Maryland Senator Ben Cardin joins us to talk about the youth movement against gun violence, Russian sanctions, and more. D.C. Councilmember Mary Cheh shares her thoughts on relief for high water bills and news that D.C. Public Schools is taking over an all girls charter school.
A mayoral candidate in D.C. boasts internal poll numbers indicating the race has tightened. Virginia’s governor moves forward with a plan to expand Medicaid. And a domestic violence case involving a high-profile pro football player throws the issue into the spotlight in Maryland and across the country. 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
- Joshua Burch Founder, Neighbors United for DC Statehood
- Lorie Masters Democratic Candidate, Attorney General, District of Columbia
Watch Live Video
Starting at noon Sept. 12, watch DC Attorney General Candidate Lorie Masters in studio.
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 a reporter for NBC 4 and a columnist for the Current Newspapers. Tom joins us in studio, as usual. Tom Sherwood, welcome.
MR. TOM SHERWOODA great day, a great day.
NNAMDIIt is indeed. Why do you say it's a great day?
SHERWOODThe weather's terrific. I can't wait until the afternoon when I'll bike riding somewhere.
NNAMDIAren't you supposed to be working this afternoon?
SHERWOODNo. I don't do TV on Fridays. If I'm working on Friday, you know it's going to be something horrible.
NNAMDIYou lucky devil. You can join this conversation by calling 800-433-8850 or sending email to email@example.com. Joining us also in studio is Joshua Burch. He is the founder of Neighbors United for D.C. Statehood. Joshua Burch, thank you for joining us.
MR. JOSHUA BURCHThanks for having me.
NNAMDITom and I will be discussing a variety of issues, before we get to the issues that are primarily of concern to you, but feel free to join that conversation. Tom, I'd like to start in Virginia, where Governor Terry McAuliffe, who had vowed to defy the Republican legislature by expanding health care to 400,000 uninsured Virginians, has started in a more modest, smaller way by outlining measures to provide health insurance to 25,000 Virginians. That, you know, that's like less than one-tenth of whom he hopes to cover. But, some will say, it is a start.
SHERWOODWell, I don't know if it's a start. It's more like a hiccup.
SHERWOODHe has -- he can start some of this with these 25,000 or so, of which about 20,000 are mentally -- mental health services. But he still has to go back to the legislature, an unfriendly legislature, even delegate Tom Rust, of Fairfax County -- who has been one of the Republicans who wanted to do more to cover Medicaid people in the state -- said that this is "filling a couple of minor gaps." So it's just the governor is powerless in front of this legislature.
NNAMDIWhich is, what's, happening there. You would not think that the situation involving Ray Rice and his then-fiancé, now-wife in an elevator would make it into "The Politics Hour" broadcast. But because Ray Rice was associated with politicians and some fairly high-profile events -- one legislation to combat cyber bullying in the general assembly in Maryland. Rice standing behind Governor Martin O'Malley, while he was signing that legislation.
NNAMDIAnother time Rice joining with now-candidate for governor, Lieutenant Governor Anthony Brown, to discourage drunk driving. So those politicians seeking quickly to distance themselves from him on this occasion. But one wonders when athletes present themselves on occasions like this, if they're simply advised to do so by their agents and are not really paying any attention at all.
SHERWOODWell, in many ways they're like movie stars, and they have meanings and they believe in these things. I think, Ray Rice, he was doing something about cyber bullying.
SHERWOODWhich is really ironic, but, you know, and the politicians take a risk when they line up with people who have star power. Then they run the risk of being connected to them. Anthony Brown has removed all Rice materials from his website and all of that. But it's really -- it's a really tough thing. I'm just, you know, this -- if you've seen -- who has not seen the video of him slugging his finance at the time? And it's -- it is horrific. And I am stunned by some of the people on Twitter and other places, including one TV person in town who tweeted that, "Stop showing the video. The wife is humiliated."
SHERWOODShe's not humiliated. She's the victim of horrific domestic violence. I was stunned by that. And some people are already talking about how he should be given another chance to play football. I just -- I'm just astonished at some of the reactions, both political and personal about what is a horrific crime.
NNAMDIAnd now it's raised the issue of domestic violence in Maryland. If you'd like to watch this broadcast, you can go to our website, kojoshow.org, where you can see the live video stream of it. Of course if you'd like to join the conversation, you can call us at 800-433-8850 or send email to firstname.lastname@example.org. The inspector general this week, Tom Sherwood and Josh Burch, coming out with a report on the city's ticket systems, critical of both the parking ticket system and the speeding ticket system.
NNAMDISaying, in the case of the speeding ticket system, that there is often confusion over who should be getting speeding tickets, especially when two or more cars show up in a photo. And when it comes to parking tickets, that there are occasions on which people receive parking tickets that are unaccompanied or unjustified by photos taken by the parking meter attendant, whatever, Department of Public Works person who issues the ticket.
SHERWOODThis is red meat for the people who hate the ticket writing in the District of Columbia including the AAA organization, who says, they've been vindicated by this report, which backs up a lot of things they've complained about. You read the report and it does bring up some serious issues of management about whether the tickets are properly given in the cameras. But also there's been some significant push back.
SHERWOODChief Cathy Lanier wrote a 15-page letter saying essentially that the I.G. office didn't understand the whole motor-camera system. And she objected to the sensationalist language in there, which, in fact, sounded like a AAA press release at the way it was done. Mary Cheh, the council member who will hold a hearing on this later this month, said that she was concerned that, one, the I.G. report went beyond just assessing the policies that were in place. But saying perhaps the policies weren't good or that should be changed or a discussion -- things, she said, should be reserved to the mayor and the council and not…
NNAMDIWas there also a suggestion in that report that these speed cameras exist for the purpose of generating revenue?
