President Barack Obama publicly declares support for D.C. statehood. Prince George’s county lawmakers move to allow voters to decide on whether term limits there should be loosened. And Arlington County’s board moves to pay for a streetcar project without federal funding. Join us for our weekly review of the politics, policies and personalities of the District of Columbia, Maryland and Virginia.

Guests

  • Tom Sherwood Resident Analyst; NBC 4 reporter; and Columnist for the Current Newspapers
  • Tom Hucker Democratic Nominee, Montgomery County Council (District 5); Member, Maryland House of Delegates (D-District 20)
  • David Catania Member, D.C. Council (I-At Large), Chairman, Committee on Education

Featured Clip: Catania Says Land Swap Not Necessary For New Soccer Stadium

DC Mayoral candidate and council member David Catania (I) is against a proposed land swap at the heart of the negotiations around the city’s new soccer stadium, saying Friday it was not “a necessary ingredient” in moving the project forward.

On Kojo Nnamdi’s Friday Politics Hour, Catania criticized Mayor Vincent Gray’s plan to trade the Reeves Center at 14th and U Streets NW for the parcels of land needed to build the stadium, saying he didn’t put stock in “selling one of the family jewels” as part of the negotiations.

Watch the discussion below.

Watch Full Video

Watch our full interview with D.C. mayoral candidate David Catania.

Transcript

  • 12:06:39

    MR. KOJO NNAMDIFrom WAMU 88.5, at American University in Washington, welcome to "The Politics Hour," starring Tom Sherwood. I'm Kojo Nnamdi. The Silver Line starts taking passengers this weekend, and Prince George's County approves casino construction at National Harbor -- both bold efforts to get Tom Sherwood out of the District more often.

  • 12:07:07

    MR. KOJO NNAMDIHe won't drive in Northern Virginia, but he will drive to a casino. Tom Sherwood, he's our resident analyst, he's an NBC 4 reporter and columnist for the Current Newspapers. Now, you can take the Silver Line into Northern Virginia because driving there, as far as you're concerned, Northern Virginia is an enigma. And now you can drive to National Harbor.

  • 12:07:25

    MR. TOM SHERWOODYou know, this is what's wrong with the media. They have very hard and hard-felt positions and statements. And they are often -- are just wrong. I will be leaving tomorrow morning, Saturday morning, and driving through the warm roadways of Northern Virginia in route to another state to the west of Virginia. But I will be in Northern Virginia tomorrow.

  • 12:07:49

    NNAMDII know you know your way around Richmond very well, because you worked there. But Northern Virginia…

  • 12:07:53

    SHERWOODThat's right.

  • 12:07:53

    NNAMDI…always seems to cause you a level of, well, depression.

  • 12:07:56

    SHERWOODWell, you know, it's just, you know, it's either -- it's either a left turn or a left -- a right turn to the end of the Earth over there. You never get there because there's too many cars. But that's why the Silver Line is such a great deal. And I'm looking forward to seeing it. And I truly am looking forward, someday -- if I'm not too old -- maybe my casket will do it -- will take a trip out to Dulles Airport via the Silver Line.

  • 12:08:17

    NNAMDIAnd Tom Sherwood is going to be driving -- will you also be driving to National Harbor to casino when it's constructed?

  • 12:08:24

    SHERWOODProbably not. I actually have lost a lot of interest in casinos ever since they went to computer printouts. When you win, like at the dollar machines and the dollars just pour out like they're never going to stop and make that clattering noise -- that's a computer-generated sound now. And I have to tell you, it's not the same.

  • 12:08:41

    NNAMDIYou lose money, you also lose interest. Also joining in studio is David Catania. He's an independent candidate for mayor of the District of Columbia. He's an at-large member of the D.C. Council who chairs its Committee on Education. Councilmember Catania, thank you for joining us.

  • 12:08:56

    MR. DAVID CATANIAThank you, Kojo.

  • 12:08:56

    NNAMDIIf you have comments or questions for David Catania give us a call at 800-433-8850. You can send email to kojo@wamu.org, a tweet, @kojoshow, or if you go to our website, kojoshow.org, you can ask a question there, you can make a comment there, you can also watch our live video stream of this broadcast, at the website at kojoshow.org.

  • 12:09:20

    NNAMDIThis week President Barack Obama speaking at a District of Columbia school, asserted his support for statehood in the District of Columbia. It is a position that he has been known to have had in the past, but he hasn't said a great deal about it lately. Coming out and saying it in a public forum seems, Tom Sherwood, like a big deal.

  • 12:09:44

    SHERWOODWell, it's -- I, you know, I didn't -- as a reporter…

  • 12:09:48

    NNAMDIA medium-sized deal?

  • 12:09:50

    SHERWOODNo. You know, it's one thing to say it as a casual answer to a question. Yeah, I'm for state -- actually, was saying voting rights. I don't even remember if he actually said the word statehood. He was saying…

  • 12:10:00

    NNAMDINo. I think it was a response to statehood.

  • 12:10:01

    SHERWOODI know it was to statehood. But his -- I remember reading his answer and -- but anyway, all the statehood advocates were supporting. That's good if the president of the United States wants to support D.C. statehood. But I would think if I were an advocate, the president mentioning it in response to a casual question is one thing.

  • 12:10:18

    SHERWOODThe president actually holding an event somewhere, doing something within the city limits, outside the federal enclave downtown, that would be something suitable that would get national and international coverage. To causally mention it is, to me, a bump along a very long road.

  • 12:10:35

    NNAMDIDavid -- I like that analogy. David Catania?

  • 12:10:38

    CATANIAWell, you know, we've had a kind of mixture of reactions to voting representation in our local democracy lately. You know, positive news from the president on support of statehood, but then we've had, you know, recently members of Congress, once again, reasserting themselves in District affairs.

  • 12:10:54

    NNAMDIWe're going to get to Andy Harris very shortly.

  • 12:10:56

    SHERWOODAnd Congressman Mica.

  • 12:10:57

    CATANIARight.

  • 12:10:57

    NNAMDIAnd Congressman Mica.

  • 12:10:58

    CATANIAYou know, and I think, you know, I've been talking about this on the campaign trail, that it's time for us to, you know, extend some self-respect, when it comes to standing up for ourselves. I believe we need a path through states, in terms of voting representation and statehood. I think we've got a log jam with respect to Congress. And I was pleased to be a part of helping, you know, get a resolution in support of voting rights through the New Hampshire House of Representatives this April -- the first in 30 years -- through my friend Cindy Rosenwald.

  • 12:11:26

    CATANIAI think we need a state's approach to take the issue to the states and through, you know, resolutions and take the battle there. And at the same time, I think we need a local political action committee. Candidly, this is a city that has a $100 billion gross domestic product. A lot of people interested in acts of self-respect. And I think, you know, fighting back through the political process is the way we level the playing field.

  • 12:11:47

    SHERWOODBut be clear, a political PAC, as opposed to the non-profit like D.C. Vote, but a political PAC that actually gives money to candidates.

  • 12:11:55

    CATANIAAbsolutely. And, you know, I would welcome the association with D.C. Vote. I think, you know, what D.C. Vote is doing is incredible. And I think we need to support them with some additional resources. And so they are a (c) 4 and what we need is a -- we need a legitimate, old-fashioned, political action committee. And I believe that this city has, you know, with the resources we have we could raise considerable resources on an annual basis. And we can plot -- we can park the money.

  • 12:12:17

    CATANIAAnd when and if a member of Congress decides they're going to interfere and undermine our local democratic institutions, we respond with our First Amendment rights and we inform their constituents. And we try to drive them from office.

