George Hawkins is stepping down as head of DC Water, but he leaves at a moment when the agency is facing criticism over how they bill consumers for stormwater runoff.
Maryland lawmakers start sorting out what a Republican governor is going to mean for next year’s legislative agenda. Northern Virginia gears up for a special election to replace at delegate who’s on her way to Congress. And while D.C. debates a soccer stadium proposal, new plans for an NBA practice facility in Shaw enter the mix. 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
- Donna Edwards Member, U.S. House of Representatives (D-MD, 4th Congressional District)
- Charles Allen Member Elect, D.C. Council (D-Ward 6)
MR. KOJO NNAMDIFrom WAMU 88.5 at American University in Washington, welcome to "The Politics Hour" starring Tom Sherwood. I'm Kojo Nnamdi. Tom Sherwood is our resident analyst. He's a reporter for NBC 4 and a columnist for the Current newspaper. Tom joins us in studio. Welcome, Tom.
MR. TOM SHERWOODGood afternoon. Great beautiful day. It's a bit cold, but nice.
NNAMDIIt's a very beautiful day indeed. And it is cold. Joining us by phone is Donna Edwards. She's a member of the U.S. House of Representatives. She is a Democrat from Maryland. Congresswoman Edwards, thank you for joining us.
CONGRESSWOMAN DONNA EDWARDSThank you. Good to be with you.
NNAMDIYou too can join the conversation. If you have questions or comments for Congresswoman Edwards, call us at 800-433-8850. You can send email to email@example.com. Shoot us a tweet @kojoshow or go to our website, kojoshow.org where you can watch a live video stream of this broadcast. You'll be able to see both Tom and yours truly. We have been described as beautiful by people who have actually seen us. So you may want to go look at it for yourself.
SHERWOODGoing on with questions to the congresswoman. First of all, how is your shoulder? I heard you dislocated your shoulder.
EDWARDSShoulder is just fine. Ready for softball.
SHERWOODWere you dislocating that shoulder's -- you know, twisting arms, trying to be the chairman of the Democratic Campaign Committee for 2016?
EDWARDSNot at all. I was lifting a bike, but very cute.
NNAMDIWe're also going to be talking about the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee. But I wanted to get to some general issues in Maryland first. Governor-elect Larry Hogan faces a shortfall of nearly $600 million in the state's next operating budget. He campaigned, he promised to cut spending in Annapolis, rollback as many as possible the tax increases under Governor Martin O'Malley. Do you think that's something he'll be able to accomplish effectively, Congressman Edwards?
EDWARDSNot really. And I think what Governor-elect Hogan will discover that campaigning is a lot easier than governing. And so, there are some tough choices that are going to have to be made and it's going to need to be done, I think, in close cooperation and coordination with the Democrats who form the majority of his legislature.
NNAMDIMajority of both houses in the general assembly. It's easier said than done, huh, Tom Sherwood?
SHERWOODWell, all those powerful members of the legislature and the outgoing governor and the elected members of the Congress are Democrats couldn't get Anthony Brown into the governor's office. What happened?
EDWARDSWell, you know, I think that's a good question. I mean, I think, number one, you have to look at turnout, not just in Maryland but across the country. And I think as a, you know, Democrat, my concern is that we have to figure out a way to energize Democrats not just in presidential election years but also in midterms because we can see what the result is. I mean, I spoke with Governor-elect Hogan because I think that we got to make sure the state works for people in Prince George's and Anne Arundel County and all throughout the state.
EDWARDSAnd I'm looking forward to trying to figure out whether we can find some common ground and work together on important issues that concern the 4th congressional district in our state and where we need a real partnership between the state and the federal government.
SHERWOODI want to look ahead, but I was just all through the campaign, you know, the entire Democratic establishment got behind Anthony Brown despite whispers and concerns that he was essentially on an empty suit politically, that he was nice enough guy, he had a nice biography. But he wasn't a very strong leader. Doug Gansler ran a very similar campaign that Larry Hogan ran against him, unfortunately, Gansler had those issues with his son's beach party and other things that undermined him. But it seem to me the Democrats were out of tune with the state of Maryland.
EDWARDSWell, let me just say this. I mean, I was an early and strong supporter of Lieutenant Governor Brown and I feel confident having -- having done that. I will say that it is, you know, it's always a challenge when you have a lieutenant governor who is running, if you will, under the shadow of two terms of a governor. You know, we did face this situation in a state where a lot of the attacks, frankly, against the lieutenant governor actually had more to do with the past and less to do with the future.
EDWARDSThat said, I mean, the voters have made a decision. And so, we've got to figure out -- figure out the future. And I think, you know, it's a lesson learned for us as Democrats that we can't be complacent and just, you know, merely endorsing a candidate is not the same as getting out there and working the (word?) on behalf of that candidate. And so, I'm going to put the responsibility, you know, in the hands of the candidate, of the lieutenant governor.
EDWARDSBut the rest of us bear some responsibilities, too, because turn out was down all across the state. I will say, I don't think in Price George's County, if you compare the, you know, the election for the O'Malley-Brown team when they first ran to this past election, you know, Prince George's County turnout actually was higher than it was in 2006. But it was significantly lower in Montgomery County. And in Baltimore, only 99,000 people voted.
SHERWOODRight. And are you a candidate for governor maybe in four years?
EDWARDSYou know what I am, I am a...
SHERWOODYou don't have to answer that. We're going...
EDWARDSI'm just representing the 4th congressional district.1
NNAMDIWe expected that answer. But how do you explain what happened across the country. You have been working very hard with the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, and yet Republicans not only now control your chamber of commerce -- Congress, they also managed to take the Senate as well. What do you think happened across the country? I mean, it's one thing to say turnout -- turnout, turnout. But why couldn't you get your voters to turn out?
EDWARDSI mean, I -- look, first of all, I think across the country if you look at the loses that we suffered in the House and put them into some historical perspective, we lost between 11 and 15 seats. A couple of these races are still being decided, which is substantially less than the average 29 seats that are lost in any midterm election by a person, by the party in power. And so, I'm not saying -- I'm not celebrating a loss of 11 to 15 seats.
