Ridehailing companies say they are helping cities combat congestion, but as transit ridership declines and traffic gets worse, we take a closer look at their role in Washington's gridlock.
D.C. clears the way for new taxi rates. A project to bring Whole Foods to Prince George’s stalls. And Virginia lawmakers debate scrapping the current term rules for governors. 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
- Barbara Favola Member-Elect, Virginia Senate (31st District); Former Member, Arlington County Board (D)
- Andrea Harrison Chair, Prince George's County Council (D)
Politics Hour Extra
Barbara Favola talks about how a power-sharing agreement might shape up between the even split of Democrats and Republicans:
MR. KOJO NNAMDIFrom WAMU 88.5 at American University in Washington, welcome to "The Politics Hour," starring Tom Sherwood. I'm Kojo Nnamdi. Tom Sherwood is our resident analyst. He's an NBC 4 reporter, a columnist for the Current Newspapers and, apparently in the eyes of Hollywood, the competent authority on all things Marion Barry. So we will start with all things Marion Barry.
MR. KOJO NNAMDIToday, reports surfacing, circulating during the course of the last day or two that the Ward 8 councilmember has, "again, failed to pay his income taxes," this time having to do with a lien filed on a home on Orange Street SE, indicating that there are $3,276.29 in unpaid 2010 income taxes on that home. Question, Tom Sherwood, who does the home really belong to?
MR. TOM SHERWOODThe -- he notes it's not filed on his taxes, you know? I'm told by someone who knows Barry -- I can't tell you who it is -- but she's pretty close to him. Well, I'll just tell you. Barry doesn't own the house. He rents the house.
SHERWOODAnd Cora Masters Barry, who is still his wife...
SHERWOOD...that somebody reported that she lives there. And she called me, and she said I don't live there. I live on Raleigh Street, where I have lived for X number of years. I don't know how many years it's been.
SHERWOODSo I'm not sure why that somebody is going to place a lien on a home that Barry doesn't own.
SHERWOODAnd Cora is not there. So that's cleared that up right away.
NNAMDIBut what really clears it up...
SHERWOODAnd again, about -- and about Barry, you know, this is such -- I mean, the sun comes up in the east. That's what -- you know, with the story, he just -- he's just not disciplined on these issues and pay his taxes. People always think, well, he's got to be a felon. Why don't they put him in jail? And there's a difference, you know, every month or every two weeks, however, he gets paid. You know, he has tax dollars payments taken out of his paycheck, just like other workers, just like me and others. And so he pays taxes, but he...
NNAMDIThat's right. He doesn't file returns, yeah.
SHERWOOD...doesn't reconcile -- he doesn't file returns. That is a misdemeanor usually, and that is something less serious. And it's not the more serious felony stuff of evading taxes, of scheming to evade taxes, to hide money, to do things. He simply just doesn't do it. I mean, he's had a couple of accountants. His lawyers have pushed him to do all this. It's not good. I'm not trying to defend him in any way. It's an embarrassment.
NNAMDIIt's just that his name is such a lighting rod for this.
SHERWOODIt's an embarrassment. He ought to know it, but he's just undisciplined in these issues. And he put out a press release saying he was going to eradiate the matter. And I thought I had to look it up to make sure -- but I thought he meant eradicate or illuminate, but he's going to eradiate. I don't know who chose that word.
NNAMDIPut it behind him, clarify...
NNAMDIWe'll find out more during the course of the next few days.
SHERWOODBut -- so it's just kind of a world where he's -- shrug of the shoulders from me that this is one more unnecessary, silly embarrassment for him and for the city.
NNAMDIOn to new taxi fare rates apparently coming to Washington, D.C., compliments of the D.C. Taxicab Commission. These proposed changes would remain the -- would leave the base fare as it is, $3, but the per-mile rate would jump from $1.50 to $2.16. The wait-time rate would increase according to The Washington Post from $15 to $25 an hour. And all of those additional fees that you pay for luggage and more passengers or pets and personal service would be gone in addition to which you will be able to pay by credit card.
NNAMDIWhat -- when would this come into effect? There's a 30-day period (unintelligible).
SHERWOODWell, not at least -- there's got to be another hearing, I think, in January, the 11th or something like that, and this would -- and at best would go into effect some time in February or later if they don't decide to change it. You know, there was some report out that this was some, like, horrifying ring the bells 44 percent of the taxicab rates. It's really not when you add the more basic mileage charges and you subtract all the special fees, if the sun comes up two minutes early, they charge you an extra 50 cents and all these other stupid fees.
SHERWOODThey're now just going to simply have a meter that tells you how much you pay, and it'd be great if they can get that done. But this will not be done until it goes to all the regulatory process, and that would be late or probably winter.
NNAMDIDo you send tweets to Lady Gaga?
SHERWOODYou know, no.
NNAMDIGov. Martin O'Malley does. He sent a tweet to Lady Gaga thanking her for her advocacy against bullying and saying that he and his wife, Katie, would like to invite her to dinner to eliminate bullying in Maryland.
SHERWOODI wonder how many tweets Lady Gaga gets and then how she has any special system that makes the governor of Maryland's tweet pop up out of the probably X-thousands she gets.
NNAMDIWell, the name Martin O'Malley should ring a bell to her.
SHERWOODYou know, Martin O'Malley plays the guitar, and he has a band. He knows probably that tweeting Lady Gaga probably does exactly what he wanted, got the news media to pay attention.
NNAMDIYou don't think he sells as many records as Lady Gaga.
SHERWOODYou know, of course, are you going to mention that Marion Barry tweet?
NNAMDIHe tweeted Spike Lee, your producer.