SHERWOODRight. I mean, like a tabloid newspaper. It quoted an anonymous official in DDOT, I think it was -- or somewhere -- saying that, you know, we're like the Internal Revenue Service. You can complain, but you really can't fight us. You have to pay. And…
NNAMDINot that we in the media every use anonymous sources.
SHERWOODWell, I think. it's okay. And Mary Cheh and the chief of police have said, you know, however bad the system is, you know, if you're obeying the law you're not likely to get a ticket. So I think…
NNAMDIThe Washington Post has editorialized something that you have said over and over on this occasion, that these speed cameras have led to a significant decrease in traffic accidents in the District and they do appear to cause people to drive more safely.
SHERWOODIn a growing crowded urban area, our traffic deaths have dropped 70-something percent. It's -- let's make sure -- let's make the council do its job now. And make them -- if there are administrative problems with this, let's do it, let's fix them so that we'll have this system. Mary Cheh -- I hate to tell people this -- Mary Cheh, the Ward 3 council member who's the chairman of the committee, told me this week that she said, "If I had my way we would have a red light camera on every traffic signal in the city because it is so dangerous when people avoid or ignore these red lights."
NNAMDILet the record show that…
SHERWOODThis is not going away. People think this is going to be the prelude to this project stuff going away. The answer is that's not going to happen.
NNAMDILet the record show that Mary Cheh's falls when jogging or riding were not caused by people who either ran traffic lights or were speeding. What do you think about all of this, Josh Burch?
BURCHI mean I think fundamentally it's about public safety. And it's unfortunate if there is administrative problems within the system, but people need to slow down. I'm -- 95 percent of the time I'm biking around town. And I think we all need to obey the laws that are out there because they're meant for public safety for bicyclists, for pedestrians and for people in cars.
SHERWOODAnd this report noted that there's about $250 million a year that's taken in by the various tickets and traffic fines and parking meters and all of that. And people say, oh, well, the city's just financing its budget on the backs of the commuters. Well, the fact is, you know, there's an $11 billion budget in this city. This is a lot of money, but it's not carrying the District of Columbia.
NNAMDIYou people are so responsible. Where is the outrage? Where is the disgruntled ticket-getter who got a speeding ticket and didn't…
BURCHSlow down and don't run red lights.
SHERWOODYou know, I've gotten a couple of speed tickets on the cameras. And I've paid them. I've gotten parking tickets and I've paid them.
NNAMDILast one I got I wanted to question, but I didn't pay it because I didn't think I was speeding in that area at that time, but I went ahead and paid it anyway. I'm thinking now maybe if I had challenged it I could have won.
SHERWOODWell, you maybe can.
NNAMDINo. Don't say what you wanted to say.
SHERWOODMary Cheh is planning legislation to revise how all this is done and maybe there's going to be a consistence. We have, like, three or four agencies that write tickets.
SHERWOODShe says it's very confusing. There's a lot of chance for administrative foul-ups. And so she wants to clarify and simplify the systems so that if you get a ticket you go to one place and just deal with it, not to have to worry about the DMV or adjudication and all of that. So…
SHERWOOD…I just -- some good will come of this report.
NNAMDIYes. Obviously there's some kinks in the system that need to be straightened out. On to the…
SHERWOODJust obey the law, is the first order of business.
NNAMDIOn to the business at hand. The Senate is scheduled to hold a committee hearing next week, Joshua Burch. A bill that would essentially make most of what we know now as the District of Columbia a state. It's the first hearing on D.C.'s statehood in more than two decades. And it's something that you have been agitating for at the grassroots level for some time now. What are you hoping will come out of this hearing by Senator Tom Carper on Monday?
BURCHWell, there's a few things that we're hoping for out of it. The first is a public national airing of this discussion about how 646,000 American citizens who fulfill all obligations of citizenship, but are denied its most basic rights, still exists today, over 200 years have our country's founding. So I hope that this hearing raise awareness around the country.
BURCHI also hope it inspires District citizens to become more active and to say this is something that we all need to get together and work for and push towards, that we can't just sit back and wait for the Senate to act. Because really, we have no senators. So they won't act unless we push them. So I hope that District residents show up to that hearing. I hope they -- we pack the hearing. I hope we pack the hallways of the Dirksen Building. And I hope people wear red to show solidarity for the statehood movement.
NNAMDIAre you hoping that out of this hearing will come a vote to send this bill to the full Senate and have a vote on this bill?
BURCHOf course. I mean, that's ultimately what we want. We want a committee markup. We want a full vote -- we want a vote in the committee. And we want a vote I the full Senate. I know the political realities of what's going on in the House. And this bill will not go anywhere in the House. But we need to start getting people on the record for where they stand with this issue. We need to know who are friends are publicly, and we need to know who are detractors are publicly.
BURCHBecause right now, without a vote on anything, everyone can just sort of hide behind the, oh, my boss hasn't made a decision on this legislation. We need to know where public officials stand on this.
NNAMDIGive us a call to tell us what you're hoping to come out of this hearing on Monday at 800-433-8850. You can send email to email@example.com or go to our website, kojoshow.org, where you can watch a live video stream of this broadcast and make a comment or ask a question. Tom?
SHERWOODWell, my concern is, one, on Monday it's not, you know, the Congress only works Tuesday through Thursday. So I'm a little concerned you have a Monday hearing or a Friday hearing on those things. You get less attention. But it seems to me -- you just mentioned the House, the Republican House, which is not going to do anything. It seems to me that in about eight weeks, the Democrats may well lose the Senate.
SHERWOODAnd then come January, whatever the day is they swear them in, you won't have the Senate either because the Republicans have no interest -- whatever the argument is for fairness to the citizens -- they have no interest in adding two Democratic senators to the tally in Congress.