EDWARDSBut I'm going to tell you something, it wasn't 29 seats. And so, I think that we still have some rebuilding to do. We've got candidates who ran fantastic races right up until the -- up until the end. And some of them are going to put their names in the hat again and we're going to welcome that. We're going to make sure that we continue to strengthen our incumbents who are in these -- in these swing districts.
EDWARDSAnd we must work on talking with our voters, not just between Labor Day and Election Day, but all year round. And I maintain that, you know, and especially as a Democrat and as our, you know, voters who are really, really busy and really stretched in their own lives, we can't run elections between Labor Day and November and hope that we're going to win elections across the board.
NNAMDILet's see if you've answered Libby, in Silver Springs, question. Libby, you're on the air. Has Congresswoman Edwards answered your question?
LIBBYNot quite yet, Kojo. Thank you for taking my call. Congresswoman, I think I am hearing a really positive attitude from you. And I'm -- it just, I live in the District of Columbia, so party affiliation is not a big deal with elections generally. But...
NNAMDIWell, stop hanging out in Silver Spring, but go ahead.
LIBBYYeah. I'm about (unintelligible) East-west Highway. So I think in some ways it's good we took such a shellacking and, you know, I got home and I said, oh, my God, we've got, you know, is Maryland going red? I don't think it is, but I think that, if nothing else, this should really motivate all of us that tend to lean toward the Democratic and more progressive agenda so that we really do make a major push for 2016 regardless of who the candidate is. And at the presidential level, my understanding is that the Senate that the 2016 looks like a good year for the Democrats because a lot of Republicans...
NNAMDILet's see what Congresswoman Edwards has to say about that.
EDWARDSWell, you know, I -- Libby, I think all of those things are true. And I do feel very positive. I'm excited about the future. I think that we have an opportunity to really have a conversation with voters that crosses election cycles, so that we don't suffer this sort of boom and bust.
NNAMDIAre you game to lead the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee? A lot of progressives would like you to do that.
EDWARDSWell, I've heard that. And I mean, I...
NNAMDIThey've launched a petition on the daily (unintelligible) website.
SHERWOODAnd, well, she's met with Nancy Pelosi, too. This is not some pie in the sky thing.
EDWARDSI worked really hard thus far to try to get Democrats elected to Congress, to try to carry a message on behalf of, you know, all of us, our colleagues here in the Congress, recruiting candidates. And I think I'm going to do what my leadership needs me to do for all of us to be successful.
NNAMDIThat was a yes.
EDWARDSAnything -- anything...
SHERWOODWell, she's a candidate.
NNAMDIWe'll take that as a yes.
EDWARDSDonna Edwards is a team player and I play on a team.
SHERWOODYeah, you're a candidate. Now, here's the deal. Nancy -- you've met with Nancy Pelosi. There are four, five other persons who've expressed interest in this post. She has not indicated yet, to my knowledge, when she is going to make the decision. Do you have a sense of when we will know? It should be fairly soon, I would think.
EDWARDSNo. But, I mean, we also -- I mean, of course, but I mean we have leader -- our own leadership races that are going on to lead our party, and then we'll have a leader who makes the decision. And I think, you know, the leader is prepared to do that after we reaffirm her leadership, which I'm, you know, absolutely convinced we'll do and I know that I support. And then she's going to make a decision about what's best for our party and its leadership.
EDWARDSAnd whether that decision is me or another of my colleagues, what I do know is that I'm going to do what I've done, which is to support Democrats across the country and get the gavel back in the hands of people who understand the need to working people across this country.
SHERWOODOkay. Let's talk about actual governing with, you know, Governor-elect Hogan. He takes office on January 21st. There is -- he has said he will not make policy decisions or announcements until he becomes the actual governor. But you've got the Purple Line, which is a federal issue in terms of federal funding. That could be affected there. You got the Democrats and Republicans in Virginia who are very excited about the election for one reason.
SHERWOODThey think they're back in the game for the FBI headquarters with Barbara Mikulski losing her seat on the appropriations committee as chair. She will not be nearly as powerful. And Larry Hogan will be a new governor, albeit a Republican, they think they have a better chance now of maybe getting that FBI headquarters there. What do you think of that, the Purple Line and the FBI fight?
EDWARDSWell, number one, I think that presents -- the Purple Line decision is a totally political decision. I mean, I trust that the, you know, as they have -- have done that the -- both the FBI and the General Services Administration are engaged in a fair and transparent process. We've got two really strong sites coming out of Prince George's County. We'll continue to be advocates for that.
EDWARDSAnd although I haven't sat down and spoken specifically with Larry Hogan about this, all of our leadership across the board from Andy Harris through our entire delegation has been fully supportive of the proposals that Prince George's County has put forward and we are going to be a strong advocates on behalf of our state. And I think that we stand as good a chance today as we did in October of getting the FBI.
EDWARDSNow, with respect to the Purple Line, I heard the things that were said during the -- during the course of the campaign. As I said, campaigning and governing are different things. And so, I look forward to working with Governor-elect Hogan. I've made a commitment to him to do that. I mean, I'm his member of Congress, after all. And I've made a commitment to doing that. And we're going to figure out solutions that make sense for our state and for all of our communities and for our economy.
NNAMDIHere is Amy in Washington, D.C. Amy, you're on the air. Go ahead, please.
NNAMDIAnd the congresswoman only has about a minute left. So please go ahead.
AMYOkay. Congresswoman Edwards, thanks for the great job you do. I think that Democrats abandoned us in 19 -- in 2014. This was last election. It seems to me they're trying to out-Republican the Republicans. They ran away from Obama instead of expressing the good things that have come out of his administration. And I think that that's probably the problem of the loss.
NNAMDICongresswoman Edwards, some people have said the Democrats ran against their base, what do you say?
EDWARDSWell, I will say this, I mean, I know -- and I don't think that's true in Maryland. I mean, the president was -- came to Maryland on behalf of Anthony Brown. The first lady came here. The vice president came here. Both of the Clinton's came to Maryland. And so we put our strongest Democratic foot forward.
