The timeline and cost for completing the Purple Line is up in the air after a judge ruled that contractors may quit in the middle of the project. Montgomery County Executive Marc Elrich weighs in on that, the latest coronavirus news and more.
D.C., Maryland and Virginia candidates make the final turn and head down the home stretch toward Election Day. And local officials gird up for the potential impact of elections taking place 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
- Michael Schaffer Editor, Washingtonian
- Anita Bonds Member, D.C. Council (D-At-Large); Democratic Candidate, D.C. Council (At-Large); Chairman, D.C. Democratic State Committee
- Michael D. Brown Independent Candidate, D.C. Council (At-Large); U.S. Shadow Senator (D.C.)
Playlist: At-Large D.C. Council Candidates
MR. TOM SHERWOODFrom WAMU 88.5, at American University, in Washington, welcome to The Politics Hour, I'm Tom Sherwood, from NBC 4, sitting in for Kojo. Welcome to The Politics Hour. And we're very happy today to have Michael Schaffer here. Michael Schaffer is our guest analyst. He's the editor of The Washingtonian. Michael, welcome.
MR. MICHAEL SCHAFFERThanks for having me, Tom.
SHERWOODHave you sat in for this before?
SCHAFFERNot since the late 1990s.
SHERWOODOh, telling on yourself.
SCHAFFERSherwood was young then.
SHERWOODYes. You're the former city editor -- I mean the editor of the Washington City Paper.
SCHAFFERI was, yeah.
SHERWOODYou've only been at The Washingtonian for a few months.
SHERWOODWhat radical changes are you making?
SCHAFFERNo radical changes. You know, Washingtonian turns 50 next year. It has -- it is a magazine with kind of two purposes. It's -- we say we're a magazine to -- that tells people how to get the most out of Washington. And tells people how Washington works. I'm a, you know, I'm a native Washingtonian. I think I'm the first native Washingtonian to edit the magazine. And I'm really ambitious for both sides of that equation, for making our coverage of, you know, food and lifestyle even better, and for taking on big, important stories to the whole region.
SHERWOODReal hard-hitting stories, in addition to the 50 best places to get ice cream, I'd like to say.
SCHAFFERAnd I hope we can cover the whole water front.
SHERWOODOh, that would be good. And when -- and the current issue is about what?
SCHAFFERThe current issue -- on the cover it says, "Can you afford to live here?" And it is about, again, about the region. This is something in D.C. politics they talk about a lot, but about how incredibly expensive it's become to live here. And, you know, I'm…
SHERWOODNot just in the city, but in the near suburbs.
SCHAFFEREverywhere, and, you know, I grew up in Washington at a time when my parents both worked for the federal government. And you could have a model of sort of two federal incomes, minus a mortgage in Ward 3, where I grew up, and it wouldn't break the bank. And, you know, I think there's probably like an age divide, for those of us who got in kind of after the boom, and the folks who got in before the boom.
SCHAFFERBut I think even, you know, in the world I run -- and I live in Van Ness area of Northwest D.C. -- I feel like conversations are never one or two jumps -- never more than one or two jumps away from people expressing how absolutely anxious they are about the cost of living.
SHERWOODThat's Michael Schaffer, the editor of The Washingtonian, who's the guest analyst today. You can join us by calling 1-800-433-8850. Or you can email us at email@example.com. And joining us in studio is Michael D. Brown. He's an Independent at-large candidate for the D.C. Council. Michael, welcome.
MR. MICHAEL D. BROWNThanks, Tom. It's great to be here. Happy Halloween. I wore my scariest costume, that of a D.C. politician. And I'm happy to be here with you today.
SHERWOODVery good. Well, on a very serious note, Michael was just talking about how expensive it is to live in the city. You're a candidate for the D.C. Council, how expensive -- how worried are you about affordability?
BROWNWell, affordability is one of the main issues in my campaign. We need affordable, sustainable growth. And I'm very concerned about it because I'm not a native Washingtonian, but I've been here for 35 years and I've raised all three of my children here.
SHERWOODWhat part of the city?
BROWNIn Ward 3. I live in American University Park. And all my kids have gone from pre-K through high school to D.C. Public Schools. I have two in college now. One's still at Wilson High School. And my fear is that they won't be able to live here when they grow up. And this is, you know, when they go out and get out jobs. This is the city that they love and the city of their birth. And my wife and I live in a house now that we couldn't possibly afford if we had to buy it today.
SHERWOODThat -- you talk about jobs. What type of -- how do you earn your income? What -- how do you make your living?
BROWNWell, I ran a successful business for 25 years, and for the past four years, I…
SHERWOODWhat -- I'm sorry. What kind of business?
BROWNI was a political consultant. I ran a direct mail firm that worked on presidential campaigns and…
SHERWOODSo you're like Ed Gillespie over in Virginia. You've gone from being behind the scenes to on the ballot.
BROWNWell, since I…
SHERWOODThat may be the only thing you have in common with Ed Gillespie.
BROWNSince -- yes. Since Terry McAuliffe and Senator Warner and I all work together at the DNC, I would never call myself Ed Gillespie, but, yes. I did direct mail -- I was the director of all in-house direct mail services for the Democratic Party at one time. And I went out, after running a public interest organization -- one the top public interest organizations in Washington -- and started my own firm. And I ran that for 25 years. And for the past four years I've done nothing but be the United States senator for the District.
SHERWOODAnd you're on the ballot with about a dozen other people.
SHERWOODFor one of two at-large seats.
BROWNFor one of at -- one of two, at-large seats. And there's 15 people on the ballot, and we want to remind everybody that you get to vote for two people. And that's important because a lot of people don't exercise their second vote and they really need to do that.
SCHAFFERSo, let me as you. What do you do? After your kids, your son at Wilson -- your son -- daughter…
BROWNDaughter at Wilson, right.
