Prince George's County Executive Rushern Baker joins the broadcast to explore the challenges in his jurisdiction - and those throughout the D.C. region.
D.C.’s attorney and its lawmakers find themselves in a heated legal dispute. Former President Bill Clinton makes plans to visit Maryland and stump for a gubernatorial candidate. And former presidential candidate Mitt Romney injects cash into the legal defense fund of former Virginia Gov. Robert McDonnell (R). Join us for our weekly review of the politics, policies, and personalities of the District of Columbia, Maryland and Virginia.
- Karen Dunn Partner, Boies, Schiller and Flexner, LLP
- Brian Netter Partner, Mayer Brown
- Rushern Baker Executive, Prince George's County (Md.) (D)
- Matt Bush Maryland Reporter, WAMU 88.5
Watch A Featured Clip
Prince George’s County Executive Rushern Baker says if it were up to him, he would change the name of the Redskins football team.
“I’ve made it no secret we agree to disagree,” Baker told WAMU reporter Matt Bush on April 25 during the Kojo Nnamdi Show’s Friday Politics Hour.
But Baker said as county executive of Prince George’s county, where the NFL team plays, his job is to ensure the franchise are good corporate citizens — and they have been, he said.
Watch the full discussion below
MR. KOJO NNAMDIFrom WAMU 88.5, at American University in Washington, welcome to "The Politics Hour," today starring Matt Bush. I'm Kojo Nnamdi. Tom, "Politics" of NBC 4 and the Current Newspapers is on vacation this week. He'll be rejoining us next week. Today, our guest analyst is WAMU 88.5 reporter, Matt Bush. Matt, good to see you.
MR. MATT BUSHI'm very happy to be on here, as always. Thank you.
NNAMDIIs is Matthew? Were you once a Matthew who became known as Matt?
BUSHI'm -- well, my driver's license says Matthew, yes. And -- but I just go by Matt. It seems easier. Matthew, I think my mother only calls me that. And when she does I know that means she's upset.
NNAMDIWell, there'll now be two of us calling…
NNAMDI…you that, Matthew. No. Matt Bush, joins us in studio. Our guest is Rushern Baker. He is the county executive of Prince George's County, Maryland. He's a Democrat who is up for reelection this year. Rushern Baker, good to see you. Thanks for joining us.
MR. RUSHERN BAKERKojo, it's always good to be with you.
NNAMDIIf you have questions or comments for Rushern Baker, you can call us at 800-433-8850. The county executive has no opposition in the Democratic primary. You're it. 800-433-8850. You can send email to firstname.lastname@example.org. Or you can go to our website, kojoshow.org, join the conversation, ask a question or make a comment there. Matt, would you open the questioning, please?
BUSHWell, we'll start with the news that came this week about someone who used to hold your position, Wayne Curry. Just thoughts about that? He was diagnosed with lung cancer this week.
BAKERYeah, I mean, it's -- as everyone knows, Wayne and I are very close. He's not just a political friend, but a personal friend. What I can say is that he's in good spirits. He made this announcement because he wants to be -- do more to make awareness, not only about lung cancer -- especially in the African American community -- but raising resources for research. And he felt that the best way to do that was to come out.
BAKERI thought it was very courageous of him, very courageous of his family, you know. He has young adult children, a daughter that's graduating from high school this year. So, you know, to put himself out there and say, "I want to do more and I want to bring awareness," I think it's very good. And my job as county executive and as a friend is to support him and to thank him for not only his service, but the things he's going to do.
BUSHAlso this week, you gave your State of the County address. So sorts of things you were talking about -- being that you're unopposed this year, I'm going to guess things look pretty rosy in your speech.
BAKERYou know, it is pretty amazing. And Kojo knows this very well. You know, as many times as I've run for this office, I don't think I've ever been unopposed for anything.
NNAMDIThat's true. Last time you had a bunch of opponents.
BAKERYeah, I had a bunch. I usually come up with these ideas that people want to challenge me on. But we are in such a good shape in Prince George's County. Like, I said in the State of the County speech, we really have laid the foundation. If you think about where we are now -- I don't know that people would have thought this could happen in a four-year span. I don't know that I would have thought that. We could have two of the biggest projects going on in the state of Maryland within the next three to five years.
BAKEROne is definitely going to happen, that's MGM resort, which is about a billion dollars. We're in line and in a good proposal to get the FBI to come to Prince George's County. That's $2 billion. We're going to build a $650 million hospital. We announced the groundbreaking of moving the Department of Housing and Community Development to New Carrollton. We focus on these Metro sites. We're creating jobs.
BAKEROur crime is at an all-time low. In fact, we're at 45 percent -- I looked at it this morning. Homicides are 45 percent lower right now -- knock on wood -- than they were last year, which was a record year for us. So things are moving in the right direction. We still have, you know, issues. And that's what I said in the speech. I mean, we still have challenges, foreclosure is still too high, health disparity is still too great. We're just now starting to see some of the improvements in our education system. But overall, we are at the starting line and in a good position.
NNAMDIWell, you mentioned the FBI building. The listeners in Fairfax County probably will dispute your notion you're in a good position to get the FBI building, but a lot of people who work in Prince George's County do work for the federal government. Is that one of your major arguments?
BAKERIt is. We looked at it. 40 percent of the workers for the FBI live in Maryland. A percentage of that live in Prince George's County. The important factor for us is, you know, we've got -- I think we estimate a good percentage of our workers are federal workers. But we have very little of the federal lease space in the county. We think that's a good argument. But a better argument is that we've got a location like Greenbelt, that is right on the Metro system, which is what GSA and the FBI said they want to see and what the president has talked about.