EDWARDSWe have to be -- I think we have to be cautious across the country and I've traveled all across the country, making sure that we have a message that speaks to the experiences and the challenges facing people who get up every day and go to work. And that that has to be a concerted message and we all have to be on the same message. And I would not say that was entirely true across the country.
EDWARDSAnd I think, you know, I think that there is some truth to not running away from who we are and our values that we share as Democrats. The American people share those. And even if it's things like raising the minimum wage, four red states passed minimum wage on their ballot. And so what explains that? So the issue and the -- that we're concerned about rebuilding and strengthening the middle class and growing jobs and opportunity and reducing income disparities are things that resonate with the American people. We just got to talk about it and we've gotta go and talk to voters, registered voters and continue a continue a conversation with voters, 365 days a year.
NNAMDIIt is my understanding that...
NNAMDI...your vote has been called, is that your understanding also?
EDWARDSIt has and I'm listening to the buzzer and I gotta go vote.
SHERWOODDo we have time for one quick question?
EDWARDSOne quick question.
SHERWOODAll right. The big fruit basket turnover of staffs and people in and out of the Congress, are you gonna get a better office up there?
EDWARDSYou know, we looked at that and we're not changing the carpet or the paint. We're staying in 2445 Ravern (sp?) , come visit me.
SHERWOODAll right, have a good vote.
NNAMDIDonna Edwards is a Member of the U.S. House of Representatives. She's a Democrat from Maryland. She has to go vote. Congresswoman Edwards, thank you so much for joining us.
EDWARDSAnd thank you, bye-bye.1
NNAMDIYou're listening to the Politics Hour. Tom Sherwood is our resident analyst, he's a reporter for NBC 4 and a columnist for the Current Newspaper. Jim, even though, Congresswoman Donna Edwards is gone, you wanted to make a comment about what you thought happened in Maryland or to ask her opinion about it. We'll see if we can help you. Jim, go ahead, please.
JIMThanks. You know, most of the analysts have talked about the Lt. Governor playing, sort of, defensive, just try not to lose. But when you see African-Americans run around the country, there often is this phenomenon where, in the voting booths, they don't vote the way they say to the pollsters are gonna vote. And I wonder why we've heard nothing about an...
NNAMDIWhen you say, they don't vote, you mean, voters in general, African-American voters?
JIM(unintelligible) The voters in general.
JIMNot just African-American voters...
NNAMDIWe remember what happened with the Doug Wilder candidacy...
SHERWOOD(unintelligible) just wrote Doug's name down.
JIMExactly. And look at the situation when the L.A. mayor, everybody thought he was gonna get elected governor and they're so many of these cases and it seems like there's a gap in the poles between how they poll versus how African-Americans actually run. And it would also be a lesson to us not to play, you know, avoiding losing.
NNAMDIQuick question. Quick question for our young listeners, for you Bill (sic), say who that mayor of L.A. was.
JIMOh, your -- I'm too old.
NNAMDITom Bradley. Tom Bradley. Tom Bradley, but go ahead, here's Tom.
SHERWOODThat, you know, that's a legitimate issue about people not voting as the polls show. The question is, how do you address it?
NNAMDIIndeed, and that was the case as Tom was pointing out with Governor Wilder, who won by a much smaller...
SHERWOODHere's a hint, about 16, 17 percent. He won...
SHERWOOD...by one. It is an undercurrent of campaigns. I mean, even in our most recent campaign, it was not a racial -- a divide in the District, what's not as racially divisive as some other races. Many people thought that David Catania would get a much larger white vote than he got for mayor than he actually got. Now, that's a credit maybe to Muriel Bowser's campaign with her discipline campaign.
SHERWOODBut racial aspects of elections are important and the undercount is a -- over count actually in polls and undercount in the turnout is a pretty serious issue.
NNAMDIWe'll be talking, shortly, with Charles Allen, he's a Member Elect of the D.C. Council. He's a Democrat who will be representing Ward 6. But in the meantime, there are a few other issues, one in Maryland that we need to talk about. An environmental report on the Conowingo Dam.
NNAMDIIt was believed by a number of people, generally Conservatives in Maryland, that before anything was done about storm water runoff, that was muddying the Chesapeake, that there needed to be some cleanup of the Conowingo Dam, however, there has just been a report, state and federal experts have said that a two-year analysis released, this past Thursday, showed that the sediment on the Conowingo Dam is not nearly as threatening to the Bay's water quality as first thought and that spending up to $3 billion with a B, to remove it, isn't worth the cost. That could upend things in...
SHERWOODWell, for people who don't know, that's up -- that's just north of the Havre de Grace area and it feeds directly into the Susquehanna River into the Bay.
SHERWOODAnd while the sediment itself may not be an issue, the court -- and this is the Army Corp of engineers report, you know, the Army Corp of engineers has a mixed record on environmental issues like this and some people would question that. There is an issue that with the nutrients, the -- in the water, that the -- I don't want to get too deep here or go too far off the gang plank on this because I'm not an environmentalist activist but there's nitrogen and phosphorous and other issues within that sediment that does flow over the dam and into the bay and that creates dead zones. So it's a very serious issue. But the question now, is whether they're gonna dredge the Conowingo lake...
SHERWOOD...which is called a lake, it's not really a lake but it's behind the damn. It's a very serious issue and the whole issue about pollution to the Chesapeake Bay, the Anacostia River, I mean, I've often said, the city ought to sue Maryland because of the pollution that's in the waterways, when it gets to the District of Columbia.
NNAMDINext week, we'll be talking with one of the Republicans moving up Maryland's political ladders, State Delegate Michael Huff, who won a race for the Maryland Senate and defeated incumbent Republican Senator David Brinkley in a primary, early this year. He'll be joining us in studio as well as John Vihstadt, who is a Republican turned Independent, who retained his seat on the Arlington County board, that's next week on the Politics Hour.
NNAMDITom Sherwood, could the top of Virginia House Republican be challenged from the right? We remember the defeat of former Majority Leader Eric Cantor just a few months ago, and now Virginia House Speaker William Howell finds himself in a similar situation. Next year when that election comes around, he will be a fighting off a threat from the right.
