Metro General Manager Paul Wiedefeld talks about the future of WMATA and what reopening will look like. And D.C. Councilmember Vincent Gray walks us through city budget and gives us an update on building a hospital east of the Anacostia River.
Delegate Alonzo Washington was removed as chair of the Prince George’s County legislative delegation’s education committee. Was it retribution for who he supported in this year’s Speaker of the House race? He joins us to discuss that, plus the latest state education news, and the rumors that Amazon may be building a facility in his county.
Congresswoman Eleanor Holmes Norton has spent decades in the House of Representatives fighting for statehood for D.C. The House was supposed to have a hearing on the subject next week, but it was rescheduled because of the planned testimony of Robert Mueller. She joins us to discuss what’s next for statehood, especially in light of a new national poll suggesting that majority of people in the U.S. don’t want D.C. to become a state.
And we remember Sterling Tucker, the civil rights leader who became the first Chairman of the D.C. Council under home rule. He passed away last weekend.
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 staring Tom Sherwood, I'm Kojo Nnamdi. Tom Sherwood is our resident analyst and a contributing writer for Washington City Paper. Tom Sherwood, welcome.
TOM SHERWOODGood afternoon. I hope everyone drinking water.
NNAMDILater in the broadcast we'll be talking with Eleanor Holmes Norton, who is the D.C. delegate to the U.S. House of Representatives. Joining us in the studio now is Alonzo Washington. He's a delegate in the Maryland House of Delegates representing Prince George's County, District 22. Delegate Washington, thank you for joining us.
ALONZO WASHINGTONThank you for having me Kojo.
NNAMDITom Sherwood. First, let's talk about what's going on in Virginia, because it would appear, according to reporting in the Washington Post by Laura Vozzella that the Virginia Democrats have been out raising Republicans. Why is this important? Well, for two reasons. One is because the top three officials in the Commonwealth were embroiled in scandal, as recently as this year. And two, because there are elections in Virginia later this year in which every single seat in the General Assembly will be up for grabs.
SHERWOODYes, all 40 in the Senate, all 100 in the House. The Republicans have the narrowest of the majorities in both the House and the Senate. I think there's two votes each body. So it's important in November, who wins the majority of the seats, because the Democrats have been stymied by the Republicans' control of the General Assembly while they've had the Governor's office for a couple, for two or three terms now. So it's really important. But the Democrats are reported their second quarter for this year that they raised $3.7 million dollars to only $1.6 million for the Republicans. And more importantly if you're in a campaign it's how much money do you have, not how much have you raised. But the Democrats have almost $5 million dollars on hand, while the Republicans have less than $4 million.
SHERWOODSo getting out the vote. There's another factor in these elections too, it's called the Trump Factor. Alan Suderman, who used to be a loose lips here in town but now has been working for the AP in Richmond has just done a story saying that the Trump Factor, all the issues some of which we'll be getting to talk about here, is also playing a big role in Virginia, which has become a purple state rather than Republican or Democratic.
NNAMDII'm assuming that little clunk I heard was your cell phone falling to the ground, which means that he won't be able to be insulted. Oh, boy.
SHERWOODYou know, he'll be consulting to his messages during the entire one hour of this broadcast.
SHERWOODI get corrections frequently.
NNAMDIMaryland Governor Hogan has become one of the few Republicans, who is willing to criticize President Trump most recently about the Twitter comments that Trump made about four women, four members of Congress who are women of color. Quoting here, the Governor said, I thought the comments were terrible, and very unbecoming of a President. That's what he said to WJZ, the CBS affiliate in Baltimore. He added that they were totally inappropriate. He risks nothing by doing this, does he?
SHERWOODWell, you know, the Governor has moderated several complaints the President. You know, this whole fight over this issue about, is it racism? If it is racism, do you say racism? And terrible, very unbecoming, I was telling someone earlier today, sounds like you dropped your napkin at a formal dinner. And there's, you know, there's reporters and analysts, you know, many people are saying this is a flat out racism. Anybody who's covered the Civil Rights Movement since the '50s would know that, go back where you came from is a vicious attack on someone. And for the President to do it for four sitting members of Congress it's just really quite strong. And the Governor has joined some Republicans in criticizing the President, but not using the word racist or racism itself.
NNAMDIDelegate Washington, what do you think about the Governor's statement about Trump this week?
WASHINGTONYou know, I have more comments to say about the President and his statements versus what the Governor said. But, you know, it is disgusting what this President has been saying about women of color, about minorities in general, about our immigrant communities as well. And this is disgusting and racism. From time and time again, this President has proven to us that he's unfit for office, and should not be the current President.
SHERWOODThe New York Times editorial page said, flat out called the President a race warrior, and his other stuff and said, that this will be his tact for the 2020 election. He's going to go flat out for the strong white vote that he thinks he needs to get for this.
WASHINGTONWell, he used that same tactic in the last election trying to keep the House of Republican and that fell flat. And the House today --
SHERWOODThe 2018 election.
WASHINGTONThe 2018 election. And, you know, you could see what happened there when we have a majority of Democrats in there. So good luck with that.
