Solar energy projects are sweeping the region, from rooftop and community solar panels to large-scale farms. We'll talk about community solar programs, bigger solar projects and how these intersect with state legislation.
Virginia’s 2019 legislative session was marked by scandals involving the Commonwealth’s top elected officials. The session wrapped this week, and we get an update from State Senator Barbara Favola on which pieces of legislation made it through, which did not and why.
Then Virginia Rep. Gerry Connolly joins us to discuss the Congressional testimony he witnessed from President Donald Trump’s former lawyer Michael Cohen.
Finally, we meet one of Montgomery County’s newest council members, Evan Glass, who joins us to discuss transportation, development and housing issues in the county.
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
KOJO NNAMDIFrom WAMU 88.5 at American University in Washington, welcome to the Politics Hour starring Tom Sherwood. I'm Kojo Nnamdi. Later in the broadcast we'll be talking with Evan Glass. He's a member of the Montgomery County Council. We'll also be talking with Gerry Connolly. He's a member of the U.S. House of Representatives. He represents the 11th District, which includes most of Fairfax County and part of Prince William County. Joining us in studio now is Barbara Favola. She is a Virginia state senator, District 31, which includes portions of Arlington, Fairfax and Loudoun Counties. Thank you so much for joining us.
BARBARA FAVOLAOh, it's my pleasure, Kojo. Thank you for inviting me.
NNAMDITom Sherwood is our resident analyst. He's a contributing writer for Washington City Paper, and he's been hanging around here for a while. And we'll talk more about that later in the broadcast. Tom Sherwood, welcome.
TOM SHERWOODGood afternoon.
NNAMDIThe Virginia first lady under fire for handing cotton to African American students, who were on a tour of the mansion. It seems like the word clueless may be appropriate here, because I guess she was trying to teach them lessons about slavery, but taught them in probably entirely the wrong way.
SHERWOODWell, Pam Northam and Ralph Northam, who I've talked to in my job as a reporter for a long time just -- You know, this is a time where Pam Northam and Governor Northam need to be listening more than talking and doing, and that's what he said he's going to try to do. You know, there was a group of I think eighth graders. They were touring the old kitchen behind the governor's mansion. Governor McAuliffe started restoring it so that there would be a history of slavery and the African American influence in that enrichment.
SHERWOODAnd this tour group of young students were going through and she was -- Pam Northam was talking about cotton. And if you know anything about cotton, and I'm from the south, Atlanta, you know that if you try to pick it it's sharp. It cuts your hand. You don't get to wear gloves, and it was a horrible thing. And I think she was trying in her own way to reach out and say how horrible slavery was and how backbreaking the work was. And then she handed out these little cotton puffs.
SHERWOODI think there's another word for it. I should know it being from the south. And at least one if not two of the students said they didn't like that, 'cause they're African American. It was just an awkward way. Pam Northam apologized. She says she was just trying to talk about the horrors of slavery.
NNAMDIAs my mother --
SHERWOODBut then may I just say, if I've talked to long on this already, this is just the kind of atmosphere with the governor and the accusation or admission of blackface, attorney general and all the issues. It's been the worst -- Somebody said on TV last night this has been the worst black history month in 20 years maybe or more.
NNAMDII saw that. But Senator Favola--
SHERWOODSensitivities are that people need to be sensitive. And in this case if maybe you should listen rather than talk.
FAVOLAWell, I do think the governor has, has stated publicly that he certainly wants to listen. He wants to take this opportunity and turn it into something that can be a teaching moment. Certainly, Virginia has a very painful and I would say shameful history regarding slavery. And we have to reconcile that. We have to come to grips with it. We have to acknowledge how debilitating slavery really has been. And I think this is a time where leaders in the commonwealth, both black and white, certainly our black leaders in particular can stand together and come up with I think hopefully meaningful ways of not only understanding our history, but making significant changes.
FAVOLAThis may be an opportunity to really, really make a difference with communities of color that have, in my view, have not been given some of the opportunities that other communities have been given, where we have not been taking the proactive steps we should've been taking to make our public schools truly equal in their quality and their ability to educate students.
FAVOLAI mean this is -- we, we can use this opportunity to really make significant and transformational differences in the commonwealth.
SHERWOODWe're not talking about the past. We're talking about now. The racism is a mutating disease that changes as the time goes by, but the underlying basis of it is still the same. People are denied basic human rights and opportunities that essentially white people have had and others haven't had in this country.
NNAMDIMeanwhile, another scandal involving race, this time in Maryland. This time it's the Delegate Mary Ann Lisanti referring to a Prince George's County legislative district using the N word to describe the district. That's delegate Jay Walker's district I remember. The man was a great quarterback at Howard University and the NFL. But he heard the remark and said he discussed it privately with her, but she has now been censured and there are people, who are asking for Delegate Mary Ann Lisanti to step down. She says she does not plan to do it.
SHERWOODWell, it's not just people. It's the governor of the state, the censuring by the general assembly. Even the republican county executive Barry Glassman of Hartford County has called on her to resign. This happened in January. Ovetta Wiggins from the Washington Post is the one who brought this to the public's view, excellent journalism. It's a good example if I may so of what local journalism can be. It happened in January. She was at a bar, one of these after hour things, and she said, and she said that's not her. That word is not in her vocabulary. Of course it is, because she said it. But then, you know, yesterday there was some videotape of her at the state house and she seemed to be pulling back from acknowledging that she said it. One reporter asked her, "Were you drunk?" And she said no.
