Virginia Republican Party Chair John Whitbeck joins us in studio, and we get an update on Congress and D.C.'s "Death with Dignity" bill from D.C. Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton.
A shopping mall shooting rattles communities in Maryland. The death of a D.C. employee reopens concerns about the city’s emergency services. And Virginia lawmakers spar over everything from textbook language to hunting on Sundays. Join us for our weekly review of the politics, policies and personalities of the District of Columbia, Maryland and Virginia.
- Tom Sherwood Resident Analyst; NBC 4 reporter; and Columnist for the Current Newspapers
- Matt Bush Maryland Reporter, WAMU, 88.5
- Ken Ulman Candidate, Lieutenant Governor of Maryland; County Executive, Howard County, Maryland
- Brianne Nadeau Democratic Candidate, D.C. Council (Ward 1)
Ken Ulman, a Democratic candidate for lieutenant governor in Maryland, talked about a shooting at the Mall in Columbia last weekend that left three people dead. Ulman discussed the police response, how retailers and shoppers reacted to the shots and what policy changes might be implemented to prevent further violence, including gun control, mental health initiatives and anti-bulling campaigns. “We are never going to be able to stop every senseless act of violence in our communities. On the same point, we’re not just going to throw up our hands and say this is the new normal,” Ulman said.
MR. KOJO NNAMDIFrom WAMU 88.5, at American University, in Washington, welcome to "The Politics Hour," starring Tom Sherwood. I'm Kojo Nnamdi.
MR. KOJO NNAMDI"Politics Hour" producer, Michael Martinez, producer Tayla Burney and I were struck during our recent trip to Ethiopia about the presence of one Tom Sherwood. He's our resident analyst. He's a reporter at NBC 4 and a columnist for the Current Newspapers. But in Ethiopia several people said they enjoyed listening to Tom Sherwood on "The Politics Hour," of course they don't listen in Ethiopia.
MR. KOJO NNAMDIThese people all live here in Washington. They were a part of our traveling party. But they did make those remarks in Ethiopia. So, yes, Tom…
MR. TOM SHERWOODWell, I'll take any support I can get from anywhere at any time.
NNAMDITom Sherwood's name did come up in Ethiopia. But in truth, the Ethiopian gentleman who helped set up that country's commodity exchange, Solomon Edossa, also mentioned that he enjoyed Tom Sherwood on "The Politics Hour," when he listens at home in Silver Spring, Md. All of this to say that we really didn't miss Tom while we were in Ethiopia because people kept bringing up his name all the time.
SHERWOODWell, you know, I'm just everywhere.
NNAMDIYour reputation is far and wide. Did you behave yourself while we were gone?
SHERWOODYou know, not really. Oh, was I on vacation one week while you were gone. I think it was. You were gone a long while, but I was on yet another vacation, staycation in town. Went to National Portrait Gallery, saw some great stuff and walked around town.
NNAMDIOh, very good.
SHERWOODIt's a great place to visit.
NNAMDIYou have way too many vacations.
SHERWOODI have another one coming up in March.
NNAMDIJoining us in studio is Matt Bush. He is our guest analyst today. He's a reporter for WAMU 88.5. Matt, thank you so much for joining us.
MR. MATT BUSHGood afternoon. Thanks for having me.
NNAMDITom, this is a story that still is very difficult to believe, 77-year-old Medric Cecil Mills Jr., who had worked for decades for D.C. government, had a heart attack, Rhode Island Avenue Northeast, directly across the street from a fire station. People apparently went over to the fire station, tried to get somebody to come over to help. Nobody showed up to help. And now everybody's investigating and people have been, I guess, suspended for a while from their jobs. But it still boggles the mind.
SHERWOODWell, it's under investigation. The mayor says he called the man's daughter on Tuesday night -- this happened last Saturday -- and apologized to her and said that he would be getting to the bottom of what happened. Deputy Mayor Paul Quander has said -- and you could see the pain in his eyes -- because this is an indefensible thing that happened. Why it happened is still be sorted out, but indefensible this happened. I interviewed Eleanor Holmes Norton for a weekend show for NBC 4. And her grandfather was a firefighter. And she just had the most -- she said she could not believe how this could happen.
SHERWOODAny person in the first responder world, police officer, firefighter, emergency medical technician, confronted with an incident where you could see across the street someone on the ground and not respond because of something called protocol makes, she said, no sense. And so we really need to have the mayor and Paul Quander, Chief Ellerbe has not spoken about this. And of course there's been any number of issues with Chief Ellerbe's fire department. We really need to know more about this because this is horrific.
SHERWOODIt reminds many people of the David Rosenbaum situation.
SHERWOOD…of 2006, the 63-year-old New York Times reporter who collapsed on the street and they treated as if he were a drunk who had passed out and he died. And his family stopped the lawsuit by saying, we will not continue with this lawsuit if you make repairs, if you make changes to the emergency medical system. And the city did make some changes. Got more ambulances, all of that. But this is inconceivable that someone who wears an emergency medical technician uniform or a firefighter uniform would not have responded to this lady--daughter, Marie, who said, "Are you going to watch my father die?"
NNAMDIIt makes no sense the more you hear about it because according to today's report it said that the individual went to the supervisor and said somebody tripped and fell across the street. And she reportedly said, "Get me an address and I'll send something." It's across the street.
SHERWOODRight. It seems incredibly cavalier, the way there was a response.
SHERWOODPaul Quander said he would do this as quickly as possible and then let us know what happened.
NNAMDIWhere do we stand now with the D.C. budget autonomy referendum? The government accounting office concluding that last April's budget autonomy referendum, well, doesn't really have any legal force or effect.
SHERWOODNo, it doesn't. It doesn't have any. You know, even the mayor thought this. Last April voters, as part of the effort to get more home rule for the city to be independent of Congress, on the ballot was this initiative or referendum that says the city will be able to spend its money without Congressional approval. Now, the mayor and the city's attorney general questioned that and said, "No. I don't think we can vote ourselves out from under the Congress." And sure enough the general accountability office yesterday came up and said you can't do that. That the Constitution, the set up at the House, the set up with home rule back in 1973, all of that, whether we like it or not, the Congress has control of the purse of the District of Columbia government, no matter how much of the money is raised here.
SHERWOODA lot of people think the city gets only federal money. But of its $11 billion or so budget, about $6 billion is raised from the taxpayers. But it's a big issue. The city is doing financially well now. But, you know, you just cannot vote yourself out from under somebody who holds the chokehold on your affairs.
