Turnover at a major D.C. government department is raising questions about local businesses, political contributions and influence in city politics.
Guest Host: Tom Sherwood
A breakdown in mental health care services contributes to a tragedy for a prominent Virginia lawmaker. Construction bumps continue to plague the Silver Spring Transit Center. And D.C. planners put the brakes on revising building height limits. Join us for our weekly review of the politics, policies and personalities of the District of Columbia, Maryland and Virginia.
- Delman Coates Senior Pastor, Mt. Ennon Baptist Church, Clinton, MD
- Reta Jo Lewis Democratic Candidate, Mayor, District of Columbia
- Heather Mizeur Maryland House of Delegates (D-20th Dist); Maryland gubernatorial candidate; (former Member, Takoma Park Council, now represents Montgomery County)
- Patrick Madden Reporter, WAMU 88.5 News
- Tom Sherwood Resident Analyst; NBC 4 reporter; and Columnist for the Current Newspapers
D.C. mayoral candidate Reta Jo Lewis responds to criticism that she’s too diplomatic when it comes to taking political positions. “What I say to you is you ask me a question, I’m going to give you an answer.” Lewis says, if elected, Fire Chief Kenneth Ellerbe would be out of a job. She also addresses the investigation into Mayor Vincent Gray’s 2010 campaign, calling it a “distraction” but one that can’t be rushed.
MR. TOM SHERWOODFrom WAMU 88.5, at American University, in Washington, welcome to "The Politics Hour." I'm Tom Sherwood from NBC4, sitting in for Kojo, who'll be back next week. And sitting in for me as guest analyst, Patrick Madden, fine reporter here at WAMU.
MR. PATRICK MADDENJust keeping your chair warm today, Tom.
SHERWOODOkay. Well, here's the first thing. Today is November 22nd, the 50th anniversary of the assassination of John F. Kennedy. Where were you?
MADDENI was (laugh) but a twinkle in my parents' eyes.
SHERWOODNo where close to being…
SHERWOOD…on the Earth.
MADDENBetter question, where were you?
SHERWOODI was actually in the 11th grade, in Atlanta Southwest High School, and a student came running down the hallway shouting, the president is dead, the president is dead. And what even then bothered me at the time as an 11th grader, is there sounded like there was joy in his voice. I was in the deep South, 1963. So -- but I would ask you because it's an important day, as a younger person -- I think you're in your 30s; is that right? Just so -- we'll leave it at that.
SHERWOODWhat do younger people -- you've seen all of this explosion of coverage for the 50th anniversary of JFK, you saw the explosion of coverage for the March on Washington. Those were extraordinary times. As a younger person who's read and studied it, what are your personal thoughts on a day like today?
MADDENWell, I guess it's amazing to hear on one hand, just journalists talk about what it was like covering that back then, but also just as a person to hear how that event changed everything. And that's the constant thing you keep hearing, is how the assassination just sort of shattered this…
SHERWOODIt was our generation's 9/11.
MADDENRight. And so for my generation, of course, we can all remember where we were on 9/11. And, you know, very, sort of, can recall it almost yesterday, how that went down. So I’m sure, you know, to hear people sort of go back 50 years and just to be able to describe where they were exactly in such vivid detail is amazing.
SHERWOODIt's kind of hard to talk about routing, mundane-type subjects, but on Monday, the Vincent Orange Economic Committee, here in the District, is going to have a discussion about increasing the minimum wage. Any thoughts about what might happen on Monday?
MADDENWell, I've seen…
SHERWOODIn the wake of the Walmart troubles.
MADDENRight. I've seen a draft committee report that's being circulated that will be at the markup. And it looks like they're targeting the $11.50 an hour, which would be the highest in the country. What's not in the bill, which will become an issue, is this issue over tipped workers. And so they are not going to be part of this -- as it's written right now. And that's been the big fight, with the restaurant industry on one side and a lot of the labor unions and other activists wanting to include tipped workers, like bartenders and servers in that minimum wage bill.
SHERWOODAnd this week the Giant food store opened, the big O Street Market. One of the candidates for mayor, Tommy Wells, was there kind of supporting the workers for a new contract and for the minimum wage increase.
MADDENYeah, I mean it's amazing. If you take a step back and think about all of the different issues surrounding minimum wage increases, living wages, Walmart, Giant, it really is becoming one of the big issues in the mayor's race, in some of the council races. So it's something that we're going to, you know, we'll be paying attention to this for the next couple months.
SHERWOODAre you going to the mayor's birthday party tonight?
MADDENThat -- I’m not sure if I will be going to the birthday party.
SHERWOODIt's open to the media.
MADDENIt is open to the media. It's at, I believe, the Lost Society, which is…
SHERWOODThe Lost Society.
MADDENRight. Leave it at that. (laughter)
SHERWOODI'm stunned. It's at 14th and U.
SHERWOODIt's a very nice place, but it seems like that doesn’t sound right in a political campaign.
MADDENRight. But that apparently is the sort of spot, that neighborhood where politicians are holding all of their events. I believe Jack Evans kicked off his campaign not far from there.
SHERWOODThe diplomat (unintelligible) .
MADDENYes. I’m not going to try to pronounce it.
SHERWOODI know. And as a Southerner, we don't care. We mispronounce most things.
MADDENThat's how you know it's hip. If you can't pronounce it, it's hip.
SHERWOODWell, it is the mayor. But the big news this week for the mayor was Ron Machen, the U.S. attorney was on Capitol Hill at the Hill Center with me for an hour-long public interview in front of an audience, tape-recorded. And we talked about him and his career. And then we talked about corruption. And he made some news. Want to tell people about the news?
MADDENRight. Well, this is when I tip my cap to you because you were the one who -- I mean it's been months since we've really gotten anything out of the U.S. attorney's office in terms of this investigation. And as Machen told you, you know, I guess a couple key lines, but one of them about how there really are these challenges and obstacles delaying this investigation, because that's been one of the big sort of complaints, is why isn't this thing wrapping up? They've been looking at this for three years. And as Machen, you know, said, you know, we wouldn't be doing this if there was no there there.
