In some neighborhoods in our region — and near many schools — young people face the threat of gun violence on a daily basis.
This week, a major Amazon incentive package worth around $750 million passed Virginia’s Senate, and is expected to pass the House. We discuss that and other issues affecting Arlington County with County Board Member Erik Gutshall. Then we look at how a newly-drawn legislative map for the Commonwealth of Virginia, which could change once-solidly Republican districts Democrat. Finally we’re joined by the founder of the Bread and Roses party, a socialist political party that was just officially recognized by Maryland and will appear on the ballot for elections in 2020 and 2022.
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
- Erik Gutshall Member, Arlington County Board (D); @erik4arlington
- John Whitbeck Republican Candidate for Chair of the Loudoun County Board of Supervisors; Attorney, Whitbeck Cisneros McElroy PC; @JohnWhitbeck
- Jerome Segal University of Maryland-based philosopher; Founder of the Bread and Roses Party.
- Tom Sherwood Resident Analyst; Contributing Writer for Washington City Paper; @tomsherwood
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.
TOM SHERWOODGood afternoon.
NNAMDILater in the broadcast we'll be talking with Jerome Segal. He is a University of Maryland based philosophy professor. He is founder of the Bread and Roses Party, which is the main reason he is on the Politics Hour today. We'll also be talking with John Whitbeck, the former Chair of the Virginia Republican Party. And joining us in studio, Erik Gutshall. He is a Democratic member of the Arlington County Board. Erik Gutshall, thank you for joining us.
ERIK GUTSHALLThanks for having me. Thrilled to be here.
NNAMDITom Sherwood, I guess this was only to be expected given the vote that the D.C. Council took to make Metro fare evasion not a crime. The mayor vetoed that legislation. But the vote as I recall was 11 to 2 initially and that was more than enough to override. So they overrode by the vote of 11 to 2.
SHERWOODWell, it's not a surprise. You need nine votes on the D.C. Council to override. They got 11. I think the chairman and Jack Evans, who's a chair in Metro, voted against it. But, you know, this was not a surprise. You know, in Virginia the fare evasion is a civil matter. In Maryland, I think it's a mixed depending on which county you're in whether it's civil or criminal. But the study that everyone was citing just said that the enforcement of fare evasion seemed to lopsided. Seemed to be against African Americans, 91 percent of the people charged were African American.
SHERWOODAnd the amount of money that would be lost was just not that significant for the Council members who wanted a better sense of fairness for Metro. And so they overrode it. You know, the mayor was here last Friday. She said she didn't agree with it, but they do and now it will become law.
NNAMDIJack Evans said, It's like taking money out of my pocket when you do that. And the mayor made the argument that if you decriminalize it, you will be simply encouraging more people to jump the fares.
SHERWOODI still think there's -- I was told that Fort Totten, Metro stop in the District, the Metro had a little demonstration project where they changed the exits. Not like those prison gates in New York City. But they changed the way the exit gates were designed so that you cannot just hope over them or go through them. And fare evasion dropped by 90 percent. So if Metro wants to really change, they can do it without making Metro feel like a prison.
NNAMDIErik Gutshall, do you think that fare evasion should be a crime or a misdemeanor?
GUTSHALLWell, I think it a misdemeanor at most. I think really what you're seeing here is this is a reflection that we have a lot of people that are really struggling. Housing is so expensive. Transportation is expensive. So it's a real impact on their pocket book. I don't think that these are -- we're not talking about a few handful of scuff laws that would have other means to get around besides this. I think you're talking about people that feel real pain.
GUTSHALLAnd I think there's also interjected into this, there's a lot of conversation going on in our criminal justice system about the equity and where's the justice in criminal justice. So when you go into a court room and you see that the majority of defendants seem to come from a particular segment of the population then it's understandable why people would be very concerned.
SHERWOODNow but the real Metro news additionally beyond the override is that -- I'd like to say I broke the news on Tweeter this morning. That Metro is supposed to meet at three o'clock today, the (word?) Board and they're going to vote to allow federal workers to ride free on Metro beginning Monday. The details hadn't been worked out. But Jack Evans --
NNAMDIAnd the Maryland Transit Authority is said to do the same thing.
SHERWOODYes. That's part of the deal when Governor Hogan was saying that Maryland Transit, people could ride MTA facilities, federal workers for free. Discussion began, well, shouldn't Metro weigh in here. Now who is going to decide if you're a federal worker and you're not furloughed and you're being paid, can you ride free on Metro? Well, the fact is they're not going to have people there checking your employment. So in fact, many people will be allowed to ride free. I think Metro should be much more affordable in any event. But so it's a big change. We should have that vote this afternoon. And we'll hear more about the details of how it will work beginning Monday morning.
NNAMDIErik Gutshall, Arlington is home to many federal employees. How is the partial federal government shutdown affecting people in Arlington? And how is the local community and government responding?
GUTSHALLWell, I think it's certainly affecting a great many of our citizens. But also, you know, businesses. I think you're seeing it across. I've seen some early numbers come in on a significant noticeable slowdown in number of hotel nights, for example. Arlington is a tourist destination and a lot of tourist dollars are spent there. And with the, you know, national parks parks being closed, the monuments and everything else not being fully serviced and operational that's affecting our tourism industry.
GUTSHALLAnd basically what we're doing is we put out a bulletin for furloughed employees and full disclosure, my wife is among that number. She's an EPA employee. She is right this moment having lunch with -- they're doing fellowship. A furloughship if you will.
