Kojo looks back on the local impact of Dick Gregory, the legendary comedian and civil rights activist who adopted Washington as his home town.
A new effort is launched to bring the Olympics to the Washington region. Internal squabbles roil the Maryland Republican Party. And Virginia’s gubernatorial candidates head into Labor Day and the final phases of their big-ticket race for this fall. Join us for our weekly review of the politics, policies and personalities of the District of Columbia, Maryland and Virginia.
- Marc Fisher Senior Editor, The Washington Post
- Patrick Madden Reporter, WAMU 88.5 News
- Jack Evans Democratic Mayoral Candidate, District of Columbia; Member, D.C. Council, Chairman, Committee on Finance and Revenue
- Benjamin Cardin Member, U.S. Senate (D-Md.)
D.C. Council Member Jack Evans, who’s running for mayor of the district, said he supports a Washington group’s bid to host the 2024 Olympics. But he said the city government will not fund the bid or provide financial assistance to build Olympic infrastructure if the bid is successful. “I would wish well and encourage the private sector to pursue this activity,” he said.
Politics Hour Quiz
MR. MARC FISHERFrom WAMU 88.5 at American University in Washington, welcome to The Politics Hour. I'm Marc Fisher of The Washington Post, sitting in for Kojo.
MR. MARC FISHERWelcome to the D.C. Olympics, 2013 edition, not quite yet the 2024 Summer Games. The Washington area officials announced this week they will make another effort to win the games for this region. Now, the only games we can actually lay claim to are political ones, not just whether area officials can pull off the multibillion-dollar initiative that an Olympics would require, but also whether the D.C. Fire Department can keep its vehicles out of the fire and the competition to win the right to govern the District.
MR. MARC FISHERWe'll talk about that with D.C. Councilmember Jack Evans. We'll also talk about Metro's contest to figure out a way to fix the Red Line without shutting it down entirely for a stunning six weeks. And then there's the seemingly eternal game of what's more important, paying workers a living wage or getting big-box stores such as Wal-Mart to set up shop in the District. Joining me to officiate in our own end-of-summer games is Patrick Madden, reporter for 88.5 WAMU.
MR. MARC FISHERAnd we'll be joined momentarily by Councilmember Evans. But first, Patrick Madden, the Olympics in Washington. This -- is there anything approaching reality in that game?
MR. PATRICK MADDENI just cannot see how this is going to happen. I mean, just today, we have news about more issues on the Red Line, crumbling infrastructure. I just -- you know, I can imagine sort of the games where people are not showing up to the events because they can't get to where they need to go. And it just -- the price tag -- I think originally the group that's sort of sponsoring this bid says three to $6 billion, but that is clearly lowballing what it would cost. It's gonna cost several times that. So I just -- I mean, all the economists that have sort of weighed in on this say this is not a good idea.
FISHERAnd last time Washington tried this, it was in concert with Baltimore. This time, apparently, going it alone. Yet they would have to use facilities in Baltimore and around Baltimore to make this happen.
MADDENRight. There just isn't enough stadiums and other facilities to make this bid happen. And again, it's just -- you know, the supporters of it say, well, all these infrastructure problems, it would help that. It would sort of create the impetus to improve a lot of the stuff. But I guess my question would be, why would we need the Olympics to do that? Why can't we just fix things that are broken right now?
FISHERAn eternal question. Speaking of sports, Kojo Nnamdi, the opening pitch tonight at Nats Park.
MADDENThe -- yeah, this is huge. Kojo is throwing out the first pitch between the Nationals and the Mets tonight at the stadium. I know Kojo has been working on his pitch with Michael Martinez. And, Kojo, of course, is a big cricket player, so we're gonna have to make sure he gets the other arm motion down tonight.
FISHERI'm hoping he goes with the cricket windup on the mound, and I'm sure it'll be interesting. You'll be out there?
MADDENYeah. Oh, yeah. I'm gonna be out there. And my plan was -- 'cause I'm actually from New York, and I'm a die-hard Mets fan.
MADDENSo I'm gonna be wearing my throwback Strawberry jersey, but I think I'll have a WAMU shirt over that.
FISHERExcellent. And the D.C. Fire Department this week announced nine new paramedics and 30 new ambulances will soon be on the streets of the District, this after several weeks of just drumbeat of bad news, from burning ambulances to lousy service times. And Fire Chief Kenneth Ellerbe was on this program earlier in the week, responding to the call by Councilmember Mary Cheh for him to step down. He says he's not going anywhere.
MADDENRight. And more importantly, the mayor has said that he is not going anywhere and that he fully supports Fire Chief Ellerbe. But again, I mean, you have these issues with the fleet of ambulances and the fire trucks, and then you have this, the issue that is just the deteriorating relationship between labor and management here, and it's been going on for a long time. And it's -- basically what's going on is these two problems are overlapping.
MADDENYou're having problems with the ambulances, but they're sort of being blamed on -- there are sort of hints that there's more to the story, like these ambulance fires, and it's -- and it points to sort of this just bad blood between the fire department brass and the rank-and-file.
FISHERAnd we will get into that fire department issue a little bit more in the coming minutes here on The Politics Hour. You can join our conversation by calling 1-800-433-8850, or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org. And Patrick Madden, our guest analyst, sitting in for Tom Sherwood. Jack Evans is a Democratic candidate for mayor of the District of Columbia. He's a member of the D.C. Council from Ward 2, and he chairs the Council's Committee on Finance and Revenue.
FISHERAnd, Jack Evans, on the matter of the Olympics, any visitor to your office knows that you are a sports aficionado, as well as an advocate for sports in this area in a big way. Are we ready for, and does it make financial sense to go after the Olympics in a serious manner?