NNAMDIIt was a bar?
SHERWOODWell, I don't know which the bar was, but I just can't imagine, again being a southerner, anyone using probably the worst word that I can think of in some casual way like that. I mean, if she were drunk then it says something about her under her thought process. If she said it casually, it's talked about, it's insensitive, and to say it about Prince George's County, God knows that county has had enough to deal with. You know, Angela Alsobrooks, the county executive, has called on her to resign. I don't -- She's been removed by the house speaker of all her committee assignments. She's a walking ghost. She'll be only able to vote on the floor of the house, if that. I can't see her staying.
NNAMDIAnd I don't think we have seen the end of this at this point. Senator Favola, this week marked the end of the 2019 legislative session in Virginia. It was a session marked by scandals, some of which we've been discussing here, involving the top three elected officials in the commonwealth, the controversies involving Governor Northam, Lieutenant Governor Justin Fairfax, Attorney General Mark Herring. How did that impact your day-to-day work in the legislature?
FAVOLAWell, certainly it was a very challenging session, and lawmakers had to try very hard to stay focused on the business of the state. At the end of the day, it is our job to ensure that a state budget passed. It's our job to ensure that necessary legislative efforts are addressed and get passed. So, we worked very hard on that. And we also attempted to address the controversies that our three top elected officials had been, had surrounded themselves in.
FAVOLAHaving said all that, we had an incredibly successful session. There was bipartisan support for some key educational initiatives, like a five percent pay raise for teachers. We also put additional money in for need-based financial aid for our students attending higher education. And I was proud I could get childcare subsidies extended for low income moms who were continuing in school. So, on some of these real bread and butter issues, we made significant progress. And we had a couple pleasant surprises.
FAVOLAWe actually passed constitutional language for redistricting commission. Now that language has to pass two consecutive sessions with an election in-between. So, if in fact it passes the 2020 session, after the 2019 election, we can put it on the ballot in 2020.
NNAMDIWell, this is a discussion of the legislative session that just ended in Virginia. But I forgot, Tom Sherwood likes to say this is the Politics Hour. So, my first question should be--
NNAMDITom’s first question to you is probably this. Your seat is up for re-election this year, and though you have a section on your website about the 2019 campaign, Tom, you can finish the question.
SHERWOODYou have not declared that you’re running in the June 11th primary.
FAVOLAWell, I have been going around getting my petitions, signature petition signed.
SHERWOOD(overlapping) It’s March 1st just to be clear. It’s March 1st.
FAVOLAYeah. I understand it’s March 1st. Actually, the earliest you can turn in the petitions is March 11th. The democratic apparatus in my district is asking that first time petitions be turned in would be March 13th. I do have exceeded the number of signatures required. You probably know it’s 250.
SHERWOOD(overlapping) Oh, so you have filed. You have filed to run for re-election. You can’t do signatures unless you’ve filed.
FAVOLAI have filed.
SHERWOODOkay, so you’re running. That’s good.
FAVOLAYes. Qualifications of candidacy.
SHERWOODYou just went through a nice list and we cut you off from probably doing more about what the assembly did do.
NNAMDIBecause this is the Politics Hour.
SHERWOODThe politics of it is you’re going to be campaigning in the district here in Northern Virginia.
SHERWOODDo you still want Governor Northam to resign? Did you ever? I think you said he should. Where are you now on that?
FAVOLAAt this point I believe Governor Northam should continue in office and make some substantial and significant changes to help heal the state.
SHERWOOD(overlapping) And excuse me, is that a reversal? Had you called for him to resign previously?
FAVOLAI had backed the black caucus request, and yes, I did support the democratic caucus request.
SHERWOODOkay. Have you spoken to him at all?
FAVOLAWe have spoken, and he very much wants to turn this into something that can be positive.
SHERWOODWell, that’s what Ms.--That’s what the Delegate Lisanti in Maryland is saying. She wants to turn it into something, but that makes it difficult. What about--
FAVOLAWell no. I think there’s a big difference, though. Now remember what happened in Governor Northam’s case happened 35 years ago. And he has come out and said he was not in that picture, and it was a picture -- granted a very offensive picture of blackface.
SHERWOODThe issue is how it got on his ’84.
FAVOLAThe issue is how it got on his Facebook, on his page, yearbook page.
SHERWOODWhat about the Attorney General Mark Herring acknowledging in the midst of all this horrible time that he too once had did a blackface thing?
FAVOLAWell, I think the fact that he was--
SHERWOODDid you call for him to resign?
FAVOLAI did not.
FAVOLAAnd I think--I’m not aware that any major group or individual for that matter has called on the attorney general to resign.
SHERWOODHe volunteered the information either because he thought it might come out or because he wanted to in the moment.
FAVOLAThat’s right. And he put it in context. He said he put the blackface on because he wanted to portray a rapper.
SHERWOODWell, whatever the context is.
FAVOLAWhatever the context. And again, he was 19. So, I’m not defending--
SHERWOODOkay. I’m not asking you to either--I’m just wondering where you are so people will know where you are.
FAVOLAYeah, yeah. I’m not defending these actions.
SHERWOODAnd in the worst case--Not the worst case, an equally bad case, Lieutenant Governor Justin Fairfax as you know a rising star in the state party.
NNAMDIAccused by two women of sexual assault.
