Saying Goodbye To The Kojo Nnamdi Show
On this last episode, we look back on 23 years of joyous, difficult and always informative conversation.
D.C. Mayor Vincent Gray revs up a campaign for reelection, while a prominent member of the D.C. Council explores an independent bid for mayor. Virginia’s candidates for attorney general dig in for a recount of their race later this month. And Pepco asks regulators in Maryland for another rate increase. Join us for our weekly review of the politics, policies and personalities of the District of Columbia, Maryland and Virginia.
Vincent Orange, D.C. Council Member and mayoral candidate, said there are no pending charges or investigations by the city ethics board into his campaign. “There are no problems with my last election, that’s why I’m here today,” he said. Orange said all five audits into his 2010 campaign contributions have been closed. Orange said he supports a stronger ethics code, including a ban on Council member’s holding employment outside of their city hall job.
MR. KOJO NNAMDIFrom WAMU 88.5 at American University, in Washington, welcome to "The Politics Hour," starring Tom Sherwood. I'm Kojo Nnamdi.
MR. KOJO NNAMDITom Sherwood is our resident analyst. He's an NBC4 reporter and columnist for the Current Newspapers. Tom, the big story in the news today, of course, is the death of Nelson Mandela. He has been ailing for quite some time. So most of the news media have been preparing for this event for quite some time and have turned out to be fairly well prepared. But one cannot help when one thinks on Nelson Mandela, thinking of the connection to Washington, D.C., having to do with both his release from prison and ultimately his becoming president of South Africa, because the demonstrations that started here back in the late…
MR. TOM SHERWOOD'84.
NNAMDI1984, just the day before Thanksgiving, in a way is what led to the movement that ultimately led to Nelson Mandela's removal from prison, which, of course, is not to understate what people in South Africa had been doing all along.
SHERWOODNo. Of course not. You know, what I like is -- and you've seen the live photographs of people -- of the video coming from South Africa, where the people -- there is mourning of course when someone dies, but I think it's really overtaken by the joy and celebration of his life. I saw some people on TV and that kind of sad anchor face and I'm thinking he was 95.
SHERWOODHe lived a great life. And we had all, as you just said, been preparing for him to die. He died a dignified death. He lived a dignified life in the worst circumstances you can imagine, being imprisoned and being deprived of all sorts of things, including his liberty. And so I think the -- I covered the story of the statue on Massachusetts Avenue back in September. And I loved this story. This bus driver came up and they had just gotten the thing out of the crate and put it up. This bus driver -- I put him in my story -- and he says, "I've got to get a picture of this." And he said he had driven by on his bus route, saw the statue going up, came back on his motorcycle.
SHERWOODAnd he said, "I've got to get a picture of this." And he's just an ordinary guy doing an ordinary job in an ordinary place and he took that effort to see the statue. And I think that's kind of the inspiration you can take from Mandela. You know a lot of people back in the '80s, you know, President Reagan vetoed the bill -- I’m talking too long. I apologize.
NNAMDINo, no, no. You're not talking too long because you know what you're talking about.
SHERWOODIn '86, there was a move in the Congress to put sanctions on South Africa.
SHERWOODAnd the president said it would be economic warfare. He said let's do sanctions, but I'll do them.
SHERWOODRight, all that. But then the Congress overrode him, but all those things, the demonstrations, the sanctions brought about change. And had Mandela not been who he was there would have just been chaos when he got out of prison.
NNAMDIGlad you mentioned inspiration because when one thinks of Nelson Mandela one thinks of principle, and one thinks of integrity, and one thinks of inspiration. It just bothers me a little bit that I don't see too many politicians trying to emulate Nelson Mandela anymore. Of course he rises above politics because his life experience brought him into politics in a position of moral authority that arguably no one else, either or before or sense, has been in.
NNAMDIBut you get the impression that people feel that, well, you can't be as idealistic as Nelson Mandela was and expect to succeed in politics.
SHERWOODWell, he could have been bitter, but he was better. And what he did when he got out of prison -- and before prison he had joined the armed revolutionaries. And he would endorse some of that. So you just have to remember it was an extraordinary life, but his message was fairly simple, let's all live together. You know he gave a speech when he took the oath of office. It's not anti-white, it's not pro-black, it's we're South Africans and long live South Africa.
NNAMDIAnd that was the position he took even as he made his statement before going to jail ultimately.
SHERWOODThat's correct. A four-hour speech.
NNAMDIHe was consistent throughout his life and onto his death. Of course our current delegate, Eleanor Holmes Norton, was one of the people who demonstrated at the South African embassy the day before Thanksgiving, way back in 1984 when she and others went into the embassy making certain demands. They were arrested and there started a movement that continued in protests at the embassy for over a year after that. This coming Monday we'll be talking about the effect that Nelson Mandela had on local politics and the local organizations that participated in those demonstrations.
NNAMDIBut of course this is "The Politics Hour" where we're looking at regional-area politics, in the Washington area. And our first guest is Corey Stewart. He is chairman of the Prince William Board of County Supervisors. He is a Republican. Corey Stewart, thank you for joining us and welcome.
MR. COREY STEWARTAlways my pleasure to be here, Kojo.
NNAMDIAnd because Nelson Mandela was so influential, I could see that as Tom and I were talking you were having reflections of your own. Care to share them?
STEWARTYeah. I was in high school during that period of time. And he was one of those great leaders who inspired all of us as young people. You know, I think if you speak to somebody who's a baby boomer today, they think of the Kennedys and so forth as their inspirations. For my generation, growing up in the '80s, you think of Nelson Mandela, you think of Ronald Reagan, you think of some of the other great leaders, but he's certainly right up there.
NNAMDIThe last time we talked was on election night, a month ago, when Republicans suffered some big losses on the statewide ballot in Virginia. You wrote in the Washington Post a few days after that, "While it's clear the knives are out for Republicans in Virginia and that the Party needs to make some serious changes, it is too simplistic to say the solution is a move to the left." What do you mean by that and what do you feel is the best way forward for your Party in the Commonwealth, starting in your county?