NNAMDIYour director for the upcoming...
NNAMDI...your director for the upcoming movie on...
SHERWOODProducer is the one who puts the money...
NNAMDI...Marion Barry for which Tom Sherwood and Harry Jaffe sold the rights to them at a -- for a huge sum that...
SHERWOODI don't know that this was...
NNAMDI...he refuses to reveal.
SHERWOOD...I don't know this is a -- first of all, I don't -- until I actually see him physically do it, I'm not believing that Barry is tweeting. I've seen him try to use a cellphone just simply to dial it, much less tweet a coherent message. But, you know, if Barry has tweeted Spike Lee, maybe Spike Lee will get, you know, in his one or two tweets he gets it -- he'll notice it.
NNAMDIDespite the tweet to Spike Lee allegedly says please D.M. me. He wants a private direct message from Spike Lee. Has Spike Lee been tweeting you as...
SHERWOODNo. I don't -- you know, I'm way down that totem pole.
NNAMDIYeah. We will find out more about that later. The latest news coming out of Virginia is that a judge has rejected Democrats' request for an injunction over Senate control. You may remember that the last elections split the seats in the Senate 20-20, and it was believed by Republicans that Lt. Gov. Bill Bolling's vote could, in fact, give them the majority in the event of a tie.
NNAMDIWell, a judge has denied a Democratic state senator's request to temporarily bar Lt. Gov. Bolling from casting a tie-breaking vote to give Republicans power in the Senate, which, as we said, will be evenly divided between the two parties in January. The judge, rationalizing his ruling by saying that it would be inappropriate for the court to intervene before the legislative process has even begun, adding that the controversy Democrats are trying to avoid has not yet materialized. We'll see what our first guest has to say about that because she will be joining the Virginia Senate come next year.
NNAMDIBarbara Favola is a member-elect of the aforementioned Virginia Senate. She's a Democrat. She will be representing the commonwealth's 31st District, which includes parts of Arlington County. Senator-elect Favola, welcome. Thank you for joining us.
SEN. BARBARA FAVOLAThank you, Kojo. It's a pleasure to be here.
SHERWOODAnd who are you -- oh, who are you replacing?
FAVOLAWell, Mary Margaret Whipple, Senator Whipple...
SHERWOODMary -- right. Who decided...
FAVOLA...in the 31st District. But the district has been redrawn. Yes, she retired. So I never use the word replace. I always say succeed.
SHERWOODOK. Now, what about...
SHERWOODWhat about this court ruling (word?)...
NNAMDIHow do you interpret it? How do you interpret this court ruling?
FAVOLAWell, it's a -- let's just say the Democrats filed this case because we really wanted to alert the public that, you know, 20 Democrats were elected, and 20 Republicans were elected. Power sharing seems to make sense. In fact, this is what the Virginians actually voted for. And we felt -- we, the Democratic senators, felt we really had to make that statement and make it very clear. We did go to court.
FAVOLAI guess you saw the ruling that a circuit court judge doesn't want to make a decision until the General Assembly session started. Of course, the issue here was we really wanted to get ourselves organized before the General Assembly session started, you know, committee chair names, committee assignments made, some knowledge about who would sit on which committee -- how many slots you'd have on which committee.
SHERWOODDid it mean -- I know this information just comes out we're all trying to get all the details, but it is suggested the judge thinks that you don't have an actionable moment until the assembly convenes and then you want to organize the Senate as you always do. And at that moment, then you can come back to court?
NNAMDIThat seems to be what he's saying.
FAVOLAYeah. And I think there will be some differences of opinion. I think some folks would probably want to get maybe appeal this and get a different determination. It just -- the timing of this doesn't work well if we don't have a decision prior to the session starting because you -- the session -- you know, bills are filed. We have to do the public's business. We're organized in a certain way.
FAVOLAAnd to serve our citizens in Virginia, we just need to have our committee structure up and running. And that's really what this is about. It's about, you know, who's going to share -- who's going to chair the different committees? Are we going to share power? And, you know, we could do this without a court determination. I mean, the Republicans could agree to share power with the Democrats...
FAVOLA...like was done in 1996.
SHERWOODRight, '96. Precedent has -- did share power. What does that -- you have an equal number of committee members? What does it mean when you say share power?
FAVOLAWell, you can define what that means, but it could be to, you know, two co-chairs of a committee. It could mean equal number of members on each committee. It...
SHERWOODIt sounds like deadlocked city.
FAVOLAWell, it's not going to be deadlocked city. If it is, then you've got the Lt. Gov. Bolling who actually does have the authority to break a tie vote on legislative matters, on bills that are deadlocked. He does have...
SHERWOODI don't want to get into the weeks, but if...
NNAMDISo where does he not have the authority to break a tie? Because that, I guess, is what the judge...
FAVOLAWell, organizational matters were one of the areas...
NNAMDISuch as putting committees together.
FAVOLA...such as putting committees.
NNAMDISo the point at which there's...
FAVOLAThat it's vague in that question...
NNAMDI...the point at which there's a deadlock vote on who...
SHERWOODOn the floor.
NNAMDI...will be on a committee and the lieutenant governor cast the deciding vote is when the judge seems to be saying that's the point that you Democrats can then file suit?
FAVOLAThat might be what the judge is saying.
NNAMDIWhat are you saying...
NNAMDIWhat are you saying? Call us and let us know, 800-433-8850.
FAVOLAWe haven't read the whole decision yet.
NNAMDICall us at 800-433-8850. How do you think that the affairs of the chamber, the Senate chamber in the Commonwealth of Virginia should proceed if there's a deadlock? 800-433-8850. You can send email to firstname.lastname@example.org. Our guest is Senate-elect member Barbara Favola. You can also send us a tweet, @kojoshow, or simply go to our website, kojoshow.org, join the conversation there.
