On this last episode, we look back on 23 years of joyous, difficult and always informative conversation.
Rep. Jamie Raskin (D-Md.) joins to talk about the Trump administration re-allocating $66.6 million in funding from military projects in Maryland to build fencing on the border with Mexico. Plus, we’ll talk about funding the fight against the opioid crisis, how Maryland counties are navigating their relationships with Immigration and Customs Enforcement, and more.
Then, Kojo and Tom sit down with D.C. Councilmember Robert C. White, Jr. (D-At-Large) to discuss the probe into the company awarded D.C.’s sports betting contract, Metro Board personnel changes and what to expect when the Council is back in session.
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 Cydney Grannan
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 writing for Washington City Paper. Tom Sherwood, welcome.
TOM SHERWOODGood afternoon.
NNAMDILater in the broadcast we'll be talking with At-Large D.C. Councilmember Robert White Jr. Joining us in studio now is Jamie Raskin. He's a member of the U.S. House of Representatives representing a district in Maryland. Congressman Raskin, thank you for joining us.
JAMIE RASKINI'm very excited to be with you, Kojo.
NNAMDITom Sherwood, the U.S. Attorney for the District Jessie Liu has made a rare incursion into D.C. politics, because of her objection to a bill that the D.C. Council is considering that would allow young violent offenders to be eligible for early release. The D.C. Council say they're doing that based on studies that now show that when people commit violent crimes as teenagers or up to the age of 25 that's not likely to recur as they get older. The U.S. attorney objects to that and apparently held a hearing in the District last night about it.
SHERWOODYes. Jessie Liu is the U.S. Attorney for the District. And like other places in the country the U.S. attorney here appointed by the president prosecutes all the violent crimes, all the major crimes in the city. It is very unusual. She wrote an op-ed piece in the Post that she doesn't like law. It's an expansion of a law already on the books. That if you've served I think 15 or 20 years and you committed this crime when you were a teenager then you are subject to have your sentencing reduced. The new version of the bill that Charles Allen, the Judiciary Chairman in the Council, is proposing would raise that age to 25.
SHERWOODAnd it's gotten a lot of controversy in a Washington Post editorial against it. And people saying you're going to let murderers and rapists out on the street and stuff like that. But also as you suggested there are studies and the facts that show that many people who commit crimes early in their lives are able to rehabilitate themselves and can have those sentences reduced. There's been an extraordinary lockup of African Americans, black men, particularly in this country. And this is one way the city is trying to address it.
SHERWOODBut as an analyst, I wish that Liu had had a meeting not just Thursday night where she invited A&C members, but had opened it to the media and maybe invited Charles Allen to have some discussion before essentially a federal official to insert herself into what is a local law for the District of Columbia. A lot of people find that distasteful.
NNAMDICongressman Raskin, I know your expertise is on the law, but I don't know about this particular aspect of the law. Do you have an opinion about this issue?
RASKINI really don't know the issue. But I agree with the last thing that Tom just said, which is that the U.S. Attorney in the District of Columbia as in other parts of the country can certainly comment upon and give testimony about things. But that should be in a public and transparent context rather than going out and trying to lobby people. Since, you know, the U.S. attorney here, you know, represents the federal government.
NNAMDIThe Pentagon is cutting funding from military projects to pay for the construction of fencing along the U.S. Mexico border. A lot promise project of President Trump's. This will divert $3.6 billion from military projects across the U.S. including over $66 million from projects in Maryland, your state. What do you think about this funding being relocated?
RASKINWell, it's outrageous. It's unconstitutional and it's intolerable. What we rejected the president's request for tens of billions of dollars for his foolish fantasy medieval wall project. Then he went out and began to divert money from other lawfully appropriated programs in order to fund it. And he's doing that again, stripping defense construction projects all over the country. You know, some of these are big. Some of them are small, but they're all important and meaningful to armed service members. Andrews Air Force Base will be the subject of a lot of losses including a child development center for military personnel on the base. It's going to cost each of those families an estimated in additional $10,000, because the president is syphoning that money off to build his fantasy wall project.
RASKINThis is unconstitutional, Kojo. It's Congress that has the power to lawfully appropriate money. The president has been re-appropriating money and usurping the powers of Congress. So it's obviously a terrible policy judgement, but it's also unconstitutional.
NNAMDIBut is there anything Congress can do about it?
RASKINWell, we have been in a process where what we're trying to do is to cut off his ability to spend money on the wall. And we are going to be escalating that constitutional controversy. As you will see when we get into discussing a number of our issues today, our big problem is the Senate and Mitch McConnell, because the House is unified in trying to stop the lawlessness and the corruption of the Trump administration, but everything seems to die right on Mitch McConnell's desk.
