The cooks and laborers who built the foundation of our county's culinary traditions have often gone unnoticed throughout history.
The governments of both D.C. and Maryland are fighting to build a new stadium for Washington’s football team, but some Democrats in Congress don’t want the new facility to be built on federal land. We talk to journalist Jonathan O’Connell about it.
Then we speak to Nancy Navarro, the Montgomery County Councilmember (D, District 4) who was recently elected Council President, about everything from the pushback in the County government to Governor Hogan’s plan to widen the Capital Beltway to her plans for improving early childhood education.
Sorting political fact from fiction, and having fun while we’re at it. Join us for our weekly review of the politics, policies, and personalities of the District of Columbia, Maryland and Virginia.
Produced by Mark Gunnery
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 contributing writer for Washington City Paper. Tom Sherwood, welcome.
MR. TOM SHERWOODGood afternoon.
NNAMDILater in the broadcast we'll be talking with Nancy Navarro. She is the Montgomery county council president, but right now we're about to talk with Jonathan O'Connell. He's a reporter covering economic development and the Trump organization for the Washington Post. Jonathan good to see you again.
MR. JONATHAN O'CONNELLOh, thanks Kojo for having me.
NNAMDIAnd what we'll be talking about with Jonathan is what's likely for a new stadium for the Washington football team the Redskins either in the district or in Maryland.
NNAMDIAlso before we get to the stadium, Tom Sherwood, last week we had Adam Eidinger on the show and he was one of the people heading up an effort to get a referendum on initiative 77, which was to raise the basic pay for tipped workers in the District it had been approved by the voters and then overturned by the council. They were trying to get it on again. They apparently went out during the course of the past week and got all of the signatures, even maybe more than was necessary. But the judge said, No, you cannot put -- the referendum cannot be placed on the ballot, because of an error apparently or an oversight on the part of the D.C. Board of Elections.
SHERWOODWell, the judge ruled that the Board of Elections did not properly give public notice that this referendum was to be held and therefore they couldn't collect signatures for something that was not properly noticed to the public. I think it didn't appear in the D.C. Register. This is a, you know, people who object to this think this is a terrible administrative blip that should be fixed in some way. But it's never been overturned before, so if the people who want to get the referendum on the ballot appeal to D.C. court of appeals and they have, I'm told the chances of winning that are not very good. So it could be that this referendum, despite the signature gathering, is going nowhere.
NNAMDIEven though I think they are trying to appeal, but there are some complications with it. We'll have to keep following the story.
NNAMDIAnd see what happens. Jonathan O'Connell there's been a lot of news around the possibility of a new Washington Redskins stadium in recent days. Let's start in D.C. what's going on.
O'CONNELLWell, Mayor Bowser and the team's owner Dan Snyder have taken this sort of unique strategy here, where they've tucked some stadium language into a federal budget bill in the hope that Republicans in the House and Senate and President Trump will approve in quick order, you know, granting the District really long term control that 190 acres where RFK stadium is.
O'CONNELLYou know, there's sort of two ways of looking at this. One is D.C. should have more control over its land and the federal government should have less control over, you know, an important place in the city. The other is that if this does go through, which we should know in the next week or week and a half here, the city will have the controlled land in a really kind of superseding many of the traditional ways we manage land. The zoning process would be superseded. The -- you know, all the traditional reviews we have for development in the city would be superseded. And I think that sort of avoiding the, you know, normal discussion we would have about such a big transfer has really rubbed some people the wrong way.
NNAMDIThat's an item that (unintelligible) are pushing to get this deal through in a spending bill in Congress as you pointed out. It would need to get passed by the end of the year, before a new congress is seated in January why?
O'CONNELLWell, you know, the political dynamic could change come January. The House will go to the Democrats obviously. And Republicans in congress have been very willing to work with the Trump administration on doing something like this, I mean, people have to remember that RFK stadium is on federally owned National Park Service land. It does not look like a park. Obviously it's mostly parking lots and an empty stadium. But it is National Park Service land. And traditional the Park Service does not like to just give up park land for real estate development or to private real estate developers. I mean, think of all the national parks we treasure that I'm sure developers would love to get a hold of.