SHERWOODThat was great.
MADDENAnd that was a key quote. And of course you had Gray following up the next day by saying that he wished this investigation would be wrapping up. But again, it sort of brings it all back to -- on one hand you've got Machen's saying we would love to wrap this thing up, but we're having all these delays and obstacles. And you have presumably Gray, who's team is also sort of part of this issue, saying we'd also like it to be wrapped up.
SHERWOODIt's unusual for the U.S. attorney to talk. I was counting the times he says, I can't get into that, I can't discuss that, in an hour-long interview. And he said it three or four times. But when he said it, he said it with a finality that I didn't follow up. But I want to just read the quote that he gave on Wednesday night at the Hill Center. He was asked about, why don't you get this done? Are you just chasing after something you don't have?
SHERWOODAnd is this really that important? Do you really have something on the mayor? He defended the investigation by saying, "You've got four people associated with a mayoral campaign who have pled guilty to felonies. It's not like we've been looking at this for three years and there's no there there. I mean, there's there there. And we're trying to gather information. We're trying to get documents and we're trying to talk to people." He sounded somewhat frustrated, but he also sounded determined.
MADDENRight. And you have to talk about the political calendar right now, too. With the clock ticking in terms of when signatures are going to be due for the mayor's race. So, I mean, Gray really has to make a decision soon.
MADDENRight. But it's going to take, as you know, more than, you know, a couple weeks to be able to get those signatures. So he, you know…
SHERWOODAnd we all know what happened when he had a hurry-up campaign last time.
MADDENRight. And we've seen other mayors who have tried to put it together at the last second and what happened there.
SHERWOODThank you for listening. You can join us in the conversation by calling 1-800-433-8850 or you can email us. The address is email@example.com. Or for those Twitterita out there, you can tweet us, and the address is @kojoshow. I want to talk about some more issues, but let's bring in our guest because I know she's anxious to talk about all these subjects. Reta Jo Lewis, candidate for mayor, welcome.
MS. RETA JO LEWISThank you so much, Tom. Glad to be here with you and Patrick.
SHERWOODAre you glad -- we're going to later talk about the Maryland governor's race. Are you glad that you don't have to name a running mate in the mayor's race?
LEWIS(laugh) You know, yes, I am.
SHERWOODDo you have any thoughts about the JFK…
MADDENYou know, you were asking Patrick about…
SHERWOODI'm not asking how old you are.
LEWISWell, you know, hey, I was 10 when that happened. And I would tell you, I, too, was raised in the deep South. And I do remember that day. And you know why?
SHERWOODWhere? Scottsboro? No.
SHERWOODStatesboro, I'm so sorry. Statesboro.
LEWISMy mom and dad had been real champions in the community as leaders and working with the NAACP and the civil rights leaders. And so, you know, a few short years after that I integrated with my junior high school. So there had been issues that my parents had been working on. And when the Kennedy assassination happened it really was like a dream deferred. And people were really hopeful in that administration and what he stood for.
SHERWOODYou're in the deep South and you were about the -- what were the ages of the four young girls at the Baptist church?
LEWISIt was -- very young. Yes.
SHERWOODThat same year, right? That same year.
SHERWOODPeople forget, but the March was that year.
LEWISYes. That's right.
SHERWOODAnd the bombing of the Birmingham church.
LEWISThe bombing of the Birmingham church.
SHERWOODFour young girls. You could have been one of them.
LEWISWell, you know, I’m telling you, you know, our hearts always go out to any and all of these leaders and young people whose lives were lost. But, you know, that work still has to go on because we still have a lot of the inequities that we were talking about back then.
SHERWOODThe work is…
LEWIS(unintelligible) the battle.
SHERWOODLet's just get to the -- this is "The Politics Hour," so here we go. How many signatures have you raised of the 2,000 you need? And you don't have to turn them in until January 2nd, but how are you doing on the signatures? I know you were out this morning at a Metro stop in the Shaw neighborhood.
LEWISThat was two days ago. I was actually in Anacostia this morning.
SHERWOODWere the trains running? Metro? I'm not sure how many trains were running today.
LEWISI was over on Howard Road, over in Anacostia and the busses were running fine and the trains were running. And people were really hopeful. And I was asking them not only to just sign my petition, but talking about myself and introducing myself to them. Hearing firsthand from them their issues. And it was very -- they were very, very encouraging and signing the petition. So we're really excited.
SHERWOODHow are you doing on -- you've got a rough number now?
LEWISYou know what? We're working hard every single day.
SHERWOODNo, is the answer. Okay. Okay. (laughter) All right. Patrick, take it over.
MADDENOkay. Well, let's just jump right into the minimum wage issue because we were just talking about that. And that seems to be one of the key issues this campaign. Where do you come down on this, in terms of where minimum wage should be and whether tipped workers should be included?
LEWISYou know, I just recently had an opportunity to be always talking with the residents. I would tell you I always start out with the fact that, you know, as a resident who is trying to, you know, take their kids to school on public transportation, trying to feed their kids, trying to put a roof over their heads, I want them to make as much money as they possibly can.
LEWISAnd so, you know, there's a lot of numbers that's out there. And I think we can't -- I don't want to get caught up in the numbers game, but I will tell you that we've got to be competitive with the region, we definitely understand from a federal perspective it's at 10. Our council's at 11-ish, and, you know, others are at around -- at that living wage.
SHERWOODLet's hear from a caller who wants to talk about the minimum wage. It's Perry, I guess he's from the District. And he's appalled that candidates are talking about the minimum wage, but nobody in the council has done anything about it. Perry, are you there?
PERRYI am. I am.
SHERWOODThank you. What's your question?
PERRYSure. Sure. You know, and thank you for expounding on my point, Tom. Factually speaking, you know, we have four council people who are running for council and they all of a sudden have gotten religion. You know, I listened at the minimum wage hearing where Councilman Orange -- he said social justice out of his mouth probably five times and we got Muriel Bowser has been on the council since '07, Wells been on the council since '07. He hasn't given a darn about working class folks and raising the wage so that it's not only competitive with Maryland or…
SHERWOODAll right. Well, you know, the city's talk with Montgomery County and Prince George is about maybe all doing -- I think Montgomery County was taking a vote in the last day or so -- if not today -- about raising the matter to 11.50. Do you have a specific question for Ms. Lewis about if you can pin her down on a number she'd support?