SHERWOODLet's be clear about it. These are not just proposals of things the military or the other agencies in the federal government would like to do. These are specific projects that have been funded by the Congress. The president is now taking the money away. And if these projects, the daycare centers, whatever they are are going to be build or expanded or used, Congress would then have to appropriate the money again.
RASKINExactly. And they said, we're going to go ahead and backfill it. So in other words, we reject the president's proposal for his wall. Then he says, I'll take money from other purposes that you've allocated money for and you backfill that. Well, that's obviously a complete circumvention of our power of the purse. You know, one of the other projects that's being savaged by this out at Andrews Air Force Base is an unexploded ordinance cleanup process, which has been funded here, but its military construction projects like this all over the country that have been carefully vetted. They've gone through a process. They've gone through the legislative committees. That Congress has decided to fund them, and the president is just stripping them away to build his wall that he wants to paint black so it's hotter if anybody tries to climb over it.
SHERWOODYou said $66 million in Maryland alone including NIH?
NNAMDILet's talk about Medicare for all. You and three other Maryland representatives are co-sponsoring legislation that would replace private healthcare companies with a government run Medicare program, but the other four representatives have not. Dutch Ruppersberger, a Democrat representing the second district in Maryland has concerns about cost and implementation. How do you address those concerns?
RASKINWell, look, I don't think the Republican in our delegation, Andy Harris, is ever going to be with us. But there's a very important articulation of values taking place about healthcare in America. And I do think this will become a critical part of the presidential campaign. The Democrats are running on the idea that in the wealthiest society that's ever existed at its wealthiest moment we can afford healthcare for all of our people if we build logic and coherence and cost savings into the program, and that's what we're committed to do.
RASKINNow there are a whole bunch of different proposals out there. I think every presidential candidate has his or her own proposal. So we're going to have to wrinkle out all of the particular details of it. But I think right now we're in a process of proclaiming the value that everybody in America should be able to benefit from the remarkable healthcare advances that we've had in this country as a matter of right rather than as a privilege.
SHERWOODWould this -- some people worry they will get rid of private insurance. Do you support getting rid of private insurance?
RASKINPersonally I do not. I've lived in countries like France that have national healthcare and they all have private insurance that people can go ahead and spend if they want to buy additional insurance. The UK has private insurance. France has private insurance. So I don't quite know how we got off on that. But I think that's the danger of putting the cart before the horse and talking about all of the details of these things when really we're in a process of values clarification. We need to determine what the defining value is going to be.
SHERWOODYou mentioned the president campaign. Are you supporting anyone?
RASKINI am actually on the verge of about --
SHERWOODOn the verge? Make it here.
RASKINI'm on the verge. Should I go ahead and make it here?
RASKINI tell you who I love. I love Elizabeth Warren and I think she would make an extraordinary president. She is brilliant. She is absolutely devoted and passionate about the common good, the public interest. She was a Republican for most of her life, and so she knows the country in a deep way. She grew up in Oklahoma. She has three brothers, who are in the military and she tells us that she wanted more than anything else in the world to become a teacher, and that speaks to millions and millions of people across the country. And at a time when critical thinking is collapsing in certain parts of our political system, at a time when education is under attack, I think it's great to put someone forward who places education of the people first and wants to cut down on the incredible inequalities that have grown up in our country.
NNAMDIOur guest is Jamie Raskin. He's a member of the U.S. House of Representatives. He's a Democrat from the State of Maryland. You told Maryland Matters that you think it's ill-advised for Democrats to be in a divided mode about healthcare in the 2020 race, which it seems that they are. So which candidate's healthcare platform do you endorse?
RASKINWell, again, I'm with the part of the party, which I think is the vast majority of our party, which says we've got to deliver healthcare to all of our people. And the Affordable Care Act was an extraordinary advance over what took place before. It proclaims the idea that we're going to take national public responsibility for healthcare. But there's still tens of millions of people left out. And so I think that's the value that we've got to be pushing in this campaign, universal health coverage for everybody.
RASKINI'm somebody, Kojo, you will recall I went through cancer. I did it all, radiation, chemotherapy, surgery, everything. I cannot imagine putting any fellow citizen through such a traumatic physical, psychological, emotional, and family experience. And then also telling them they may not be able to pay for their care. They may not have a way to do it. And, in fact, what happens is people get uncompensated care and that it ends up costing everybody even more. So let's be rational about it. Let's do what the other advanced democracies have done.
SHERWOODJohn Delaney is still running, excuse me, for president. Where do you see him?
RASKINI love John Delaney, who is my good friend and used to represent the district next to me. Now it's David Trone. And I think that Delaney has brought a lot to this race. It's very tough to run for President of the United States as a member of the House of Representatives. I think everybody from the House whose running has been struggling because of that. And I have withheld an endorsement from Elizabeth Warren out of respect for my friend, John Delaney from Maryland, but I think I'm getting close to the point where we need to start making some decisions about this and I think America really needs to start zeroing in on the candidates.
