The most in-demand toys for children are becoming more complex, and some can turn dangerous if not properly vetted or used.
As Maryland’s legislative session comes to a close, lawmakers mourn the loss of House Speaker Michael Busch, who died Sunday at age 72.
We’ll catch up with Montgomery County Executive Marc Elrich, who assumed office earlier this year.
And in Virginia, a turbulent year for state lawmakers came to a close in February, but the effects of the statewide scandals that had the commonwealth in the national spotlight still linger.
We’ll sit down with Virginia House Delegate Karrie Delaney to discuss how state Democrats are viewing campaign season after state leadership became embroiled in scandals.
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 Ruth Tam
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 and a contributing writer to Washington City Paper. Tom Sherwood, welcome.
TOM SHERWOODGood afternoon.
NNAMDILater in the broadcast we'll be talking with Karrie Delaney. She represents Fairfax on Loudoun County in Virginia's House of Delegates. Joining us in studio now is Marc Elrich. He is the Executive of Montgomery County. Marc Elrich, welcome. Thank you for joining us.
MARC ELRICHThank you for having me.
NNAMDIBefore we get to Maryland and Marc Elrich, Tom Sherwood, Jack Evans apparently has made an announcement. He will no longer be doing any outside consulting and legal work. There are actually three pieces of news of Jack Evans. That one coming from he himself. The former campaign chair for Jack Evans candidacy in Ward 2, Patrick Kennedy, says he's going to challenge Evans in the 2020 democratic primary. And it is my understanding that a new recall petition has been filed to get Jack Evans out of office before the next election to have a special recall -- a special election to get him out of office. What do you know about all this?
SHERWOODToo much, but no. (laugh) Yes. Yesterday the group of people that are trying to have a recall election filed new paperwork today, which won't be approved until the month of May by the Board of Elections if then. Their first effort got caught up in some paperwork in some questions about the residency of one of the leaders. But anyway they filed the new paperwork today and so maybe in May you'll have the Board of Elections will allow them to spend the next six months getting about 5,200 signatures in Ward 2 to hold a special election.
SHERWOODIt could be late this year or early next year to have that election and we have a primary. Jack Evans will be up for reelection next year. He has said in the past that he would not do outside work. He has an LLC, which is named after his late wife for which he does legal work. He says not lobbying work, but legal work he says. And he had said that he would not do any of that anymore. He reiterated that this week talking to the A&C Dupont Circle. So we're moving along with all this. We still don't have any resolution of the investigation into whether or not he used his office for personal gain, but we'll see that as it plays out.
NNAMDIHow important is it that Mayor Muriel Bowser has appointed a new head of the Department of Behavioral Health, Barbara Bazron who will be leading the department.
SHERWOODWell, you know, she was there before and then she went out, I think, to State of Maryland for behavioral health -- you know, health issues. And now she's back. That office has had a great deal of trouble in dealing with the oxycodone crisis in the city and other matters. And it's just been poorly run and the mayor thinks that she can come back and help run it. She was there once before when it was troubled and it kind of calmed down and now she's coming back.
NNAMDIMaryland's legislative session ended this past week and joining us in studio now is Dominique Maria Bonessi. She is WAMU's Maryland Reporter. Dominique, thank you for joining us.
DOMINIQUE MARIA BONESSIThanks, Kojo.
NNAMDIWell, the legislatives session concluded this week. Any particularly dramatic showdowns on the final day of debate?
BONESSIRight. So big showdowns, the Prescription Drug Affordability Bill and the Clean Energy Jobs Bill. These were both very last minute arguments on -- first for Prescription Drug Affordability. It's one of the first of its kind in the country to create a board to reduce the cost of prescription drugs. It would be a five member board that would determine upper payment limits and other options to reduce costs. They had the responsibility for studying the issue and advising legislation how to move forward for 2020.
BONESSIThe bill was originally water down. It's been watered down from what it originally was, which was the intent to reduce prescription drugs for all Marylanders, but, you know, to get moderates on board and others on board it would require, you know, a little give and take there.
BONESSIAnd then the Clean Energy Jobs Bill, you know, we had this bill essentially increases the state's renewable energy portfolio from 25 percent by 2020 to 50 percent by 2030. Renewable sources include wind, solar, nuclear. It also includes trash incinerators, which are not actually clean energy, but they're looking to phase those out in many parts of the state. So eventually we won't be seeing those as under clean energy jobs.
NNAMDIAny less contentious bills, but were never the less highly anticipated?
BONESSIRight. Highly anticipated means source of tax revenue for the 10 year roll off. The Kirwan Commission that was in the -- which was in the blue point for Maryland Public Schools Bill. We also saw increased regulation in medical marijuana industry. And, you know, another bill, which also supported that was the sale of edible cannabis products. And we also saw protections for furloughed workers during federal government shutdowns like the one we saw in January, which is going to be helping them with loans during a federal government shutdown. They'll be able to take out from the Maryland Department of Labor and then be paid back, of course.