STEWARTWell, I think ultimately what Virginians want is what Northern Virginians want. And you know I've been governing Prince William County since 2006. Most residents are not very political. They're not hardcore Republicans or hardcore Democrats. They just want leadership that is commonsense that focuses in on solutions. That doesn't mean you can't have conservative beliefs or liberal beliefs, but it does mean that when push comes to shove, you've got to focus in on the core priorities of leadership, of -- in the case of a local government -- education, transportation, public safety. And if you get those things right, people will forgive for your political views, even if they're different from their own, provided that you're getting the job done.
NNAMDII guess it's instructive that Corey is focusing on core issues. But go ahead, Tom.
SHERWOODThat's pretty lame.
NNAMDII thought it was pretty good. His next campaign slogan.
STEWARTI like it.
SHERWOODNo, Bill Boling has created a little -- the lieutenant governor, soon to be the ex-lieutenant governor, has created a stir by writing in the Times Dispatch -- I think it's today, this morning, I read it I think last night. His recipe for the Party getting together, you're having your advance in Homestead this weekend at the Republican Party, it said you've got to focus on the core issues you just described, but as soon as he's done that somebody from the Ken Cuccinelli campaign sent out an email attacking him for saying if you want to be cooperative why didn't you support the nominee of the Party this year?
SHERWOODSo it just seems like you've got a lot of work to do this weekend at the Homestead. You're going to go up tomorrow morning I think.
STEWARTYeah, we're going to head off tomorrow morning. But most of the activities are this evening, the various suites and so forth, but there definitely is going to be some healing that's necessary in the Party. And this finger pointing, looking back on what should have been done, who didn't do what, none of that is constructive. We have to realize we've got to look at the situation for what it is. We just really took a real licking. And this was not an aberration. This was not a mistake. This is not something that's going to correct itself.
SHERWOODThis is a trend line.
STEWARTThere is a definite trend line, especially as Northern Virginia becomes a greater and greater portion of the Virginia population. And Northern Virginia is increasingly less partisan. It's not hardcore Republican like most of the rest of the state. And we've got to recognize that, otherwise we're going to continue to lose statewide elections in Virginia.
NNAMDIWe're talking with Corey Stewart. He is the chairman of the Prince William Board of County Supervisors. He's a Republican. We're inviting your calls at 800-433-8850. If you have questions or comments for Corey Stewart, later in the broadcast we'll be joined by Vincent Orange who is a Democratic candidate for mayor in the District of Columbia. Tom Sherwood is our resident analyst. He's an NBC4 reporter and a columnist for the Current Newspapers. You can also shoot us an email to email@example.com. Tom?
SHERWOODI want to point out this trend line because in Bill Bolling's editorial -- whatever he wrote -- if the attorney general's race, which is still undecided with the recount, a Democrat barely ahead, but the recount to be done this month for that. If the Democrat wins that office, Mr. Bolling says it will be the first time in 24 years that Democrats have swept all three statewide offices. And it will be the first time in 44 years -- 44 years that Republicans have not held any statewide elected offices, including the state's two Senate seats. That's a pretty good trend line.
STEWARTIt does not bode well for us if we do nothing. If we change nothing about the Party, we're going to continue to lose. But we clearly need to change direction.
SHERWOODDo you agree with him that you ought to have primaries and not…
STEWARTYes, I do.
NNAMDIYou have been very critical of the decision to hold a convention.
STEWARTYes. I have been. I think that a convention, well, there is some benefit to it in terms of getting the Party together and having an old-style, old-fashioned convention. It's somewhat nostalgic, but the reality is, is that a convention is not good at judging candidates on their ability to win. And a primary does. In a primary you've to raise money. You've got appeal to a broader base. And a convention is just the opposite. In fact, the gentleman who won the convention, you know, at least for the lieutenant governor's race -- he's a very nice gentleman.
NNAMDIE. W. Jackson.
STEWARTBut he was not good at raising money. And that goes right into another point, which is the Republican Party, the Republican candidates rather, lost the business base in Northern Virginia. Extraordinary. And we just -- not only have we shaved off portions of the population to hone in on a tighter and tighter core of voters, as a Republican Party, we've now cut off the business community. And that is something that needs to be corrected otherwise we're going to be heading toward a permanent minority status in Virginia.
NNAMDIBut let me take one more stab at that, what would you say to the argument that Ken Cuccinelli supporters are making, that what happened in this last gubernatorial race is that they were abandoned by the intuitional powers of the GOP, they still nearly won. If people in our Party had stuck with us, Ken Cuccinelli would be governor.
STEWARTThose are all poor excuses. You cannot blame the business community for not supporting you. They didn't support the Republican candidate for governor because the Republican candidate for governor was not focused on business issues. And don't blame business for that. You blame the candidate for that. That was the problem.
SHERWOODIt was just the opposite of Governor McDonnell's successful campaign, which was a huge success four years ago.
SHERWOODI mean, he focused on the issues you just described, didn't, I don't think, violated his conservative principles, but said his first job was to build business in the state for jobs and all of those things, which he did. And the transportation thing, which your nominee had not liked.
STEWARTBob's for jobs. And you know Bob was very serious about that. He focused on transportation. He helped the business the community where he could. And he was rewarded for that by, not just the business community, but by the voters. And one of the things that happened to McDonnell, he was attacked as being a right-wing extremist, as well. But the difference was McDonnell had the financial resources because he had the backing of business. He was able to defend himself and prove that he was not in fact a right-wing, you know, focused on the social issues.
STEWARTCuccinelli, on the other hand, having alienated the business community, when he was attacked did not have the financial resources to defend himself. It was a perfect storm.
