Maryland Senator Ben Cardin joins us to talk about the youth movement against gun violence, Russian sanctions, and more. D.C. Councilmember Mary Cheh shares her thoughts on relief for high water bills and news that D.C. Public Schools is taking over an all girls charter school.
D.C. lawmakers practice civil disobedience to protest federal budget decisions. Virginia politicians spar over drawing new district lines. And Maryland legislators settle scores during the final hours of their 2011 session. 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
- Tom Brown Democratic Candidate, D.C. Council (At-Large)
- Dorothy Douglas Democratic Candidate, D.C. Council (At-Large)
- Alan Page Statehood Green Candidate, D.C. Council (At-Large)
Politics Hour Extra
Three candidates for the At-Large seat on the D.C. Council talk about their platforms:
Three candidates for the At-Large seat on the D.C. Council talk about education reform and more:
Three candidates for the D.C. Council’s At-Large seat talk about the city’s recent political scandals and more:
Three candidates for the At-Large seat on the D.C. Council present their closing statements:
MR. KOJO NNAMDIFrom WAMU 88.5 at American University in Washington, welcome to "The Politics Hour," starring Tom Sherwood. It's April 15th. Tom Sherwood, do you know where your tax returns are?
MR. TOM SHERWOODYes.
SHERWOODSomeone who gets paid...
NNAMDIHave they been filed?
SHERWOODWell, someone who gets paid to do them is -- you know, I send them in late. Apart from procrastinating, I had allergies the last two months...
SHERWOODI didn't feel like doing them, and so there -- we had to file an extension the first time in 20 years...
SHERWOOD...but he has them. The office has them, and they're looking at them. And it's all pretty straightforward.
NNAMDIYour excuse for not filing taxes on time is basically the dog ate my homework?
NNAMDII had allergies for the last two months.
SHERWOODI said first -- I said apart from procrastination. I said that first...
NNAMDIOh, I see.
NNAMDI...and then I had allergies. And the combination of the two is deadly.
NNAMDII see. So bottom line is you haven't filed your tax return.
SHERWOODI -- you know, I pay a lot of withholding taxes, so I'm sure the government will continue to function. They won't need to come after me.
NNAMDII'll bet you every last one of our listeners has filed his or her tax returns. That's just...
SHERWOODI would take that bet.
NNAMDI...the kind of listeners that we have today.
NNAMDII have over a month ago, s'il vous plaît. Today, we've got candidates for the at-large seat for the D.C. City Council in studio. Yes, we know we had candidates last week, but these are not the same candidates. Last week, you heard Vincent Orange, Bryan Weaver, Sekou Biddle, Josh Lopez and Patrick Mara. Today, we invited Tom Brown. He is on his way here, we think. He's having some car problems. Dorothy Douglas, she is here. Alan Page, he is here. And Arkan Haile, who said, me, not so much. So he's not here. We'll introduce them formally and outline the process shortly, but first, Tom Sherwood, Mayor Vincent Gray made national news this week.
NNAMDIA sit-down protest, he and councilmembers and others getting locked up because of the budget deal in which President Obama was quoted as saying to House majority leader, House Speaker John Boehner, I'm going to give you D.C. abortion, and that sent a lot of people into a flying rage or a sit-down rage. And it's really changed the conversation about the mayor and the city.
SHERWOODIt has changed, but I think to be fair to the president, although I as a city resident...
NNAMDIHe says I'm not happy about that.
SHERWOODHe says I'm not happy about that. Well, that's good, but I'm not happy about paying my taxes, but I do them, right? But it's okay. The president -- the anger is at both the Congress by the aggressive House Republicans who imposed these things on the city, the House Democrats for essentially not fighting harder, the Senate Democrats for not fighting at all and for the president for tossing in the towel in the city. So mayor -- they get arrested on Monday. Whether it's going to have a long-term effect, we don't know. Some people think you don't really persuade Congress to get on your side by shouting in their faces. You know, the city has done this before on statehood and voting rights when Sharon Pratt Kelly was mayor.
SHERWOODIn 1993, she got arrested. Adrian Fenty led a march on the Capitol, saying we're right here, Congress. We're right here. Pay attention to us. None of that has worked. The city was a victim of the national budget debate.
NNAMDIIt's been 18 years since Sharon Pratt Kelly got arrested, and, of course, prior to that, there were the highly publicized arrests every day of people sitting outside the South African embassy. There seems to be, in part, a change in attitude among some people towards top officials being arrested, because while on the one hand it was lauded, it would appear in most quarters in the city, there were some people who said to me privately and this is anecdotal or they didn't say privately, we don't like the idea of seeing the mayor and the city council chairman in handcuffs. It doesn't look appropriate for a mayor, and for me, that's a major cultural shift because there was a time here when that was considered an honorable thing to do.
SHERWOODWell, you know, one -- someone tweeted me that we've had three mayors arrested, two because they wanted to be, and Mayor Barry because he didn't want to be. But, you know, there is an issue about, you know, even in the civil rights era when there were the massive demonstrations in the streets, there were two types or more than two types of people. There were the people, the street soldiers, who got arrested, who stopped traffic, who caused disruption to get attention, and then, there were the Andy Youngs and maybe the Walter Fauntroys who were then in the backroom or the -- talking to the community leaders, talking to the civic people, talking to the politicians, saying, look, we've got to do something.
SHERWOODWe've -- you got to move this ball along, or we're going to -- it's going to get worse in the streets. Maybe the mayor shouldn't be the one in the front. You know, the South African embassy is the one I like to think of. I can't remember how long that went on, but there was someone...
NNAMDIIt seemed to be years.
SHERWOODIt went on -- every day, someone was arrested...
SHERWOOD...and some day, it was just your neighbor next door, and the next day, it might be a famous person. So it kept up the news. It kept up the pressure on South Africa, and the city needs some kind of approach like this, but there's no moral imperative here. People don't understand the city's an odd place, that we're the nation's capital and the most un-American place in America when it comes to our voting rights and the way we are treated. Most people -- I interviewed somebody from Kentucky or something in the mall. They thought that we all here work for the government and -- you know, I don't want to say anything bad about Kentucky, but I was stunned. He really thought everyone in town, in the city work for the government.