COUNCILMEMBER JACK EVANSWell, the Olympics are a very interesting issue. I would wish well and encourage the private sector to pursue this activity. When I met with Bob Sweeney, though, and others who are pursuing this, I was as clear as could be that the city will not put in any money in this endeavor, and -- nor will we put in any money, were they to be successful, if they were to come back to me and say, we need help building a stadium or something of that nature.
COUNCILMEMBER JACK EVANSWe are not available to do that, and our debt cap would prohibit us even if we were interested in that. The Olympics costs a lot of money, as you pointed out, the five, $6 billion estimate. In London, they spent $20 billion, and in Beijing, they spent $40 billion. And so that is a number that is not attainable here in the District. And in the London and Beijing case, remember, the federal governments -- England, you know, the United Kingdom, China -- paid for that stuff.
COUNCILMEMBER JACK EVANSIt would be like as if the United States government wanted to pay for it, I might be more open to it. Could we do it here? Yeah, I think we could. I mean, I was involved in the 2012 bid, and frankly we got hosed. We had a -- we had the best bid. The Olympic decision-makers, I don't trust them at all. I told Bob that, that unless there was a fair process, I don't wanna be involved in it. And they picked New York, who was not ready, couldn't compete, and then was beat up by London on that.
COUNCILMEMBER JACK EVANS-- and the final analysis, if the private sector wants to take a shot at it, you know, go ahead and see what you can come up with. But they have to beat nine other American cities before they get into the international competition.
FISHERBut you've been a longtime advocate of the notion that there is a role for government in providing financing, that there is a payoff for cities. When you build sports infrastructure, you get a certain amount of economic development as a result. You made that argument for the downtown arena and for the baseball stadium, now potentially for the soccer stadium as well.
FISHERIs this different solely because it's such a much more massive scale?
EVANSYeah, it is. It's just a different animal entirely. You have to deal with three jurisdictions. It's a one-time shot, and the history has not been good for any jurisdiction that's been involved in this. The ones that you mentioned, the Verizon Center has been a tremendous success, the baseball stadium a tremendous success. I believe we can make the soccer stadium a success, and I believe bringing the Redskins back to the District of Columbia at the RFK site would be a tremendous success. But those are individual sports with a following that go on forever, not just this one-time shot.
MADDENDoes it make sense to just shoot this idea down right now before we even get to the later stages? 'Cause as you mentioned, I mean, it costs money just to start this process. I believe it cost $10 million last time just...
MADDEN...to get the bid ready. Clearly, I mean, we've laid out the reasons why it doesn't make a lot of sense. Does it make -- should politicians like yourself just say, guys, forget it?
EVANSI wouldn't say forget it, but again, I was very clear that the District of Columbia is not gonna put any money into this. So if the private sector wants to pursue it and is able to get to the point where it becomes realistic, again, we would be happy to participate, but we're not financially going to participate. I wanna make that clear again. Under no circumstances is anyone ever to come to me -- if I'm still around -- and ask for me to pay for a stadium for the Olympics. It's not going to happen.
FISHERAnd are you as enthusiastic about the soccer stadium deal as you were about the baseball and downtown arenas? Those are facilities that are used at least 80, often many more times than that, times a year. A soccer stadium would be used maybe a couple of dozen times a year. The -- there is tremendous potential for development in the area surrounding the downtown arena and Nats Park. Not so much with the soccer stadium. Is this a different kettle of fish?
EVANSNot so much. I think the soccer stadium has an appeal to an audience that likes soccer and is becoming a more and more popular sport in America. In the Major League Soccer, I believe we're down to the last team, or next-to-last team, that does not have a new soccer stadium. These are smaller stadiums, as you know. They seat 20, 25,000 individuals as opposed to the baseball stadium. And we have a partner now who's willing to pay for the stadium itself, the bricks and mortar of the soccer stadium.
EVANSSo I believe the deal can be put together. The mayor's deal is interesting, and I like a lot of the components of paying for the land through our own assets. And frankly, what cities, counties and states do is prepare the land. I mean, I can't come up with a sports deal anywhere in the country where the jurisdiction didn't come in with the land ready to be built on. It's always the argument about who's gonna build the stadium.
EVANSSo I think we can put this together and make it work, and it's in an area of town, and the synergy with Nat Stadium, I think, makes a lot of sense. And we can get development then over on 1st Street and around in that area that might not come otherwise. So I think it makes sense. We just have to put the deal together.
MADDENAnd in terms of the land swaps, 'cause that's how this is gonna be set up, where the city is trading...
EVANSThat's what the proposal is, yeah.
MADDENThe proposal would be the city is trading piece -- parcels like the Reeves Center.
MADDENAnd I guess the question I would have is why doesn't the city just sell the Reeves Center and get -- you know, it seems like you would get a lot more money than just trying to trade these with Akridge or with Mark Ein or the other folks. It just seems like we're probably -- would be leaving a lot of money on the table by doing these deals in terms of the true value of what the Reeves Center would be, which, as you know, at 14th and U, is a hot property.
EVANSYeah. And I think -- and your point is well make -- well pointed because this is an idea I had two or three years ago, was to actually, when our finances were struggling, to sell the Reeves Center, 441 4th Street, and the police headquarters, the Daly Building. And we can get a substantial amount of money for all of those buildings. So the point you're making might make sense. It may be a better idea to sell the buildings, get the money and then acquire the land that way.
EVANSAnd so I think with the Akridge proposal that's on the table, what you have to do is get a fair market value of what these buildings are worth. I wouldn't just trade them one-for-one without knowing that I could get, you know, $180 million for the Reeves Center. I wouldn't just give it to somebody for, you know, $6 million. So whatever we do, Patrick, it has to be done in a way that's completely transparent to me as the finance chair so I'm getting value for my building, whether it makes sense to trade it or sell it. And we can do either is what it really comes down to.