SHERWOODDid the death House Speaker, Michael Busch, change any last minute decisions by the legislature?
BONESSIYou know, I didn't see any major changes. We do know that on that Monday the Senate did override the veto of the oyster sanctuaries. That was five oyster sanctuaries would be not allowed to be harvested on.
SHERWOODThe big issue that Busch had been saying, "We have got to save the oysters bar."
BONESSIAnd that was his bill.
SHERWOODBanning any harvesting.
SHERWOODWhat about -- you know all the politics is going on about who is going to be the next speaker. The House Democratic Caucus has to call a meeting and there has to be a special session. The funeral for the speaker is not until Tuesday. I know a lot of action may wait till then. But people are talking. Any thoughts about that?
BONESSIRight. We know, well, Speaker Pro Tem, Adrienne Jones from Baltimore County has already thrown her hat into the ring. And we also know that potentially possible front runners in this candidacy might be Maggie McIntosh from Baltimore City. She's Chair of the House Appropriations Committee. And Delegate Barnes -- sorry. Pardon me.
BONESSIDerek Davis, yes.
SHERWOODFrom Prince George's.
BONESSIPrince George's. You know, who chairs the Economic Matters Committee. And these, you know, you got to think of his legacy. I mean, what the Speaker of the House did was pave the way for these people. He put them in positions, in committees, in sub committees, but sometimes they felt that maybe they weren't ready and he pushed them to lead.
SHERWOODThat was back in the early 2000s he did this.
BONESSIYes. And, I mean, that's what Adrienne Jones said just Monday when, you know, she was in the Senate with her New Balance sneakers talking about the speaker. And so that's something that he left behind that we're going to see a change in the House this year.
SHERWOODWe will have for the first time probably -- we are going to have someone other than a white male as head of the House.
NNAMDIOkay. House Speaker Mike Busch passed on Sunday at the age of 72. You just heard a little bit about the kind of legacy he left behind. How was he generally viewed among his colleagues?
BONESSIRight. So Adrienne Jones, you know, called -- and other lawmakers we saw Senator Sarah Elfreth in the Senate saying, you know, he was coach, mentor, teacher. Elfreth said, you know, she would not have been in that position in the Senate had it not been for the speaker's guidance and mentorship. And he's also seen as, you know, a friend to many in the House. You know, his staff, they could barely speak on Monday when I asked them, you know, You have any thoughts about this? It's a really devastating blow for them, because he's been there for so long.
NNAMDIAnd this was a man who when first got into politics people said, oh, he's just a jock. He doesn't really know anything.
SHERWOODYeah. He wanted to be in the NFL until a bad knee got him out, but, you know, he was very aggressive about the things that he wanted to get done. But unlike some legislative people these days, he knew that you could compromise and that was not a bad word. And you could get the votes together. That's one of the most significant things he was able to do across a broad spectrum of progressive issues in Maryland.
NNAMDIWe're getting a lot of calls for Marc Elrich already. But did you know Speaker Busch? What do you remember about his time in office?
ELRICHI knew him peripherally, because, you know, we weren't, you know, overly involved as councilmembers with the state legislature. So I had in occasions to go down there and lobby and talk to him, but hadn't, you know, worked with him a lot. But I know that he was highly respected by our colleagues.
SHERWOODMontgomery County has the largest delegation to the General Assembly than any other jurisdiction in the state. So do you have any thoughts of your own as who the next speaker would be? Mentioning early Delegate Luedtke, is how you say his name correctly? He's the Chairman of the Democratic Caucus. He will call the group together to pick the next speaker. Do you have any preferences? Or have you heard of any preferences that the Montgomery County Delegation would like to see as speaker?
ELRICHI haven't heard anybody named as a preference. And I would more or less leave it to the folks who have worked down there with our colleagues to figure out who's going to be most effective in helping them advance their agendas. I think this is the field they know better than I. I ought not to guide them. They should be guiding me.
NNAMDIWell, on to Montgomery County. You were at one point a teacher, then a councilmember on Tacoma Park City Council, then a long time lawmaker on the County Council. You've never served as an Executive, however. How do you think you have settled into your role?
ELRICHA few people serve as executives before they're executive. As a matter of fact, pretty much none. It's -- I think I've settled in. I think it's been a kind of whirlwind. It has been more of a pressure cooker, because of budgetary issues, financial things that we dealt with right away that took a lot of time and energy to get balanced and re-balanced in the changing scenario that came from the state on revenue. So there's been a lot on our plate. And you're doing that on top of making personnel decisions and you're trying to do a budget that was started by a previous County Executive. So this first moment of transition I find is -- it's definitely a challenge. But it's, you know, it's what you got to do. It happens every time you change executives.