NNAMDIThe U.S. Department of Health and Human Services announced this week that around $90 million in federal funding will be allocated to D.C., Maryland and Virginia to fight the opioid crisis, part of federal grant money that's being rolled out across the U.S. Maryland is receiving the greatest amount, $40 million plus an additional $2.6 million for Baltimore County. The District will receive $27 million. Virginia just gets over about over $20 million. This comes Governor Harry Logan announced a $10 million grant to fight the epidemic. How far do you think this funding can go to tackle the problem in Maryland? And do you have concerns about where the money is going specifically and how it will be managed?
RASKINWell, it's going to help. And we've seen to it that hundreds of thousands of dollars have gone to Mobile Med in Bethesda and the community clinic in Silver Spring. There's money going to Frederick County and so every county in Maryland including Carroll, which is also in my district have gotten a piece of the action. Look this is a staggering human crisis. Elijah Cummings and I presided over a hearing where we had local families come and talk about what the opioid crisis has been doing to them.
RASKINOne of my constituents, Bill Sternberg was there whose editor of U.S.A. Today whose family lost his son, Scott, to opioid addiction. And the stories he told were absolutely harrowing of what it did to his family. There was another gentleman who appeared at that hearing, Kevin Simmers, who was a cop in Hagerstown for 25 years, whose own daughter became addicted to opioids after she used pain killing pills. And she ended up dying from a heroin overdose. He told stories about how his daughter begged to do anything to save her from this and even at one point asked her own father to kill her to put her out of her misery, because she couldn't deal with the addiction.
RASKINSo we're losing 70,000 Americans a year, Kojo, to drug overdoses. That's more in a single year than we saw -- loses in the Vietnam War during the entire course of that war. So this is an incredible trauma we're going through, and we're focused on, you know, that the president's magic markers and the sharpies and so on. We have a president, who is completely incompetent and is not doing anything to address the real needs of this society and the opioid crisis really should be in the front of everybody's mind.
NNAMDIGot to take a short break, there are a lot of you who have called. We'll get to your calls when we come back. The guest, Jamie Raskin, member of the U.S. House of Representatives, he's a Democrat from Maryland. I'm Kojo Nnamdi.
NNAMDIWelcome back to The Politics Hour. Our Resident Analyst is Tom Sherwood. He's a contributing writer for Washington City Paper. Later in the broadcast, we'll be talking with Robert White, Jr. who is an At-Large member of the D.C. Council. Currently our guest is Jamie Raskin, Member of the U.S. House of Representatives. We have two calls that I'd like to take in quick succession, because they seem to be basically on the same topic. Here first is Susan in Bethesda. Susan, you're on the air. Go ahead, please.
SUSANHi. Thank you for taking my call and hello Representative Raskin. I just wanted to say that I'm so grateful that you are my congressperson. I campaigned vigorously for you. The question is, if we are expected to work so hard and we don't see impeachment proceedings begin in the House, how do you expect us to remain motivated and not demoralized?
NNAMDIThank you very much for your call, Susan. Here now is Ed in Silver Spring kind of on the same topic. Ed, your turn.
EDWell, thank you, Kojo. I would like to see the dialogue about President Trump's abuse of power get broader than just the debate about impeach or not impeach, and in particular I would love to hear Jamie talk a little about the decades long growth of presidential power and how those boundaries ought to be recast.
NNAMDIHere he is.
RASKINVery nice, well, first of all, Susan, thank you very much for your encouragement, your solidarity and support. It's great to hear from you a, and, Ed, thank you also. Look, the chairman of the House Judiciary Committee has proclaimed to the whole world that we are in an impeachment investigation in our committee. We have assembled extraordinary evidence, voluminous evidence of the president's attempts to obstruct justice. That was right there in the Mueller report. We saw how he also openly invited Russian political interference in our election, but that just scratches the surface of it and I'm with Ed on this.
RASKINLook, when the president violates the spending power of Congress that is an impeachable offense, when the president violates the emoluments clauses, that's an impeachable offense. The founders of the country told us it was. You know, the Constitution was based on the idea that we were going to break from monarchy. The idea that kings and queens and princes could make all the money that they wanted and could off of the people. So we flipped that over. We said the president gets a salary and can receive no other emolument from the government. That's right there in Article 2. This president has been directing millions of dollars into the Trump Hotels and the golf courses and the resorts from the Secret Service, from the Department of Defense, the Department of State, the White House and so on.