  • 12:12:30

    NNAMDIWell, you support going to the states, but there is a bill in the Congress. Senator Tom Carper of Delaware has a bill on statehood that he introduced last year. House Majority Leader Harry Reid has promised that once that bill is voted out of committee he'll bring it to the floor, call for a vote on it. Carper said he would have a hearing last fall. Then I was, I thought, reliably informed that the hearing was going to be this coming Monday.

  • 12:12:51

    NNAMDINow, I hear it's being postponed until September. I think we should invite Sen. Carper on the broadcast to join us at some point. Because if he waits much longer, there may be no vote at all or the vote will take place during this lame-duck session, after the election, which somehow may seem less significant, especially if the Democrats don't win the Senate. But with the president now weighing in, albeit Tom Sherwood characterizing it as a bump in a long road…

  • 12:13:15

    SHERWOODHe hit the city with a feather duster.

  • 12:13:17

    NNAMDI…it would seem like now would be an appropriate time to bring the issue to the widespread public notice that a hearing and a vote would get. We'll have to see what happens.

  • 12:13:25

    CATANIAMay I just jump in?

  • 12:13:26

    NNAMDISure.

  • 12:13:27

    CATANIAI think we really have to -- we have to go beyond these symbolic introductions and do the real heavy lifting of bringing voting representation and statehood to the District, you know.

  • 12:13:37

    NNAMDIWasn't that something that former D.C. Delegate Walter Fauntroy had tried back some time ago?

  • 12:13:43

    CATANIAWell, let me…

  • 12:13:44

    NNAMDIGetting it passed and -- by states?

  • 12:13:46

    CATANIAWell, we did. We -- there was a movement.

  • 12:13:48

    NNAMDIIt'd require, what, 38 states?

  • 12:13:49

    CATANIARight. And the last state to ratify was Delaware, in June of 1984. And it failed to get the requisite 38 votes. I think we had 16 states that ratified it.

  • 12:13:57

    NNAMDIRight.

  • 12:13:58

    CATANIAYou know, so there was an effort. But it's time for us to revisit it in a very smart way through the states. I don't believe -- and this is, you know, this is not casting aspersion on anyone in Congress-- that, you know, there's just no incentive for members of Congress to give us statehood, especially regardless of party. When Maryland and Virginia -- if we were able to ever tax revenue at its source, it would drain Annapolis and Richmond of hundreds of millions of dollars.

  • 12:14:23

    SHERWOODEvery year.

  • 12:14:24

    CATANIAEvery year. It would be transformative, especially for the state of Maryland, which relies disproportionately on these revenues. So there is an institutional interest, regardless of party affiliation within Congress itself to deprive us of our right to statehood. Therefore, I think the road -- the path is through the states. And I think the only self-respecting tool at our disposal, you know, candidly, is fighting against those members who would take our democratic rights away from us.

  • 12:14:51

    SHERWOODWhy not -- here's -- I've thought, why -- the argument ought to be to the other 48 states, that do you realize that Maryland and Virginia are just making a fortune off of the District of Columbia because they can. Their power and their Senate and their House members, they can continue to draw all the money for people who work in the -- live in the suburbs and work in the city. They draw all these hundreds of millions of dollars every year. And because we don't have the right to tax our own workers.

  • 12:15:19

    CATANIAThat may be interesting to the other states, Tom. But I think what's important for us is to get out of Washington, D.C., and to tell our stories in state capitals, and to try to reach bipartisanship consensus in State Houses around the issue of voting representation.

  • 12:15:34

    SHERWOODWe can cut taxes in the city if we didn't have to…

  • 12:15:35

    CATANIAWell, of course we could.

  • 12:15:35

    SHERWOOD…give so much money to Annapolis and Richmond.

  • 12:15:37

    CATANIAOf course we could. And look, and I might say, you know, we were able to get the resolution through the New Hampshire House, after three tries, in a bipartisan way. By, you know, I've made three trips to New Hampshire over the last six years.

  • 12:15:48

    CATANIAThe last one was to sit down with both Democrats and Republicans and figure out what it was -- what their issues were and how we could work together to secure bipartisan support. We were successful there. I'm not suggesting it's easy, but is a more sure-fired path than simply getting serially arrested in our own city on behalf of the issue.

  • 12:16:06

    NNAMDIOur guest is David Catania. He's an independent candidate for mayor of the District of Columbia. He's an at-large member of the D.C. Council, who chairs its Committee on Education. Tom Sherwood is our resident analyst. He's an NBC 4 reporter and a columnist for the Current Newspapers. Questions or comments? Give us a call, 800-433-8850. Want to see this show? Go to our website, kojoshow.org, where you'll see a live video stream. Tom Sherwood?

  • 12:16:30

    SHERWOODIs it time now to start asking him questions?

  • 12:16:32

    NNAMDIYes, it is.

  • 12:16:33

    SHERWOODI'd like to keep talking about statehood, but since it's such a long-distance story, I don't want to do that.

  • 12:16:36

    NNAMDIYes. I'm going to bypass the Andy Harris incident because we have other things to talk about.

  • 12:16:38

    SHERWOODI do want to ask you about -- this week there was -- a couple of quick questions before we get to one of the issues I know we all want to talk about. Let's talk about soccer. There were two public hearings by the economic development committee -- chaired by Muriel Bowser -- on whether we're going to have a soccer stadium built in Southwest Washington within -- near the baseball stadium. Where are you on that? I wasn't clear. Where do you stand on the mayor's proposal to build a soccer stadium?

  • 12:17:05

    CATANIAWell, I support building a stadium, first and foremost. I don't support the swap, with respect to the Reeves Center. I believe that the Reeves Center should be redeveloped. It should be done in a measured, thoughtful way. I don't believe we should sell it and then lease it back for the entire sale price, which is eventually what will happen.

  • 12:17:21

    SHERWOODAnd just for the viewer -- I mean the listeners to know -- and viewers -- is that that's the government office building at 14th and U.

  • 12:17:27

    CATANIA14th and U, right.

  • 12:17:28

    SHERWOODWhich is a dynamic, growing part of the city.

  • 12:17:30

    CATANIAThat's right. And so I, you know, I believe that we could move the Reeves Center and those government offices to another location to spur development in another part of the city, but we need to do that in a measured way. We need to have a plan as to how and when we're going to develop the next site, how we're going to move, perhaps, right-sized government offices, etcetera, and what's going to happen on that site, including, you know, commercial and hotel development, where there can be day traffic to help support U Street. So I don't think tethering that to the construction of a soccer stadium makes sense.

  • 12:17:59

    SHERWOODCan you get through a soccer deal before the end of the year? Before…

  • 12:18:02

    CATANIAI would hope so.

  • 12:18:02

    SHERWOOD…Mayor Gray leaves office? And…

  • 12:18:03

    CATANIAI would hope so.

  • 12:18:03

    SHERWOODThis will be one of his signature achievements if this gets done. So you think it can get -- you're thinking it can get done? No, you hope so? Are you thinking it can get done?

  • 12:18:09

    CATANIAI would hope so, and here's why. I would hope that rather than take the millions that are anticipated from the sale of the Reeves Center for purposes of helping, you know, to construct the stadium -- we're sitting on nearly a $2 billion accumulated surplus. We can simply take dollars out of our bank and square the accounts for purposes of building the stadium.

  • 12:18:26

    CATANIAWhat I'd like us to do is focus on building a really good stadium. And that means, not only a transportation plan, but a low and moderate-income housing plan for the community immediately surrounding the stadium. We need to make this a community project, not just a soccer project. And that's what's missing right now.