BAKERAnd, you know, we've already put all, you know, laid the foundation for getting them here. We started to spend money on transportation issues around that site to prepare for it. We've already had the council push through zoning issues, so permitting will go fast. So we think we're in a good position and…
NNAMDIAnd Senator Barbara Mikulski has been very active lobbying for the county on the FBI. Has she told you anything about what her strategy is to mobilize Maryland's allies on the Hill?
BAKERSen. Mikulski is phenomenal. And her strategy is always that she's Sen. Mikulski. And as a chair of appropriation, she's our team leader. She's rounded everyone up and has us all singing in one voice. The governor, our federal delegation and the state delegation. So we are very confident and feel good about where we are.
NNAMDIYeah, she does like to take charge, doesn't she. 800…
BUSHAnd we don't mind it.
NNAMDI...800-433-8850. Our guest is Rushern Baker. He is the executive of Prince George's County, Md. You can also send email to email@example.com, with your questions or comments. Our guest analyst is Matt Bush. He's a reporter for WAMU 88.5.
BUSHYou mentioned putting some traffic -- doing some things now to mitigate what would be the traffic should the FBI decide to locate there. That's where 95 and the Beltway meet. It's bad there now, particularly with driving. What are you going to do? With thousands more workers there, what are you going to do to make sure that that doesn't get any worse?
BAKERWell, the thing we like most about it is -- and that's why I think Greenbelt is such a good site -- it is right next to the Metro system. So where we would locate, the FBI would be right there. The other thing is that Governor O'Malley and the lieutenant governor were gracious enough to actually put the money in the budget for the transportation and infrastructure needs. The county has put its money in there. And the county council actually passed the permit so that we could start work as soon as we get the green light. We're ready to do those things that will mitigate the traffic.
BAKERThe other thing we like about it is we're not just -- with the FBI coming in, we would actually use that as a catalyst to redevelop around Greenbelt, which is a great place to live right now, but have mixed use, places to shop. So you could actually do all of those things right there in that community.
NNAMDIHear that Fairfax? He's talking as if he expects the FBI. Speaking of roads and traffic, we have a Cara, in Ft. Washington, Md., who's on the air, right now. Cara, you're on the air. Go ahead, please.
CARAHi, Cara, from Ft. Washington. I have a question about the Oxon Hill Road section, up at the top of -- just behind the National Harbor. Now, there's a lot of stuff getting ready to go on up there. They're going to be putting in the casino, I understand.
CARAAnd the Tanger Outlets have just opened. And there's a proposal for a Walmart about a mile away. And I'm just wondering, what are you going to do for the actual residents of this area and the people who use those streets? Because, I'll tell you, when Tanger Outlet moved in, they had those streets ready in like two weeks. And meanwhile, the stretch from -- of Oxon Hill Road, from the top of the hill all the way down toward Livingston is just horrible. People are, you know, there's no sidewalk, there's no bike lanes.
NNAMDIOkay. Cara, Cara, we get the picture.
NNAMDILet me have him respond.
BAKERThank you, Cara, for your call. Two things, one is we were happy with the traffic at Tanger Outlet Mall because that was people who actually were not just passing through Prince George's County, like the normally have in the past. They actually stopped and shopped and spent money, which is what we want.
BAKERThe other thing that's going to happen -- because are having so much development around the National Harbor and Oxon Hill area, is we've actually -- I've actually elevated that to the number one spot of our transportation needs, not only when we send it to the state, but what we're going to do in the county. And so we're now going to focus on the state road, which is 201, but also the side roads that are there.
BAKERSo you will start seeing -- and I know folks want to see it yesterday, and I do, too, but we've actually put the resources in there and we're targeting that area first because there is going to be a lot of economic development going on there. The big wheel is coming to National Harbor. That's going to bring in people. So certainly we're going to focus on that and elevate it to the top spot.
NNAMDICara, thank you very much for your call. And good luck with your driving (unintelligible) …
BAKERCould I just add one more thing?
BAKERI'm sorry. If you see areas where there's just, you know, especially sidewalks and dangers, if you call 311 in the county or County Click, we will go out there and see if there's something we can do immediately. So I don't want you to feel like you have to wait until we've actually repaired.
NNAMDICan we talk education, Matt?
NNAMDIFour years ago when you were running you made that the centerpiece of your campaign. You've put in place a new leadership structure for the school system, but that's not to say you've gotten all the way where you've wanted to go. How would you describe your progress? And where do you see the most urgent need for improvement in a second term when it comes to schools?
BAKERYeah, education is critical to us in Prince George's County. And we were fortunate to get the reform to restructure our governance structure, which is always controversial. And this was no less so, but I felt it was necessary and I was glad that general assembly and the council went along with it. But by doing that, what we were able to do is attract a superintendent or a CAO who is considered -- who was the number one in the state.
BAKERHe was the Superintendent of the Year. He was one of four finalists in the nation. We attracted him back home because we changed its governance structure. We also were able to attract a board chair who is the director of Teacher Quality at NEA. Those things wouldn't have happened without the restructuring. But that's, once again, is just the beginning. It means now what we have to do is figure out how do we get those -- and there was an article about this.
BAKERHow do we get parents who are not looking at Prince George's County public school as an option? How do we get them to start looking at us as a place where they want to take a chance and send their children? And then how do we make sure we get really good principals, which is a leadership at the local level? I get to see this a lot because I visit a school a week. And those principals actually keep good teachers here.
BAKERAnd so there's a couple of things we're going to do. One, work on -- and I think Dr. Maxwell's budget speaks to the things we have to do. One is signature programs which we know work, which we know attract parents who are engaged in our school system. Why don't we expand those? And that's what his budget talks about. My wife and I put our children at Suitland High School because of the visual and performing arts.
