Saying Goodbye To The Kojo Nnamdi Show
On this last episode, we look back on 23 years of joyous, difficult and always informative conversation.
Could a recent vote in the U.S. House of Representatives boost efforts for D.C. statehood? What would changes to election law mean for Maryland? And why didn’t the Equal Rights Amendment pass this year in Virginia’s legislature?
We look at all of that this week on the Politics Hour, and get an update on the biggest political news stories of the region.
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. Tom Sherwood he 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 Kaye Kory who's a member of the Virginia House of Delegates. We'll also be talking with Jamie Raskin who is a member of the U.S. House of Representatives and we'll be talking with the delegate from the District of Columbia to the U.S. House of Representatives, Eleanor Holmes Norton.
NNAMDIBut first, Tom Sherwood, what is going on or continues to go on with now being described as embattled D.C. Council Member, Jack Evans, because there are people, who are asking for him to resign. And activist, Adam Eidinger is starting a recall campaign. He has to go out and get petitions against Jack Evans, but there has been no conclusion to any investigation yet at this point.
SHERWOODYou know, no matter who you are if you're a public official, you do not want the word embattled to be seen like permanently engraved in front of your name. But Jack Evans faces on Tuesday -- he's a long time Ward 2 Council Member, first elected back in 1990. He faces a reprimand by the Council, carries no punishment other than the fact he's reprimanded for using his Council email account to solicit business from local law firms here in the District of Columbia. That vote is set on Tuesday.
SHERWOODThere are some Council Members who happen to be right now meeting in a private retreat at the Washington Convention Center, an annual retreat. There discussing racial equity and anti-Semitism is part of their major focus today. But some of the Council Members want to take stronger action against Jack Evans on Tuesday and strip him of his Committee Chairmanship of the Finance and Revenue Committee among other committees, because of their concerns.
SHERWOODBecause it's not only the ethics issue of using his email, but there's a federal probe into Jack's business associations and the entire government virtually has gotten subpoenas now to preserve documents relating to various businesses that Jack may be serving with. So the big vote is coming Tuesday. It's an ongoing situation. Joining us now by phone is Eleanor Holmes Norton, Delegate to the U.S. House of Representatives from the District of Columbia. Congresswoman Norton, thank you for joining us.
ELEANOR HOLMES NORTONGlad to be with you, Kojo and Tom.
SHERWOODMs. Norton, can we ask you just, because I talked about Jack, you were elected the same year. Can I just ask you -- you've known him. You've worked with him on any number of major business development issues in the city, Yards Park in southwest Washington and other places. What is your own concern as you watch that unfold?
NORTONWell, Tom, sure is a friend and he and I the longest serving, whatever that means. But I tell you one thing I'm not going to do is put my thumb on the scale one way or the other. I say to Congress stay out of D.C.'s business and I set the example. I said, "Follow me." So I don't -- I'm not deep into this except what I read in the newspaper. So I'm going to leave it to the District less the District think that the Congress is in this matter.
NNAMDIWell, here's what you're deep into. Last week the House voted on the For the People Act, which among other things includes an endorsement of statehood for the District of Columbia. What exactly would this act do?
NORTONWell, this is really very important now. It is a run-up, a prelude to HR51 itself, which is – do you get that, HR51?
SHERWOODWe got it, 51st state for those who are having --
NORTONThe 51st state out of statehood bill to be in the findings, which is essentially a comprehensive pro-democracy bill, which we may think we have democracy. WE do. We still have many many flaws. I mean, one of the things that most appeals to me, we don't have a problem like this in the District of Columbia. But it faces me in the Congress is that it has -- HR1 says that the way to combat Gerrymander is to have independent commissions rather than members of politicians rather. Do that configuration.
NORTONSo it's issues of that kind. So to be in that bill means that the District of Columbia is the only local jurisdiction in this bill, which is really about democracy for the nation. And it doesn't have HR1 in it. That's not the way it works. It doesn't have statutes in it. But it has something even more important. It has findings. In other words, it lays out the case for why the District of Columbia should be the 51st state. It makes the case in a pro-democracy bill that the Congress regards is so important that it's made it HR1.
NORTONAnd if you look at statehood itself in less than three months, well, we've hardly been here, in less than three months we've made more progress than we've made in 218 years because we now have 201 co-sponsors -- sponsors and co-sponsors. We are in HR1. We have been promised a vote on the House floor. We believe that vote will take place either late this year or early next year. We are still trying to get new members. We got many new members, but we have this problem with new members. Like most American polls show, most Americans that the District residents all have the same rights they have. So we are working on new members, who are coming on. I'm very pleased to say --
NNAMDIHere's Tom Sherwood.
SHERWOODCongresswoman, the Senate controlled by Republicans has no interest in this bill whatever the appeal. And Jamie Raskin is here. He's one of the biggest strongest supporters for statehood in the District of Columbia. And maybe he can talk on this. But the Senate is not going to take this up. So what's next?
