Kojo talks with author Colson Whitehead about his new novel "The Underground Railroad" and its resonance at this particular moment in history.
D.C.’s Democratic voters choose a council member over an incumbent mayor in the primaries, as a long lame duck season begins in the District. And Maryland moves to dump its online health exchange in favor of one modeled after the marketplace in Connecticut. Join us for our weekly review of the politics, policies and personalities of the District of Columbia, Maryland and Virginia.
- Colbert King Columnist, The Washington Post
- Muriel Bowser Democratic Candidate, District of Columbia; Member, D.C. Council (D-Ward 4); Chair, Committee on Economic Development
- Tom Sherwood Resident Analyst; NBC 4 reporter; and Columnist for the Current Newspapers
Watch Featured Clips
Democratic mayoral candidate Muriel Bowser was the guest April 4 on the Kojo Nnamdi show.
Watch her discussion with Kojo, NBC reporter Tom Sherwood and Washington Post columnist Colbert King in four parts below.
Muriel Bowser on Education, Vincent Gray and the Democratic Primary
Muriel Bowser on Budget, DC Statehood
Muriel Bowser on Ethics, Affordable Housing
Muriel Bowser On A Possible Bower Administration, DC Safety
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 for NBC 4 and a columnist for the Current Newspapers. Tom Sherwood, welcome.
MR. TOM SHERWOODHey, good afternoon.
NNAMDIAnd we are pleased today to be able to welcome our guest analyst. All of a sudden Colbert King got free on Fridays and has agreed to join us today. He's a columnist for The Washington Post. Colby, welcome. Hopefully -- don't be a stranger -- this won't be the last time.
MR. COLBERT KINGThanks for having me here. You know, it's good…
SHERWOODWe'll have to see how he does.
KINGIt's good to be here, but at my age it's good to be anywhere.
NNAMDIWell, we are happy to have you here. And happy to welcome to Muriel Bowser. She is the Democratic nominee for mayor of the District of Columbia. She's a member of the D.C. Council, where she holds the seat representing Ward 4. She chairs the committee on Economic Development. Muriel Bowser, welcome, congratulations.
MS. MURIEL BOWSERThank you, Kojo. And thank you for having me.
NNAMDIIn case you have been on another planet, what we're congratulating Muriel Bowser for is her victory in the mayoral primary this past Tuesday in the District of Columbia, when it was on April 1st and took way too long for the votes to be counted. But nevertheless, she is the victor in the primary.
NNAMDISo once again, congratulations. You are the Democratic nominee to be the next mayor of Washington, D.C. And I know that you have been through a gazillion debates and have to go through probably a gazillion more before the general election comes around. And so you've been asked a lot of questions on a lot of issues, including education. But I'm going to start with a very specific question about education.
NNAMDIIt is my understanding that if I ask if you will be keeping school's chancellor Kaya Henderson, I will be asking the wrong question. I am reliably informed that Kaya Henderson, on the basis of her performance in the District of Columbia, has become attractive to several jurisdictions around the country, many of whom apparently pay a lot more than we pay in the District of Columbia.
NNAMDISo the question I understand it now is will we be able to keep Kaya Henderson? Can we keep Kaya Henderson in the District of Columbia? I've heard you've already met with Kaya Henderson. So what would be the answer to that question?
BOWSERYes, we had a very productive meeting, as I told everybody I would have a conversation with the chancellor about what her vision is, how are we going to…
SHERWOODWas she -- and when was that meeting?
BOWSERWe met yesterday.
NNAMDII know these things.
BOWSERWe met yesterday…
BOWSER…for lunch. And we had a very good conversation about what she thinks the school system is doing well and what things that she thinks needs to change or happen faster. And as I've always said, she has a lot of great ideas. She's been good for our city. And that was the first conversation in my process.
NNAMDIDid she indicate in that conversation that she's willing to stay?
BOWSERYeah, she wants to stay. And it was reported in the Post today that she doesn't think that her work is done and she thinks 2017 would be the time where she would hit her goals. So what I'm going to do over the next weeks leading up to my next race, is have a lot of conversations, including with stakeholders, now, that I'm the nominee, in addition to parents and students and I think we'll be able to make a decision about that. So…
NNAMDIWell, apart from giving out the phone number, 800-433-8850, the email, firstname.lastname@example.org, you can send us a tweet @kojoshow -- apart from that, my work here is done today.
SHERWOODWell, since you started on the education, I'll stay on it. I know that when the MacFarland School in your ward closed, that you -- I'm told that you and Kaya Henderson had fairly tense, even angry, conversations about it. And you're right, as a nominee, you're not even elected yet, you can't pick who you're going -- so I'm not going to ask you about the fire chief or anybody like that, but you've said in your campaign that you want to fix the middle school problem in the city by doing Alice Deals all over the place.
SHERWOODI said, well, if you're going to do that you'll have to bus white kids to the other parts of town, meaning that it's a racially diverse -- I think it's something like 40 percent white kids in Alice Deal. What do you -- when people are worried about the middle schools. What are you going to do about the middle schools and what does Kaya want to do?
BOWSERWell, I think first…
SHERWOODAssuming you agree on (unintelligible).
BOWSERYeah, first, I wouldn't describe our conversations as tense. I think actually we agreed more we disagreed. Where we disagreed with MacFarland was that I thought MacFarland should be -- the middle grade should be incorporated into the new Roosevelt Senior High School. And, you know, I haven't actually given up on that idea.
BOWSERAnd so I think those -- the questions will still be on the table. So let me say something about Alice Deal for all, because I think that Alice Deal for all, in my view, means that we should have middle schools across the city that have incredible offerings, academically, have incredible offerings in an extra-curricular environment, great leadership, great teachers and a way to bring parents into the schools. So people should not take that to mean that we pick up Alice Deal and we plop it someplace else.