RASKINThe foreign emoluments clause says that none of us in federal office can receive a present, an emolument, which means a payment in office, a title of any kind, whatever, from a prince, a king or a foreign government without the consent of Congress. This president has pocketed millions of dollars from Saudi Arabia, United Arab of Emirates, Indonesia, Philippines, you name it. All of the governments coming down there to spend all of their money for their lavish celebrations at the Trump Hotel, which I call the Washington emolument or renting out office space at the Trump office tower. That's how they do business and it's totally unconstitutional. So --
SHERWOODYou hear some Democrats and some say, look, the Democrats are going off on an impeachment of Trump. The Senate is not going to go along and you're distracting. Why not defeat Trump at the ballot box.
RASKINWell, we can do both clearly in a constitutional sense. The point is that -- and I think this is what Ed was getting at, we need to lay out what these constitutional offenses are. The media always wants to jump to the end of the story and say impeach or not impeach. The real question is can we explain to America what the emoluments clauses are. They're a statement by the founders that all of us have embraced that the loyalty of the president must run to the American people and to the common good. Not to foreign agents who, come dangling bribes in Washington D.C. and not to using the government as an instrument for self-enrichment. You don't use the government in that way. This is a really extreme case of a violation of the basic precepts of our constitution.
SHERWOODYou were asked last night on MSNBC about the confusion of the American public that there are so many committees in Congress that are working -- I have forgotten who it was -- shouldn't the Democrats be more focused like one committee, one outlet for all these issues? Because it looks like all of Congress is in an uproar. Some people saying you're not doing other things, which of course is not true. But should one committee do this and make it clear to the American public what you're trying to say?
RASKINWell, we can be more focused, if the president were a little more focused in all of his corruption and his violations of the constitution, but they're coming at us fast and furious, right? So we've got to deal with the domestic emoluments clause. We've got to deal with the foreign emoluments clause. We got to deal with the federal campaign finance violations. This is a president who --
SHERWOODThose are many committees.
RASKINWell, yeah. The Oversight Committee generally sees misconduct in the government, but the Judiciary Committee has jurisdiction over impeachable offenses and impeachable conduct as well as offenses against the judiciary and, you know, dangling pardons as a way to get representatives in the executive branch to violate the law, which is another problem that has come at us. So I agree. We've got to sort all of these things out. I think the fall will be a period where we zero in on what the principle offenses have been and it may or may not lead to impeachment.
RASKINWe know that Mitch McConnell is a tough customer and he may not even want to have a trial on it, but it's very important for the historical record that everybody knows exactly what this president has been up to. And that we have real constitutional boundaries that we are going to insist upon in the United States of America.
NNAMDIJim in Lake Jackson, Virginia. Jim, I'm sorry. I won't put you on the air, because we don't have a great deal of time. But I know Jim's question is can the House time impeachment so that the Senate doesn't have time to vote before the election?
RASKINWell, that's an intriguing possibility. It's also possible that we do our constitutional duty and send it over to the Senate and then what they do is up to them. Look, I mean, we sent over in February universal criminal and mental background check. We sent over months ago prescription drug reform to give the consumers much better prices in prescription drugs. The Senate has done nothing with any of them. We sent over the Equality Act. McConnell has not brought that forward. So we're used to this.
RASKINIt's also possible that we lay out all of the evidence of impeachable conduct, but we say that the Senate is clearly not living up to its constitutional duties. It's in dereliction of duty. And we're just going to present this to the public so the public knows what the president has done. But I think by the end of this the Republicans are going to be begging us for impeachment, because Donald Trump will drag down the entire Republican Party and we're in the process of seeing that right now. There is so many Republican members, who are just getting off of the ship.
NNAMDIAnother issue that is roiling Montgomery County. Here is Katie in Silver Spring. Katie, you're on the air. Go ahead, please.
KATIEHi. Thank you for taking my call. My question is for Jamie, I was wondering if you would be willing to visit the ICE contracted facilities that are in Maryland, because I was aware you had gone down to the border and thank you for highlighting that. But I'm aware that there are also abuses occurring here in Maryland, and wanted to know if you and other members of the Maryland delegation would consider looking at this facilities unannounced and what your view is also on additional facilities in Maryland.
RASKINAbsolutely. Consistent with, you know, our very chockful legislative schedule I would be delighted to come out and to see the ICE facilities. I think the public inspection has really benefitted us because this is an administration that has really disregarded the rule of law completely, when it comes to immigration, obviously the dramatic example with separating parents from their children. Most recently, there was an effort to try to send back people suffering from serious medical conditions and diseases to the countries that they came from. So there are real problems going on there and we need to let the sunlight in.
NNAMDIIn July, Montgomery County Executive Mark Eldridge banned government agencies from cooperating with ICE. He said last week he's considering changing that restriction. How do you think local law enforcement should engage with ICE and what do you think about ICE being given access to the Montgomery County jail?
