On this last episode, we look back on 23 years of joyous, difficult and always informative conversation.
This week the Metro Board of Directors chose a new chair, Paul Smedberg–after the former chair, D.C. Councilmember Jack Evans, stepped down in light of ethics violations. Arlington County Board Chair and Metro Principal Director Christian Dorsey joins us to talk about that and more Metro and Arlington news.
This week, former Maryland Representative John Delaney was one of twenty presidential candidates trying to stand out in the Democratic primary debates. He joins us to talk about his performance as well as the news that the Supreme Court is upholding Maryland’s gerrymandered congressional map.
Finally we check in with Prince George’s County Councilmember Derrick Davis about the latest news from the county, including Monica Goldson being named permanent Prince George’s County Public Schools CEO and the state moving forward with a highway expansion project that affects the county.
Sorting political fact from fiction, and having fun while we’re at it. Join us for our weekly review of the politics, policies, and personalities of the District of Columbia, Maryland and Virginia.
Produced by Mark Gunnery
- Tom Sherwood Resident Analyst; Contributing Writer for Washington City Paper; @tomsherwood
- Christian Dorsey Chair, Arlington County Board; Principal Director, WMATA Board of Directors; @CD4arlington
- John Delaney Democratic Candidate, U.S. President; @JohnDelaney
- Derrick Leon Davis Member, Prince George's County Council; @CouncilmanDLD
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, everyone.
NNAMDIOur first guest is Christian Dorsey. He is Chair of the Arlington County Board. He's a Principal Director on the WMATA that is Metro Board of Directors. Christian Dorsey, welcome.
CHRISTIAN DORSEYGood afternoon, Kojo.
NNAMDILater I the broadcast we'll be talking with Prince George's County Councilmember Derrick Davis, and you'll hear an interview we did with Congressman John Delaney who is now a democratic candidate for President of the United States. First, Tom Sherwood, sports gambling in the District of Columbia, which the D.C. Council on a rapid fire basis because somehow or the other they were persuaded that Maryland and Virginia were about to do the same. And so they decided to have a sole sourced contract. There was no competitive bidding. And we were told that the sports betting would make all of this money now. It's apparently going to earn nearly $16 million less than projected. Of course, this was one of the projects that the -- D.C. Councilmember and Metro Board Member Jack Evans was very enthusiastic about.
SHERWOODWell, and other people are including the CFO Jeffrey DeWitt. You know, the Supreme Court last year ruled that online gambling couldn't be limited to just a couple of places in the country. And so many states are rushing to get into sports betting online and the District is too. There was concern that Maryland and Virginia also would do it. But they have slowed their roll to use the phrase on going forward. But the city has moved forward with the bill. It passed in December. And now they're confronted that Jeffrey Dewitt said in order to do this and to do it quickly and to get ahead of the suburbs, we need to do it with a sole source contract with Intralot, which is the firm that runs the D.C. lottery, 215 million dollars, the contract is up. And it had to be voted on approved by July the 9th or it goes away.
SHERWOODBut the city says initially when it was proposed in the hearings earlier this year that there would be a lot more money raised. The lottery board now says, "Well part of the problem is it's taken so long to get this in place. We're not going to make as much money as we expected right away." But the lottery says the District will make more money. It's just going to be a little slower opening up.
NNAMDIAnd in the case of D.C. Councilmember Jack Evans I mentioned his name earlier only because we now learn that in addition to what we thought was an investigation by a federal grand jury on his work on the D.C. Council apparently that investigation has spread or maybe always included Metro because Metro has now received two federal subpoenas in the Jack Evans investigation.
SHERWOODYes, this is an unfolding centipede of a story about what's happening. About a little over a week ago the federal -- well, as we know last week at this time the FBI had just raided Jack Evans's home in Georgetown. And apparently several days before that there was also a subpoena from the prosecutors to Metro for additional information about what Jack Evans has done or not done with private clients in his business dealings as the Chairman of the Metro and as a member of the D.C. Council. Again, as I've said several times now we're in the middle of the movie on this in what's going to happen.
SHERWOODJack Evans is going to speak before the D.C. Council, I think on July 2nd and layout what he thinks he has done or not done at Metro. And he's trying to keep the Council from officially taking away his finance and revenue committee. And so he's got two issues. He's got a legal criminal case that could be brought against him. We don't know where that's going to go yet. And he's got a terrible political case. It's like five people, I think, have already announced against him. In the D.C. Councilmembers, several of them want him to be sidelined if he doesn't in fact quit the Council. And so he's fighting both for his political and his personal reputation in life.
NNAMDIAs we said our guest is Christian Dorsey, who is Chair of the Arlington County Board and a Principal Director on the WMATA Board of Directors. Christian Dorsey, yesterday the Metro Board of Directors elected Paul Smedberg as its new chair. This after former Chair Jack Evans stepped down from the role in light of a memo detailing a Metro ethics investigation. That became public last week. First, what do you think about the allegations against Evans as well as his choice to step down?
DORSEYWell, certainly Jack stepping down to me is a just and necessary result. The Ethics Committee of which I was not a part of, but I've seen some of the evidence and the conclusions that were raised in that investigation indicate some lapses in judgment that I think made it appropriate for Jack to step down as chairman. And then he subsequently also decided or concurrently decided that he wasn't going to seek reappointment to the Metro Board. So those to me are necessary results.