BURCHBut this is a start. This is where we start getting people on the record. I mean, the Democrats had the House and the Senate and the presidency from 2008 and 2010. There wasn't even a statehood bill in the House and the Senate at that time. So we need to make sure that, while Republicans are opposed to this in large part -- there are Republicans out there, I think, behind closed doors who support it. But it isn't like the Democrats have been our biggest friends in the world.
BURCHSo we need to start getting people on the record for where they stand for it. And over the last couple weeks we've seen a growth in the number of cosponsors on the statehood bill. In future years -- now that we have those people as cosponsors now -- we can focus our limited resources on other folks who still haven't come out publicly or privately for the bill.
SHERWOODFormer Texas Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison said something that -- just as a citizen of the city stuck and --with me a long -- has -- a long time. She said, "Oh, you don't have to worry about statehood and all that. Well, you have 535 people looking after you." And it sounded like she -- we were on a plantation. And we are on something of a Democratic small D, plantation.
BURCHWell, we are, and I mean, I think it's great that the senator now has a job writing for the Washington Times editorial board. I mean, I think thinking like that is horrifically dangerous, and it is offensive. Representatives come from the people. We did not vote for one single member of the Senate. We did not vote for one single full voting member of the House. We need our own representation, just like everyone else in the rest of the country. This isn't, this isn't a complex issue. It is an issue about fairness and equality. That is it.
NNAMDIWhen it comes to expectations on what will happen in that hearing Monday, political analyst and columnist for The Hill Online Mark Plotkin thinks that we've been hoodwinked, duped, hornswoggled I guess would be a more age-appropriate term for Mark. Senator Tom Carper introduced the new Columbia Admission Act in January of 2013, promised hearings in the fall of that year. That did not happen. So now here we are, 19 months since the bill was introduced, with a hearing just before members leave to campaign with little or no likelihood that the bill will get any farther than the hearing, which is what we had 21 years ago.
NNAMDII invited Mark Plotkin to explain why he thinks this at least is at least part charade, why he thinks we're being hornswoggled. Mark Plotkin, welcome.
MR. MARK PLOTKINWell, thank you, Kojo, for giving me the opportunity. And I want to salute Josh for what he is doing. If there were 640,000 Josh Burch's, we'd be a lot further along the way, and I really applaud what he has assumed as an individual responsibility. And I repeat what you and everybody there remembers, what Jesse Jackson said when he was the elected statehood senator.
MR. MARK PLOTKINI said Reverend, when will it ever change? And that was when we controlled the presidency and both houses. He said when it rises to the level of personal insult. Obviously it insults Josh Burch, and it should insult everybody. But in answer to your question, what I am trying to control my blood pressure is that this is a terrible lost opportunity. Senator Carper, on January 24, 2013, 19 months ago, introduced this bill.
MR. MARK PLOTKINAnd the senators on that committee, he should have been lobbying if he was sincere and genuine. And Delegate Norton, who is a member of the House, but that does not preclude her from lobbying members of the Senate. As Josh as said, we don't have any senators. Senator Carper supposedly is for the bill. Mary Landrieu and Mark Begich, who are on the committee, I personally went to see, even though they are vulnerable Democrats. Carl Levin, Mary Cheh we have to thank, went to see and got in.
MR. MARK PLOTKINAnd so the other senators, as I'm sure Josh is aware, who are uncommitted, are Claire McCaskill, John Tester, Tammy Baldwin and Heidi Heitkamp. And these 19 months should have been used, if there were people who were opposed on the committee, let us know so we can work on them in their respective states. This is not a semi-charade, it is a total charade. Unfortunately, I was there 21 years ago, when the last hearing was held, John Glenn and Jim Sasser. That was called an informational hearing. This is a hearing on the bill.
MR. MARK PLOTKINBut the people who are testifying, Mendelson, Gray and Norton, have to take that opportunity to say to Tom Carper and any other senator that shows up, we're not satisfied with a hearing, we want you to mark up this bill, you want you to vote on this bill and send it to the floor. Harry Reid personally...
NNAMDIWhy do you think that's not going to happen?
PLOTKINBecause they told me it's not going to happen.
PLOTKINThe press person, when I asked. She called me, and I said are you...
NNAMDIWhich press person is that, Tom Carper's, Senator Carper's?
PLOTKINYeah, Tom Carper's press person on the committee. And I said are you going to mark up the bill? And she said flatly no. I said, are there going to be any questions being -- be allowed to be asked to Senator Carper after the hearing? She said we usually don't do this. This is a fraud. This is a charade. It goes (unintelligible) expectation.
NNAMDIWell, there are those who say that -- those who say that the profile of the issue will be raised by being aired in a Senate hearing, to which you say what?
PLOTKINI say yes, the profile will be raised, but 21 years ago it was raised. Are we supposed to wait, Kojo, for 21 more years? If Tom Carper was serious, he would have rounded up the vote. If Eleanor Holmes Norton was doing her job, she would have gone to these senators and said where are you on the bill, what do I need to convince you to vote for the bill, and the hearing would've happened.
NNAMDISo you think that we are settling -- you think that we're settling for too little once again?
PLOTKINWe're settling for crumbs. I'm glad that we're having a hearing, but let's not have any celebrations. The celebration should happen -- Harry Reid personally said to me at the CVS in West End, I said Senator, if the bill comes out of committee, will you bring it to the floor? He said we will make it happen. This is a person who, at the Frederick Douglass statue unveiling, turned to John Boehner and McConnell and said the citizens of Ohio -- the citizens of D.C. deserve the same rights as the citizens of Ohio and Kentucky. That's why I'm on the bill.
PLOTKINThe entire, Kojo, Democratic leadership is on the bill. And so we lost....
NNAMDIWe certainly hear your...
PLOTKIN...an opportunity, and that's what's...
