A longtime Arlington County Board member shakes up Virginia politics by announcing plans to step away. Uncertainty clouds the future for the chief of one of Maryland's treasured public school systems. And the field of candidates narrows in D.C.'s special elections looming in the spring.
Judges pave the way for Virginia counties to begin issuing same-sex marriage licenses. Maryland’s comptroller launches an effort to make summer longer for students – and businesses. And D.C.’s attorneys ask a judge to order the sale of a troubled housing complex in Southeast Washington. Join us for our weekly review of the politics, policies, and personalities of the District of Columbia, Maryland and Virginia.
- Tom Sherwood Resident Analyst; NBC 4 reporter; and Columnist for the Current Newspapers
- Elissa Silverman Independent Candidate, D.C. Council (At-Large)
- Robin Ficker Republican Candidate, Maryland Senate (District-15)
Elissa Silverman On Why She’s Running Independent
Elissa Silverman told Kojo why she’s running as an Independent for the at-large seat on the DC Council, instead of as a Democrat, as she did in 2013.
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MR. KOJO NNAMDIFrom WAMU 88.5, at American University, in Washington, welcome to "The Politics Hour," starring Tom Sherwood. I'm Kojo Nnamdi. Tom Sherwood is our resident analyst. He's an NBC 4 reporter and a columnist for the Current Newspapers. Tom, welcome.
MR. TOM SHERWOODGood afternoon.
NNAMDIGood afternoon to you. And good afternoon to Elissa Silverman. She joins us in studio. She is an Independent candidate for the D.C. Council, who is currently running for an at-large seat on the Council. Elissa Silverman, good to see you.
MS. ELISSA SILVERMANIt is great to be here, Kojo.
NNAMDIAs you have been on this show in the past in a variety of capacities, you know that we normally begin the show with discussion of the new -- of a matters, not necessarily having to do with the District of Columbia. You can feel free to weigh in.
SHERWOODYeah, what does she think about Governor McDonnell.
NNAMDIWhich is the first topic that I was going to bring up, as a matter of fact.
SHERWOODOh, really? I didn't know that.
SILVERMANI'm generally shy about jumping in.
NNAMDII noticed, yes. The governor and his wife on trial in Virginia. The prosecution has rested its case after testimony, about $100,000 or more than $177,000 in gifts, but, Tom and Elissa, I now want you to play the role of defense. Because the defense apparently is going to make the argument that the governor's alleged official help from Jonnie Williams Sr., the businessman, got Jonnie Williams nowhere. They say he was promised nothing.
NNAMDIHis product was never studied at state universities as he wished or never introduced into the state health plan as he wished. And was pulled from the shelves this past week.
SHERWOODWell, that's basically wishful thinking. You know, the -- it was three weeks, 45 witnesses, including that FBI agent at the last yesterday, that detailed all the…
SHERWOOD…luxury items. It's not whether or not McDonnell in fact did something for Jonnie Williams, but whether he tried to. It's not whether he was successful in getting that anabolic mystery meat medicine into state-sponsored trial periods or investigations. It's not whether he got anything successful out of it. It's that he tried and McDonnell responded. And that's the legal danger for the governor and his wife, Maureen.
NNAMDIOkay. Attorney Silverman, what do you say?
SILVERMANWell, I think what fascinates me -- this is where you spoke, Kojo, about my evolution on this program being a reporter and now being clearly on the other side.
NNAMDIYou have been many things to many people over the years, Elissa.
SILVERMANThat is certainly true. What fascinates me is, you know, I think Governor McDonnell came in as a very well respected public servant and sort of how corruption happens, is really fascinating to me. I saw the Post reported, you know, the amount of debt that he had going into office.
SHERWOODCredit card debt, $90,000.
SHERWOODAnd he was a fiscal conservative.
SILVERMANExactly. And so what really has fascinated me about the -- about this story is sort of how corruption happens, how clearly the McDonnells were living a lifestyle that was above their means and then used public office to try to achieve things that they couldn't with their own salary.
NNAMDI800-433-8850 is the number if you have questions or comments for Elissa Silverman about her candidacy, Independent candidacy for the D.C. Council. She's running for an at-large seat. 800-433-8850. You can send email to firstname.lastname@example.org. Also in Virginia this week, the federal appeals court, that last month struck down Virginia's ban on same-sex unions, ruled this past Wednesday that the -- that it will not be delaying the effects of that ruling.
NNAMDIHowever, Virginia says it's now going to the Supreme Court to see if the Supreme Court to see if the Supreme Court can delay the effects of that ruling. If they are not in fact delayed, the speculation is that as early as next Wednesday or Thursday people can start getting licenses for same-sex marriages in the commonwealth.
SHERWOODWell, two things. One, I want to have one more thing to say about McDonnell.
SHERWOODThe big deal is that the defense starts, they spend three weeks of prosecution.
SHERWOODThe defense starts on Monday and then we expect McDonnell himself to testify. Maureen has indicated she will not.
NNAMDIShe will not be.
SHERWOODAnd on the same-sex court ruling in Virginia, the state is not appealing the decision.
NNAMDIIt is Prince William County.
SHERWOODThere's a private group representing…
NNAMDIOh, I'm sorry.
SHERWOOD…the Prince William County clerk of the court…
SHERWOOD…who is challenging. And so it's not the state. As you well know, the attorney general of that state has said we will not (unintelligible) the Constitution.
NNAMDIExactly correct. Yes. We are still working on trying to get the county clerk for Prince William County here as a guest.