SHERWOODDoes this proposal that's trying to be inserted into the federal budget does it wipe out, really, all of the zoning approvals and the Mayor could just build a stadium?
O'CONNELLYeah, I think so -- I mean, yeah.
SHERWOODAre you sure, because I hadn't read that? But part of the deal is whether you like the stadium or not someone reported back in March of 2017 a reporter Jonathan O'Connell.
SHERWOODReported Mayer Bowser sent a letter to President Trump back then saying look we want control of all the federal lands that basically are not necessary for the Federal government. That's the RFK site, 190 acres. That's the three golf courses Langston and East Potomac and Rock Creek Park. It's Franklin Square downtown and other pieces of land. The mayor says the city is growing it needs land and we can run it better than the federal government, which sits on it and the Park Service as everyone knows is broke.
SHERWOODSo as I understand it this move would, which does have Dan Snyder's support, which could be one of the reasons people don't like it. Is it would allow the city to control the land, but it would not guarantee a stadium. It would just make it a lot easier to get one, but here's the deal. Council member Allen, Ward 6, doesn't want a stadium at all. Council member Grosso doesn't want a stadium at all. But to do anything on that land, it's almost 200 acres, the city has to have control of the land, because if you want to build housing, if you want retail, grocery stores any of that the city has to have permission, because the lease from the Park Service only allows sports and recreational uses.
NNAMDIHow did the president respond to Mayor Bowser's request, when she made it?
SHERWOODTo my knowledge there's never been a public response from President Trump.
NNAMDIBut she mentioned that he might be able to build a hotel on that land?
SHERWOOD(laugh) No, but you know part of the plan...
SHERWOOD...the discussions. Nothing is set in stone. But the people on the east Capitol Hill want amenities that are available in other parts of the city. Many of them don't want a stadium. But they do want hotels and restaurants and playgrounds and schools, maybe, and subsidized housing and market rate housing. They want that area to be developed so they can use it.
NNAMDIIs the stadium likely to be a sticking point if the Democrats were in control of the House of Representatives, which they will be next year.
SHERWOODWell, yes, during the Obama administration, you know, the interior secretary, whose name I don't recall at this moment, she said, I don't like the Redskins the name -- the one...
SHERWOODThere are two big sticking points in my view, whether you're for the stadium or not, as The Post editorial page said this morning, let the city have control of the land and then decide what to do. The sticking points are the hatred for Dan Snyder the owner. He's -- in May, will be 20 years he has owned this team. And many people think he's run it into the ground and shouldn't get a dime of support money. Everyone agrees, including Jack Evans a most vociferous proponent of the stadium, that the Redskins will have to build their own stadium. But the city would spend millions of dollars on land preparation.
NNAMDIJonathan O'Connell, Maryland Governor Larry Hogan got into the game as well this week with a move to try to keep the stadium in Prince Georges' County also focused on Federal land, what's his pitch?
O'CONNELLWell, Larry Hogan is like trying something similar in some ways. He's also trying to acquire federal park land, Oxon Cove right by National Harbor, right on the other side of the river there. You know, his plan we know very little about despite the fact that he sort of gave a little bit of a hint about it this week. He has proposed a land swap with the Interior Department in which he would acquire -- the state of Maryland would acquire that land in exchange for some Civil War battlefield land in western Maryland. The location of which is still undisclosed. The details of this are completely undisclosed.
O'CONNELLIt's very difficult for me to see -- I mean, there's just so many steps between, you know, acquiring that land by the state, going through the environmental reviews required of allowing a stadium to be developed there and the various -- massive amount of infrastructure and roads you are going to need, all to build a stadium where there's no metro.
SHERWOODAnd to build one that's 15 miles from the current stadium.