NNAMDIThere is clearly some division in the Republican party, in the state of Virginia, even though they did so well in this last election here, almost unseating U.S. Senator. But it would appear that this challenge from the right is a serious one, tea party Republicans are causing -- stirring up a great deal of concern.
SHERWOODModerate Republicans are endangered in many places, and this -- and William Howell, I mean, he's a very powerful guy in the state legislature in leading the House, there's no threat to the Republicans in the House, in the delegates. I don't -- you know, if you are hard -- I mean, I always -- I'm old enough to remember the, you know, the Barry Goldwater and, you know...
SHERWOOD...aggressiveness about being right and being right, by being right. And it just -- it's such a divisive tearing apart of the party itself when it wants to expand its base. You cannot win an election with the far left and you cannot win an election with the far right. I mean, it's just one of the constants in our ever changing politics. And so, to the extent that people who want to organize and get to the conventions in which, where the power is, and the county convention and state conventions, if they want to play that game within their own party, the Democrats will cheer them on.
NNAMDIIndeed, Ed Gillespie gave Mark Warner a serious run for his money in this senate election here, Ed Gillespie, of course, not considered a part of the far right of the Republican party but it would seem...
NNAMDI...just as at the time, when the party is on the rise and maybe in a position, at some point, to make a serious challenge for governor again, the party's caught up in this internal turmoil.
SHERWOODHe ran a campaign similar to what Governor McDonnell ran, I mean, you can have strong, conservative, very conservative views, and even Larry Hogan in Maryland who has strong conservative views on gun rights and other matters, ran a campaign about the common good of the state with taxing and what policies will come out of the legislature from the governor and the same thing is in Virginia, you can't go off on the edges but it's the a very narrow place to try to win the majority of voters.
NNAMDISpeaking of narrow places, one such is planning to expand on the mall, the Smithsonian has a huge plan for the mall, it calls for renovations to the Smithsonian Administration Building, what they call the Castle, two underground levels of visitor amenities including a café, auditorium and restrooms, according to the Washington Post. The plan has apparently been in the work for -- in the works for two years, construction is not expected to begin for five to seven years, could take as long as 20 years to complete but this is huge, what do you think?
SHERWOODWell, I was at the press conference yesterday. I was impress -- the scale model was really cool. But, you know, this is -- tourism is the number two in industry issue in our nation's capital, beyond the government matters. It -- we get 20 million plus visitors to the city every year. Many of them make it to the Smithsonian, except the one day it's closed, on Christmas Day. The Edith Hoff, I always say her name wrong, the Garden on the -- Independence Avenue side of the Castle.
NNAMDIEnid Haupt, yes.
SHERWOODIs a really great place but it's only been there since 1986, it seems like it's been there for hundreds of years. And the -- one of the plans is to complete dig out from under the Smithsonian Castle, the Smithsonian Castle has been there since 1855, it has never been substantially renovated, it's been gussied up but never renovated. There's a plan to dig up, completely, under it and put an earthquake barrier there, a seismic base so that it won't have any more damage, should we have another earthquake.
SHERWOODBut that creates a huge space below it. And so, I encourage people to go to the Smithsonian Institution's website, I think it's SI.org or something like that. The -- it's very interesting but it is a grand plan. Somebody said, we won't see any actual work, as you've just mentioned, for five or six years while it all gets through all the regulatory hurdles. But it make...
SHERWOOD...it wants to bring the Smithsonian into the 21st Century and guarantee its future. It'd be a great visiting place, if it gets done.
NNAMDIAnd it's gonna be connecting all of those underground spaces, the Ripley's Center, the Sackler Gallery and the National Museum of African Art.
SHERWOODYes, and those are the horrible...
NNAMDII can tell you 'cause sometimes hard to find.
SHERWOODYes. You start going down those tunnels, you think you're going to a dungeon.
SHERWOODAnd it's kind of nice, once you get there and you realize that you're underground and there are no windows.
NNAMDIOkay. We're now joined, in studio, by Charles Allen. He is a Member Elect of the D.C. Council. He's a Democrat who will be representing Ward 6. If you have questions or comments for him, give us a call at 800-433-8850. Go to our website, kojoshow.org and watch our live video stream there. You can also ask questions or make comments there. Send us an email to firstname.lastname@example.org or shoot us a tweet @kojoshow. Charles Allen, congratulations, thank you very much for joining us.
MR. CHARLES ALLENWell, thank you very much for us, nice to be back and I wore a tie today 'cause I knew you'd be on your live stream.
NNAMDIIt's casual Friday with Tom and me here. We've….
SHERWOODYou know, already attacking the media.
ALLENIt's always casual Friday.
SHERWOODAlways -- already attacking the media.
NNAMDIYou've noticed that. Let's start with a general issue here because D.C. Delegate Ellen Holmes Norton has introduced a bill that would eliminate the tax exempt status of the National Football League, saying it benefits from promoting a racial slur. We all know what that racial slur is, it has to do with the team that plays here in Washington, the burgundy and gold. My question...
ALLENNot quite here in Washington.
NNAMDI...well, you're right, they play in Maryland at this point but they identify themselves with...
SHERWOODAnd they're headquartered in Virginia.
NNAMDI...Washington, D.C. But it raised the question again of, a lot of people do not even realize that the National Football League has tax exempt status. And I looked this up again, Steven Brill did a piece for Reuters in which he points out that the National Football League is unique in this respect, that it files for this tax exempt status under something in the IRS code called 501C6 organizations. Here are the organizations that qualify, business leagues, chambers of commerce, real estate boards, boards of trade and professional football leagues. The...
SHERWOODI can't imagine...
NNAMDI...major league baseball doesn't qualify.
NNAMDIThe National Basketball Association, why? Why does the NFL have this unique tax exemption, Tom?
ALLENThey're not a non-profit.
SHERWOOD...I don't know the long history of it but somebody knew somebody who knew somebody and they got it done. And they want to keep it because it means hundreds of millions of dollars to that organization.
