Kojo speaks with "Speak No Evil" novelist and D.C. native Uzodinma Iweala about his second novel and how his local upbringing affects his storytelling.
The FBI shows up on the doorstep of a D.C. Council member. A once-powerful former Maryland lawmaker is sentenced to 7 years in prison. And a pair of former Virginia governors tussle in their new campaign for the U.S. Senate. 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
- Neil Stanley Director, D.C. Department of Youth Rehabilitation Services
- Jim Dinegar President and CEO, Greater Washington Board of Trade
Jim Dinegar talks about how businesses in downtown D.C. are being adversely affected by the Occupy D.C. protesters. Dinegar said that businesses in the area are “well past their patience point” with the protesters’ disruptions and that some people have been reluctant to go downtown because of them:
MR. KOJO NNAMDIFrom WAMU 88.5 at American University in Washington, welcome to "The Politics Hour," and in a phrase that's going to become legendary, starring Tom Sherwood. I'm Kojo Nnamdi. And the reason the phrase starring Tom Sherwood is going to become legendary can be found in today's edition of the reliable source in The Washington Post, where it is revealed that yet another bio pic about former D.C. mayor, now-Councilmember Marion Barry may soon be coming to a television near you, starring Eddie Murphy as D.C.'s former mayor for life, says reliable source.
MR. KOJO NNAMDISpike Lee is involved. John Ridley is the writer. And guess who have been tapped as consultants for this movie? The authors of the book "Dream City," the 1994 book about D.C. politics co-authored by Harry Jaffe and no other than Tom Sherwood. The reports says a representative for Councilmember Barry said he did not know about the latest project and had no comment, but we've got the inside skinny. Tom Sherwood is here. What's going on?
MR. TOM SHERWOODWell, good afternoon Friday.
SHERWOODI guess it's Friday. Isn't it? Yes. Well...
NNAMDIYou don have to know what day it is.
SHERWOODHere's what I'm authorized to say.
SHERWOODHarry Jaffe and I own the rights to our book "Dream City."
SHERWOODIt was published (unintelligible) but its right to our book expired. We own them. And we have, for a second time, I mind you -- we have sold the rights for potential development to HBO. Contractually, beyond that...
NNAMDIIs that why you showed up with a scarf and dark glasses today?
SHERWOODWell, I was just, you know, trying to be -- get into the role. And so, yes, we are -- we have done that. And I had to tell my editors at the station that we were doing it. And so we've done that, and now, what they do with that book going forward, we -- contractually, we were not supposed to talk about the project...
NNAMDISee, I told you he'd have his first comment today.
SHERWOOD...in general. But I am aware of things outside of my contract that they are moving right along. I do know that Mayor Barry, for example -- I don't know why someone said he's not aware of it. I think he is aware of it.
SHERWOODI think it would be interesting -- I don't know if Eddie Murphy, in fact, is going to do this. But, you know, he has a comedic background...
SHERWOOD...but this could be an interesting role for him if he decides to do it. And, of course, I think it's really exciting that Spike Lee wants to do it. I think it would give it some gravitas about -- it wouldn't just be a caricature Barry. It would be a real serious look at him. I think that's what they're trying to do.
NNAMDIDo you get to demand who plays you in this movie?
SHERWOODNo. You know, I told Loose Lips that I want to play myself. I mean, who better -- I play on TV every day (unintelligible) act.
NNAMDIIt's my understanding that you said George Clooney is not good looking enough (unintelligible).
SHERWOODNo, no, no. You know, I think somebody -- anyone could play, you know, a cracker reporter from the South.
SHERWOODThat's why Barry and I get along so well. You know, he's a cracker from Mississippi, but he's just not a cracker. I'm a cracker from Georgia, so we get along well, so...
NNAMDII think we do have to move on. However, we do look forward to seeing this HBO movie, and, hopefully, it becomes reality, unlike the other project and the role of Tom Sherwood in it.
SHERWOODWell, I'm only worried if the check for the right to buy the book is reality. Everything else...
SHERWOOD...(unintelligible) but I'm looking forward. If HBO finally says something publicly, I'd actually talk a little, maybe more about it, and it'd be kind of interesting.
NNAMDIHollywood mogul Tom Sherwood, another tragedy at Virginia Tech yesterday with an officer being killed on the campus. A second person apparently approached that officer doing a routine traffic stop and killed him, then apparently used the gun to take his own life 30 minutes later, but, of course, it had to bring to mind the tragedy in which 33 people died in 2007. What else do we know?
SHERWOODWell, I think, if there are any good things about situations like this, it's good to know that in this case, there was much faster notice to the students to remain in place, to stay where they were as there's confusion. These things always have an element of incredible confusion around them. I think -- I haven't seen yet -- maybe there will be something in a day or so ahead, but it looks to me like Virginia Tech did, in fact, learn an important lesson from 2007's massacre.
SHERWOODPress conference, they held endlessly yesterday afternoon without saying much. I'm not sure why officials -- they feel the need to have a press conference, but then they feel the need not to say anything. And it kind of gets a kind of looping system that doesn't really tell people something about it. But I think, overall, we've found out that something had happened, that the situation was then taken cared of.
SHERWOODAnd now we're just trying to find out more about who was the shooter, what happened, who killed whom and all of that. Very sad for this university 'cause, no matter what happens now, this university has a mark upon it that everyone will always remember.
NNAMDIBecause the first thing everybody thought of yesterday was copycat killing occurring here...
NNAMDI...but, apparently, the university was able to inform everyone on campus, including the students, in a timely manner on this occasion. Last Friday, you spent your entire day in front of the home of D.C. Councilmember Harry Thomas Jr., which was being searched by agents both of the FBI and the IRS. And, of course, this week, you spent a lot of time looking at the D.C. Council on ethics legislation that has been introduced by Ward 4 Councilmember Muriel Bowser, and which the council has adopted.
NNAMDIHow would that council -- how would that legislation alter the ethics environment here in the District of Columbia? What would it do?
SHERWOODOne of the principal things it would do it'd create a three-member commission, board of ethics, which is now part...