O'CONNELLI mean, if you look around, Fedex Field and Prince George's right now, you don't see a whole lot of economic benefit to the guy from having an NFL stadium all this time. So I can see why people in Prince George's are skeptical of wanting to, you know, really support another one.
NNAMDIWe got a Tweet from Lovelegistation, who says, No, new stadium until the name of the Washington D.C. football name is changed. Mic drop. The other concern the Democrats and Congress seem to have is the precedent this will set for the long term use of federal land.
NNAMDIWhat's at stake here in that regard?
O'CONNELLWell, you know as we talked about the National Parkland is something that the country is used to protecting. The Park Service on the one hand it's job is to sort of protect and make sure that the National Parklands are not, you know, just free and open to real estate developers. On the other hand the National Park Service does not maintain some of their parks in D.C. very well as Tom pointed out, you know, some of the golf courses could be a lot better. Franklin Square could be a lot better, etcetera.
O'CONNELLAnd there's an interesting overlap here between the priorities of Mayor Bowser, a Democrat, and Ryan Zinke the secretary of the interior, who is a Republican and, you know, seems sort of open to privatizing more areas of government than a Democrat probably would be. And then in this case there may be some overlap in priorities there, because Bowser would like to see local control of these things and Zinke seems up for participating some of that. You know, you mentioned the golf courses and the tennis center.
O'CONNELLZinke has a request out on the street right now for parties, who are interested in maybe participating in that and somehow redeveloping them or improving them.
SHERWOODIf nothing gets done, if the city doesn't get control of the land, then essentially then the Park Service will have what 10,000 parking spaces a dead stadium, that’s been there since 1960, and been empty for several years now that the soccer team left. So nothing will happen. So I think -- the most important thing I think is -- people are saying let the city have the land and then have the debate about whether you have the stadium. The problem is if this proposal in congress short circuits the process to get a stadium in that's another whole can of worms.
NNAMDIAnd what is Ward 6 Council Member Charles Allen saying -- I always get confused about this. Is RFK now in Ward 6 or is it in Ward 7?
NNAMDIIt's in Ward 7.
SHERWOODIt's in Vince Gray's Ward.
NNAMDIWhy is the Ward 6 council member so involved?
SHERWOODWell, because he represents a lot of -- most of Capitol Hill, where people live there. I think Kingman Park might be part of Ward 7. But there's a lot of people who live there and just like the convention center, just like the Verizon Center downtown, now the Capitol One Center, just like the baseball stadium, a lot of people -- although there weren't many people living near the baseball stadium so -- the neighbors of the convention center opposed it endlessly. People opposed the Verizon Center, when it was being -- it's MCI center when it was being built, thinking it was going to overwhelm their neighborhoods.
SHERWOODAnd people think the stadium is a waste of money, the people who are opposing it. But I think there's going to be a fuller discussion about it and if the city gets control of the land. There will be a big battle over what this team may or may not do, but the name is very serious. The council a decade ago or more -- I think when Carol Schwartz was on the council -- all 13 members at the time voted saying change the name we don't want to have anything to do with you coming back to the city unless you change the name.
SHERWOODBut every mayor since Tony Williams has been negotiating privately and working hard to bring the team back, every mayor since Tony Williams.
NNAMDIAnd of course a football stadium is only in use for football between 8 and 12 times a year, but there's all of these...
SHERWOODYes, but this would be something different. It would be about 60,000 Dome stadium, which would be used for other things, other kinds of sports...
O'CONNELLSee this is -- I got to stop you here Tom. I got to stop you here, because we got to talk about NFL stadium you get 8 or 10 home games a year, maybe, you get five concerts, you get like Taylor Swift and U2, I don't know a couple others. And...
SHERWOODBut these ancillary development -- I'm not saying -- I'm not for it, but I'm just saying the -- as you know...
NNAMDII hate to break in the middle of this argument, but as you know this is the last day of our yearend membership campaign.
