Montgomery County State's Attorney John McCarthy discusses his efforts to address gang violence. Plus, D.C. Councilmember Trayon White joins us to recap the "grocery march" protesting food deserts east of the Anacostia River.
D.C.’s mayoral candidates square off in a major broadcast debate. Maryland’s Republican gubernatorial candidate, according to one poll, gains ground on the heavily-favored Democratic nominee. And Virginia’s top health official moves to amend rules for abortion clinics. 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
- Mike DeBonis Reporter, The Washington Post
- Graylan Hagler Senior Minister, Plymouth Congregational United Church of Christ (Washington, D.C.)
Watch The Full Broadcast
Video: D.C. Mayoral Debate Highlights
The three candidates for D.C. mayor disagreed on many issues at the Oct. 2 WAMU 88.5-Kojo Nnamdi Show debate, but one question united them all: their favorite childhood Halloween costume. “Wonder Woman,” replied Muriel Bowser, David Catania and Carol Schwartz to much laughter from the audience.
Note: Due to some technical issues with our equipment, the below clip includes a short lapse in audio that doesn’t change the meaning of the conversation.
D.C. mayoral candidates Muriel Bowser and David Catania engaged in a testy exchange about education at the Oct. 2 WAMU 88.5-Kojo Nnamdi Show debate at NPR headquarters. “There’s a difference between an uninformed platitude and doing the heavy lifting,” said Catania to Bowser. “You know, I’ve had about enough of Mr. Catania and ‘she’s uninformed, she doesn’t have the intellect, and she’s not smart, and she’s a puppet, or the Democrats in this city are a puppet.’ People have had it,” said Bowser.
MR. KOJO NNAMDIFrom WAMU 88.5, at American University, in Washington, welcome to "The Politics Hour," starring Mike DeBonis, with a cameo appearance from Tom Sherwood. I'm Kojo Nnamdi.
MR. KOJO NNAMDILater in the broadcast we'll be talking with Graylan Hagler, he is an at-large candidate for the D.C. Council, he's an Independent candidate. But first we're going to be discussing last night's mayoral debate. If you have questions or comments about that you can call us now at 800-433-8850 or send email to firstname.lastname@example.org. Mike DeBonis is our guest analyst today. He's a reporter for the Washington Post. Mike DeBonis, thank you very much for stepping up to the plate.
MR. MIKE DEBONISThanks, Kojo, always a pleasure.
NNAMDIAnd speaking of stepping up to the plate, it's my understanding that that's what Tom Sherwood like to do at Nationals Park today, but it's also my understanding that he's not there yet. Tom Sherwood is our resident analyst. He's an NBC 4 reporter and a columnist for the Current Newspapers. We expected him to be joining us from Nationals Park, but he hasn't gotten there yet. Tom Sherwood, how's it going?
MR. TOM SHERWOODWell, you know, I'm very excited about going, but it's, you know, it's a little early. The game doesn't start until 3:00. I'm ironing my red t-shirt so I'll look nice if I get stuck on some TV camera.
NNAMDII thought you'd be there at 9:00 o'clock this morning.
SHERWOODI have my tickets. I don't have to stand in line.
NNAMDIAnd you don't live that far away from the park. What are you anticipating at the park today?
SHERWOODWell, I think there's going to be a lot of excitement. I think a lot of people are, you know, two years ago, in 2012, the team go into the playoffs and it ended badly with the St. Louis Cardinals. But we're hoping to do more. I mean, this is a great thing for the whole region. Two-thirds of the people who go to the Nat Stadium are from this -- from Virginia.
SHERWOODThe Post had a great map that showed a lot of the people in Maryland are still oriented towards the Orioles. But for this region, this is a team we can support without having to worry about saying its name.
NNAMDIWhat are you anticipating for the result of today's game? Care to predict a score?
SHERWOODNo. It's kind of like predicting elections. I don't think it's a good thing to do.
NNAMDIAnd I'm glad you mentioned elections because that's what we're here to discuss today, the upcoming mayoral election, about which we had a debate last night at NPR headquarters. Tom was one of the panelists in that debate. And, Mike DeBonis, you were on hand for the debate. What are your general impressions?
DEBONISWell, you know, we've had one debate already. And the first debate was very much -- it was a bloodletting of sorts because we had -- this race has been going on for six months, supposedly, since the primary. None of them had been in a room together, or at least in a way where they were interacting with each other. And there was all this sort of tension and almost excitement that had to be sort of resolved. And that was what happened on the stage of this auditorium at American University.
DEBONISI think, you know, some of the butterflies were out a little bit more, were out of people's stomachs a little bit more last night. The people, you know, I think the stakes had been a little better defined since then. And, you know, the thing that really defines these debates more than you might say a presidential debate or a gubernatorial debate, is that these three people know each other really well. You know, when Barack Obama and Mitt Romney get, you know, get on a stage together, they don't know each other. They've never really been in a room together.
DEBONISThey know each other through briefing books and files and they're abstractions in a lot of ways. They're just, you know, maybe a collage of issues that -- and talking points that they disagree on. Muriel Bowser and David Catania and Carol Schwartz have been in rooms together for hours and hours on hand.
NNAMDIThey have history.
DEBONISThey have history. And it all -- it colors everything in every discussion they have. And, you know, as we saw last night, there were, you know, what many people would consider digressions that they couldn't help but have because everything is colored by these relationships that they've had over the years. So, you know, that was very much on full display.
NNAMDII want to talk about one of those digressions for a second, before you weigh in, Tom. Unless you want to give general impressions first.
SHERWOODWell, I think Mike's right, that these are people who know each other, but I do think on the radio -- I've heard from several people who are not aligned to have said they thought Catania sounded better on the radio, that Bowser was -- came on strong when she Catania for criticizing her for a very weak council record or her aggressiveness on addressing issues.