SHERWOODRight. There's an organization -- I forgot -- Alliance Defending Freedom, is the conservative group. And so that's what's happening there. It's unusual for a, you know, the Supreme Court has blocked the Utah case from going forward. But, you know, what have there been -- 25 different states now have had a ruling on this in favor of same-sex marriage. It's just -- just need -- just get this speeded up and have the Supreme Court decide the issue.
NNAMDIElissa, care to comment?
SILVERMANWell, I think it's exciting that people of -- no matter who they love in Virginia will be able to live the life that they want and have the rights that all other residents have. So I think it's very exciting.
NNAMDIThere's a technicality here. Chief Justice John Roberts, he oversees the Fourth Circuit. He can either render the -- a decision alone or refer requests for action to the full court.
SHERWOODYou know, some people have said that, oh, this is moving too fast. We need more -- the Supreme Court kind of left it out saying let's see -- let the states start deciding. Well, they certainly are decisions in the states. And others have said this is moving too fast. It just reminds me of what Martin Luther King said about civil rights period on the "Meet the Press" program.
SHERWOODHe says, you know, "We've waited 345 years. I'm not sure how much more you want us to wait." So the same-sex marriage rights certainly have not been around at all. And so too fast is not the right words to use.
NNAMDIBack now to the District of Columbia. I am pretty sure that it was you that I saw on television this week, standing in front of the Park Southern Apartments, reporting there. The District government has asked a judge to order the sale of that troubled apartment complex because they feel that it is being -- it has been so poorly managed by the people who currently manage it, who are involved in a political imbroglio here in the District -- the government argued that a court-supervised sale from a tenant-run nonprofit corporation to a new owner is the best way to bring about improvements.
SHERWOODYeah, this is a mess. And I would like to hear the candidate Elissa's views on this. This is Park Southern on Southern Avenue. It's 360 units. About 700 people live there. They're either low income or no income. And they've had no advocate. The non-profit group -- alleged non-profit group that was running the place ran it into the ground, according to the D.C. attorney general. It was rat infested, roach infested. Things not working. Equipment, mechanical stuff not working.
SHERWOODAnd so the city has moved. Now there is some -- the reason it's interesting more than just a public policy issue is because Muriel Bowser, as the chairman of the Housing Committee on the Council, is alleged by David Catania, one of her opponents, to have sided with the discredited management, in trying to keep them in place, rather than siding with the tenants. Of course she disputes that and her campaign says Catania is just desperate to get some attention.
SHERWOODBut it is a real issue because Phinis Jones, one of the managers -- discredited managers, has given $20,000 to the Bowser campaign. And Catania -- the Northwest Current Newspaper -- the Current papers have also called on Bowser to return the money.
NNAMDIDid I mention that Tom Sherwood is a columnist for the Current Newspapers? He's also…
SHERWOODYes. And I had nothing to do with the editorial page.
SHERWOODI'm only responsible for what's under my name.
NNAMDIHe's also our resident analyst and an NBC reporter. Our guest is Elissa Silverman. She's an Independent candidate for the D.C. Council, running for an at-large seat. If you have questions or comments for Elissa Silverman, call us at 800-433-8850. Send email to email@example.com or shoot us a tweet, @kojoshow. Elissa, Park Southern?
SILVERMANSo what interests me in the Park Southern story is that, you know, I think that we are nearing crisis levels with affordable housing in our city. And it's exactly the type of low or moderate cost rental housing that is rapidly disappearing. And we want people who have low and moderate incomes to be able to live in our city. So what interests me in Park Southern is this is the type of complex in which we should be making sure it's maintained properly.
SILVERMANJust because you live in what's called affordable housing or low-cost housing shouldn't be that you live in substandard housing. It should be -- you should be able to live in safe, affordable housing. One of the questions that I had that I asked the office of the tenant advocate -- we do have advocates, Tom, that are part of our government, that should be working to help preserve and help residents -- is the office of the tenant advocate.
SILVERMANAnd I asked someone from the office of the tenant advocate were you involved in Park Southern? They said yes. But I think they might need to be a lot more muscular. We need to make sure that people have safe, affordable places to live, that we preserve our low and moderate cost rental housing. And then, another concern of mine is when rental housing then flips.
SILVERMANWhen a landlord decides to sell because they think that the property's worth a lot and they want to sell their property, that our office of the tenant advocate and that our government steps in and informs tenants of their rights. Tenants have rights.
SILVERMANThat's right. They had a first right to purchase. And I think we need to be a lot more muscular, a lot more proactive in making sure that we're informing residents of all the rights that they have and preserving both our low and moderate cost rental housing, as well as making sure that housing to purchase is affordable as well.
NNAMDISome people citywide may know you from your last at-large run for the D.C. Council. Others may know you as the former Loose Lips columnist for Washington City Paper or as a reporter for The Washington Post, but you're putting on a new suit of sorts for this campaign, as well. Running as an Independent candidate instead of as a Democrat like you did in 2013. Why did you change your party affiliation to make this run?
SILVERMANWell, I haven't changed who I am, Kojo. My mom still knows me as her daughter. So you wear a lot of different hats. But I have not changed at all in terms of, you know, who I am, what I stand for, my approach to government. I think I've been fairly open about my decision making. And fairly transparent. I ran last year. I ran as a Democrat.
SHERWOODIn special election.
SILVERMANIn the special election. And I decided not to run in the April primary for several reasons. One of them, political. You know, my campaign is an engagement model. And I had true concerns about being able to engage voters in a winter election. I don't think we're going to see another April 1 primary ever again. And I don't think we should. And, you know, I was very open in talking to the Post about that I had big concerns about running in the April primary, that some have considered, you know, an incumbent protection election.