SHERWOODBecause it -- to focus. Right now, the ethics issues are all done by the Office of Campaign Finance and Ethics, the board of -- the elections board itself. There'd be a narrow -- more narrow focus, and I'm hoping that they would, in fact, staff this office so that the board of ethics -- ethics board could seriously look into allegations and not just wait for someone to complain maybe but to look at things that they know themselves. That's important. There would be severe restrictions on the constituent service funds.
SHERWOODEighty thousand dollars that each councilmember can raise each year to spend on constituent services would be cut back to the original $40,000. And there would be far more restrictions on what can be done with that money and the reporting of it. And there would be more reporting requirements for people and -- who get elected. And these super secret transition funds and inaugural transitions and defense funds elected officials and high-ranking officials often have, no more with those, just be secret slash fund monies that have to be reported.
NNAMDIAnd there was a spirited defense of the constituency funds by at least one member of the council, maybe more, and they decided to just reduce the amount of them.
SHERWOODRight. You know, some -- there has been a -- you know, I wrote this in The Washington Post when I was asked, as a reporter, what I thought. And I said, what I need as a reporter and, I think, citizens need is disclosure -- disclose, disclose, disclose. Some people think, well, let's ban constituent service funds. Let's ban the ability of anyone who has a contract with the city from contributing to a political candidate. And what all those things sound like -- to me, it sounds like prohibition and alcohol.
SHERWOODIf you ban a contractor from giving money to a campaign, then all that contractor does is push it farther down the food chain, and a spouse gives the money, a grandparent gives the money, a parent gives -- a child gives the money because that contractor is going to play the politics of the game. So let's just shine a bright light on it. So those are the things -- the vote comes up again in two weeks. Maybe there will be some effort to toughen it. Councilman Kwame Brown said we're going to have an ethics bill before the end of this year, so I think they'll vote in two weeks.
NNAMDISpeaking of transparency, inquiring minds want to know how much does a consultant on an HBO movie get paid? Later for that. Tom Sherwood is our resident analyst. He is...
SHERWOODI can answer that question.
NNAMDIHe's an NBC 4 reporter...
NNAMDI...and a columnist for the Current Newspapers. If you have questions about the Department of Youth and Rehabilitation Services, now is the time to call with questions or comments, 800-433-8850, because our next guest is the director of the D.C. Department of Youth and Rehabilitation Services. He served as the general counsel of that department from 2008 to 2010. Neil Stanley, thank you so much for joining us.
MR. NEIL STANLEYThank you for having me on your show today, Kojo.
NNAMDIYour department has been under the microscope for the past several years, and a few weeks ago, Jim Graham, the councilmember with oversight responsibility of DYRS, called it an agency in crisis. He said specifically that in his ward, Ward 1, about 85 percent of our crimes are committed by people under the age of 25. Do you see this as a agency in crisis?
STANLEYI see DYRS as an agency on the move and an agency with a tremendous amount of potential to really have an impact on public safety, which is the heart of our agency's mission, as well as turning the lives of young people around. You know, yesterday, I was headed toward a council hearing, and on my way out the door, a young man stopped me at the door. And so he jumped in front of me.
STANLEYHe was someone who I recognized from New Beginnings, our facility in Laurel, Md. And he said, you know, Mr. Stanley, I want to talk to you about an increase in my salary. And I said, an increase in your salary. What do you mean? You have to have a job to get a pay raise. And he said, well, I'm one of the young people that's in your workforce development program. And so I sort of chuckled and talked to him about sort of his experience and how things were going.
STANLEYI then said to him, well, are you likely to stay on the job? And he turned to me and he said, well, no, which I was a little bit disappointed because I thought things were going well. He said I went on a college tour with DYRS a couple weeks ago, and I found two colleges, one in Maryland and one in North Carolina that I'd like to attend. Now, I know that's not the story that Tom and others like to report on, but the reality is that there are more stories that we have, like this young man, than some other more horrific stories that are heard. Now as...
NNAMDI...allow me to challenge that because, as you know, we call your job the Colbert King hot seat. There's been a drumbeat of stories during the past several years about juvenile crime, which has cleared the way for a Moby Dick-size volume of columns that King has written about your agency, specifically one of the things he says is that, of the approximately 225 DYRS youths aged 18 to 20 placed in the community between April and September, 127 were re-arrested. That is more than half. So it seems to me that that story seems to be more the norm than the story you just told us.
STANLEYWell, unfortunately, the story is incorrect about the numbers, and I think we have to be a bit more responsible and a bit more thoughtful about data.
SHERWOODWhat are the numbers?
STANLEYFrom April to September, the same relevant timeframe, there were 479 young people aged 18 to 21 who were in the community. Of that, we estimate approximately 26 were re-arrested. Now, let me be clear, I'm pleased that the number is not 57 percent, which was reported. But I'm not pleased with 26 percent. I think that's way too high. My job...
NNAMDISo you're saying 479 were in your care, and 26 percent were re-arrested, not 26 the number.
STANLEYThat is correct.
SHERWOODI mean, what number is that? I can't do that math. Ten percent would be 47.
STANLEYSo a quarter.
SHERWOODTwenty -- so that's over 100.
NNAMDIAnd you're saying you're not satisfied with that number.
STANLEYI'm not satisfied. I think that that...
NNAMDIDo you consider it a crisis?
STANLEYI don't consider it as a crisis. I consider it an opportunity and a challenge to do much better. I think we have done a lot better. And one of the things that folks need to understand is that since the beginning of the year, we've enhanced public safety in a number of significant ways. There are more young people who are on global positioning systems, electronic monitoring about 153.
STANLEYWe have developed an incident management team with MPD and with our partners at the Office of the Attorney General, where we have real-time communication when something doesn't go right. In addition to that, I'm not only concerned about safety in communities. I'm concerned about safe facilities. And so we've engaged in a number of security enhancements at our facility called New Beginnings, which is in Laurel, Md...
STANLEY...but equally important -- not just razor wire, but making sure that we hardened the doors. We have additional security cameras, et cetera, but equally important, I think, it's -- I think folks need to understand that one of the faults of DYRS in the past has been a lack of transparency, a lack of openness. And so we released just a couple of weeks ago a first ever quarterly report on outcomes and how young people are doing.
STANLEYBack in 2009, Kojo and Tom, there were 19 percent of our young people who were receiving any services at all in the community. Today, that number stands at 70 percent of all our young people are receiving two or more services. I think that's…
SHERWOODServices, what kind of service?