SHERWOODLet's look ahead. Terry McAuliffe is the Democratic victor and he will be governor in January. What are you thinking, what are you feeling, what are you expecting as he comes out of the box in the first legislative session? What should Northern Virginia be particularly worried about or happy about?
STEWARTWell, I think the Party…
SHERWOODThis is your chance to be bipartisan.
STEWARTYeah, well, exactly. But I think the RPV, the Republican Party of Virginia, just like Republicans at the national level, needs to be constructive. It’s not enough just to come out and blast what the executive is doing because he's a Democrat. Now, that doesn't mean we have to agree with these positions, but we do have to offer the solutions of our own, realistic solutions and be specific. And if you don't like what the Democratic executive is doing, well, you need to offer a different solution or a modification to what they're doing. But I hope the best for this administration. And I'm prepared to work as an executive of Prince William County, as a chief elected official there. I can't afford to be partisan when I’m working with the governor of Virginia. I'm going to be working with the governor to get things done for the residents of Prince William County.
NNAMDIBack to Prince William County as the focus, as the core issue in this discussion. When it comes to bread and butter issues in Virginia, few get as much air time as transportation. And in Prince William few transportation issues are as controversial as the proposal for the so-called Bi-County parkway, connecting it to Loudoun. This week the county board announced plans to reexamine its position on the project. Why does the board feel it's necessary to put the brakes on this right now? And why do you feel it needs to be studied more closely?
STEWARTSure. Well, I think, first of all, Prince William County is not putting the brakes on the Bi-County Parkway. The only thing that we're doing is engaging in a total study of the county's transportation network. Because there's a big debate about whether or not the Bi-County Parkway is needed or not. We're going to have a study. It's going to be well done. It's going to cost $100,000.
SHERWOODHow long would the study be?
STEWARTIt'll take about a year. But at the end of the day we will have some very definite data. And we can at least take that out of the equation, in terms of the debate. Now, we know, is it necessary. I happen to believe that it is. You know if you look at a map of the outskirts of Washington, D.C. From 1861, the beginning of the Civil War, you will see that aside from the interstates of 66 and 95, essentially the road network between Loudoun and Prince William County is the same today as it was back then. You have two of the fastest growing counties in the United States, economically booming, providing economic fuel for the rest of the state, and yet Prince William County and Loudoun County are not connected by any major thoroughfare at this time.
NNAMDIWhy then a study? Because it seems that you feel fairly strongly that they should be connected.
STEWARTWell, I do, but there's a debate about that. There are some who think that we're going to continue this 1950s means of commute, where everybody's living out in the outer suburbs of Prince William and Loudoun and commuting into Washington. That is quickly changing. The job centers are moving. As Tom knows, Washington continues to boom, but the job centers in Fairfax are also continuing to grow and in Loudoun County and to some extent in Prince William County. And as a result the commuting patterns are changing, where people aren't necessarily going north/south. They're beginning to go east/west and that's where the bottlenecks are occurring.
SHERWOODAnd you have the Silver Line up at the Tyson's Corner area, which is trying to ease some of those bottlenecks. What else can be done besides the Parkway? Are there other things you are doing or hoping to do in the county, so you just don't be a bedroom community?
STEWARTSure. I mean we've been focused on…
SHERWOODI know you wanted the FBI building. I hesitate to bring that up because I know you were…
NNAMDII was going to get to that. Oh, I'll be bringing it up shortly, yes.
SHERWOOD…irritated because Mayor Gray says the city is not going to drop out, even though there was reports this week that the city's dropping out because of the restrictions. He says we've got a plan we're still going to bid, but you guys are out of that, 11,000 workers.
STEWARTWell, it's real unfortunate because I just hate to see the citing of such a major federal facility be dictated by politics. And I do feel that Barbara Mikulski, I mean she's doing right for her citizens in Maryland. But it's not necessarily the best location for the FBI. If you were able to locate a new FBI headquarters in Prince William, in Loudoun County, one of the things that employees of the FBI and Maryland and D.C. would benefit from -- or in Fairfax, for that matter -- is a reverse commute situation. Coming south in the morning is not so much of a problem. It's going north in the morning. And a large portion of the FBI workforce lives in Prince William. Loudoun, and Stafford Counties.
STEWARTWe have to look at moving the job centers out of the core. I don't mean to -- we need to disperse it. There needs to be more -- we need to put the jobs closer to the residents. And ultimately that's what's going to solve the commuting crises in the D.C. region.
NNAMDIOnto the telephones. Here now is Lauren. Gentlemen, don your headphones, please. Here's Lauren, in The Plains, Va. Lauren, you're on the air. Go ahead, please.
LAURENHi, Kojo. Thank you. My question for your panelists is that you all were discussing earlier the need for the Republican Party to have a gubernatorial primary to test the candidates' ability to win and to fundraise and to raise money. Doesn't it seem like the primary should really be more about picking the candidate who's most likely to represent the people of Virginia well?
STEWARTWell, to represent the people of Virginia well you've got to have a message and you've got to be able to put everything in place in order to win in a general election. And, Lauren, I completely agree with you, that that is ultimately the goal. You've got to find somebody who can govern, but to get to that spot you've got to be able to be competitive against the Democratic candidate in the general election. A convention does not test a candidate's ability to raise money and run a general election like the way a primary does.
NNAMDIThank you very much for your call, Lauren. In the wake of your disappointment about the FBI, what do you think the county has learned in the wake of the government shutdown this past fall, about the relationship between its economy, its workforce and the federal government?
STEWARTWell, there's no question that -- I mean if you're asking about the relationship between the federal government and Prince William County…
NNAMDICorrect, yeah. How important is...
STEWART…and there is -- it's absolutely critical. I mean there's no question that the entire D.C. region is dependent upon employment in the federal sector. Whether it's federal contractors, defense contractors, other government contractors or working for the Pentagon or other agencies. There's no question, as well, that the shutdown, which was instigated by Ted Cruz, had its effect on Ken Cuccinelli's prospects for governor.