PERRYSure I do. Sure I do. When I ran for the council in the past spring election, I proposed $14.50 an hour. And it is so very important that workers in D.C. stay in D.C. So my question is, how do you as a Democrat -- because Democrats have chosen to keep wages low and depressed. How do you as a Democrat plan on running and doing something different for the citizens of Washington, D.C., yet be out of step with your party that has all of a sudden gotten religion.
SHERWOODOkay. Well, first of all, you said you don’t want to name a figure that you have?
LEWISWell, I mean, you know, it's…
SHERWOOD11.50 sounds about right?
PERRYYou know, I think 12.50 does sound right.
LEWISYeah, I think 12.50, that's right. Because when you're talking to individual moms and dads they will tell you that it's hard to live in this city. But we still…
MADDENAnd how about the tipped workers?
LEWISYou know, on the tipped workers, I was actually talking to some restaurant owners the other night at their home. And they were talking about the fact that they want to be competitive. And, you know, that number seems to be exempt right now from the discussion. So I know that there's going to be a lot more conversations around that. But I will tell you, at the end of the day, when your caller was saying how are you going to really make life better for the residents in the District of Columbia, and it all evolves down to the fact that they all have to have a seat at the table.
LEWISAnd right now, you know, as the candidate of change, and as someone who is not a part of the current practices, I think he's absolutely right. People are trying to get religion to talk about how they're going to take care of working families. But at the end of the day, you know, working families want you to be not only pragmatic for them, but they want you to be in an environment that you tell them the truth. And they just want to be able to have a seat at the table and a voice in the conversation.
SHERWOODOkay. All right. You were at the candidate forum at the D.C. Bar, almost two weeks ago -- about two weeks ago. The days go by so fast, that's hard to tell. I heard a lot of criticism of you and it kind of goes like this, you're a nice person, you're a smart person, you are very confident in how you carry yourself, you present yourself as a good candidate, but you are not taking positions on a campaign on a enough issues. Like you didn't want, I think, to take a position on the height issue.
SHERWOODYou did take a position?
LEWISYeah, I said -- the question was about affordable housing. And I said, yes, I would.
SHERWOODHigher buildings for affordable housing. But what just about economic development to accommodate the 200,000 people expected to move here in the next 20 years or so.
LEWISWe have to take all of that into consideration, but right now our biggest problem is that people do not have a decent place to live. And they don't want to have a balance, and so if it does require us to raise the height limit if we can get a one-to-one. We need to not only look at just where development is going, but we need to look at what we have in our own stock.
SHERWOODBut we've moved away from high-rise public housing and things like that because it didn't work. Now it's scattered housing and it's other places.
LEWISYeah, people aren't trying to move into public housing. They're trying to move into affordable housing.
SHERWOODAffordable, I know. But what is your response to the criticism that your answers are too 9th grade civics class, work together, come together, discuss, reach a common solution, bring the community in? You hear a lot of that from candidates and you. What's your reaction to that criticism?
LEWISYou know what? What I say to you, you ask me a question, I'm going to give you an answer. But the overall vision, it still has to be about having a city that does work for everybody. We can't be a community that just allows certain voices to be at the table and that's what's happening. There are no plans. There are no strategies around so many of the big issues that we have.
SHERWOODMayor Gray just announced $187 million affordable housing (unintelligible).
LEWISYeah, today -- I mean a couple days ago. But you know what?
SHERWOODAnd $100 million last spring.
LEWISAnd what has happened with it? When you hear advocates talk about, do we really have a plan, do we have a strategy? I was listening at the hearing with them and they said, absolutely not. You know what? It's not about me being a nice candidate, but I will tell you I appreciate them saying I'm a smart candidate because we do have to have someone in government who's going to be able to not only take a position, but also run this government.
SHERWOODWould you keep Chief Ellerbe, the fire chief?
LEWISHe would not be my chief.
MADDENAnd I guess one of the things that came up in the first debate we had the other day was a lot of the candidates calling the mayor's campaign corrupt. Do you agree with that assessment, that Gray's 2010 campaign was corrupt?
LEWISI think what we've read -- and we can only go on what we have read and what we know -- is that four people have gone to jail that were involved in that campaign. The issue for me now is that the legal system is doing its job and they're going to continue to do their job. As someone who is a lawyer, you can't rush that process.
LEWISBut what has occurred is that it's been a big distraction to what's going on in the city about the big issues that we need to be taking on. It's been a big distraction about talking about how we're going to develop better schools and develop better wages for our residents in the District of Columbia, how our businesses are going to be able to take advantage of all the largess, how are we going to stop pushing people out of their homes. Those are the conversations that people want to have and that's not taking place.
SHERWOODYou're listening to Reta Jo Lewis. She's an attorney, a diplomat and a businesswoman. She's a candidate for mayor of the District of Columbia. Joining me in the studio today is Patrick Madden, a reporter for WAMU. And I'm Tom Sherwood from NBC4, sitting in for Kojo. But I think almost every political person, Muriel Bowser, her answer is she wants to move beyond -- she's been critical of the ethics, she's made some changes in law.
SHERWOODBut the voters -- yes, they want to hear about all those issues, but they want to know, do you think Mayor Gray should run for reelection? You're running to be mayor, but should Mayor Gray run, given all the troubles demonstrated in a court of law, troubles with his 2010 campaign, whether he's charged or not?
LEWISYou know, the other day the mayor said no comment. I could not believe that, based on what was happening with -- in that conversation.
SHERWOODYeah, but what do you think?
LEWISLook, I’m running for mayor. And running for mayor, it is because I firmly believe that the citizens of the District of Columbia deserve better. And in deserving better, it is a mayor who is going to insure that when we talk about issues around education, when we talk about all issues, Tom, we've got to have credibility.
SHERWOODI know, but this is like…
LEWISAnd the right now, the credibility is wagging.