GUTSHALLA furloughship with other furloughed employees. So I think there's a lot of community support just generally organizing. I know that as it always happens, it's those that can least afford it that feel it the most. So there are a lot of members of our community, who may not be able to look forward to back pay eventually. You know, you got people that clean office buildings that do other things that are tied in and related to this that are being, you know, laid off temporarily that are not looking at promise of back pay, missed paychecks.
GUTSHALLSo the county, we've put out some information on what we're able to do, mostly pointing people towards resources. We haven't gotten to the point, and Lord I sure hope we don't get to the point where we start looking at -- as tax bills become due and other things. But if we were to get there, I think that we would have to have a conversation about what can the county do in terms of some, you know, avoidance of late fees and other things like that.
NNAMDIOur guest is Erik Gutshall. He is a Democratic member of the Arlington County Board. Tom Sherwood, the Virginia Senate approved an Amazon package this week. We'll talk a little bit more about that with Erik Gutshall. But I found it interesting that both in the Washington Post headline and in the article by Robert McCartney and Laura Vozzella that state tax incentives approved of up to $750 million over the next 15 years was juxtaposed with the fact that the same Senate narrowly rejected a proposal for a $15 minimum wage.
NNAMDISo I read all of the comments on that article. And those -- that headline and that first sentence were what most of the comments were focused on, the juxtaposition of the gift to the richest company in the world versus the inability to raise the minimum wage from $7.25.
SHERWOODWell, politically the state of Virginia is providing, what is it, $750 million in various tax incentives for Amazon, which is all tied to its creating the jobs in the state in which the state will actually get more tax money down the road.
NNAMDIThree billion dollars over 20 years.
SHERWOODThis is an investment. So it's not the same thing as, well, you can support Amazon of bringing 25,000 jobs to the state, but you can't support $15 for minimum wage. Virginia -- sorry, Mr. Gutshall, Virginia is a backwater when it comes to paying lower income paid workers. It is the only jurisdiction in this region that keeps the minimum wage at $7.25.
SHERWOODThe District of Columbia is well on its way to $15 an hour. Prince George's and Montgomery County have raised it. There's a discussion in the general assembly now in Maryland to raise it to $15. I would ask Mr. Gutshall, is there anybody in Virginia, who cares about the lowest income paid workers, people who actually are working for a living, but aren't getting paid, but $7.25 an hour after taxes, barely covers your costs.
GUTSHALLI think there's a lot of folks that care much about that. I think that we saw that last year as you well know, Tom, in the elections in 2017 where democrats took 15 seats and almost flipped the House in Richmond in the general assembly. And generally of folks that are -- I can't speak to every one of them's position exactly on the minimum wage. But I feel fairly confident in certainly wanting to do something to boost it forward.
SHERWOODIt will be -- all seats in the Virginia general assembly, 100 in the House, 40 in the Senate are up this year. And this is the time to discuss that right?
GUTSHALLWell, this is the time to discuss that, because I would argue that it's not either we can use the tax incentive package to secure Amazon's coming here or do a minimum increase in the minimum wage. I think that we can actually do both. But I will say this that to the credit of my -- as you put it my backwater home state, no offense taken. But what we have done and what I think is brilliant about the deal that we have on the table with Amazon is that there is an incredible investment in education starting all the way from K through 12 the technology pipeline developing across the whole state, a technology pipeline all the way from K through 12 up to the near Virginia Tech Innovation Campus for Technology that will be in Alexandria very near the new headquarters for Amazon.
GUTSHALLThat will enable -- that provides opportunities for everyone. For folks that whose -- maybe people whose parents right now might be struggling to get by on living wages, but who will then have an opportunity to start to move up that economic ladder through education. Education has always been the way that we increase income for everyone. And everyone benefits. Big companies like Amazon benefit with a great education system and small companies like my own company benefit.
SHERWOODBut you have to be able to live in Arlington in order to go to the schools and to these schools that you're talking about. People are really worried. In Arlington, you have tax problems, budget problems for you own -- but people, who want to live in Arlington, prices already are starting to go up for the apartments that are available. You've supported a reform of the zoning laws, in Minneapolis, in order to provide more space that city eliminated single family zoning and said that any residential property could have up to three dwellings on it.
SHERWOODI don't think Arlington is going to that. But where do -- how are you going to adjust the housing policies of Arlington to accommodate the obvious rise in prices in regards of what people think they should or not, they are. How you going to accommodate so people can live in your county?
GUTSHALLWell, I think, you know, prices -- anyone who's been around Arlington for any period of time obviously knows that prices have been doing nothing, but being in increase for decades and decades. So sometimes it might be, you know, sort of interesting to note that, well, this apartment or that apartment are this price seems to have gone up just since the announcement.
GUTSHALLI would argue that to the extent that there's any such effect that what's really at play here are the fundamentals of the macro regional housing economy, not necessarily specifically Arlington. If you think about Amazon bringing 25,000 jobs over the next 10 to 15 years that is really -- it's not a drop in the bucket. But it's something on the order of about five percent of what we would have otherwise planned for regionally, region wide. And a housing market is regional. The folks, who work at Amazon will be living throughout the region.
GUTSHALLSo what are we doing in Arlington for those people that do need to live in Arlington, want to live in Arlington? For our own citizens when I think about like where -- as my kids grow up and that I hope that some of them will want to stay here, what do I think about where they will live? We're going to roll out here very soon a major, what we call missing middle directive that will be taking existing policy that we already have in place. We know what we need to do.
SHERWOODYou're going to do it or the county itself?
GUTSHALLThe county is going to do it.
NNAMDIPlease explain that missing middle directive.