SILVERMANBut I had very personal reasons, too. You know, I -- when I worked for the D.C. Fiscal Policy Institute I made the median income in our city, which is about $60,000. That means half the city makes more than me and half the city makes less than me. Now, a lot more people make more than me because I'm -- actually had to quit my job.
NNAMDIYes, you're currently unemployed.
SILVERMANSo almost everyone makes more than me. But, you know, running for office -- and that's why we were talking about the McDonnell trial earlier. You know, running for office has costs. I don't have a second job. I decided that I just couldn't afford to quit my job and not have income for 14 months, which would have been the reality of running in the primary. Here I quit my job April 11th, and, you know, I am a transparent person. That's my gig.
SILVERMANYou know, I decided to tap into my -- I'm a saver. I decided to tap into my retirement money because, you know, running for the Council, doing the oversight, you know, the things that I get, like, excited and pumped about, you know, it's funny. Tom and I were talking earlier about sort of the evolution of your career and, you know, it used...
SILVERMANNo. My career, Kojo.
NNAMDIOh, thank you.
SILVERMANBut we can talk about your career later. Maybe off the air. But, you know, I used to think that I was weird for getting excited about things like how we choose our trash truck routes. And, you know, get excited about like what's going on at DCRA. You know, those are the things that I'm interested in and I'm passionate about.
SHERWOODWe need -- we have to -- we need that kind of attention. Like Department of Employment Services, I don't think -- the money that goes out of that agency -- I haven't seen a report from anybody, other than the agency itself, about how people are doing for jobs. And all these things. The housing, you mentioned Park Southern. I mean, I go there. I don't know -- think that all of the candidates have been there yet, but it's a horrific thing. Of course, these people are -- they're coming out and they're getting on the busses and they're going to work.
SHERWOODAnd they're trying to take care of their children. And just to see the horrific -- even the water in the front is a cesspool. It's dirty. It's cracked. It's not painted. And I just don't -- how can the city, with so much money -- we are one of the wealthiest jurisdictions in the country now. We are not in the 1990s -- wait a minute. I'm not the candidate. You speak.
SILVERMANWell, that's with me.
NNAMDIShe's completely transparent. I see through her completely. She wants to be on the D.C. Council.
SILVERMANWell, it's true. I do. And you asked me -- this was all to answer the question about why run as an Independent. Well, I want to serve. And I want to be on the Council. And I want to be on the Council for some very specific reasons. You know, I'm someone who likes asking questions, finding out -- I mean, what, you know, why I'm pumped to be on the Council, because I'm going to have access to all kinds of great information.
NNAMDIWhen you announced this run, you said your 2013 campaign helped to change the culture of local politics here in D.C. What do you mean by that and how would an Elissa Silverman on the D.C. Council change the culture of local politics?
SILVERMANYou know, I'll answer your question this way, Kojo. So when I met with one of the unions and they were interviewing me. One of the folks said, "Well, Elissa, how are you going to run this time? Because, you know, you ran and you lost and I'm sure your supporters were just devastated." And I said, you know, "I have to beg to differ." You know, my supporters were pumped. We had people on my election night, you know, so I ran and I came in second. And I lost by about four percentage points, which, you know, there were some people -- and I won't name who they were, but…
SILVERMAN…the narrative was not in my favor. Let's put it delicately that way.
SHERWOODAre you attacking the media or somebody else?
SILVERMANNo. I'm just saying that I think many people were surprised. I think about my performance in the special election. And how did that change the culture, Kojo? Because people felt like they made a difference. You know, everything -- I’m actually -- sometimes I sit and I think, wow, I am shocked that many people voted for me because everything told them not to vote for me. You know, I, you know, I'm a former member of the press. I think the press is very, very important. Obviously, we're looking on the television screen at Ferguson right now.
NNAMDIYou're not supposed to reveal that.
SILVERMANWe're on radio. But, you know, I think the press play -- a vigorous press is very important to a well-functioning democracy. But, you know, I think the press narrative was largely against me last time.
SHERWOODBut -- well, maybe we'll change it this time. Not that before, but…
SILVERMANWell, I would greatly appreciate that.
SHERWOODHere's the issue you have now. You're -- of the dozen candidates, you're clearly the best -- you're well known. You've now run at-large. I don't know if any of the other candidates who've run an at-large campaign. Maybe Calvin Gurley's run some campaigns. You've got a dozen candidates. You, again, are saying you're not taking corporate contributions.
SHERWOODYou are taking individual contributions. And so one of the people active in the city asked me about that. And said, "Okay, let's assume Elissa wins. She won't take corporate money. But if a corporation comes and wants to talk to you about a public policy issue, will you meet with the corporation?"
SILVERMANOf course. You know, let's talk about an issue like paid sick days, Tom, for example. Which was something I highlighted…
SHERWOODThen why is the money so tainted? Why can't you say you'll take campaign money legally from anyone who's authorized to give it? And then say, "I'll treat everyone the same. And I'll meet with and talk with them."
SHERWOODWhy is it their money -- I don't know, do give unions give money?
SILVERMANYou know why? Because our individual contribution limits -- we have individual contribution limits in this city. That's the law. But they're abused or evaded by multiple LLC corporations.
SHERWOODWell, we're getting -- that law is changing for the next election, after this election. The law -- that will change.
SILVERMANBut, you know, this is where sitting in your seat made me think, oh, okay, you know, that will change. Sitting in my seat, I know running a campaign that I don't have -- I -- first of all I can't figure out who is the head of an LLC.
SILVERMANSo it's on the good word of my contributors. And I have a lot of great contributors, obviously. But campaigns are fast moving. And where are all of problems in this city? They come from campaign finance -- a lot of our problems have been in campaign finance violations. So why do I support banning corporate contributions? Because it's simple and it's elegant and it's transparent. So I don't have to figure out, well, did Tom -- is Sherwood LLC give and did Tom give and did 4401 Connective Avenue LLC give?
