The cooks and laborers who built the foundation of our county's culinary traditions have often gone unnoticed throughout history.
As the partial federal government shutdown continues, how is it affecting locals? Could new laws in Virginia and D.C. require clergy to report child abuse or neglect, even if they hear about it in confessionals? And just how much money does Virginia have to spend in its next budget?
We look at all of the week’s biggest political news stories, and talk to former Montgomery County Executive Ike Leggett and newly elected Arlington County Board Member Matt de Ferranti.
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 Matt de Ferranti who is an Arlington County Board Member -- who's a new Arlington County Board Member. And joining us in studio now is Isaiah or Ike Leggett who is the former County Executive for Montgomery County. Ike Leggett, good to see you. Thank you for joining us.
MR. IKE LEGGETTThank you for having me.
NNAMDIBefore we get the questions directly for Ike Leggett, Tom Sherwood, let's talk a little bit about Mayor Bowser's plan to reduce opioid deaths in the District of Columbia by half by late 2020. It's a 22-page report titled "Live Long DC -- Washington DC Strategic Plan to Reduce Opioid Use, Misuse and Related Death." It is a very ambitious plan reminding me a little bit of Washington's Vision Zero Plan to end traffic fatalities by 2020.
SHERWOODBoy, there's nothing that a government doesn't do better than to come up with a plan. And certainly the mayor's no different than any other government in the country. Charles Allen, the Ward 6 Councilmember said this is kind of unrealistic to think you can have this opioid crisis that's dogging the entire nation, to say, okay we'll get rid of it within the next two years, 2019 and 2020. But at least it's an acknowledgement from the criticism the city has had, a sporadic not very well organized assault on people who have drug addiction problems.
SHERWOODYou know, back when we had the crack cocaine thing the idea was just to lock all the people up. Now there's more an effort to get people into treatment, but it's also the aging of an epidemic. A lot of the people who are dying are older people who have been using drugs for many decades. It's a very serious thing. It's good that the Mayor spoke directly to it.
NNAMDIAnd you have had experience with this kind of thing, Ike Leggett, because the opioid crisis is a nationwide crisis and I'm sure you've experienced it also in Montgomery County.
LEGGETTCertainly, and certainly throughout the entire state of Maryland we've had a great deal of challenges it relates to. I want to commend Lieutenant Governor Boyd Rutherford, who 40 years had organized a taskforce and to work in Maryland to try to resolve some of the challenges. But even with that we continue to have ongoing problems and challenges, not only in Montgomery County, throughout the state of Maryland. It is a nationwide problem.
SHERWOODAnd to have treatment available is the main thing. Whatever counseling you can give people, whatever the issues are, you have to have the anecdote, the drugs available to help people.
LEGGETTCertainly and there's a comprehensive way to approach this, but treatment certainly is helpful, but it requires a great deal of help and support across the board in order to address a very, very serious problem.
NNAMDIAnd Maryland Governor Hogan is trying to take steps to make sure that the Washington Redskins football team remains in Maryland, remains in Prince Georges County as a matter of fact, but at a different location, location known as Oxen Cove. He is pushing that. The people, who live in that neighborhood don't seem to think very highly of it and environmentalists. As I said, residents are angry about the potential loss of this park that includes historical exhibits and a working farm. This according to a report in the Washington Post by Rachel Chason, but he's going ahead with it and everybody in this jurisdiction, the District of Columbia and Virginia, are all trying to land a home for this team.
SHERWOODWell, some of the political leaders are but, you know, people who are gonna be affected by a stadium of this type are not happy whether you're talking about Potomac yards in Virginia when the team first tried to go back there when Doug Wilder was governor of Virginia. That's why they ended up going to that spot of land there in Prince Georges County. The team wants a new stadium. The stadium it has is too big, it's not accessible and so they're trying to find a place to move. Whether or not they'll move back to the District of Columbia where Mayor Bowser openly wants them to return or whether they'll go to Oxen Cove.
SHERWOODBut, you know, this would be -- this is a $3 billion business. Whether you like the team name or hate the team name, whether you're disgusted by the owner of the team...
NNAMDI...and the president (laugh) of the team.
SHERWOODYes. Well, you know, this is a multibillion dollar business and to bring it to that part of the county where the casino is and the redevelopment of all that area could make sense, but, well, you shouldn't criticize people. They don't want to give up a 500-acre -- I apologize for my allergy today. I sound funny. I hope it's -- I don't sound any funnier than normal. But you don't want to give up all that land, but the governor says, we want to keep this business, not a team, we want to keep this business in Maryland.
NNAMDIBut, Ike Leggett, invariably there are people who say, we want to give away too much to these already very wealthy owners of teams, because, as Tom Sherwood said, it seems to be good for business, but there are others who say it's really not worth it.
LEGGETTWell, first of all, Tom is right. The people who are in close proximity almost in any jurisdiction anywhere in the entire country are going to object. But oftentimes you have to look at the overall business objective and try to pare that with some of the environmental and traffic challenges that are in the area. I think those are workable. I don't believe that you pursue this simply, because you want a team. You pursue this because it makes good sense for the entire public overall. It makes good business sense and I think the location, at least on paper, makes sense, but you have to work through some of the intermediate details that people are complaining about.