SHERWOODThe biggest thing you have to do is back on March 15th I watched the video of your introducing your budget. And you said that you walking in and said that, "I haven't seen the outside," since, you know, you got into office, because you had so many meetings. But on a serious note, before we finish the budget, you also noted that was the day of the New Zealand massacre. And you announced that there would be additional police and money for houses of worship at least for a foreseeable time. Did that actually in fact happen? Did you -- were you able to put people out?
ELRICHWe had actually were looking at funding that before that incident happened. So we've had this ongoing discussion about what it's going to take sure our houses of worship are safe in the county and we were putting forward a proposal independent of that. So I didn't want anybody to think that those two things were cause and effect. We're aware that this an issue for a while.
SHERWOODI would like -- when you were running for office against Nancy Floreen and the other candidates you were criticized endlessly for being antibusiness. Your transition committee told you that the county is seen as not that friendly to business and said that you need to articulate a culture of business opportunity. How have you done that?
ELRICHWell, I said --
SHERWOODAnd get rid of that. You didn't like that description of you to begin with, but you had to overcome it in any event to get elected. And so now your transition team says you still have to work on it.
ELRICHSo, I mean, I still say I'm not anti-business. I have issues with development that doesn't pay for infrastructure. Those are two very different things. And I don't find myself, you know, at war with the business community per say. I have big questions about how development goes forward. But what we've tried to do is, you know, I got tired of hearing, you know, how bad we were. And I said during the campaign that if I got elected I was going to set up a committee and we're going to review all of Montgomery County's business practices.
ELRICHWhat do you encounter in Montgomery County if you want to start a business? What are the code issues people run into if they're trying to renovate a building that was built in the 70s, 80s, and 90s and they want to open a business there, because people repeatedly say that it's different in the other jurisdictions. So Sidney Katz on the Council --I set him up as the head of the committee. We're going to do a series of first public meetings. And we're taking, you know, private input from businesses and we've asked them to tell us, What are you dealing with that's different than other jurisdictions? My goal by the end of the year is introduce a package legislation that makes us no worse than anybody else.
NNAMDIGot to take a short break. When we come back, we'll continue our conversation with Marc Elrich, Montgomery County Executive. If you've called, stay on the line. Dominique Maria Bonessi, thank you for joining us.
NNAMDII'm Kojo Nnamdi.
NNAMDIWelcome back. Our guest is Marc Elrich. He is the County Executive for Montgomery County Maryland, a quick look back at the state's legislative session. The plan to increase the requirements for Governor Hogan's I-270 495 expansion plan failed. We've since learned than some 34 homes, four businesses would have to be demolished as part of the plan. In total around 1500 properties along both highways would be affected. Is that your understanding and what's your feeling?
ELRICHThat's my understanding and I think it's really wrong headed. I think on I-270 there's a way to add the capacity. The County Council has been on record for I think at least eight years supporting two reversible lanes that can be built very quickly. I know actually the state is working on a solution for I-270 that will not require a P3. The beltway is incredibly challenging.
SHERWOODP3, public private partnership.
ELRICHYeah, something that would be done with a reasonable amount of money and and add additional capacity, which is what we've always argued. Beltway is a very different animal. And trying to shoehorn in two more lanes is going to be impossible.
SHERWOODAnd 500,000 daily car -- vehicles on the 495 and I-270. During the campaign and since then you've talked about rapid bus opportunities. I think at least on 270 maybe on 495 also. Why aren't buses at the forefront of trying to get people around rather than new lanes for cars?
ELRICHBecause I think we still have some officials, who have 1950's mindset. And, you know, I tried to point out to people when I testified down there that when the state was looking at the Amazon project and looking -- and Amazon was insistent that we deal with traffic and that included access to 355. They were proposing a major investment and at least four bus rapid transit lines and adding a third track to the Marc rail system that would go out to West Virginia. So when they looked at the problem, they had a very creative transit focus solution.
ELRICHAnd a year later when we're talking about the governor's proposal there's no transit for parts of the very same corridor. The other things I'll say is, you know, in December I spoke at a breakfast at Montgomery County and I said if the governor is really serious he'd start at the American Legion Bridge because his plan did not start at the American Legion Bridge. I'll point out that a month later he announced that they're now going to start their beltway project at the American Legion Bridge. It made no sense to start at the back of the clog.
SHERWOODKojo, this report says that if something is not done by 2040, which is like 20 years that it will take you 43 minutes just to go from College Park to Bethesda. That's 10 miles, 43 minutes. Everything is stopping in Montgomery County if you don't do something about traffic.
NNAMDIWell, many of your constituents want to talk to you about traffic. And here is Marsha in Silver Spring. She wants to talk about a specific part of Silver Spring. Marsha, your turn.