NNAMDIGovernor Hogan chose not to challenge President Trump in the 2020 election, but he's been building up his national profile, and next week he will become Chair of the National Governors Association. Does his public stance as more moderate line up with your experience working with him in Annapolis?
WASHINGTONHe's, you can tell that the Governor he's trying to move to the middle. And, you know, but this governor has promised bipartisanship in the state of Maryland. And what we've seen over this last session after his reelection campaign and he actually won, he's been partisan this last session. And we seen him cutting money from education, you know, making sure that there is rape, not funding rape kits. I mean he's been partisan for this last session in this last year. And I can see it going even further more right as his term continues.
SHERWOODLet me point out that in Virginia the Virginia Republican Party has been attacking the Democratic Governor, Lieutenant Governor, and Attorney General for their issues that sprang up this past spring. The Virginia Republican Party has flat out called each of those three men racists, but the Virginia Republican Party to my knowledge has not addressed what the President has said.
NNAMDIOnto what's going on in Prince George's County. Amazon did not choose Prince George's County for its new headquarters, but it may be planning to open logistics and supply center in the, logistic and supply centers, Amazon's words for a warehouse basically in Prince George's --
SHERWOODA Fulfillment Center, which is a warehouse.
NNAMDIIn Prince George's County's, Westphalia; is that how it's pronounced?
NNAMDIWestphalia area. Neither Amazon nor County Executive Angela Alsobrooks have confirmed the plan. But two officials told the Washington Post that the 80 acre facility would employ about 1500 people. Would you welcome that kind of development in the County?
WASHINGTONOf course, I mean, we welcome that kind of, we welcome 1500 jobs moving to Prince George's County and being in Prince George's County. I'm unsure as to why they chose a neighborhood that's directly next to residents, who were promised retail, who were promised grocery stores like Whole Foods and those types of retailers. Those folks over there and I feel for them, because I also live in a new development where the developer promised so many different amenities and did not deliver. This developer must deliver to this community.
SHERWOODThey are talking about, of course, with these fulfillment centers where many of them are running principally by robots, but they do hire hundreds if not thousands of people. But it does seem, if you haven't seen pictures of what these fulfillment centers look like you ought to go online and call them up. And they say that 150 tractor trailers will come every day, virtually 1 every 10 minutes, not to count the cars, the trucks, the smaller trucks. And again, usually this is right near a developing residential area. But it is just moments from the Capital Beltway and Pennsylvania Avenue which is very crowded even during the rush hour. You try to be on Pennsylvania Avenue going out of the district in the morning --
SHERWOODComing into the district in the morning or going out in the afternoon, it's impossible. I'm just trying to picture these 18 wheelers clogging up the roads. But Prince George's also wants economic development --
NNAMDII was about to say, how do you balance between Prince George's County's as leaderships wants, desires, and somewhat argue needs for economic development and this kind of development. You've been critical of the County relying on retail development, saying that it provides mostly low wage jobs and that the County should make economic diversification a priority. How do you respond to what's going on in Westphalia, given your views about this?
WASHINGTONYeah, look I think as many folks would want us to build jobs next to our 15 undeveloped Metro stations, and see more transoriented development near the purple line stations. This is directly, this is feet from residential homes where Tom mentioned about, you know, 150 of these tractor trailers will come through that neighborhood. You know, we want to see jobs in Prince George's County. We have to balance that too, and balance that for jobs. So for just so you know it, you know, I'm a state delegate so I don't get into land use zoning. That's for the Prince George's County Council. And I'm sure and hopeful that they'll do the right thing by this community, who invested hundreds of thousands of dollars to build their brand new homes for their families.
WASHINGTONThese are young people that live in that neighborhood. And they're concerned with the traffic, pollution and property values with this center moving in that property, so --
SHERWOODExcuse me. In the community meeting I think it was Wednesday night, some people pointed out. We have children, 'cause one of the representatives of their land owners about, you know, this will be jobs, and you know, people can work in the warehouse. And several people said, wait a minute, we're interested in stem jobs. We are interested in higher jobs, not that blue collar jobs are bad, but we want to see engineer jobs. We want to see high level jobs coming to our community, not just people pushing pallets.
WASHINGTONYeah, absolutely. I mean, we need, our counties, we are, have faith in our current County Executive that she's working diligently to attract those types of jobs that that resident spoke to. You know, with this project there will be about 1500 new jobs. But these are $14 jobs from an article I read recently that indicated that some of these jobs start about $14 an hour average wage.
SHERWOODYou mentioned also Angela Alsobrooks. You are a state delegate.
SHERWOODBut you've got to notice that she's taken office and all the hot air has gone out of the balloon in terms of controversies and troubles. What happened? Is she that good? This is the Politics Hour, so speak freely.
WASHINGTONNo, I think our County Executive, who I supported for County Executive is doing a great job. You know, she's focused on the issues that matter to people. And that's building a vibrant community by ensuring our neighborhoods are clean and safe, protecting our immigrants by passing, by ensuring that as a protective order for our Police Department not to work corroboratively with ICE.