NNAMDIWell, the mere fact that people were able to see Mayor Vincent Gray on all kinds of national news outlets this week may lead some people to have a better understanding of what happens here in the District of Columbia. There was not a word in the news this week about the mayor's controversy over hiring practices. City Council Chairman Kwame Brown was not quite that fortunate, even though he too did participate in the demonstration. The news media, the reporting about his campaign in 2008 and his campaign, frankly, in 2004 and Loose Lips talking -- speculating about his campaign in 2010.
SHERWOODWell, he wasn't speculating. He just looked at it.
NNAMDIWell, his campaign in 2010 and whether or not family members who according to Loose Lips and other people with whom I spoke, if you have a father and a brother who are both campaign operatives and fairly credible of doing it, why not just pay them above board?
SHERWOODI don't -- that's the problem. Kwame Brown has never really explained how he got the two SUVs. He's never really explained his woeful campaign finance reporting. He just hasn't. He promises to do better. He says, you know, he apologizes in some respects. He says he's going to work hard. But these explanations have just not come. It's really a very deep hole, and the hole keeps getting deeper for Kwame Brown politically. For Vincent Gray, you know, the hiring of the family members, the hiring of Sulaimon Brown, all that is still percolating not in the background. It's kind of a side channel now, but it's still there. And Mary Cheh is going to hold hearings, and Lorraine Green is going to be subpoenaed to testify, and Sulaimon Brown for the first time ever in public will testify under oath, assuming he goes. So it would help the mayor...
NNAMDIBut it was a week in which the mayor was in a way able to set his own agenda for a change.
SHERWOODThis is a -- what is it -- this is a brief respite. I knew there would be a word. In the South, we say respite. A brief respite for the mayor, but this is not a wiping away of the problems. Had he not had all these problems, his arrest would have been even more influential, but he's got problems he needs to address.
NNAMDIAnd we need to look at what went on in the final session of the Maryland General Assembly here for a minute. It is notable for what it accomplished. It's also notable for what it didn't accomplish. Well, first, let me start about what it accomplished. The Washington Post today reporting about how Maryland moved into the opposition of so many other states on the immigration issue with its dream act bill that offers state tuition benefits to the children of undocumented immigrants.
SHERWOODWell, you know, the argument is if the child is brought to this country by his or her parent, should the child be punished for being in this situation, and they've answered no. That child should not be.
NNAMDIAnd they say these children have went to elementary school, junior high school, high school here. They are very, very good students. They would, in fact, be an asset to the state.
SHERWOODI mean, it just screams for a national policy on immigration so that we can make citizens -- people citizens who want to be citizens who can participate in the American way of life. It's just a ferocious debate...
NNAMDIWhat the Maryland...
SHERWOOD...that's going to be solved at the national level.
NNAMDIWhat the Maryland General Assembly did not accomplish was being able to pass to legalize same-sex marriage. It was thought that the difficulty would be in the Senate. The Senate passed it. The difficulty ended up being in the House, so it's been shelved for the time being.
SHERWOODYou know, that looked like it was on the all-systems-go track, and then it got defeated. I think some of the politicians, particularly in Prince George's County and other places, started getting nervous when a lot of the church organizations and -- started complaining bitterly that this was being rushed through. I don't think it was being rushed through, but they gave that impression. And so Maryland where everyone thought that would just be the next stop on a succession of states pulled back. It was a big -- it was the big surprise of the year.
NNAMDIIt's "The Politics Hour," starring Tom Sherwood. He is our resident analyst. He's an NBC 4 reporter and a columnist for the Current Newspapers. If you'd like to join the conversation, we're talking now with candidates for the at-large seat on the D.C. Council. You can call us at 800-433-8850. That's 800-433-8850. What I'm going to do is introduce each candidate individually, ask him or her to make a 30-second opening statement indicating why voters in the District of Columbia should elect you to be the at-large member of the D.C. school board for the vacant seat, and after that, we'll open it up to questions from Tom, yours truly, and for the D.C. Council for -- from Tom, yours truly and people who call. 800-433-8850. Or you can go to our website, kojoshow.org. Join the conversation there.
NNAMDIAllow me to start with you, Alan Page, who represents the Statehood Green Party. Thank you so much for joining us.
MR. ALAN PAGEYes, sir. The D.C. Statehood Green Party is my party, and that's one of the key reasons why I want to urge voters to consider me. The D.C. Statehood Green Party does not accept corporate contributions, and I think for a long time, the problem of the city has been that, the influence of corporate money on local politics. I will not have that around -- as an albatross around my neck, and I will represent the interests of the people. I feel that campaign contributions are what you can look at as far as who's signing the paychecks for a lot of our councilmembers and -- for whom they work. My campaign contributions or my paychecks come from the people, and that's who I'm going to work for when I'm hopefully elected by the people.
MR. ALAN PAGEI'm number one on the ballot, and I'm number one -- the number one fighter for the people's issues.
NNAMDIThat's candidate Alan Page. And, of course, if you call 800-433-8850, regardless of what you want to talk about, if it has to do with the city, it's going to be the business of these at-large council candidates, so we'll just pass your questions onto them whether it has to do with Mayor Gray, the city council chairman or anything else. Next is candidate Dorothy Douglas. She is a Democratic candidate running for the at-large seat. Dorothy Douglas, thank you for joining us. Go ahead, please.
MS. DOROTHY DOUGLASGood afternoon. Good morning. My name is Dorothy Douglas. I'm the only woman on the ballot and in the race running. And I'm a native Washingtonian. I'm here -- I have the best interests of the people for over 30 years. I've been serving as ANC commissioner for 12 years and making sure that the services and quality of life is being represented by people of the District of Columbia. I think they want results and action, and the problem is that we're having -- we're not having that, and they want character and trust. And I pave way for that, and I'm here to serve the people of the District of Columbia as I've always been. And I personally give glory to God for allowing me to be here. This is a very important election, so I'm number two on the ballot and only woman in the race. Thank you.