NORTONThat's right. The Senate is not going to take up trivial bills. So the way in which you got things done in the Congress was to wait until you had 60 members of the Senate nothing would happen in the House. This makes it, as far as I'm concerned more than halfway there, because it's such a -- if we get through the House it will bring tremendous pressure, because it will that districts in the senatorial -- in this senate states are onboard for statehood. I'm the first to admit how difficult it is to get statehood through the House – through the Senate.
SHERWOODI was going to --
NORTONBut you have to go one house at a time, Tom.
NNAMDIYou care to comment on this Jamie Raskin?
JAMIE RASKINIt's been interesting to me how open all of these new members are to talking about statehood not just for D.C. but for Puerto Rico too. You know, people understand that there are millions of Americans who live under our flag and pay taxes and are law abiding citizens.
SHERWOODFight in wars.
RASKINFight in wars and so on. And 700,000 right in D.C., who are not represented. So I think it's a very good sign for D.C. statehood and for Eleanor's hard work that we are where we are now.
NNAMDINevertheless, Congresswoman Norton, we got an email from Greg who says, "As a former D.C. teacher and parent, I support retrocession for the educational advantages it would provide. We'd have access to a state university system including historically black colleges and we'd be able to drop the D.C. tag, which is a placebo for a real system. Why does Congresswoman Norton continue to push for a charade of a solution?" I knew you'd like that.
SHERWOODI'd love to see your face right now.
NORTONI love it. I very much appreciate that caller, because it allows me to make clear that at the time we're getting democracy we don't want to take democracy away from another state. Maryland is too nice to say it, although I do have some figures saying where their state legislators stand on retrocession. And for listeners retrocession means that since the District came from Maryland it would be reincorporated into Maryland.
NORTONMaryland doesn't want it. District really doesn't want it. In more than 200 years we have taken on a flavor of our own. We are really our own people now. That is even further away. In fact, it's nowhere on the list, because you'd have to convince two groups of people. You'd have to convince the District of Columbia and the state of Maryland. Don't make it harder than it already is.
SHERWOODWell, maybe we -- Virginia got its portion of the District back in 1848, because it wanted to protect slavery. Maybe we could get northern Virginia back into the District and then we really do have something.
NNAMDII am not even going there, because we don't have the time. But quickly Congresswoman Norton, this week the president signed a congressional lands bill changes how D.C. can manage it's federally controlled parks. What exactly is going to change?
NORTONYeah. That means a lot to the District and we already have a park downtown ready to go. What it means for the District is that we have the authority to work with the National Park Service to begin rehabilitating our park. The National Park Service owns all of our parks. You will note that we haven't asked to take back those parks. We don't mind them owning them. They keep them up. They don't do anything with them because they're the most underfunded area. The National Park Service Agency, they are the most underfunded agency in the federal government.
NORTONSo if we want to do something about our neighborhood park, if we want to do something about the parks downtown, we're going to have to get the District. And in this case we're working with the business community for the parks downtown to rehabilitate those parks. Considering how many parks there are in the District -- and this is one of the great amenities of the District, this could really matter to the District.
NORTONAnd the reason I know it matters is the moment this bill began to move people tweeted the hell out of what it meant to them to get this bill through. People want their parks rehabilitated. They want the National Park Service and the District government to get on with it. And now we're able to do it.
NNAMDIEleanor Holmes Norton is the Delegate to the U.S. House of Representatives from the District of Columbia. Congresswoman Norton, thank you for joining us.
NORTONAlways a pleasure, Kojo.
NNAMDIJoining us in studio is Jamie Raskin. He's a member of the U.S. House of Representatives. Jamie Raskin, welcome.
RASKINDelighted to be with you and with Tom Sherwood.
NNAMDISupporting D.C. statehood isn't the only thing that the For the People Act that passed the House last week would do. It touches on voting and an issue that is particularly sensitive in Maryland, gerrymandering. The For the People Act deals with partisan gerrymandering, an issue Maryland does know well. Its sixth Congressional District has been found to have been drawn by Democrats in the way that unconstitutionally targets Republican voters. How do you think given the context of what was voted in the House, how do you think Maryland should move forward from here?
RASKINWell, this is the lead provision in HR1. What we're trying to do is to end gerrymandering, the practice of politicians choosing their voters before the voters choose the politicians. And so we would mandate independent redistricting panels in every state across the Union. Now amazingly we got no Republican support for this. Not a single Republican is supporting the end of gerrymandering. And we know why. They control a super majority of the state legislatures and they've made a practice out of gerrymandering, which isn't to say that Democrat's hands are clean, because Democratically legislatures have done the same thing.
SHERWOODSixth district in Maryland to be specific.
RASKINWell, every district in a sense is gerrymandered, because politicians are controlling the computer technology, which allows you to decide not only, you know, which communities are in the district, but which individuals are in the district. And we've seen some, you know, outrageous manipulations of the map. So what we're proposing is that you have independent non-partisan expert redistributing commissions that are drawn of citizens and other voting experts and no politicians, no elected officials at all be involved. And that's what we're fighting for, but we got no support from the GOP, which some members have started to call the gerrymander only party, because they are so clinging to this antiquated and obsolete way of doing business.
