The Montgomery Council voted on their 2020 budget this week. We hear about the details from Councilmember Will Jawando, who also gives us an update on what the council is doing around police accountability, housing and development.
All Metrorail stations south of the Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport Station will be closed between Memorial Day and September platform restoration. We hear from Justin Wilson, mayor of Alexandria, about his city is preparing for the shutdown.
Then we meet Andres Jimenez, an environmentalist, Democrat and former congressional staffer. He joins us to talk about why he is running to represent Fairfax County in the Virginia House of Delegates.
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 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 Andres Jimenez. He's a candidate for the Virginia House of Delegates. We'll also have a brief phone conversation with Justin Wilson, the Mayor of Alexandria, you know about what the sixth station Metro shutdown. Joining us in studio now is Will Jawando. He's a councilmember on the Montgomery County Council. He's a democrat. He's an At-Large councilmember. Will Jawando, thank you for joining us.
WILL JAWANDOGood to be with you.
NNAMDITom, D.C. Councilmember Jack Evans will not be seeking reelection as the Metro Board Chairman. There was an ethics probe by the Metro Board of Jack Evans and while we do not know what the results of that probe are one clear result of it is that Jack Evans has decided not to seek reelection. He may contest that saying that he has served a long enough term and it's time for somebody else to do it. Meanwhile today's edition of The Washington Post has a long article about the apparent conflicts of interest in which Jack Evans was involved with clients that he served in his private consulting company who are also doing business with the District of Columbia.
SHERWOODSo nothing's going on. First with the stepping down as chairman, his term is up at the end of June. He's been chairman three and a half years, longer than most any other chairman. He says, he's simply stepping aside, because he's done a lot and he's been given credit for a lot of things. There's no direct line between this ethics investigation, which lasted several months by the Metro Board, they ended the investigation back on May 7th without taking any action, no report, no discussion. There has been some suggestions that maybe Evans when he met with this panel agreed to step down as chairperson of the board, but, you know, that doesn't really solve the problem.
SHERWOODIf the ethics panel thought Jack Evans had done something wrong he would violate the ethics rules of both being the chairman and as a voting board member. He's going to remain on the board as a board member. So it doesn't have a direct line that the ethics panel in fact had any impact. But maybe it was some informal agreement. But the fact is if there were ethics problems he couldn't remain as a board member, which he intends to do.
SHERWOODThen separately in the investigation Steve Thompson of The Washington Post has done a second story kind of laying out a lot more detail about Jack Evans's relationship as a Ward 2 councilmember with variety of businesses in the city. Everyone knows that for Evans's nearly 30 years on the Council he's been pro-business. He does lots of pro-business things. He's had private consulting contracts with some businesses that seem to have benefit from his time, but, again, in this case even Steve's story said that these connections could suggest conflicts of interest. Did not say, does not say, they did suggest conflicts of interest.
SHERWOODSo here we have Jack Evans, who's up for reelection next year. This past week the recall petitions have been approved and that's going out to see if there will be a recall petition. He's turned back the D.C. State Committee Party effort to take him off that. The D.C. Council reprimanded him, but did not sensor him. The Metro Board investigated him, but they took no action. So, again, as I said I think every week for the last several weeks, we are in the middle of the movie on what's going to happen to Jack Evans.
NNAMDIAnd the D.C. Attorney General has rejected a deal made between the Department of Employment Services and the Sydell Group, which owns the hotel D.C. Line. When that hotel was being built it got a $46 million abatement apparently on the basis of the fact that it was agreed to hire 342 District residents. The Department of Employment Services said they only hired 273 of those residents, and so according to the law, they are supposed to lose that abatement. Nevertheless the Department of Employment Services apparently reached an agreement with the group that for a payment of $600,000 this could all go away. The Attorney General says, "Hell no."
SHERWOODYeah. We're talking $46 million tax break. This story goes back nine years. It's the hotel that has been -- it's now open in Adams Morgan, very popular part of the city. It's an inside into how the city will offer developers tax breaks and other incentives in an effort to hire D.C. residents -- citizens first. There's been an ongoing complaint that this hotel organization has not done that. So the question is will they get these tax breaks? The Attorney General says they should not, but for nine years this has been ongoing. I think it's another example of how this city ought to have a much clearer procedure and checks and balances going along the way.
SHERWOODI don't think the Department of Employment Services stands out in this either because it often cannot tell you who got a job. How long they had the job. It's kind of a bureaucratic mess in some respects. This whole system needs to be cleaned up.
NNAMDIYesterday the Montgomery County Council unanimously approved the 2020 budget to the tune of $5.8 billion, didn't raise taxes -- that was a campaign promise of County Executive Eldridge -- this after two months of public hearings hashing out the details. I was going to ask you what your general impressions of the budget was, but then I thought it might be better if we went to specific issues unless you wanted to mention what your general impressions of the budget were in 10 seconds or less.
JAWANDOWell, generally it was a good budget, not a great budget, but a good budget. I think we balanced improving and maintaining services for our over 1.1 million residents, and we're fiscally responsible. So that's my 10 second spill on it.