DORSEYWhen you have ethical lapses it brings into question the decisions of the authority, the institution, and I'm glad that we're able to move forward from it. Certainly I want to make distinction, Jack's issues with Metro weren't criminal. They were violations of the Metro code, the Code of Ethics, and those are important. Those are meaningful. And that means that you've lost the faith of your colleagues to actually represent the interests of Metro. So it was a necessary result.
SHERWOODEven Mr. Smedberg in becoming the new chairman said nice things about what Jack Evans had done as chairman in terms of helping the region get stable funding for Maryland, Virginia, and D.C. for Metro for brining Paul Wiedefeld on as General Manager and all of that. But the Washington Post Editorial Page and others have pointed out and even the Ethics Committee itself, Mr. Crawford, who was the chair of this investigation of Evans, have all said that the handling of ethics issues by the Metro Board is terrible. Someone has called it a clown show. It's just rife with inconsistencies and failure to disclose. What are your own thoughts about what Metro should do to make sure any future investigations are done in a way that will have public confidence?
DORSEYYeah. I agree with the sentiment that the way this was handled was really clumsy and awkward. I think part of it is that fortunately this doesn't happen very often. So it's not like Metro has practiced --
SHERWOODBut there's no record of it. I'm told there have been ethics investigations that like this one have arisen. Committees have investigated and then nothing happens and so there's no written record that even they were investigated.
DORSEYWell, I will say during my time in the Metro Board now going on four years that has not been case. But I think moving forward it's very key that these things do need to have some sort of a transparent record. When investigations occur, the public should know. The entire board should know. When conclusions are reached, the entire board needs to be a part of that affirmation that the conclusions were just and proper. There's no reason why a semi-public authority like Metro needs to conduct its business entirely outside of the public's purview. I'm not suggesting that every discussion conversation be public, but certainly conclusions need to be.
SHERWOODAnd I think we ought to say because he's not here to say it for himself is Evans contends that the Ethics Committee did not find guilty of a number of more than a dozen different things. And he agreed only that he would disclose. He had a private consulting contract with Colonial Parking that he had not disclosed on his ethics form with Metro. And he says that even then that that did not influence anything that he had done while he had that contract.
NNAMDIYesterday's Metro Board meeting was also a setback for Corbett Price, an Evans ally who was vying to be vice chair, but who was ultimately left off the candidate slate by the nominating committee, why?
DORSEYI was not a part of the nominating committee, but I can hazard a guess, Kojo. You know, when Corbett was a part of the Ethics Committee and, you know, we had this incredibly destructive he said she said issue that played out in the press as to what the Ethics Committee found and then eventually under Jack Evans's admission they misstated Ethics Committee's conclusions. Mr. Price backed him up on that.
SHERWOODAs a member of the Ethics Committee.
DORSEYAs a member of the Ethics Committee. So when you have these issues of your integrity or your ability to be forthright they very much, you know, puts into my mind whether you're suitable for leadership. So I think they also made the right decision.
SHERWOODYou represent Arlington, but should maybe the district -- I mean, Mr. Corbett price was just reappointed -- nominated and reappointed by the city to be a voting member. Do you think maybe the District of Columbia should just reset itself? It's going to have a new person to replace Jack Evans. Maybe it would be better off if both the mayor and the Council had two new appointees to the Metro Board?
DORSEYWell, I wouldn't presume to tell Mayor Bowser what she ought to do.
NNAMDIWhy, we do it all the time.
DORSEYOkay. Well, you can. You can. You can. I'm going to extend her a little bit of politician professional courtesy, but I do think the District needs to look at this as an opportunity to really reset how their board members are going to act as trustees of the authority.
NNAMDIShouldn't it be an opportunity for Metro itself to reset? The Washington Post Editorialized, "Just as Mr. Evans's integrity has been called into question, so has the Board's particularly at a time when Metro is improving its operations and gradually winning public trust. Its governing board should not be allowed to drag the system down." And Fix WMATA tweeted in, "Why did the WMATA Board present Jack Evans with a plaque yesterday when he's resigning amid an ethics violation investigation?"
DORSEYSo I'm not trying to pass the buck. The decision to hand him a plaque and to do that honor was not a Board decision. It wasn't something that the Board decided to do. So I'm not the person to answer the why or to respond to the why part of that.
SHERWOODWell, Mr. Smedberg said in giving him the plaque said, irrespective of what's happening now about the issues, Jack Evans did do some very good things as chairman. Now whether he should get a plaque that was the answer for that.
DORSEYYeah. And, you know, to some level that's fair. You know, I'll just be very frank. I would not necessarily have used that as an opportunity to give someone a commemorative plaque given the circumstances of his departure. But hopefully when this story of Jack Evans is told, even though this last chapter may be pretty damming, hopefully there's an epilogue that does put everything into context. And, you know, the good should not be erased from history. But when it comes to this idea of the Metro Board being broken, you know, I would encourage people to really not look to throw out all of the bad apples, but simply to find out what are the elements that are rotten and spoiled.
