How do we talk about gun violence when it's not in the form of a mass shooting? We held a student town hall to discuss how local kids deal with the threat of violence locally, and how adults can respond.
Maryland considers hiking up its gas tax and fees for public transportation. Meanwhile, the District looks for extra cash by considering a plan to boost taxes on movie theater concessions. And election watchers in Virginia break out their popcorn as candidates barrel down the home stretch to November. 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 Davis Director of federal government affairs, Deloitte LLP; Vice Chairman of the Metropolitan Washington Airports Board; President, Republican Main Street Partnership; Former Member, U.S. House of Representatives (R-Va, Dist. 11).
- Valerie Ervin President, Montgomery County Council (D)
Former Congressperson Tom Davis (R-Va, Dist. 11) talks about how an unwillingness on the part of politicians to make any cuts to entitlement programs like Social Security means that discretionary spending like the defense budget is in danger of significant reductions. Davis said that the Northern Virginia economy will feel the impact of such cuts, if they happen:
Montgomery County Council President Valerie Ervin talks about why she thinks big box stores moving in to her county may not benefit residents as much as some think:
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, whose vacation, I thought, ended today. He just informed me that he is on it. Obviously, you don't consider this work at all.
MR. TOM SHERWOODI -- well, I'm on staycation, and I've rested up all week just so I can do this hour to be somewhat informative for the listeners.
NNAMDIWell, we would like to think that you think of this is work, and that you're taking an hour off from your vacation to do this work.
SHERWOODAs Marion Barry once told me, I'm always working.
NNAMDIThat's who Tom Sherwood...
SHERWOODHe was talking about me, not him.
NNAMDII guess so. He is always working. So let's talk about what you want to talk about today first. Do you want to talk first...
SHERWOODThe World Series.
NNAMDIHey, wasn't that something? I went to sleep.
NNAMDII went to sleep last night thinking that Texas had it and woke up this morning and found out that Saint Louis came back in the 11th inning.
SHERWOODI wanted to go to sleep. Twice -- well, we have a guest on. He likes baseball a lot, so maybe we ought to talk about it.
NNAMDILet's bring him in. Let's bring him in and bring him into this conversation.
SHERWOODOkay. Because it'll be more interesting than anything else he says.
NNAMDIOur guest is Tom Davis. He was a member of the U.S. House of Representatives from 1995 to 2008. He's a Republican from Virginia. He is now director of federal government affairs at Deloitte LLP. He's also the vice chairman of the Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority. Congressman Davis, good to see you again. Did the game keep you up last night?
MR. TOM DAVISYou know what, I'm going to confess this. I...
SHERWOODDon't tell me you didn't watch it.
DAVISIt was a long night. I had to get up early, but I stayed through the ninth inning. They tied it up. Tenth inning, I thought the Rangers had wrapped it up. So it was nice that Saint Louis is going to win this thing. They just got the heart.
NNAMDII think so now.
DAVISSo I went to bed confident that they would win it.
NNAMDII didn't have a favorite before, but this morning, I said no. It's got to be Saint Louis.
SHERWOODIt's easy to pick the winner the day after.
NNAMDINo. Well, Saint Louis has been doing this all season long -- the last part of the season.
SHERWOODWell, I admit they did had -- they beat -- they were down 10 and a half games Atlanta, and they came back. But I just thought it was terrific for baseball. I don't care which of the American teams win -- or I didn't care. But I do think -- I like the baseball. I would love to see baseball like that.
DAVISIt would be a different game tonight with Carpenter pitching...
DAVIS...and we would think more of a pitchers' duel here in the final.
NNAMDII meant to say, Tom, what politics issue do you want to talk about first? The ethics issue before the council or the latest report on mayor -- former mayor for sale Sulaimon Brown, who The Associate Press now reports, got his talking points handed to him during the campaign, the talking points against incumbent -- then-incumbent Adrian Fenty from Mayor Vincent Gray. Of course, Mayor Vincent Gray's attorney, Robert Bennett, says balderdash or words to that effect.
SHERWOODHe said it's absolutely ridiculous.
SHERWOODI actually -- even on vacation, I inquired about this story because I thought, well, if it were really big, I'd have to go in and work on it. I don't know who the source are, if it's The Associated Press that Mr. Nichols, Ben -- I think it's Ben Nichols, I think, is the young reporter.
SHERWOODI trust his reporting. The mayor's office -- the mayor says this never happened.
SHERWOODBut, you know, the issue I have...
DAVISTom, what if they did? What if they gave talking points to another opponent?
SHERWOODOh, it'd just be one more link in the chain as a -- one more shoe in a centipede of links between the mayor and Sulaimon. It doesn't mean that it's criminal that...
SHERWOOD...they would give him talking points. But it...
DAVISIt's politics as usual.
SHERWOODTrue, but it builds up the case against the mayor that he knew far more about Sulaimon's activities than he's told us so far. He doesn't have to tell people. The mayor has not yet told his story. His lawyer, as you would expect, says don't talk.
NNAMDIAnd so we'll continue...
SHERWOODBut that's a very important step, and again, it's a shoe in a centipede of stories about to occur.
NNAMDIWhere did the saying come from a shoe in the centipede of the...
SHERWOODI made it up because if you know what a centipede is...
NNAMDIYes, I do.
SHERWOODThere a lot of, you know...
NNAMDIOh, yeah, okay. I got it.
SHERWOOD...the shoe is going to drop. You're going to have a lot of shoes.
NNAMDII got it. It's a Sherwood special.
SHERWOODIt's one of those southern things, you wouldn't get it.
NNAMDIThe D.C. Council began...
DAVISVery well heeled, too, so...
SHERWOOD...hearings this week.
SHERWOODI am well heeled with lots of shoes.
NNAMDIThe D.C. Council began hearings on ethics legislation this week. We heard Patrick Madden of WAMU 88.5 reporting on it since you were not on the job, but I know since you were in town, you were paying attention. The aspects -- first and foremost, do you think -- or is it clear that ethics legislation is needed?