GUTSHALLSo missing middle directive, this is looking at -- we already have in place in our affordable housing master plan a direct goal of, I believe it's 2700 ownership units over the next 20 years for those making between 80 and 120 percent of area median income.
SHERWOODWhich is roughly right now?
GUTSHALLSo that's rough -- the area median income is I believe for a family of four is 110,000. So the price point, though, if you want to think about a sweet spot in the price point is roughly between $400 to $600,000 for an ownership unit.
GUTSHALLWhat I would tell folks is that we are not going to be able to make any more single family homes. We have no more lots, No more lands. So it's not about -- if you're thinking that on a teacher's and maybe a federal worker salary -- like you used to be able to do back in '60s, '70s, '80s even into the '90s where you could afford a single family home in Arlington. That's not happening and that's not like that's coming back any way that I can see. But what we can do is we can get our zoning ordinance out of the way. We have an old fashion, 1950 style zoning ordinance, which is what Minneapolis had also. And they basically tossed it aside.
SHERWOODFavors single family zoning.
GUTSHALLExactly. We're not going to toss it aside. But what we are going to do is we're going to get it out of the way so that places like our major transportation corridors and we have a major planning effort coming forward for Lee Highway, we're going to look within those transportation corridors, along the neighborhood edges where we have lots of opportunities to open it up. And say, "Well, could we have duplexes, triplexes, quadplexes? Could we do things? Could we be more creative?" A big driver of the cost of housing is parking. Can we be more creative in how we do parking? Can we acknowledge that there more people who don't need parking?
NNAMDIBut you're in a county that is now facing an estimated $70 million budget shortfall. How did the county get there? And what could that mean for Arlington County residents? People fear that what's coming next is a raise in the property tax.
GUTSHALLSo the manager did in his budget forecast had projected a roughly 70 and up to $70 million budget shortfall. That would be both county and schools combined. So schools are 47 percent of our budget and the rest is county. We are fortunate that the latest information -- so that was at several months ago. The latest information that the manager is about to roll out coming soon is that --
SHERWOODYou used up your chances to say roll out. You've said it twice now.
GUTSHALLI said twice.
SHERWOODNo more roll outs anymore.
GUTSHALLNo more roll out.
GUTSHALLI suspect you're going to catch me on a third, but I'm going to try my best, Tom.
SHERWOODSo go ahead. I interrupted.
GUTSHALLSo the manager will unveil. How about unveil? You like that one?
SHERWOODUnveil is better.
GUTSHALLThe manager is going to unveil shortly updated forecasts for our revenue. And the good news is that commercial property, which is to be quite honest, is where we love to tax -- we love the fact in Arlington that we have historically had a really strong commercial tax base. Commercial tax assessments are up. They were actually down last year. So that was a big part of the problem last year.
GUTSHALLSo things are moving in the right direction. I'm not going to pretend like that's all about Amazon. But I what I will say is it is about the hard work that we've been doing to bring up our office vacancy -- or bring down our office vacancy rate. We've had an abnormally high vacancy in our commercial office since about --
SHERWOODSince the recession.
GUTSHALLSince the recession and it really started with the Base Realignment and Closure, the BRAC process that was back in the mid-2000s. So we lost a bunch of federal tenants and their contractors that left with them. There was a fundamental issue with the recession. Sequestration of those, I remember that. If you think the shutdown sucks, well, sequestration was pretty bad too. And sequestration was a little bit more permanent. Hopefully the shutdown is not.
GUTSHALLBut we've done is we have worked very hard to diversify our economy. We're all about clean tech, green tech, bio tech. We're bringing in different kinds of starter companies. And that is reflected in these new forecast numbers. So it's not $70 million anymore. It's going to be significantly less than that. But that doesn't mean that there aren't going to be real significant tough choices that we're going to have to make.
NNAMDIBack to housing. Here's David in D.C. David, you're on the air. Go ahead, please.
DAVIDHey, there. I'm a realtor and I've been -- actually I've mentioned this on your show before that in D.C. we have a really big problem with housing affordability and also inventory. And I think that the big issue that nobody is really talking about is the zoning. Your speaker mentioned that in Minneapolis they eliminated single family zoning. And in D.C., I think if we -- I don't think it will ever happen here. But I think if we just at least relax it in some of these neighborhoods that are already pretty dense with row houses and with restaurants, retail, and Metro.
NNAMDIAnd you're suggesting that that's what they should do in Arlington also?
DAVIDWell, in Arlington sure, but I live in D.C. and I wanted to make sure that people know that this is a regional problem. And it could be a regional solution for housing affordability if we do this in both Arlington and D.C.
SHERWOODWell, housing policy is not going to regional. But I will just tell you very quickly. Mayor Bowser was on the show last week and she in her inauguration address and everything she's talking about the city has got to do something to provide 36,000 more units of housing, and possibly changing the height limitation. Changing the zoning for some single family places. So yes, housing is a fundamental issue just like transportation in the entire region.
NNAMDIAnd back to the budget in Arlington, Virginia. In a recent letter to the Washington Post, Arlington resident Keith Fretz said, quoting here, "The county government's poor management and wasteful spending are the only reason the county has a $70 million budget shortfall." Do you see examples of poor management and wasteful spending in Arlington County?
GUTSHALLCategorically not. You know, when you have a one and a quarter billion dollar, does that mean that somebody couldn't find some example somewhere of something they would prefer not to have, you know, spend money on. We get emails all the time and people will tell us that, for example, where we're improving pedestrian safety and we're building out intersections to be more safe. So people see construction going on and we get emails that say, Well, that's wasteful spending. What do I care about, you know, more sidewalk nubs?
