom WAMU 88.5 at American University in Washington, welcome to The Politics Hour, starring Tom Sherwood. I'm Kojo Nnamdi. Tom Sherwood is our resident analyst. He's an NBC4 reporter and a columnist for The Current Newspapers. Tom, good to see you.
MR. TOM SHERWOODGood afternoon. Happy Friday.
NNAMDIIt has been another busy week for the U.S. attorney for the District of Columbia's office in terms of prosecuting and getting guilty pleas from individuals involved in Mayor Vincent Gray's 2010 mayoral campaign. This week, it was the turn of Vernon Hawkins, described in Tom's column as usually mild-mannered and mostly easygoing, something I've come to discover myself after meeting him on a few occasions.
NNAMDINevertheless, he pled guilty in what the U.S. attorney describes as being at ground zero of this campaign. He pled guilty to lying to investigators about whether or not he had paid an individual to leave town so he wouldn't be questioned by the FBI. But, Tom, I guess what is more important about this is that Vernon Hawkins has often been identified as one of the main movers, if not the main mover, in the shadow campaign that businessman Jeffrey Thompson allegedly spent $653,000 on.
SHERWOODI think what's important for people to know is that, yes, he is or was at ground zero with Jeanne Clarke Harris, who pled guilty in July of last year for an elaborate scheme to spend $653,000. Vernon Hawkins said in the formal papers that were presented this week that -- and said -- and discussed in court -- that he drew up the budget. The budget was discussed with a businessman who Vernon Hawkins in court called Jeff.
SHERWOODNow, Jeffrey Thompson -- who is the financier, according to all of the news reports that have been released -- is the person, the money man behind all of this. And that was the first time...
NNAMDIThat was a first, wasn't it?
SHERWOOD...that's Jeff's name, referring to Jeffrey Thompson, been in court. And it was also, this week, the first time where the judge said, all right, let's -- it's enough out there. It's well known. We'll talk about candidate A. Who is candidate A? And they named Vincent Gray's campaign for the first time in court. So those were some firsts there. But we're getting to where U.S. Atty. Ronald Machen said the ground zero and a step closer -- and I would say a big step closer -- to who -- idea it was to have a shadow campaign, who figured out how the money would be handled, who would do it.
SHERWOODAnd we now have Jeanne Clarke Harris and Vernon Hawkins, both cooperating with the prosecutors. We have Jeffrey Thompson and his lawyer hunkered down, not commenting on any development. And we have Mayor Gray who, for now almost two years, will not comment even on the things he did as mayor -- I mean, as a candidate for mayor. So we've got two who are pleading and cooperating, and we've got two who are stonewalling at this point for legal reasons, whatever. I'm not criticizing them, but they're not saying anything.
NNAMDIWell, it said that Vernon Hawkins can expect to serve, according to Mike DeBonis in The Washington Post, up to 16 months in prison. But he is apparently cooperating fully to the extent that he has agreed to take a polygraph test, if necessary, during his cooperation. Is it conceivable that he may not get jail time at all?
SHERWOODIt's possible. He's pled guilty to a felony. That's pretty serious. You're lying to the FBI investigators. It's possible that he could get a home detention supervision kind of situation. I think it'll -- part of -- some -- let me stop mealy-mouthing about this. It all depends on what he knows and what he says about the rest of the scheme. If he cooperates with the prosecutors, the prosecutors will be -- will recommend a less serious sentence.
SHERWOODHe's 74 years old. He was not in good health this past year. He has apologized for what he calls a mistake. He has said he's set about to correct it and has asked for forgiveness. And so all those things will factor into whether he gets jail time. And people are -- I've talked to don't think he will actually go to jail, nor do they think Jeanne Clarke Harris will actually go to jail. But I -- we don't really know.
NNAMDIBut what's happening here is the U.S. attorney is clearly getting closer and closer to Jeffrey Thompson and Mayor Vincent Gray, and we await to see whether or not either of them will be ultimately charged with anything.
SHERWOODYeah. And I think it's important. I want to say this. I've said it a couple of times, but it doesn't get through to many people. Why is it taking so long? Everyone -- you hear that. You probably are asked that question. Why is it taking so long?
NNAMDII ask it myself.
SHERWOODIf he's got something on the mayor, why doesn't he put it out on the table so we can all see it? Well, part of the problem is that Jeffrey Thompson and Vincent C. Gray are not talking. So if the mayor wants -- and, in fact, he wants to speed this along. Maybe he would at least publicly say what he knows in general, not, you know, getting to the investigation, but say what he knows about his own campaign.
NNAMDIAny significance at all to the report in The Washington Post this week about how Jeffrey Thompson's money can be seen in the Linda Cropp campaign for mayor in 2006, the 2011 at-large campaign of Vincent Orange, because one can infer that there were maybe illegal contributions in those campaigns also?
SHERWOODWell, you know, Mayor Vincent Gray got monies that were not real monies. They were reimbursed by Jeffrey Thompson, allegedly. But -- so I think Thompson has poured a lot of money into a lot of campaigns, not just for the Council and the mayor. The question is there's been no allegation, no suggestion that Linda Cropp knew of any illegal monies in her campaign, none, and no one has made that suggestion even in the stories about her receiving the $100,000.
NNAMDIOn to our first guest for today. He joins us by telephone. He is the attorney general for the state of Maryland. Doug Gansler joins us. Doug Gansler, thank you for joining us?
ATTY. GEN. DOUGLAS GANSLERMy pleasure. How're you doing, Kojo and Tom?
NNAMDII'm doing well. I can't speak for Tom. You...
GANSLERHe's always got issues, but we will get to those on the air.
NNAMDIYou have not yet officially kicked off your campaign for governor. But this week, you found yourself right in the middle of a campaign controversy after The Washington Post published remarks you made about the opponent waiting for you in that race, Lt. Gov. Anthony Brown.