  • 12:18:42

    CATANIAAs far as I know, DHCD and the Housing Finance Agency has really not been at the time table, with respect to the soccer stadium, about what the impact will be on the low and moderate-income housing that we have there. And what we certainly don't want to see is the stadium come and displace more low-income residents.

  • 12:18:55

    SHERWOODAnd what about streetcars? I mean, Councilmember Tony Wells voted against the budget because the current year '15 budget took $400 million out of the planned money for streetcars. And the -- where the stadium is located, I think, Bowser herself said she's concerned about it being so far from a Metro stop. And will a streetcar be a part of the transportation mix, in your opinion?

  • 12:19:17

    CATANIAWell, I think there are ways for us to develop the short, medium and long-term transportation plans until such time as the light rail system is extended. I don't believe this budget was apocalyptic with respect to the streetcars, as Mr. Wells believes. I believe every year budgets can be adjusted and fine-tuned based on what we can spend in a measured, thoughtful way. And, you know, the budget that we passed does continue to fund the light rail to the tune of nearly half a billion dollars. And, you know, and going forward we can always adjust it to spend more.

  • 12:19:46

    NNAMDIWould the Reeves swap in the D.C. stadium deal be a deal killer for you?

  • 12:19:51

    CATANIAYou know, it would be. And that, you know, I don't believe that you sell one of the family jewels based on a negotiation without putting this, you know, prime piece of property out to bid for the highest bidder. And, you know, I don't think it's a necessary ingredient, from my perspective, in building a soccer stadium. If what Mr. Akridge wants for the property he owns in Southwest is X amount of dollars for that land, we can give him X amount of dollars.

  • 12:20:15

    CATANIAWe don't have to sell the Reeves Center to come up with the X amount, and then give him the Reeves Center, where the spread is, you know, is incredible. And so, you know, it then becomes a negotiation between the District and Akridge for the purchase of the land in Southwest. And I'm happy to have a, you know, an arm's length transaction and negotiations for that amount.

  • 12:20:34

    SHERWOODAnd you have the -- the Council has hired a consulting firm and is willing to spend up to $200,000.

  • 12:20:41

    CATANIAYeah.

  • 12:20:41

    SHERWOODCSL, CLS, or whatever that national firm is. And Robert Bobb, the former city administrator and school board president is representing that team, to study it for the Council. But I would guess it's probably too early to have any kind of results from them.

  • 12:20:55

    CATANIAWell, we haven't received any results. And I look forward to them.

  • 12:20:57

    SHERWOODRight. They're just starting.

  • 12:20:58

    CATANIAAnd I welcome that -- I welcome that process to give us more insights and, you know, in some of the things that we've either thought about or haven't thought about and to flush it out further. So I welcome that. But at the end of the day I do support a soccer stadium. And I think we have the resources to do it. We should be focused on making sure the stadium is a success and also, you know, making sure there's low and moderate-income housing there secured, and a transportation plan.

  • 12:21:19

    NNAMDIWant to move to education. And I'll let Walter, in Washington, D.C., do that for me. Gentlemen, please don your headphones so that you can hear Walter, who's now on the air. Walter, go ahead, please.

  • 12:21:31

    WALTERThank you, sir. How are you today?

  • 12:21:32

    NNAMDII am well.

  • 12:21:34

    WALTERKojo, I need to get me some numbers first. Mr. Catania, 45 percent D.C. students, charter schools, $600 million. Mr. Catania, D.C. money going into chartered, for-profit schools. Sir, is there time yet -- see, you don't know that -- at 58 years old I remember when McKinley Tech was, in fact, an icon in the D.C. area.

  • 12:21:57

    NNAMDIOkay. But question, Walter?

  • 12:21:58

    WALTERAnd now they have a for-profit school right next door offering the same services.

  • 12:22:03

    NNAMDIQuestion, Walter?

  • 12:22:05

    WALTERIs it time, Mr. Catania, in your Republican fraud to call a moratorium on charter schools, sir?

  • 12:22:11

    NNAMDIIs it time? I don't know what the Republican reference is about.

  • 12:22:15

    CATANIARight.

  • 12:22:15

    NNAMDIBut is it time to call a moratorium on charter schools?

  • 12:22:17

    CATANIAWell, charters currently represent about 45 percent of our school-aged kids. And it's pursuant to the law that permits the charter schools to open up as many as 10 per year. I think what it's time for certainly, more coordination between our traditional public system and our charter school system.

  • 12:22:35

    SHERWOODWhat does -- what does coordination mean?

  • 12:22:38

    CATANIAWell, coordination means, you know, with respect to the location and planning of the schools. In other words, the chancellor has, you know, herself voiced concerns about the location of charter schools immediately adjacent to programming that she's trying to establish within the traditional public school system. It means the use of traditional public school buildings that are no longer used for public schools and perhaps making some of them available for charters.

  • 12:23:00

    CATANIAI'm really in favor of making sure that -- we have two fine systems -- that we really have one public education system that includes traditional public schools and charter schools, and giving parents the choice to choose among the various local education agencies. My focus has been on improving, candidly, our traditional public schools. And during my year and a half as chairman of the committee -- just last month the Council funded a bill I authored last year, the Fair Funding bill, which puts $80 million into the hands of our schools to help support low-income students and at-risk students, to narrow achievement gaps.

  • 12:23:33

    CATANIAWe've ended social promotion and we're tackling special education, a whole host of issues. Trying to improve our entire public school system. And I'm, frankly, you know, not interested in the Hatfields and McCoy fighting between charters and DCPS. I want the whole system to work.

  • 12:23:46

    NNAMDISherwood?

  • 12:23:46

    SHERWOODWell, on education, you've made it a centerpiece of your campaign for mayor. You -- I guess in school -- you're not still visiting the schools are you?

  • 12:23:55

    CATANIAWe finished our 144 school (unintelligible) of school last month. My staff has calculated that I've spent an entire three months in schools in my first 18 months as chairman of the committee. And it's given me incredible insight to sit across the table from our school leaders and talk about how we set schools and children up to succeed. And it's been an incredibly informative experience.

  • 12:24:16

    SHERWOODThe Democratic nominee Muriel Bowser did not initially, but has since more recently said that she would keep Kaya Henderson as the chancellor, should she -- Bowser become mayor. You've kind of resisted in making appointments until you actually -- say you actually win. But what is your thought about how Kaya Henderson has been doing, whether or not you'll say today she will be staying definitely working for you if you win.

  • 12:24:40

    CATANIAWell, you know, I think the point is clear that the chancellor currently has a boss. And we haven't had an election. Contrary to what people may believe, the Democratic primary is not the election. It's a primary. The election happens in November. I think it puts the chancellor in a tenable position to have people, you know, assuming they're going to be, you know, that she's going to be working for them, either Ms. Bowser or me. And then it really results in her trying to please more than one master.

  • 12:25:04

    CATANIAShe has a master at the moment. She has an employer. It's the mayor. And until there's an election there isn't a successor. I happen to think that the chancellor has done a number of things very well. I think the focus, for instance, more recently, on greater vertical integration of the schools, the greater focus on middle schools, in part with the prodding of the Committee on Education, her willingness to sit down and talk about a new east-of-the-river application middle school. I mean, her work, you know, trying to fine tune evaluation systems, whether it be for teachers or principals.

  • 12:25:33

    CATANIAI found her to be open on a number of fronts. But as with any working relationship, there are things you agree on, those that you don't, but I have -- I'm not critical of the chancellor. I don't think you can find a time where I made a, you know, a publicly critical comment about her. But what I'm -- I think is unfair is to engage in personnel decisions before an election.