MARSHAThank you for taking my phone call. I'm calling today to discuss my concerns about an intersection at 29 and Route 198 in (unintelligible). Several years ago, I would say about 10 years, the Giant moved from the northwest corner to the north -- northeast corner to the northwest. So one by one the shops in the shopping center in the right started closing. Currently there are only two stores open, one a restaurant, a family restaurant that a lot of locals use there.
NNAMDIWhat do you think the county executive needs to do about this?
MARSHAWell, I'd like to know what does the county plan on doing, because I fear that if we were located downtown -- we are downtown. And if we were located on Potomac, I don't think it would have gone on for this 10 year stretch. So I'd like to know, what are the plans?
ELRICHSo, look. The first major problem is that when Giant moved they held the lease on the other site and they will not allow the property owner to lease to another grocery store. Without a grocery store, which is the anchor tenant, they've had an impossible time holding on to the other tenants in the shopping center. I wish I could command Giant to remove their lock on the other lease. We're not able to do that. I've met with the property owners. We've talked about some ideas.
ELRICHI met with some other investors who have thoughts about what they might be able to do over there. But that lack of a grocery store is a major factor. Every shopping center needs an anchor and they're struggling in the absence of an anchor, but I'm still talking to people and I know that the state delegates up there have been actively involved in it. And Tom Hucker is on the Council has been actively involved. So I haven't given up and I'm not going to accept the situation. We're trying to figure out how to solve it.
NNAMDIYou submitted next year's budget last month with no new tax increases, but you're getting some criticism for cutting the county's contribution to a fund for retirees' health care benefits. What's the justification for that?
ELRICHWell, so the Council I served on went into that fund I don't know, five out of the last eight years. And the executive tapped into it as well. And the reason is the fund is actually relatively healthy. And the point of the fund is it's supposed to pay for future benefits. And the goal of having a large pot of money is to try to get to the point where the investment yields every year equal the payouts every year on health care. And we've been making progress and moving in that direction.
ELRICHA couple of years ago the fund actually performed really well. But that we know that was an exception. But our choice because the state wrote down our revenues would have been to take another $40 million in cuts out of this year's budget, another $40 million out of next year's budget. What we decided to do is take the $80 million out of OPIP for FY19. But it into the reserves, because we said we would make the 10 percent reserves this year, which we did. And in the FY20 budget we actually starting resuming full payments into the OPED account. So we're not using --
ELRICHIt's for the employee benefits, retiree benefits.
SHERWOODWe speak -- we try to speak English in show.
ELRICHI know that.
SHERWOODYou know you started it back in March when you proposed this budget. You talked about all the budget cuts that you had to do and all of that. And your friends at the Washington Post and I point out the editorial page didn't endorse you. But the editorial page says that this budget apart from all these other issues that Kojo just mentioned is you just paid back the unions for their support and gave out outlandish raises of up to almost 10 percent in some cases, less so in others. But that you just larded up the unions as a payback for your election. Your response?
ELRICHYeah. The Post is in fantasy land. When the recession hit, all the unions took hits on their contracts and didn't have the contracts honored. Since the recession ended, the teachers, which lost two steps have had both their steps restored. Post didn't write any editorials about that. This year in FY19, we're paying back the last step that goes to the teachers starting in January. The Post didn't say anything about the union getting two steps last year and we're not in any different fiscal situation than we were last year because, oh by the way, we went into OPIP last year also. The McGeo union never got any steps back. Fire employees--
SHERWOODThe same with the McGeo union, that's the largest union and it represents 11,000 employees or something.
ELRICHSo we have them one step back out of the three they never got. The other unions have had at least one step given back to them. Not everybody gets nine percent. A lot of people have already gotten the steps that they missed. So the people who get the extra step is a small number.
SHERWOODWell, let me ask without getting too detailed. The Post has a fairly good circulation in Montgomery County and has online too. What is it between you and the Washington Post editorial page? This is The Politics Hour. So you can speak freely. It's a fairly important voice in our communities and it has just been dogged in its criticism of you. What -- is there some genesis that we don't know?
ELRICHI wish I knew what the genesis was because I haven't done anything that the previous executive didn't approve. You know he approved the other steps that unions got back. He approved going into OPIP, which the other executive and other councils approved. And when I did what other people did, suddenly I'm running, you know, this outlandish policy. So, you know, the Post is notoriously anti-labor. You know that. You have a history. I know that too.
SHERWOODI have no comment.
ELRICHAnd so the fact that, you know, I don't view labor as the enemy of the people is, you know, something that probably grates them the wrong way. And I've been a big proponent of expecting that the most powerful industry in Montgomery County, the development industry, pay more for infrastructure. And the Post seems to have an allergy to that. So I guess, you know, they've have an allergic reaction for years to a couple of things I want to do. But I've -- at least as far as this budget went, I didn't do anything that hasn't been pretty normal practice around here.
NNAMDIDerek in Washington D.C. I think begs to disagree. Derek, you're on the air. Go ahead, please.