SHERWOODWe should be clear. There's one thing that's kind of misunderstanding. There's a feeling that some people are saying, well, the team has to move by 2027 when its current lease in Prince Georges County is up.
NNAMDIThey can renew that lease.
SHERWOODThat is simply not true. I don’t' even know where that came from. The team wants to move, because Dan Snyder, the aforementioned owner, wants a new stadium. He wants something in the more 60, 65,000 range, he wants a dome stadium so they can perhaps host a Super Bowl. He wants to be in an area where he can have more development around it. You can't just have a big stadium with parking spaces around it. So he's working very hard, he's just not doing a very good job in his own public relations of anybody really wanting Dan Snyder to come to their neighborhood.
LEGGETTThat starts with the name by the way. (laugh)
SHERWOODOh, yeah, the name. I mean, the name is -- you know, the DC Council, David Grosso the Councilmember here most recently got the entire Council to say, look, we will entertain this idea if you change the name and if you don't expect us to pay for the stadium. And that's been the city's position for a decade or more.
NNAMDIOn now to the federal government shutdown, earlier this week we put out a call to local federal employees to let us know how the partial government shutdown is affecting them. Here are a couple of the responses we got. One employee said, "Although the furlough was conducted in an orderly manner there is something crazy about being employed, but unable to work. In my mind it happened fast. I really don't like the uncertainty. Where else can a commander in chief get rid of his staff in such short notice right before Christmas and simply not pay them? This is my concern. How can I continue to work for an employer, who brags about not wanting to pay me? It's very unsatisfying."
NNAMDIAn employee of ICE, Immigration and Customs Enforcement writes, "I, like many of my colleagues in my office, joined our agency, because of its role in combating transnational crime, not because of some desire to remove so-called undesirables. These past two years it feels like on the one hand our agency has taken an extreme direction, which has knowingly gone along with the administration's misleading of the public concerning immigration and border issues. And on the other I feel like we take a disproportionate amount of time -- amount of blame for the immigration mess. In some ways it's a nice break to be away from the storm even if it is without pay. (laugh) That said, crime doesn't stop because the government does."
NNAMDIIke Leggett, Montgomery County has a large number of federal employees as does the rest of this region. You were County Executive during the course of a number of these government shutdowns. What do you think about this one and what role can a county government play during a shutdown like this?
LEGGETTI think that we need to ensure that people fully understand the importance of the federal sector in not only Montgomery County, but throughout the entire region. You mentioned a couple of specific instances as it relates to federal workers, but there's also ancillary impacts as well. The restaurants, the bars, the transit and travel agencies around...
LEGGETT...Metro -- all are impacted by this decision. I think people do not recognize and accept the importance of the federal workers until there's a crisis, until there's a problem. And we need to move beyond that, because these are very important jobs. They're relevant to our society, but also relevant to our economy and to make -- the kinds of decisions that are being made at the national level without those considerations. So we need to continue to press our federal agencies, our federal -- the representatives to make sure that they carry that message forth to ensure that we get open as quickly as possible.
NNAMDIDC Mayor Muriel Bowser has written a letter to the President asking him to bring a rapid end to the shutdown. As far as I know, he has not responded.
SHERWOODWell, I would -- well, I shouldn't -- I would bet he probably hasn't even seen the letter (laugh) and if he did see it I doubt -- it's two or three paragraphs so it might be too long for him to read it, (laugh) but she said in that letter, there are no winners when it comes to a shutdown. And here's a national thing but as the former County Executive was saying, you know, the people who are working in the small carry-outs or who were tipped workers or who are cab drivers, who don't get the customer, they're not gonna be reimbursed at the end of this big political battle. The contract workers who try to -- who do lots of things, there are millions of jobs and millions of people, who will not be reimbursed once this battle between the President and the Congress is over.
NNAMDIOur guest is Ike Leggett, the former County Executive of Montgomery County. Tom Sherwood, what are you burning to ask Ike Leggett?
SHERWOODWhy is he here? He's a has been. (laugh)
LEGGETTNo, no, I looked at...
NNAMDIHe's here because we invited him.
LEGGETTNo, no, I look at that as not a has been, but liberation. (laugh)
SHERWOODDo you still live in Burtonsville?
LEGGETTI certainly do.
SHERWOODYou know, I'd have said, okay -- the last couple of days I said I'm gonna go back and look over your career. You know, it took too long. I didn't even get through half of it.
NNAMDIYou've had a long career.
SHERWOODI went back -- I listened to a 2008 program with you and Kojo before I was gracing this program. You talked about the things you were trying to do. You'd just been elected in 2006 and you took office in 2007 I guess. You were worried about the economy, you were worried about schools and you were worried about traffic and you were worried about public safety. On your way out the door you worry about schools, you worry about traffic, public safety and development. And it made me think, you know, with all the controversies that you've had in your time in office, both as a Councilmember and as County Executive three terms, you don't solve these problems. You manage them. Is that right?
LEGGETTYou manage them for the better and for a period of time with the foundation that you assume that those who follow you will carry through all that and make things even better, yes.
SHERWOODYou've had -- you know, you had the financial crisis of 2007, 8 and 9. You had another one, you had to raise taxes in 2016. You've just had to do a lot of things to keep the county moving.
NNAMDIAnd you have called the county's financial management your proudest accomplishment as County Executive.
