We chat with journalist and author Masha Gessen, whose newest book explores the complicated family history behind bombings at the 2013 Boston Marathon.
D.C.’s Democratic candidates for mayor slug it out on the campaign trail. A controversial lawmaker from Northern Virginia joins the scrum for the congressional set held by outgoing U.S. Rep. Frank Wolf (R). And Maryland’s gubernatorial candidates spar over “fighting words” made about Prince George’s County. 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
- Douglas Duncan Democratic Candidate, Executive, Montgomery County (Md.); Former Executive, Montgomery County (Md.)
Douglas Duncan, former Montgomery County Executive and current candidate for the same position, reflects on his personal battle with clinical depression. Douglas’ mental illness led him to step away from public office in 2006 and seek treatment. “I describe it as the two years that I lived in hell, where there was no joy and no hope, just despair all around me.” Duncan said more people need to talk about mental health issues, especially men, who tend to view depression as a stigma. He also said he supported legislation that did not treat jails as de facto mental hospitals.
MR. KOJO NNAMDIFrom WAMU 88.5, at American University, in Washington, welcome to "The Politics Hour," starring Tom Sherwood, I'm Kojo Nnamdi. Tom Sherwood is our resident analyst. He's a reporter at NBC 4 and a columnist for the Current Newspapers. Hey, Tom, how's it going?
MR. TOM SHERWOODIt's good. I'm glad the snow is getting out of here and a little more coming, but it's all right. We got through it pretty well for the region. But a lot of people were socked in for about 24 hours.
NNAMDIDo you think it'll be over after tonight, it'll be the last of it?
SHERWOODNo. We're still in winter. I'm not a weather person, but we are still in winter. Can I ask a question about the fundraising?
NNAMDIYes, please do.
SHERWOODIf I -- I renew -- when I renew my membership, if I renew it on this program does it count double?
NNAMDIYes. If you renew it during the time when the membership match is on.
NNAMDIAnd it will be doubled.
SHERWOODWell, I'll renew and I'll do a $500 gift. And then that'll be $1000, is that right?
NNAMDIThat's exactly correct.
SHERWOODNow, I'm trusting you on the math.
NNAMDIYes. You can trust me on the math.
SHERWOODOkay. Good. Here we go.
NNAMDIExcept that you won't make that contribution now. You'll make it when we go to the break during which we'll be doing our membership campaign. And then our producer Michael Martinez will have some more to say about it I know. Something that involves singing, but that's another story. Virginia's gay marriage ban struck down in federal court. U.S. District Judge Arenda Wright Allen issuing an opinion that mentioned Abraham Lincoln. And she stayed her decision, however, pending appeal to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 4th Circuit, in Richmond, meaning same-sex marriages will not be immediately available in the commonwealth.
NNAMDIAs to the logic in the discussion, you'll hear a lot more about that on "Metro Connection," in a piece by WAMU's Jacob Fenston. He interviewed two of the plaintiffs involved in the same-sex marriage case ruled on in federal court yesterday. Here's a short clip of what Carol Schall told Jacob about why she believes striking down the voter-approved referendum is the right thing to do, even if the Constitutional amendment was approved by Virginians.
MS. CAROL SCHALLWe have the Bill of Rights. We have these guaranteed rights so we don't vote on them. We don't vote on these kind of things because our own biases and our prejudices get in the way. So we really believe that voting on something that is a God-given right is actually not the best the thing to do, because we get those questions wrong as a people regularly. And so the way our system is built, is it's built to play to our better angels. And the way we do that is through the courts. The way we guarantee that those who are different from us get included in this big great society is to have a court that arbitrates those differences.
NNAMDIAnd of course more about that on "Metro Connection." But, Tom Sherwood, as I mentioned, she stayed her decision, pending appeal to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 4th Circuit, so this is not over.
SHERWOODThat's true, but that's an expected thing, to have the opinions stayed. But, you know, this is a validation, some for Mark Herring, the Virginia attorney general who, right out of the box when he took office said he's not going to defend this constitutional ban. He said it's unfair and not equal treatment and that he wanted Virginia to move forward. So he's got to be very happy with this ruling.