  • 12:25:50

    NNAMDIYou said Ms. Bowser or me. You didn't mention Carol Schwartz, who is also throwing her hat in this race for mayor. Don't you think she has a chance?

  • 12:25:56

    CATANIAWell, let me -- let me include her then, as well. I didn't mean to carve anyone out.

  • 12:25:59

    NNAMDIWell, speaking of Ms. Bowser, a week ago on this broadcast we spoke with Muriel Bowser about the situation at Park Southern Apartments, an affordable housing complex in Ward 8 that's in financial trouble and where living conditions have deteriorated. She's called on the inspector general to find out what happened to city funds. Management of the non-profit that oversees Park Southern includes supporters of Muriel Bowser. You have said an I.G. investigation is inadequate. Why?

  • 12:26:24

    CATANIAWell, I think it's political theater. I believe Ms. Bowser has known the state of affairs on that site since May. And nothing happened between the May 8 meeting, where she met with members of the executive, where the executive gave her the lawsuit that the tenants had filed a week earlier, where the executive gave her a copy of the condition assessment of the building, where she knew everything that was going on on May 8.

  • 12:26:46

    CATANIAAnd yet resisted until July, asking for an inspector general only after the Post report. But what's very…

  • 12:26:52

    SHERWOODThree stories.

  • 12:26:53

    CATANIAOh, after many stories. Right. But what's important to realize is the timing. Ms. Bowser claims that she has interceded because she is concerned about stability and preserving affordable housing. I think the facts show something quite different. I think Ms. Bowser intervened to help grease the wheels for a sale of that building to Phinis Jones and Joyce Scott, two of her -- two of her most important supporters. And here's basically the timeline, on April 7 DHCD said that the existing management…

  • 12:27:23

    SHERWOOD(unintelligible) what DHCD is.

  • 12:27:25

    CATANIAThe Department of Housing and Community Development.

  • 12:27:26

    SHERWOODWhich oversees all the subsidized housing.

  • 12:27:28

    CATANIAAnd DHCD owns the note on the building, Park Southern. On April 7 they said, "You have 30 days to figure this out, to give us our nearly $700,000 or we're going to assume responsibility -- exercise our right as the deed holder over the property." On the day before that ended, on May 6, Ms. Bowser reaches out through her staff to the head of DHCD, asking Mr. Kelly to meet her on the 8 of May in her office, with Phinis Jones and with Joyce Scott.

  • 12:27:56

    CATANIAJoyce Scott is the resident manager. Phinis Jones owns the company that's purchasing or wants to purchase the building. Now why is that interesting? It's interesting because Ms. Bowser reaches out for the meeting on the exact same day that the board, Ms. Scott's board, approves the sale of the building, the exact same day that a second transaction occurs where the sale actually happens between Ms. Jones and Mr. -- Mr. Jones, rather, and Ms. Scott, and the same day a fake tenant association essentially approves the deal. I mean everything is happening the day of…

  • 12:28:28

    NNAMDIYou say a fake tenant association?

  • 12:28:30

    CATANIAWell, there are two tenant associations. There's the one that the courts recognize and then there's another one. There's the Park Southern Apartments Tenant -- Resident Council, and then there's the Park Southern Resident Council. And so the Resident Council, not the Apartments Resident Council, is the one recognized by the court. But a letter is sent on May 6th from the Apartment Resident Council in support of this deal.

  • 12:28:51

    CATANIANow, is this just a convergence of coincidence that everyone decides on the same day that this sale is going to happen and that Ms. Bowser, on that day, has her staff reach out for a meeting with DHCD and Ms. Scott and Mr. Jones for the 8 of May? Ms. Bowser was so intent that this meeting occur, that not only did she send -- have her staff send the email on the 6 of May, but she picked up the phone herself on the 7 of May. On the 7 of May she asked Mr. Kelly to come the next day to a meeting to her office to include Phinis Jones and to include Joyce Scott.

  • 12:29:23

    CATANIAAnd what's really important is, like, is the sweetheart nature of the deal that Ms. Scott and Mr. Jones cut for each other. He was going to purchase a $20 million building for the sum total of $3.7 million. And that looks like a big number, but the only money on the table was $100,000. He was going to assume the note from DHCD. So what better strategy then to have, you know, have Ms. Scott and Mr. Jones conspire together to purchase a building, to assume the loan from the head of DHCD.

  • 12:29:55

    CATANIAAnd then Ms. Bowser, who is the oversight chairman of DHCD -- and in her mind, the presumptive mayor -- call Mr. Kelly in the next day and share with them the deal.

  • 12:30:05

    SHERWOODDo you think Bowser was part of this or do you think Bowser was being manipulated by these owners, Phinis Jones and Ms. Scott?

  • 12:30:11

    NNAMDIOr do you think, as she says, that she was more interested in getting results than she is in grandstanding?

  • 12:30:17

    CATANIAWell, let's look at the facts. The facts are on the 8th of May, the Thursday that meeting happened, the executive, one, asked the…

  • 12:30:24

    SHERWOODThe mayor's office.

  • 12:30:24

    CATANIAThe mayor's office. Number one, gave Ms. Bowser a copy of the lawsuit, which explained all the tenants' complaints -- and mind you, Ms. Bowser never asked for the tenants to be present…

  • 12:30:32

    SHERWOODRight.

  • 12:30:32

    CATANIA…at that meeting. When you're bringing everyone to the table, one would hope you would bring them to the table. She was presented with the lawsuit. She was presented with the conditions report, which told her how bad the building was, and she never did anything about it. She, instead, asked for the authority that the attorney general has to foreclose on the note. She did it again by having her staff on the 3rd of June -- never concerned about the tenants. Once again, on the 3rd of June asked for the executive, the mayor's power and authority to foreclose that note.

  • 12:31:03

    CATANIAAnd then, coincidentally, seven days later, more campaign contributions come from Mr. Jones, who himself was the property manager for a period this spring, where $300,000 has yet to be transmitted to the city during his tenure.

  • 12:31:20

    SHERWOODHere's the problem I have with this -- and I think viewers -- people listening -- is they can't follow all of the details.

  • 12:31:27

    CATANIASure.

  • 12:31:27

    SHERWOODI know it fairly well now and I understand the direction of it. But just in the political sense of this, not making a show, but just the politics of this and talking to the voters who you want to vote for you, as opposed to Ms. Bowser, what did she do wrong? Are you saying she favored the corrupt or mismanaged owners of the building over the 700 tenants? Or that she just didn't know what she was doing? What is your basic political complaint, without all the details and subparagraphs and footnotes?

  • 12:31:56

    CATANIAI got it. Well, we really don't know because there hasn't been an open hearing in the process, which the mayor has -- the mayor's staff asked for.

  • 12:32:02

    NNAMDIAnd you don't think an investigation by the inspector general will tell us all we need to know?

  • 12:32:07

    CATANIAThe inspector general will not tell us anything for months and months and months and months.

  • 12:32:10

    SHERWOODMaybe next year, maybe later.

  • 12:32:12

    CATANIARight. And we don't have a permanent inspector general. And the people who work in the inspector general's office right now, are waiting to see who will be the person who will appoint the next inspector general. And no one wants to be on the wrong side of that.

  • 12:32:22

    SHERWOODDo you want to have a public hearing on this?

  • 12:32:24

    CATANIAAbsolutely.

  • 12:32:25

    SHERWOODCould another government -- another committee…

  • 12:32:26

    CATANIANo.

  • 12:32:26

    SHERWOODIf she's the chairman of the Housing Committee and she doesn't want to do it, can another committee hold it, to have some of these facts laid out in an intelligent line, so we can all understand what's happened or not happened?