SHERWOODAnd she keeps hinting about -- she keeps hinting this is somewhat sexist to criticize her. And so I thought that was an interesting context of it. For Carol Schwartz, I thought she came on more like a third-party candidate, because she is trailing in all the polls that have been here. And that -- the aggression, if you're going to go to that, where, you know, we asked about -- well, you know, Carol Schwartz you were -- David Catania…
NNAMDIOh, no. That's not the digression I was going to go to.
NNAMDIThe digression I was going to -- the digression I wanted to go to was the one you initially mentioned because in the context of Mike DeBonis talking about these candidates knowing one another, me saying they having history, that has a lot to do with this exchange that you will hear or this remark you'll hear from Muriel Bowser in response to David Catania's ongoing criticism of her.
MR. DAVID CATANIAThere's a difference between a uniformed platitude and actually doing the heavy lifting and…
MS. MURIEL BOWSERYou know, I've had about enough of Mr. Catania and his uninformed and she doesn't have the intellect and she's not smart and she's a puppet or the Democrats in this city are a puppet. People have had it with that.
NNAMDIWhat do you mean, Mr. Catania, by uninformed platitude?
BOWSERYou know what he means, Kojo.
NNAMDIWell, I'd like him to say in simpler terms exactly what he means.
CATANIAMs. Bowser, may we have a respectful debate, where we don't talk over one another? Because I think that's the way in which we're going…
BOWSERIf you continue to refer to me as…
BOWSER…uninformed, then we will -- I will continue to respond to you.
NNAMDIMr. Catania, please continue and try to avoid any disrespect to...
CATANIAI don't think it's disrespectful to state the obvious. That the Alice deal…
BOWSERNo, sir, it is disrespectful. And the voters will let you know how disrespectful it is.
CATANIAThe Alice deal for all was…
NNAMDIOne at a time, please.
CATANIAThe Alice deal for all sense of the council, which comes with no resources, no plans and no thought, is not a plan forward.
NNAMDIThat's just a bit of the exchange that Mike DeBonis was referring to. Tom?
SHERWOODAnd I think that's -- when Bowser tries -- says uninformed platitudes -- or when Catania says that and she responds that that's disrespectful and that Democrats are not puppets, Bowser is trying very hard now to do what is most normal in an election. In these final weeks she needs to bring the Democrats home to make sure that they'll vote for the Democrat. And Catania keeps saying she has no record. She wants you to vote because you are a Democrat.
SHERWOODAnd I think, you know, that poll -- I just don't know how good that poll was that shows them only about eight points apart -- is indicative that this race will tighten. Will people go for the third-party candidate, Carol Schwartz essentially, or will they say I'm not going to vote for her whether I like her or not because I need to decide the race between Catania and Bowser. And that's what's going to be interesting in the next few weeks.
SHERWOODAnd we'll see Bowser, who has far more money and probably better organization -- she'll probably outspend four to one. When you get something in the mail, you'll get four Bowser pieces to one from Catania. Will that make a difference? I think that, you know, the Post/Channel 4 debate, which will come on October the 15th, could be decisive in how this plays out in the last final weeks.
NNAMDIYou can see video clips of the debate at our website, kojoshow.org, where you can also watch today's live videostream of the conversation that we are having. I always thought that the phrase Alice Deal for all was a slogan that would -- a lot of people could easily relate to and catch on. Hearing it described as an uninformed platitude was a bit of surprise for me. But what underscored that discussion, regardless of the specific words that were used, Mike DeBonis, is the ongoing tension between those candidates and the fact that they don't see too much like each other.
DEBONISThey don't like each other and they're both trying to battle these sort of narratives about them, even metanarratives, which is that, you know, David Catania is -- has substantial record, but he's unlikeable and can be very overaggressive and ill tempered. And for Muriel Bowser, it's someone who's likeable and gets along with everybody, but doesn't have the substantial record and can't -- doesn't have a -- have the vision for the city necessary.
DEBONISAnd, you know, those impressions may not be true or not, but they are both things that both of those candidates are trying to transcend. And that's what you saw underscoring that exchange, and really a lot of what you heard during the debate yesterday.
DEBONISAnd I think that -- particularly with Muriel Bowser, you heard her on several occasions jumping in and returning to subjects that I think -- and I have the distinct impression that are informed by her polling, that she's tested these messages and she thinks she knows what works against David Catania. She went back to talk about the job he had -- he used to have as an executive at M.C. Dean, a big construction company.
NNAMDIIn response to a question about emergency medical services.
DEBONISIn response to a question about emergency medical services. David Catania tries to diffuse that by bringing it up himself and addressing the criticism. But she came right back to it and spent, I would say, the better part of a minute, you know, saying can we really trust this guy, he worked for this company while he was on the Council.
NNAMDIMike DeBonis is our guest analyst today. He's a reporter for the Washington Post. Tom Sherwood joins us by phone. He is our resident analyst. He's an NBC 4 reporter and a columnist for the Current Newspapers. We're discussing last night's mayoral debate on WAMU 88.5. It will be repeated again on Monday, on "The Kojo Nnamdi Show," between the hours of noon and 2:00 p.m. You can watch it -- or you can listen to it there.
NNAMDIRight now you can watch our live videostream at kojoshow.org. If you want to join the conversation, give us a call at 800-433-8850. You can send email to email@example.com. The other issue that Tom Sherwood was referring to, the other source of tension has to do with the relationship between Carol Schwartz and David Catania. And a lot of that tension goes back to how Carol Schwartz feels that she was forced out of office here as an at-large member of the Council. Here's a little bit of that exchange.