STANLEYSure. Everything from teen parenting programs -- we have about 85 young people since Jan. 1 who have been enrolled in workforce development. They're working at various district government agencies and private entities. They're getting services around mental health counseling, substance abuse. They are enrolled in mentoring programs, life skills programs. And so our challenge right now is making sure that young people have all the tools that they need to get back into society and also to not be a threat to public safety.
NNAMDI800-433-8850 is the number to call. Our guest is Neil Stanley. He's director of the D.C. Department of Youth Rehabilitation Services. Here's Tom Sherwood.
SHERWOODIs New Beginnings -- the facilities at Laurel, Md.
STANLEYThat is correct.
SHERWOODIs New Beginnings a success?
STANLEYI think New Beginnings is on its way to becoming a success.
SHERWOODDoes that mean it's not a success or is in -- the problem is it was opened with great fanfare. I think it would house about 60 people. Is that correct?
STANLEYThat is correct. Sixty young people.
SHERWOODAnd I went out there, and it was -- there -- it was a nice, new building, looked like a school, looked like a nice campus, all of that. And, of course, you know, the first day someone jumped over the fence, and it's because there was no security there. And so you're hardening the building. But what about the people who go there? What about education or re-education -- some of these guys, and mostly guys, right?
STANLEYThat is correct. New Beginnings is all male.
SHERWOODAll male. They can't read. They don't have the skills to get a job. They wouldn't know where to look for a job if they wanted a job. So what are they doing in a hardcore sense? Not hardcore crime, but hardcore sense of changing their lives by educating some of them, and then allowing to get jobs 'cause it's hard to get a job even if you have a good record, much less if you have a criminal record.
STANLEYYou know, there's a lot of information about what actually works, and we know what works. So number one is making sure that young people develop new skills, skills that they've never learned before.
SHERWOODI mean, do you have someone who teaches someone how to read?
STANLEYAbsolutely. We have probably the best juvenile justice school in the country. Maya Angelou Charter School sponsored by the See Forever Foundation is an amazing program. We have young people, Tom, that you just mentioned before who are 17 years old that are reading in the third grade reading level. And I think that my number one responsibility is twofold. One is making sure that those young people have the skills academically to succeed and to survive and, number two, that they're exposed to meaningful career opportunities.
STANLEYSo in addition to the academic component, we are now putting together a vocational training program. I want all young people to go to college as I did, but not everyone will. And so I've got to acknowledge the fact that young people need to have quality education and meaningful workforce development of opportunities.
SHERWOODYeah, we're talking about basic skills. We're not talking about going to college, all right?
SHERWOODYou know, Colby King, I have to give him great credit for a significant period of time. I mean, those columns you've read, he said -- I mean, he talked about -- and he's as empathetic as anyone can be, I think, about young African-American males...
STANLEYI think he is.
SHERWOOD...that there is a certain level coddling that goes on now rather than re-education that the high signing program that you talk about are not matched with success, while there are the escapes and the murders and the other crimes that are committed. There's no confidence that this whole program works, and we're not even getting into some of these guys who are in their late teens, early 20s and are still on your program.
STANLEYSo, you know, we tried a different approach for about 42 years at a place called Oak Hill that many of you remember. And I think that while there were many successes and many fantastic men and women who worked there, and actually some young people who came out of Oak Hill and did well, by and large, we all agree that Oak Hill was a failure. So the answer is not to go back to that type of model. I think the answer to be new and improved. The new and improved version of what I work is is making sure that young people have cognitive behavioral training.
SHERWOODCognitive behavioral training? What does that mean?
STANLEYAbsolutely. You know, it's engaging young people in group counseling and individual counseling in a way that holds them accountable for the challenges that they face while at the same time redirecting them into positive behavior, and giving them the skills so that they can self-direct when they're faced with crisis situations.
NNAMDII think that a lot of people would agree with that, but the charges of coddling have to do with, say, the following: Jim Graham told us that he saw a lot of gang tags there at New Beginnings and that a teacher told him these kids were expresses them -- were expressing themselves, that, I guess, being allowed to make gang tags was a form of artistic self-expression. And a lot of people, including Jim Graham, obviously have huge problems with that.
STANLEYWell, I have a huge problem with it as well, and I don't accept any kind of gang tagging anywhere at New Beginnings. We have a strategy for immediately removing all graffiti and tagging. But I want to assure our listeners that I think it's been grossly overstated what actually exists. And I would invite you, Kojo, and you, Tom, to come back to New Beginnings and actually see for yourself. And so it's not just about…
SHERWOODWe make a surprise visit?
STANLEYYou can make a surprise visit, absolutely.
NNAMDIAn unscheduled surprise visit?
SHERWOODRight after I get back from Hollywood.
NNAMDITom and I are good at that. Let's go to the telephones. Here is Vanessa in Washington, D.C. Vanessa, you're on the air. Go ahead, please.
MS. VANESSA DIXONGood afternoon. I just want to say that the youth at DYRS are, as we all know, the troubled youth, and they come in with multiple, physical illnesses and learning visibilities and mental health diagnosis. So they walked in with these problems. So it presents not only a security issue for the larger public and the youth themselves and the staff who work there but also medical issues that they, that the youth walk in requiring appropriate medical care. And so we're very concerned. I'm representing the doctor's council.
NNAMDIThis is our Vanessa. Vanessa Dixon.
DIXONThis is Vanessa Dixon. Yes, it is. And so we're concerned about the loss of all but one medical doctor for all of the DYRS facilities, and those very vulnerable youth are receiving care, direct, daily medical care by nurse practitioners and not doctors. And it's not appropriate care. What we've also discovered through the security officers is that when they don't receive -- the youth don't receive appropriate medical care and psychiatric care, that it translates into security problems. It translates into safety problems because then they take out those frustrations on each other, on themselves...
NNAMDIVanessa, what are -- what is your group recommending?
DIXONOur group is recommending the return of a medical doctor to the facility.
SHERWOODHow many -- Vanessa, Tom Sherwood. Vanessa, excuse me. How many doctors were there? If we're down to one, what was it?
DIXONThere were -- in the past three years or so, there were five -- five docs there, five doctors there. And that one doctor who is there, my understanding, is a supervising doctor, does not provide the direct care, any direct care, but oversees the care (unintelligible)...