NNAMDIDorothy Douglas, thank you. And joining us now in studio is Tom Brown. He is a Democratic candidate for the D.C. City Council, running for the at-large seat. Tom Brown, thank you for joining us. And each candidate has 30 seconds to say why the voters of the District of Columbia should elect you to be the next at-large member of the D.C. City Council.
MR. TOM BROWNWell, Kojo and Tom, thank you so much for having me. Whytombrown.com will answer a number of questions that we may not get to about my background, however, native Washingtonian. I've been focusing on community development, as well as the youth development and workforce development. As an active part of my life in serving this great city, I'm looking forward to a platform that will allow me to impact more people in this great city with that kind of work.
NNAMDIAnd even though this is radio, it is my understanding that Tom Brown has a campaign t-shirt that he would like to don. So we're gonna let you step back from the mike for a second while Tom Sherwood prepares his questions, and have you don your campaign t-shirt.
NNAMDIThis is a crowded race. We spoke with five of the candidates last week. What makes you different from any of those candidates that we talked about or talk with last week, Alan Page?
PAGEWell, I'll be furthest to the left of the nine, Brian Weaver will be...
NNAMDIAnd you think that's a good thing?
PAGEWell, absolutely. That's why I'm furthest to the left. My political beliefs are at my core -- so I wouldn't shift to the right in order to be more amenable to someone. I have to stand on my own principles.
SHERWOODYou wouldn't be like President Obama and the...
PAGENo triangulation here.
SHERWOOD...(unintelligible) the debate. Well, he's not moved to the right. He moved to the center, he says.
PAGEWell, unfortunately, moving to the center from where he was is moving rightward. And there are certain things that I don't think he should have capitulated on that he has. That's a larger issue. On a local level, a lot of times, we have politicians who will go in, and they'll be very progressive on the trail and then the influence of their party politics will move them rightward. That's no commentary on the two great people from the Democratic Party here with me today. But, unfortunately, it's a general trend and, you know, you have to look at history when you're looking towards the future.
NNAMDIWell, the Statehood Green Party is not as well-known as the Democratic or Republican parties in the District of Columbia. But by the name, it suggests that you would be for statehood as opposed to voting rights in the District of Columbia.
NNAMDIHow do you feel about the demonstration that took place in which Mayor Gray and about 40 other people were arrested?
PAGEI feel very strongly about it. I was actually standing behind Ms. Douglas at that time that Mr. Gray...
NNAMDIAt the demonstration?
PAGEYes, that at that Mr. Gray was arrested.
NNAMDIWere you arrested?
PAGEI was not arrested.
PAGEI stayed on the sidewalk. I've been to many demonstrations throughout my adult life. I've never been arrested. It's a constant struggle.
NNAMDIYou're like Zelig. You're always there but never actually being arrested, I mean -- but you have been there.
PAGEWell, there's a question about the efficiency of being arrested as a tactic. I mean, Dr. King was arrested multiple times. Obviously, that was very effective. But the other question becomes, as Tom was talking about, there are people in the struggle, whether it's Charles Hamilton Houston, our Thurgood Marshall, who are also participating in this struggle in a very valid way and in a very central way, they were never arrested.
NNAMDISo you are in favor of the demonstration?
PAGEAbsolutely. 100 percent for statehood.
SHERWOODThe Statehood Party, Statehood Green Party has not had a person win citywide race since Hilda Mason, is that right?
SHERWOODThe at-large council member for a long time?
NNAMDIAnd before her?
SHERWOODThere school board member.
NNAMDIThere you go.
PAGEI wasn't gonna jump in. I was gonna see if you were gonna pull it.
SHERWOODYou know, (laugh) I could -- no, no. I -- well never mind.
SHERWOODI'm not gonna show my bona fides here anyway. But this is a -- and we'll go to all the candidates for this. But it's a -- you're having a hard time. You don't have as much money as the other candidates.
SHERWOODYou don't have the field organization. How is it -- where is the path to victory that a lot of people don't see? I know you know how many Statehood Green Party members are -- there are now registered vote. How many are there?
SHERWOODIf everyone of them voted, most people I've been talking to say you've gotta have to seven to 10,000 people to win the election.
SHERWOODHow do you get, other than appearing on this show, how are you getting the word out where you can get those additional 6,000 votes you need?
PAGEI'm going door-to-door, whether it's in the very farm dwellings or whether it's in the richest neighborhoods in the city and just spreading the word about the DC Statehood Green Party. I believe you can't purchase the love of the people, and you can't work around the hard grassroots activity that you have to do in order to build up a party. And it's just we have a lot of work to do to get back to where we were when Hilda Mason was in office.
SHERWOODHilda Mason was well -- with Charles Mason, she, I mean, she was fairly -- they were well to do, let me just say it.
SHERWOODAnd so, but what do you -- who are -- what type of work do you do? You didn't really say. What do you for...
PAGEI'm an attorney. I'm not, well...
SHERWOODThat's why you didn't get arrested incidentally. Well, you should have said that.
SHERWOODHow many attorneys that...
PAGEThere have many -- there are attorneys who have been arrested.
SHERWOOD...that creates a problem for you when they renew you license.
SHERWOODYeah, I know these things. All right. So you're an attorney. What type of law do you do?
PAGEI do both some education law, dealing with...
PAGE...representing special needs students and entertainment law.
SHERWOODIs that your principle source of income?
SHERWOODOkay. Can we go...
SHERWOODDorothy Douglas, you -- who -- and you said you're a native Washingtonian. That covers a lot. But do you have outside work or are you a home mother? I mean, what -- I mean, tell me something -- give me a 25-second summary of who you are.
DOUGLASWell, I'm a grandparent, number one, and also I'm with the State Board of Education, and I've been a foster parent for over six years. And a couple of my students -- they have -- my foster students are now graduates of Boys State and on to professional boxing.
