Lawmakers in Maryland and Virginia get back to business, as the 2011 legislative sessions take off. Meanwhile, D.C. lawmakers welcome a new face to the Wilson Building. 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
  • Isiah Leggett Montgomery County Executive (D)
  • Sekou Biddle Member, D.C. Council (D-At Large)

Transcript

  • 12:06:43

    MR. KOJO NNAMDIFrom WAMU 88.5 at American University in Washington, welcome to "The Politics Hour," starring Tom Sherwood. I'm Kojo Nnamdi. Tom Sherwood is our resident analyst. He's a reporter at NBC 4 and a columnist for the Current Newspapers who seem to be having trouble keeping up. We mentioned last week the D.C. mayor, Vincent Gray, was getting his fence back. Tom reports in his Northwest Current column this week that Vincent Gray got his fence back. What? You didn't believe he was actually gonna get it back? You had to go see for yourself?

  • 12:07:23

    MR. TOM SHERWOODI reported that his police detail wanted the fence back.

  • 12:07:27

    NNAMDII see.

  • 12:07:27

    SHERWOODI don't think he felt that strongly about it, but the police details that he needed it.

  • 12:07:31

    NNAMDIYou don't know if he felt that strongly about it? The man fought to have his fence maintained, retained last year when...

  • 12:07:37

    SHERWOODProcess.

  • 12:07:37

    NNAMDI...somebody took it away.

  • 12:07:39

    SHERWOODHe wanted to be -- he wanted to follow the proper process. That's the -- you know?

  • 12:07:44

    NNAMDIYou report this week in the Northwest Current that in addition to the fence, there are security cameras on the property.

  • 12:07:50

    SHERWOODYes. Well, yes, there were, but they took them down from Adrian Fenty's house where they were no longer needed.

  • 12:07:55

    NNAMDI(laugh) And they took them to Vincent Gray's house.

  • 12:07:59

    SHERWOODYou know, he has a very nice house off -- on Branch Avenue...

  • 12:08:02

    NNAMDII'm familiar with that.

  • 12:08:03

    SHERWOOD...right off the Suitland Parkway, and it's right off...

  • 12:08:05

    NNAMDIWhat are you...

  • 12:08:05

    SHERWOOD...the corner...

  • 12:08:06

    NNAMDI...encouraging demonstrators to go to his house?

  • 12:08:08

    SHERWOODWell, no. I will say this. There's a very nice spot outside of his house for demonstrations. I'm sure they'll be some. I would like for people to be well behaved and respectful.

  • 12:08:17

    NNAMDIAs always, you're concerned about security and in the wake of the shootings...

  • 12:08:21

    SHERWOODAh.

  • 12:08:21

    NNAMDI...the tragic shootings in Tucson, Arizona, last week, there was a great deal of conversation about increased security for members of Congress and that, of course, immediately concerned you because you already don't like all of the barriers we have around government and other buildings in the city of Washington, but it doesn't appear as if there's gonna be that much more.

  • 12:08:45

    SHERWOODI was very pleased that so many of the members of Congress -- not pleased, I was happy for America that so many members of Congress resisted the idea that they should somehow now have security at all places. And 535 members in some kind of capital police like Secret Service detail for each one of them measuring their every movement, I don't think so. I think Terry Gainer, who's the sergeant at arms there on the Hill in the Senate side, I think, who's a former police assistant chief here, had it right. He said any member of Congress who's gonna do something publicly and is concerned about what it might be that he or she ought to be in touch with their local police departments wherever they're gonna go and have reasonable assistance, but we cannot, he said, envelop everyone in some kind of cocoon of security. It's just security theater. It's anti-American.

  • 12:09:38

    NNAMDIFormer Mayor Adrian...

  • 12:09:39

    SHERWOODI don't feel strongly about it.

  • 12:09:41

    NNAMDII could tell. Former Mayor Adrian Fenty has got a new job with a Philadelphia-based consulting firm. We said he'll be seeking to help that firm in its pretty eminent position in class action litigation support services as fast as humanly possible, as the mayor used to like to say.

  • 12:09:59

    SHERWOODI don't know how he's gonna do a class action, you know, preparation. That means he's gonna have to talk to people.

  • 12:10:04

    NNAMDIYes.

  • 12:10:05

    SHERWOODAnd that's why he got him in trouble as mayor. He didn't want to talk to people and meet with people. If you're in a law firm or with -- doing legal work, you have to talk to people.

  • 12:10:15

    NNAMDIThe mayor says, my work as mayor gave me firsthand exposure as to what was and is possible in evolution and growth of services and business despite government's complex bureaucracy. I haven't been able to make head or tail of that statement...

  • 12:10:27

    SHERWOODI think...

  • 12:10:28

    NNAMDI...but somebody will.

  • 12:10:28

    SHERWOODI think the statement represents the bureaucracy that he's talking about, and he also is gonna do something about the finances. He didn't want to be bothered by the finances. I mean, he served during a time when budgets where pretty good at first, and then, it got really bad. But, you know, he didn't spend a lot of time doing the accounting work.

  • 12:10:45

    NNAMDIFresh start, is that a concept with which you're unfamiliar? He's moving off to a completely fresh start.

  • 12:10:51

    SHERWOODI wish him well. I'm surprised that he got into such a situation that he wasn’t easily re-elected.

  • 12:10:58

    NNAMDIWashington Post reports today that at-large City Councilor Michael Brown has been having some problems with his property taxes even as he advocates an increase in taxes on people making over $250,000 a year in the District of Columbia, which would include Mr. Brown himself.

  • 12:11:15

    SHERWOODYou know, this is just mindboggling to me. If you're a public official and you don't get your taxes paid -- and I don't care what all these reasons are -- you don't pay your taxes, you get ensnared in a Verizon Center dispute over luxury boxes you got there.

  • 12:11:29

    NNAMDIHas that ever been resolved? Has that ever been resolved?

  • 12:11:31

    SHERWOODI don't think that's been -- I've never heard that's been resolved. And then, you had some dispute over -- of some kind of private business at the convention center. I don't even remember what happened there, but you can't -- and then, you go out, and then, you wanna raise taxes on people making $250,000 or more. I think one of the best ways to persuade people that's a good idea is to pay your own taxes.

  • 12:11:53

    NNAMDIWell...

  • 12:11:53

    SHERWOODI just -- I'm just astonished. You cannot have -- you know, Michael Brown doesn't give a consistent answer to all these reasons, and he's refinanced his house. It's just mindboggling to me that you're a public official. You don't have your ducks in a row in your private life.

  • 12:12:09

    NNAMDIAnd if you are Rushern Baker, the county executive of Prince George's County, who has been battling to get this position for the last eight years, you finally get the position, and the county that has always been seeking to show the rest of the country that it is one of the more affluent counties that is a predominantly black county in the United States, all of a sudden, its image gets hit with the county executive being arrested, his wife stuffing money in her bra, allegedly, and now, 13 murders in 13 days. This has got to be a very difficult period for Rushern Baker.

  • 12:12:46

    SHERWOODI want to blame this on the change in the astrology signs.

  • 12:12:49

    NNAMDIIt's got to be something like that.

  • 12:12:49

    SHERWOODYou know, they had this thing -- they decided now the planets moved, and I used to be Leo, and now, I'm a Cancer. I just think there's all kinds of weird things...

  • 12:12:57

    NNAMDIOh, you were a Cancer long before you were a Leo.

  • 12:12:58

    SHERWOODI have been. I try to be.

  • 12:12:59

    NNAMDIYes.

  • 12:13:00

    SHERWOODSo I think -- but I do think it's a bad break for Rushern Baker. I do think -- you look at the maps that have been published where all these crimes occur, and it reinforces the idea that much of the crime that used to plague the District of Columbia has moved into the inner suburbs at Prince George's County.