FISHERPatrick Madden is reporter for WAMU 88.5, and Councilmember Jack Evans represents Ward 2...
EVANSAnd just some caveat to that is the reason we have to go down that road is our debt cap, again, prevents us from going out and borrowing $100 million and buying the land. So we have to...
MADDENSo that's the rub. That's why.
EVANSThat's why we have to find some other method of getting the finances to buy the land.
FISHERYou can join our conversation by calling 1-800-433-8850 or email us at email@example.com. And, Councilmember Evans, the D.C. Fire Department troubled for quite some years now, and after the last scandal before this fire chief was even in town, when the former reporter David Rosenbaum was -- died after...
FISHER...the rescue squad came way too late and didn't handle the problem properly.
FISHERAnd there was a whole series of reforms that were supposed to be put into place, and yet the fire department seems to be as riddled with problems as ever. Is this a problem of having the wrong person in charge, or are there deeper systemic problems in that fire department?
EVANSWell, you know, it reminds me because we dealt with a similar situation back in 1995, and I was chairman of the Judiciary Committee at the time, had just become chairman. A control board was in place, and I worked closely with Steve Harlan, who was on the control board but had jurisdiction over the public safety sector. And we went out and found ourselves a new fire chief and police chief. Chief Ramsey, at the time, and -- was the police chief.
EVANSAnd we looked at the fire department, and it was, frankly, the same type of situation where the equipment and -- was not working, morale was low. And we put in place an entire plan, and this is what I would recommend today, to fix it. And it's not an immediate fix. You know, I'm always looking for the silver bullet in the District of Columbia, which never exist. It's a long-term plan. How many ladder trucks do we have? How many tankers? How many ambulances? What's the schedule to get them fixed and then to have replacement over a period of time?
EVANSAnd what frustrates me about sitting here today, is we fixed all this, this is all done. And so how did it find itself in a situation where it all came undone again? I don't think there's any one individual you can point to and say, it's your fault. I think it's systemic in the government that somehow this fell apart. And what we need to do is put it back together again.
EVANSAnd I would suspect that Mayor Gray and Chief Ellerbe and others are looking at this and Tommy Wells, who has oversight, are looking at this and saying, what's the plan going forward to put this back on the right track? What I said at the time and what I would do in the future if I become the mayor of the city is our fire department, our EMS, our police used to serve, and did for a while recently, as training for other cities around the country. And we need to get back to that level where we are the model. And clearly today, we are not.
MADDENBut where's the accountability here? I mean, we're talking about an ongoing issue, and seemingly, people have talked about yes, we, you know, we're bringing in an outside consultant to figure out how many trucks we have. They're talking about other plans like you've mentioned, recommendations. But, I mean, you've talked to them. You're running for mayor. Do you think that Mayor Gray has done a good job of making sure that the fire department or the fire chief is accountable?
MADDENI mean, it just seems like -- we're talking about public safety where people's lives are at stake here when you're talking about ambulance response times and ambulances breaking down. What would -- do you -- would you support Ellerbe as mayor? And would you keep him on?
EVANSWell, I wouldn't make any decisions about who I would keep on and not keep on as mayor today. But the fact of the matter, again, is I don't know that there's any one person responsible for a situation that has unraveled over time. And so whether it was the prior mayor, the current mayor, the prior fire chief, the current fire chief, it doesn't really matter. What matters is trying to figure out what happens -- what is our current situation and how do we fix it.
EVANSAnd that's what's incumbent upon everybody right now, is going forward, if we're sitting here a year from now or six months from now and nothing has been done, then you can hold the current mayor and the current fire chief responsible...
FISHERBut do you think those systemic kinds of problems that you're talking about are of recent vintage? Are they the responsibility of this mayor, Mayor Gray? If you look back at the reforms that you talked about, whether it's the fire department or the DMV or DCRA, under Mayors Tony Williams and Adrian Fenty, there was a sense that the city services were improving considerably. Has that deteriorated under Mayor Gray?
EVANSI suspect it happened prior to Mayor Gray. I suspect what happened somewhere in the last eight years going forward. We'll talk about the fire department. Somehow, they got off the schedule of doing the replacement of the equipment, and maybe it was during one of the financial downturns that we had and you thought, well, governments are notorious for this. Well, we'll skip on the preventive maintenance 'cause who will notice? And everybody notices at some point in time. But that's probably what happened, and that shouldn't be allowed.
EVANSNow, who had the oversight, whether it was the mayor at the time, the fire chief at the time, the councilmember at the time who has oversight -- I guess Councilmember Mendelson was there then -- who didn't pick up on this happening, and that's the ever vigilance that we have to do in a government is to stay on top of the preventive maintenance. We've talked about Metro, best example in the world. I used to chair Metro. I understand.
EVANSPreventive -- I don't get any credit for keeping something looking just like it is. Politicians think very short term. You know, I want something new and shiny to show you so you'll vote for me again. I don't get any credit for keeping it like it is. And that's -- we have to change that mentality. And we have done it in a lot of ways. I can tell you, this city, when I came on in 1991, was a wreck. When we would fix up a lot of things and we were maintaining things. But you get a lot of new people in here, and they don't see it that way.
FISHERSo what's your report card on Mayor Gray? Have city services deteriorated under him? Have they improved?
EVANSOh, no. I think the mayor has done a good job. I'm a supporter of Mayor Gray. I like him. We've worked together for, God, when I came on the Council in '91, and he was the DHS chairman and head of that department. We worked together on a number of homeless issues successfully when he was chairman of the Council. I was the vice chair, worked on a number of issues together and as mayor. We've worked on a number of things...
EVANSSo why are you running against him (laugh) if you think he'd done such a great job?
EVANSWell, Mayor Gray is not running for mayor right now. (laugh)
FISHERSo if he steps in, you step out?