GUTSHALLI think that's actually the fact that we've been doing those kinds of things, making those kinds of investments, building the kind of community where people want to be, that's why housing is so in demand in Arlington, because everybody wants to be there. Everybody wants to live there. The reason Amazon wants to come to Arlington is because we've got the people that they want to hire. So I don't see wasteful spending. I think to the extent that there was any waste, any fat to be cut if you will, I think the fact that we cut six and a half million dollars last year out of our budget, which, I think, were very real cuts that went beyond fat. That went hopefully not to the bone, but certainly perhaps through some muscle last year speaks volumes to the way that we are so well managed.
GUTSHALLAnd I have to get in here, because we're very proud of this. We do have our triple triple A bond rating, which there's only a handful of localities throughout the entire country that have that that allows us to borrow at the absolute lowest rates.
NNAMDIHow about how you pay yourself on the Arlington County Board? You mentioned that you have a business of your own, correct? But Arlington County Board members can either vote this year to give yourselves a raise or wait another four years before raising the issue again. There's been some discussion about scaling back the Board's workload rather than taking that raise. Where do you fall on this? I should mention that currently Arlington County board members earn $55,147 a year. The Board Chairman earns $60,662. It is theoretically a part time job, isn't it?
GUTSHALLTheoretically and I have to say first and foremost that none of us and I wouldn't want anyone to be in this position, who does it for the money. However, I do think that there is a legitimate discussion that we ought to have about whether or not the position should be more or less not available to someone, who doesn't otherwise the means to support themselves and their families. You know, my wife works full time. I do have my business. And my business has -- I'm certainly not independently wealthy, but my business is in a position and I have a great team there that enables me to be able to spend some time with the county.
GUTSHALLYou know, I split my time. There are other Board members, who split their time. It can be difficult. It seems almost inappropriate, though, to talk about giving ourselves raises at a time right now where we have -- as we started at the beginning of the conversation. We got a lot of folks in the community, who are furloughed and are without a paycheck right now. Where we have -- we also talked about the living wage. And we got a lot of people who are, you know, just barely scraping and getting by in Arlington, working sometimes two or three jobs.
GUTSHALLSo I really think that, you know, we are constrained by the Virginia law in terms that this is the only time that we can have it. If I was going to support it, Kojo, I would support it probably in a way that I would -- either we would dictate that you're not eligible for the increase until you have stood for re-election. I personally would probably obligate myself.
SHERWOODHow much are we talking about?
GUTSHALLI would make a pledge that I wouldn't take any raise until after -- if I was to seek and be re-elected by the good people of Arlington.
SHERWOODYou also have county staff for pay raises. I don't know what the status for pay in the county employees, people who work for the Council, for the Board, who work for the various agencies. It just -- things do cost more money. And the idea that you can just be cheap, just doesn't work. As you just suggested, people, who could be very good Board members can't afford to be Board members.
GUTSHALLWell, we want to be in it for our staff and our employees, our excellent professional staff. We want to be an employer of choice. And that doesn't mean that we have to, you know, be the highest paid, because that's an endless treadmill that you can't get off. If we up pay and their Fairfax or Prince William or others come in and up pay, we're constantly chasing each other. But we do want to make sure that we are paying our employees, the workforce, where we're able to recruit and retain top talent.
NNAMDIRunning out of time here. Very quickly, with the commercial vacancy rate in Arlington County is still very high, some have criticized that the taxing arrangement for the county, which taxes commercial properties based on occupancy rather than on market value. What steps can the Board take to address that problem? Do you think that changing how they're taxed will make a difference?
GUTSHALLSo I think there's a little bit inside out that question with all due respect, which is that by Virginia law we are required, we have no choice, but to assess every property based on its fair market value. It happens to be that for commercial property, the fair market value is very much influenced by whether or not it has, you know, people paying the rent, whether or not it's leased up. So if you have an empty office building, the market value of that building is going to be less than if that building was full. So it's not that we decided, hey, let's tax them less if it's empty. That is Virginia law and it is based on fair market value.
NNAMDIAnd I'm afraid that's all the time we have. You continue the reputation of Arlington County Board members being the most wonky in this region.
SHERWOODMaybe you can get the museum back. You know, the big news today is the museum is sold the downtown facility there at 6th Street to the John Hopkin's University. And the museum, which has been terrible at that location, because it cost way too much for families to go, is now going to be looking again for a site. And maybe it can go back to Arlington where it started.
GUTSHALLWell, I am sure we are all ears for any kind of innovative proposals. Give me a call.
NNAMDIErik Gutshall is a Democratic member of the Arlington County Board. Thank you so much for joining us.
GUTSHALLI'm really happy to be here. And thanks for the great public service that you guys do.
NNAMDIThank you. Up next is John Whitbeck. He is the former Chair of the Virginia Republican Party. You can start calling with your questions for him now, 800-433-8853. He is also candidate for Chair of the Loudoun County Board of Supervisors. But before we go to John Whitbeck, quickly, Tom Sherwood, I saw in the City Paper this week a Loose Lips -- a column written by one Tom Sherwood indicating that former at large D.C. Council member Michael --
SHERWOODMichael A. Brown.
NNAMDIMichael A. Brown, who served time for bribery is thinking of coming back into politics again?
SHERWOODYeah, I broke that story on Monday -- or was it Tuesday? I think it was Tuesday.
SHERWOODThese days run together. Michael Brown was a councilmember. He's the son of the late Ron Brown. Michael Brown was thought to have a very good future in the city of Washington for local politics. But the FBI caught him in a sting, where he was taking money, tens of thousands of -- twenty -- $55,000 in money to help a fake FBI company try to get contracts in the city. He went to prison, and now he's out and now he's thinking about running for the council again in 2020 against David Grosso, who beat him, saying that, look, people will forgive him, that he thinks he was wrongly convicted. He thinks that Supreme Court could overturn his conviction, because it's similar to Bob McDonnell's conviction.