NNAMDIHe joined the gay couples in asking that the ban be struck down.
SHERWOODAnd, you know, the opponents are saying that this is -- you're going against the will of the people who voted 57 percent for this one man-one woman constitutional amendment. But I think the trend across the country, whether it's Kentucky or middle America or the left Coast, I think you're seeing a significant change quickly on this.
NNAMDISpeaking of Court of Appeals, our guest last week, Paul Zuckerberg, who wanted the election for the city's attorney general to take place here on April 1st after the council had put it off, maybe for another four years, says he is going to the D.C. Court of Appeals. Last week when he was here he had not yet heard the decision. It went against him, but he's not quitting.
SHERWOODYes. He was holding his cell phone hoping he would hear the hearing -- get the ruling while he was on the show last week. Perhaps maybe he's glad he didn't because it went against him. But the court said that he is not being personally harmed by not having a primary. There's some move in D.C. council, Phil Mendelson, maybe to even hold -- to put this attorney general election on the general election ballot.
SHERWOODBut the city's attorney -- current appointed attorney general, Irvin Nathan, was saying that that would not be proper the way it was set up. It would have to be a primary first, then a general election. So the minimal you can say, whether you're for an elected attorney general in the District, or against it, it is certainly troubled waters as to where it's going to land.
NNAMDIMeanwhile, our guest in studio for the entire broadcast today, I haven't formally introduced him yet, but I will tell you he is here. Doug Duncan, former county executive of Montgomery County, running for that position again. He'll be here for the entire hour. So I if you have questions or comments for him you can start calling right now at 800-433-8850.
NNAMDIThat's 800-433-8850 or start sending email to firstname.lastname@example.org. Speaking of elections, the D.C. mayoral Democratic primary will be taking place on April Fools Day and there have been a lot of mayoral Democratic forums so far. You participated in one this past Wednesday night on the campus of American University. Who won?
SHERWOODWell, I did. I got more time than any of the candidates. But, no, it was a good forum. Mayor Gray did not come. Chuck Thies, his campaign manager -- I asked each of the candidates who didn't come -- that would be Mayor Gray and Muriel Bowser -- why they were not coming. All I got from the Gray campaign was that the he's invited to many forums and that he had conflicting events that night. Muriel Bowser also said she had conflicting events. She's a graduate of, I think, the graduate school there at A.U., but she did not come. And she told me yesterday in snowy DuPont Circle that she had tried to get there, but couldn't make it.
SHERWOODBut it was an interesting forum. We had a lot of young people in the audience, which was great. Some of them were registering to vote, which is great. But there are many more forums to go.
NNAMDIAnd there, one of those forums will be taking place on December (sic) 26th, right here at WAMU 88.5. Tom Sherwood will be playing a prominent role -- I should say February 26th, Tom Sherwood will be playing a prominent role in that debate. And I guess if you go to our website, kojoshow.org, you can find out how you can get tickets to be a part of that mayoral debate here on February 26th.
NNAMDIThere was mayoral debate, I think, on Tuesday night in Ward 3, with Bruce DuPuyt of News Channel 8 and Mark Plotkin of no place in particular, but one of the things that came out in that debate that surprised me was that Mark Plotkin apparently searched the voting records of all of the candidates and found out that Andy Shallal had not voted in six elections and had not voted in the 2010 election. How important is that?
SHERWOODWell, we have such a limited right to vote in the District of Columbia and since we have no vote in Congress, when it actually matters, on the floor of the House or the Senate, so it matters if you don't vote and Mark had certainly been one of the strongest proponents of people should participate in elections if they want to be elected to something.
SHERWOODBut in the grand, broad, wide scheme of things I'm not sure that that is a disqualifying thing. Certainly Andy Shallal can point to a very active record of civic activism on voting. He was talking just the other night about how he was helping to lead the referendum to limit contributions in city campaigns to $100 -- I forgot how many decades ago -- and which was overturned by the council. So you cannot say that Andy Shallal hasn't been active in city politics, even if he didn't actually vote.