SCHAFFER…daughter at Wilson I assume goes away to college. She comes back here, gets a job. What policies ought the city to embrace that would enable her to actually settle here, grow up here, buy a house here, raise her own kids here?
BROWNWell, you know, the first thing we need is affordable housing. We just come to an affordable housing crisis in the District. We've lost 50,000 affordable housing units in the District. And that goes across the board. It's not just building more affordable housing -- which we need to do. We need to close the loopholes in the inclusionary zoning law which has allowed 26,000 units to be built in the last 18 months without one unit of affordable housing. But we also need to reform things like rent control.
BROWNWe have 160,000 people in the District who are in rent control buildings. We need to get rid of the automatic 2 percent increase that we have every year, which can double your rent in 10 years.
BROWNAnd we need to find jobs. I'm sorry, go ahead.
SCHAFFERLet me stop you for a second. Again, I was using your daughter as a hypothetical -- and maybe that's a bad idea -- but assuming you sent her away to college. She comes back here. She has a professional job.
SCHAFFERIs she actually going to be a person who could qualify for what we call affordable housing?
BROWNWell, you know, affordable housing isn't -- shouldn't just be something that goes to low-income people. We need to have policies that make home ownership more viable for young people, including…
BROWNI'm sorry. Go ahead.
SHERWOODNo. That was me interrupting you.
SCHAFFERWe both do that here.
SHERWOODBut how do you -- the -- yes. We are very good at interrupting.
SHERWOODThe Council this week passed legislation to require any housing development -- any development with housing that has city land, it has to be, I think, 30 percent affordable housing.
SHERWOODBut affordable -- again, affordable housing, what is that? That's not somebody in the middle class person -- the middle upper income person who's trying to find jobs here. Do you want to go to all types of housing?
BROWNI do want to build all types of housing. And I also want to provide jobs for people in the District of Columbia. You know, 70 percent of the people that work here don't live here. But…
SHERWOODWell, actually, no. That's down now. You know, the CFO's office just recently…
SHERWOOD…said that that has dropped to 55 percent of the people who have jobs here don't live here and 45 do. But…
BROWNWell, that's good news for us. Right? Only 45 percent of us have to support this city instead of 30 percent. But it's still a structural imbalance. I'm surprised at that, but it's still a structural imbalance and we have to improve it. But as far as housing goes, you know, there can be mortgage assistance for people who are first home -- term homebuyers that want to live in the city. There are a lot of cities that provide assistance programs for people that work in the city, like firemen and policemen that want to buy homes. And I think we need more of that.
SCHAFFERWhat about supply? I mean, it seems to me that at a certain point we have a supply and demand issue. And one of the reasons there is not more supply is that the District has both laws and sort of practices that enable people to say no to a lot of stuff they don't want to see in their neighborhoods.1
SHERWOODAnd the market forces are extraordinarily powerful.
BROWNWell, the market forces are extraordinarily powerful. We have 1,200 people moving into the city every month. And so that puts a real demand on housing and we are going to have to make some modifications. You know, I'm not sure that we should have down-zoning in every area or that we should change the height limit in the downtown area, but we're going to have make some of those adjustments in the outlying areas.
BROWNWe're going to have to allow people to build higher. And we're going to have to allow adjustments like they have in other big cities across the country -- New York and Chicago.
SCHAFFERAnd that's going to mean -- you're going to make a bunch of your existing constituents unhappy who say -- who are going to say I want to have a tall building next to my house. I bought this -- I bought in this neighborhood when it was tree lined and quiet.
BROWNWell, you're not going to do it in Georgetown. And you're not going to do it in Anacostia along Martin Luther King Boulevard, but you're going to have to do it in places where you already have tall buildings. Is there that much of a difference between having a 10-story building and a 12-story building?
SHERWOODThat's Michael Brown. He's an at-large candidate for the D.C. Council. He's an Independent. He's currently the shadow United States Senator -- that title is so much more powerful sounding than it is -- for the District of Columbia.
SHERWOODMy guest analyst is Michael Schaffer, the editor of The Washingtonian.
BROWNWell, it's a little bit condescending, to tell you the truth. My actual title is United States Senator. And I think we need to embrace that.
SHERWOODDo you have floor privileges?
BROWNDon't have floor privileges, but as you know, Tom…
SHERWOODYou get to eat in the cafeteria or the…
BROWNNo. I get to eat in the Senate dining room. But, as you also know, I got to testify for the first time in 21 years in front of the United States Senate. Nobody's done that in 21 years on the statehood bill. And I got to do that, along with the mayor and Delegate Norton, and Alice Rivlin and a handful of people.
SHERWOODWe've got to ask you about your name, Michael D. Brown. I always say D because you're not the Michael Brown who was the at-large council member who's not visiting a secure facility in Alabama.
BROWNRight, that's absolutely the truth. And, you know, the thing is that it's a name that I've had for 61 years. Do you know that I hired Michael A. Brown when he was in high school? And I was already in national politics. His father and I worked together at the DNC. We were colleagues. And he asked me to hire Michael as a favor to work in our mailroom, which I did. And…
SHERWOODBut is he -- is his name -- Michael Brown is the former councilmember…
SHERWOOD…who's one of three who charged with crimes? He's now in prison. Does his name hurt you or help you, confuse people? It's -- you're number one on the ballot, which is a great lucky draw for you. But it -- does it help you or hurt you more?
BROWNWell, I mean, there's no way of telling that, other than to say to you that Michael A. Brown and Michael D. Brown were both on the ballot in 2012 and Michael D. Brown got 207,000 votes and Michael A. Brown got 57,000 votes. So I don't think there's as much confusion out there as my former opponent -- who was afraid he was going to lose the race -- said there was. You know, that was a PR campaign done the last time I ran for city council. They said, oh, everybody's confused. They don't know who this guy is.