MS. CAROL SCHWARTZI had a good break. I had a good break and I enjoyed my break. And even though I can't look upon David with great fondness anymore because of the nasty, personal attack that went on in 2008, I am not running having anything to do with you. And I want to say that to your face. I want to be mayor. I wanted to be mayor -- I ran the first time when you were a teenager. You really had nothing to do with my running for mayor. You have nothing to do with my running for mayor now, even though your ego may like to think that it does.
NNAMDIOkay. Let's move on to you, Patrick Madden.
SCHWARTZAnd so I just wanted to say…
SCHWARTZ…that I've heard it…
NNAMDIAllow us to move forward into the…
SCHWARTZ…over and over in this campaign. Now, let's drop it.
SHERWOODCan I redirect the question?
NNAMDI…into the present and into the future.
NNAMDIAnd Muriel Bowser got in on that with a few jabs of her own at David Catania. Tom Sherwood, clearly he was being -- in some ways -- attacked from both sides.
SHERWOODWell, yes. But I think the fact that we asked that question -- I thought they would all hit it fairly quickly and we'd move on, but they lingered on that. And that -- part of that is because despite what Carol Schwartz says, we all know she would love to be mayor -- is that the bitterness of that 2008 campaign did help get her into this race. She does miss the fray, she does miss the public service, but the fact is she had told private friends that, no, she just couldn't stand the idea that David Catania might become mayor.
SHERWOODSo I think that's the -- I would like to hear from Mike DeBonis on this. Because the poll -- we all thought she would get in, she would drag votes away from Catania, but some of the polling has suggested that she's actually taking votes from Muriel Bowser. So is Michael there?
NNAMDIWell, she certainly is here. And for those listeners who may have been hearing that for the first time, if you didn't hear it last night and you can listen to it again on Monday, what you heard in that piece from Carol Schwartz, was what was a kind of scuttlebutt that has been going around in the city for a long time, but for the first time was discussed openly and at some length on the air.
SHERWOODRight. It was…
SHERWOODIt's not just (unintelligible) but the fact is, I mean, she wouldn't even say David Catania's name when she first started running. She realized that that was not a good political position to take. So she now says his name, but it does have an impact on her running. So over to Michael.
DEBONISI mean, yeah, she does not hide in any way that, you know, the experience of 2008 she was -- she lost in the Republican primary to an opponent that was, without a doubt, supported by David Catania, who held fundraisers for her opponent, that, you know, this is, in many ways, you know, she is still very sore about that. Now, you know, the interesting thing to me last night is how Muriel Bowser was sitting there on the sidelines, just basically egging the two of them on. You know, and again, it goes toward these narratives. She wants to encourage this narrative that David Catania is a very…
DEBONIS…is a bully and an overly aggressive and basically, you know, engages in this machinations that took out poor old Carol Schwartz. And, you know, she helped to turn what could have been a 30-second exchange into one of several minutes. And, you know, David Catania couldn’t have been happy with that. And Muriel Bowser, I'm sure, was sitting there just pleased as punch that his became, you know, one of the more memorable exchanges of the debate.
SHERWOODElections are always, always about the future. Part of Carol's problem is that when she talks, she has to talk about things she did a long time ago. And so I think that does drag down people wanting to vote for her. Many people don't know here. The Catania campaign says that the election is a much wider electorate than the Washington Post/Channel 4 poll suggests. And they say the race is much tighter. I just think that a lot of these elements are going to be very decisive in what happens.
DEBONISBut to bring that -- yeah, to bring up that poll, I mean we refer to this polling. You know, our poll showed that -- we asked about what would your second choice be if you didn't vote for your candidate. And what that indicated is that Carol Schwartz's support was sort of evenly split between people who supported Bowser and people who supported -- would support Catania.
DEBONISThis more recent poll sort of indicated that there might -- may even be a little more, you know, a head-to-head race, that Muriel Bowser would have and even bigger lead, were Carol Schwartz not in the race, indicating that she's a spoiler more for Muriel Bowser than she is for David Catania.
DEBONISBut, you know, the point of this is is that, you know, all of this hurts David Catania in the way that, you know, regardless of the numbers, you know, this is a three-person boxing match, in a way that David Catania, you know, was planning for, expected and thought he could beat her in a head-in-head to race. Well, it's not. And being sort of dragged into these sideline fights during these debates doesn't help him at all. And I think in -- perhaps in this case, might even hurt him.
SHERWOODRemember when the -- this was -- Catania was talking about running or getting ready to run when -- after the April 1st primary. The Bowser people, repeatedly -- Tom Lindenfeld, among others, said, "Oh, David's not going to run. He's not going to run. He's not going to run." Well, he surprised them all by running. And I think he's made it a genuinely big race for a general election that normally just goes by default to the Democrat.
NNAMDIOn to the telephones. Here is Ned, in Washington, D.C. Ned, you're on the air. Go ahead, please.
NEDHi. '76 resident. What I'm interested in, the informed articulation of our candidates. We talk about this being the education election. Critical thinking is so important. I've been a substitute teacher here in Washington for a while. And it bothered me that on the women's side I heard a lot of bumper sticker and pouting. We need someone who deals with recruiting people, educating them, training them and getting them in the system.
NNAMDIAnd you're saying on the women's side -- are you saying that you heard something more substantial from David Catania?
NEDOh, absolutely. You know, if you saw his -- well, 126-page data collection and his -- what he would do -- everyone should see that. That's why, when it comes to critical thinking -- that's so essential in our national education system -- he's there with that. The other two are nothing.
SHERWOODAre there enough people involved with D.C. education to carry Catania to a victory, though? I'm not sure there is.
NNAMDIWell, there was, in my view, some substantial discussion of education last night, regardless of how you characterize the various viewpoints that were put forward. One of the good things was that we had a two-hour debate, and therefore, had sufficient time to dedicate to these issues. Do you think that in -- Mike DeBonis, that David Catania's -- and he's using education as his primary issue in this campaign. Do you think he was able to do well on that last night?