SHERWOOD(overlapping) Two cases, two women have made very serious allegations of sexual assault, one a rape. He’s denied it. The republicans wanted the legislature to have a committee meeting and call people for testimony. Do you guys oppose that?
SHERWOODWhere are you on that and Justin Fairfax staying in office?
FAVOLAI do think Justin Fairfax should resign. I think the allegations against the lieutenant governor are actually criminal in nature. And I think there’s a certain amount of moral authority that does go along with these elected offices. People do turn to you for leadership and they look to you as an example. I find the allegations very troubling.
FAVOLAI am not in favor of the general assembly moving forward with any kind of hearing. I think that could jeopardize the possibility of the two women actually getting a full judicial investigation, which is their option. And there are investigations that are going on or at least being considered, one with the Suffolk County attorney in Massachusetts. And then of course, Duke University stepped up and said they were investigating it. I would rather have the investigations be done by professionals and not done in a political theater setting.
SHERWOODBut he should resign.
FAVOLAI do feel he should resign.
NNAMDIBefore we get off of these issues, here’s Alice in Silver Springs, Maryland. Alice, you’re on the air. Go ahead, please.
ALICEHi. Thanks for taking my call. Excuse me. I just want to go back to something that was being discussed a few minutes ago about the Northam and the other legislator, the Maryland legislature who used the "N" word and so on. And I’m really troubled by this idea that they all are saying, Oh, we need to listen more. We need to learn more. This is 2019. I could give them, and I’m sure many people could, about a hundred reading suggestions so that they can read history. I mean I’m thinking of "The Color of Law" by Richard Rothstein when affirmative action was white.
NNAMDIYou think they can educate themselves.
ALICEWell, I think they have a responsibility. I think that this idea that somehow black people are supposed to be the ones, who bear the burden and responsibility of educating ignorant white people is a real problem. And I’m not saying that they shouldn’t be open to discussions.
NNAMDIBut you’re saying they should set about educating themselves. I say this to you only, because we have several guests today and we’re running short of time very quickly. Senator Favola.
FAVOLAI think that’s a very fair comment. Thank you for calling in. Absolutely, we should be requiring those types of books in our curriculum in schools, and we should also, frankly, be depicting a more honest presentation of slavery, which some educators have come forward and said, you know, in many, unfortunately, in many cases it has been not depicted in an accurate way that it should have been.
SHERWOODOkay. Let me ask. We are short of time. I’ve got to ask you. All 140 seats of the legislature are up this fall.
SHERWOODThe democrats--These controversies involving the top three democratic leaders has blown a hole in the democratic forward progress and state legislation votes since 2009. You’re only a few votes short in the senate and in the house of taking over the legislature. Are you concerned that this kind of controversy with your top leaders they won’t even be able to campaign for people will keep you from taking control from the republicans, that African Americans will stay home, because they don’t want to vote for the folks who are still in office and who have refused to resign despite calls for them to do so?
FAVOLAI don’t think so. I really believe that Virginians are going to pull together and understand that, you know, maybe the democrats are not perfect, but we certainly offer an agenda that is far more healing, far more progressive and far more sensitive to any racial disparities that are going on in the state and I admit there are some.
SHERWOODYou guys hammered Corey Stuart last year. Corey Stuart, poor thing’s associating with folks, not what he said.
FAVOLAWell, I mean he was supporting the confederacy. I mean that’s just--That’s a very--That’s a proactive, very divisive statement that Corey Stuart was running on. And we still have Trump in the white house. And I think that, you know, individuals are very motivated by certain issues that are important to them and they’re going to support candidates that will advocate for those issues.
NNAMDII want to get back to the legislative session, because one major thing that happened this season was the passing of the incentive package for Amazon’s headquarters project in Northern Virginia. You have said that Amazon coming means direct benefits to all Virginians. Not everyone is convinced, though yesterday protestors disrupted Amazon’s event chanting, "Pay to play is not okay. We want a hearing today." Pushback from residents and public officials torpedoed New York’s Amazon headquarters. How do you think the public should be engaged moving forward with Amazon’s arrival in this region?
FAVOLAWell, fortunately, you know, Arlington County and the City of Alexandria have a deep history of having lots of involvement with their citizens. They hold public hearings on just about every issue. What’s going on is I think the jurisdictions are going to try to take substantial efforts to increase affordable housing. And the state did add additional money for affordable housing precisely because of the Amazon issue. And the state is not losing money on Amazon. These are tax breaks. So, the state would not necessarily receive a certain amount of money, but the end result is the economic activity and the taxes paid by Amazon employees far exceeds the tax break that was given to Amazon. I mean, we’re talking $3 billion in additional revenue over that 20-year period. So, at the end of the day, this is a huge benefit for the state.
SHERWOODYou were on the Arlington Board, County Board--
FAVOLA(overlapping) I absolutely was.
SHERWOODFor 13 years, I think.
SHERWOODFourteen, well, close enough.
FAVOLAWhat’s a year here or there?
SHERWOODBut this does have, even though it’s a long period of time of bringing these jobs, 25,000 jobs, it does already -- it’s already affecting the rental market and the housing market in Arlington. Prices are -- people are talking about prices are going up fast.
FAVOLAWell, I will say that, you know, Arlington had planned for some growth, and the Amazon movement is really not a significant change from the amount of growth that Arlington had been planning for. I expect that there are some increases in rent, but I also believe that Arlington and Alexandria will come up with some incentive packages to help retain the market rate affordable housing and to help create additional housing. And not everybody’s going to be living in Arlington or Alexandria. I mean, this is, you know. These employees will be coming from around the region.