SHERWOODCan I ask about the commission because it sound like a great thing? You get independent non-partisan people, who I presume would be appointed by a governor and then affirmed by the legislature, but then wouldn't that just be shifting the politics of it. On what basis would they draw the lines?
RASKINThere are different ways that it could be done, but the key provision is that you don't have elected officials in it and you don't have partisan control over the members. I mean, the California system is one that has worked quite well and was passed with overwhelming bipartisan support. There are a bunch of states that have adopted the independent model. The problem, of course, is that it doesn't get you all the way there, because if you have a 60-40 split in a state and you smoothly spread that around a state, the 60 percent party would end up with 100 percent of the seats, which means the 40 percent party gets nothing.
RASKINNot 40 percent of the seats. That's a problem with single member districts. And so I'm hoping that we can move not only to independent redistricting panels, but multi member districts that would allow a better representation so you don't get some all Republican states as Utah was up until recently or all Democrat states the way Massachusetts is even though it's got a Democratic governor. We really should have a greater political diversity within the delegations.
NNAMDIMark in Silver Spring wants to weigh in on this issue. Mark, you're on the air. Go ahead, please.
MARKQuickly. By the way the questionable district does look like a Dali painting. Two quick questions. One when we buy a car do we just kick the tires or do we look under the hood? That is with voting machines. Do we just look at the surface or the software? Secondly, Russians are known for misinformation and hacking and when Manafort showed them polling data, was that just for misinformation purposes or also for hacking?
NNAMDIWell, I've personally never kicked the tires of a car I was buying, but Jamie Raskin, your turn.
RASKINWell, I appreciate the call. I actually just got back from a great conference taking place at GW this morning by the election verification network, which is voting rights advocates and computer experts from around the country, who are talking about the vulnerabilities of our election system. You know, what happened in 2016 was that Vladimir Putin, the former chief of the KGB, knew that he could not beat America's military industrial complex or our economy or our political philosophy.
RASKINBut he found our Achilles heel, which is the internet and our technological vulnerability. So he setup something like a Manhattan Project to figure out how to invade our computer systems. And they did it to DNC and they hacked tens of thousands of emails, which altered the course of the campaign. They injected poison into our political culture through lots of propaganda that was entered into Facebook and Tweeter and other social media to try to divide Americans and polarize the country.
RASKINAnd then they actually tried to hack directly into election systems and so we have every reason to believe that they're coming back again along with other authoritarian bad actors that are trying to destabilize the democracy. So I'm hoping that of the many excellent pieces of HR1 that we can lift up and actually get the Senate to address. One of them will be this whole question of election security to make sure that our democracy doesn't get hacked again.
SHERWOODSpeaking of elections, you're a proud progressive Democrat. The Republicans are trying to rename you guys socialists. What is your thoughts about in the president and the Republican Party members saying, the Democrats are swinging so far left that they're going to commit political suicide by being seen as socialists in this country. Are you a socialist?
RASKINNo. I am not. And I would be very happy to describe my political philosophy if you want to have me back for another hour.
NNAMDIWe don't have that much time.
RASKINI know you don't. But let's start with this, the Republican Party for the last century or more had described any progressive measure as socialism. So they described social security as socialism. They described Medicare, Medicaid, the minimum wage, the national labor relations act and the right of people to organize, you name it. They call it socialist. So I think the American public understands that. In fact, the real socialists in America are the Republicans and the largest banks and corporations, which use state funds to bail themselves out every time they crash the economy. So I would just turn that charge around.
SHERWOODLet me ask you another quick political question. Governor Hogan, the Republican governor of Maryland, 70 percent popularity has been to Iowa. He's going to New Hampshire. He's playing, toying with or considering running against President Trump. What do you think about that?
RASKINMore power to him. That would be a Hogan move I could really get behind. And look, I think it is shameful the supine acquiescence of the members of the Republican Party to every outrage and scandal of the Trump Administration. It is amazing to me how few Republicans have spoken out about the president's equivocation between Neo-Nazi marchers and anti-Nazi protestors, how few have denounced him for his outrageous unconstitutional Banana Republic style declaration of an emergency totally overriding the will of Congress and attempting to usurp our power over appropriations in the federal budget.
RASKINYou know, every day we see another scandalous offense against our constitutional values and most Republicans are completely sheep like in going along with it. And if Governor Hogan wants to go out there and take a stand against Donald Trump, more power to him.
NNAMDIWell, Robin emails the usual, Tom Sherwood, this is The Politics Hour, question about your own future plans. Robin, says, "Can Jamie Raskin run for president? I'm ready to support that campaign."
RASKINWell, that's very sweet. If I could run for president and not leave the Mid-Atlantic States, I would, if I could stay in Pennsylvania, Jersey, Maryland, Virginia, D.C., Delaware. I'm not a big frequent flyer. I don't like flying all over the country. The truth is I love my job in the House of Representatives. And, you know, I love our speaker, Nancy Pelosi. But one thing that she keeps saying that I disagree with is that we are a co-equal branch of government.