DEBONISI think he was, you know, he was good in talking about what he has done in the past two years as chairman of the education committee. I think that gave him some heft and some gravitas on the issue that Muriel Bowser couldn't match. I think that, you know, it's a good talking point for him to say that, you know, Muriel Bowser said, when she was first elected to the council, that education would be her number one issue. And she really hasn't been active in passing legislation in that sphere.
DEBONISMuriel Bowser said, well, my most valuable contribution to education is basically staying out of the way of Kaya Henderson and Michelle Rhee before her. And perhaps, I think that there are certain people who are voting who appreciate the value of stability and not rocking the boat once you have a plan in place and someone to execute it. But there's no doubt that, you know, David Catania is more facile in being able to discuss some of these matters of policy and, you know, bills that he's passed and particular things that he's been able to do in a way that Muriel Bowser has sort of relied Alice Deal for all and other slogans.
SHERWOODAnd if you remember, Adrian Fenty didn't have much of a council record either when he ran.
SHERWOODBut people saw him aspirationally. The question is, are the voters of the city seeing Muriel Bowser in some aspirational way or do they see Catania with his admittedly much stronger record of achievement on the Council? You know, that's a question the voters will answer.
NNAMDIRelisha Rudd, the little girl who was taken away from the shelter at D.C. General Hospital and who still has not bene found at this point, a lot of people are frustrated that this is not an issue in this campaign. Some people are frustrated that she's become a political talking point. We got the candidates last night to answer questions about whether they'd sever the city's ties with the contractor who runs the homeless shelter at D.C. General. Catania said yes. Bowser said she'd conduct a top-to-bottom review.
BOWSERI would do a top-down review. I wouldn't -- January 2nd we're going to be in the middle of hypothermia season. And we know from last year the conditions at D.C. General were deplorable. And we certainly know that the disappearance of this beautiful child is nothing that we in the District of Columbia should accept.
BOWSERAnd we have to move with great haste to make sure we put all of the changes in place to have a safety net that is just as strong as possible. This is a big contractor who has failed to do the job that needs to be done to keep children like Relisha safe.
NNAMDII thought that among the responses we got to that issue, Carol Schwartz's was the one that got the best response in the audience when she said that she would not have contractors do this job at all, that she would have District of Columbia government employees who could be properly vetted. I just don't know how within today's budgetary environment how likely or possible that is, Tom.
SHERWOODWell, the fact is the city is very well off financially. So if some mayor wanted to bring that in house that would be one thing. I think one of the problems I have with the Bowser answer on this is that she is running on many issues -- whether it's the homeless issue with the community partnership, whether it's the soccer issue or whether it's development and the issue about Park Southern, all of those.
SHERWOODShe says she'll review it, she'll bring the people together, she'll do top-to-bottom reviews. And someone said to me -- who was not for any of the other candidates -- you know, "She's running to be the mayor, to be the executive, to make decisions, not to be a councilmember who's going to review policy. She needs to make decisions." And I think that is a problem for her. And often she says she will review it, she'll bring people together, she'll do these various things. Those are not executive-level decisions.
DEBONISWell, Tom, you know who she sounds like is Mayor Vince Gray, who is -- who's…
DEBONIS…solution to almost any complicated problem is to bring a task force…
SHERWOODHave a task force.
DEBONIS…together and come up with a report. Which, you know, I will say is not always the wrong answer. Now, you -- the question is, is that right answer at D.C. General? Well, we're at a, you know, I think she made the very good point that we here we are on -- in October 3rd, hypothermia season starts momentarily. They're not going to fire the community partnership today because no one knows what could possibly replace it. And I think…
SHERWOODNobody -- and Carol Schwartz said she would go in at least -- if you're going to have to have D.C. General why in the hell, she says, why can't we at least have a clean safe place? If that's going to be open…
SHERWOOD…then let's do more to make that a more hospitable place for the human beings that are stuffed there.
NNAMDIHere is Ali, in Washington, D.C. Ali, you're on the air. Go ahead, please.
ALIKojo, thank you, allow me.
ALIWhen I make a -- I'm not making decision, but what I look, and that was the both candidate stuff, especially David Catania -- Bowser, that's where I'm looking now. But my -- the way I'm looking is the mayor is a manager. He's a manager executive. He has people working around him and consulting. So when I've got the both people, Bowser and Catania, Catania -- the way I seen him -- he's a man my way or highway.
ALIAnd this is of nation's capital, the most powerful city in the world. You need a mayor who has a temper, who has a calm, who listen. But when you look at on the other side, you -- I'm listening him -- Mr. Tom Sherwood, he keep saying experience, experience. Barack Obama, he doesn't have experience. Clinton never have experience. Fenty never has experience. But you get a people who working with you when you pick up the best people…
NNAMDIOkay. So who are you leaning -- Ali, who are you leaning toward at this point?
ALII think I'm -- I was undecided. I'm heading to Bowser now because she is the calm. And she is -- she will learn. She's young and…
NNAMDIOkay. Well, allow me to have Tom Sherwood respond because, of course, the major criticism of David Catania in the past has been that he can be intemperate and intolerant of opposing points or differing points of view.
SHERWOODWell, I don't remember that I said experience. Experience -- I do say that Catania's campaign is that he has a record of achievement that Bowser has none. And the temperament is an issue. Bowser is a -- seen as a more friendly, easy-going, kind of bring people together to discuss problems type person.
SHERWOODAnd I think if either one of them is elected mayor, you know, essentially -- we'll be going -- we'll move forward regardless. Bowser would probably be less exciting and Catania will probably shake things up more. That's a decision the voters will make. Which one do you want?