DEREKGood afternoon, gentlemen. Good afternoon, Mr. Elrich. My question is I'm a former Montgomery County resident. Moved to Washington D.C. and contemplating moving back to Montgomery County. But on this week I was able to go with my cousin to the Montgomery County Council and its meeting on Tuesday where I saw a very impressive sight. And a lot of it has to do with the blowback on your desire to cut funding to Montgomery College special needs personnel. And I just can't find the rational, because that would such a death nail to groups especially the special needs groups, who packed the County Council. What's your rational to trying to cut funding to special needs in Montgomery County, which would hurt so bad?
SHERWOODWhat specifically is he referring to?
ELRICHI know what he's talking -- he's talking about that we were proposing for some groups that they not get the full supplement for -- a supplement that allows them to pay above the minimum wage. A report was done as a result of payroll filings by a bunch of the nonprofits, that a number of them did not pay the 125 percent above the minimum wage for which we gave them money last year. And so the feeling was, under the law, if you didn't pay 125 percent, you were supposed to get no supplement. It wasn't like you can supplement up to 125. You had to do 125. So, they hadn't done that. We understand that there apparently was a misunderstanding as to what paying 125 percent of the minimum wage meant. Some of them thought that you could average overtime, and if the average equaled more than that, they thought they were okay. We're having discussions about this, and we're going to work it out.
ELRICHBut we were following what the county law was. In fact, we were being more generous than the county law, because we were going to let them get the amount the money they got last year. If they paid 121 percent of a supplement, we were going to give them 121 percent of the supplements. But, by the law, we shouldn't be giving them 125, if they weren't going to pay 125.
SHERWOODSpeaking of the money, the legislature we just talked about briefly, made more money available for schools. $53 million for schools operation, and $57 million for school construction. That seems like a lot, but in the world of all the needs for Montgomery County Schools, it doesn't sound like much.
ELRICHUh, actually it was pretty good.
SHERWOODIt is good. Okay, good.
ELRICHWe're looking at it as it's more than enough to make sure the school budget is fully funded. And that's only part of the construction money. We're expecting a second distribution of construction that's actually going to put us above where we were last year and enable us to do some things that we know the school system wants to do. So, I'm kind of optimistic about that.
NNAMDIBecause we're challenged for time, I'm going to take two phone calls, one right after the other. So, please note what the questions are. Here's Evelyn, in Bethesda, Maryland, first. Evelyn, your turn.
EVELYNHi. Thanks so much. I had the opportunity to hear Mr. Elrich speak at his listening sessions, and was pleased to hear that you are interested in not only building affordable housing, but preserving housing for the middleclass in Montgomery County. I live in the Wyngate neighborhood, off Old Georgetown Road, where at least half of our 1950s Cape Cods and Colonials have been torn down, and very large homes built that have eliminated the green in the neighborhood and very much destroyed the tree canopy. What are you thinking are some strategies for preserving our lovely homes, uh, that are summarily destroyed?
NNAMDIEvelyn, thank you for your call on the issue of housing. On to Roberto, in Silver Spring, Maryland. Roberto, your turn.
ROBERTOYes. Thank you. Yes, I wanted to ask, uh, Mark: I served on the board of housing agency of HOC for about 12 years.
ROBERTOYeah, I've always been concerned about the fact that we have three different agencies dealing with housing. We have HOC, that is basically moving away from public housing.
ELRICHHousing Opportunities Commission.
ROBERTOYeah, thank you. And, um, and then we have DHCA, which manages the housing trust fund. But it's also in the business of...
ELRICHDepartment of Housing and Community Affairs.
ROBERTOExactly. And then we have HHS, that deals with the homeless. Now, what I would like to ask Marc is whether he's thought of any way that we can start maybe blending these three agencies. Because what we have is, really, silos. We have HOC shooting in the direction. DHCA another, and HHS.
NNAMDIGot it, got it. Don't have a lot of time. Marc Elrich, you got two issues to respond to.
ELRICHI'll try to answer two quick questions.
SHERWOODAnd that one at Wyngate.
ELRICHWe tried to limit the amount of lot coverage to prevent the tearing down of trees and covering lots entirely with buildings. We have a 30 percent lot coverage, uh, limit. And so I would have to see whether, in fact, those lot coverage limits are being respected.
SHERWOODIs that commercial and residential?
ELRICHNo, it's just residential.
ELRICHSo, you can't cover more than 30 percent of your lot with concrete or building. Uh, so, I would have to see what's being done. We all thought 30 percent was reasonable, because it allowed for decent footprint for a house without turning it into occupying the entire space. As far as HOC and the other agencies go, HOC is different, because it's a housing authority. It's not actually totally under the county government. And it gets a lot of its money from outside the county. It deals with federal agencies. Um, I wish they were producing more affordable housing. They used to produce more. Uh, I don't think we're getting the yield we should be getting. Um, I'll be appointing the Deputy Housing Director.