SHERWOODOne good thing, if Amazon helps make sure that the metro system works.
FAVOLAThat might be a very good thing.
SHERWOODVirginia’s not going to be New York, though.
FAVOLANo, no. And we’re putting $198 million into improving the metro system.
NNAMDIBefore you go, Beth in Vienna, Virginia has a question for you. Beth, your turn.
BETH TUDANHi. Hi, Kojo.
TUDANSo, yes. I’m Beth Tudan with the League of Women Voters in Fairfax County. We were disappointed, of course, about the ERA failing, but there was one incredible accomplishment that you already touched on, the Independent Redistricting Commission.
TUDANCould you please explain more about what the Independent Redistricting Commission would do?
FAVOLAI’d be happy to, Beth. Thank you so much. This would be a constitutional amendment subject to a referendum, and the commission would consist of 16 individuals. Eight individuals would be lawmakers, and eight individuals would be experts appointed by retired circuit court judges. This commission would be tasked with coming up with a redistricting plan, and two thirds of the commission members would have to support the plan. And then the plan would be submitted to the general assembly. The general assembly would have to vote up or down, without amending that plan. So, language was also added to ensure transparency that public hearings would be part of this whole process. I think we’ve got a really good, really good construct, going forward.
FAVOLAYou know, I always say to folks, this is one of the transformational issues that will change politics, because if, in fact, you have districts that are more moderate, not tilted towards one party or the other, you’re going to get lawmakers who are better able to compromise, better willing to compromise. Thank you.
NNAMDIBarbara Favola, thank you so much for joining us.
SHERWOODShe represents District 31. It looks like a lumpy sausage.
NNAMDIIt certainly does.
FAVOLAI love my district.
SHERWOODYou’re not lumpy. Your district is.
NNAMDIAnd she is running for re-election.
NNAMDISo, good luck to you.
FAVOLAThank you, gentleman. Such a pleasure.
NNAMDIThis the Politics Hour. Later in the broadcast, we’ll be talking with Evan Glass, who’s a member of the Montgomery County Council. Next up is Gerry Connolly, who’s a member of the U.S. House of Representatives. Tom Sherwood. Senator Tom Sherwood.
GERRY CONNOLLYYeah, I like the sound of that.
NNAMDISenator Mark Warner says he will be sponsoring DC-stated legislation. That’s a position change for him. Essentially, he says he’s no longer as concerned as he used to be about the imposition of a commuter tax.
SHERWOODWell, you know, the District has a better reputation now. The fact is -- and our next guest maybe can comment on it, too -- the Maryland, Virginia legislators have said they’re for statehood, for the District, but don’t really want to go out of their way to help make it happen, because they will be subject to hundreds of thousands of people coming to this District to earn money, but pay all their taxes to Richmond and Annapolis, will end up paying some of that money to the District to the tune of billions of dollars. So, there are reasons for the suburban members not to support statehood for the District. And Steny Hoyer is one of the biggest holdouts of all. He has not signed on to this newest effort to have a vote in that Congress.
NNAMDIAnd over the objection of the district, metro, the WMATA board has voted to keep the current metro rail hours. I think we could see that coming, even though the District objected, and one board member from the District voted against it. Of course, the current board chairman, Jack Evans, did not vote against it, which had he voted against it, then metro would’ve been facing a real dilemma.
SHERWOODThe District could’ve vetoed this, and there’s already a schedule on for the later hours to take effect. But metro general manager Paul Wiedefeld and others on the board didn’t want to do that, because if you lengthen the hours, you shorten the time for, for--
SHERWOODFor maintenance. So, Jack Evans, as the chairman of the board, I think went along with the people who didn’t want it to happen. The mayor was disappointed. She wants those longer hours, because there are any number of employees -- not just people out having a good time late at night -- but late night workers in all kinds of industries need to get home, and right now, they can’t depend on metro.
NNAMDIJoining us now by phone is Gerry Connolly. He’s a member of the U.S. House of Representatives, representing Virginia’s 11th District. Congressman Connolly, thank you for joining us.
CONNOLLYGreat to be with you, Kojo and Tom.
SHERWOODAre we talking the Trump investigation? Because I heard you last night on “Anderson Cooper’s 360” on CNN. You said we’re on the verge of showing that the president of the United States is the head of a criminal enterprise.
NNAMDICongressman Connolly was one of the people in the room questioning Cohen, who is Trump’s former lawyer. Could you care to expand on what Tom Sherwood just said?
CONNOLLYSure. You know, we have lots of evidence in front of us, and we had lots more presented by Mr. Cohen several days ago that Mr. Trump and his enterprise have consistently been engaged in flaunting and breaking the law, and at times, engaging in conspiracies to do so. So, for example, Mr. Cohen came before our committee and presented, as evidence, an actual check for hush money payments to reimburse Mr. Cohen for the Stormy Daniels hush money and for a Playboy Playmate hush money. And it was actually signed by the president and written by the president from the White House.
SHERWOODAnd I watched almost the entire hearing from the comfort of my sofa. Maybe you can comment on Chairman Elija Cummings of Maryland. His summation at the end was, you know, I thought everything was going to happen. They were going to pass a collection plate at the end, he was so good at what he said.
SHERWOODBut he also said that the next guest could well be -- I mean, not guest. The next person to appear might be Allen Weisselberg, the 40-year CFO of the Trump organization, worked with Trump's father, who knows all he said. And you said on CNN that he has the keys to the kingdom.