SHERWOODYes. Everyone, I think, agrees. We're going to have some type of ethics bill before the end of the year. Muriel Bowser, the Ward 4 councilmember and the government committee chairman, is going to have this bill before. I don't think she's going to make any radical steps, but she's been pretty clear. She was here a couple of weeks ago saying I'm going to toughen the laws we have. If people would follow the laws we have, we wouldn't be in the mess we're in now. And so she wants more disclosure. She did say she would -- she's thinking a separate ethics committee apart from the elections committee...
SHERWOOD...but not a council committee of ethics people. I mean, it's like -- it's too small. We have a 13-member council and then, you have five members on an ethics committee that kind of messes up the ability to get things done.
NNAMDICollectively, members of the council have brought forward 10 different ethics bills before the council. Two provisions stood out for me. One of them was the one would -- that would require that council members not be able to hold a second job. I don't know with the exception maybe of Michael Brown and the lottery issue -- I don't know that that has been a major issue...
SHERWOODI don't think that's going to happen.
NNAMDI...in D.C. politics so far. It's not going to happen.
SHERWOODThere are eight council members. Well, all the council -- the only person of the 13, the chairman, who's paid a $190,000 a year, cannot hold outside employment.
SHERWOODAll the others can.
DAVISWhat do they get, Tom?
SHERWOODIt's 100 -- about 125.
NNAMDI$125,000 a year. Do you think...
DAVISIt's not bad walking-around money.
NNAMDIIt's not bad, but I suspect that if they are no longer allowed to have second jobs, that we the taxpayers are going to have to pony up some more for their salaries.
SHERWOODAlso, you don't want necessarily -- do you want a professional political class? People who are not -- I mean, the whole concept of citizen legislator is something that you -- you do your job as a legislator, and then, you do your job as a citizen of the country. And so I don't think -- I think disclosure is the issue. If you're employed and if you're paid, I would like to know, because you're passing laws, who's paying you, just so I can make a judgment on who you are. So I don't think that's going to happen. You said there were two, though?
NNAMDIConstituency funds, constituent funds.
NNAMDIThere have been some controversy over the use of constituent funds, and one proposal would eliminate them completely. It seems to, though, that that would be unfair to those really needy constituents who in times of medical or other emergencies would be in a position to use those funds, and there would be no alternative.
SHERWOODWell, part of the problem is if you look at the history of it has been -- I think the Republican Party said a lot more than what I have, that the constituent service fund, which used to be $40,000, which you could raise, was raised to 80,000. And it's just not that clear that a senior citizen's heating bill was paid or that the water was stopped from being cut off because a constituent service fund gave you a check.
NNAMDIBegin to attract it, huh?
SHERWOODSo I think the question -- you can spend that money on virtually anything, and I think the council members do. So maybe they will be tightening up of what you can spend the money for.
NNAMDIYou don't think they'll eliminate them completely?
SHERWOODI don't think so.
SHERWOODYeah. I think, in Chicago, the 50 council members, they get like a million dollars a year to dispense.
DAVISCongress gets two trillion a year to dispense. When we used to do earmarks, we didn't have constituent funds.
SHERWOODYou did earmarks, didn't you? You're guilty of going...
DAVISWoodrow Wilson Bridge was my biggest. We're proud of that.
SHERWOODThank you. You know, I haven't been on the new Wilson Bridge.
SHERWOODI can see it from my apartment building, but I have yet to ride on it.
NNAMDICongressman Davis, Republicans run the table -- we'll talk about that. Republicans run the table in Virginia right now, except for one place, the Virginia Senate, which Democrats are hanging onto by a thread. Legislative elections are set to go down on November 8th, a week from Tuesday. What do you make of your party's chances to capture the handful of seats they need to take the Virginia Senate? They just need to take, I guess, two seats.
DAVISYeah. Well, let me make a point. The state Senate until the 2007 election was really not a partisan divide. You couldn't tell partisanship in here when Mark Warner looked -- asked for his tax increases, it carried Republicans and Democrats in the state Senate. It was -- they worked collegially. In 2007, Tim Kaine decided we're going to take this for one purpose, redistricting. And so they took the state Senate. They spent millions of dollars just to -- they spent, you know, $2 million a pop on some of these state Senate races in Northern Virginia, going on network TV for a state Senate district.
SHERWOODThank you very much, from channel 4, we appreciate that.
DAVIS(unintelligible). Yeah. I hope you got the part of the bonus that year, because the citizens did, because what they got afterwards was a very polarized state Senate now, where everything is 22 to 18. On redistricting this year, the members of the delegation basically had a deal that preserved their seats, but it was, you know, a map that both parties had agreed to, and the state Senate wanted an additional Democratic - a minority district.
DAVISAnd so we don't even have that resolved at this point. Now, what's going to happen, I think, a couple of things have happened since 2007. 2007, President Bush was in office. His numbers were very, very low, 29 percent favorable, I think, on election day. It's above for Congress is today, but that's about the only thing it was above. And the Democrats had all the money. They control the governorship.
DAVISMoney pouring in across the country to try to take the state Senate so that they can put a check on Republicans in the redistricting cycle. As a result of that, Democrats picked up a number of state Senate seats and took control 21-19. They won a special later on to bring it to 22-18. And this year in redrawing the maps for the state Senate and state House, the Republicans redrew a permanent majority in the state House.
DAVISDemocrats couldn't redraw a permanent majority, just not enough Democrats in the state in most years, but they redrew the maps to try to maximize their advantage. Now, we come into this cycle where Democrats have drawn their maps for the Senate, but the Republicans having the money and President Obama in the White House, his numbers are very, very low in some of these key Senate districts.
DAVISIn fact, in one Senate district, one Senate Democrat running for re-election said he wouldn't even vote for President Obama next year. So I think the odds are -- you can see no Republican incumbent is really seriously challenged. We have one incumbent on an incumbent race in Southern Virginia. But my guess is on election night, the Republicans will probably take control of the state Senate.
NNAMDIWhat are the races that you think are going to make or break this election for either party?
DAVISWell, we have -- surprisingly, Republicans said if we can take one in Northern Virginia away from the Democrats, right now, they have, I think, three or four Democratic seats in play.