NNAMDIAnd of course Mark Plotkin was an analyst at this stations, at WTOP radio, at Fox News and participated as a freelancer in that debate the other night. Anyway, onto the business at hand. Our guest in studio is Doug Duncan. He is a Democratic candidate -- A Democratic Candidate for county executive in Montgomery County, Md. He held that position from 1994 to 2006. Doug Duncan, welcome, good to see you, thank you for joining us.
MR. DOUGLAS DUNCANKojo and Tom, thank you very much. It's great to be back. It's been awhile. Happy Valentine's Day to everyone and I'm very excited to be back with you.
NNAMDIWell, Tom is happy to have you to beat up on again. But I'll start this time. You held this job for 12 years, from 1994 to 2006. I've been looking over all of the jobs you've held since that time, vice president for administration at the University of Maryland and others. You are described by Terrible Turque of the Washington Post as the former hard-charging mayor of Rockville. I've looked at all these jobs and I've come to the conclusion, you're bored. Is that -- I mean none of the other jobs, except maybe at the University of Maryland, has had the kind of challenges that you have been used to in your elective offices. Are you bored?
DUNCANWell, I'm running for county executive because Montgomery County needs stronger leadership. We need a county executive who's going…
NNAMDIAnd you're bored.
DUNCAN…to provide stronger leadership to get things done in the county, to fight for our interests in Annapolis and a county executive who's got the right vision for our future. And I'm running because I'm concerned about the future of Montgomery County.
NNAMDIA lot has changed since the last time you sought office. Eight years have passed. Why do you think you're the best person to help the county manage those changes?
DUNCANBecause I've got the right vision for the future of this county. I want Montgomery County to be a center of excellence in everything that we do, our schools...
NNAMDIHas your vision changed from the one you tried to pursue while you were in office?
DUNCANNo. It's always been that. And we have slipped back in the past eight years, in a number of areas. But we need stronger leadership to get things done. The Silver Springs Transit Center I think is the biggest example of the lack of leadership from the current administration, from both of my primary opponents. And we need stronger leadership that's going to fight for our interest in Annapolis. And we are scrambling now to get school construction dollars because my two primary opponents really showed no leadership at all in Annapolis in terms of bringing those dollars back home for our county.
NNAMDIOkay. Tom, have at him.
SHERWOODWell, I just -- the Transit Center, which has been a huge embarrassment. When did that start? When was planning for that Transit Center?
DUNCANWe started talking about it back when I was county executive.
SHERWOODBut all was done -- put in place after you were county executive or was it…
SHERWOODI guess I'm asking, do you have any hands in the problem with this place?
DUNCANNo. I do not have any hands in the problem with it.
DUNCANAnd there's been a real lack of leadership of getting this thing fixed. We need to get it fixed and get it open. We're approaching three years now that it's overdue, tens of millions of dollars in extra costs for it. We need to get it fixed safely. We need to get it opened for the public.
SHERWOODYou had considered…
DUNCANI put the funding together, with the federal government, turned it over to my successor and said build the thing, and let's go. And we're still waiting for this.
SHERWOODYou had considered maybe running for Congress. And then you supported John Delaney. And he's supporting -- the Congressman, now elected, is supporting you for county executive. I do this for every person that comes on who's trying to run for an office or is in office. When you talk about leadership, are you saying that Ike Leggett has not been a leader, has been a failed leader, has been a so-so leader? Where is -- I don't want -- I want to get beyond what I call 9th grade civics class characterizations that you can lead the county forward, you can bring people together, you can get action in Annapolis. Can you put some meat on those bones?
DUNCANWell, both my opponents, Ike Leggitt, Phil Andrews, they've been good public servants over a number of years for this county. But at this time, because of the competitive environment we're in, because of the changes that are taking place in the county and in the region and in the world, we need stronger leadership. We need someone who can stand up, as I said, get these things done, solve our problems and move on to the next problem.
SHERWOODBut when you say stronger leadership…
DUNCANOne of the issues with -- well, one of the issues that we've had in Montgomery County, one of the problems we've had is we perfected the phrase paralysis by analysis in Montgomery County. And we are starting to slip back into that and I think the Transit Center is a great example of that. You need to study things, you need to analyze them, but you need to make a decision and move on and solve the problem and then move on to the challenge in front of you. And we're not seeing that.