SHERWOODYou know, 200,000 or so federal workers just within the Beltway itself, not counting the things outside the Beltway. But I was just going to say, Maryland is having a meeting today to discuss casinos. There are three proposals for casinos. Is there ever any chance -- I was thinking a big casino in Northern Virginia would be right where people might want to go. Do you think that would ever happen? I love the smile on your face. No, it's a big issue. They're trying to decide if it's going to be at National Harbor. It's right across the Wilson Bridge from Virginia. It can draw a lot of business.
NNAMDIWell, what are the politics?
SHERWOODThe Tanger Outlet there is making a lot of people go there instead of down to -- what's it? I'm sorry, it dropped out -- going down 95, the outlet center there.
NNAMDII don't know. I have no…
SHERWOODWhatever it is.
NNAMDI…idea what you're talking about.
SHERWOODYou don't go to outlet centers. I’m sure you just go to the high-end stores.
NNAMDII usually don't. (1) 12:28:42 MR. TOM SHERWOOD
NNAMDIBut anyway, there's a lot of economic development right there in Prince George's County, the casino there, now the Tanger Outlets. You guys have to worry about economic competition?
STEWARTWell, National Harbor…
SHERWOODI know you're not going to have a casino.
STEWARTWell, no, no. It's just not going to happen in Virginia. National Harbor's a beautiful development. I wish we could have something like that in Prince William County. Frankly, it's extraordinary. The Peterson Companies have done a great job with that. As for gambling, I just don’t think it's the answer. I think at the end of the day it's the people at the lowest part of the economic spectrum that end up getting hurt the most. Gambling is just as addictive as heroin, and it destroys families. So although I have nothing against what voters of Prince George's County did in approving the casinos there at National Harbor, that was their choice.
STEWARTI just don't think it's the answer to any of the economic problems in Northern Virginia.
NNAMDIWere you thinking of Potomac Mills?
SHERWOODPotomac Mills, right. And the Tanger…
STEWARTWe're not going to do that.
NNAMDIBack to the Bi-County Parkway issue for just a second. Do you have a sense of where Terry McAuliffe is likely to go on this?
STEWARTThis is my best guess, McAuliffe, I think, is very much of a Clintonesque Democrat. He won Virginia because he was able to appeal to a lot of Independents and he was able to appeal to the business community. There is no other road or other infrastructure project in Northern Virginia that business cares about more than the Bi-County Parkway because they know who important it is to have continued economic growth in Northern Virginia. I think he's going to support it. And I think he's going to support it because he knows that it's going to cause more economic growth in the region.
SHERWOODDo I have time before we go? Texas Governor Rick Perry is the headliner for your weekend Republicans, right? Is that the moderate conservative or conservative moderate image you guys want in Virginia? Do you think it helps best or -- Eric Cantor is even saying more moderate things these days.
STEWARTWell, it's not really -- from my perspective, it doesn't mean you can't be conservative. It just means that you need to focus on solutions. People ask me about social issues all the time. And my response is I give them. I'm a social conservative. But it's not what people have put me into office to do. They have put me into office to focus on the core issues. So I don't know if Rick Perry's the right guy or not. I don't know what's going to come out of all this. It's going to be very messy and potentially reminiscent of some of the more bloody battles we've had in the Republican Party 40 years ago.
STEWARTBut at the end of the day, if we don't have a candidate that's focused more on solutions, and again, Americans are worried about the fate of the nation. They're going to vote for the candidates that are presenting realistic solutions. Not for those candidates who are just beating the ideological drum.
NNAMDICorey Stewart. He is chairman of the Prince William Board of County Supervisors. He's a Republican. Corey Stewart, thank you for dropping in.
STEWARTAlways my pleasure.
NNAMDIIt's "The Politics Hour." Tom Sherwood is our resident analyst. He's an NBC4 reporter and a columnist for the Current Newspapers. Later we'll be talking with Vincent Orange. He's a Democratic candidate for mayor of the District of Columbia. Vincent Orange is an at-large member of the D.C. Council. But before we get to that, Tom, there was quite a bit of news in D.C. this week. One of the items of news being the opening of the two Wal-Mart stores in the District of Columbia. After all of the controversy over the Living Wage Bill earlier this year, crowds were stampeding, it would appear, to get into the two new Wal-marts.
SHERWOODThere's been an economic desert in some neighborhoods. There's a traffic jam there on Georgia Avenue, people stopping, getting out. Here comes -- I see Vincent Orange crossing the street. So he'll be coming in later. You know he was leader of the…
NNAMDII don't know whether that's an advantage or a disadvantage, to be able to see people on the street from the studio.
SHERWOODWell, let me just say this. He's illegally jaywalking across the street right now. So I'll speak to him later about that.
NNAMDICarrying an orange umbrella.
SHERWOODYeah, but you know Vince Orange led the fight to get Wal-Mart to pay a higher wage. What was it $12.50?
SHERWOODAnd it didn't pass. But Vince Orange showed up at one of the Wal-marts. Mike DeBonis at the Post tweeted a picture of Mr. Orange standing in the aisles. People want those 600 jobs.
NNAMDIAnd of course the more movement for an increase in the minimum wage has picked up steam, not only here, but in surrounding counties and in other parts of the country.
SHERWOODRight. But there are 600 jobs and Wal-Mart has said the majority of those jobs are going to people who in fact live in the city. And so there's a lot of economic development there. That's considered a big plus for Mayor Vincent Gray, who also this week got into the race.
NNAMDIBut I suspect you'll be continuing to see demonstrations at Wal-marts and at fast food outlets for…
SHERWOODBut I will say the demonstrations were not that big. It was just a handful of people who were demonstrating. Wal-mart was going to open, it now has opened, and now we'll see if it goes forward with its other three stores.