SHERWOODSo you're in the frontline to sub-policy issues.
DOUGLASYes, uh-huh. Some -- I'm right then. And also, I've been ANC commissioner for 12 years, and that, you know...
SHERWOODThat's worth something.
DOUGLASYes, it is.
SHERWOODThat's got to be -- you got to get some kind of gold star for that.
DOUGLASYes. Yes, it is. And that's all volunteer work. That's basically what I'm doing, and then president at Deanwood Association -- I've been president of that, so that alone -- and being an advocate.
NNAMDIYou're also involved with the Marshall Heights Community Development Organization.
DOUGLASRight. And we were doing the illiteracy, stamp out illiteracy program yesterday. And so we're working with that with Marshall Heights...
NNAMDIOh, I'm sorry, Tom. Go ahead.
SHERWOODI was just gonna say, can I just hear a little more -- Tom Brown is here with -- and he's got his Tom Brown T-shirt.
NNAMDIVote Tom Brown, at-large D.C.
SHERWOODAnd it's not Kwame Brown. It's not Marshall Brown. It's not Suleiman Brown.
NNAMDIIt is Tom Brown.
SHERWOODHe's just Tom Brown.
BROWNJust Tom Brown. What do I got?
SHERWOODJust ordinary -- tell us something about -- you do community work, you do education outreach. How do you get paid? This is a capitalist society. How do you earn money and how can you afford to run?
BROWNWell, since I'm the founder and executive director of my own 501 (c)(3), how do I get paid is, sort of, a trick question, Tom.
SHERWOODThat means you don't get paid much, we know, but...
BROWNOh, to be honest with you, that's my full-time job, been running that for almost seven years, focusing on the District. And I just left an activity where we are renewing a park in Ward 8, Oxon Run Park.
SHERWOODDo you get city money for your foundation or have you gotten -- or it's just donations?
BROWNMost of our funding, over 90 percent of our funding since we started in private, very little foundational public dollars. We've just had people that really believe in my work and see it firsthand and helped me to continue -- if I can name a few great partners. We've had -- JBG Companies has been a great partner. Atlantic Services has been another great partner. And William C. Smith and a number of other people that just pull me into their communities, Horning Brothers, and say, Tom...
SHERWOODAnd you're mostly east of the River?
BROWNNot really. I mean, Ward 6...
BROWN...done some work in Ward 5, 7 and 8 with the same kind of programming. And...
SHERWOODHow do you breakthrough...
NNAMDIYou -- go ahead.
SHERWOODAm I over -- am I asking too many questions?
NNAMDIYeah, but go ahead. That's what you do. (laugh)
SHERWOODHow do you, Mr. Brown, you know, you see the other candidates, well, you know, Vincent Orange, very well established reputation in money, and you see the other candidates, Patrick Mara gets endorsed by The Washington Post as the Republican candidate. You know, you can say what you will about that, but, I mean, all these other candidates have a lot more visibility. How are you gonna breakthrough to get those eight, 10, 12,000 votes you need to win?
BROWNWell, I, too, I've been doing a lot of retail politics and grassroots. I have a campaign office on Rhode Island Avenue, North East 932, and we're constantly bringing traffic through there.
BROWNWhytombrown.com is a website where you'll go on and you see first accounts of people who've worked with me and experienced some of my work in the past. And I just think that my work history accounts for something that separates me from some of the candidates. There's some great candidates here. They've done some great things and others that aren't here. But I think that when people just check on me and ask around about me, they'll get pretty much the same answer. Hey, this guy leads, he brings results and he makes change wherever you put him.
NNAMDIIn case you're just joining us, we're talking with candidates for the vacant at-large seat on the D.C. City Council. Last week, we spoke with five of those candidates including the one holding the seat on an interim basis, Sekou Biddle. This week, we're talking with Alan Page, he's a Statehood Green Party candidate, Dorothy Douglas is a Democratic candidate and Tom Brown is a Democratic candidate. If you have questions or comments for them, you can call us 800-433-8850.
NNAMDIMr. Brown, a lot of your involvement has been through education. You are a member of the board of Inspired Teaching, KIPP DC, Washington Mathematics and Science Public Charter Schools. You've been involved with public schools. How do you feel about Michelle Rhee's approach to school reform? How do feel about the new chancellor, Kaya Henderson? Would you approach school reform any differently than Michelle Rhee did?
BROWNWell, I think that while it's true our school system has needed reform and enhancement and improvements, I have no argument there. I think that any approach that is not a collaborative approach, where it's about inclusion, we begin to go down a path that's gonna end with a lot people being confused and separated from the real issue. And I think that approach that Chancellor Rhee, former Chancellor Rhee, took was one that I was very displeased with. I understood the tough decisions that had to be examined, but I think there were some other people in this great city that should have been a part of the thought process.
NNAMDIPeople like whom?
BROWNI think more community involvement was absolutely necessary. Parental and community leaders, as well as educators, union and non-union educators that just have a passionate desire to bring quality education to all of our children. I think that the time -- that it should have taken more time to bring those people together.
NNAMDIHow do you feel about the approach that Chancellor Kaya Henderson is taking? Do you see any difference at all? She is someone who was very close with Michelle Rhee. Do you see any distinction at all?
BROWNWell, I like to believe that there will be some distinction between the way she serves. I hope that Chancellor Henderson has learned from some of the people and the reaction that Chancellor Rhee had. I think that there are some issues that I've seen in terms of...
NNAMDIWhat do you think about the IMPACT evaluation system?
BROWNWell, I have to tell you, I think stepping away from testing as the sole basis for how we judge the success of a student or teacher is -- we definitely have to reexamine. I don't know if IMPACT is exactly the right way. I'm still researching that, to be quite honest with you, and I'm very interested to see a little more background or how successful that's been and how that works in this city.
NNAMDIAlan Page, how do you feel about how school reform unfolded in the District of Columbia under Michelle Rhee and how do you feel about its future?