DAVISAnd the politics in the suburbs basically works this way, the further you get from D.C., the more Republican it gets. You move further from inner suburbs, which are more citified, to the outer suburbs or they call it the excerpts where the politics is a little more conservative. So you have Chuck Colgan, the longest serving member of the state Senate running for re-election out in Prince William County...
NNAMDIIn Prince William.
DAVIS...in a district the Democrats drew to maximize Democratic strength, but it's still Prince William County. That's a very close race. They thought, well, it wouldn't be a race, but it's turned into a very close race.
SHERWOODWhat would it mean if the Republicans capture the Senate and they have the House and McDonnell is playing a lot of national politics, what does it mean to have the Republicans totally in control?
DAVISWell, I think it means you'll get a transportation plan. I think the Republicans being accountable...
NNAMDIYou think so?
DAVISAbsolutely. They had one last time before Governor Kaine put his amendments on, it would have added billions to transportation coffers. Kaine's amendments got struck down by the court.
SHERWOODWell, it would affect the...
NNAMDIIf you agree or disagree, you can call us at...
NNAMDI...800-433-8850. If you think with the Republicans taking control of the Virginia state Senate...
DAVISWell, you'll have one party accountable.
SHERWOODHe's about to give the phone number
NNAMDIYou'll get a transportation plan. 800-433-8850. You can also send email to firstname.lastname@example.org. The phone number serving as a great interruption from time to time.
SHERWOODTim Kaine, George Allen, assuming they are the nominees. Would this election have any bearing on next year's election with Obama running?
DAVISNo. I don't think so.
SHERWOODIt's two different...
DAVISTwo different planets, two different turnout models. People forget President Obama carried Virginia by 232,000 votes. That's a lot of votes in this state. He had a bigger percentage margin in Virginia than he did in Ohio. And when you take a look at the demographics of the state, the fact that African-American turnouts spiked from, like, 23 percent of the electorate to 20 percent of the electorate. That's a straight-ticket ballot.
DAVISPresidential -- your politics with President Obama on the ticket are going to be tougher for Republicans. The state is, I think, very much in play at this point. It's not sure thing for the president. But he could still take the state, and my gut on this is as you walk into the Senate race, it's going to go pretty much like the presidential race.
SHERWOODIf the -- if Gov. McDonnell were -- he's the on the list of potential vice presidents, as virtually everyone is now. But it's...
DAVISTom, you and I aren't on it.
SHERWOODWell, I mean, people who count.
DAVISYou may be on our list.
SHERWOODPeople who count. But, I mean, if he were, I mean, that would significantly change...
DAVISOh, I think that's a slam dunk that would put Virginia. Governor's numbers, 70 percent approval rating right now, which is, in this environment, just outstanding. And I think that would put Virginia away and it probably re-elect (unintelligible)
SHERWOODAnd that's why Tim Kaine is doing well because people remember him as, quote, a "good governor," unquote.
DAVISWell, you -- but remember, his last year he was part-time governor 'cause he was chairman of the Democratic National Committee.
SHERWOOD(unintelligible) pushing that he went off to be Democratic National Committee chairman.
DAVISWell, Jim Gilmore had done the same for the Republicans, and Democrats hate him for that. So what's sauce for the goose is sauce for the gander. But I don't think it ever helps to have served two masters. And I think -- so Kaine left with good numbers. The state was in good shape and Tim Kaine's a very competent guy. But I think if there is any rap on him, it's the fact he was trying to do both jobs and he's so identified with the president that his fortunes are tied to the president to some extent.
SHERWOODWell, Virginia is one of the biggest...
NNAMDIWell, you've put in some time serving two masters so to speak. You ran the National Republican Campaign Committee. So you know the...
DAVISBut that's designed -- But that is designed, you know, for a member of Congress. Somebody has to do that. Usually officeholders don't serve that part. There is a difference. But I served a lot of masters, including my wife.
SHERWOODHere we go.
NNAMDIYou know the math pretty well and you know the maps when it comes to these maps. What's at stake in these state level elections? It's my understanding that Virginia still has to tackle -- you mentioned congressional redistricting and that this new general assembly will form the personnel on that debate.
DAVISThey will. And I think that the Republicans take the state Senate. My gut is that the map that was agreed to is off the table and that they will at least revisit it. I'm not smart enough to look ahead to say exactly what will happen, but Republicans will be in charge of drawing those districts at this point. Eight to three maps is not a bad map for Republicans if you make sure that's what the map is gonna be for the next, at least six, eight years. But, you know, we'll have to see.
DAVISLook, but the Republicans are gonna be accountable then for what happens. Right now, they can point fingers at each other, and that's what happened in transportation. So we'll see if they can deliver. Gov. McDonnell has shown himself to be a pretty able leader though -- not afraid to tackle tough issues, tough budget issues and the like. I think the voters give him a strong approval rating because of that.
SHERWOODCan I ask one national question?
SHERWOODYou are a member of the House, as you love to say. You -- so what was it, seven terms? Undefeated, unindicted -- I love that line. What's the statute of limitations on your term though...
DAVISIt ran out 30 days ago.
SHERWOODWhat about the serious issues? We're now down to the last few weeks before the special committee, the -- has to report on how to fix the deficit. Everyone's saying the Democrats have proposed things that are not gonna pass. Republicans are -- have proposed things that aren't gonna pass. What do you anticipate? Do you think that something will get done?
DAVISMy gut is that they'll keep the lights on, meaning they'll probably pass -- do a minimalist. The difficulties are the pressures from outside, from their coalition groups on the Republican and Democratic side, make it very difficult for the Democrats to meaningfully tackle entitlements and Republicans do tackle any kind of tax increase.
SHERWOODJust enough so they don't have to do the draconian cuts and military spending.
DAVISYeah. I mean, some people think they're draconian, some don't think they are. But I think Republicans certainly have a set of cuts they would prefer to what will happen under sequestering. Democrats seem to think, well, you know, sequestering is pretty good. It's half from defense and it doesn't hit our entitlement programs. So there could be a lot of jockeying around. What you have to remember about this super committee, this committee of 12, is these are pretty good members.