LEGGETTRight. Let's go back and look at where I started when I came in. The county budget had increased by 40 percent over the four prior years before I assumed office. We were down to about right around $100 million in financial reserve. When I've left, we are now at half a billion dollars in financial reserves and our reserves are up at 9.4 percent as compared to 2.1 percent. We built and constructed 77,000 affordable housing units. We've added 23,000 classroom seats. Our traffic situation has improved.
LEGGETTBut, as you've said, you have not gotten to the problem -- to the position where those things are totally solved. But I think if you go back and look at a recent editorial in the Washington Post and all that has been written in the last few weeks, we've had marked improvement on virtually everything that you've just described. Crime is down considerably in the county overall.
SHERWOODBut in terms of reducing the size of the government, in terms of actual jobs...
LEGGETTOh yeah, we've reduced...
SHERWOOD...cut a billion dollars or so out of...
LEGGETTNo, no. We cut anticipated challenges for the county $3.7 billion over that 12-year period. The county government in terms of size is down about 10 percent, 1253 positions. So remarkably on any kind of objective standard you look at, we're much better. And the current County Executive, the current Council will say, we're in a much better position than we were when I took office.
SHERWOODSo you were slow to endorse Marc Elrich for County Executive. What do you say to him having given all those years...
LEGGETTNo, no. I wasn't slow to...
LEGGETTNo, no, no. I -- you talk about being jealous. (laugh)
SHERWOODOh, being jealous. Well, actually that's the other issue (laugh) -- that's right. I'm sorry, the jealous you were slow to endorse, because you had a good working relationship with Governor Hogan.
LEGGETTNot only that. We had some differences on some issues that I think he and I ultimately worked through so it's a combination.
SHERWOODWhere did -- all right, going forward, Marc Elrich is -- a lot of people thought he might be too liberal and come in and tear up the place. He's reappointed several of your department heads. He's reached out across the county. What is he doing right, what is he doing wrong as he steps into your job?
LEGGETTWell, first of all, I endorsed him right away. I believe that Marc, having worked in the county for a number of years, understand the issues and the challenges we face. He's a very intelligent person. And I think that people have labeled him too fast that he's too aggressive, too progressive and...
LEGGETT...antidevelopment. And I think most of those things are not true and you have to give him an opportunity. And I think he's started in the right direction. And I'm very hopeful that given the County Council, given the concerns that have been expressed and given his willingness to work with all the people that you just described, that we're gonna see a very, very good and productive tenuous County Executive from Marc.
NNAMDIWhat advice would you give to him and other future County Executives about how you balance the concerns of the business community and labor in Montgomery County?
LEGGETTWell, the thing that you have to keep in mind that you have to listen to all the people and be responsive to everyone across the board, even those who disagree with you. Secondly, you have to recognize also the finance monies and budgetary management is in fact very, very important, because there are creative ideas out there, a great deal of innovation. But at some point in time you're gonna need resources. Maintaining a triple A bond rating, understanding having sustainable budgets going forth a long period of time I think is helpful.
LEGGETTAlso keep in mind that when you look at Montgomery County, we're not an entity in and of itself. This is not the state of Montgomery County. We're a part of (laugh) the state of Maryland and you have to work with the governor. You have to work with all the legislators across the board in order to ensure that the county residents are not being taken advantage of and you can resolve some of the overall challenges we have. Transportation, education, all of those challenges must be dealt with as it relates to a good relationship with the state of Maryland.
SHERWOODI think one of the things that's changed a great deal from the time you first decided to run for the Council is social media.
SHERWOODNo Twitter, no Facebook, no Instagram, no emails. I mean, back then you had to make a phone call.
NNAMDINo, no, we had beepers. (laugh)
LEGGETTAnd beepers. I know, and beepers. But now people are in touch with their government and county leaders on an hour-to-hour basis. I tell people in the news business we don't have a 24-hour news cycle. We have a 24-second news cycle. How has social media changed the ability of you to both be in touch with constituents and also not be overwhelmed by constituents?
LEGGETTWell, you can easily be overwhelmed, because people want responses and want them instantly. And when you have to make major decisions it's not quite that easy. And secondly, when you have people that you don't see, you don't have an opportunity to look them in the eye and talk about the challenges it becomes a little bit more difficult. But one of the things that I did, and Marc is continuing to do, is to reach out. I was probably the most accessible County Executive in the history of our county. Town hall meetings, forums, budget challenges, all of those things, I went directly to the people and talked to them, all of the people across the board.
LEGGETTAnd so if you maintain that level of contact you'll be in a position to make better decisions. They're not gonna be perfect, but people will understand them and appreciate them. But you're correct that it has changed and you have to make adjustments accordingly.
SHERWOODAnd also the change in the media, you know, Gaithersburg Gazette, disappeared. And...
SHERWOOD...and the Journal, but then you also have Bethesda Beat and some other more online news organizations, Maryland Matters and some other things that deal with state issues. How has the change in -- other than Kojo getting much older -- how has media changed in terms of how you behave and how -- what reports call you up and want to know what's going on?