SHERWOODWell, it's certainly changing the way the Board votes. You had so many voting members. So that was kind of chaotic. So you did change that among other things. But let me -- I had heard that you were being considered as a new Chairman of the Board.
NNAMDII heard that too.
SHERWOODWhere you approached -- did you have your hat ready for the ring or did you decide not to do it? Where did you play in that? You were clearly approached about running as I understand.
SHERWOODOr putting your name up.
DORSEYThat's right. I was asked to consider whether or not I wanted to be Metro Chair. It was something that is something that I was -- I certainly want to make sure that Metro functions well, but at the same time, I'm Chair of the Arlington County Board. I'm also a Vice Chair at COG. My plate is pretty full. And I have great respect in Paul Smedberg and was very happy to see that he was very much interested in serving. And so for me, it was really an analysis of why should I have all the fun. I'm kidding. Paul Smedberg is a great choice for the community.
NNAMDIFor listeners who don't know Paul Smedberg, what has it been like working on the Board with him? And what kind of leadership can we expect from him?
DORSEYIt's going to be very different than what we've experienced with Jack. Paul is somewhat more soft-spoken.
DORSEYBut then, you know, many people would be compared to our previous chairman. He was also very much a consensus builder, and I think going to really work to allow everybody to bring their own gifts to the Metro Board and to really try to get us to have consensus driven decisions. And try to very much make this a no-drama authority, which I think is very much welcome.
SHERWOODOne of the things you guys have to address is these news that we've recently of the video of the Metro Police officer aggressively subduing somebody, who was trying to stand up for a couple juveniles, who were being arrested in a Metro station. Where are we on that? Across the country, the use of police force is an issue in so many different places. We have now seen an incident allegedly of it right here in Metro. Where are we on that?
DORSEYSo there is going to be a full investigation. Not going to be conducted by Metro. It's going to be conducted by I believe the U.S. Attorney. And that's something that I think is very much welcome. We can have an independent investigation that looks at all available evidence of which no one has had a chance to see everything associated with this incident as of yet. And then hopefully render a clear narrative of what happened and -- what if anything was improper. So I look forward to the results of that independent investigation. But to be clear, you know, what we've seen thus far in the public space makes it to me absolutely clear that I want this investigation to be thorough and rigorous. Whenever someone has a violence -- in this case a use of force committed against them we need to absolutely have every confidence that it was done appropriately, not just within the law, but within the norms that we would expect.
SHERWOODIt is tough to be a police officer in any circumstance.
SHERWOODBut the de-escalation should be one of -- in any kind of public setting de-escalation is one of the principal goals of a police officer.
SHERWOODOr should be.
DORSEYIt should be and we have to await the results of this investigation to see whether or not what was done was appropriate, but I will say that for, you know, whenever someone is involved in a police interaction and ends up hurt and as the case was in this issue ends up having no charges brought up against them is something that is incredibly regrettable.
NNAMDIOn to Arlington County and Amazon, car free HQ2 tweets in a question. What will you and the county board be doing to ensure that Amazon and JBG Smith minimize the number of people driving to get to HQ2?
DORSEYWell, one of the best things we can do for that is to minimize the amount of parking that they have in any building that they construct. Fortunately, Amazon has expressed to us that they understand that and they're also interested in the same goals. They want to drive as many people getting to HQ2 in modes other than cars, but one of the things that we can do as a locality is to limit the amount of parking there. And make it very difficult for people to choose driving as an option. But it's not just about sticks. It's also carrots and making sure that we have exceptional service to and around HQ2 on transit, on rail, on buses, and people who want to choose even active modes making it easy for them.
DORSEYSo we're kind of deploying the carrot and the stick approach. We're going to limit the amount of parking. We're going to make it very difficult to drive and we're also going to make it very attractive to use other modes.
NNAMDIIn your recent State of the County speech you said that Amazon building headquarters in Crystal City will ease budget pressures in Arlington especially around housing. But some country residents are very concerned especially after a report that in April the average home price in the county was up 11 percent from the same time last year. How do you answer local residents facing the prospect of being priced out even before Amazons headquarters have been built?
DORSEYWell, that just goes to show that this was a problem before Amazon, because certainly they can't be contributing substantially to a housing issue if they haven't even really brought any employees into the community yet. So we've had this housing issue, and now we're going to have more resources to tackle it. And that to me is incredibly important. What we've said to our community for a number of years is, we have the will. We just don't have the resources. And now we combine will with resources, you can actually get something done. And, you know, I think this news of increased prices despite Amazon actually not having landed is really testament to the fact that this is something that could have gotten away from us with or without Amazon.
SHERWOODRight. Housing is a real issue. I have to ask you about, what do you think of the name National Landing? As I say it with the tone of voice it says I don't like it.
DORSEYYeah. Tell us how you really feel.
SHERWOODI'm trying to be upfront. National Landing -- I mean, Crystal City, it's a known place.
DORSEYI love Crystal City. I love the name Crystal City and, you know, Pentagon City, these are our existing neighborhoods. They have identities around them. You know the whole idea of National Landing was to create a branding that didn't require that you say, "I'm talking about the southern Arlington neighborhoods of Crystal City, Pentagon City, and south Potomac yard, north Potomac yards.