  • 12:13:16

    NNAMDIAnd it's a problem that Rushern Baker is going to have to address, but you have to wonder how does one address this kind of problem. We have in studio someone who might be able to give some advice to Rushern Baker. He having been in the county executive business a little longer than Rushern Baker. So far this winter, the Washington region has escaped the wrath of another snowcalypse kind of storm, but a lot of Montgomery County residents still have bitter memories about violent storms that knocked out power last winter and last summer. Joining us in studio now is the county executive of Montgomery County, Maryland, Isiah Leggett. He is a Democrat. Ike Leggett, Happy New Year. Good to see you again.

  • 12:13:53

    MR. ISIAH LEGGETTHappy New Year, Kojo, and welcome -- thank you for having me back.

  • 12:13:56

    SHERWOODCan we have like a moratorium on the Happy New Year. (laugh) You know, it's already well into January.

  • 12:14:01

    LEGGETTJanuary the 15th is the official cutoff.

  • 12:14:03

    SHERWOODHappy pre-Valentines Day.

  • 12:14:04

    NNAMDITom has been grousing about this since New Year's Day.

  • 12:14:07

    LEGGETTAll right.

  • 12:14:08

    NNAMDIRegulators in Maryland are now seeking authority to impose fines on power companies that fail to meet reliability standards. How does that square with what you think needs to be done to hold power companies like PEPCO accountable?

  • 12:14:20

    LEGGETTWell, that seems to be okay, but the real challenge is that you impose a fine, one, service has not been adequately delivered, and we want to avoid that kind of dilemma in the future. To impose the fine means that something is wrong. I want PEPCO to get it right. I think that they're now on the right path. They're bringing in additional resources to help. They've outlined a plan. We've put together a taskforce of our own working with PEPCO now, and so I've decided to turn a new page. I've realized that PEPCO will be our utility for the foreseeable future, and we need to find ways to work together so that we're not in a position to have to impose fines because the service has been delivered in a way that I think that we want. So that's the approach that I'm taking.

  • 12:15:05

    NNAMDIThomas Graham is getting to him, Tom. He said he thinks we've been beating up on PEPCO too much.

  • 12:15:10

    SHERWOODWell, you know, PEPCO did, I think, make a public relations move that benefitted by acknowledging they had not done -- had not kept up in the maintenance world, and The Washington Post did that really damaging -- I started to say damning. I guess, I can say that. I just did. Really terrible thing that showed that PEPCO was least among us in terms of power companies...

  • 12:15:32

    NNAMDIThe average PEPCO customer experienced 70 percent more outages than customers of other big-city utilities for which data were available.

  • 12:15:39

    SHERWOODRight.

  • 12:15:39

    LEGGETTYeah. All of those things are true, but what we need to do now is to make certain that they correct those things and to move forward. Rehashing the past will not necessarily the kind of direction I wanna go. I'm looking to the future. I've taken the approach...

  • 12:15:52

    NNAMDIAre you offering the carrot? The...

  • 12:15:53

    LEGGETTThat's right.

  • 12:15:54

    NNAMDI...Maryland seems to be offering the stick, penalties if PEPCO doesn't...

  • 12:15:56

    LEGGETTThat's right. Well -- but the penalties come if you do not perform. I want to have the incentive that they're going to perform adequately and provide the services that our citizens want in Montgomery County.

  • 12:16:06

    SHERWOODAnd if you fine PEPCO $50,000 or a hundred or a million dollars...

  • 12:16:11

    NNAMDIWill they pass that onto the customers?

  • 12:16:12

    SHERWOODWhere does the money go? And who pays for it? Well, the rate payers pay for it? But where would the money go? Would it go -- it wouldn't go to Montgomery County.

  • 12:16:17

    LEGGETTWell, that's a good question. That's a good question because -- but presumably you can pass that on back to the rate players, unless you're gonna have it from the salaries or wages of the leadership or management, which I doubt that will be possible but...

  • 12:16:28

    SHERWOODYeah.

  • 12:16:28

    LEGGETT...ultimately, all of us can end up paying for that.

  • 12:16:31

    SHERWOODIt's just what PEPCO...

  • 12:16:31

    NNAMDIWell, you're a lawyer. Can't the Maryland Public Service Commission issue a ruling that bans PEPCO from passing that penalty onto its customers?

  • 12:16:41

    LEGGETTWell, they would have to come from somewhere, but you have to either get it...

  • 12:16:44

    SHERWOODInvestors?

  • 12:16:44

    LEGGETT...from the rate payers or the dividends and the rate payers.

  • 12:16:48

    NNAMDI800-433-8850 is the number to call if you'd like to talk with Montgomery County executive Ike Leggett. 800-433-8850. You can also go to our website, kojoshow.org. Join the conversation there. Send us a tweet, @kojoshow, or e-mail to kojo@wamu.org. The county did hold a public hearing about PEPCO's service last week. What did you learn from the feedback residents gave you there?

  • 12:17:12

    LEGGETTWell, first of all, I think that people are still pretty upset about what happened last year and rightfully so, but I think people now want answers. They want a viable solution to the problems that we've experienced. And one of the more difficult challenges that PEPCO is facing is that, I think, people can readily understand when they have the major snowstorms and ice storms that we've experienced, but in many situations, we have outages when there have been almost clear days, and they're the blue...

  • 12:17:37

    NNAMDIIt's the blue-sky outages.

  • 12:17:38

    LEGGETTThat's right. And those are the kinds of answers that we need, and I think that goes to the infrastructure, which, I think, they've now admitted that there's a problem. The other problem that we have is response in terms of the reliability of getting in extra crews from outside the area when there are snowstorms and ice storms. Those are some of the things that the taskforce that I've put together working on it, and that's the reference to the hearing that was held last year to the blue ribbon panel that we've put together to look at these issues.

  • 12:18:06

    NNAMDIMontgomery County is right now in the middle of a different kind of metaphorical storm. You're looking at a $300 million budget shortfall, the kind of financial hole that's usually alien to a county as wealthy as Montgomery County. You've had time to exchange some ideas with county council members about how to fill that gap. What sense do you have for what's politically feasible?

  • 12:18:25

    LEGGETTWell, keep in mind that over the last four years, we've closed budgetary gaps of about $2.4 billion. Last year alone, we saw the budgetary gap of $978 million. People who ask me this year say you're only looking at $300 million. What's the problem? Well, the problem is that over the last two or three years, we've exercised so many options to resolve those problems that now we have very few options. We've gotten all of the low hanging fruit. We've gotten the trees. We've gotten the limbs, and now, we're looking at the roots. We have an infrastructure challenge that we have in Montgomery County to change the structure of county government overall.

  • 12:19:05

    LEGGETTWe have a taskforce that's looking at a number of ideas so we can go forward, but right now, we will resolve this problem. And I'm pleased that we will do so without additional taxes, and by March 15, we hope to have a proposal before the county council that will look at a variety of things. And clearly when you have 80 percent of the salaries and wages consuming a good part of the budget, it means that we'll have some impact for our workers in Montgomery County.

  • 12:19:31

    SHERWOODAre you worried about what the general assembly in Annapolis is gonna do in terms of shifting state cost back to the counties? There's some discussion about teacher pensions and other types of expenses that could stack up pretty quickly against you.