DAVISAnd their name is on this. And they'd like to come out with something. But they don't control the outcome. They can come up with something that could get rejected in the House or get rejected in the Senate. The rules are such that you don't need 60 votes in the Senate for this. So you can pass this on majority in the Senate, but if the House Republicans don't agree to it, it's going.
SHERWOODWhat would this -- I'm gonna ask a local question on this. Cuts in the federal government, cuts in Northern Virginia, both the government, the private industry that works with the government, same from Maryland, same from the District, are we due for a significant haircut in the job growth in this region because of any cuts in the federal government -- or just slowing down?
DAVISWell, I think -- well, yeah, it'll be a slow -- it'll be a haircut or would have, probably would have been. Right now, we're doing pretty well compared to the rest of the country. But you can't continue to borrow 40 cents on the dollar. This is what we've done in the last three years. Every dollar the government has spent, we've borrowed 40 cents. That's just unsustainable.
DAVISAnd if the political leadership doesn't wanna tackle the entitlement programs, which are the fastest-growing, they're gonna go after discretionary spending and that's what drives this region. And that's gonna have an economic impact.
NNAMDIWe're talking with Tom Davis. He was a member of the U.S. House of Representatives from 1995 to 2008. He's a Republican from Virginia, now director of federal government affairs at Deloitte LLP and vice chairman of the Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority. Tom Sherwood is our resident analyst. He's an NBC 4 reporter and a columnist for The Current Newspapers. Gentlemen, don your headphones, please because here is Hal in Fairfax, Va. Hal, you're on the air. Go ahead, please.
HALThank you for taking my call, Kojo. I don't agree with the congressman's assessment that if the Republicans take over in both Houses, that that would be good for Northern Virginia. Their power basis is down, not up. And I don't believe that they would have any kind of inclination to really do much of anything for Northern Virginia other than extract as much tax money as they can from us to pay their own error.
NNAMDIThe congressman specifically said that he thinks you'll get a transportation bill out of it. And you don’t think there will be?
HALNo. I just don't believe that they will do anything to assist us. I don't think that they...
DAVISWell, stay on a minute. Let me respond and I'm gonna give you a chance to respond. I don't wanna just -- but, look, when Gov. McDonnell came in, the first thing he did is he looked up the standards equality, and he added money to Northern Virginia, that Cain had decided he was going to send down stake for education. It added tens of millions of dollars to Fairfax's budget and Prince William County's budget. That was the first thing he did, straightening out what the Cain administration had done prior.
DAVISThe transportation last time -- Republicans actually had some tax increases. We lost two members over voting for tax increases for transportation when Democrats beat them up on that issue. I think a unified approach -- it's unfortunately become so partisan that whatever Republicans want Democrats don't want and vice versa.
DAVISThat having one party accountable will at least give the voters, at that point, something to look at and judge. Right now, they're not sure who to blame for the dysfunction. It is true that you -- the Republicans perform better downstate than they do in Northern Virginia.
NNAMDIAnd Hal implies that because of that they don't really care about what happens in Northern Virginia.
DAVISWell, Bob McDonnell grew up in Fairfax, and they also recognize we have a lot of seats. We pick up an additional seat this time. There will be some Republicans for Northern Virginia. To be in the majority, you have to pay attention to that. But who's the party talking about taxing the rich? And where did the rich live in this state? They live in Northern Virginia so you can look at that as well.
NNAMDIHal, thank you so much.
DAVISLet's see if Hal wants to follow up. But I'll just give you some food for thought on that.
NNAMDIHe's taking over as the moderator of the broadcast.
DAVISSorry about that.
NNAMDIOkay. Hal, go ahead.
HALWell, no, no. I 'm not inclined to disagree with any of that, but, of course, I just believe -- and I think he made my point when he said things are so partisan. I just believe -- especially with the way things are now, especially in an election year coming up, I just really do not see that, again, that they have any inclination to cooperate with people. That -- and the governor...
NNAMDIThey'll be cooperating with one another in this case, and that's the point, I guess, the congressman is making. Hal, we do have to move on because time is short.
NNAMDIYou still hold an important position on the board of our region's airport authority, which is slugging its way through an epic fight to build out Metro to Dulles Airport. Reports surfacing in the past couple of weeks that the cost of the project is soaring. Where do you see the debate about rail to Dulles heading in the long run?
DAVISWell, look, if you don't do it now, it's gonna be probably much more difficult in the future. I say that because interest rates are at a -- just an all-time low. And in financing this project, it keeps it down. It's not a great formula. A lot of the funding falls off on the ratepayers, the toll payers along the road. We're not getting much federal help on phase two. We did with phase one, but there's not much federal money available.
DAVISWe're gonna figure out a way to do this thing. There's been a lot of disagreements over what the procurement should look like. Should you have a project labor agreement where the station location? But think at the end of the day, the members of the authority and the local governments are gonna come together because we know this is our only opportunity to do this.
NNAMDIHere is Tim in Fairfax, Va. Tim, you’re on the air. Go ahead, please.
TIMThanks, Kojo. Congressman Davis, I'm just curious to see if you have the opinion that I am that the moderate Republican -- and there should be a person serving in Congress at this point -- is about as extinct as a dodo bird? You were that person and for that reason I voted for you every chance I got, although I am a registered Democrat because I was of the opinion that you were the person that crossed partisan lines and got things done.
TIMBut I don't see such an individual in Congress at this point. I see the Republican Party is as a obstructionist. I see the Republican Party epitomizing a comment, an op-ed piece in The Sunday Post -- don't just do something, stand there. We're not getting anywhere. We are locked up. We've started this election cycle way earlier than I can ever remember a presidential cycle starting.
TIMAnd I'm just looking at what appears to be another 12 or 14 months of intransigence. We're not gonna get to anyplace. We're gonna hurt ourselves to a point where I don't see us being able to recover. So just curious if there are any moderate Republicans left in Congress right now. And I'll take my answer off the air.
DAVISWell, yeah, of course, there are. In fact, I'm president of what's called Main Street Republicans. We've got a 45 members, people ranging from Frank Wolf to Pat Tiberi in Ohio to Steve LaTourette in Ohio. It tends to be a little more northeastern oriented on that. But the reality is there are not a lot of moderates in either party. When you take a look at what has happened, the Blue Dogs got wiped out in the last midterm.