BAKERYou know, they got training that we couldn't pay for outside. So he's expanding those. The other thing is, with Dr. Maxwell, we have now begun to put it in all-day pre-K in Prince George's County in some of our high-needs areas. So we start out with eight schools that we did in our transforming neighborhoods area. We put that to 16 schools and Dr. Maxwell is looking to add eight more. So we're going to elevate that early childhood education.
BAKERThose are the things that are going to get Prince George's County moving. I've said to folks I want to see, in the next -- at the end of the next four years, I'd like to see us move by whatever matrix we use in education, to have Prince George's County move at least three or four spots up. I think if we do that that's going to help us.
BUSHThis is "The Politics Hour," so let's look at this politically. How much did you look at what happened in D.C., with what Mayor Adrian Fenty did? And he made a lot of changes. And he was voted out in the next election, mostly because of it. You're not facing any opposition. So how much did you look at what happened there and either learn from it or did it just come from the fact that just everything worked out?
BAKERYou know, it's interesting. It scared -- and I'll be honest. It scared everyone on my senior staff when I said, "I can't do it anymore. I mean, I -- we've got to make a change. Most people said to me, make it after the re-election. You don't this to be an issue. And I said, "Well, that's unfair." People ought to -- you ought to put ideas out there and people should have the chance to vote you out. And I think if you talk to Mayor Fenty, he'd say he was glad he did it, you know, it was the right thing.
BAKERWe did talk -- I did talk to Mayor Fenty when we were going through the process. We did look at D.C. We looked at Philadelphia, Boston, and Cleveland. And we looked at their changes and we tried to come up with a mixture that would work to unique circumstances in Prince George's County. And we took it to the legislature. It was not easy. And we did a bunch of town hall meetings as the legislature was going through, where a lot of people, you know, said what they liked about it and a lot of people told me they didn't.
BAKERAnd, you know, the school -- the union and I did not agree at all on this, you know, this teachers' union. Principal's union came around, they were very supportive, but the teachers' union were very upfront. They said, "We don't like it. We don't think you should touch it." And -- but we went ahead with it.
BAKERAnd I think what people saw was, was I willing to listen to the comments they made about what they wanted in a superintendent. If we didn't attract someone like Dr. Maxwell or Segun Eubanks, I think people would have said, you know, "What was it all for?"
BUSHAnd did you -- when you picked Dr. Maxwell, did you look at -- Michelle Rhee was a lightning rod. Did you want someone who wasn't a lightning rod?
BAKERYou know, it's interesting. I actually wanted somebody who was a lightning rod. I'm going to be -- you go through all of this, you want to get in there and say, "Listen, we're going to change this." Because that's what's going to get parents' attention, it's going to get businesses' attention. So I wanted somebody who had an edge to them. But what we did do was have a big series of meetings with principals.
BAKERWhat is it you like? What is it you don't like? What do you want to see in the next superintendent? What matters to you? And, you know, what -- and I said this when he was picked -- he actually fit the bill they gave us. They said, "Well, we're sick and tired of people coming from the outside and telling us, you know, what we need." We want to see someone who's actually come through system.
BAKERWe want somebody who grew up in Prince George's County. We want somebody who lives in Prince George's County. But we want somebody with a diverse experience that's gone elsewhere and brought it. So there were very few people out there in the world who fit that bill. And Kevin Maxwell was the one. I mean, we interviewed with some great people, but he fit it.
NNAMDIBack to the telephones. Here's Gusman, in Beltsville, Md. Gusman, you're on the air. Go ahead, please.
GUSMANYeah, hi, Kojo. It's not Gusman, it's Gusman (changes pronunciation).
GUSMANYes, Kojo. How you doing?
NNAMDII am well, Gusman.
GUSMANI am really a fan of your show. And I like to, you know, whenever possible, I like to listen to your show. I am just a fan of WAMU and I'm a (unintelligible) listener, you know. But anyway, I live in Beltsville. And I, like, you know, my kids were going at High Point High School. And really, you know, it's a high school, but it's just -- and it's like, you know, from the physical perspective, it just does not meet -- it look like it does not meet the standard of other high schools that are in Maryland.
GUSMANIt is a high school that is almost like (unintelligible). You walk by, you see broken windows, almost everything…
NNAMDIWhat would you like to see happen with High Point High School, Gusman?
GUSMANYes, exactly. I would like to see if there is something like, you know, maybe renovations or just something else.
NNAMDILet me see if the county executive has any plans for high point.
BAKERYeah, Gusman, that's a, you know, I visited High Point High School when parents said, "Hey, it is a mess. It's leaking roofs in there." And you don't believe this is actually happening. And so what I did was I went there myself. You know, I didn't want anybody else, because I know how I'd feel about my children. It really does. I mean, the renovations won't do. I want to see a new High Point High School.
BAKERIt is one of the reasons we've got, you know, this -- I wish I could have gotten this through in the general assembly. But we put a bill in, Prince George's County, Montgomery County and Baltimore County said, "We need additional dollars for construction. We can't do it on ourselves, but we could do it together. We're willing to go in. We're willing to put a 2 to 1 match. If the state will come in with 1, we will match it with our dollars."
BAKERBecause in Prince George's County the majority -- we have a great number of our -- about 60 percent, I believe, of our high schools, of our schools are 40 to 50 years old. You know, the physical structure does not meet or not aesthetically pleasing for parents, as we're trying to attract them and keep them in our schools. We're going to do everything we can. And Dr. Maxwell's doing it. But we're going to rebuild our schools.