LEGGETTWell, one of the things that we've faced that many of the institutions that you've just described are new and we see it far too often quick turnover. To have reporters who've been on the beat for long periods of time who understand the issues at a local level I think is crucially important regardless of the media which you want to -- media that you're gonna utilize. Not having that and you have the constant quick turnover, to me does not serve the public as well as it should. And so whatever institution you're looking at, you need to have people who are paid appropriately, who are gonna stay and maintain those positions for a period of time in order to serve the public much better.
NNAMDIHere is Susie in Rockville, Maryland. Susie, you're on the air. Go ahead, please.
SUSIEHello. Thank you for having me. I am calling from Rockville to applaud the leadership of County Executive Leggett for leading the county to be one of the first full communities in the nation to end homelessness of veterans. And we're on the verge of ending homelessness for people, who face chronic homelessness, who have disabilities long term histories of homelessness. And will be announcing an initiative this summer to end family homelessness. We could not have accomplished this without the County Executive's leadership and his experience as a veteran really was key in our ability to make this grand accomplishment. So...
NNAMDIIke Leggett, is that an accomplishment you're proud of and you take credit for?
LEGGETTI think it's a combination of things, the county Council along with the Coalition of Homelessness in Montgomery County and many of the organizations, our Veterans Commission all work into achieve this particular objective. We've had a great deal of success as it relates to veterans, but as Susie has just indicated, we still have some challenges that are out there and it's an ongoing challenge that we have to continue to work, contribute and to make sure that our elected leaders are gonna be as responsive to this challenge.
NNAMDISusie, thank you very much for your call. Connie on our website commented, "I worked for Montgomery County for a number of years in the now disbanded Department of Economic Development. I almost fell out of my chair last month when I read in a front page article in the Washington Post that my former supervisor pled guilty to embezzling $6.7 million in county funds. Clearly a lack of internal financial controls enabled this to take place over a six-year period. How is this being remedied and what responsibilities are senior officials taking?"
LEGGETTWell, we all take responsibility for it even though it's at a much lower level within the old Department of Economic Development. We cannot deny that and there are some system procedures that have been in place with the county going back for a number of years that we instituted many years ago. There are a whole list of changes, that would be too long to list, to avoid this kind of a challenge in the future. The IG report as well as a report from the state's attorney and many others, of outlined ways in which we can easily prevent this. But the challenge here is, I think, with the lack of oversight, a lack of accountability that allowed a very clever, a very well-known and likeable person to take advantage of the system that was able to utilize it over a number of years.
SHERWOODI know I forgot to -- I can't show these on TV on YouTube. This is...
LEGGETTWell, this -- yeah, well, this is somewhat -- this is when my photograph was actually on the literature. But there's a story that goes back when I first ran for office. There was no photograph of me in the campaign literature. We ran for six months without a photograph of Ike Leggett actually being in the...
NNAMDIWhat are you wondering? What happened to the big afro on this...
SHERWOODWell, you know, that's quite the change. Maybe we'll put this up on the Kojo website.
NNAMDII had one of those too. (laugh)
LEGGETTBut you don't have one without the photograph. That's the one that you...
SHERWOODNo. I'll give that to Kojo and he can put that up on his website later. People can take a look at it.
NNAMDII wanted to go to schools, but you wanted to deal with...
SHERWOODI just want to do a little more personal -- this is like, you know, the end of the year, the old man...
NNAMDI...the exit interview?
SHERWOOD...Father Time is leaving. I want to know what you're gonna do -- you've got -- what are you gonna be doing in your time? Are you gonna go back and teach?
LEGGETTNo. I do not want to teach. I'm retiring and that means that for the time being, at least for another year-and-a-half or so, I will travel, do some research. I will do some writing and take time to reflect on many of the things that I've done over the years, but I'm not interested in hard fast work at this point in time.
SHERWOODYou gonna travel to a little town in Texas where you were born or Louisiana?
LEGGETTWell, I never lived in Texas.
SHERWOOD...you gonna go down there or you gonna go worldwide on us?
LEGGETTBoth. I'm heading to Australia and New Zealand next month for about a month or so. I just returned from Mexico.
SHERWOODJust a personal trip for -- not business, not...
LEGGETTNo, it's not business.
SHERWOOD...not a tax deductible trip. (laugh)
NNAMDIHow many job offers have you turned down?
LEGGETTToo many and, as I said before, I'm not interested in working and hopefully I can maintain this presence for at least another year, year-and-a-half.
NNAMDIWell, let's talk about schools. There are a number of firsts for the new Montgomery County school board. It is 100 percent women, headed by an African American woman and is majority people of color. How significant is that?
LEGGETTI think it is significant. That's an achievement but one I think that we need to take a step back on. When you look at our school system today, one of the things that is lacking, male presence, especially at the elementary school. I love all of the women that are on. They are terrific public servants, but I would love to have had some males on that board. Because that's a huge, huge challenge for us not to have that level of presence, because fathers' involvement in the school system, involvement in the PTA, involvement in the board of education, I think, is essential for our overall community. So I would love to have seen some male presence there.
NNAMDIDo you think that's a factor in the achievement gap? How do you think the school system can...
LEGGETTNo, I don't think that's a factor in the achievement gap. It's a combination of things in that the societal challenge that we have when you have kids who are being reared by one parent. You have kids who are not in appropriate housing, all the other social elements that hit that. And then you expect it between the hours of 8:00 and 4:00 in the afternoon. For the school system to resolve all of that is not something that is easily resolved.