NNAMDIYou essentially said that you don't think he's got much of a record to run on and that maybe the most appealing thing he has going for him is -- well, not maybe -- is that he'd be Maryland's first black governor. Brown suggested that you should apologize to voters. But on Wednesday, you said you don't see much to apologize for. Why?
GANSLERWell, the whole notion of apologizing is political theater in politics, of course, and has actually changed. I think what he's asking for an apology for is that I somehow disrespected his record as an Army reservist. But, look, the fact that some people may have misunderstood what I've said based on the way it was presented by The Washington Post is disappointing. But the fact remains that I did not say anything inaccurate or that would be offensive to anybody.
GANSLERI mean, basically, what the accusation is, the accusation is that I injected race into this potential campaign by speaking to my own campaign workers at a private meeting by telling them not, specifically not to talk about race in this upcoming election, but to focus on the content of the character of the people running, their record on the issues and their vision for the state of Maryland and not get caught up in anything the people should not be considering.
GANSLERAnd I mentioned, for example, when I was looking at who should be the next president of the United States, I looked to the content of the character of Barack Obama, and I decided to co-chair his campaign, along with Elijah Cummings. And my opponent went a different direction, which is totally fine. But that's what we should be. We should be talking about the issues. We should be talking about our vision of Maryland and not focused on race.
SHERWOODWell, good afternoon. Does it matter that the lieutenant governor himself has talked about how he would be the first African-American governor of Maryland should he win the primary and the general election? And does it matter -- and then -- well, you've answered that question. Does that factor into what you said in this campaign meeting?
GANSLERWell, that goes to the accuracy of what was said and why it was brought up. I mean, the question was sort of how -- these are campaign workers, and obviously it was a felony wiretapping that was going on. So we were not -- this wasn't what we were talking to the public. But what we were saying to them is, look, this is not about that. So if you -- the question was how you -- how should we compare you to Anthony Brown?
GANSLERI said, look, don't just -- when you're comparing us, talk about our record. Talk about the content of our character, talk about the things we've done, talk about our vision for the state, talk about our leadership qualities, and don't talk about race because that's -- look, are we in a post-racial world? No. But should we be? Yeah.
GANSLERThat's what we're trying to get to. We won't get to that unless people focus on the issues. So that's why in the sort of lead up to the race that Kojo mentioned I haven't announced yet -- we'll do that in September -- we've been doing ideas forums. Last week, I talked about a very...
SHERWOODWhat kind of forums?
SHERWOODOh, ideas. I thought you said IDS.
NNAMDITom considers that a foreign word.
GANSLERExactly. No, but...
SHERWOODSouth, we call it ideas.
GANSLERLast week, we took on a very controversial issue, where people have been taking a little heat on because it's a tough issue. It requires leadership. It's talking about re-entry. What are we going to do about the 23,000 people, as we speak, that are locked up in the state of Maryland and the 144,000 people that are in our system?
GANSLERWe can either ignore that they're there -- and we can continue to have almost a 50 percent recidivism rate -- or we can do what Virginia and Oregon and Michigan and other states have done and focus on the fact that the vast, vast, vast majority of these folks are coming back into our society, and we should try and make them taxpaying citizens and reduce recidivism from almost 50 percent into the 20s and be able to actually close correctional facilities. We also were talking about...
SHERWOODMr. -- OK. Mr. Attorney General, how does that -- going towards the issue, how does that square with your own discussion where you've said that you are, in fact, searching for an African-American running mate to be your lieutenant governor candidate? How does that square?
GANSLERWell, what we said was -- you know, we obviously are doing a broad and wide search. We're not going to announce till September, so we'll have a lieutenant governor candidate probably early October. So, you know, sometime after that. Perhaps it would also be shortly after, I would imagine. And so we've obviously started to search.
GANSLERWe've done a broad and wide search. We're still in the process of that search. All the more in Prince George's County are particularly important jurisdictions in Maryland for a number of reasons. And we happen -- there happens to be a lot of qualified African-Americans that live in those districts that would share my passion in terms of why I want to be elected.
GANSLERLook, I'm -- if I'm elected governor, I'm going to do what I did as attorney general and state's attorney before that and focus on diversity. I think that our government should reflect the people that they represent. So diversity is going to be a consideration for anybody who I pick to be as part of my cabinet, and it'll be part of the lieutenant governor selection as well.
SHERWOODHas it -- very quick. Has any of those potential persons that you've either spoken to or talked about, have they privately told you that they now feel like they can't be your lieutenant governor running mate because of this flop, whatever mayor did, has?
GANSLEROf course not because they've read the actual transcripts. See, if you look at the -- if you read what I said...
SHERWOODYeah. What did you say?
GANSLERI said -- what I said was exactly -- they did print -- they were nice enough -- the Post reporter was nice enough to print at least one sentence or so after I spoke. What I said was to the extent the campaign slogan is that we -- I -- that I would like to be the first African-American governor, that is a laudable goal. I used those words. That is a laudable goal, but we need a second sentence.
GANSLERWe need a sentence that says, why is that important? What are you going to do? What have you done for the African-American community in your record? And what do you -- what's your vision for improving that community and all of Maryland in the future? Then I specifically talked about how we need to, instead, do not talk about race, but we need to talk about the content of the character -- I used those words -- of the candidates.
NNAMDIMr. Attorney General, allow me to interrupt. I must admit a degree of befuddlement about this controversy because we're always saying that America needs to have a conversation about race, and the minute you bring it up, people seem to want to say, no, we should have a conversation except when white elected officials bring it up. The fact of the matter is that race is a factor in Maryland politics.
NNAMDITom and I would probably talk about it, the black past. Two governors of Maryland have both had black lieutenant governors, and that's obviously no coincidence. You apparently dared to talk about race openly to a group of volunteers. Are you surprised by the controversy it's generated? I can tell you that all of our phone lines are lit up right now in ways that they have not been lit up with any other issue in Maryland that we've discussed. But are you surprised by the controversy it's generated?