SHERWOODWell, a lot has changed in the county. One of the things that's changed in the county is the police union has far less power to bargain over effects, changes and their schedules. The FOP has endorsed you. That was a huge battle in 2012. If you were county executive would you have challenged the police on that issue? It was voted unanimously by the council to take away some of that power of the union to decide impact bargaining. Where were you on that issue?
DUNCANThat issue went to referendum. The voters said that they agreed with the county council. And I support that decision. I think what was troublesome to me about that whole issue was that my two opponents in the primary decided that it's perfectly okay to use public money to influence voters for a ballot question. So they hired poll workers, they did mailings, they paid for bumper stickers with taxpayer dollars to influence that.
DUNCANWe've got a separate public financing debate going on in the county right now. Public campaign financing debate going on in the county right now, but there were abuses before that need to be stopped. And I think before we start talking about let's start looking at financing individual candidates, let's stop the abuses that have taken place in the past. We should not be spending taxpayer dollars, telling the voters how they should vote on particular issues. It's just not fair.
SHERWOODBut on the FOP, you wouldn't go back…
DUNCANAbsolutely not, no. No.
SHERWOODYou wouldn't go back to it. Okay.
NNAMDICan we talk schools? This week, earlier you made a particular point to blame the two gentlemen you refer to as your two opponents, Ike Leggitt and Phil Andrews, for the crowding of county schools and for failing to adequately fund school construction projects. Where is that you feel that came up short?
DUNCANIn three key areas. And we need Annapolis, we need the State of Maryland to be a bigger partner with us in school construction and in a number of other areas. But the three key areas where my two opponents have failed the people of this county have shown a lack of leadership. One is that they waited until an election year to come up with a plan for what we need to do for school construction and how to get dollars. They waited until the very end of eight years to say here's what we need to do.
DUNCANThe second thing, and this was particularly troublesome because this occurred in 2007, during the 2007 special session there was an agreement made between Montgomery County and the governor, that as we supported what -- his tax increases, what he was trying to get done in the special session, that Montgomery County would get $55 million the next year for school construction. And lo and behold, when it came time to deliver on that promise, we got $46 million.
DUNCANAnd instead of screaming like crazy and saying this is wrong, this is unacceptable Governor, you have to honor your commitment, they said, well, we're disappointed, but thank you very much for the dollars you gave us. Then the next year the number dropped dramatically. When a governor promises money, particularly for education in Montgomery County -- now, that's my top priority in Annapolis, is getting funding for our schools. When the governor makes a promise, you've got to hold him to the promise, even if it makes you unpopular in Annapolis. They were not willing to do that.
DUNCANAnd then the third issue, was last session they missed a golden opportunity to get a lot of money for our schools, in terms of school construction, because the governor needed votes for the gas tax, there were other things that they were looking to get support on, Baltimore City has a package for a commitment of about $600 million from the State of Maryland for school construction.
DUNCANAnd you see that every so often. Every so many years in Annapolis there will be a special package of aid for Baltimore City. And you know what? Baltimore City has tremendous needs, we all understand that, we all support that.
NNAMDIYeah, but if you don't go along with that.
DUNCANNo, but what you do is you say, we understand the needs of Baltimore City, but you know what? Everyone in the State of Maryland has similar needs. Where's the statewide package? That's what Wayne Curry and I did, in terms of forcing a debate on operating dollars for our schools. That's what my two opponents should have done, instead of saying, Baltimore needs help, we're going to support it and we'll worry about Montgomery County later.
NNAMDII want to stay with schools for one second. Put on your headphones, gentleman, because that's what Michael, in Bethesda, wants to talk about. Michael, you're on the air. Go ahead, please.
MICHAELWell, thank you. Good afternoon to everyone. My question, specifically on this continued topic of public education and financing, relates to the maintenance of effort law here in Maryland. I'd be curious as to Mr. Duncan's view as to whether or not this maintenance of effort law requiring that counties maintain a specific level of per pupil funding, whether that's viewed as a good thing or a bad thing for Montgomery County and its public school systems efforts. And then how that may view may differ from either of his principle primary opponents.
