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.
“Grass-gate” continues to consume D.C. politicos. Prince George’s lawmakers stand up against slots. Metro contemplates big changes – from station names to fare cards. And Maryland Senator Anthony Muse (D-District 26) explains why he may challenge U.S. Sen. Ben Cardin (D-Md.) in the Democratic primary. 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
- C. Anthony Muse Maryland State Senator (D-District 26-Prince George's County)
- Paul D. Craney Executive Director, DC Republican Committee
Maryland State Senator C. Anthony Muse (D-District 26-Prince George’s County) talks about how a proposed redistricting plan that would affect the state’s 4th Congressional District, among others, could weaken the African-American vote in some areas. “This plan is absolutely wrong, and unfair to the voiceless citizens of our state,” Muse said:
Kojo and Tom debate the issue of District police making arrests for people with expired license plates. Kojo thinks the law is harsh; Tom thinks it’s fair; and D.C. Republican Committee Executive Director Paul Craney said he thinks lawmakers should be focusing on more important things like alleged ethics violations by D.C. Councilmembers:
MR. KOJO NNAMDIFrom WAMU 88.5, at American University in Washington, welcome to "The Politics Hour," starring Tom Sherwood. I'm Kojo Nnamdi. Tom Sherwood is our resident analyst. He's an NBC 4 reporter and a columnist for the Current Newspapers. Tom, always a pleasure.
MR. TOM SHERWOODYes, it's a great Friday.
NNAMDIIt's a great Friday, but it was a sad week because we witnessed the passing of Franklin Kameny this past week. And, even though he was a national figure, a pioneer in the gay rights movement for more than 50 years, he was also an intensely local figure because Franklin Kameny, one may remember, ran for the D.C. delegate position in 1971. So he's been in D.C. politics for a while.
NNAMDIAnd, as I recall, his appearance on this show and everything else about his life -- I think of Franklin Kameny as fearless. He never seemed to fear anything. He would plunge in to anything where he thought that a wrong was being done.
SHERWOODAnd he was aggressive.
SHERWOODYou know, I once...
NNAMDI...which is an understatement.
SHERWOODI was once at the 4th of July parade on MacArthur Blvd., the Palisades parade, and I took a picture of my son who was, like, 10 at that time or something like that. And I had the picture developed, and there was Franklin in the background, you know? I said, you're everywhere. But, you know, I went to -- I happened to have gone this past spring to his 86th birthday party...
NNAMDIHe was 86.
SHERWOOD...it was on 14th St. And, you know, he still at that moment and even -- and then I saw him at the Pride Parade in June, took a picture of him with my cell phone 'cause I said, you know, at that age, I'm not sure I'm going to be talking to anybody.
SHERWOODBut he would never miss an opportunity to say what was good about the gay-lesbian rights campaign, that he is in fact the godfather of campaigning in front of the White House in the 1960s, a remarkable campaign, and that he was so proud that he lived to see the military change and so many other changes.
SHERWOODThe ability to marry, he could be some -- a handful, though, if you tried to talk to him. Let's not sugarcoat him (unintelligible). But I think it's a good thing that we remember him. He had a tremendous influence.
NNAMDIIndeed, Franklin Kameny could often be quite combative. And, even though he was born someplace else, we obviously have the right to claim him in Washington because this is where he lived and was active for most of his life.
SHERWOODAnd the country can claim him because he served in the military. He lied when he weren't -- when he -- as he would say, they asked, and I lied.
SHERWOODHe served his country. And I think that's a good thing.
NNAMDIYes. Franklin Kameny will be so missed.
SHERWOODAnd there will be some memorial services or something like that. Bob (word?) says there's going to be something where people, who maybe didn't get a chance to honor him, could show it posthumously or say something nice.
NNAMDIThere will be publicity about the services and the memorials for Franklin Kameny. So just keep alert, and you'll be aware of it. Grass-gate, it's being called in the District of Columbia because it is a confusing episode involving who gets to cut the grass in D.C. on public lands.
NNAMDIAnd as a result of a controversy, including the current contract, which is with Lorenz Inc., owner Joseph Lorenz, and another offer which had been made by CBI Inc., which is based in Maryland, there seems to be a sentiment on the City Council that favored CBI because, even though it is based in Maryland, it employs more D.C. residents in its contracts, which is, I think, in Wards 1 and 2, and the Lorenz contracts Ward 3 through 8.
NNAMDIAnd Lorenz apparently made, through his lawyer, an offer to the city to tamp down, if you will, the publicity about this, if, in fact, he was given the contract, and the city said, we don't think this is appropriate and turned it over to Atty. Gen. Irv Nathan, who essentially says to Lorenz's lawyer, hey, don't try to threaten me.
SHERWOODWell, you know, if people could follow the ins and outs to this story...
SHERWOOD...more power to them. But I would say the Lorenz letter was essentially a -- in football, it'd be called a Hail Mary pass.
NNAMDIHe was trying to save his contract.
SHERWOODAn out-of-town firm that had done a good job at a much lower price than the in-town firm, Community Bridge Inc. -- CBI, does, in fact, have an office in town. Lorenz had done a very good job at a much lower price, but the city government has -- for some years dating back to Barry in the '80s has been trying to get businesses that are actually in the city hiring district residents to do a lot of the jobs.
NNAMDIWell, I think that's a good debate.
SHERWOODWell, it's done. Maynard Jackson did it in Atlanta ages ago. And it's a good policy to people who pay the taxes who get the jobs in this city. But it wasn't handled very well. I guess, the mayor says they're going to re-bid the whole thing. The problem with Lorenz, when he had -- he was asked at the council this week, how many of your employees who cut grass in six of the eight wards -- how many of your employees are District residents, District citizens? And the answer was...
SHERWOODSo that's not a good business model if you're trying to do business in the city. He said in this letter he would hire more District people. You want a good price. You want good service. And you want the best possibly to have the jobs in the city because that's where the money can be regenerated over and over again in local business.
NNAMDIYeah, you can walk and chew gum at the same time.
SHERWOODSo that's the overall issue.
NNAMDIYou can also -- you can get a low price and employ residents of the city, can't you? Theoretically, I guess...
SHERWOODYes, you can. Now, there are -- for companies, there are higher corporate costs. There are higher costs of doing business in the city. There are higher taxes for various incomes. But the fact is it can be done. It is done by other businesses. And that's -- so the policy is good. It just ought to be clearly carried out in the way that everyone can see what's going on.