LEGGETTClearly there are some financial and budgetary -- monetary problems that we need to address as it relates to the school system, but overall the achievement gap would not be solved solely by the challenges that we have within the school system, but our entire community working collectively on a variety and host of other issues.
SHERWOODThe state -- you were chair of the state of Maryland Democratic Party in the eighties? When -- I can't remember now when you...
NNAMDIWhat's what I thought.
SHERWOODI thought it was longer ago than that. Maya Rockeymoore Cummings was on this show a week or so ago. The issue of women and the issue of African Americans or just minorities statewide politics continues to be a blind spot. There's just nobody getting elected statewide. What do you see going forward as a former party chair and what can be done to make certain that the Maryland Democratic Party two-to-one advantage in registration looks more like the people in the Democratic Party then just the white guys, who have the jobs?
LEGGETTWell, first of all, let me thank Kathleen Matthews, who I think did a terrific job. We elected people across the board, record turnouts, huge amounts of monies. The only thing that didn't happen was the governorship, but she did a very good job. And that's a difficult job especially when you do not have the governorship and you're serving as party chair.
SHERWOODSeveral good county executive...
LEGGETTThat's right. Several county executives maintained virtually where we were in the state Senate, even increased the numbers in the state House. So she did a terrific job. I anticipate that there'll be a plan moved forward to address the governorship, because if you look across the board, Democrats did very well. I'm not sure whether or not there's a combination of how we message, how we present the candidates that we've offered for governor.
LEGGETTAnd also keep in mind that we were running against a very popular governor and had a huge amount of money, had distanced himself from Donald Trump, had worked very well with the local communities. And he was going to be very difficult to beat under any circumstances. People need to recognize that. That was gonna be a very difficult task. And you look at the numbers, for example, even in Montgomery County the governor did 44 percent. With the exception of Montgomery County, Baltimore City, Prince Georges County and a very narrow win in Charles County, the Republicans won -- the Republican governorship won everywhere across the board.
LEGGETTAnd we simply cannot afford, especially in areas around the Baltimore suburb, Anne Arundel County, Hartford County, Howard County, Baltimore County. We were just simply wiped out in those areas. And we need to have candidates that are going to appeal across the board for all of those residents, especially in those suburbs.
LEGGETTWell, in that election, Ben Jealous, many people said, was too progressive, that the Democratic Party got ahead of the people of Maryland and that he was too progressive. This is kind of the fight we're already seeing nationally with the Democrats, is to get ready for 2020. The state party turned down Rushern Baker, the kind of establishment candidate that you endorsed...
SHERWOOD...for governor and went with Ben Jealous who had a more progressive platform...
SHERWOOD...but just didn't sell it as well. And now the Democrats, as you look to 2020, whether President Trump runs again or not, that we're already hearing, are we gonna have more progressive younger people involved or is there going to...
NNAMDIWe've got about two minutes left.
SHERWOODOh, well then, answer the question. How is the National Party doing?
LEGGETTI think the National Party's doing very well under Tom Perez leadership.
SHERWOODI mean, you can't just have Trump all the time.
LEGGETTBut we are going to solve the problem that you've just described. I think that we'll have a candidate that will appeal across the board, because I think people are more interested in making sure we have policies that are gonna work and that they recognize the challenge of who's in the White House today. And that will override the differences, which are not as great as people have described among the various candidates that are running for president. I'm convinced that we're gonna be on the right accord this time.
NNAMDIAnd finally here's Kathryn in Tacoma Park. Kathryn, you're on the air. Go ahead, please.
KATHRYNHi Kojo and hi Ike and hi Tom.
KATHRYNI wanted to clarify that a lot of people in the press have been saying that the federal employees will be reimbursed after the shutdown. That is not at all certain. It requires an act of Congress...
KATHRYN...and agreement by the President before that, so that would be a separate bill that would need to go through. And so I think there's a lot of uncertainty for employees, not only when they'll be able to go back to work, but whether they will be reimbursed.
SHERWOODWell, that's true but -- and I think in the past there's always been a reimbursement for the federal workers themselves. But...
LEGGETTIt requires an act of Congress and acceptance by the President.
NNAMDIAnd then there's this, a former federal employees wrote in in response to our request, I recently took a new job in the NGO world, but my previous position with an NGO was a partner position with the USDA. Most people do not realize that although a furloughed federal employee will often get back pay, partners with the federal government do not. We are forced to take paid time off if we want to be paid and most of the time are not reimbursed. This was one reason I left. This past year's repeated threats of shutdown was overwhelming. I am glad to be free of it. Well, there are a whole lot of...
SHERWOODContractor -- there are real people suffering real losses, because of this artificial debate in the national government.
NNAMDIWell, I'm afraid we're just about out of time for this segment. Ike Leggett, I'm gonna put off the rocking chair that I was having mailed to your home, because apparently...
LEGGETTMail it to Australia.
NNAMDI(laugh) ...you're gonna be out and about for a while before you relax in that rocking chair. Thank you very much for joining us...
LEGGETTThank you, Kojo and congratulations on your 20th year.
NNAMDI...and frankly and thank you for your service over all these years.