DAVISNational Journal, last year, as they looked at the voter ratings of -- votes in the Senate, found that the most liberal Republican was more conservative than the most conservative Democrat. Parties are now what we call ideologically sorted and that is enhanced by the fact that the media now is kind of sorted. You get the MSNBC versus Fox. You get the Internet, which has no filters.
DAVISAnd then campaign finance -- the parties have been completely neutered by campaign finance laws and resulted in Supreme Court's decisions in Citizens United. Most of the money is now spent by interests groups, not parties. Interests groups are not centering forces in politics the way parties are. So you have some macro forces that are basically driving the polarization we're seeing, but it's in both parties.
SHERWOODBut is that a phase or are we gonna forward and this is gonna sort itself out...
SHERWOOD...because, it is -- it does seem to be fractured in every way possible. And I don't see any end-game. I use to see the Tea Party people rise up. You see the Occupy Wall Street people rise up. You see all kinds of people in between those two groups. No one seems happy with where we are and no one seems to have the solution.
DAVISWell, let me -- I think one of the reasons is you take a look at what has government accomplished over the last decade. We had two failed wars. Well, certainly it didn't meet the expectations. You've had Katrina. You've had the economic meltdown, stagnant wages. People looked at...
DAVISYeah. People are looking at government like it's completely dysfunctional. And I think that makes the pitch from the extremes sometimes a little more enticing to voters. We've tried the political establishment. So one of the reasons, I think, Romney is the establishment candidate, in a pretty weak feel, I think, you'd have to say, he hasn't been able to get about 25 -- above 25, 30 percent and put this thing away. People are really, really alienated from the government, and they're looking around.
SHERWOODIs this a phase or is this gonna be long term?
DAVISThat's a good question. I hope it's a phase. I think it's a phase. Leadership can make it a phase. But somebody somewhere is gonna have to step across the line and offer a hand to the other side and try to entice them to work together.
SHERWOODI just remember the times when we're saying that there's...
NNAMDISpeaking of Romney, which of the parties' candidates do you think -- is Romney has the best chance of beating Barack Obama in Virginia?
DAVISWell, he does because he has the fewest lies on him and he has the -- I mean, he does not have the negatives that some of the others do, either ideologically or regionally or whatever. Romney may not be the most exciting Republican to some people. He may give a fireside chat and the fire goes out. But at least, if he makes President Obama the issue, and if that's the issue, people will vote Republican.
SHERWOODAnd he's the only...
DAVISIf the Republicans were the issue, then, Obama wins.
SHERWOODAnd Obama is -- that's the only candidate that the Obama people seem to really worry about.
DAVISWell, you'd worry about Huntsman if he get -- ever gets nominated. I mean, he...
SHERWOODSo he's still in the race?
NNAMDIDo you yet have a horse?
DAVISAt New Hampshire, he's double down...
SHERWOODOh, that's right. He's double down there, and Michele Bachmann is double down, triple down, quadruple down in Iowa.
DAVISYeah. Look, this is a volatile situation. You just look at who the flavor of the month of candidates have been for Republicans over the last few months and where are they now.
SHERWOODWhat do you think about 999?
DAVISThat's a good price of pizza.
NNAMDIDo you have an order?
DAVISI don't think it's much of a program. Not gonna solve the deficit issue. I mean, we're all grownups here, we three. I don't think we...
NNAMDIDo you have a horse in this race yet?
DAVISI don't have a horse in the race, but, you know, I'm a Republican.
NNAMDII mean, a horse in the Republican race yet.
SHERWOODHe hasn't endorsed anyone. Have you given any money to anyone?
DAVISI gave -- I did something for Huntsman early on when he did something here in Washington. I may do something down the road for whoever, you know, I'm moderate. I tend to -- be able to...
SHERWOODRomney was at Northern Virginia, wasn't he, recently?
DAVISHe was the past week.
SHERWOODDid you go?
DAVISI did not go. I was working all day, unfortunately.
NNAMDITom Davis, he works as vice chairman of the Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority, director of federal government affairs at Deloitte LLP, and he used to work as a member of the U.S. House of Representatives from 1995 to 2008. Congressman Davis, always a pleasure.
SHERWOODWe didn't ask him about the D.C. scandals. So -- he is part of the control -- his control board is what -- forgot to sit down...
NNAMDIOh, yeah, you wanted to talk about that. I even made a note about that, that the scandals in the District of Columbia, on the one hand, you were a part of the establishment of the control board in Washington, D.C. We're having a lot of scandals right now. Nevertheless, Marc Fisher of The Washington Post wrote this past week that it hasn't hampered investment or enthusiasm about investment in the District. We seem to be having...
NNAMDI...the best and worst of both worlds.
DAVISThese were sideshows. The economic forces that were started with the control board continued with Tony Williams.
SHERWOODAnd are accelerating.
DAVISAnd accelerated up. Fenty didn't get in the way. He -- the mayor's not -- they're not getting in the way of these issues at this point. And as a result of that, this city is really becoming one of the envies in the country in terms of its economic development, its redevelopment, its tax base. And take a look at its budget comparing with other cities.
SHERWOODThe three scandals we have are not involved with economics of the city. They're campaign finance, things like that and misspending of government money, not tens of millions and regular monies. We're good. But maybe we'll get through all that, too, and...
DAVISIt's a great city.
NNAMDIGood to see you.
DAVISThank you. Thanks, Kojo.
NNAMDIYou're listening to the Politics Hour. Tom Sherwood is our resident analyst. He is an NBC 4 reporter and a columnist for The Current Newspapers. Glenn Ivey, taking aim at Donna Edwards in the Maryland congressional fight for the 4th District. Of course, with redistricting, Donna Edwards is losing parts of Montgomery County and gaining parts of Anne Arundel County, which tends to be more conservative.
NNAMDIGlenn Ivey has considered a run at this job before he considered a run for the county executive jobs before. And he now -- he says he's considering this again. What do you think?
SHERWOODWell, I think it's more than considering. I mean, his press person says, you know, he's in. He's preparing now. So he has the -- what bothers me about it, I hate to be bring you back to the city, but, you know, Glenn Ivey is one of the attorneys involved in the...