NNAMDIAnd protests in the city. The Occupy D.C. protesters who were supposed to leave Freedom Plaza a few days ago apparently got an agreement, even though the specifics of the agreement remain cloudy with the National Parks Service, to extend the permit to stay on Freedom Plaza through Dec. 30. It does look as if this movement has some staying power, does it not?
SHERWOODWell, it's happening around the country in various places where the police have been -- or people have been less than supportive. But, you know, the park service -- just to be clear, the park service, in fact, told me that the demonstrators on Freedom Plaza, which is at 14th and Pennsylvania, may stay up to four months. They have to respect the rights of the people who have already reserved the place in the -- there's two or three events that are going to be there.
NNAMDIOne of them occurring tomorrow, an event for D.C. voting rights.
SHERWOODOne is Mayor Gray's voting rights march. And the mayor said -- I think they're going to try to move everybody in one corner of the place, but I think they'll just gather around them. I don't think it will be too much trouble to move all the tents. But let me tell you...
NNAMDIWould be it correct...
SHERWOOD...that's a commitment. That's one of the hardest surfaces known in Washington, that flat Freedom Plaza granite marble, whatever the heck it is.
NNAMDIIs it -- would it be correct to characterize tomorrow as a grassroots movement, meaning the Occupy movement, meeting a not-so-grassroots movement, meaning the D.C. voting rights movement?
SHERWOODWell, you know, that's the problem with the D.C. voting rights movement.
SHERWOODIt can't -- they can't get the grass to grow. I mean, everyone kind of agrees with them. But, yes, and the mayor got arrested six months ago. I mean, they just haven't quite -- the fire never quite seems to burn brightly on voting rights. And if I were an activist, you know, the city would have a hard time doing business. But I can say that 'cause I'm not doing that. But I just think they, you know, maybe ratchet it up.
SHERWOODYou know, they put up the Martin Luther King Ave. signs along Main Ave. as a token of respect for King and the memorial. But when the park service said, well, you can't put them on Independence next to the memorial. I said why not? Why don't you go ahead and do it anyway, Mayor? Let them arrest you putting up Martin Luther King's name. You'll get international publicity. But they didn't do anything like that. They said okay. They put them up under the 14th St. Bridge, where no one sees them.
NNAMDIAnother issue that interested observers and inquiring minds want to know about is if during the ceremony for the Martin Luther King Memorial on Sunday, will Mayor Vincent Gray bring up the voting rights question in the face of the president of the United States?
SHERWOODWell, if he doesn't, he ought to be arrested again.
NNAMDISo you are advocating that he challenge the president on this?
SHERWOODI'm not advocating. I'm just a reporter with no opinions.
NNAMDIThat's right. I forget about that, yeah.
SHERWOODBefore you exhaust subjects and go to one of our sterling guests, may I say something briefly about Peirce Mill?
NNAMDIOh, yes, please.
SHERWOODDo you know about Peirce Mill? This...
NNAMDII love Pierce Mill.
SHERWOODIt's almost 200 years old. It's a mill in Rock Creek Park...
SHERWOOD...upper Northwest Washington. Saturday is their big day. They're having a grand reopening. The park service, with some private -- other money...
NNAMDIIt's been closed off, under reconstruction for more than a year.
SHERWOODYes. They diverted some of the Rock Creek water so that the mill will work again. And as soon as the park service hires a miller, there's going to actually be bread there. And it will be a terrific place for children throughout the region to come and learn about old-style agricultural issues. And it's a great place to go in the weekends for picnics.
NNAMDIIt's where I hang out on the weekends at Peirce Mill.
SHERWOODAnd it is misspelled. It's...
NNAMDI...the way it's spelled. There, you would expect it's spelled P-I-E-R-C-E.
SHERWOODSo you can have a spelling lesson when you're there enjoying this bucolic setting.
NNAMDITom Sherwood, he's our resident analyst. He's an NBC 4 reporter and a columnist for the Current Newspapers. Joining us in studio now is Anthony Muse. He is a member of the Maryland Senate. He is a Democrat whose district includes parts of Prince George's County. He's also formed an exploratory committee for a U.S. Senate campaign in 2012. Sen. Muse, thank you so much for joining us.
SEN. C. ANTHONY MUSEAlways good to be here, Kojo. Good to see you.
NNAMDIGood to see you again. A few weeks ago, you announced that you were forming that exploratory committee for the campaign for the U.S. Senate. That seat is currently occupied by Ben Cardin, a Democrat who generally scores very good marks with members of your party. He's considered one of the -- if not the -- most liberal member of the Senate. But you say that you want to represent the voiceless. Under Ben Cardin, who do you feel has not been given a voice?
MUSELet me just say this. It's not so much, at this point, under Ben Cardin. It's Washington, D.C. in general, and it's certainly -- our delegation that many feel, as I've been moving throughout this -- our state, all of the 23 jurisdictions in Baltimore City just asking a simple question. One -- some simple questions. One, are we better off now than we were six years ago? And absolutely, we are not.
MUSETwo, are you so satisfied with our present structure that you believe no change is necessary? Those are the questions that I've been asking. When I talk about the voiceless -- two things about me, one, I come from a very hard background but was able to make it in this country. Kicked out of three school systems, 11 foster homes, but I had a father who did adopt me, who talked about hope and promise.
MUSEThat is what is missing right now in America presently -- hope and promise. And the relevant issues are not being discussed. And if they are being discussed, they're being discussed in a superficial way. We're not talking about the fact that Maryland, my state, ranks anywhere from the 45th to the last in terms of job creation. People are devastated, and they want someone to come with a plan that will reach them and not just to kind of gridlock any bickering that we have.
NNAMDIWhat will it take to move you from exploring to actively engaging?
MUSEThere are three things I'm looking for. As I'm traveling, I'm traveling with a message. The message says we're doing poorly in education, poorly in jobs, our future. I'm asking people, do you believe our future is bleak or not? I'm going with a message that says we've got to return to a society in which people feel as though there is some hope, feel as though foreclosures and joblessness are really being addressed.
MUSEThat message, I'm hoping, will also develop into momentum. That momentum, if that is the case, should also develop into the money that is needed if we decide to move forward with this.