RASKINWe are not a co-equal branch of government. The Congress is the lead branch of government. We are article one. We represent the people. We make the laws. The president's sole job is to take care that the laws are faithfully executed and to be the servant of implementing the will of Congress. So I very much appreciate the caller's call. And I don't mean to --
NNAMDIAnd I'm glad to very glad you raised that issue since you're an expert in constitutional law. You may be able to answer Paul in Rockville, Maryland. Paul, your turn.
PAULThe question I have is if D.C. becomes a state and they split out the District as just around the government agencies what happens to the three electoral votes that the Constitutional Amendment gave to the District?
RASKINIt's a great question. The 23rd Amendment has a provision, which says that Congress has the power to implement the provisions of the 23rd Amendment. So Congress could act by statute simply to disorganize the presidential electoral process. And then at that point a constitutional repeal process could be set in place as with the repeal of prohibition. Obviously, it's a little bit messy, but I think that's what you would have to do.
SHERWOODRight now in the General Assembly of Maryland there's a tough fight to change the minimum wage to raise. Governor Hogan has a slower move to $15 an hour. The Senate has passed on provision that would give companies with 15 employees or fewer longer time. The House has passed $15 by 2025, I believe. It seems to me the real problem is the federal government has not raised the minimum wage from $7.25 in I think 2008 or 2009. Is there any hope that Congress will address that and that you can get the Republicans to go along.
RASKINAbsolutely. I think that's very much on the agenda. A lot of the new members of Congress got elected campaigning for $15 minimum wage. And we want to do it in a way as you suggest that doesn't break the bank for small businesses that are just getting started that have fewer employees. But I think that there's a pervasive sense in our party that the economic inequality in America today is indefensible and it is a threat to having a democracy. And, you know, it's very hard to run a real one person one vote democracy where there are such extremes in terms of people ability to just sustain themselves in their lives.
NNAMDICampaign contributions, you introduced an amendment in the For the People Act called Shareholders United that deals with corporate contributions to campaign. Obviously that would affect elections around the country and in Maryland. What would it do and why introduce it now?
RASKINWell, the Citizens United decision remains a deeply controversial and unpopular one. And we really have not come up with any effective way of dealing with Citizens United. A vast majority of the people would like to see the decision repealed either by the Supreme Court to have the court reverse it or to, you know, repeal it with a Constitutional amendment.
RASKINBut in the meantime, my thought was to say, "Look, let's take the decision seriously." Just as Kennedy said that the premise of the opinion is that the corporations can spend whatever money they want in politics, because they're speaking for the shareholders. So they are the vicarious voice of the shareholders. Well, the problem, of course, is not only do the shareholders not have any actually say in where this money is going to be spent or whether it's going to spent. They don't even know about it.
RASKINSo Shareholders United says that corporations that want to spend money in politics, if the CEOs want to get in the business of spending money in politics, they essentially have to get a majority vote of the shareholders to make it happen. They have to able to assess the preference of the shareholders either through a direct proxy vote or through some kind of polling apparatus to determine what the shareholders want. But we want to undo this charade of saying, oh, well, the CEOs have the right to spend millions of dollars because they're speaking for the shareholders, but then the shareholders not knowing anything about it.
NNAMDII suspect conservatives would say, "Why shouldn't unions have to do the same thing?"
RASKINUnions do have to do the same thing in fact. In fact, it's even a tougher rule for unions. If a member of a union doesn't like the way the union is spending their money on politics, they get a rebate for it. Under our plan, if you're in a minority of shareholders that doesn't want it spent, if a majority does want it spent, you couldn't get a rebate. I mean, in fact, some people said to me, well, why shouldn't I be able to get a rebate if I don't want my money spent that way? But it appeared to be too difficult at least at this point to accomplish that.
SHERWOODPeople watching television today are looking at some of the video from New Zealand. There's some horrific video that everyone is agreeing not to show where Sandy Hook in this country, children were shot dead in their school back in 2012, I believe. Where are we politically on -- I know you're progressive and you want gun control. But the court ruled this week that the parents of Sandy Hook can sue the Remington manufacturer. There's a lot going on, but it doesn't seem we're making any progress towards mass gun violence and guns in this country. Where are we on that, politically?
RASKINWell, we're making some progress in the House of Representatives. Last week, we passed our HR8, which is an attempt to close the loopholes that remain in the background check legislation, the Brady Bill. We know that there were loopholes that were built into that for internet sales, for private gun sales and for private gun show sales, where you could go to a gun show. And then we know that millions of guns were sold that way, and lots of them end up in crime and in murders.
RASKINSo, we have voted to close those loopholes and to guarantee a universal criminal and mental background check to make sure that all gun sales have to go through the Brady background check process. We also closed the Charleston loophole, which is what made the Charleston massacre possible, which gives people the right to get the gun if the background check is still taking place for more than three days. So, we closed that loophole, too.
SHERWOODWe probably should have started with this, but could you comment on Harry Hughes, the former governor of Maryland?