NNAMDIWe certainly hear your passion for the issue. Josh Burch, given what Mark Plotkin has just said, what would you advocate that residents of the District of Columbia and others who show up for that hearing on Monday do or ask the chairman of that committee, Senator Tom Carper, to do?
BURCHWell, firs it want to say that I agree with a lot of Mark's points, but this bill didn't, or this process, this system doesn't just insult Josh Burch, it insults all District citizens. And we have a lot of people, it's not just me, it's a collective effort of people that have been going up to the Hill. And I encourage those people that show up on Monday to not only pack the hearing room but pack the halls. Wear red, and if -- so we can show them that we as District citizens, want this, we are serious about it, and if we can't get into the hearing room, then start going to the offices of those senators not on the bill and start knocking on some doors. Let's be productive...
NNAMDIWear red why?
BURCHIt's the three stars and two bars of the District flag. It's a unifying color for the statehood cause.
SHERWOODWell, I just -- and again, in addition to the fact that the Senate Democrats in the White House are mostly worried about losing the Senate in the November 4 general election, it's that I've watched this. As a citizen of the city, I don't mind saying that I'm for full voting rights. That means statehood or everything. But as a reporter who has covered this issue for 30-something years, we had these rises and falls of people get arrested, and the mayor, you know, Kwame Brown, other people got arrested on Capitol Hill, some people thought it was just a warm-up to what was about to happen to them.
SHERWOODBut they do that, they do marches, they give these speeches, they go to this hearing, 21 years later a second hearing. I don't get what I learned in the civil rights movement and the other advocacy things, a consistent passion to do something. If I were an activist, I would make sure that the top 10 leaders of the Congress, whoever they are at the time, would not be able to go home at night without having some statehood thing on their front doors, or where they live in Maryland or Virginia when they're here. I don't see any consistent pattern of aggressive lobbying for this. D.C. voters...
BURCHTom, you haven't been hanging with us. That's the problem.
SHERWOODNo, no, I'm aware of the things. It's too polite.
NNAMDIWhere's the passion for this, then? This is what Mark Plotkin also says. Why are we so polite? Why do we accept so little? But here is Daniel in McLean, Virginia. Daniel, you are on the air. Go ahead, please.
DANIELHi Kojo, Tom, Josh, how are you all this afternoon?
DANIELExcellent. Well actually, I'm completely in agreement with Tom. I've been living in and out of D.C. for several years now, actually most of my life. I've been working in D.C. for the better part of the last decade. And I'm always stunned by sort of the lack of bite in the movement, for lack of a better term. It's not that you guys aren't necessarily taking the right steps politically, it's simply that there's only so much that you can do.
DANIELAnd as much as I don't think Eleanor Holmes Norton has done a particularly effective job on this issue, you know, it always stuns me -- I've spent most of my time working in restaurants, why there is never like a concerted effort to say we aren't going to serve these people. And it's not so much as overt as saying, well, we won't serve you because you don't support legislation for D.C. statehood, but it's more on the issue of, like, well, don't let them -- don't let them take your reservations or wait tables, things like that. And that's restaurants.
DANIELThat same mindset could be applied to any service aspect in D.C. where they have to go on a day-to-day basis when Congress is in session. And it always strikes me that there isn't a more, there isn't a more pungent effort on this.
NNAMDIWhere is the passion?
BURCHThe passion is in the neighborhoods, but over the last 20 years, I do think we haven't done nearly enough as we should be doing. Our group has been -- you know, the first meetings that we had on the Hill, one of the first meetings we had was with Pete Stark, who's now no longer in the House, so a longtime D.C. supporter. And his legislative director said no one has ever asked me to join the statehood bill.
BURCHAnd that is unbelievable. And so what we've been doing is getting to those offices on the Hill and saying we need you to support this. But we need a lot more people.
SHERWOODThis -- there are two things. It's the suites and the streets. Barrick (sp?) talked about it in the civil rights movement. Yes, you can go and lobby the Hill, you can knock on doors, you can do all of those things, but there's just, the people who have -- I've said this a thousand times. The people who have power in the city to help bring about this change don't need statehood. They live within a cab ride, an Uber ride or a walk or a bike ride up to Capitol Hill to get what they want, the people with power.
SHERWOODThe people who don't have power don't have the organization to force the people with power to pay attention. And that's what just kind of, just rankles me about the whole D.C. vote operation.
NNAMDIMark Plotkin, final comment? What do you think should be done on Monday?
PLOTKINWell, there has to be a demand for a markup and a vote, and it should be sent to the floor. And the state of mind to accept crumbs and declare victory is what disturbs me the most.
NNAMDIIt is my understanding, I heard it from you, that Mary Cheh sent a letter and that all the council members.
PLOTKINI'm glad you brought that up. Mary Cheh, and I'm glad to say that every city council member signed that letter, saying that the bill should be marked up and voted and sent to the floor. Jack Evans led an effort to send a letter to President Obama, in which he had said that President Obama should send a figure or he himself should testify at that bill hearing, to move the bill. Otherwise we'll be talking about it 21 years from now. We've been -- to use the jargon of the street, we've been played.
NNAMDIMark Plotkin, thank you so much for joining us.
PLOTKINThank you for inviting me.
NNAMDIOur guest is Joshua Burch. He is the founder of Neighbors United for D.C. Statehood. He joins us in the studio, along with Tom Sherwood, our resident analyst, a reporter for NBC 4 and a columnist for The Current newspapers. You can call us at 800-433-8850. You can go to our website, kojoshow.org, see our live video stream and join the conversations there. Josh, it's my understanding that you used to be a Senate page when you were growing up.
NNAMDIHow did you get that gig, and how did it affect your willingness to stick your neck out on this issue?
BURCHWell, to be frank, nepotism is how I got that gig. As you know...
