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.
After a shift in the power balance, Virginia politicians jockey for new leadership positions. Prince George’s County lawmakers table a proposal to ban slots. And D.C.’s government locks horns with Congress over local autonomy — again. 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
- Benjamin Cardin U.S. Senator, D-Maryland
- Jim Graham Member, D.C. Council (D-Ward 1); Chairman, Committee on Human Services
Politics Hour Extra
D.C. Councilmember Jim Graham says that in his opinion, the D.C. Department of Youth Rehabilitation Services is in crisis. “A substantial reason why it is in crisis is because our juvenile crime system is in crisis,” Graham said. He also addressed questions about why so many people in DYRS services are over 18 years old, and why there is such a high recidivism rate among those who go through DYRS programs:
MR. KOJO NNAMDIFrom WAMU 88.5 at American University in Washington, welcome to "The Politics Hour," starring Tom Sherwood. Tom Sherwood is our resident analyst. He's an NBC 4 reporter and a columnist for the Current Newspapers. Hi, Tom.
MR. TOM SHERWOODHello. You know, it's Dallas week.
SHERWOODNo one gives a darn.
NNAMDIWell, because the Washington Redskins aren't doing so well, and nobody expects them to beat Dallas, except me.
SHERWOODWell, that's the deal. They are so against the grain, they let every wimpy team in the country to beat them.
SHERWOODSo this is a chance for them to win one and shock everyone.
NNAMDIThey're going to beat Dallas. Following the example of his mentor, Tom Sherwood, former mayor, now councilmember Marion Barry is now tweeting.
NNAMDIBu then so is Mark Plotkin. This could be the beginning of the end for Twitter. Are you the one who advised Mayor Barry to start tweeting?
NNAMDIAre you following his tweets?
SHERWOODWell, he tweeted something about me being uncle of his, you know, being Uncle Tom.
NNAMDIOh, I remember he...
SHERWOODHe thinks that's so funny.
NNAMDIThat was his nickname for you for many years.
SHERWOODHe's done that for many years.
SHERWOODBut in the Twitter world, no one had ever heard that. So I had to confirm that, yes, that's what he called me forever. But I still don't -- until I see him -- I have seen him fumble with his iPhone. So I want to see him tweet something that, in fact, he's doing it.
NNAMDIBut you are going to follow him once he starts actually tweeting things.
SHERWOODWell, I already followed the name @marionbarryjr -- is that what it is? Whatever it is.
NNAMDIIt is indeed. In the same way that I follow @tomsherwood. In today's Washington Post, the report on House Oversight and Government Reform Chairman Darrell Issa vowed to keep pressing for budget autonomy after city leaders rejected the deal he offered where we would have more budget autonomy in response for the city not being allowed to spend its own funding for abortions for poor women. That was a nonstarter for the city. But Congressman Issa says, well, the other Republicans wanted it, so I had to go along with it.
SHERWOODYou know, Darrell Issa is really trying, I think, to work with the city, although it'd be nice if the members of Congress simply would recognize us as other -- as Americans and let us run our affairs like other Americans run theirs. But, you know, it is in the Constitution, that full legislative authority. But Darrell Issa sounds like he didn't want to add the abortion prohibition but had to because the Republicans in the House.
SHERWOODBut, you know, steps are being made, and he's being very conciliatory going forward. He even told NBC a week or so ago that he still wants to figure out a way to do the Tom Davis deal to allow us to have a real vote in the House. And how that's going to work, I don't know, but I think that the city is always a victim of the national politics. This was another case.
NNAMDILet's see if our guest in studio wants to comment on this even before we intro him.
SEN. BENJAMIN CARDINWell, your, I think -- Tom, I think you have a good point. But I tell you, leadership is about standing up to your party when they're wrong, and that's just wrong. And it's time that more members of Congress vote the right way on allowing the people of the District to control their own government. I strongly support giving the District that power, as well as having full representation in the United States Congress, both the House and the Senate. To me, that's not just the right thing to do. It's a basic human rights issue.
NNAMDIThat's our guest to be, Sen. Benjamin Cardin. He's a member of the United States Senate. He's a Democrat from Maryland. And if you have questions or comments for him, I would advise you to start calling right now, 800-433-8850, or go to our website, kojoshow.org, send us a tweet, @kojoshow, or email to firstname.lastname@example.org. Meanwhile, Tom Sherwood, Wal-Mart faced with opening four stores in the District of Columbia.
NNAMDIAnd some opposition to opening them have now decided, hey, we're going to open six stores in the District of Columbia, which pleases the mayor who wanted the store at Skyland, in Southeast Washington. And there -- it's going to be yet another store. What do you make of this?
SHERWOODWell, you know, the mayor did want Skyline -- Skyland because Skyland is a terrific shop -- open shopping center that needs to be redeveloped, serve both not only the people in east of the river but people in Prince George's County. It will bring tax dollars, sales tax dollars into the city. I will be surprised if Wal-Mart ends up opening six stores. I believe there are some on East Capitol St.
SHERWOODThere's some housing issues that they're not sure they're going to get around, some zoning issues. So it may be that they've added these two, but when they finally build them, there won't be six. It might be more like four, maybe five.
NNAMDISo you think the strategy is let's up the ante. And in the final analysis, we may end up with four stores?
SHERWOODWell, if the mayor calls you and says he calls the head of Wal-Mart and says I really would like one of those stores at Skyland. This is a long-term project that Mayor Williams started before Adrian Fenty. I think Wal-Mart would listen. And, you know, they've gotten approval -- all the zoning approvals on Georgia Ave., near Missouri. So I think Wal-Mart, you know, it's a smart company.