NNAMDIAllow me to have Neil Stanley respond. Neil Stanley?
STANLEYSo we have made some changes in the health care at New Beginnings, and I think that the changes that we made are, quite frankly, to the better. We've examined best practices from across the country. And as many of you know, there are wide array of health professionals who now provide treatment for not just young people, but also adults. We have a supervisory doctor. Ms. Dixon is correct.
STANLEYAnd we have a whole team of medical professionals, nurse practitioners, nurse's assistants. We have contracts with dentists, ophthalmologists. Equally important is that we have a team of behavioral health specialist. One of the things that I think underscores the concern here...
SHERWOODNeil, I'm sorry. Excuse me. This bureaucratic language just drives me bananas. What was the health specialist you just mentioned, behavioral health specialist? What was that last...
STANLEYIn other words, psychologists and psychiatrists.
SHERWOODOK. Thank you.
SHERWOODI don't know how you can possibly talk to the children (unintelligible) adults use this language.
STANLEYYou're absolutely right. I apologize.
SHERWOODI mean, it gets so cold and clinical. It doesn't address what Colby writes about, is the fear in the community that someone's going to be shot dead, the fear in the community that people who deserve to learn how to read so they can get a job aren't learning how to read. They're being talked about in these terms you're using.
STANLEYI apologize for the terms. I can assure you though that the actual treatment that young people get is consistent with their needs. My concern, Tom, is that the juvenile justice system in Washington, D.C., as in many parts of the country, has become a last resort for primary care. And that care, I think, touches upon some of the issues that Ms. Dixon raised and that you're raising as well.
STANLEYAnd so, for example, young people who come to us have a lot of mental health issues, a lot of substance abuse issues. There's lot of educational challenges. We have young people who are experiencing significant learning disabilities. And yet -- and still the primary place that we're taking care of these issues, it is in the juvenile justice system. And so it is about making sure that we have a system that works, but it's also making sure that we correct these deficiencies on the front end to stop kids from coming into the system to get primary care.
NNAMDIOne of your predecessors said that, the moment New Beginnings was opened, the city found out that it's too small. How do you feel about the size?
STANLEYWell, it's not just about what I think. More importantly, it's what the experts say. And I don't know if you recall, but the late Judge Eugene Hamilton, who was just an amazing advocate on behalf of young people in this city...
NNAMDIWho passed two weeks ago, something we should have mentioned on the Politics Hour, which we regret not doing.
STANLEYVery sadly, passed two weeks ago and was a great loss. He was a member of our advisory board. He chaired a blue ribbon commission that really was the genesis for the DYRS. And there were a number of findings from that blue ribbon commission, which included the size of the facility and concerns about doing a program like this in such a large facility. Equally important, the Annie E. Casey Foundation -- and I brought along a copy of their report -- issued, not long ago, a No Place for Kids analysis, in which it made a determination that the size of the facility actually does matter.
STANLEYAnd kids need two key things: One is a therapeutic environment that is small, and equally important is they need a menu of services that actually works. We tried the large facility before. It was called Oak Hill. I don't know if you know this, Tom and Kojo, but Oak Hill was actually built for, I think, about 127 kids. And at its peak, there were actually 250 young people there.
SHERWOODI've been there, including the graves in the back.
NNAMDISo have I.
STANLEYAnd it didn't work. And so going back to that scale of facility...
SHERWOODI don't -- you've mentioned that. I don't hear anyone saying going back to that scale at all. I mean, has anyone recommended going -- did you recommend anyone?
NNAMDINobody is recommending going back to Oak Hill, but I think that is what the defenders of New Beginnings are using as the polar opposite to what currently exists. I think it's somewhere in between. And I think Daniel in Washington, D.C., may be able address that issue. Daniel, you're on the air. Go ahead, please.
MR. DANIEL OKONKWOThank you, Kojo. Thank you for having me. I just wanted to respond to something to that you tell me about the idea that these young people are coddled. I have to take issue with that. I think our young people that are growing up in the extreme pockets of poverty that we see in the city, who are failed by schools and who see -- disinvestment in their futures and positive activities are anything but coddled.
MR. DANIEL OKONKWOI think -- to defend -- I'll tell you right now. I am a director of DC Lawyers for Youth, and I am a defender of New Beginnings. I think with a space like that is to give these young people someone to re-evaluate what is positive and what would become -- and give them what can be turned into a positive experience, where they can learn or educate.
NNAMDIWell, Daniel, people are concerned obviously about the re-arrest rates. We just heard the director that it's not 57 percent. It's 26 percent. And there are obviously people who work at New Beginnings, who probably worked at the previous facility, who feel that the environment there may be too liberal. What do you say about the re-arrest rate, and what can be done about that?
OKONKWOWell, I think the re-arrest rate, being it not 50 -- and I think that's one thing that we have to be really, really careful about, numbers are used. And I think just the fact that you are able to quote an erroneous 66 percent shows how numbers have not really been aptly reported. I, too, share the concern with re-arrest rates. We would want it to be zero. We would want every kid that comes in to New Beginnings and comes in to DYRS or to call Social Services to never be re-arrested.
OKONKWOThe reality is, is that what we're doing in D.C. is we're returning these kids after their stay in these agencies, back into communities that don't have the support that young people need to be successful. (unintelligible)
NNAMDIWell, allow me to use that to raise a question with Neil Stanley because you told the aforementioned culprit, Colby King, that the quality of supervision and monitoring in group homes and community treatment programs isn't where it should be. Clearly, that's one of the problems, but how do you fix it?
STANLEYSo there are number of things. One is that we have pulled in, in the last three weeks, all of our group home providers to do extensive retraining. The second is that by the end of the year, we will have re-inspected all of our group homes.
SHERWOODHow many group homes are there?
STANLEYWe have about 20 group homes in the Metropolitan Washington Area.
SHERWOODI'm sorry. Go ahead.
STANLEYThe third is that we have started issuing a series of graduated sanctions for group homes. One group home, we actually suspended not long ago for failure to comply with our terms. The fourth, I think, is the most important thing, and that is we've got to get to a place where we have standards of excellence. And so when I had a conversation with Mayor Gray about this, who is a fierce advocate on behalf of young people and of public safety in D.C., he said, you know, on one of our (word?) to the woodshed, said, you know, you've got to get your act together.