BOWSERWhat it is is an ideal that no matter where you live you should have access to a great school. And a great middle school. And this is what I've learned from parents across all eight wards. They're gaining confidence in the lower grades, but right at about the second grade they're trying to figure out what is their guaranteed option in middle school and high school. And that remains the challenge of our school reform efforts.
BOWSERAnd so actually in my conversation with her the chancellor yesterday, she explained what the mayor's budget proposal, and her part of it, would do for middle schools. And the commitment -- I think she indicated that it was an additional $17 million commitment. That would make the core things that attract people to Alice Deal, those core activities, be they in academics or in other ways, could begin to be replicated in other parts of the city. And so that is my value when I talk about how we replicate Alice Deal.
SHERWOODAnd you want to move faster. But, go ahead.
KINGI'd like to get into that issue, as well. But before we do this can we stay with a political question?
KINGAt this point you need to unify the Democratic Party behind your candidacy. Have all of your opponents in the primary endorsed your candidacy?
BOWSERWell, we spent several hours this morning -- and I want to thank the chair of the Party in D.C., Anita Bonds, for pulling together in very short order a unity breakfast. And so all -- I think everybody who ran for mayor came to that breakfast and talked about how important it was to unify Democrats for the November election. So that was helpful.
KINGBut Vincent Orange, explicitly endorsed your candidacy, sent you a note and said that he's proud to work with you and hope to get victory in November. Anything like that from the other candidates?
BOWSERYes. I mean, I think we heard just about everybody come up and say that. Jack Evans was very explicit. Tommy Wells was extremely congratulatory in his remarks. But all of them, I will sit down and talk to. And I'm very sincere in this because on the campaign trail you get to know your opponents pretty well, and the ideas that are important to them, and also the ideas that resonate with voters.
KINGYou had said though, earlier, during the campaign, I guess, that if Mayor Gray won, became the nominee, that you would not support him.
SHERWOODCity Paper Forum, one place.
KINGHow about now? Would it be fair to him to take the same position with respect to your candidacy?
BOWSERWell, this is what I also said, Colby. And -- four years ago I was in a similar position. The candidate that I backed did not win. And as a good Democrat, an elected official, party leader, I thought it was very important for me to get behind the nominee. And that's what I did. And I supported Vince Gray in the general election. Didn't support a write-in campaign. I thought that was important.
BOWSERBut I also believe that he won fair and square. And so now that we go into, in this campaign -- and the reason I answered that question this way, being a good Democrat and a party leader, I didn't think it would be fair Democrats to say I would support a candidate when we didn't really know what his legal future looked like.
SHERWOODAnd still don't. We're talking about Vincent Gray, if anyone hasn't said his name.
NNAMDIAnd if you have questions or comments, you can call us at 800-433-8850. Our guest is Muriel Bowser, Democratic nominee for mayor of the District of Columbia. 800-433-8850. We interrupted you.
BOWSERNo, I'll just say to Colby's further point, is that I certainly -- and, you know, the elections are tough and losing an election is certainly tough. And when the mayor's ready I know we're going to have that conversation. I appreciated a very genuine handshake that he offered to me this morning.
KINGDid he say anything?
BOWSERHe said congratulations. Well, it was kind of a hurried little thing. So I don't even know that I recall everything he said. But what I took from it is that he was extending his hand to us and unifying the party.
SHERWOODI know this is a program for you to talk about what you're going to do during the campaign and going forward, but…
NNAMDIIt doesn't have to be. It could be whatever we want it to be.
SHERWOOD…I do think it's important Mark Seagraves -- I did not go to the breakfast, but Mark Seagraves from Channel 4 did go. And he briefed me on it and how the mayor did not shake your hand on his way up to the lectern to speak. He did not shake your hand on the way back. He essentially ignored you. You were 10 feet away from him.
SHERWOODHe actually left the room and Seagraves, and Mike DeBonis of the Post, rushed outside saying, basically, "What the hell happened? You didn't talk to her. You didn't do anything. You didn't do the unity breakfast thing. It looked like you were passing trains in New York City." And he said, "Oh, that's not a story. That's not a story. I simply forgot."
SHERWOODAnd so then he came back in, gave you the perfunctory handshake and whispered something and then left again, fairly abruptly. So it's pretty clear he's not -- he's wounded.
BOWSERWell, like I said -- and, you know, I do politics and, you know, elections are tough. I have had some disappointments in people that I have supported in campaigns, too. So let's, you know, it was just -- it's a very fresh few days after the election. So we're going to give it some time, but I have great confidence…
SHERWOODDo you want his endorsement?
BOWSERWell, this is what I want. I want a smooth transition for the residents of the District of Columbia. And we welcome support from everybody who has been involved in the race.
KINGLet's do a little analysis, though, of this campaign, if you will. The mayor's base, Ward 7 and 8, they sat on their hands, as far as his candidacy was concerned. As I look at the turnout by ward, Ward 7 and Ward 8 had the lowest turnouts across the city. Mayor Barry had said that his coattails were the longest in the city and apparently he wasn't wearing a coat on Tuesday because Ward 8 turned out only 12 percent of the votes.
KINGIt's the lowest turnout in the city. The other thing I noticed -- and I'd like to have your comments on this. Your opponents, Tommy Wells, Ward 6 and Jack Evans, Ward 2, both lost their wards to you. What do you attribute this to -- outside of your sterling qualities, of course, but politically, what was going on?
BOWSERWell, we worked very hard, Colby, to have a strategy. And I kind of looked at the landscape last year and tried to figure out how we were going win. First of all, we set out with the strategy that the mayor would run. And I don't know that all the campaigns thought that. I think a lot of people built their campaigns thinking that he wouldn't be in the race. We always planned our campaign around him being in the race.