SHERWOODIt's saying it's going to pay prevailing wages. You know, that some communities and some labor worries about what they're going to pay and whether there will be a community benefits agreement. But all that seems to be -- Wal-Mart seems to be moving on the fast track. Sen. Cardin, the issue always seems to be with Wal-Mart, whether or not it's going to be disruptive to community, culture as we know it, whether or not it's going to disrupt smaller businesses, whether or not it's going to cause more traffic and the like. What is your thinking about it because...
CARDINWell, I think this is progress. I understand the concerns of local communities, but local communities do want full-service stores. We want to help our small businesses. We want to support our small businesses. I just got behind an effort encouraging people on Saturday to shop at small businesses and community businesses. I think we should really help them along. But communities do need full-service stores.
SHERWOODAnd they're going to have grocery stores. This is not just your 88 pairs of socks all banded together for 2.98. It's going to be real grocery stores in parts of the town where...
SHERWOOD..there are going to be real places where people need food at good prices.
NNAMDIAnd, Tom, I haven't had the opportunity to talk to you about what happened to the owner of Uniontown in Southeast Washington, the restaurant and bar that so many of the residents of the Anacostia area look forward to coming and enjoy. The owner, over the course of the past week, it was reported was busted for an alleged cocaine deal or alleged to be involved in a cocaine deal. But a lot of people showed up at Uniontown on Monday night to show support, not necessarily for the owner but for the existence of Uniontown.
SHERWOODYes. It's a nice bar, a little bar and restaurant that's open. You know, it's not a good business practice to have bails of cocaine delivered to your home.
NNAMDIWell, this was delivered to the office of the owner...
SHERWOODI'm sorry -- the office. Excuse me, office.
NNAMDI...and a lot of Anacostia residents pointed out that that office happened to be in Maryland and not in the District of Columbia.
SHERWOODWell, oh well. If I had my way, I'd keep all cocaine outside of the city, and Maryland will be a fine place for it. Anywhere, (unintelligible).
CARDINNow, wait a minute, wait a minute.
NNAMDII knew this will get objection...
CARDINWait a minute.
SHERWOODBut, you know, it's unfortunate -- Anacostia is really -- as, like they say in the developing world, really starting to happen.
SHERWOODA lot of developers have bought land along Martin Luther King, Good Hope Rd. and other places. People are starting to buy the homes. People -- and if I were 20 years younger, I would move to Anacostia.
NNAMDIBut you just moved to Southwest Washington.
SHERWOODThat was four years ago.
NNAMDIIt was four years ago?
NNAMDIIt seems just...
NNAMDI...like yesterday. Tom Sherwood (unintelligible).
SHERWOODAnacostia -- Uniontown, of course, the name of the bar is what Anacostia used to be called.
NNAMDIYes, correct, correct. So there's some history there. We'll have to see how that all turns out. Sen. Cardin, all this while we've been told that members of Congress were working up against the mother of all shot clocks that if the super committee tasked with reducing our debt didn't come up with a deal by Thanksgiving, there would be severe consequences -- automatic across-the-board spending cuts.
NNAMDIBut Washington Post reporting today that not only is the super committee not anywhere near a deal, that there won't necessarily be many consequences for them for not striking one by next week. How do you see it?
CARDINWell, Kojo, first, I hope they do strike an agreement that's broad and big and gets us the $4 trillion type of deficit reduction over the next 10 years and does it in a balanced way and allows us to get job growth. I think that is unlikely to happen. What we're hearing is that if they're able to reach an agreement, it will be a far more modest proposal than what we need in order to manage our deficit.
CARDINThe main problem appears to be the Republicans' reluctance as to put revenues on the table. I know that they've talked about it, but they used an assumption that basically means we're not going to have the revenue we need to pay our bills. We're prepared to do what we need to get this done. Now, if it doesn't happen, if it doesn't happen, nothing happens immediately. Sequestration cases...
NNAMDIYeah, draconian cuts don't come until...
NNAMDI...January of 2013.
CARDINSo we have time. And we'll go back to our committees, and our committees will work. And I'm one who believes that Democrats and Republicans have to work together to deal with the problems of this country. We can't just put everything on hold until November of next year. We've got to start dealing with these issues.
NNAMDIThis morning, I read in The New York Times that there's a group of members of the House who have been getting together across party lines for a weekly bad breakfast apparently...
NNAMDI...in which they're trying -- but that's just an indicator of how difficult it is to cross party lines. It's easy to say Democrats and Republicans have to work together. But how likely is it?
CARDINWell, I think in the Senate, we have -- we're friends, Democrats and Republicans. We talk frequently. There's about 150 members of Congress on both sides of the aisle that are prepared to say, look, we are willing to make tough decisions. For Republicans, that means we're willing to put real revenues on the table, real revenues. For the Democrats, it means that we've got to get some of our spending under control in areas that we fought for more spending.
CARDINSo we're going to have to do both in order to bring the budget into order but more importantly to give confidence to the American people that our political system will work.
SHERWOODI read something in The Wall Street Journal -- I think it was The Wall Street Journal, someone saying that the danger is that the members of Congress are afraid of their doing more job protecting themselves than doing this necessary budget work when you really do need to have some people risk their re-elections to get to where you need to go.
CARDINYou know, I happen to think if we get this done, it will be good politics. I think voters will stand up and say hooray if the system works and we get something done. I think those of us who are on the ballot next year, one of the concerns is going to be raised, well, you know, this -- you're not -- it's not working. We've got to change it.
SHERWOODWhat did you do?
CARDINYeah, right. So I think we'd be better off politically getting the job done.
SHERWOODEighty-eight percent of independent vote -- this is a new Marist poll. Eighty-eight percent of independent voters, 84 percent of Republicans nationwide and 82 percent of Democrats, essentially everybody, doesn't like what Congress is doing. You can't fall any lower.