NNAMDISo what happens next?
SHERWOODNo. Yeah, well, the Congress will continue to oversee the city's budget. Every year our local budget will be tied up into the machinations of Congress. Unfortunately, that's the system that was set up in 1973. And unless the Congress changes it, that's the way it's going to be.
NNAMDIWell, let's move to a state that has budget autonomy. Talk to somebody who has representatives…
SHERWOODAnd if I could just…
NNAMDI…who actually have a vote in the Congress.
SHERWOODCould I -- if I could vote out words, I would vote out budget autonomy.
SHERWOODIt doesn't have any -- when you say it you don't picture in your mind what it means. Autonomy, I just think it's a terrible word. It may be my southern upbringing, but I think it's…
NNAMDIWhat would you replace those words with? Control of our…
NNAMDITom Sherwood, he's our resident analyst. He's a reporter at NBC 4 and columnist for the Current Newspapers, currently working on his own dictionary. Joining us in studio…
SHERWOODSoutherners always are working on dictionaries.
NNAMDIJoining us in studio…
SHERWOODWe're smarter than we sound, though.
NNAMDI…is Ken Ulman. He's a Democratic candidate for lieutenant governor of Maryland. He's currently the executive of Howard County, Md. Ken Ulman, thank you so much for joining us.
MR. KEN ULMANThanks. It's an honor to be here.
NNAMDII do have to start off on a sad note. We should not that your running mate, the candidate for governor of Maryland, Lt. Gov. Anthony Brown had a death in his family. His father passed yesterday in New York. We send our condolences to the Brown family, but I just thought you might want to make some remarks of your own.
ULMANGreat. Thank you very much, Kojo. And certainly, my family and our whole team expresses our condolences to the lieutenant governor. His father was 89 years old, was a doctor in New York and came to this country out of deep poverty in Kingston, Jamaica. And was really Lt. Gov. Brown's inspiration to getting involved in public service and giving back. And a real tough day for him, tough time for him and his family, but he lived a wonderful life at 89. And leaves behind his wife Lilly and I know he's really proud of his son, the lieutenant governor.
NNAMDIOngoing proof that the Caribbean is the heart and soul of the United States.
ULMANAbsolutely. You'll be on the ballot in Maryland's biggest race in just a few months, but before we talk about that, we need to take a minute to discuss the story from your county that commanded nationwide attention this past week. The shopping mall shooting in Columbia. You said that your county was a tough county and it would not take long for things to get back to normal. But is this the new normal? We had the Navy Yard last year, this. We know they'll happen. We just move on? Or is there something you can do about this?
ULMANNo. I think there are mixed emotions. Right? I mean we'll never fully be back to normal. The Columbia Mall will never be 100 percent normal. We'll always know that a terribly tragic incident took place there. I've spent a lot of time in that mall since -- well, frankly, my whole life. But I've spent a lot of time in that mall since yesterday morning. And it was a terrible, tragic event. We lost lives, but at the same time I saw some things that really made me proud. One is I saw first responders doing exactly what they were trained to do and our first officer arrived on the scene within two minutes. We had members of our SWAT team there within four or five minutes and they did exactly what they were trained to do.
ULMANThey rushed in and risked their lives to try to keep others safe. We also had a tremendous amount of well-coordinated help from neighboring jurisdictions. I mean within minutes there were officers from Montgomery County, Prince George's County, Baltimore County and Anne Arundel County, federal folks, the State of Maryland, the State Police. And it really worked, frankly, about as well as we could have expected. With that said, we're going to do an after action report and figure out what we could do better.
ULMANBut the other thing I saw that really warmed my heart and my wife Jackie's as well is we went store to store after the mall opened. And we talked to so many merchants who worked at the mall and they told us their stories of hiding and back storage rooms and closets and dressing rooms with sometimes dozens of customers and employees. And nobody panicked. Everybody did the right thing. They grabbed people they didn't even know and grabbed their kids and huddled. I talked to the manager of the Disney Store, for example, they had almost 50 people hiding in the back, about 30 children.
ULMANAnd she gave each one of them toys and she also told me that when the SWAT team member arrived to clear the store and to help get everyone out safely, he said to the kids, "Has anybody seen Toy Story?" He said, "Andy sent me. And we're part of Andy's army. And he sent us to keep you safe." And I heard so many stories like that. The woman who runs the carousel -- you don't think about the carousel was running and filled with children -- and quickly stopped it and helped the parents get to their kids and rush out of the mall. So, you know, in times of tragedy we saw our true values.
ULMANThe new normal? Getting back to your question is I think two things. One is we are never going to be able to stop every senseless act of violence in our communities. We're just not, no matter what we do. On the same point, we're not going to just throw up our hands and say this is the new normal. We need to take a look at every public policy solution that we thing could make a difference. And if that's gun safety, if that is mental health, if that is our bullying culture, which we launched an anti-bullying campaign in Howard County because frankly, so many of these perpetrators seem to be kind of lost in society.
ULMANI will say just one more thing before we go.
NNAMDIBefore Tom interrupts you.
ULMANYeah, well, he's…
SHERWOODYes. I've been very polite.
ULMANHe's still thinking about new words to call his budget. I was thinking budget freedom or I don't know. But the last thing I do want to say is when it comes to mental illness, I think one of the things clearly to come out of this is this is a young man who expressed in his journal that he knew that he had mental health issues. He knew it. And he did not feel comfortable reaching out to anyone about it. And so that stigma, although I think we've made progress as a society, there's clearly a stigma where there's barriers out there for people reaching out and getting help and then sometimes when they do the help isn't there. And so we need to take a look at that as a central issue here.
NNAMDIIn case you're just joining us, our guest is Ken Ulman. He's a Democratic candidate for lieutenant governor of Maryland. He's currently the executive of Howard County. Tom Sherwood is in studio. He's our resident analyst, a reporter at NBC and a columnist for the Current Newspapers. Matt Bush is our guest analyst. He's a reporter for WAMU 88.5. We take your calls at 800-433-8850. You can send email to firstname.lastname@example.org.
SHERWOODYou know some people -- you talk about the response of the police force, which is critical. And also how many of the people put their metal gates down quickly as self-protection. But I was also glad you didn't say we now need to have metal detectors and guards in the parking lot and metal detectors in the stores. A lot of people think we have to have this security lockdown where there'll be metal detectors in any public space. And so that's not a solution you would see?