SHERWOOD…to me, as a reporter -- and I can't speak for Patrick -- but I'm saying this is like we're having a track meet, which is the race is to run from the start line to the finish line, with who's going to do the best for the city going forward. The problem is we don't know what the start line is or if somebody cheated and put their toes over the start line and then all of these things. So that's why ethics are so important. Children are important. Police are important. Housing -- those things are important, but the ethical foundation of the city has crumbled in many respects because we have all these open issues.
LEWISIt has crumbled because the current leadership has not taken it seriously and gotten it done. And that's…
SHERWOODSo on that basis, do you think Mayor Gray has forfeited the moral authority of having run a campaign that has been demonstrated in court to be corrupt, that he shouldn't run again? I mean that would, to me, would be a yes or a no, if I were running.
LEWISI think the mayor should not be running for reelection based on everything that we have been told, but it is his decision and the voters are going to be the ultimate decider. And in deciding that -- when we're talking about ethics, when we're talking about reform, those are going to be critical issues. And that's why -- look, I support the will of the people. And when they call for an attorney general to be elected by the citizens, after we gave them the referendum that said that, our current establishment, including all of them, basically said no.
SHERWOODAll right. Let me finish up on this. All right. I want to ask about Ronal Machen. He said -- you're an attorney. He was a prosecutor. He said there's there there. He said he's not fooling around. Four people have pled guilty to felonies. There's there there. What do you think about the investigation…
LEWISWhen he said…
SHERWOOD…and what Ron Machen said?
LEWISI cannot speak for Ron Machen, but I can read his words. And if he says there's there there, that's for the -- he's the prosecutor. All I can say is that the residents of the District of Columbia are going to have to make their decision.
LEWISAnd they're going to have to make their decision based on individuals like myself who are coming to say I have the experience, I have the qualifications having worked in local government, having been on the front line in Department of Public Works, working around issues with women and girls. These are the things in the District of Columbia that I understand where we are here and as a community, having worked locally, nationally and internationally.
MADDENAnd, Reta, you mentioned your work at DPW and some of the other local activities you've been involved in, talk about -- I mean, you're a relative outsider in this race compared to the four councilmembers running. Talk about your executive experience. I mean becoming mayor of the District, billion dollar budget, many different agencies that you'll be in charge of, can you talk about where you have had similar experience running an agency or department as an executive?
LEWISYou know what? I am the senior executive in this race, who has had the experience working with -- as the chief of staff when I was in the Department of Public Works, that was one of the largest agencies in D.C. government. I worked with an administrator who worked -- who had over 14 -- I worked with the chief administrator who had over 14 other administrators over departments.
LEWISYou know working with large staffs, working with large budgets at Department of Public Works. Public Works had a budget of 3,000. I was very fortunate to have been able to be the liaison to our different departments and to our budget departments and to be able to have that kind of experience.
SHERWOODThat was in the 1990s, right?
LEWISThat was in the -- and I did that as a younger person.
SHERWOODBut were those -- the Control Board came in in the mid '90s and took over the city because it was run so poorly and they didn't exempt that department either. They said all these departments were terribly run. So I'm not sure what -- I mean, Betty Francis, you worked for Betty…
LEWISI worked for Betty Francis, who's a great administrator.
SHERWOODAnd she was, but I'm just…
SHERWOOD…saying the city was rolling in red ink back then. That's why the Control Board took over.
LEWISYou know what? Not only did I do work with DPW, having had the recent experiences of working and running programs that have had a large impact on people's lives, working with U.S. Chamber programming, having great impact working with minority women on businesses, bringing thousands of organizations together to work on business outreach.
LEWISI mean those are the kinds of experiences -- having just recently worked internationally running a program at the State Department, being a senior diplomat there. You know, having the ability to work with large bureaucracies and bring people together is a hallmark and highlight of the work that I've done. And I'm very proud of that.
SHERWOODI think if I had one thing I could do as a reporter, if I could just get people not to say children's first or bring people together (laughter) because everybody can talk about issues.
LEWISYeah, they can talk, but I did it.
SHERWOODBut in the city, I mean, do you know the city that you want to represent? Can you…
LEWISI know them very well.
SHERWOOD…a geographic test or name all the department heads (laugh) because that's not important, but…
LEWISNo. Because they're not my department heads.
SHERWOOD…the majority of your last 20 years has been in national and international affairs. And I looked at your campaign contributions. Many of them are people who are not identified locally. Obviously some are. And, again, one of the people here says that, you know, she seems to be long on platitudes and not much else and that you are not -- you're more of the national/international city that this is, which is quite an accomplishment for you, but not local.
LEWISYou know what? When I started locally here in the District of Columbia working as a chief executive in a department, it helped me to get to the national. The national then helped me get to the international. All three areas of government, as well as having worked in the private sector, has been very important for me to be able to sit in this chair and to talk to you and to talk to the residents of the District about having the experience and the qualification to lead a city that should be world-class metropolis.
LEWISWe're not that because we've got so many inequities. And I mean we can talk about the coming together, but if we are not going to actually do it -- I have led that kind of change.
SHERWOODWell, we have one of the best -- go ahead, Patrick -- one of the best economies in the world.
MADDENAnd just, if you could sort of outline some more policy specifics because you've talked a lot about bringing people together, but what specifically would you like to see happen? I mean what changes would you make to the current administration?
LEWISWell, you know, I'm not going to look at the current administration. I will tell you that in a Lewis administration, around issues around education. Exceptionally -- it's going to continue to be important for us to be a great city. Right now we have got to be continuing to look at where we are from a high poverty standpoint. We have 20 percent of a population that is still living below the poverty life.
SHERWOODWell, again, those are descriptions of the issues. Andy Shallal has said he wants to make free public transit for all poor people. I don't know how he would define poor. Would you be for that? Because, again, you can describe the problem, but the solution is what people want to hear.
LEWISWhat I want to do, Tom -- I'm going to tell you something. If a young person comes to school every single day, they really do -- especially in a lot of our communities, especially where there's high poverty, they have serious issues around just survival.
SHERWOODBut we know that.