NNAMDIWell, you know, there was one thing last night that no one really expected and no one certainly expected the candidates all to agree on anything. But there was one thing they agreed on. In an effort to fill some time when we were running out of time I asked Tom Sherwood to ask all of the candidates a question that they could answer in a short period of time. And in typical Sherwood-esqe manner he -- well, here's what they had to answer about what their favorite Halloween costume was.
SHERWOODWhat, as a child, was your favorite costume for Halloween? Ms. Bowser?
NNAMDIWonder Woman. They didn't know this was -- Mr. Catania?
SCHWARTZAnd I actually was going to say the same thing, Wonder Woman.
SHERWOODWell, you know, that was probably the best line of the night. That -- those lines.
NNAMDITom Sherwood asked the question and they all had the same answer. It was certainly unexpected. It produced one of the -- well, fairly rare lighter moments among these candidates, Mike DeBonis.
DEBONISIt was the only, I mean, I've not guffawed very much during this entire campaign, but I -- there was -- it was definitely a laugh-out-loud moment.1
NNAMDIIt certainly was.
DEBONISFor me and a lot of other people.
SHERWOODThe other one was when, you know, I asked Carol Schwartz, I said, constantly being in third place, for whom would she recommend or vote between David and Muriel. And she -- and Carol said to laughter, I'll write in my own name.
NNAMDIAnd, you know, we always ask ourselves when we're involved in these debates exactly what value they have. So I'll let Kyle, in Washington, D.C., have the last word about that. Kyle, you're on the air. Go ahead, please.
KYLEHow's it going? Well, after tuning in last night, I originally was kind of an undecided voter, but listening to Muriel and her talk about the importance of actually being a ward council member was really, really important to me, particularly being responsible to a group of people and not just the entire city at large.
NNAMDIHow long have you been living in Washington?
KYLEI've been living in D.C. for three years.
KYLEDid my grad school and I've been working ever since. And, you know, then listening to her talk about Walter Reid, which is just this huge parcel of land north on Georgia Avenue and the community process of bringing folks in, I thought that was incredibly important in respect to McMillan Park...
NNAMDISo you think that the debate was helpful to you, is what I was trying…
KYLEAbsolutely. You know…
KYLE…I came in kind of undecided and I'm totally leaning towards the Democratic candidate now. David Catania came off as pushy and kind of leaning towards what they say about him in the media, that he can't keep his temper. And I thought some of the crowd reactions, you could definitely hear folks not liking how he kept attacking her…
NNAMDIWell, they're -- the crowd reaction is something that, in those situations, one should not really judge by because the candidates try to make sure that there are many of their supporters in the crowd as possible. Tom Sherwood, thank you so much for joining us.
SHERWOODI'm out of time?
NNAMDIYeah, you're out of time. We have to move forward.
SHERWOODOh, well, okay.
NNAMDITom Sherwood is our resident analyst.
SHERWOOD(unintelligible) baseball game. I hope you guys have a great time. Go, Nats.
NNAMDIHave fun at the game.
DEBONISBring home a winner, Tom.
NNAMDIHe's an NBC 4 reporter and a columnist for the Current Newspapers. Mike DeBonis is our guest analyst today. He's a reporter for the Washington Post. Joining us now in studio is Graylan Hagler. He is an at-large candidate for the D.C. Council. He is an Independent candidate. Graylan Hagler, good to see you.
REV. GRAYLAN HAGLERGood to see you. It's good to be here.
NNAMDIIf you have questions or comments from Graylan Hagler, give us a call at 800-433-8850. You can send email to firstname.lastname@example.org or shoot us a tweet, @kojoshow. You said recently that it is a moral sin to have any homeless families in D.C., that there's vacant public housing, opportunities to house some of them that are not being taken advantage of. What do you think of Wednesday's article in City Paper about so-called hoarding of vacant properties in Anacostia and elsewhere by the Department of Housing? What do you think should be done?
HAGLERObviously, I mean, those housing -- they've been sitting there. Some of them on city payroll -- I mean, city inventory. Some of them on public housing inventory. And just sitting there, basically vacant, because one of the things is, is that we always have this mantra about public/private partnership.
HAGLERAnd a lot of these properties are being conveyed over to private developers, when in fact we've got this homeless family situation that we all raise -- all stand about and we feel horrible about, that people will pack down in D.C. General, when in fact we could begin to alleviate some of those problems by bringing some of those units back online, filling them with family, making sure that they're up to par in terms of cold, as well as invest money into public housing because that's the only thing that you can truly expect to be affordable.
HAGLERBecause everything else has some market influence in it. Public housing, you have control over that. It's for the public good. But the fact is that public housing right now is under attack because there's all this attempt to try to privatize them, just like we've privatized everything. And most of the residents who buy into the formula of public housing in a sense being rebuilt, will find out that they're going to be left out of the formula entirely and will not be able to return to the community.
NNAMDINotice I jumped straight into the issues? I didn't start by asking you why you wanted to be an at-large council member. I feel that your views on these issues are more important than the broad general questions. Here's Mike DeBonis.
HAGLEROh, Mike DeBonis, afraid of him.
DEBONISRev. Hagler, well, thanks so much for weighing out that issue so well. You know, you mentioned public housing be under attack. I think you're referring to some of the redevelopment plans that have been put forward in the city. But we're seeing public housing under attack, not just locally, but on the federal level. We've seen levels of federal funding for public housing decline. What's the solution when our local leaders can't rely on the federal support they've been relying on for so long?
DEBONISWhat's the solution to make public housing viable again, to rehabilitate some of these communities that have become dilapidated? How are we suppose do that? And if it requires additional funding from the city, where's that going to come from?