  • 12:32:37

    CATANIASure. Well, you know, the Committee of the Whole could absolutely have a hearing. The chairman of the Council could have a hearing, you know, and that's absolutely possible. But what I'm -- what I'm…

  • 12:32:46

    NNAMDIAre you going to ask them to do that?

  • 12:32:46

    SHERWOODWould you ask them of that?

  • 12:32:48

    CATANIAAbsolutely. Absolutely. But here's what's beating away. We have -- we have 360 units of affordable housing that are at risk right now. The conditions report -- having walked the building myself, I can tell you these issues are real. We have no evidence that anything is really being done on the part of the Committee on Economic Development, which my opponent chairs, to remedy or to address. There's been no reaching out to the Resident Council, the legitimate one.

  • 12:33:20

    CATANIAThere's been no tours, there's been no public hearing, no discussion about how we're going to preserve this. And what I fear will happen is the clock will run out. And that the purchase will happen and the tenants will wake up and they will be without the building that they themselves currently own.

  • 12:33:33

    SHERWOODOne of your supporters told me -- I was at the Donald Trump Hotel groundbreaking. And one of your supporters there kind of said, sneeringly, "Well, Ms. Bowser can make time to come stand with Donald Trump to -- for luxury hotel, but she won't make time to go to Park Southern." Do you think that's fair?

  • 12:33:51

    CATANIAWell, I think, you know, people are entitled to their opinions. But this is the issue, the issue is whether or not Ms. Bowser used her influence to advance the interests of two supporters, who are working together to purchase the building that's worth $20 million for $100,000 and to assume the note. And inviting DHCD, the people who would make that decision, to her office the day the deal was done suggests that she perhaps wasn't interested, really, in the tenants, but in advancing the interests of her supporters.

  • 12:34:21

    NNAMDIAnd speaking of the Trump event, you tweeted on that event that you have never been happier not to have been there. Can you explain?

  • 12:34:29

    SHERWOODAnd we should say Trump Hotel, 12th and Pennsylvania, the Old Post Office building.

  • 12:34:32

    NNAMDIThe Old Post Office being redeveloped by Trump.

  • 12:34:35

    SHERWOODA big, luxury hotel.

  • 12:34:35

    NNAMDIYou were not there. And you were happy not to be there.

  • 12:34:38

    SHERWOODAnd you were invited.

  • 12:34:39

    CATANIAI was. You know, it -- there are a lot of reasons being away as to why I wasn't happy -- why I, you know, I didn't feel it necessary to be there. You know, Mr. Trump has a history of some disrespectful statements towards our president. He led the birther movement and continues to. And I didn't see any point in necessarily joining him for a grin-fest on Pennsylvania Avenue.

  • 12:35:04

    NNAMDIOn July 14, some members of the D.C. Council sent a letter asking concrete construction firm Baker D.C. to respect its workers right to organize. You were the only member of the Council who did not sign that letter or send your own version, like chairman Phil Mendelson did. Can you explain why your signature did not appear on that letter?

  • 12:35:21

    CATANIAWell, I've sent many letters, frankly, on behalf of workers who claim that they were having their rights to organize harassed or frustrated. I actually did that last month with Local -- SEIU Local 500, when employees and adjunct professors at UDC were claiming that the government was frustrating their ability to organize.

  • 12:35:40

    CATANIAAnd so I'll absolutely send a letter when I feel that the National Labor Relations Act is being frustrated through unfair interference. I didn't, candidly, see the evidence that the construction company at issue was engaging in that behavior. Had that come to my attention I would have had a different point of view on it.

  • 12:35:54

    NNAMDIWell, let me cut to the chase.

  • 12:35:55

    CATANIAYeah.

  • 12:35:55

    NNAMDIA few years ago, you left your position as vice-president of corporate strategy as electrical contractor and construction firm M.C. Dean. Did your history of working in the construction industry affect your decision not to sign the Baker D.C. letter?

  • 12:36:09

    CATANIANot at all because if you'll look at my record you'll see I've signed many of these letters, not only to organize, but the right to strike and in support of striking workers. When you -- I met, actually this week, with the Washington Fair Labor Council and went through a record which includes having funded millions of dollars in labor -- or labor training programs, having authored the last minimum wage increase in 2004, having authored the first living wage bill in the city.

  • 12:36:36

    CATANIAI have a pretty strong record with respect to workers. This one I, you know, and given the time I had to review the issue, I didn't see the evidence of management frustrating the rights to workers. In those instances I try to stay out of it.

  • 12:36:48

    SHERWOODThe big politics of this, you know, Vincent Orange, in the last -- in his campaign for mayor or whatever office he was running for at the time -- has been critical of people who hold outside jobs. And he's been specifically critical of you for the time that you worked for M.C. Dean, a major corporation. On this program last week, Muriel Bowser made some -- she didn't give a lot of details, but some reference to a $70 million audit at the United Medical Center. I don't know if that involved M.C. Dean or whatever.

  • 12:37:16

    CATANIAOh, no. Absolutely not. That was the United Medical Center.

  • 12:37:19

    SHERWOODOkay.

  • 12:37:19

    CATANIAThat was on…

  • 12:37:20

    SHERWOODAll right. I didn't know what that was, but I think the suggestion is you have…

  • 12:37:23

    CATANIABut may I comment on that?

  • 12:37:25

    SHERWOODYes.

  • 12:37:26

    CATANIAI mean, I think you have the tale of two Southern Avenue addresses. Muriel Bowser is chairman of the Committee on Economic Development. When, you now, 700 residents were in harm's way, with respect to their housing, her view was to vacate the field and ask the inspector general to do something. Several years ago when United Medical Center, the hospital formerly known as Greater Southeast, was on the verge of bankruptcy, I didn't run away from the bomb. I ran towards it.

  • 12:37:46

    CATANIAShe was asking what happened to the $70 million. Well, we have a full accounting of what the city did with the $70 million, including building Children's National Medical Center, (unintelligible) Pediatric E.R., which sees 40,000 children per year, new radiology, new hyperbaric wound chambers, new dialysis equipment, the first and only MRI east of the Anacostia River, and new exterior, new roof, new elevators, etcetera. The hospital has turned around so much so that this year they expect it to make a profit.

  • 12:38:11

    NNAMDII set a reminder on my phone two summers ago, to ask you in the summer of 2014 about United Medical Center. How would you assess the health of it? You say it's -- is it set to make a profit?

  • 12:38:23

    CATANIAAbsolutely. They -- Mr. Smalls (sp?), who was on -- it was on a competing show earlier this week, stated this year they expect to make a profit. Look, you know, turning around Safety Net…

  • 12:38:32

    NNAMDIExcuse me, there is not competing show, but go ahead.

  • 12:38:35

    SHERWOODAnd also, G.W. Hospital has expressed interest in working over there now, in addition to Washington Hospital Center.

  • 12:38:41

    CATANIAExactly. And the notion, though, that, you know, turning around safety net hospitals in the best of times is not easy, but in the middle of the great recession is especially hard. And, you know, due in part to the advocacy and the single-mindedness which the committee took to improve that hospital, we've doubled the number of employees. It's the largest employer in Ward 8, with over 1,000 employees.

  • 12:39:02

    CATANIAThere are over 50,000 adult emergency room visits, which were preserved. Over 40,000 children's emergency visits, which, candidly, were preserved. And every night when I'm on the campaign stump, I'm talking about that facility as integral to the life and safety of every resident in the city. And you wonder, well, why is that? Because our leading…

  • 12:39:19

    NNAMDILast question, Tom?