EVANSOh, no. I'm gonna stay in the race. But we'll cross that bridge when we come to it. But right now, the mayor is not running...
FISHERSo you're confident that he's not gonna be running?
EVANSI have no idea what the mayor is gonna do….
EVANSWell, then what...
FISHERWell, what's your best bet?
EVANSI have no idea what the mayor is gonna do.
FISHERBut -- so...
MADDENBut if he's running...
EVANSBut I'm running for mayor. That's the point in itself.
MADDENBut if he is running, and he has not said he is not running...
EVANSWell, Patrick, I'm not gonna speculate on whether he's running or not...
MADDENWell, I think you almost have to assume he is running 'cause he is the mayor and he hasn't said he's not gonna run.
EVANSWell, I don't know that for a fact and so -- but I'm running for mayor. That's the key.
EVANSAnd so what I'm focused on is, you know, I'm running for mayor. I've put together a campaign. We've raised a substantial amount of money, and we're moving forward now. Whoever gets in the race by the time the petitions come available in November, we'll deal with that when it comes.
FISHERBut you think he's done a good job? You support him. You're running against him. Doesn't that imply...
EVANSWell, again, I'm running against him 'cause he's not running for mayor.
FISHERDoes -- but doesn't your presence in the race imply that you think he's not going to be your opponent?
EVANSWell, I just don't know the answer to that. I'm running because I want to be mayor of the District of Columbia. I think the city is on the right track. I think we've made substantial improvements in every area. And I want to continue those improvements. And frankly, there are things I wanna do that it's getting harder to do things from the ward to a Council seat. Becoming mayor is an easier place to get things done...
MADDENCan you name one area where you think Mayor Gray is not doing a good job and that you as mayor would significantly improve?
EVANSNo. I don't wanna get into whether Mayor Gray has, you know, any shortcomings he may or may not have. Again, I support the mayor. We've worked together on a lot of things and will continue to do so.
FISHERDo you think he's been limited or paralyzed by the scandal surrounding his earlier campaign?
EVANSI really haven't seen that. No. I think he's, you know, continuing to do things as mayor that are getting done in the city and -- yeah. So it's good. And...
EVANS...I would continue doing a lot of things he's doing actually.
MADDENSo, councilmember, when you look at sort of your path to become mayor, what -- how do you see this race shaping up? I mean, sort of where are you gonna vote your votes? Where is Jack Evans gonna reach that 30 percent, 40 percent that you're gonna need to become mayor?
EVANSI think all over the city. What I'm seeing happen, as I make my travels around the city, we got to announce our campaign in June, is that people all over the city are open-minded to my campaign. And I think what resonates with people is I've been around a long time. And obviously, in politics, youth, energy and change is the mantra that sells. I'm not any of those things. (laugh) I've been around 20 -- I'm the longest serving member of the D.C. Council in the history of the Council now.
EVANSAnd what I do bring is a vast amount of experience in dealing with all of the issues. When we talk about jobs, which is one of the most important issues in our community, I have probably been responsible. Not alone and I recognize that. So you have to take what I'm saying with that grain of salt, for creating probably over 50, 60,000 jobs in the city, whether they'd be because of the arenas we talked about or the downtown development or whatever the partnerships are and jobs.
EVANSAnd jobs, public safety we talked about. I help reform the police department more than once. I can do it again. Whether we're talking about schools, something I know a vast amount about, and how we can make our schools better for everyone. So what I bring to the table is hands-on experience. I'm ready to be mayor on day one, and that's what I think people are looking for.
FISHERI'm Marc Fisher of The Washington Post, sitting in for Kojo Nnamdi. This is the Politics Hour. Our guest analyst is Patrick Madden, reporter for WAMU 88.5. And we're speaking with Jack Evans, the D.C. councilmember from Ward 2, a candidate for mayor. And let's go to Pearl in Washington. Pearl, you're on the air.
PEARLThanks for taking my call. It's nice to hear Councilman Evans talk about land valuation before any deal is done trading the Reeves Center and additional parcels in the area for swampland in Southeast to build a soccer stadium. But we know that the land valuation used in the West End Library deal were far from realistic for the property but more of a developer giveaway. How will the councilman prevent the same things from happening in this case?
EVANSWell, first, I don't agree with you on the West End. The West End was an excellent deal for the city in the sense that we were able to have the fire station with library completely rebuilt in that project. So I think that was a good deal. I know there was controversy around it. But at the end of the day -- and frankly, if we had done the deal three or four years ago when it was first started out, it probably would even been a better deal than the one we ended up with.
EVANSBut on the soccer stadium, it goes back to the comments I've already made. Before anything is done, we're gonna evaluate all the properties that are at issue here and then come up with the best solution. It could be the one Patrick talked about whether we sell the stuff out right, or it could where we make the trade. But whatever it is, it'll be transparent, we'll know what we're getting for our money and then go forward at that point.
FISHERThank you, Pearl. Here's Ray on Capitol Hill. Ray, you're on the air.
RAYYes, good afternoon. I wanted to disabuse the perception that the soccer stadium, as it's being called, is only gonna be used for soccer games and will only amount to perhaps 17 to 20 games per year. That was implied at a recent article on The Post this week. The plan for the stadium is to have north of 40 events held each year. There is in the mix NCAA soccer games. The College Cup will certainly be a possibility, as well as lacrosse games, high school football games, small college games, small college ballgames and perhaps -- and, of course, concerts and perhaps even high school graduations.
RAYIt's -- a misnomer, I think to call these buildings the stadia, event -- soccer-specific stadiums as they're called throughout Major League Soccer. There are event-specific stadia more so than soccer-specific stadia.