LEWISSo it's not just about their education. So I want to (unintelligible) I will lead an administration that wraps around services around those…
SHERWOODBut does that mean? I mean Tommy Wells and Jack Evans…
LEWISIt means -- it means…
SHERWOOD…I think -- at least one of them -- said if you're a high school student and you want a job we'll get you an after-school job. It just won't be summer jobs. Would you be for something like that?
LEWISYou can't just throw out that without some real backbone behind that. What I…
SHERWOODWell, they seem to have it.
LEWISBut in an administration that I would lead I am over the services that have to be wrapped around young people, wrapped around…
SHERWOODBut when you wrap around it sounds like I'm almost choking because I -- what does that mean?
SHERWOODSharon Pratt Kelly opened after school centers for children to go to after school. They were out on East Capitol Street and they were on other places. They fell apart because they weren't supported, but that was -- but she did try. She actually did something.
LEWISBut you've got to bring…
SHERWOODYeah, don't tell me bring people together.
LEWISNo, not bring it -- no, no, no. See, you may think that's funny, but right now…
SHERWOODOh, it's not funny.
LEWISBut right now…
SHERWOODIt's funny I have to keep saying it.
LEWISNo. Right now, what's happening, it's not about -- it is about the ability that whether you have your social services -- this is about whether you have the ability to bring people to come and assist with young people. Right now we're fighting on leaving a library hours open. Why are even doing that at this juncture? That should be something that (unintelligible) …
SHERWOODBut Jack Evans, he's running for mayor. He passed the bill to make the library stay open seven days a week.
LEWISAnd they're still out there fighting that battle.
MADDENBut just specifics. That's kind of what I think Tom and I are going for here, in terms of education. Would you keep the structure the way it is with the school chancellor?
LEWISI think it's -- well, first of all let me just tell you something. There's duplicity in that effort. In most states -- and we are counting ourselves as a state. We need to have a strong state education director. We have a good superintendent who -- once the mayor took over the schools in 2007 -- should still have that kind of access. We want to make sure that that focus continues to be there in our school systems. It cannot just be about testing. That is one indicator. We should applaud the success.
SHERWOODWould you get rid of Common Core Standards?
LEWISOf course not. You cannot get rid of common core.
SHERWOODNo, no, that's a program, Common Core Standards, which replaced No Child Left Behind, which replaced Back to Basics, which replaced dinosaurs. (laugh) I mean there have been so many programs.
LEWISThey've got a lot of programs, but at the end of the day I am for accountability. I am for standards. But I'm also for empowering the parents and empowering the teachers. I mean…
SHERWOODBut what does that mean? What does empowering the teachers?
LEWISWe have to treat them…
SHERWOODThey have a union, they have the impact system. What does that mean?
LEWISThat means that we have to give them the authority because they are the COOs in their schools.
SHERWOODThey do have the authority. They have -- principals have the authority under the Michelle Rhee reform.
LEWISThere is silos that are still taking place in this government, people are still not having an understanding on who's really in charge.
SHERWOODWell, who is -- what -- I…
LEWISThe person that's supposed to be in charge of this is the mayor. And the person that should be -- we don't need all these layers of bureaucracy about our education system.
SHERWOODMichelle Rhee spent her entire time -- three years of it -- getting rid of these layers of bureaucracy and pushing the authority out to the principals. I mean what bureaucracy are you talking about? You go down to the education headquarters on First Street, down off North Capitol, and there's not nearly as many people there as there used to be there earning a check and not doing much.
LEWISThat's because they need to be -- keeping it on our kids, that's where we need to be.
SHERWOODBut that's what Michelle Rhee did and that's what Kaya Henderson is doing. Are you saying Kaya hasn't done enough or…
LEWISNo. I think…
SHERWOOD…the office of the state school superintendent hasn't done enough? You hear the frustration, it's that -- are you going to putting out -- maybe it's still too early. As you're gathering -- are you going to put out some policy statements of what you…
SHERWOOD…will do if you are elected as mayor?
SHERWOODBecause we all believe in children first. I mean, we all believe this -- the Department of Public Works ought to get the snow off the streets. We all believe that Department of Transportation ought to get the roads done and the curbs fixed when they're broken. But the question is, how is it going to -- are you for the streetcar on 8th Street?
LEWISOh, always. Why wouldn't I be? I mean…
SHERWOODWell, some people think it's a horrendous, the way that it's not set off from traffic and cars. Adam Tuss from Channel 4 just did a story about trucks and cars and pedestrians and bikes, they're all blocking the road. Would you put up a barrier so the streetcar can be clear there?
MADDENI guess another way of putting this is there a single issue you think that you really stand out from your competitors on this?
LEWISI think there are three issues that I do stand out, primarily because I have not been a part of the past practices. I would, as mayor, lead a city whereby we have strong oversight responsibilities. We would let the people who I would appoint, like the inspector general, do their job. We would make sure…
SHERWOODHe does. I mean one of the complaints is he doesn't…
SHERWOOD…do it fast enough. Would you get rid of him?
LEWISWell, he -- not only -- he's not doing it fast enough. He doesn't have enough autonomy.
SHERWOODOkay. All right. Well, unfortunately we're out of time.
LEWISHe doesn't have enough resources.
SHERWOODI apologize. We're out of time. We've been listening to -- probably me complaining, but more so to Reta Jo Lewis…
LEWISYeah, don't (unintelligible) Tom.
SHERWOOD…she's an attorney, a diplomat and a businesswoman. She's a candidate for mayor of the District of Columbia. She's busy going out to the Metro stops where the trains are running and she's getting signatures. And good luck to you in getting the signatures in for January 2nd.
LEWISThank you, Tom.
SHERWOODThank you for being here today.
LEWISNo. Thank you.
SHERWOODAnd also in with me today is Patrick Madden, fine reporter for WAMU. Patrick, I think we've pretty much -- well, we've got out next guest coming in to sit down. Let's talk about Metro for a moment. They are trying to keep the trains running, but they're also thinking about changing the carpet. Have you had a chance to look at that story? They want to get rid of the ugly carpets and put in vinyl rubber and all that stuff because they have a warehouse full of carpet and I don't think anybody wants that color for their house.