NNAMDIThe Montgomery County Public Schools budget was set at $2.6 billion meeting the school system's request, but still not everyone is happy with how the budget landed on school funding. For example, a request for a dozen new public school nurses was not approved and that's what George in Germantown, Maryland would like to talk about. George, you're on the air. Go ahead, please.
GEORGEHi. Thanks for taking my call. I'm very familiar with the Montgomery County Public Schools and the school community health nurses. So how much money was in the MCPS budget for school nurses?
JAWANDOGreat question. Hey, George, thanks for calling in. There was a base line to maintain the current level of service for nurses. There was a request that we sent as an entire Council over to the County Executive to add 12 school nurses. He did not adjust his budget. And we weren't able to add any in this process. I actually am working with a number of my colleagues now on a supplemental, I think later in the year, to add additional nurses. I've been talking to the head of the nurse department for the system and they say with four additional nurses that that could give them coverage in every school. So I think we're going to be taking a strong look at that. They cost about $209,000 per nurse to add. So we'll be adding almost a million -- you know, $900,000.
NNAMDIHow necessary are the nurses?
JAWANDOThey're very necessary. We have one of the worst ratios in the area as far nurses in schools versus the population. We have 164,000 students. We do have a lot of CNAs, you know, Certified Nurse's Assistants. But the nurses are really the first line of defense for not only physical ailments, but also any mental health, which we know is an increasingly important issue. We were able to add and this is my amendment two additional therapists that are going to help in middle schools as well as extending our text hotline for students in crisis to the 9:00 p.m. to 12:00 p.m. hours in this budget, but we need to do more.
SHERWOODWell, we're talking about $5.8 billion for the coming fiscal year. When does it start? July 1st?
JAWANDOJuly 1, yeah.
SHERWOODHow many new members of the board -- of the Montgomery County Board now? You're new.
JAWANDOOf the Council.
SHERWOODOf the Council.
JAWANDOThere's four of the nine are new.
SHERWOODFour of the nine.
JAWANDOYeah. And I'm one of them.
SHERWOODWhat was the learning experience politically for this? You ran once for Congress a few years back. You got elected to the Council last year. Mark Eldridge, put out a note saying how great it was that he and the Council worked well together. Politically without getting into some more details on the budget itself, did it work well?
JAWANDOYou know, I think overall -- as I said, I think it was a good budget. I would have liked to see the County Executive send over the budget and did not fully fund the school system's request, for example, which is half of our budget over two and a half billion. He didn't fully fund Montgomery College, which is a critical institution which does a lot with economic development and skills. So we had to restore that funding. He gave us a little less flexibility than we would have liked to expand programs. Things like the nurses. So I'm hoping next year if the County Executive is listening, don't do that.
SHERWOODThere was a -- the Council I think unanimously objected to Eldridge's attempt to give higher raises to some county workers, who had lost out on step increases because of the recession a decade ago, but the Council said that he couldn't afford to do that.
JAWANDOWell, you know, I was kind of on the middle in that. We did send the contract back, but I was in favor of restoring those steps. And thankfully we negotiated something among our colleagues or with the County Executive that he came back. A third of the step was restored. And then I think my intention is to fully restore it over the next two years.
SHERWOODI think Prince George's County is doing that with some of its workers.
JAWANDOYeah, breaking it up.
SHERWOODPolitically on the bottom line, has Eldridge lived up to his campaign promises in your point of view?
JAWANDOWell, look, we didn't raise taxes. And we keep funding the school system. So I think, you know, again, the Council has the ultimate budget authority. I think we did a good job. In working together, look, it's never easy making the sausage. But I think we came out in a good place. And I think there's room for improvement in years to come, but this was a good budget.
NNAMDIWe have a caller on the budget, who has a vaguely familiar name. Robin Ficker in Beltsville, Maryland. Robin Ficker, you're on the air. Go ahead, please. Mr. Ficker, Robin, are you there?
JAWANDOIf he disconnected I won't be upset.
ROBIN FICKERHello, hello.
NNAMDIThere you are. Go ahead, please.
FICKEROkay. Let me ask you this. How come they're dipping into the health benefits savings plan, the pension, to balance the budget? Why don't they cut the spending instead? I mean, I'm not getting a make-up in my pay for the recession.
NNAMDIRobin Ficker, you should know was a candidate for the Montgomery County Executive.
JAWANDOAnd many other things. So, you know, on the health benefit, look, we have funded out retirees health benefits at levels higher than anyone in the region. We have a little over a quarter of it already funded. No one will miss benefits or services in the coming years. There was a little money taken out to balance the budget. But the good thing we did this year also that is going to give us flexibility next year is we reached our target of 10 percent in reserves, which is significant in a budget of almost $6 billion. And so next year that money, you know, many millions of dollars won't have to go to the reserves. And we're going to be able to use that in the general budget. So I don't think that dip into the future retirees' benefits fund is going to have to happen in the future.