RASKINWell, let's see. In general, I think local law enforcement has to spend its resources, its time on local law enforcement and that's what builds trust and confidence in the community. On the other hand, there are people, who are guilty of very serious crimes like armed robbery, carjacking, rape. There were some incidences of rape in Montgomery County recently, and I think we absolutely need to honor the ICE detainers in those cases. If somebody is going to commit multiple murders or rape children those are people who should be prosecuted here. They should do time here, and they should be turned over to the immigration authorities after they do their time here.
SHERWOODJust quickly on the impeachment of the president, the Speaker of the House said that not enough people were for that really now, majority of the Democratic Caucus is for it. But in the Washington D.C. area Don Briar came out in May for impeachment. Jennifer Wexton in Virginia, Jerry Connelly, Eleanor Holmes Norton in D.C., Anthony Brown in Maryland, you, is there anyone I'm leaving out? I don't think so.
RASKINI don't know. Every day, another person comes out for the impeachment investigation. But understand, what they're coming out for is an inquiry, where we go after the high crimes in this...
SHERWOODAnd you've spoken to the Speaker Pelosi, I'm sure, directly. What do you tell her?
RASKINWell, I tell her that we need to get all of the evidence of the criminality out, so that this never happens to us again. We need every Constitutional tool on the table, including impeachment, including the 25th amendment. I mean, this President's conduct is unstable, and raises...
SHERWOODIs she doing a good job on this? Or do you think she's moving her feet too slowly?
RASKINWell, I think Speaker Pelosi is doing a great job representing the entire Caucus in different members, or in different places. The whole public doesn't know what to do about the most lawless, unstable and unpredictable President we've ever seen. So, this is a problem that confronts the whole country. I think she's kept us together very well. And when we go back in, we're going to be focused like a laser beam on, that is on the oversight committees on all of the offenses that the President has been...
NNAMDIIn the one minute left, I'd like to go hyper local. The bowling alley at Navel's Port Activity Bethesda, which is in your district, closed last month, as WAMU's Mikaela Lefrak reported. Many people have bowled there for years, and they feel that it's closing showed a lack of concern for recovering soldiers and their families. What did you think about the closing? And have you heard from any constituents about it?
RASKINYeah, I've heard from constituents about it, and I've contacted them. I didn't really understand what was behind the closing of the bowling alley.
SHERWOODThe bowling balls are going to be used to help build the wall. (laugh)
RASKINThey're certainly painting the wall the color of the bowling balls.
RASKINBut, you know, that's just one of those little indignities and affronts to the local community that I wish we weren't experiencing right now. I hope they reconsider that.
NNAMDIJamie Raskin he's a member of the U.S. House of Representatives. He's a Democrat from the state of Maryland. Thank you so much for joining us.
RASKINAnd thanks for having me Kojo. Great to be with you, Tom.
NNAMDIComing up next at-large D.C. Councilmember Robert White. Tom Sherwood, this brew-ah-ha between it would appear D.C. Mayor Bowser and the D.C. Council over the future of the D.C. Commission on the Arts and Humanities certainly seems to be heating up. Last week, of course, the Mayor announced that she is creating a new office of Creative Affairs in the District of Columbia. And then, apparently, last Friday, the Mayor's office apparently took steps to lock the vault where the art collection of the D.C. Arts and Humanities is held. And that apparently has caused the Council Chair, Phil Mendelson, to be even angrier than he is already.
SHERWOODThis is not a trivial matter. This is arts and humanities in the city. It's a great deal of money and artists who depend upon this. It's a matter of how the city is seen. But, you know, rather than me say things about this, let me just read part of what Chairman Mendelson said when I asked him, his office, I said: what does the Chairman think that the Mayor tried to take over the Arts and Humanities Commission, was thwarted by the Council, and now she's created her own competing office to do essentially the same thing? And the Chairman, I'm just going to read part of it. He said that the Mayor, instead of undermining the Commission on Arts and Humanities, she ought to work with that. And he says, that except for launching a new office of Creative Affairs to compete with the independent Arts Commission, he says it's counterproductive, wasteful of public dollars. And he complains about the Mayor's stubbornness on this issue. Maybe the next guest could have a view of this.
NNAMDIOur guest, the next guest is Robert White, Jr. He's at-large member of the D.C. Council. He's a Democrat. Councilmember White, thank you for joining us.
ROBERT WHITEThanks for having me back.
SHERWOODAre you a friend of the Arts and Humanities Commission and its independence?
WHITEI think the Commission has to have the ability and flexibility to do what it is designed to do. I think this kind of most recent spat, that there are no winners in this. I think it makes the entire government look a little silly right now. So, my hope is that we can collectively figure out how to proceed in a rational way, that doesn't have duplicitous functions between two different entities.
NNAMDISo, before we run out of time to do this, let's do it right now. Let's talk about the late Douglas Moore, Jr., who began his career in civil rights and politics long before the Councilmember was even born, and who continued it here in the District of Columbia when you came here in the mid-1960s. Doug Moore eventually became a member of the D.C. Council.