MADDENWell, they've always had like the 1970s color in the Metro. But I try to bike everywhere to avoid the Metro delays because they seem to be happening increasingly.
SHERWOODI do give you great credit for biking. I bike a little, but you bike a lot. And congratulations. (laugh) Now joining us in studio is Heather Mizeur. Did I pronounce it correctly?
REP. HEATHER MIZEURSure did.
SHERWOODThank you very much. She's a member of the Maryland House of Delegates. She represents the 20th District in Montgomery County. Mizeur is a Democratic candidate in Maryland 2014 gubernatorial election. I believe the primary is in June, June 24th. And we're very excited to have her -- with her Delman Coates -- I should say the Reverend Delman Coates, shouldn't I?
REV. DELMAN COATESThat's fine.
SHERWOODYou earned it. So I ought to say it. The Rev. Delman -- my brother's a Baptist minister. And we'll talk after the show.
COATESAll right. (laugh)
SHERWOODHe's senior pastor at Mt. Ennon Baptist Church, in Clinton, Md. He's running with Heather Mizeur as her candidate for lieutenant governor. First, because I can't remember my Bible school lessons, Mt. Ennon, what is -- it must be from the Old Testament, but that's all I could guess.
COATESActually the New.
SHERWOODOh, there you go. So zero.
SHERWOODOkay. And does it refer to a place of peace and joy or…
COATESIt is a place where John the Baptist baptized at the River Ennon.
SHERWOODI feel really ignorant right now. I'm sure you'll forgive me. (laugh) Thank you for being here. How's it feel? This is the first office you've run for, right?
SHERWOODI know there's no politics in the Baptist church, but you're actually on the -- you're going to be on the ballot. Why did you decide to do that? And we'll get to the candidate for governor in just a moment.
COATESWell, I decided to join Heather because I wake up every morning thinking about how to make our community safer, how we might improve the quality of life for the residents of our state, and I've committed myself to a career of change and equality. And really this is an extension of my commitment to serve in leadership. And I was honored when Heather asked if I would join her in this effort to return Annapolis to the people. And I think that's fundamentally what this is about.
SHERWOODHeather Mizure -- Mizeur, I'm sorry. I'm going to get it right. My southern accent -- I'm just going to apologize one time more, and that's it. (laughter) Heather Mizeur, you're been running a tough campaign. You were on the show several months ago. What's the update?
MIZEURWell, when I was on the show before I was looking at the race, wasn't an actual announced candidate. We got in the race in July. We started doing important community service projects all across the state reminding people that how you campaign is how you're going to govern, and you can't make all your decisions behind a desk or on a phone.
MIZEURYou've got to be out in the community making a difference. So we cleaned up playgrounds and painted schools, repaired marshlands, served food at homeless shelters, spent the summer -- and this will be something we do throughout the campaign -- working to make a difference now. You don't have to wait to get elected to make a difference.
MIZEURThen in October, we rolled out -- started to begin the series of rollouts of major policy initiatives that we're engaging in, put out a comprehensive early childhood education plan that The Washington Post called the most ambitious plan to eliminate the achievement gap in our schools, having universal pre-K for 3- and 4-year-olds, trying to fix and make more affordable childcare subsidy in this state, and investing in early -- in afterschool programs for our kids. Then we did a 10-point jobs and economic development plan I hope we'll have a chance to chat about, and...
SHERWOODSo what do you do in your free time?
MIZEURI pick good guys like Delman Coates to run with me, and, you know, we've got one big policy after another that we're pushing out because campaigns should be about ideas and a vision for the future of the state. And this campaign is all about what we can do to help lift Maryland up to her full potential.
MADDENAnd speaking of...
MADDEN...of big ideas, early education, you made headlines this week for your proposal to legalize marijuana, and it would be tied to funding pre-K education. I mean, first of all, talk about that proposal. But also, I mean, do you think that's appropriate to have a drug like marijuana being used as the funding for early education, tying those two together?
MIZEURYeah. Thank you for the opportunity. We did put out a plan this week to legalize, regulate, and tax marijuana because it is a substance that is by and large no different than alcohol or tobacco. In many ways, it's less addictive, it's less toxic, it's less harmful, and we believe that adults should have access to this substance in a regulated environment.
MIZEURBut let's step back, though, to what's underlying this, which is a failed set of laws related to Prohibition. Marijuana laws have ruined lives. We know that they have been enforced with strong racial bias. And it has detracted our police officers from focusing on more serious violent crimes in our communities.
MIZEURThis is as much a criminal justice reform proposal as anything else, but what we found in Colorado and Washington, where the voters overwhelmingly approved legalizing marijuana in those states, is that people want to know where the revenue would come from. If you're going to tax this, is it just going into plug budget gaps, or is this going to go for a good cause?
MIZEURAnd our early childhood education plan, we know when we invest in early childhood education opportunities for our kids, we can erase the disadvantages that have children from different socioeconomic backgrounds, children of color, gender gaps that are hurting our children long-term in our schools. If we have universal pre-K for 3- and 4-year-olds in this state, that is how we are going to eliminate that achievement gap.
MIZEURBut it's expensive. And where do you find the revenue? This first is a criminal justice reform proposal. But if we're going to regulate it and tax it, let's have a dedicated revenue source for where it should go for, and we think this is a really good option for how to spend that money.
SHERWOODThat's Heather Mizeur. She's a candidate -- Democratic candidate, Maryland's 2014 gubernatorial election. And with her is Delman Coates, a minister from the Mt. Ennon Baptist Church in Clinton, Md. He's her lieutenant governor candidate. I apologize for interrupting you. I just I was told I have to announce everybody regularly.
SHERWOODI'm Tom Sherwood from Channel 4 NBC Washington. I'm sitting in for Kojo. And our guest analyst today is Patrick Madden, a reporter for WAMU. I would like to just talk to Rev. Coates one moment.
SHERWOODPrince George -- in the setup for this show, I said Prince George's County is the heart and center of this election. Anthony Brown, the candidate for governor, is from there. And the -- Jolene Ivey is the lieutenant governor candidate on another ticket. Why is Prince George's County so important in this governor's race?