NNAMDI(laugh) Finally an honest man on this broadcast.
SHERWOODTime-honored, time-honored Washington insider.
BURCHAs you know, you know, I was born and raised here. So I didn't have any senators, but I happened to have a mother who worked on the Hill, and there aren't really many qualifications for being a page, other than being able to functionally carry water. And so I applied, and Senator Kennedy appointed me to be his page, and it was really at that time that I looked around, and I said wow, this system is wrong. There is -- everyone else here has their two senators except for me.
SHERWOODAnd that's the personal connection that you can have when you get things done. I mean, but just as of last week, I mean this past couple days ago, you know, Ted Leonsis, who is trying to bring the 2024 Olympics to the Washington region, whether that's a good -- and you rolled your eyes.
SHERWOODBut whether that's a good or a bad thing, I mean, where is the Ted Leonsis of the statehood movement?
NNAMDIWell, Ted Leonsis went to Georgetown University, and you know who else was a page? Patrick Ewing was a page.
SHERWOODIt's a civil rights issue, but if we just again...
SHERWOODWe're missing the passion.
BURCHI think the Wizards could do something the way the Phoenix Sun did.
SHERWOODThey only play one quarter.
BURCHThe idea my wife had was to have all the Wizards wear the number 51 on their jerseys once a year to raise awareness for the cause.
NNAMDITed Leonsis, are you listening? Who is a part of your group, Josh? How are you growing your ranks, and what exactly do those who join you do?
BURCHWell, we started out as a committee of the Brookland Civic Association. We felt like this is a civic, a civic duty of ours, to participate in pushing for statehood. Over time, people from around Ward Five started coming to our meetings. So we were no longer really a Brookland group. And then after that, people from all over the city started coming.
BURCHSo as we've grown, we became Neighbors United for Statehood because we're not affiliated with any one neighborhood anymore. We work for the whole city. People can join us by going to our website, www.the51st.org. We also have Twitter and email accounts. But we are open to anybody who is willing to work for this cause. It is not just what I'm doing. It's what a collective group of people are doing.
SHERWOODHow much time can you give to this? I mean, do you have a real job?
BURCHI have an actual, real job.
SHERWOODCan you -- what type of work do you do, if you don't want to name your employer?
BURCHI do environmental restoration work. It's another tough job.
NNAMDIAnd you've been devoting a lot of time to this issue.
BURCHI have. So usually in the evenings, from about 10 o'clock in the evening until about midnight, I try to do at least something for statehood, and then I will take time off of work.
SHERWOODIs D.C. Vote-in, is helping?
BURCHWe coordinate sometimes with, especially with statehood bill, we'll coordinate. If we're meeting with similar offices, we coordinate.
NNAMDIYou told City paper last year that you really think statehood could happen in the next 10 years, but it's going to take a lot more people being involved. How do you make that case to residents about getting involved?
BURCHWell, I would encourage every single civic or citizens association in the District to create their own statehood committee. I think people at the local level need to discuss what's important for them, and also they can join our lobby days over the course of the year. I mean, usually on Emancipation Day, we're up on the Hill. I think there's a lot of ways that people can get involved. You can go to our website. And actually there's four things on our website right now that people can do.
BURCHI have a list of congressional staffers that they can email. I have information on the hearing for them to show up, and I can't remember the last thing that we -- oh, how you can submit testimony for the actual hearing.
SHERWOODSo simple question, other than having the basic rights entitled -- all Americans are entitled to, what's the benefit of having statehood?
BURCHWell, I mean, I think when you look at our local government and how we've been manipulated by Congress, our local laws, our local...
SHERWOODOkay, we get it, we're out of the thumb of Congress.
BURCHYeah, we're out of the thumb of Congress.
SHERWOODOkay, that's good. Any other reasons?
BURCHI mean, I would love to have two senators to talk about issues of war and peace, taxation or no taxation, health care reform. I think, I think having those people that we could advocate to is part of American citizenship.
SHERWOODEvery urban issue you can think of.
NNAMDIWell, not everyone agrees with you. Here is Pat in Washington, D.C. Pat, you're on the air. Go ahead, please.
PATHi, Kojo. The radio's playing in the background. I'm trying not to hear it.
NNAMDITurn it down.
PATI live in the District, and the lack of representation for us citizens of the District in both chambers is an injustice. But to cure that injustice by giving us statehood would exacerbate a greater injustice, and that is the injustice of large states having to put up with the same number of senators as small states. Californians constitute a tenth of the people in the country, and they've got to make do with two senators out of 100. If we of the District got statehood, California is going to have to put up with two senators out of 102. Where's the justice in that?
NNAMDIWell, would you suggest that we revoke, revoke Delaware's citizenship?
SHERWOODWell, the Senate is not intended to be -- the Senate is not intended to be based on the people and the population. That's what the House is for. The Senate is a different body.
BURCHYeah, and I would also encourage Pat to join the statehood movement, and then we would have two senators that could potentially change the Constitution in that process.
PATThere's a better way to do it, and it doesn't impose a greater injustice on the large states, and that is -- well, there are two ways. One, which I put forth facetiously, is for us to join Delaware.
NNAMDIOkay, let's move ahead.
PATThen you'd have two rinky-dink jurisdictions sharing two senators.
NNAMDIYou said that's facetious. So what's the real one?
SHERWOODWhat's the other one?
PATThe real one is for us to go back where we belong, which is Maryland, and participate in Maryland's electing two senators.
NNAMDINot going to happen.
SHERWOODWell, here's one -- that's not going to happen because think of yourself as a Republican in the state of Maryland, and think of the Democrats there. They do not want to suddenly add 650,000, maybe 800,000 in a couple of years, of people of this city, who we would then become the center of power for the state of Maryland. The people in Maryland do not want that. They're not going to have it, and it's never, ever going to happen.