STANLEYYou've really, really, got to make sure that your group homes shine. And I want to know whether there are national programs that certify and how performance standards, again which we measure group homes. And so I think by the spring of next year, we're going to be rolling out a performance-based standards initiative against, which we evaluate and we effectively moderate group homes.
NNAMDIDaniel, thank you for your call.
SHERWOODDoes that mean...
DANIELThank you very much.
SHERWOODAnd I appreciate Daniel call -- I mean, and I agree. There's got to be positive reinforcement for young people. We have the old people to be positive for reinforcement, so I understand the need to alter the trajectory of these lives. But when you talk about retraining next spring, these 20 group homes -- so these are all contracts with the city? These are all contracts?
STANLEYThey're all contracts with the -- with...
SHERWOODI mean, why does a group home that's taking in young people need to be retrained? It just seems to me just slogging through an incredible bureaucracy that if you take young people into our homes and -- I presume you don't have many of each home, right?
SHERWOODFive or six at the most, maybe coming and going?
STANLEYThat's about right.
SHERWOODIf there a positive reinforcements to the young person, if you come here and you behave yourself here, you get this, and you behave yourself some more you get that. Meanwhile, we're teaching you how to do the basic element routines of math, arithmetic and -- so you can get a job. I just don't get this. I just get these grand schemes of standards of excellence. Talk to me -- that's just this meaningless language. I don't need standards of excellence. I just want standards of competence.
STANLEYI think that's a fair point, and we're not just waiting until next spring to make changes. We are making changes right now. I think that in addition to having standards of competence is about holding young people accountable, and there are very -- some concrete things that we're doing right now. So, for example, in addition to the workforce development initiative that we talked about -- we have about 30 nonprofit organizations that are in D.C. that we contract with through an initiative known as a D.C. YouthLink.
STANLEYThese are individuals and organizations who are focused on mentoring, on life skills training, on teen parenting, on GED preparation and examination, on high school...
STANLEY...high school GEDs and getting your high school diploma. There are individuals also who really served as positive-caring adults. You know, we had a situation not long ago where young people ran from its foster care. Things just weren't working out. And when we were able to catch up with him, he said he wanted to go and live with his mentor. And what was interesting about that, it was an acknowledgement that a lot of young people here in Washington, D.C. don't have a consistent positive caring adult in the lives of their young people. I think a lot...
NNAMDII really don't think -- I think a lot of people who question your philosophical approach are reinforced when there is a level of incompetence lower down. And I think that a lot of people would tend to agree with your philosophical approach more if there was a greater degree of effectiveness and competence to lower down. But we're running out of time, and my final question is, what can you tell us about the man you taps to run New Beginning, Steven Baynes?
NNAMDISome people have complained that he did not have a background in juvenile justice. He -- you reportedly told someone, who shall remain nameless, Colbert King, but he's a 10-year social acquaintance. Did you hire an unqualified friend?
STANLEYAbsolutely not. There's too much at stake here. I come to this work to make our public and our community safe. I've live in Washington for almost 20 years now, and I come to this work from the vantage point of someone who really cares about making lives better for everyone. So Capt. Baynes, who is a superintendent of New Beginnings, has a 25-year history with the Department of Homeland Security.
STANLEYHe was the fourth highest ranking African-American United States Coast Guard, and I thought it was very important to make a very clear signal to everyone that DYRS cares about safe communities and safe facilities. He's doing a fantastic job.
SHERWOODIs the first thing safety of the community or rehabilitation is first?
STANLEYI tell you public safe...
NNAMDIHe just said that 'cause I said my question was the final one.
STANLEYPublic safety is not only heart of our agency's mission, but it goes hand in hand with rehabilitation.
SHERWOODOK. I just -- to me -- and it summarize my thoughts -- I don't doubt the good intentions of you and the people who work there and their plans and the programs and the reports and all of that. But I just -- the execution just seems to be consistently inefficient. Mayor Gray said the same thing about summer jobs. This past summer, he actually efficiently did summer jobs for the first time in X number of years because they took a really hard hands-on approach toward summer jobs. And I'm just wondering if that's not what we needed. We actually execute these plans rather than describing them.
STANLEYYou are absolutely correct. You're going to see a very different DYRS in 2012.
NNAMDINeil Stanley, he is the director of the D.C. Department of Youth Rehabilitation Services. Neil Stanley, thank you so much for joining us.
STANLEYAnd thank you for having me.
NNAMDITom Sherwood, he is our resident analyst and NBC 4 reporter and a columnist for The Current Newspapers, soon-to-be a Hollywood star. Several people have suggested who should play Tom Sherwood in the movie about Marion Barry. Bruce Deport (sp?) tweeted that, "David Caruso of 'CSI: Miami' fame should play Sherwood." Our shows producer Taylor Bernie says William H. Macy. Politics Hour producer Michael Martinez says great Gary Oldman. I say (word?) that Sherwood shouldn't be in the movie at all.
SHERWOODWhy can't I play myself? I don't understand this. Find you some inconsequential actor. I could do it myself.
NNAMDIThe movie is not about you. You are reporting. You shouldn't be...
SHERWOODI'll take a backseat role.
NNAMDI...in the movie at all.
SHERWOODMaybe I'll get a new suit out of it.
NNAMDIJack Johnson, former Prince George's county executive, will spare the maximum of 14 years in prison. However, he was sentenced to 87 months, which works out to about seven years and three months, fined $100,000, ordered to go alcohol treatment. That was a surprise to me.
SHERWOODThey had been wrong, but it's about the fact that he was drinking a lot, but that was not the reason he stole money.
NNAMDIYeah, well, he's been ordered to undergo alcohol treatment, forfeit $78,000 and his antique Mercedes. He must begin his prison term on Feb. 3. His wife, Leslie Johnson, scheduled to be sentenced today. By now, she has been sentenced, I suspect.
SHERWOODYeah, maybe we'll find out before the program is over when it is. But, you know, he walked in with a cane. He talked about his declining health, and, of course, the prosecutors pointed out he's playing golf a few months ago.