SHERWOODMaybe you can.
CARDINNo. I understand the numbers, and a good part of this is the fact that people are really concerned. They're concerned about their jobs. They're concerned about their homes. They're concerned about their children's future. We've got to restore confidence. And one way to do that is to that, to get things done, give predictability. I'm convinced that our economy could take off if everyone knew the ground rules.
SHERWOODIs the debt ceiling -- we had a big drop in the stock market after the debt ceiling debacle. Do we see that the Wall Street reacting seriously and negatively if this is not reached by next week?
CARDINI don't think so. I think that damage has already happened. I think the -- as pointed out by Kojo in the papers, if we don't act by Monday or Wednesday, nothing really happens. We have another year in order to try to work out things before sequestration.
NNAMDIBut let's say something does happen, and this trigger goes into effect and these automatic cuts start slashing spending across the board. How would a process like that affect Maryland and the Washington region as a whole, not to mention that it would have cuts in health and retirement programs, with some Democrats at least considered to be sacred cows?
SHERWOODYeah. And before -- the (unintelligible) trade is holding a meeting next Wednesday on this very subject because this region is really nervous.
CARDINWell, no. Any across-the-board cut would be, I think, irresponsible and something we need to avoid. It's true on the -- from the government workers' point of view, asked to do more with less. It's true on programs that are critically important to America's future -- the young people, the Head Start programs, the educational programs, the health care programs. It's also true on the Medicare system. Although it doesn't affect the beneficiaries, it would affect the system generally, and that type of across-the-board cut would be irresponsible.
CARDINAnd, quite frankly, it would be the wrong message for our national defense on the defense budget. If we need to cut our national defense -- and I think there are ways we can do it -- we need to be selective, but not across the board. Across the board is not the way (unintelligible).
NNAMDIOur guest is Sen. Ben Cardin of Maryland. He's a Democrat. We're taking your calls at 800-433-8850. Tom?
SHERWOODI want to go -- and part of this -- I want to go back to -- can we go back to small business? I think that the...
NNAMDISmall Business Saturday is Nov. 26, a week from Saturday.
SHERWOODIt's the day after Black Friday, is that right?
NNAMDIRight. Go ahead.
SHERWOODWhat does that mean -- small business, I think, technically is, like, any business under $3 million a year in revenues or something like that?
CARDINWell, there's different definitions for different purposes.
SHERWOODBut this is -- what does that really mean? Are you supposed to go to not a chain store or the five gods of small business?
CARDINWell, you know, I -- we're not defining it up. I've been part of this effort to get Americans to shop a day after the so-called busiest shopping day Friday, to go out and help your small businesses on Saturday. I think people know what the small businesses are. They're the neighborhood stores, the restaurants, the retail establishments. Those are -- they're in the community. They're not part of national chains. They're not part of the mega corporations that are out there. And we want to keep those types of businesses viable.
CARDINQuite frankly, small businesses is the growth engine of America. More new jobs are created in small businesses than large businesses. And more innovation comes out of small businesses on how to get things done. So it's not only the sentimental value of helping businesses in our community. It's also how our economic growth takes place in this country.
NNAMDIAnd no, Tom, your bookie would not be considered a small business in this situation.
SHERWOODI don't because they -- and any illegal booking.
NNAMDICongress passed up spending bill yesterday. They basically put the government on a diet. But some advocates for the Chesapeake Bay, for example, said there are losers in this process that the approach favored, programs that funnel cash directly to voters, and the things, like environmental programs, got hit hard. How do you see it?
CARDINWell, you know, we're operating under basically a freeze. And when you are facing those types of circumstances, no one is happy, and top-priority decisions have to be made. The Obama administration has been -- has made the protection of the Bay a priority. I've made that priority. We are moving forward on our programs. I've been at several events just recently, adding precious acres to protection on the eastern shore of Maryland, dealing with a lot of the fundamental programs that protect our Bay.
CARDINI was in Anacostia. We've opened with the mayor and the county exec and the governor when we opened up the new Riverwalk, which connects Washington and Prince George's County. Those are really positive things that are helping the Chesapeake Bay. We are reclaiming the Anacostia River. So there's a lot of really good things happening, but the budget is a very tough budget. It's a freeze, and a freeze is tough.
CARDINWhat I'm concerned about is there's still some that entered in -- when we reached disagreement now trying to change the rules and cut it more. It's time for us to give some predictability to our agencies so they can do their work.
SHERWOODI'm a big fan of transportation stories. Eleanor Holmes Norton from the District and Steny Hoyer, they're good friends from Prince George's County out $68 million last night to go towards land purchase where a new bridge across the Anacostia, new South Capitol Street bridge. I don't know if you've been involved with this or not, but the Maryland commuters, tens of thousands of Maryland commuters who come into the city, always jammed up on Pennsylvania Avenue or the 11th Street Bridge. Are you aware of this -- what this new plan for the bridge is, the South Capitol Street Bridge?
CARDINWell, I've driven over it a couple of times, so I've been caught in that traffic. And I do know that the efforts are being made to not only provide a better transportation alternative, but doing it in a way that's friendlier towards the connection between the surrounding jurisdictions in the nation's capital.
SHERWOODIt seems like this -- like that would be a -- take a lot, building a new bridge, but the jobs -- to let people flow out into Maryland for jobs or into the city for jobs.
CARDINYeah. Absolutely. First of all, transportation infrastructure improvements or job bills were just passed by unanimous vote, unanimous vote. And the Environment of Public Works committee to service transportation re-authorization for the next two years. We did that because it does create jobs. You're correct, direct jobs, the construction jobs, the people who do the bridge work, the road work. But it also connects communities. It's an engine for business growth along the improved transportation networks.