NNAMDII am not sure you are allowed to participate in this interview. Shouldn't you recuse yourself? Aren't you a colleague of Pat Lawson Muse?
SHERWOODWell, I was going to bring that up, but I don't have to be goaded into being...
SHERWOOD...ethical and upfront and above board and all those type of things. Let the listeners know that Pat Lawson Muse, who's the better of the two...
MUSEAbsolutely, absolutely. Yeah, I'll agree with you there.
SHERWOODI've been at Channel 4 since -- about 22 years now, and I think she's -- I don't know how long she's been there.
MUSEJust about -- in the industry, NBC, about 30 years. She's in her 30th year.
SHERWOODOh, oh, we might next say how old she is. But, anyway, no, she's an anchor for Channel 4, which means I have to disclose that...
SHERWOOD...so if I ask any embarrassing questions, she'll know to whack me when I get back to the station.
MUSEAll right. I'm going to make sure.
NNAMDIAnd then she might call in to say that when I started at WHUR radio way back when she was an intern...
SHERWOODAnd I will say Pat Lawson Muse, to my knowledge -- and I believe this is correct -- she keeps your two careers separate.
SHERWOODAnd she has this -- and when you just mention your name at work, she has this stone cold face. And I don't know if it's 'cause you did something wrong, or she's trying not to be involved.
MUSEI think she's really making sure she walks that line (unintelligible).
NNAMDIWould you, please, get ahead of the question, please?
SHERWOODWell, okay, well, let me ask this question then. What -- has Ben Cardin, the incumbent senator, what was he, in the -- some speaker -- in the general assembly?
NNAMDIIn the general assembly?
MUSERight. It's correct.
SHERWOODHe was speaker? He was speaker of the House?
MUSEMm hmm, that's correct.
SHERWOODHe generally has pretty good reputation. Even though you're running a positive campaign, you know, the media's going to drag into the negative. You would not run if you didn't -- if you thought he were doing a good job. What has he not done or what can't he do that he has to be thrown out?
MUSENo, let me try and make this clear. One, this is an exploratory committee. I am exploring. I want to continue to explore. Should I make that decision at that point, then I want to come back and not just outline the program that we have but with those marked differences are.
MUSESuffice it to say, at this point, when it comes to those issues relevant to the people that I serve -- for example, when it comes to education, the question is not just what -- not only what has he done or not done -- let me say this, I like Ben Cardin. We get along well. There's nothing to do with Ben Cardin personally.
MUSEBut when I'm traveling in my district, and I find out that -- and I know that 50 percent of those who are in my district are not graduating, 70 percent of those in Baltimore are not graduating, the Gates Foundation that came out with their own findings that one-third of those who are -- only one-third of those who are graduating from our schools are ready for college and ready for jobs, these are issues that are handled on the federal level with the mandate that they send.
NNAMDIIf you have questions or comments for Sen. Anthony Muse, you can call us at 800-400-8850. He's a member of the Maryland Senate. He has formed an exploratory committee for a U.S. Senate campaign in 2012. 800-433-8850. You can send email to email@example.com. Send us a tweet, @kojoshow, or go to our website, kojoshow.org, and comment or ask a question there.
NNAMDIWhat are the specific issues that you are concerned about that you would raise in the U.S. Senate having to do with the constituents that you're talking to that you can't in the Maryland Senate?
MUSEWell, first of all, many of these issues are handled on the federal level. When you look at the fact that many of our children who are graduating -- and we are putting them in these graduation numbers -- are graduating with what is federally allowed as a certificate of completion, that is done on a federal level. So I have kids who are going 12 years in school, they're graduating, and, once they graduate, they get the certificate that says you can't go into the military.
MUSEYou can't do anything. And what I'm not hearing are people saying that is absolutely absurd. We can't do that. When we look at our jobs industry, we are basically a servicing industry that's basically built on baubles and gimmicks. We're not manufacturing anything. We don't build anything. We don't fix anything. And, beyond that, we don't have a workforce that's ready. These are just relevant issues.
MUSEI met with a group of students yesterday, and they said to me, we have -- we -- they said, Senator, we have degrees. We've done everything right. Who is there speaking up for us saying, why are the jobs overseas? Why are we spending more time dealing with Republicans fighting Democrats? And you will always have that to a certain degree. It's working out. It's way in the re-districting plans that we have now.
MUSEBut at some point, the voices have got to say, it is ludicrous that we are spending $2 billion a week in two wars when, right here in our own country, we refused to focus on America.
SHERWOODSounds like you are against -- you're running against President Obama for failing to do the things you think he should do.
MUSEI'm actually running against anyone who will not stand up with that voice and say, bring our troops home now, no matter who you represent. Because when you're in the area of the Senate or the Congress, of course, you influence policy. Of course, you have national legislation that you can influence. So at this point, I'll continue to say I'm running for the voiceless.
MUSEI'm running for those persons that -- I met with one yesterday who said, Senator, we have degrees. All four of those students at a program called (word?). They said, we have degrees. We can't find jobs. Beyond that, we owe this federal money back for our Pell grant. Why haven't we not sat down to say, if in this kind of society, you can't pay back, then there would be a work program where you can work, where you can give back your time?
MUSEAnd it's just simple things that we need to do to get our economy going again, and we're not talking about it. We're not dealing with it.
NNAMDISpeaking of jobs, the U.S. Senate is a pretty rough place where you're going to have to take a lot of tough votes. Just look at how hard the party had to work to get senators to vote for the president's jobs plans -- since you're talking about jobs -- and that plan would raise taxes on wealthy residents. How would you have voted on that plan? Sen. Cardin voted for it.
MUSEI think on raising the taxes among the wealthiest, I think, yes. But I think beyond that, you have to look at other avenues. You have to look at the fact that, again, we manufacture nothing. We build nothing. We fix nothing. We have to stop being a servicing society. How do you do that? You give the kinds of incentives to all of those businesses that have moved overseas where they are now manufacturing everything.
MUSEYou offer the tax incentives, a kind of a carrot and a stick. You offer the tax incentives to bring them back to manufacture jobs here. There are many corporations with billions of dollars in banks overseas because -- and they will not put their money over here in banks in America. They will not invest their money in America because we have to totally revamp the tax structure so that we become more job-friendly. That's what we're talking about. What this bill does...