NNAMDIThe final argument that you made for your candidacy on your website boiled down it seems to four words: stop the Tea Party. Now that you are on your way to Richmond, you won that seat in the Virginia Senate, how is the argument that you would now like to make for how business should be done in Richmond going to compare to the argument you made in your campaign, stop the Tea Party?
FAVOLAWell, I'm actually going to be consistent. I think that's a noble thing for a politician. I'm one of those politicians where -- what you see is what you get. And I don't change stripes when I actually move into the office. I'm going to move forward with the agenda that I ran on, and I'm going to work hard to gain support from moderate Republicans. I think my agenda is the right one for Northern Virginia.
FAVOLAYou know, I'm working on job training, bills with the community college system. I'm working with, actually, members in the judicial system to try to close a loophole when emergency protective orders are issued, so we can actually remove a gun from a home for 72 hours. That was a loophole that needs to be fixed so -- and I'm, you know, go work on education and transportation.
FAVOLASo these are the kinds of things that I said I would promote and advocate for. And I have to believe that lawmakers from around the state care about education, transportation, the environment, the things that, you know, sort of make Virginia such a great state.
SHERWOODWell, I think cares about them. I'm just not sure they had the same prism that you do. Have you -- has Sen. Saslaw, Dick Saslaw, have you guys gotten together in the same room to talk about what the agenda is, what the legislative hopes are, what the strategy is? I realize that this big issue of power sharing is still undecided. But have you, all the winners from Northern Virginia, gotten together in the same room since the election?
FAVOLAWell, we've gotten together. We've -- it's interesting, and I will share this. We've met with out different local government bodies. And, as you know, in my district, I have Arlington, Fairfax and Loudoun. And one of the common themes we're hearing from local governments and from other interest groups is, please do no harm, you know, see if you could possibly have a general assembly session without giving us an unfunded mandate or without rolling back some authority we actually need. And, please, you know, from a financial situation, don't reduce the state's commitment in certain areas.
SHERWOODBut has Dick Saslaw called you guys altogether to say...
FAVOLAWell, we've had meetings. We have had a meeting, and this was more on the organizational matters. We're going to have subsequent meetings to talk about our legislative agenda. You know, let me just be clear. The way that our caucus works is ideas percolate up. I mean, senators were elected in their own right from their own districts, and their -- they pre-file bills on issues they care about, problems they want to solve, areas they want to move forward.
FAVOLAAnd then we all talk about, you know, who's filed, what areas are important, and then we move forward with an agenda, but it's very much from the bottom up.
NNAMDIPlease don your headphones. We're about to go to the telephones because Jim in Richmond, Va. wants to go back to the issue of the division in the Virginia Senate. Jim, you are now on the air. Go ahead, please.
JIMThank you very much. The problem, Sen. Favola, with your idea of sharing committee chairs and equal numbers on the committee is that's correct that Sen. Bolin -- Louisiana Gov. Bolin, rather, can break the tie at the floor, but the bills will never get to the floor 'cause they'll be tied up and locked up in committee. So there is your gridlock. So there's one party who's going to have to take control, and I'll stop with that.
FAVOLAWell, yeah, I expected that this question would come. I'm of the view that if both parties actually are equally held accountable for the -- leading Senate that there will be more compromise, and in fact there will be cross-over votes because then you're not, you know, blaming one party or the other. Both parties would be held accountable for gridlock, and both parties would also have the responsibility for moving an agenda forward.
SHERWOODNeither side could bully the other side. But that could mean, just what the caller said, as opposed to reaching compromise, it could be gridlock, so either is possible.
FAVOLAWell, either is possible.
NNAMDIYou mentioned moderate Republicans. What do you see is the issues that you think defined the differences between you and the Virginia Republican Party, between your party and the Virginia Republican Party?
FAVOLAWell, I mean, one thing I'm concerned about is I think we're going to see a whole slew of social policy legislation that is, you know, pretty extreme. We've had examples around the country where one party or the other really takes control of the Senate, the House and the governorship. They really move forward with an agenda that is more extreme than it would be if they had to share power. I mean, that's just a fact.
NNAMDIYou think if Gov. McDonnell is a vice president candidate that could serve to temper the -- what you would characterize as excess of conservative social legislation that you're likely to see?
FAVOLAGov. McDonnell will be in a very tough situation because he will be vying for the vice presidential nomination, I would expect, yeah.
NNAMDITrying to win the middle and moderates, yeah.
FAVOLAYeah, but to get the nomination, I think that a VP -- he probably will want to shore up his -- the Republican base. And shoring that up may, in fact, hurt him when he goes in a general election. But I think he'll have a very challenging situation because, right now, a lot of, you know, very extreme social legislation passed the House delegates. Last session, the Senate defeated it, and we're not going to be there.
FAVOLAWe're not going to have the numbers to defeat those bills this time around, and they're going to land on the governor's desk, so it will be very interesting to watch. I think his quandary is a little more complicated than you just explained.
SHERWOODAlthough you may disagree with the governor on any number of issues in general, do you think he would be a good vice presidential candidate for the Republicans? Although I know you're not in the business of promoting them, but...
NNAMDITen, nine, eight, seven...
SHERWOODThat's what he's done. He's now got...
FAVOLAI think he's a very desirable vice presidential candidate for the Republicans. He's coming from a swing state. He's done a reasonably good job in Virginia. I think he'll -- he would be very desirable.