NNAMDIIke Leggett is the former Executive of Montgomery County. Coming up Matt de Ferranti. He is an Arlington County Board Member. Tom Sherwood is our resident analyst. Tom Sherwood, proposed laws here in the District of Columbia and in Virginia, ideas under consideration by the DC Attorney General and ideas under consideration in Virginia would not exempt confidential conversations such as confessionals in church for any mandatory reporters, possibly including those, as I said, that occur in the Catholic Church confessional. Virginia has a slightly narrower proposal, but this proposal likely will be meeting with some pushback from churches here.
SHERWOODWell, I don't know how much pushback there'll be because even the Catholic Church now is finally, finally, finally making more moves about abuse within the Catholic Church. And the local governments and state governments are also waking up to this. Several times in the past year, you know, we've had stories with Karl Racine, the Attorney General, here on this show saying that he was gonna look into this as a possible violation of the church's nonprofit status and all these other things. And I think we're reaching a tipping point now, maybe we've reached it, where this is not just gonna fade away and in a couple of months we'll be thinking about something else. The church has got to address it.
SHERWOODAnd in this case, even in the District of Columbia, anyone 18 years or older is by law required to report sex abuse or child abuse if they see it. Now, that's obviously not done on a regular basis, but the Attorney General says, maybe even the confessional, if someone goes within the confession booth and says something about child abuse, the priest has an obligation to report it. That could be very controversial given the privacy of that booth.
NNAMDIAnd because there's a similar proposal in Virginia, I'd like to ask Matt de Ferranti what he thinks about it. Thank you so much for joining us. Congratulations.
MR. MATT DE FERRANTIThank you for having me here. I'm glad to be here.
NNAMDII have mangled your name several times. Pronounce your last name for me properly.
NNAMDIMatt de Ferranti is an Arlington County Board Member who is a new board member. What do you think about this issue?
FERRANTIWell, it's not one that has come before me in the last month or two. I do think that the ongoing stories regarding the Catholic Church are very troubling and have been for a number of years. But I also think that, you know, there is a privacy and a confidentiality issue there with respect to confessions. So that's one that I'd have to do a little bit more looking into. I do think that's an issue that, in Virginia of course, the state legislature would be the entity that would focus on that.
NNAMDIYou unseated Independent incumbent John Vihstadt who was the first non-Democrat on the Arlington County Board in 15 years. Many people saw him as an independent voice on a very blue Council. Do you think anything gets lost when the Council only has members of one party?
FERRANTII think the benefits of multiple parties are really about the results that you can get for the citizens of Arlington County, any entity. You don't want civility just exclusively for its own sake. You want it because it can lead to better results. And what I argued over the course of the campaign was that the key issues that we needed to focus on were both our office vacancy rate and also affordable housing and some of the equity issues that I think are on a lot of Arlingtonians' minds at the moment with the continued changes that are happening to the county.
NNAMDIGlad you mentioned that. Before it was announced that Amazon would be coming to Crystal City, you said, quoting here, "There needs to be a clear net benefit to the community from the incentives that would be offered and stress the need to create a plan for the housing, education and transportation issues raised by such a large operation coming here." Now that the plan is in motion and Arlington is set to pay up to, my understand, about $51 million in incentives over the next 15 years, how do you feel the county is faring in this deal?
FERRANTIWell, on the whole I think that the ideas that have been put forward, it looks like a very good opportunity for Arlington by the standards that you just articulated that I mentioned a number of times during the campaign. I do think that the incentive that we are focused on of the 51 million, 23 million is in the transient occupancy tax, the hotel tax and its future revenues only if Amazon meets certain office leasing standards and leases a large amount of square feet of office space in Crystal City and Pentagon City. So that's the second point.
FERRANTIAnd the third point, I'd say, is that I do think the devil is gonna be in the details. We have the broad focus on that hotel tax. The second piece of what you mentioned in the 51 million is for -- actually not to Amazon. It's for improvements that will go to transportation infrastructure in that area. So I think we've got the makings and the outline and the sort of key ideas for a good deal, but the devil is in the details of the actual eventual contract that we sign with Amazon and that we agree to with the state. So there'll be a robust process on that.
SHERWOODHave you seen confidential information about the agreement with Amazon that the public has not seen?
FERRANTII have not. I've had a number of discussions in preparation for actually stepping into the seat. On January 2nd is our first meeting. So I've had those discussions. I've probably taken a longer look than many at the -- at a couple -- the draft agreement between the state and Amazon. And there's a two-page letter that's also public that I've taken a long look at. So I've looked in detail at those and had good conversations, but nothing confidential with others.
SHERWOODThe Post had a very good story this morning and I can't remember the reporter's name, Patricia -- anyway the reporter said, while Arlington is moving into this agreement with Amazon it could ask for more. It could question how much money it's gonna put up. It could put in inducements maybe for Amazon could do more for the county rather than just turning the county over to Amazon. Where are you on that?
FERRANTII believe it probably was Pat Sullivan.
SHERWOODI've known Pat for 20 years, couldn't think of her name.
NNAMDIShe's calling you right now.
FERRANTISo actually, I think many of us in the campaign, I had been more forward leaning -- even with the standard that you mentioned, Kojo, I had been more forward leaning on Amazon than my competitor. But I do think that we need to be, as we saw on December 17th, there was a public forum and Arlington residents want us to be strong in asking for everything that we can get with respect to affordable housing, renewable energy and energy efficiency. And even though Virginia law does not allow for any requirement with respect to project labor agreements, I do think it's important, it's a community value and it's...