  • 12:19:44

    LEGGETTWell, Tom, worry is an understatement. When the state is looking at $1.4, $1.5 billion gap, it's possible that they would pass a great deal of that down to the local community. As you mentioned, teacher pension is a good part of that. And I've seen proposals that are as low as 47 million to $96 million that could be a part of the share for Montgomery County. The governor, to his credit, last week, indicated that he will not make a proposal in his budget to do so. But the general assembly still can decide that they may want to do so, and we're going to fight and resist it at best we can. But I think that as it relates to other portions of that $1.6 billion challenge, that there may be an attempt to reduce that by passing on some of that to the local communities. And, unfortunately, in many ways, Montgomery County is in the crosshair part of that.

  • 12:20:33

    NNAMDIBudget Secretary Eloise Foster has crafted plans to shift 40 percent of the state's $900 million annual burden to local governments, that's in terms of teacher pension cost, either in an across the board fashion or through a wealth adjusted formula that would have called for places like Montgomery County to pony up more than other areas. So I guess that's more than a concern for you.

  • 12:20:55

    LEGGETTWell, the governor has not done so, and she works for the governor. And the general assembly now still must make a decision about that.

  • 12:21:01

    NNAMDIBut you also mentioned that county employees may -- will be affected by this. Are we looking at furloughs? Are we looking at layoffs? What are we looking at?

  • 12:21:09

    LEGGETTWell, I think everything is on the table, Kojo. Because when you have almost 80 percent of your entire budget consumed in wages, salaries, benefits, pensions, what have you, there's no way to solve 80 -- 30 --$300 million dollar challenge without affecting the employees to some degree. Our employees, last year, really gave up an awful lot. There were no -- there were furloughs. There were no COLAs. We released probably in the neighborhood of 1,100 positions over the last two years. So an awful lot of our employees have done a great deal, but I can't see that any resolution to this budget would not impact them in some way. Hopefully efficiency will help in part of that though.

  • 12:21:49

    SHERWOODThere's an interesting story in The Wall Street Journal today about the municipal bond business and local government bonds under severe pressure. Does Montgomery County have a huge -- do you do a lot of bond work?

  • 12:22:02

    LEGGETTWe do. We bond finance a great deal and we receive AAA bond rating, which is something that we've come to expect in Montgomery County in terms of our management and leadership.

  • 12:22:12

    SHERWOODBut are you seeing pressure there in terms of the interest you're having to pay?

  • 12:22:16

    LEGGETTWell, no. We...

  • 12:22:17

    SHERWOODOkay. Without into the weeds of bond financing 'cause everyone will turn off the radio. But...

  • 12:22:21

    LEGGETTWell, we had a warning last year.

  • 12:22:23

    SHERWOODYou had a warning? Yes.

  • 12:22:23

    LEGGETTYeah. We had a warning...

  • 12:22:24

    SHERWOODThe city's had one.

  • 12:22:25

    LEGGETTWe had a warning last year, and we were able to reassure the rating agencies that our plan for solvency and going forward was one that they could rely on, and it did.

  • 12:22:34

    SHERWOODHow can this -- but how can this be when Gov. McDonnell in Virginia is announcing new -- this morning, announced more spending for transportation and he's got raise for state workers? I mean, he's got -- the revenues are going up. It sounds like a whole different world over there in Virginia. I don't know that you follow Virginia that much but...

  • 12:22:51

    LEGGETTWhat I'm actually -- yeah. I followed it quite well, but I'm not sure that it's quite that different. But I do know that as the cycle goes, they were much earlier hit than Maryland and certainly Montgomery County because of the downturn in the property taxes and the real estate industry. It did not hit Montgomery County precisely at the same time. We were hit much more severely by the income tax, and that came as the latest spear of the impact of the overall recession we've had in the country. So it's a cycle more...

  • 12:23:18

    SHERWOODThis is McDonnell's signature budget. You only get one shot at the apple when you're the governor of Virginia because you can't run for a second term or immediate second term. So it's amazing how much money he's spending or willing to spend, willing to borrow, willing to do. He wants to be known as the guy who fixed the transportation problem.

  • 12:23:36

    LEGGETTI think the keyword there is borrow.

  • 12:23:39

    NNAMDIWe're talking with Montgomery County executive Isiah Leggett and taking your calls at 800-433-8850 if you have questions or comments for the county executive. Here is Moumin (sp?) in Chantilly, Va. Moumin, you're on the air. Go ahead, please.

  • 12:23:54

    MOUMINThank you for having me. Two important questions for our county executive -- beloved county executive. One, the continental African-American community and the Caribbean community have been waiting a long time, sir, to have a full-time liaison in the (word?) community partnership. Can you tell us when that will happen? And secondly, will you run for reelection?

  • 12:24:19

    NNAMDIA community liaison for the African and Caribbean residents or members of your community. And will he be running for reelection, that was your second question, Moumin?

  • 12:24:29

    MOUMINYes, sir.

  • 12:24:30

    NNAMDIOkay.

  • 12:24:31

    LEGGETTWell, let me answer the first question -- the last -- second question first. I will not be running for reelection. I indicated very clearly, when I ran for this office the first time, that I plan to serve two times -- two terms and that's it. And so I've indicated that very clearly and repeatedly that I will not.

  • 12:24:44

    NNAMDIWhy have you term-limited yourself?

  • 12:24:46

    LEGGETTWell, because there are other things that I want to do. This is a very difficult job, and I think that -- I believe that my leadership is needed at this time, and I think there are other things I want to do.

  • 12:24:56

    SHERWOODWhen is your term up? Are we...

  • 12:24:58

    LEGGETTI have four more years.

  • 12:24:58

    SHERWOOD...wasting time talking to you?

  • 12:24:59

    LEGGETTWell, you have four more years of me, right?

  • 12:25:01

    SHERWOODWell, you just got -- this has just started, right?

  • 12:25:03

    LEGGETTThat's correct.

  • 12:25:04

    SHERWOODWell, so you might change your mind.

  • 12:25:05

    LEGGETTYes.

  • 12:25:06

    SHERWOODYou're not -- this is not a line in the sand declaration.

  • 12:25:10

    LEGGETTYes, it is.

  • 12:25:10

    SHERWOODOh, it is?

  • 12:25:11

    LEGGETTOh, it is. Yeah. Let me answer the first question.

  • 12:25:12

    NNAMDIEven if county residents were to attempt to draft you for a third term, you wouldn't acknowledge it? You wouldn't accept it?

  • 12:25:19

    LEGGETTThey have to first draft my wife and convince my wife...

  • 12:25:22

    SHERWOODOh, here we go.

  • 12:25:23

    SHERWOODNow we know. Now we're getting to the substance of what's important.

  • 12:25:25

    NNAMDIDucking for cover here.

  • 12:25:26

    SHERWOODNow, the African-American, Caribbean community liaison.

  • 12:25:29

    LEGGETTWell, we have a part-time liaison now, and I've indicated that I would look at that. And if we can find the resource to do it, I hope to make that full time. But it will be very difficult in this budgetary climate to do it. But it's something that hopefully we'll be able to do in the foreseeable future.

  • 12:25:43

    NNAMDIYou know, Moumin, a lot of people have raised questions about whether each foreign-born community or whether each ethnic community in every jurisdiction should have its own community liaison. It comes down to a competition among these groups for community liaisons. How would you respond to that?

  • 12:26:01

    MOUMINI don't think so. I don't buy that argument at all. I've think that Montgomery County is one of the most diverse communities, and there are reasons, and absolutely compelling reasons, to have community liaisons for each of these fast-growing communities who have a lot of needs. So, you know, strongly, I -- you know, the -- now, one can say, well, you know, we -- you know, we have -- you know, we're sort of (word?) towards (word?) but that's not the case at all. I think there is a great need for each community to have its own liaison or representative so that...

  • 12:26:35

    NNAMDIAfrican-American, African and Caribbean, Asian-Pacific Islanders, Hispanic community, all of them. Okay. Thank you very much for your call, Moumin.