SILVERMANThe way I run my campaign is Tom gives, Kojo gives, Elissa gives. It's -- you can give up to $1,000. It's simple. It's easy to administer. I think it makes sense.
NNAMDIPlease don your headphones. We're about to go to callers, starting with Natalie in Washington, D.C. Natalie, you're on the air. Go ahead, please.
NATALIEThank you for the Kojo policy (sic) hour on Fridays. I want to point out that what I've seen is that when one of the candidates -- any of the candidates that are running for mayor -- something is said, oh, well, that's just -- they're just trying to (unintelligible). They're representing what's going on in the city. And their voicing it. Now, here we are talking about housing. I haven't heard anybody talk about the Chinese building down in Chinatown, which was virtually going to be wiped away from the people who lived there -- primarily African Americans and Chinese.
NATALIEAnd as I understand it, David Catania went down there. He's not on the Housing Committee. But he went down there. And if I understand correctly, he has introduced some special legislation to try to help to see those people just don't get flushed out, but go through with the laws that will help tenants. Does anybody know anything about that?
NNAMDIElissa Silverman, what would you do?
SILVERMANWell, once again, I think that that is -- that building -- and I pass by it every day because I live at 4th and G Northeast. So I pass by that building almost every day. That's the type of housing that we need to preserve. Actually, it was eye-opening to me how many Asian residents live in that building. You know, it's preserving the diversity of an area that's rapidly changing.
SILVERMANI think the city needs to step in and needs to, you know, make sure that tenants are not taken advantage of, that we can preserve that affordable housing that's there. And also, if, you know, tenants want to purchase, to make sure they understand that they can -- have the right to purchase.
NNAMDIIf you were on the Council, what would you do about maintaining or expanding or maintaining and expanding the city's affordable housing stock?
SILVERMANWell, I think there are several things, Kojo, to do. Number one, I think we need…
SHERWOODExcuse me. Before you answer that, can I give the -- I talked to the bread for the city folks about this and, I'm sorry, I can't remember the director's name at this moment.
SHERWOODHe said -- George -- he said that we went -- we've gone from about 75,000 affordable units down to around 35,000. So this is not some academic discussion.
SILVERMANNo, it's not.
SHERWOODSo I apologize. Go ahead.
SILVERMANNo. I appreciate that.
SHERWOODI just wanted to put it into context.
SILVERMANWell, I think there are several things to do, Kojo. Number one, I think that we need to guarantee the funding for our most important tool, I think, in the affordable housing toolbox, so to speak, which is the Housing Production Trust Fund. Right now it fluctuates depending on our housing market. I think we need to guarantee and I do think the mayoral candidates -- at least some of them have agreed to this, which is guaranteeing $100 million of funding per year, no matter what.
SILVERMANI think we need to be much more -- we need to have a much more aggressive, muscular office of the tenant advocate. I would put more funding and resources there. I think we also need to understand that if you live on the minimum wage in this city -- and that's one of the issues that I was very involved with.
NNAMDII wanted to get to. It was one of the things you advocated for very strongly…
NNAMDI…as a candidate and as a policy analyst at the D.C. Fiscal Policy Institute.
SILVERMANThat is true. But to live on what the minimum wage is right now, which is 9.50 and live in this city, I mean, is impossible. So I think we also need to put resources into things like local rent supplement and rental assistance because to live on that way -- we want to make sure that people are able to live in this city who work in this city. And to understand that sometimes people need help because the average cost of the one-bedroom apartment, I think, is about $1,200 a month.
SILVERMANI mean, that's going to wipe away your entire salary. And let me just say that Tom's point -- this is not an academic issue for me either. So I was saying, I -- when I was working I made $60,000. I spent almost 60 percent of my take-home pay on my mortgage, which is twice the recommended amount. Now, I made that decisions because I wanted to own a home in this city. But that means that by the time -- and, you know, Kojo and I were just talking -- we were just talking about, you know, running and bike riding, which a lot of people remember that when I was Loose Lips I liked bike rides at the Ward 8 Democrats.
SILVERMANI now own a car. So by the time I pay my mortgage, my car payment -- I still have student loans 20 years later, which might be irresponsible of me, but is the truth -- and pay my utilities, I'm done.
NNAMDIElissa Silverman is our guest. She is an at-large candidate for the -- Independent candidate for the D.C. Council, running for an at-large seat. Want to see what she looks like? Go to our web stream, our live stream, at kojoshow.org, where you can see our live stream there. If you have questions or comments for her give us a call at 800-433-8850. Or hurry up because Tom Sherwood is here. He's our resident analyst. He's an NBC 4 reporter and a columnist for the Current Newspapers.
SHERWOODAnd I told her to sit up because she's on TV.
SILVERMANI thought this was radio.
SHERWOODWell, there's no more radio/TV.
NNAMDIYeah, your mother may be watching.
SHERWOODIt's all the same mush. Okay. Here we go. Homelessness. Out of housing we have homelessness. You have written -- you've sited the Washington Post heartbreaking story about the D.C. General operation. You've made some -- and unlike some candidates, who can define the problems, don't offer many solutions, you've suggested that the city ought to reconsider and take a look at the community partnership, which has been in charge of the nonprofit. What do you want done with that? And how do you want that to happen? How quickly? We're going to have winter again in a few months.
SILVERMANWell, I do -- so the issue is that we spend a lot -- there's a lot of criticism that we spend a lot of money on homeless services. And one of the most eye-popping things to me in that story was that we spend a million dollars a month on maintaining D.C. General. We give our homeless services money to this -- a third-party entity. The community partnership. And I actually recently went back to understand why we did that. I think it's time for us to revisit that again.