  • 12:39:21

    SHERWOODI want to go back to -- because I think we went too fast on M.C. Dean.

  • 12:39:24

    CATANIASure.

  • 12:39:24

    SHERWOODA major corporation that has contracts with the city.

  • 12:39:27

    CATANIAYeah.

  • 12:39:28

    SHERWOODAnd you just say authoritatively, as possibly as you can, that anyone can look at any…

  • 12:39:33

    CATANIAAbsolutely.

  • 12:39:34

    SHERWOOD…anything you've done with M.C. Dean, and that there's not place where you've influenced, promoted, talked about…

  • 12:39:41

    CATANIACategorically.

  • 12:39:42

    SHERWOOD…any kind of contract between M.C. Dean -- because if there is, that changes significantly your reputation.

  • 12:39:48

    CATANIAWell, Tom, like you say, I worked -- I worked for a subsidiary of the company for many years. And then for two years for the parent. And during, I think, the seven years I was with them I recused myself from all matters involving the company and their contracts with the city. But I want to put the contracts into perspective. These were contracts that the company had with the city prior to my arrival.

  • 12:40:07

    CATANIAThey represented less than 2 percent, never more than, you know, a percent and a half of the 800 plus million revenue of the company. The contracts were competitively bid, less than 2 percent, but more importantly, I was responsible for activities across a company that isn't a DC company. You know, this is an international company...

  • 12:40:23

    SHERWOODWell...

  • 12:40:24

    CATANIAMay I finish?

  • 12:40:25

    SHERWOODI know -- well...

  • 12:40:25

    CATANIAIt's a company with 3,000 employees in 35 offices around the world. And among other things, I held a top secret security clearance, you know, issued by the national industrial security program. I went through the most rigorous background check imaginable, for purposes of handling classified information. We were an international company that had a few contracts with the city, which I always recused myself from any involvement in, both inside the company and inside the city.

  • 12:40:50

    NNAMDIWe've got about 30 seconds left.

  • 12:40:52

    SHERWOODI just wanted to T that up for the rest of the campaign in case something else comes out that you were more involved in MC Dean's local contracts than you have said. So that's good.

  • 12:41:00

    CATANIAPerfect.

  • 12:41:00

    NNAMDIDavid Catania, he's an independent candidate for mayor of the District of Columbia. He's an at large member of the DC council who chairs its committee on education. David Catania, thank you for joining us.

  • 12:41:08

    CATANIAThank you, Kojo. Thank you, Tom.

  • 12:41:11

    NNAMDITom Sherwood is our resident analyst. He's an NBC full reporter and a columnist for the Current Newspapers. We're going to be talking shortly with Tom Hucker, who's a Democratic nominee for the Montgomery County council. If you have questions or comments for him, call us at 800-433-8850. You can send email to kojo@wamu.org. You can go to our website, kojoshow.org and watch the live video stream of the broadcast.

  • 12:41:36

    NNAMDITom Sherwood, I don't know if you have been reading or hearing about this, but Bethesda and Rockville got named among the 10 snobbiest small cities in America according to the real estate website, movoto.com. These snooty little cities in Montgomery County has rich, well-educated, private school-loving, art gallery devotees who have the most rigid of standards, that must always be met. I would have expected you to be living in Bethesda or Rockville, but strangely enough, you're not.

  • 12:42:08

    SHERWOODI lived on the edge of Bethesda, Chevy Chase once long ago when I was lost in the wilderness. Let me just say I went to movoto, whatever it is, that -- and I would say that the website itself seemed to be snobbish and self-important and overtly too cutesy. And so for them -- they make their cliques, I guess, for their website by doing these 10 whatevers.

  • 12:42:33

    SHERWOODSo they call Bethesda and Rockville. Bethesda's number two and Rockville's number eight, just to be clear. And it's all based on places that are safe, wealthy and interesting. I would just say it was kind of a summertime waste of time, like a Popsicle that's melting and we won't care about it two days from now, if then.

  • 12:42:53

    NNAMDIOur message to them is leave Bethesda and Rockville alone. Tom Hucker joins us in studio. He's a Democratic nominee for the Montgomery County council. He's running to represent the county's fifth district. He's currently a member of the Maryland House of Delegates whose district is located in Montgomery County. Delegate Hucker, thank you for joining us.

  • 12:43:09

    REP. TOM HUCKERThanks for having me, Kojo.

  • 12:43:10

    NNAMDIYou've been a member of the Maryland House of Delegates since 2007, but this year, threw your lot in the race for Montgomery County council and won a seat in the Democratic primary in June. Why leave the state house for county government?

  • 12:43:22

    HUCKERNobody's ever asked me that before.

  • 12:43:25

    NNAMDIYeah, right.

  • 12:43:25

    HUCKERWell, it was a really hard decision, honestly, Kojo. I really love the general assembly. I'm proud of the work I've been able to do there. I'm gonna miss it tremendously. But I didn't expect there to be a vacancy in the district that I've been representing.

  • 12:43:42

    HUCKERI very much overlaps the council district that I will hopefully represent and I was really persuaded by a whole lot of phone calls I got after the seat became vacant from a lot of friends and supporters urging me to get in the race because they wanted to see somebody experienced representing us in Rockville on the county council because our district had the greatest needs for county services, the greatest amount of poor families, immigrants, families with special needs and they wanted to see somebody experienced and knows the legislative process and has been successful in that kind of environment to represent us on the county council.

  • 12:44:15

    NNAMDICan I assume they also wanted to see somebody they consider progressive because you used to be the executive director for Progressive Maryland. Your predecessor in this job, Valerie Ervin, left to work for another organization considered progressive, the Working Families Party. She's going to become executive director of the Center for Working Families.

  • 12:44:35

    NNAMDIBut here's what she said, that whoever replaced her should reflect the diversity in the district. That she was first African-American woman to serve on the council and she called her seat a legacy seat. What that says to me is that she wanted an African-American to replace her. How do you react to that?

  • 12:44:55

    HUCKERWell, you know, Valerie and I have been friends for a long time and she was very encouraging when we first started talking about this possibility. You know, ultimately, this is why we have elections. We leave these decisions up to the voters. Not to pundits, not to politicians and, you know, I'm glad we had a very diverse group of candidates.

  • 12:45:14

    HUCKERWe had a very vigorous debate. We had probably 15 public forums. We debated every issue under the sun. And, you know, ultimately I'm glad that I was able to prevail. And I wouldn't have prevailed unless I had support from the top of the district up in Burtonsville all the way down to Takoma Park and from every community in the district.

  • 12:45:31

    HUCKERThose are the folks that have elected me twice to the general assembly and those are the folks that allowed me to prevail in the primary.

  • 12:45:37

    NNAMDIDid you get asked in every forum why you wanted to leave the state house to run for...

  • 12:45:42

    HUCKERPretty much, yeah.

  • 12:45:43

    SHERWOODIt's a shorter drive.

  • 12:45:46

    NNAMDIYou raised that question I asked from the rebroadcast yesterday.

  • 12:45:48

    HUCKERWell, and I did have a lot of people and I still have a lot of people coming up to me on the street, perfect strangers, saying I'm so glad you did. I'm really glad you got in this race.

  • 12:45:55

    SHERWOODDid you want to do this or did you answer -- you were called to do this.

  • 12:45:59

    NNAMDIA draft.

  • 12:45:59

    SHERWOODA draft. But I mean, you wanted to do this and people endorsed it. It's not like you weren't thinking about it and somebody came and said, hey, let's run for the council instead.