NNAMDIBut he also wanted to know, why didn't you just decide to cut spending.
JAWANDOWell, we have needs. You know, a third of our residents or more, a third of our students are high need and free and reduced lunch. We have an increasing population. We're very diverse. And I don't think a cut in services was tenable when you have people that are house burdened that are struggling spending 30 to 50 percent of their money on rent and food. I don't think a services cut was tenable at this point.
SHERWOODI'm looking at it and see Montgomery County, which is growing and the budgets are in more and more need to assist many residents. It's not the white picket fence single family home county that a lot of people used to think of it as. But it looks to me like with the slowing of the economy, your needs are going up faster than the money is coming in, but you didn't raise taxes this time. Politically that's smart.
JAWANDOWe didn't and I think there was commitment from anyone on that front. Look, you know, we know nationally wealth and equality is growing. I'm of the belief that when you ease people's basic needs, you unlock innovation. You know, 90 percent of our businesses in the county are less than 50 people. They're small businesses. They're the primary share of how we get economic growth. We need to support them. If they have to pay less for childcare, we made a historic investment in early childhood and education part of a four year plan. If they pay less on housing, if they pay less on transportation, we made kids ride free. We expanded bus routes. That's going to help them start a business and grow and grow our economy.
SHERWOODCan we talk about the police?
NNAMDIIn a second, because we also have a call about the police. But I wanted to talk a little bit more about schools, because you've worked closely with the school system as an advocate for African American students. And Tom just talked about the fact that Montgomery County is growing, but student enrollment has declined in Montgomery County public schools for the second year in a row. Why is that happening and what effect can that have on the future of school funding?
JAWANDOWell, you know, it ebs and flows. I mean, one of the things that we're -- in the 70s you had a lot of growth. Well, you had declining enrollment back then 70s and 80s. Then you had a big uptick. And then it goes down again. That's what happens naturally over time. And I think that actually relieves some pressure for our school system, because for a year for about six or seven years we were growing at 2,000 students a year. That's like a new high school every year. And now it's more around 1,000 students or less. And so that's going to relieve the pressure for time. But people are going to in and they're going to have kids. I have four kids.
SHERWOODYou're doing all you can do.
JAWANDOI'm (laugh) you know, it's going to come back up, but I think the key is not to knee jerk react to that and just plan in a sustainable way, because projections are always hard. You don't know what moving patterns and immigration patterns are going to be.
SHERWOODI was reading this story. I think it Bethesda about the school system and its looking at trying to bring gender neutral bathrooms to the schools. Something like 200 schools, though a gender neutral bathroom could cost as much as $50,000. That's like a $10 million just to have one gender neutral bathroom in the school. So there's -- lots of cultural things are changing.
JAWANDOWell, I think that's --
SHERWOODAnd they all have price tags.
JAWANDOWell, I think that's -- you know, Montgomery County is the microcosm of the U.S. You know, three of the top 10 most diverse cities in the country are in Montgomery County, Gaithersburg, Germantown, and Silver Spring. And with that becomes -- it's a great thing. We get a lot of good food and a lot of good languages spoken, but a lot challenges. And I was just at our LGBTQIA student conference and the bathrooms are important. That's something we need to do for our students so they feel comfortable. And so I think there's this balance of how do we make sure we keep the high quality of life we have for everybody in our community in an equitable way.
JAWANDOThe Council has an equity framework that we've implemented this year to make sure that we're serving all communities the same. You know, Kojo, you mentioned our African American students, but our Latino students, our Asian students and we want to make sure that everyone has access to the same great high quality opportunities in Montgomery County.
SHERWOODI have one more budget question. I was reading the County Executive's report and he did something, which is unusual. He left $10 million unassigned by the executive saying he left it for the Council to deal with because he gets 99 percent of what he wants normally. What did you do with the $10 million?
JAWANDOWell, had to take some of it and backfill the schools and the Montgomery College, but thankfully we were able to work with the County Executive on fully funding the schools request, several things. We expanded afterschool programs like Excel Beyond the Bell to four new schools.
SHERWOODIs that organized events after school?
JAWANDOAfter school, yeah. We also added therapists as I mentioned. We funded money for climate emergency to set up -- to get a consultant come in and give us a real plan to make progress on reduced carbon in the atmosphere. One thing I worked on, I'm the lead for libraries on the Council. We expanded hours at two really high need libraries, Long Branch where I grew up and Damascus. And we kept recreation centers open longer to 11:00 p.m. with programming.
SHERWOODAre the pools opening this weekend?
JAWANDOI think it's -- I think it's coming up soon. It's coming up soon. Usually Memorial Day is the -- we also expanded the Housing Initiative Fund, you know, for affordable housing. So we did a lot.
SHERWOODThe police. There was just a horrific incident I think it was May 9th or something where the police officers, who were called to young people loitering at a McDonald's I think. And the language got out of hand. The police officer used the "N" word. Said that they were just mimicking what the young men had said. It was a mess. And there's been all kinds of outrage about it. But I don't know, has it all been resolved? I mean, there's been discussions about now having a citizen's complaint review board in place. I don't know if anybody has been disciplined. Can you bring people up to speed on it, because, again, it's a changing county, some old style police activity seen as harassing citizens as opposed to just moving them along. Where do we stand on that, a lot denunciation of what these police officers, at least one of them did?