SILVERMANWe need to understand -- and I think this is what I offer, you know, for listeners, like, what do I offer that's different than the dozen other candidates on the ballot? Well, I offer, I think, an understanding that I don't know how we're spending our homeless services dollars. What interests me about the District budget -- and I've spent five years studying it -- is what I don't know. I -- we don't know how we're spending our homeless services dollars because we're giving it to this third party entity, the Community Partnership.
SILVERMANAnd there's not, you know, transparency, you know, that's like the mushy, good government word, but we just don't know how our -- we're spending our money on, you know…
SHERWOODWe contract it out.
SILVERMANOn critical -- and, you know, these are most vulnerable families. And, you know, we're talking about kids. So, you know, and we have to look at the connection. This is, you know, I talked about how nerdy I am about District government, but what fascinates me about this is there are 800 kids living, you know, in our homeless services and emergency shelter.
NNAMDIGot to move on to David, in Washington, D.C. David, you're on the air. Go ahead, please.
DAVIDHi, Elissa. First off, I think you're a great candidate. And I want to…
NNAMDIOkay. That's it, David.3
SILVERMANThank you, David. Keep going.
DAVIDI wanted to ask you about some of the questions that underlie our public safety budgeting.
DAVID(unintelligible) of a budget. We've been relying on a report that dates back to the late '80s, early '90s for the adequate number or level of staffing for the number of police in the District. And considering we were fighting off a crack epidemic and really high murder rates, Chairman Mendelson really defers to that report when he's figuring out how to justify the amount of money that we're spending on the police department. Is it time to reconsider the -- beyond assumptions that we have going into the staffing levels for the police department?
NNAMDIGood luck with that, Elissa Silverman.
SILVERMANWell, let me say that I was a crime reporter. A lot of people don't know this, but I actually worked the night shift for two years, covering crime for the Washington Post. And one of the things I really like about Chief Lanier, and certainly Chief Grooms, is they embrace data and, you know, look at where the hotspots are to move deployment. But I think we need to -- that is how we should do policing.
SILVERMANI have to say I'm distracted by the television here, but one of the striking images for me of Ferguson was seeing the police chief walking with the protestors. So I think when we look at how we're deploying our resources in the police department, number one, we need to look at, you know, how we're doing community policing. What I hear from residents is, you know, they still want to see more cops on the street walking the beat.
SILVERMANI think we also want to be smart. And I do think Chief Lanier does this, is, you know, using data. We, you know, big data is the big buzz word, but we know where crime happens. And we need to use that inform how we deploy our resources.
NNAMDIWe are running out of time very quickly. I need to warn you that our next guest is Robin Ficker and he is not known for his patience. He may come bursting into this room any moment. So hold on, Robin, we're getting to you. Will you vote for the initiative on the ballot this fall to legalize marijuana use in the District?
NNAMDIDo you support a mayoral candidate this fall?
SILVERMANWell, I'm a voter, Kojo. And I think all the major candidates have their strengths. And I think the decision for me, as well as many voters, is which strengths are most important at this time. And I'm still…
SHERWOODNo is the answer.
SILVERMANI'm still figuring that out.
SHERWOODShe's not -- no public -- would you anticipate you'll -- you would attempt to endorse any -- is that right? So we just focus on yours? You've got enough to do with your own.
SILVERMANI'm trying to win my race, Tom. I mean this is my second try. I'm focused on winning in November 4th. And…
SHERWOODHere's the answer if you don't know it. I'm willing to work with whomever the voters choose.
SILVERMANThat sounds like a great answer.
SILVERMANBut -- and let me just say, Kojo, that…
SILVERMAN…you know, if voters are more interested in where I am on various positions, they can check out my website, which is Elissa -- the updated elissa2014.com. And they can feel free to email me at firstname.lastname@example.org. I still own a phone, so they can call me, as well.
SHERWOODLet me, quickly, I've got a tweet. Someone wants to know, do you support a non-partisan primary? Just get rid of party politics in our primaries.
SILVERMANI'd like the -- I'd like to consider that. I mean, I think that…
SHERWOODYou're inclined to support it, but want to know more about it?
SILVERMANWell, because there are different ways of doing it, you know. There's non-partisan. There's having an open primary. I think these are things that David Grosso has looked at. And, you know, I still -- I think voters want to -- should vote for the candidate that they think is going to move the city forward and is going to best align with their values.
SHERWOODI don't know why we, as a citizen, I have to pay for the Democratic Party and the Republican Party election of their party officials. Why -- I don't even know why they're on our ballots and we pay for it.
NNAMDIShe's an Independent. She can't answer that anymore.
NNAMDIShe's neither a Democrat nor a Republican.
SHERWOODShe's a taxpayer.
NNAMDIWell, let me ask your mom's question, has your social life improved?
SILVERMANSo, Kojo, this is, I think, something that only like three people understand at this point. But -- I know Robin Ficker's on, but let me just explain this. So when I was Loose Lips there was another senior analyst at the time who was -- had a different skillset, perhaps. Jonetta Rose Barras. And Kojo would say, well, have you gone to this -- I believe -- Democratic State Committee meeting -- to bring this full circle. And Jonetta said I got better things to do with my life.
SILVERMANAnd I was very silent. And then Kojo looked at me and I said, "Well, my social calendar's kind of empty right now, Kojo." So I went to that. But any way, lots…
NNAMDIElissa Silverman. She's…
SILVERMANLots of fun, Kojo.