ELRICHAnd we're going to put a renewed focus on housing production in the county. Uh, homelessness is a separate and apart issue, because dealing with housing for moderate-to-low income people is one set of problems and a challenge. But dealing with housing for the homeless who generally have no incomes provides another. So, we're going to be looking at some innovative ways of building housing, and building it at a price point, uh, to the county that it actually allows to provide more units for the homeless than we've been currently able to provide.
SHERWOODVery quickly. I know we don't have a lot of time. Tom Manger is left as the, uh, the police chief, since 2004. Russ Hammell -- did I say his name correctly -- is the acting chief. What is your status on getting the new police chief appointed?
ELRICHSo, we're starting to take applications. We're going to do a series of community meetings. We're going to go through the list, narrow it down, uh, to what we think are the most likely candidates, and give the community a chance to first of all talk to us about what they want policing to be, period, independent of the candidates. But then have a chance to meet people who want to be the next police chief and ask some questions, and, you know, get a feeler for whether this is the kind of police chief you want.
SHERWOODYou said Manger set a high bar.
ELRICHHe set a high bar. But, you know, he's retiring, because I think he's, this is a difficult time. And he's put in a lot of time as being a police chief. And, uh, we have challenges we still have to deal with. You know, the Robert White incident has inflamed a lot of the community.
SHERWOODRight. Will Jawando -- did I say his name correctly -- has urged that that be a major consideration for the next chief. And Tom Glass has said LGBT issues should be -- the chief should be fully modern.
NNAMDIWell, the one thing you can, one thing you can rest assured of is neither Tom Sherwood, nor I will be applying for the position. So, you don't have to worry about that... (all talking at once)
SHERWOODMy Twitter button says: question authority. So, I'm not going to be somebody in authority.
NNAMDIMarc Elrich is the Executive of Montgomery County. Thank you so much for joining us.
NNAMDIComing up next, Karrie Delaney. She represents Fairfax in Loudoun County in Virginia's House of Delegates. I'm Kojo Nnamdi.
NNAMDIWelcome back. Joining us in the studio is Karrie Delaney. She represents Fairfax and Loudoun County in Virginia's House of Delegates. She's a Democrat, up for reelection this year. Thank you so much for joining us.
KARRIE DELANEYKojo, thank you for having me.
NNAMDIEarlier this week, a poll found that Virginia Governor Ralph Northam is less popular in his home state than President Trump, who he positioned himself against in 2017. Governor Northam has a 40 percent approval rate in Virginia, while President Trump has 44 percent. Despite that approval rate, 52 percent of voters think the Governor should remain in office. But these days, that doesn't seem like a question that many people are asking anymore, Tom.
SHERWOODWell, you know, the Governor was -- everyone was on the verge of resigning back at, what was it, February 1st, or something? These things all run together. But, you know, he decided he would stay and fight, that he didn't think he should resign. And, of course, we had the other two issues with the Lieutenant Governor and the Attorney General. And so this poll shows, you know, this poll from Christopher Newport University, Rachel Bitecofer -- is that how you say her name? I believe that's correct. She's the pollster, Bitecofer?
SHERWOODTwenty-three percent of the respondents did not know anything about the Northam controversy. Twenty-three percent. I thought that was stunning.
NNAMDIWell, that was.
SHERWOODMaybe the Delegate has a view of this poll.
NNAMDII was about to say, that means that 77 percent knew about it. Delegate, you called for Ralph Northam's resignation the day after his scandal broke. You wrote, quoting here, “The trust of the Virginia people has been tarnished, and we must focus on moving forward, rather than excusing racist actions.” At this point, do you still think Governor Northam should step down?
DELANEYI do stand by my statement. And I think that, you know, polls are interesting. Polls, um, can be very telling. They can give us a data point when we're considering, um, you know, policy and positions on things that matter to our community. But I think our key role as lawmakers, as legislators and as leaders in the community is to listen and to, at times, defer, uh, to those who are most affected by an issue. And the members of the Virginia Legislative Black Caucus called for the Governor's resignation. And, you know, I am not a person of color, so I will never know how deeply those actions hurt our communities of color.
DELANEYSo, I feel when I have members of that community, that I can see how deeply it has hurt them. I can see how affected they are by this and how emotional they were in those days after, and that resolute calling for his resignation, I feel I'm going to follow their leadership on that.
NNAMDIThere's NAACP chapter this weekend that will be demonstrating against the Governor when he visits, but he's not the only state official who's embroiled in scandal. Lieutenant Governor Justin Fairfax recently denied the two accusations of sexual assault against him, talked about passing polygraph tests, asking the prosecutors in Boston and Durham to investigate the chances his accusers are -- the charges -- his accusers are requesting a public hearing. But before you were a House Delegate, you were a rape crisis counselor. What do you think should be done in this situation?