  • 12:26:43

    LEGGETTI don't question the need. I think that the problem here are the resources to respond to that need.

  • 12:26:49

    NNAMDIOne of the big fights taking place in Montgomery County right now is over plans for a new hospital on the northern side of the county. Holy Cross Hospital and Adventist HealthCare, they have been grappling over who should build it and where. As this dispute heads down to the final stretch, what do you feel is at stake, and how do you expect this new hospital will shape the face of the county?

  • 12:27:09

    LEGGETTWell, clearly, we need a new hospital in the northern part of the county and it's something that I've advocated for a number of years. There's a great, you know, growth that has occurred in that area, and there's a tremendous need. My fear is that if we continue these sort of hospital wars between Adventist and Holy Cross, and both poking holes in the other's position, that we can end up with no hospital and that's my fear. I've taken the position not to back either one of the proposals but to simply argue that we need a hospital. And I think both of the proposals are awarded of serious consideration by the agency in the state design to do this. And there's a compelling need there. We need it. And I will be satisfied with either one of them.

  • 12:27:55

    SHERWOODWhere do we stand in the ballgame on this? As I understand it, Holy Cross has gotten the nod from the state and the Adventist folks have come in with some additional challenges saying don't make this decision. Well, it's January 20th.

  • 12:28:05

    LEGGETTThat's right. January 20 is the date for a decision, a recommendation has been made...

  • 12:28:09

    SHERWOODRight. Right.

  • 12:28:10

    LEGGETT...to take the bid offered by Holy Cross hospital. That is now subject to a further review, and they've asked for reconsideration of that.

  • 12:28:18

    SHERWOODAnd so if it doesn't get decided on January 20th and it's open-ended again, then it just sounds like...

  • 12:28:24

    LEGGETTWell, that depends on what the...

  • 12:28:24

    SHERWOODYeah.

  • 12:28:25

    LEGGETT...recommendation is. In other words, they could decide to accept the earlier recommendation for Holy Cross or they could go back and open the hearings up for reconsideration.

  • 12:28:32

    SHERWOODIt's just a whole medical issue in -- whether it's -- that hospital we're talking about there or the Prince George's County Hospital or the United Medical Center in the District of Columbia. It just seems like that it's yet another infrastructure, basic service kind of thing that every local government has struggled with, not just here. But how do you provide health care?

  • 12:28:51

    LEGGETTWell, is starts with, number one, the need, and you have to get a certificate of need, which is the biggest argument, and demonstrate the capacity of the hospital or the organization to properly fund that and to organize and to manage a hospital in that community. But hospitals require a great deal of resources, and you must place them in perfect locations. The public must be, in some way, considered as part of that decision. And it's an ongoing battle when you see that there are limited resources, limited locations. And you simply cannot go out on your own as you do with a convenience store and decide to build them in and everywhere within a community.

  • 12:29:26

    NNAMDIWhy do you fear that the competition between Holy Cross and Adventist could conceivably lead in some way to not getting a hospital at all?

  • 12:29:34

    LEGGETTBecause both are pointing at each other, saying that the other's bid is insufficient. And so you could back away and...

  • 12:29:40

    SHERWOODA stalemate.

  • 12:29:41

    LEGGETTYeah. A stalemate. Say neither presents a compelling case.

  • 12:29:45

    SHERWOODOh, you have a -- you're going to the calls.

  • 12:29:46

    NNAMDIDavid in Montgomery County is on the air. David, go ahead, please.

  • 12:29:52

    DAVIDYes. I'm just calling for the county executive. First, preferably, I admire you, how good job you're doing. But I have a question about the speed cameras they -- you put on the Connecticut Avenue. The county put about three, four video cameras speed limit. And then on this side of Veirs Mill Road, it's the highest -- there's so many accidents going on. There is no speed cameras or some kind of signals. I'm just wondering if you can consider looking to the Veirs Mill Road, you know.

  • 12:30:32

    NNAMDITo putting speed cameras on Veirs Mill Road?

  • 12:30:35

    DAVIDThere is no speed cameras on Veirs Mill Road.

  • 12:30:37

    NNAMDIAnd you think there should be?

  • 12:30:40

    DAVIDAnd people driving like a race car, you know.

  • 12:30:44

    NNAMDIIke Leggett?

  • 12:30:45

    LEGGETTWell, we'll look at that, but there are limitations as to where you can place the cameras based on state law, either near construction sites, school sites or a sites that must be properly petitioned. And I'm not sure of the precise location that you reference, that we can place a camera there. Also, along Connecticut Avenue that you made reference to, they may not always that -- many of the cameras there may not be county cameras. There's a municipality along Connecticut Avenue that have two or three cameras as well. But we will look at the location that you made reference to, and if you call us at 240-777-2500, certainly, we'll go out and look at that location and determine whether or not it is eligible for a speed camera.

  • 12:31:30

    SHERWOODAre you making money on your speed cameras?

  • 12:31:32

    LEGGETTOh, we don't make money on speed cameras. They are for safety. They are for safety.

  • 12:31:34

    SHERWOODI love that question.

  • 12:31:36

    SHERWOODI know it's for safety, but if you can pocket a little cash in the meantime, then it's a win-win.

  • 12:31:41

    LEGGETTNo, no. All the moneys that we received, the net proceeds of that go back into the safety program, pedestrian safety and to help reduce the challenges that we have with pedestrians and traffic violations.

  • 12:31:53

    NNAMDIThank you very much, David. (laugh) Getting back to the hospital competition, here is Jody in Takoma Park, Md. Hi, Jody.

  • 12:32:01

    JODYHi there. Thank you for allowing me to come on the show. I wanted to just raise the issue in the discussion between Adventist and Holy Cross, that, in fact, one of the really pertinent issues here is that Holy Cross is, by virtue of being part of the Catholic hospital system, unable to provide certain kinds of essential health care to women. Those include contraceptive supplies, emergency contraception. And, as we've seen in other states in the country, Catholic hospitals denying women whose life is at risk from a complicated pregnancy, access to safe abortion services.

  • 12:32:40

    JODYIn fact, one hospital was sort of disowned by the Catholic Diocese for preventing a woman from dying because of a complicated pregnancy that would have otherwise led to her death. So I think this is really an issue that your reader -- that your listeners need to know about, because it's not just simply one hospital against the other, but there is a huge gap there for women in allowing Holy Cross to take that place whereas Adventist does not have those restrictions based on ideology.

  • 12:33:10

    NNAMDIIke Leggett, do you know if that is something that the Maryland Health Care Commission...

  • 12:33:12

    LEGGETTThat argument has been made. And I think that's one that should continue to be made with the state commission. And they will take into consideration and formulating their recommendation and opinion as to whether Holy Cross should obtain the certificate of need to build a hospital in the northern portion of the county.

  • 12:33:28

    NNAMDIYou have not taken a position on which hospital or the other should get it. Have you taken up position on that particular issue?

  • 12:33:35

    LEGGETTNo, because I'm not sure whether that is something that will detour -- they could not work around that. And that's something that clearly the commission should look at. And if what she said is correct, then I think there would raise a great deal of concerns for me, because you want a full-scale hospital, providing all of the medical needs for all the citizens. And it's something they surely -- certainly should consider. But I think that that's an argument should be made before the commission.

  • 12:33:58

    NNAMDIThank you very much for your call, Jody. I -- Tom Sherwood?

  • 12:34:03

    SHERWOODYou're a former chairman of the state party, right, Democratic Party in Maryland?

  • 12:34:07

    LEGGETTThat's correct, yes.

  • 12:34:08

    SHERWOODI think I went to a convention when you were...

  • 12:34:10

    LEGGETTYeah.