JAWANDOWell, you know, it was an issue that we're still dealing with. It's funny that -- not funny, but I guess not a coincidence that the same week I pass my bill, the Law Enforcement Trust and Transparency Act, which requires independent --
NNAMDIThat's what our caller wants to talk about.
JAWANDOOkay. Independent investigations in the case of a police involved death, we had this incident happened. And I think it underscores the point that we need to look at how we're doing policing. We're in a new era. What should we be counting as success? I think it should be de-escalation, community activities. We shouldn't be counting tickets, arrests and stop and frisks as success. And we need to look at the data in a hard way. You know, I led a letter that all my colleagues signed asking the police to release all the body camera footage from that incident. Also to tell us --
SHERWOODI've watched it.
JAWANDOYeah. Were they doing these trespass citations, because these young men were outside of McDonald's. Somebody eating breakfast or waiting to get picked up from work. Why can the police act as agents of McDonald's come in and say they're trespassing and write a citation allowing them not to be there for a year? Those are questions that I think many people didn't even know that was even happening. So you have to look at the broader statistics. You know, over 50 percent of the arrests in Montgomery County in 2018 were of African Americans, but they only make up 19 percent of the population. Why do we have these disparate statistics and how are we policing?
JAWANDOAnd I think those are questions that we're going to be able answer. I think citizen involvement is part of it. Part of it is the new police chief search that we're embarking upon right now. We're going to have a community forum on June 6th at Kennedy High School, the County Executive and I, where we hear from the community directly about what they want to see in policing in the county.
SHERWOODIs that that chance for people to vent?
NNAMDIWe're running out of time. So allow me to go to Marsha in Bethesda, Maryland. Marsha, you're on the air. Go ahead, please.
MARSHAYeah. Thank you very much. And my name is Marsha Coleman Adibayo and I'm with the Bethesda African Cemetery Coalition. And as you are aware, because you have protested with us, our coalition is protesting a continued desecration of an African burial ground that is owned by the Housing Opportunities Commission, HOC. We protest there the first Wednesday of every month.
MARSHAAnd the last month that we were there -- I'm sorry. This month we were greeted by Montgomery County Police. And I was personally targeted by the police. And I was escorted. I thought I was being arrested for just speaking out at a meeting. And I was personally escorted out of the building. And once I was out of the building, this policeman proceeded to tell me all of the ways that he could harm me. He could, you know, he could grind my face into the soil. He could punch me.
NNAMDIOkay, but we don't have a lot of time left, Marsha. Is there a question?
MARSHAThe question for me is, you know, the Montgomery County Police force is out of control. Will the bill that you passed help average citizens like me protect ourselves from the police department?
JAWANDOThank you for the question, Marsha. I think building a culture of transparency accountability and trust is key for policing to work, for the police to be able to do their job, for the community to trust it. And my bill is a part of that I think. You know, we need to know in the most horrific cases when a resident loses their life at the hands of police that that investigation be independent and it be transparent and the public knows why it happened.
SHERWOODWho will be on this -- we're about out of time. Who -- who will be on this commission?
JAWANDOIt's an independent law enforcement agency that has to come and investigate. The other bill that you're talking about is a bill I'm working on with Councilmember Riemer to setup a police community advisory board on policy. And that would be members of the community to give advice to the Council and to the Executive about what policies we need to change.
SHERWOODBut not to hear complaints, okay.
JAWANDONot a complaint board. We're prohibited from doing that.
NNAMDIOne more on schools before you go from Frida in Silver Spring, Maryland. Frida, your turn.
FRIDAHello. And thank you so very much. I voted for you, Will. I'm delighted you're on the Council.
JAWANDOI appreciate it. Thank you.
FRIDASure. There's a lack of ESOL teachers in the middle schools. The kids -- due to a lack of middle schools and I will email you the schools I believe need more. The kids, these little kids are overwhelmed. They are pushed into regular English courses prematurely.
NNAMDIAnd ESOL, of course, English for Speakers of Other Languages.
JAWANDOIt's a great point. A third of our residents are foreign born. Obviously many of their children speak English as a second language. You know, my father was from Nigeria as many of you know. And it's an issue that with the hiring we need to look at how we're giving flexibility to principles and within the schools themselves to hire people that speak other languages. And how were communicating with teachers. I know the school system has made strides there, but there's more we can do. And I look forward to receiving your email about the middle schools and we'll make sure we look into it.
NNAMDIOne quick transportation question. How do you feel about the monorail suggestion?
JAWANDOThe monorail. That got to you too.
NNAMDIOh, yeah. It got to everybody.