NNAMDIWell, I was going to end with that, as a matter of fact.
SHERWOOD(overlapping) Oh, you're going to end with it. Oh, okay.
NNAMDIYes, we'll talk about that. We'll talk about that before he leaves. That's going to be the last thing we talk about.
SHERWOODOh, you know, Kojo is the host of this show, I'd like to point out. (laugh)
NNAMDIYes, but Tom takes the initiative more often than I do. You authored a resolution condemning anti-Semitism last week. That resolution has been controversial with some Democrats unhappy about the process. Some progressives seeing it as attacking Representative Ilhan Omar unfairly -- though her name was never mentioned -- and Republicans, including the President, saying it wasn't strong enough. Why did you offer the resolution, and what do you think about the response to it?
RASKINWell, look, Kojo, this whole field is way too important and grave to deal with in terms of the usual partisan point-scoring. There is rising anti-Semitism all over the world, and it's very serious business. And there is rising racism and white nationalism all over the world, as we saw tragically in this New Zealand massacre by a self-avowed fascist and racist who put his manifesto online. This is really serious.
RASKINOver the last several weeks, I've been to the Holocaust Museum with a group of members that I took there, for them to see a new exhibit, which is a wonderful exhibit about what was taking place in America during the rise of fascism. I've been to Yad Vashem, the Holocaust museum in Israel. And I've been to the new lynching memorial which is in Alabama with Congressman John Lewis. And we saw the new Legacy Museum there, which is about the history of race hate and violence in America.
RASKINLook, we have a responsibility to denounce expressions and actions of hatred wherever they're coming from. And some people were very motivated by Ilhan Omar's comments. Other people were motivated by the attack on her, which was embodied in a poster that linked her to the 911 attacks and basically associated her with al-Qaeda. And other people are still smarting over the President's remarks about the Charlottesville murder of Heather Heyer and the neo-Nazi marches there.
RASKINYou know, when the Republicans were in control of the House, we introduced a resolution to denounce the President for those remarks. And the majority did not allow us to get that on the floor. And so there's all of this finger-pointing, and people are upset. And, you know, I spend enough time in academia, Kojo, to know an identity politics imbroglio when I see one. And I could see that people were factionalizing and balkanizing in different ways. And I said, look, we don't need to move this thing to the left. We don't need to move this thing to the right. We need to life it up out of the muck and to have a universal denunciation of racism and anti-Semitism and anti-Muslim bigotry and white nationalism.
RASKINAnd I think this was the most forceful and comprehensive denunciation of anti-Semitism in the history of the US Congress. It was the first denunciation of anti-Muslim bigotry and violence in the history of US Congress. And it was a very powerful statement, and I know there were people who wanted us to go after this person or that person, but I think the issues are way too grave for that.
SHERWOOD(overlapping) What about going after the internet? Elizabeth Warren, among others, who's running for president, has talked about we need to regulate online Facebook and other places. We need to have some kind of regulation, because the dissemination of the sewage-level hate and discrimination is running amuck online. There's worries about censorship, of course, but, you know, we had to worry about regulating radio. We regulated television. We got rid of the fairness doctrine. But what can be done to address this mainstream, gutter-level spread of hate and other vicious stuff? I mean, the New Zealand guy put it online...
SHERWOOD...as he was doing it.
RASKINYou know, and the internet has been the vehicle, you know, the courier for messages of hate and for organizing by the white supremacists groups. The good news is that they still represent a small fraction of the American people and, I think, people internationally. But they've been able to find each other and connect through the internet. I mean, you know, the constitutional standard is embodied in the Brandenburg case. It's about incitement to imminent lawless action, incitement to violence. And so when speech gets to that point, when it's a direct threat, then it loses the protection of the First Amendment. And that's pretty much the international standard that now focuses on the problem of speech advocating hate violence. And I think we can work with that.
NNAMDIAnd because we're almost out of time, I think I'm looking for a yes or no answer to this question. Speaking of racism, there's a push in the Maryland state legislature to repeal the state song "Maryland, My Maryland," the 1861 Ode to the Confederacy. Do you support repealing the song?
RASKINRewrite or repeal, yes.
NNAMDIOkay. Rewrite or repeal, yes. And, as Tom mentioned earlier, former Maryland Governor Harry Hughes passed this week, at the age of 92. Maybe a lot of people don't remember Harry Hughes that well, because he was not scandal-plagued, as his two predecessors happened to be, Spiro Agnew and Marvin Mandel. And he had a surprise upset victory when he first became governor. He upset Lieutenant Governor Blair Lee III, who was a part of the Mandel administration. But your thoughts on former Governor Harry Hughes.
RASKINWell, Governor Hughes was a man of extraordinary integrity and decency and elegance. And he does represent kind of a vanishing period in the history of our state. And he was quite a beloved guy and, you know, I know that everybody is holding his family and his close friends in their prayers.