ULMANI was interviewed about that by some national news publications. And I think -- I don't know who it was, but they had a congressman from somewhere in the country saying that there needed to be bomb dogs and metal detectors at every mall. And look, we're an open, free democracy. And what's next? Every grocery store, every strip center, every restaurant, every -- you know.
SHERWOODEvery public event?
ULMANAbsolutely. So, look, I think it's a balancing act. Right? It's a balancing act of how we keep our open, free society and do our best to keep people safe. I will tell you that I was, as you mentioned, incredibly proud that the merchants, the folks who work there, all did what they were supposed to do. They quickly pulled down gates and shut the lights down and hid in the back. And we have been in that mall training. Our SWAT teams, we've given training to the stores, the Chief and I -- and by the way, our Chief Bill McMahon really made all of us proud on the entire team, but we also spoke -- they gathered all the mall managers of all the stores in one of the biggest movie theaters and the Chief and briefed them and we talked about what worked, what could we do better.
SHERWOODNow that I've put on my reporter's hat, more about this.
SHERWOODAre you certain that this -- and then I'm going to let Matt jump in here -- are you certain the shooter didn't have some kind of help? There was -- he was seen at the gun store with some other person about his age and description buying a gun. He was seen with this same person buying ammo. This person has to my knowledge has not yet been identified. Has that person been identified, even if you can't tell me how it is?
ULMANThe only thing I can tell you is it's part of the ongoing investigation. I wish I could tell you more, but because this is an ongoing investigation…
SHERWOODDo you know more and can't tell me? Without telling me what you know more about.
SHERWOODOkay. And the other thing is the shooter, oddly enough, left his College Park home and somehow or another got to Burtonsville, in Montgomery County. And then somehow or another he decides to take a cab from Burtonsville to the mall. That's not…
ULMANYeah, let me…
SHERWOODEven in a deranged person's mind that seems like that's more systematic. Perhaps he had help. And the question is, did he have help?
ULMANYou know, right now it's part of the investigation. There's no indication right now that there was anybody directly involved in the actual shooting.
SHERWOODBut somebody may have known about it.
ULMANWell, we are piecing together this person's life. There do not appear to be many people who were close to this individual. He led a life that -- we're doing a lot of interviews, a lot of investigations. We're talking to anyone who can give us information. I will say that if anyone is out there that has information, please let our police department, 410-313-2200 is our non-emergency number. But he is somebody who we now know frequented the Columbia Mall. Once the mall reopened, our investigators blanketed the mall with fliers and we talked to a lot of employees at other stores at the mall who said they saw him there frequenting the mall. They saw him hanging out outside in some smoking areas with employees taking breaks.
ULMANAnd so he clearly was somebody who -- even though I think people look at College Park's not, you know, super close to Columbia, you know, he went to high school at Blake. He knew Burtonsville area very well. It's a pretty close mall down 29.
SHERWOODSo it wasn't a see something, say something situation where he acted so weirdly someone should have reported him.
ULMANThere is no indication of that right now, but we're still, what, less than a week into this, and we're looking for every answer we can find.
BUSHAre you closer to determining, though, that this wasn't just a random event? I guess more to what Tom was saying. So many people initially -- I was there on Saturday. The first part of the big questions was this random or was he targeting this store -- as to why he picked that store. All we've seen so far, that he liked skateboarding and was in a skateboarding store. Is there anything further to that as to why he picked that store in that mall?
ULMANRight now, we don't have any direct information that would allow us to make that conclusion. But certainly we've been putting out all the information that we're comfortable without hurting the investigation. We know that he did spend time in that store. We know that he was a skateboarder. We know that it is a shop that skateboarders and folks who wear skateboarding kind of clothing frequented. So we didn't have that information on Saturday. We didn't know that he had been in that mall before. We didn't really have that information. At least now we know that, that there was some connection to the mall. We're still trying to piece together.
ULMANI will say that from interviews with the victims' families, the victims' friends, both of them, there does not appear to be any apparent connection between the shooter and the victims. That doesn't mean there isn't one, but it means that we do not have one, yet.
SHERWOODMr. Ulman, you said you need the public's help by calling in. Why hasn't the police department released the manifesto? The thing that he wrote.
SHERWOODThey released characterizations of it. Not even direct quotes. And Pat Collins from NBC 4 is a veteran crime reporter, said if this were released, however terrible it may sound to read it, he said people may know something. It may tell them something. The media would be able to directly quote it, rather than giving the characterizations of the manifesto by the police department. Why hasn't that been released so people can get a better sense of who this person was and maybe trigger some information?
ULMANI think it's a…
SHERWOODIs it that terrible?
ULMANNo. I think it's a fair question. I think we are trying to strike the right balance of providing information, but also not hurting the investigation. I think you asked a question earlier regarding was there anyone else involved.
ULMANAnd I think a number of people have assumed because the shooter is deceased that the case is over, that there will be no charges. But this is still an active investigation and we don't know if there was someone else involved. And because of that there's certain investigative information that we are keeping…
SHERWOODDoes that manifesto mention anyone other than himself?
ULMANI can't answer that question.
BUSHYou mentioned also, going through this, there's mental health issues that come with this and laws. Maryland has a new gun law. It will turn four months old tomorrow.
BUSHAnd that did not stop this from happening. He was able to buy the gun legally. He was able to go into the mall and shoot people. So what's this say about this law that this still occurred? And the supporters of that law were very upfront about how they felt this was going to cut down on a lot of the violence. It was passed in response to the shootings in Colorado and Connecticut. And this still happened four months after this law was passed.
ULMANSure. And it's something that we need to take a look at. I've heard both sides. Right? I've heard that we need to tighten our gun laws and raise the limits to purchase shotguns from 18 to 21. D.C., Hawaii and Illinois do that. Most states have a lower limit. I've also heard people, like Vinnie DeMarco, say that because of Maryland's law lives were saved.
BUSHI have that statement right here in front of me.
ULMANAnd so, you know, it is true that a shotgun is an absolutely lethal weapon. A shotgun with buckshot and birdshot, it can certainly be, at long distance, a less lethal weapon than some of the guns that were banned in Maryland law. We do know now that he definitely fired outside of the store, across the way. We know that he pointed the gun down into the food court and blasted that gun down in the food court. Did not hit anybody in the downward shot, did hit somebody in the foot across. So I've heard multiple conclusions that this law saved lives or that we need tougher laws.