SHERWOODNational Landing sounds like a part of the airport, a runway.
DORSEYYeah, a new runway, right.
SHERWOODYeah, anyway, let me ask you more seriously.
NNAMDIWe only have about 30 seconds.
SHERWOODI want to ask you about the new attorney -- I'm sorry. The Commonwealth Attorney campaign the longtime Theo --
SHERWOOD--who lost. What do you think about the candidate who won and are you supporting her and her name is Parisa Dehghani-Tafti?
DORSEYYeah. You did it very well, Tom. So Parisa Dehghani-Tafti is our nominee and as a fellow democrat, I'm fully supporting her election in the fall. When it comes to that previous race, it was different for Arlington. A whole lot more money, whole lot more attention on something that's usually pretty sleepy. I think now quite frankly we have to do some healing in our community because it left a lot of people divided. And for me when it comes issues of criminal justice and how, you know, how we do in the criminal justice space it's important that we work together as a community and not be divided. And that's the key work that I don't know the outcome of yet. But I'm actively involved in.
NNAMDIChristian Dorsey, he's Chair of the Arlington County Board and a Principal Director of the WMATA Board of Directors and demonstrated some go-go dancing skills at the event with Trouble Funk a few weeks ago, but that's another story.
DORSEYOne of the best time I've had in many years, Kojo.
SHERWOODWe don't have time to ask about that. What is the new pay raise? As you get up and take your papers with you, you guys have a new pay raise in Arlington.
DORSEYYou know, we actually haven't raised our pay. We've just raised the cap of what we can be paid. In Virginia very unique as you know Virginia is the County Board determines the cap on salaries. That's the only way that the cap can be adjusted. It hadn't been done so in eight years. We've adjusted it to account for basically current standards of income.
NNAMDIChristian Dorsey, thank you so much for joining us.
NNAMDIWe're going to take a short break. When we come back, we'll be talking with and about Democratic Candidate for President John Delaney. I'm Kojo Nnamdi.
NNAMDIWelcome back. Later in the broadcast we'll be talking with Prince George's County Councilmember Derrick Davis. But this week 20 democratic presidential candidates took the stage over two nights in Miami for the first debates of the 2020 Presidential Campaign. Tom Sherwood, I know you watched. I saw the glass of wine that was your companion when you watched the first night of the debates. I assume that you had a similar companion for the second night of the debate.
SHERWOODSame. It was a debate prep, one glass of wine just so I would be calm and relaxed.
NNAMDIAnything that you noticed in those debates that would be of particular importance for people in this region, a generally quote/unquote progressive region?
SHERWOODWell, you know, the District itself is fairly liberal and Virginia is changing into kind of a purple more progressive state. Maryland is democratic. So this region has a serious interest in who's going to be the candidate for the democrats. There's great fear among some democrats I've spoken to just this morning that the Democratic Party may be too progressive in its approach and it could end up handing Trump reelection victory. But we have a lot of issues here and we're about to hear from one of the candidates who's had a very difficult time of getting heard and seen.
NNAMDIOne member of that democratic field that Tom mentioned is former Maryland Congressperson John Delaney. We caught up with him by phone yesterday to talk about the debates and as well as the Supreme Court's decision on partisan gerrymandering in Maryland.
NNAMDICongressman Delaney, we're recording this on Thursday. We just heard the news that the Supreme Court struck down republican challenges to partisan gerrymandering in Maryland. At the heart of the case is your former congressional district, the 6th. The court ruled that electoral maps are a political question that cannot be reviewed in federal court. How do you feel about that ruling?
JOHN DELANEYWell, as a Marylander I'm happy about it because, you know, a good democrat followed me into Congress. But in general I want to get rid of gerrymandering. Gerrymandering is terrible. I would like the court to take action on it.
NNAMDIThe democratic leadership in Maryland admitted that these district lines were drawn to benefit democrats. Do you feel like you personally benefited from this partisan gerrymandering when you were running for Congress?
DELANEYSo the District -- I didn't have anything to do with the gerrymandering that was going on obviously. I wasn't in the state legislature or I didn't have elected office. But there's no question that the re-districting that was done, which was gerrymandering made the 6th District a more competitive district for a democrat.
NNAMDIGovernor Hogan wants to create a bipartisan commission to redraw Congressional boundaries in Maryland. How would you like to see the state move forward with redistricting?
DELANEYYeah. I'm in favor of independent commissions nationally and I think if you're in favor of independent commissions nationally you have to be in favor of them in states as well.
NNAMDIOn to presidential politics, this is the Politics Hour. You announced that you were running for president nearly two years ago. In the time since, you've been joined by many other democrats vying for your party's nomination, so many that the first democratic debate this week was spread out over two nights to make space for the 20 participants. What are your takeaways from Wednesday's debate, which you were a part of?
DELANEYWell, I think the party's got a choice. And I think the choice is: are we going to run on some impossible promises or pie-in-the-sky ideas that are never going to happen and would be very hard for us to win on in the general election, or are we going to run on some commonsense approaches to solving problems?