NNAMDI…an Independent candidate for the D.C. Council. She's running for an at-large seat. Elissa Silverman, thank you for joining us. Good luck to you.
SILVERMANThank you very much.
NNAMDITom Sherwood, he is our resident analyst. He's an NBC 4 reporter and a columnist for the Current Newspapers. Tom Sherwood, in Seat Pleasant, population 4,500 people, the mayor of Seat Pleasant is a man by the name of Eugene Grant, who I must admit I have known for some 20 years or so. But Eugene Grant has a fairly assertive personality -- it is my recollection. And apparently that assertive personality has gotten in the way, certainly, of his relationship with a majority of members of the council of Seat Pleasant who did something that in most jurisdictions would be considered at the very least unusual.
NNAMDIRather than trying to remove him from office politically, they essentially voted to remove him office physically. That he can no longer sit in his office in that, I guess, city-owned building. So they had him kicked out of his office. He says he's going to set up a tent in front of the building.
SHERWOODWhat was the vote? Four to three?
NNAMDIFour to three, yes.
SHERWOODSomething like that. Said that he'd been abusive to employees, the city employees. There are 44 employees of Seat Pleasant.
SHERWOODAnd I don't know if they're overstaffed or not. But -- and apparently over the 10 years he's been mayor or so there have been like 13 complaints that he's been abusive. And in some -- his response has been…
NNAMDIFor the average mayor that's a fairly low level of complaints.
SHERWOODYou know, I think Adrian Fenty had 13 a day. No. No. That's not fair to Adrian, if you're out there. But, you know, he says in his defense, you know, I'm trying to move this city -- I'm trying to make this city respond and be more aggressive and get more support for our little Seat Pleasant. And so -- and many mayors, many people in executive roles have to be unpleasant. So I don't know exactly where all this comes from.
SHERWOODThey can't take him out of the office. If he went to court I'm sure that he could probably win a case that you can't take away his ability to do his job. But it's a little embarrassment. It's like a nice little news for Seat Pleasant. We don't get much news from Seat Pleasant.
NNAMDIWell, this is true. Good luck to you, Eugene Grant. Peter Franchot is the Maryland comptroller. He would like the summer vacation to continue until Labor Day as it used to back in the day. Now, school districts in the District of Columbia and the state of Maryland bring kids back to school a couple of weeks, often before Labor Day or a week before Labor Day gets here. And he says that there are, you know, financial reasons to do this, that, you know, people need to just have more time. They would spend more money in the state.
NNAMDIBut he is being opposed by a lot of the educational leaders in the state, the Maryland State Education Association, the Public School Superintendent's Association of Maryland, and the Maryland Association of Boards of Education. Tom, I'd like you to weigh in on this as I'm sure Robin Ficker has an opinion about it. He's a Republican candidate for the Maryland Senate. He's running for the seat in the state's 15th District. It's located in Montgomery County. He joins us in studio. Robin Ficker, good to see you.
MR. ROBIN FICKERIt's a great pleasure to be here. It's about time we have some up-county candidates in Montgomery County that offsets or balances the Beltway Coalition. You know, we have six county councilmembers...
NNAMDIThis is going to be a monologue, isn't it?
SHERWOODCould we ask you about school?
SHERWOOD'Cause you had a vote on that. If it got into the legislature, would...
NNAMDIAnd you used to be in the legislature.
SHERWOODPeter Franchot says he wants to get 10,000 signatures to have school start after Labor Day. What's your position?
SHERWOODThen we'll let you go into your rant that you started.
FICKERMy son and I have been to over 50,000 houses in District 15 as Fickers For 15. And we have met a number of people who have asked that schools start later so that kids can be more rested, be wide awake early in the morning. I think it's...
SHERWOODNo, that's later in the day. We're talking about after Labor Day.
NNAMDIAfter Labor Day, have the vacation...
FICKEROh, starting after Labor Day. I'm sorry. Well, you know, I remember this past winter, which was a rugged winter. There were a lot of school days missed, and then the county had to ask for a waiver so that they wouldn't have to go to school for 180 days. I think that perhaps starting school after Labor Day will put even more pressure on the schools to try to fit in 180 days. And we want our kids to be in school for 180 days. I think that should be our top priority.
NNAMDIPeter Franchot, you're not getting Robin Ficker's support.
SHERWOODPeter -- well, Peter Franchot says -- he's still on the board, walking Ocean City, and I think Thursday or the day or so ago, and said, you know, the state is losing out on 75 to $80 million a year in business that the jobs, the summer jobs for young people, that this could easily be fixed by starting after Labor Day and that maybe we could have a longer school day or something. Maybe you can have fewer training days, maybe cut down the holidays around -- religious holidays, do something like that, and address the issues that the controller says, that you're wasting a lot of money by starting before Labor Day.
FICKERWell, Peter Franchot is a very smart guy. I've known him for a long time. And if he says we're going to save money by doing it, I think we should pay attention to what he's saying. However, I want to be sure that we get in the full school year of 180 days. We may have to clip off some days of the Christmas vacation or the Easter vacation or some other time. But we need our -- education's number on in Montgomery County.
FICKERWe've got to protect our kids because as the twig as bent, so grows the tree. And we've got to challenge our kids so that they rise to the level of expectations. We have a lot of Asian students in District 15. They want a good education each and every day. And I'm supporting those kids and those families that are pro-education.
NNAMDIBut Montgomery County is not exactly friendly territory for Republicans. Why are you running for the State Senate? And why do you believe voters are willing to consider not just your campaign as a Republican but that of your son Flynn who is running for the House of Delegates?