GANSLERNot really. I mean, look, I think race should always be discussed, and we should embrace it. We should embrace the diversity behind the whole race issue. But I do think the campaign for governor should be focused on, you know, more of the ideas that people present, the vision for the future. And the reason why it's particularly relevant in Maryland is because we do have a population that's 29.5 percent African-American.
GANSLERAnd we have a lot of minority people who live in Maryland are actually African-American. And, yeah, we've got a lot - we have a lot of issues. Look, we have the number two minority achievement gap in the whole United States in Maryland. Most people don't realize that, but that's a big problem we have. We're losing jobs all the time in Maryland.
GANSLERYou know, I personally through our attorney general mortgage foreclosure settlement, I've worked with the other attorney generals in the country to put in $1.4 billion in keeping folks in their homes. These are underwater or about to be foreclosed upon. So should we be talking about race? Yes. But we should be talking about the positive things and trying to get to a place where it's not the factor, but maybe a consideration in part of the diversity that we're all trying to achieve.
SHERWOODAnd the lieutenant governor in fact is running on what he says is his record, which he thinks is a sterling record, and he's not running as a racial candidate. I think he told me he would be proud to be the first African-American governor of the state, but he says he's running on the record, a demonstrable record that you can debate him about.
GANSLERAnd I look forward to that debate. That's when I want to talk. I want to talk about our records versus his record, and not somebody else's record. I want to talk about our vision for the state of Maryland and his vision for the state of Maryland. And let the voters make that decision.
GANSLERWe shouldn't be caught up in this political fever of apologies and sort of, well, we should apologize for this. Well, maybe he didn't say anything inappropriate about race. So you should now apologize about, you know, disrespecting his veteran service, which, of course, weren't talking about anybody's veteran's service. We're talking to campaign workers about going and knocking on doors.
NNAMDIAllow me to get to the telephones because there are a lot of callers. I'll start with Robert in Bethesda, Md. He was first. Robert, you're on the air. Go ahead, please. Robert, you dropped out? Are you there, Robert?
ROBERTThis is Robert.
SHERWOODHe was satisfied by the answers.
NNAMDIOn then to Mark in Rockville, Md. Mark, your turn.
MARKAll right. Attorney General, I just had a quick question for you. The (unintelligible), they both said that the lieutenant governor he has made a big factor or a big issue about race. Can you just point to an example just in your past, just where, you know, he has done that?
GANSLERI didn't really hear -- was it -- he's asking me for an example of...
NNAMDIHe says that The Washington Post said that you said that the lieutenant governor has made a big issue about his race. Can you point to an example in the past where the lieutenant governor has made a big issue about his race?
GANSLERWell, I didn't say a big issue about his race. I just said that that's what's being put forward. And I think there's an article actually in The Gazette today by Blair Lee, which had about 10 examples of people saying that that's what this -- that his candidacy would be a historic and important in that regard. And he said that when he's talks to people and on his website and so forth.
GANSLERAnd there's absolutely -- let me be clear. There's nothing wrong with that. It's a part of who we all are. You know, I grew up in Maryland. I think that's an important difference between me and maybe the lieutenant governor who didn't. And those are things you bring up. You bring up facts, but it's not why people should be voting for one candidate or the other.
GANSLERThey should vote on one candidate or the other based on their character and their leadership qualities and what they're going to do for their family and who -- and speaking of the African-American community or any other community, who's going to be more likely to get your child or their grandchild equal access to health care, education, to a job. Those are the kind of issues people are going to hear about.
SHERWOODIs it any different than Hillary Clinton talking about being the first woman president and saying she has a record to be the president if she makes that claim?
GANSLERWell, it's really interesting. The very day that The Washington Post reported and decided to sensationalize this particular situation, there's an article by I think Richard Cohen in The Post about that issue, Tom, about Hillary Clinton whether or not she used that enough. She wants to be the first woman and maybe that's why she lost to Barack Obama who said he want to be the first -- or people are saying about him that he would be the first African-American president.
GANSLERSo I mean I don't, you know, is there anything wrong with this? No. What I said at that meeting and it's on tape and anyone can see it because, you know, it was illegally taped, is that's a laudable call, and it's an important thing, but we need to hear what -- who's done more for that community or any other community and who has the vision for that community and the state of Maryland.
NNAMDIYou mentioned illegally taped, and earlier in the conversation, I thought you heard you mentioned the word wiretapping. What do you mean by that?
GANSLERWell, Maryland is one of 12 states -- remember the Linda Tripp controversy? Maryland is one of the 12 states that you need to give a two-way consent for -- to tape somebody. So you can't just walk up to somebody and have a conversation and be taping without saying -- actually, most news organizations when you do tape radio interview, they will tell you, we're going to tape this conversation because in Maryland you have to have a two-way consent.
GANSLERSo what happened here was they sent in one of their volunteers to tape this private meeting with campaign workers and without getting consent and then sent that tape to The Washington Post. Well, that's actually a five-year felony in our state. Of course, many people have been saying that should be prosecuted. I'm above that stuff.
SHERWOODIs it clear that -- you said they sent it in. Are you -- has it been said definitively that Brown's people sent in a person to tape it?
GANSLERWell, anybody else there was -- well, first of all...
SHERWOODYou know who did it? You actually know -- you know the person?
GANSLERWe have a very good idea of who did it because it was a small, you know, a small meeting. None -- most -- a large majority of the people there were -- well, everyone who's there from Anne Arundel County. There was a huge portion of that meeting that were actually African-Americans, other minorities, but that's who our campaign is appealing to. We know that two or three people that were not invited, and everybody sort of thought, well, they must have been brought by somebody else.