HAGLERWell, one of the things is that we can't keep talking about home rule and autonomy and then act like continuously a colony. The fact is is that we need to make that investment on our own, in terms of the housing opportunity and diversity that is available for our residents. And there will always be excuse, and in fact we've always used the federal government as our excuse when we don't want to do something -- to say that the funds are not there, the funds are not available.
DEBONISWell, as I would say, historically, you know, the vast majority of funding for public housing has come through the federal government.
HAGLERThat's -- well, some of it. Not, I mean, the vast majority of it, some of it because we have -- also have investment in there and we actually even control units. Right? There are units that are not in the house -- house public housing, but there's units that's all -- that's in the city's inventory. And the fact is, that's vacant as well as a lot of public housing being vacant. And so, in a sense, we don't have a commitment.
HAGLERAnd that's my call -- demand -- is that we have a commitment to bringing that housing stock back onto the market, into the inventory and open it up so that families can have access to it, so that we can keep a city that's truly diverse and not just a city that is made up of those who have opulent wealth.
DEBONISSo let me press you on this, where do the dollars come from? Where do you see -- shifting the dollars from other programs or creating new revenue to fund these things?
HAGLERWell, one of the things is that you can -- the mayor -- me and the mayor, we were in an argument recently. And the mayor said -- well, we've been in a number of arguments, obviously. Right? But the mayor said to me, he says, "Concentrate of poverty doesn't work." And so -- and that just shows you that -- where they've been. And I had to remind them that I was a product of concentrated poverty. It may not have been public housing, but most of the people in my community and my neighborhood didn't have two quarters to rub against each other.
HAGLERSo the issue of success is not based upon you being poor, it's based upon a community. A community being a nurturing place. A community being a place that helps their young to advance. I mean, those are the types of things that we need to address. You've got housing, you got the housing trust fund, for example, some of the monies could be plied from there in terms of guaranteeing public housing.
HAGLERThe other thing is, you can also look at all the development that's coming online. And really get serious about bringing folks and making folks responsible for the public good, in terms of providing the kinds of units. Not the kind of units that you can't live in unless you make 60, 50,000 -- 50 or $60,000 a year, but what about the families in sense -- that are making 40 and $30,000 a year.
NNAMDIYou feel that in the past our elected officials have not been serious about telling developers that they have a commitment in addition to whatever it is they want to develop to providing housing that is affordable and housing for the poor?
HAGLEROur elected officials have been beggars, begging folk to come in, pleading for folk to come in. And even when the whole atmosphere changed and everybody was breaking down the door to come in, they still remained beggars, begging folks to come in. I mean, it's just like the whole thing, when we were talking about with the Wal-Mart example, right?
HAGLERA Wal-Mart coming in, Wal-Mart's got this -- all these stores and, because there was -- they were threatened with a Large Retailer Accountability Act, which I was very much involved in and they said that, "We're not going to build the rest of the stores in D.C." And everybody began to plea with them. They were coming to D.C., just like every other business has come into D.C., because there's money to be made in the town.
HAGLERAnd folks know that, folks understand that, all of this development that has been going on is because there has been money to be made in the town. But my problem with our elected officials is, we have not talked about community development, we've only talked about economic development. And economic development has been these big box stores and all of these national and international chains, coming into D.C. But we haven't talked about the little, small, average business that's been there through thick and thin, the ones that survived through the crack epidemic, the ones that survived through the down -- turndown in the market.
HAGLERAnd we need to begin to look at how we also nurture, those neighborhood community infrastructure, as well as equip people to be able to have jobs in the type of middle class incomes, that allows them to stay in the city and be committed to the city.
NNAMDIOur guest is Graylan Hagler. He is an at-large candidate for the D.C. Council. He's an independent candidate. If you have questions or comments for Graylan Hagler, give us a call at, 800-433-8850 or send email to email@example.com. Mike DeBonis is our guest analyst today. He's a reporter for the Washington Post. You mentioned people being able to have livable incomes.
NNAMDIYou've been endorsed by D.C. working families. Its executive director said that, if you, Graylan Hagler, and Elissa Silverman, were elected, maybe a higher minimum wage could pass without having to go on the ballot. What would be your strategy for convincing the other 12 members of the Council, if you are elected, to go for that?
HAGLERWell, it's -- it would be what we did with the Large Retailer Accountability Act, which was, we educated the community, so that when everybody looked at the numbers out there, even though the Council didn't go the way the public wanted them to go, the public felt, the vast majority of the public felt, voters felt, that the L.R.A.A. should've passed. And it should've been over ridden by the Council-members.
HAGLERAnd again, we got the minimum wage that went up on July 1, simply because they were so much on the wrong side of the Large Retailer Accountability Act that you ended up with a unanimous vote in terms of the minimum wage. The fact is, is that I want -- I will continue to organize, in the community, I will continue to make the community aware of the kinds of issues that we're facing on the Council.
HAGLERAnd one of the things is that, when we really start talking about grassroots participatory democracy, it's a matter of the public being informed about what's really going on, be equipped to make the arguments, be equipped with the facts because people really end up making the change.
DEBONISWell, let me ask you this, Reverend Hagler, given the scenario that you described, where they -- what -- the failure of the L.R.A.A. paved the way for this minimum wage increase. The alternate scenario where we had Wal-Mart employees and some big box workers making 12.50 an hour, but everyone else remained stuck at that 8.25 minimum wage, would that have been a better scenario?
HAGLERWell, one of the things that I was focused on, I grew up in small business, I grew up in a corner grocery store. I know what it is to work 12, 14 hours a day, that's what I did, I loved school because I knew that when I was out of school, I was gonna work 12, 14 hours a day, and so I know very much how small businesses always on the edge. So the issue was not to put the pressure on those small businesses, but really, in a sense, ask those larger corporations to come and be more responsible, be more responsible in terms of the treatment of your employees, in terms of your investment in the community.