NNAMDIHoward Brooks intern.
SHERWOODHe represents Howard Brooks, one of the alleged bagmen...
NNAMDIWho is a Prince George's County resident, I think. I think.
SHERWOODHe -- well, he has a house out there, yes. I never quite knew where people live these days. There are multiple places 'cause like everyone lives in an RV.
NNAMDIDo you have a picture of Howard Davis yet? Do you have a photo of Howard Davis, yet?
SHERWOODNot yet. Howard Brooks.
NNAMDIHoward Brooks. Why do I keep saying Howard Davis?
SHERWOODHoward Davis was just here.
NNAMDII got confused.
SHERWOODThat's fine. But -- so I think, you know, Glenn Ivey -- what I wanna know is why -- the Donna Edwards who -- she was here this last week. Was it last week?
NNAMDIYep, two weeks ago maybe.
SHERWOODWhy -- I mean, why is it that the leadership of the Maryland parties, the Democratic Party, have not -- like, standing up for her. She's -- she hasn't been any scandals that I'm aware of (word?) vote.
NNAMDIWell, let's ask our next guest.
SHERWOODIt's -- because remarkable -- Mike Miller, the state Senate leader, is not like particularly saying nice things about her, maybe not saying anything.
NNAMDIWell, because she opposed the leadership on the whole issue of redistricting.
SHERWOODYeah, but that was just more recently. But this -- but I just -- maybe we'll get some answers from our next guest.
NNAMDIJoining her in that opposition to the party's leadership redistricting plan was the president of the Montgomery County Council. She's a Democrat. Valerie Ervin joins us in studio. Valerie Ervin, good to see you again.
MS. VALERIE ERVINGood afternoon.
NNAMDIWhat do you think about the possible Donna Edwards-Glenn Ivey race and why the establishment doesn't seem to be enthusiastic about Donna Edwards?
ERVINWell, it's a great question. I think that Donna and a lot of other Democrats in the state were very surprised about how quickly Glenn Ivey announced that he was going to run. There is always been rumors about Glenn Ivey being interested in running for Congress, but I would hate to think that this was already a setup that clearly Donna Edwards, as a very independent-minded member of Congress.
ERVINAnd she has ruffled some feathers in the state since she's been in Congress. But she is a very powerful advocate on behalf of her constituents, I believe, in the state of Maryland. So we will have to see where this goes.
SHERWOODOther than the redistricting fight, which we just went through, what -- how has she ruffled the feathers? I mean, just -- maybe it's escaped me, maybe it's...
NNAMDIOf the party establishment. Of course, one will remember that during the debate over health care, Donna Edwards is a member or is an activist in the Progressive Caucus in Congress, was one of those who wanted...
ERVINWell, she ran up again Steny Hoyer on that issue.
ERVINAnd I don't think that was the only thing that she's done. I haven't been keeping track of all of them, but clearly, she is the kind of woman that people are very fearful of because she can't be controlled by the party establishment.
SHERWOODDid some of her district overlap your district? Tell me quite a bit.
ERVINAbsolutely. I was one of her constituents until the map just recently changed.
NNAMDIMontgomery County is on the cusp of a big-box bonanza. Costco wants to come to Wheaton. Wal-Mart wants to come to Aspen Hill. But you have proposed a plan that would require that these kinds of stores enter into community-benefits agreements with local civic associations. How would you describe the strings you're trying to attach to the deals that would bring these chains to the county? And what if no agreement is struck?
ERVINWell, clearly, I think this goes back to the concept that big-box retailers moving in to any jurisdictions raise red flags for the communities that they wanna locate in. Here in the District of Columbia, as you know, Wal-Mart is planning to open, I believe, four stores. And I know that there is something on the table at the City Council that regards big-box legislation. I have not seen the legislation from the D.C. Council; but my legislation simply does something, I believe, that's very simple.
ERVINIt gives the communities where Wal-Marts or Costcos or any big-box retailer wants to locate an opportunity to weigh in on how the building of this structure may or may not impact their community. And it has everything to do with local small businesses that may have to compete directly with the big-box store. It has to do with how large the store is or can be.
ERVINIt has to do with the environmental situation that can be created through large parking lots that create impervious surface. There are a lot of things that are in this bill that we hope to pass. It may not look the way it does today upon passage, but it already has five co-sponsors.
SHERWOODWould it require anything like moneys paid by Wal-Mart or Costco to community organizations, or is it just community amenities like redoing a park or something or keeping the lights down so they don't blind the people who live nearby and that type of thing?
ERVINThat kind of thing. We're not asking these big-box retailers to give anything back in terms of money or monetary benefits necessarily. But I think our legislation is very broad in the way that it was written. We don't anticipate that it will be the same way that you see it today when we actually pass it.
NNAMDIAs it is currently written, it would call for these stores to enter into legally binding community-benefits agreement with at least three recognized local civic associations or demonstrate that they have made a good-faith effort to do so. The agreement could include commitments on traffic mitigation, environmental protection or job training.
ERVINIt could include that, and that's what we're going to be discussing when the bill comes before the committee of jurisdiction. So there are a lot of business, local small business that are very concerned about big-box stores moving into their areas. But the county chambers of commerce and the larger establishment, business establishment in the county is fighting this bill tooth and nail.
ERVINAnd we're finding that the people who are supportive of the bills are the people who are living in these neighborhoods, especially small business, local business that are very concerned about being run out of business, especially in this economic climate.
NNAMDIIf you would like to weigh in on this conversation with Montgomery County Council president Valerie Ervin, call us at 800-433-8850. Or send email to email@example.com. You can send us a tweet, @kojoshow, or a comment at our website, kojoshow.org.
SHERWOODAre there any other segments of business in Montgomery County that are required to do community-benefits agreements?
ERVINNo. Not at this time. I know that there are a lot of community organizations, especially in an area that I represent in Wheaton, that are trying to put their own, sort of, community-benefit agreements together as it relates to different master plans that are being considered in the county. So communities are feeling like they need to be heard from more.