SHERWOODShe just took office, would you support her for Governor, 'cause you know these things start early?
WASHINGTONWell, she hasn't made any announcements yet, but she's a very credible person and I think would do an awesome job.
NNAMDIHere is Sharon in Northern Virginia. Sharon, you're on the air, go ahead please.
SHARONHi Kojo. I work in Prince George's County and I know it well and I love it. It's a tremendous county. And it's always interesting to me that we talk about the county like it's the little engine that could. It isn't. It is the heartbeat of the region. There's no reason why Amazon could not come to the county with its 500,000 square miles and find the place that it needs without being butt up against a residential area.
SHARONBut with all those people coming in and being able to shop in the restaurants and stores and the like, but also a county can be smart and make sure that they introduce to those 1500 workers the housing options in Prince George's County, because it is a vibrant and interesting community. And it would be lovely to have 1500 new residents invested in Prince George's County housing and paying taxes in the county where they work, because it's a tremendous and beautiful community.
NNAMDISo you're for Amazon going to that Westphalia location?
SHARONNo. I'm for them coming to the county. The county is 500,000 square miles.
NNAMDIThey can find someplace else. Alonzo Washington, what say you?
WASHINGTONI agree with her. I mean they could find another location. And we hope that they do. I mean for the sake of those residents that live there, who want to see more better amenities for their neighborhood, who we know that spent over $300 to $400,000 on their brand new homes. They deserve brand new amenities. And in fact, you know, we should, they should have a Whole Foods there. Why not bring a Whole Foods there if Amazon or anyone else is considering going there. The market will demand it, and they will benefit from those communities over there.
NNAMDIWell, we've got to go to a break very shortly. So the answer to this, I guess this is not specifically your responsibility. But and Cozie, your tweet is in. Delegate Washington, what is the status of Greenbelt Road improvements?
WASHINGTONOh, great, great question. You know, the status of the Greenbelt Road improvements, you know, this year, you know, since I've been a delegate for the last six years, the Greenbelt City Council has asked for road improvements of that road and infrastructure improvements from the State Highway Administration. I worked with one of my Senate colleagues to get money in the budget this year to create a study that will look at improving and ensuring that there's more amenities on that road. And make sure there's no traffic congestion and things of that nature, and make sure it's pedestrian safe. So it's coming. We have a study already on the way, and it should be to us in the next day or two.
NNAMDIGot to take a short break, when we come back we'll continue our conversation with Alonzo Washington. He's a delegate to the Maryland House of Delegates representing Prince George's County. I'm Kojo Nnamdi.
NNAMDIWelcome back, our guest is Alonzo Washington, delegate to the Maryland House of Delegates representing District 22, which is in Prince George's County. Maryland Speaker of the House Michael Bush passed away this spring. The race to succeed him was dramatic to say the least, dividing both the Democratic and the Black Caucus. Baltimore City Delegate Maggie McIntosh ultimately lost to Baltimore County Delegate Adrienne Jones, but there was fallout and even retribution after that vote, including you, losing your chairmanship of the Prince George's County Delegation's Education Subcommittee. Why did that happen?
WASHINGTONYou know Kojo, that's something that, you know, in the Maryland's Matter's article that I spoke to, and said that that's nothing that we need to rehash. And you know, I'm on the Kirwan Commission, which is seeking to provide more funding and infuse funding into our public school system to the tune of $4 to $5 billion, that's going to help with community schools, that's going to help with teacher's salaries.
NNAMDISo what you're saying, is you still have your hand in education equally.
SHERWOODNo, that was a master deflection.
SHERWOODA master class deflection for all your budding politicians, but it is important you're doing that. But the, it did, the legislative Black Caucus, there was a lot of turmoil. People were resigning, people were not doing this, people were not doing that. Just where are we now? Not looking back. I know that the new speaker, Speaker Jones has been trying to unify all the Democrats get ready for the next session. But where is the Prince George's, are you guys speaking to each other, are things calmed down?
WASHINGTONLook I know that folks want to see Prince George's and its fight amongst each other, even Democrats fight.
SHERWOODNo we don't. We love here.
WASHINGTONAbsolutely, so am I. So we're working together. We have, the Prince George's County Delegation has a retreat next week which I'm excited to go to, to talk about issues that matter to Prince George's.
SHERWOODWhere is that going to be? Are you're telling the public?
WASHINGTONI'm telling the public right now that we are a unified delegation. And that's what I'm working towards, unifying our delegation and making sure that we're working on issues that matter to Prince Georgians every day, like stopping the Maglev train that the Governor is proposing, ending in Capital Beltway widening that the Governor is proposing. You know, issues of education funding and school construction funding that's happening. You know, we have a $8 billion dollar backlog in construction needs in Prince George's County. And this Governor has done everything he can to stop with us driving down that cost of construction needs by holding about $127 million dollars.
NNAMDISo you're saying that both the Democratic Caucus and the Black Caucus have moved beyond those events and are now unified?