NNAMDIBut the Republicans are saying, don't tax the job creators. You seem to be saying the same thing.
MUSEI'm saying you offer incentives to the job creators to come back to America, to offer the -- if the jobs aren't here -- two thing, first, if the jobs aren't here, you can pass any bill you want. The government cannot continue to employ people. I understand what they're saying. Use this government money, fix roads, fix bridges. That's just part of it.
MUSEIf we're not creating jobs, if we're not manufacturing, if we are graduating kids from college who don't -- and they don't even have a vocational skill, these are things that are mandated from the federal level. What do I mean about that? Twenty-five percent of our teachers' times are spent in classrooms, teaching children how to take tests when it's not even proven that those test are a correct evaluative measure.
MUSEWhen you are doing that -- and at the end of that time, you are rewarding schools that are doing well, you're penalizing schools that are not doing so well when you should be doing just the opposite.
NNAMDIBut you'll be in a Senate where you'll hear people arguing that the matter of education is really a local matter. It should not be the business of the federal government to be setting standards. Whether they're doing it through No Child Left Behind or any other program, there's...
SHERWOODRise to the top or the (unintelligible)...
MUSEBut they aren't doing it. But the fact is they aren't doing it. And the fact is, all over this country, students are leaving school with what has been federally approved, a certificate to nowhere. That's been approved, and that's what's happening. It is one of those levels that at least we can affect the national policy because as the nation goes, so goes the state.
MUSEAnd we have a very weak state educationally, economically, in terms of the foreclosure rate, in terms of our banking, in terms of small and minority businesses...
SHERWOODGov. O'Malley wouldn't like to hear that description.
NNAMDIWell, it's my understanding that you have not been afraid of voting against Gov. O'Malley. For example, you voted against the governor's offshore wind plan last year...
NNAMDI...which became one of his big legislative priorities, and now, there's a controversy involving at least two prominent African-American elected officials in the state of Maryland over redistricting. Rep. Donna Edwards and Valerie Ervin, the head of the Montgomery County Council...
NNAMDI...are both saying that Gov. O'Malley's redistricting adversely affects the strength of African-American voters. Where do you come down on that?
MUSEAbsolutely. Once again, there are times when I can agree with the governor, I can. Let just say this, in all of the campaign that I've run, I've always run without the support of the -- what we call the political machine, never ever had their support and probably will never. But, once there, I'm able to work with them as best I can. I agree with Congresswoman Edwards that this plan is absolutely wrong. It's going to be challenged in court.
MUSEAnd it's absolutely unfair to the voiceless citizens of our state who expect redistricting to provide, at least, a kind of -- it's created so that it can provide community. It can provide our persons to be represented efficiently and effectively. And that's not what it does.
NNAMDIBut you know what the opposing argument is? The opposing argument -- but it will be strengthening your party, the party that you're a member of in your state and, thereby, giving you more influence, whether or not you are not in the U.S. Senate or in the Maryland Senate as an elected official...
MUSEBut not by any means necessary. We still have to abide by the law. And the laws that deal with gerrymandering -- when you look at the way these districts are drawn, they're absolutely drawn with one thing in mind. Is it right or wrong? You be the judge of that. But it's certainly drawn so that you can minimize the voice of the Republicans.
MUSEBut there are people who believe in those ideals. And I think everyone should have a voice around the table.
NNAMDIFor those people who don't know that -- what we're talking about, the redistricting will put a significant part of Rep. Donna Edwards' district, which is now in Montgomery County...
NNAMDI...in Anne Arundel County instead, and the objection is that that will be diluting the power of the African-American.
MUSEAbsolutely. Which is -- and what's unacceptable about that plan is that Montgomery County is a majority-minority county. So to have not one minority represented there, not one minority voice represented in Congress on behalf -- on their behalf is absolutely ridiculous. And let me go further. This is not just about the Democratic Party.
MUSEIt's about a few people that we have lined up because we have said, you know, people have said to me, wait your turn, wait your turn, while I'm not even in the lineup. So when you look at the lineup, you -- these seats are created for one, two, three, four persons. And it should not be. These seats should be drawn to reflect the people that must be represented whose voices are not heard, period. That's why I'm on that plan.
SHERWOODI want to go back to the economy because, other than the job you might go for and you're not yet going for it, I want to talk about economy. 'Cause when you talk about the economy -- Darcy Spencer asked me to ask this question about -- she wants to know what you think about Herman Cain, successful American businessman, running the Republican Party for president, who's jobs-oriented.
SHERWOODWhat do you think about him? He's African-American. And she just wanted to know, what do you think about his campaign?
MUSEI think it certainly is igniting a fire over in the Republican Party that's not been known for minority candidates rising, you know, to the top. I think his 999 plan -- he's operating out of his strength as a businessman. I think he's very passionate about what he is doing. And let me say this, again, I go back to those whom I call the voiceless, and that's what I'm talking about in terms of Herman Cain. Everyone's voice should be at the table.
MUSEI think that he's articulating very well. I think he's at least addressing the fact that America's not become serious about creating jobs and about creating jobs with livable wages.
SHERWOODNow, I just want to ask you this 'cause Michele Bachmann, on the debate this week, she made a joke about the plan. She said, you know, if you turn it upside down, it's 666.
MUSEWell, I heard Gov. Perry's wife say, if he…
NNAMDIWhy would you ask this of a religious person?
SHERWOODWell, that's why I'm asking it because, for those who don't know, that's the sign of the devil, right, 666?
MUSEWell, that's what they say.
SHERWOODNot 999 -- 999 is the price of a pizza, apparently.
MUSENow, theologically, I'm not sure that it represents anything.
SHERWOODBut I heard Gov. Perry's wife say, if he says 999 any more, I'm going to dial 911.
MUSESo I want to see what they...
NNAMDIWell, speaking of, I guess, the economic proposals that are being raised by Herman Cain, that gives me the opportunity to bring up the Occupy Wall Street movement that's been getting a lot of attention in the conversation about the economy.
NNAMDIThose people are expressing frustration that banks and corporate America are getting more help from the government. They're expressing frustration about the growing income gap in the United States between the rich and the middle class. What is your opinion of this movement?