PAGERight. I feel that it's in good hands with Kaya Henderson.
PAGEWell, I've been getting a lot of feedback personally that she is a little bit more personable. She's engaging in more outreach and building more bridges. I also like her approach. I saw her speak, and she mentioned that she pursued a case competition between the top business schools in the country so that some of the great minds in these graduate schools come here and work on education reform ideas in different ways that we can improve our system. So I like her empirical approach.
NNAMDIDo you think education needs to be reformed at all, because the reform approach that's being taken is an emphasis on kids passing tests and an emphasis on making sure that those kids have teachers who teach them to -- in a way that enables them to pass those tests, and those teachers are evaluated on the basis of the performance of the kids and not on the basis of how long they have been teaching.
PAGERight. I also want -- I want to intercede very quickly to mention that there's also a classroom visit component to the evaluation. So there -- I believe there are five classroom visits that are made unannounced, and I think that's key because there are certain skills that can't be measured by a test such as fostering critical thinking skills. So that's important that they get on the ground and see the teacher in operation. I think there is a need for reform because, you know, our test scores are quite frankly not where they should be, and we really do need to try a new approach.
PAGEI think it's important that there be some empirical measure. It's difficult to say how do you create a test that measures intelligence, but we do wanna have some measure. And that gives parents a sense that there is some way to measure their child's progress. I think that some of the Ts were not crossed and some of the Is were not dotted in Chancellor Rhee's presentation, as you can tell by the scores of teachers who were fired and subsequently had to be rehired and there's other...
SHERWOODBut the city is still challenging that though.
PAGERight, the city is still challenging that. And there are also other issues about allegations that they were erasures, where wrong answers were changed to right answers by teachers who have a financial incentive to do so. So I think that the process needs to be re-evaluated in the sense that the teacher who stands to mostly gain from good test scores or improved test scores probably should have almost -- well, essentially, no ability to affect the test answers. We have to have some oversight and accountability there.
SHERWOODI think Kaya Henderson, the chancellor, has said that there will be much more stringent control of who has their hands on those books.
PAGEAnd that's a step in the right direction that I want to talk about.
NNAMDIDorothy Douglas, you've been on the school board representing Ward 7. What is your own point of view about school reform and how it's been going?
DOUGLASWell, there are still some issues that really need to be addressed because we're still having problems with kids in the graduation performance because they're still not being required to (unintelligible) their performance. The reading is really down low and the math is also -- is low. We find that a lot of kids are still dropping out because the qualified -- our teachers are not implementing the curriculum that the schools has provided. So we need -- when Michelle Rhee was in charge at the time, she wasn't working with the community. She wasn't working with the parents and the schools.
NNAMDIHow do you feel about her emphasis on teachers and teacher performance? I think you have been a teacher yourself at some point.
DOUGLASWell, I felt that the way it was done, to me, was inappropriate because you -- it wasn't -- it didn't really show anything because you had some real qualified teachers, and you also had some teachers that had been around some -- for a long time. So I think she should have combined both before she even started firing people in a due process. And just like was stated, that they are -- is in court still and that's being looked at again. So she didn't really look at the whole picture.
SHERWOODSome of the teachers who were dismissed or some of the people supporting those teachers alleged that Michelle Rhee, an Asian woman, was discriminatory against the mostly African-American staff. Do you support that view?
DOUGLASWell, I'll say there were some violations that were done because when you haven't given a due process of anyone being let go...
SHERWOODBut those could be errors she made in doing what she did, assuming she made them. But do you think there was a racial aspect to it?
DOUGLASWell, I can't say that, not personally but...
SHERWOODYou don't personally feel that.
DOUGLASNo. I don't personally feel that but I...
SHERWOODDo either of other candidates?
PAGEI don't have any information indicating that, and I'm hesitant to use that charge because, quite frankly, there is serious institutional racism that exists in our country, make no mistake. But we have to be careful before we levy that charge, and we have to rely on evidence, I think, before we move forward like that.
NNAMDISee, that's the lawyer in him talking right there. (laugh)
PAGENo. Well, just -- seriously...
SHERWOODBut he was -- you actually -- in this case, you actually believe what you said.
PAGENo, no. Yes. It's very important because...
SHERWOODI'm sorry. That was a dig at lawyers. I apologize.
PAGEYeah. Well, lawyers get a lot of heat thrown on us. There's a lot of jokes. It's all right.
SHERWOODWe got a lot of good jokes, but we don't have time for them.
NNAMDIHere is Monica in Warrenton, Va. Monica, you're on the air. Go ahead, please.
MONICAHi. My issue is certainly not as weighty as the one you just spoke of, but issue nevertheless. Chinatown, I'm sure you're familiar with that, Kojo…
NNAMDIYes, Chinatown, yes.
MONICA...is -- it has been built up very nice. We have restaurants there. And I would like to take my out-of-town visitors down there to enjoy some of these new activities. However, I discovered last year that there are throngs of young people down there at night. They're just on the streets. I don't know what they're doing but, you know, I think there's been at least two incidents reported in The Post, where there were some fights and even a killing on the -- near the Metro in that area.
MONICAMy question is, what are the candidates going to do about this problem? They're going to drive away the tourists. I don't know why those children are there. There's no homes nearby for them to live in. There's nothing for them to do...
NNAMDIWell, Monica, I do have to say that, you know, it's called hanging out. That's what...
NNAMDI...they go down there to do. It's become the place for young people to go to hang out. But as Monica has pointed out, there have been some problems there, and she'd like to know what you would do about it, Tom Brown.
BROWNWell, thank you, Monica, so much for this question. I can tell you what I'm already doing, and you can tell me if this kind of thing is something you would look for. Over the past almost two years, I started a program. It's called Biz and Hoops, and I targeted Fridays nights or Saturday nights when most young people hang out. And I started an athletic league, primarily basketball, at different gyms around the city, and I've -- and recruited young people right off the street corner, basically between the ages of 16 to 24.