SHERWOODWas one of the first elected members of the Council. Not just...
NNAMDIBy the largest majority in the at-large race in that first race, as I recall, in which Marion Barry was also involved. However, he lost a seat on the Council, ran for office several times after that. Actually, he'd run for office several times before that. And for office several -- and then became an entrepreneur and businessman who seemed to do -- an energy consultant or an energy provider who seemed to do fairly well at it. But recently, Douglas Moore, at the age of I think 91, passed, and his body will be lying in state I guess at the Wilson Building for a while. Talk a little bit about Doug Moore.
SHERWOODWell, he died two weeks ago. He lived beyond his knowledge and reputation of people, in general. One of my favorite stories, if I may tell it. I'll tell it very quickly. In '86, he was running for Chairman against the incumbent David A. Clark. And Doug Moore had a drug test, and he was demanding, this was the '80s when drugs were crazy in the city and country. And he was demanding that David Clark take a drug test. And so they were at, I think it was a church, it was in Northeast somewhere. It was a huge gathering, most African-Americans, older African-Americans. And Doug Moore made this demand in front of the crowd that David Clark, you've got to take a drug test. To which Dave Clark said, in a response, I will take the test if you will hold the bottle.
SHERWOODThe crowd laughed as you guys did, and that was the end of Doug Moore's campaign against David Clark on that issue. But he, you know, he cared about the city. He worked hard in the city. He had trouble governing his public persona. But he certainly did provide a lot of interesting -- I don't want to overshadow this. He was in the Civil Rights Movement in the North Carolina. And when there was the Greensboro sit-in, which is now that lunch counter is in the Smithsonian. He was doing summer work in Durham, North Carolina. Didn't get quite the attention.
NNAMDIDouglas Moore, gone, but not forgotten. They're going to be tearing down RFK Stadium. Tom Sherwood, Robert White, Jr. The District said, look, nothing is going on there, it's costing us $2 million dollars a year just to maintain it. And no, we're not doing this because we're hoping to attract the Washington Redskins to come to RFK Stadium. We're looking at other plans for development. But first, we've got to get the land over from the federal government, which, at this point, controls it. What do you think about RFK being torn down by 2021, Robert White?
WHITEWell, I think it is something that we have do. I spoke to Greg O'Dell yesterday, who is Head of Events D.C. that controls the building. And just keeping up the utilities and maintenance of that building, it just doesn't make sense anymore. But he did assure me that we were not doing it in any way to attract or make room for the Washington football team.
SHERWOODYou know, this has been a longstanding issue. People who do not like the team. You notice that Council member didn't say the name. People don't like Dan Snyder, who's in his 20th year of making the team horrible. But this is the issue. Events D.C. has a major plan, their new soccer and recreation fields there, where there were parking lots. That's a good thing. But they also, in the long-term plans, there is room for a 65 to 75,000 seat stadium still on that land. It's owned by the Interior, Federal Government Interior Department. Every mayor since Tony Williams, including the current one, wants the team back.
NNAMDIWithout a shadow of a doubt.
SHERWOODWith team spending all the money to build a stadium, not a dime from the city, except for maybe land prep, which could be millions of dollars. But this is going to be a new battle, going forward. Events D.C. says they're not doing anything with the Redskins now, because nothing is really happening. But then the talks about bringing the team back to the city are still ongoing.
NNAMDIFollowing an investigation from the Washington Post, you and at-large D.C. Councilmember Elissa Silverman have requested a probe into the small D.C. farm that would help operate the District's Sports Gambling Program. When the Council was considering the bill earlier this year, you were originally against the no-bid contract with INTRALOT, the Greek-based company that runs the lottery. Washington the City Paper reported that you had a change of heart after conversations with business owners, including Emmanuel Bailey, the head of D.C. 09, a local company that was originally supposed to collaborate with INTRALOT to operate the sports betting contract. You then voted to pass this contract with INTRALOT. I'm going to ask this question in two parts.
NNAMDIThe first part, what did Bailey and other business owners say to you that ultimately led you to support it?
WHITEWell my sole issue from since we started debating the issue of sports betting this time last year, my sole issue was opportunities for local businesses for minority and women-owned businesses. I hate to see new industries come into the city and they look just like the industries that already exist: primarily male, primarily white, primarily businesses outside of D.C. So, this has been my one point. That is almost exclusively the issue that I've discussed with Bailey, with everybody on both sides of this contract. And I was confident, as somebody who does not like sole-sourced contracts, I was confident that I could find a way to compete this contract and still get significant minority and local business participation. But after weeks and weeks of looking around every corner I could think of, doing as much due diligence as I could, I eventually had to conclude that I just could not find a way to come anywhere close to where the CFO had gotten on this contract.