NNAMDIWell, before we talk more about what's waiting for you in Richmond, can we talk -- take a minute to talk about what you're about to leave in Arlington and whether you're leaving fast enough. Some Republicans have complained that you're going to step down from the Arlington County Board until the end of the year. Why did you decide not to leave until Dec. 31?
FAVOLAWell, the fact of the matter is is I had been working on issues for a very long time, and some of those issues were not going to come before the board for action until the December meeting, which just concluded this past Tuesday. So I felt I had an obligation to complete my year and my obligations to the voters. It's really not to a particular political party that's trying jockey for, you know, arranging the special election sooner rather than later. So that's why I decided on December. I mean, there are issues I have to close out with constituents that I, you know, promised to conclude.
SHERWOODWell, what --when is the special election to replace your -- assume that you resign on the 30th, the 31st, whatever date it is you picked, what does that mean for the special election to replace you? When would that be?
NNAMDIProbably not before March.
FAVOLARight, right. They're saying April, middle of April. I guess we have to allow a certain amount of time after the presidential primary, which is in March. So that's why the special gets pushed to April.
SHERWOODSo the Republican committee is complaining that, well, for the few months of the new year does not -- there's no one to represent the state.
FAVOLAWell, you know, I could argue, and the chairman of the county -- Arlington County board made a point that there's a lot of work to do at the end of the year as well. So either way, you would have been short a member. So you sort of just pick your medicine.
SHERWOODAre you supporting someone to replace you? 'Cause that'll be -- there's a lot of candidates -- several candidates stating to move about.
FAVOLAI am not supporting a person to replace me right now. There are a lot of candidates out there...
SHERWOODWhat about in the next 10 minutes?
FAVOLAI think I'll hold it off for 10 minutes.
SHERWOODSo you expect it to endorse someone, you would -- in this primary. But it's not -- this is just a replacement. Whoever wins, right? It's just whoever wins. There's no run off for seats or anything like that?
FAVOLAThat's right. So whoever wins...
SHERWOODGets one more vote than anyone else.
FAVOLAThat's right, in an unassembled caucus for the Democrats. So you wouldn't actually need a large number of supporters, to tell you the truth, 'cause if you have seven people in the field, you know, you're only going to get maybe 7,000 people, maybe fewer than that voting in one place. So somebody will be able to secure the nomination and then be in a presidential cycle.
NNAMDIOur guest is Barbara Favola. She's a member-elect of the Virginia Senate, a Democrat who will be representing the commonwealth's 31st district, which includes parts of Arlington County. Tom Sherwood is our resident analyst. He's an NBC4 reporter and a columnist for The Current Newspapers. If you have questions or comments for Barbara Favola, call us at 800-433-8850 or send email to email@example.com. What issues do you think are going to be the most pivotal for Arlington in the upcoming legislative session in Richmond?
FAVOLAWell, interesting. You know, Arlington has not asked the general assembly delegation to carry any specific bills. So I think Arlington's concerns are, again, you know, the do no harm and really watch the funding as much as you can. It's one of these things where the VRS system needs to -- needs an infusion of money. The re-benchmarking for K-12 education is up, and we would like to...
SHERWOODI'm sorry. Excuse me. Did you say VRE or VRS?
SHERWOODAnd that is Virginia Retirement -- what is...
SHERWOOD'Cause -- make sure people know what we're talking about.
NNAMDIThank you, Tom.
SHERWOOD'Cause a lot of people would like to do something about VRE, too.
FAVOLAOh, VRE. Yeah. No, VRS, Virginia Retirement System.
NNAMDIAnd so far in this conversation, we haven't used the word transportation. When it comes to transportation, where do you think -- do you think it's worth trying to work with the Republicans and the Republican governor in order to get something passed on transportation?
FAVOLAI think it's worth trying, but I'm not very optimistic. I mean, the fact of the matter is, is you need a new and dedicated source of revenue for transportation. You know, I mean, the governor came out with a three-point plan recently. And it was carrying over one-time money. It was, you know, using dollars in excess of a 5 percent growth and then shifting yet more general fund revenue into transportation.
FAVOLAAnd the general fund, as you know, funds education, health care, public safety, the environment, number of other core services. So, you know, there's just not enough in that pot to really meet our needs.
SHERWOODWas it the AAA that just said recently that both Maryland and Virginia, and Virginia in particular, each state has lost tens of millions of dollars because the gas tax is not tied to inflation?
FAVOLAIn index, right. Yeah.
SHERWOODIndex -- and hasn't the gas tax in Virginia -- I think when the Model T was running around -- it's pretty old.
FAVOLAIt's old. 1986 is the last time they raised the gas tax. And there was...
FAVOLAYeah. There was an article in the Post that said Virginia has lost over $600 million by not indexing that gas in tax.
SHERWOOD(unintelligible) was it the -- couldn't remember the organization that tallied up the figure to see whether it's a believable figure or not.
FAVOLAA believable figure? Yeah. But nonetheless, I think the point is we have lost millions of dollars. And we, you know, Martin O'Malley is proposing a 15 cent increase in the gasoline tax in Maryland over a period of time.
SHERWOODYour cigarette taxes are among the lowest in the nation.
SHERWOODLike 25 cents a pack or something. It's very low.
FAVOLARight. It's very low.
SHERWOODCompared to $2 a pack in the District and, I think, similar in Maryland.
SHERWOODWhy there's little taxes out there?
FAVOLAI mean, you could take that money and, my goodness, help support our Medicaid program, which is very, very...
SHERWOODHow about cutting -- I don't want anybody -- I don't need Tea Party person to attack me.
SHERWOODWhat about cutting -- surely, the state is -- with its billions of dollars in budget, surely there's money to be cut. Have you proposed any cuts in state government?