  • 12:46:09

    HUCKERWell, I wasn't thinking about it. I, you know, had considered the council many years ago and thought that wasn't the right for me and I had been, you know, like you mentioned, a public interest advocate in Annapolis for many years, six years before I was elected. But yeah, it's..

  • 12:46:25

    SHERWOODSo let's get into the questions.

  • 12:46:26

    HUCKERI had run for...

  • 12:46:26

    SHERWOODYou don't have a Republican opposition.

  • 12:46:27

    HUCKERI don't, no.

  • 12:46:28

    SHERWOODOkay. Do you have any opposition, write-in, libertarian, DC statehood?

  • 12:46:34

    HUCKERI don't, no.

  • 12:46:35

    SHERWOODOkay. Bill Turque of The Washington Post, Kojo just loves it when I mention Bill Turque.

  • 12:46:39

    NNAMDITerrible Turque.

  • 12:46:40

    SHERWOODTerrible Turque. I said, what should I ask him. He covers Montgomery County for The Washington Post and he writes to me, Bill Turque says, "the schools in your district are the worst in the county. Heavy population of high need and low income minority students. Council President Craig Rice suggested that maybe the Board of Education should look at boundary changes to ease the socioeconomic isolation of these students." What do you think?

  • 12:47:07

    HUCKERAbout boundary changes in particular?

  • 12:47:08

    SHERWOODBoundary changes, using socioeconomic issues rather than just populations.

  • 12:47:12

    HUCKERSure. I mean, let's -- just to start at the beginning...

  • 12:47:15

    SHERWOODIf you would, talk directly to me.

  • 12:47:17

    HUCKERPeople...

  • 12:47:18

    SHERWOODIf you say something newsworthy.

  • 12:47:18

    HUCKERMany of your listeners are familiar probably with the -- don't bet on me saying anything newsworthy.

  • 12:47:24

    SHERWOODWe make those decisions.

  • 12:47:27

    HUCKERWith the recent report that came out of the county council, the Office of Legislative Oversight that showed the achievement gap between -- of color students and of poorer students and our white and Asian students is growing dramatically over the last three years and that we had been making progress on closing this and that the last three years we've seen it get worse under the new superintendent.

  • 12:47:44

    HUCKERSo the question is, what do we do about it. And there are many recommendations outlined in that report starting with, you know, more services for students of special needs and our at-risk students in our high schools, more identification of students that are falling into destructive behaviors in middle school where there's more suspension than any other time.

  • 12:48:04

    HUCKERAnd I personally believe we need a lot more investment in pre-K and early education to get ahead of the curve. But yeah, I think we need to look at every tool in the toolbox, including, you know, boundary changes. That doesn't mean boundary changes is a good idea.

  • 12:48:15

    SHERWOODBoundary changes as to socioeconomic issues, not just where people are in general.

  • 12:48:20

    HUCKERYeah. I think -- I mean, look. The boundaries that exist now were drawn by elected officials to meet the needs of the county back then and we should continue to consider them. As council member Branson said in that same hearing, we look boundary changes all the time for legislative districts and all kinds of service districts. There's no reason that the school board shouldn't be looking at those for the school districts.

  • 12:48:41

    SHERWOODSo a boundary would say, well, we've got these many poor people over here and these many moderate or well-to-do people over here. Let's put them all together so they'll be socioeconomic integration at the school.

  • 12:48:50

    HUCKERWell, you also, obviously, look at that for population as well. I mean, our side of the county is growing really dramatically and the county as a whole has 2,000 new students coming in every year. We're growing faster than any other county. We need more school construction money from the state. But we've also, I think, not done a good job of predicting how quickly our schools will grow.

  • 12:49:10

    HUCKERAnd people have suggested there's political reasons involved, but making our schools smaller than they need to be so we can brag about the number of new schools we're building when, in fact, every year or two, after that new school gets opened, it's overcrowded. So, you know, I think we need to really look at all the population estimates, where the demographic trends are and use every tool in our toolbox. And I don’t think anything is sacred.

  • 12:49:33

    NNAMDIHere is Scott in Washington D.C. Please don your headphones, Tom and Tom Hucker. Yeah, we've both had two Toms in the studio this month. Scott you're on the air. Go ahead, please.

  • 12:49:44

    SCOTTHi. Thanks, Kojo. I appreciate your show. And Tom, I just wanted to say I really appreciate the work you did in the legislature. It was very, you know, amazing the kind of stuff you accomplished and looking forward to getting on the council. And I was wondering what you could say about your legislative priorities. Like, what are your top, say, three things that you want to try and accomplish with the council?

  • 12:50:04

    NNAMDIIn ten seconds or less.

  • 12:50:05

    HUCKERRight. Well, Scott, thanks for your comment. Can you hear me?

  • 12:50:09

    NNAMDIYes. I just turned it...

  • 12:50:09

    SHERWOODI thought he was complimenting me.

  • 12:50:09

    HUCKERI just heard a click.

  • 12:50:12

    SHERWOODHe said Tom.

  • 12:50:12

    HUCKERHe might've been.

  • 12:50:13

    NNAMDII've got an email from Tom, but go ahead.

  • 12:50:14

    HUCKERFirst, is -- number one is just I want to do strong constituent service. As I said, our district is in more need of it than any other district and has more poor families, more immigrant families. I think job number one at the council level is making sure to connect my constituents with the services that they deserve. Number two, is I really want to work, as I mentioned, on expanding early education.

  • 12:50:33

    HUCKERI was able to pass four bills through the general assembly to dramatically expand early education in Maryland, including one that brought in $50 million in a federal grant to expand it in Maryland. Unfortunately, Montgomery County has fallen behind a lot of neighboring jurisdictions. I've talked to Mayor Gray about this. D.C. is now leading the country in the number of three year olds and four year olds getting into high quality early education.

  • 12:50:52

    HUCKERThere's no reason Montgomery County should be falling behind D.C. or any counties in Maryland. That's really the way, long term, we're going to close the achievement gap. And I guess if I had to pick a third, there's plenty of transportation challenges on the horizon to improve our transportation system. Both the things that we have now, like Metro and Ride-on, and to get bus rapid transit moving as well.

  • 12:51:09

    NNAMDIWell, Tom, who wrote this email would like to address another issue. "Legislation," he writes, "was recently introduced to ban the box, which prohibits employers from asking about criminal histories before making an offer of employment. What is your position on this proposal?"

  • 12:51:21

    HUCKERWell, you know, the Maryland government is a large employer and we practice ban the box and I voted for that bill. So we, before we make an offer of employment, we don’t ask people whether they had an arrest or conviction history and it has not had any bad effects on Maryland as an employer in our ability to find and retain quality employees.

  • 12:51:40

    HUCKERSo I am glad that council member Elrich and council woman Branson introduced this bill in the Montgomery County council. I went to their press conference to be with them when they did and I hope the bill passes.

  • 12:51:51

    NNAMDISherwood.

  • 12:51:52

    SHERWOODWhy is it relevant that -- why is it unfair for a private business to ask somebody of their background, well, tell me about yourself, you know, are you married, are you not, do you have kids, do -- whatever? And then, have you ever been imprisoned? I mean, why is it wrong?

  • 12:52:10

    HUCKERNo, that's the right question. It's fine for them to ask about background. It is wrong, I think, for large employers, especially, to rule out an entire class of applicants. What we see in, you know, Wal-Mart and many very large employers application is a box like that and, you know, when the application gets completed, the applications go into two piles.

  • 12:52:34

    HUCKEROne where you say yes and one where it says no. And if you've ever been arrested, even if it's for having a joint in your car 12 years ago, you don’t...

  • 12:52:41

    NNAMDIYou don’t even get an interview.