BROWNAnd he spent hundreds of thousands of dollars getting the word out there that there's two of us. So I don't think that there's as much confusion as people let on. You know, like I say, I got 207,000 votes in the last election. And Michael A. Brown got 57,000.
SHERWOODAny -- on issues, are you for the -- voting for legal marijuana on Tuesday?
BROWNYes. You know, we have -- if you look at this month's Washingtonian magazine you'll see that eight times as many African Americans are arrested for possession of marijuana.
SHERWOODHow will it work though? I've heard the arguments of why people want to have marijuana legal in this city.
SHERWOODAll right, the Council this week had a hearing. How will it be done? Will it be like liquor stores? Will it -- will we get the cookies and the various food stuffs with marijuana in it? Will we have -- how will it work in your mind?
BROWNWell, I'm not exactly sure.
SHERWOODBut you'll have -- if you get elected you'll have to decide.
BROWNRight. And absolutely we're going to have to work it out and we're going to have to look at the examples from Colorado and Washington.
SHERWOODBut you don't have any ideas yourself?
BROWNWell, I do have an idea that we're going to have to tax the…
SHERWOODI mean, some people want a store on every corner.
BROWNWell, we can't have a store on every corner, you know. That's -- not to start with. Look, we have so many people that are in alcohol rehab and we've had so many problems with things like drunk driving and other substance abuse problems that we really have to, I think approach this slowly. We don't want to put people in jail. We don't want to make this illegal, but I don't think we want to rush in headlong and start handing it out at Metro stops either.
BROWNI think we need to move slow on it and I think maybe council hearing this week was a little premature, but as soon as it passes we need to look at it -- if it does pass. And don't forget, it's not going to become a law because we don't make laws in the District of Columbia. We're not allowed to make our own laws until Congress says it's okay.
BROWNAnd we've got a Maryland Congressman today saying in the Washington Post and other places, that he's going to stand up against it. And as you know, Tom, if Congress doesn't approve our laws, it doesn't become a law. So it hasn't happened yet. And it may not happen.
BROWNLook at our budget referendum. That's not going to -- that's not happening.
SCHAFFERI mean, this is precisely the sort of cheap symbolic issue that if I was a back bench member of Congress, would be the very -- a very appealing kind of thing to grand stand about.
SCHAFFEROught the city to do anything in terms of the regulations, if the law passes, to try to preempt that kind of grand standing?
BROWNNo. They should become a state. They should take over custody of their own legal system and financial system. We should be equal citizens. We shouldn't pander to Congress. It's half our problem in this city.
SCHAFFERYou are right, we should be equal citizens however this is the reality right now. And if the point of this law is to reduce this immoral arrest rate and to keep people from having to do jail time for something that appears to be a fairly common activity, how do you get that done, given the reality of where Congress is?
BROWNWell, we've already decriminalized it. So we're not talking about jail time here. And you know what? We pandered to the on the budget autonomy thing. We tried to make it as palpable as we could and look where we are now. We're in court fighting over this, trying to get the will of the people executed. We have…
SHERWOODBut that wasn't the Congress that took you to court. That was the mayor and the attorney general.
BROWNBecause the congressional research service said that it was a violation of Home Rule. And you know what, Tom? It's a violation of Home Rule.
SHERWOODYou feel very strongly, of course, about the voting right statehood for the District of Columbia. You've been fighting -- working on it. Some of your critics have said, well, you give an impassioned speech for D.C. voting and statehood, but what progress have you made in the last couple of years? That measurable progress, where somebody's actually said they think we ought to be a state?
BROWNWell, we've got the president of the United States -- and he's a rather formidable person to have on your side -- saying we should be a state. We have the head of the United States Senate…
SHERWOODYeah, it'd be nice if he said -- if he did that -- if he just said it once every time he went to a restaurant in the city, he would be the leading advocate for statehood.
BROWNWell, let's see if we can get him to say it. But you know what? Somebody needs to have his back on this. When I have a rally in this city and 100 people show up, it's not…
BROWNSame 100 people. We just celebrated 40 years of Home Rule in Washington, D.C. And I went to the reception. There were 300 or 400 people there and I knew every ne, but about three of them. So we need to get active in this city and pursue this. But let me tell you what I've realized more than anything. We need somebody on the City Council that's going to push for this. We have no money and we have nobody -- nobody has our back.
BROWNThe Puerto Ricans spent $20 million on our effort and we spend like $100,000. We don't back up the people that do this. We just passed the law on Tuesday which is going to relegate our delegation to being part of a board and commission. I'm not a commissioner. I'm not a board member. I was elected by the people of the District of Columbia with 207,000 votes. We need to respect that. We need somebody on the City Council because we lose $2 billion a year. That's 20 percent of our budget we leave on the table in Maryland and Virginia.
SCHAFFERI mean, do you think that only 100 people coming to your rally is just a function of the marketing budget?
BROWNYes. I think its part of the marketing budget. It's not -- it's, you know, we did a survey -- a nationwide survey that showed that 80 percent of the people in America believe that we should be equal citizens. But that 81 percent of them think that we already are. So we cannot bestow statehood upon ourselves. We need to get outside the District and do this. And you shouldn't have a nice guy, named Michael Brown, doing TV commercials on D.C. TV. You should have Eric Holder doing a commercial at the Super Bowl at halftime.
SHERWOODWell, if I'm electing someone on the D.C. Council and there's only 13 members and I'm a citizen…
SHERWOOD…of the city, don't I want that council member to focus on the Department of Employment Services, which probably needs Michelle Rhee-like intervention. Don't I want that person to focus on D.C. General, where hundreds of families are stuck? Don't I want them to focus on that, not on an advocacy for more elective office in town?