DELANEYI'm certainly in the latter camp, and I think that's where the Democratic Party should be. I think we have an enormous opportunity, because President Trump is such a kind of indecent and immoral and divisive figure, that if we just become the party that the American people are looking for, a party that focuses on commonsense solutions and, you know, mainstream ideas, that we can really do very well in 2020. So, that's the choice that I offer voters, which is someone who has real solutions and is not running on impossible promises.
NNAMDIIndeed, you have framed yourself as a moderate throughout this election, at a time when there's tension within the Democratic Party in its field of presidential candidates, between more establishment and progressive wings. You've taken some of your fellow Democrats to task, for example, for their support of Medicare for all, which you called political suicide in the recent Washington Post op-ed. What is it like to be running as a moderate in this presidential race?
DELANEYWell, the funny thing, Kojo, is I actually consider myself quite progressive in terms of the things I’m proposing. You know, I have a plan to give every single American healthcare as a basic right, as a basic right of citizenship, and it'd be for free, but I allow private insurance. And some people say that makes me moderate. But when I look back at FDR, for example, when he created Social Security, he didn't make private insurance illegal. I mean, he didn't make intentions (sounds like) illegal when he created social security.
DELANEYSo, I think it's a similar analogy to what I'm talking about. We should absolutely give every American healthcare as a right, but I don't see why we have to be the party to tell 150 million Americans that their private insurance is illegal.
NNAMDIYou've been polling low. RealClearPolitics polling average has you with 0.4 percent Democratic support, nationally. Are you in this race to win it, or is there a point at which you would drop out of the race if you couldn't garner more support?
DELANEYNo, I'm in the race to win it. Recent polls -- we had a poll in Florida the other day that was quite good. We're polling well in Iowa. So, you know, I'm not as well known nationally, and most of my focus has been on the early states. And, you know, I think this thing's just getting started.
NNAMDIWell, you've been facing some criticism and snarky headlines and memes because of your performance at Wednesday's debate. What was your strategy going into the debate, and would you do anything differently if you had the opportunity to...
DELANEY(overlapping) No. I mean, I told the truth. Like I told the truth about Medicare for all. I had to fight my way into much of the questions, because I don't think time was allocated as appropriately as it should've been to have a real debate. But I was able to, you know, I think really step forward and tell the truth on a lot of very important issues like healthcare.
NNAMDISo, how would you grade your performance overall?
DELANEYI'd give it a good grade.
NNAMDIAnd would you do anything differently in another debate?
DELANEYYou know, no. I mean, I would love to have more time, but that's not under my control. But I think based on that time that I was given, I was able to make the points I needed to make.
NNAMDIRegardless of whether you stay in this race for the long haul, what are the issues you hope take the spotlight once this election season kicks into high gear?
DELANEYYou know, I think, at the end of the day, the issues that matter to the American people are those kitchen table, pocketbook issues. That's what my campaign's been about. It's been about building infrastructure and fixing healthcare and, you know, doing things to create jobs in all kinds of communities and improving public education and making sure every kid has pre-K and expanding early childhood education. The issues that really matter to most American families is really what my campaign is about.
DELANEYAnd I think that's -- you know, my dad was a union electrician, and he used to say, at the dinner table, if you care about workers, you vote for the Democrats. There were no fancy political discussions in our household. It was very straightforward. And that's the Democratic Party that's still in me.
NNAMDIWhich of the 19 Democrats beside you in this race do you think is closest to you philosophically, that you might be able to support if you yourself didn't win?
DELANEYYou know, I get along with so many of them, and I know so many of them really well. The ones that I'm most often compared to are probably, like, Michael Bennett and John Hickenlooper.
NNAMDIOkay. Well, the race, it seems, is just getting started, so I suspect there'll be more debates to participate in. So, good luck to you.
DELANEYWell, thank you, Kojo. Nice to talk to you.
NNAMDIAnd thank you for joining us. That was my interview yesterday with presidential candidate John Delaney. His take on gerrymandering in Maryland, well, it helped me, but I'm in favor of an independent commission.
SHERWOODWell, gerrymandering, what the Supreme Court did is important. I would just have to say, you know, John Delaney, just in that interview, got more -- almost more time than he did at the debate, where he got, like, six-and-a-half minutes total over two hours. The Supreme Court has done two things now that can radically change the whole history in the future of elections in this country.
SHERWOODOne is the Citizens United, several years ago, which said open the floodgates of money into our federal campaigns. Now, with redistricting, the Supreme Court, in a 5-4 decision, threw up its hands and said, well, the Constitution says this is a state-level function. So, if parties that are in control -- and Republicans control about 30 of the 50 states -- if they decide they want to do partisan gerrymandering, well, then, you'll just have to work that out with the elections.
SHERWOODWhich makes elections very important, but it does give, in this 30 or so states, Republicans who can solidify their control of state legislatures, even though they might be losing the popular vote as things move on. So, we have a whole new world now, because of the Supreme Court ruling.
NNAMDIAnd threatens the voting power of African Americans in several states in the nation.
SHERWOODWell, there's -- there might still be some racial issues, like in Virginia, about how districts are drawn. But in terms of partisan issues, Republicans and Democrats, it's not an issue, apparently.