GANSLERAnd so no one sort of questioned it, and nobody is going to think that a felony is going to be committed there, so nobody cared. But that all said, be that as it may, the tape was made, and there was nothing inappropriate or inaccurate said on the tape. And we were talking about the specific accusation is that I injected race by saying not to talk about race which is one of the great ironies of this discussion.
NNAMDIWell, a lot of people seemed to think that a campaign should be a love fest but that's another story. We move on to Al in District Heights, Md.
NNAMDIAl, you're on the air. Go ahead please.
ALHi. I just had a question for attorney general.
ALYou said earlier that he has nothing to apologize for, but I think he does. In the tape, he say he had, in fact, treating your running mates more like just a race, and I didn't hear any mention of the content of his character as you said. And I think it's more treating him like a race than just a person. And don't you think that's wrong on some level even just in discussion of race?
GANSLERWell, I think I heard it, I mean, I think what he was saying was that I should apologize because of my potential lieutenant governor being African-American. I think that's what was said of him. In fact, (unintelligible)...
NNAMDII am not sure. Let me ask Al. Is that what you're talking about, Al?
ALWell, what I'm saying is it seems that he is using race as a primary, a factor in the decision as opposed to discussing all the qualities in which so far as I have understood.
GANSLERYeah. No, that's a fair thing. I mean, the sort of -- as people look at the transcript, they move around on what I'm supposed to "apologize for." At first, it was that I injected race into the contest and people read the actual transcript, not with The Washington Post reporter decided to put and said, oh, well, he didn't say anything inappropriate or offensive about race.
GANSLERLet's talk about veteran service, and then it moved to the lieutenant governor discussion. You know, in considering the lieutenant governor, we have to consider all the things -- it actually -- from a 30,000-foot level, when I pick a lieutenant governor, it's going to be somebody who shares my values. And my values -- my -- the character that I have…
GANSLER...and the leadership qualities that I'd like to think I have and the record that I have of accomplishment and the vision I have for the future of where we want to take Maryland. So those are all the considerations that are going to be in there.
NNAMDIOK. I wanted to move ahead. I wanted to move ahead. Al, thank you for your call. We talked on this show some time ago about the recent mortgage crisis in America. You joined several other states in a $25 billion settlement with the nation's five largest mortgage services last year. But foreclosures are spiking again in Maryland. The Post published an article this week reporting that for a lot of families, it might as well be 2008. What's the right path from here? What do you diagnose as the problem?
GANSLERWell, the problem that we were addressing as attorneys general and during the course of this action became president of the National Association of Attorneys General, the 50 of us. And we were able to reach this agreement working with President Obama and Eric Holder, which is largest state in federal agreement of its type in the country's history which is a legally enforced agreement, which, as you mentioned, was a $25 billion deal in the beginning. And it went right to the five major banks targeting most often minorities for subprime loans and other insidious conduct.
GANSLERWe reached this agreement. Maryland was actually supposed to get 952 million was what the projection was. As I mentioned earlier, we've actually gotten over, as we speak, $1.4 billion injected into the housing market. In Maryland, for folks that were either behind on their mortgage payments and they got a principal reduction or people who are underwater that loan for getting this, this recent spike has been explained mostly by the banks because of the backlog because during the course of this agreement, they stopped foreclosure.
GANSLERThey delayed them, and now there's a lot people -- that are actually were going to be foreclosed upon or short sales or what have you -- going nuts. So many people think that this was sort of a backlog of what was and where we're going in the future. I would say we're doing far better. People -- the banks are starting to loosen up. They're helping with this agreement. They're giving other programs out. And the economy, frankly, is getting better, and so that should help the housing market and foreclosure problem as we go forward.
SHERWOODIs that an issue for your campaign? I've seen some Twitter traffic because you said you're going to -- you're definitely announcing in September. Is that some new thing? People have talked about it. Is that new for you to say that today?
GANSLERI don't think so. I mean, I sort of said that we we're going to do that. You know, our view is...
SHERWOODWe're recording you incidentally.
GANSLERExactly. No exit. There's no expectation or privacy when you're on the radio.
SHERWOODThat's true, or anywhere for that matter now.
GANSLERBut -- no. I -- exactly. So, you know, (word?) so my opponent announced it in May of 2013 for November 2014 race. And, you know, if I were -- and we've always said, look, other than Tom Sherwood, Kojo Nnamdi, me and maybe my mother, nobody else is really paying attention to the governor's race that is, you know, pretty far in the distance.
GANSLERAnd if we had, you know, but that all being said, I think given sort of the primary have been moved up to June -- the end of June of next year, we'll announce, you know, a full nine months before the primary and more than a year to the generals. Probably longer than I would like because I don't think people wanted to hear a lot of political hot air and dirty tricks and political theater. That said, you know, we want to get our message out. We want to make sure that we -- the people are going to...
NNAMDIGlad you mentioned message because if you see yourself getting into a contest that should be about vision and a record that shows you can achieve that vision, what's the vision that you're going to run on?
GANSLERWell, I think I'd bring credibility to the race by talking about the record. By talking about, you know, the mortgage foreclosure crisis that you just talked about, by talking about, you know, what I did as the president of the National Association of Attorney Generals in terms of privacy in the Internet and, you know, the recent DNA case that we won in the Supreme Court, of a case I argued in front of the Supreme Court about confession law. You know, we have -- bringing back over $2 billion to consumers of Maryland.
GANSLERSo we can talk about our record and that gives us credibility to talk about our vision which is to bring jobs back to Maryland. To get, you know, we're bringing jobs and the people in Virginia are probably laughing during this call about the fact that they're about to put $1 billion in their rainy day fund while we have almost $1 billion deficit in Maryland because of chasing all our jobs from Maryland to Virginia and then talking about the number two minority achievement gap.
GANSLERKojo, we've got schools in Maryland that you wouldn't send your enemy's kids to. It's a moral outrage that people are allowed to go to these schools, and that's why we're have a number two minority achievement gap. Now, we have transportation issues. We're the number one most congested region in the country right now. And then, of course, I've been a prosecutor under Eric Holder in the U.S. Attorney's Office, in the state's attorney at Montgomery County, and you remember the snipers and all those cases.