FAVOLAWell, you know, I'm looking at subsidies where the goal that the subsidy was intended to meet really isn't met. And I think that should be a place where we start. There are a lot of tax breaks. I mean, somebody mentioned the other day, the subsidy in the coal mining industry was originally intended to ensure that jobs would grow in that industry or the, you know? And the fact of the matter is a lot of coal mining now is done by machines.
FAVOLAFewer jobs have been created. Fewer jobs are in the industry, but the subsidies still remains. So I have to believe that there are elements in the budget where, you know...
SHERWOODDo you know any of those down state (unintelligible) area of...
FAVOLAThe down-state people probably are not excited about this.
SHERWOODI don't know if they're listening to this program or not but, you know...
FAVOLAAnd I don't mean to pick on them.
FAVOLAI'm just -- you just, you know, the subsidy needs to be producing the public outcome that it was intended because you are in effect diverting dollars from other purposes.
NNAMDIIf you're going to implement any of these ides, are there specific committee assignments that you might be angling for?
FAVOLAWell, I'm angling for what's doable. I know I'm not going to be on the Finance Committee. You know, I'm very interested in the human services area. So if I can get one of those committees, I would be happy. I have the knowledge of local government, and I also have a passion for the environment. So, you know, those are the areas where I think I can bring some strengths or bring some expertise and maybe maximize my ability to contribute.
SHERWOODPardon me. There is an environment committee in the Virginia state legislature?
FAVOLAOh, it's agriculture and natural resources, Tom.
SHERWOODNo -- oh, I didn't think that'd be an environment committee. I haven't been to the Richmond legislature in a few years, but when they gets in an environment committee, you let me know 'cause I want to come to see it.
FAVOLAWell, yeah. Well, I'll invite you.
NNAMDIDon your headphones again, please, 'cause here is Tara in Gaithersburg, Md. Tara, you're on the air. Go ahead, please.
TARAHi. I don't live in Virginia. I live in Maryland, but I think that this situation in Virginia is an exact sample of just what's wrong with U.S. politics on a whole right now. There is an incredible lack of a spirit of compromise, and every day people are making more and more compromises in their lives with their standard living, their quality of life, their income, the wealth gap is growing.
TARABut our politicians can't get together in a room and sit down and compromise and create a situation that's going to be better for us on a whole. And I'll take -- and I really feel that this spirit is more poignant on the right side of the aisle. And I'll take the comment off the air.
NNAMDIBarbara Favola, you said earlier that you're not optimistic about reaching agreement on transportation issues with your Republican colleagues in the Senate, and Tara says that's the problem.
FAVOLAYeah, and she's right. I mean, we've -- we have a lot of Republicans who've have been elected on the no tax pledge, and that simply is not realistic. I think the caller is right. This is the dynamic going on in Virginia. In some respects, it's similar to the dynamic going on in Congress -- not as bad, but in some respects it's there. You know, you can't really solve problems and move the state forward if you're not willing to be pragmatic, if you're not willing to look at both sides.
SHERWOODPragmatic, that's the Merriam-Webster word of the year.
FAVOLAWell, I know. You know...
SHERWOODI think it is.
FAVOLA...to run the government, you've got to look at balancing the budget from both -- it taking prudent cuts and from the revenue side, looking at revenues. Not just one approach.
NNAMDITara, thank you very much for your call. I'd like to hear your opinion on some of the big races in Virginia. Let's start with the U.S. Senate. What are your expectations for that race next fall, where the big named that are being mentioned, of course, are George Allen and Tim Kaine, both former governors?
FAVOLAWell, I think, that's going to be a very exciting race. It's going to be a closely watched race. It's probably going to be very close. You know, I certainly have my favorite. I think Gov. Kaine has, you know, the experience and the record and, I think, the values that more closely represent Virginians, in my view. But it's going to be a very exciting race. And there will be a lot of overlay with Obama and, you know, that will be part of this dynamic as to what people think of the country and...
NNAMDIYou saw how she repaired her headphones while she was answering.
SHERWOODYes. That's how good she is.
NNAMDIIt's called multitasking. Something that you should learn.
SHERWOODDo you believe that -- George Allen was on the fast track, maybe, for a national campaign bid at president or vice president or something until he had the unfortunate close race and used the word macaca? He's been out for six years, but he has worked diligently around the state. He has tried to fend off the more conservative aspects of the Republican Party, saying that he's -- I don't know if he calls himself a moderate conservative. I think he's a conservative.
SHERWOODBut he has -- both of these candidates are well-liked individuals. Do you think he has some strong chance to win? I know you don't want him to win and I think Tim Kaine will run better, but Obama's not doing this well in the state of Virginia, and Allen has worked very hard to make up for his narrow lost six years ago.
FAVOLAWell, you know, there is a recent poll done in, you know, Tim Kaine had a five point lead. It's not a huge lead. Sure, is it possible that George Allen could win it? Yes, it is possible.
SHERWOODYou say that like he's...
FAVOLAYeah, yes. It is possible.
SHERWOOD...just like a big moon made turn into green cheese.
FAVOLAWell, no. I don't mean to make it sound that remote.
SHERWOODIt's going to be competitive.
FAVOLAIt is going to be competitive. There is absolutely no question. It's going to be competitive. They'll have to raise a lot of money. They'll have to work hard at getting message out. They'll have to work hard at, you know, explaining the situation in Congress, explaining the president's positions and also delivering a message that is meaningful to Virginians.
SHERWOODWhat if their economy just simply does get this?
FAVOLAI just think...
SHERWOODIt's just perking along and it's just -- it's getting better. Everyone says it's getting better, but it's getting better seems like a microburst.