CONNOLLYThat's right. Yeah, Weisselberg is a very critical figure, and it eerily reminds one of how Al Capone was brought down. You know, Al Capone was brought down, ultimately, by an accountant, who knew where the bodies were buried, financially, and his name was Shumway. And he testified and turned -- he was a member of Capone's criminal activity -- and that is what put Al Capone away and put him in jail.
NNAMDIFor tax evasion, ultimately.
CONNOLLYFor tax evasion, ultimately. That's right, despite murders and all kinds of other crimes. And, in this case, Mr. Weisselberg has been with the Trump organization for 40 years. And he knows virtually every aspect, financial aspect of how the organization was structured and operated. And as you may have heard from the hearing the other day, I believe Mr. Weisselberg's name was invoked over 30 times as the key to some answer. And so I think he's going to be critical, moving forward.
NNAMDIBut Republicans have maligned Cohen's character, calling him a liar whose testimony can't be trusted. How did the fact that he previously lied to Congress affect how you and your colleagues regarded him as a witness?
CONNOLLYWell, you know, without any examination, that seems like a reasonable concern. Although, one keeps in mind, while calling this man a convicted liar, which he is, they, of course, have -- they are protecting the prevaricator-and-chief, who, according to the Washington Post, is at 6,000 lies in this presidency, and counting. We just caught him in another lie in the last 24 hours about Jared Kushner's security clearance, a boldface lie, where he flat-out said: I have never directed anyone to give Kushner a security clearance. Well, we now know that's not true. He did exactly that.
CONNOLLYSo, there's some real irony here, but Congress and the courts all across this country use people who have turned, or grant them immunity, who are not good guys. The only people who testify before Congress are not altar boys and altar girls. And in the most famous case, in this regard, from -- that got organized crime finally to heal, was Joe Valachi, in the '60s, who turned. He was a murderer, but he turned on organized crime.
SHERWOOD(overlapping) Well, our...
CONNOLLYHe provided the first major organization chart for organized crime.
SHERWOODOur legal system depends on people turning.
SHERWOODBut let me ask you, as a member of Congress, a northern Virginia legislator, I just have to ask you to look back into the Commonwealth. What is your -- what do you hear on Capitol Hill -- now among Democrats, or just people -- about what's happened to the leadership? The Democratic Party has essentially imploded with the controversies around the top three officials of the state. What are your own feelings about that now, going forward? It's a very important political year in Virginia, and what are you hearing about all o that? And what do you think should be done?
CONNOLLYYeah, I'm not sure what you mean, the Democratic Party has imploded.
SHERWOOD(overlapping) Well, the three...
CONNOLLYI'm a member of the Democratic Party. I go to a lot of Democrat meetings. I haven't noticed that we've imploded. We certainly have a problem...
SHERWOOD(overlapping) Well, I mean, just the top leadership -- the top -- the governor, the lieutenant governor and the attorney general.
CONNOLLYYeah, definitely, but let's look at how Democrats have responded to that compared to how Republicans are protecting Trump. Within 24 hours, Democrats called for Ralph Northam's resignation, condemned what happened, and did that. After the second allegation against Justin Fairfax, almost unanimously, Democrats called for his resignation. So, I mean, I think Democrats have been very swift, not reluctant, to address this. And, by the way, those calls stand.
SHERWOOD(overlapping) And they're still in office.
CONNOLLYThey're -- well, you know, Tom, if you've got a better solution, let me know.
SHERWOODWell, I'm a reporter. You have the solutions. I just -- I'm just, you know, the person who listens.
CONNOLLY(laugh) Yeah, well, but, I mean, look, I think longer term. It's not a tenable situation for either one of them, because I think they've lost the moral authority to govern. And they're learning that every day. They're disinvited from speeches. They're not welcome in political events. The legislature kind of snubbed them when it finally ended its session by not doing the traditional courtesy call on the governor to inform him. You know, these are little and big ways of saying to both of them you're not welcome, we're not going to work with you, and they're both kind of men without a country at this point.
NNAMDIGerry Connolly's a member of the U.S. House of Representatives, representing Virginia's 11th District. Congressman Connolly, thank you so much for joining us.
CONNOLLYMy great pleasure, and have me back.
NNAMDIWe certainly will. Joining us in studio now is Evan Glass. He's a member of the Montgomery County Council. Evan Glass, thank you for joining us.
EVAN GLASSThank you for having me, Kojo.
NNAMDIIf you have questions or comments for Evan Glass, give us a call, 800-433-8850. Send us a Tweet @KojoShow. Email to Kojo@WAMU.org, or you can go to our website, KojoShow.org, watch the live video stream of the conversation. See what this new Montgomery County Councilmember looks like. Or you can ask a question, or make a comment there. Tom Sherwood, speaking of councils, DC Councilmember Jack Evans -- who we just mentioned is chairman of the Metro board -- has been subpoenaed. Or documents relating to him have been subpoenaed by a federal grand jury because of a digital sign company, Digi Outdoor Media, with whom the councilmember was at least peripherally involved, at some point.
SHERWOOD(overlapping) at least (unintelligible)
NNAMDIYes. And this is an ongoing situation.