ERVINThere are processes right now in place in Montgomery County through the zoning ordinance where there was a big-box bill passed two councils ago that basically says if a retailer comes to the county and it has to be 125,000 square feet, they have to go through in the zoning code, that they have to, you know, there are limits to the size.
ERVINBut now, Wal-Marts and other retailers are coming to communities way smaller than that, like, 70,000 to 80,000 square feet. As a matter of fact, in Arlington County a week ago, that council passed a big-box zoning law at 50,000 square feet. So these communities are becoming very, very...
SHERWOODThe size of a big supermarket, really.
ERVINThey're the size of a big supermarket. So -- and plus, they're, you know, the bill that I am proposing is not for all retailers. It's for retailers that are of a certain size. And what we're gonna put in the bill is also -- I don't think it's in there now but to tighten it up about what kind of retailer specifically.
NNAMDIThe Washington Business Journal says, and I quote, "Ervin may have mentioned Home Depot and Target in her opening statement, but the measure is clearly aimed at Wal-Mart, which announced last month that it plans to open a 118,000-square-foot store." Is that gonna be large enough, do you think, in the county?
ERVINWell, we already have a Wal-Mart in Montgomery County. It's in Germantown. I'm not quite sure of the square footage of that.
NNAMDIWell, this is the site in Aspen Hill.
ERVINAnd the Aspen Hill, we don't even know if that's even gonna be -- come to fruition because they've got to go through a lot of zoning processes to get that passed. Wal-Mart, itself, has created, I think, its own problem with what they're perceiving the bill to be about them. The bill is never about Wal-Mart. It was big-box legislation. If you read it, it doesn't mention Wal-Mart by name.
ERVINBut I found out last night that we believe Wal-Mart is doing phone calls across Montgomery County, asking residents what they think about big-box legislation. So they are putting a lot of effort and a lot of time and money into making sure this bill does not pass. Obviously, they think it is about them.
NNAMDISo you don't -- you are saying that your bill is not specifically targeting Wal-Mart, but Wal-Mart, in its paranoia, seems to think that it is.
ERVINThey're very paranoid. They're clearly paranoid because of what's happening here in the District of Columbia. They're clearly paranoid that we have enough council members sign on as co-sponsors of this bill, that we can pass this legislation. They have told me, myself personally, that they've never signed a community-benefits agreement. They will sign a letter of intent, which they've done in cities like Chicago, but they will not sign on to a community-benefits agreement.
SHERWOODWe ought to be clear that it's not paranoid if people are really actually trying to affect your business. It's paranoid to think people are after it.
ERVINWell, I'm gonna tell you something. Wal-Mart is a big enough corporation in the world that a bill like this is not gonna prevent them from coming in to Montgomery County when Loudon County has one, Prince William, I think it is, Arlington...
SHERWOODThey all have community-benefits agreements?
ERVINThey all have them in their zoning code. They just recently -- all of them have passed these kinds of measures.
SHERWOODAre there any existing community-benefits agreements with a big-box store anywhere that you're aware of?
ERVINNot that I'm aware of. So I think this might be one of the first of its kind. But again, as I've said to people who have come to see me in my office that are very opposed to this legislation that we are very open to hearing from them, and we will try to work with the community and others.
NNAMDILet's hear from one such right now. Put on your headphones. Here is Nathan in Haymarket, Va. Nathan, your turn.
NATHANThanks for taking my call. Yeah, I live in Haymarket Virginia, and they're planning to put in a Wal-Mart pretty much 500 yards away from where I live right now. And I'm for it, not because I want a Wal-Mart in my neighborhood but because I'm against this kind of a legislation. I'm against people using the political process to prevent businesses from moving forward. My question for your guest is what makes it right to create privileges or protections for small businesses against big businesses?
NATHANAnd secondly, why can't communities just get together and cooperatively raise money to buy the land away from the developer if they don't want the Wal-Mart to go there? Use the market process instead of the political process. Political processes imply the use of violence. Thank you.
ERVINOkay. Well, I've never heard that political processes imply...
NNAMDIProcesses imply the use of violence.
ERVIN...the use of violence. But I look...
NNAMDIYou were making a lot of sense right up until then, Nathan. Could you care to explain that last part of your comment, political processes imply the use of violence? Nathan? He's gone.
SHERWOODI think he meant -- I think he just meant power, the government power. I don't think he meant violence. But that was a startling word.
ERVINWell, it's very interesting to me how people see this bill or perceive it because this is really about leveling the playing field for people like him, who's in a -- how did he say? -- 500 yards away from a proposed Wal-Mart store. He may be okay with that, but a lot of other people who are in that situation may not be. I think what this bill does, it opens the opportunity for the community to have some say because it will directly impact their standard of living.
SHERWOODWhat about your -- the general view that Virginia -- I'm sorry, Tom Davis is still here 'cause he used to talk about this when he was head of Fairfax County -- that Virginia is welcoming to business, Maryland is not, that the -- you want to -- Montgomery County passed your pro-peace thing, spend money on this -- on the country, not the wars, things like that? But that taking it all together, just lumped together, that Maryland is anti-business, Virginia is welcoming. And is that...
ERVINWell, I don't actually...
SHERWOOD...is that a canard?
ERVINI don't see it that way, but there are people in the business community who see it that way. And I think there's a lot of fear that's been drummed up in Montgomery County since the economy went south in 2008. I cannot see a Wal-Mart or any other big-box retailer who wants to move into Montgomery County, that this bill will prevent that from happening. Montgomery County has been and is open to business.
ERVINAnd I think it's very silly, in some ways, to think that some legislation that will be passed by the county council that levels the playing field for local small business and community members that says, we're not saying Wal-Marts or any of these other big-box stores should not be welcome to come to Montgomery County.
NNAMDIAllow me to look at that issue another way -- in reverse, if you will. What would Montgomery County lose if big-box stores simply refuse to come?
ERVINNot much, in my estimation.
ERVINLook, jobs for $8.25 an hour with no benefits? If you wanna talk about Wal-Mart, just this past week they announced that they would no longer provide benefits to their part-time employees, but -- health benefits. But the majority of their employees -- and everyone knows -- are part-time workers. To live in Montgomery County is very expensive. You cannot find rental, housing or any kind of housing making $8.25 an hour. Our living wage is almost 11 and a quarter. So I'm just saying if that's...