BOWSERAnd the only way that we would win in that scenario is to cut into his base. And so we started early, we started getting out -- I really went from zero to 30 percent in Wards 7 and 8 in a year's time. And so that was important to us. And we had kind of the same strategy in Ward 6 and Ward 2, especially in Ward 6 where there are a lot of Democratic voters that come out in big numbers.
BOWSERWe wanted to make sure that they knew that we would represent the values that they supported in Tommy Wells. And we had the best opportunity to make sure we got a fresh start in the mayor's office.
KINGQuestion -- go ahead, Tom.
SHERWOODI was just going to say, they didn't vote. I mean, you got votes and you did -- you won. But it was the lowest turnout since the 1990s, something like 30 years. A lot of people simply didn't vote. Even people who were marginally for Gray, many of them -- when I was talking to them -- because of this legal scandal hanging over his head and for a variety of other reasons, they simply didn't -- he didn't wear the cloak of victimhood that Marion Barry wears and gets people to come out for him. He simply just didn't have it.
BOWSERWell, I think, that we can't underestimate what talking about scandal and corruption and even negativity around campaigns does to voter turnout. It really does depress the vote. And so now it is my challenge to make sure that we're not just talking about that stuff, but we're also talking about the unifying principles of our party and the things that matter to residents of the District of Columbia.
BOWSERIt's up to the candidates, it's up to the media, it's up to community organizations and churches to make sure people know that their voices have to be heard in this election. And we're going to do that every day for the next seven months.
NNAMDIWe're talking with Muriel Bowser, Democratic nominee for mayor of the District of Columbia. She's a member of the D.C. Council. The voice you just heard is that of Colbert King. He is our guest analyst today. He's a columnist for The Washington Post. Tom Sherwood is our resident analyst. He's a reporter for NBC 4 and a columnist for the Current Newspapers. If you have questions or comments for Muriel Bowser, give us a call at 800-433-8850. Colby?
KINGOf course, beyond the Democrats you have a 103,000 voters out there who are not Democrats.
KINGThey're Republicans and Independents.
KINGWhat's going to happen there? Is that something you would concede to your principal opponent or…
BOWSERWe concede no votes.
KINGWell, how do you go about getting them?
BOWSERWell, I will tell you. You know, Colby, I represent a very diverse ward in many ways.
NNAMDIYeah, Colby and I live in it.
KINGWe live in it.
BOWSERYes. That you…
SHERWOODI do not.
BOWSER…live in. And I had for the last seven years represented a lot of independents and Republicans. And I also ran in a special election. And I'll tell you why that's important. Because in special elections everybody votes. And so for my very first election I made the decision to communicate to all of my voters from the start. And so I have enjoyed a great support among Independents and Republicans in my seven years on the Council.
KINGThe campaign, though, from here on out through the general elections, is really going to focus on substantive issues. Corruption may still be somewhere there, but it's not going to be the main issue. The person you're likely to face, David Catania, has made for himself in the area of education. Not only in health, but education. What are your differences with him on education policy in the District?
NNAMDIAnd please remember this show is only an hour long.
BOWSEROkay. I'm happy to talk about what's important with me in education. And we really don't know who's going to be in this race. So I have a potential opponent. And I'm looking forward to discussing our differences when the time is right. So you say -- I will say this, you say he's made a name for himself. And I don't know if it's a good name because…
KINGAnd I didn't say whether or not his was…
BOWSERI know, but…
KINGIt's a name.
BOWSER…that's what I'm saying. And so when I get out across the city, what people want to make sure, they appreciate and I have supported staunchly having mayoral control of the schools. It is important that we have a mayor that's focused and energetic and is going to get behind a chancellor that has the right ideas. And let the chancellor run the schools.
KINGBut how about an issue (unintelligible) special education? Where he proposes to change the period for determination of whether a kid is eligible for special education or not, from say 120 days to 60 days. You have any thoughts on that?
BOWSERYes. I think the chancellor needs to decide. We need to put our full faith and credit in and behind the chancellor's decisions. She's the educator. And she's responsible for making sure that we have the right people in place to make those decisions. Now, there are things around special education that I see as policy issues -- not nitty-gritty management issues -- that I think that we have to focus on.
BOWSERI've been concerned, for example, about this administration's closure of the Sharpe Health School. And when I talk to parents of children, they want to make sure -- and many parents -- I think that we have assumed for too long that people want to leave their neighborhoods and go out to Maryland and Virginia to go to school. They really don't. They'd rather not put their kids on a bus for an hour and have the services that they need in our schools.
BOWSERBut the schools have to be ready. So my approach to this is make sure -- yes, let's keep kids and families in their neighborhoods, in the District to go to school, but we have to look at our full portfolio of schools and services and diagnostic services to make sure that children are being served.
SHERWOODYou've said that Kaya's not…
NNAMDIWe got an email from Cynthia who says, "What on Earth qualifies Ms. Bowser to recommend adding the middle school MacFarland to Roosevelt? Middle schools is a very delicate time and people who are well-versed in the development of and needs of middle schoolers should be making those decisions, not politicians." What do you say in response?
BOWSERWell, yes. Because I've been elected to represent 75,000 people, I go out and talk to them about what they want. And what we've seen is that people are voting with their feet. They'd rather be in a stand-alone middle school that is really serving those middle grades. And we have had -- we have some options where kids go through a K - 8 school, and we have other options where kids are in a stand-alone middle school.
BOWSERAnd what I believe is that just by the number of people who want to go to stand-along middle schools, is that a stand-alone middle school is needed in that area.
NNAMDITom, is your question on education? I have…
SHERWOODYes, it's education.
NNAMDIOkay. Because I have a caller who wants to talk about education, too.