WASHINGTONI'm hoping that we get --
SHERWOODLet's just say that they recognize they have to move forward and not let these things drag you down.
WASHINGTONI'm an effective leader in Annapolis and I believe in effective leadership. And in order to do that you have to bring people together, and that's what I'm working to.
NNAMDISpeaking of the Legislative Black Caucus Speaker Jones told the Caucus last week under the bill of the next session will be one that increases funding for public school construction by $2 billion dollars over 10 years. This after Governor Hogan announced that he would refuse to release $127 million dollars earmarked in the last general assembly session for school construction. We got a tweet for DJ who says, regarding Hogan's tepid reaction to Trump's racism and all I can say is, talk is cheap, but school construction is expensive, release the funds. Well, why school construction is such a contentious issue in Annapolis?
SHERWOODAnd how can he just withhold the funds, if the legislature approves them?
WASHINGTONThose are fenced off funds. Unfortunately this Governor is the most powerful governor in the state, in the country by having the power of the purse over the budget. And, you know, the legislature can add to the budget, but we can move things around. And he's refused to release these funds. I've sent out an e-mail to my constituency urging them to contact the Governor's office, because he works for us. We are his constituents and we deserve more, we deserve this $127 million dollars in school construction funds.
SHERWOODHe has said, if I remember correctly, I think I read where he said, that these funds and other funds he was not releasing, because of the, although the state is doing well economically now, he's concerned about future downturns in the economy. He does not want to release all of these funds and spend a great deal of money now. Any merit to that?
WASHINGTONThis Governor talks about balancing budgets. This Governor introduced a budget to us, to the legislature that wasn't balanced. You know, it was something that we found that generally never happens when a budget comes from the Governor's office. You know, he calls these types of funding school construction gimmicks. Are you telling me that mold, the mildew, things of that nature, rats and infestation and drinking water for children, for young children is a gimmick? This is a need in the state of Maryland, and it's quite horrible that this Governor has gone down this road by saying that he's going to, he wants to save this $127 million dollars for next year's budget.
NNAMDIWell, Republicans in Annapolis have been critical of increasing education funding without implementing more safeguards for how the money is spent by school boards. Hogan in particular has said that increased education spending won't necessarily lead to academic gains for students. Do you share that concern? And how do you think the state should ensure accountability in how this money is spent?
WASHINGTONOur budget was voted on in a bipartisan fashion, most times it is too. And so those Republicans in the House and in the Senate voted for more additional school construction dollars. The Kirwan commission funding that's coming through, we put in there some of the things that the Governor asks for, and even I've been advocating for, which is an Inspector General for our school system to ensure there's more compliance and accountability in our school systems. In the bill that we passed this last year, we added in more accountability measures for all of our schools in the state of Maryland to ensure that there are going to be increases in school, in academic achievement amongst our students.
SHERWOODBudget cuts rarely are great leaps forward, you know.
NNAMDIHere is Chichi in Upper Marlboro, Maryland. Chichi you're on the air, go ahead please.
CHICHIHi. Thank you so much for allowing me to make a statement. I am a resident of the Parkside at Westphalia community, which is a community that's impacted by the Amazon Fulfillment Center plan that's planned to move right next to our neighborhood. I wanted to call to say how disappointed I was in the decision yesterday. Basically the planning board said their hands were tied, because the law had already been enacted to allow the zoning change to allow that fulfillment center to be placed there.
CHICHIAnd from 1:00 to 8:00 p.m. over 50 to 60 people gave testimony of how this change would impact our quality of life, the pollution would damage the health of our children and ourselves and our property values would be strongly affected. We gave evidence. We gave research studies. We gave very educated testimony and none of that was heard, because the hands were tied already.
NNAMDIAlonzo Washington, why was this deal done without community input?
WASHINGTONI think you got to talk to the County Council. Again, I'm a state delegate, so we don't oversee zoning cases. But, you know, the County Council passed the legislation to allow this to happen. So I think that's a question for them, and should be held accountable for their actions, like all of us.
SHERWOODThe County Executive appoints the members of the Maryland Parks, too long of a name for me.
WASHINGTONThe planning board.
SHERWOODThe planning board, and then the Council approves those, but it's not a state delegate issue.
WASHINGTONNo, it's a Prince George's County issue and it's not something that we get our hands into.
SHERWOODI was reading in Maryland Matters there's already some scurrying around of who's going to succeed Mike Miller as State Senate, the President State Senate.
NNAMDIOf the Senate.
SHERWOODYou're in the House. I know it's not your area, but comment on that.
WASHINGTONComment on that.
SHERWOODSo it will be another big change for the Prince George's area if he were to step down for any reason.
WASHINGTONI think I already --
NNAMDIHe's only been President of the Senate forever.
SHERWOODHe's just getting his feet wet.
WASHINGTONYeah, you know --
SHERWOODBut there are big changes, generation, I mean you're part of the younger group, you're 36, your people are moving up and taking leadership roles.
SHERWOODSome of the older people are moving on. It would be a significant change if Mike Miller were no longer leading the Senate.