SHERWOODJust let's be clear, project labor agreement is where a government makes an agreement with organized labor to do certain projects. They're done in the city but they're not done in Virginia.
FERRANTIThat's correct although one slight caveat I think, in this case the agreement would have to be between either the owner of the land JVG ...
FERRANTI...and as it builds construction. So it would be a private agreement, because of the way things are structured in Virginia...
NNAMDIIf you have called to speak with Matt de Ferranti, stay on the line. I will get to your calls, just a couple more questions. Housing affordability, a major concern across the region, Amazon coming to Crystal City obviously has many residents concerned that housing is only gonna get more expensive. You've said you will work on this issue with, quoting here, "creativity and relentless commitment." But what does that mean? How were you planning to ensure that Arlington County can grow economically without becoming unaffordable for long term residents?
FERRANTIWell, specifically ensuring that it becomes affordable for everyone in Arlington is a high bar. I think what Arlingtonians want and want from their leadership is a focus on everyday working on this and thinking of new tools. So the incoming county board chair, likely incoming county board chair Christian Dorsey has talked about shifts and changes to zoning that could be helpful. I think there's an accessory dwelling ordinance that might be helpful. I also think that there's changes -- we have a housing conservation and preservation ordinance that could be helpful.
FERRANTIWith respect to creativity and relentlessness, creativity, there's a -- in Richmond they have a community land trust that I think could be helpful. We're gonna have to explore ways to get the capital for a building that could lead to what's called a shared equity approach to housing. And then with respect to relentlessness, I think that the zoning shifts are possibilities and I'd like the two concrete examples I just mentioned. But I also think we have an affordable housing investment fund and making sure that our budget seeks to provide as much as we possibly can in funding for that revolving loan fund is what I mean by relentlessness.
SHERWOODWould that be working around the edges or going to the heart of the matter? Because I've talked to any number of people whether it's Montgomery County or the District of Columbia or Arlington or Alexandria, economic forces move much faster than government does. And then while you can talk about the various proposals to try to preserve affordable housing, people are telling us the prices of rental apartments in Crystal City already are going up. And that the economic force is gonna be a tsunami style force over Crystal City and Arlington County, that the government would just simply not be able to keep up.
FERRANTIWell, I think that somewhere between working around the edges and the deep and significant, what I'd say, structural change that we will need to address housing affordability is where I think we can end up. I don't think...
SHERWOODAre we talking about affordability in terms of middle income people or working poor or no income people? Arlington's already a very expensive place.
NNAMDIHe has said specifically, I think he referred to a couple of groups, teachers. We want to be able to -- people who are teachers, people who are involved in security work. I guess, you mentioned.
NNAMDIFirst responders, sure.
SHERWOODSo they would have some right to affordable housing?
NNAMDII think he was using them as an example.
FERRANTIThat's right. I don't think a right is -- the market is a huge force and, you know, my parents' generation, they wanted to move out many to Fairfax and Prince William. And there's now a desire to live in close. We have excellent schools in Arlington. So I do think that the market is a challenge, but last night I came back in town after a week and I talked to someone whose children currently live in Adams Morgan would like to move out to Arlington, a teacher and someone who works at Metro. And that's just a stretch too far for them.
FERRANTIAnd so we should do everything we can to work for the middle class, but we also have to acknowledge that most of those, who are at 60 percent of AMI and a little below the middle class. they're working and they're trying to get into the middle class. So I think it's both in answer to your question, Tom.
NNAMDIHere is Mike in Arlington. Mike, you're on the air. Go ahead, please.
MIKEYes, hi. I had some, I guess, concerns. What development is happening now on Columbia Pike? It seemed like there was going to be a lot of development and then the trolley was axed. And nothing seems to have happened. And in general it just seems as though Arlington's development strategy is developed exclusively around Metro stations, which excludes most of southern Arlington.
FERRANTISure. So I think you ask an important question, Mike. I don’t think -- what I said throughout I think that as a community we made a decision with respect to the streetcar and the trolley. But I do think we've seen a need for additional work. There's a form base code that is the zoning code that applies to Columbia Pike. There's been some successes, but there is a need to make sure that we invest in economic development.
FERRANTII am one, who is strong progressive in a lot of issues. I do feel as though economic development is one where you can't -- you need to be thoughtful about your incentives just as we were with the Amazon proposal, its future revenue and it's targeted, much more limited in New York and the other 19 jurisdictions. But I do think that additional resources and thought and energy into economic development along Columbia Pike is badly needed. And foot traffic, for example, during the day on Columbia Pike is a critical need.
NNAMDIThank you very much for your call, Mike. Here's another Mike, this time in Falls Church. Mike in Falls Church, your turn.
MIKEHi. I had two questions. The first you started off with the Catholic reporting requirement. And I just wanted to (unintelligible) First Amendment or privacy issue (unintelligible) First Amendment to the extent that Religious Freedom Restoration Act, I think confession is a sacrament among Catholics. And...
NNAMDIThat's why this is so controversial.