SHERWOODEducation is going to be an issue in this campaign with Catania, assuming he gets on the ballot.
BOWSEREducation is always an issue.
SHERWOODWell, I know it's…
BOWSERIt's been an issue for the last year. And it has nothing to do with who might run in November.
SHERWOODAnd it's a principal issue. I think everyone agrees it's a principal issue. In the city itself, it's how were going to maintain any progress that's been made. You have said Kaya Henderson has not been urgent enough in sense of urgency -- I think that's the phrase you used. I want to know in terms as a reporter looking forward to the next seven months, assuming that David Catania makes it onto the ballot, as most people think he will, are you going to engage him in forums across the city?
SHERWOODI've already -- some people have already suggested to me that you're going to do a bare minimum of forums so that you cannot be accused of avoiding them, but you're going to try to shut him out. Can we anticipate that you'll go through this grueling list of forums that we normally have in a campaign? Or will you try to run outside of those forums?
BOWSERWell, I don't run away from people asking questions. I think you know that. And we all know that it makes a good story to think we are going to have a competitive general. But we also know that that's not what the early polling would suggest.
SHERWOODWell, that was a post poll. It's that 50 something to 30 something for him.
SHERWOODBut he's been to 130 schools. He's making education -- he's introduced all types of legislations in the Council as chairman that you haven't introduced legislation. And I just think whether people like David or don't like David…
BOWSEROr whether the media wants to have a close race.
SHERWOODWell, I don't think we have to create this because it exists.
SHERWOODBut I just want to know that I'm -- am I'm going to have to spend my time going to a lot of forums or just two or three?
SHERWOODHow do you want it to unfold?
BOWSERWell, certainly. And, you know, we're going to put together a great team, just like I have done this year. And I appreciate the accolades that everybody has given us for running a smart race that gave us a 12-point victory on -- 11-point victory on Tuesday. So we're going to just approach it very strategically.
KINGAre you going to do that with the same team?
KINGOr are you going to change the team?
BOWSERI think that we're going to have the same very good team in place.
NNAMDII have to get back to education here.
SHERWOODI'm sorry. I haven't heard an answer on are you going to do all the -- you got -- you'll be invited to 20 different forums, at least. Do you anticipate you'll more likely accept forums or minimize the number of forums you intend to go to?
BOWSERWe're going to participate in forums. I mean, I didn't participate in every forum that I was invited to on this last race…
BOWSER…because it was impossible. And so the balance that our campaign…
SHERWOODBarring scheduling problems, you'll be at the forums.
SHERWOODBarring scheduling forums you'll…
BOWSERWell, having not been invited…
NNAMDIBarring scheduling problems.
BOWSER…to any of them I can't, like, accept…
NNAMDIBack to education…
BOWSERBut we're going to talk to -- our goal, of course, is to make sure as many people as possible get to hear my views.
NNAMDIJames, in Annapolis, Md., you're on the air. Go ahead, please.
JAMESHi, thanks for taking my call. So speaking of Mr. Catania, he has a proposal in front of the Council right now for a grant to students from D.C., seeking to go to college, that would help pay for things like their room and board. And Eleanor Holmes Norton has warned that this proposal would directly endanger the D.C. Tag Program, which is a grant from the federal government that enables D.C. students to, again, go to college.
JAMESThe proposal that Catania has put forward is for less money than the federal program, but he still seems to be pushing forward with it despite the dangers. My question for Ms. Bowser is will she be supporting that proposal of Mr. Catania's or is more supportive of D.C. Tag? And how does she feel about efforts within D.C. to help make middle schoolers more prepared and more college ready?
BOWSERSo the question was about the D.C. Promise Program, which was proposed by my colleague. And even during the debate we all knew that it had to get funded. So I was supportive of it getting out of the Council and becoming law. The mayor -- and I actually have a cheat sheet of items that were included in the mayor's budget proposal that was released yesterday. The D.C. Promise Initiative wasn't one of them.
BOWSERSo what the Council is going to do over the next 50 some days is really review all of those alternatives. The bottom line now is this, if we are to pay for the D.C. Promise Program, something else that's included in the mayor's proposal won't get funded. So we're going to dig deep into the budget to see what rises to the top.
SHERWOODSo you want to fund it?
BOWSERI want to look at everything that's in the budget. The caller also kind of set it up as D.C. Promise versus D.C. Tag. I'm 1000 percent committed to D.C. Tag and making sure the federal government knows that this is a program that has worked for the District. And we don't want them to back away from their commitment at all. I will say this, also. I got some very gracious calls from Congressman Issa, who has oversight over the District at the Congress and Senator Reid. All extending a hand, recognizing the issues that we face in the District of Columbia, and extending a hand to be willing partners for us.
NNAMDISpeaking of the Congress of the United States and the federal community, so to speak, every candidate who is in the mayoral race says, "If I get elected I'm going to be a big supporter of voting rights and statehood for the District of Columbia." And that's become the thing to say. What would you do differently than has been done in the past to advance the cause for statehood?
BOWSERI think that we all need to kind of roll up our sleeves and do the persistent work that needs to happen.
NNAMDIWhat does that mean?
BOWSERWhat that means is I want to have an everyday presence. In addition, to our delegate who fights hard and gets things done for us, we need to have representatives on the Hill that are talking about all of our federal interests. And we have a lot of them. Metro, not being a small one. Roads, bridges, our federal lands in the District, like Walter Reed and St. Elizabeth's and the land around RFK and all of our national parks.
BOWSERAnd, of course, our self-determination. I rank the order of the things and how I would pursue them, but our budget autonomy -- I think the federal government shutdown and its effect on us demonstrates very clearly to all of us that we have to unhook our budget from the federal budget. We're not a federal agency. Legislative autonomy, certainly, and also on the path to statehood.