JAWANDOI think of the Simpsons episode. I don't know if you remember what the mono -- no, I sat through the presentation. It's a serious proposal. I think it begs the question of a larger point. Governor Hogan and the Administrator Slater had not included a serious transportation component in their beltway widening in 270 and we need that. And I think whether it's bus rapid transit or expanded rail or monorail, we all are eager to have that conversation, but we need them to be a willing partner in that conversation.
NNAMDIWill Jawando is a council member of Montgomery County. He's a Democrat and an at-large council member serving his first term. Thank you for joining us.
JAWANDOThanks for having me.
NNAMDIWe're going to take a short break. When we come back we'll talk with Justin Wilson, the Mayor of Alexandria and Andres Jimenez, who's a candidate for the Virginia House of Delegates. I'm Kojo Nnamdi.
NNAMDIWelcome back to the Politics Hour where Tom Sherwood is our resident analyst and a contributing writer for Washington City Paper. We'll shortly be talking with Mayor of Alexandria Justin Wilson but first, Tom Sherwood, the controversy surrounding Virginia Governor Ralph Northam, his yearbook picture apparently showing him in black face. He had first admitted it and then said it was not him. And so a four-month investigation was conducted by the medical school itself and that four-month investigation now turns out to be inconclusive. They don't know if that was the governor in the picture. The governor has given differing answers. So what happens next?
SHERWOODWell, you know, on the national scale there's no collusion. On this one there's no conclusion. Well, McGuirewoods' a very respected, or some people don't like how powerful it is, law firm in state, did a four-month study for the Eastern Virginia Medical School. It could not determine, despite extensive interviews with people from the school and the governor himself, whether Northam was in fact in the picture or not. Of course the governor says he wasn't.
SHERWOODIt could not determine who placed the photo there. Some people had thought maybe some students had done it as a joke against the governor or something like that. They could not decide that. What they did show though in the interviews with the governor was, back in February when this broke, there was absolute chaos in the governor's office. Not sure what to do, late night meetings, anguishing about what to do. The Richmond Times Dispatch this week in its editorial said, while we don't have a conclusion on this investigation, the chaos of the governor's office with this story breaking said to them well, wait a minute, what happens if there's some major crisis in the state? Is the governor going to be able to pull his staff together to do it?
SHERWOODThe Washington Post, of course, said the investigation kind of shrugs off the thing that there's just no conclusion. It's kind of unsatisfactory and it keeps the governor under a cloud. It keeps him -- he's virtually AWOL when it comes to the June 11th elections. So it's just unresolved. It's still a stain on the state.
NNAMDIJoining us in studio is Andres Jimenez. He's a candidate for the Virginia House of Delegates, the 38th District in Fairfax County. Andres Jimenez, thank you for joining us.
ANDRES JIMENEZWell, thank you so much for having me today. It's a beautiful day out and I'm really happy to be here in studio, and before we begin, I want to say congratulations on 20 years. That's fantastic.
NNAMDII appreciate that. And joining us by phone is Justin Wilson. He is the Mayor of Alexandria. Mayor Wilson, thank you very much for joining us.
JUSTIN WILSONThanks for having me back. It's great to be here.
NNAMDIOnly got about five minutes but this weekend marks the start of a summer-long partial Metro rail shutdown. All stations south of National Airport closed for platform repair. How long has the city been planning for this long outage?
WILSONSo I think -- well, you know this process started about a year ago when we were originally notified by Metro that this shutdown was going to be occurring. And since that point we have been in full planning mode and we're now bringing that plan into execution. So I think we've been treating this very much like a coming storm. We're going to be removing essentially a very important part of our transportation network. And, you know, we're going to be testing the resiliency of all the options that we have put into place.
NNAMDIWell, we discussed this earlier this week with an official of the city of Alexandria, so a lot of those details are out of the way. But Gretta in Alexandria has a very specific request. Gretta, you're on the air. Go ahead, please.
GRETTAThank you so much. In this time of confusion I was wondering if the mayor would consider reactivating a voice-activated app that would provide a schedule for public transportation. You had it in the past. I've seen it with great envy. I'm a senior citizen and it's horrendous to get from one place to another, many, many buses, but how to collate bus, time and destination. It's a task that I haven't been able to accomplish and I'm counting on you, Mr. Mayor, to provide me with some help.
WILSONWell, I'm happy to check into that. I don't know which app we had had previously that you're referring to. I don't know if that was something Metro had deployed, but we can definitely check into that and see what we can come up with for you. Just drop me a line and I'm happy to dig into that for you.
SHERWOODMayor, Tom Sherwood here. You Tweeted this week, it all begins on Saturday. There's no need to panic. Well, you know, people are panicking. There are tens of thousands. How many thousands of people are going to be disrupted? You've urged them to review your options and determine how your commute will adjust. Some people are just saying, it's not going to be possible, that it's going to be a mess.
WILSONYeah, you know, I think flexibility is key and I think we, throughout this process in our planning have been very focused on that first week, because I think people are going to shape how they act throughout the three months based on how things go the first week. So we're trying to make sure that shuttle network is robust enough to carry passengers. We're trying to make sure the other alternatives are well publicized and folks avail themselves of that.