NNAMDIAnd the second part of the question I'm going to ask is that after a long investigative report by the Washington Post, I think that is conceivable to conclude that INTRALOT ultimately controls all of this. That, in fact, the company that Bailey created, his mother is the majority share owner of that company. She lives in the District of Columbia. Apparently, Emmanuel Bailey does not. The company has an office in Southeast. But if one is to characterize the Post report broadly, it suggests that INTRALOT ultimately controls everything and pays Emmanuel Bailey what is essentially a pretty large salary.
WHITEThat is how it looks now. And I've been very frustrated at the things that we have been seeing come out in news reports. And I think a lot of residents are wondering, well, hey, D.C. Council, why didn't you all know this? And, you know, the reality is we have over 1,700 certified business entities or CBEs in the District. And when they get certified -- and VSE has been certified four times since 2009, has never not been certified. From our view, they were, or are a legitimate D.C. business. And we don't do independent investigations.
SHERWOODIsn't just basically addressing the District, though? I mean, the overall issue here -- and you just said, that you're concerned about women and minority business. The certified business enterprise program in the city is basically a joke if you look at this contract. And I'm just going forward Elissa Silverman has asked for the Inspector General, and I think the Attorney General, to investigate how this was done. The CFO has said, look, we contract with the principle group INTRALOT, and what subcontracts they do or don't do is not our interest in looking at. We want them to do the job. But certified business, it's not working. In this particular case, would you like to see the Council maybe bring this back and take another look at it? You approved it. You were the deciding vote, you and Kenyan McDuffie were the deciding votes.
SHERWOODPeople complain, well you know, Mendo -- sorry. Phil Mendelson the Chairman of the Council, excuse me. You know, got you to vote for it, in part because of your own investigation. But also because he gave you oversight over Metro, when Evans' committee was taken apart. Should it be reopened and redone and stop the head long rush into sports betting?
WHITEWell, let me answer that. But let me say first: so, Chairman Mendelson never asked me to vote in favor of this contract. He, on two occasions, asked me to hold my fire. He never, including the day of the vote, asked me to vote for this.
SHERWOODOkay, good, that's good to know.
WHITEI assume he knew the vote numbers. So, without my vote, the bill still would have passed. And I want to make that 100 percent clear. But the CBE laws in the District, yes, they do have to be reformed. But no business that is not a legitimate business under our CBE laws should be certified, at this point. So, that doesn't require changes...
WHITEThe Department of Small and Local Business Development.
SHERWOODWell, they maybe need to do a better job.
WHITEWell, that is one of the things that I'm taking. That's why I have not gone yet to the Attorney General, because I want to first understand from the perspective of the D.C. agencies that we have oversight over, what happened? Who dropped the ball? Why? What do we need to change in the law? And I should also add, for the past two months or so, I've actually been working on a CBE bill based on concerns that have come to me since I've chaired the Committee of Facilities and Procurement.
WHITESo, it's more disclosure. It's more checks and enforcement, more anonymous reporting mechanisms. So, that we can get reports from businesses and concerned people about businesses that they may thing are shams. So, people should expect to see this coming forward.
SHERWOODSo, do you think these sports betting contract, as approved by the Council, should go forward or should you guys put a stopper on it, and see, maybe take a second look at this until we know what's happened here?
WHITEWell, based on what we know now, it should not go forward. But we do have to do more due diligence to ensure we know all the facts, so that we don't do something foolish or knee jerk after it seems that we made a vote without the information that would have been helpful.
NNAMDIHere's Maria in Washington, D.C. Maria, you're on the air. Go ahead, please.
MARIAOh great, thank you very much. So, here's my question. It seems that D.C. just has a growing problem with rodents, particularly rats. You know, I see them all the time, especially in the parks. You know, like in, I think the park on K Street and 17th or 18th, is it around that, or 15th, rather, around that area. So, it's not just the parks though it's also, you know, in alleys and just in the streets at night. I'm just wondering what D.C.'s strategy is to address this problem. Has you know, D.C. as a reputable agency has been talking to other cities, other big cities like New York and Chicago that have...
NNAMDII don't know if this falls under the purview of any of the committees that Robert White, Jr. is involved in. But I guess, like you, he might be concerned about the problem.
SHERWOODHe's at-large Council member.
WHITEI am. I know that the city has tried numerous new ideas, like dry ice, distributing new traps, new things to keep trash cans secure, compactors for local businesses. They've been trying a lot of things. The entire spectrum of what they have been doing, I don't know off-hand. But if you e-mail me at email@example.com I'll get you a fuller explanation.
SHERWOODYou summarize it pretty well. The city has done any number of things under any number of mayors and the council members. The fact is that the Norway rat which is the rat we're talking about has infested every urban area in the country, whether you're in Chicago or New York or wherever. And but it is a, it's almost an unending problem.
WHITEIt's a difficult problem.