KINGDoes that mean you will changed in some way, the way in which the mayor's office interacts with the Congress, as opposed to, for example, your predecessors have generally stayed back, held back and let Congresswoman Norton carry the ball on the Hill. Will you change that in any way? Have your people from a Bowser administration actually working hands-on with members of Congress?
BOWSERYes. I think then -- and that's not to step on the Congresswoman's toes, because certainly she has her perspective and things that she has to do on the Hill as a delegate and a federal legislator. Our job is to also make sure that members are aware of the District's interests from the mayor's point of view. And we'll do that.
KINGWhich gets us to what's going to happen over the next several months -- well, next several months in the city, the budget, itself. Will you approach the budget from the standpoint of a member of the Council, Ward 4, or the Democratic nominee? And this, I mean, you have an agenda, you have a program that you want to see put in place for next year. Do you try to shape the budget for next year to match the kind of program objectives you have? Or will you let this year work out the way it's going to work with the mayor as a mayor and you just wait and take on in January whatever you inherit from him?
BOWSERSure. Well, I'm going to wear many hats for the next nine months. And I'm going to approach it and I'm going to approach it and I'm the Ward 4 council member. We're going to make sure that we're approaching from that way. I'm the chairwoman of the Economic Development Committee, so I'm taking a close eye at all the economic development projects. And I have the opportunity to begin a very cooperative relationship with my current colleagues and in the future the folks that I'm going to work with in terms of an equal branch of government.
KINGWould advise the mayor not to take any actions that would have long-range impact, particularly on the next administration? Or that he would consult with you before he would take decisions that would affect policy in the future?
BOWSERWell, I'm hopeful. And this is what I said in the breakfast this morning, that I know that this mayor cares about the city as his hometown, just like it's mine. He spent decades of service to the District of Columbia. And I really have no reason to think that he's not -- he's going to do everything to insure a smooth transition of government. That fact is, though, our charter says that the next mayor becomes mayor in January.
BOWSERAnd so he is still in control of the city. And I'm hopeful that as a member of our Party and as a person who will support the Democratic ticket, that he's going to work with me and Phil Mendelson and all the members of the Council to insure a smooth transition.
NNAMDIHere is Michael, in Washington, D.C. Michael, your turn.
MICHAELYes. Hello, thanks for taking my call. I voted for Andy Shallal and I didn't hear Ms. Bowser mention his name when she is reaching out to the Democrats. I'd like to think that the progressive voices that supported him and certainly many of us that felt that his message was the right message, that she would also take this community into consideration.
NNAMDIYou've got to go beyond having meals at Bus Boys and Poets.
BOWSERWell, I do have a lot of meals at Bus Boys and Poets, but I actually…
KINGThe gumbo is really good there.
BOWSERYes. And so is the blackened salmon. It's fantastic.
NNAMDICan we move on here?
BOWSERBut I will say to Andy's supporter and hopefully mine next time…
SHERWOODAnd we should say Andy has congratulated you, hasn't he? I think he has.
BOWSERYes, he did.
SHERWOODOkay. All right. Okay. Sorry.
BOWSERHe was certainly there this morning. And in my remarks on Tuesday night -- and I have, over the course of a lot of debates as well -- acknowledged the perspective that Andy has brought to this debate. And I do think it's very worthwhile. And I think there's been a lot of energy from Andy Shallal's supporters, talking about inequality in our city. And the focus that he's put on inequality in our schools and how we continue to grow our middle class, I think is tremendously important.
BOWSERMy job now, as the Democratic nominee, is to look at all of those ideas, including from Andy, and also Tommy Wells. And I say often that we share a lot of supporters. And I'm going to make sure that we carry those values and issues with us to the Democratic -- to the general election in November.
SHERWOODOne thing that Andy said during the campaign, is when you're across the river, on the east end of the city in Ward 7 and 8, all those cranes downtown look different, suggesting that not enough -- and you've pledged to have a deputy mayor for east of the river. You've talked about housing some, but a part from schools, where people can live to send their kids to school, housing has fallen off dramatically in terms of affordable housing as the city becomes enriched.
SHERWOODAnd you recently, I think in just March, you said you supported $100 million a year for the housing trust fund that helps finance more housing. But you've been the Housing committee chairperson since the start of 2013, is that right?
BOWSERSince last January, yes.
SHERWOODAll right. January of 2013. But you haven't done a lot of legislation. What do you think needs to be done for housing?
BOWSERI think we need…
SHERWOODThat you haven't done as chairman of the Housing committee.
BOWSERYeah. And it doesn't have anything to do with legislation. It has to do with getting money out the door. In the first two years of the current administration we were -- I didn't have oversight then. But the -- we saw housing funds slashed. In the most recent two years or so, we've seen a huge increase in the monies that are going into the housing production trust fund, up to $187 million.
SHERWOODMayor Gray's proposal.
BOWSERYes. But, unfortunately, we haven't seen it get out the door quickly. And we have exercised oversight over how that money is spent. The very first thing I did around housing when I got this committee last January is try to figure out why our new communities initiative had stalled. The very first hearing that I had. And I have to tell you that focus is actually getting those projects underway. And so to suggest that we've done nothing, you know, some people think that…
SHERWOODI didn't want to -- I don't think I suggested nothing. I just wanted to know what you had done.
SHERWOODOthers have suggested nothing.
BOWSERYeah, and I know. And the job of the Council is not to just pass laws to change things. We have to make sure that the executive is implementing the laws that we've already passed. And is executing the budget that we approved. And part of that execution is getting new communities done. And we're going to stay focused on that. So it's not just -- when we talk about affordable housing, I hope everybody remembers the whole continuum.