NNAMDISince we'll be talking with a mayoral candidate shortly, let's talk about the other big political news in D.C. this week, and that is Mayor Vincent Gray going to pick up his petitions this past Monday, indicating that he is in for re-election. He says his campaign will really be picking up come January. But now all of that speculation about whether or not he's going to run again has ended and the new speculation, of course, is whether or not he can win. What's your take?
SHERWOODWell, you know, we got word that he didn't make any announcement he was going to the Board of Elections. He just went. And then we got word of it and got down there. And I think Patrick Madden was there, also, taking some pictures.
NNAMDIWho told you? How'd you find out?
SHERWOODI'll just leave…
NNAMDIWho are your sources?
SHERWOODI'll just leave that out. People are interested in good government in the District of Columbia. But he gets in, he said he's going to start campaigning, have a little more of an informal kickoff after the first of the year, once the petitions are in. But he had to do this as a placeholder. Whether he in fact runs for re-election, had he not picked up the petitions and put his name on the ballot, he would be a lame duck for 13 months.
NNAMDIBecause the election is on April 1, the date that nobody much really seems to like.
SHERWOODRight. But also even now, if he didn't run he would be a lame duck starting now.
SHERWOODAnd he doesn’t go out of office until January 2nd of 2015. So he had to do a placeholder decision to do this. But Monday night he's going to be at the Washington Teachers' Union debate. So it will be interesting to see how he fairs with the candidates.
NNAMDIAnd before we talk to the candidate in the room, let's talk about the other recently announced candidate not in the room. And that is at-large Independent councilmember David Catania. He's going to make a run. Of course he, being Independent, won't have to run in an April 1st primary.
SHERWOODRight. He was a Republican then he switched to being an Independent. He's been in the council since 1997, I think took office or '98 in a special election. He was former chairman of the Health Committee, where he did a lot to try to save the Greater Southeast United Medical Center. He's done a lot on A and Cs and now he says he's going to make the school reform, faster, better school reform, his issue, should he run. He's got an exploratory committee. He doesn’t have to decide really to run until after the April primary. He can see who wins that and see what he wants to do.
SHERWOODBut it certainly does add a huge new wrinkle. Normally whoever wins the Democratic primary wins in November. If Catania were in the race, that might be challenged.
NNAMDIJoining us in studio now is Vincent Orange. He is an at-large member of the D.C. Council. He is now a Democratic candidate for mayor of the District of Columbia. Vincent Orange, thank you so much for joining us.
MR. VINCENT ORANGEThank you for having me.
NNAMDIIf you are…
SHERWOODCan I just…
NNAMDIIf you have questions or comments for Vincent Orange before Tom Sherwood asks him about jaywalking, you can call us at 800-433-8850 or send email to firstname.lastname@example.org. Vincent Orange is a candidate for mayor. Tom Sherwood?
SHERWOODAnd, you know, Mr. Orange, we can see out this window right here. And I saw you jaywalking. And so I just wanted you to know I…
NNAMDITom feels that it is duty as a citizen…
SHERWOODAnd it's already been retweeted by somebody. So I just want you to know we're watching your every move as you're a candidate for mayor.
NNAMDIFortunately, Tom did not conduct a citizen's arrest because he's been known to do these kinds of things. Few politicians in the District have sought different offices and different opportunities as aggressively as you have during the past decade. But you have run for mayor in the past and you're now doing so again. What compels you to run and in a crowded field of candidates, why do you feel you may be the best choice for D.C. voters?
ORANGEWell, what compels me to run is that I offer a balanced, reasonable approach to governing the affairs of the District of Columbia while leaving no one behind. The District of Columbia is doing extremely well today, yet we are leaving a number of folks behind. And it's become crystal clear in this whole debate over minimum wages. The fact that we have the highest disposable income in the nation, a thousand people are moving in on a monthly basis, we still have residents here that can't make ends meet. Yet, we're producing jobs. And so the question is, since we're doing so well, why don't we look to take care of our citizens. If you look right across the street, the University of District of Columbia, they're talking about eliminating 28 baccalaureate programs, eliminating the athletic programs.
ORANGEWell, why would you want to do that, if at the same time you're telling me that our pipeline of education is improving, that public schools and the charter schools are producing students that ultimately will be college ready, so why shouldn't they be able to go to the University of the District of Columbia? And so I think now is the time to really talk about where the District of Columbia is going. We can't rest on our laurels. We have to move forward and have a vision for everybody, not just some people.
NNAMDIPrior to this campaign, it is arguable that people perceived you as a business booster in your 2010 campaign for chairman and mayor in 2006. You presented yourself as the right CPA for this job, a man who understood business. Lately, you've been talking about the minimum wage and now you're talking about the left behind. How do you intend to strike that balance?
ORANGEWell, I think you have to look at my record. My record has always been one of balance. Look at Ward 5 when I came to office in 1999. We planted the seeds for economic development. We had the first economic development project in 20 years, Home Depot and Giant. And as soon as we executed that deal, I went over to Brooklyn Manor, to the A&Cs and got resumes and took them and placed them with the human resources department at Home Depot, so people could walk across the street and have work. Remember, we planted the seeds for the reopening of the McKinley Technology High School.
ORANGE$85 million project. And then school modernization came forward. Planted the seeds for bringing public access television to Brooks Mansion. Remember, they wanted to turn that into a jail.
NNAMDII can't comment on that because I'm the chairman of the Public Access Corporation. I can't say whether that was a good thing or a bad thing.
ORANGEBut it's a great thing and people are enjoying public access television in Brooks Mansion. When you look at recreation, we planted the seeds for recreation. We had the first three new recreational facilities, Turkey Thicket, North Michigan Park Recreation Center, Brentwood Community Center. We planted the seeds for our children to have books for their core subjects by the second week of school. But you have to do this with money. You have to have -- you have to pay for your vision.
NNAMDIIf you've been doing all of those things, then why are people, including the people in the ward in which you live, being left behind?