HAGLERPeople said that it was a -- discriminatory. But I always remind folks that you don't expect the person who makes a million dollars a year to put up the same amount of somebody that makes $10,000 a year. The fact is, we're all -- when we all do our part, when we all do our social responsible part, that's what makes the society whole and healthy.
DEBONISThere's one thing I ask you...
NNAMDI...that you -- you mentioned both, that you grew up in a poor community and that you grew up in a grocery store. You didn't mention, for our listeners, where you grew up.
HAGLERI grew up in Baltimore, Md. and my parents were able to put together some pennies, after the 1968 riots and we ended up buying the store that they kept the book on us. And for a folk who don't know what the book is, that was when you went in there day after day and you took off the shelf and you said, "Put it on the book," and then on payday, you hope that you could pay the bill that was on the book. We bought that store.
DEBONISWell, I just wanted to follow up. I'll just ask you this straight out. If you could snap your fingers and make the Large Retailer Accountability Act take effect, but at the cost of repealing the minimum wage increase, would you do that?
HAGLERWell, I think we're where we are now and I think we go from there and we continue to push, we continue to push now for the minimum wage, I mean, the collective wisdom on the Council was that we -- they needed to increase the minimum wage, everybody agreed with that. That was a non-brainer. But I think that we need to go upwards to at least $15.00 an hour.
DEBONISFifteen dollars, that's the minimum, and at what point in the -- how would you phase that in? We're -- when would we get to $15.00 an hour?
HAGLERWell, I think that you look at an incremental phase in, I mean, whether it's -- comes up annually in terms of an increase until you get there annually and then link it to the consumer price index or something like that, that's a solid objective measurement. I think you look at how you do that and do it responsibly so that it's really not a shock to anybody, but people are able to plan on how you get there.
NNAMDIThere was at least one other city in your life, Boston. You ran for mayor there in...
NNAMDI...1991. A news report by the local PBS station, said of you, quote, "Understatement is not his style, confrontation is. This is a man who does not quickly give in or give up." You were arrested in Boston twice, protesting at a post office construction site because the neighborhood was full of unemployed people and none had been hired to work on that building. You talked about David and Goliath a lot, back then. You still feel like David, Washington's been your home for decades, so to speak, but does this feel like part of the same fight? Who's Goliath?4
HAGLERIt is the same fight. It's the same fight because you have economic interest that attempts to roll over people. And over and over again, so we have, right now, sort of, naked marketplace development that makes money, developers make money. The residents don't, in fact, when -- even the mayor was talking about how many cranes was in the air, we didn't get, really one job out of those cranes being in the air because we didn't enforce for a source, we didn't do anything that really, in a sense, equipped the local resident to be able to have access to those jobs, to that employment.
HAGLERAnd therefore we didn't resource the lives of our residents. And so, that's what I've always been about. I've always been about economic justice, I've always been about justice and civil rights and human rights and I continue to be about that.
DEBONISWell, I would say one thing that you've spoken eloquently on besides wage matters and those matters, is education. You've talked about how you're not happy with the direction that education reforms, so to speak, has taken over the last, how many now, six, eight years in the city. Talk about that because, you know, when we talk about the, you know, D.C. residents not getting these construction jobs or other jobs in this economy we're seeing, isn't that -- that's an educational failure. How would you have done education reform differently, you know, 10, 15, 20 years ago, so the people who live in the city now could get these jobs that we're seeing being created all around town?
HAGLERRight, in part...
NNAMDIWhat don't you like about the education reform that we have been dealing with, since, I guess, 2008 and the Fenty regime?
HAGLERWell, you've been -- yeah...
HAGLERWe’ve been dealing with that for, what some six years...
DEBONISEight years at this point, right?
HAGLERAnd one of the things I want to point out is that, yes, there's an educational issue in, that's afoot in our city, if we're gonna try to bring people to some place of being equal of one another. But it's also a racial issue because when we look at failing schools, where we call failing schools, failing schools take place and exist in poor, black communities, all right. And in fact, all the school closings took place, not in white communities but in black communities.4
HAGLERWe have a race issue in this town that we never really want to address and unless we address it, we're gonna continue to, in a sense, to get further and further away from each other. And so what we look at, we look at this achievement gap in education that continues to widen, to continue to widen from -- between low income students and black students and white students. When the Chancellor spoke the other night, and I was there at the Chancellor's address and listened to her, she came out and she made some acknowledgment that she -- that they haven't accomplished everything they hoped to accomplish and she admitted that there was this continued widening achievement gap.
HAGLERAnd that's true, but they -- in a sense, they have looked at the numbers and they say, but there's been advances and folks can believe that there's been advance but when you look at it, they've been looking at the averages, they've been calculating their numbers on the broad averages out there, rather than getting down into the numbers, school reform was intended really to help disadvantaged students, poor students, black students, Latino students and the fact is, is what we have discovered is that right now, in 4th and 8th grade reading levels, you look at 28 point increase for white students but and higher incomes students but only a two point increase for a...
NNAMDIWhat would you do differently?
HAGLERWell, one of the things you do, is that we've been engaged in our, so-called reform of penalizing the educator, of having this top down corporate model where people cannot have real input in what takes place in their children's lives. Parents can't even really have good input and parents know what they're children need and educators who have been experienced, they know what the educational process is but they've all been put into a straightjacket because of this top-down model that applies one approach to education, all across the city.
HAGLERBut just think of it, what worked, maybe, work in Ward 3, doesn't work in Ward 8. Why, because you have a -- totally different sociological and cultural context. And so, in a sense, you got to really begin to empower the educators at the local level, as well as the administrator at the local level, as well as the parents.