BURCHNor do they want to take over our court and prison system, which they would have to take that.
SHERWOODSix hundred million dollars a year.
NNAMDII'm afraid we're out of time in this segment. Joshua Burch is the founder of Neighbors United for D.C. Statehood. Josh Burch, thank you so much for joining us.
BURCHThank you both.
NNAMDIIf you would like to watch this broadcast, you can go to our website, kojoshow.org and join the conversation there and be able to watch this broadcast as we proceed. We'll be talking soon with a Democratic candidate for attorney general of the District of Columbia. Lorie Master is joining us in the studio even as we speak.
NNAMDIBut Tom, we talked about cameras earlier, in that case speed cameras. Now citizen cameras still seem to be a problem for some members of the D.C. Metropolitan Police Department, an individual shooting a couple of police officers, with his camera that is, right outside of the D.C. public library, the Martin Luther King Library, only to have the officers approach him in what seemed to me, watching the video, as a clearly threatening manner, indicating to him that he should move on, indicating to him that he should not be there, indicating to him that he could be brought into the investigation merely for shooting it.
NNAMDIPolice Chief Cathy Lanier says that's a violation of all of the guidelines that they have given to police officers, but it indicates to me how uncomfortable many police officers feel with just seeing a camera watching them do what they do.
SHERWOODWell, Art Spitzer of the ACLU, which had this policy changed two years ago, said to me yesterday when I was doing this story that the advice to the police officers is this. If you see someone taking your picture, smile.
NNAMDIWell, this officer was not smiling.
SHERWOODHere's -- in Georgetown, in 2011, a photographer was taking still photographs, and the police interrupted him, I think it was a him, and there was a lawsuit. It was settled in 2012 with the agreement that the police would write a general order, a direction to every officer, they shall not ask for it, they shall not interfere with people who are lawfully taking pictures. It's a general order. It's been in place for two years. This officer apparently didn't read it.
SHERWOODAnd the chief said that there -- it's an investigation of this. But it's -- and unfortunately it happened on 9/11, too. I mean, we had to write the story about it on 9/11. The police officers are there to protect the freedoms of the people and to protect their safety. They are not there to boss people around. I cannot tell you the number of private security guards and officers who've stepped in and thinking they're going to -- who are you, what are you doing, as if they were protecting us from some...
NNAMDIWell, we'll see if they listen to what Chief Lanier has to say this time.
SHERWOODWell, I think they will and she'll...
NNAMDII predict this will happen again. I am absolutely sure of it. But we know we are now in the middle of political season not only as our guests are candidates for office, but candidates for office in the city running for mayor are touting polls that show them doing very well and then not revealing the details of those polls. That's what Councilmember David Catania did to be followed shortly thereafter by former Councilmember Carol Schwartz, creating her own fake poll saying that she was going to win this race by a huge margin. Shortly after that somehow Loose Lips got hold of the David Catania poll...
SHERWOODWell, they passed that out, this email, they passed it out.
NNAMDIOh, they passed it out but...
SHERWOODYeah, don't give Loose Lips any credit.
NNAMDIOh, you got it all so good. So anyway -- so we now know we're in poll season but are we like -- Carol Schwartz's satire of this and so if you're going to tout a poll than you'd better show the poll to us.
SHERWOODWell, the poll -- this is a -- you know, the -- David Catania has a legitimate pollster but the media tends to shy away from polls unless we can see what the questions are...
SHERWOOD...how they're all done. But this poll -- you know, the Washington Post poll last January or March showed that Bowser was, like, 30 points ahead of David Catania in a match up. And this poll from Catania says they're, like, 28, 25 with 14 percent for Schwartz. We don't know the legitimacy of this poll but I don't think David Catania is stupid enough to have a poll done just to make him look good and make it that close.
SHERWOODThere will be other polls in the coming weeks. We'll see if there's anything to this. We do know that this is a competitive general election race at this point.
NNAMDILorie Masters, are you conducting polls of your own?
MS. LORIE MASTERSI don't have any polls yet.
NNAMDIYou are waiting for the most important poll of all, the one when the voters actually go to the polls in November. Lorie Masters is a Democratic candidate for attorney general of the District of Columbia. Thank you for joining us.
MASTERSOh, I'm happy to be here. Thank you so much for inviting me.
SHERWOODI was reading her resume but I ran out of time. That's one of the longest resumes I've ever seen.
NNAMDIWell, that's one of the things she will be touting in this campaign, that she has provided service for a very long time in the District of Columbia.
SHERWOODIt's a remarkably...
NNAMDIIf you have questions or comments for Lorie Masters, give us a call at 800-433-8850 or send email to firstname.lastname@example.org. This is a race that almost didn't happen. The council moved to postpone it. It took a lawsuit by one of your opponents, Paul Zukerberg, to make sure that the election for attorney general that voters said that we wanted in a referendum put up for a citywide vote actually took place this year. But you have said that while Zukerberg has done the city a service, this is now a question about who would make the best attorney general. You obviously feel that you would be a better attorney general than Paul Zukerberg. Why do you feel that person is you?
MASTERSI have a lot of experience here in the District of Columbia fighting for these issues that we just spent -- you all just spend a lot of time talking about, D.C. statehood, D.C. democracy, D.C. self determination. I live here. I care about these issues. And I think my record shows that I fought for these issues for really decades. And I think that the people of the district deserve somebody who's going to fight relentlessly on things that are important to issues of the district, including statehood and self determination. And I think my record shows that I'm that person.
NNAMDIOn this show not long ago Zukerberg asked, where all the other candidates and potential candidates were when he was agitating for this election to happen. Do you care to respond to that question?