COATESWell, we all know that Prince George's County has the largest number of registered voters in the state. It's certainly one of the largest voting bloc in the state. But this campaign is not taking any vote for granted. We are going to crisscross this state over the next six to seven months, from Temple Hills to Ocean City, from East Baltimore to Gaithersburg, focused on the needs of the people. And...
SHERWOODWill you still be preaching on Sundays?
SHERWOODYou're going to go back on Sundays?
COATESAbsolutely. Mm hmm. I plan...
SHERWOODWhen are you going to get the sermons done?
COATESI'm always thinking, preparing as I'm reflecting...
SHERWOODYou're probably going to find some sermons out there on the streets of the state.
COATESAbsolutely. But, you know, Prince George's County is an important voting bloc in the state. And I think the needs of Prince Georgians are like the needs of everyone in our state. Prince Georgians, like all Marylanders, are looking for job growth, job creation, safer neighborhoods, better quality schools for all of our young people, and so Prince Georgians are like everyone across the state.
SHERWOODOne of the issues you guys have is to raise the minimum wage, and I believe it's from the current $7.25 per hour, which is the federal minimum wage, to as high as $16.70. How quickly would you do that if you could do that in the state?
COATESWell, we've proposed a plan that over the next 10 years, that by the year 2022, we'd hope to get Marylanders on track towards a livable wage. Everybody's talking about a minimum wage, I believe, of $10.10, if I'm not mistaken. And this is good, but this is just a beginning. A long-term trajectory needs to be about getting all Marylanders on a track towards a livable wage, including tip workers at the same time who, in many other plans, have been left out and ignore.
MIZEURThose tipped workers are only making $3.63 an hour right now. And those workers are disproportionately women and people of color. We have to make sure that the conversation about increasing the minimum wage ties in increases those tipped workers' salaries to a higher portion of what the minimum wage gets to that.
MADDEN'Cause I guess the big question is, how do you pay for this? People, you know, who live in Maryland know taxes are already very high. How are you going to pay for a minimum wage that is high as $16.70 an hour? I mean, that is...
MADDENThat would be a massive increase. I know it takes -- it would kick in over years, be phased in.
MIZEURYeah, over a number of years where it's about getting to a pathway so that families know what they can count on in the future. Right now, the way the minimum wage conversations tend to happen is you finally build up enough political will to bump it up, and then you have to wait another decade or so for the frustration of the stagnant wages to create another conversation.
MIZEURAnd this is just about showing what the pathway and the trajectory should be. We already have a state living wage in certain state contracts that sets this program up for some people in our state. Let's get to a place where the minimum wage gets tied to that. And, Patrick, how we're going to do this, our entire jobs and economic development package is revenue-neutral. And all the details, 24 pages of it, are available on our website at www.heathermizeur -- M-I-Z-E-U-R -- .com.
MIZEURIn that proposal, we will close corporate tax loopholes that allow a handful of companies to pay no taxes in Maryland, to generate $200 million in new revenue that would go towards tax relief for small businesses, putting money in the hands of small businesses to help them invest in their workers and have extra resources to be able to pay higher wages.
SHERWOODLet's -- can we take a caller? Let's take a caller. We're going to talk to Stephanie. Stephanie from Alexander, she has a question about raising the minimum wage for people who make money -- lots of money sometimes through tips. Stephanie, are you there?
STEPHANIEI'm here. Hi, Tom.
STEPHANIEThank you for taking my call.
SHERWOODIf you could ask your question, thank you very much.
STEPHANIEWell, I'm with a neighborhood restaurant group which has kind of a large presence in the D.C. and Virginia area. And I've been following closely the adding of the servers to the tip-minimum wage debate. And my question is really why this is coming up in the context of a living wage debate. I ran some numbers. And our servers average $23 per an hour. That's on the tips they report. And evening servers, they make...
SHERWOODAre you suggesting they don't report all their tips?
STEPHANIEWell, we -- actually, in our D.C. shops, we require that they actually turn in their tips, and then we pay it out to them in their paycheck. So we know pretty almost exactly how much they're making at our D.C. restaurants. And of course they're required to report all their tips, whether or not that is always the case when we can't, you know, actually collect then return them.
STEPHANIEBut they do -- most of the businesses now are credit card driven. So there's very little cash anymore in our business. So we do know very accurately what their tips are. And for 2012, our servers earned on average $23 per hour. That's $48,000 a year, so it's not really a debate about a living wage. I think it's more of a debate about whether or not the tips system is modern and relevant. And that's a very different thing than a living wage.
SHERWOODLet's hear a response from the candidates.
MIZEURWell, I think as we start to have the conversation in the General Assembly about including and tying tipped workers' wages to the minimum wage, there'll be a conversation about how tipping -- I think there might be a different presumption about what percentage a tip is realistic. Like, right now, it's suggested, you know, at least 15 to 18, 20 percent if you're going to be, you know, really generous. There will probably be a conversation if you tie that 70 percent to the minimum wage of people expecting to tip at a lower rate.
SHERWOODHave you seen Blair Lee's most recent column in the Gazette newspaper where he writes about you and your proposals and what impact you would have on the state government? Have you seen that column?
MIZEURI read the paper every day, yes.
SHERWOODThat's a yes? I was surprised at kind of the tone from it. Maybe you weren't. But he talks about your soak the rich policies. You want $15 billion for school construction with a sales tax increase, billions more for light rail. I mean, you know about the list, goes on and on.
SHERWOODHe thinks -- but he ends the whole column by thinking that you're mainly going to have an influence on who wins, and the other candidates will win. Just your response to the Blair Lee columns -- in the Gazette for those who'd like to call it up and read it. It's fairly lengthy and fairly negative.
MIZEURI would encourage Mr. Lee to take a sharper pen and pencil to the proposals that we've laid out on the table. They're brushed over pretty quickly and not given -- they're not exactly portrayed in the light in which they have been presented, so that's not exactly an accurate picture of what we're proposing.
SHERWOOD(unintelligible) avoiding someone else that I'm not aware of, maybe?