NNAMDIGot to take a short break. When we come back we'll be talking with Prince George's County Councilmember Derrick Davis. I'm Kojo Nnamdi.
NNAMDIWelcome back. Tom Sherwood is, of course, still here. He's our resident analyst. He's a contributing writer for Washington City Paper. Joining us in studio now is Derrick Davis. He's a member of the Prince George's County Council, representing District 6. Derrick Davis, thank you for joining us.
DERRICK LEON DAVISThank you for having me, Kojo.
NNAMDIIf you have questions or comments for Derrick Davis, start calling now, 800-433-8850. At least three undocumented immigrants have been placed in deportation proceedings recently, after contact with Prince George's County police, this despite the county vowing not to cooperate with federal immigration enforcement. Why is this happening now?
DAVISWell, you know, Kojo, the climate in America is one of those disheartening times. And I think everyone's grappling with how to adjust to the new day. I think that the perspective of our county hasn't changed, except for the perspective with regard to immigrants and folks who are committing violent crimes and parts of gangs. And that needs to be communicated loudly, that the county -- and I'm quite sure most jurisdictions aren't going to tolerate folks who are participating in violent crimes and participating in gang activity.
DAVISAnd so that is a matter of working with our police department. Our chief, Hank Stawinski, is working feverishly to make sure that all of those under his employ understand clearly how Prince George’s County will operate with regard to immigrants. And, you know, it's not our job to do Immigration's -- United States government's job with regard to immigration. And so, we still hold that position. But when it comes to violence and gang activity, we won't tolerate it.
SHERWOODThe President announced, and then pulled back, and then said he is going to do a roundup of thousands of people in this country, immigrants who are not documented, and ship them out of the country as quickly as possible. In your work in Prince George’s County on the ground, as you walk around communities and get around to meetings, and you talk to people who are from the immigrant community, do you sense -- has the fear ratcheted up? Are they just this is one more thing they have to put up with? Where is the on-the-ground feeling of this effort?
NNAMDIThere's an estimated 80,000 undocumented immigrants in Prince George’s County.
DAVISRight. And the pulse of anyone who is paying attention to what's going on in the country is probably heightened and fevered, and understandably so. But, again, it's not our perspective, it's never been our position that those who are here amongst us who are undocumented, and the immigrants who are valuable assets to our county, valuable assets to our state -- valuable assets, period, in America. If, in fact, they're here, and they are part of our culture and abiding by the rules, we're not looking to participate in anything that is being bandied about by this president.
SHERWOODAnd the horrific picture this week of the father and the 23-month-old child wrapped in his shirt, has that penetrated into the discussions in Prince George's?
DAVISAbsolutely. I mean, you see people's mouths dropping. And, you know, quite honestly -- and I said this as I was coming in today -- you can see and feel the despair amongst citizens who actually have the heart to care about one another. And, unfortunately, the climate in America right now is just so tense.
NNAMDIWhat are you telling your constituents right now, those who are fearing this mass roundup that the president's -- mass roundup and deportations that the president says he's going to institute?
DAVISThe county executive and the police chief are very clear: if you're not participating in gang violence and you're not a violent criminal and you do not have a record, we're not looking to report, we're not looking to talk with ICE. We're looking to ensure your safety as a citizen of, or a participant in our great country.
NNAMDIHere's Oscar in Prince George’s County. Oscar, you're on the air. Go ahead, please.
OSCARYes, two quick questions, and one I just have to parlay on what you were just discussing, but those kinds of programs require resources. At what point do you draw the line in terms of what type of resource will be allocated for undocumented citizens, and especially when dollars are tight in Prince George’s County?
OSCARAnd the second question is: do you believe that the party has moved too far to the left? Let me give you one example: decriminalizing marijuana. And the other day, I saw in the newspaper where Denver is suffering from the fact there's so many kids are smoking marijuana, it's impacting their ability to function in school. So, where do you draw the line, and is there a fear that the Democratic Party in Prince George's, as well as the state of Maryland, is moving too far to the left?
DAVISKojo, they call this the Politics Hour, right? (laugh) You know, from the perspective of resources -- and I think, Oscar, you've just heard what's playing out nationally impacts us all, and that's with the Census. The Census doesn't ask about citizenship. It asks about who's in America. And as you see, the president is attempting to suppress the count. So, those undocumenteds that are here, we need them counted. And what we need is the message to get to everyone in Prince George’s County that when the Census papers show up, please complete them. If you have access to a library, or if it comes out electronically, please complete them, because that's where resources are tied to.
SHERWOODYou know, Angela Alsobrooks, the county executive, has been very cautious about legalizing marijuana. What about that, as an issue, in your county?
DAVISYou know, it's something that we debated heavily...
SHERWOOD(overlapping) Decriminalizing. I shouldn't say legalizing, decriminalizing marijuana use.
DAVISAbsolutely. The debate to go to medicinal marijuana in the state of Maryland was one of those that we all weighed in heavily on. And what we tried to do was to ensure that, from the perspective of its industry, that the county kept its land use responsibility, so that we could ensure that if, in fact, those facilities will be there, we could put them places that made sense.
SHERWOODThat's a long answer on medical marijuana, but what about decriminalizing marijuana? Yes or no? And then is the Democratic Party, Oscar's third part...