GANSLERNow, as attorney general, so we'll be talking about public safety and then, of course, my passion of the environment and cleaning up the Chesapeake Bay for real. So these are issues that we'll talk about in the future, and obviously, I've got credibility to talk about those, and you have to have run government organizations. You have to be from Maryland, and you have to have some leadership.
NNAMDIOne final, attorney general, question for you, there's a fair amount of money at stake at the University of Maryland over at the decision to leave its Atlantic Coast Conference to leave its -- the ACC for the Big Ten. The ACC wants Maryland to pay a $53 million exit fee for leaving and has filed suit.
NNAMDIYou're pushing Maryland's highest court to make the suit proceed in this state system, Maryland system, and you say a Prince George's County circuit court was wrong to wait for the outcome of a separate suit in North Carolina. Why are you making this move, and what do you see as the most desirable outcome here for the University of Maryland?
GANSLERWell, this is a decision the University of Maryland made, and obviously, those of us who are diehard Terps fans, you know, have a hard time letting go of the Duke rivalry, North Carolina and the Virginia rivalry and that and so forth. But there's over $120 million coming to the University of Maryland for joining the Big Ten. There's a lot of advantage in terms of financial aids for students and the whole place to bring some of these programs back which have not been brought back yet, some of the sports that were cut.
GANSLERWe're the lawyers for the University of Maryland so we're representing them in this. We think this is a case. You always say, oh, that case will settle, that case will settle. This is a case that should settle. Maryland was one of the founders of the ACC, you know, we have a tremendous amount of respect to the university for the ACC.
GANSLERSo this should settle. The most -- they want $53 million for an exit fee. The most ever in the history of United States was $12 million but mostly it's 4 -- 3 or 4, 5 million as an exit fee, and what the exit fee has to be is not punitive. It has the actual loss. And since Maryland's left, the ACC has gained Louisville and Syracuse and other schools. So this is a case that all will settle and ultimately I believe will settle.
NNAMDIDoug Gansler is attorney general for the state of Maryland. Tom Sherwood says that when you're playing lacrosse, try to remember you're not still 17 years old.
GANSLERWell, the great thing at this particular game is called Grand Masters that I'm about to play, and that's 45 and over. So everybody else kind of feels just like I do after the game. The winner is the person that walks off the field unscathed. So, you know, we just -- we have fun, and this is -- we're down in Ocean City for the for Maryland Association of Counties conference. I always go out and play lacrosse during the day. And it's fun. You know, and there's no political fever out there.
NNAMDIMake sure there's EMS standing by. Doug Gansler...
GANSLERAnyway, thank you. I appreciate it.
NNAMDI...is attorney general for the state.
SHERWOODOr maybe not a D.C. ambulance at this point.
NNAMDIWhich is about the topic we're going to get to next because two D.C. fire department ambulances caught fire on Tuesday, one in a hospital parking lot, the other on an emergency call. And apparently, Deputy Mayor for Public Safety Paul Quander has some suspicions about this. He's asked the Metropolitan Police Department to investigate whether anything untoward led the two ambulances catching fire yesterday. And, of course, the fire chief has been under a great deal of, well, fire.
SHERWOODYes, true. The Washington Post -- I can't remember if it was yesterday or the day -- it runs together when you read it online -- a very good summary of all the kind of things that had been bedeviling the fire department. And Paul Quander has been -- when I see him the hallways, the deputy mayor for public safety, I call him chief...
NNAMDIHave you called him...
SHERWOOD...because he's spending so much time...
SHERWOOD...trying to write the fire department to help Chief Ellerbe get everything done. I mean, it's really -- when an ambulance runs out of gas, when the engines are overheating, when paramedics have not been hired, when people call in sick, there's something wrong in the fire department, whether it's the union being aggressive or whether it's the fire chief being obstinate. I don't know why the mayor hasn't, like, stepped into this. I don't think any mayor -- and all time -- there's been a history of fire department race issues and all kinds of other issues.
NNAMDII was about to say, and one of the reason why the mayor probably needs to step into this issue is because as you just pointed out, you and I go back to the days of the Progressive Firefighters Association...
NNAMDI...when race was an issue here. And the optics of this situation right now don't look good. You have this African-American fire chief. You have a white head of the union. You have several white councilmembers who seem to be calling for this African-American fire chief. You have a black deputy mayor.
SHERWOODMuriel Bowser, who's also African-American, has been very upset about Ellerbe. She hasn't called for him to resign, but she said that he should do his job. She said that -- said it right here.
NNAMDIYeah, but as I said, the optic...
SHERWOODBut your -- the race is a big issue.
NNAMDIIt's an issue, and it does require some intervention or some more attention, it would seem, by the mayor so that it would not get any further out of hand because the -- sometimes the optics of the situation tend to take over...
NNAMDI...over the substance of the situation.
SHERWOODBut I will say that the fire -- the union, Local 36, I mean, I have spoken to both white and black firefighters who are participating that, and it -- Ed Smith, the chief, they have come up with a demonstrable information on an opinion about the lack of equipment and services and has -- and have led to changes by the fire chief. So there were actually been some positive to come out of some of the complaining.
SHERWOODBut I have to say, I don't know if any mayor that I've covered has ever tried to get this warring faction on the same page. And I will say that it used to be very similar issues in the police department, and it's far less so now. Race is always an issue as we know, but it is far less so in the police department than it is in the fire department. But I don't want to undermine either the -- Paul Quander's effort to fix things or the union's legitimate complaints that things are wrong. It's just one more element, and that's why it needs mayoral leadership.