SHERWOODBut everyone that I've spoken to privately or publicly says the city has changed, Michael Brown perhaps has not, and it will be a very long stretch for him to come back to public office. But he says he's going to try, so we'll see.
NNAMDIJoining us by phone now is John Whitbeck, Republican candidate for chair of the Loudoun County Board of Supervisors, but he's also the former chair of the Virginia Republican Party. John Whitbeck, thank you for joining us.
JOHN WHITBECKGood afternoon, gentlemen. Great to be here.
NNAMDITom Sherwood, Virginia could have been or can still be the 38th state to ratify the federal Equal Rights Amendment, an issue that has not made news around her for quite a long time. But it's apparently still around, but it couldn't clear a GOP-controlled House subcommittee on Tuesday, but apparently, there are still opportunities for it to happen. Ratification by 38 states would be required for the amendment to become law, this from the Washington Post story by Laura Vozzella. Opponents know that the federal deadline for passage expired years ago...
NNAMDIIt was that long?
SHERWOODYes. Well, here's the deal though. The Privileges and Elections Committee which is 22 members and one of the most powerful committees in the Virginia general assembly, a subcommittee number one they call it, on Tuesday, I think, voted a party line vote four to two to kill the ERA. It had passed in the Senate. It was a big deal when it passed the Senate a week or so ago. And there was some talk that maybe the full Privileges and Elections Committee would take it up today, Friday. I called down to the general assembly just before the show. The Privileges and Elections Committee said they are not meeting today so nothing's going to happen.
SHERWOODNone of the 12 Republican members of that committee supported reviving the ERA, so I don't see it happening. Mr. Whitbeck, who's trying to be a moderate conservative, not-far-right Republican in Loudoun County, Mr. Whitbeck, maybe I'll ask you. Isn't this an easy give me for Republicans to try to appeal to suburban women, in particular, in your state by just acknowledge them as equal rights in the Constitution?
WHITBECKYou know, it's interesting. I haven't following this closely, I've been so busy focusing on transportation locally in Loudoun, school safety, economic development, preserving our rural west, and I haven't followed the general assembly. But, you know, Tom, I looked at the history of this and there's a really interesting fact that many people don't know. The ERA was actually in the National Republican platform through the 1976 National Convention, which means that even during the era of Barry Goldwater, this was something that the part of equal justice -- meaning my party -- had taken up. And after it expired, it hasn't had much -- but it's been revived and we'll see what happens.
SHERWOODI know you -- I see Kojo's about to ask you a question. I'm going to stop.
NNAMDIYes. Let's talk about redistricting. This week a panel of federal judges chose a legislative redistricting map that many see as benefiting Virginia's Democrats. You are the former chair of the Virginia GOP. What do you think of the new map which would flip a number of red legislative districts blue?
WHITBECKWell, a couple interesting points on this map. Number one, six Republicans will see a huge shift in the makeup of their district, including one of my favorite people in politics, David Yancey who's in the Newport News area. This is a guy that won his seat by literally one vote pulled out of a hat, the famous national news that he saw in 2017. Speaker Cox, his district is significantly harder. There's only one Democrat district that actually gets harder in the Senate, and that's Mike Mullin's District in the peninsula area, Williamsburg area.
WHITBECKAny time we have court redistricting, Republicans seem to get the short end of the stick. So, I'm hopeful the Supreme Court will put a stop to court-ordered redistricting. And instead, we'll have some new kind of solution where we're getting away from the gerrymandered districts of the past and into something that's a little more fair to all sides. And it's something I hope develops over the next few months.
SHERWOODOn something that you can control you are -- you were on the show and in the room here several times, you resigned as the state party chairman. Many people thought you did because you thought the Corey Stewart effect on the party was not good, that he was far to the right and too divisive. You wouldn't buy into those words when we told them to you, but you did, you resigned as the party chairman. You said you might do something, and now you're running for board chairman. You're running against Phyllis Randall. She's a Democrat, African American woman. She barely won in a three-way race with something like 37, 38 percent of the vote. What is your campaign -- what's the politics of your challenging Phyllis Randall, who is running for reelection?
NNAMDIAnd why are you running?
SHERWOODHe's trying to fix -- he's trying to be the local Loudoun County's board of supervisor chairman.
SHERWOODThat's what you've been saying.
WHITBECKThat's right. And, you know, I took several months thinking about this beginning sort of when I stepped down as chair of the state party. And when Phyllis Randall was the lone vote in a bipartisan vote in favor of guaranteed higher tolls on the Greenway, it sort of put me over the edge and I decided it was time to run . In the last three years or so, I've gotten more engaged in state-wide politics. But I've never lost my focus on local politics. I've been in -- and local issues. I've been in Loudoun County for almost 20 years. My children go to Loudoun County Public Schools. I've served as an HOA president, one of our largest Homeowners Associations, so I've been around serving in local stuff for a long time.
WHITBECKBut this campaign is not about Phyllis Randall. It's about issues that matter for quality of life.
NNAMDIYes, you've said that you want to avoid, quoting here, "angry partisan politics and focus on quality-of-life issues." What are the quality-of-life issues you're focusing on?