SHERWOODI mean why can't you -- why can't other people do that and let our small little legislature try to govern this city?
BROWNBecause you can't govern the city. You don't have control of it. You passed the referendum for budget autonomy and you can't make it happen.
SHERWOODYeah, but -- yeah, but that…
BROWNAnd you know what?
SHERWOOD…that's an unfair example.
SHERWOODBecause it's not that Congress blocked it, it's that the District government leaders themselves disagreed on it. You had our own attorney general say you're going down the wrong path.
BROWNBecause it's a violation of the Home Rule Act, that's all. Not because -- because we don't have control. It is a fair example, but if you want to use gun control, which is also in the courts, if you want to use other things that have been attacked over the years, we can use other examples. But let me tell you something…
SHERWOODHow much of time -- I don't mean -- be clear.
SHERWOODHow much time -- if I put a time clock on you, how much time will you spend on statehood and voting rights in Congress, compared to the issues -- some of the ones I just mentioned?
BROWNExactly the same amount of time that somebody, like David Catania, spends on education, it should be a priority. Nobody asked him that question.
SHERWOODThat's full time. He says that…
SHERWOODHe's the chairman of the Education Committee.
BROWNNo. There's a -- he is chairman of the Education Committee. And we're losing $2 billion a year. I mean, say it slowly. How many jobs can you create with $2 billion? How much affordable housing can you create with $2 billion?
SHERWOODYou're talking about the commuter tax. That if we were a state…
BROWNWell, you'd want to…
SHERWOOD…we can tax the people who live in the city. But it's fewer people, fewer and fewer people.
BROWNWell, you know what? We're the only city that doesn't do it. We're the only city that doesn't do it. If you live in New Jersey and you work in Manhattan, you pay a $200 month commuter tax just go through the Holland Tunnel.
SHERWOODI agree with you, but I'm just not thinking that's going to happen.
SCHAFFERI'm with, Tom. But I was going to say that the assumption there is that a commuter tax would make this sort of night and day difference about the quality of life in Washington. And plenty of other cities, as you note, enact a commuter tax and basically struggle with the same sorts of issues as we do, about affordable housing, about the quality of education.
BROWNRight, but now you're changing it up. You're asking me on the one hand how it can help. And I'm telling you it'd bring in $2 billion. It's not the solution to all our problems, but it's something that we need to do. You know, our country was founded on this principle. How can we sit around and say that it's not important when we went to war. There wouldn't be a United States of America if it wasn't based on this principle. So that's not the only problem for affordable housing. That's not the only problem to solve the education.
BROWNLook, there's gaps all over this city. We talked about the achievement gap and that's a terrible thing. We should all be embarrassed about it. But there's all sorts of gaps. There's an education gap, you know, that we're the most educated city in the world. We have more people with graduate degrees in the District of Columbia, but -- than anywhere. And a third of our population is functionally illiterate. We have an employment
SHERWOODIsn't that -- isn't that an immediate problem? More…
BROWNIt is an immediate problem. And it needs to be worked on, but that doesn't mean that you have to sit here and say, you know what? This statehood thing is really big and it's a hard problem to solve so let's work on education and not worry about that.
BROWNIt affects everything in this city.
SHERWOODOther than statehood and voting rights, what are your -- what would be your priority did you say on the campaign trail for the council? Not a long speech, but just enumerate.
BROWNWell, let me tell you. First is education. We have a situation where we…
SHERWOODWhat are we not doing that we should be doing?
BROWNWe're following the wrong model for education. You know, you can't have blended learning, for example, unless you have teachers that can teach it, you know. We change every two years. We don't track students. Two years ago, three years ago we fired a third of all librarians in public city -- in public schools. Now, this year, the chancellor has made a commitment to put qualified library media specialist in every school. We need to stop this nonsense. You know…
SHERWOODBut you agree with putting them in the schools, right?
BROWNYes, absolutely. And they should have never been taken out.
SHERWOODBut the Council gave the mayor the authority to run the schools.
BROWNYeah, he does have the ultimate authority, you know. And that is more like a veto power. The mayor doesn't concentrate on running the schools. We know that.
SHERWOODSo Kaya Henderson gets to stay or go?
BROWNWell, Kaya Henderson should be -- shouldn't be given carte blanche. She shouldn't be given a blank ticket to stay because, you know what, we used the impact tool to evaluate teachers. And we should use the same tool when we evaluate her, and everything that our school system -- our school system is going in the wrong direction. The achievement gap is getting wider. It's not getting less.
BROWNWe're seeing more than 50 percent of kids in some of our high schools drop out. Imagine saying on the first day of school to a kid in the District of Columbia, you've got more chance of failing than you have of succeeding. I mean, that's terrible, 65 percent chronic truancy in some of our schools. So we need to follow a new move.
SHERWOODIt just sounds to me that's a pressing problem, more so than even -- as much as I -- as a citizen of the city and have a son who has the flag tattooed on his right or left arm, I mean, as much as I would like for us to be full citizens, it just seems to me that our council has enough to do that there ought to be a group of private -- like D.C. Vote, maybe. Why can't that be the center of the advocacy for enhanced power? While you work on the schools that need more money or more time or more teachers or more anything and let somebody else take care of the issue of statehood.
BROWNBecause it hasn't worked, would be the short answer to that.
BROWNAnd secondly -- wait. Secondly, it's not about only doing that. David Catania does not work only on education.
SHERWOODAre you for David -- you keep mentioning David's name. He's going to appreciate that. He's running for mayor, you know.
BROWNYou know that I support Muriel Bowser.
SHERWOODNo, I don't. I didn't know.
BROWNOh, I do. Oh, absolutely.
SHERWOODYou're an Independent.
BROWNAbsolutely, I support Muriel Bowser.
SHERWOODYou're an Independent. David's an Independent.