ALLEN(unintelligible) but I do appreciate that the Congresswoman is continuing to take this fight to the Congress and to wherever we can put a lever of pressure on this. You know, I refer to it now as the Washington Football Team and, you know, it's -- I'm glad to see that she is -- whether it's this vehicle, whether it's the trade marking issue, whether it's their future home.
ALLENThose are the issues I think we want to be focused on.
NNAMDII want tax exempt status.
SHERWOODWell, I want us to stop referring -- I would like for us to stop referring to it as the Washington Football Team, it's not in Washington, it's headquartered in Virginia, plays in Maryland and it uses our name. We should get some of the profits from that. But it's, the Senate, you know, early last May, 50 Democrats in the Senate, U.S. Senate, wrote a letter, saying, you ought to -- we ought to do something about the name and urged the NFL to change it.
SHERWOODBut now what they -- no Republicans were asked to sign it. I think, John McCain said he would urge the owner to change it but he wouldn't make him change it.
SHERWOODSo I'm thinking, this introduction, there's a Senate version 2-0 -- oh, I forgotten, somebody from Washington State, Maria Cantwell...
ALLENIt's -- yeah, Cantwell.
SHERWOOD...she introduced it in the Senate. But, you know, with the Senate going to the Republicans, I see this kind of just as a PR thing, it's not gonna happen in this lame duck session.
SHERWOODAnd it's certainly not gonna happen once the Republicans take over both the House and Senate. So what good is it other than one day of news?
ALLENIt's important, I think, to continue the pressure, it's important to keep educating people about it. You know, I'm not looking to this incoming Congress, for much, in terms of where we'll see progressive leadership, at the national level, which I think, brings us back to why our states and our cities are so important, to be looking there, to have the smart ideas and to be moving things forward for our communities.
SHERWOODWell, one of the...
NNAMDIIn case you're just joining us, that's the voice of Charles Allen, Member Elect of the D.C. Council. He's a Democrat who will be representing Ward 6. If you have questions or comments for him, 800-433-8850. Tom.
SHERWOODOne of the big issues before the Congress will be the city's vote to legalize marijuana Initiative 71, which passed over (unintelligible) it will now go to an uncertain future in the Congress. But there's a question within the city that even if the Congress stays busy on other matters and allows this to become law next -- early next spring.
NNAMDICongressman Andy Harris in Maryland is already saying that he intends to interfere.
SHERWOODYes, he was very successful the last time with his -- but assuming that it passes the Congressional review without any action and becomes law, then there's the issue of the city having to get regulations in place for how marijuana will be sold. Would you be so -- would you support delaying the legalization of marijuana until the city can have a regulatory scheme in place, which would probably put it off 'til 2016, at least?
ALLENWell, I do think the voters of the District were very clear, in terms of what they wanted to pass and I think that most voters believed that what they were doing was legalizing marijuana. Now, when you look at the actual language of the ballot initiative, it's six plants grown in the home, three of which are mature, three of which can't be mature...
SHERWOODIf you got stoned, you couldn't possibly follow the regulations.
ALLENWell, the regulations don't spell out what is a mature plant. There's a lot of questions with that, you know? I think that the voter's intent though was very clear and so I think that is how we need to move forward. I do support what the voters will, that we should be legalizing and come up with the regulations that go with that. We should do it as fast as possible.
SHERWOODSix months are allowed in...
SHERWOOD...legislation. So it wouldn't have even the regulations. So, but, the law will make it legal once Congress approves. I mean, it doesn't disapprove it, right?
SHERWOODSo who would...
ALLEN...we gotta have the regulations in place. You know, so if that means a short delay, than I'd be okay with that but I think we've gotta move with a lot of speed. And this isn't a new issue for the Council. I mean, the Council, for the last several years, has been talking around marijuana policy, from decriminalization, to the small amounts being legalized. So it's not like we're starting from scratch with the Council. I think, that the Council will be able to actually move fairly quickly and then I would expect it, of course, working in partnership with the mayor elect, the next mayor, about how to craft that in the right way.
NNAMDIYou will not be taking office until January but your Ward is smack dab in the middle of one of the city's biggest political debates right now, the debate over whether to use city funds and swap value over pieces of city land, for the construction of a new soccer stadium at Buzzard Point. What do you make of this deal, as it stands right now, on face value?
ALLENFrom the beginning, I've said, I think it presents a great opportunity for Southwest and for Buzzard Point to really create something that I think can be catalytic for an area that is not much more than scrap yards right now. But I've also been very consistent about the things that I need to see to be able to get to, yes, which is where I'd like to land.
ALLENAnd that is, dealing with transportation and traffic and how we connect that stadium. Dealing with the housing, (unintelligible) and James Creek, right next to the proposed site is very, very important public housing for our city. And that has to be protected. And then, of course, I think, that in the same way that we invested in National's Park, we also invested in Yard's Park and we created a really dynamic public space along the river that I think brings down just as many people and has been just as catalytic to that neighborhood.
ALLENWe've gotta have a public park and a public space investment. You can't just build a stadium in isolation. So those are the things that I've been pushing for and I think those are all solvable problems. I think those are things that we can do. That's what I want to see in the final deal.
SHERWOODThe Mayor Elect Bowser, Councilmember Jack Evans from Ward 2 has said, well, hasn't said it but they would like to get this done by year's end, two more votes between now and the end of December. But one of the issues is the Reeve's Center. Jack Evans, who's a principle proponent of this, says, people want to take out the Reeve's Center at 14th and U, a city office building that's been there since 1986, well that is the deal.
SHERWOODHe says, making that available for redevelopment is part of the deal. Do you have a specific view that it's okay for you to have the Reeve's Center in or out?
ALLENI think that the Reeve's Center is an integral part to making the finances work. So, you know, while I don't have a hardened fast feeling about exactly what the Reeve's Center should become, I do believe that the package, it is a deal.
ALLENAnd so I think the finances are intrinsically wrapped up within that.
SHERWOODThere was an acknowledgement today that the $200,000 City Council study had overstated the economic benefits of the stadium. I think, saying about $109 million would be the economic benefit of having this. But now that the number's closer to 40 million, 38 or 40 million, does that have a major impact on your concern or?