NNAMDIAnd clearly, race may not be the primary issue here, but it always seems to be a subtext in things that go on in the fire department. Just one more quick issue, the possible candidacy of Busboys and Poets owner, Andy Shallal, for mayor. My friend E. Ethelbert Miller has been trying to persuade Andy to do this for quite a while. They've had a meeting in which it has been discussed. My only comment at this point is that as far as I know, everybody likes Andy Shallal. If he chose...
REV. GRAYLAN HAGLERIf he chooses to run for mayor, that's going to change in a hurry.
SHERWOODWell, Andy is -- I would think he's on the left side of the spectrum and that's -- and he's very aggressive. But, you know, he's a very successful business person...
SHERWOOD...with Busboys and Poets cafes and a couple of others. He's immersed himself in issues. He opens his restaurants to forums and get-togethers to get people to pay attention to the community and the world that they live in.
SHERWOODHe's been -- and he's very good at discussing these issues. So he would be an interesting -- and maybe we'll get some more information on this later. He would be a dynamic candidate whether or not this rapidly changing city has not gone too far in the kind of the middle class, you know, the voting hasn't changed. I don't know where the votes are there for him, but he could certainly add clarity and put all the candidates on the spot to answer some important issues.
NNAMDIWell, you should know that on Father's Day of this year, June 16, exactly two months ago, Mayor Vincent Gray spoke at the Plymouth Congregational United Church of Christ in Washington, D.C. And joining us in our studio now is the senior minister of that church, the Rev. Graylan Hagler. He met with Mayor Gray just this week to talk with him about, well, not Father's Day issues, but about the legislation passed by the Council calling for a living wage. Rev. Hagler joins us in studio. Thank you for joining us.
HAGLERThank you. It's good to be here.
NNAMDIYou know, I have sources in your church so...
NNAMDISo I knew that Mayor Gray was there on June 16. But the legislation, of course, was not passed until July. So I'm assuming that on that occasion, you didn't discover it. It would require large retailers to pay a higher minimum wage. Mayor Gray is still waiting for the bill, and he maintained on our broadcast that he's still listening to arguments in favor of both sides of the bill before he decides whether to sign or veto it. Some of the ministers you visited Mayor Gray with feel that he's essentially been campaigning for a veto. Why do you feel that way? Or why do they feel that way?
HAGLERWell, we -- and in fact, I just want to -- when he was there on Father's Day, we actually lifted up the bill while he was there so that we -- he would know where we stood.
NNAMDIBut it is my understanding that he did not mention it in his remarks.
HAGLEROh, no. He didn't mention it. He was straying very far away from it. And the fact is when we talk about him campaigning for a veto, it's the fact that we've seen his Deputy Mayor Hoskins go out and talk about that it's a business killer and all of those kinds of rhetoric that has been coming from surrogates within the administration.
HAGLERAnd when we sort of approached them and really talked about that on Tuesday and said, why have you been campaigning, I mean, you -- if you claim that your ears are open, then we would expect you to take a neutral position rather than to have your surrogates run out and basically campaign to justify a veto.
HAGLERHis claim was that the deputy mayor was sharing his personal opinion. And I take objection with that because how can you be deputy mayor wearing that title, sharing your personal opinion and it's not a reflection of the administration? Everything is a reflection of the administration when you have those types of official capacities.
SHERWOODYou -- I reported on the day the Council actually passed the bill, the sources within -- I won't say where the sources were -- said the mayor would in fact veto it. But, you know, he never does anything in a rush. I'd like to point out -- I pointed Kaya Henderson, the schools chancellor, months before the mayor did...
SHERWOOD...so -- but I was told he's going to veto it. He wants to gather all the information, show that he's very processed-oriented. Meeting with you on Tuesday is a process. But the Federal City Council last Friday, which is the, you know, big business group, which you said surprise, surprise, that they urged the mayor to veto this bill as a job killer and anti-business.
NNAMDILed by former Mayor Anthony Williams who spoke out strongly on that.
SHERWOODTony Williams. And the president of the Federal City Council is Tom Davis, who said that it would -- he said Northern Virginia and Maryland will take every Wal-Mart that Wal-Mart wants to build. I was at an opening of Wal-Mart on Wednesday in Tysons Corner, and there were D.C. tags there. You know, I interviewed you for my story.
SHERWOODBut I did get in the story that there was a manager there, African-American young man, who's slotted to move to one of the D.C. stores, and he said he brought about 30 or 40 members of his church out there for jobs. And they're making this long trek out to Tysons Corner to have jobs so they can move to the Wal-Mart stores. And they said, I know there's a lot of fighting over Wal-Mart, but these are really good jobs for us. How do you respond to that, kind of an underground response?
HAGLERThey're jobs, but the reality is you cannot live in D.C. on a minimum wage. You cannot live in D.C. on a minimum wage and no benefits. I was just looking to the paper sitting out here, and you're talking about rents. They're talking about for one bedroom starting at $1,300 a month. And then when you get to two bedrooms, three bedrooms to accommodate a family, you're way over. There's no way in the world that you can actually support your family and keep a roof over their heads.
HAGLERAnd the issue is, is our representatives, our elected officials like the mayor should not be legislating towards the bottom, should not be opening up mechanisms that further exploit people and further make people indentured servants, so to speak. And so the issue is we're talking about $12.50 an hour, and I always put it this way, $12.50 minus benefits. That means that is someone is paying $10 an hour, $2.50 gets applied to some type of benefit. That makes...
SHERWOODHealth care or whatever else they may need.
HAGLERHealth care, whatever. It brings them over the threshold. You were talking about Andy Shallal. Andy Shallal is way above the $12.50 an hour in terms of how he employs folks in his business. And as he points out every day, he says, I'm making money. And the reality is we know that you can make money. The fact is the CEO of Wal-Mart earns on an average -- and this is according to what Ralph Nader in his calculations said -- $11,000 an hour.