FICKERWell, there goes the media again, saying that once the Democratic primary is over where 11 percent of the total voters vote, that the election is over once the Democratic primary is over. District 15 is half Democratic, one-quarter Independent, and one-quarter Republican. A very small percentage -- only 11 percent of the total voters voted this past June 24. What about all the other folks? What about the up-county people who finally need some representation so we can do away with this constant gridlock on I-270? What about those views?
SHERWOODTell us where District 15 is, so give -- it's one of the largest districts, at least populated, and just a very large -- just some of the communities that are in it, just a thumbnail sketch.
FICKERWell, it's large in a lot of ways. It's large in education. It's large and attractive and nice people.
SHERWOODNo, where is it?
FICKERIt's Potomac, North Potomac, Poolesville, Germantown, and Clarksburg. And I have met many people in District 15 who take as long to get from Shady Grove to Germantown and Clarksburg as they take to get from D.C. on the train to Shady Grove. We need new reversible lanes on I-270. You could fit them in at one-twentieth the cost per mile of the Purple Line which is running a billion-dollar deficit.
NNAMDIWe'll get to that.
FICKERThere was a Red Line in Baltimore, which is running a billion-dollar deficit.
NNAMDIWe'll get to that in a second. Robin Ficker, doing the math, he's a Republican candidate for the Maryland Senate. If you have questions or comments for him, call us at 800-433-8850 or send email to email@example.com. Robin Ficker's running for the seat in the state's 15th District, which is located in Montgomery County. Your mailer's say that District 15 is getting clobbered in Annapolis. On what specific issues, in your view, did the district's delegation and the State House come up short?
FICKERWe're not only getting clobbered. We're not even at the table. We're on the menu down there. Look at the change to try to force the county to eat one-half of the state teacher pension costs. Montgomery County is getting 20 cents back for every dollar we send to Annapolis. Kojo, if you had -- and, Tom, if you had a financial advisor, you gave him a hundred dollars in January, and he had $20 left in December, I guarantee you'd fire him.
SHERWOODHow -- well, how do you -- in the Democratic legislature in Annapolis, say you win. How do you influence the legislature? Wouldn't you be kind of a loner, outsider voice on the outside?
FICKERWell, I suppose we'd be a loner in one respect in that Flynn and I are the only candidates that have been spending each and every day, since May of 2013, going door to door, visiting over 50,000 houses and asking people what we can do for them in Annapolis 'cause we're going to represent those interests, the District of 15, not the special interests. As Phil Andrews said, we're not going to be like the legislators that are captive to lobbyists and state House leadership. We're going to be captive to the viewpoints of District 15.
SHERWOODI'm looking at your campaign literature. You brought in several copies. They're fairly large, nicely done. But both you and your son are on here. Who paid for it, you or him? Or what'd you do, split it evenly? How'd you pay for this?
FICKERWell, it was paid for with...
SHERWOODI've never seen two political campaigns on one brochure.
FICKERIt's nice-looking, isn't it?
SHERWOODWell, I don't want to characterize how good it is. But just who paid for it?
FICKERWell, with questions like that, I understand why I believe you're like my horse. You're outstanding in your field. You're asking tough questions. We paid...
FICKERWe pay for it with hard-earned money. For instance...
SHERWOODI apologize. Did your campaign pay for it? Or did your son's campaign pay for it? Or did you split the cost?
FICKERWe have one campaign, Fickers For 15. It's a slate campaign.
FICKERYeah. I represented four clients in Silver Spring court this morning, and each of those paid. So I earned some money. And we spend our hard-earned money trying to represent the viewpoints of District 15.
NNAMDIYou -- you were in the General Assembly from 1978 to 1982. By my calculation, you were younger then than your son is now that he is running.
FICKERYouth is a state of mind. It's...
SHERWOODOnly old people say that, you know.
FICKERIt's not a time (unintelligible), but I might add that each of us has three college degrees, and we represent experience and also computer geekedness (sic) and being in touch with the young people of our district. Flynn is by far the youngest person running in District 15. And I think we should replace at least one of those old fogey Democrats with Flynn Ficker for House of Delegates.
NNAMDIWhen Doug Duncan was running for county executive this past spring, one of his big sticking points was that he felt the county had done a poor job securing funds for school construction. It's my understanding that you are particularly concerned about Poolesville High School. How do you go about changing that in Annapolis?
FICKERWell, they keep putting -- I'm going to be talking about Poolesville High School in the very first day of the 2015 session because they keep putting -- it's the very last school to be renovated in Montgomery County, but yet it's rated number one in the state by Newsweek magazine. I just met a lady who has one child that's graduating in 2017. It was supposed to be renovated by then. Now she's got some other kids. She's hoping that her kid that graduates in 2025 will be in a new Poolesville High School.
FICKERWe have 17 percent of the state's school students. We're getting only 8 percent of the school construction dollars. Montgomery County legislators made sure that Baltimore has school construction 20 extra million for each of the next 30 years. They looked out for Baltimore, but they can't look out for Montgomery County. And we're going to be up-county champions in Montgomery County and Montgomery County champions statewide.
SHERWOODAre you involved in the governor's race in terms of supporting the Republican candidates (unintelligible) ?
FICKERWell, I'd like -- one thing I would like to see in the governor's race is lots of debates. I'd like to see robust discussion of the issues. Because when we have that, the truth comes out. So far, we haven't seen robust debates. There's the holding back, playing it safe. And I think that the people in Maryland and in District 15 will pick the better candidate once they see these two guys debating the issues.
NNAMDIOn your website, you say the gas tax hike enacted recently in Maryland has no upside for the residents in your district. Why do you feel that way?