  • 12:34:11

    SHERWOOD...hosting that position. I want -- today, your opposite, Michael Steele, is facing the National Republican Committee in -- over in National Harbor, they're meeting.

  • 12:34:23

    NNAMDIMichael Steele used to be chairman of the Republican...

  • 12:34:24

    SHERWOODMichael Steele -- Republican Party in -- I mean, in Maryland. He was -- he ran, first, as lieutenant, and then he ran for the Senate...

  • 12:34:30

    NNAMDIYes.

  • 12:34:30

    SHERWOODDo you have any empathy for him, what he's facing in the Republican Party, as he's maybe about to be booted out of that job for maybe not doing as good as he should have done?

  • 12:34:41

    LEGGETTWell, I would hope that he's not booted out of the job.

  • 12:34:43

    SHERWOODOh, of course.

  • 12:34:46

    SHERWOODYou think he's doing that bad, huh? (laugh)

  • 12:34:47

    LEGGETTNo, no, no, no. I think it's always best to shoot at the enemy or go at the enemy that you know rather than one you don't know. And I think that in many ways, he has done a pretty good job when you think about what has happened in the last election. And...

  • 12:35:09

    NNAMDIThat's the case he's making.

  • 12:35:10

    LEGGETT...leadership is often time determined by results. And the results are...

  • 12:35:15

    SHERWOODYou know if he doesn't get this job, he might come back into Maryland and run for state job again, so you'd be facing him again.

  • 12:35:21

    NNAMDIWell, is that to be welcomed, do you think?

  • 12:35:22

    LEGGETTMichael Steele should be reelected...

  • 12:35:24

    SHERWOODWell, he's a Democrat.

  • 12:35:25

    LEGGETT...as the chairman of the Republican Party nationally. And I advocate that very strongly.

  • 12:35:31

    NNAMDIWe talked earlier about the problems in Prince George's County with the murder rate there, in particular. Rushern Baker wanted to come into office, looking at issues like education and looking at the budget. What advice would you give to him in what appears now to be a crisis?

  • 12:35:48

    LEGGETTWell, first of all, you have to keep in mind that he's only been there for a relatively short period of time. And the challenges that you see are challenges that, I think, have been the result of the particular crime rate wave that has been in...

  • 12:36:01

    SHERWOODDecade.

  • 12:36:01

    LEGGETT...district -- decades and simply move into the, you know, suburbs of Prince George's County, that he has an opportunity now to set a new tone, a new leadership with the public safety departments there, and to work with officials both nationally and statewide to get at the root of the problem, which I think, in many ways, are drug related and a continuation of some of the gang-related activities that we have within the region. I'm confident that under his leadership that we'll make tremendous strides, but I think it's simply a wave now that has been caught up in a number of issues that really beyond his control at this point in time. But I'm reasonably certain that they'll be able to resolve this and reverse this trend.

  • 12:36:48

    SHERWOODIs there any -- there's sometimes talk about Prince George's and the District of Columbia working together, but does Montgomery County are also get involved in any kind of cross-jurisdiction or police efforts that is significant?

  • 12:36:59

    LEGGETTCertainly, we do. In fact, there are number of memorandums of understanding that we have with the District of Columbia, Prince George's County. In fact, I think, that we're a setting a meeting up, myself, the mayor and Rushern in a foreseeable future, in a few weeks to talk about some of these issues in terms of economic development, transportation, as well as public safety. This is something that is really a problem within the entire region, and we all must work cooperatively in order to resolve them.

  • 12:37:31

    NNAMDII remember that you taught Adrian Fenty at Howard University Law School, did you also teach Rushern Baker?

  • 12:37:36

    LEGGETTHe's one of my students. He avoided my class, but he was there when I was...

  • 12:37:38

    SHERWOODHow old are you?

  • 12:37:40

    NNAMDIHe's taught everybody who is an official in this area.

  • 12:37:42

    SHERWOODHe didn't teach Vince Gray, did he? He's 8 years old.

  • 12:37:44

    LEGGETTNo, no, no, no, no, no, no, no. But I did teach Vince Orange though.

  • 12:37:48

    NNAMDIHere is...

  • 12:37:49

    LEGGETTAs well as the new mayor of Atlanta, Kasim Reed was one of my students as well.

  • 12:37:53

    NNAMDIGood grief. Here's Donna in Bethesda, Md. Donna, you're on the air. Go ahead, please.

  • 12:37:58

    DONNAThank you for taking my call. I'm not particularly saying going with the county donating $4 million to Live Nation, a multinational corporation, to build the Fillmore Music Hall and having that match by the state. But that's kind of a done deal. The construction is under way. I've been involved in some construction projects. There are always overruns. I'm curious where the money for these overruns will come from, and will taxpayers be asked to pay even more for this arguable...

  • 12:38:30

    NNAMDIFirst, we anticipate overruns, and second, are we going to forced to pay for them also?

  • 12:38:35

    LEGGETTWell, I don't anticipate any overruns. And if there are overruns, there's a shared arrangement in the contract for the vendor as well as the county to solve that. And let me say this, that in order to resolve our budgetary challenges, we must do two things. First of all, resolve the immediate 2012, '13 challenges, but also to lay the foundation for the future for additional resources and taxes and revenue. And when we look at Live Nation -- when you see the big battle that we had about various competitors wanting this, it is because it will make a great deal of money for the county.

  • 12:39:09

    LEGGETTThe state will get its money back in about a year and a half. The county will get its money back in about two and a half years. And everything after that is pure gravy for both of us. So this is a money maker for us. We anticipate making a huge amount of money both for the state and for the county. Otherwise, we would not do it. We did not go down this path simply to do -- to pay out four or $5 million dollars. It is because we see a great deal of economic benefit for the county and for the state.

  • 12:39:35

    SHERWOODThis is a classic battle you had like for the Verizon Center in the District of Columbia, where councilmember Evans and some other people now say that without that there -- the business around would develop and it's -- brings in hundred and something million dollars a year in taxes now in that immediate region. How much -- you said a huge amount of money. Is it millions of dollars or hundreds of thousands a year? What kind of money do you expect?

  • 12:39:57

    LEGGETTWe anticipate that -- for the county alone, just in terms of the right benefit, will be probably two or $3 million. This is after we paid our expenses within the third year they would provide for us. And that does not include the increased value of taxes for property around that, hotel visits, restaurants and all the other things. And so, we've had estimates from as low as three to $4 million up to as high as $8 million just for the county alone. The state makes out even more for that because they get the revenue from the sales tax on that.

  • 12:40:27

    SHERWOODAnd jobs. There will be jobs. There will be jobs.

  • 12:40:27

    LEGGETTAnd jobs as well. And so, we anticipate a great economic positive response for both the state and for the county. And so, the $4 million investment, we get back in about two years.

  • 12:40:39

    SHERWOODSo you hope they don't come back and ask for that much more money if it goes into cost overrun.

  • 12:40:43

    LEGGETTYes. We anticipate that it should not be. But even if you anticipate the normal count of small overruns, given the numbers that we've seen, it's well worth the value that we placed on this project.

  • 12:40:54

    NNAMDIDonna, thank you for your call. The Fillmore Music Hall where Tom Sherwood will be contributing to the incumbent Montgomery...

  • 12:41:00

    SHERWOODMaybe I will play there.

  • 12:41:01

    NNAMDINo. I think you should just patronize. Isiah Leggett, thank you so much for joining us.

  • 12:41:05

    LEGGETTThank you for having me.