BROWNAnd when they come there, they bring all their friends, and we have referees, and it's a real league with trophies and all. But also, at my league, I'm occupying them on late Friday nights -- so the Metropolitan Police Department really appreciates this effort, by the way -- and I'm also introducing them to options. I have Community College of the District of Columbia, OIC, Potomac Job Corps and other partners to come there just to share the different services in post-secondary and in trade and in university training that they can get into that maybe they won't walk into during the day.
BROWNI set them up to pack a gym on a Friday night and stay out of trouble to hear about some life-changing opportunities. And so I put those two together that's why we called it Biz and Hoops and -- so I've been doing that to just -- and usually we have about two to 300 young people per community when we do this kind of thing. So that's the kind of things I believe and initiated.
NNAMDIDorothy Douglas, same question to you.
DOUGLASOh, well, the question is that -- the problem is that they need employment. Employment is really -- was the key issue here. We have to give some young kids, the young youths some employment. That's another issue to keep them off the street. I work at the Sixth District Conflict Resolution Team. We do the same thing as Mr. Brown does. We get the youth together, get them involved in basketball, different recreations, all play among themselves and keep them off the street.
DOUGLASBut they need a little bit more, so they're crying out for help. We need to come together as a partnership in business to make sure that they have wraparound services so they can be able to let that steam off. So they have to have somewhere to let the steam off. The recreation -- they used to have nighttime basketball, so those are things they need to put back into the community a little bit more so they can come out and have something to release that pressure that they have on themselves.
DOUGLASSo we as residents ourself and also you, we can come together to make sure that we have some service that's available for them. Get them involved. Get them involved with things. Helping senior citizens, community services. And so those are the things we need to help and also start their own small businesses. So there are so many things that we need to do as a whole and as a family 'cause it takes a village to raise a family, and we need to continue to do that process to make sure that they're going in the right direction.
PAGERight. I saw Chief Lanier speak, and one of the things he mentioned was that 46 percent of the violent crime arrests this year have been juveniles. So it's a smaller part of a larger issue, specifically in terms of Gallery Place Chinatown. I think one of things we might wanna pursue, which reflects some work that I'm doing on a non-profit called One Common Unity, where I sit on the board of directors, they teach -- they give peace training to young people in the city, at risk youth in the city, and they also teach them -- they call it training the trainers. They teach them how to give peace training to their peers.
PAGESo one of the things, I think, we might wanna look at is hiring our teen ambassadors who are trained to mediate conflict, to basically be posted around the area and so they can mediate conflict with their peers because the young people in the city are the ones who are most familiar with the affiliations, crew affiliations and the other signs that a conflict is rising to a level of concern.
PAGESo I think that's one of the things we might wanna work in -- work with. More foot and bike patrols for our metropolitan police department there, we'll have a more nimble response time to any issues and community policing just the -- just really -- one of the things I support in a macro level is getting more of the police officers, whether through tax incentives of through bonus pay incentives, to move back into the District so they are more familiar the local population. They know the kids because those kids are their neighbors.
NNAMDIAlan Page is a...
SHERWOODThey won't be able to afford their condos down... (laugh)
SHERWOOD...at Gallery Place.
NNAMDIAlan Page is a Statehood Green Party candidate for the D.C. council. He joins us in studio along with the Democratic candidates -- two Democratic candidates, Dorothy Douglas and Tom Brown. Our resident analyst is Tom Sherwood. He's an NBC 4 reporter and the columnist for The Current Newspapers. Before I go back to you, Tom, I wanna get to one more phone call because all of you, if you are elected, will be having to work with Mayor Vincent Gray and Chairman Kwame Brown. Our caller, Susan, has apparently a view of Mayor Vincent Gray, and I'd probably be interested in hearing how you respond to that. Susan, you're on the air. Go ahead, please.
SUSANHi. Thank you for taking my call. I'm a D.C. resident and look, I admit it, I was a huge Fenty supporter. But I was one of those people who was willing to give Mayor Gray the benefit of the doubt. And I -- all I can say is I'm holding my tongue now not to say I told you so. And I think that all of this protesting about the rights of D.C. is all terrific, however, maybe we need to merit the respect by not being corrupt and hiring for large salaries are, you know, relatives and those sorts of things.
SUSANI lived here for 18 years and I'm gonna tell you this is really starting to look like the bad old days and it's -- yeah, it's very, very disheartening. And for me, that's kind of the number one -- the absolute number one issue. By the way, I couldn't disagree more about Michelle Rhee either...
SUSAN...I think that she was terrific.
NNAMDIThank you very much for your call. Tom Sherwood, is there anything you'd like to footnote what Susan said before we pass it on to our candidates?
SHERWOODWell, you know, in terms of this -- I was interviewed by the New York Times is doing a story about the city, you know, that Gray -- a lot of white people who didn't vote for Vince Gray because either they didn't know him or they believed the Fenty campaign that he was a throwback to the barrier. Because of the controversy over the hiring, the SUV issue, the (unintelligible) touch Gray, those types of things, it has worsened the racial divide in the city.
SHERWOODAnd I think it's up to the mayor to show -- I mean, he went out of his way to show, you know, put Kaya Henderson in, who is well-liked by all the establishment, education people is one thing. But he's got a very big hurdle now to overcome. The tone of voice you just heard in the woman who called that he is going backwards, not forward in the city. I think it's a very tough issue for him.
NNAMDITom Sherwood, how do you balance the Vincent Gray over the bad hiring...
SHERWOODI think it's Tom Brown. (laugh)
NNAMDITom Brown. Did I say Tom Sherwood?
PAGEYou mixed up your Toms.
NNAMDITom Brown, how do you balance the decisions of -- the bad hiring decisions of Vincent Gray with the demonstration which seems to have taken those bad hiring decisions for the time being, as Tom Sherwood pointed out, off of the media and working with such an individual?