WILSONYou know, I'm a daily commuter into the District myself to my day job and so I'm going to be working to figure out what alternatives I have as well. And we just encourage everyone to look at all the options and be prepared to do a plan B and a plan C as needs arise.
SHERWOODNormally traffic is terrible in the whole Northern Virginia area. Is there a special emphasis on the roadways, people coming into and through Alexandria?
WILSONYeah, we're going to certainly have our police out on problem intersections all around the city and making sure that we keep traffic moving, making sure we keep that shuttle network moving. We also made some road network changes. We brought HOV up to three and extended the hours on Washington Street to try to increase the amount of lane capacity we have for that shuttle network.
WILSONI think our focus is to try to keep people moving best we can, but it's clearly going to be disrupted and we're telling people to allow additional time. And we're hoping employers are going to be willing to work with employees to have those accommodations. But, you know, it's clearly going to be disruptive, but we just want people to be prepared.
SHERWOODI took the water taxi from the wharf down to Alexandria this week just to have a late lunch. And I have to tell you, I got to Alexandria faster than I could've driven my car or taken Metro. That's a pretty cool ride.
WILSONAbsolutely. And we have allowed the Potomac Riverboat Company to start those trips earlier in the morning. They previously haven't been operating in the morning. They'll be operating in the morning to allow commuting traffic. Those trips are subsidized and so we're certainly piloting the water as an alternative for at least some of our residents. I think the ideas, we're throwing everything at this and we're hoping that at least one or two options are going to be able to suit most of our residents and allow them to survive this summer.
NNAMDIWell, the people who aren't panicking are agonizing and they'd love to know that this story will have a -- how can you assure them that this story will have a happy ending? What changes can Metro riders expect to see at stations in the fall when this platform work is over?
WILSONWell, I think, you know, this work is to deal with infrastructure work that should've happened, quite honestly, years and years ago. And so we're making up for lost time here and dealing with infrastructure investments in the platforms that should've been taking care of a while ago. So I think this is important infrastructure investment to the system to keep things running long into the future.
WILSONI think the message we've had (unintelligible) and I think the partnership we're going to have is working to get people back on transit when all this is done. So this certainly shakes people's faith with our transportation network and I think we have to work very hard to get people back on transit when this work is concluded.
NNAMDIJustin Wilson is Mayor of Alexandria. We're going to take a short break. When we come back we'll continue our conversation, this time with Will Jawando. If you have questions or comments for him -- I'm sorry, with Andres Jimenez. If you have questions or comments for Andres Jimenez, he is a candidate for the Virginia House of Delegates. Start calling 800-433-8850 right now.
NNAMDIWelcome back. We're talking with Andres Jimenez. He's a candidate for the Virginia House of Delegates in the 38th District, Fairfax County. He is a Democrat. You have a background in environmental justice advocacy, a senior director of government affairs for the Citizens Climate Lobby. And you've made the environment a central issue in your campaign. What do you see as the most pressing environmental issues today in Northern Virginia, and what would you like our listeners to know about you that they may not already know and that Tom Sherwood is not likely to bring up in the next minute?
JIMENEZAll right. Well, again, thank you so much for having me. And, yes, I am the senior director for Citizens Climate Lobby, a group of 120,000 grassroots advocates across the country working on carbon emission and also climate change. Prior to that it was three years with a wonderful organization Ocean Conservancy doing fantastic work on climate change and ocean issues, not only here in the United States, but across the world.
JIMENEZSo, yes, environmental issues are top on my list as well as labor issues, immigration and housing issues and LGBTQ rights. When you have a district that is 45 percent foreign-born, it's very important to be the voice of folks, who need a voice in Richmond. Currently our delegate is actually not being a voice for those folks in the 38th District. And when I was thinking of running, I realized that I had not heard from my delegate, I had not heard from her back on emails.
JIMENEZAnd I decided that we needed a voice. The Latino community and all the minority folks in the district needed someone, who could stand up and move the ball forward, not only on issues of housing and immigration and labor, but also environmental issues using my background on climate change work, that I'm on the ground every single day working for Citizens Climate Lobby and working to make our neighborhoods and our communities healthier and greener.
SHERWOODWould you keep your job if you go to Richmond as a delegate?
JIMENEZYes, I would.
SHERWOODRichmond is not the most warm place for environmental issues, when you've got the Chesapeake Bay in Virginia and several other things. But why did you decide to run for the House district? It's central Fairfax district. There are like 45,000 voters there. It's a changing neighborhood like the whole Northern Virginia's changing, as you just mentioned. What was it that said, other than she didn't return maybe your emails? Did you think about it for a long time? Did you just wake up one weekend and decide to do it? I mean, you have a very busy life. People should look at your background online.