WASHINGTONYeah. No, it would be a significant change. But, you know, that's something that the Senate will have to work out, just as well as we did in the House. And we came to a good decision in electing and appointing Adrienne Jones as our speaker and the first African-American woman speaker in the state's history.
NNAMDIYou remember as you mentioned earlier the Commission on Innovation and Excellence in Education also known as the Kirwan Commission. The Commission's full recommendations have been delayed several times already. What have the sticking points been? And are you confident that you will be able to stick to the schedule this time?
WASHINGTONYes, we're confident we're able to stick to it. I mean, we funded the Kirwan Commission's initial recommendations, or our recommendations to the tune of about $255 million dollars. For residents in Prince George's County that's about $53 million dollars that's coming to our county in the areas of full-day pre-K, teacher's salary increases, concentration of poverty grants that's going to help with creating 45 new community schools for high poverty schools in Prince George's County. And obviously we're going to be taking care of special education. And there's some behavioral and health and behavioral health funding that we're allocating as well in the county too.
NNAMDIOne of the things the commission will be discussing next week is educational equity. Last month a group Prince George's County students filed a lawsuit challenging the mandatory fees for summer school classes. Students got to pay $100 for a half credit along with $25 registration fee. Those fees were waived for some low income students this summer, but do you think fees like this are an equity issue and how do you think the county should respond?
WASHINGTONYou know, as a county we should not be charging students and families summer school fees at all. You know, I voted for a bill that was sponsored by my friend in Baltimore City that would have taken these fees away for mandatory summer classes and I support that, and we voted for that bill in the House. It did not go anywhere in the Senate so that's something my Senate colleagues will have to answer to and they should. And I'm behind these students. I think you can tell, I'm behind the constituents of Prince George's County, and when they have an issue I'm really in a fight for them for those issues.
SHERWOODThe required class I think costs $225 for the summer class. And your own history, we don't have time to go into it, but you yourself, you were a very good student, but you also had to get help to find college and a way to get to --
SHERWOOD--and you've done some -- you have an organization -- you used to have an organization to help people. What's it called?
WASHINGTONSo we -- so, you know --
SHERWOODWhat's it called?
WASHINGTONFirst Generation College Bound.
SHERWOODFirst Generation College Bound.
WASHINGTONThat's not my organization, that's my mentor's organization. Joe Fischer, who went to my door and knocked on my door when I moved to Laurel and in a low-income neighborhood, and he said to me and my mom that I can promise you I can take you to school, just let me help you out, and he did that and he stuck to me and he's my mentor currently. That was back in 1998 when he knocked on my door. And, I mean, at one point this guy was my best friend.
WASHINGTONAnd my job is to continue to fund those types of college access programs in the state and to make sure that low-income families do not have to pay for these fees that can cripple them. And I grew up in poverty, grew up in unfortunate circumstances and I’m here to fight for those types of families that look like mine.
NNAMDII'm afraid that's all the time we have. Alonzo Washington is the delegate in the Maryland House of Delegates representing Prince George's County District 22. Thank you so much for joining us.
WASHINGTONNo, thank you for having me, Kojo.
NNAMDIWe're going to take a short break. When we come back Congresswoman Eleanor Holmes Norton, she's the delegate from the District of Columbia to the U.S. House of Representatives. I'm Kojo Nnamdi.
NNAMDIWelcome back. Joining us in studio is Eleanor Holmes Norton. She's the delegate to the U.S. House of Representatives representing the District of Columbia. Congresswoman Norton, thank you for joining us.
ELEANOR HOLMES NORTONGlad to be here, Kojo.
NNAMDIAnd all of you out there probably have read that there was a poll about statehood around the nation this week, and that 60 some percent of people, who responded said the District should not have statehood. Tom Sherwood, this past week, Sterling Tucker passed. He was the chairman of the D.C. Council. He ran for other offices, of course, but he's well remembered in a variety of ways. Let's start with you.
SHERWOODWell, he died at 95. His whole life would take the whole show, but he was appointed to the first appointed council under the limited home rule. And then he was the first elected chairman of the council under home rule. But prior to that, since the 50's he had been head of the Washington Urban League, extremely active in business affairs, trying to get jobs in the black community, civil rights matters.
SHERWOODHe used to take some religious leaders in town to department stores. They would all dress up in their attire, either Baptist minister or a Rabbi. They'd stand outside the door and as people went in for Easter Sunday shopping they would say, do you understand that this is a segregated place in the restaurant and you shouldn't go in? And people would turn away. So from acts like that to his time as an elected official, he lost the famous 1978 race for mayor when Marion Barry, the upstart council member challenged both him and Walter Washington.
NNAMDIWho was the incumbent.
SHERWOODSterling Tucker lost to Marion Barry by 1.5 percent. And I often ask people -- maybe we'll ask the delegate here -- what would the District have been like if Sterling Tucker had been elected in 1978 rather than Marion Barry.
NNAMDIThat's way too speculative. (laugh)
SHERWOODOver to you now Congresswoman Norton. Welcome.