MASTERSYou know, I do laud Paul for the work that he did on that issue. I hadn't decided at that point to run for attorney general frankly. And I've been doing a lot of work myself on these issues. So, at the time that Paul was doing that, I was supporting and filing briefs in the budget autonomy litigation that's currently pending in the federal courts here in the district. So I filed two amicus briefs. Those are friend-of-the-court briefs supporting the Budget Autonomy Act which is also a referendum that was passed by the voters here in the district overwhelmingly.
SHERWOODWhere is that case? That's -- the budget autonomy? You're appealing a court that said you're off base, that this is a matter for the congress. Where is it now in the courts?
MASTERSYou're right about that. So there was a trial court decision that said, as you said, that this is an issue for the congress, that the congress has in effect precluded an amendment of the budget procedures in the Home Rule Act. That was appealed by the council. This is in the litigation called Council versus Gray and that is now in the U.S. Court of Appeals here in the District of Columbia. So I filed, among other briefs that were filed in this case, amicus briefs that support the Budget Autonomy Act.
SHERWOODVoting rights is clearly an issue and the attorney general can certainly be important there. But the -- tell us more about the attorney general's office. As I understand it, there's like 700 employees, 300 of whom or more are lawyers. You deal with consumer protections, civil and criminal matters, misdemeanors, administrative law. You've got to be the legal -- the lawyer for the citizens of the city and then you also have to be involved when the -- every department has legal issues that come up. What, in your background, suggests you can run one of the worlds -- one of the biggest law firms in the nation?
MASTERSYou're right. It is one of the biggest law firms in the district here and it's the district's law firm. So, you know, I've practiced law here for 33 years. I've been an office managing partner. I've been involved in...
SHERWOODAnd you do insurance litigation, right, representing clients not companies.
MASTERSThat's correct. So I've always fought for fair treatment for insurance policy holders. And that consumer aspect, I think, is an important part of my background because an important part of the job of attorney general, as you said, Tom, is to fight for consumer protections. So I really want to be a proactive attorney general and look at issues like payday lending, wage issues, wage theft, overtime abuses and scams, particularly those that might be directed to seniors.
MASTERSBut I want to just mention the statehood and D.C. voting rights issues because I think an important thing that I would want to do as attorney general is to use that office and try to create a national platform to argue for voting rights and statehood and to get the other top state officials, in other words, the other state attorneys general through National Attorney General Associations, to come out and support our effort to fight for statehood.
MASTERSSo, you know, we're going to get this if we have support from around the country. And I think it's important to mobilize that. And as attorney general I could use my platform through the National Association of Attorney Generals, for example, to help lobby for statehood and D.C. voting rights.
NNAMDIOur guest is Lorie Masters, Democratic candidate for attorney general of the District of Columbia. You can shoot us a tweet @kojoshow or give us a call if you have questions or comments for Lorie Masters at 800-433-8850.
SHERWOODI was going to ask you about the -- gosh, it just went right out of my head what I was going to ask about. Oh, the department -- there was a dispute in this legislation creating this elected office that would the assistant attorney general in the Department of Human Services report to the mayor or report to you? And that's with all the agencies.
MASTERSRight. Well, the -- you're right that the legislation that created this office did a terrific thing by creating this as an elected office, which means that it will be -- the attorney general will be accountable to the people now, not the mayor. But it did restructure the office in very specific ways taking what we call the agency council, the lawyers for the different departments, and instead of making them report to the attorney general, those agency council -- those agency lawyers will not be reporting directly to the heads of the agencies.
SHERWOODIt sounds to me like that really undercuts the authority of the elected attorney general.
MASTERSWell, it could. And, you know, it's an interesting point that you raise. Because we spent 15 years in the district trying to centralize that reporting from the agency council up to the attorney general to prevent situations that we had had in the '90s, for example, where the agencies took one legal position and the attorney general took another. You know, you need to speak in a united voice on legal issues for an entity like the district. I think...
MASTERSOh, excuse me.
SHERWOODI know we don't have a lot of time so I'm trying to rush through some of these. You have said that the better ethics -- easy thing to say in this city at this time -- you would work on ethics. What is the power of the attorney general's office to worry about ethics in government?
MASTERSI think it's several things. First of all, I think the attorney general has the obligation to look at the laws and make sure that they're enforced and enforced fairly. And the attorney general can conduct investigations and can call for investigations. And that will be a separate investigation than say the council would do, for example.
SHERWOODOr the board of elections -- I mean, board of ethics, BEGA, whatever it's called?
MASTERSWell, you know, I think that BEGA was put into place -- you're right, it's the Board of Ethics and Government Accountability, and so that's a separate agency or entity in the government. And that performs an important function on ethics. But I think the attorney general, as an elected position accountable to the people, will need to have his or her -- in this case I hope a her -- you know, perspective and ability to look at those issues and to call for investigations and reform.
NNAMDIOnto the telephones. Tom raised the issue earlier of your management experience. I think Sarah in Ward 6 has a question along similar lines. Sarah, your turn.
SARAHOh, hi, Lori. Thank you so much. I was just wondering, so I was reading that the attorney general manages about 300 lawyers and a budget of $175 million roughly. How many lawyers and what kind of budget have you managed in the past?
MASTERSIt's varied. I was the law firm managing partner for my law firm a couple law firms ago. And I had authority over the lawyers in that office. I've also managed large D.C. bar associations with hundreds of members, and also been very involved in managing large teams of lawyers, on cases, that I've tried that have been worth hundreds of millions of dollars. So I think all of that experience is relevant to the job of managing lawyers.
MASTERSI've also been very involved in both my law firm work and also bar work in talking about professional development and management issues, training issues and evaluation of lawyers, also I think a very important part of the job of the attorney general.
NNAMDIGo ahead, Tom.
SHERWOODWe don't get a lot of chance, you know, who you are. I mean, we don't get the personal -- you live in Barnaby Woods?