ORANGEWell, because today what we're saying is that we were in a bad situation in 1999. We had a $518 million deficit. We had junk bonds stats. We had a control board. Fast forward to today, we are doing extremely well, but we are leaving people behind. People go to work every day, yet they still have to apply for food stamps. They have to go and get a housing voucher.
ORANGEThey have to try to find child care. And even -- we're not even helping our citizens protect their assets. People are losing their homes for less than a thousand-dollar tax liability. We're leaving people behind, and Vincent Orange is not going to leave people behind.
SHERWOODWell, I'm just -- you're a veteran council member, Jack Evans, veteran council member. Muriel Bowser is starting to be a veteran council member. David Catania is a veteran council member. Some people are saying to me, when I walk around the city and ask, they say, well, all these people have some positive things about them, but maybe we need some new fire. Of course, the mayor thinks he can have another term and have enough fire. Maybe it's time for somebody new, somebody who hasn't been in office.
SHERWOODI mean, you -- every one of you can cite things you've done. I just -- why do you think you should be the mayor at a time now -- I mean, what...
NNAMDIWhat distinguishes you from these others?
SHERWOODYeah. That's what I'm trying to figure...
SHERWOODFrom the other council members, just call them out.
ORANGEWell, no, I'm going to tell you what distinguishes me from others. What distinguishes me from others is that I will leave no one behind. I will...
SHERWOODWhat does that mean?
ORANGELet me finish.
SHERWOODI know. But that doesn't mean anything to me.
ORANGEWell, but it means something to the citizens of the District of Columbia that are being left behind. If you look at the article in The Washington Post today, there's an article about people being left behind, and that's what the issue is. When you look at the University of the District of Columbia, let's talk about the future. Where are we going with our only public institution of higher education if you're now saying you want to cut out physics, you want to cut out...
SHERWOODThey cut out 17 degree programs.
ORANGEDegree programs. Well, what about the children in the District of Columbia that are not going to go to Yale, that's not going to go to Harvard, but they want to get a good education? They can get that at the University of the District of Columbia.
SHERWOODAre you -- so you're saying you will make the University of District of Columbia, which has had a tortured history of management and turnover and job and trouble, that you will turn that around and make it clear cut? I mean, we've got the community school now, but is that a...
ORANGEAbsolutely. Absolutely. I can make that into the institution that it should be because, one, that we're working on our pipeline to education, with the Milleniums, we will produce college-ready students. In addition to that, we will look at new streams of revenue. And we will get the profile of the unemployed in the District of Columbia, make sure we are creating jobs for them.
SHERWOODWell, the mayor says he's doing it. But I'm just going to go to the wet mattress that's hanging over the city, and that's the ethics troubles of the mayor, federal criminal investigation of him. I won't recite all the cases. You know them.
SHERWOODYou've had some questions about your own contributions. You called them suspicious yourself, and you cooperated, I think, with all the officials about that. And there's been no charges against you. I presume there are none pending that you want to tell us about. But where is ethics in the issue when you want to be the leader of the city that has this wet mattress hanging over us?
ORANGEMm hmm. Well, first of all...
SHERWOODHow do you get rid of them?
ORANGEWell, first of all, let us be clear. There are no charges pending against me.
SHERWOODOr no investigations that involve you.
ORANGEAnd let's talk about ethics. The ethics bill that was ultimately passed, 40 percent of that bill was actually written by me. I introduced four bills that made up the 10 that was actually created a package. But even with that, I believe that we need to go further. I believe that council members should be banned from holding outside employment. I believe that entities that are doing businesses in the city should not have a council member on their payroll.
ORANGEI believe that constituent services fund should not be used to purchase season tickets when we have so many people suffering. And that's what I'm talking about, leaving people behind. You know, the District of Columbia government is not a place for a person to come down and enjoy life and have a great life. It's for you to come down and make a contribution.
ORANGEI was a Ward 5 council member for eight years. Look at my record of contribution. Now I'm an at large member. Look at the record of contribution. Record of contribution includes the fight for living wage, which now has resulted in the minimum wage, the fight to resolve the issues as it relates to the food trucks. I...
NNAMDIYeah, but people will also be looking at contributions to you. And to underscore the point Tom is making, you're going to be in a bunch of debates in which now incumbent mayor Gray will also be involved. And people will be firing questions at him about not being clear about his relationship with Jeffrey Thompson.
NNAMDIThey're likely to fire the same kinds of questions about you. Why aren't you clear about the relationship you had with Jeffrey Thompson and the contributions you received from him? How do you think that could affect your campaign?
ORANGEWell, I think that -- those issues are clear. The fact that my campaign had five audits by the Office of Campaign Finance, and that case has been closed. You keep talking about a special election. Special election is closed on Vincent Orange. Remember, I'm sitting before you today because I have a fresh four-year term. There were no problems with my last election. That's why I'm here today. And I'm off and running. And I am providing things for the citizens, things that citizens can touch and feel. Ride around.
ORANGEI remember I was involved in bringing Costco to the city. Now Costco is here. Their average wage is $21.96 per hour. The typical person there makes $45,000.
SHERWOODWhy should Mayor Vincent Gray be the mayor again? Do you think he's -- Tommy Wells is another candidate for mayor, the Ward 6 council member, says the mayor -- he just says it flat-out, the mayor ran a corrupt campaign and should not run again. I mean, where are you on the corruption as you've seen it unfold against your fellow council members and the ongoing one with the mayor? We still don't -- he doesn't talk about the details of Jeffrey Thompson or anybody else. He says that I've said all I'm going to say.
ORANGEWell, let me just say, as it relates to me, the mayor has to speak for himself. But Vincent Orange is free and clear to talk about the future of the nation's capital, where we're going...
SHERWOODBut -- no, I'm asking what your opinion of the fact that Mayor Gray's been under federal criminal investigation for his campaign for the last 2 1/2 years?