MUSEI've been involved in politics for about 20 years, from appointed positions, House member, House of Delegates, two terms, second term in the Senate. I've never seen people this angry and frustrated. And so, as I'm traveling, I'm asking those questions -- as I move from Allegany County to Harford County, I'm asking this question, if we're that angry, is it time for us to look at not just a change with persons who are representing us?
MUSEBecause you don't have to hold those seats forever. They're not a given. The second question I'm asking is, if you're not better off, are you willing to do the same thing for another six, eight or 10 years? Those are the only questions that I'm asking, and I'm presenting what I believe those things that are wrong with what we are doing and our approach in the track that we're on.
MUSENow, relative to that, I think it just shows that people are angry. They're frustrated. And when you look at what's happening on college campuses, this is something, you know, I've never seen before. People are -- I mean, this country is ready to blow unless we...
SHERWOODDidn't we this in the '60s?
MUSE...come with a different attitude. Absolutely.
SHERWOODI don't know how old you are, but I remember, in the '60s, we saw college campuses in turmoil. We saw occupation. We saw marches, anti-war marches...
MUSEAnd they had to bring about the change that people are calling for today.
MUSESo the choice that is before us is, do we continue not just -- not only in terms of this seat, but in terms of the direction of Washington, D.C., period. Do we continue to say we want change, but we -- and, yes, we like the people that are in, but do we want to continue with those policies? Those are the questions in front of us.
SHERWOODShould someone challenge President Obama in the Democratic primary?
MUSEI think that the fact that -- I think that the process that we have in place is that anyone who feels as though you're able to offer anything to this country, that you're able to do it. It is absolutely wrong to say no one should challenge someone because they are an incumbent. That's not the American way.
SHERWOOD'Cause Republicans are saying they would like to say that Obama is kind of the new Jimmy Carter, a one-term president who lost the way from the country.
NNAMDIAnd the Democrats, of course, would like to say, no, we don't want to do that again because look what happened to Jimmy Carter after Ted Kennedy challenged him in 1980.
SHERWOODThat's right. But there's no question that -- you know, the Tea Party a couple years ago expressed the same frustration.
SHERWOODThey marched on Capitol Hill, and it was with signs...
MUSERight. But this is something that is beyond that. When you look at what's happening in Washington and New York City today, this is something that's beyond that. This is a growing frustration, and it's also among those who are of college age who are saying, where do I go from here? Who is there saying -- I'm graduating. I have a degree.
MUSEI have a debt that is higher than any job that I'm able to get. Who is it that's really saying on Capitol Hill, we need to deal with issues that are relevant, not issues that are party issues? But we need to sit down and deal with issues. How do you bring the jobs back? How do you better educate our children so that 70 percent of them are not dropping out and are not failing? How do you do that?
NNAMDITo what extent do you believe that social issues are still a big part of our nation's political debate? Your faith is a big part of your life. You're the founder and pastor at a church in Upper Marlboro. How would you describe the relationship between your faith and your politics? Where will it cost you to come down on issues of gay marriage or issues of abortion versus pro-choice?
MUSEWell, I think, if you look at my record, it's not been my religious orientation that has guided any of my decisions. Surely, no matter what a person believes, they're going to bring to the table. Whether they be Catholics who are serving in the legislature, whether they are Jews or Muslims who are serving in the legislature, we all bring some of that to the case -- to the table.
MUSEBut if you look at my voting record, it's always been based on what is best for the people. I cannot impose my religious orientation on anyone, period. For example, I voted -- I introduced a bill that will put table games at Rosecroft. I am against gambling. But I saw jobs being lost, and the place was set up, you know...
NNAMDIDo you favor slots at Rosecroft?
MUSEI don't favor slots at all. I did put in a bill for and got it through the Senate for table games. I supported medical marijuana. People thought that was absolutely -- so, you know, I go where what I believe is right for the people and what I believe I'm hearing my constituents say.
NNAMDIAnthony Muse is the founder and senior pastor of Ark of Safety Christian Church in Upper Marlboro.
SHERWOODWell, Gov. O'Malley who's -- he says he's going to push for same-sex marriage this year. Where does that put you? Prince George's County kind of killed it last year in the legislature.
MUSEI think, again, every voice should be at the table, and you have some persons whose voices are not heard. Now, people may not agree with my approach, but my approach is, on something like that, everyone should have a voice at the table. I believe a referendum would probably be the way to deal with that because I understand what the governor is saying. The governor is saying -- and God bless him in it -- I want to be president one day.
MUSEI'm going to deal with those issues that will put me on the national seat. Great for him, but I also believe that in the legislature, it's evenly split. And it's not a question of religion. A lot of my friends don't go to anybody's church, but they vote against it. They vote for it. And I think that's a question that -- for the state of Maryland, that we would probably end up having, no matter what, to deal with that question at the ballot.
SHERWOODWould other rights be subject to referendum? If you put this issue on a referendum, would you have rights of somebody else be placed to referendum?
NNAMDISome people say if you place civil rights on a referendum in the South (unintelligible)...
SHERWOODI know -- for example, I was going to say (unintelligible). I'm from the South.
MUSEWell, I think...
SHERWOODI would say if we voted on open accommodation laws and stuff like that, we'd have lost.
MUSEI think that you're right in whether or not this is a -- is that kind of -- I know people always apply that to the black struggle. And I think there's some differences there...
SHERWOODOr the women struggling. I mean, when I was a young reporter, I was told to go out...
MUSE...between the black struggle in America, women struggle...
SHERWOOD...and cover the bra burners by the guys who ran our news program.
SHERWOODAnd I had to fight that, you know? But, I mean, there's always...
MUSEBut where would you stop that by having a person who is a representative of the people saying, I am not going to listen to the voice of the people, I'm going to do whatever I think is right? And I think that is what America is saying is wrong right now.
MUSESo we're not talking about rights in terms of housing discrimination, job -- absolutely, that is absolutely wrong. We're not talking about those not being educated. We're not talking about those kinds of rights. We're talking about a fundamental question that people are trying to address that deals with marriage. Should it be between a male -- a man and a woman? And...
SHERWOODWhat about the right of a partner to go into a hospital to see a dead or a dying...
MUSEI think that those...
SHERWOODCivil unions, you're for?
MUSEAbsolutely, I believe that -- I believe in every right. I have a -- I have my reservations about gay marriage. But every right that we talk about, whether it is being able to transfer inheritance, whether it's being able to, you know, of course, being discriminated….