SHERWOODSo, you know, I don't want to sound harsh and unforgiving in all this, but, you know, Jack Johnson was a prosecutor. He knew what he was doing. You can see those tapes of him and talking in video tapes. I don't feel sorry for him at this point. And, you know, there's redemption for everyone maybe in all of these things. But in this region, we've got to take public corruption seriously in every jurisdiction.
NNAMDIProbably should have known that he was being monitored in July also, but the question raised, of course, is about what all of this can have -- what effect all of this can have on the region's economy. And nobody better to answer that question than Jim Dinegar, president and CEO of the Greater Washington Board of Trade. Jim Dinegar, good to you see again.
MR. JIM DINEGARGood to see you, Kojo. Thanks for having me.
NNAMDIYou've got your finger on the pulse of this entire region's economy. Let's focus first on Prince George's County where Jack Johnson was just sentenced. But before he was given his sentence, he recited a list of his achievements before a judge, things he said he made happen for Prince George's. In the wake of the scandal, how do you think those achievements, whether you give him full credit for them or not, stand up to the hit that the county's reputation has taken as a place to do business?
DINEGAROh, Prince George's County is a jewel within the Greater Washington Region, and there's so much opportunity at Prince George's County that that's where a lot of attention has been for quite some time on the positive side of things. Unfortunately, with Jack Johnson, there's been a lot of negative publicity over the past several months and even year. But Rushern Baker and the team that he's got in place, along with the County Council, really is doing some very good work, innovative and pushing. They're not sitting on their hands.
DINEGARI will be very clear that the$50 million incentive package that they've put together to attract business really got the attention of site selectors around the country if not the world. And so it's not all in place now, but there's a lot of opportunity in Prince George's County. And I think that the new government really has to ride on where those opportunities reside, Metro stations, not just the federal government, a whole lot more as it relates to national harbor, better use of the river and, frankly, better use of the port of Baltimore with some tie-in to the Greater Washington area.
NNAMDIYou, like Tom Sherwood and I, have been here through the administrations of Marion Barry and Sharon Pratt Kelly and Marion Barry and Anthony Williams and Adrian Fenty. To what degree do you think political scandals have the potential to alter the economic appeal of a county or a city, whether we're talking about the District or Prince George's?
DINEGARWell, there's an enormous concern associated with scandal and politics. The good thing in Prince George's County is this is not a scandal that's currently in place. It's behind us. And, therefore, the current government there is clean and weeding. And that's a very good thing. So the message isn't, hey, how do I overcome the government in Prince George's County? It's instead, glad that that's behind them. They're taking the actions necessary to deal with it.
DINEGARBut looking forward, they've got a very strong executive, a very strong council, a very reputable bunch of leaders out there. And there's a little bit of cleanup to do. You almost have to re-message things. But boy, I'll tell you, County Executive Rushern Baker came out of the blocks quick and fast to really get the word out there about there's a new day.
NNAMDI800-433-8850 if you'd like to offer your opinion on this. What extent do you think political scandals can harm the economy in Prince George's County or any place else? 800-433-8850.
SHERWOODMr. Dinegar, I think people are encouraged to, let's say, Rushern Baker who's kind of a mild-mannered person has taken firm steps. But the prosecutor also, and the reporters I watch, have said investigations are continuing, that there's a lot going on. And we don't know the bottom of this well. And I'm not sure when we'll get to the bottom. Do you have any sense of that?
DINEGARWell, you know, there's always going to be something, and I think that that's just the complexities of government. And, unfortunately, there's always a few bad apples. But things really do begin at the top. And there's not a developer or a business person in town that realizes that if there's a shakedown going on, if there's any difficulty, they can go right to Rushern Baker. It's clean at the top and then starts to go right on through. And I have to say, that gives people a lot confidence that there's a new day in Prince George's County and that they're not playing with any of the shenanigans, if you will.
SHERWOODI talked to a department head here in the District of Columbia, whose name I won't give or department who said they had been approached about moving to work for the Prince George's County government until -- and it would be a pretty nice move if that person did it. So that would rebuild the reputation of Prince George's County.
DINEGARWell -- and let's say...
SHERWOODIt's got to be rebuilt.
DINEGAROh, absolutely. But I think it's (unintelligible)
SHERWOODI mean, we're not Illinois where two governors have gone to prison in four years. Thank goodness for Illinois. But they could be at the bottom of the list. But Prince George's has a very steep road here.
DINEGARIt does have a steep road, but it's already started. And I will say that there's so much going on in Prince George's County that it gets lost in the news of the problems associated with the county, and that's unfortunate.
SHERWOODBad news, as you know, will always trump good news.
DINEGARAnd so Rushern Baker and his team and the County Council are putting good things together and getting some things done. Look, it was disappointing that Disney pulled out of National Harbor, but...
NNAMDII was about to ask you about that. National Harbor is supposed to be the crown jewel of Prince George's County's economic resume, nationally competitive convention center and hotel. But in the past month, you mentioned, Disney has announced that they're pulling out of plans to come there. And it served, last week, as a venue for a rather disastrous road race that we had a segment on earlier this week, the hot chocolate road race. What kind of ark do you think that National Harbor is on right now? Is it living up to expectation?
DINEGARHot chocolate and road race.
SHERWOODThey do have a very nice ice sculpture there where you have to wear that ice suit to go in. That's very -- but back to you, Mr. Dinegar.
DINEGARWell, I'm going to go quickly back on that. I've been to that ice show. And let me tell you, they pull in hundreds of thousands of people for these shows through the course of the time that it's there. They bring in crowds. There's not a restaurant on a Friday or Saturday night that you can get a seat in or get close to the bar down in the National Harbor. So it, I'll tell you, a lot of people have discovered it, but I'm not sure that word is out.
DINEGARThose conventions are bringing people not only into National harbor but into the District. We're hoping that they actually spend a bit more time over an old-time Alexandria and in Prince George's County and around the region.
SHERWOODWell that's one of the problems. I've actually talked to people. I've talked to at least more than a half dozen, and I've talked with some convention planners. And they say the big complaint that they have is that the people who come to National Harbor are there but aren't in Washington to see -- they think they can just, like, go out the door and take a quick cab ride or something and be downtown. And then they discover they are really not convenient to downtown. It's much easier to take a boat across...