NORTONGlad to be with you and I think it would've been a very different kind of administration. Sterling was very even keeled and --
NORTON--yes, old school, very much of a gentleman. Very spirited in the way he approached politics. He even ran against me when I first ran for Congress of the United States. So he wasn't fooling, but he had no enemies. It would have been a very different administration.
NNAMDIA few years ago WAMU's Jacob Fenston interviewed Sterling Tucker and asked him if looking back he was happy with home rule or if he thought Washingtonians should have held out until they could achieve statehood. Here's what he had to say.
STERLING TUCKERWe found every way we could to make the government work. From the beginning each council, each mayor has done that. So they made the most of what we had and maybe more than what congress intended originally. And that's why we're at the point can really talk seriously now about statehood, but holding out would've been a big mistake, huge mistake.
NNAMDICongresswoman Norton, the House was scheduled to hold a hearing on D.C. statehood next week in the oversight and reform committee that was delayed, because Robert Mueller will be testifying at the same time on Wednesday. What are you hoping to see at the hearing when it does occur in the fall?
NORTONWell, the hearing is going to be the prelude to what I predict will be a majority vote in the House of Representatives for statehood for the District of Columbia. I can predict that safely, because we almost have enough cosponsors, as I speak, to pass this bill. And I should mention that it is rare that a bill that goes to the floor has more than a few cosponsors. But since we've been in the House majority just in January we've been at pains to show that we could win by getting cosponsors. So I don't see any way this could fail in the House. We know there's another House to go, but I tell you, if you get this through the House you're more than halfway home.
SHERWOODPolitically speaking though, and you just alluded to that, that the Republican Senate and the speaker is not going to bring up the bill if it passes the House, but what does it mean -- there's been such a choppy road up and down going forward, slide backs on statehood. What will it mean -- people say, yeah, of course the Democrats want two more senators from the District in the Congress so that --
NNAMDIAnd all of the Democratic presidential candidates apparently support statehood.
SHERWOOD--and all the Republicans say, we don't want that. We don't want more Democratic senators in the congress. It seems like it's going to be a dead end.
NORTONWell, it is true that it's far easier -- it would be far easier if we had a Republican that wanted to be something that -- perhaps you will remember that I almost got a full house vote for D.C. when I teamed with Utah, which is a very Republican state.
NNAMDIWith Tom Davis.
NORTONTom Davis and I together. Tom wasn't for two senators, but he said, in the people's House the District should be represented. And I don't know if you remember, we got this bill through the house and senate and we would have a fully voting House member now except that the National Rifle Association insisted on attaching an amendment that would've wiped out all of the District's gun safety laws.
SHERWOODYes. And there's still dispute to this day about whether the city should've gone ahead and done the measure with the gun measure and then moved to remove it later once you had a real vote in the congress, a full vote.
NORTONBut it would've taken more than my full vote. And I think I --
SHERWOODAnd of course the Supreme Court is taking care of gun issues in the city anyway but --
NORTONWell, but not very well. I think the District had no choice. This is a District that has, even as I speak, a lot of gun violence.
SHERWOODI want to ask you because of the President's comments and attitudes towards immigration. You did today what I have done a couple of times. You may have spoken, I don't speak at them. You went to a naturalization ceremony and I'm just wondering what was that like. Do you remember how many people were there, how many took the oath of office and took the pledge of allegiance, held up the little flags? Was it in the District court here or where was it?
NORTONIt was in the House of Representatives. And I must tell you, it's very moving first of all. These people were, it appears, from virtually every country in the world. You are growing here the most diverse city in the United States, and I don't mean black and white. And it was thrilling to speak to them, to have their names called out and the country from which they came to see that they all were D.C. residents and, of course, I told them about D.C. statehood.
SHERWOODIt is remarkable. If you haven't been to a naturalization ceremony -- I went to one recently for a friend of my son's just to see the pride in both, not only the people who are becoming naturalized citizens, but their families. And it is a wholly different picture of immigration than we see played out in the national news.
NNAMDII am both an immigrant and have presided at one of those ceremonies and so I can testify about how moving both of those procedures are. Recent Gallop Poll found that 64 percent of people in the U.S. oppose D.C. becoming a state. That's somewhat surprising, at least to me, but why do you think that is?
NORTONI'm completely undaunted by the poll. First of all, I greet it, because it means that finally we were getting to nationalize D.C. statehood.
SHERWOODAt least someone asked the question.
NORTONYeah, that's extremely important, but you got a contrast this poll with the vote we're going to get in favor of D.C. statehood. So if you know something about D.C. statehood, you're for D.C. statehood. But if you're out there in the country at large you really don't know anything. And I think this poll reflects that. For example, there was an earlier poll about ten years ago that showed that if you phrased the question, do you think the District of Columbia should have two senators and a House voting member, and overwhelmingly people said yes.