SHERWOODAnd I would say he gets a lot of credit for helping start the effort to protect the Chesapeake Bay. But also, I just have to report that John Waters, the producer/filmmaker, he wrote a letter to the Baltimore Sun this week saying that Harry Hughes would always be his hero, because Harry Hughes was in office, and Hughes refused to renew the Maryland Censorship Board. It had been in place since 1916, and Harry Hughes -- I think, back in 1981 -- said he would veto any effort to renew it, and that three-member board that got to see all the dirty movies that we couldn't see, was abolished. So, John Waters wanted to make sure we said that.
RASKINKojo, can I mention two other great American leaders we've lost recently?
RASKINOne is Senator Birch Bayh, who we lost...
NNAMDI(overlapping) Of Indiana.
RASKIN...just a couple days ago, from Indiana. And another great Marylander was Senator Joe Tydings, we lost a few months ago, but we miss him very much.
NNAMDIJamie Raskin is a member of the US House of Representatives. He's a Democrat from the state of Maryland. Congressman Raskin, thank you very much for joining us.
RASKINIt's always an honor.
NNAMDIUp next is Kaye Kory, who is a member of the Virginia House of Delegates. I suspect this report in the Washington City Paper was a surprise to a number of people, Tom Sherwood. It says, the headline: DC Central Kitchen loses the bulk of its homeless shelter food service contract. DC Central Kitchen has had such a long history in the District of Columbia preceded by the facility that was created by Mitch Snyder and Carol Fennelly and the Community for Creative Nonviolence.
NNAMDIAnd then Robert Egger comes along and creates DC Central Kitchen. And it has been well-known as an institution that trains people in the culinary arts, especially people who have been down on their luck, some who are returning citizens, male and female and the like. But, apparently, they lost the contract.
SHERWOOD(overlapping) Suddenly, out of -- this is an organization to which I don't believe there has been any scandal assigned to it. It works on a very small margin. It has to raise money to make money that it doesn't get from the city. The Partnership for the Prevention of Homelessness puts these contracts out. DC Central Kitchen has gotten the contract. They had ten different sites. They had 10,000 meals a day. And, suddenly, they were told, well, you're not going to have the full contract this time. We're going to give half of it to a new organization, one that's based, I think, in Prince George's County.
SHERWOODI don't want to get into too much detail as to who they are, because I think the city needs to take a better look at this, because it's a disruption. It could mean the end of the DC Central Kitchen. I don't believe they can function on just serving five homeless shelters. And there seems to be no reason the Partnership for Prevention of Homelessness has not clearly said why it made this substantial change, and literally, daily, thousands of meals for homeless people and people in need are at risk, here.
NNAMDIJoining us in studio is Kaye Kory. She's a member of the Virginia House of Delegates, representing the 38th District. Delegate Kory, thank you for joining us.
KAYE KORYThank you for inviting me.
NNAMDIYou're wearing a big, round button on the lapel of your jacket that says: VA Ratify ERA. You were at the forefront of pushing for Virginia to ratify the Equal Rights Amendment. First, remind us what the Equal Rights Amendment would do, and what the broader national implications would be if Virginia would pass it.
KORYWhat it would do in Virginia is to give women the legal grounds to protect the rights that, in theory, we already have. You know, equal opportunity, equal pay, control over our healthcare choices, also, would be a big plus.
SHERWOOD(overlapping) Why did the Republicans kill it?
KORYThey killed it because, and I'm quoting, because they said that, "it would mean that you could have free abortions almost on every street corner." That's what they kept talking about. And, actually, that's not really true, and...
SHERWOOD(overlapping) Why do you think they opposed it, then? If you believe their argument against it is fraudulent, why do you think they opposed it? Is it a lack of respect for women? Be as blunt as possible. This is the Politics Hour.
KORYAll right. I will be. I honestly don't know exactly why they oppose it, because the comments they were making on the floor and to the press were what people called dog-whistle politics these days. And, frankly, if I were the Republican minority in the House as political consultant, I would've told them to pass this with no fuss, because then they would get all the women who voted in the last election for the first time, they would get their vote.
SHERWOODKojo asked the question, what effect would this have? Had Virginia passed it, it would have become, I think, the 38th state to pass it.
SHERWOODBut others say the deadline to pass this constitutional amendment expired in, like, '82, or something like 1982. So, what practical effect would it have?
KORYWell, first of all, I should refer to our attorney general, Mark Herring, who said that the deadline -- ruled that the deadline didn't really matter. The practical effect, at this point, other than legal standing on certain issues to take someone to court would basically be, I believe, emotional. It has turned into such a partisan battle, such an emotional battle. A couple of years ago, the Republican majority wouldn't even let us present the bill in committee. And we progressed from there, but it was an awful lot of fighting.
NNAMDI(overlapping) Speaking of practical value, you pointed out that ratifying the ERA would also help incarcerated Virginia women, in particular. How?
KORYThis is the topic that I'm very happy that you brought up. Women in Virginia have been incarcerated at an increasingly high rate. It's around 300 percent increase in the past four or five years. And our criminal justice system, while not being very just in many ways, is simply not equipped to handle women or any of the medical or daily needs that they have. Last year, I was fortunate enough to get a bill passed that said that women in prison or jail in Virginia could have menstrual products without cost. Previously, they had had to pay for those products, and sometimes prove that they had used what they already had been given.