SHERWOODIt's a big deal to try to be a state delegate and --
JIMENEZIt is and, you know, it's trying to be a leader for those who don't have a voice, and empowering folks is something I've done throughout my entire career, whether working on the hill or whether working at Ocean Conservancy or now at Citizens Climate Lobby, where one of the first things I did was I started a diversity internship. Having folks out there, who can't be a voice or are unable to, is something that's been very hurtful to me and something that I feel like we need strong leaders with good experience to step up to the plate and actually in that legislation that's going to impact the communities where we're in and --
SHERWOODA lot of progressives, you know, ran two years ago and they won and the Democrats nearly took control, but they didn't quite. But it's kind of a reality check when you get to Richmond and find out you could have the grandest bill in the world and one committee chairperson can say, nah, and that bill goes down. Have you ever worked in an environment that's so hardcore?
JIMENEZAbsolutely. So I worked on the Hill. I worked for Representative Howard Berman when the Sanchez (unintelligible) --
SHERWOODI didn't know.
JIMENEZ-- and I did three years on the immigration subcommittee. So I've experienced both in personal offices and three years on a committee where I got to understand how committees work backwards and forwards, whether it's working across the aisle working within our own party, passing and understanding legislation and amendments. So that's something that I'll be able to hit the ground running when I get to Richmond, because of my background.
JIMENEZAnd obviously in the community, you know, I've been very thankful and grateful and humbled to be getting the support from everyone from the Fairfax Federation of Teachers to Emgage, to Environment America who has fully endorsed, and obviously over a dozen labor groups have backed me. And it's using -- I've been trying to be their voice as I've been going around for the last few months and --
SHERWOODI was looking at your campaign website and, again, it's a very interesting district, the makeup of your district, House District 38 in the middle of Fairfax. On your page you say, as a proud immigrant I will champion immigrant rights in Richmond. For people, who don't know you, here's a chance, give me what I do to my interns, in 30 seconds tell me your life story. You're an immigrant from where and why'd you come to the country and all of that.
SHERWOODCome as a child or an adult, what?
JIMENEZYeah, so when I was three years old I came from -- I was born in Bogota, Colombia. And so I came to West Virginia and grew up in West Virginia and moved to Chicago where I went to DePaul University. After being there for a while I decided to put my political science degree to good use, so I came to D.C., as so many do, to intern and then work on the Hill. And what started off being like a, I want to be here for a year and just kind of get a feel for it, ended up being 11 years. (laugh) And I've lived in the District for seven and just I fell in love with --
SHERWOODIn the House district 38?
SHERWOODNot the District of Columbia.
JIMENEZThat's right. Thank you for making that -- thank you for correcting that.
SHERWOODYes, I would know.
JIMENEZThat's right. So, you know, just fell in love with politics even more and just being here and seeing all the great work that can be done, both on the Hill at the federal level as well as nonprofits. Again organizations like Ocean Conservancy and Citizens Climate Lobby who are out there every day changing folks' lives for the better, changing communities' lives for the better really made me want to seek office, understanding that there is so much change that can be done if you just stand up to try to move the ball forward. The one thing that can't change is when you sit down and you're complacent and you don't move the ball forward and you -- yeah.
SHERWOODExcuse me. Other than not returning your emails and not being -- what is the issue that you have with the incumbent, a Democrat, Delegate Kory Kaye?
JIMENEZAbsolutely. So there was a scorecard for the last session, for example. Every single Democrat passed a bill except for five. Four of them were freshmen and then you have one incumbent, who's been there for over a decade. She did not pass one single bill last session and there were only five Democrats who were unable to pass a bill. And that to me, on her part, is complacency.
JIMENEZWhen you don't stand up and you don't move the ball forward, when you're okay by saying, oh, it wasn't my fault or there's other reasons for why I wasn't able to do it, that's not good enough. It's not good enough for our community and it's not good enough for families living in the 38th district, who put the trust in their delegate to come out and be a strong voice and a leader in their community.
NNAMDIYour opponent, the incumbent Kaye Kory is also considered to be a progressive Democrat, but the population of your district in Fairfax county is 32 percent Latino. You are the child of Colombian immigrants and the issue of race has come up in your primary. You said recently that your opponent should apologize for quote, "racially insensitive language on her website that refers to Little River Turnpike."
NNAMDIShe was making a point about the diversity of the district and in making that point she says, Little River Turnpike is a place where one can see, quoting here, "Hispanic immigrants waiting for work outside the Home Depot." You called her out for statements she made on our show in March also. What do you feel is the nature of your opponent's insensitivity?
JIMENEZI think that there's a lack of understanding of what the community is made up of, the beauty of the community of folks from all over the world making up our district. And when you go time and time again, whether it's assuming that someone with an accent must be, you now, me because my last name is Jimenez, whether you're putting up on your public website as a delegate that Hispanic immigrants in the community can usually be found in front of a Home Depot. That to me is very insensitive and that doesn't --
SHERWOODIt's a fraction of the people who live in the county.
JIMENEZAbsolutely. It doesn't paint a full picture of who we are as a community. And I think that that's shameful and we deserve better from our representative. We deserve better from our elected officials. And CASA in Action called her out on that yesterday in a press release. I followed up by asking her for an apology to our community. And I don't believe that we can let or should let our public officials put out those stereotypes of communities when immigrants are the livelihood of the United States. They bring so much tradition and culture and beauty and hard work and we need to be focusing and emphasizing that.