NORTONSo I am not concerned, because we are only beginning to talk to the nation about this. Remember talking from my little podium has been pretty hard to get the word out. But now, for example, we have almost 100 organizations, national organizations, which are carrying the word out. And remember, with these House members almost -- remember it takes only 218. We're almost there, yet even in cosponsors. When you have that many House members willing to vote for statehood, it tells you they understand it and they represent the people, who know nothing about it and they will carry that message back by their vote.
SHERWOODAs a citizen of the city obviously I want full voting rights like every American citizen, but as a reporter or analyst I have to say the push for statehood has been, I think, woefully underfunded. D.C. Vote and other organizations, some of which have been around 20 years, it seems to me that in the modern era to take advantage of this there ought to be a multimillion dollar campaign to push this. Because every member of congress you just spoke of has some other issue that he or she has to deal with. And they're not fighting for our rights. They support them, but they're not fighting like we could do if we had a better funded political action committee or something to get money.
NORTONWell, you've said it, Tom. If you really want to nationalize an issue put some money into --
SHERWOODIt's a campaign.
NORTON--put some money into that issue and that will happen. We're having to do this on our own dime. I went up to the Net Roots conference this past week. That was the first opportunity I've had to speak to a national audience and they invited us up. They were very receptive, but who have I been talking to? Who have we all been talking to? We've been talking to ourselves.
SHERWOODThe choir. Let me ask you, some people want to -- and I have to say right now I hate this idea -- but some people, well, we just ought to retro seat like Virginia took back the part of D.C. that they had.
NNAMDIJohn emails in, in view of the recent poll results against D.C. statehood, isn't it time to take another look at retrocession to Maryland?
SHERWOODNo, but let Norton answer the question.
NORTON(laugh) I see you're very typical (all talking at once) -- you're a very typical D.C. resident. You have to understand the District is one of the oldest cities in the United States. It's developed a character of its own. There were House members, since I've been in the House, that have in fact come forward with bills for retrocession Those bills never went any way in no small part, because the District doesn't want it.
SHERWOODAnd also Maryland, which would have to agree to it, Maryland doesn't want it. Can you imagine a Baltimore politician or an Annapolis eastern shore Republican or a Democrat, who says, oh yeah, let's put 400,000 more Democratic votes in Maryland. We would become a major --
SHERWOODWe have people registered to vote and we would take over Maryland politics.
NORTONWell, you're so right and it's important to indicate that Maryland has only one big city. That's Baltimore. They don't want another one.
NNAMDIHere now with a technical aspect of this issue is Jocelyn in D.C.. Jocelyn, you're on the air. Go ahead, please.
JOCELYNHi, Kojo. Thanks for having me on. I want to talk about D.C. statehood as I am sitting here driving in D.C., sitting in traffic as usual on this hot day. But I am someone, who's a student in D.C. at Georgetown Mall. And because I'm a student, even though I live in the city I am able to retain my voter registration in Virginia. And I do that, because I don't feel that my vote's going to count in D.C. And I think that's a tragic reality for a lot of people in my situation. And the idea of saying, oh well, we don't want D.C. to have statehood, because we don't want more Democrats is straight up voter suppression.
NNAMDIShe calls it voter suppression.
NORTON(laugh) And she's using the modern term for it. And she does what thousands of residents do, because they don't have full voting rights, no senators. They simply keep their residence in the place from which they came.
NNAMDII remember Ralph Nader talking about that many years ago even though he's been living in D.C. for what seems like forever. He keeps his residence in Connecticut. Let me interrupt with some news. The Bethesda Beat is reporting that Montgomery County Executive Marc Elrich will official name former Portsmouth Police Chief Tonya Chapman as his nominee for the next police chief. She was the first black woman to serve as a police chief in Virginia. She said she was forced to resign by a group of racist police officers, who opposed her efforts to change the department's culture, but it looks as if she's now going to be the police chief in Montgomery County.
SHERWOODYes. Nancy Navarro the council chair had written a letter to the county executive Mr. Elrich telling him, please go ahead and make this appointment. This is one of the most important appointments you can make, and another potential person, the police chief at Takoma Park dropped out in the last week.
NNAMDIChanged his mind. Back to the statehood issue, Congresswoman Norton, your Republican colleagues in the House have argued that D.C. should not become a state without a constitutional amendment. What is your view of that?
NORTONThis is the oldest argument in the books. Look at the states, who have become states. Not one of them came to statehood through a constitutional amendment. And we certainly are not going to concede that the 51st state should be the first to require a constitutional amendment.
NNAMDIThis week the Bureau of Land Management employees learned that more than four-fifths of the headquartered staff would move from D.C. to Grand Junction, Colorado. This after the USDA announced plans to move its headquarters from D.C. to the Kansas City region. You have called the relocation misguided and politically motivated, why?
NORTONAnd that's when I'm trying to be nice about it. Look, this is Trump starting yet again. He's going to fail both times. USDA staff, they're trying to find -- trying to move the land management staff -- let me tell you, most of them are out of here, 95 percent are located outside of the District. The only staff from that agency that's located in the District and the region is headquartered staff, people who have to be there for the benefit of the congress and the president. So he's not -- almost all of them are there. We're going to stop him on that. On the first USDA that you mentioned, this is the first try and we've already gotten a language in the 2020 appropriation that will keep him from doing this.