SHERWOODIt's not an argument. It's observation.
NNAMDIAnd so we have to get people to participate in that. So Jonathan O'Connell thank you so much for joining us.
O'CONNELLThank you, Kojo. I appreciate it.
NNAMDIWe're going to take a short break. When we come back we'll be talking with Nancy Navarro the Montgomery County Council President. I'm Kojo Nnamdi.
NNAMDIWelcome back to the Politics Hour with Tom Sherwood. He's our resident analyst and a contributing writer for Washington City Paper. Joining us in studio is Nancy Navarro. She's the president of the Montgomery County Council. Nancy Navarro thank you for joining us and congratulations.
MS. NANCY NAVARROThank you so much, Kojo. It's great to be here.
NNAMDIBefore we get to Montgomery County, Tom Sherwood, let's talk Virginia a little bit. The Atlantic Coast pipeline seems to have run into another problem this time from a panel of federal judges rejecting permits, noting that the Forest Service had raised proper environmental questions early in its permit process. And the judges say those issues were suddenly and mysteriously assuaged in time to meet a private company's deadlines. This all has to do with crossing the Appalachian trail.
SHERWOODYes, it -- the ruling by the panel of judges is pretty blunt. And Dominion energy now, which is pushing this 7 billion dollar project, of course says it will appeal the decision. But this is the pipeline that will go right through the heart of Virginia, from West Virginia right down to North Carolina. But the judges requoted Dr. Seuss saying, "We trust the United States Forest Service to speak for the trees, for the trees have no tongue." I mean, that's really unusual for a court case.
SHERWOODBut this is a big setback for the pipeline. People had thought that Governor Ralph Northam wasn't doing enough to oppose it and maybe doing too much to allow it to go forward. But the court was pretty clear that the Forest Service did not account for federal lands that could be impact -- and I hate the word impacted -- could be affected by this pipeline and just told them you can't do it.
NNAMDIBut there's another appeal coming so this...
SHERWOODThere's always an appeal.
SHERWOODSo this story is one...
SHERWOODThat's our court system.
NNAMDI...we'll be following. Nancy Navarro this is your second stint as council president in Montgomery County. You served in that role from December 2012 to December 2013. This is a very different council though. What have term limits, which kicked in this time around for many council members, what have term limits meant for the council?
NAVARROWell, most certainly it's meant that now we have four new council members. I think there was a combination probably of the fact that, you know, a former county executive Leggett had announced that he wouldn't run. And so as you know many of my colleagues ran for that seat as well as term limits. And then we have public campaign financing that I think all of that came together for a very energetic and robust primary and resulted in four new council members.
SHERWOODHow does the term limit law affect you?
NAVARROI am just starting my last term.
SHERWOODStarting last term.
NAVARROYes, although, you know, there was a very interesting wrinkle to the proposal that past where on social media it was very clear that there were certain organizations that very anti-immigrant were championing the certain particular language that was just for me. And, you know, basically saying that a partial service of a term would count as a full term, which would have cut my time short. But then there was no definition of a full term. It's very technical. Anyway, there's (unintelligible).
SHERWOODBut you're there until 20...
NAVARRONow, I'm there until 2022.
SHERWOODAnd as president the second time. This is -- you are selected by your -- by the other council members to be president.
SHERWOODFor all the progressive things going on people look up in this nine member council you are the only female, the only woman.
NAVARROI'm the one, yeah, I'm the one woman standing.
NNAMDIWhen you first joined the council in 2009 there were four women on the council.
NNAMDIWhat's going on?
NAVARROWell, that's a very good question. I mean, I'm the last woman standing. I think that perhaps again the fact is that, you know, my new colleagues -- the majority of them were people that had either run before. I mean, you had Gabe Albornoz, who is director of recreation. I think name recognition played a role in some way, because there were just so many people running in the primary. But we had a really amazing group of very qualified women that now I think, you know, have this experience and I'm sure we will see many them running again in 2022 and perhaps see a totally different result. So that's something to look forward to.