FISHEROK. Well, I appreciate that, Ray, and obviously, 40 is better than 20, but it's still a fraction of what you get in the downtown arena that you use most days of the year.
EVANSYeah. Yeah. But he's right about that 'cause I suspect you'd have a return of women's soccer. We use to have a professional lacrosse team called the Bay Hawks, which are playing down in Navy Stadium. They could be back here again. There's a whole host of things. So I appreciate that comment.
FISHERSpeaking for long-running issues, the Wal-Mart issue, the living wage, the Council approved the bill back in July by an 8-to-5 vote to demand that Wal-Mart and other such retailers pay $12.50 an hour to their employees. That basically has been in abeyance for all of these weeks, and now finally, it's going to the mayor conceivably today. And we may get a veto decision by next week. What will Mayor Gray do, and what should he do?
EVANSI voted in favor of the bill, so my propensity is to be -- continue to support it. I don't know what the mayor is going to do, though. He has not really tipped his hand one way or the other. If he signs the bill, it will become law. If he vetoes the bill, it will come back to the Council and within 10 days. And then we have 30 days to act on whether to overwrite the veto or sustain it. Right now, it was an 8-to-5 vote. So if the mayor were to veto it and the five votes stay with -- where they were, it would be sustained, and it would not become law.
MADDENSo, councilmember, you think this is a good bill. You voted to support it. But, you know, there's been a lot of opposition to it. For example, I mean, you're close to the real estate community. Every -- it seems like every developer signed on to this letter opposing it, saying it's gonna -- it will have a major impact on development down the road. So I just, you know, as someone who is very pro-economic development in D.C., I guess, how do you explain your vote on this issue?
EVANSSure. And let me just say this, I think a living wage of, I guess, this has 12.50 probably isn't even nearly enough to live in Washington, D.C., or even the metropolitan area. A living wage of probably more like 15, $20 an hour makes more sense. So I believe it's a good bill because we have made our point that the $7.25 minimum wage, ours is 8.25, which is $1 more than federal government, needs to be raised nationwide.
EVANSMy reservations about this bill are just that. If Maryland and Virginia were signing on to this as well and everybody was raising their minimum wage together, this would be a much -- this would be an easy one. I'm sure we wouldn't be even having this discussion. So I am onboard because I wanna send that message that the minimum wage needs to be increased. But my reservations are putting the District at a competitive disadvantage.
EVANSAnd you've heard me say this for 22 years with the surrounding jurisdiction. And so if this were to go into law, that's -- the next issue I would be concerned about is how are we gonna deal with this vis-à-vis the surrounding jurisdictions.
FISHERSo given your worry about a competitive disadvantage, is it fair for a voter to conclude that you voted for this because you knew it would never go into play?
EVANSNo, no, no. That's not true. You know, I support the concept and the bill itself. So -- but again, when it goes into law, if it does, we then have to look at how we are going to deal with that concern. And it's a real concern of how Maryland and Virginia react to this. I said to the unions at the time that they need to spend as much, if not more, time in the Maryland legislative session coming up, getting this exact law passed in Maryland. And they assured me they would.
EVANSVirginia is a little bit more difficult. They'll probably never gonna do this. But if we can get Maryland onboard, that would be a big deal. And it sounds like the governor and everyone up there does support this idea.
MADDENSo if the mayor vetoes this and it goes back to the Council for the override vote, you are 100 percent voting like you did last time.
MADDENOK. We have a tweet from one Tom Sherwood saying, "Do you have the votes to override the mayor's expected veto?" In other words do you need one more vote?
EVANSAgain, I am voting the way I did last time. Whether or not the proponents of -- I am not the leader on this bill. I believe Chairman Mendelson and Vincent Orange and everyone are the people who are rounding up the votes or not rounding up, and they would be better...
MADDENSo are you working now to try to convince if there's a colleague out there who may be (unintelligible) ?
EVANSNo. I'm not working one way or the other.
FISHERThere was a report in "Loose Lips" in the City Paper yesterday where Will Summer reports that David Catania, your colleague, tried to trade a yes vote on the Wal-Mart bill for support for his education reform package. Did he approach you with that trade?
EVANSNo, he did not.
FISHERDo you know anything about that?
EVANSI wasn't involved with that at all.
FISHERIs -- If the mayor does veto this, are you confident that Wal-Mart will build all six of the stores that it has pledged to build including the one that it really doesn't want to build which is the one in Mayor Gray's former Ward 7?
EVANSYeah. If the mayor vetoes this and his veto is sustained, yes. I believe Wal-Mart will build all six stores. And I say this because the mayor has -- would have really gone on the line for Wal-Mart. And I know how committed he was because I was in the room with him in Las Vegas when we got Wal-Mart to commit to building the stores in the first place. I think Mayor Gray would be outraged if he really puts his neck out and gets -- and vetoes this bill and Wal-Mart were to, at some point and say, we're not gonna build that store at Skyline. And I'd be outraged with him. (laugh)
FISHERYou know, the opposition to Wal-Mart in this city hasn't crossed the county but perhaps more intensively in Washington breaks down kind of long class lines. And there is sort of an attitude among people who live in the neighborhoods you represent that Wal-Mart is something that, you know, they don't lower themselves to take part in. Do you see those kinds of issues playing out in this debate? Is this debate about something more than just having a big retailer in town?
EVANSI will give you my personal opinion about this just in a global sense. This debate is about union versus nonunion. I mean, Wal-Mart is a nonunion operation. It's the largest retailer in the world and getting larger all the time. And I think organized labor, maybe rightly so, wants this to be a union operation. And, you know, the line was drawn in Chicago. Many years -- several years ago, labor was not successful. The line is drawn here and labor wants to win this argument. And I think that's what it is.
MADDENRight. But do you think it's fair that Safeway and Giant and other unionized grocers are exempt under this bill that you support?