DUNCANYeah, this is into Michael, thank you very much. This is an issue that came up during the last debate that we had. And the maintenance of effort requirement by the State of Maryland is -- it's a good thing because what you want to do is make sure that as the state increases funding for schools, the local governments are supplanting their local dollars with state dollars. So you want to make sure that the counties are committed to a certain level of effort. But what has happened here is when they changed that maintenance of effort law they provided sort of a disincentive for counties to go above the minimum required.
DUNCANAnd the attitude taken by my two opponents is that it's fiscally irresponsible to spend one dollar more than what the minimum requirement is under state law. And I think that's wrong. Schools are the lifeblood of our community. They're the reason that Montgomery County sets itself apart, stands apart from other jurisdictions around us. It's because of the quality of our schools. If you have good schools, you get else gets better.
DUNCANYou get better jobs, you get safer neighborhoods, you get a better quality of life. Everything gets better because of that culture we have in the county of supporting our schools. And if we just continue funding at the minimum level required, we're basically on a path to mediocre schools, which is going to lead to a lot of other problems for the county.
NNAMDIMichael, thank you for your call.
SHERWOODAnd the county's changing dramatically. But I want to mention Bill Turque again from the Washington Post.
SHERWOODSay who he is. He says that -- I'm just going to read from what he says. He says, "You know say Leggitt and the state delegation should have been pushing harder for school construction money last year, even though you were out there at the time saying the gas tax increase was the most critical issues facing the state."
DUNCANI was working with the Suburban Maryland Transportation Alliance. That was a big issue for us. And I was out there testifying on that. If I had been county executive, I would have been testifying and come up with a package to create a statewide plan to help fund increases in school construction, not just something for the city of Baltimore. That was a golden opportunity missed by our elected officials. Remember, my two opponents are elected in office now, supposedly looking out for the interests of the county and they failed us in this one.
SHERWOODAnd this is not the Bill Turque hour, but I did ask him, because he covers the county for the Post. And he said that you describe yourself as a friend of the Purple Line, even though you opposed its current configuration.
DUNCANI'm the one who popularized the phrase Purple Line and started talking about it many years ago. We needed a subway Beltway…
SHERWOODAnd that's it for Bill Turque, incidentally. I'm sorry.
DUNCANWe needed a subway beltway to connect to suburban job centers. I had thought that the line would be better served going outside the Beltway, more towards some of the growth centers. We had that debate in the county. The current alignment is what was selected. And I fully support that alignment.
NNAMDIOnto the telephones again, because John, in Washington, D.C. has a question about something else you either do or do not support. John, your turn. Hi, John. Are you there? John, you're going to allow Tom Sherwood to take your time? Tom, go ahead, please.
SHERWOODI'll ask a question about speed cameras. There's an effort to limit the number of speed cameras. There's an effort to allow people to sue camera operators. Jon Cardin, I think he's going to introduce the bill in the legislature. Where are you on speed cameras and the use of that for getting county revenue?
DUNCANSpeed cameras need to be looked at. We need to do a total review of that whole program. And I supported speed cameras initially because to me it was a safety issue. My worry is that it is now becoming a revenue issue for the county. And that we're more focused on how many dollars we can bring in, than making our streets safer. And that's a real concern of mine. And, you know, we've seen the District of Columbia do it. It is a huge revenue generator for the District of Columbia. They are now adding cameras at stop signs, at Don't Block The Box, they're doing all kinds of things.
SHERWOODDon't yield to pedestrians.
DUNCANYeah, all kinds of things. And the whole…
NNAMDIBut they're not doing it they say for revenues.
SHERWOODWell, that's true.
DUNCANThey are taking in a ton of revenue because of it. I want to make sure that the program in Montgomery County is focused on safety and not revenue. And once elected, we will do a review of the full program and see where we need to make changes. The county has not complied with state law, as it's put up speed cameras. You certainly need to make sure that you're complying with the law as part of the program. But we need to look at what the real effects have been and whether we need to modify it.