SHERWOODAll the civil issues.
MUSEEvery civil issue, absolutely.
NNAMDIAnd I'm afraid that's all the time we have. Anthony Muse is a member of the Maryland Senate. He's a Democrat whose district includes parts of Prince George's County. He's formed an exploratory committee for a U.S. Senate campaign in 2012. Anthony Muse, thank you so much for joining us.
SHERWOODAnd what's the deadline as you walk out the door? What's -- is it two weeks, six weeks?
MUSEI'll come right back here between two and three weeks, and I would have made that decision based on the way things are going at this point.
SHERWOODOkay. Not wasting any time.?
MUSENot wasting any time at all.
MUSEI thank you both.
SHERWOODAll right. (unintelligible)
NNAMDIWe'll be calling you. Thank you very much for joining us. And, Tom Sherwood, one of the things we have not talked about is that, in the District of Columbia, you can be sent to jail if you have tags on your car which have expired, that story coming to light in the past few weeks in the form of a letter from Sen. Jim Webb to Mayor Vincent Gray and the highly publicized arrest of an Army lieutenant serving his country in Afghanistan, who ended up being sent to jail when he was out on an errand and found out that his tags had expired. Mayor Gray said that there is a perception that maybe this is too harsh.
SHERWOODWell, you know, I want people to have their vehicles properly registered. I want people to have a driver's license that's not expired. And this -- in some urban areas in the city, there've been -- where cars are just routinely flying around town with fake license tags or stolen dealer tags. I mean, it isn't coming upon the citizens to have their cars properly registered. I don't know what it means.
SHERWOODIf your car is not properly registered and you're driving around, and you have a wreck, does your insurance cover you? I don't know if there's some provision in your insurance policy that says you've got to have a driver's license, and you -- so I think maybe sending people to jail, handcuffing them and putting them in jail might be a little tough. But I don't want to trivialize this, and people say, oh, I forgot to register my car.
SHERWOODWell, you know you're supposed to register your car, and this is after 30 days. It's not, like, two days or 24 hours. It's after 30 days. And so people should have their cars registered.
NNAMDIWell, might be a little tough, I think, is an understatement. I think it's definitely too tough to put somebody in jail because their tag has not been registered for 30 days. I think it would be appropriate to give that person a warning if this is the first time that...
SHERWOODHow about a fine? It's 30 days after you're supposed to...
NNAMDIWell, because people do forget stuff and...
SHERWOODOh, so we get 30 days? What about 30 days, you know, to get a driver's license renewed?
NNAMDIWhat do you mean 30 days to get a driver's license renewed?
SHERWOODI mean, what if you can just -- your driver license expires on this date. You get 30 free days.
NNAMDIYour driver's license expires on this date. You are not aware of when it was registered. Some -- and police officer stops you within 30 days. He gives you a warning notice and says...
SHERWOODAnd if you -- and same thing with your driver's license and your car registration?
SHERWOODAnd you get 30 extra days to pay your property tax?
SHERWOODWell, where does this stop?
NNAMDIWell, I mean, there can be penalties, but the notion of handcuffing people and sending them to jail on the first time they're caught -- let's ask Paul Craney. He's been calling this show every week for the past, it would seem, 20-something weeks. He is the executive director of the D.C. Republican Committee.
NNAMDISo he's been pestering Sherwood, so we thought it was worth him getting a little more airtime today. And so we invited Paul Craney into the studio. Paul Craney, thank you so much for joining us.
MR. PAUL D. CRANEYThanks for having me on.
NNAMDIWhat do you think about this tags issue?
SHERWOODWell, can we ask him how many Republicans there are in the city first? They meet in the phone booth on Bladensburg Road.
NNAMDISee? That's why you had to come in, Paul, to change his attitude.
CRANEYTom, I've heard all the jokes before, but -- yeah, we've heard all the jokes, Tom.
SHERWOODThere's what, is it 27,000?
CRANEYThere's about 30,000 registered Republicans. As you know, the city is a little transient, so we have -- we definitely have more than that that live in the city. And a lot of Republicans, they're registered as Democrats because they want to vote in the mayor's primary, but...
SHERWOODI'm a reporter. I would be registered as an independent. But in order to vote into most races, I've been registered as a Democrat. I'm counted as a Democrat, even though I have nothing to do with the Democratic Party.
CRANEYYeah, it makes a good cause for open primaries in the city.
NNAMDI800-433-8850 if you have questions or comments for Paul Craney. You can send us a tweet, @kojoshow, or email to firstname.lastname@example.org. Or go to our website, kojoshow.org if you have a question or comment for the executive director of the D.C. Republican Committee. Where do you come now on this issue of the appropriate penalty for having an expired tag?
CRANEYWell, it kind of, you know, draws to our attention that we have stricter motor vehicle rules in the city than we do with ethic rules in the city. I mean, go figure, we have a councilmember right now who got sued for $1 million, and there's not even a hearing on it. But, God forbid, you, you know, forget to repay your registration or you have tags that may have been expired. We're much more stricter on those rules, which, you know, they're...
NNAMDILet the record show that lock-them-up Sherwood believes that both parties in that case should probably locked up and, in the case of the ethics people, probably locked up for a longer period of time.
SHERWOODI just don't think we ought to trivialize the idea that you should have properly registered vehicles in the city so that people -- cars are used for various reasons, for illegal reasons and stuff like that. Police need to know.
NNAMDIAnd, of course, you can weigh in on that, too, at 800-433-8850. The grievances of your party seems to be rather long these days, so let's start with some of the big-picture questions. What grade would you give the council of the District of Columbia and the administration of Mayor Vincent Gray at this point in their time in office?
CRANEYWell, you know, there's definitely a dog and pony show in the council right now where everyone's talking about ethics reform, but no one's really doing much. There's been a few bills out there with some good ideas in them, but the bottom line is that everything falls short unless we can have ethics reform that allows us to remove people like Harry Thomas. If we come short on that provision, you know, what are we really doing then on the council?
SHERWOODHarry Thomas, Ward 5 councilmember...
NNAMDIAnd for people who think that he's simply picking on Harry Thomas Jr., they should know that the GOP in D.C. has been very active. A lot of people forget that this issue initially surfaced during last year's general election campaign when Thomas was running against Republican Tim Day. And that's when (word?) got involved.