SHERWOODIs that correct? And you have two adult children.
SHERWOODAnd you said you've been in the city for 33 years, or practiced law. Where are you from?
MASTERSI grew up in a small town in Michigan. And when I was a teenager I thought, you know, I need to get out of Dodge. I need to get someplace else. And I decided I really wanted to come to the District of Columbia because that was...
SHERWOODAnd where'd you go to law school?
MASTERSI went to Notre Dame Law School.
SHERWOODNotre Dame Law School. There are a lot of lawyers who are getting out of the business because it's -- you know, they're opening cupcake shops and all kinds of other things. You've been -- this has been your career the entire time?
MASTERSYes. I've been a practicing lawyer since I graduated from law school.
NNAMDIHere now is Jose in Washington, D.C. Jose, you're on the air. Go ahead, please.
JOSEHello, Kojo. Thank you for having me on the air.
JOSESo my question for the-could-be new attorney general would be about her position on the -- you know, marijuana's decriminalized in the district now. I'm wondering if she thinks that legalization would affect its chances of statehood and how those two views are going to contradict, if they do at all.
SHERWOODAnd are you for the ballot initiative 71?
MASTERSYou know, I support the idea that we shouldn't be sending a lot of people to jail on minor nonviolent offenses. And I think that there's no real proof out there, no evidence that marijuana's a gateway drug, something that creates a pathway to addiction. So I generally support legalization. Obviously from my perspective as attorney general I would enforce the laws as they stand on the books. And if the voters support that referendum then that will be enforced.
MASTERSIn terms of the statehood issue that I think Josh raised -- I hope I got that right...
SHERWOODIs it going to hurt our ability to have statehood if we have legal marijuana here? Would that just be one more thing people can use against us?
MASTERSWell, that's a thing that I worry about because the rumblings that I've heard is that people on The Hill, if we vote for legalization there are people who will want us, once again, to use us as a social laboratory or political way to make points and fight our duly elected laws here in the District of Columbia. But I think as attorney general it will be important to be that independent voice, another voice to support what the voters in the district here have put on the books.
NNAMDIWhen one of your rivals, Karl Racine, was here a few weeks ago, he said he wanted to expand the powers of the attorney general's office. Are there specific powers that you feel this office is lacking?
MASTERSWell, I think Tom hit one of them. So with the reorganization of the office after October 1, as a result of this elected -- the statute that created this as an elected position, there will be, you know, lawyers that no longer report directly to the attorney general. And I think also -- so I think that that's something that we will need to look at over time. If I'm elected attorney general I would want to make sure that I coordinate with all of the agency heads and council to make sure that we are taking consistent positions on legal issues in the district.
MASTERSI also think that, you know, there's a lot of ways that the district is structured, for example, with the prosecutorial functions that cut against local self determination and autonomy. And that's something that I think with an independent attorney general that's respected widely, we could work on.
SHERWOODWe -- the president appoints our judges, right?
SHERWOODAnd the federal government pays our $600 million a year court bill. Would you want that brought back into the city and we'll pay for it ourselves and maybe elect or appoint our own judges?
MASTERSWell, I think, you know, appointing judges is a core part of autonomy. And so we could use the same kind of system that we have for identifying good candidates for the bench. But make sure that those candidates then are appointed by the mayor rather than the president. And it's appointed -- it's actually nominated by the president and then confirmed by the Senate.
MASTERSSo, you know, we should have a system, I think, for judges where -- that other states, have where our mayor, like governors and states, would be the final authority on deciding our judges. The whole issue of court funding, I think, gets to the whole issue of statehood. And if we're going to pursue statehood, we need to have a plan for that kind of transition from the current structure to a fully autonomous sovereign state as we deserve to have.
MASTERSSo, you know, we've done some of this in the past. In 1982 there was a plan for new Columbia. We could take out that plan, dust it off and update it for the 21st century.
NNAMDIWhat approach do you think Irvin Nathan and city officials should be taking right now as far as the challenge to the city's handgun law is concerned?
MASTERSThat's another important issue on local self determination. So I support the appeal of specifically the part of the Palmer decision that says that anybody can bring a handgun in effect into the District of Columbia. I don't see how we can pursue the kind of security issues and local safety issues as well that we need to if we don't have any power in the district to regulate those kinds of issues. So I think that issue needs to be appealed and looked at in terms of the unique position of the district as the head of our national government.
NNAMDIYou only have a minute left.
SHERWOODVery quickly, you've done insurance litigation on behalf of clients. The Department of Insurance, Securities and Banking, would you have any problem working as attorney general and dealing with that office given all the insurance matters it does?
MASTERSNo. I think that's...
SHERWOODI mean, the conflict problems?
MASTERSOh, no, I don't think so. I mean, I've always represented the policyholders. And I actually think it's something that the district could have a much more proactive consumer-oriented view toward helping consumers resolve disputes with their insurance companies.
SHERWOODOkay. Thank you.
NNAMDILorie Masters is a Democratic candidate for attorney general of the District of Columbia. Thank you so much for joining us.
MASTERSThank you for having me.
NNAMDITom Sherwood is our resident analyst. He spoke with someone else with Masters in her name, no relation to Lorie, who wanted him to make a kind of public service...
SHERWOODCora Masters Barry next Thursday is going to be doing a big groundbreaking for a big expansion of her southeast Tennyson Learning Center, which is a good thing over there on Mississippi Avenue.
NNAMDIHow good is your tennis game?
SHERWOODWell, more importantly we're having an American University debate that night with the three major candidates for mayor.
NNAMDIHow good is your tennis game?
SHERWOODMy tennis game is I play golf.
NNAMDITom Sherwood is our resident analyst. He's a reporter for NBC 4 and a columnist for the Current Newspapers. Thank you all for listening. I'm Kojo Nnamdi.
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