ULMANAnd I think we're going to have a robust policy discussion about that.
NNAMDIBefore we get to politics, don your headphones, please, because Alicia, in Bowie, Md. has a question about this incident.
NNAMDIAlicia, you're on the air. Go ahead, please.
ALICIAYes. I know you kind of just talked about this already, but can you elaborate on how you feel we have overlooked the importance of mental health in gun reform?
ULMANYeah, it's a great question. I don't know that we've overlooked it. I think that Maryland has put significant investments, increased funding for mental health. I think there's always more that we can do. I can tell you in Howard County that just in last year's budget, I created a full-time mental health coordinator position in the police department. So that person is now on the job to better train our officers and connect our officers and the cases they're working on with resources at our mental health authority. We created a mobile crisis team that is now 24/7. I was on the board of the nonprofit grassroots when we started that.
ULMANIt had very intermittent hours. That's a group that is out there so that if an officer arrives on a scene where there's clearly a mental health issues, they can summon a team of mental health professionals on the scene right away. So I think we're doing more, but clearly we have to do more as a society and we will.
SHERWOODAnd we're having this issue in Virginia, of course, with Creigh Deeds.
SHERWOODHis son and that terrible situation. So I'll leave it at that. Thank you.
NNAMDIIn that case, we can now swerve to politics because our guest Ken Ulman is a Democratic candidate for lieutenant governor of Maryland. And the ticket against whom you're running, the ticket headed up by Attorney General Doug Gansler. He is making the case against your ticket. And it seems to be rooted in his criticism in the office of lieutenant governor itself. He's basically saying that it's a job without many real responsibilities or influence. It's the job that your running mate holds right now. The job that you would have if you were elected. What do you hope to accomplish in that job if you were to take it over from Anthony Brown?
ULMANCertainly. You make a great case for an exciting wonderful job that I'm working so hard for. I would say this, look, under the Maryland Constitution that's correct. There is no direct responsibility except to be there if something happens to the governor. But I would say this, under this administration Governor O'Malley and Lt. Gov. Brown have, I think, redefined the role of lieutenant governor. Lt. Gov. Brown has led in many issues. I would say he's also led in many issues behind scenes, that he's not the kind of guy who jumps in front of every camera. But whether it's transportation infrastructure, he helped push through the bill that led to the public private partnership bill, which will hopefully allow us to be able to afford the Purple Line.
ULMANCreated the infrastructure of the Port of Baltimore, with the Ports America deal, that now the Port of Baltimore is one of only two ports on the East Coast ready for post-Panamax ships. Amazon is bringing 1,100 jobs to Baltimore, the port, because of that. He led on domestic violence. He's led on veterans' issues. He's led on embracing the jobs and the needs coming from BRAC. And he's led on healthcare. And I know healthcare I'm sure will be topic I'd love to discuss in a moment. But I would say it's been an unfortunate criticism and I'm really proud of running with the lieutenant governor, somebody whose life has been defined by public service, both as a helicopter pilot in the United States Army on active duty, as a legislator, somebody who went and did a tour in Iraq and received the Bronze Star.
ULMANI gravitate to people who are about public service and doing the right things. And that's why I'm excited to join him.
SHERWOODI want to do the BRAC rollout because there were some concerns there, but certainly the Affordable Care Act rollout, I mean, the lieutenant governor went before the legislature, talked about it, but didn't actually apologize for the horrific rollout of it. I think the person in charge -- I can't remember his name at this moment -- he apologized.
SHERWOODYes, Dr. Sharsky (sic) did. But the lieutenant governor who was in charge of this didn't. Does he owe -- just to clear the decks -- an apology to the citizens for the bad rollout?
ULMANWell, I would say this, he is very disappointed with the way it's gone. He's unbelievably frustrated with the way it's gone. I'm not going to get hung up on one word or not. What we know is that certainly it could have gone a lot better. And I think we're all frustrated. I will say this…
SHERWOODHe didn't seem to know a lot about it. And I realize his father has died and I don't want to be too aggressive about it, but he didn't seem to know kind of the basics of it. Even as I watched the video tape of his appearance, there was a lot of note reading and looking up. And it just seems like he didn't know -- I mean, he was in charge, but he didn't really quite get in touch with what was happening. Maybe Matt knows a little about it.
BUSHI think what was interesting about it was that particularly in the House, the questions -- the Republicans on that committee in the House, when he went before it, a lot of them had been in the Washington Post saying they were going to ask these really, really difficult questions. One delegate in particular, Pat McDonough, said he was going to ask the lieutenant governor, "If you can't run this, how can you run state government?" And they backed off, at least in the House committee. Completely backed off from the really harsh criticism of him personally. Now, in the Senate it was more difficult, where the Senate GOP leader was on that committee.
BUSHAnd started talking about how the lieutenant governor has military experience and that in the military -- court martialed for something that goes like this. All the accountability would have gone to that.
SHERWOODHe says he takes responsibility for it.
SHERWOODI don't know what that means. Everybody…
BUSHHere's to the point. And to the criticism that the attorney general has been leveling against him to say that this is someone -- because of the role lieutenant governor -- doesn't have much power in the State of Maryland. That he was given this role and it went like this to show that he hasn't run anything.
ULMANWell, look, I'll say a few things. First of all, when it comes to the attorney general, the kind of criticisms…
SHERWOODThis is Doug Gansler is his name, folks.
SHERWOODIf you don't say it, we'll say it for you. We'll make sure we know.
BUSHHe is the attorney general.
SHERWOODI know, but there are 50 something of them.
ULMANWe're in the nation's capital, so we need to remember that. There are lots of folks who know the others.
SHERWOODOkay. Doug Gansler, the attorney general. Now, over to you.
ULMANI would say this, it really fits a pattern of sitting on the sidelines and lobbying in criticism without ever offering to be part of the solution. In fact the solution that he offered yesterday on you should choose between the federal and the state, is plain unworkable. The federal folks have said it's unworkable. The leaders of the major insurance companies in Maryland have said that's a terrible idea. And so we've seen this pattern unfortunately, where he's got lots of folks who work in consumer protection that could have been offered to help. There were 17 meetings of the board that he was on. He showed up at one.