NNAMDIWhenever they run in 2022, they're likely going to have to have petitions before they are able to qualify as candidates, because one of the first things this new council did was to discuss a bill that would require county executive and council candidates to gather petition signatures to appear on the ballot, this after an incredibly crowded Democratic primary that saw 33 people running for four at large council seats. Do you approve of that and why is there not already a petition requirement?
NAVARROYou know, I'm not really sure that I am that enthusiastic about this particular proposal. As I said, I think we had a very unique situation, this last time. But in some ways, you know, we spent a lot of time talking about how do we encourage, especially, more people of color to run. And to add something else to that seems to me perhaps not necessary. None the less, you know, when you're going to participate in the public campaign finance you do have to reach a certain threshold, which I think already also helps in terms of viability. But I don't know we haven't taken a formal position on that particular proposal. I understand some of the, you know, impetus behind it, but I think this was just a very unique circumstances last time.
SHERWOODIt does -- that's petitions in the city. It does require you and your team to go out and meet people and get them to sign.
SHERWOODAlthough it also -- it causes lots of headaches in various campaigns if they don't do it properly. Let me -- I was at your -- the lunch last -- was it just last week? It seems like a year ago, things move so fast.
NAVARROTell me about it.
SHERWOODThe Montgomery Council had a lunch for media and lots of people came. It was a good turnout. I asked you then. I'll ask you now. One of your former council members is now the county executive, Marc Elrich. And I asked you, Given his reputation for sometimes being on the short end of eight to one votes and sticking in a tough way to his positions, how would he be working as a county executive? There's been a couple things. He's appointed some people. He's renewed people from Ike Leggett's, the previous county executive.
SHERWOODHe's -- I think he's been talking to you. What's the early report card on Marc Elrich attempts to reach out to the council members?
NAVARROSure. You know, I would give him an A in terms of his, you know, approach thus far with reaching out, trying to be collaborative, and really wanting to hear out what's happening. But the reality is of course this is the honeymoon stage. I mean, when we come back in January is when things are going to, you know, start in essence and that's when we're going to figure out that there's a rhythm. He has been very vocal about his approach to definitely work super closely with the council and I think that it's a very important approach I think this is how we're able to get things done in a very productive fashion. So I look forward to that.
SHERWOODBut you specifically throw up an asterisks over his first appointments. He named a chief administrative officer and a budget director and a recreation director but there were no minorities, unless Rich Madaleno as a gay person. That's I guess is a minority. But your concern was the reflection of the or the county on the various county jobs.
SHERWOODHe does say he takes it very seriously, racial diversity very seriously.
SHERWOODBut you are watching to see who is next.
NAVARROI am, I mean, you know, I just have some figures here. You know, 55 percent of county residents are a racial or ethnic minority, 41 percent not English speakers at home. And so I am a very data driven person. I look at numbers. And I look at our responsibility to respond to the needs of our constituents and this who are constituents are. So if you believe in outcomes based decision making then you have to make sure that those are at the very top of this administration reflect the community.
NAVARROI mean, because this is how you're going to be able to understand exactly what do those programs, the design of those programs the decision making around budgets how is that going to truly respond to the needs. And we have a lot of disparities in Montgomery County that a lot of people may not know about. And so that's why I want to be you know very bold around this outcome.
SHERWOODDisparities in terms of social services, housing?
SHERWOODEverything across the board.
NAVARROYeah, oh yeah, education disparities, access to healthcare, you know, income and equality, all of those are very much present in Montgomery County. And so again this is something that we have discussed a lot and, you know, Marc has always been very involved in these conversations and very vocal about it. So, you know, this is a really good opportunity for him to really move ahead with this type of decision making and with those folks on the top.
NNAMDILet's move on to a specific issue, climate change. Here's Jeff in Poolesville, Maryland. Jeff you're on the air. Go ahead please.