CARDINIt's more efficiency for people getting to work without wasting a couple of hours in commute. It is -- for all those reasons, it helps our economy grow.
NNAMDIGentlemen, done your headphones, start your engines. We're going to the phones. Here is Zach in McLean, Va. Zach, you're on the air. Go ahead, please.
ZACHHi, Kojo. Thanks so much for taking my call. I just have a really quick statement to bring up. I heard that you said everybody -- over 80 percent of people are unhappy with Congress as a whole. But, you know, it still seems like everybody seems pretty please with their individual representatives. And I'm not sure...
NNAMDIEverybody hates the post office, loves their mailman. But go ahead, please.
ZACHExactly. But I don't know how we can reconcile this, these two things, to actually get things done in Congress. And I'm just not sure if there's a way we can change our culture around that or that's just going to be part of human nature. And I'll take my answer off the air. Thank you.
NNAMDIThank you for your call, Zach. Mr. Senator?
CARDINWell, I think there is -- it is part of human nature. But I think, quite frankly, there are some sharp differences on Capitol Hill. We have people who have been elected that are in key positions who really don't believe in compromise. It's one thing to vote for a person because of what they believe in, but it's also, I think, important to recognize a responsibility to govern. And I hope that will be part of the focus of the 2012 elections.
CARDINIt's one thing to say, look, I want somebody who supports my -- what I believe in, but is that person also prepared to have the system work for the good of our country? And I think that may be a focus. The people who were elected, I'm just -- be specific about it. People who were elected in the midterm elections because of the anger that was out there...
CARDIN2010 elections. They now hold key positions. Many of them say they don't want to compromise. They don't want to compromise at all. I think the American people want to see the political system work, and I hope that's what will be the message in the 2012 elections.
NNAMDIWe got this email from someone anonymously. "Would it be a good idea for Vice President Biden to adopt Vice President Cheney's practice of regularly chairing the Democratic Party Senate Caucus to bring more cohesion between the Senate Democrats and the administration? To an outsider, it seems minority leader Mitch McConnell constantly browbeats the Democrats by his incessant use of the filibuster rule for every action besides using secrets blocks on appointments."
CARDINWell, first, I think we need to reform our Senate rules. I happen to think a majority is 51, not 60. And we need to allow the majority to be able to move forward. I'm for all protecting minority rights, but you can't have 100 filibusters a year and say that that's democracy.
SHERWOODWould you feel that same way if the Republicans win control of the Senate next year?
CARDINYes. I think it's right for us to be able to slow things down. We shouldn't be able to stop things, and the abuse of an individual senator blocking things has gotten to the point where we need to rein in the power of individual members of the United States Senate. So as far as unity in our caucus, we have a very close relationship with Vice President Biden. He is in our caucus on a regular basis. We see him on the floor of the Senate regularly. And the communications between the White House and the caucus is, I think, excellent.
NNAMDIBack to the telephones. Here is Meran (sp?) in Bethesda, Md. Meran, you're on the air. Go ahead, please.
MERANSen. Cardin, good morning. This question is for you. I'm your constituent. I'm from Bethesda. And the question is in regards to private loans, student loans from Sally Mae. And it seems like they're issuing these private loans to students on a very strict rules and regulations. I tried to contact trade U.S. commission -- trade commission and Department of Education. It seems there is no oversight over Sallie Mae's private loans. And, overall, what's your stand on Pay As You Earn, Obama's new policy? Thank you. I'll take my answer off the air.
NNAMDIAllow me to make sure that Sen. Cardin knows everything that you're talking about here.
CARDINI really don't.
NNAMDIStay on the air for a second, Meran.
CARDINYeah. I'm not sure exactly your concern. I do know that we have reformed the student loan program. We have significantly reduced the cost of student loans. We have worked very hard to maintain the amount of student grants under the Pell Grant program to try to make college as affordable as possible. Despite those efforts, we have now passed the trillion-dollar mark of debt held by college students, which is just way too high. We've got to bring down the cost of higher education.
NNAMDIMeran left anyway, but he seemed to be suggesting that there's not sufficient oversight or some kind of -- on Sallie Mae.
CARDINOversight on -- which I am not aware of the -- I know that we have changed the oversight on the student loan programs, but I'm not familiar with the specific concern. Please contact my office and we'll try to get the answer to you.
NNAMDIYou've made environmental issues a calling card of sorts in your time on Capitol Hill. Conservatives have gone to war against the general philosophy of regulation and environmental regulations, in particular. If you watch the Republican presidential debates, you'll hear a lot of phrases like job-killing regulations over and over again. How has that environment affected the way you feel you have to argue for the environmental programs you think are important?
CARDINWell, we've been pretty successful this year in blocking the Republican efforts to rollback the Clean Water Act and the Clean Air Act. We've had several meetings on Capitol Hill to underscore the importance of the Clean Air and Clean Water Act. Hundreds of thousands of people literally have avoided premature death or hospitalization. Millions of lost days have been avoided from work as a result of clean air and clean water. We don't want to go back to the days where our rivers caught fire or where children literally could not go outdoors because of the smog and the impact it had on their asthma.
CARDINWe -- it's a false dilemma to say that these regulations are hurting us with employment. It's just the reverse. Clean air, clean water helps our economy. In Maryland, we have the toughest air pollution laws in the nation, and we have now the cleanest utility plants. It created jobs. Two thousand direct jobs were created, and Maryland's economy has not at all been hurt by this. But Marylanders are hurt because pollution comes in from other states. So we need the enforcement of our Clean Air and Clean Water Act for the public health as well as the growth of our economy.
SHERWOODI think Forbes Magazine -- I think this Forbes this week said the 20 dirtiest metropolitan regions, and I think the District of Columbia region was like 16th.