NNAMDISpeaking of rebuilding your schools, we just got an email from Mary Lehman, who is a council member from District 1.
NNAMDI"How far off," she asks, "are we from getting the state of Maryland the same bonding authority that Baltimore City now has to address the multi-billion dollar backlog on school renovations and new constructions? It must be a priority if we're going to make real progress in the foreseeable future on renovation and replacement of our aging and deteriorating school buildings?"
BUSHAnd then that bill in Annapolis, this year, went virtually nowhere.
BUSHSo why -- what does Baltimore -- what do they have…
NNAMDIWhat does Baltimore have that you don't?
BUSHYeah, what do they have to get things passed?
NNAMDIExcept for a governor who is their former mayor.
BAKERWell, let me say this, you know, and I want to thank Councilwoman Lehman for her efforts. We would not even have had the bill put in, had it not been for her efforts and just really -- and her colleagues in the 21st District really pushing this effort. Certainly we would have liked to see it done this year. We knew it was going to be hard in an election year. The county executive in Montgomery County and Baltimore County and I are committed to this.
BAKERWe all supported Baltimore City in getting more money for -- I was right there and supported their efforts because they need it. But at the same time the councilwoman is right. In Prince George's County, not just High Point, if you go to -- throughout Prince George's County, especially inside our beltways, we don't need renovation. We need new schools.
BAKERAnd so we're going to be back again next year asking the state to do this. And, you know, one of the things that we're assured of is that one of the -- whoever the governor is it's going to be from the Washington region, so should have some understanding of our needs.
NNAMDIGoing to talk about that in a little while. In case you're just joining us -- well, shame on you, but our guest is Rushern Baker. He is the county executive of Prince George's County, Md. He's a Democrat. He is up for re-election this year. Our guest analyst is Matt Bush. He's a reporter for WAMU 88.5. Matt?
BUSHWell, now that you brought up the governor's race, you said you're going to endorse somebody at some point, so we would love for you to get the exclusive today.
NNAMDIWe have a fan fare prepared.
BAKERYou know, I did say that, didn't I? You know, it's a difficult one and I'm still thinking through this. I mean, we've got some really good candidates. Certainly we talk about, you know, education reform. We couldn't have gotten the bill through Annapolis without Jolene Ivey's leadership as chair of the House delegation. It just wouldn't have happened.
NNAMDIAnd she is the lieutenant governor candidate on the ticket of…
BUSHDoug Gansler, yes.
NNAMDI…Attorney General Doug Gansler.
BAKERAnd certainly worked well with the attorney general. I know the lieutenant governor very well. We served together in the House. His children have gone to Prince George's County schools. His daughter graduated from Bowie High School, which is the largest school we have. So, you know, there is some really good people there. What I'm looking for -- and looking forward to, is working with whoever the governor is that -- and they're going to understand our issues here.
BUSHWhat's it to say that all three in the Democratic -- all three of the Democratic tickets, one, there's no one from Baltimore or its immediate suburbs, and all of them have someone from Prince George's County on their tickets? Now, is the power -- is the power shifting now, finally, to the D.C. suburbs?
BUSHSenate President Miller, who you know and represents your county, has always kind of said -- going back to what you were talking about earlier with the school funding -- there's always a sort of Baltimore bias in the general assembly. Are things finally shifting to the two big counties by D.C. now -- the state's two biggest counties?
BAKERYou know, we started off talking about Wayne Curry. And that's the big thing he would always say, is that you can't get elected governor or statewide office unless you come through Prince George's County because it is the largest collection of Democrats in the Democratic primary in votes. And that's still true. I think what you see, though, with Doug Gansler, Anthony Brown, Ken Ulman, Jolene Ivey, Heather Mizeur, all of those folks are coming from the Washington region.
BAKERBecause it really is a recognition that, in terms of growth -- and we say this all the time of Prince George's County -- economic growth and population growth. It's going to happen in this Washington region. And so we need to make sure that we have the type of resources that not only help us, you know. The things we're going to do in Prince George's County are going to help the state. And so I think there's a shift of understanding it. It is not a shift away from Baltimore City. Clearly, you know, Baltimore City is very important.
BAKERI don't think you'll find any one of the, you know, the big three, as we were called when we were trying to get school funding, that did not support helping Baltimore City as critical to the state. But at the same time, it's kind of hard to go down there year after year as county executive and trying to explain to people in Annapolis why it's so important for us to have economic development in the county. And it would be nice to walk in there and find somebody who actually gets it.
NNAMDIWell, if in fact, Prince George's County is developing more muscle statewide, I'd like to ask you about the health of the Prince George's County Democratic Party. It was a painful process to fit the State House seat vacated by former Delegate Tiffany Alston, who was removed from office after she was convicted of theft.
NNAMDIThe governor rejected the replacement nominated by the County Democratic Central Committee because of his criminal record. Both of them are now running against the man that governor chose for the job, Darren Swain. What concern do you have about what's happened during the past few years and how it reflects on the credibility of the county party?
BAKERYou know, I think, you know, certainly there are some issues with -- and I've had, you know, it's no secret. I had issues with the Democratic Central Committee. That is what elections are for. I've made it no secret that, you know, I'd like to see a strength in the people who go to the Democratic Central Committee so that we don't run into these problems that we've run into at these appointments.
BAKERAnd so we're going -- that's what -- you're going to play a critical role in the upcoming elections. I want to see us have folks on the central committee who reflect the new Prince George's County. And so the senators and I and people running, we're nominating people in the central committee, how I think will bring the type of respect that we want.
NNAMDIYou supporting any of the candidates in that primary?
BAKERIn the central committee?