  • 12:41:06

    NNAMDIIke Leggett is the county executive in Montgomery County, Md. He is a Democrat. You're listening to "The Politics Hour" starring Tom Sherwood. He is our resident analyst. He is a reporter at NBC 4 and a columnist for the Current Newspapers. Coming up next, Sekou Biddle. He is the new at-large city councilmember in the District of Columbia. And, Tom Sherwood, we have not talked a great deal about exactly how the process by which Sekou Biddle came to be the new at-large member. It's a process in which the Democratic State Committee selects people to fill at-large positions until there is a new election. That is not the case in the ward races. And a lot of people believe that if there were any need for that at all, it would be in the ward races because when there is a ward councilmember missing, one can argue that a specific body of constituents is not being represented.

  • 12:42:00

    NNAMDIOn the other hand, we have four at-large members, so when there's one missing, it's difficult to argue that a specific body of constituent is not being represented, yet that's the one the Democratic State Committee chooses to fill. But there are people who say, well, the Democratic State Committee really doesn't do anything else except every four years send a delegation to the convention.

  • 12:42:17

    SHERWOODWell, we can talk about the state committee. I've often been critical of how it -- I think has so much in fighting that it doesn't really focus on issues. But, you know, you play by the rules that you're given. In the rules of the home rule charter set up by the Congress, it says that the District of Columbia -- in the District, if there's a vacancy at-large in the Democratic seat within the state committee, which is about 83 or about that many members, get together and they decide on someone to fill the seat, until there can be a special election, which I think is April 26. And so, that person who we'll grill mercilessly, soon I hope, will serve temporarily and vote on their budget issues and all the kinds of things until then.

  • 12:43:06

    NNAMDILet the merciless grilling begin. Sekou Biddle joins us in studio. He is an interim member of the D.C. council. He is a Democrat holding an at-large seat. A special election for that seat will take place, as Tom said, in April. Sekou Biddle, welcome. Thank you for joining us.

  • 12:43:20

    SHERWOODWell, I don't think he's in the interim, aren't you, before you say welcome and thank you. Right? That's not...

  • 12:43:24

    MR. SEKOU BIDDLEThat is correct. I am councilmember.

  • 12:43:25

    SHERWOODYou are the councilmember.

  • 12:43:26

    BIDDLEI am the councilmember, one of the at-large councilmembers.

  • 12:43:29

    NNAMDIOkay. You survived three rounds of voting last week by D.C. political insiders to win an at-large job on the council. But this may not be an interim job, but it's a temp job. You're going to have to run for the seat again in a special election in April. How do you intend to use this pretty small window of time to impact policy in the Wilson Building and what issues do you intend to push?

  • 12:43:54

    BIDDLESure. So I think about it a little bit differently, Kojo. I think that generally speaking councilmembers are elected to four-year terms. I was elected to a four-month term.

  • 12:44:04

    NNAMDIYes.

  • 12:44:04

    BIDDLESo in this case, my months are years, and I'm looking at it at the same way. So we obviously have to move aggressively. You know, generally speaking, councilmembers begin looking at making plans, the transition of staff, their offices from the time they win a primary in September, so giving them four months. I've used the last four days to start working on learning the ins and outs of the process, getting to know my colleagues, working on hiring staff members and getting prepared to start doing the work next week.

  • 12:44:29

    SHERWOODWhen is your first meeting? Tuesday?

  • 12:44:32

    BIDDLEIt will be Tuesday.

  • 12:44:34

    NNAMDIShall I cut to the chase immediately?

  • 12:44:35

    SHERWOODOh, you have a chase, I have a chase. You go with your chase first.

  • 12:44:38

    NNAMDIHow are you gonna vote on the budget? Will you be voting to raise taxes? And if so, will you be voting for the Graham proposal to raise taxes, or will you be voting for the Tommy Wells proposal to raise taxes, or will you go along with just -- Jack Evans and say, we don't raises -- raise taxes at all, we're just gonna have to cut services?

  • 12:44:56

    BIDDLEWell, since there is no real proposal for the budget in terms of next year, FY12's budget, I'm not gonna vote on a proposal that doesn't exist. I think what I will do is weigh in on the principles I believe are important on the budget, which is first and foremost, you know, we are the steward of the residents' money. And we have to be very careful about how we think about this. The dollars that we are choosing to allocate toward agencies and spend on services are dollars that are collected from D.C. residents and tax-paying business entities, and we have to use that money as wisely as possible. That said, you know, I've managed a non-profit for years. I'm well versed in, you know, the need to either, you know, you can eventually reduce services, you could increase revenues through taxes or fees, or one of the options that we don't talk about as much is you could simply manage your operations at a lower cost point. I think that that's what we need to drive toward first, being more efficient with the dollars...

  • 12:45:43

    SHERWOODWell, that sounds like a very...

  • 12:45:43

    NNAMDISo you won't accept the question of whether you are a tax-raiser or a service-cutter?

  • 12:45:51

    BIDDLEA tax-raiser or a service-cutter?

  • 12:45:53

    NNAMDIYes.

  • 12:45:54

    BIDDLEYou know, I think it's a false dichotomy, to be honest with you.

  • 12:45:57

    SHERWOODWell, let me rephrase it.

  • 12:45:58

    BIDDLEAnd an...

  • 12:45:58

    SHERWOODI'll rephrase...

  • 12:45:58

    BIDDLE...an example I'll give is that, you know, I've gone through this exercise the last few years when I was working at Jumpstart, and we, you know, ran into the teeth of recession where there are fewer dollars to spend, and we have actually increased the services we provided young children across the city...

  • 12:46:11

    NNAMDIBy...

  • 12:46:11

    BIDDLE...by decreasing the spending.

  • 12:46:13

    NNAMDI...by having more efficient management?

  • 12:46:15

    BIDDLEYes.

  • 12:46:16

    SHERWOODYes. But running a non-profit organization is different from being an elected official who has to decide whether you wanna tax people. It is called the millionaire's tax -- whether you would tax people. Or are you philosophically inclined to say, I'll work that into the system if I can unless somebody shows me why we can't? Are you somebody who says, I'm not gonna do that unless somebody shows me what we can? I mean...

  • 12:46:35

    NNAMDITag team. Tag team.

  • 12:46:36

    BIDDLEYeah, yeah. So philosophically, I'm not going to rule anything out...

  • 12:46:40

    SHERWOODOoh.

  • 12:46:40

    BIDDLE...given that I've been on the council for the last...

  • 12:46:43

    NNAMDITen minutes.

  • 12:46:43

    BIDDLEFive days.

  • 12:46:44

    SHERWOODCan I -- actually I should say something outside of this discussion. There are -- I just wanna say -- I can't imagine, I say it's extremely unlikely -- but there have been people who've talked, in fact, to me about running for this seat. And I've had...

  • 12:46:58

    BIDDLEHave there been people who've talked about not running for this seat?

  • 12:47:00

    SHERWOODI know. There's like -- I mean, there are any number of people who've been talked to. I just wanna make it clear in case somebody here -- because there's been some Twitter stuff and some things -- Sherwood should run -- I have no effort and no -- I'm making no plans to do that. So I just want that to be clear as I ask these questions.

  • 12:47:14

    NNAMDIOkay.

  • 12:47:15

    SHERWOODOkay. Just -- I'm just trying to be full disclosure here. And in that sense of full disclosure...

  • 12:47:19

    NNAMDISo you're saying you're not running?

  • 12:47:21

    SHERWOODI'm having thought about it. If I decide to think about it, I'll quit my job.

  • 12:47:25

    NNAMDIIf a committee will form to draft you, would you consider?

  • 12:47:27

    SHERWOODI have a button on my refrigerator that says, Sherwood for Mayor, that I got in 1998 from someone. And I just left it on my refrigerator.

  • 12:47:35

    NNAMDISo if a committee will form to draft you to run for this at-large city council seat, you are saying...