NNAMDI(unintelligible) Alexandria. Yes.
SHERWOODThey say it's much easy to take a boat across Alexandria than it is to get to downtown Washington. I always thought there'd be much more transportation back and forth (unintelligible).
DINEGARThere is, Tom.
NNAMDIThe biggest attraction of National Harbor for me, frankly, is the boat over to Alexandria. But that's another story.
DINEGARIt's a big plus. But I'll encourage you, not only the six people you talk to, but go try it. It's a 12-minute jump to Capitol Hill from National Harbor. And it is a lot faster...
DINEGARBy cab. Cab or car. And it is a lot faster than people think.
SHERWOODI would just say these are people who said they were reflecting -- the nurses at conventions and other things there -- they felt like they could not get out.
DINEGARWell, they need to open their eyes a bit more 'cause, you know...
SHERWOODYou never think it'll become a casino? That's what I bring up every time we mention National Harbor.
DINEGARYou know, I hope not. Frankly, I don't think that a casino is the family-friendly atmosphere that Prince George's County is putting out there, and I don't think that it's the panacea for economic issues. What I like is the work being done outside the gates of Andrews Air Force Base. The entire effort associated with Westphalia, what we see with Cantera (sp?) Plaza, the enormous work that's being done on a variety of different elements associated with economic development tying with the underused Metros.
DINEGARYou know, eventually, that becomes Ballston Clarendon Courthouse out in Prince George's County. And their access to Metro is so underutilized, so much development opportunity. As the economy picks back up, Prince George's County is a big play in this region.
SHERWOODBut the federal government has suggested it might work out some deals with some Metro stops. I think some of them are in Prince George's County.
DINEGARThey're working on it. But, you know, the federal government is on uncertain times right now. It isn't where everybody should be putting their money. I think the private sector is a bigger opportunity. And so you have to look at some of the universities, maybe even some of the health care, some of the biggest employers around this region expanding a lot of their workforce who lives in Prince George's County, and the opportunity to live closer to where you work. Prince George's County offers some remarkable opportunities.
NNAMDISpeaking of National Harbor, WHUR, where I once worked, is having their big 40th anniversary party tomorrow night at National Harbor.
SHERWOODWhy aren't they having it in town?
NNAMDII -- because, I guess, a lot of their listeners are in Prince George's County, and so they see themselves, as does our guest, as a regional organization rather than a D.C. organization even though the station is based here.
SHERWOODThe last time I checked, Howard University was in Washington but...
NNAMDIWe have breaking news. We just got a tweet from Darcy Spencer saying that Leslie Johnson has been sentenced to 12 months in jail. Leslie Johnson, the wife of former Prince George's County Executive Jack Johnson and herself, elected to the County Council just 10 days or so before her own arrest, she had been trying to get a sentence that would not involve any jail time. Apparently, she is getting 12 months of jail time.
NNAMDIAnd to return to that fairly unpleasant subject for a second, Jim Dinegar, the argument was being made when the Johnsons where arrested that there was a culture if corruption that had developed in Prince George's County earlier than that. And I think one of the implications of Tom's earlier question was that, OK, you have arrested, convicted and now jailed the Johnsons. But does that mean that the culture of corruption is completely gone?
NNAMDIHow difficult is it for the Greater Washington Board of Trade to convince possible business investors in Prince George's County that there is no culture of corruption in Prince George's County?
DINEGARWell, if there is and has been a culture of corruption in Prince George's County, it rests with the county executive first and foremost. And there's a new sheriff in town, Rushern Baker, and candidly, he's very clear about the fact that the buck does stop with him. And in that respect, people have a go-to team of people in the leadership of Prince George's County that they feel confident they can go to, that it's a clean beginning.
DINEGARAnd I have to say, that's a big plus. So it's not harping on the past, and I'm sorry to hear that the troubles in Prince George's County have been such a thorn in the side of economic development. It has been for years. But now that the jail sentences are there, the people will go away.
DINEGARAnd my hope is that the good news of what's coming out of the county will dominate more of the headlines into the not-too-distant future because putting 50 million on the table to attract businesses to Greater -- to the Greater Washington area in Prince George's County is unprecedented in this region. They really stepped up to the big leagues with that one. And I think they've got a lot of opportunity ahead of them.
SHERWOODI want to ask about the -- make sure I -- 'cause I'm going to do a story about this today, so I want to make sure I hear from you. The concerns -- I interviewed Mayor Gray for a little Sunday program that airs on "Viewpoint" on Sunday morning. And he says that people are increasingly concerned. He said they're losing patience -- that was the phrase he used -- with the Occupy D.C. demonstrations downtown. He's talking about Wednesday night.
SHERWOODHe says that they've tried to respect individual rights of protest, but Wednesday night was another. And you have complained, as I understand, that the businesses downtown in and around McPherson Square at 15th and K and other places are starting to lose patience about how it's being handled. What do you think of the city's handling of it and the Park Service, and how is it affecting business? Is it affecting business?
DINEGARWell, Tom, that's quite a bit, but I'll share with you...
SHERWOODActually, 30 seconds.
DINEGARYeah, I'll share with you that businesses are well past the patience point with Occupy D.C. I think that the District and the surrounding areas, but specifically the District, is being abused by the occupiers. And I do lump them all together. I will say that more of this rests with Department of Interior and the Park Service in giving the permits and extending it. There's not a city in the country, except for the Washington, D.C., area, that has accommodated these protesters to this extent.
DINEGARWe're a flash point away from real trouble. I think the police department in the District has done a remarkable job, but it's not backed up by the Park police. And I don't blame the Park police. It's allowing this to happen. McPherson Square will be a toxic waste dump for the next couple of years to clean that park up after. There were a lot of dollars spent to clean it up over the past couple of years. Unfortunately, you've got Georgia Brown's there and the Starbucks and a number of other restaurants nearby that are getting hurt from the business. People are reluctant to go downtown.
DINEGARYou've got the cherry -- or the cherry blossoms coming up in the spring, but certainly the Christmas tree lighting now. This is tourist season, and you want to attract people to the downtown area, not repel them. And, you know, you've got the skating over by the JW Marriott right outside of Convention Center Hotel. It's -- look, they've made their point. Whatever that point is -- but you had several months to be able to make it -- the prospect of actually kicking them out on New Year's Eve when the permit expires, the timing on this is lousy, just terrible.