DELANEYSo, I did serve as a rape crisis counselor in my career. And because of that, those experiences, you know, I am incredibly supportive of survivors of sexual assault and ensuring that their voices are heard. And I think that, you know, we have a responsibility to ensure that anyone whose voice wants to be heard is heard. That is something that, you know, I am extremely committed to. And I think that, you know, we can both serve due process, while supporting survivors of sexual assault at the same time. Because we know that we really respect, in our country, in our community the concept that someone is innocent until proven guilty.
DELANEYAnd they have due process. But we also exist in a community where, too often people who've been sexually assaulted are silenced. They are met with disbelief. They're accused of lying. They're accused of being somehow responsible. You know, I unfortunately encountered too many occasions where, during a line of questioning, you know, why were out that late? What did, how much did you have to drink? There's a lot of blaming that happens to survivors. And there's very, very little in it for them to come forward, to pursue justice. And so, I believe that we need to meet survivors with, with a default state, that I believe you.
DELANEYThat I'm here to listen to you. You have a voice, and I'm going to believe what you say. Because that allows them to even have the ability to come forward. And that, in and of itself, will then allow due process. Because if you have one side being completely silenced, then you're not going to have justice. And you're not going to have due process.
SHERWOODWhat is the due process? Clearly, the Lieutenant Governor has denied these accusations. He's invited investigations. The Republicans in the leadership of the House, of the General Assembly were offered to have a public hearing -- public and private -- to have the two women come and speak to the legislature. The Democrats didn't agree with that. What specifically can, in fact, be done at this moment so that we respect the women who have come public, but also respect the Lieutenant Governor? But also have some resolution of this? It seems to me now that it's just hanging out there, and a very emotional, important personal issue.
SHERWOODWhat do we do next? What would you do to solve this, to make sure it's fully explored?
DELANEYWell, so what's, what's been proposed right now is a bipartisan commission that would be formed. The Republicans have proposed, you know, five Democrats and five Republicans to hold a hearing. The concerns that we have with that, and that, I know our caucus leader had replied back to suggest that, you know, we might want to explore, possibly, a third party, looking at: what are our options? And trying to determine the answer to what is the best path forward. Because I think what we, what we want to avoid is anything that's even remotely political, and certainly anything that could do more damage.
DELANEYWhen we don't know if there are investigations that are happening in other states right now. We don't know if, you know, there is the possibility of a criminal case being opened in another location. Anything that we do in Virginia could tamper with that process.
SHERWOODVery quickly. Have you called the Lieutenant Governor to resign?
DELANEYYes, I have.
NNAMDIYou are running for reelection right now. We do have to give you this opportunity to tell your constituents why they should reelect you.
SHERWOODShe's running unopposed in the primary. So, that says something.
NNAMDIThat's not a reason to reelect her, though. (laugh)
DELANEYWell, you know, during my campaign, I feel like the heart of my campaign was putting people before politics. And that is something that I'm really proud that I feel like I was able to not only make the promises of delivering those kind of results, but then actually fulfill those promises down in Richmond. And I think we accomplished a lot of really great things. I feel very proud of the bills that I passed in my first two years down in Richmond. And I think that, you know, that's what I'm hearing the most from people.
DELANEYWhen I'm out on doors and I'm talking to folks at town halls and office hours, you know, they want to know, what have you done for me? What problems have you fixed? What solutions have you delivered? And I think we've made some really great headway. This past session, one of the bills -- especially as someone who's been a child advocate in my professional career -- one of the bills I'm most proud of is a bill that we passed that will now become law that will require all members of clergy to report child abuse. They'll be required, mandatory reporters for cases of child abuse and neglect.
SHERWOODEven if that's heard in a confessional?
DELANEYThere is an exemption for confessions. And what I'll say to that is I think that, you know, that really allowed the bill to get out of the House and the Senate, unopposed. And when we had our testimony for that bill, when that bill was up in the Committee, we had a line of folks that came from all over to speak to how the bill would have helped them in their situation, had that been law when they had whatever their experience may have been. And none of those events took place in a confessional. So, we know that that's not really where cases of child abuse are becoming known.
DELANEYThey are becoming known in other scenarios, where we know that if our members of clergy are required to report that abuse, I think we could save a lot of children.
NNAMDIAnd here's Dan, in Fairfax, Virginia. Dan, you're on the air. Go ahead, please.
DANHi, there. Thanks so much for taking my call. I'm a constituent of the Delegate, and I just have a quick question that I think transcends partisan lines, and that's money in politics. I know that a lot of delegates and State Senate candidates across the Commonwealth are gaining a lot of attention -- even in conservative areas -- and support for opposing corporate money, including Dominion. And I don't believe the delegate has done that, including Dominion Electric. So, I heard her talk about putting people before politics, and I just think this is a great example of being able to sort of walk the walk on that issue. Thank you.