ULMANSo, look, we acknowledge that it has not gone particularly well. It's not just a Maryland phenomenon, by the way. I would mention that virtually every state that is implementing its own exchanges is having issues. Oregon didn't even launch theirs electronically, all by paper. But, look, this is about fixing it, making it better. We did hit over 160,000 people who have now been enrolled. Most of those through Medicaid. We've still got a lot of work to do.
SHERWOODOut of how many?
ULMANWell, we don't know exactly the number of uninsured. But…
SHERWOODLike several hundred thousand?
ULMANI don't have those numbers, but certainly -- I mean, we still have until March 31st. And there was a leadership change. The head of the exchange is no longer there. New vendors were brought in. The vendors started fighting amongst themselves and it became a disaster. The same company, QSSI, that happens to be based in Howard County, they came in to help fix the federal exchange, has now been hired to help fix the Maryland exchange.
BUSHWhy weren't they involved in the original? There was a lot of criticism to the effect…
ULMANWell, they weren't…
BUSH…the vendors that were used for this were all from out of state. And Maryland prides itself on being a very tech savvy state.
BUSHParticularly with its companies, and I mean your county in particular.
SHERWOODParticularly Howard County, yes.
ULMANYou know, Oregon's pretty tech savvy state, too. And they didn't even launch theirs. And so, look, this did not go well. No one's going to sit here and say this went well. But I've got to tell you, I think leadership is acknowledging when things don't go well, rolling up your sleeves and trying your best to fix it. And I think the easy thing is to sit on the sidelines and lob criticism. Governing's not easy.
SHERWOODThat's what reporters do.
ULMANWell, you're doing a very good job of it, by the way.
SHERWOODIt's not that easy. We have to keep up.
BUSHIf I could just run one real quick thing…
BUSH…that you were talking about. Attorney General Gansler put out his statement saying people should be able to choose between the two. The other candidate on the Democratic primary, Delegate Heather Mizeur, also talked about maybe letting people use the federal exchange. And your potential other candidate in the Democratic primary, John Delaney, has said Maryland should just use the federal exchange. This has gone so poorly. So to that.
ULMANSure. Well, I would say Delegate Mizeur also said -- I think last night -- that she was also interested in that option, but was told specifically by the federal folks at CMS that it was absolutely unworkable. And so I give her credit for actually thinking…
BUSHThis was at the…
BUSH…forum at the legion reform.
SHERWOODSo, but maybe going forward, what…
ULMANI give her credit for thinking…
SHERWOOD…does the lieutenant governor doing differently to be more -- because he's running again. He's got a campaign, which is a full-time job. But what is he doing differently now to make sure this rollout is improved, as opposed to what he was doing before when he was accused of not being hands on enough?
NNAMDIWhat do you think, also, is the most sensible path forward on the healthcare exchange right now?
ULMANThe most sensible path forward is to do our best to get as many people enrolled as possible by March 31st, when open enrollment closes. And then there'll be plenty of time for us to figure out what we do longer term to be ready for the future. But right now we've got, I think 59 days to get as many people enrolled as possible. They've added 100 people to the call center. They're making progress. It's still not perfect. This technology called Curam, which is just not working. It's also part of the reason why other state systems are not working.
ULMANMinnesota has a lawsuit over it. So there are a lot of things that went wrong here, but let's do our best to get it fixed and move on.
NNAMDIThere's a campaign going on right now, Matt Bush. And from my understanding in this campaign that is moving forward, once the 90-day session of the legislature is sitting, Doug Gansler can't raise money.
BUSHNo, he cannot.
NNAMDIDoug Gansler's running mate can't raise money. Lieutenant Governor Anthony Brown can't raise money. Why can this man raise money?
BUSHThe law is that any elected statewide official cannot raise money during the General Assembly session. And neither can any member of the General Assembly. Now, this is to the point Attorney General Gansler cannot do it, as he's a statewide official, as can't the lieutenant governor. And Jolene Ivey, a delegate from Prince George's County, Gansler's running mate cannot as well. Now, Heather Mizeur, the delegate from Montgomery County accepted public funds, so she can fundraise, but the only way she can do that was by accepting public money.
BUSHSo she can fundraise up to very small amounts, $250.
NNAMDIAnd the county executive?
BUSHThe county executive is allowed to.
ULMANAs is the county executive in Harford County, David Craig, who's running for governor as well.
BUSHAll the Republicans, yes.
ULMANIt's a law that was passed and as always I'm going to follow state election law.
SHERWOODAre you raising money?
ULMANWe're not going to talk about the exact campaign strategy, Tom, a little frustrating, but...
SHERWOODWell, you're obviously raising, but not how much…
ULMANNo, no. I mean, we stopped -- we turned off the button on our website. And so, you know, to preserve kind of strategic options, if you will. But we're very proud of how successful we were able to be. We raised $5.4 million.
SHERWOODYou've erased the deficit that you had with that attorney general whose name won't be spoken.
BUSHAnd a lot of that…
NNAMDIWe only have about a minute left, gentleman. So ask your questions quickly.
BUSHA new -- came out this week, the State Board of Elections came out this week now. Initially it was that you can, this ruling seems to make it tighter. It is a lot of legalese. So what effect does this have, this new ruling from the Board of Elections?
SHERWOODAnd the spirit of the law.
ULMANBesides seeing it on your desk, I haven't read through it. I know it talks about coordination.
BUSHYeah, coordination. Yes.
ULMANAnd obviously we'll -- there's some misinformation, it sounds like, from the Board of Elections. And we'll certainly follow, as always, all state election laws.
SHERWOODIn the spirit of the law probably, too, maybe, but…
ULMANWell, look, clearly there are different situations for every candidate mentioning. You mentioned some can raise public funding, some can't. And so…
SHERWOODCan I have just one quick question before he goes?
SHERWOODWell, not the Seahawks, although that's a good question. If Nancy Pelosi retires from the House and the Democrats are looking for a new minority leader, would you support Chris Van Hollen or Steny Hoyer?
ULMANWell, I think they're both wonderful. I must say that Steny was an early, early supporter of the lieutenant governor and I's campaign. But Chris still has an opportunity to get on the team. I love them both. Can I mention one thing? I apologize for jumping in time. But today's...
ULMAN...my wife's birthday. So to my wife Jaki, who I insisted listen to the show today, happy birthday and thank you for being such a great wife and mom.
SHERWOODGet her a nice gift.
NNAMDIThrough campaigns and through administrative office, this guy's got to go home. Here. One more question. Here's Jamie in Pasadena, Md. Jamie, thank you for waiting. Go ahead, please.