MIKEYeah, (unintelligible) they've got big lists to get around that. But with regards to Arlington and Amazon, look, I pass through Arlington every day. I take 29 into DC as part of my commute now that 66 is shut down and I can't sneak down the highway anymore without, you know, paying the toll. What kind of traffic studies are being done to accommodate Amazon and what kind of changes should we expect?
FERRANTISo the public process, looking at each of the individual buildings that might develop, Arlington has a history of planning and each individual building would have to come for a site plan review. So at that time there would be traffic impact analysis. We're at a much earlier stage where there are a couple of buildings that are being rebuilt where there's already ownership of those buildings. So 400 employees next year, 800 the following year, so it's a ramp-up and traffic wont' be an immediate huge concern as a result of Amazon employees.
FERRANTIIt is important to note that the Metro ridership at the Metro stations in Crystal City is way down from 1986 and 2001 respectively. There's been a decrease in ridership and that's because (unintelligible) a lot of federal employees left. So there will be traffic studies. You've asked a reasonable question. One of the strengths of the deal in my view as it is currently constructed is that a lot of the resources are going to items that were already in Arlington's plan, a second exit to the Crystal City Metro. That's gonna be now funded through this Amazon initiative that wouldn't have been funded previously.
FERRANTIAnd so I actually think that on transportation and traffic we're in a relatively good space, because there's some capacity on the blue and yellow lines that we can use. That doesn't mean that traffic shouldn't be carefully analyzed and that doesn't mean that we have to think carefully about the neighborhoods that are real close and the traffic impacts there.
SHERWOODThe fact is traffic is probably gonna get worse, but you're gonna try to minimize it as much as possible.
FERRANTIYeah, I think that that's -- well, I guess I would say this. I think that we've lost about 25,000 jobs since 2006 in the Crystal City area so we've -- there's been a significant decrease relative to where it is now. There probably will be some additional traffic, but I think the vast majority of folks are gonna use Metro. Not all, certainly, but the vast majority of folks are gonna use Metro and then we're also gonna need to invest wisely in traffic and transportation...
NNAMDIWell, you've got Amazon. Do you want the Washington football team? Officials in DC, Maryland and Virginia all making moves to build a new stadium for the Washington Redskins. You're an advocate for Native American education and the team has faced pushback, you know, both for its name and for its logo. So what do you think of the multi-jurisdictional fight to host the team?
FERRANTIWell, we're 26 square miles in Arlington. We don't -- we're in desperate need of land for additional facilities. You know, I ran saying we have to reduce the office vacancy rate so that we can build the school capacity we need to educate every child well, and that requires additional land. So I know there are a number of jurisdictions that are engaged. I do think if you look at the history of sports stadiums, that's an investment that is not -- and the types of incentives that has not always proven to be positive.
FERRANTIOn a separate basis in my day job I do work for Native American students. I appreciate you're not using the team name. I grew up here so I understand that name, but of all the sports mascots, this is one name that is not appropriate. It's materially very different in my view from the braves or the chiefs or other names. So that's a separate issue from the narrow decision that Arlington would have. I haven't heard much in the way of discussion...
SHERWOODWell, Arlington, there's no room in Arlington. The only place in northern Virginia is Loudoun County. And then of course Oxen Cove we talked about in Prince Georges County and the RFK site in the District of Columbia. The name is a huge impediment so that's no doubt about that. I think that's important, but it is a major business. It does employee people. I mean, there are some advantages to having a major business come to a jurisdiction. But would you say that the name is a...
SHERWOODYeah, a non-starter.
FERRANTINo. I don't think they...
NNAMDIYou have one minute left.
FERRANTIThe name is not a non-starter. It's the issue that you identified, the lack of land in Arlington.
SHERWOODNo one's gonna build it in Arlington, I assure you of that. Let me ask you very quickly. All this Amazon stuff, there's lots of discussion. Kojo had a forum in the county. When would there be a vote? Is there a date certain that you guys are gonna take a vote on the Arlington board where people should be paying attention right now?
FERRANTIThe earliest date would be February 23rd that this would come before us, but there's no guarantee as to the precise day. I do think it's important to have a robust process and to engage now so that we have this -- we advocate for Arlington values applying to this opportunity.
NNAMDIAnd I'm afraid that's about all the time we have. Matt de Ferranti is an Arlington County Board Member, first meeting coming up in January. Thank you so much for joining us and good luck to you.
FERRANTIThank you, Kojo and thank you, Tom.
NNAMDIThat Politics Hour is produced by Mark Gunnery. Next week, ring in the New Year with special programming on WAMU. Our show returns Wednesday when we will be discussing the local response to abuse scandals in the Catholic Church including a proposal that could require clergy to report child abuse and neglect even when disclosed in the confessional.
NNAMDIAnd a new book rebrands the Anacostia the River of Redemption. We'll hear from the authors on their creative approach to preserving the flora, the fauna and the people, who live in the Anacostia watershed. And until then, Happy New Year to all and a special Happy New Year to our visitors in studio today, the Fairward (sp?) family, Sarah, Luella, Sophia and Noah. Happy New Year to all of you. Tom Sherwood, Happy New Year.
SHERWOODHappy and safe New Year.
NNAMDIAnd Matt de Ferranti, Happy New Year to you also. Thank you all for listening. I'm Kojo Nnamdi.
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