CARDINThe reason, we're the template. You know, we're downwind from some -- from the nation, so it all comes in here. So we're getting the smog from the Midwest or from -- literally starting on the other side of the country come in to Maryland. Half the pollution that comes into Maryland comes in from other states.
SHERWOODDoes it come down 95?
NNAMDIDo you think this philosophical debate over rules and regulations between Democrats and Republicans will be a significant feature in the upcoming presidential election and the election next year? Because whether we're talking about Wall Street or the environment or food safety, Republicans seem to be united behind their job-killing message of rules and regulations, and they're repeating it over and over again with a lot of what seems to be party discipline.
CARDINNo question. You listen to the presidential candidates. They are all talking about the job-killing regulations. Let me make it clear. I feel -- believe very strongly and I think Democrats believe very strongly that regulations have to make sense, and they have to be well intended, and we have to review our regulations. We also believe in predictability, though. We had to give the private sector the rules, so that they could adjust and then our economy can take all.
CARDINBut we also believe that it is government's fundamental responsibility to protect the health and safety and welfare of its citizens, and you have a right to expect, and when you turn your water faucet on that you have safe drinking water. Don't take that for granted ever. We do today, but it's because of government's regulation that we have that.
CARDINThat when you use certain -- when you give a baby a bottle, and you know that that bottle is safe and doesn't contain poison, literally, that we found in our state of Maryland. It's those types of safety laws that we have a responsibility as a government to deal with. And I really believe that some of the rhetoric used by the Republicans would have us turn the clock back on the safety that we're providing to our community.
SHERWOODOn that subject, are you concerned at all about the Supreme Court accepting the review of the national health care law, and that will be ruling in the middle of next summer, probably right in the middle of the presidential campaign on that Obamacare...
CARDINRight. I have concerns. It's for a different reason. I would not put that in the same category as I did on the regulatory issues. My concern is this. I think what Congress did is the right thing. We provided, at long last, that health care is a right, not a privilege in America, and that everybody has responsibility, everybody must be in the system, that you can't be a freeloader. You can't use the emergency room and expect all of us to pay your bills. So everyone has accountability.
CARDINBut we also made it affordable, and we gave relief to those who have low income so they could afford health insurance. At the same time, we've connected all the dots to make the delivery system more cost effective. If the Supreme Court were to rule that the individual mandate was unconstitutional, to me it causes -- brings into question our ability to really provide an affordable, quality universal health care system in America.
CARDINBut more -- just as importantly, I think it calls into question a lot of the fabric of America. I mean, take a look at the Social Security system. That's not voluntary. Everybody must be in it. Could you use the same logic to try to unravel the Social Security system?
SHERWOODSome people might want to.
CARDINThere may be some people who may want to, but I'll tell you Americans will not allow that to happen, and -- for a good reason they'll allow it, though.
NNAMDIWe're running out of time, but Solomon in New Carrollton, Md., raises an issue that I think we want to consider. Solomon, you are on the air. Go ahead, please.
SOLOMONThank you for taking my call. My question and comment is for Sen. Cardin. I hope I got the name right.
SOLOMONYou mentioned that -- you did talk about, and it has been so long it kind of slipped my mind. You don't believe that if the super committee does not come up with a plan, that Wall Street will not react. And I think that the Congress and the Senate have lost touch with everyday America. And Americans invest in Wall Street, and you have to be aware that whatever happens, we are watching Congress and the Senate and hoping that they will do something not to maintain party ideology, but for the good of America as a whole.
SOLOMONAnd to think that Wall Street would not react, I disagree with you. I think they will, and it will be pretty obvious that they have reacted. You see, Wall Street is not Wall Street...
NNAMDII think it's going to hurt your 401 (k), Solomon?
SOLOMONI'm retired, been retired a long time ago. (unintelligible)
NNAMDIOkay. Allow me to have Sen. Cardin respond. But that would be (unintelligible)...
CARDINWell, I -- first of all, I'm for the committee acting. I'm for it being with -- well, we want them to think big. We want them to do the grand bargain. We want -- I'm for that. I came -- I've been involved with my colleagues in press conferences, urging this to happen. I've written letters to all the members of the joint committee. So I agree with you. My point is this, that when we raise the debt ceiling, we put in place a guaranteed debt reduction over the next 10 years of $2.2 trillion.
CARDINOne trillion upfront, $1.2 trillion if necessary through sequestration, I think that's what the markets were looking for. What comes out this joint committee, to me, will not be as critical to what happened. We've already gone through this on the debt ceiling, and I don't believe that what -- the results of this joint committee will have a major impact on the expectations in the market.
NNAMDILast question, Tom.
SHERWOODI was going back to Dallas this week, sorry. Dallas is playing the (word?) at FedEx Field. Are you going by chance?
CARDINNo, I'm not.
SHERWOODYou -- would you mind, you know, Mayor Gray and John -- Jack Evans and the council sort of want the Redskins to move back into the city where the new stadium that the Redskins would build not publicly funded. Would you be upset if the Redskins move back into the city where it belongs, if I can tilt the question?
CARDINWell, you know, again, I'm for home roll in the District. I want you all to be able to do what you -- what is best for the people of the District. We're very proud to have the Redskins in Maryland.
SHERWOODBut you have to...
CARDINWe're rooting for them to win on Sunday. I am looking forward one day to see the Redskins and the Ravens in the Super Bowl, and then I really will have a conflict.
NNAMDIYou're up for a re-election next year. You recently launched your campaign to defend your seat next fall. What issue or issues do you think are going to define that campaign?