SHERWOODYou know what's interesting about this conversation? We haven't really talked about ethics, you know. Because now that Mayor Gray has lost and we're still waiting for the prosecutors to deal with him one way or the other. Going forward, you have said we need a fresh start. We don't need to be dragged down by the legal troubles of the current mayor. What are you going to do to make certain that ethics in your administration -- that people are not taking advantage and that you'll have an ethical administration?
BOWSERWell, thanks for that question because it really is -- next to schools -- I think it's kind of the issue that's second on a lot of people's minds. And we've been proud to put together in a law that I helped get through the Council, authored the law that created an ethics board. And I already see the effects across the government, not just on the mayor and the councilmembers but on all public officials.
BOWSERSo now they have an independent body that gives advice. Sometimes we like it. Sometimes we don't. But it's good, legal, ethical advice. There's a hotline where people can call with questions, where employees, if they are concerned that they're in a gray area, they can call and get that advice. I was committed to making sure that board -- and when complaints went to that board that they just didn't fall into a black hole, never to be heard of again.
BOWSERAnd I think we can already see, with the items that were referred, that related to councilmembers, how they were dealt with quickly and fairly, and there was actually resolve. And so...
NNAMDIHow about your own administration, which is, I think, what Tom wanted to focus on?
SHERWOODAnd also, well, somebody said, we need to wake up the inspector general. We need to wake up the Office of Campaign Finance. We need much more aggressive funding, staffing to monitor the ethical issues that do come up on a daily basis.
BOWSERNo, I think you're right. And part of the reason why I suggested that we have an independent Ethics Board is all of those agencies that could have been investigating issues were not investigating issues. We put more money in the Office of Campaign Finance. We know that there is kind of a lot of push and pull between the Ethics Board and the inspector general. I'm going to be very focused on that. Another thing that we will be focused on is...
SHERWOODYou mean you'll clear away whatever confusion there is? What -- I don't know what focus means.
NNAMDIIf she wins the election.
KINGThis is just a nitty-gritty issue, too, that I'd like to know how you will address. 1960, I think I participated in my first election in the District of Columbia.
SHERWOODYou know what year she was born?
KINGI know. But 1960...
NNAMDILet's keep that out of this conversation, please.
KING1960 because it was a participating in the party primary to pick a presidential nominee. It took us about a month to get all the votes counted in 1960. We made some progress. But why in this year with the lowest -- one of the lowest turnouts we've had, with so few votes to count, that we couldn't get it right on election night?
BOWSERWell, that's something we're going to find out. You know, I had for a couple of years oversight over the Board of Elections, and I would go on election night just to observe the count myself and visit a lot of precincts to see what the process was. And this year, having been caught up in the excitement, I knew it was taking long, but I didn't really kind of get into the nitty gritty of why. We have to make sure we have the right leadership in our office and on the board, that we have the right equipment and the right training for people who are helping us. And we have to attract more people to help us run the elections.
KINGYou know, we've been saying the same thing for 40 years?
BOWSERI know. And I will assure you, after every election, I will have an after-action hearing, and I expect Councilmember McDuffie to do the same thing.
NNAMDIHold on to that clip, please. We'll be using it the next time there's an election in the District. Muriel Bowser is our guest. She's the Democratic nominee for mayor of the District of Columbia, currently a member of the D.C. Council. She holds the seat representing Ward 4. She chairs the Committee on Economic Development. Joining us in studio is Tom Sherwood. He's our resident analyst and a reporter for NBC 4, columnist for the Current Newspapers. And Colbert King is our guest analyst. He's a columnist for The Washington Post. We go now to Sherry Brown in Washington, D.C. who says, "The media is blowing smoke." Sherry Brown, go ahead, please.
SHERRY BROWNGood afternoon. And congratulations, Muriel, on victory.
BROWNYeah. And I think the media is blowing smoke. I do not believe Councilmember Catania will be that competitive in the general election...
BROWNThe media wants to create a race.
BROWNHe won't be that competitive because middle class black voters will not vote for him for mayor.
BROWNWhereas they voted for him for at-large because of his good service.
BROWNBecause a lot of black people -- I'll just put it out there -- don't want a white mayor. This is not Detroit. This city's doing much better. And we want one of our own. Because of the racial injustices that have occurred here, we want one of our own in the mayor's office. And that feeling will prevail into the election.
NNAMDII don't mean to be presumptuous, Sherry. But who authorized you to speak on behalf of all black people?
BROWNDoing a lot of political work out here and knocking on a lot of doors and doing work in this city. But I'm not trying to speak on behalf of all black people. I just...
KINGWhose candidate do you work behalf? Who do you work for?
BROWNMy -- I'm just giving you my prognostication on what I think will happen in November.
NNAMDIOK. Here now is Muriel Bowser.
SHERWOODWhat about the race issue there? He articulated it fairly well. He wants a black mayor.
BOWSERWell, I -- in a year of campaigning for this office where there were white candidates in the race, it didn't really come up that often. I know I got a lot of questions about it at the beginning of the race. And what -- I think that people want a mayor that shares their values. And that's what I think this race will be about.
SHERWOODDoes David Catania share values? I mean, I know you have disagreements. But this is not a value issue with him. It's just a matter of disagreements.
BOWSERNo, I'll repeat what I said. I think that people in the District want a mayor that shares their values and that what I've learned -- and I think what the results of our primaries show -- is that we have attracted people from all walks of life in all eight wards, every background and creed, gay and straight, to our campaign.
NNAMDIAnd I think every...
KINGI would invite listeners to look at the (unintelligible) returns and see how Phil Mendelsohn did in the city, across the city, in every ward of the city, carrying -- it's not as if African-Americans won't vote for a white candidate. They will. They have, and they will.
NNAMDIIn addition to which there are now...