DAVISPart of his question.
SHERWOOD...but marijuana decriminalizing, are you...
DAVIS(overlapping) I'm personally...
DAVIS...I'm personally for decriminalization, with all of the appropriate safeguards. As far as us moving left as a party, I think that you're watching that occur, and that's a nationwide phenomenon. I often tell people that I don't think that Prince George’s County is as bright blue as they think it is. I do think -- and I ultimately think that the party is more purple, whether it be in the state of Maryland, or in Prince George’s County, than it is bright blue.
NNAMDIEarlier this month, Maryland's Board of Public Works voted to let the state move ahead with Governor Hogan's highway expansion plan. The governor, though, said he wants to work more with Prince George’s and Montgomery Counties to address ongoing concerns over the project. What are the ongoing concerns in Prince George’s County?
DAVISWell, you know, from the perspective of transportation, I think that in the region, we have ongoing concerns. We are often promoted as one of the regions with transportation issues and gridlock on our roadways, our highways and our byways. And I believe the governor -- I'll give him his good faith effort to attempt to address those situations. Sometimes, the governor gets in his own way, by not having the prerequisite conversations. They tell me if you want to change somebody's mind you should talk to them, talk to them, then talk to them again.
NNAMDIWell, he wants to widen 495 and the Baltimore Washington Parkway.
SHERWOOD(overlapping) Yes, but, in this case, with the plan, he said, we're going to do I-270, first. And he said if all these elected officials from Prince George’s and Montgomery Counties don't like it on 495, well you can just suffer through traffic more while we fix I-270.
DAVISWell, you know, as a regional thinker, I think that our focus on Metro and utilizing the 15 underutilized Metro stations in Prince George’s County could help the governor in his desire to cure transportation issues. Dragging the Metro back across the Woodrow Wilson Bridge might do a little bit to help some of the bottlenecks in some places. Traffic on 270 is a little bit outside of Prince George’s County, but nonetheless, it's part of our regional transportation artery. And we are cognizant and aware.
DAVISIf I were to prioritize it from the perspective of transportation and solving transportation problems, the 270-495 program would be less my first priority. The Metro would be more my first priority. And then there's the conversation...
SHERWOOD(overlapping) Metro over the Wilson Bridge?
DAVISAbsolutely. Absolutely over the Wilson Bridge, and...
DAVISDon't we have to do all of this?
DAVISYeah, we do and that's why I said my priority. I would prioritize...
SHERWOODBecause if everything's a priority, nothing (unintelligible) ...
DAVIS(overlapping) Nothing gets done. That's right.
SHERWOODWell, speaking of that, on another politics issue before we get off, Anthony Brown, the congressman, has been telling people he might run for governor. He's just in his first term. He's running for reelection, as of now. What do you think about that?
DAVISMr. Brown, Congressman Brown is a good friend of mine.
DAVISBeen a good friend since he came to Prince George’s County. And he actually ran a campaign that was akin to the campaign that I ran for, then Delegate Derrick Davis.
SHERWOODWould you like to see him run -- he did a terrible -- you know, Hogan beat him terribly...
NNAMDISo, this time, he better put up or shut up. (laugh)
DAVISThat's right, it hurt my heart...
SHERWOODHe's getting a good reputation on Capitol Hill, though, I mean, the work he's doing there. But would you want him to leave Congress so quickly?
DAVISI never get in...
SHERWOODYou're his good friend. What do you tell him?
DAVIS...I never get in the way of someone's ambition with regard to that. I think we need great congressmen, and he's one. I think we need great senators, and we have a couple in the state of Maryland. And when I look at the presidential campaign and I see all of the senators running for president, I'm somewhat glad that not all of them can win, because we need them in the Senate, and we need more senators, and we need to get Donald Trump out of the White House.
SHERWOODAnother easy issue for Prince George’s County, the future of the Washington Redskins. You know, this is -- you've worked hard for economic development in the county. If the team were more in the county, instead of just playing in the county, you guys might have a better chance of getting more stuff. But here's the deal. There was some discussion on having them going to Oxon Run, and that now seems to be dead. Virginia has -- Terry McAuliffe is gone, and so is the talk about moving to Loudoun County.
SHERWOODAnd in the District, have to bring up Jack Evans' name again. He has been the principle supporter in the District of bringing the team back to the RFK site. If Jack Evans loses his seat on the Council in any way going forward, you know, the Skins have virtually no strong supporter on the DC Council to come here. What can Prince George’s County do? This is a $3 billion business, to keep it in the county with a different stadium that you don't pay for but Dan Snyder does.
DAVISI'd say before MGM coming to Prince George’s, they were one of our larger commercial taxpayers. And it would be an atrocity for us to lose them in the commercial tax base. In this region, this is a challenging region from the perspective of jobs and opportunities. We're replete with them. But the reality is that there's stiff competition. So, taking anything off the table from the perspective of a location could, I would see, as irresponsible currently, especially knowing that Northern Virginia has the opportunities that are similar to ours, knowing that the District of Columbia and the historic nature and its economic viability makes it a challenge.