BROWNI'm an Independent Democrat. You know that, Tom. I was born a Democrat. I had no choice. I grew up in -- yeah, I grew up as a poor kid. You know, I lost both my parents when I was 16 years old. And I've been on my own ever since. So I don't have a choice about being a Democrat. And my soul is the soul of a Democrat. I'm an Independent because we have this silly (unintelligible).
SHERWOODWell, let me ask you -- while -- we're about to switch out with another guest, but I want to ask you -- because we're going to talk about the Maryland governor's race. Anthony Brown has brought in Bill Clinton, President Obama and then this Monday he's going to have Michelle Obama come campaign for him. They've campaigned in Prince George's County. Why do you have to get people excited, bring in people to get people excited in Prince George's County? That sounds kind of scary with his campaign against Larry Hogan.
BROWNWell, you know what? I've got to tell you this.
SHERWOODYou can be an analyst.
BROWNMy opinion as a long-time politician, 35 years I've been in politics. And when you have a lot of endorsements and, you know, everybody brags about endorsements and the money that they get. We see articles in the Washington Post and the City Paper the day after we file our financial reports that talk about how much money we got and how many endorsements we have. When you walk in on the first day you are indebted to the people that put you there. And the people that put…
SHERWOODNo. I'm talking about Anthony Brown as the Democratic nominee from Prince George's County, with its heavily African American population. They need to be inspired to go vote for him. Why weren't they campaigning in other parts of the state? I mean, do they need to be inspired? Why aren't the Democrats more inspired? They're about to have their heads handed to them in the national elections.3
BROWNWell, I don't know that that's true. I mean, you reach out for these endorsements because you think it brings people to the polls. It doesn't mean you're desperate. Look, we've had the president of the United States endorse our mayoral candidate Muriel Bowser, who's obviously in the lead.
SHERWOODA written endorsement, given in the…
BROWNWell, and we've had Bill Clinton step in and endorse a candidate for attorney general. And you know, this is the way politics goes in this town.
SHERWOODChris Christie came into Bethesda went to the original House of Pancakes.
BROWNI remember that.
SHERWOODFor Larry Hogan.
BROWNAnd I'm originally from New Jersey. So I'm not sure that I'd want Chris Christie…
SHERWOODYou said you're a Democrat. You can't say anything bad about him.
BROWNWell, no. And the only thing I would say is I'm not sure while we're working on the Frederick Douglas Bridge that he would be the candidate I'd want to endorse me or the person I'd want to endorse me. But…
SHERWOODDo you have a get-out-the-vote effort for Tuesday?
BROWNYeah, we have a lot people on the street. You know, we've hired…
SHERWOODYou going to cover every precinct?
BROWNNot cover every precinct, but we're going to cover all the main precincts. And we've hired people that need jobs. We've hired returning citizens, unemployed people and we're paying them $14.25 an hour.
BROWNBecause they need a living wage.
SHERWOODThat's Michael Brown. He's an at-large candidate for the D.C. Council. He's an Independent, currently the shadow United States Senator -- shadow is not the official word, I realize -- for the District of Columbia. Thanks for being here. Good luck on Tuesday.
BROWNWell, thanks so very much, and if I may just digress for a second, my anniversary…
BROWN…is on Sunday. Happy Anniversary, Honey. Thanks.
SHERWOODAnd Michael Schaffer is our guest analyst today. He's the editor of The Washingtonian. And I believe you have to get up and you have to sit over there. If you were watching us stream, I think it's -- she needs to sit here. This is why Kojo runs this show and not me because he knows what to do. Michael, while our next guest is getting settled in, the Maryland race for governor, Larry Hogan has -- he's -- all the polls suggest he's suddenly 10 points behind. That's a pretty tight race in blue state Maryland.
SCHAFFERYeah, I mean that it's not a slam dunk is pretty impressive, you know. And I think that this, you know, he's doing the -- this move that has worked very well for Republican candidates in a bunch of places where you don't disavow your various positions that are out of step with the blue electorate. But you just say, you know, I'm not really going to take a whole lot of action on them and vote for me on these other issues.
SCHAFFERAnd, you know, I don't think it'll sort of work for him in terms of winning, but it's put -- clearly, as you say, it's put a scare into the Democrats and they've got to go get out the vote in places where they in a good year would not need to be worrying.
SHERWOODAnthony -- and it's important to note that in Maryland no lieutenant governor has ever risen to the role of governor. They've all lost in whatever elections they've run. And he would be the first African American governor of Maryland. So he's got history to change.
SHERWOODAnd what about in Virginia? Mark Warner running for reelection. Ed Gillespie running an enthusiastic campaign. He -- but well behind.
SCHAFFERYeah, and, you know, Virginia, I guess, is the place where political operators go to actually become political candidates because this is sort of an all-operator election. That -- the ad that Gillespie did about how he supports the Redskins name, that didn't look to me like the ad of a -- someone who's about to become a senator, but, you know, maybe it works.
SHERWOODWell, it certainly got a lot of attention, better than some of his other ads. I mean, everyone talked about it, but not in the most positive way for him.
SCHAFFERYeah, I don't know if that's the kind of attention you want.
SHERWOODAnd in the 10th District, the -- Frank Wolf, you know, is leaving after, what 30 something -- 33 years. And -- but the -- that race with Barbara Comstock, the Republican nominee and Mr. Foust, the Democrat. The Washington Post chose not to even endorse in that race, saying they both have run terrible campaigns.
SCHAFFERRight. And it's another -- well, she, I guess, is another person with a background in professional work in politics. It's, you know, I suppose it's only natural. People move to Washington to work professionally in politics. And then they want to get involved in their communities and run for office where they live.
SHERWOODWell, you know, that's a very good introduction to Anita Bonds
SCHAFFERI make no judgment.