FAVOLAWell, you know, I just -- yeah, two unrelated point. I just think it's ironic that many Republican candidates and lawmakers really lambaste the spending of federal money, especially in Virginia. In Virginia, we have the highest state per capita -- expenditures of federal money. And that's really, I mean, it's defense money, it's defense-related jobs, it's, you know, it's sort of...
SHERWOODA private consultant world.
FAVOLA...private consulting world. These are the kinds of things that are generated by federal expenditures and...
SHERWOODNot to mention the military spending in your state.
FAVOLAThat's right. Well, yeah.
SHERWOODWell, I guess, you are lumping it all together.
FAVOLAI was lumping it all together, but...
SHERWOODObviously, you make a difference. But given the federal funding that Northern Virginia essentially lives off of and then the military spending also, if the Tea Party Republicans win their national agenda, the Congress of Virginia could be hurt?
FAVOLAThat's exactly right. It would be bad for Virginia economically, as well as in other ways. But it would certainly be bad for Virginia economically 'cause that you cannot deny that the federal government is a big economic engine in the state.
SHERWOODBut you don't want the state also to be a virtual, you know, dependent upon the federal government?
FAVOLANo. We'd -- well, I think, we are diversifying. We're trying to bring in new industries. One of the things I hope we can do is get some more green technology firms into the state. You know, we are trying very hard to diversify, but you still and this is true with Maryland, too. You cannot underestimate the economic impact and the domino effect of having those federal dollars in your economy.
NNAMDIBarbara Favola, thank you so much for joining us.
FAVOLAThank you. Thank you, Tom.
SHERWOODI hope you get a vote in the legislature.
NNAMDIBarbara Favola is a member of...
FAVOLAI'm trying hard. I don't know if you guys helped me or hurt me.
NNAMDIWell, you know, we don't have one in the House of Representatives here in the District, so we're not good at this.
SHERWOODWe don't know what voting is.
NNAMDIShe is a member-elect of the Virginia Senate. She's a Democrat. She'll be representing the 31st district. It includes parts of Arlington County. Thank you so much for joining us.
FAVOLAThank you. Thank you.
NNAMDITom Sherwood is our resident analyst. He's an NBC 4 reporter and a columnist for The Current Newspapers. Tom, in Prince George's County, Delegate Tiffany Alston has been indicted again according to The Washington Post. She, of course, became better known after she changed her mind about same-sex marriage. But she's been now indicted for apparently using state funds to pay someone to work in her law office at the rate of $100 a day. The money was apparently paid by the Maryland General Assembly.
NNAMDIAnd according to the charges, the law firm employee never did any work at all in the Maryland General Assembly. Of course, the amount totaled $800. But I guess that's one of the things that people find frustrating about some of the scandals we have because the stakes seems to be so high, yet the amounts that are being cited seem to be so low.
SHERWOODI mean, I just wonder sometimes if people are just clueless, given all the public corruption and ethics issues going on. If you're a freshman state lawmaker, it seems to me you would want to be very careful how you stepped into anything that could be seen in an unfavorable light. And I'm not talking about positions on politics.
SHERWOODI'm just talking about spending the state money on using your office, of showing up and doing your job of having -- making sure your employees are all -- it just -- I just don't quite get the disconnect of someone who gets a job in a public office in this current environment. And then it's so cavalier, at least, and criminal, at worst, in running her public affairs. It's just astonishing to me.
NNAMDIA CPA in every elected official's office. That's my slogan from now on.
SHERWOODWell, we don't want to do that kind of job program. But, you know, I just, you know, common, you know, the famous saying, common sense is not that common.
NNAMDIWell, joining us now in studio is Andrea Harrison, chair of the Prince George's County Council. She is a Democrat. Andrea Harrison, thank you so much for joining us.
MS. ANDREA HARRISONThank you for having me.
NNAMDIIf you have questions or comments for Andrea Harrison, call us at 800-433-8550. Send email to firstname.lastname@example.org or a tweet, @kojoshow. This past month has been an ugly ending for what in many years was an ugly year in Prince George's. Former County Executive Jack Johnson was sentenced to seven years in a corruption trial. His wife Leslie, one of your former colleagues on the county council, was sentenced to a year. The current county executive says that their sentencings mean it's time to move on.
NNAMDIHowever, in your view, from what position is Prince George's going to be moving into the future? How would you assess the damage that this investigation has already done to the county?
HARRISONWell, first of all, let me just say thank you for having me here today.
NNAMDIYou're more than welcome.
HARRISONThis has been a trying year for us in Prince George's County, not only elected officials but also all of our residents. We hope that this will allow us to begin to move on with these sentencings. These two individuals have pleaded guilty, and the justice system has taken its course in this. What we're going to do -- what we're going to continue to do is what we've started last year was to continue to build on trying to rebuild public trust in county government.
HARRISONThis council and the county executive have strived to work hard together so that we can be united on this front and to begin to build trust again in the county government.
NNAMDIBut don't you also have some more work to do in that regard? To what degree are you concerned about how far the corruption at the center of the Johnson case might be rooted in the county? County Executive Rushern Baker is studying the prosecution memo to determine whether any county employees or contractors were implicated in the wrongdoing. Is the county council also conducting the same kind of search to root out any remaining elements of corruption that might remain in the county?
HARRISONWell, certainly, we are very concerned about it. There is a perception that this is much deeper than what we see. And the prosecutor has said that this investigation is not over. And so obviously, we're very concerned about that. We do want to make sure that we root out all of these issues that are not favorable for us and embarrass us, quite honestly. And we're just looking forward to getting to the bottom of it and moving forward.