SHERWOODDavid A. Clarke -- David Clarke comes to mind.
NNAMDIIn addition to which there are...
BOWSERAnd likewise, white voters vote for black candidates all the time.
KINGAs they did on Tuesday.
SHERWOODThat's why I'm looking to have a real robust general election campaign now that we might have one. I want to see one. That's why I asked about forums, about appearances, and not presumptions that you're going to be the next mayor.
BOWSERWell, Tom, you were there for my first press conference.
SHERWOODYes, at the National Press Club.
BOWSERYes. And I wanted to set the stage early on. So very soon after our victory on Tuesday night, by noon the next day, we were there to meet the press and to answer questions. And so, you know, we have a campaign of openness. We're not running away from issues or questions. And I want more of the residents of the District of Columbia to come out and vote. Now, part of our challenge going in is that we've turned people off from coming out to vote because they've kind of said, you know, forget about D.C. government. Nothing's going to change. And so for the next seven months, we're going to change that conversation.
KINGThis -- looking at the government itself, you must have some thoughts about how the government ought to be managed, having been on the council for so long. What about something like a city administrator? Do you see a city administrator in a Bowser administration? Would you see the same kind of composition of deputy mayors? Or would you change that around in any way? Do we need a deputy mayor for public safety? Should the chief of police and the fire chief report directly to the mayor? What are your thoughts on some of these things?
BOWSERNo, of course. We've been -- I've been thinking about that a lot, and as sitting on the council, you do have a bird's eye view of all the directors and how the government is organized. And my approach is to really start to think long and hard about those top positions. You know, my very first meeting was with the chancellor of schools, had a very good conversation with Chief Cathy Lanier this morning, and I'll be sitting down with her very soon as well.
BOWSERI think the city administrator, of course, is very important. I will give my city administrator a budget a responsibility as well. I think that's important. Now, the only change so far that I have suggested to the compliment of deputy mayors is to add one, and that would be a deputy mayor for the east of the river. That's really going to help me coordinate strategies with schools, economic development, and workforce and job issues.
NNAMDIWe've got a tweet from iamgoff who says, "Would you keep Allen Lew if elected? Or do you have another person in mind for your administration?"
BOWSERI really haven't made that level of personnel decision.
SHERWOODAnd it's kind of unfair. As a reporter, I think it's unfair when we ask, we'll start a whole list. Will you keep this person? Will you keep that -- you know, you're entitled, whoever wins, should you win.
NNAMDIWell, that was what iamgoff asked. I didn't ask that.
SHERWOODI know. But I -- he moved, didn't he? Didn't he move out west? I think he moved out west or something.
NNAMDIDid you iam?
KINGI don't mind being unfair with that kind of question. Will you keep the director of the Department of Youth and Rehabilitation Services? Did you know that's a very serious problem in developing in Ward 4 on Taylor Street with the new halfway house they put in there for young juvenile offenders? They've had serious incidents already with this facility. You were there at a meeting in that community where the DHS director was there. I don't think he performed necessarily well. He didn't seem to be responsive. Would you keep him?
BOWSERWell, again, I haven't made that -- I haven't made any appointments. OK? And until we win the election in November, we won't be making any appointments.
SHERWOODAre you in danger of people treating that you are in fact going to be the mayor? I know you want to do that in terms of being positive about winning. But you can hear the tone of some of the questions that people are going to treat you like that, and you're going to be asked about everything as if you're going to be the next mayor. And that could create a problem for you around -- voters could say you'll take it for granted.
BOWSERI'm not taking anything for granted. And we're going to campaign just as hard as we have for the last year.
KINGYou expect better behavior from the bureaucracy now that they know they have a new boss coming?
SHERWOODThey'll answer her phone calls.
BOWSERWell, we expect them to be responsive, yes.
NNAMDIWe got a tweet from mrgoat who says, "Muriel Bowser tried to keep group homes out of Ward 4. Will her discriminatory approach apply to all of Washington, D.C.?"
BOWSERNo. I don't -- we're not going to discriminate against anybody. And actually what we've done in our ward -- and we would apply the same principles to all eight wards as mayor -- is to make sure that people's fair housing rights are protected and that neighborhoods have some confidence that the government is going to treat them fairly.
SHERWOODYou know, on homeless issues, you know, you've said -- what would you do if you were the mayor right now, not a long-term strategy to put people in permanent housing, but right now, they're -- current mayor tried to put people in recreation centers and out in suburban motels. Now, you've been critical of the mayor's policies. But if you were mayor now, playing that role, what would you do differently?
BOWSERWell, I think that we've made some mistakes in kind of retreating from our housing first model which was introduced in the District when Adrian Fenty was mayor, which...
SHERWOODWell, that's the first time his name has been mentioned.
NNAMDINever heard of him.
BOWSERYeah, which gets the city away from the shelter for a night approach and make sure that we are evaluating people and getting them into permanent supportive housing. And I think we know the program is successful. It's not cheap. But it is successful because people who have been chronically homeless -- and when chronically homeless people come to the government with a whole plethora of issues that need to be serviced, and they will never get on top of those issues if they're going from shelter to shelter.
NNAMDIOn the council, you have been among those who are skeptical of a proposal to provide some funds for the construction of a new D.C. United stadium in Southwest Washington and do that complicated land swap deal for the stadium site which would involve giving up the Reeves Center at 14th and U. This would seem like one of the big ticket items Mayor Gray would like to happen before he is out of office. How do you plan to engage on this issue?
BOWSERWell, I've been engaged on the issue. I've had conversations with Allen Lew who is spearheading on the negotiations for the mayor for many months. We expected to get a package at the council, I think, in December or January. Here it is April. We haven't gotten it. So it may not be all done. Now, I will tell you what my skepticism is. It's about a land swap. It's not -- I'm not skeptical about big cities like ours, or medium cities, however you describe it, having great sports. I'm going to go, when I leave here, to help the Nationals celebrate their opening day.