NNAMDIYou were once a registered Republican. You've said that in the past. You've shared different viewpoints on different issues, and that your views have evolved, that your views on this issue evolved.
SHERWOODAnd you spoke about this Wednesday. I watched a video of you at a town hall with John Bell. And you said that it's ridiculous how so much money is in legislative races. Bell said you have to raise a million dollars, or he did. Where are you, then, on money from special interests?
DELANEYYou know, it is ridiculous how much money these races cost, and I think we do need to get the money out of the politics. And, you know, having spent a term down in Richmond, you know, I absolutely believe that we need comprehensive campaign finance reform. I have made the decision to not take money from Dominion Energy. I think that, you know, there was legislation that we saw that unfortunately did not pass this past session that would have actually prohibited candidates from taking money from those types of regulated entities. And I think that, you know, this is an important issue that I think has really come to the forefront in the past couple of years, of how those relationships and what message that sends to people. And so I have definitely listened to the community on that issue, and think we need comprehensive campaign finance reform.
SHERWOODWe have a just a quick moment. Kojo mentioned you were a former Republican. You were on the Melbourne City Council, appointed as a Republican. You did win an election. And when was that? And when did you come to Northern Virginia? Maybe a lot of our listeners don't know that much about you.
DELANEYSure. So, that was actually the West Melbourne City Council. So, an even smaller town. (laugh) And so my husband and I moved out there shortly after graduating from college at the University of South Florida and had our first few post-college years there. And, you know, I started getting involved in local government, at that point.
SHERWOODBut when did you move here?
DELANEYMoved to the area in 2006.
NNAMDIYou don't get much more local than roads. So, here's Lisa in Baltimore. Lisa, you're on the air. Go ahead, please.
LISAYes, hi. Yeah, it is very local. Um, I'd love to see Richmond get more involved in looking at the whole area as one piece. We live in Western Loudoun. You can't get to Eastern Loudoun, let alone Fairfax, Arlington, any jobs at all. The roads are all completely clogged. We cannot telework, because we don't have high-speed Internet. Can't get that, either. So, unless the governments start working together and figuring out how to make this a cohesive work and life environment, we are all in big trouble, especially in Loudoun. But it's turned out where this building boom and economic boom, it's just putting more and more housing...
NNAMDIDelegate Delaney, we're running out of time, rapidly.
DELANEYLisa, I agree with you completely. I think that is the unifying issue. It doesn't matter one's political party. We all equally despise the traffic in Northern Virginia. And, you know, I'm committed to really continuing to work for multi-modal solutions. You know, we need to make investments in Metro. We need to make investments into our roadways. But we do need to make investments in things like broadband, rural broadband and incentivizing more telework. Because we have to create solutions that work for different people in different ways, so that that congestion can be spread and relieved in a variety of ways.
DELANEYAnd so I think a multi-modal, comprehensive approach is -- that's what I ran on. That's what I've been pushing for down in Richmond, and what I'll continue to push for.
NNAMDIGot a minute left, Tom.
SHERWOODAny progress in Richmond for that? Your district is between Rustin and Centerville, and along Highway 50, 66, which is a parking lot. Is there specific legislation passed this past year, or you hope to pass next year, to ease traffic issues?
DELANEYWell, one thing that we were able to pass this year was a bill that primarily gets funding for I-81. But in those negotiations, we were able to secure the return of about $20 million to our local transportation fund that will fund arterial roadways. Unfortunately, some of those local roadway money was lost the prior session in a bill that I did not support and a vote that I was opposed to. And my mission has been to get that money back, so that we can both invest in Metro while ensuring that we have the necessary funds to build out our arterial roads and relieve congestion.
NNAMDIKarrie Delaney represents Fairfax and Loudoun County in Virginia's House of Delegates. She's a Democrat, up for reelection this year. Governor McAuliffe has endorsed your campaign. He's thinking of running for President. Are you going to endorse him, if he does?
DELANEY(laugh) There's a lot of folks running for President. And I'm looking forward to hearing all of their platforms. But I think we've got some great folks in the field. And I'm looking forward to that. But first, we've got to get through 2019 and flip the House of Delegates.
NNAMDIThank you for joining us. Today's Politics House was produced by Ruth Tam. Tomorrow is DC Emancipation Day, marking the DC Compensation Emancipation Act of 1862, which ended slavery in DC and freed 3,100 slaves. There will be a parade and a concert, fireworks at Freedom Plaza. Coming up Monday, in the two decades since the Columbine shooting, states have introduced laws to keep schools safe from gun violence. We look at how Maryland legislators have handled the issue, and what local schools are doing to prevent a mass shooting. Plus, we hear from Georgetown University, where students just voted to create a fund to benefit the descendants of people enslaved by the school.
NNAMDIThat all starts Monday, at noon. Until then, Tom Sherwood, have a great weekend. Thank you all for listening. I'm Kojo Nnamdi.
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