NNAMDIOn the primary I talked about to…
BAKERYeah, I mean…
NNAMDIThe seat that Darren Swain now holds.
BAKERDarren Swain -- I've known and worked with Darren Swain for years. I support Delegate Swain. I thought he would make a good delegate. And I think for the replacement that he was down there, he's been, you know, a solid supporter of Prince George's County and our needs.
BUSHAlso happening this week, Dan Snyder's comments about, "Just look at the facts," regarding the team name. They play in your county. So what sort of -- what do you think of this? Should the team name change? It's a little sensitive for you guys because there's the possibility that they may move in 10, 15 years or something or even shorter than that. But, at the same time, they do play in your county. Should the team name change?
BAKERYou know, I've made it no secret and I think we've agreed to disagree on this contention. We love having the Washington team play in Prince George's County. They've been good corporate partners. Certainly couldn’t have gotten gaming through without their help. They took a big risk. But, as I said, if it was me I'd change the name. I think, you know, I think a lot of people would support that. But at the, you know, but that's me on a personal level.
BAKERAs county executive, my job is to make sure that we keep corporations that are bringing in revenues that are good corporate citizens in Prince George's County. The Redskins organization is no different. I'm going to do everything in my power to make sure that we keep them here and we keep them happy. And as county executive, that's what I would do.
NNAMDIOnto the telephones again. Here's Christina, in Bowie, Md. Christina, you're on the air. Go ahead, please.
CHRISTINAHi, how are you doing, Kojo? Thank you so much for accepting my call.
CHRISTINAI just had a quick question for the county executive.
CHRISTINAAll right. So I just wanted to let you know I attended a magnet program in Suitland, Md., when I was growing up in Prince George's County for high school. And I just had a question on what your plans were for kind of keeping such programs, along with visual science and math programs, kind of going into the school system with all these budget cuts.
BAKEROur commitment is to, not only keep those programs in the school system, but we're looking to expand them. That's why I like the bold action of Dr. Maxwell. Where people are going right, we're going to go left. We know it's a tough budget year. We're going to do everything we can to try and expand those programs and bring them into more places in Prince George's County, because that's what's going to attract and keep parents in here. If we did not, as I said before, if there was not a visual performing arts program at Suitland High School, I doubt that my children would have went there.
NNAMDIThank you very much for your call. We move on now to Angela, in La Plata, Md. Angela, your turn.
ANGELAMr. Bush, Mr. Baker, Mr. Nnamdi, good afternoon to you.
ANGELAThere seems to be a growing trend in the metro area, in D.C. (unintelligible) D.C. County, specifically, where developers will come in, they will put in residential space and commercial space, but provide absolutely or very minimal parking. I live in Hyattsville, Md. And there's a new Busboys and Poets, and an Elevation Burger and all of this. And they have very small, minimal amount of space for parking.
ANGELAThere seems to be a growing trend in the metro area, in D.C. general -- D.C. County, specifically, where developers will come in, they will put in residential space and commercial space, but provide absolutely or very minimal parking. I live in Hyattsville, Md. And there's a new Busboys and Poets, and an Elevation Burger and all of this. And they have very small, minimal amount of space for parking.
ANGELABut then there's no parking garage or anything. And there's a lot of people coming in, especially on the weekends. So I'm wondering, if there could be some policy implemented where a developer, when he puts in a new space, that he -- whether you build it into the ground or above the ground, that there be ample parking because right now, on Route 1, is very congested and I'm not sure what reason because it seems kind of idiotic for -- to me, that they actually took out one right lane, they put in meters.
ANGELASo it's -- that lane is already congested, so they put in meters, I guess, for other parking. But it just makes a crowded road already more crowded. So, please, I'm just wanting, if you could speak to a developer. If he comes in, that person, that entity, must absolutely provide parking. And I'll take the comments off air.
NNAMDIThank you very much for your call, Angela.
BAKERAnd thank you for your call. You know, my young adults that live with me, occasionally, go over to (laugh) -- they usually stop for money, but that's their favorite hangout now. And I'm happy because their favorite hangout used to be U-Street, Bus Boy's and Poet's on U-Street was taking my money. Now, at least it stays in the county. But one of the problems is, just like we were having at (word?) is the traffic. We used to complain about the traffic going up Route 1, through Prince George's County, not stopping, it is actually stopping, but there is no parking. And she's absolutely correct. When I take my wife over there, we can't find a place to park.
BAKERSo what we're doing is, we're looking at building a parking garage. One of the things that we say to residents when we're attracting businesses in, very few developers will build a parking garage. That's usually -- they're going to add as an incentive for the counties or municipalities to do. We have to be more receptive to that. That is one of the reasons that we put a former councilmember, Peter Shapiro in charge of our revenue authority, which is handling our parking issues.
BAKERBecause we wanted someone who has a background in dealing with development issues and attracting, especially the younger folks to these areas but understands its gotta be a connection with it. So she's absolutely right and we are looking to put parking over in that area.
BUSHWith all the development that you have coming in here now, the downside of it is though, that traffic is going to get worse. Is it just -- is it something that residents have to understand? The traffic's going to get worse, at least at first, maybe, you know, in the proceeding years after that, we can begin to fix that. But it is just one of those, you're gonna have to accept the fact, with all these big development projects and if you get the FBI Headquarters too, the traffic's going to, you know, it's going to ground to a halt.
BAKERI'm about to hire Matt Bush.
NNAMDIYou already hiring all of our D.C. people, you've already hired Mr. (word?) away from us.
BAKERThat's right, we got...
BUSHI'm not a D.C. person though. So that'd be stealing me -- it wouldn't be stealing me (unintelligible) ...
NNAMDIBut he works in D.C.