SHERWOODThis is a long story. I remember when the big fight -- when the FBI sent a lot of its fingerprint people to West Virginia or something, because members of congress also like to get these federal jobs.
SHERWOODBut this is a core of what the nation capital is all about.
NORTONOtherwise why have a capital. Yes, I've had to fight ever since I've been in congress to keep jobs here, but if the truth be told, we don't have enough room for all the federal facilities. That's why you have Northern Virginia, that's why you have Maryland. And we have them there, but we insist upon having headquarter staff here and certain kinds of necessary staff here. We want our share. We are the nation's capital.
SHERWOODWe have to ask you about President Trump and go back to where you came from. You came from the District of Columbia, I believe; is that correct?
NORTONFor three generations. (laugh)
SHERWOODFor three -- you know, I know you, I know what you think about this, but I think you ought to articulate it to some queasiness on some people's part of calling it racist or racism. The governor of Maryland made it sound not polite. What is your own view precisely of the president using those words the other night?
NORTONWell, to call it racism is to understand, who it was first used against. It was first used against African Americans. Now he is trying to transfer it to whoever he wants to, but therefore its origin is racist. We're talking about four African Americans -- or, excuse me, four people of color here. There's no way to get around it, and the reason you know that there's no way to get around it is apparently his top staff and even his daughter preyed upon him. You have got to take it back. It is the first thing, I think, that Donald Trump has ever taken back and he's trying to take this one back.
SHERWOODWell, he's trying to say now that he attempted to seize the moment at the speech, but you look at the 13 seconds of the video -- I've looked at it ten times -- there is no taking it back.
NNAMDILast weekend CNN's chief political correspondent Dana Bash did a profile of you as part of a series called Bad Ass Women of Washington. It highlighted your work in the civil and women's rights movements and called you the Godmother of the Me Too movement. What kind of legacy do you hope that you have on social movements in the region today and in the future?
SHERWOODHave you announced that you're going somewhere?
NORTONLet me announce that I ain't going nowhere. No. But I love this notion of Bad Ass Women of which they say I’m one.
SHERWOODProudly wear that.
NNAMDIYou're the Godmother.
NORTONBut I got that reputation before I came to congress, I mean, you get that from the civil rights movement. You get that from the women's rights movement. Remember these are two moments where people --
SHERWOODEqual Employment Opportunity Commission.
NORTON--chair of the equal -- you get this from being part of two groups that had no equality in this society. And so it has been a wonderful opportunity in life to come to consciousness just as the civil rights movement and the women's rights movement were starting.
SHERWOODYou know, I like the fact that you would embrace that name Bad Ass Women. But what worries me some in that women are not expected to be tough. You know, there's been some prejudice and discrimination against women who've tried to step out and be tough. Oh, she's not being lady like or all that stuff. At least we're moving beyond that time and maybe all women are bad ass women if you think about it.
NORTONWell, to embrace the title I think is to help move us away from the notion that women can't be tough.
SHERWOODSpeaking of that, you wrote -- not of that similar subject -- you write a letter to the U.S. Attorney today, I believe, about the hate crimes on the LGBTQ community in this city. What did that letter say and what are you trying to do?
NORTONI'm glad you brought that up. Look, this is a city that prides itself on openness to everybody. And yet there's been too little discussion of murders of trans women and trans men. And so I had a whole town meeting on it so that I could at least use my office to broaden the notion, this ain't D.C. We're not going to take it in D.C. And the way to follow up on that was to write the U. S. Attorney and say, why aren't there more prosecutions?
NNAMDIWell, we are almost out of time, but Jonathan emails in, the new Douglas Commonwealth should not just include D.C. It should encompass the entire Washington Metro area. The fragmentation of the DMV is a bigger government's problem than D.C.'s lack of representation making it difficult to achieve common policies for the entire community, Including Prince George's, Montgomery, Alexandria and Arlington. That would also make Republicans more competitive in Virginia and Maryland, which might attract bipartisan support. A new state should include this greater area.
SHERWOODNo. You might as well create a new Disneyland. That's not going to happen. It's not worth discussing.
NORTONWe're not trying to take over the region, just our own city.
NNAMDIThank you very much. Eleanor Holmes Norton is the delegate to the U.S. House of Representatives representing the District of Columbia. Congresswoman Norton, thank you so much for joining us.
NORTONGood to be here, Kojo.
NNAMDIToday's Politics Hour was produced by Mark Gunnery. Coming up Monday is the solar power hour. We'll dig into the state of solar power in the DMV from how state governments support solar initiatives to the pros and cons of solar farms and much more. That all starts Monday at noon. Until then hope you have a wonderful weekend. What are your plans, Sherwood?
SHERWOODI'm going to drink water. Please check on senior citizens and young people. The heat this weekend is historic.
NNAMDIAnd all of the area jurisdictions are providing support, so check with your local jurisdictions. Thank you all for listening. I'm Kojo Nnamdi.
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