ORANGEMy opinion is that Vincent Gray and the U.S. attorney's office and everyone else involved, they'll have to work that out. I mean, you know, I'm like you. I'm sitting, and I'm watching. But at the same time, I'm looking at the future of the District of Columbia. Where are we going to take our people and how are we going to...
NNAMDIOur guest is Vincent Orange. He's a Democratic candidate for mayor of the District of Columbia. He's an at-large member of the D.C. council. And he's here to take your phone calls at 800-433-8850. You can send email to email@example.com. Is your only criticism of Mayor Gray then that you have been quoted as saying he has been willing to leave people behind? You think in other respects he's been doing a good job?
ORANGEKnow what? If we look in terms of finances, there have been 247 public-private construction projects in this city. Yet the auditor says that we shortchanged our business community to the tune of $1.4 billion. I had a hearing on that. And I've actually...
NNAMDIWhen you say we shortchanged our business community, what do you mean by that?
ORANGEBecause there is a law in the books that says that public-private partnerships, especially where D.C. dollars are involved, that you must set aside 35 percent, and they get 35 percent of the business. That has not been taking place.
NNAMDIYeah, I like it that those laws are on the books. But the council never seems to have to pass any enforcement mechanism behind those laws. And as a longtime member of the council, who should we blame for that?
ORANGEWell, let's examine that. Last year, I got two bills -- the certified business enterprise bill passed on a vote of 13-to-0, twice. And then the mayor vetoed the bill. The mayor had six legislative initiatives and 19 recommendations. We included them in the bill. Yet it was vetoed, and the number of members on the council, they got weak-kneed, and so that bill did not go forward.
ORANGEI'm holding a hearing on Dec. 11. We want to examine why the certified business community was shortchanged last year to the tune of $528 million when the law says each agency head must expend at least 50 percent of their expendable budgets with D.C. businesses. That's $528 million that should be circulating in the District of Columbia economy. And then that way we can employ people. People can go to our small businesses and purchase goods, and it keeps or economy moving forward.
SHERWOODAnd there are many good businesses in the city that should be allowed to have a fair shot at city government contract. Although there are also, as in other states, there are too many instances of where the minority set aside is a pass-through, is barely a, you know, a door for a storefront in which the money just passes through to meet some kind of city requirement. And the minority businesses themselves don't hire anybody, and they just -- 'cause they're just a pass-through.
ORANGEWell, in the District of Columbia, there are 1,200 certified business enterprises, and for the most part, they've done extremely well. The problem that they have is that we continue to let our dollars circulate outside the city. We're a $12 billion organization. There should be no reason why we aren't doing business with people that are subject to taxation in the District of Columbia. There should be no reason why someone in California and someone in Michigan get together, create a business, come into the District of Columbia and get a half a billion dollar contract.
ORANGEThat's because we need a new mindset. We need to make sure that everyone in the District of Columbia has an opportunity to be a part of the great prosperity that's taking place.
NNAMDII want to go back to the issue of campaign finance. Do you feel the campaign finance reform passed by the council this week go far enough, in your view?
ORANGENot at all. I think it's feel good, and as I indicated on the dais, the council members has to start looking at council members. You cannot say that you're creating campaign finance law when a council member can be on the payroll of an entity doing business with the city.
SHERWOODWho is that?
ORANGEThat -- there are instances where...
SHERWOODWho is that?
ORANGEWell, there are a number of them. And you can...
SHERWOODWell, wait, you want to be the bold, forthright mayor on ethics...
SHERWOODI want to hear names.
ORANGEWell, let me just say that there are three members on the council right now that have outside employment. And...
SHERWOODThree out of 13.
SHERWOODThree out 13, and those three members are doing business for their employer while they are actually conducting business for the District of Columbia. And I don't think that you can really talk about true ethics if you are also -- also hold outside employment...
SHERWOODHave you not had a job while you've been a council member?
ORANGEBack in 2002, I did. But, you know, as you get on the council and you learn what's taking place, and you find yourself in -- where we are today, you have to adapt. You have to make changes. And we want this government to be a government that's moving forward, that's transparent, that, if you're going to deal with ethics, deal with it all, not just -- you know, you want to talk about fumbling...
SHERWOODBut are you -- are the three council members that you don't want to name, I can name them. But I think you should since you brought them up. But have they done something improper having -- is it improper? I mean, have they done something that should be called attention to by the ethics panel?
SHERWOODI mean, or you're just suggesting that the opportunity is there?
ORANGEWell, what I'm suggesting is that we avoid the appearance of impropriety, that we avoid a conflict of interest.
SHERWOODSo Mary Cheh's a law professor from Ward 3. She's a law professor. She should give up her career there to be a full-time council member?
ORANGEWhat I'm saying is that George Washington University...
SHERWOODI think it's Georgetown Law School.
ORANGENo, George Washington University or Georgetown do a lot of business with the city, and we have another...
ORANGE...two other council members that are actually on the payrolls of entities that do business with the city.
SHERWOODLet's name them. It's not fair. You're talking about David Catania who has done work for M.C. Dean, which has contracts for traffic lights and stuff like that. He has said -- and people have looked -- and he has large corporation -- he has no contact with any of the people who do the business with the city.
SHERWOODAnd who's the third one? Jack Evans who has a law firm.
SHERWOODHis law firm does -- what law firm does he do?
ORANGEI believe it's Patton Boggs, but...
NNAMDIIt is Patton Boggs. But there's another side to that coin. And that is people feel that some of the council members who have, well, committed crimes and been sentenced for them, got jobs on the council because they, frankly, couldn't make that kind of money...
SHERWOODHarry Thomas didn't have an outside job. He just had an outside theft.
NNAMDI...anyplace else and that they were looking for jobs on the council as a lifestyle upgrade. How do you prevent people from doing that? And therefore, if they're looking for a job on the council as a lifestyle upgrade, that makes them vulnerable to all kinds of offers they might be getting from people who are interested in doing business with the city, whether they're actually working for those people or not.