SHERWOODDonald McCord. Well, just to be absolutely clear, the federal's subpoena went to the district government for any all and records. And within that subpoena councilmember Evans is the only member mentioned, because he had the most dealings with him as the Post is certainly well laid out in story about getting monies and different things. Evans contends that he turned over everything. He's been cooperating. He has no concerns. He thinks that, well, some people have criticized him from ethically, maybe, coming close to the line or putting the toe on the line of considering gifts, but not accepting them or returning them almost immediately after getting them, that it looks bad.
SHERWOODI think that Chairman Mendelson of the council said, there's a lot of smelly stuff around this, but I haven't seen anything illegal yet. And that's kind of where we are legally in this case. But Evans has been severely hurt by this because people want to know, did he accept illegal gifts in order to prepare for some legislation which he did not introduce. But the FBI's been looking into this and now we have subpoenas which was issued last September. It's just now being made public.
NNAMDIAnd a lot of it has to do with the company that Jack Evans started up called NSE Consulting, which was first reported on by Jeffery Anderson at District Dig.
SHERWOOD(overlapping) Yeah, but that would just establish his law firm, because the initials are his wife. But you just have to remember that Donald McCord is being sued by the Securities and Exchange Commission for squandering $2 million in investor money. And, again, it's not the best person to have testifying, maybe, against you. But just like in all these other legal cases, let's find out what the facts are. We need to know. Jack Evans is up for reelection this year.
NNAMDI(overlapping) Because Evans said that he (all talking at once)
SHERWOOD...didn't get a job, but we need to clear it up. He's going to be running for reelection this fall.
NNAMDIEvan Glass, first, congratulations on becoming a councilmember.
GLASSThank you very much.
NNAMDIFor people who might not...
SHERWOOD(overlapping) A media person.
NNAMDI...for people who might not be familiar with you and your background -- this is something that Tom Sherwood usually checks on -- what are you most interested about Evan Grass' background?
SHERWOODYou know, he worked for Chicken Noodle News, CNN.
GLASSI thought it was Clinton News Network.
SHERWOODWell, it depends on your political view, which I don't have. But, you know, you were a journalist and now you're an elected official. What's the difference?
GLASSWhat's the difference? I like getting things done. That's what the difference is.
SHERWOODAre you more careful how you talk? One of the councilmembers to me said, it was one thing to be an activist, but when he got elected as a councilmember he had start weighing everything he said, because we can twist it in any way we want to.
GLASSWell, I'm aware of how good you are at twisting people's words, if that's what you're telling me, Tom.
SHERWOODWell, I just shine light on them.
GLASSWell, sunshine is a good policy, but, you know, I worked for CNN for 12 years. I covered Congress, national politics, presidential campaigns, and I absolutely loved it.
SHERWOODDo you with you were up there right now?
GLASSAbsolutely not, because, you know, this week, if I were still at CNN, I either would've been covering the Michael Cohen hearing, or I probably would have been in Vietnam with President Trump, covering that. And while I was at CNN for 12 years, I had moved to downtown Silver Spring, as the holes were still in the ground, and realized that I loved the walkable, livable transit-oriented community. And years later, as I'm walking to the Metro, the sidewalks were crumbling, and there was no crosswalk to get across the street.
GLASSAnd I thought to myself, I know how Congress works, I know how the federal government works, but who do I talk to in my own neighborhood about fixing sidewalks? And that's what got me hooked on municipal government. And 15, 16 years later, here I am, an at-large member of the Montgomery County council.
SHERWOODYou got more votes than any other at-large people running.
GLASSIn the November election?
SHERWOODIn the November election.
NNAMDIYou are on the Transportation and Environment Committee on the council. First, let's talk Metro, because County Executive Marc Elrich reiterated that he thinks that DC-backed plans to open the Metro at 5:30 a.m. instead of 5:00 a.m. would negatively affect Montgomery County bus riders. Apparently, the Metro board agreed. What do you think a long-term solution for Metro hours would look like?
GLASSSo, at first, I have to say I share the frustrations that all the riders have, and the frustration for the hourly workers who work late at night. It's not an ideal situation for anybody, but the WMATA board, the Metro board, you know, after getting an infusion of nearly $500 million to shore up the infrastructure -- which was critically important, because it had been denied the money to improve our infrastructure for years.
GLASSBut at that point in time, you know, we were told that these systems would be fixed within two years. And we're now at that two-year juncture, and something's still not right. And so what the Metro board and the organization as a whole needs to start doing is communicating better. We need to really understand what this timeline is. And I'm not quite sure why we can't chew gum and walk at the same time, fix our infrastructure system, improve our operations and bring this system back to the world-class operational system that it once was.
SHERWOODMike Goldman, the Montgomery County representative on the board said that, you know, if we went forward with longer hours it could endanger federal funds, it could affect the Purple Line, all kinds of -- and he's told the Bethesda Beat magazine that we need to find a way to increase service and have a safe Metro system. It seems to me a lot of people keep defining the problem. We seem to know what the problem is. Does it require just spending more money to have more maintenance workers working at night in these off-hours, so they can extend those service hours?
SHERWOODBecause I just know so many people now with Uber and Lyft, they don't need Metro. They can spend 5 or $6, get to where they want to go, rather than spending a few dollars on Metro and having to descend underground and wait and wait and wait.
GLASSThere certainly is a demographic that does not need Metro for late night enjoyment, or getting back from work, or whatever it is they need to come to.
SHERWOODBut many people do.