BUSHThat's right. We're getting...
BAKERBut you're absolutely right. I mean, getting people to say, hey, it's a good thing for want -- for us, at least in the short term because we had traffic but none of those folks were spending money in the county. We're actually getting them. But the other thing is, why we're focusing on our transit stops. We want to see more people use the transportation. We want to make it easier. So you're shopping becomes near the transit area. When we talk about Bus Boy's and Poet's, we're actually talking to D.C. about a circular that goes from Prince George's County to Rhode Island Avenue where people can actually get on the bus.
BAKERBut the other places in Greenbelt and New Carrollton, Largo, where our hospital's going to be located. We're locating these places. We're going to put a big emphasis on Prince George's Town Center right next to Metro's.
NNAMDINext he'll be hiring away Ward 6 Council Member Tommy Wells. He lost in the Democratic primary for mayor, so he could create...
BUSHHe has a background in social work, doesn't he?
NNAMDI...a walkable, bikeable Prince George's County.
NNAMDIHere is Getacho in Severna Spring, Md. Getacho, you're on the air. Go ahead, please.
GETACHOThank you for, Kojo, for accepting my call. My question to Rushern Baker is regarding the Prince George's County taxi operation and the medallion. For a long time, the road was not good and we fought and we approved that CB (word?) 36-10. And that law is the main law that (sic) supposed to oversee the taxi operation of Prince George's County. In that law, we have agreed to have a board which is from a company and the drivers and the public. But that -- I don't see that board is working, because the drivers are ignored to be in the (sic) board member.
GETACHOSecond, by CB 0311, that provision of new medallion has been stopped. But now, you see a lot of new medallions are on the street. If were (sic) been in the taxi board, we could have worked with the exclusive office...
NNAMDIGetacho, we're running out of time in this segment very quickly. Are you saying that there needs to be more taxi drivers on the board?
BAKERI think it...
GETACHOYeah, we don't have any taxi driver in the board. Second...
NNAMDIHere's County Executive Baker.
BAKERThank you. I understand the question very well. It's a big issue for us, much like D.C. when they dealt with the whole restructuring of how they deal with the taxi cab issues. We're looking at the same thing in Prince George's County. We're looking at what's going on in Northern Virginia. Because, with these new development coming in, especially at the Gaylord -- the whole issue where we used to be a driveable -- you'd drive your own car, a lot more folks are taking taxi cabs. And so we've got to revamp it. And I should give credit to Vice-Chair of the Council Will Campos, who's leading this effort.
BAKERAnd there are meetings going on right now on how we revamp the whole taxi cab issue and make it fairer and better for the people who are going to come and visit Prince George's County.
NNAMDII'm afraid that's all the time we have. Rushern Baker is the executive of Prince George's County, Md. He's a Democrat who's up for reelection this year. And Wayne Curry, we know that you tend to be a very private person, so this must have been a difficult decision for you to go public. Know that we are all wishing for you to get well. As a matter of fact, that's an order, Wayne. Get well. Rushern Baker, thank you so much for joining us.
BAKERThank you, Kojo. Thank you, Matt.
NNAMDIThis is The Politics Hour. Our guest analyst is Matt Bush. He's a reporter for WAMU 88.5. Matt Bush, former President Bill Clinton will soon be heading to Maryland to offer his support at a fundraiser for Lieutenant Governor Anthony Brown in his race for governor. How important do you think that is?
BUSHOh, he's gotten a lot of -- the lieutenant governor's gotten a lot of these endorsements already. They were mostly from statewide people. Now, this is his first national -- endorsement from a national figure. So he's gotten a lot of these before. I don't know how much it's -- what, if any, bump up it's going to give him right now. There is a new poll that came out this week from St. Mary's College that shows undecided is running away with the Democratic primary right now, with 54 percent. The lieutenant governor's getting 27 percent, Attorney General Gansler at 11 and Heather Mizeur at eight.
BUSHSo right now, it just looks, you know, these are more endorsements. He's coming around. He's kept his lead, you know, throughout the whole thing. But it just seems like a very uninspired electorate right now. And I think this poll is showing that with 54 percent. We have about two months left until the primary. And to have more than half the voters, at least in this poll, showing that they are still not -- have their minds made up on this right now. I think it just shows a lot about the state of the race right now, that none of these candidates right now really seem to be inspiring a whole lot of people.
NNAMDIWell, that 54 undecided I guess is what Doug Gansler's looking at. By the way, later in the broadcast, we'll be talking to two attorneys for the Washington D.C. Council in its lawsuit against the mayor and the chief financial officer over whether or not the city has to get a federal acknowledgement or a federal approval for spending our own tax dollars. But getting back to the governor's race in Maryland for a second. I said Doug Gansler was looking hopefully at that 54 percent undecided.
NNAMDIHe had a fairly difficult launch to his campaign because a number of matters occurred having to do with parties and teenagers at that time. But recently he also made a statement about the lieutenant governor's deployment to Iraq and the fact that he was a lawyer in Iraq, but that that didn't really constitute leadership experience. He later said that he does respect the lieutenant governor's service in Iraq, but he was merely making the point that the lieutenant governor's role in the healthcare rollout was, as far as Gansler was concerned, a disastrous one.
NNAMDIBut it seems that he has, at least early on in the campaign, developed the habit of kind of putting his foot in his mouth.
BUSHRight now, it seems like he can't get out of his own way, I think. I think that's sort of the way to look at him. In fact, if he had said what he was trying -- the criticism he was trying to say to the lieutenant governor -- maybe he'd said that before the tech council and the mayor, in the way you just said it, I don't think there would have been such a hullaballoo. But he said, being governor is a real job.