SHERWOODThe Democratic primary is June the 11th. That's coming up in just a matter of days. Is there a Republic opponent? I can't remember now. So whoever wins the primary is going to -- between now and then is there any community forum where you and the delegate are going to appear together that we could announce here so people can go if they wanted to see you, meet you or see her?
JIMENEZRight. So we have been an a couple different forums. We were at a forum --
SHERWOODExcuse me, any coming up that people can put on their calendars?
JIMENEZCurrently, no. If you want to find me you can either find me at Virginia38.com or you can find me knocking on doors every single day with my team. Obviously with under three weeks, knocking on doors and getting out to the community --
SHERWOODSpeaking of racial insensitivities, what do you think of Governor Northam, we talked about it a moment ago, no conclusion on whether that was him in the photo or whether he approved of it or whatever. What does that mean to you?
NNAMDIDo you think the governor should resign?
JIMENEZI think that we deserve better from our elected officials and I believe that this has all put a bad shadow on Virginia, which is a beautiful, wonderful state and has so much to offer. And I would hope moving forward that Virginia's represented by those elected into office, who can make Virginia shine instead of doing the opposite. And I think that it's been a very tough year for Virginia and I'm looking forward to it turning around and --
SHERWOODBut, Kojo asked if you think the governor should resign.
JIMENEZAt this point I think that as someone running for office, it's not my call on whether the governor should resign. I think that there have been investigations out there looking at what happened. And I think that there will be more stories coming out. And I think that I need to hold my opinion for now until --
NNAMDIBut if you're elected you're going to have to work with Governor Northam. Would the revelations about him affect your working relationship with him if you were to be elected?
JIMENEZI think it would be hard to say no. I --
SHERWOODWhat about Lieutenant Governor Fairfax in allegations that two women have made against him.
JIMENEZThose are very --
SHERWOODWhat have you said publicly about that?
JIMENEZWell, when I first started my campaign I called on him to resign. I think those are very serious accusations and I always believe that we should be listening to and trusting those women who come out --
SHERWOOD-- to an accusation -- is enough for him to leave.
JIMENEZTo an accusation. And I think that we need to take this very seriously and trust that the accusers are being --
SHERWOODHe put out a press release this week after the Northam report came out with no conclusion. He put out a statement this week saying, this is another example of how you should not rush to judgment on people, who are accused of wrong doing, to let it play out and not force them out of office.
JIMENEZWell, that's true but I definitely -- and again I want to go back to, you have to be able to trust those, who are coming out in good faith. I think that the women who came out did it because they were obviously very hurt and wanted folks to know. And I think that we need to take them not only very seriously, but we need to be making sure that their voices are heard and not sweeping those voices under the rug.
NNAMDIWe only have about a minute left, but Boyd emails, I know one of the big differences in you and your opponent is that you're not taking money from Dominion. Please connect this to your work on climate change and why it's not just important in Virginia, but globally.
JIMENEZAbsolutely. Well, thank you very much. One of the first things I did when I started my campaign was I signed the no fossil fuel pledge. I will not take a dollar from fossil fuel industry. My opponent, for a decade, one of her top contributors was Dominion. That's something that folks needs to understand and know, it is important not only nationally, but globally, because we need to make sure that the voices that go into public office here and all around the world are the voices of the community and not the voices of special interests, especially those being the fossil fuel industry.
NNAMDIYour opponent has been at the forefront of the push for Virginia to ratify the Equal Rights Amendment. If elected, would the ERA be a priority for you?
JIMENEZIt absolutely has to be. The work that's been done and the work that needs to be done moving forward needs to be a top priority for any delegate put into office, especially any Democratic progressive delegate.
NNAMDIAndres Jimenez. He is a candidate for the Virginia House of Delegates. He's a Democrat running in the 38th District, which is in Fairfax County. Thank you so much for joining us and good luck to you in your campaign.
JIMENEZI appreciate your time and thank you very much for having me.
NNAMDIToday's Politics Hour was produced by Mark Gunnery. We will have special programming on Monday for the holiday. What are you planning to do this weekend?
SHERWOODMemorial Day is time to honor the people, who died in our wars. Veterans Day in November honors all people, who served in the service. So this weekend I'm going to try to acknowledge the folks, who have died for freedom for our country.
NNAMDIAnd Veterans Day is the day at which we acknowledge people like you, who have served our country in that way.
SHERWOODVeterans, good or bad ones.
NNAMDIWe'll be back on Tuesday with a look at the reasons behind the delay for the release of a new $20 bill featuring Marylander and abolitionist icon Harriet Tubman. And if you haven't heard already, we're throwing a party at the Howard Theater on June 6th to wrap up our Kojo 20 Celebrations. We'd love to see you there. You can find all the details at kojoshow.org/20. That's all for today. You have a great weekend. I'm Kojo Nnamdi.