  • 12:47:40

    SHERWOODI just wanna be clear that my name has been mentioned. I'm just trying to be as honest as possible, but I like my job.

  • 12:47:45

    NNAMDIPlus, nobody would vote for you. So go ahead please.

  • 12:47:45

    SHERWOODCan I go back to my -- the other grilling question?

  • 12:47:49

    NNAMDIYou better because that's the only way you're gonna hold on to your day job.

  • 12:47:53

    SHERWOODThe Washington Post has a very interesting story about Michael Brown and his financial issues. I'm not gonna ask you to comment on your colleague since you've -- it wouldn't be proper probably for you to do at this moment. But I would just ask, are you prepared for people to look at your finances? Are you up to speed on your taxes and all those things? You know, I would think it would be like fundamentally you'd have it in place before you lay yourself up for the public to look at you, before Mike DeBonis of The Post or Alan Suderman of City Paper or me or Bruce Johnson comes and says, all right, what's the skeleton in your closet?

  • 12:48:25

    BIDDLESure. So the short answer is yes. I am prepared for that. There's two ways to prepare for that. One is to, you know, live right. I mean, I do everything I can possibly do stay on the up and up. My, you know, my wife and I make sure we're on top of all of our finances and other related items. And then, you know, frankly, you know, you do have to step back when you enter this process. You know, there have been a number of things that have come out about a number of elected officials or potential candidates over the years. And, you know, I'm like everybody else. You're watching the news, you're hearing the next story about somebody wondering, you know, how did that happen or how did they not know that was gonna come up? So, you know, we frankly did some, you know, research on our own to make sure that if there was something that we didn't know about...

  • 12:49:01

    SHERWOODDid your own opposition research.

  • 12:49:02

    BIDDLECorrect.

  • 12:49:03

    SHERWOODThat's pretty good. I think that's a smart thing to do.

  • 12:49:06

    BIDDLEYeah. I think it's a practical thing to do in the world we live in.

  • 12:49:08

    SHERWOODListen, we could have like 10...

  • 12:49:08

    NNAMDIOur guest is Sekou Biddle. He is a member of the D.C. city council. There is a special election for the seat to which he was appointed in April. If you have questions or comments for him, call us at 800-433-8850. You got a boost from some powerful people. Council Chairman Kwame Brown threw his weight behind you. Ward 5's Harry Thomas threw his weight behind you. What do you say to those people who are concerned that you're gonna be beholden to the council members who helped you to get this job?

  • 12:49:36

    BIDDLEWhat do I say to them? Well, I'd say a few things. One is the number of council members -- and I appreciate them throwing their support behind me -- the basic math of the number of council members that have supported me doesn't really support the notion that I would be beholden to anyone. It's hard to see, in general, that group of council members staying together on a number of issues, let alone there being some implied notion that we all have to be collectively...

  • 12:50:00

    NNAMDIBut the chairman...

  • 12:50:01

    BIDDLEYes.

  • 12:50:01

    SHERWOODYes, but...

  • 12:50:01

    NNAMDIKwame Brown is the chairman.

  • 12:50:02

    SHERWOODYeah, but let me ask -- I'll ask another searing question...

  • 12:50:05

    NNAMDITag team, tag team.

  • 12:50:06

    SHERWOOD...another searing question. I'll -- isn't it true that most of those council -- sitting council members were as interested in stopping Vincent Orange from getting the nod as they were previously? Not that they -- no disparaging of their support for you. But that -- one of the goals was to stop Vincent Orange. I think that's a yes, right?

  • 12:50:24

    BIDDLEWell, I think you have to ask them. I can't speak...

  • 12:50:25

    SHERWOODWell, okay. I'll answer for them. Yes.

  • 12:50:28

    NNAMDIYou know, Vincent Orange will be running...

  • 12:50:29

    BIDDLEYou're the official spokesperson of half he council members.

  • 12:50:29

    SHERWOODYou benefit -- well, you benefitted from it. I mean -- which is a good thing. You benefitted from it. You have much more consensus...

  • 12:50:35

    BIDDLEWell I benefit -- certainly benefitted from their support, right.

  • 12:50:37

    SHERWOODAll right. Okay.

  • 12:50:38

    NNAMDIWell, Vincent Orange is one of the people who is likely to be running for this office in April. Are you going to be running for the office in April?

  • 12:50:45

    BIDDLEI am indeed running for this office in April.

  • 12:50:46

    NNAMDISo you're basically gonna be campaigning the entire time you actually have this job since the special election is just still 12 weeks or so away and it's a citywide race. Vincent Orange, some may argue, has higher name recognition than you do at this point. What's your strategy for introducing yourself to voters who may not know you yet?

  • 12:51:06

    BIDDLEYou know, it's largely this campaign strategy that's been successful for candidates in the past. I have to spend a lot of time aggressively going out, meeting people so they can get a chance to know me. I think that what I have been successful in my career and in my current elected office is, by and large, when I meet people and they get to know me, they understand my principles, my values, things that are important to me and the fact that I have delivered in every personal endeavor I have been involved, whether that's my work in the nonprofit sector or my time and service on the board. And it's just...

  • 12:51:33

    NNAMDIThe Board of Education, for those people who don't know.

  • 12:51:35

    BIDDLEYes. And I started...

  • 12:51:35

    SHERWOODState Board of Education.

  • 12:51:36

    NNAMDIState Board of Education.

  • 12:51:36

    BIDDLEWell, right. I started on the old DCPS Board of Education in '07 when I was recently elected, and then -- which morphed into the State Board after that. It's just my responsibility, you know, at this point, to introduce myself to the public, to help them understand that I'm serving them now as an at-large council member and that I believe that I can continue to do an excellent job for them in that capacity going forward.

  • 12:51:55

    SHERWOODDo you think Michelle Rhee did a good job as chancellor?

  • 12:51:58

    BIDDLEDid a good job as chancellor? I think on some things she did a good job. I think that, you know...

  • 12:52:01

    SHERWOODYou think she should have stayed?

  • 12:52:02

    BIDDLEDo I think she should have stayed? I think we would have been better served to maintain some level of consistency in the chancellor position. I think that that's, without a doubt, one of the challenges in our education reform in the District because we can't maintain a consistent leadership over any period of time, which makes each next chancellor/superintendent's job more challenging.

  • 12:52:19

    SHERWOODSo you think Michelle Rhee should have stayed?

  • 12:52:21

    BIDDLEI would have liked to have seen there be some consistency for us. I mean, we're back in the same cycle...

  • 12:52:25

    NNAMDIYes, Tom, yes. Yes, yes.

  • 12:52:26

    BIDDLE...different than every two or three years.

  • 12:52:27

    NNAMDISekou Biddle moved back to the District in 2005 to teach math at the D.C. KEY Academy. He then moved on to its central office to direct community outreach.

  • 12:52:35

    SHERWOODMoved back from where?

  • 12:52:36

    NNAMDIHuh?

  • 12:52:36

    SHERWOODHe moved back from where?

  • 12:52:37

    NNAMDIWhere did you move back from, Sekou?

  • 12:52:38

    BIDDLEI was in Atlanta. My wife was finishing her residency after her medical school.

  • 12:52:42

    NNAMDIHe met his wife in -- at Wilson High School here on the District of Columbia.

  • 12:52:44

    BIDDLENo, I met my wife where, Kojo? Come on. You can do better than that.

  • 12:52:47

    NNAMDIAt Morehouse.

  • 12:52:47

    BIDDLENo.

  • 12:52:48

    NNAMDIOkay.

  • 12:52:49

    BIDDLEWhere did you...

  • 12:52:49

    NNAMDIOh, wait a minute. Deal.