ALLENIt does but I also don't think that that study included a lot of other pieces. You know, we know that, just like with the ballpark, you've got other parts of that neighborhood that have developed, that create revenue that I would argue are a benefit to our city and to the neighborhood. You're going to see the same thing happen in Buzzard Point. I don't think those have been captured within that study.
ALLENSo of course dropping something of a benefit from the 120-some-odd down to 40-some-odd concerns me. But I also don't know if that study really encompassed all of the benefits that you would see that come with that type of development in a neighborhood that doesn't have much.
NNAMDIIf you have questions or comments about that stadium deal, give us a call, 800-433-8850. What conversations have you had with constituents who live in that neighborhood, where the stadium would be built? What's their feeling?
ALLENIt is -- I've been having this conversation with them for many, many months, both before the primary...
SHERWOODCan I jump here and say that I live in this neighborhood? I live not far from this stadium area, so...
ALLENAnd Tom has not talked to me once.
NNAMDIWell, he's not a constituent. He's a reporter. (laugh)
ALLENWell, the neighbors in Southwest are not opposed to a stadium. They look at Buzzard Point, and they do see what could be there. But the neighbors have also been very, very consistent and said how was transportation going to be linking a stadium to the rest of the city and throughout the neighborhood? It could be as easy as going ahead and getting some of our circulator returned down to Southwest and making sure there's a strong link there. It could be as expansive as looking at the streetcar.
ALLENTheir neighbors have said very consistently we want to know what you're going to be doing about housing. You know, the residents in Syphax and James Creek understandably were very anxious when National Stadium was being built. And I heard more than one resident who said those bulldozers are just coming right on over South Capitol Street to us. So now a soccer stadium might be built right next door to them, the exact same concerns are back.
ALLENAnd what we have not heard yet is the type of commitment that the neighbors need to know that housing in -- their housing, their neighborhood, their community, is going to be protected. I've heard -- neighbors have been very consistent that these are issues that can be solved, these are issues that can be addressed. They're not against the soccer stadium, but they do expect, and I think the city should live up to that...
SHERWOODAll right and when these -- and we should say these two housing, public housing complexes are very well run.
NNAMDIThey are -- if you want to have garden-style apartments for people to live in decent housing, I can -- I don't know about the interior of them, but I can say the grounds are kept really well.
ALLENThere's great residential leadership in each of them. The buildings are good. Obviously the city needs to continue to invest in that, but it's also one of the few places in our city where we have family-based housing. You know, a lot of affordable housing is studios and one-bedrooms. This is a place where we have two-bedroom...
SHERWOODLet me ask you a question back to the deal because I think this is really important.
SHERWOODI'm surprised that -- I can understand the fight over the real estate deal to get the stadium built. What I'm surprised I haven't heard more criticism of is the 10 years of tax breaks. The ownership of the team is quite well to do. I mean, they don't, they don't -- do they need 10 years of sales tax breaks and other kinds of breaks? I mean, they want to make a profit, obviously, but it just seems to me -- that seems the giveaway part of the deal, not the land deal.
ALLENWell, I think Chief Financial Officer Jeff DeWitt raised that recently.
NNAMDIHe certainly has.
ALLENAnd we're starting to see that more be a part of the conversation. I think it's fair to look at that, but I also know that when they're putting together their financing to figure out, and I think it's a good thing that they're going to be building the stadium, sometimes we do use tax incentives to help get them in the door.
ALLENI think it's fair for us to look at it an examine it and make sure it's the best deal.
SHERWOODTen years, 10 years of tax breaks?
ALLENIt's not the length of time, it's the dollar amount that we should be focused on.
NNAMDIAnd there, I guess, the bottom-line question for me is, what does the city lose if it walks away from this deal at some point? Can the city afford to walk away from this deal based on the future promise of what can happen in that location?
ALLENI think the city can walk away from the deal, but if they don't, they're -- I don't see anything that's going to be as catalytic for Buzzard Point. I think that you're -- we're going to continue to have block after block of really vacant land, concrete factories and scrap yards because I don't see Buzzard Point developing into a neighborhood, which having that neighborhood develop also serves the residents of James Creek and Syphax and Southwest by bringing new amenities.
ALLENBringing new jobs, bringing a lot of things that a neighborhood really wants. And I don't see that happening if the deal is walked away from.
SHERWOODIt's got -- you have to look at it as an economic development matter, too. If you bring -- this is a major business. It operates I've forgotten how many weeks a year, but it's a major business. It's like the fight over the football team. You know, it's a billion-dollar-plus business, maybe much more. You want to bring business into town, particularly with the lessening of the federal government's growth. You want to bring business into town. We've got I think the Wizards training facility...
NNAMDII was about two say we keep talking about these things as if they're just sports teams. They are also businesses, and NBC 4's Mark Segraves this week reported that the Wizards are looking into building a practice facility in Shaw, which is now in your ward. Thank you, Jack. (laugh) It used to be in Jack Evans' Ward 2. What are you going to need to know about that concept before you decide whether or not it's a good idea?
ALLENWell, when we look at the Shaw neighborhood, my primary concern there is the Shaw Middle School. It has been promised for a long time. The capital budget now puts the rebuilding of Shaw Library or Shaw Middle School many more years out. We can't have that at risk. That middle school will serve families in Wards 1, 2, 5 and 6. I think it's an important part of creating great middle school options for our families in our city. If...
NNAMDIWhat's the relationship between that and the proposed Wizards training facility?
SHERWOODIt's the same land.
ALLENSo if a training facility for the Wizards puts the middle school at risk, then I've got a lot of big problems and concerns with that.
SHERWOODCouldn't it be the opposite? Couldn't you maybe in working with the Wizards themselves build a training facility in the school, I mean kind of like Bell Multi-Cultural, where you have one school, you have two schools built together? Why couldn't you build something there that it accommodates the Wizards, has a first-rate, modern middle school? You could even save the skate park, you know...
ALLENThere's a lot of things that we could do, but in the absence of a proposal and the absence of any details, understandably the neighbors are very concerned, saying we've been working for a middle school, you're going to be putting that at risk.