HAGLERWe've had parent groups that have been thrown off campus because they've organized the parents and built up the PTSA's and because they built up the PTSA's and they were black, very often they got thrown off the school campus because they were accused of being -- of interfering.
NNAMDIMay, in Washington, D.C. wants to engage with you on the issue of education. May, you're on the air. Go ahead, please.
MAYI just wanted to say, again, my name is May and I wanted to say, Reverend Hagler is probably one of the only candidates that can connect all of these issues together, homelessness is because of poverty, poverty is because of education and so and so forth. What I would like him to answer is that, recently there was this report about 10 states that are, according to CNBC, there was this survey and they have identified 10 states among them and then if you look through the file, the District of Columbia is also rated, one where 49 of 50 in education or 48 of 50. And poverty is about 30 percent, extreme poverty, which is different, which means that $11,000 per...
NNAMDIOkay. What's the question that you would like him to answer?
MAYSo how are we going to raise these numbers? How are we going to get the access to tens, access because we've cut that in the District, how are we going to choose poverty index in the District of Columbia so that we can improve homelessness, so we can improve...
NNAMDIMay makes the relationship between poverty and poor education and she says, I guess, fundamentally, how are you going to get rid of poverty, so to speak in the District?
HAGLERWell, they're some things that need to be addressed. And like I said, there's so much that's predicated upon race right now in the city. For example, you have...
NNAMDIHow can you express -- how would you address race -- how would you address poverty and education in a racially explicit manner?
HAGLERWell, I think, that it's not necessarily addressing in a racially explicit manner, but it's allowing folks to have the equal opportunity that other folks have. For example, right now we've got a system -- I'll point it out, Metropolitan Police Department, Metropolitan Police Department, you can graduate from our schools whether it's a failing high school or a successful high school, but you still can't apply to be a police officer, not in D.C. You have to have 60 hours of college credit in order to apply to become a police officer.
HAGLERThat closes the door on young men and women coming out of our high schools. When I was in Boston, I knew somebody who lived and was raised in the D Street housing projects and in the D Street housing projects, they came out of high school, they went onto the Boston Police Department, they went to night school, they got their B.A., they went to night law school and got their J.D. and became a lawyer and because, in a sense, there was opportunity for folks to begin to break that cycle by being able to access some of the career channels in their city.
HAGLERWe, right now, we prevent our folks. I believe, that D.C. residents, particularly, should have access and primary access to those D.C. public safety jobs.
NNAMDIWhat are we doing wrong in terms of our teachers? You were just endorsed by the Washington Teacher's Union, what does that mean to you and what will you do for teachers, if you're elected? What are we not doing for our teachers?
HAGLERWell, I very much appreciate the Washington Teacher's Unions endorsement of me. And one of the reasons that they've endorsed me is because I've been the only candidate that has come out with a very solid educational platform and plan and we're coming out with another piece on solutions, in terms of how we begin to reform the reform, so that it is successful. So I'm very pleased with that, I did not expect their endorsement when we put that plan together. Their endorsement came a couple days later and I very, very deeply appreciate that.
HAGLERBut one of the things that we really need to look at, is we need to stop this intimidation and this testing with vengeance and this punishment that goes on in D.C. public schools against our educators. Now, when you look at it, we've had massive turnover in terms of teachers. We got rid of, under Fenty, all of the veteran teachers, as many as we could get rid of. We got rid of them. And we weren't truthful in terms of sometimes the tactics in terms of getting rid of them. But it's been shown, it takes an average of seven years for anybody, in particular a teacher, to become acclimated to the teacher pedagogy.
DEBONISRight. Reverend, I want to drill down more on this issue, race...
NNAMDIWe have about two minutes left.
DEBONIS...and education. You know, the real radical education reform didn't start with Adrian Fenty. It started 15 years ago with charter schools coming into this city, I want to hear, what are your thoughts on charter schools 'cause the vast majority of children in our charter schools are black children who have -- who are being pulled out of traditional public schools by choice...
DEBONIS...and put in these schools. Would you change anything about how our relationship...
DEBONIS...between our different types of public schools?
HAGLERRight. We understand, 44 percent of D.C.P.S. is in public charter schools today. That's what I understand in terms of statistics I've seen. The, you know, the reality is, is that we cannot, sort of, go and say, oh public charter schools is the answer to everything because, in a sense, they don't have to take everybody like traditional public schools have to take everybody. And so, in a sense, you know, the paradigm that they operate under is that they take the cream of the crop. And...
DEBONISAnd what would you do to change that? How would you change this relationship?
HAGLERWell, I think -- I think that you look at, one, how you equalize resources. You know, public charter schools can go into the philanthropic world...
NNAMDIWe've got about 30 seconds.
HAGLER... (unintelligible) special types of grants and things like that. I think you gotta look at the equalization of the resources, you gotta put more resources where schools are failing, you also got to distribute it, traditional public schools, as well as public charter schools, throughout your communities so that they're...
NNAMDIWell, we're just...
HAGLER...able to serve the community.
NNAMDI...just about out of time. But there's one thing we gotta discuss.
NNAMDIIf you're from Baltimore, does that mean that if there's a World Series with Baltimore and Washington, you're gonna be back in Baltimore?
HAGLERWell, my father will be watching from over there, I'll be watching from here.
NNAMDI(unintelligible) you're on both sides of the issue. Graylan Hagler is an at-large candidate for the D.C. Council. He's an Independent candidate. Graylan Hagler, good luck to you.
HAGLERThank you. Thank you both.
NNAMDIMike DeBonis is our guest analyst, he's a reporter at the Washington Post. Mike, thank you so much for joining us.
DEBONISThank you, Kojo.
NNAMDIAnd thank you all for listening, I'm Kojo Nnamdi.
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