WHITBECKWell, we just rolled out an incredible program that I'm very excited about with Sheriff Chapman, our local Loudoun County Sheriff. He's done an excellent job expanding the nationally recognized school resource officer program to every school in Loudoun County. We have 58 more schools to go before we have every school covered by an in-house school resource officer. It's the first that anybody running has had the will to do it, anybody in office has had the will to do it. And I'm really proud to be standing with Sheriff Chapman fighting for school safety and taking some action in that front.
WHITBECKTraffic, you know, the Greenway is just one issue and what I call my war on traffic. The Greenway is about lower tolls and making sure that we're not punishing the drivers that are driving on our roads, but also getting cars off the road. You know, one of the things that we struggle with in Loudoun County is the affordability of our housing. So, many of our teachers, fire fighters, single moms, you know, young families can't afford to live in Loudoun. They may work here or work nearby here, but they've got to pass through on our roads.
WHITBECKSo, transportation and development go hand in hand, and it's time for us to come up with a housing strategy from entry level through retirement that really works for our citizens and really helps us solve this traffic problem that's plaguing us so desperately in Loudoun County.
SHERWOODThis is a good example of how you're, I would say, a moderate conservative, or conservative moderate Republican. You are steadfastly avoiding the Corey Stewart hard-right language, social issues, divisiveness. This is going to be totally locally focused on Loudoun County, is that correct? We're not going to be hearing you talk about President Trump or all of those types of things?
WHITBECKOh, 100 percent. I mean, local politics, especially Loudoun County, party almost doesn't matter to the average voter. You know, if I'm talking to a suburban working mom, you know, she wants to know what I'm going to do about schools, roads and jobs. You know, if I'm talking to a first responder in Western Loudoun or somebody who cares about land preservation or funding, you know, government services that relate to safety, I mean, these are the things that we're going to talk about.
WHITBECKYou know, my wife's a stay-at-home mom, and she's got to drive three kids around to three different locations. Between the two of us, we've got to do it. And, you know, when it takes 45 minutes each way to drive from, you know, Ashburn to Leesburg, I mean, it just -- you know, our entire quality of life is at a crossroads in Loudoun. You know, and I'll say a special shout-out to our rural west. I mean, I don't know how many of your listeners have actually been out past Leesburg into our rural west, but we have an incredible treasure in our wineries, our breweries, our farms, our rural economy. And, you know, we've got to strike the balance between the rural west and suburban east. And...
NNAMDIThat's where he's looking for votes, you know...
NNAMDI... (laugh) in the rural west.
WHITBECKWell, we are in the business of winning elections but, you know, my family lives this quality of life issue every day. We struggle in the traffic, we care about the schools. Like I said, my kids are in public schools. We're at work and we're at play in the rural west, you know, on weekends, you know. And I work my small business law firm that's been in Loudoun County for almost 18 years.
NNAMDIAnd that's why John Whitbeck is a Republican candidate for chair of the Loudoun County Board of Supervisors. Time is very important here to us, John Whitbeck, and we've run out of it. So, thank you so much for joining us and good luck to you.
SHERWOODYeah, let us know when you go to the winery. I'll drive out (laugh).
WHITBECKOh, absolutely, Tom. I'd love to have you guys out there. It's a great place to go.
SHERWOODKojo in your winery, that's in your neighborhood.
NNAMDIThank you for joining us. Joining us in studio right now is Jerome Segal. He is a University of Maryland-based philosophy professor emeritus and founder of the Bread and Roses Party, which is what he's here to talk about. Jerome Segal, thank you so much for joining us.
JEROME SEGALThank you for having me.
NNAMDILast week, the Maryland State Board of Election granted the Bread and Roses Party official ballot status for the 2020 and 2022 elections. First, what is the Bread and Roses Party?
SEGALWell, it's the expression of, I would say, a sense of new social philosophy, a new social perspective that -- a rubric that I'll try to explain. I'd call it a version of left wing's politics of simplicity. And what I mean by that is we come, in large part, out of the simple living movement, which reflects virtually every wisdom tradition going all the way back, whether we're talking about the Sabbath or we're talking about the Puritans or Thoreau or many things that ran through American history.
SEGALIn the '90s, that was very much thought of as a style-of-life issue, and is this whole literature -- and it's still going on today actually. It's got a renewed push today in terms of downsizing, cutting back, finding that a more meaningful life can happen with more time out of the office.
SHERWOODIs Bread and Roses a socialist party?
SEGALWell, the term socialism is so...
SHERWOODAs you see it...
SEGAL...loaded. I've used it...
SHERWOODThe way you see it, do you call yourself a socialist?
SEGALWell, we call the party socialistic and it's...
SEGAL...socialist and non-socialist.
SHERWOODHow is that different from progressive Democrats?
SHERWOODThe Roses-Bread and Roses. You know...
NNAMDIIt's all about the roses.
SHERWOOD...what is that song about, you know, a woman needs bread, but she also needs roses, or something like -- but I don't -- you fought very hard to get Bread and Roses on the state ballot. I think you went to court to do it.
SHERWOODBut who is the audience for your party? You got 10,000 votes or signatures, or whatever.
SHERWOODBut even Ben Jealous in the election last year, you know, he went on television and ads denying that he was a socialist. He was a venture capitalist.
SHERWOODAnd it was horrible, and then Hogan's people hit him with that. He said, I'm not a socialist. I'm a progressive Democrat. Where's your audience? I mean...
SEGALAll right. So, let me call your attention to two pieces of data from polling that I did in my primary campaign against...
SHERWOODThe Zogby polling, that's good.
NNAMDIAgainst Ben Cardin.