SHERWOODThis might speed it up, you know, and get it off that long-term capital project and move it closer.
ALLENThere's a lot of what ifs to it...
SHERWOODAnd the mayor has talked about building four, opening four middle schools next fall. This is not one of the sites that she's talking about.
ALLENI don't think I've heard her say four middle schools next year. I think what I've heard the mayor-elect talk about is by 2020 having four new middle schools built out. And that's what the...
NNAMDIOkay, gentlemen, put on your headphones, please. I'm going to...
SHERWOODAbout the same time we get to go to the new and improved Smithsonian.
NNAMDITom Sherwood, he's our resident analyst. He's a reporter for NBC 4 and a columnist for the Current Newspapers. We're joined in studio by Charles Allen, member-elect of the D.C. Council. He will be representing Ward 6. He's a Democrat. Here is Peter in Washington. Peter, you're on the air. Go ahead, please.
PETERThank you, Kojo. Congratulations, Councilman.
ALLENThank you very much, Peter.
PETERI'm in your ward. I only have one thing that -- this whole thing about the Reeves Center and the stadium and all that, I don't -- haven't sorted all that out in my own mind. But I would like to suggest that as you talk about municipal centers in a city where the less -- fewer and fewer people are driving automobiles that they be planned near metro stops. I'll hear your reaction off the air.
ALLENI appreciate that, Peter. I think you're absolutely right, and it's not just our municipal centers but really the growth of our city. You want it to be built out around our trains and hubs. And so making sure that you've got strong connections to our metro system, metro bus, all of those different nodes of transportation very important. And I think that that is part of, when we talk about the municipal center that might be built as part of this, in Ward 8 could be also that catalyst.
ALLENBut it would need to be tied with great transit because we cannot support -- as our city is going to continue to grow, we can't just keep adding more cars to our streets. We've got to move people around...
NNAMDII'm glad you mentioned that because the individual that you're replacing, the man you worked for, tried to hitch his political identity to the mantra of making D.C. livable, walkable. What does that mean to you, and is that a mantra that you will also be repeating?
ALLENI think that one of things -- that a former boss, Tommy Wells, was known as Mr. Livable-Walkable. And one of the things that he has -- did a fabulous job of is really working across Ward 6, in a lot of the neighborhoods across Ward 6, to really help realize that vision of a place where you've got shops and businesses, you've got your schools, you've got your parks, all within a close distance and something that you can really have a safe, convenient walking experience or biking experience.
SHERWOODWell, you know, what do you think -- you know, we've all reported that he is up to be Tommy Wells, the former councilmember you're replacing, is up to be the Department of Transportation director and that Muriel Bowser -- surely you would think that's a good deal. Just think, he'd have to respond to you. You were his chief of staff. You could call him before a committee. You could grill him. It would be great, wouldn't it? (laugh)
ALLENI would love that opportunity, absolutely. You know, I think the world of Tommy. Obviously I worked with him for seven years and got to know him really well. I think he would be a great choice. That's between him and the mayor-elect, though, of course. I do think, though, DDOT has to have strong leadership, and that's what we have seen, I think, over the last several years.
ALLENWe have seen the lack of really strong leadership there create delays, whether we're talking about the streetcar, we've got streets and intersections that have not been moved with the urgency that I think we need in terms of pedestrian safety, vehicle safety, cycling safety. I have not seen that kind of sense of urgency. And as we are a growing city, a thriving, fantastic city, those are bread and butter issues, and having the director, having the right leadership is going to be really important in terms of delivering what our residents expect and need.
NNAMDIWell, the extent to which you'll be able to grill your former boss depends not only on whether or not he is in the new administration but also the position that you ultimately occupy on the council yourself, and that's what Vincent in Washington, D.C., would like to ask you about. Vincent, your turn.
VINCENTAny thoughts on the potential overhaul of the council committee chairmanships, with so many new members coming in?
NNAMDIWhat committees would you like to be on? What committees would you like to chair?
ALLENWell I appreciate that, and thank you, Vincent, for the call. We're obviously going to go through a substantial change with the council. You've got three new members coming on January 2, a fourth will be coming in the spring, and that's going to make, I'm sure for Chairman Mendelson a lot...
SHERWOODThat's one-third of the council.
ALLENAbsolutely. It's a big turnover. And we're also having people who have been chairing significant committees that are no longer on the council. So a lot of changes coming. You know, one of the things that I really believe is that having a committee on education has been very important and a very valuable thing. I think that's given parents a great voice. And knowing they have an advocate, I think it's been good for educators. And I think it's been good for the council to have that type of oversight.
ALLENI -- the chairman has made clear that he doesn't believe that freshmen coming in...
ALLENChairman Mendelson, that freshmen don't always chair committees. I think it's important to be on the Committee on Education.
SHERWOODThere's some -- well there's some concerns that the chairman might reduce the numbers. Some people have laughed that, like, if there are 10 committee chairmen out of 13 members of the council, counting the chairman himself, but also there's a lot to do in a municipal place. But there's some concern maybe Mendelson will just reduce the number, and it'll be fewer opportunities for the new members to have a place to actually speak out.
ALLENI have not heard him say that. I would definitely have concerns, especially around education, if that were to be brought into the committee as a whole. I think we tried it before, and I don't think it worked. I think that having a standing...
SHERWOODUnder Kwame Brown, wasn't it?
ALLENAnd Mr. Gray, when he was the chair, brought that in. And I think that that is -- that's going to be where I put a lot of my focus. I think Ward 6 expects that. And, you know, frankly as the father of a two-year-old about to go into the lottery myself, I think it's important to have that set of eyes and perspective that is helping provide oversight for us.
SHERWOODIs it going to be a more liberal council? I mean, you, you're fairly progressive. I think you guys like to use the word progressive instead of liberal. But Elissa Silverman, who was elected. I mean, there's -- it's fairly progressive. Is there anything you think the council will do, lurch in one different direction, than where it is now?
ALLENI'm not sure. You know, I'm...
SHERWOODThe city's in pretty good shape financially. It's not just everyone sharing, as the mayor likes to say.