SHERWOODMay I go back to…
SHERWOOD…education in the county? Since the mid-2000s when you were in office, the county has changed dramatically. It's now a majority/minority county, barely. As you look to lead the county again, what kind of a county do you see with a much larger Hispanic population? How do you lead this whole new -- I guess it's been like a 64 percent increase in the Hispanic/Latino population since 2000. It's changed dramatically. It used to be we all viewed Montgomery County as rich and white and suburban. And it hasn't been that for some time now, but how do you address what the county is now as opposed to what some people think it is?
DUNCANMontgomery County is a great county. We are blessed in so many different ways in Montgomery County with a great quality of life. And I was born and raised here. I grew up with my 12 brothers and sisters here, 13 of us. I chose to stay in the county, to stay in Rockville, the town I grew up in and raise my family there because of the quality of life. And the county has been changing for decades. It's changed since the year I was born. It has changed since the year I was elected mayor of Rockville, changed since the year I was elected county executive.
DUNCANIt has changed -- it keeps changing. And I think, to me, that's a great thing because it makes us more part of the global economy and the global infrastructure that is out there.
SHERWOODIt's like a growth of 100,000 or so since 2000, which is a lot of growth. What is the projection for the county to keep growing? Do you have any new numbers?
DUNCANWe're over a million people now and we will continue to grow. And our school population is growing by leaps and bounds. I mean its tremendous growth in the school population. Which is -- and this -- we have known for some time has been coming, which is why we should have been focused on getting school construction dollars from the state.
NNAMDIGot to take a short break. When we come back we'll be returning to this conversation with Doug Duncan. Of course this is the final day of our winter membership campaign. So we've got to do a little bit of talking about that. But if you have called stay on the line, we will get to your calls. The number is 800-433-8850. If you have questions or comments for Doug Duncan, you can also send us email to email@example.com, shoot us a tweet @kojoshow or go to our website, kojoshow.org, ask a question or make a comment there. I'm Kojo Nnamdi.
NNAMDIOur guest today is Doug Duncan. He is a Democratic candidate for county executive in Montgomery County, Maryland. He held that position from 1994 to 2006. Tom Sherwood is our resident analyst. He's a reporter at NBC 4 and a columnist for the Current Newspapers. You can call us at 800-433-8850. Doug Duncan, Ike Leggett has led the...
DUNCANCan -- I'm sorry.
NNAMDIOh, please go.
DUNCANCan I -- I just wanted to finish one thing before we broke.
DUNCANAnd that was the question about the changing population, changing demographics of the county.
DUNCANAll the more reason to look at our education spending and find more dollars to help there, in terms of the maintenance of (unintelligible). Education's my top priority, always has been, always will be. It is, as I said, the life blood -- or our schools are the life blood of our community. What's happening is that we are getting many more students in who live in poverty and many more students in who don't speak English as their first language.
DUNCANThey have needs that are greater than the needs of children coming into our schools in years past. So we need to look at the expenditures for that. We need to look at a way to help find the funds. Dr. Starr, superintendent's got a plan to address, the widening achievement gap in the county, we've got to find a way to help him accomplish that mission. And the other issue that's being debated a lot is...
SHERWOODThere's been some question about testing in Montgomery County, too.
DUNCANThe -- I think we've had some good questions about that. I mean, I...
DUNCANI think that Dr. Starr and a lot of the others are focusing on the right things. But the other thing that's being debated not just in Maryland but in New York City and across the country is pre-K, universal pre-K. And the State of Maryland is starting a program to help bring universal pre-K to the State of Maryland, funded by the state.
DUNCANI think that's something we need to do, particularly with, again, the changing demographics in the county. Kids need to be ready to learn when they enter kindergarten, and they need to be reading at grade level by the third grade. Those are some basic things that we need to be able to do.
NNAMDIWell, I've been promising listeners access, so I'd better give it to them. Here is Barbara in Potomac, Md. Barbara, you're on the air. Go ahead, please.
BARBARAWell, thank you very much for taking my call. Doug, you spent, you know, a lot of time at the beginning of this session talking about needing strong leadership in Montgomery County to do the right thing. I have a question and then a follow-up. Do you believe that doing the right thing in Montgomery County can still protect our natural resources and our environment? And then...
NNAMDIAnd your follow-up?