BOWSERBut I think what every taxpayer and resident of the District of Columbia wants to make sure is that we're getting a good deal and that we're not giving away the Reeves Center. So that deal has to be right. And so I'm not sure at this point why the council hasn't gotten it. I don't know if they're waiting for the election to be over or if they're still negotiating. But that is -- that's going to be my direction. Please send us something that we can work with.
SHERWOODAnd if the football team were to fit financially and location-wise at RFK, would you be -- the last three mayors, the current mayor and the previous two, were inclined to welcome the team back if it was financially doable for the city. Would you like to see the football team back in the city?
KINGWith the same name?
BOWSERI think the football team is going to have -- they have to change the name to come back to Washington.
NNAMDIHere is Geraldo in Washington, D.C. Geraldo, you're on the air. Go ahead, please.
GERALDOGood afternoon, Kojo. How are you?
GERALDOI would like to congratulate Ms. Bowser for winning.
BOWSERThank you. Thank you.
GERALDOKojo, I have a question. I am a taxicab driver in Washington, D.C. for more than 20 years. Also, I'm a D.C. resident, too, and about -- a little bit over three years ago, I went to have a heart surgery. And then what I did, I give my license plate back from my taxicab, my own car, to the Motor Vehicle, and I got a private license. In other words, I changed my taxicab in a private car.
GERALDOSo I went to have the surgery. When I left the hospital, a few months out, I started renting a taxicab. When I felt that I could get my card back, I went back to the taxicab commissioner.
NNAMDINow you found you cannot use your own car anymore?
GERALDOI cannot get my car anymore. I'm a 65 years old man. I've been driving taxicab in D.C. for more than 20 years. They are not putting a new taxicab driver on the streets yet. I've been slaving here for, like, 10, 12 hours (unintelligible)...
NNAMDIAllow me to ask Muriel Bowser if she understands that problem. And, Tom Sherwood, you wanted to say?
SHERWOODWell, just the whole -- there's been a tremendous effort to try to bring the taxicab industry into the 20th century. But a lot of cab drivers feel they've been mistreated.
NNAMDIInto the 21st century.
NNAMDIDo not suggest that they're still in the 19th century.
SHERWOODI'm still waiting for a cab in the last one.
BOWSERRight. I talk about cabs every time I come to your show. And I think that part of the question here and what we hear across the city is not just about cabs but transportation. So we know in this city, in the next 25 years, we're going to have -- we'll be a city of over 800,000 people again. And to get ready for that type of explosive growth and for all of us who already are here to enjoy a great quality of life, we're going to have to have a lot of innovation in the area of transportation.
NNAMDIYou've just motivated Tom and Colby and I to hang around to see that 800,000.
KINGWe just about talk about 800,000. Let's talk about one person who's not here now, Relisha Rudd. What do you know about the situation over there with the family? There's a story yesterday, I think...
SHERWOODJust to be clear for people, this is the missing 8-year-old girl.
KINGA missing 8-year-old girl. Saw a story the other day that showed the mother with a wad of 50-dollar bills with the -- her boyfriend, large sums of cash.
BOWSERI don't know.
KINGSaw the photo, and she's in a shelter.
KINGShe's in a shelter. Can you -- has the council been briefed on any of this? What's behind this story? Because there's got to be more to it than...
BOWSERSure. And I just want to say that I have stayed away from talking about it because I didn't want to politicize in a very, you know, highly politicized time.
KINGNo. I'm talking to you as a councilmember, not as a candidate.
BOWSERAnd so that's why I haven't been vocal about talking about it. But this is what I think it demonstrates. There is a lot of very vulnerable people in D.C., families that are on the edge, people that are making bad decisions, and children that fall through the cracks. And so it just speaks to how important it is that we strengthen our safety net. So we had a child that was in a shelter. We had a child that was in one of our public schools.
BOWSERWe had people who probably could see that there was a family or a child in trouble, an all of those ways, we didn't -- we weren't able to grab that child, and that child fell through our safety net. And she's probably or probably hundreds of little Relishas all over our city that need people to step up and speak up for them.
KINGWell, that's the frustration here. I've been writing about that kind of a problem for almost 20 years...
NNAMDIYou only got about a minute left, Colby.
KING...as we've been writing about inability to count votes for 40 years. When does this change?
BOWSERWell, this is -- I was struck on when we had the tragedy of Bonita Jackson, the children who died there. And that's when it really hit me that this government -- and it's so much that the government has to be responsible for. And so we said then, we have to be -- the schools, we have to be able to know when kids aren't around, whether they're homeschooled, in public charter schools, or in DCPS, and have an immediate way to get the word out that there may be a problem.
NNAMDIAnd I'm afraid that's all the time we have. Muriel Bowser's the Democratic nominee for mayor of the District of Columbia. She's a member of the D.C. Council. She holds the seat representing Ward 4. She chairs the Committee on Economic Development. And of course she'll be participating in the general election in November.
NNAMDIThank you so much for joining us and good luck to you.
BOWSERThank you, gentlemen. Thank you very much.
NNAMDIColbert King is our guest analyst. He's a columnist for The Washington Post. Colby, good to see you. Thank you for joining us.
KINGThank you very much. I hope to come back some time.
NNAMDII hope you do. Tom Sherwood is our resident analyst. He's a reporter for NBC 4 and a columnist for the Current Newspapers. Tom.
SHERWOODVery quickly, iamgoff can send any questions he wants. He still owns a house here even though he moved.
NNAMDIOh, good, Tom always with the latest information. Thank you all for listening. I'm Kojo Nnamdi.
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