CARDINWell, I think we've talked them on the show. I mean, the key issue is going to jobs, getting America back to work. And, quite frankly, I'm going to be defending the course that we're taking today and not turn back the clock on social progress or women's rights or worker's rights or civil rights, as I think the Republicans are tying to leave this nation. We got to create more jobs. We got to do it in a fiscal, responsible way. We need to improve our environment, improve our schools.
CARDINI guess what I'm running on is giving every child in this country the opportunities of America to a good school, clean environment, affordable quality health care. That is what I think this election is about, the future direction of America.
SHERWOODAre you glad Maryland is a solid Democratic state, not a toss-up state like Virginia is?
CARDINYou know, I just look what -- I'm running my campaign. I love Maryland. Maryland is a great state. It's a great state to visit. People from around our state, it's a beautiful state, and I'm looking forward to 2012 elections.
NNAMDIBen Cardin, thank you much for joining us.
CARDINMy pleasure. Good to be here.
NNAMDIBen Cardin is member of the United States Senate. He's a Democrat from the state of Maryland. This is Politics Hour. Tom Sherwood is our resident analyst. He's an NBC 4 reporter and a columnist for the Current Newspapers. A lot of publicity over the past week about whether the Prince George's County Council was going to approve the measure, to ban slots in the country.
SHERWOODWhen it came to it, the County Council essentially punted. They decided to pass legislation, designating a proposed slot site in Prince George's County, but then, authorizing a statewide referendum on even whether or not to permit gambling in Prince George's County.
SHERWOODA lot of people think that slots in -- you know, slots at National Harbor or even maybe ultimately a casino is destined to be there for economic reason. I think the council is struggling with the whole idea. You know, there's a significant group of people on the state who do not like slots and the dependence on gambling revenues. So I think you just see the turmoil playing out on that council.
NNAMDIIndeed, there are people who, for religious reasons and people who for reasons of what they feel could lead to gambling addiction, tend to...
SHERWOODTo go against.
NNAMDI...oppose slots. We've seen that over and over again, even though it is pretty clear that if you put it to a vote in the county itself, it would probably -- slots would probably pass pretty easily.
SHERWOODWell, the national -- if you look at the development of casinos outside of Las Vegas and Atlantic City, and you see that there are full-fledged casinos in West Virginia, Pennsylvania, Delaware and an entire surrounding area, if Maryland can either get in on that or not. I mean, the Congress would probably prohibit the District of Columbia. I remember when Sharon Pratt Kelly was -- suggested that the old convention center be turned into a casino like the one in London, and she was just hounded over that.
SHERWOODAnd so gambling is a fact of life. The real issue is iGaming. That's, you know, where the people are going to be allowed to gamble on the Internet. If that ever -- I think there's a hearing in Congress on this very subject today. If the Congress ever allows iGaming nationwide, well, I don't know what's going to happen to all these gambling places and slots and all of that. They need to dry up.
NNAMDITom Sherwood, he is our resident analyst. He's an NBC 4 reporter and a columnist for The Current Newspapers. Our next guest is the occupant of what we should call the Colby King hot seat on the D.C. council, Colbert King being The Washington Post columnist who's hammered away against the city's department of youth rehabilitation services for years. And now, joining us in studio is Jim Graham. He's a member of the council, a Democrat representing Ward 1. He's also the chairman of the council's committee on human services. And so welcome, Councilmember Graham.
MR. JIM GRAHAMKojo, I'm glad to be here. I hope you know that Colby King had some very nice things to say about me and...
NNAMDIYeah, I deliberately omitted that from my earlier introduction.
GRAHAMWell, it's because its, I think, we very much appreciate his point of view and his frustrations to some of this.
NNAMDIYes. Colby King says Jim Graham is refreshingly open. We'll find out about that during the course of the next few minutes.
SHERWOODI think that -- my -- Colby, didn't he say nice things about Tommy Wells at the outset?
NNAMDIYeah, well, outset...
SHERWOODI'm just thinking.
NNAMDIOutset turned into late set. DYRS is now under your wing as the chairman of the...
SHERWOODWhat is DYRS?
NNAMDIThe Department of Youth Rehabilitation Services.
NNAMDIIt's now under your wing as the chairman of the human services committee. Before we get into the details, what is your big picture perspective or what was it when you stepped into this oversight role of DYRS? What was your general impression of this department?
GRAHAMWell, I think this agency is in crisis. And a substantial reason why it is in crisis is because our juvenile crime situation is a crisis. And, you know, I know this very much firsthand from the experience we've been having in Ward 1 where, I think, about 85 percent of our crimes are committed by people under the age of 25. And so the question for me in terms of the oversight is to what extent can we improve the practices and policies of DYRS, so they can better, you know, mitigate, you know, this great problem that we're experiencing in the city.
NNAMDIIf you have questions or comments for Jim Graham, call us at 800-433-8850. Questions specifically about the Department of Youth Rehabilitation Services or anything else, 800-433-8850.
SHERWOODYou spoke -- Mr. Graham, you spoke to me in the hallway at the Wilson Building the other day, and you said -- I'm not sure if I remember the statistic correctly, but I thought you said something like 46 percent of the residents, inmates, detainees, whatever we want to call them, of the youth services agency or individuals who are 18 to 21 who, of course...
NNAMDIWho can vote.
SHERWOOD...who are not juveniles, who are not juveniles. And why are they even in to juvenile system?
GRAHAMWell, this is a long-standing practice in the District of Columbia. As I understand it, the -- we've had people age out at 21 rather than 18 for sometime. There are a number of states, including the state after which we are now modeled, which is Missouri, we hear so much about the Missouri plan and everything else. Missouri has only jurisdiction within its similar system to the age of 18, and beyond 18, they have 33 blended sentencing adults who still have some relationship with the youth services -- youth criminal justice.