JAMIEYes. My question's for Mr. Ken Ulman...
NNAMDII knew that.
JAMIEDo you think that raising the minimum wage to $10.10 is sufficient?
ULMANThank you. Minimum wage, we are supporting raising the minimum wage to $10.10 over a 3-year phase-in. You know, think 21 states have a higher minimum wage than Maryland does, which is still seven and a quarter. And it needs to be raised. I know that Prince George's and Montgomery County have both taken steps to raise theirs to $11.50, so there's a lot of discussion in Annapolis about how to sort of, you know, do the -- to raise the minimum wage and also preserve some sort of local autonomy on that.
ULMANI was president of the Maryland Association of Counties, and so I certainly respect each jurisdiction's abilities to deal with their own fate as well. So we are supporting a $10.10, and I think there's momentum to raise the minimum wage. I think the details are still to be worked out by the leadership in Annapolis.
BUSHThe president's special order this week help that -- or executive order about for federal contractors, making it $10.10?
SHERWOODGoing forward, yeah.
ULMANI think there's been increased momentum coming out of many places for a raise. I think clearly the District of Columbia, Prince George's County, Montgomery County's movement also put the spotlight on that. But, clearly, the fact that the president has not been able to -- or Congress has not supported the president's moves to increase the minimum wage puts more pressure on states and local governments to take it on.
NNAMDIKen Ulman, thank you for joining us.
ULMANThank you. It's an honor to be here.
NNAMDIKen Ulman is a Democratic candidate for lieutenant governor of Maryland. He's currently the executive of Howard County. Matt Bush joins us in studio as our guest analyst. He's a reporter at WAMU 88.5. Tom Sherwood is our resident analyst. He's a reporter at NBC 4 and a columnist for the Current Newspapers.
NNAMDIWe got a call from somebody wishing to expand on what Tom Sherwood said about the budget autonomy. That caller shall remain nameless. The caller wanted to point out that the ruling -- the opinion by the Government Accountability Office is itself without legal force or effect. It is not legally binding, but it is, I guess, according to The Washington Post...
SHERWOODThat is correct. It's an opinion. It's not like a court opinion. It's...
NNAMDIIt's a -- influence something.
SHERWOODIt's you, but the House Appropriations Committee, which controls the budget, said it concurs with that opinion. The D.C. attorney general says it -- he concurs with that opinion. So it's a major obstacle to going forward to making this declaration of independence for the city's budget.
NNAMDIMake reference to a story coming out of The Washington Post with the headline "Fairfax Schools Finds Seven Felons among Employees, including Heroin Smuggler." The story says schools uncovered the mistake during a comprehensive search of hiring records that began in 2012 after a Madison High School special education teacher inquired whether her 1992 conviction -- 22 years ago -- for drug trafficking would stall her promotion to an administrative position.
NNAMDIThat employee, Delia Butler, joined Fairfax Schools in 2006. She had stated truthfully that she was a convicted felon in her application. So did six other employees. School officials said, of course, Virginia law prohibits school divisions from hiring felons, which is the problems, but the issue became public when Butler, who administration officials had said, had a respected history with Madison High School, was named in a lawsuit filed by the school system.
NNAMDIAnd it turns out that court records show that she and a handful of others were charged in 1992. She served 42 months in prison before earning her teacher's license and later joining Fairfax Schools, the lawsuit says. So for all of this, what does she get after working in the school system? Canned, dismissed. But all of the things we say about how the drug laws cost people who have committed nonviolence offenders to be incarcerated and that that's unfair, with all this woman had done to get her teacher's certificate, work in the school system, earned a reputation there, for all of this, she gets canned.
NNAMDIOne comment after the article says, "Butler puts herself on the road to rehabilitation by getting a teaching certificate, apparently does a good job for years, and as a reward gets canned? She didn't lie about her past. Moreover, she received a teaching certificate from the Commonwealth after serving out her sentence.
NNAMDI"So what exactly are the grounds for her dismissals? I'm not in favor of exposing students to hardcore felons, but I'm also not in favor of preventing someone from turning their life around. I hope the court orders Fairfax County Public Schools to reinstate Butler with all deliberate speed." I say, hear, hear to that sentiment.
SHERWOODAnd just very quickly, you know, this federal legislation, Dick Durbin to modify the sentences of these -- you know, throw them all in jail in these drug charges that are nonviolent, certainly aggressive against people who are violent. But they -- the whole idea of returning citizens, ex-offenders, and how they get back into society, people who do as much as this person did -- you just described a teacher -- maybe there ought to be consideration of it rather than these trapdoors, you're either in or you're out. There ought to be more consideration.
BUSHThe question of how much is enough punishment.
BUSHI think that's some -- there's no answer to that. How much do you want to punish someone for being arrested?
SHERWOODCertainly a nonviolent crime...
SHERWOOD...even though drug offenses often are related to lots of violence.
NNAMDIOutrageous. Joining us in studio now is Brianne Nadeau. Did I pronounce your name correctly?
MS. BRIANNE NADEAUYou did. Absolutely. Thank you.
NNAMDIShe is a Democratic candidate for the D.C. Council. She's running for the seat representing Ward 1 currently occupied by Jim Graham. Brianne Nadeau, thank you so much for joining us.
NADEAUThank you all.
NNAMDIWard 1 is one of the more rapidly changing parts of the city. One aspect of it that has not changed for most of the past two decades has been Jim Graham. He is running for his fifth term. Why do you say he should be history?
NADEAUWell, I would argue that he has changed. But that part of our history has changed because, you know what, when he came in 15 years ago, people had a lot of hope. But since then, he's lost his way. We've seen that -- ethical violations, three different bodies last year reprimanding him alone. I'm trying to bring a new energy to the council. I'm out talking to voters every weekend. And, you know, we've actually reached more than 5,000 people out there.
NADEAUAnd they're telling me they're looking for change, you know, that they're ready for this new voice, and that we're feeling great about that. We're building a real strong campaign. And my goal is to elevate all those voices, is to take the things that I'm hearing at the doors every weekend, and bring that with me to the Wilson Building because when people stay in these seats too long, it doesn't become about those people. It becomes about them.
NNAMDIWhat's your case for why you're the right person to lead the ward at this time, especially for those people in our audience who don't know you or who don't live in the neighborhood where you were ANC?