HAGLEREleven thousand dollars an hour, and you want to beef over somebody earning $12.50 minus benefits. Folks need dignity. Folks need respect. And a job is not just a job because the fact is if people are still hurting after working, all the -- a full day, a full week and unable to make it, the reality is people begin to ask the question of what good is it that I work.
NNAMDIBut how much of this opposition in your group is specifically about Wal-Mart because Andy Shallal has been quoted as saying -- I'm quoting him as if he's already and elected official -- that he would like to expand the living wage bill. He thinks it's too narrowly tailored. It should be expanded to all large businesses.
SHERWOODSafeways, Giants, Whole Foods.
HAGLERRight. I mean, it's not necessarily a problem with that. But as you know, when you go through the legislative process, you end up having to make compromise to be able to attain votes to get there. And so that bill went through a number of adaptations in order to get there -- to get the numbers to get there. You know, the reality is is that right now, yes, it's focused on large retailers, those 75,000 square feet or more companies that generate more than $1 billion in revenue.
HAGLERAnd basically, the point of view that I'm satisfied with is almost a scriptural point of view. "To whom much has been given, much is required, and to whom much has been entrusted even more will be demanded," it says in Luke. And the fact is those who are better able to pay should have a corporate responsibility of fairness, of justice -- of economic justice and pay, pay so that folks can live, pay that folks can have dignity, and therefore, respect for themselves and respect in their community because they earn a living.
NNAMDI800-433-8850. Our guest is the Rev. Graylan Hagler, senior minister at the Plymouth Congregational United Church of Christ in Washington, D.C. We're talking about living wage legislation in the District of Columbia that the mayor will be receiving sometime soon. If you have comments, call us. 800-433-8850.
SHERWOODWhen Chairman Phil Mendelson was here and talking about this, and he -- it's his bill. He supports it. And incidentally, the news is it is on Phil Mendelson's desk now through -- whatever bureaucratic work it has to do and should go to the mayor next week.
NNAMDIBureaucratic work that only Phil Mendelson understands.
SHERWOODRight. Well, there is a process. And so -- but he was -- I was asking him, if you want Wal-Mart to pay -- I said, you want Wal-Mart to pay more because it can pay more, and he said yes. So why not have a law that sets the minimum wage based on a corporation's ability to pay? And so that whether it's a union shop or whether it's anybody, you would be subject to the minimum wage or something more if you have certain gross revenues?
HAGLERSure. I mean, I would not...
SHERWOODIt'd be hard to enforce, but...
HAGLERRight. I would not necessarily have objections with that. But, you know, this is where we are right now. We're at the Large Retailer Accountability Act because everybody who voted against the Large Retailer Accountability Act sat up there and said, well, what I would be more interested in is raising the minimum wage, raising the minimum wage, raising -- well, why didn't they do it? You know, the fact is it's an excuse because you got to start somewhere...
HAGLER...in order to begin to address these issues, and this is a way in which we start.
SHERWOODThere's a national effort to try to get the federal minimum wage...
SHERWOOD...raised from $7.25 to something.
HAGLERThat's right. That's right. I mean, there is that national campaign. And the issue is you would hope that the mayor would have some guts and stand up for the residents of the District of Columbia and not just for the business community. I mean, the business community, first of all, there's a prejudicial approach that they have to residents in the District of Columbia.
HAGLERWhen we sat down with the D.C. Chamber of Commerce, Barbara Lang said to us that people in D.C. were not qualified even for these jobs. And we looked at her, like, are you out of your mind? What do you mean not qualified to run merchandise over a scanner, not qualified to use your hands and your back to put merchandise on a shelf? But that's the prejudicial attitude that folks continue to have towards D.C.
NNAMDIWell, one of the arguments that the mayor makes about residents is not just about the jobs that will be available for residents, but what residents want in their neighborhood. He makes the arguments that these stores like Wal-Mart and Wegmans and Lowe's and Costco are often anchors for much larger developments in those areas. And for people who live in areas in ward in Southeast and in other wards of the city...
NNAMDI...who really want those kinds of developments, you take away the anchor, and a lot of the other businesses say, well, we're not going there either. And what you end up with is a place in which people don't have access to shopping. What would be the alternative to that?
HAGLERWell, let me put it this way as you raise that issue because Mayor Gray is at fault. If you went out and you negotiated for a big-box store to come in your ward and you allow that big-box store to build other sites and not build yours, the one that you were concerned about, that's your fault. That's your fault as the leader of the city. You're in a place where you have power. You're in a place where you got a bully pulpit, and in a sense, you can move that. He didn't move it. That's the reality.
HAGLERSo that tells me that companies like Wal-Mart has been running the operation all along and not the mayor. And whatever negotiations happen, obviously it was one where the mayor had his hat in his hand and he was begging these folks to come in because he was still operating in that old paradigm that D.C. can support these businesses, and please, please, come.
SHERWOODAnd the mayor's point...
NNAMDIPlease put on your headphones 'cause I'm about to go to the telephones, but Tom was about to say something.
SHERWOODThe mayor's point of view early on when he went to the Las Vegas Convention for Shopping Centers, he told Wal-Mart, you know, if you want to come, you've got to put a store at Skyland. And so they said yes. Otherwise, so...
NNAMDIOn to Paul in Leesburg, Va. Paul, you're on the air. Go ahead, please.
PAULThank you. I just wanted to ask how it can't be considered protectionism or how -- even if it was aspirationally all large businesses, the fact is the law seems to single out Wal-Mart for specific handling. And how are they reasonably supposed to compete with other businesses that don't have to pay $12 an hour and can use the minimum wage? I just -- I don't really wrap my head around it.
PAULI understand that there are some compromises in the legal process to get a bill passed, but it seems like their compromise is all lined up to -- we don't really like Wal-Mart. And by the way, I don't actually like Wal-Mart and their business practices, but it does seem completely unfair business perspective to say just because you're big, you have to add tremendously to your overhead while your competition doesn't.