SHERWOOD…the at-large member of the D.C. Council, who was -- she's running for reelection. She was elected in the special election of April 2013. And, Anita, welcome.
MS. ANITA BONDSThank you, thank you very much.
SHERWOODI know you're glad to be here. You're wondering what I'm going to say next.
BONDSI am, always.
SHERWOODBut I want you -- you worked in the background. You were an active Democratic Party member. I think you were one of the people that worked on the 1978 Marion Barry campaign, didn't you?
BONDSYes, yes, I did. Yeah.
SHERWOODI mean that was…
SHERWOODAnd you were -- for so long you -- then you decided to run. You were mild-mannered. You were polite. You're pleasant. And now you've jumped in as a candidate. Why do you want to be reelected?
BONDSWell, one, I think I reflect the spirit of the residents of the District of Columbia. And it's not so much that I wanted to be a candidate. I didn't move here to be in politics, as you said. I grew up here. And I have been a very capable worker in the background for many, many years and involved in, you know, civic justice, social justice issues. But I really thought that -- and well, really in 2012, I was beginning to see that we were not reflecting on the council and in our leadership, many of the people who live in the city.
BONDSI am very much in support of the development and the newness of downtown and new structures because I can talk to you for hours about what I remember, you know, the old Lansburgh Building and things like that. But while I'm supportive of that and I want to see more and I think it's all very good, I was really beginning to hear more and more from people across the city about where does this lead us, those of us who've been here long term? And are we being forced out because of the high cost of everything?
SHERWOODThat's a strong...
SCHAFFERDo you think that's true? I mean, are they being forced out?
BONDSWell, yes in some instances they are. But I don't think it's because people are walking up to others and saying get out or move or what have you. It's the cost of living in the District of Columbia. As you know we're now at the top of the heap, so to speak. We supersede San Francisco where everyone thought was -- it was very, very expensive to live. And now D.C. has that title. But it's really for many people -- as fees, as taxes, you know, things that they have to pay for, even utilities.
BONDSYou look at your utility bill and there are a number of additional fees that you're paying. And for a community that long was a retirement community for those who were in federal government and local government or, you know, in the school system, you know, these folk are still here.
SHERWOODThat's Anita Bonds. She's an at-large member of the D.C. Council. She's on the ballot Tuesday for reelection. You can join our conversation by calling 1-800-433-8850. Or tweet us, @kojoshow. Your -- what is the -- I know you had legislation just recently passed, I can't go into all the details, to help senior citizens stay in their homes.
SHERWOODBut are you running re-election essentially on the same platform for which you ran for election a year ago year and a half ago?
BONDSI certainly am, and seniors is just a part of it because seniors are just a part of our community. We have other, you know, social ills that I think we need to spend some time and attention on.
SHERWOODMarijuana, are you voting yes or no on marijuana? You don't seem very comfortable about that subject.
BONDSWell, you know, I'm really not a fan of the idea that we are going to legalize marijuana in the District of Columbia. But as a responsible official, I know we have to figure out how we, how we implement it. And, you know, I'm thinking that we'll end up with a -- some sort of store similar to a liquor store, and we'll have products. We'll also have to figure out how we certify the products that are being sold and how we handle the sales and then the taxation so that there is a benefit to government, which really means a benefit to the general community.
BONDSBut I think it's something that's going to happen. I expect...
SHERWOODAnd you'll have to vote on how. You're going to have liquor stores.
SHERWOODCan liquor stores -- in your mind, would liquor stores sell marijuana?
BONDSI don't know. We may have to set up a separate set of structures, and that may be a good thing so that when people go in, they know that they're going for that particular product.
SCHAFFERHow fast do you think the city should move if this passes?
BONDSI think we need to move a little faster on a number of things, and so this would be one of those that -- I mean, you know, one of the things that you and I can know from being here in this city for a while is that things change decisively in a period of 12 months. And so I really think that we need to be a little more contemporary in moving a little swifter on some issues.
BONDSTake for instance the streetcar situation. We thought years ago that it was going to be a terrific device to spur development on H Street. Meanwhile, H Street was developing, and so viola, now we have a streetcar that -- not yet really running, and if it runs, where does it run to.
SCHAFFERWhat do you think the answer to that ought to be?
BONDSWell, you know, until we have a more specific transportation plan for the city, one that could reach into neighborhoods and bring people, you know, transport them across the city and not be a commuter form of transportation like metro is, I suspect that we're going to wait until we actually have more definitive plans on how this works.
SHERWOODBut Mayor Gray just announced a two-year -- he just announced his MoveDC plan, which is a two-year action plan and a 25-year look ahead. I mean, my worry for the city government, we're running with some newer people and whoever the mayor may be because there's going to be a lot of paralysis by analysis that -- for example DC General, winter is coming. There are hundreds of children at that facility.
SHERWOODAnd what's -- that doesn't take a lot of analysis to know that that's not a suitable place. How -- there hasn't been a Marshall Plan to go in and clean up that building and make it even function for the people who are stuck there. And then the mayor...
BONDSWell, you know, Tom, that's one of the things that I said. Why don't we make it livable? But instead, the operating side of government, our executive side, determined that we're going to use something called rapid re-housing and move people out. And that program...
SHERWOODWhy can't you do both?
BONDSWell we could, perhaps, but I understand that D.C. General is structurally unsound. And that brings about another, you know, situation. There's asbestos there, and so you know what happens when that, you know, is on a property and the way in which you have to secure it, and then people are still living there. So I don't know that that is really an option at this point.
BONDSBut we do have approximately 3,000 vacant units across the city at any time. And so we -- I think the government should be leasing those units up and putting the families in those.
SHERWOODAll right, we're going to take a call now, if I hit the right buttons here. Caller, you're on the air. Caller, are you there?
UNIDENTIFIED MANYes, I'm here. Can you hear me?