BROWNWell, I'll tell you, I've been here my whole life, and I share some of the frustration of the pervious caller, a lot of frustration and embarrassment, quite honestly. And while I don't wanna sit here and judge Mayor Gray, I will say that I have real concerns about some of the direction he's taken in his first four months in office. And I'm interested to see the consistency begin to line up maybe a little more with some of things that we all hoped and expected from him. So I am disappointed in him and I certainly am disappointed as well with Chairman Kwame Brown. I've gotten to know them over a short period of time, you know, and I expected a different kind of focus for our city.
BROWNAnd so what I'm looking for -- if you're saying one city is where we're going, then I think a councilmember that has that as their DNA would be of great assistance. And I believe that's a part of what's propelling me to this task is that in my body of work, whether it's the workforce council that I co-chair with Councilmember Barry or other entities I work with, it's been all about a collaborative spirit. And I don't think there's ever been a time when I felt like there's been as much segregation in my lifetime in this city building around class, race and many other things, and I'm hoping to help come together with that leadership that's in place to bring people together.
DOUGLASWell, I think, just as Brown just mentioned, you know, one city it's called respect. And you have to have good leadership. If you don't have good leadership, that makes it really complicated for others, especially when you're supposed to be setting a good example for our citizens, our young youth that are actually watching us and doing so, it tells them that it's all right to do wrong. So you can't set that kind of example, and it does show not good etiquette. So we need to respect each other and we need to also come together to make sure these things don't happen.
DOUGLASBut, you know, when older -- you know, when you're older, you -- the kids used to always say, well, you're doing -- we're following you and you're doing all right. But you need to go back and set back. And the laws that already in place, those laws need to be acknowledged and be put forth, and the mayor should have really pushed a little bit more and made something be done, not just wait until after the fact. Those things are already set in place to be acknowledged and follow and be enforced. So those has not, and that's what's happened. So maybe someone need to come and oversee, correct what's being...
NNAMDIAnd that's what you think you'd be able to do?
DOUGLASYeah. I think that, you know, we need to revise, come back again and say -- and come together and collaborate and make sure those laws are enforced. This is what you came to do, A, B and C. 'Cause when you apply for a job, that's the first thing you're given -- the rules and regulations of your job another day. So we all need to follow those rules and regulations. And that goes for the mayor and the president as well and everybody that's in place.
PAGEYes. I wanna address some of the caller's points very quickly, particularly the point where she says that D.C. needs to merit the respect to earn statehood without being corrupt. Just to quickly address that point, the statehood issue is quite frankly, in my mind, a moral issue. We're 600,000 taxpaying Americans, many of us who have fought and died in wars in our nation's history, and I think it's without question we deserve statehood and we deserve to have a voice in Congress.
PAGEWhen other Congress persons in other states are caught with their -- caught red-handed, no one -- just, say, for instance, when Jefferson, the Congress person from New Orleans, was caught with $90,000 in his freezer, no one suggested that New Orleans, La. should lose its voice in Congress. So I think it's...
SHERWOODWell, I would like to join in on this 'cause this would -- that -- I was gonna raise this myself even though I'm not the candidate here. You know, when Marvin Mandel in the '70s went to prison, no one said take away Maryland's voting rights.
SHERWOODThree governors from the State of Illinois in the last 35 years have gone to jail and no one said throw Barack Obama out as the senator there or anything else or take away their voting rights. And let's don't even talk about the State of Louisiana. They seem to still vote despite their troubled history. So the idea that we have to behave and we have to all get straight A's on our civic politics in order to be included in the classroom of America is offensive. And I don't mean -- I don't think Susan meant it as offensive, but, you know, we're not Americans by the way we behave. We're Americans because we're citizens of the country. I'm sorry, Alan, but go ahead with your answer.
PAGEI just had to get that. And no disrespect to New Orleans. It's a great city. You know, I was raised there actually. I've been here for 18 years. I was raised in New Orleans, La. And what happened to my city there in recent years might, unfortunately, be foretelling what will happen here. There, the poor people were washed out by the water. Here, they'll be washed out by developments.
SHERWOODWhat about Mayor Gray doing some -- so I agree with you on the big picture there. But what Mayor Gray, what he has to do in order to show that he is not allowing a corrupt administration to take hold in this city?
PAGERight. Well, he's fired some of the people who were hired. I mean, that is somewhat putting a Band-Aid on a cancer patient. My main concern with Mayor Gray right now, at this moment, is his proposed budget and whether or not he's throwing the poor people under the bus here by levying roughly almost half of the cut, proposed cuts in human services rather than spreading that around and spreading the sacrifice a little bit. As far as how we can move on from here, it's a tough question. He's fired some of the people. It's really difficult. I mean, he has to come clean, I think. A lot of these people are gonna have to testify under oath in front of the council. And some heads are gonna have to roll. And I think maybe, at this point, he might even have to appoint someone who is an ethics point person to oversee, you know.
SHERWOODWell, how about -- let's go to Chairman Kwame Brown. You would have to work with him. Should you be elected, any of the three of you, you have to work with a chairman who's had the problems with the SUVs. He's had -- I mean, the campaign finance stuff. He's...
SHERWOODHe faces significant civic fines, possibly U.S. attorney investigation. I mean, should the chairman still be the chairman? Should he step aside until this is cleared up? Should he -- what should he do, go down the line.
PAGEI would say that we do...
PAGEThis is Alan Page. I'm sorry. And I should say my name more often. I apologize.
SHERWOODWe'll say it for you.
PAGEAlan Page is my name. And I do think that there should be a due process here. And, again, this is the attorney. But, you know, this is the root of our country. Due process is in the core of our Constitution. And I think that he should have his moment to be heard. And if it's determined that he has, in fact, committed these acts, yes, not only should he lose his chairmanship, but possibly even more strident penalties...
DOUGLASWell, I think it's called respect. They have to respect each other. And Chairman Gray and all have to come together and collaborate.
SHERWOODChairman Kwame Brown. What do you think is...
DOUGLASWell, I think, you know -- I know we all have to work with him. I'm definitely -- I'm working with city council as we speak now. It's like -- like Mr. Page say, it's a due process. You still have to follow the due process and make sure everything's in order and give him an opportunity. You know, everybody is innocent until proven guilty.