HAGLERYeah. Let me approach that because, you know, the reality is is not just targeted towards Wal-Mart, but it's Target. It's Wegmans. It's any store that is 75,000 square feet or more and parent company generates $1 billion in revenue. I mean, the fact is is when these big box comes -- these big-box stores come that are basically -- they basically come into a community.
HAGLERThey're able to subsidize their operations even more because of the other entities, the other business entities that exist elsewhere. And they're able to drive out of business the small business person. And that creates a devastation. That creates a monopoly in the market for all of these big-box stores. So what we're basically saying is, yeah, you can come in. We want you to come in.
HAGLERBut we want also the economic playing field to be level, that somebody who's a small business owner cannot afford to pay what somebody who generates billions of dollars in revenue is able to pay. And the fact is what we want to make sure is that there's fair competition. And I put the emphasis on fair, fair competition.
NNAMDIPaul, thank you very much for your call.
SHERWOODAnd Mr. Mendelson, the Council chairman, said that Wal-Mart and the big stores didn't participate in the back and forth and help this bill become law. They didn't come down and testify. They just held back saying, if you do this, we won't play.
HAGLERYeah. That's exactly what they did. On the testimony, they didn't show up. They weren't there.
SHERWOODI think that you mentioned Barbara Lang of D.C. Chamber testified.
SHERWOODThe mayor's office testified. What -- what's the alternative? Ok, these -- what do you do -- all right. So the mayor vetoes the -- signs the bill. Wal-Mart says we're not going to build the stores. We're not coming. What do you do to relieve the stress in those places where Wal-Mart was going to go, where -- for both quality of goods and services and groceries and jobs?
HAGLERLet me say a few things. One is I have to operate on faith being a person of faith, right...
NNAMDII would guess so.
HAGLER...that the landscape changes. Now, let's look at what happened actually because what -- if we want to just talk about Wal-Mart. Wal-Mart has built its -- again, it's race economics. Wal-Mart has built in areas where the demographics are changing racially, all are major commuter route, and has avoided areas that are still solidly and predominantly blacks.
HAGLERWell -- and -- was -- but they were...
SHERWOODIs that changing?
HAGLERNo. But they were forced to come into Skyland. I understand that. And they didn't break grounds on Skyland either, right? They held Skyland as a pawn in the game if they didn't get what they wanted. And so they threatened the City Council. The City Council went forward with the votes, and now they're threatening the mayor. The fact is is that when we look at this sort of racial economics, the investment has taken place in D.C. where you've had rapid racial demographic shift. And that's where it's taken place.
HAGLERAnd so it's going to take place in Ward 7, but it's not going to take place on Ward 7 as long as these corporations keep coming in and looking around and say crime, crime. And as Wal-Mart said, they've been doing it for a decade, they've been looking into D.C., and they said too much crime, too much crime, too much crime. I hear that as a black person as too many black folks, too many black folks, too many black folks. And now all of a sudden the demographics have changed.
NNAMDIHere is Allison in Washington, D.C. Allison, you're on the air. Go ahead, please.
ALLISONThank you, Kojo. And thank you, Reverend, for speaking out about this. I can't -- I cannot thank you enough. The reason Wal-Mart is being singled out and the reason Safeway and Giant are exempted because Safeway and Giant respect the rights of their workers to organize. They can bargain collectively. Safeway and Giant not only offers health care, but they also -- a pension plan.
ALLISONI don't know how many friends you have who are retired because they worked in grocery stores for their entire lives and they didn't have to work two or three jobs. Wal-Mart perpetuates poverty. And the reverend said it enough and more of the religious leaders in this community need to speak out about how we need better wages (unintelligible) dollars should be the minimum wage.
NNAMDIBut, Allison, Rev. Hagler has indicated that, because he did not craft the legislation, that's why Wal-Mart is isolated. He is not making the argument that Wal-Mart should be isolated. But you are.
ALLISONNo, no. I agree. I mean, I think the legislation is too narrow, quite frankly. And again, what he was saying is that -- I mean, but (unintelligible)...
NNAMDIOK, OK. You agree with him essentially. You agree with hm. We're running out of time. That's why I'm raising the issue.
HAGLERRight. Thank you so much. Let me just say this because one little things, even when you talk about sort of the -- what folks wanted to cite as unfair, the fact is when you talk about collective bargaining, folks are not only are negotiating over salaries, but they're negotiating over pension and health care...
HAGLER...and working conditions and paid sick day. So when you begin to look at it and sort of begin to add up those figures numerically in terms of what a company is actually paying out of collective bargaining, you're over the 12.50...
SHERWOODIs it part of the problem, the very city that you say is changing is the reason that maybe the political will is not there to force the mayor to sign the bill because the city has, in fact, changed?
NNAMDIYou only have about a minute left.
HAGLERWell, let me just say this. The mayor right now is moving against public opinion because we've been down on Ward 7 and his ward, and people are in agreement that they need a living wage. People have been insulted that one of the companies like Wal-Mart would dare to try to pull this stunt and say we're out of here unless we get our way because people really feel that as a smack in the face of our home rule and self-determination.
NNAMDIRev. Graylan Hagler is senior minister at the Plymouth Congregational United Church of Christ in Washington, D.C. Thank you so much for joining us.
NNAMDIRob in Alexandria, you got about 10 seconds.
ROBYeah. Just real quick guys. I want to say, you know, there've been furloughs in the past six weeks, and I had the opportunity to listen to the show live. And it's so much cooler listening to it live than what, you know, at night. And it's really been an enjoyable way to...
NNAMDISo you want to stay at furloughed, is that what you're saying?
ROBNo, no. You know what? You know, but you adjust, you know, but anyway, great.
NNAMDIThank you very much, Rob. Tom Sherwood is our resident analyst. He's an NBC 4 reporter and columnist for The Current Newspapers. Always a pleasure, Tom.
NNAMDIThank you all for listening. I'm Kojo Nnamdi.
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