GLASSBut many people do, that's the bottom line. And, you know, being an elected official in Montgomery County, I need to make sure that our residents are being able to commute on the system in a safe and efficient manner. You know, when I moved to Montgomery County or downtown Silver Spring, I took the redline from Silver Spring to Union Station where CNN operated. And I did so every day without thinking about life, limb or disruptions. And we need to get back to that time.
NNAMDIWell now, you ride the bus, because I want to -- well, stay with...
SHERWOOD(overlapping) That was my trick question. I have a trick -- but you go ahead and ask...
NNAMDIOh, go, ask your trick question.
SHERWOODWell, when you got elected, you said you would ride the bus, and you put out a video on the day that you rode the bus. But, you know, you're an at-large councilmember in Montgomery County. It's not a few city blocks. It's a huge county. How often -- do you just ride the bus to work and then get in the car and drive around the county? How much of that is image and how much do you really ride the bus...
NNAMDI(overlapping) Because it took you 80 minutes to get to work the first time when you rode the bus, and that means...
SHERWOODThat's because he was taking all those videos.
NNAMDI...it probably took you 80 minutes to get back home. And that's two hours and 40 minutes per day riding the bus. Is that something that you get -- is that sustainable for you?
GLASSSo, my background, having lived in downtown Silver Spring, my husband and I had one car for the two of us. And for ten years, we had one car. When we moved into a single-family house, I told our realtor that I wanted to make sure we didn't have to get a second car. And I was the one who took Metro. I took the bus and walked whenever possible. I had to get a second car when I announced my candidacy for a county council at large seat. It's a 500-square mile jurisdiction, as you well know. It's vast. And so, while I do have to drive to fulfill my obligations as a county councilmember...
SHERWOOD(overlapping) Okay. What kind of car is it?
GLASSI drive a Honda Fit, which I've had for about ten, 12 years now. But I do take public transit as often as possible. That was my pledge when I first got sworn in, and I'm holding myself to it.
NNAMDIThis week, a Purple Line -- you had a follow up to that?
SHERWOODGo ahead. There's one more transportation question that would be good, and I have another issue.
NNAMDIThis week, a Purple Line tunnel under Flower Avenue was partially completed ahead of scheduled. The project has been controversial because of noise complaints and late night and early morning construction. What do you think of how the Purple Line has been progressing so far, and how do you balance the desire to build it in a timely manner with respect for people's rest, their sleep, their sanity?
GLASSYeah, that's a real problem, and it appears that the State Department of Transportation and the Purple Line partners has been a little deaf to the noise complaints that have been real legitimate, especially in the areas not far from me where the tunnel has recently at least been breached, both sides of it. You know, the other aspect is the timeliness and the cost overruns that are already mounting. I want to engage more with the state and figure out why we're having this problem.
GLASSYou know, as a former journalist, I believe that oversight and accountability are extremely important in government functions. And I'm troubled by what I'm learning in these short three months that I've already been on the council, as it relates to the progress of that project.
SHERWOODLet me ask you about legislation. So, it's being called just cause legislation. It would dramatically change rental agreements in the state. If the Montgomery County delegation, I think the council supports it, it would -- right now, landlords can give renters -- and there's zillions of renters in the state -- 60-day notice, with no reason, just that the contract's up, the term's up, and you have to get out. That this just cause would say, the landlord has to give a reason, a just cause reason in order to kick someone out, that housing is such a crisis. You can't just have the landlords arbitrarily wanting to kick people out. What would -- is that the right idea about the legislation, and what are your views on it?
GLASSSo, the just cause eviction legislation has been sponsored by my friend and my personal delegate, Jheanelle Wilkins. And I have been supportive of that effort. What that effort does, it's limited to Montgomery County, and it basically says that if you are a good tenant in good standing and you pay your rent and you are not a nuisance to the community, you should be able to stay in that home, your home.
SHERWOODWhy can't Montgomery County just pass it? Why does it have to be an issue?
GLASS(overlapping) There's a quirk in state law that requires the state to change those types of rental agreements. But, you know...
SHERWOOD(overlapping) Okay. Housing crisis is a big deal, so...
GLASSIt is. Well, and Kojo was in Silver Spring, talking about housing and how it relates to school. And this is another way that, you know, there is disruption sometimes among the students. And when the student has, you know, concerns about where they're going to be living or being uprooted, that has other effects, ripple effects in the school system. So, I think just cause eviction is one way to create more stability within our residential population.
NNAMDIHere is Marie, in Derwood, Maryland. Marie, you're on the air. Go ahead, please.
MARIEYes, I want to know what this Montgomery County councilmember's opinion is about the fact that today, Montgomery County, below the agricultural preserve line, has been deliberately and willfully overpopulated and overdeveloped, becoming a deadly county, dangerous, filled with violence, ruining our quality of life, especially for longtime native-born Montgomery County residents. Yet if you live one inch north of the agricultural preserve, those citizens are treated like kings and queens, getting enormous property tax breaks, with no threat to their quality of life. Yet we long-term residents are watching our county just literally go down the sewer in terms of everything that made Montgomery County once the most beautiful county in the country.
NNAMDISo, Councilmember Glass, you know what Marie really thinks.
GLASSWell, I appreciate your calling in, Marie, but I'm going to have to disagree with you, quite frankly, on a host of the things that you've said. You know, Montgomery County is a beautiful place to live. We are richly diverse. We love our neighbors, regardless of where they were born, who they love, what language they speak. And that is why I chose to move to Montgomery County more than 20 years ago. And we do have a population of about 1.1 million people, and most of those do live below the agricultural reserve.