EVANSYeah. Well, again, the bill is trying to make a point. So whether it's fair or not (unintelligible)
MADDENBut that's what the law is. I mean that's...
EVANSI mean, it is what it is. I don't know if it's fair or not fair. It is what it is, you know. But, again, I would -- in the macro support, the living wage, if we could get it region wide or nationwide, just so it doesn't put the District at a disadvantage.
FISHERDo you think that when we see Wal-Mart in the city, will it have any effect on other retailers? You know, the argument used against Wal-Mart over and over is that mom and pops go out of business. Other smaller downtown areas end up failing because the Wal-Mart has sucked the business away.
EVANSI would say, probably, given the locations of Wal-Mart, looking at in the city, that probably is not the case. Where Wal-Mart ran into trouble in this and actually small businesses really ran into trouble, where when Wal-Mart opened up a big store at a mall right outside of a small town. And then, you know, the local bike shop and the local this shop and that shop were down priced by Wal-Mart and put out of business.
EVANSI came from a small town like that up in Pennsylvania where when the big store opened up at the mall, the Wyoming Valley Mall, the main street in the little town Nanticoke, where I came from. If you would there today, it's deserted. There's not a store open. And so that's what happened. And here, at this time, I think the stores that are opening up are probably servicing an area where you don't have a lot of retail right now and probably won't have that negative effect. But we'll have to wait and see what happens.
EVANSWal-Mart is a store. I don't have any problem. I mean, I shop at Target and Wal-Mart. I have three kids. It's a great place to buy stuff, you know, so I'm not denigrating anything they do or say. It's the salaries they pay and the negative effects they have had in other jurisdictions.
MADDENAnd, councilmember, to switch gears here, on this issue regarding the attorney general, the independent attorney general that voters overwhelmingly approved. And now the Council, it seems -- and you've sort of spearheaded this effort to push it back four years. It seems like that's a move that is sort of disregarding what the will of the people in this effort. And can you explain...
MADDEN...why you think that this Council should go against what the voters approved?
EVANSWell, first of all, I wouldn't characterize that way. The voters approve referendum, and the councilmembers sometimes disagree with that and change it, and we've done it a number of times in the past. We've done it on term limits. We've done it in campaign finance reform, and most glaringly, we did it on the Right to Shelter Act where the voters voted in place something that everybody in the District had a -- have a place to sleep.
EVANSAnd it almost bankrupted the city back in the '90s, and we had to repeal that. So I view my role as I'm elected by the people to use my best judgment as the final analysis. Other people may disagree with that only because they disagree with the issue.
MADDENShould we just get rid of referendums overall?
EVANSNo, no. I think they're very valuable, but you also have the Council in a position to maybe change that if we have -- when we use our judgment instead. It's the government that's set up the way it is, and I think it works perfectly fine. On this particular issue, we are not ready to elect an attorney general in April. We are just not ready -- we don't even know what the attorney general's supposed to do. Right now, the Council is going back and forth with the mayor on what the responsibilities are.
EVANSSo this has kind of got rushed to judgment, and it was put in place, in the first place, as a response to one of our attorney generals that people didn't like. We've had a history of superb attorney generals appointed by the mayors. You go back to Chuck Ruff. You have John Fearon, John Payton, Irv Nathan today. I happen to think Peter Nickles was an excellent attorney general. A lot of people don't like him and that's why we got the law.
EVANSBut I had a great working relationship -- you would probably not find any of those individuals who would run for this job and that's what worries me a little bit. What I wanted to do is put this off for two years. Unfortunately, federal law says that this has to be co-concurrent with the mayor's election, which pushes it off for four years. I'm willing to delay it so we can get it right rather than to rush to judgment and elect an individual and -- or have a process that doesn't work. That's my view.
FISHERDespite your support for the living wage bill, you've certainly been perceived, over the years, fairly or not, as someone who represents the interest of development and economic improvement in the city, developers and big business people. Is that -- how do you go about overcoming that in a mayoral campaign and in a city where race and class are tough, tense issues? Is this city ready for a white guy mayor?
EVANSWell, that's a couple of questions there. So let's start out with the first one. (laugh) I don't view the situation of being a pro-business, pro-development person as a negative. Actually, I view it as a positive, and some of the most recent polling we've done shows that people throughout the city do as well. The people in this city are interested in jobs. They're interested in economic development.
EVANSThere are many places in our city east of the river who are looking for someone who knows how to produce jobs, and that's something, as I pointed out earlier in the program, I know how to do. I know how to put deals together. I know how to make things happen. The controversy comes up when you just don't agree with what I'm doing. If you didn't like the baseball stadium, you're not gonna like the deal I put together even though it's been a wild success.
EVANSAnd so I think I bring to the table that experience and that talent that no one else has. And so I view that as a positive. When you ask the question, is the city ready for a white mayor? I get that question everywhere I go. I had a dinner in Ward 8 three nights ago with 20, 25 people, and that was the first question that was written down and handed to me just the way you just said it.
EVANSAnd, yes, the city is ready for a white mayor. The city is ready for a mayor who really, really brings an enormous amount of experience to the job in order to bring the prosperity that we are experiencing throughout this city to everyone in this city and to make sure that the people who are here during the tough time get to stay here during the good times and experience the good times that we have. And I think whether -- regardless of color, that's what people are looking for in this race.
EVANSBut I'm not naive enough to say that it won't be an issue. It will always be an issue. Race is an issue in this country. It's gonna be an issue in this city. But I believe, because I have been here so long and we've worked with so many people, and I've built the reputation that I have, that I can get elected mayor of this city. And the city is ready for me. Whether or not they're ready for someone else, I don't know.
FISHERJack Evans is the Ward 2 member of the D.C. Council, a Democratic candidate for mayor. Thanks very much for joining us.