BARBARAAnd what do you think about full protection for Ten Mile Creek, which is Montgomery County's last pristine creek?
DUNCANI mean, clearly doing the right thing does mean protecting our environment and doing everything we can. Again, my vision for this county is to be a center of excellence in all of the things that we do, our schools, our services, our county government, our economy, our environment.
DUNCANIn terms of Ten Mile Creek, I have put out a statement a while ago that says that we need to make sure -- because this is one of the last best watersheds in the county -- that we need to preserve it and that the county council should adopt policies, zoning policies, regulations with the Planning Board, to make sure that no further degradation occurs in Ten Mile Creek.
SHERWOODHave you always opposed Ten Mile Creek development? I mean, you -- I can't remember. I'm just asking you. Have you always opposed development there?
DUNCANIt's an issue that's come up in the last year recently.
SHERWOODHave you supported...
DUNCANActually, I -- you know, we were talking about this. The county jail that we built in Clarksburg is in the Ten Mile Creek watershed. And at the time we did that, not one -- there was no discussion of Ten Mile Creek or the watershed or anything like that. So I think we've got a watershed of very high quality. It's one of the last ones in the county. We need to save it, just as we saved downtown Silver Springs. (sic) We saved Glencoe Park. As we did a lot of other things, we can save Ten Mile Creek.
NNAMDIWe got an email from Pete in Silver Spring, who says, "Precisely what are the specific problems with the transit center that more effective leadership would have resolved?"
DUNCANWell, the first one is much better oversight. I think the real problem here is the lack of oversight by the county government. It's a huge project that has been allowed to languish. And if the oversight had been done correctly by the county government, we would not be in the mess that we're in today. And we would have this -- this facility would be open to the public.
NNAMDIIke Leggett led the country through some pretty lean years, especially after the recession that we're still climbing back from. He has said, however, that part of what injured the county before things went south was that you pushed a plan to make the county grow too fast. How would you respond?
DUNCANActually, what he has said is that I left the county broke, which is -- I got to say it's -- you just have to laugh when you hear that. He's been going around the county, said it at the debate. He's been going around the county saying that, when I left office after 12 years, Montgomery County was broke, and therefore we were in a horrible financial position...
NNAMDIIt was not?
DUNCANNo, absolutely not. We were horrible financial position, even before the recession hit. Well, the facts are that I had 12 years of balanced budgets. I had 12 years of triple-A bond ratings. I left the county -- when I left office, if my memory serves me correctly, with over $300 million worth of reserves, which the county rightfully used to help them get through the recession. The challenge we have now is how do we get out of this recession?
DUNCANI led this county out of two recessions. I want to lead us out of this third recession by focusing on economic development, by focusing on job growth, by making Montgomery County a leader in the innovation economy and making us a startup center for -- a startup culture center. And we are going backwards in that area right now.
SHERWOODIs there any empirical evidence -- I don't know. I don't remember what the county budgets were at the time. And I don't know everything that Ike Leggett has said. But is there some empirical evidence that says what the balance sheet said in the year you left office?
DUNCANOh, absolutely. Yeah, it's all in the county budgets and the financial reports done by the county.
DUNCANWe -- Montgomery County has never been broke. We are not -- we were not broke. We're not broke.
SHERWOODWhat's the annual budget, roughly speaking? What's the annual budget now?
DUNCANI think this year it's probably up to 4.3-, 4.5 billion.
SHERWOODOkay. All right.
NNAMDIHere is Sean in Gaithersburg, Md. Hi, Sean.
SEANHi. How are you?
NNAMDIGo right ahead, please.
SEAN(unintelligible) you can find that speaking, rather than being abused, to raise revenue, why won't you take any revenue-producing (unintelligible) out of the general fund and put it specifically towards building new schools?
DUNCANI'm not sure I understood the question. Why would I take revenue -- because the...
NNAMDITaking all -- instead of having the revenue from the speed cameras go to the general fund, just have it precisely for -- specifically for education.