NNAMDIAnd there's a protest planned today for a hunger strike and a protest of D.C. voting rights on Capitol Hill. But what would you say about the protest planned on Capitol Hill? Would that have an effect on business in the District also?
DINEGARProtesters walked into Charlie Palmer's the other day, 30 of them, and disrupted lunch. It's business. I appreciate that they have a point of view, and we respect them. And they should respect us, meaning the population in the District of Columbia, businesses, individuals, residents, whomever. But I have to say that this continues to escalate. Unless someone begins to push back, this will continue to escalate.
DINEGARWe become the place. Oh, well, you got kicked out of Philly? Come on down here. You got kicked out in New York? Come on down here. No. Don't come down here.
NNAMDIDo you make a distinction between the so-called 1 percent, which include the nation's big banks and major corporate executives, and the businesses that you represent in the Washington area?
DINEGARI don't. A number of the bigger businesses are represented by the Greater Washington Board of Trade. A number of the bigger businesses are the biggest employers in the Greater Washington region. A number of the bigger businesses are the ones that we're all working hard to attract to this region, and we are thrilled that Hilton moved here and SAIC and Volkswagen and others.
DINEGARAnd we'll work hard to continue to make this region a strong, vibrant region for the entirety of the population, but, having said that, we're looking to hire more and more people. Right now this is putting restaurants at risk. It's putting tourism at risk. It caused real trouble over the Convention Center. And so when you're looking to attract that next 15- or 20,000-person Convention Center, these aren't the images you want to see on TV.
SHERWOODAnd I think you haven't said it as clearly as I thought about this. But if Georgia Brown's, which is a popular restaurant there at 15th and K or Vermont or whatever street address it is right across, it's not just the business itself, the owners of it, but it's the waiters who depend on -- there are some people in the 99 percent who have those jobs, who are losing their jobs: the taxi cab drivers who can't get through, the waiters who are in the restaurants, the retail clerks, all the people who are lower wage jobs.
DINEGARWhen they protested the...
SHERWOODThey're affected as much as the owner, the fat cat owners of the businesses.
DINEGARAbsolutely. It's an employment issue, in many respects, as well as tourism and supporting tourism. Tourism is a big part of the economy in Greater Washington. And the cab drivers and the valet parkers and all of the waiters in holiday season, unfortunately not just Georgia Brown's, but there are a number of other restaurants around that region that are feeling the squeeze. And...
SHERWOODHave you talked to the mayor about this?
NNAMDIAnd anticipating some of the Occupy Wall Street supporters who will call, you should know that we have, on three occasions, have spokespersons for Occupy Wall Street on the program and not, so far, anyone representing the business community.
SHERWOODRight. No, I respect -- yes. Now we respect -- I respect what they are -- and nor do I think I can articulate their complaints, but I don't want to now because I want to -- have you talked to the mayor? Have you asked him to do something? Have you talked to the Park Service, the Interior Department, Controller's Department? What have you done to try to get a more vigorous response, but something short of the pepper spraying incidences that have occurred all over? They did take down the contraption there in McPherson Square, the big house they broke. They took that down.
DINEGARI give a lot of -- I'll give a lot of credit to the mayor and to the police department, Chief Lanier and the Special Operations Department. And we've had extensive briefings by the police department to the Board of Trade three times now, and we have expressed our concerns to the city. And they've -- in fact, we had our annual meeting with Dr. Henry Kissinger at 16th and K, at the Capital Hilton, on the day when Occupy decided to take over K Street.
DINEGARThankfully, they weren't aware we were there. They weren't aware that Dr. Kissinger was there. There was a strong police presence. And while there were a number of arrests, it was a peaceful protest. Our concern is that it's not taking issue with their complaints. They have the right to complain, and certainly that's their right to petition. It's the hallmark of K Street lobbyists, but, having said that, it's the potential for violence in the park.
DINEGARIt's the potential for stabbings and assaults and worse. And I have concerns not only in the park environment of McPherson Square and certainly down by the JW Marriott, but just within town where you get these roving bands of occupiers that are walking through to do protest have shut down traffic. We're already a congested region. We don't need more people making more traffic difficult on Key Bridge or on K Street or anywhere else in the city. Look, you've made your point. Really appreciate it. Thanks very much. And we wish you well wherever you go after you leave Washington.
NNAMDIAnd I'm afraid that's all the time we have. Jim Dinegar is the president and CEO of the Greater Washington Board of Trade. Jim Dinegar, thank you so much for joining us.
DINEGARHappy holidays, Kojo.
NNAMDIHappy holidays to you. We'd also like to take a moment today to thank a pair of our interns: Robbie Feinberg and Kathleen Langfeld, (sp?) both of whom spent their last official days with the show yesterday, even though Kathleen is here at the studio with her parents today because she's graduating from American University this weekend. Congratulations, Kathleen. Thanks for everything, and best of luck to both of you.
NNAMDIAnd we also should remember today the passing of Joe Robert, who rose from a troubled childhood to become one of Washington's wealthiest financiers and most generous philanthropist. I know you know him, Jim Dinegar.
DINEGARA wonderful guy.
NNAMDIKnown for his raucous annual "Fight Night" boxing event that raised millions of dollars for children's charities. He died Dec. 7 at his home in McLean. Joe Robert will be missed. Tom Sherwood, on to Hollywood.
SHERWOODI'll be signing autographs in the lobby. No.
NNAMDIHe'll be the one with the dark glasses and the scarf around his neck. Hopefully, this project will get off the ground as opposed to the previous one that actually went nowhere. And hopefully this project...
SHERWOODJust don't do anything to sabotage it.
NNAMDIWell, unless they hire me as a consultant, I might actually do that. Thank you all for listening. Have a nice weekend. I'm Kojo Nnamdi.
Most Recent Shows
Mayor Bowser made a commitment to ending traffic fatalities in the District by 2024, but three years later, deaths have only steadily increased.
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.
Facing Calls For Dismissal, Prince George’s Schools CEO Kevin Maxwell Attends To Crisis Of Confidence
An investigation into Prince George's County Public Schools last fall found inflated graduation rates, too many excused absences and overly lax grading. How will the county fix its school's problems?