JEFFThank you. I'm actually in Germantown, so, but that's okay. I just want to ask Nancy, since you voted for the climate emergency resolution and since an emergency does call for immediate and strong action. What do you plan to do to follow through on the resolution and actually fight climate change?
NAVARROYeah, I mean, as you know we have passed -- we did pass a bill that created a position so that we can have somebody -- and I think that's a very important position, you know, a policy officer as well as many of the different bills and programs that we have approved in order to make Montgomery County government as efficient as possible, when it comes to sustainability and respect for our environment, as well as many votes that we have made on land use that have protected, especially our waterways and things like that.
NAVARROSo I think that that is in that way, we're moving ahead. Once again I think once Marc Elrich is, you know, there and is settled with all of his appointments etcetera. We're going to be able to work together to push this agenda even more. We did try and I was working very closely with council member -- former council member Berliner on this issue of, you know, divesting looking at our investment portfolio in fossil fuels. And we're able to I think make some headways. But there is definitely a blueprint and I feel very strongly that we're going to be able to address that.
SHERWOODWell, one of the environmental issues is quality of life issue is transportation. I know Marc Elrich has told the governor he thinks that the you ought to be looking at fixing the American Legion bridge rather than adding reversible lanes or more lanes to I-270. The pollution generated by the hundreds of thousands, millions of cars over the year. That's a major issue do you have a sense where you are and what needs to be done to unstuck Montgomery County?
NAVARROWell, you know, we spent a lot of time discussing this and adopting master plans that are in my opinion are forward thinking, but also acting and of course it's no secret that this is a council that has always prioritized transit, which is why we, you know, just broke ground on the route 29 BRT line as a start point.
SHERWOODBus Rapid Transit, right?
NAVARROYes, Bus Rapid Transit. But we also understand that, you know, there's some capacity issues in 270 and 495 and we're...
NNAMDIHold that thought for a second, because the capacity issues on 270 and 495 are what we're going to get to after we take this short break for our year end membership campaign asking you to become a member of WAMU. I'm Kojo Nnamdi.
NNAMDIWelcome back to the Politics Hour, with Tom Sherwood. He's our resident analyst and a contributing writer for Washington City Paper. We're talking with Nancy Navarro. She's the president of the Montgomery County council. We were talking when we left off about I-270 and the Beltway. In his inaugural address, County Executive Marc Elrich said of the Capital Beltway quoting here, "Note to the governor no Beltway widening." Indeed the plan to widen the Capital Beltway has been controversial in Montgomery County. What do you want to see happen to it? And who should have a say?
NAVARROWell, you know, the county council understands that there are of course significant issues with capacity both on 270 and 495. And, you know, we have been on record saying that we would prefer if there were to be widening that it would be in addition of two lanes in each way. That could also be reversible in peak hours. But with a caveat that obviously there are certain areas, especially on 495 that the right away there it can be very compromised. And so we do not support any particular widening that is going to affect, you know, anything further than that right away.
NAVARROAnd, you know, hospitals like Holy Cross, and people who live in that part of the county specifically, you know, people are very concerned about what can occur. So we're still in that conversation, obviously, with SHA and we know are delegation.
SHERWOODThat's State Highway Administration.
NAVARROState Highway Administration, because they have a number of options, you know, that they have put forth, but they have not really tailored that down or reduced those options, yet. And so right now we're in that mode of being as vocal as we can, working with our delegations, delegation in Annapolis, to be very clear about what we like to see. We also would like to, you know, consider multi modal, treatments as well, because at the end of the day for us it's about how do you move more people in the most efficient way. But in that, you know, it's been a little frustrating, because we have not received, you know, enough information.
NAVARROOur planning board also has been very involved. But we were going to continue to be unified and in that (unintelligible).
SHERWOODLet me ask you this question about that, what is the Montgomery County role. Does the council have to vote on what changes would be made to I-495 and I-270? Could the governor's administration just go forward with it?