DUNCANWell, it goes to several specific things now. The worry, though, is that the speed camera program in the county, in the District, and other places is becoming taxation by citation versus we want to make our streets safer. And I think if you want to do an end run around raising taxes, that's certainly one way to do it. What we need to do in this county is grow the tax base, grow jobs, lessen the tax burden, and we are backing away from that because we are backing away from our commitment to an innovation economy.
SHERWOODI would -- the District of Columbia has put out statistics showing that areas where red light cameras have been that there has been a dramatic drop in crime, in accidents or wrecks. I don't like to call them accidents. They're wrecks. Like, 80 percent drops in some cases where these people have to slow down in the middle of the streets or at intersections. Did the (unintelligible) be used properly?
DUNCANNo. The red -- the cameras can be used properly.
DUNCANThey do slow down traffic. But when you get a situation where you've got one camera and then 100 yards later, you've got another camera and then another one, it's -- you know, are they speed traps? Or do they really focus on public safety? And, again, that's what I said. I don't have the answers to that. But I think we need to look at that to make sure because the public is really starting to believe that this is just a taxation by citation. This is really just a revenue scheme by the county. And we need to...
SHERWOODChevy Chase on Connecticut Avenue, I think they just announced some surplus of monies that they cited the speed cameras.
DUNCANI think that -- I think the state had to change the law because they were getting more from their speed cameras than their entire budget.
SHERWOODCan I -- let me go switch over to a serious subject. In Virginia, Creigh Deeds has gotten national attention for what happened with him when his son -- his mentally ill son attacked him. He's looking to press for better mental health laws in the state, more funding for the mental health agencies. When you stepped away from public life and cited depression, I think was...
SHERWOODTell us something about that and what you've seen in the meantime and what -- whether you've ever talked to Creigh Deeds about what can be done more on a governmental level where it's situation for -- I know it's a personal matter for you to talk about. But I think it would help people to understand that, as Creigh Deeds said, this is not -- you know, the mind is just part of the body, and we need to address it.
DUNCANIt's -- mental illness is a horrible situation. Depression is a horrible situation. I was suffering from major depression and pulled out of the race for governor because of that to get myself healthy again and to connect with my family. And I really -- I describe it as the two years that I lived in hell, where there was no joy, no hope, just despair all around me.
DUNCANAnd, you know, I sort of gamely put forward myself as county executive and doing my job, but I announced I had to pull out for my health. And what was very gratifying to me at the time was the Mental Health Association told me that, within a week of my announcement, they had over a thousand people call them, looking for help and treatment. And this is something that I think more people need to talk about. There still is a stigma attached to mental illness.
DUNCANI think more men in particular need to talk about depression, need to talk about mental illness, and put themselves up as role models. I know Terry Bradshaw, Mike Wallace, they're -- you know, a lot of people done that. I think more men need to do that. In terms of government services, I think there's a real training issue that needs to take place.
DUNCANAnd we want to make sure that our jails don't become the de facto mental hospitals. We want to make sure that, as our public safety officers deal with people suffering from mental illness or autism is -- you know, that horrible thing happened up in Frederick County -- that they know how to deal with that and can prevent loss of life, loss of -- or injury and deal with that responsibly.
SHERWOODBefore we go, have you spoken -- or have you followed the Creigh Deeds story?
DUNCANI've just followed it through the papers. I mean, a very horrible, horrible situation. And, you know, someone who's dealt with it personally but also my family has it. My father, his father had a history of mental illness. It's something that really strikes close to the heart.
SHERWOODHey, thank you. Thank you.
NNAMDIAnd I know that I called Doug Duncan when a friend of mine was suffering with depression, and he kindly talked with my friend. And it certainly helped. Well, there might have not been hope for those two years, but Doug Duncan has a lot of hope now. He hopes to be the next county executive of Montgomery County.
NNAMDIHe is running for that position that he held from 1994 to 2006. Thank you for joining us. Good luck to you.
DUNCANThank you very much for having me. I appreciate it. And it's great to be back, and I'm having a lot of fun. I'm back in my element. I love it.
NNAMDITom Sherwood is our resident analyst. He's a reporter at NBC 4 and a columnist for the Current Newspapers. Always a pleasure, although he's not going anywhere for the next few minutes. Thank you all for listening. I'm Kojo Nnamdi.
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