NADEAUSure. Well, you know, as an ANC for the time I was on U Street, I was known as somebody who was very accessible and responsive, which I know is important to the people of Ward 1. But I was also known as someone who really brought people together around tough issues because when the neighborhood's changing, there are a lot of tough issues we have to deal with together. And the way to do that is to bring people to the table to talk about what the tough issues are and say...
SHERWOODWhat's a tough issue?
NADEAUYou know, maintaining affordability in our community, you know, people you...
SHERWOODJim Graham has fought for that the entire time.
NADEAUSure. Sure. But, you know what, we need to -- we say that we value diversity in our community.
NADEAUAnd yet we're not providing the right kind of leadership around this. I talk to young families all the time, right? And they are very concerned that they can't raise a family in the District because there isn't family-sized affordable housing. People are putting up -- developers put up affordable housing. It's all one bedrooms and studios. So we need to be thinking about what is the housing stock we need and then, you know, really strengthening these schools so we can keep families in the community because they're worried that even if they can make ends meet...
SHERWOODWhat has Jim Graham -- all those issues, I think if Jim Graham were sitting here, he would give you a litany of things he's done, including speaking -- learning to speak Spanish in his rapidly changing neighborhood. What has he not done? I mean, he's talked about housing and commercial development on 14th Street. He certainly has strong support in Latino communities of Ward 1. I mean, where he has fallen down? I understand the ethics cloud.
NNAMDII was about to say, ethics aside...
SHERWOODWell, I know she said that first. And I agree there's this ethics cloud around the things he's done, whether they were legal or not. Certainly, people have -- he's accused of being unethical. But in terms of the community issues, I mean, I've known and covered him a long time. And he's -- where has he fallen down on affordable housing?
NNAMDIWhat are the substantive differences you have with him?
SHERWOOD'Cause that's what I'm trying to say.
NADEAUI'll tell you. I'll tell you the big overarching one is that Jim is -- has run this ward in a very reactive manner. So, you know, we hear people -- I'm talking to people who are dealing with the same issues over and over again. And, you know, he'll be jumping on the Listserv, copying the head of the agency saying, we need this problem solved today. And, you know, probably what's happening is the agency head is pulling somebody very smart off their desk for the day to solve that problem. And then that person goes back to work the next day. And, you know what, nobody's looking at that long term.
NADEAUAnd we're not using the oversight rule there to say, what are the common themes we're hearing, what are the problems within the agency, and how do we solve them for the long term? You know, this is not about filling pothole after pothole. This is about saying, how are we building better roads? You know, how are we solving problems like our parking issues for the long term? That's a huge one when I talk to voters every day. Parking is a major issue, not only in Ward 1, but across the city. And, you know...
SHERWOODParking, you want more cars or fewer cars?
NADEAUI want to move -- I want to make it easier for people who need to drive or want to drive to do so and to create incentives for those who don't to be using more transit and car share.
NNAMDIYou seem to be suggesting that the major differences between you and Jim Graham are not what your position is on the issues but that you would be providing more service to constituents. City Paper "Loose Lips" columnist Will Sommer wrote this week that in the first candidates' forum, you and Jim Graham came across as remarkably simpatico on policy issues. Are you saying that the major differences are delivery of service to constituents?
NADEAUThat is one of the major differences. It's also my commitment to actually serving ethically and elevating the voices of the people. You know, it may be that Jim and I would have voted the same way on a number of things. You know, we're both Democrats, you know. But...
SHERWOODWill you trade votes if you're a council member?
SHERWOODYeah. That's how you get things done. You have to get six other people to agree with you. If you vote for my bill, I'll vote for yours. Will you do that?
NADEAUYou know what? The council is changing. And we're getting a lot more progressive good government types up on that council.
SHERWOODDavid Grosso, the at-large council member, endorsed you this week, very strongly endorsed you.
NADEAUHe sure did.
SHERWOODIt's unusual for someone to do that. And Bryan Weaver who was also running has dropped out of the primary.
NNAMDIDid you persuade Bryan to drop out? Did you have a conversation with Bryan Weaver?
SHERWOODNo. I'm sure you all did talk.
NADEAUNo. We didn't actually.
SHERWOODDid people who represent you talk?
NADEAUNo. The news was broken to me by Will Sommer actually.
SHERWOODOK. But, anyway, Bryan says he'll run in the general election.
NADEAUSure. We'll -- yeah, we'll see.
SHERWOODSo he's trying to clear a field to remove Jim Graham.
NADEAUWell, so, obviously, I'm focused on April 1. That's all I can do right now. But, no...
SHERWOODHow much money you going to report tonight?
NADEAUMore than 110 total, which is what really...
SHERWOODEnough to run the campaign.
NADEAUOh, yeah. We have enough to run it. We're feeling good. We're -- you know, we've got...
NNAMDIBy 110, you mean $110,000?
NADEAUThousand dollars, yes.
NADEAUWhich, you know, let's say that again because I worked real hard. And there have been a lot of wonderful supporters out there -- $110,000.
SHERWOODI was on Sherman Avenue the other day, which cuts through the ward, and people there really like the fact that that road was rebuilt.
NADEAUIt's a beautiful road.
NADEAUAnd, you know what, they want to see that...
NNAMDIAlthough we've lost a lane, but go ahead.
SHERWOODYes. Well, that's to slow down the cars in the traffic 'cause people live on those streets.
NADEAURight. That's for pedestrian safety. But you know what?
NNAMDII hadn't noticed.
NADEAUWhen I talk to people along...
SHERWOODGo too fast. You should slow down. You'll see people live on those streets.
NADEAUThat's right. So...
SHERWOODBut, I mean, those are the kinds of example -- is there a particular traffic issue? 'Cause that's a real thing that strikes me, where cars are parking.
NADEAUWell, can we -- yeah, well, let's talk -- can I say real quick about Sherman?
NADEAUSherman's a beautiful example of the kind of thing we need to be doing. But you know what's forgotten right now is Georgia Avenue, right?
NADEAUAnd I spent a lot of time over there because actually...
SHERWOODWards 4 and 1.
NADEAURight. And of course I'm more focused on 1, but it's -- when I served on the ANC, I served Georgia Avenue. And I was over there talking with folks about all the things they've been promised all this time. And they want to grow and prosper as well. And that's been a huge focus of my campaign.
SHERWOODI think Bill Clinton was the first back in 1992 or something or '93.