GRAHAMAnd -- but in D.C., we continue to do it. And because there's 46 percent, that means that a huge amount of our resources are going into rehabilitation now. I don't know whether we want to eliminate that entirely, but I think this blended sentencing idea where we have a greater role in terms of accountability with adults and less confidentiality, which is -- which I think is becoming a real problem relating to these crimes.
NNAMDILet's talk about the age for a little bit longer because of the approximately 225 DYRS youths between the ages of 18 and 20 placed in the community between April and September, a 127 were re-arrested. That's more than 50 percent. Is that where the bulk of the problem is coming from, the youths between -- who are technically adults, between the ages of 18 and 21?
GRAHAMWell, it's, Kojo, certainly a very strong indicator that our rehabilitation is not working. You know, we are -- we're simply not rehabilitating people. We're not even securing them in terms of -- outside of our once secured facility, which has only, practically speaking, 45 to 50 beds. That's all it has because we have people there awaiting placements.
SHERWOODIs that New Beginnings in Maryland?
GRAHAMNew Beginnings in Maryland -- in Laurel where there, you know, it's on the side of the Old Oak Hill, which everybody, you know, would say was a disaster.
NNAMDIWhich our previous guest doesn't like it being out there at all (unintelligible).
GRAHAMBut let me add, Kojo, that we have no recidivism report from DYRS. They have persistently and stubbornly refused to provide, you know, a report card, if you will, on how positive their actions have been in terms of rehabilitating individuals, so this...
NNAMDIWhen you say that...
SHERWOODMaybe take their money out of the budget.
NNAMDII was about to say if the agency simply refuses to do that, who has the power to make it?
GRAHAMWell, we are pressing them very hard, and I think, you know, it all surrounds the issue of how do we define recidivism, and there's a lot of controversy about that. They have previously defined it in a way where it's suggested there wasn't as much of a problem as is indicated by 127 of 225 adults -- young adults but adults being re-arrested.
NNAMDIWe have Jason in Ward 1 -- don your headphones, please, gentlemen -- who has apparently a question about that. Jason, you are on the air. Go ahead, please.
JASONThanks. I have a question for the councilmember. The research that I've looked at shows that when you move young people into an adult setting, juveniles, and also young adults, they tend to do worse in terms of their outcomes. They're more likely to re-offend, more likely to commit crimes in our community. And states like California and Oregon continue to have long areas of jurisdiction where kids can be in the juvenile system to age 25.
JASONSo I'm just wondering where is this coming from in terms of this policy push Councilmember Graham, 'cause I'm not seeing the research that substantiate that what you're pressing for will improve public safety in the city.
GRAHAMWell, let's -- thank you very much for that question. I mean, let's first be clear that whether or not you're in the -- a DYRS system or not, if you are arrested and you're over the age of 18, you're charged as an adult and you have adult consequences. The issue is that what we do not have publicly available is your prior juvenile record. We don't -- we're not even able to say, except in very limited circumstances, whether or not you were a DYRS ward or whether you are presently a DYRS ward.
GRAHAMAnd so we're not really able to examine publicly what was done or not done in terms of rehabilitation, in terms of changing these behaviors. But if you're over 18, you're charged as an adult. You go to the jail. You go to the penitentiary if you're convicted.
NNAMDIThank you very much for your call.
GRAHAMAnd let me just say. I mean, I think, we -- you know, we need better rehabilitation efforts for adults, and the juvenile system ought not to be a replacement for that. I mean, we need that for adults on its own.
SHERWOODWhy not have a juvenile system that deals with juveniles? Some are -- the youngest, 11, 12, 13 years old, and focus on them rather than trying to pull back the 18- to 21-year-old.
GRAHAMAnd we'd be more comfortable with that -- you know the current system, Tom -- if we had greater success. You know, this is the thing that the advocates are missing. The rehabilitation is not working. I mean, when I confronted the budget in -- earlier this year, you know, I found that there was no substance abuse treatment, residential substance abuse treatment facility in the District of Columbia for juveniles, okay? So we funded it. Mental health was lacking, workforce development, job training. All of these things that really constitute meaningful rehabilitation were not to be found.
NNAMDIAdrian Fenty's point man on juvenile justice, Vinnie Schiraldi, tried to change the conversation on that topic in the District. He tried to move the system to focus more on rehabilitation and less on punishment. Philosophically, do you think that that is an arc the city is wise to follow?
GRAHAMIt's one that I definitely subscribe to, but let's do it. Let's not just talk about doing it, let's do it. And the recent case of the young fellow Tyronn, who died as a result of being shot in Georgetown, is a classic example...
NNAMDIIt's the Halloween...
GRAHAM...of the judge trying to do one thing and DYRS, for reasons that they will not explain to me or anyone else, doing another thing after they had agreed to send this boy, this child, for residential substance abuse treatment. It is a classic example of the judge saying, and everybody agreeing at the time, that DYRS at New Beginnings didn't have what the judge wanted done, which is the PCP problem, the marijuana addiction to be dealt with.
NNAMDITyronn Vincent Garner, 17, died Tuesday after getting shot Halloween night in Georgetown. He'd been placed in the -- this past Tuesday, last Tuesday. He'd been placed in the custody of the Department of Youth Rehabilitation Services. And, apparently, Judge Milton Lee placed him in such custody with the expectation that he'd be sent to a drug treatment facility in Pennsylvania. That never happened.
SHERWOODIs the agency underfunded? Is the agency overwhelmed? Is the agency incompetent? What is the -- other than...
NNAMDIWhich of the above?
SHERWOOD...addressing people under 18 as opposed to dealing with adults, what -- what's the management issue? What is it?
GRAHAMWell, I think in fairness to DYRS, I mean, they come in rather at the end of...
SHERWOODInto the movie.