KORYSo -- oh, go ahead.
SHERWOODNo, no, no, you go ahead. You're the guest.
KORYOne of the problems women in prison in Virginia have is medical care. It's not only reproductive, but medical care, in general. And it's -- I had a bill, but that's another story.
SHERWOODWell, again, you have an opponent in, I think, the primary.
SHERWOODBut will this ERA matter be part of the Democratic pitch in the fall elections? And also I've got to ask you, what is the effective you're seeing in your -- you're in Central Fairfax County. What is the impact of the troubles Governor Northam has had -- is having, Lieutenant Governor Justin Fairfax is having, that the attorney general, you mentioned, is having over the blackface issues and the sexual assault issues. How is that affecting the campaigns as you go forward? Because you have a Lieutenant Governor accused of sexually abusing two women. You're talking about rights of women. How does -- it seems to me this gets all discombobulated in trying to run a campaign. Where is it?
KORYI heard a number of questions there. So, I think the prevalent theme in what you just asked me was: how are all the scandals basically in Richmond involving our governor, lieutenant governor and AG affecting the campaign trails at this point? And then you also asked if the ERA would be an issue. In my district -- and in Northern Virginia, in general -- I do not think that the ERA will be an issue, except the questions you're asking me, like why didn't it pass and why did it become such a partisan issue?
NNAMDI(overlapping) And we have a caller about that, that I'll get to shortly, but go ahead.
SHERWOODAnd the scandals?
KORYThe scandals, again, Virginia is so many different commonwealths rolled into one that I have only been hearing from people who -- constituents who asked me to tell everybody stop paying attention to this stuff and get the budget passed and do what we send you there to do. And honestly, I am not hearing anyone urging me to urge anybody to leave their office.
NNAMDIBack to the ERA, here is Katy, who is south of Richmond in Midlothian, Virginia. Katy, you're on the air. Go ahead, please.
KATYHi. I am calling about the Equal Rights Amendment and looking forward already towards 2020 and another shot for Virginia to be the 38th state. I know that it's the centennial year for the Nineteenth Amendment, and it seems like everybody's really ready to celebrate that, including many of the Republicans who did not pass the ERA. And I just wanted to point out that the author of the Equal Rights Amendment is the same woman that we celebrate for getting us the Nineteenth Amendment. And until we get her vision fully into the Constitution -- it's interesting to me that so many Republicans who wouldn't get her vision into the Constitution are, you know, on committees and such to celebrate the, uh, centennial of the Nineteenth Amendment and her. And that would be Alice Paul.
NNAMDIAnd you're looking forward to 2020. It seems to me that Delegate Kory is nodding in agreement. She is apparently looking forward to 2020, also.
KORYI am. I am definitely looking forward to 2020. It might even be more interesting than the most recent session, but there is a major expectation that we will have a few more Democrats in either the House or the Senate.
NNAMDIEarlier this week...
KORYAnd it'll make a difference.
NNAMDI...earlier this week, WAMU education reporter Jenny Abamu who published a story looking at the practice of restraining and isolating Fairfax County students in public schools for disciplinary reasons. This is an issue that you are probably familiar with. You were on the Fairfax County School Board for a decade. What's your reaction to the news that this practice has been going on in Fairfax County Public Schools, despite the fact that Fairfax County Public Schools have been reporting to the federal government that it isn't?
KORYMy reaction is disappointment and a little bit of surprise, although I have been hearing this from parents, anecdotes that have been painful to hear and difficult to follow up. And to be fair to Fairfax County Public Schools, one of the largest and actually best in the nation, I think that a number of the administrators who report the data don't understand the categories or the way to report it. I have been looking at this so-called pipeline to prison for minority students, especially in high school. And a lot of the problem that we have in Virginia is that we can't identify the problem.
KORYThe definitions are so muddied and reporting is voluntary, and so I'm just saying that that also applies to the restraint and seclusion. However, it is a hateful, hateful practice, even if it doesn't happen very often. It simply is not the way to deal with a special needs student who has become upset.
NNAMDIAnd both national and state legislatures are looking at it. Josh in Arlington has a question having to do with the climate. Josh, you're on the air. Go ahead, please.
JOSHHi, Kojo. Thank you for the, you know, the time to ask this question to Delegate Kory. Today's world students are basically protesting against not doing anything or climate change. And we all know that, for instance, Dominion Energy, it's a company that it's overly sourced from fossil fuels. You can just look up in their website...
NNAMDIWhat would you like to ask -- what would you like to ask Delegate Kory?
JOSHYeah, so Delegate Kory, my question is pretty specific . I mean, you've been received for a long time, contribution for your campaign from Dominion Energy. Will you commit to stop receiving contributions for this campaign...
KORYExcuse me. Let me interrupt you. I have already made that commitment and signed that statement and have been pushing the New Green Deal for the last year, year-and-a-half. And I am not taking any contributions from energy companies. So, your point is out of date.