SEGAL...against Ben Cardin, right. And there were about actually two big concepts that we focus on. One is that we put forward really the idea of the alternative American dream. And part of what Bread and Roses is about is making America user-friendly for the alternative American dream. Now, the question is, so what is the American dream? What's the alternative American dream? So, we put to Maryland Democrats a question as to which of the following three things is your American dream, right. And the first one of them was basically it's to live relatively well economically, to be in the top 10 percent.
SEGALAnd the second of them was to actually live a modest life in terms of consumption that's decent and economically secure, but in which you have a lot of leisure to pursue those things that are most important in life. That's sort of the simple living version.
NNAMDIAnd the third?
SEGALAnd the third was sort of a getting to the top 10 percent, have all the money you want to do anything you want, okay? What we found, we got 74 percent (laugh) of Maryland Democrats said that my American dream is a modest -- I'll quote it to you -- "modest, but decent and secure life"...
SHERWOODHow do you achieve that? I mean, this is all aspirational in terms of your party.
SHERWOODSo why do -- do you want to change the nature of how the government is done?
SEGALWell, here's the thing. What politics and simplicity comes out of is the recognition that doing this as an individual is extraordinarily hard. In fact, contrary to what a lot of people believe, we live in a very inefficient society, when that's understood with any subtlety. And what I mean by that is that the amount of work time, the amount of money that you need in the United States to meet very basic needs is actually extraordinarily high.
SHERWOODWell, how would you fix -- I guess -- this is the Politics Hour. You have aspirational goals there which people might identify with but what would you -- if you were elected what would you change? Would you change the tax structure? Would you change private homeownership? Would you change what -- the government would own business ? I mean, what is the change you would make?
SEGALYeah, so first of all, we approach this sector by sector, and some sectors are different kind of problems than in others. But I'll give you an example that's straight off that's already on the agenda, which is education. right. We used to have a world in which, basically, the society -- basically, you have a contract with the generation which said that, you know, we'll cover your education through free public schools, all the way to the workplace. And the workplace was graduating from high school, right. Well, that's not it anymore.
SHERWOODSo, would you support government...
SEGALFree higher education.
NNAMDIYou got that at City College in New York City.
SEGALI went to a free college and so that's one.
SHERWOODOkay, good. Free higher education.
SEGALThe other end of the spectrum is that now with women having entered the formal workplace, we've got the other end of the spectrum which is tremendous burden on the family. And I would also add to that free daycare. So, we take that burden off of the individual family, making it much easier to meet needs. I would take housing as a different example. People think of the need for housing in physical terms, and economists greatly celebrate all the progress that's made in housing.
SEGALBut anybody who knows anything about the housing market knows that it's about neighborhoods and it's about, you know, yes, decent physical housing. But it's about access to good public schools and public safety and, ultimately, it's about beauty, public beauty, interesting urban environments...
SHERWOODSo, what would you do to change American housing policy? Would you...
SEGALRight. Well, what it means is basically you've got to focus on neighborhoods, you've got to focus on schools.
SHERWOODFocus on, that doesn't mean anything to me.
SHERWOODWould you change the basic homeownership...
SEGALOkay. So, first of all, for inner city neighborhoods, I would have something like an urban homestead act. So, that 40 acres and a mule promise that was never fulfilled today should be translated into actually giving people at the bottom homeownership with a means to it.
NNAMDIWell, who supports you? Does your party have a critical mass behind it, at this point?
SEGALWell, listen, we just -- we're only two weeks old, as a party. We're a movement, and I've got a book that lays this out, called “Graceful Simplicity: The Philosophy and Politics of the Alternative American Dream.”
SHERWOODAre you giving that book away free?
SEGALYes, it's on my -- it's on the Segal for Senate website as a free download...
NNAMDIThose are the books Tom likes best, but go ahead.
SEGALOkay. So, that's -- (laugh) I'm glad you asked that. Yeah, so the book is available for free, and what I was going to say, though, you asked about critical mass. So, there's a set of ideas is when our hope will become a national movement, and then there's an explicit entity that was recognized by the Maryland Board of Elections two weeks ago. And that now has unique ability. We are actually, at the moment, the only third party in the state of Maryland.
NNAMDIWell, what Tom was trying to get earlier about socialism, you formed your party at a time when socialism seems to be on the rise, especially among young people. Democratic Socialists of America chapters are popping up all over the country. Democratic socialists have been elected to Congress. Have you been able to garner or are you in the business of trying to garner support from younger socialists? And if so, why form a new party? Why not join forces with another leftist party, like the Greens, or try to push the Democrats further to the left?
SEGALYeah, well, first of all, we do have a distinctly different message, and it's much broader than socialism. The aspects of the socialist tradition that we identify with and aspects of the socialist tradition that we don’t and socialist political culture -- the parts of the socialist tradition that are important to me is first of all the pre-Marxian utopian socialists. Okay. So, I'm talking about utopian socialism. The second is the early marks of philosophical writings on alienated labor and on money, the most interesting part of marks. And the third is a social contract that marks proposed in the rubric from each recording to their ability to each recording through their needs.
SEGALSo, it's that aspect of socialism. Not particularly interested in government ownership and the means of reduction or a planned economy or doing away with markets. I'm very interested in increasing, actually, ownership on the home. I'm interested in people being educated in startup and in how to be your own nonprofit. We're very interested in the job system and the matrix between jobs and education.
SHERWOODWould you have a guaranteed income for adults?
SEGALNo, I wouldn't have a guaranteed income, but what I would have is guaranteed work and lifetime retraining...
SHERWOODGuaranteed work and lifetime retraining.
SEGALThat's right, yeah.