  • 12:52:50

    BIDDLEThere you go.

  • 12:52:50

    NNAMDIDeal. Deal Junior High School.

  • 12:52:52

    SHERWOODYou met your wife at Deal Junior High School?

  • 12:52:53

    BIDDLEAt Deal.

  • 12:52:53

    NNAMDII know that because he and my sons went to Deal together...

  • 12:52:55

    SHERWOODWhen you were students or when you were working there?

  • 12:52:57

    NNAMDIStudents. Students. Students. Students. Yes.

  • 12:52:57

    BIDDLEWe were students.

  • 12:52:58

    SHERWOODReally? You met your wife -- well, goodness gracious.

  • 12:52:59

    BIDDLESeventh grade in the cafeteria.

  • 12:53:01

    SHERWOODTalk about consistency.

  • 12:53:02

    NNAMDIAs I said, he and my sons went to Deal together. Since you cut a name for yourself on the school board, let's talk about education for a minute. It's an issue that's dominated a lot of the mayoral race. How do you measure the progress that took place under Fenty, and how do you think the city needs to move forward from here? You're obviously somebody who has a history with the charter schools.

  • 12:53:19

    BIDDLEMm-hmm. Well, I think a couple of things. I think one of the things that we have to really be focused on doing is identify the benchmarks we're gonna measure ourselves against because one of the challenges in any environment where things are changing is if you don't set out benchmarks you're gonna measure yourself against going forward, it's easy to claim that either things have worked or they have not at some future date. So I think we've got to identify, you know, things around, obviously, you know, test scores. In particular, for, you know, students who are in grades three through eight and 10, are one measurement we're looking at. I think enrollment is another important metric in terms of what parents are saying about the level of confidence they have in our school system.

  • 12:53:34

    BIDDLEAnd I think, you know, there are other things that we can measure that are less quantitative and some that are qualitative around what teachers are telling us about their experience in the schools because we do have to create an environment that people want to be a part of and that we can keep them in as they grow and improve their skills over time. But I think that, you know, if you look at some measurables like the test scores, you look at enrollment, and, you know, you look at the perception people have of the school system, which I believe now is better than it has been in years.

  • 12:54:17

    SHERWOODIs Kaya still doing a good job?

  • 12:54:19

    BIDDLEI think that Kaya is doing a great job.

  • 12:54:20

    SHERWOODI think -- you think Gray is gonna appoint her after he goes through the selection process? Appointed to the -- she's interim like you in some respects, but...

  • 12:54:30

    BIDDLEWell, yeah. I mean, in her case, the mayor and a panel will hold the option on her renewal. In my case, the residents will.

  • 12:54:37

    SHERWOODI wanna warn you that Mike DeBonis of the Washington Post is tweeting about your appearance on this program even as we are speaking here. He's tweeting about your...

  • 12:54:45

    NNAMDIHow else is he gonna get news? He has to listen to this broadcast we started, Tom Sherwood.

  • 12:54:50

    SHERWOODHe was a little inaccurate on what he said about me and the council seat, but that's okay.

  • 12:54:53

    BIDDLEDid you say you're running?

  • 12:54:53

    SHERWOODNo, he said I was having thoughts.

  • 12:54:54

    BIDDLEYou heard it here first: Tom Sherwood is running for council.

  • 12:54:55

    SHERWOODHe said I was having thoughts about it, if I quit my job, if I were gonna think -- really think about it. I'm not having thoughts about it.

  • 12:55:02

    BIDDLEIs that a letter of resignation under Tom's folder there?

  • 12:55:04

    NNAMDILet's go to Michael in Washington. Michael, you're on the air. Go ahead, please.

  • 12:55:09

    MICHAELHi. Thanks for having me, Kojo. I have just a comment for Mr. Biddle. I heard him talking about his approach to the budget and, you know, keeping everything on the table. And that's encouraging to hear, especially given some of the council members are resistant to doing anything but cut, which is what the city council has done for the past two years. I'm a resident of Ward 4. I'm really happy that Mr. Biddle was able to get on the council and have someone else worthwhile on there. But I really hope that he'll consider taking a more balanced approach to the budget this year and looking at raising taxes, which is, like I said, something that -- you know, with a $400 million budget gap that we're facing, you know, we can't just keep cutting.

  • 12:55:48

    NNAMDIYou have indicated that you're willing to look at all of those options?

  • 12:55:52

    BIDDLEAbsolutely.

  • 12:55:53

    SHERWOODIs there any tax you would not increase?

  • 12:55:55

    BIDDLEThat's a great question, Tom. I'd -- but I'd be honest with you. I'd have to get some more information and think about if there's anything I would not cut.

  • 12:55:59

    SHERWOODMichael Brown, the council member, might wanna know. (laugh)

  • 12:56:03

    NNAMDIHere is Tom...

  • 12:56:03

    SHERWOODProperty taxes...

  • 12:56:04

    NNAMDIHere is Tom in Falls Church, Va. Tom, you're on the air. Go ahead, please.

  • 12:56:09

    TOMGood morning. Thanks for taking my call. I actually have a question for your interim council member and a comment for Mr. Sherwood.

  • 12:56:17

    NNAMDIWe only have about one minute, so make them quick.

  • 12:56:19

    TOMMr. Sherwood, first, I'm hopeful that he will go beyond merciless grilling and gossip and start covering real issues in the upcoming election. For the interim council man...

  • 12:56:32

    NNAMDII do have to object to that. Tom Sherwood has been covering issues in this city for more than 20 years. And so to characterize his coverage as gossip, I think, is both unfair and, frankly, untrue. But your second part of your question.

  • 12:56:46

    TOMI think if you'll replay the last two minutes of the program, you'll hear more gossip than substantive coverage.

  • 12:56:53

    NNAMDIWell, that's what we do here. We do traffic and gossip here. But go ahead.

  • 12:56:55

    SHERWOODI would like -- what's the question for Mr. Biddle?

  • 12:56:58

    TOMFor Mr. Biddle, regarding assessment of child progress, will you and, if so, how will you move beyond simplistic test scores and look at growth rates? And what part will that play in your policymaking as a member of Council?

  • 12:57:15

    BIDDLEYeah. So we actually had an interesting briefing from the chancellor last week when I was still on the State Board of Education. I think one of the things that's often misconstrued about test scores is that we've been in error where test scores have been used sort of as an absolute measure whether a student has or has not mastered standards at their particular grade level. And I think a much more instructive way of using test data is to actually measure growth during the course of a year because then we have an instrument that tells us the amount of progress a teacher was able to value add, the teacher was able to have on a student. And the reality is, students are coming into a classroom in very different positions, and we wanna really be able to hold ourselves to making sure they're making the adequate amount of progress on a yearly basis.

  • 12:57:51

    NNAMDIAnd I'm afraid that's all the time we have. Sekou Biddle is a member of the D.C. Council. He's a Democrat holding an at-large seat. A special election for that seat will take place in April. Sekou Biddle, thank you so much for joining us. Good luck to you on the Council and in your race for the Council seat in April.

  • 12:58:07

    BIDDLEThank you, Tom and Kojo.

  • 12:58:09

    SHERWOODThat's right.

  • 12:58:10

    NNAMDITom Sherwood, I wish you would stop trafficking in gossip and do some real reporting here.

  • 12:58:16

    SHERWOODWell, you know, it's all on the eye of the beholder.

  • 12:58:18

    NNAMDIWell, from the eye of this beholder, you have been performing a sterling job for the past 20-something years, and I hope you continue to do that.

  • 12:58:26

    SHERWOODI intend to do so.

  • 12:58:27

    NNAMDIKeep up the gossip, too. Thank you all for listening. I'm Kojo Nnamdi.

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