SHERWOODWhat about you, Mr. Brown, Tom Brown?
BROWNWell, I certainly think that we're not in a position to judge. I'd like to focus on the other point in working with Chairman Brown. You know, history tells me that good collaboration and healthy relationships are the best way to get things started in the right direction.
SHERWOODHe ought to at least get a better accountant to count his money, right? You agree with that.
BROWNWell, I think that...
SHERWOODHe said that himself, so you can agree with that.
BROWNYeah. I definitely think there are some challenges that our chairman is faced with. I hope -- I like to believe that he's getting that situation worked out. But, really, we're talking about working together. There's 13 of us that have to come together to improve and lead this great city. And so I just believe that the kind of relationships that it's gonna take can't be about personal agendas, party agendas. It has to be about the focus of the people who put us in place. And I think the oversight and accountability process in the city has gotten very weak, and that's how we've gotten here 'cause my question has been this whole campaign, how have we gotten here?
BROWNHow have we gotten to the place where there's so many announcements and things have been sprung on us, whether it's Wal-Mart and many other things, that the people -- whether it's Michelle Rhee's tactics on education reform -- the people are seemingly the last to know in the most educated city in D.C. There's enough intelligent minds in this one city to get some great input to help the council lead us to the kind of prosperity and safety we're all looking for.
DOUGLASI don't think it's the last to know. I just think that the process that they do know and just that the communities is not being made aware of it. So I think -- you know, I think it's a joint effort that we all need to come together and make sure everybody's involved and not keeping things secretly. So that's what I'm -- that's my standing point.
NNAMDIHere is Pam in Washington, D.C. Pam, you're on the air. Go ahead, please.
PAMI wanted to make a comment. Ms. Douglas said something about employment earlier. And I would like to know what can be done for us to have full employment, especially in those wards like 7 and 8 where there's -- you know, the economic level is so much lower? Who actually can -- has a plan or can formulate how we can work towards that goal?
NNAMDIOkay. Dorothy Douglas?
DOUGLASRight now I'm working with Marshall Heights Community Development on the illiteracy. So we are having -- what it is, you have a lot of folks unable to read. So we wanna make sure they prepare themselves so they can be able to have -- to fill out an application, to do a resume and all, because we just -- it was just shared with me just yesterday, I was at the Marshall Heights that was doing this about employment, how important employment is. A gentleman had put his son on the bus, on the wrong bus, to send him to school.
DOUGLASAnd when it happened, and he -- the son got lost and called from another school. And what the point was, the father was unable to read. And so we need to make sure that we have all that in place so our kids and adults -- so we have to do a wraparound service for everyone to learn how to read. So education is one of the key points.
NNAMDIWe've come to that point where I'm going to ask each of you to make a statement of no longer than one minute. You can use it in part to answer the question that was just raised, but you only have one minute to say, finally, why voters in the District of Columbia should elect you. First you, Alan Page.
PAGEAll right. Well, related to the last question. The three things that I wanna work on primarily are jobs, affordable housing and, well, and education. Let me quickly address jobs. We need to have stringent oversight over the enforcement of the First Source law, which mandates that projects that receive city dollars have 51 percent of their new hires be District residents. We have a lot of people who have either gotten city dollars or, okay, or otherwise received a favorable tax treatment who are not compliant with that. We need to coordinate with workforce development between the Department of Employment Services, UDC, and the community college to train our workers not just for the jobs now, but the jobs of the future. And also we need to work on affordable housing. We need to make sure that we have the housing protection trust fund fully funded. And we need to also, in the area of education, we need to make sure that charter schools have right of first refusal for surplus DCPS schools. And there are many other issues. Alanpagedc.com. Thank you.
DOUGLASOkay. My website is friendsofdorothydouglas.org. I've been working with the -- with employment for a long time, giving kids jobs for the summer. And also we -- on Park Side Civic Association, I'm a member of that, on the State Board of Education. We're doing to educate our community with -- start educating our kids at an early age, from zero up to three. And also we have a community college put in Park Side as well just coming up. So I've been involved for a long time. So I'm Dorothy Douglas. I'm the only woman on the ballot. I'm number two. So I'm hoping -- I'm reaching for your support to help me to continue the services that we need. We need employment. We need housing. We have over 3,000 homeless children in the District of Columbia that need homes. We need to make sure those -- that those services are wraparound services for our kids that do -- don't have that opportunity. So I'm here to serve the people. And I need your vote on April 26th. I'm number two on the ballot. And I appreciate you. Thank you.
NNAMDIAnd Tom Brown.
BROWNWell, to answer your question, I served as the co-chair of the Ward 8 Workforce Development Council, which I was appointed to by Councilmember Barry, being the highest unemployment rate is there. And I've been able to forge relationships with major employers and small, but major -- Department of Homeland Security and Clark Construction, General Dynamics and many others that are partners in this deal with a lot of community-based and educational organizations like the community college of the District of Columbia, Potomac Job Corps and many others. And we're approaching it from a demand First Source side, but also a supply side. We have to be honest that we have to do a better job of developing our workforce so that we are more competitive. It starts in the schools, in the community. And certainly our re-entry population is a target population that we support, getting in better position for employment. Whytombrown.com will explain my position on entrepreneurship and small business support and development. It will also show you a lot of the background work I've done. Whytombrown.com will answer your questions. Join me tomorrow, 12:00 noon, 932 Rhode Island Avenue Northeast, at a rally before we take the city for the next 12 days. Thank you.
NNAMDITom Brown, Dorothy Douglas, Alan Page are all candidates for the D.C. City Council. Good luck in your campaigns.
BROWNThank you. It's been a pleasure.
DOUGLASThank you for the blessings.
NNAMDITom Sherwood is our resident analyst. He's an NBC 4 reporter and a columnist for the Current Newspapers. Good luck with the IRS.
SHERWOODAnd enjoy Emancipation Day.
NNAMDIAnd thank you all for listening. I'm Kojo Nnamdi.
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