DAVISI think that we need to be aware of that, we need to be cognizant. And we need to understand that losing them does something to our tax base that we would have to then repair.
NNAMDIEarlier this month, Monica Goldson became CEO of Prince George’s County Public Schools, after many months as acting CEO. What do you think of that choice?
DAVISI'm excited with the opportunity. Monica, Dr. Goldson, is a homegrown talent. She's been not only a student in Prince George’s County Public Schools, but also, she's worked her way up through the ranks from the classroom to the principalships, to administration. I've had the pleasure of working with her in many capacities over the last several years. And I'm excited, not only about the fact that she will be the superintendent CEO once the state board of education confirms her.
DAVISI'm excited that Angela Alsobrooks had the foresight to move her from interim and into the permanent position. Consistency and continuity is my prayer into the future, because I believe that is the way that we reform ourselves.
SHERWOOD(overlapping) Two-hundred-and-eight schools, 130,000 students, 19,000 employees, the second-largest system.
DAVISThat's right, in the state of Maryland.
NNAMDIOver the summer, a work group will calculate a funding formula for every school district in the state as a way to more equitably distribute education funding, recommended by the Kirwan Commission. But the Prince George’s County council president Todd Turner has expressed concerns about how much money the county will have to put up to match state funds in the future. What do you think about that?
DAVISAbsolutely. State funding formulas often come with a match. And the reality is that while we're the second-largest jurisdiction in the state, from the perspective of raising revenue, we're tax-capped in two ways. And if the state requires us to match in a formula that is inconsistent with revenue growth, we could have severe challenges. But you can't look the gift horse in the mouth. We need the state to put the resources in the pot, and then we need to collectively determine from the perspective of Prince George’s County how best to proceed.
SHERWOODPolitically, we've heard a lot of -- there's a lot of fights over the schools and different things, but the Council has had a substantial change since last year. You have, like, four or five new members on the 11-member Council. You've gotten along pretty well. There has not been a lot of blowups with Angela Alsobrooks. What prompted this change, almost in attitude, among the Prince George’s County elected officials to do maybe less public fighting? Schoolboard members, and all of that. It just seems that there's been a -- we need some controversy in Prince George’s County.
DAVISThank you very much. You all are getting dull. (laugh)
SHERWOODYeah, there you go.
DAVISAs a matter of fact, I think it's kind of a conscious effort to be studious and dull about the work. Since I've been elected in 2011, we've tried to ensure that we were creating the prescription for growth and vitality in Prince George’s County. We've rewritten our zoning code. We initiated a new master plan. We did a comprehensive housing strategy. We rewrote our economic development strategic plan. Those things just aren't sexy, as I tell folks all the time, but they are, essentially, the critical and viable points that allow for economic opportunity.
SHERWOODThe personalities seem to have toned it down...
DAVISYeah, I mean, and that's a point that we all...
SHERWOOD(overlapping) ...apart from issues, but just overt sabotaging of each other.
DAVISAnd we can't afford that. In this region, it's already enough competition with jurisdictions that have more resources at their disposal, and who have, essentially, legislators who have been around long enough to have lived through the current, and understand how to operate. The turnover in Prince George’s County with regard to legislators at the local level creates a phenomena where when you come in you have to learn land use. You have to learn what it means to be the Board of Health. And you have to learn legislation. So, I'm thankful for that, and I'm thankful for our new at-large members.
NNAMDIDerrick Davis is a member of the Prince George’s County Council, representing district 6. Thank you for joining us.
DAVISThank you, Kojo.
NNAMDITom Sherwood, D.C. police officers were mandated by the Council by a law some three years ago to collect racial and other data of stops that they have made. And, apparently, they haven't been doing it for the past three years. And now a court has ruled that they had better start doing it, the judge in the case saying, look. I've been waiting around and waiting to see what you are going to come up with, and they keep saying they can't do it. But now, it would appear they have to.
SHERWOODWell, the ACLU went to court and said, look, the Council passed this law three years ago, the NEAR Act. It's called the Neighborhood Engagement Achieves Results Act, which had varying ways to make the police more community-oriented as they do the necessary police work that they have to do. And one of them was to keep track of stops. This has been a constant and consistent complaint among African Americans, people of color, that police routinely stop them more than others...
SHERWOOD...profiling, without clear reason. And so they were supposed to -- and I've got the form here. The judge said, okay, you haven't done the law. I'm going to tell you, you must start enforcing the law, and you have to use the form that the ACLU came up with. Simply just say why did you stop someone and what happened, so that we'll have a better understanding. So, it won't just be a political discussion. There'll be facts to back up what is not happening.
NNAMDITom Sherwood, he's our resident analyst and a contributing writer for Washington City Paper. Any big plans this weekend?
SHERWOODWell, this weekend is the Folklife Festival with music, lots of music.
NNAMDIJust a couple of days.
SHERWOODAnd I might even go down there. I'll bike down there.
NNAMDIThat's it for today's show. Today's Politics Hour was produced by Mark Gunnery. On Monday, we'll meet the people behind some of the area's most beloved bookstores and learn what they're doing to build community in this era of all things digital. That all starts Monday, at noon. Until then, you have a great weekend. Thank you for listening. I'm Kojo Nnamdi.
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