NNAMDIWell, there's not only Georgia Avenue. If you'll don your headphones, Tom, you'll know that Carlos in Washington, D.C. is also concerned about 16th Street. Carlos, your turn.
CARLOSHello. Yeah, I wait for the bus in the morning near U Street. And all the way from Columbia Heights down, it's impossible to get a bus during rush hour. It's so overcrowded. So I was wondering, you know, Jim Graham usually is pretty open-minded about embracing new transit options. Would you be open to a dedicated bus lane on 16th Street and more bus capacity? 'Cause these people want to take public transport. They don't want to drive their cars. It's a good choice we're making, but it's just too hard for us to get to work.
NNAMDIYou should have called when we had the Metro General Manager Richard Sarles on here just a few days ago.
SHERWOODThe city -- I mean, the city did -- and Graham was part of it -- get more express buses on 16th Street. But I really do...
NADEAUWe need to do more of it. Yeah, I take that bus, too. So I know. I take the bus everywhere.
SHERWOODThere's no room for a dedicated lane there.
NADEAUYeah. I don't know that there is. But we need more buses, for sure. I mean, that's one of the most saturated routes that I ride on, for sure. Absolutely. And we need to be creative about these things. If it's -- we need to look and say, is it adding more buses? Is it a bus lane? We don't want to just, you know, react. But I think there certainly is a call for more buses there.
NNAMDISpecifically, would you vote to approve the D.C. United Stadium deal based on the outlines that have taken shape so far? A big part of that proposal would involve a land swap where the city would get access to the stadium site at Buzzard Point and a developer would get access to the site of the Reeves Building at 14th and U.
NADEAUI want to support it. I want to see these numbers come out so that we're getting a fair deal for taxpayers. And the other thing that I need to see is that the disposition of the Reeves Center happens with more of community input. We've -- I've actually circulated a petition with community leaders on U Street to call for primarily commercial use for the building.
NADEAUAnd, you know, I don't have a particular picture of what it looks like beyond that. But we need to ensure that that stays a space that drives foot traffic to those retailers. And also, I really hope we can maintain some of the community space that's been essential for our neighborhood.
SHERWOODHow -- you know what I'd like to hear? 'Cause a lot of people don't know you. You're a new candidate with all the barriers to...
NADEAUWell, we just jump right in here, so...
SHERWOODThat's right. So -- I know. But tell us something about yourself. You said you were an ANC commissioner. And you worked in a public relations firm?
NADEAUI do. I do.
SHERWOOD'Cause what is that?
NADEAUI worked -- so I worked on Capitol Hill for 5 1/2 years. Actually, I said hi to Mr. Ulman on the way out because I used to work for John Sarbanes for Maryland. And so our offices did a lot of work together...
SHERWOODAnd so you've been in the District for how many years?
NADEAUAlmost 12 now.
SHERWOODTwelve years? And Ward 1 most of that time?
NADEAUYeah. Ten of them -- 10 1/2 in Ward 1.
SHERWOODAnd why here?
NADEAUWhy here? I've always wanted to be here. You know, I grew up wishing that I had been born here and got here as soon as I can...
SHERWOODBecause of its -- 'cause of the national monuments?
NADEAUYes, the beautiful scenery.
SHERWOODI like -- no, listen, I like them myself. So I don't...
NADEAUNo. You know...
SHERWOODBut, I mean, so people who don't know you...
NADEAULet me tell you. I grew up in...
SHERWOODThat's right. You play violin, or do you sing? Do you do karaoke?
NADEAUI used to play cello, but not well. You know, I grew up in Michigan in a household that was very progressive, progressive values, candidates, causes. I went on my first local campaign at age 11, school board. And I never looked back. I loved that. The idea that politics and civic engagement can move a community forward was so compelling to me. You know, I was never as excited about working in direct service as I was in politics and government because, for me, that's the place where you can really get to the root causes of issues. And so that's what drew me here.
NADEAUAnd I was lucky enough -- I found a community in Meridian Hill and got involved there right away with the Orange Hat Patrol, with the Neighborhood Association, and then the ANC.
SHERWOODAre you for the drums in Meridian Hill or against them?
NADEAUI love the drums.
SHERWOODSome people want to get rid of them.
NNAMDII love the drums.
NADEAUI -- believe me, I represented Meridian Hill Park, and I know. But it's a really important community.
SHERWOODThe drums are staying.
BUSHWill the water be cleaner?
SHERWOODYes. It's been fixed. (unintelligible).
BUSHIt has? OK. 'Cause last time I was there, it was...
SHERWOODPark Service fixed it.
BUSHOh, Park Service fixed it.
NNAMDIWAMU reporter Jacob Fenston just pinged us to ask you about your stance on rats as compared to that of Jim Graham.
NADEAUOh, yes. We've been having a good topic about...
NNAMDIWhat is she, the pied piper?
NADEAUWell, we've been having a good talk in the media about rats. Yeah, so this gets back to my other issue. We have -- I mean, Graham's been in this seat for 15 years, and we've been dealing with this rat issue a long time. I have to tell you, when I knock on doors...
NNAMDIYou only have a minute left.
NADEAU...the number one thing I hear is people are upset about rats.
NADEAUSo I'm working on U Street with business owners and residents to reduce and better manage waste as a long-term solution. If we are minimizing our waste, we're compacting, we're reducing the number of dumpsters in the back alleys, because businesses are working together, we are going to move this issue forward.
SHERWOODI will just tell you the Norway rat is ubiquitous in every urban area. And I've done any number of rat stories. And they say that the city's rat patrol people have aggressively worked on this, but they're...
NADEAUThe rat patrol people are good.
SHERWOODBut the rats are far more than...
NNAMDIBrianne Nadeau is a Democratic candidate for the D.C. Council. She's running for the seat representing Ward 1 currently occupied by Jim Graham. Thank you for joining us. Good luck to you.
NADEAUThank you all.
NNAMDIMatt Bush is our guest analyst. He's a reporter for WAMU 88.5. Matt, thank you for joining us.
BUSHThank you. Broncos by 10.
NNAMDITom Sherwood is our resident analyst. He's a reporter at NBC 4 and a columnist for the Current Newspapers. Erin Stamper agrees with you, and she's our engineer. We have to do everything she says.
BUSHAll right. I'll take it.
SHERWOODI don't care on this one.
NNAMDIThank you all for listening. I'm Kojo Nnamdi.
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