NNAMDISteam roll over the county.
SHERWOODI didn't want to use that word.
NAVARROWell, let me just say that it's a collaborative approach, but we don't...
SHERWOODBut I mean, legally do you have -- you cannot veto something the governor wants to do on 495 or 270?
NAVARRONo, no, correct.
NNAMDIExcept the state delegate Alfred Carr Jr. has introduced a bill that would require state officials to get Montgomery County's approval before they can build a toll road through it. How do you feel about that legislation?
NAVARROYou know, it's a something that we are looking at and we did have a preliminary discussion on the council about that. I know that at least one of my colleagues wants to understand that a little be more, council member Riemer. He is a little bit worried about whether that hurts us in terms of leverage instead of helping us. So we are looking at that particular proposal trying to see whether this will, you know, position us in a place of strength. But, you know, I am really hopeful.
NAVARROI would say that, you know, Governor Hogan understands the importance of what Montgomery County, you know, has expressed. I really am hopeful that we can work this out. And that he would respect the wishes of, you know, those residents and also the leadership of the county.
NNAMDIWe had a conversation with Council Member Riemer and the -- Alfred Carr the delegate, earlier this week. I think it was on Tuesday, you can go into our archives and hear that conversation. Here's Nathaniel in Rockville. Nathaniel your turn.
NATHANIELYes, Council Member Navarro, first of all I want to congratulate you for what is a very successful career. I've followed your career ever since you were a school board member and thank you for being inclusive and just a very thorough leader. So I want to say that first. But my question points towards this, after what has been -- what someone categorizes as a very bitter and divisive election for county executive and we had so many people running for county council, the results clearly point to the fact the residents of Montgomery County have different perspective as to how what direction they want the county to go in, what things they want to have done.
NATHANIELSo my question is this, as the county council president have you had any conversations thus far with County Executive Elrich or do you intend to in order to perhaps ramp up the existing program the council has in place for town hall meetings and also do listening sessions. I think now more than ever...
NNAMDIOkay. Because you as he has pointed out, it was a very difficult race that was had and there were a lot of arguments about whether or not Marc Elrich is really business friendly enough and I guess he wants to know exactly how you are going to try to achieve with county residents some common understanding of how development should take place.
NAVARROSure. I thank Nathaniel for that question. Let me just say that, you know, I believe that this particular election was all about change management. There's just -- we're at a crossroads at Montgomery County right now and perhaps this is why the election, if you look at it very closely, you know, there was a lot of feedback around what people wish for. What I can say is that I think it's a council we have worked so--so diligently to set the stage. Both in terms of, you know, respecting the different types of areas of the county, geographic areas. But we have moved forward with this notion of smart growth around transit oriented development. We have set the stage for that.
NAVARROI'm very proud of what we have done in my part of the district for example I've led, you know, the efforts for, you know, the White Oak, the VIVA White Oak redevelopment, also revitalization in Wheaton, because we need to expand our tax base in every corner of the county. So I feel that we have all the ingredients in place. And I feel like this council is the council, especially with the new council members, that understands that and is ready to take all of those ingredients and take it to the next level.
NAVARROI've also had a lot of conversations with, you know, Executive Elrich about the importance of expanding our tax base, because you can have a lot of great ideas about how to address our, you know, needs and our growing needs and the growth and poverty, but if you don't have, you know, a revenue stream and if you're not expanding your tax base you will not be successful. So I'm -- again, I feel very good about -- in terms of where we are and where we're going. I think that he has had a lot of listening sessions. The council has a number of town halls throughout the year.
NAVARROBut believe you me our constituents are not shy about letting us know what the priorities are and where we need to go. And so I'm ready to, you know, roll up my sleeves with my colleagues and take us in a direction that is sustainable, but also addresses issues of growth.
SHERWOODOne really good thing is there is money for school construction. The governor is proposing, because of the referendum that -- the initiative that said casino profits must go to education, can't replace education money, must additionally go to education. The governor is proposing I think it's 1.9 billion dollars more in school construction projects. He says 90 percent of the back log of things that need to be done will be done.