ORANGEWell, at the end of the day, we want to make sure we have a level playing field. This is the District of Columbia today. And what we want the District of Columbia of tomorrow to be like. And what we want to have is a government that avoids the appearance of impropriety. We want a government that keeps itself out of potential conflicts of interest. And we want a government that protects the assets of the District of Columbia government and its residents.
SHERWOODHow does being a George Washington University law professor keep someone from being objective about any of those things you just said? Just to use that one as an example.
ORANGEWell, first of all, I introduced legislation that merely requested that council members, if you're going to have outside employment, at least report your hours. Let's see the hours. If I'm paying you $250,000 a year, you need to be telling me how many hours are you working. Are you really serving the citizens of the District of Columbia? You know, you want to talk about someone that...
SHERWOODWould you be willing to give up your hours on how much you do for your, what is it, $130,000 job?
ORANGEWell, I'm full-time at-large council member.
SHERWOODWell, I think maybe you should report your hours in six-minute increments like a lawyer.
NNAMDIPut on your headphones, Tom, because here is Seth in Washington, D.C. Seth, you're on the air. Go ahead, please.
SETHGood afternoon, you guys.
SETHI'm calling with a comment, but also a question. Vincent, Mr. Orange, I've been in the city for 22 years. And each time there was an election, if you're not in the office already, you would running for that position. I think by now you should have had accomplished most of what you set out to do. And today, we're all, like, celebrating the life of Nelson Mandela. He just served one term, but his legacy will live for quite a long time. How do you compare yourself to him? And how -- I mean, why (unintelligible) how many times...
NNAMDIWell, allow me to say, it's unfair to ask anybody to compare themselves to Nelson Mandela.
SETHSure. Sure. I...
NNAMDIThere is no such comparison. But allow me to emphasize what you've been saying, and that is Seth wants to know, if you've run this much and you've sat on the council for this much, how come you haven't accomplished your objectives?
ORANGEWell, let me say I have accomplished many of my objectives. I've accomplished my objectives in the area of economic development for Ward 5. Go look at Ward 5 now. See Home Depot, see Giant, see Costco, see people going to work. Go look at McKinley Technology High School where President Obama came out last year and provided the School Excellence Award where 90 percent of the children are reading proficiently. Ninety percent of them are proficient in math.
ORANGELook at my legislation that mandates that this school system is to provide books for our children, but by the….
NNAMDIBut I think Seth's questions underscores the other question.
SHERWOODThat was a long time ago.
NNAMDIAnd that is, if you have run for office so frequently, why should people take you seriously every time?
ORANGEWell, let's say that people are taking me seriously because I occupy the position as at-large council member. I...
SHERWOODYou know, I find...
ORANGEI just -- let me finish. I just received a fresh four-year term despite all the noise that's been out there. The fact that the food truck industry came to me to resolve their issues when the executive branch couldn't get it done, the fact that the people that needed to get sick leave pay came to Vincent Orange and says, can you get this done for me, the fact that people want a living wage and a minimum wage, they came to Vincent Orange. So it's the leadership that I provide.
SHERWOODOkay. Do you always talk in the third person? Do you refer to yourself -- I've gotten some tweets from people who are unnerved by that. But I have a question that somebody's tweeted in. "If you're" -- and this is back to ethics. "If you're not..."
NNAMDIYou only have about a minute left.
SHERWOOD"If you're not under any investigation yourself" -- you say you're not, and I accept that -- "have you cooperated federal investigations into any of these cases involving the mayor or the other council members? Have you been interviewed by the FBI on any of these cases or the prosecutor's office?"
ORANGEWhy would they...
SHERWOODTo find out what you know.
ORANGEWell, first of all, no, I have not. And let's look at this. Remember, it was Adrian Fenty running for mayor and Vincent Orange running for chairman. On the other side was Vincent Gray running for mayor and Kwame Brown running for chairman.
ORANGESo why would I even be on that side? If something was going on, do you think that...
SHERWOODOh, just about your connection to Jeffrey Thompson, the money he gave you? 'Cause he gave a lot of people money. I'm not -- he gave a lot of people money, so I would think that prosecutors would ask you, what did you know about it? Did he ever suggest that it was illegal money or anything like that? Which you may have said no, but I -- surely, you must have been interviewed about contribution.
NNAMDIYou've got about 40 seconds.
ORANGEAbsolutely, and nothing has come of that. They've also asked for records from all the council members...
SHERWOODThat's what I'm saying. Have you been helping them since you're not a target yourself? You've been helping the investigation.
ORANGEAs it relates to my campaign, they have not asked me anything about anybody else...
NNAMDIHas not been questioned about any other's campaign, and the campaign that he's involved in now is the campaign for mayor of the District of Columbia. Vincent Orange, he's an at-large member of the D.C. council. Thank you for joining us. Good luck to you.
ORANGEThank you for having me.
NNAMDITom Sherwood, he is our resident analyst. He's an NBC 4 reporter and a columnist for The Current Newspapers. He doesn't believe my analogy about Corey Stewart looking at the core issues is a very...
SHERWOODI guess so. When we had to repeat it. Teachers Union debate Monday night.
NNAMDIThank you all for listening. I'm Kojo Nnamdi.
On this last episode, we look back on 23 years of joyous, difficult and always informative conversation.
Kojo talks with author Briana Thomas about her book “Black Broadway In Washington D.C.,” and the District’s rich Black history.
Poet, essayist and editor Kevin Young is the second director of the Smithsonian's National Museum of African American History and Culture. He joins Kojo to talk about his vision for the museum and how it can help us make sense of this moment in history.
Ms. Woodruff joins us to talk about her successful career in broadcasting, how the field of journalism has changed over the decades and why she chose to make D.C. home.