SHERWOODYes, sir, go right ahead. What's your question for Anita Bonds?
MANYes, I have a question and -- I have a comment and a quick question. My comment is, earlier you said residents in Prince George's County are desperate. I don't think they're desperate at all. It's clearly cut that they're going to vote for the Democratic candidate. And I think it's an honor to have the president and vice, former president come to your area. Those are not desperation moves. Those are moves that celebrate you and acknowledge you.
MANNow my question for your other -- for the candidate is, why don't they focus on taking the money out of that soccer deal and use that to build housing? Why, why don't they tax the corporations that are downtown? I mean, they let them have all the prime property. They moved all the black neighborhoods and turned it into the white condo neighborhoods. Why don't they use that type of revenue source?
SHERWOODThank you very much, good questions, now the answers.
BONDSAll right, the answers. Well, you w ant me to do the answer to the question as opposed to his statement about Prince George's and the president, yes.
SHERWOODWell, you know, before you came in, I was thinking that in Maryland, the race for -- Anthony Brown is the Democratic nominee, to have someone, the president, go to Prince George's to fire up the community there seemed a little -- and I may have used the word desperate. I would have thought the president would go somewhere else, where you would think people weren't fired up to vote for someone, and I think they would be fired up to vote for Anthony Brown in Prince George's County.
BONDSWell, I think people are fired up across the state of Maryland, and what you're doing when the president comes in is you're getting that little extra bit, those people who were thinking oh, well, you know, he has the -- Brown has it in the bag, and so I can maybe sit it out, or I can go to my job. And so I think by having the president, it is bringing out even additional voters.
SHERWOODYou're worried about turnout not only there but here in the city, too, aren't you? Are people kind of comfortable, thinking, well, Muriel's probably going to win the mayor's race, and she needs people to come out and vote for her, don't they?
BONDSOh indeed. We do need people to come out for the entire Democratic slate is what I'm supposing that I want to say to the voters across the District of Columbia, those who are listening. It is very important to come out and vote. We all know the sacrifices that many have made for voting, and so voting is a very, how do I put it, one of the biggest parts of being civically active.
SHERWOODI want to come back...
BONDSIt's a civic duty.
SHERWOODOkay, well, I want to come back to the soccer stadium.
SHERWOODBecause that's a big, pending, issue for you, but I want to introduce you again. This is Anita Bonds. She's on the ballot for an at-large seat on the D.C. Council on Tuesday. Michael Schaffer is our guest analyst. He's the editor of the Washingtonian. And I'm Tom Sherwood from NBC 4 sitting in for Kojo.
SHERWOODThe soccer stadium.
SHERWOODYou -- the council has paid $200,000 for a review that was due September 15 and extended to October 15. Where is it?
BONDSWe haven't seen it yes. (laugh)
SHERWOODNow do you get your money back?
BONDSWe don't get our money back. I guess there's always an extension that will be extended. As you know, the chairman is trying very hard to manage this situation.
SHERWOODIt's extended after the election. The hearing is for after the election. Now do you -- are you willing to give up the Reeves Center at 14th and U, the building that Marion Barry built in '86, and make -- in exchange for building the soccer stadium?
BONDSWell, I don't look at in those...
SHERWOODIt's part of the deal.
BONDS...those measures. I know its part of the deal. And, but I don't look at it as giving it up. As you know, all government structures do not generate taxes, and what we have before us is a proposal that would generate taxes. And I think it should be considered. But I think that we want to make sure that we get a fair price for the Reeves Center, and there have been several -- three different appraisals, and that's why we asked for this additional study, so that we could have an opportunity to really -- you know, hopefully with another set of independent eyes come up with a realistic cost for this project.
BONDSBut the government is not -- we're also at a situation where we're at a debt ceiling, and so if we wanted to try and do this project in cooperation with D.C. United, on our own we would not have the opportunity to get the kind of funding. So that's why this -- this is the approach.
SHERWOODWell, one last question before I go, turn to Michael.
SHERWOODMayor Gray would like to see this as one of his projects done before he leaves office. Will you vote on this before he leaves office January 2?
BONDSI am thinking we will, yes.
SHERWOODBecause his streetcar thing is -- the council took all the -- half the money away from, and he killed the idea for a new hospital east of the river. So he's losing out on things before he leaves office. But let's go turn to Michael.
SCHAFFERAnd I think -- you know, a subject I've been thinking about a lot, and it's a subject we haven't been talking about much in this election, there's a sort of irony. You're running for election, in an election where the votes are going to be cast by the people who live here right now, but those of us who are from here, we're thinking forward.
SCHAFFERBy the middle of the 21st century, there could be 800,000 people living in Washington.
SCHAFFERAnd, you know, where are these people going to live? Where are they going to -- how are they going to get around? How are we going to make it so that, you know, our teachers and our firefighters, and for that matter the millennial 20-somethings in my office can afford to live here?
BONDSWell, you know, the standard response from an elected official would be that we're working on it, and I really think that we are working on it. But unfortunately, we are taking almost a piecemeal approach to it. I think we need, as a government, to throw ourselves into what the future is going to look like. And when I talk to people in neighborhoods, and you know what Colbert King said about me in his column, that wherever two or more assemble, you'll find Anita, it's true because I like to listen to what people about the neighborhood.
BONDSThat's been one of my fortes over many years. But I think that we really do need to be focused on not what I call master plans, but we really need to take certain issues like housing affordability and focus on that. What would be the comprehensive approach as we move, you know, like you say the next 20 years because we will have many more citizens here, and we've got to accommodate them. Do we...
SHERWOODOn this subject, let's take a call from Mike, who would wants to ask about Vincent Orange's bill to support small businesses. We've already had a report this week that Wal-Mart has -- some people are complaining Wal-Mart up on Georgia Avenue has hurt the businesses of the smaller places up there. Mike, are you there?