CRANEYThat's right. Yep.
SHERWOODAnd to be clear, the attorney general of the city got Thomas to sign an agreement to repay $300,000 in misspent city funds, and he's agreed to pay back $50,000 every six months. So it's not like he's proclaiming he's innocence.
SHERWOODBut we're still waiting for the U.S. attorney to make a ruling.
CRANEYYeah, and, you know, the Republicans aren't the only ones saying things about this, too. I mean, you can look to Ward 8 Democrat Chairman, or former Chairman, Jacque Patterson. He called on him to resign. Yvette Alexander famously said on Twitter that, personally, I would never agree to repay money if I didn't wrongfully spend it.
CRANEYSo maybe we were the one's that raised it, but, you know, there's a lot of Republicans, Democrats, independents that agree with us on this issue.
NNAMDIWell, as you were indicating, you've actively lobbied members of the council to call on Thomas to step down. What have you made out of -- who has made that step, taken that step and who's held back from doing so?
CRANEYWell, I'm glad they finally, you know, started to do something about it and called for him to resign. There's three council members. But I'd be remiss to say that Patrick Mara, the Ward 1 school board member, was the first elected official that called on him to resign.
SHERWOODWhat can you -- and ethics is clearly a big issue 'cause there's, like, a dozen bills now in Muriel Bowser's committee. She says she will have a new bill by the end of the year. She's a couple of times said, and said again to me this week, it's not that we need a bunch of new laws. We need to enforce the laws we have. We need to have the wherewithal to enforce the laws. The attorney general says, give me some auditors. Give me some investigators.
SHERWOODThe Office of Campaign Finance, woefully understaffed, and -- even though the laws seem to be pretty good. Do you think it's a matter of new laws? Or do you think it's a matter of, as she says, enforcing the laws we have?
CRANEYWell, we absolutely need to enforce the laws, and that'll be the first time we actually do it in the city. But we need some more thorough legislation. Tommy Wells has a bill talking about eliminating loopholes with contributions. That's definitely a good start. But, you know, Muriel Bowser is correct. We do have laws. For instance, the constituent service funds that we have right now, council members are prohibited from giving it to Democrat organizations, yet...
SHERWOODOr any political organization.
CRANEYExactly. And, you know, go figure, we're still doing that. Oct. 10, there is a reporting deadline. Three council members, of course, were making contributions to Democrat organizations. Two of those council members listed those donations as either a contribution or donation. You know, it's not a ticket. It's not a charity event. These are contributions. We all get it.
SHERWOODDo you think, like, in the -- having an expired registration, they should be handcuffed and sent to jail?
CRANEYYou know, I just want them to act like adults, really.
NNAMDIHere is Todd in Ward 5 in Washington, D.C. Todd, you're on the air. Go ahead, please.
TODDHi. I'm a Ward 5 registered Republican voter and wanted to just ask the executive director, what is the party doing to have and recruit qualified candidates to run in all eight wards?
CRANEYGlad you asked the question. We have a primary in April 3. Right now, we are in the process of candidate recruitment. Hopefully, in the next few weeks, maybe a month or so, you'll have me back on the show with some of my candidates.
SHERWOODCan I ask you, on that same subject...
SHERWOOD...what are you doing to recruit more people into the Republican Party? Now, you guys have -- you have -- in this city, you have a broad swathe of middle-class African-Americans who would agree with many of the positions of the Republican Party but don't like the national party and some of the national candidates, and so they shy away from it.
SHERWOODBut how can you build the Republican Party so you can be a stronger voice to balance things out in the council?
NNAMDITodd, you were going to ask that question, weren't you?
SHERWOODOh, wait. I apologize. I couldn't hear you with my earphones. We need to have a fundraising to get better earphones.
NNAMDINo. He did not actually ask the question. There was an indication that he was intending to ask a question like that. So you are not...
CRANEYWell, you know, we're going to run candidates. We run candidates. You can be a national Democrat but a local Republican, and a lot of people in the city kind of believe that. If you look at the April...
SHERWOODAre you going to run?
CRANEYNo. No. Not running. You can...
CRANEY...look at the April special election. We had Patrick Mara running for at-large. He came in second. It was a very close election. We beat all but one of the Democrats, including an incumbent. We won three out of the eight wards.
SHERWOODIs he going to run in the April race, or has he decided yet?
CRANEYIn the primary? No.
SHERWOODI mean, is he going to run next year?
CRANEYYou would have to ask him that, but, you know, I don't think he will. You know, the point is, we're trying to run candidates. You know, since 2008 when I first started, you know, the current job that I have, we actually have sections of the city that are consistently now voting Republican locally. Will Barack Obama win D.C.? Of course, he will. We -- you know, we can acknowledge that.
CRANEYBut below the ticket is where we kind of, you know, make a living here in the city. We want to run candidates that can resonate with the voters. And a lot of voters here are national Democrats, but, locally, they can vote Republican.
NNAMDIAnd underscoring the point that you and Tom were making earlier about how most of the races in this city are decided in the primary rather than in the general election, if Republicans have no one currently on the council, is there anyone on the council who you would be able to consider, at this point, an ally of your party, someone who will at least listen to you and the party and what you have to say?
CRANEYFrom time to time, some of the council members do things that we definitely agree with -- even the mayor. I mean, the mayor just recently nominated a guy named Steve Danzansky to the Board of Elections and Ethics. Steve would be a fantastic board member on the Board of Elections. So, you know, yeah, we can find common ground.
NNAMDIDavid Catania used to be a member of the Republican Party. Is he still more receptive to you than other members of the council necessarily?
CRANEYYou know, David, at times, votes well. Other times, he doesn't. You know, we disagree on using his constituents or his fund to make contributions to Democratic organizations, but we can say that with a lot of the council members.
NNAMDIOver the past year, former Mayor Adrian Fenty has gone so far as to voice support for Scott Walker, the Republican governor in Wisconsin who's become the bogeyman of every public labor union in the country. When you hear Adrian Fenty say things like that, is there a part of you that says, hey, I wish we worked to keep Fenty in office? He was kind of on our side on a lot of stuff.
CRANEYYeah. I mean, he's a Democrat, though.
NNAMDISo there's no way you were going to support...
CRANEYNo. We're here to support Republicans. We always get Democrats that want our support, but, you know, we're here to support Republicans.