FICKERWell, I think that all of this 20-cent-a-gallon gas tax increase, which, by the way, was the largest gas tax increase in any state in U.S. history, provided with one vote, I think most of it's going to pay these billion-dollar deficits on the Purple Line, billion-dollar deficits on the Baltimore's Red Line. We need to spend some of that money on reversible lanes on I-270 so that people can get up and down the road, so they wouldn't be worried about Ike Leggett giving them parking tickets while they're driving on 270.
FICKERWe spend so much energy on speed cameras, dotting the county with those. If we'd have spent as much energy alleviating the traffic on I-270, we'd be better off. The Beltway Coalition, all these guys, representatives, who live down by the Beltway, they want to give us a couple of buses to go up and down 270 while they're getting the train. I think maybe it should be the other way around. Maybe we should have a light rail going to Clarksburg, Germantown.
NNAMDIOn to Gary in Rockville, Md. Gary, you're on the air. Go ahead, please.
GARYSure. Hey, Robin, it's Gary Gerstenfield. How are you?
FICKEROh, the famous attorney, Gary Gerstenfield.
GARYRobin, you have a lot of good ideas. You really do. But part of the problem I think that you've encountered and which I'd like you to address is you tend to be polarizing people who like your ideas. And many of your ideas are excellent ideas. But the way you go about it, sometimes the message gets lost with the messenger. How would you be different this time in this campaign?
NNAMDIIs it your fault that you have an outsized personality?
FICKERI have enthusiasm. I've had enough energy to visit with my son 50,000 houses. Gary has an office down there in Silver Spring. I think he tends to be a little more Beltway-oriented. I suppose you're going to be different if you're advocating for the up-county. The up-county's been left out. But the only thing I can do, I suppose, is to light a candle rather than cursing the darkness. I have to start talking out for the needs of the up-county as I did when I put questions on the ballot in 2008 that passed countywide, despite the opposition of every elected official, to limit the increase in property tax revenues to the rate of inflation.
NNAMDIAnd this is true.
FICKERThat got 200,000 votes and passed in District 15 by 5,000 votes despite the opposition of the incumbents. I got a question passed earlier to forbid the construction and operation of garbage dumps in residential zones, to forbid the operation of sewage sludge trenching in residential zones, and also to eliminate the up-county long distance phone rates that they had to pay to Northern Virginia and Prince George's County. I suppose...
FICKER...you know, change brings about some consternation occasionally, but we need change in Montgomery County if ever we're going to protect the upper county which is being overdeveloped without enough infrastructure.
NNAMDIYour opponent is an incumbent, Brian Feldman. He is a former delegate. Why should he not remain in this position?
FICKERWell, keep in mind that, even though he says that we should re-elect him, he was appointed to this job. And he was appointed by folks who live in Silver Spring and Bethesda. My opponent lives at the very southern end of this district. We need some up-county representation...
SHERWOODDoes that disqualify him?
FICKERCertainly not, it doesn't.
SHERWOODHe's in the district.
FICKERIt doesn't disqualify him, but we need some up-county representation when you realize that all the county councilmembers live down where he is, down by the Beltway. Also, he's...
SHERWOODThat's where most of the voters are, isn't it?
FICKERNo, not in District 15. And he has been a tax-increase specialist. He voted for the 20 cent increase in the state gasoline tax, for a 20 percent increase in the state sales tax, two regressive taxes that clobber the poor and middle class of District 15.
NNAMDIOn to Gretchen in Silver Spring, Md. Gretchen, you're on the air. Go ahead, please.
GRETCHENYeah. A very brief question. Who wants a longer summer and more risk of our children not getting 180 days in school that they're entitled to? But the real reason I'm calling is that person's comment about Asian families being interested in education. My daughter is Native American from Guatemala. She belongs to a group of seven girls at Northwood High School. They are Native American, Latina, Asian, Ethiopian, African-American, and white, and they compete with each other to get the highest grades over the 4.0 average. They are -- they spent all of their time and energy fighting for education. And I am appalled...
NNAMDIWhy did you single out Asian students, Robin Ficker?
FICKERWell, we have 26,000 Asian voters in District 15, which is the highest in any district, and so many of them have spoken to me about how they don't approve of the 2.0 curriculum -- it's too easy -- how they're worried about being transferred out of their school districts to other districts. I suppose they made an impression. But I've been to every house in District 15, not just the Asian houses. And I'm going to reflect the viewpoints of people of all nationalities who live in District 15...
SHERWOODYou're agreeing children of all races and economic conditions are interested in a good education?
FICKERAbsolutely. And I'm perhaps more interested than they are. My dad worked for 40 years in the Library of Congress, brought me home six books a week to read, and I know if you challenge kids, they will rise to the challenge...
NNAMDIRunning out of time very quickly. What do you think the Purple Line will mean for Montgomery County?
FICKERI think the Purple Line will mean a lot of development right along the Beltway. I think it'll facilitate traveling back and forth to the University of Maryland, which will help the people of Montgomery County. I think it'll be very expensive. I think that there are going to be even larger cost overruns, and I would prefer to emphasize the building of reversible lanes on 270 so that people can go up and down rather than just across the county.
NNAMDIRobin Ficker, he's a Republican candidate for the Maryland Senate. He's running for the seat in the state's 15th district, which is located in Montgomery County. His son is running for the House seat, their slogan, Fickers For 15. Robin Ficker, thank you for joining us.
FICKERWe care more door to door.
NNAMDITom -- you have been to every one of the houses in District 15, all...
NNAMDITom Sherwood is our resident analyst. He's an NBC 4 reporter and a columnist for the Current newspapers. Maybe we should embark on visiting every house in the district.
SHERWOODI'll tell -- you go and tell me how it works out for you.
NNAMDIThank you all for listening. I'm Kojo Nnamdi.
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