EVANSOh, no. I have to leave? (laugh) I'm not ready.
EVANSYou're kicking me off?
MADDENIt went by so quickly.
FISHERGoes by quickly.
EVANSLike (word?) dragging me out.
FISHERWe have -- next guest is ready.
EVANSWhere's Kojo? I just wanna give Kojo one piece of advice. The mount -- the pitching mount is up 14 inches. You don't realize that. So when you're standing there, don't throw the ball into the dirt. And number two, don't lob the ball to the catcher. I'm gonna be watching. (laugh)
FISHEROK. Well, we will pass that along and see how the resident cricketer does (laugh) at the park tonight. Thanks very much, Jack Evans.
EVANSAll right. Thank you.
FISHERJoining us now here on The Politics Hour is Maryland Sen. Ben Cardin. And, senator, thanks very much for being with us.
SEN. BENJAMIN CARDINOh, my pleasure. It's good to be with you.
FISHERPatrick Madden is our guest analyst. I'm Marc Fisher of The Washington Post. And, Sen. Cardin, Syria is at the top of the agenda today. And even as we speak, Secretary of State John Kerry is speaking, the Obama administration clearly trying to find the right path forward here in the wake of Britain sort of stepping away from any military action in Syria. The French, on the other hand, endorsing the concept.
FISHERWhat is the appropriate action for the administration at this time, and is there any sense that any military or other action could actually improve things in Syria?
CARDINWell, first, I think there is general agreement that what President Assad has done in Syria is a gross violation of human rights in that he has used chemical weapons. It has killed innocent people. It is unacceptable. It violates international norms, and it cannot go unchallenged. I think there is general consensus about that. The question is, what action would be appropriate? We clearly would like to see more international agreement on the action to be taken, and it's got to be pretty definitive so you know what your objectives are.
CARDINAnd that these objectives can be achieved, and they can be achieved in -- help the people of Syria not put them at greater risk. And then lastly, I think there's also general consensus in this country that we do not wanna get engaged in a ground war. So it's got to be clear that our mission is very limited and will not be followed by any troops in Syria.
MADDENAnd, Sen. Cardin, this Patrick Madden here at WAMU. What do you think your role, the role of Congress should be regarding, you know, this potential air strike? I mean, should the president go to Congress? Should there be a debate? Should there be a vote in Congress regarding this?
CARDINWell, the president has been consulting with members of Congress. I will participate in a conversation later today with members of the Obama administration as -- I as a member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. So there has been the consultation process. We had given our advice, and we listened to the information that the administration has presented. I do think Congress needs to be engaged in this.
CARDINWe are -- absolutely, we need to have the cohesion of our government, and it requires Congress to be not only consulted, but we need to be a part of the -- of this process.
FISHERSen. Cardin, there is a piece in today's Washington Post by Ernesto Londono in which he spoke to a number of active and retired top military officials, generals, members of the Joint Chiefs who expressed deep skepticism over whether this administration really has a plan here and whether any sort of military action against the Assad regime at this point would lead to a much more widespread conflict in the region and an exacerbation of existing tensions. Is there a danger here that even a small sort of punishment that we might levy would explode in ways that are unanticipated?
CARDINWell, I have not -- I do not know. And obviously, this matter is being currently discussed as to what action is being planned. But I have the same concerns. The action has to be pretty specific with a clear objective and the ability to achieve that objective and done in a way that will provide greater help to the people of Syria from this type of violations of the international norms and the use chemical weapons. So that's what the action has to be targeted to be able to achieve.
CARDINThe president, I'm sure, is evaluating exactly these concerns today. So I think until we know the action plan, until we know how much international support there is, it's hard to reach the conclusions that the people you talked to made. These are concerns and they need to be addressed in the planning.
FISHERYou know, the -- there's tremendous concern that we heard in the British parliamentary debate yesterday as well as among American military officials that there is a credibility issue here and that the Iraq experience is one that has really traumatized at least a lot of folks in our military. And therefore, should the White House, should the Obama administration release the phone call intercepts that are the basis for their conclusion that the Assad regime is behind these chemical weapons attacks?
FISHERAnd John Kennedy did this during the Cuban missile crisis. Ronald Reagan did so in 1986. He released surveillance materials to show that Gadhafi had targeted American service members in Europe. Is it proper and is it necessary at this point for President Obama to release these phone intercepts?
CARDINI think he has to make more transparent the justification for concluding that the Assad regime did violate international norms and the use of chemical weapons. That has to be clearly established. You are correct. There is a concern since Iraq, as to whether the information being presented is accurate. So I think that is important that there be clear evidence. Secondly, I do think that, as we saw on Great Britain, there is a political weariness here. The people are tired of the conflicts and the engagement -- long engagement of our troops in Iraq, in Afghanistan.
CARDINBut let us remind the public about how without intervention in the form of Yugoslavia, the ethnic cleansings would've continued much longer. And let us remember that we were successful in bringing about a change of regime in Libya that brought about a better life for the people of that country and region. So we need to exercise our leadership. But I think there are legitimate points that are raised that we have to establish the clear violation of human rights and that we have a game plan that will help and will not just put fuel in the fire.
FISHERYou're listening to The Politics Hour on WAMU 88.5. I'm Marc Fisher of The Washington Post. And our guest analyst today is Patrick Madden, a reporter for WAMU. We're talking with U.S. Sen. Ben Cardin, Democrat from Maryland. And, senator, switching gears to the sequestration, what is your sense -- there is obviously a great deal of hand wringing about how devastating the sequester would be for federal workers in your state as well as around the country. What's your sense of what the actual impact has been on workers in Maryland?