GRAHAM...of this process. You know, they come in for the final chapter in many, many cases, where there's been an abuse, neglected criminally-oriented lawbreaker, you know, and then we turn to them and say, fix all this. And so, I mean, it's very much a reflection of the crisis that we're having in juvenile crime. But with that said, we could do a much better job with the $120 million that this agency gets, you know, to care for 900 juveniles and -- half of whom...
SHERWOODHow many millions?
GRAHAM$120 million. Half of whom are adults. And I just want greater accountability, and I want a better expenditure of the funds in the sense of its achieving more.
NNAMDIDYRS opened its New Beginnings detention facility, I guess, last year. New Beginnings was advertised as an anti-prison when it opened, but there have been a lot of escapes, including one the first week it was opened. How much time have you spent looking at New Beginnings, and what are your thoughts about how that facility...
SHERWOODYou've been there?
GRAHAMOh, yes. Oh, yes. It was one of the first stops I made. I went out, and I saw the school. And I was pleased with the -- particularly the attention that these children and adults get because, you know, I saw classes where there were four youth, and there were two teachers. And there was one what we call YDRs because we don't call them guards anymore. So you have four students, three staff. And the good news in that is they got a lot of attention, which I'm sure they've never previously had in terms of their education.
GRAHAMThe not-so good news is I didn't see substance abuse programming. I saw gang tagging everywhere, and one of the teachers said to me it was a form of expression. And I said, absolutely not. I said, all of this has to be removed. I think it was. I didn't see meaningful workforce development. I saw people reading Shakespeare. I saw people doing other things which, you know, who could be against Shakespeare? But I'd like to equip these young people so that when they get out, there's something they can do.
SHERWOODLike basic economics and job training?
GRAHAMWell, I mean, if they could wire a lamp, if they could -- but, you know -- so we need -- but -- substance abuse is at the core of this. The absence of substance abuse treatment, which is a critical issue -- I mean, we have compelling numbers on all of this, here and elsewhere, and not addressing that issue means that the rest of us is kind of whistling in the wind.
SHERWOODFor our -- Sen. Cardin, we could ask him. But for the Maryland listeners, many of whom do not want the city's social problems headquartered and anchored and thrown out into the suburbs, is there any chance that we'll lose that land license? We lost Lorton, 3,000 acres of land and -- which is now a housing project, I guess, private housing. What's going to happen? Is Maryland going to kick the city out of that land?
GRAHAMWell, we traded Lorton, as you know better than Kojo knows, you know, for a huge deal relating to our pension liabilities...
SHERWOODWhich is great.
GRAHAM...and everything else.
SHERWOODFor long term, we actually got in a deal.
GRAHAMI mean, it was probably -- I wasn't part of that. But I hope not because, I mean, we need this facility. I mean, it has great potential, just like our lead entities have great potential. I mean, I'm not saying that we don't have in place something that could work really well because it could, but we've got to do much more to ensure that that happen.
NNAMDIHere's Matt in East Falls Church, Va. Matt, you're on the air. Go ahead, please.
MATTHi, Kojo. Thank you for taking my call. I really enjoy the show.
MATTOh, yes, sir. And I'm enjoying the conversation with the guests, and they seem very passionate about rehabilitation and -- of juveniles. And my question was along the lines of, you know, one of the best ways to lower your need to rehabilitate, I guess, is to stop the entry into the correctional facility, I guess, in the first place, and maybe focus it on -- well, one -- it's a two-part question, and I'll take it off the air. But one of the parts is, what would the decriminalization of marijuana do to the amount of people entering into the facilities, the correctional facilities?
MATTAnd that's maybe -- 'cause I have a feeling that in the correctional facilities is where they become criminals.
NNAMDIOkay. Allow me to stick with that one question because we're running out of time. How would decriminalization of marijuana help?
GRAHAMWell, it's still going to leave us with a major substance abuse problem. But I would want to examine the number of individuals who had an arrest for possession or sale or distribution of marijuana to see just how much of a problem that was in the juveniles.
SHERWOODJohn Wilson, for whom the John Wilson building is named now, the chairman once told a group of people talking about rehabilitation that he had been to Lorton. He had been to the city jail. He had seen -- he says, I don't want those people out on the street. It was a shocking thing for the chairman of the Council to say at the time. But his point was there are some people we cannot save, even though we should have saved them when they were 12, 13, 15, 17. Is there a problem here that some of the attention for the youth services is for people who really can't be saved any longer?
GRAHAMWell, I think so. And, you know, if I could illustrate that very point, I mean, young Eric Foreman, who walked out of a group home, allegedly, in the District of Columbia and shot a bicyclist dead in the most brutal imaginable manner, Jacquen Rashid, (sp?) who did the same thing with a taxi cab driver just a few days ago...
NNAMDIOver a $5 bill.
GRAHAM...you know, who -- 75 cents argument over the fare, you know, these were people who just walked out of the group homes. And so it raises the very point that you're making, which is some folks we just got to secure so that the rest of us feel safe and are safer and they themselves are safe. And I think there's a case that could be made for Tyronn...
GRAHAM...Garner, who would probably be alive today if he had been put into a residential drug treatment, or at least if he had been secured because he was obviously at risk.
NNAMDII'm afraid we're out of time. Jim Graham is a member of the D.C. Council. He's a Democrat who represents Ward 1, and he is the chairman in the Council's Committee on Human Services. Councilmember Graham, thank you so much for joining us.
GRAHAMThank you very much, Kojo. Thank you, Tom.
NNAMDITom Sherwood is our resident analyst, NBC4 reporter and columnist for The Current Newspapers. Always a pleasure, Tom.
NNAMDIIndeed. Thank you all for listening. I'm Kojo Nnamdi.
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