NNAMDIMontgomery County is fine without big-box stores is what you seem to be saying.
ERVINI don't -- I think that it will not affect the business climate one way or the other, whether more big-box operators come into Montgomery County or not.
NNAMDIHeadphones again, please, 'cause here is Dave in Gaithersburg, Md. Dave, you're on the air. Go ahead, please.
DAVEThank you so much for taking my call. I do agree with your -- with the lady. I have to say that, as a small business owner, and I mean small -- I have seven employees -- I could barely afford benefits or just to pay their taxes, just to stay, you know, competitive in the remodeling industry that I'm in. Everybody wants something for less because the economy has gone down. My taxes, my mortgage, my insurance rates, all those things, they keep increasing, but I cannot sell the work that I need to do.
DAVEMy point would be that these big, gigantic stores and these big, gigantic corporations, they do not employ the majority of the people in this country. Small businesses like mine do. My question to the panel would be when is somebody gonna stand up for all small businesses? We don't have lobbyists in Washington. We don't have lobbyists within the state. Nobody gives a damn about what is going on with our tiny, little businesses, these little micro businesses that employ eight, 10, 12 people. But that is the majority of the people that are employed.
DAVEEven NPR with, you know, with their substantial, you know, people that work for them are a small business, as, you know, described by the, you know, the federal government as to what a small business is. So...
NNAMDIDave, here is Valerie Ervin.
ERVINI really appreciate that call because I think that's pretty much the sentiment of the people that we've been hearing from prior to my sponsoring this legislation, that there is more fear out there among the local small business owners that these big-box retailers moving into these neighborhoods really are having a very profound impact on their ability to stay open. And they can buy products for, you know, very little money.
ERVINAnd the other thing I haven't said is that -- you know, let's talk about Wal-Mart for a second again. There are very good retailers right now which are unionized. They have unionized employees -- like Safeway and Giant and Shoppers Food -- who are able to pay their employees a very decent salary and benefits. And those people can live in the county, pay taxes and, you know, be good citizens. These people also have a very big fear of big-box legislation or big-box retailers coming in because their jobs are at stake as well.
NNAMDIDave, thank you for your call.
SHERWOODWhy not ban big boxes if they are a threat to the economy as it exists? Why not ban them?
ERVINI don't think that that is a position that I'd like to take. What I'd like to say is wouldn't it be better if the retailers that wanted to come into the county sat down with the neighborhoods and the people that they're going to have impact on and come to some agreements on what they would like to see done? There's no reason why we can't work together. I don't think this is an anti-business bill. I don't think it's an anti-big box bill. I think it's a bill that says, let's level the playing field for all the people who will be impacted by the -- by these stores coming into the District.
NNAMDIWell, Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell has started making noises this week about luring one of Montgomery County's biggest employees over to his side of the river -- Lockheed Martin. He said yesterday that Maryland is unfriendly to business. How would you respond?
ERVINI think it's ridiculous. And if he wants to lure Lockheed Martin because the council was about to pass a...
NNAMDIA peace resolution...
ERVIN...a peace resolution, which is...
NNAMDI...calling on Congress to spend less on defense, and Lockheed Martin didn't like that at all.
ERVIN...a non-binding peace resolution that just basically laid out for our residents that we wanted to put it on record that we believe that the federal government should take another look at how they prioritize spending. That's all that resolution said. So for Lockheed Martin to put pressure on members of the Montgomery County Council to the -- to this resolution, to me, was very interesting. Something like that has never happened. And so they're not...
NNAMDIWell, their argument is we're a defense contractor. What business do you have speaking out on national issues that would cause us to lose part of our business and you to lose some jobs in the county?
ERVINSeriously, if anybody really believes that Lockheed Martin is going to lose any jobs because members of the Montgomery County Council weighed in on a peace resolution, I think, is kind of ridiculous.
SHERWOODWasn't it Takoma Park that was one of the first in the nation?
NNAMDIThe nuclear freeze?
SHERWOODThe nuclear-free zone was one of the first in the nation for those?
ERVINIt absolutely was.
SHERWOODAgain, I think it goes back to the larger picture that people want to know if we're moving to a period of time where Montgomery County and some say the District of Columbia Council are starting to edge up on the more liberal issues of social policy and that it comes off as anti-business. And Lockheed may decide it wants to be in a more friendly place, like Northrop Grumman chose Virginia over Maryland. And...
SHERWOOD...exacted some money in order to stay.
ERVINAbsolutely. They were never gonna come to Montgomery County.
SHERWOODIt's been business politics.
ERVINBut I'll tell you this. The actions of the Montgomery County Council have had nothing to do with some of these decisions by major corporations, large corporations, to move to Virginia. I think there are a whole lot of other reasons why that is happening. And nine members of the Montgomery County Council, I can assure you, had very little to do with those decisions.
NNAMDII'm afraid we're just about out of time. Valerie Ervin is the president of the Montgomery County Council. She's a Democrat. Thank you so much for joining us.
NNAMDIAnd we got a tweet at kojoshow. "Get to the important news. Did Tom Sherwood ended up -- end up needing a D.C. flag tattoo?"
SHERWOODDid we get $5,000 of contribution?
NNAMDILast week, during our membership campaign, Tom Sherwood promised that if we got an individual contribution of $5,000, he would get a D.C. flag tattoo. And we did make our goal during that hour. And so, @TomReegan (sp?), who sent the tweet, you will be unhappy to know...
SHERWOODNo. I won't say $5,000 gifts. I'll give another week. Somebody can still give it.
NNAMDIYou will be unhappy to know that that hasn't happened so far, Tom Reegan.
SHERWOODOne more week.
NNAMDIBut if it happens during the course of the next week, you get to decide where Tom Sherwood will have that tattoo placed.
SHERWOODAnd my son said he'd give $2,500 to help.
NNAMDITom Sherwood is our resident analyst. He's an NBC4 reporter and a columnist for The Current Newspapers whose staycation ends right now. I'm Kojo Nnamdi.
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