SHERWOODYour announced opponent in the primary is Andres Jimenez. Is this who's on the phone?
NNAMDIIs that you, Josh, Andres Jimenez?
JOSHOh, no. Not at all.
SHERWOOD(laugh) It sounds like him. Is it you or not?
JOSHIs -- who is -- who is Andres Jimenez?
JOSHWho is him?
NNAMDIYou don't know who Andres Jimenez is?
JOSHOh, no. I don't know.
NNAMDIYour opponent says that it sounds like his voice, but thank you very much for your call.
SHERWOODHe's running and he's pitching his campaign on environmental issues and stuff.
SHERWOODHave you had a forum with him yet, or anything like that?
KORYNo, I haven't. There are several coming up, and actually, I look forward to meeting Mr. Jimenez. I am happy to have some younger Democrats participate in the political process. It's just very unusual to have somebody jump in at that level. But I have to point out, for the past ten years I've been getting awards from every conservation and environmental organization in Virginia.
SHERWOODIs there a date certain for your first meeting with your opponent, Mr. Jimenez?
KORYI believe there's a forum on Monday, a community forum that's coming Monday.
SHERWOODDo you happen to know where? I mean, I think people should go to the forums, you know...
KORYI do too.
SHERWOOD...so can you say very quickly where it is? Or if you don't know, is there a website we can find out?
KORYI don't know if they have a website. It's...
NNAMDIAnd where is it?
KORY...Baileys Crossroads Route 7 Revitalization Commission. And it is in the Moose Lodge. I believe it's on -- I know how to get there, but I believe it's on Magnolia, off of Lacey Boulevard.
SHERWOODOkay. Voters can find it.
KORYIt starts at 7:00. It's on my Facebook page.
NNAMDIDon't have a lot of time left, but you co-sponsored legislation that expanded absentee voting in the Commonwealth. What would that do?
KORYWhat will it do?
KORYIt will allow voters to have in-person absentee without excuses, without having to go through all the rigmarole that we make people go through now to prove why they can't vote. It's a very small step, but it is the beginning of increasing access to the polls and increasing the opportunity of voters to have their voices heard. And it was bipartisan this year, which was a shocking and amazing thing.
SHERWOODOne of the big things this weekend is the Arlington County Board is going to meet tomorrow, I think early afternoon, and have public testimony on Amazon. Amazon pulled out of New York, and there's no suggestion that it's going to pull out of Arlington. But your own district is nearby, Fairfax is nearby.
SHERWOODWhat are you thinking -- I know you want the board to go forward with this. Any thoughts particularly on Amazon?
NNAMDIAnd you have about a minute left.
KORYOkay. I believe that, in the long run, Amazon will be a boost for our community. But in the short term, we really have to protect the existing low-income housing communities that we have, and be sure that those people don't get pushed out when the more highly paid workers for Amazon come in.
NNAMDIKaye Kory is a member of the Virginia House of Delegates, representing the 38th District. She is a Democrat. Delegate Kory, thank you very much for joining us.
KORYThank you for the opportunity.
NNAMDITom Sherwood, quickly here, the lawsuit that the city had against the DC hospital, against Providence Hospital over its closure, the attorney general has dropped that lawsuit, which means that the hospital is gone and no lawsuit.
SHERWOODThis hospital dates back to Abraham Lincoln, but there was no good case by the city to stop it from doing what it wants to do, which is to close, and change the way it's going to provide emergency care. Part of the overall hospital crisis in the District of Columbia, including how fast they'll build a new hospital over near Saint Es.
NNAMDITom Sherwood is our resident analyst. He's a contributing writer for Washington City Paper. Today, we were pleased to have in our control room, watching the show, Marlene Singer and Yhel Cannon (sounds like), two guests who just happened to drop by today. Thank you very much for dropping by. Today's Politics Hour was produced by Mark Gunnery. Coming up Monday, we'll explore the landscape of live jazz venues in the city. What does their availability say about the past, present and future of local jazz? It's all part of our series on gentrification in DC's arts community, culminating in a Road Show next Tuesday at Arena Stage. It all starts Monday at noon. Tom Sherwood, what are your plans between now and then?
SHERWOODI think I might get to the Arlington board to watch some of that discussion, and I'll be there Tuesday at the Arena Stage, because I can walk to it.
NNAMDIThe man never stops...
SHERWOODSave me a seat.
NNAMDI...the man never stops working. So, see you Monday at noon. Until then, thank you for listening. I'm Kojo Nnamdi.
On this last episode, we look back on 23 years of joyous, difficult and always informative conversation.
Kojo talks with author Briana Thomas about her book “Black Broadway In Washington D.C.,” and the District’s rich Black history.
Poet, essayist and editor Kevin Young is the second director of the Smithsonian's National Museum of African American History and Culture. He joins Kojo to talk about his vision for the museum and how it can help us make sense of this moment in history.
Ms. Woodruff joins us to talk about her successful career in broadcasting, how the field of journalism has changed over the decades and why she chose to make D.C. home.