NNAMDIHere is Dan in Brookland in Washington. Dan, you're on the air. Go ahead, please.
DANHi. Yeah. You know, I just had a quick comment, and that was, you know, I think the Republican Party would -- in the District would have more success reaching out to people who might be open to their candidates if they at least, you know, just sort of honored their opponents by calling them by their name. It's the Democratic Party. It's not the Democratic Party.
DANAnd, you know, it's a small, weird verbal tic that developed among, I think, most of the Southern Republicans. And I have to say, for an independent, when I hear that, it -- you know, it just makes me think of, you know, Mitch McConnell and more polarizing figures. And it's kind of a big shutdown, so that's just my comment.
NNAMDIWhat do you say to that, Paul Craney?
CRANEYI agree with you. I should call them Democratic.
NNAMDIDoes that solve the problem for you right there, Dan?
DANWell, I mean, it certainly sort of allows me to continue more into, you know, considering candidates like, you know, Patrick Mara. But I have to say, when I hear that, it's just -- you know, it's...
NNAMDIWell, you won't be hearing it from Paul Craney. That's what he's trying to say.
DANYeah, yeah. It's just not very adult language. I mean, a few minutes ago, you said, you know, we need to, you know, act like an -- adults. And that's just a way of sort of kind of ripping people and saying that, you know, it's a Democratic Party. So I appreciate his saying that.
NNAMDIOkay. Thank you very much. We have to make a correction, Tom Sherwood. When we talked about the demonstrators at Freedom Plaza, we used them in the same sentence with the Occupy Wall Street...
SHERWOODYes, they have a different name.
NNAMDIIt's a different name. Stop the Machine is the group...
SHERWOODStop the Machine.
NNAMDI...in Freedom Plaza. The Occupy D.C. -- Occupy Wall Street people are in McPherson Square, is where they happen to be...
SHERWOODRight. And Pete Tucker, who does the Fight Back blog, he was over at McPherson Square. He said he felt like it was a much younger, more aggressive -- aggressive in being more active -- crowd over there, and it was getting less attention than Freedom Plaza because Freedom Plaza is right there with the Capitol behind it and all that. So we should not minimize who they are and what they're doing.
NNAMDIAnd we're doing a show on the Occupy movement on the "The Kojo Nnamdi Show" on Monday. The council and the administration in the District have been very occupied by what we've been calling Grass-gate during the past couple of weeks.
NNAMDIAnd when you get down to it, this is a really philosophical debate about whether the city should be spending more money to do business with local contractors who promise to hire local people, or whether the city should be solely focused on saving the general taxpayer dollars by getting the lowest bidder on the contract. How do you view it?
CRANEYIt's amazing what distracts our city government at times. If it's not grass cutting, it's free baseball tickets, hockey tickets, what kind of car they're getting on the city dime. I mean, it's just...
NNAMDIThis is a trivial matter for you.
CRANEYIt kind of is. I mean, this is a decision our elected officials make, you know. It just -- it really amazes me as a resident that, for weeks now, we're going to hear the same stuff while other things go on in the City Council that no one really talks about.
CRANEYWell, let's have a hearing on Harry Thomas. Why don't we just blow this issue up a little bit? I mean, our council members, three of them called for this guy to resign, and the city has never sued a sitting councilmember. And yet we did that with Harry Thomas.
SHERWOODWhy does that fit with U.S. attorneys' criminal investigation of Harry Thomas-Kwame Brown campaign? Should be a parallel track that the council members should set him aside, and then vote to not allow him to participate in the council? I mean, what would you like to see happen...
SHERWOOD...assuming that he has a right to prove himself innocent in the court of law, if ever it gets that far?
NNAMDIDo you think he should get the Leslie Johnson treatment?
CRANEYI mean, if you...
SHERWOODShe was indicted.
CRANEYIf you blink your eyes real quick, all of a sudden, we have tax increases in the city. I mean, if they want to push something, they can do it. They can pass it through emergency legislation. If our council members wanted to, they could pass emergency legislation that calls for this guy to strip him of his pension, his salary and his vote.
SHERWOODBut it hasn't been found -- well, because of the civil violation?
CRANEYOh, why not? I mean, how many times in the city's history have we ever sued a sitting councilmember? Once. This is one time. I mean, we have to start getting serious about ethics reform.
NNAMDIOn to Isaac in McLean, Va. Isaac, you're on the air. Go ahead, please.
ISAACYes. Good afternoon to you. I used to be a Republican. You know, I voted for two Bushes. And the war in Iraq, you know, which I consider it as a war crime against humanity, it scared the bejeezus of me, you know, for myself, for my children, my family and this country, you know? And since then, I've been scared, you know, to be a Republican.
ISAACSo I want the gentleman to convince me. Why should I be brought back, you know, to Republican Party, again, you know? Because...
NNAMDIWhat's the difference between the D.C. Republican Party and the policies of Republican presidents and the party, generally?
CRANEYWe're the only urban Republican Party in the country. So, typically, we want to stick with local issues, and we have plenty of issues to talk about here.
NNAMDIOkay. Thank you very much for your call, Isaac. We're running out of time very quickly. But where do you think you can pick up a seat in the District of Columbia in 2012?
CRANEYWell, if you're a resident of the city, most likely, you're an intelligent Democrat. You're probably going to come out to vote for Barack Obama. But, I think, below the ticket, you're going to have a real hard time, you know, voting for the two at-large members right now that are up for re-election: Michael Brown and Vincent Orange. I think that's a great shot.
CRANEYI think we're going to have some pleasant recruits for the ward positions. I hope to be on your show in the next few weeks, maybe with some of these candidates, and, you know, we'll see there.
NNAMDIYeah, we all know that if you're not a guest on the show, you'll call in anyway. Paul Craney is the executive director of the D.C. Republican Committee. Thank you very much for joining us.
NNAMDITom Sherwood is our resident analyst. He's an NBC4 reporter and a columnist for The Current Newspapers. You should know I couldn't go to them, but we got a lot of calls of people on the tax issue.
SHERWOODRight. That's a good thing. But, you know, ethics issues will be the big thing for the fall, and I think the tax thing will resolve itself fairly quickly.
NNAMDIHe is Tom Sherwood. I'm Kojo Nnamdi. Thank you for listening.
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