SHERWOODThat's on -- it's in addition to some other money that's already billions for schools. That's the capitol funds. Montgomery County is growing it needs school money. Where do you see this? How much of this money do you think you'll get for Montgomery County and the desperate need for school construction and repair?
NAVARROWell, let me tell you that there's no -- you know, it's no secret that we are the largest school system and we do have quite a number of urgent needs around alleviating school overcrowding and so -- in addition to that our capital budget -- we do know that our debt service is such that we have got to rent that back. So this is very good news on that end. We have not received the specific details of how the allocation is going to be made, you know, in terms of all the jurisdictions, but of course this is always, you know, welcome news.
NAVARROAt the same time we also have to look at, you know, some conversations are taking place with the Kirwan commission, because not only do we have facility needs.
SHERWOODThat's the -- just so people know, that's the commission about school funding going forward.
SHERWOODIt has to report in January.
NNAMDIThey're looking for a new school funding formula for the state.
NAVARROYes, but, you know, as I said not only do we have capacity needs in terms of the facilities, but we also have needs for the operating, you know, requests and requirements of the school system. So, you know, yes, it's very good news and we will obviously take every single penny, because every year we feel that -- we know that we are not necessarily getting our fair share in terms of the needs that we have. But we need to wait for details and see how that's going (unintelligible).
SHERWOODIf you get Kirwan money for operations do you have to raise your own school budget to either match or to supplement that?
NAVARROYou know, I mean, usually it depends on how that's going to be structured. I mean, obviously we have a maintenance of effort law, which means of course that every time we add to the budget that becomes then the base, you know, the floor if you will for next year. So it will depend on how this is going to be structured and it's possible.
SHERWOODPolitically, if you don't get the transportation right and you don't get the school system right that undermines your economic opportunities.
NAVARROIt totally does, you know, and again I mean this could be for another show, but that was the impetus for the decision that we made in 2016 to raise the property tax and the recreation tax, because, I mean, we're very cognizant of the notion that the school system really needed to cut class sizes, because that is definitely connected with economic development. The school system in Montgomery County is one that draws, you know, folks to decide to move to the county. And once you let a school system begin to erode it's very difficult to bring that back no matter how much money you throw at it.
NAVARROSo that was a pivotal moment. But you're absolutely right, I mean, this is the job that we have right now. Is to again take all of the assets that we already have in place in the county and take that to the next level and I said yesterday, a committee from Montgomery, you know, my goal is to work hand and hand with my colleagues to make Montgomery County very business friendly. We have to do that.
NNAMDIWe only have less than a minute left, but last year the council unanimously adopted the creation of a so called, "Equity Policy" when it comes to schools. What does that actually mean?
NAVARROActually it's not for schools. And it was actually a resolution to affirm our commitment to the adoption of a piece of legislation. So this resolution was for us to be on record. And I've led this effort. We will start in January this work. My goal is to spend the whole year, 2019, being very deliberative in this work in order to end up in the fall with a piece of legislation that will establish an equity policy in the county, county government and...
SHERWOODAcross the board?
NAVARROAcross the board.
NAVARROWe hope that the school system will come and cooperate with us and work together. But that would be a school board decision. But this is for county government specifically.
NNAMDINancy Navarro is the Montgomery County council president. Once again congratulations and thank you for joining us.
NAVARROThank you. Thank you so much for having me. I appreciate it.
NNAMDIToday's Politics hour was produced by Mark Gunnery. Coming up on Monday's show a group of Prince George's county police officers have sued their department, alleging discrimination against black and Hispanic officers. Plus it's the season of giving, how are local nonprofits meeting the out pouring of volunteers and donations? What do they actually need time, money, gifts? We'll discuss it all Monday at noon. Until then thank you for listening. I'm Kojo Nnamdi.
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