GLASSBut the agricultural reserve has been recognized as a national treasure. And we in Montgomery County are in the forefront of preserving one-third of our space, which is the agricultural reserve, so that we can have farm-to-table living. We can encourage farmers to live out there and protect our natural waterways and environment.
SHERWOODLet's talk about corruption. The chief operating officer of the county's economic development department pled guilty for embezzling $7 million. I read somewhere that you said that there are aspects of the county government that are, quote, "screaming for better oversight." How bad is the problem of corruption in Montgomery County, or potential corruption?
GLASSWell, you know, within a week or two of being sworn into Montgomery County Council, you know, one of the things from being a journalist to being an elected official is I had all this information easily supplied to me. And one of that -- some of that information was the inspector general's report and conversations directly had with those investigators. And what Peter Bang was able to do during his tenure, steal nearly $7 million from the Economic Development Department, there were a lot of systemic holes that we need to plug.
GLASSAnd by shining light, by having full-throated, open conversations, some of that has been bureaucratically corrected. But I'm committed to making sure that we continue shining that light, have more oversight...
SHERWOOD(overlapping) More aggressive oversight.
GLASSMore aggressive oversight. You know, you can go to my YouTube page, you can see my eight minutes of questioning with the IEG. And when I asked where else they have looked, they basically said, we haven't really looked anywhere else. So, I can't answer your question. I don't believe that there is a problem in Montgomery County. I'd like to think that we have wonderful staff, we have great employees, but we can always do a better job of...
NNAMDI(overlapping) Speaking of bureaucratically corrected, you'll be introducing a bill soon that would address pay equity between male and female county employees. Recently, reporting from the Bethesda Beat magazine showed that there are significant gaps between the annual salaries of male and female employees, significant gaps in their overtime pay. Why do you think these gaps persist, and what would your bill do to combat them?
GLASSWell, thank you for asking. So, next Tuesday, I'll be introducing the Montgomery County Pay Equity Act. And what that is going to do is forbid the county operation from requesting salary history as part of the hiring process. Because what we know is that when you rely on an applicant's history, you only perpetuate the pay inequity that exists. You know, in the state of Maryland, a woman makes 79 cents, approximately, for every dollar a man makes. And that is even worse for women of color. Black women make 69 cents per dollar, and Latinos make 47 cents per dollar. And then that doesn't even include women who have left the workforce to raise their family.
GLASSSo, when they're applying for jobs, current policy allows managers to use that salary history and...
SHERWOOD(overlapping) It perpetuates itself.
GLASSAbsolutely. And so, what I have found in hiring my own team, my own office, particularly my chief of staff, who is a Latina, that they were asking for salary history. And I said this isn't right, and you're asking me of it, right, and my team. And so we're going to ban that and try to correct his. And on Tuesday at the press conference, when I announce this, I'm going to be sharing some pretty alarming data that shows that this is a real, pervasive and systemic problem in the county.
NNAMDIEvan Glass is a member of the Montgomery County Council. And, you know, you, like Tom Sherwood, used to have a real job before you got into politics. You used to be in the news media. Tom Sherwood used to report for NBC 4. He retired from that job last year, but, wait, what's this coming into the room right now?
SHERWOODOh, my goodness.
NNAMDISomebody's bringing a cake.
SHERWOODIs this cake union-made?
NNAMDIThis cake is probably union-made, but this cake is because this is the ten-year anniversary of Tom Sherwood's service here on the Politics Hour, the service for which he left a real job to continue to perform this service. And so we would just like to say thank you very much for the past ten years. Hopefully, we will get many more years with you on the Politics Hour. And this cake, which you will have to consume the entire cake before this broadcast ends...
SHERWOODI'll share it with the newsroom.
NNAMDI...is our way of saying to you thank you very much.
SHERWOODWell, you know, as a political analyst I get to give my opinion more. As a reporter, you know, I always had to find somebody else to say what I wanted to say. But this is -- thank you very much for the cake. It looks very good.
NNAMDIAnd because you get to give your opinion more, you have about 30 seconds to talk about Bryce Harper leaving the Nationals and heading to the battery-throwing Philly fans' Philadelphia Phillies.
SHERWOODSixty person of the fans of the Nats come from Virginia. It is a huge economic development sports industry in the city. The Nats this year, they're going to have a big gambling casino at the...
NNAMDISo, you say they're going to lose money now that Bryce Harper is gone?
SHERWOOD(overlapping) So -- well, Bryce Harper put butts in the seats. Now, we'll all be there on April the 2nd when he returns in that Phillies uniform, and we'll all be booing. I'll be more hoarse than normal.
NNAMDIWe have an announcement about Monday's show. Virginia Attorney General Mark Herring will be in-studio in his first sit-down interview since the scandals broke involving the top three officials in the Commonwealth. So you'll want to tune in for that. Also...
SHERWOODI don't think I'm -- I'm not busy Monday.
NNAMDIThere's that couch that you have at your house. Also, you'll be getting a preview of our next Roadshow coming up on March 19th on gentrification in the District's art scene. We'll look at how small, independent theaters can survive in a rapidly changing Washington environment. That all starts Monday, at noon. Evan Glass, once again, congratulations, and thank you for joining us.
GLASSThank you, Kojo. Thank you, Tom.
NNAMDISee you Monday at noon. Until then, thank you for listening. I'm Kojo Nnamdi.
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