HARRISONAnd we hope that we can. We are very concerned, and we're open to the questions, you know, if you don't -- if you're not doing anything wrong, you don't have anything to hide so...
SHERWOODYou've been in office only for a very short time. Is that right?
SHERWOODAnd -- well, let me ask you about Tiffany Alston and -- I'm sure you know her. But what is your own thought? This is an ongoing, pretty small potatoes kind of corruption if she's guilty of this. But you're trying to make a fresh start. I think all of the council members stood together and were interviewed and people spoke about moving forward, putting the past behind you in the wake of the Jack Johnson and Leslie Johnson sentencings. But here you have this case. If you -- if she were here, what would you say to Tiffany Alston?
HARRISONWell, yes, I do know Tiffany. Actually, she's actually my delegate. I live in the 24th legislative district. It is very disturbing. And I must say that I did just learn about this this morning. I didn't have an opportunity yesterday to...
SHERWOODCall her up and fuss at her.
HARRISONWell, I didn't even have the opportunity to hear the news yesterday just because of my schedule. But I am saddened by it. And, you know, it's hard to know exactly what to ask at this point. You know, did she, you know, knowingly do it? Did she make another honest freshman mistake? You know, it's just very difficult to know. I certainly hope that that's what it is, and she can certainly explain a deal with that.
SHERWOODLet me ask you because if you're an elected official and you can give guidance maybe to people who want to be elected officials or -- when you take your job, when you're in your office and you take oath of office, people are going to come at you, not necessarily in just a boldfaced way. I want to buy you. I want to bribe you. I want to make you do something. It's more subtle than that. It's more incestuous. And I think people...
NNAMDII just want to take you to dinner to tell you about, you know, a few ideas that I have.
SHERWOODRight. You know, it's like a reporter. We're trying to get information out of you. We're going to be nice to you and then, you know, but how do you steal yourself? Is it just your own basic character? Or how do you steal yourself so that you won't be in any headlines in the future?
HARRISONWell, we have a number of people that are actually on staff that we can bounce these issues off of my chief of staff, who has been in the arena of council politics, both in the District and in Prince George's County for quite some time. I do rely heavily on his judgment. I try not to so much take much on myself without bouncing it off of someone because I do want to make sure that I am in compliance and that I'm not doing anything that may seem knowingly -- or may seem innocent but maybe not perceived as that. And so...
SHERWOODIt takes more than good moral character. Actually, it takes vigilance.
HARRISONIt does. It does. And so, I try to make sure that if I do have a meeting, I have someone else in the room with me. And then if there's something that I'm not sure about, we have staff that we can -- and legal staff that we can certainly ask about, ask these issues, too, to make sure that we're correct.
NNAMDIYour colleagues just made you the chair of the council. What are the issues that you expect that are going to be the focus during your time at the helm of the council?
HARRISONWell, I will tell you that I am very excited about this and interested in really working to build one Prince George's. And when I say that...
SHERWOODI'm sorry. Mayor Gray has (unintelligible) He said one city, one...
HARRISONDoes he? OK.
SHERWOODSo may have to -- you'll have to take two.
HARRISONNo. I'm going to take one. We can do this together. We can do this together. It's about building on partnerships. And I believe that by working together with the county executive, our state delegation, our school system and even our neighbors around the region, they're not Prince George's, but as we work together and we're open and honest in our dialogue, then that's one way to, first of all, begin to build, in my opinion, a bill -- rebuild trust in government.
HARRISONAnd then, secondly, we need to be able to have honest dialogue back and forth about issues. We're not always going to agree on something, but when we can have debate, then we become the better thereof.
NNAMDIWell, let's talk about that honest dialogue for a second because when he appeared on this broadcast, Derrick Leon Davis, your newest colleague, said that he'd like to end the practice of council courtesy when it comes to development projects. That's an agreement not to vote on projects taking place in the districts of your colleagues unless that colleague approves first. How do you feel about council courtesy?
HARRISONThis council actually has begun to work in that direction. We are -- have an honest dialogue and asking the questions. So it's not so much just about council courtesy, but to also make sure that we truly understand the projects and make sure that we believe that they are in the best interest of Prince George's County. We've demonstrated that over this past year, and we'll continue that practice.
SHERWOODYou don't -- part of the problem is, in any legislature, you have to horse trade, although I think that phrase is so old I'm going to stop using it.
NNAMDIYeah. Yeah. Let's start using mouse trade.
SHERWOODPeople still trade horses, whatever it is. But you want something in your district. A colleague wants something in his or her district. You say, OK, we'll support both of them. I mean, that's just the nature of American politics in any legislature in any place in America. But, again, so the vigilance is -- are you going to -- maybe the county shouldn't -- you guys shouldn't be even involved in the projects.
HARRISONWell, then who would? Who would be involved in the projects then?
SHERWOODThen you have one heck of a powerful county...
HARRISONWith all the things he has on his plate. Now, what I would say to that is that politics is politics and is one of the oldest forms of business besides...
HARRISON...the other one that we know about. But, you know, I personally have been criticized quite a bit because I don't do that too much. There have been individuals who have called me not-so-bright because I don't go and ask for something in order to get a vote. So, you know, everyone has their own individual style, but I think that it's incumbent upon us and then those of us who are more senior on the council to make sure that we are helping the more freshmen council members, to make sure that we're asking the questions. I think that it's very important for us to do so, make sure that we...
NNAMDII got to go to the telephone, so, please, don your headphones again. The one you have might be giving a little bit of trouble, but we'll see how it works. Here is Elizabeth, who is in Washington. Elizabeth, you are now on the air. Go ahead, please.