ALLENIt is in good shape. I do think -- I'm really excited about Elissa joining the council. I think that she's going to be a great at-large councilmember. You know, I was just talking this morning with Brianne in Ward 1. I think she's going to be a great addition to the council. You know, I think that, you know, we're going to be a progressive voice, and I think there already is a progressive bloc on the council.
ALLENI think when you look at Kenyan McDuffie, when you look at David Grosso, you're looking at younger leaders who I think we share a set of values and a perspective. And I think one of the things that we are going to continue to work on is how as a city, or as an elected body, we are helping restore that public trust and public confidence that's been broken over the last several years.
NNAMDIHere is -- here is Carolyn in Washington, D.C. Carolyn, you're on the air. Go ahead, please.
CAROLYNHi, Kojo. I was just curious, I'm a resident of Ward 6 myself, living more on the RFK side. And in all of the conversation that's been occurring over the past week about the new soccer stadium in Buzzard Point, there hasn't been a lot of talk about what's going to happen to that location, as well as what the departure of RFK is going to do to our neighborhood.
ALLENI appreciate that, Carolyn, and I live at 16th and D Northeast, so I'm not too far away from RFK, either. And I think that there's a lot of question marks about that. You know, we have not heard the city really lay out a plan. One of the things that I've really been pushing for and will continue to advocate for is when we look at the site around the stadium, and this is what concerns me about having a professional stadium that's only used eight days out of the year, is the parking that has to go with something like that or that has at least traditionally gone with something like that.
ALLENI think it is an immense waste of space that we have along the Anacostia River that surrounds RFK, and we've got a fantastic proposal out there called the Capitol Riverside Youth Sports Park, that would create field space, athletic space, green space. It would really serve I think not just Ward 6 and Ward 7 but really the entire city and as well be right on the river. I think it would be a fantastic use of that space.
ALLENAnd then of course to the south, we've got a lot of work we have to do around Reservation 13.
SHERWOODThat's where D.C. General is and all of that space is. Well...
SHERWOODI was -- is it possible, and again Jack Evans has he thinks as an economic generator for the city, he thinks all the professional sports teams ought to play within the confines of the District of Columbia. And he says there's room for a 65,000-, 70,000-seat stadium for the football team if it comes in and changes its name that would not be -- you could have an additional metro stop to accommodate people.
SHERWOODIt would not have to be a sea of parking spaces, and you could have the local sports facilities, open space, you could have the team there, a new hotel, a kind of a real economic generator there. If all that were to work, would you be in favor of something like that, or do you just want to keep it open space because the federal land, as you know, requires that it be used for athletic purposes, I think is the phrase or something like that. But you could do all of that and still have plenty of room for the people up there who need more playground space, more open space.
ALLENI think you could have a multitude of uses on that site. You know, I'm not wed to one specific piece of it. But, you know, again, as we talked about earlier with the practice facility, there's a lot of what ifs. There's a lot of things that if you had a magic wand, you could do. What I'm concerned about is the type of facility that you have to build for a professional football team.
ALLENAnd I really don't believe Dan Snyder is going to be sharing a building. To build that out for eight Sundays a year I really just don't think is the best use of that space. It's something that concerns me a lot.
NNAMDIThe Committee of 100 sued this week over the potential expansion of the CSX rail tunnel in your ward. Where do you see that headed, and what are your concerns about the next steps in the process?
ALLENYeah, this has been ongoing for quite some time now. The federal government had released their record of decision, which is what's clearing the way now for CSX to start the permitting process. The Committee of 100 have filed the suit. I haven't actually read the suit, so I don't know exactly the particulars of what their suit is outlining. But I know that it is not going to be resolved tomorrow or the next day or the next week. It's going to be something that goes on for quite some time.
ALLENAnd we're really trying to find that balance between what do we need from a rail capacity standpoint to help serve the city and the area, as well as what is fair to the residents that are going to be facing this type of construction.
ALLENOne of the things I have not seen that has been dealt with, within the record of decision or elsewhere, is the movement of hazardous materials right through a neighborhood and in particular through a construction site. That concerns me a lot, and it's something that I'm going to look for within the suit that is going to play out on its own but where, as the councilmember, I might have any ability to influence there.
SHERWOODThere's no immediate benefit to the people who live there. Some of them are living in $800,000 houses and up, and some are very poor people who need access to Capitol Hill. It's -- I've done several stories on this project. CSX has not -- has had meetings about it, but they have not reassured the neighbors that the senior citizens who live along Virginia Avenue, in a very nice building built for them, will be able to walk to buses and places like that.
SHERWOODIt's a huge open trench for three years. There's been even some suggestion now, CSX has not acknowledged it publicly, that they may want to buy up the houses along Virginia Avenue on the south side, and they won't tear them down, but they'll just stay there, and they'll be empty. They'll do their project, put the park land back over the tunnel and then sell the houses again once the project's completed. Would that be acceptable?
ALLENI have not heard anything about them purchasing homes like that. I would say, though, that -- and this is to the neighbors' credit, there is no open trench with construction. That is something that they have really pushed on, and I've pushed on and others, that you can't have construction going with an open trench. It's...
SHERWOODWell, how else would they built the tunnel?
ALLENThere's not going to be trains running through an open trench.
SHERWOODAnd CSX has signed off on that?
ALLENThat is part of what the...
SHERWOODAnd part of the -- and part of the problem with the suit is...
SHERWOODThe Department of Transportation approved the permits for it without an environmental impact statement.
ALLENI believe that's at the heart of what this suit...
NNAMDICharles Allen is a member-elect of the D.C. Council. He's a Democrat who will represent Ward 6. Thank you so much for joining us.
ALLENThank you both very much. I appreciate it.
NNAMDIAnd Bruce DePont, we warned him, we warned him about appearing on that show that you host before he comes over here. Tom Sherwood is our resident analyst. He's a reporter for NBC 4 reporter and a columnist for the Current Newspapers. Always a pleasure.
SHERWOODAnd I have more questions to ask.
NNAMDIThank you all for listening. I'm Kojo Nnamdi.
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