MIKEYes, yes, good afternoon, all. Councilmember, I was just interested in hearing your opinion about Vincent Orange's bills to support small businesses in D.C. As you know, he has a bill on the floor for a review of the waiver program, a revamping of that program, as well as looking at the Department of Small and Local Business Development.
SHERWOODAll right, let Ms. Bonds answer that.
BONDSYes. Thank you very much for the question. Well, Councilmember Orange knows, and I'm very supportive of his efforts to make the necessary changes. I feel like our small business community has been shortchanged. But also I think that the Department of Small and Local Business needs to do far more in helping the small business community to develop capacity. It was always envisioned that that would be one of the main functions of that office, and it just seems to be that it's been the most difficult task that they could have. And so I'm very supportive of where Councilmember Orange is on that bill.
SHERWOODThank you very much. Thanks for the call. What -- you have a, what 12, 13, how many people are actually on the ballot?
SHERWOODFifteen of you on the ballot.
SHERWOODWhere are you on the ballot?
BONDSI'm number eight. Anita Bonds is number eight on your ballot. And when you vote for Anita Bonds, you're voting for continuation of blossoming of the District of Columbia but making sure that all of us who want to hear can continue to live here and be productive for opportunities for all, leaving no one behind.
SHERWOODDo you have an automatic switch over there, where you just start saying that? That was pretty good.
BONDSNo, I don't. But, you know, I feel it, and I feel it because I've talked to so many people, and people are very, very concerned about, as you said, what's the future for the District of Columbia and will I be able to be included. And so I've started telling people I want to make sure that no one who wants to be here is left behind.
SCHAFFERI mean, the thing is, in Washington we talk about affordable housing as if it is a problem just for the last, the least and the lost. And I don't think that's the case anymore.
SCHAFFERYou know, I know a whole lot of two-career couples making what by any sort of normal standard is a really good living who are afraid of how expensive it is here. And it's not just -- and this is not just we -- residents of Washington often have a way of assuming that our problems are completely unrelated to anyone else's. This is a suburban problem, too. It's a city problem, and it's a problem in a lot of municipal areas.
SCHAFFERAnd in one way, you can say it beats the other problem. I mean, you know, I would much rather live in a city where too many people want to live than too few. But there still is this issue of, you know, kind of supply and demand or cost of housing not just for people who are typically the recipients of social welfare programs.
BONDSYou're exactly. In fact everyone is feeling it. When I talk to groups of millennials, they're -- I mean, for instance I have a couple of employees in my office who are doing housing with folk that they didn't know in order that they can have a fair, you know, living environment. And they, too, are paying, you know, to share, four or five, together, they're paying over $1,000 each.
BONDSAnd I mean Tom, that's really kind of outrageous when you think about it, but it is about supply and demand. The more people that demand housing, the more the cost tends to go up. But there is something going on in the market these days because I'm hearing more and more from individuals that are getting, quote-unquote, sweet deals where they are threatening that maybe, you know, I'm going to leave your property and go to a newer, brighter, shinier property, maybe like down by National Stadium.
BONDSAnd they in turn have been offered, well, wait, before you leave this building that's been, you know, here for 20 years, let me see how we can work out an arrangement so that you're -- there will not be a rent increase.
SHERWOODThat happens a lot in commercial real estate, where people threaten to move. But let me -- a side -- a direct issue to housing is the issue of jobs. I'm surprised none of the candidates that I've heard have talked about the Department of Employment Services, which is a huge bureaucracy, which is a pass-through for tens of millions of dollars in federal funds. Yet we have the horrible unemployment east of the river. We have unemployment around the city.
SHERWOODAnd where is the Department of Employment Services? Don't we need a Michelle Rhee-like shake-up of that office? And you don't have to endorse Michelle Rhee for that, but I mean -- but some kind of dramatic change in how we look at that office and how that money just flows to who knows where?
BONDSI tend to agree with you, Tom, as you suspect. I don't know if it's a Michelle Rhee, and I don't know really what that means. I mean she worked hard...
SHERWOODIt just means somebody who will come in and will shake up the -- whatever the status quo was, she changed it.
BONDSYeah, and I think we definitely have to change the status quo with that department. The new acting director is, you know, doing leapfrog over some of the issues, but I don't know if that's enough. But it is a department that we depend on to help get D.C. residents jobs, and it doesn't.
SHERWOODBut there were federal reports saying that they can't tell you how many people get jobs.
SHERWOODAnd they can't tell you how many people keep jobs.
BONDSThat's correct, that's correct, and we need a different system of accountability than we currently have there.
SHERWOODWhat would a successful system look like?
BONDSI think -- well, Tom kind of hit it on the head. Those two questions certainly need to be answered. But in addition to that, I think we need to go into communities and encourage people to become a part of the workforce. And what I mean is it's one thing to apply for a job. It's another to know that you have the skills. And one of the -- one of the areas we get very low marks in is the training because our training programs, one, are not certified.
SHERWOODRight, and you're...
BONDSThey should be.
SHERWOODAnd more training.
BONDSAnd they need to match...
SHERWOODThank you for being here. That's Anita Bonds. She's a candidate for at-large councilmember for re-election. Our guest today has been Michael Schaffer Editor, the Washingtonian editor. Thanks for being here.
SCHAFFERThank you, Tom.
SHERWOODIt's been a great thing. I'm Tom Sherwood, sitting in for Kojo Nnamdi, who will be back maybe next week or the week after. I hope he's having a good time wherever he is. Thank you for listening to us. Have a good day.
Most Recent Shows
How are diners adapting to the "new normal" and will the restaurant industry be forever changed?
Do Black Lives Matter in the office?
We discuss Jason Wright’s new role, and where the team stands in this moment of racial reckoning.