SEGALAnd that would produce, of course, a guaranteed income. And I would like to see actually income levels be achieved through a combination minimum of expanding the earned income tax credit and the minimum wage. But I don't think money -- that's the point that I was getting to about housing -- money is not the solution to a lot of these issues. See, take housing, okay. If you want to be in a neighborhood with access to good public schools, safe streets, attractive neighborhood, good enough inside the beltway to tell your kids, go out and play, very few like that, right. My neighborhood isn't that.
SHERWOODThere are lots of neighborhoods like that.
SEGALNo, there aren't. No, there's aren't.
SHERWOODYes, there are.
SEGALOkay. I know people who've been knifed in my neighborhoods. In fact...
SHERWOODWell, that's a mischaracterization of urban areas. Yes, there are crime issues, but there're are plenty of neighborhoods where children play out in the streets.
SEGALDo you remember two years ago someone was arrested in Montgomery County?
SHERWOODOne person out of -- there's 6 million people in the Washington region.
SEGALRight. But the reason that that was possible is actually the parents supervise their children when they go out to play in a way that they never did when we were kids. But the point that I was making is, let's say that Somerset is that area, okay. And let's say you gave people enough money to buy a house in Somerset. You just gave out equitably a million dollars to anyone, you know...
SHERWOODApartments in Somerset, which is, for people who don't know, Wisconsin Avenue just inside Maryland, Apartments there in a high rise, I think, are like $3 million, a million dollars won't get you in the door.
SEGALOkay. Thanks. So that underscores the point, so you give out 3 million. What happens, right, the first day, right, there's an auction for whatever's on sale and what's selling for 3 million, if people come in -- 100,000 people come in with their $3 million vouchers, you just raised the price so that they can't afford it because it's a supply problem, it's not a money problem.
NNAMDIYou ran against Ben Cardin for the U.S. Senate and you have made foreign policy and particularly U.S. policy regarding Palestine and Israel central to your political agenda. Why do you think that will appeal to Marylanders?
SEGALWell, it didn't have to appeal to all Marylanders, okay. My run against Ben Cardin was basically -- or it was a big dog strategy. And the idea was -- could be used against the NRA also -- is you pick out the most powerful lobby in Washington that is producing policies that you disagree with. That's APEC on the Israeli Palestinian thing. Ben Cardin was APEC's top lieutenant and remains top lieutenant in the Senate, okay.
SEGALWhat I wanted to demonstrate in American politics is that there's a price to pay for that. I didn't have to beat Cardin to do that. I had to demonstrate to people in congress, and in particular Maryland, to the congressmen, who were going to run for Cardin's seat when it vacates, that I can get 10 or 20 percent of the vote on that issue.
SHERWOODWhat did you get in that race?
SEGALAll right. I got 20,000 votes which was 3.4 percent.
SHERWOODHow much percent?
SEGAL3.4, but I came in second, right, with seven challenges. So there were 20 percent of Marylanders, who voted against him, it was split seven ways. And I had a black press out -- (laugh) a press blackout, right. So nobody reported on the challenge to APEC.
NNAMDIWe're running out of time very quickly. What's in the immediate future for the Bread and Roses Party?
SEGALOkay. The amazing thing...
NNAMDIDo you plan on running for office again?
SEGAL...the amazing thing -- I may, but we'll see. But the amazing thing of what's happened by being certified by the Board of Elections in Maryland, right, is that four years from now we can put on the ballot 188 candidates for the Maryland assembly and a governor. Two years from now we can put on the ballot a candidate for president and eight congressional districts. So we're open for business. We're looking for candidates. In a certain sense we're in an ideological job placement office. So if people want to run and want to help on speaking to the public, that's what we're there for.
SEGALAnd a key thing that we've got to work out is to figure out our relationship to the Democratic Party so there can be...
NNAMDIAnd I'm afraid...
SEGAL...we may run candidates against them, but we could also have Bread and Roses Democrats. We could also encourage people to do as I did, and as Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez did, which is to run inside the Democratic Party and pursue the big dog.
SHERWOODYou have a long way to go beyond an almost insignificant party.
NNAMDIWell, this is not the first organization that Jerome Segal started. He also founded the Jewish Peace Lobby, but we don't have time to talk about that here, maybe on another occasion. Jerome Segal, thank you so much for joining us and good luck to the Bread and Roses Party.
SEGALThanks. And our website, by the way, is www.bedandroses.us.
NNAMDIThat's all the time we have. Today's Politics Hour was produced by Mark Gunnery. If you're a part time temp, contractor or freelance worker without the benefits of full time employment, fill out our survey at KojoShow.org/blog. We'll be discussing your stories next Tuesday. Coming up Monday, DC United Games will now be aired exclusively on a subscription-based streaming service. We'll try to find out how fans are reacting.
NNAMDIPlus you've seen self-checkout at grocery stores, but what's the future of automation and artificial intelligence at local grocery stores and restaurants? And what does it mean for human employees? That's what we'll be discussing Monday at noon. Until then, thank you for listening. Tom Sherwood, big plans this weekend?
SHERWOODI'm hoping the federal government will reopen over the weekend.
NNAMDIAnd I guess there are a whole lot of people in the hundreds of thousands, who hope the same thing. Thank you all for listening. Have a great weekend. I'm Kojo Nnamdi.
Most Recent Shows
From scooters to buses, local officials, reporters, and activists explore transportation options in the area.
A new report shows that the District has one of the highest teacher turnover rates in the country. We'll dig into the report's findings and hear what it means for students in the classroom.
We hear the latest on Prince George's County schools and education funding in Maryland, and talk to Virginia Lt. Gov. Justin Fairfax about his political future, sexual assault allegations against him, and this week's primaries.