BUSHAnd it made it look like he was saying the lieutenant governor's service in Iraq was not a real job. So these people jumped to the VoteVets.org, that's a national group, accused him of swiftboating the lieutenant governor. So right now the attorney general, people have covered him as both attorney general and state's attorney in Montgomery County know he's a very outspoken person. There have been times when his words have gotten him into trouble. So it's probably not too much of a surprise that it has gotten him into trouble in this campaign.
BUSHBut just as he seems like maybe he's right about their -- I think, some of the healthcare, the attacks in the role in the healthcare exchange, are beginning to land and beginning to actually do -- help the attorney general in his quest here, he says this. And it just seems like then the press, you know, then the focus goes right back on to that, instead of the things that he wants it on.
NNAMDIDon't conflict the healthcare rollout with the Iraq service.
BUSHI did -- it happens, I guess. I don't know.
NNAMDIIt doesn't work. It doesn't work. Joining us now in studio is Karen Dunn. She's a partner at the law firm Boies, Schiller and Flexner. Did I pronounce that correctly.
MS. KAREN DUNNYou did. Thank you.
NNAMDIThank you very much for joining us. Also here with us is Brian Netter. He is a partner at the law firm, Mayer Brown. Thank you both for joining us.
MR. BRIAN NETTERThank you for having us.
NNAMDIFor those of you who have not been following why these two individuals are in this room, the D.C. Council is suing the city's mayor and chief financial officer over an effort to secure more autonomy over the city's budget, it's right to spend it's locally-raised tax dollars without having to first seek approval from Congress and the president. The mayor's administration claims a voter-approved referendum to give the city so-called budge autonomy does not, in fact, carry the weight of the law that it would require a Congressionally-approved change to the city's Home Rule Charter to change this. What is your argument against that, starting with you, Brian Netter.
NETTERWell, thank you, Kojo. So the basic structure of government in the District is, in 1973, when Congress granted Home Rule, it provided a charter, which is the equivalent of a state constitution. And like a state constitution, there's a mechanism for amending the charter. Now the requirement that the District get approval from Congress before spending the money that it possesses within local control in the D.C. general fund -- well that's one of the provisions in the charter.
NETTERSo the council and the people and the mayor all followed the process for amending that provision in the charter, so that it now no longer requires submission of this request to Congress to have the District spend the funds that it raises locally through things like property taxes and sales taxes.
NNAMDI800-433-8850. Do you have questions or comments about this issue? Do you require explanations for any aspect of it? Give us a call, 800-433-8850. Or send email to firstname.lastname@example.org. Is it accurate to say that this is essentially a local constitutional crisis that's taking place in D.C. over this issue?
NETTEROh, I don't know if I would call it a crisis. It's certainly an interesting constitutional issue. But the reason we brought this lawsuit is to get resolution before the critical dates of the budget season. So the mayor has proposed his budget for the next fiscal year. The council is set to have its first vote by May 28. The case is now in federal court and the presiding judge has indicated that he ought to be able to give all the parties involved his view as to what the law requires prior to that date.
NNAMDIWell, Karen Dunn, it's my understanding that this dispute is first going to be held in federal court. But that you want this sent back to D.C. Superior Court, where the suit was initially filed. Can you explain?
DUNNWell, so we did originally file in superior court, because we believe that the suit is properly brought there. And I think there's no question about jurisdiction in superior court. The attorney general's office, on behalf of the mayor and the CFO, did then remove the case to federal court. We have a technical question about whether there exists jurisdiction in federal court. And our understanding is that the judge will decide that question, whether or not the federal court has jurisdiction, before he can decide the question on the merits.
DUNNAnd so what we filed today is a brief that addresses both those issues. But the jurisdictional question is really a technical question about where the case is properly brought and whether or not the federal court has technically the jurisdiction to decide the question, which is separate from the merits of the question.
NNAMDIOf course the federal court is being invoked because the president and the Congress are involved in this and they are both federal offices, so to speak. What's your argument against that?
DUNNWell, so in most issues involving the District, there are federal issues that lurk in them. But this is separate from the question of whether the federal court actually has jurisdiction to decide the question. And jurisdiction is based on the complaint brought by the plaintiff, in this case the council. And the council's claim in this case arises under the Budget Autonomy Act, which is a local law having to do with the local funds of the District, locally kept in the D.C. general fund and have to do with the local expenditures of those funds.
DUNNSo it'll be a question for Judge Sullivan to decide whether he has jurisdiction over a case arising under the local law, but also having implications under federal laws, in the opinion of the defendants, who have raised defenses having to do federal law.
NNAMDIAnd it is your hope that his decision will be to kick it back to D.C. Superior Court.
DUNNIt's our position that we feel confident on the merits of our position in either court. And jurisdictional questions need to be considered -- they're required to be considered by any court before they can opine as to the merits. So it is our duty to raise any questions we have about jurisdiction. But the truth is, you know, we would -- we'll be delighted to be in either court. And we've submitted today a brief that -- to the federal court that addresses the merits of the issue.
NNAMDIKaren Dunn is a partner at the law firm Boies, Schiller and Flexner. She joins us in studio with Brian Netter. He's a partner at the law firm Mayer Brown. It's my understanding that you two are also, if you will, partners.
DUNNWe are, indeed.
NNAMDIYou're husband and wife?
DUNNWe are husband and wife.
NETTERWe're seeing autonomy together.
NNAMDIYou got married in 2009. If you have comments or questions about this issue, give us a call. 800-433-8850. Matt Bush?