ELIZABETHHi, Kojo. I'm calling because I used to be in D.C. government for many years. And the opportunity that we got was really simple and straightforward. It was basically that you couldn't accept anything at all, even a sandwich, from anybody who had an interest in how you did your job. And I understand that that, you know, applies to non-elected officials, but the standard is simple, and I think I, sadly, was the only one who actually followed it. But I think that...
NNAMDIYou mean you never even went to lunch with Tom Sherwood?
SHERWOODI don't have business with the city. I have no business with the city.
NNAMDIBut -- yes. But he wants information from you.
SHERWOODThat's not business.
NNAMDII see. Oh, Elizabeth, apparently your phone somehow got disconnected. Please feel free to call us back, 800-433-8850. But you can talk a little bit, Andrea Harrison, about what concrete steps that you think the council can take when it comes to ethics.
HARRISONWell, we have already begun to take some of those steps. We have to continue to be vigilant in all that we do. The county executive has put forth a number of pieces of legislation. And also there is a discussion, at least under way, about our ethics commission and how that will be constructed going forward. So, you know, you learn over years what to do going forward, and we do that in every aspect of our lives, and this is no different.
HARRISONWhen you see something isn't working and you go back and you try to fix it, see what you can do to fix it. And that's where we are right now. We know that there are some things that are not working. And so what are we going to do to fix it? We're going to look at all aspects of everything that we're doing and do our very best. We're open to suggestions, obviously. The county executive and the council are working very closely, and I look forward to continuing to work with the county executive.
NNAMDIWhat do you think about this Whole Foods development that's taking place right now in Prince George's County? It's been delayed because the Cafritz family developers have decided to step back for a little bit, partially at the demands of residents there. And we're getting calls and emails about that, but, first, I know that the county is looking for that kind of development, but what do you think about the specific development?
HARRISONWell, as you may know, this is a case that has been filed, so I can't speak too much on it just because of our ethics laws. But, in general, it's not a development that only includes Whole Foods, but it's a much larger development.
SHERWOODIt's a 120-room hotel, 995 residential units, nearly 170,000 square feet of retail, 22,000 square feet of office space, and it's the Cafritz family, which is a more than a little-known family in this region.
HARRISONAbsolutely. They are wonderful philanthropists and they do wonderful things. What I can say is that there have been some concerns about the density and the traffic that may result from that. And, apparently, there's only one entrance and exit for that particular development. And so that was the concern. And so the three municipalities that immediately are affected, that are immediately adjacent to it, have been in discussions with them to try and come up with a workable solution.
HARRISONAnd what I would say, if we're just going to talk about Whole Foods in general, is that if it doesn't work there, then I'm sure we can find another place in Prince George's County because, certainly, we want Whole Foods.
SHERWOODHow's Wegmans doing?
HARRISONWegmans is doing phenomenal. Matter of fact, that is my district.
SHERWOODMy cameraman went over there the other day to get a sandwich when I was out near FedEx Field.
HARRISONThat is actually my district. Actually, I live around the corner, less than three to five minutes from there. And so they're doing actually very, very well. They're doing so well that, in fact, they are looking to do another one.
SHERWOODThis -- but this Cafritz development, it seems to me this is exactly the kind of economic development that Prince George's leaders have talked about for decades.
NNAMDIExcept for this. Here's Ellen in University Park, Md. Ellen, you're on the air. Go ahead, please.
ELLENI was so pleased to hear Ms. Harrison identify one of the major impediments to the Cafritz development -- that singular point of entrance and exit. Not only is it going to cause gridlock on our roads, it's just not safe in case of an emergency. At some point, I've heard people talk about this is the objections of one neighborhood. That's not true. From Mount Rainier to Laurel, from West Hyattsville to New Carrollton, this development will cause traffic gridlock on Route 1 that will affect our entire county.
NNAMDIYou don't just want to see it delayed. You don't want to see it take place at all.
ELLENWell, I would love to see a development that is responsive to the needs of the community.
SHERWOODSomething -- are you suggesting something smaller or just something differently aligned?
NNAMDIAnd you only have 30 seconds.
ELLENIt's surrounded on three sides by residential neighborhoods. So something that would fit the profile of a residential neighborhood is what we would love to see in Prince George's County.
ELLENIf Whole Foods would go a mile down the road -- north, south, east or west -- there are great locations for them, and I'd be the first person in line to shop there.
NNAMDIOK. Thank you very much. Andrea Harrison, you've already indicated that if that location doesn't work, you have a lot. I'd just like you to weigh in on one more issue quickly: slots. The county's economy has focused on slots. The county council essentially kicked the issue over to Annapolis, leaving voters to decide on -- leaving Annapolis to decide on whether there should be a voter referendum on allowing slots in Prince George's. You backed a bill that would have banned slots in Prince George's. Why is that?
HARRISONI did back a bill that would ban slots in Prince George's County. I do believe that we do need the revenue, and I'm willing to work and have open dialogue about that.
SHERWOODSo you're not dead set against slots.
HARRISONI'm not against slots in and of itself, but the location that is talked about I would be opposed to.
HARRISONThe location that originally was talked about was Rosecroft, which is right in the middle of a neighborhood.
NNAMDITom keeps pushing for National Harbor. He wants to...
SHERWOODI'm not pushing for National Harbor. I just think it's the natural spot for a casino-type business. It would be a boon to the state.
NNAMDIAndrea Harrison is chair of the Prince George's County Council. We're out of time. She's a Democrat. Thank you for joining us.
NNAMDITom Sherwood, well, he's here every week. Thank you all for listening. I'm Kojo Nnamdi.
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