CARDINI've had a chance during the August recess to visit with many federal workers, many agencies, visit with businesses in our community, and I could tell you the sequestration has had a very, very negative impact on our community. It has hurt individual families that have suffered through seeing their payroll check as low as 20 percent less then they would normally receive because of furloughs. It has hurt small businesses that have not gotten contracts and work that they expected to get.
CARDINAnd they've had to layoff people and not hire people. It's hurt the recovery in our economy. Generally, the employment numbers are not as strong as they otherwise would be. And it's compromised the mission of very important agencies, from the National Institutes of Health to the Food and Drug Administration to the Department of Defense, and I could go on and on and on, where they're not able to do the expected mission because of the irrational across-the-board budget cuts.
CARDINWe need to replace sequestration. We need to do it as soon as possible. And we'll have another opportunity to do it as we get into the next fiscal year starting Oct. 1. I hope we take advantage of replacing sequestration.
MADDENSo senator, when you return from recess, what specifically is the plan to replace sequestration? What -- I mean, you've mentioned the litany of problems that this is causing, and it's just going to get worst. What is the solution? What -- I mean, it seems like there's so much gridlock in Congress. How can this be solved?
CARDINWell, there are two major areas. First of all, we've achieved a great part of the deficit reduction that we wanted to have. We've used Simpson-Bowles as the model. So the question is what can we replace sequestration with. And there are two areas of government spending that have not yet really been affected by the deficit reduction program. One is the tax code and tax expenditures. These are special tax breaks that go to some taxpayers, not all. We spend as much in our tax code as we do in appropriation bills on tax expenditures.
CARDINSo there are certainly some of these tax breaks that we can take a look at, closing some loopholes that could be used to replace part of sequestration. In other areas, the automatic spending, the mandatory spending. And there have been proposals there where we can make, for example, our health care system more efficient by delivery system reforms, and that we could save some additional funds. So there are two major areas that we believe we can achieve additional deficit reduction and replace sequestration.
FISHERBut do you have any reason to believe that the next budget showdown, the seventh in this series, which is coming up in the next few weeks, will be any different from the previous ones? Is there any reason to look at how the Republicans are approaching this and say, ah, there's running room here or there's any movement on the other side, on the Democratic side, on Social Security, Medicare and so on? Is there any flexibility that you see now that didn't exist in the previous six showdowns?
CARDINWell, I think there's growing consensus, certainly in the Senate, but I think there's also a growing number in the House. They recognized that sequestration is bad for this country and needs to be replaced, that it's jeopardizing our national security and our economic growth and the agency's ability to carry out their missions. So I think there's a growing consensus. I think August may have helped a little bit, being back in our states and in our districts, hearing from the people who've been affected and hearing from the businesses that have lost opportunities as a result.
CARDINSo I think there's a growing understanding that sequestration needs to be replaced. There are very few members of Congress who thinks sequestration is a good idea. So I'm hopeful that when we return, we will listen to each other and let the political system work the way it should by sitting down, compromising and moving forward.
FISHERThere's a governor's race coming up in Maryland next year, Doug Gansler, the attorney general, and Anthony Brown, the lieutenant governor, the leading declared Democratic candidates. Have you or will take a side in that primary race?
CARDINWell, that's something I will be taking a look at in the fall. We're not quite -- I think it's a little bit early yet. There's also Heather Mizeur, who's running for governor also. So there's...
CARDIN...three outstanding candidates. All three are friends. And all three, I think, have great records on the Democratic side. So we're proud of the quality of the people who are running on our state.
MADDENBut do you plan on making an endorsement at some point?
CARDINWell, that's an issue that I'm currently evaluating, and I'll make a decision in an appropriate time. And I'm certainly talking with the other members of our congressional delegation, who we all worked together as a team for Maryland. I must tell you, I've worked very closely with Anthony Brown. And he's been -- we've been able to work together to get things done for the people of Maryland. I've worked closely with Doug Gansler and Heather Mizeur. These are individuals who -- we share a common vision of Maryland.
CARDINSo from a philosophical point of view, I'm very comfortable of all three. But as we get closer to the primary date, there'll be opportunities to express preferences.
FISHERAnd there's been something of an implosion in the Maryland Republican Party. The minority leader is leaving the state. The head of the party is leaving the state. Do you think Maryland is now -- we can just declare it done, it's just a one-party state, and that's the end of it?
CARDINNo, not at all. I mean, I think that there is -- the Democratic Party has put forward dynamic leaders, who have been able to solve problems, who have moved our state ahead in so many different areas. I think Marylanders appreciate the fact that our schools are ranked among the best in the country. That our economic growth has been very positive. That we've taken on the challenges of our environment. That we have really answered questions.
CARDINSo I think I'm proud of the fact that the leaders that have come through the Democratic Party had been able to achieve so much in our state. And that has made, I think, the Democratic Party respected for the quality of our candidates.
FISHEROK. Well, thank you. We'll have to leave it there. Ben Cardin is a member of the United States Senate, a Democrat from Maryland. We appreciate you joining us.
FISHEROur guest analyst today, Patrick Madden, a reporter with WAMU 88.5. The Mets will lose tonight.
FISHERExactly. (laugh) Thanks very much for joining us. I'm Marc Fisher of The Washington Post, sitting in for Kojo, who will be on the mound tonight watching.
Most Recent Shows
Yellowish-brown water is affecting areas near the primary filtration plant on the Potomac in western Montgomery County. Since Aug. 8, the Washington Suburban Sanitary Commission has received hundreds of complaints, but authorities insist the water is safe to drink.
Leaders in our region grapple with the debate around Confederate symbols after Charlottesville. We speak to D.C. Councilmember David Grosso (At-large, I), chair of the Education Committee and U.S. Rep. Tom Garrett (R-Va.)
The violent protests in Charlottesville, Virginia over the weekend have heightened the debate over America's troubled history with race. We want to talk about it with you.