BUSHYou were saying though, in having it come back to a different court -- does that delay in the fact of the -- I mean, when do they have to have this resolved. During budget season, they have to have it resolved at some, you know, within the next few months. Is that correct? So, but by having it go back to a different court, does that delay this and then keep the whole budget process in D.C. sort of in limbo while they work this out?
DUNNSo the hope is no. And at our hearing on Wednesday before Judge Sullivan, he certainly indicated that he appreciated time was of the essence. The papers that we filed asked that all review, including appellate review, if possible, be completed by the time of the first reading of the council's budget, which is May 29.
NNAMDIFollowing the interpretation of your lawsuit, what role can Congress still play in the D.C. budgeting process, if indeed we have voted that we can spend our own tax dollars the way we want to? Can Congress still attach policy riders to D.C.'s spending bills that go through Capitol Hill?
NETTERWell Congress always has the supreme authority to legislate for the District. And to the extent the District can do anything, it's because Congress has essentially delegated that authority to the District. So there's nothing that would prevent Congress from passing legislation that introduces Congress' policy preferences or directs the district to spend its money in some particular way. The only change to the Budget Autonomy Act is -- reflects whether the District has to wait for Congress' affirmative approval before it can spend the money that it raises.
NNAMDIOh, go ahead, please.
DUNNI think it's important to note, Congress did participate in this process when the Budget Autonomy Act came before it as an amendment to the charter and decided to not disapprove of the amendment and allowed it to go into effect. And, indeed, the amendment does nothing at all to affect the federal disposition of dollars, which Congress appropriates to the District every year.
NNAMDIWhat would it take to change the dynamic on the attachment of social policy riders that affect D.C.?
NETTERWell, you know, I can't really speak to what would be necessary to change the political dynamic. From the legal constitutional sense, you know, there's really -- I don't think there's much that can be done, just because the District's authority has been delegated by Congress. So at any point, Congress can step in and change the rules or provide, you know, the social rules or the systematic rules for how the District government is supposed to operate.
NNAMDIJerry in Washington D.C. has a question. Jerry, you're on the air. Go ahead, please.
JERRYThank you very much. I'd like to know if the council and some citizens are so hot about this issue, why aren't we asking the council to let us vote for an attorney general? We passed that law as well.
NNAMDIWell, for those of our listeners who don't understand, the voters also approved the election of the District's attorney general. And that, according to the activists, should have been on the ballot this year. The council, for a variety of reasons, decided that it should not be. It said there are still issues to be resolved.
NNAMDISo Jerry wants to know if the council is so gung-ho about following the voters' will when it comes to budget autonomy, why are they not just as gung-ho about following the voters' will when it comes to the elected attorney general. I'm not sure that either Karen Dunn or Brian Netter is in a position to speak for the council on that issue, but please speak for yourself.
DUNNYou know, that's not an issue, frankly, that we've looked at from a legal point of view.
NNAMDIThat's all right.
DUNNSo we would leave that to Matt or Kojo to (word?) ...
NNAMDIWell, here is one that you may have looked at from a legal point of view. Is there anything in this lawsuit that would have implications for D.C. voters pursuing a referendum as a vehicle for Congressional voting rights? That is the opinion of several people, that if we can do this by referendum, then we can also get our voting rights -- a vote on the floor of the U.S. House of Representatives and maybe in the Senate -- by referendum.
NETTERWell, you know, again, not a question we've looked into. What's hopeful for our lawsuit, I guess, is that this is a very narrow question. That the District charter spoke to this particular issue -- it spoke to the budget process and provided a process for amending its terms. And the voters of the District along with the council and Congress' pass of approval, have now changed that provision. I can't speak to whether the District charter itself, as opposed to the constitution would have to be amended, in order to get the District voting rights. But that would be the possible difference in the process here and the process there.
NNAMDIBut judging from the argument that you were trying to explain to me earlier, Karen Dunn, it would seem that even if we voted in a referendum to have a vote in Congress, that in the final analysis, Congress would have a say about that.
DUNNWell, Congress always has plenary authority over the District. And that's not at issue in our case, because we have the Home Rule Act, which was passed by Congress, in which Congress moved money out of the U.S. Treasury and into the D.C. general fund, the local funds. That's the funds that our lawsuit is talking about, and then separately established the District charter, which was amendable and has now been amended through a process involving the D.C. Council, this mayor, a vote by over 80 percent of the voters, and then of course passive review by Congress.
NNAMDIYou did say that Judge Sullivan indicated that he understands that time is of the essence here. Can you provide some kind of timeline on what listeners can expect in this case?
DUNNSo, I can tell you that a briefing schedule was set. Our main brief was filed today. Defendants' main brief will file soon thereafter. And we'll have a hearing in District court on May 14.
NNAMDISo after that we'll figure out where we go from there. Karen Dunn is a partner at the law firm Boies, Schiller and Flexner. Thank you for joining us.
DUNNThanks for having me.
NNAMDIBrian Netter is a partner at the law firm Mayer Brown. Thank you for joining us.
NNAMDIYou should know that the federal prosecutors want former D.C. Councilmember Michael Brown to serve more than three years in prison for accepting bribes from federal officials. A lot of people have asked for mercy on his part. They said that he cooperated into the investigation of the Jeffrey Thompson case. But the feds are also saying that he didn't cooperate as much as we have been led to believe. We'll see what happens with that. Matt Bush, thank you for joining us.
BUSHI'm going to give you the last question. Do the Wizards close it out this weekend?
NNAMDII'll be there. They'll be there tonight. They have to close it out because it's the first time I've gone in years.
NNAMDIThey have absolutely no choice. Matt Bush, thank you for joining us.
NNAMDIAnd thank you all for listening. I'm Kojo Nnamdi.
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