  • 12:52:42

    HUCKERThey go right in the trash can 'cause you have plenty of other applicants.

  • 12:52:43

    SHERWOODAnd is it restricted to a certain sized company and above or is it for any company, is it any business, any LLC?

  • 12:52:50

    HUCKERWell, the bill's only been introduced and I'm sure it will be amended quite a bit, but I don't think it has a...

  • 12:52:56

    SHERWOODLike, 10 or 20 or 30...

  • 12:52:58

    HUCKERI haven't looked at that level of detail.

  • 12:52:59

    NNAMDIHere we move onto Annabel in Rockville, Maryland. Annabel, you're on the air. Go ahead, please.

  • 12:53:08

    ANNABELOh, hi. My question is you were in the legislature for eight years. What was the accomplishment you were most proud of?

  • 12:53:18

    HUCKERWell, I'm very proud overall of -- there's several first in the nation bills that I was able to pass and get the governor to sign. One was a living wage law. David Catania just mentioned the living wage law that he championed in D.C. When he did, he reached out to me at that time because I had been a sponsor of the Maryland living wage law that required all the contract employees with the state of Maryland to be paid enough to feed their family without requiring food stamps or public assistance.

  • 12:53:45

    HUCKERThat lifted tens of thousands of families out of poverty. I've very proud of that as I am of other public health legislation to get arsenic out of chicken and our environment which was widely added, strangely, as an antibiotic to all the chickens in Maryland and really all the chickens in the country for about 60 years before we banned it.

  • 12:54:02

    SHERWOODWhat's your biggest disappointment having served in the legislature and having to deal with the legislative comings and goings? What's the biggest -- I don't call it a failure, but disappointment?

  • 12:54:12

    HUCKERI don't know if it's a disappointment, but it's a constant sort of frustration, is the structure I think is a little bit anachronistic. You know, we operate in the general assembly. We're highly efficient compared to any of the county or city councils. We consider 2300 bills a year. And when I say a year, that's in just a 90 day legislative session.

  • 12:54:30

    HUCKERSo we have to consider an immense range of complicated topics and make a decision up or down very, very quickly. And, you know, most topics don't lend themselves to that pace so many bills that would do people a lot of good take two or three or four years to pass. And I don't think they would if we went year round. We have problems to address year around. I think we'd be better off if we went year round.

  • 12:54:52

    SHERWOODIn Montgomery County, there was a big to-do over whether the police union, the union representing the police, could interfere or they would say have a part in changes in the rules. And they still would like to see that reversed so that they could bargain with the chief, county police chief. Do you have any views on that?

  • 12:55:11

    HUCKEROn effects bargaining?

  • 12:55:11

    SHERWOODYeah, whether the effects...

  • 12:55:12

    NNAMDIEffects bargaining, which means that the Montgomery County police get a chance to bargain on some kinds of management positions at the police department.

  • 12:55:21

    HUCKERSure.

  • 12:55:21

    SHERWOODAlthough the county continued -- it bollixed every management decision the chief tried to make and that's why they got rid of it. But what's your view on that 'cause that might come up again?

  • 12:55:29

    HUCKERWell, I don’t think it will come up again, Tom. It's really a dead issue and I've talked to the police union, too, and they believe...

  • 12:55:36

    SHERWOODThey believe it's a dead issue, okay.

  • 12:55:36

    HUCKERA dead issue. They're not gonna raise it again.

  • 12:55:37

    SHERWOODOkay. So don't talk about it. That's enough.

  • 12:55:37

    HUCKERI mean, remember it went before the voters and there were questions raised about public spending on the election, but it's settled.

  • 12:55:42

    SHERWOODLet's talk about teacher's union then.

  • 12:55:44

    HUCKERSure.

  • 12:55:44

    SHERWOODLet's talk about teacher's union.

  • 12:55:45

    HUCKERSure. It's a settled issue.

  • 12:55:47

    SHERWOODAre they supporting you, the teacher's union, the teachers?

  • 12:55:49

    HUCKERThey didn't make an endorsement in district five. They were in a strange position. One of my opponents was on the school board, still is on the school board now after he lost in the primary...

  • 12:55:58

    SHERWOODThe Washington Post editorial has been complaining that teachers have too much power.

  • 12:56:02

    HUCKERWell, you know, I don't think the -- I know the argument. I don't think the evidence really bears that out. I mean, the unions in Montgomery County are weaker than they've been in many years and I am glad to have the support of many of them, just like I had the support of all the environmental groups and all the women's groups and all the immigrant groups because I had worked with many of them for years.

  • 12:56:22

    SHERWOODYou've been endorsed by everybody.

  • 12:56:23

    NNAMDII'm glad you mentioned...

  • 12:56:23

    HUCKER(unintelligible) able to get things done.

  • 12:56:26

    NNAMDIGlad you mentioned immigrant groups because Gov. Martin O'Malley has been in the middle of one of them more divisive political debates in the country as to what to do about the flood of immigrant children coming into American communities, undocumented children. It's my understanding you attended a meeting earlier this week that he put together with faith leaders.

  • 12:56:41

    NNAMDIHe suggested that finding foster homes for the children living in Maryland, not large centers like the federal government has suggested would be the best way forward. How would you it for Montgomery County?

  • 12:56:50

    HUCKERWell, I think he's right. I told the governor that I was, you know, pleased to hear the comments he made at the National Governors Association, that this is a humanitarian crisis and that we ought to figure out how to deal with this crisis as Americans in consistency with the best, you know, traditions we've had, rather than just putting them in a kennel and figuring out how we can deport them as quickly as possible.

  • 12:57:11

    HUCKERI am glad he has said that Maryland is willing to take our fair share of these kids. Many of them will be coming to Montgomery County in particular because they have family members here and he, you know, I think was unfairly impugned because he said Westminster, of course, is -- you couldn't find a worst place in Maryland to put these kids. Even if it was a welcoming community, there's no services or transportation that could access there.

  • 12:57:33

    HUCKERMany of these kids will be coming to Montgomery and Prince George's County and I think we need to, you know, our first responsibility is to our current residents and to the kids that will be coming here, but I think we need to step up and say we're a welcoming and wealthy community and we're going to respond to this humanitarian crisis like our best traditions call us to respond.

  • 12:57:51

    NNAMDIAnd I'm afraid that's about all the time we have.

  • 12:57:52

    HUCKEROkay.

  • 12:57:52

    NNAMDITom Hucker, he's Democratic nominee for the Montgomery County council, running to represent the county's fifth district, currently a member of the Maryland House of Delegates whose district is located in Montgomery County. And so you don't have any opposition as yet in the general election?

  • 12:58:06

    HUCKERYou could announce your write-in candidacy right now, Kojo.

  • 12:58:09

    NNAMDIWell, I was about to say why would I even bother to wish you good luck then?

  • 12:58:12

    SHERWOODYou don't need to.

  • 12:58:13

    NNAMDIThank you. Thank you very much for joining us.

  • 12:58:15

    HUCKERI'll accept your good luck anyway. Thank you.

  • 12:58:16

    NNAMDITom Sherwood is our resident analyst. He's an NBC full reporter and a columnist for the Current Newspapers. Have a great weekend, Tom.

  • 12:58:21

    SHERWOODIn Virginia, I'll be going through the D.C. flag atop my car.

  • 12:58:25

    NNAMDIThank you all for listening. I'm Kojo Nnamdi.

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The Politics Hour – Nov. 21, 2014

Friday, Nov 21 2014Sorting political fact from fiction, and having fun while we're at it. Join us for our weekly review of the politics, policies and personalities of the District of Columbia, Maryland and Virginia.