MIZEURI don't know, but...
SHERWOODIt doesn't sound like he's supporting you.
MIZEURWhat we're seeing, I think, in that article is people are, I think, taken aback about a campaign that is taking risks and standing up and fighting for what you believe in and actually putting out a bevy of proposals and complex material and saying, here's what I believe, here's what I think, here -- I'm transparent. Here are all the proposals, all the positions, exactly how much it'll cost, exactly how much we'll pay for it, and let the voters decide.
MIZEURAnd the chattering political classes don't exactly know what to do with that because they're used to empty political promises and slick talk and spin, and they kind of don't know what to do with a candidate that's putting it all out there and saying, this is what I believe, and if you the voters agree with me, be a part of this movement and help us change history and make a difference in this state. And that's what's happening with the voters. They're getting incredibly excited about having an option in this race that is so much different than what they've had presented to them before.
SHERWOODSo -- and he also said -- and not to give him complete publicity for this column, but he talked about your personality as if people didn't like you. And I'm just wondering if you think that's because people might be uncomfortable with a strong-willed woman.
MIZEURI disagree with his characterization that I don't have a good relationship with my colleagues. Just because they're not standing up to endorse me right now, a lot of other politicians tend not to get out front in endorsing the insurgent candidate. I can point to a very long record of accomplishments over the last eight years of pushing really large initiatives through with the support and backing of many of my colleagues to show that I have a lot of good friends in Annapolis.
MADDENAnd on the issue of personalities, will you pledge to be nice this campaign? And I ask that because the lieutenant governor...
MIZEURI don't mean to pledge that. That's what I'm doing. That's already what we do.
MADDENThe lieutenant governor has put out a -- he's asking the other candidates in the race to pledge to only run positive ads during this campaign. And so will you only run positive ads? Will you be nice this campaign? Which will be a shock to many folks who have grown up watching all the Maryland races and the Baltimore races, so...
MIZEURYeah. I don't need a political pledge to do that. That's how I walk in this world. That's how I am. I have already been running in a strictly positive race. Delman and I are committed to the issues. We are talking to voters about our vision for the future of this state. And we're about lifting everyone up. The other two candidates in this race are friends of mine. I just know that I'd make a better governor, and I'm going to continue to put my ideas and my vision out there from a positive perspective and not partake in all of these political shenanigans.
SHERWOODOK. Rev. Coates, let me ask you, while you have not run for office, you certainly were a leading proponent for the same-sex marriage equality bill that (unintelligible) and I think you also supported the DREAM Act also.
SHERWOODThank you. On the same-sex issue, how do you see that playing around the state just as -- particularly in the African American community, I think the measure of it passing in Prince George's County was fairly narrow. I don't remember the number. But it was fairly narrow, and...
COATESIt's 49.2 percent, in favor, 50.8.
SHERWOODRight. In the African American community, what was your message on that subject? It's law now, but just you're now running for governor -- I mean, lieutenant governor and want people to vote for you.
COATESAs I traveled around the state last year and as I travel around the country now, the issue of marriage equality is fundamentally about fairness. Every person deserves to be treated equally under the law without the imposition of religious bias or personal bias. And so it's fundamentally about fairness for everyone. And when we help people to understand the difference between civil marriage and religious marriage -- religious institutions have the right to define marriage in accordance with their beliefs and practices, and yet the state has an obligation to protect every resident equally under the law.
COATESAnd I found that the people in the pews, they understand that. And while clergy may have been a bit hostile to this issue, as been heavily reported, the people in the pews understand it. A thousand people joined my church in 2012 at a time when many assumed my professional career as a clergyman was over. And I think that happened because people appreciate having a leader who's willing to take principled stances, even when it's not popular.
SHERWOODYou mention church. Your church is one of the large churches -- call it megachurches. Is that a nice term? My brother who's again a Baptist minister said that he thought that was kind of a disparaging term in some way, or a dismissing term.
COATESIn some quarters, it is. But for me, mega is not based upon quantity but quality. It's a -- you can have 20 people and make a tremendous impact. I recently went to the Dexter Avenue Church in Montgomery, Ala., a church that could seat maybe 250 people. But from that congregation, the world was changed. And so mega is about impact. It's about focusing upon the needs, the hearts, the desires of the people. And I think the Mizeur-Coates campaign is going to replicate that kind of impact in this campaign.
MADDENAnd what's the pathway to victory here for you guys? 'Cause I know if you look at the balance of the ticket, you guys are more on this side of the state. How are you going to compete statewide to get the votes needed to compete against -- I mean, obviously, a lot of endorsements are lining up behind Brown. Gansler's a well-known politician in the state. And obviously the poll came out, which found, just in terms of name recognition, which is all it is, you know, you were at the bottom of that list. So how do you see this team winning this race?
MIZEURMuch of the same way that we saw Bill de Blasio win his race in New York City. All the pollsters and the pundits said it was going to be Chris Quinn that won. She had all the money, all the endorsements, was winning in the polls. Who's this guy Bill de Blasio no one's ever heard of? And at the end of the day, he ran the clock on all the other candidates and won so overwhelmingly there wasn't even a run-off. We're running the same kind of people-powered campaign that is exciting folks about the opportunity to make a real difference in Maryland.
SHERWOODHeather Mizeur, candidate for governor in Maryland, good luck to you and your running mate, Delman Coates from Prince George's County, good luck to you.
SHERWOODThis has been Politics Hour. Patrick Madden, thank you for sitting in for me. I'm Tom Sherwood sitting in for Kojo Nnamdi. He'll be back next week.
Most Recent Shows
An independent investigation determined that Montgomery County Police's taser policies are a model for police department's across the nation-- but some in the county question the report's thoroughness and its timing.
A local school district loses its federal funding money over teacher behavior. A group of D.C. residents sue to block a homeless shelter in their neighborhood. And a Republican activist in Montgomery County successfully petitions to get term limits on the ballot—but a legal challenge looms.
While many local Ethiopians have been following the persecution of protestors in the Oromia region, a recent act of protest at the 2016 Rio Olympic marathon finish line brought the issue to an international stage.