SHERWOODAnd, I mean, you go to Freedom Plaza, you go to any back alley anywhere, rats are a huge issue. And in Arlington, Bethesda, you name it, there are rats.
NNAMDIOur guest is Robert White, Jr. He's an at-large member of the D.C. Council. Last week, Corbett Price resigned from the Metro Board, following backlash over his attempts to hide the ethics violations of the former Chair, Jack Evans. You and four other Councilmembers voted to remove Price in July, but at the time didn't have enough votes to oust him. Now that Evans and Price are out, what are your hopes for the Metro Board, especially WMATA is now under the purview of the Committee on Facilities and Procurement, which you chair?
WHITEThat's right. So, we have a lot of work to do with WMATA. One of the first things that we do, we cannot make any progress without really getting the people of the jurisdiction on board as supporters of WMATA. And, frankly, I think it's going to be difficult for D.C. residents, or residents of the region or leadership in the region to really support WMATA in the way we need them to, to improve the system. If there are questions about the ethics or actions of our board members. So, I think what was in the best interests of the city and the Metro system was really to give a clean slate or a fresh start for our Metro Board.
NNAMDILucinda Babers, who's a long-time city official here -- she's a Deputy Mayor now but she also reformed the Motor Vehicles Agency -- she's the Mayor's appointee to replace Corbett Price. Phil Mendelson said he will put forward a nominee to replace Jack Evans. Charles Allen of Ward 6 has said publically he would like that post. Do you have someone in mind for it?
WHITEI don't have anyone in mind.
SHERWOODWould you oppose or support Allen being considered for it?
WHITESo, I have concerns about elected officials being on the board. Because you have to really take an oath to the Metro Board in the same way that you take an oath to the city. And you cannot have, I guess, the supreme allegiance to two entities. And so I'm concerned about an actual conflict...
SHERWOODJim Graham a former Council member had a bit of trouble, there.
WHITEBut to the extent that the Chairman appoints an elected official, I think Charles would do a great job.
NNAMDIYou are one of the co-sponsors of the reducing criminalization of commercial sex bill that at-large Council member David Grosso is sponsoring. The bill gained a lot of attention before the session broke. You co-introduced a similar bill back in 2017. You support decriminalization of sex work in the District. Washington Post, Colby King's column says that there's a big blind spot in this bill. One is that he feels it's going to make D.C. a sex tourism destination. And two, that this bill does nothing to get participants who are in the sex trafficking trade, or who are in the sex business, out of the business, especially those women and men who are in this business reluctantly. And, he says, what is this bill is going to result in is soon a brothel popping up in a neighborhood near you.
WHITEThere are people who are concerned about the bill. And I share their concerns. Historically, this bill has decriminalized sex work only on the part of the sex workers themselves, with the understanding that we had in the city, that there are a lot of victims of sex trafficking. There are a lot of people -- especially trans-women -- who participate in survival sex work really just to put food in their stomach. These aren't people who want to do that, but they find themselves incarcerated. This most recent change to the bill is one that I do have concerns about. Because of the over-arching principle that I have on this issue, I've co-introduced it. But I'm listening to people on various sides of this bill. I have not made up my mind as to where I am on decriminalizing sex work for buyers.
WHITEIt's not something I'm predisposed to, but it is something that I want to understand more about.
SHERWOODThe Politics Hour, before it goes down. David Grosso was on the show. He's an at-large member running next year. He would not say whether he's going to run or not. There's some speculation he will. Others say that he won't. Vince Gray, on the program, said that he would probably run, barring any unforeseen things that happen for him in Ward 7. You are often, as you know, mentioned as a potential candidate for Mayor. Maybe some people say you would be a good -- you've worked for Eleanor Holmes Norton. You might run for that post maybe if she were to decide to ever give it up, because you're a strong supporter of hers. One, are you interested in being Mayor? Can you confirm that? Would you consider running for the delegate post? And your critics say, well, he knows a lot of stuff, but he's kind of on the one hand this, on the one hand that when he answers every question.
WHITEI don't think -- that's you. That's not everybody.
SHERWOODNo, not me. I think somebody said it this morning. But basically, I mean, you get really good remarks from a lot of people.
WHITEI know, it's thoughtful and deliberative.
SHERWOODThoughtful and deliberative. What about those offices, Mayor, maybe in your future yes or no?
WHITEMaybe in the future. I am not...
SHERWOODDelegate to Congress. You know, you've got that experience.
WHITEMaybe in the future. It is, I am, I do plan to run for reelection. I will run for reelection. That and doing this job that I have now to the absolute best of my ability, and being a good dad, are going to be my top priorities right now.
NNAMDIAnd doing your...
SHERWOODDo a good job, and then you'll decide.
NNAMDIIn June, you introduced the Restore the Vote Amendment Act, which would allow D.C. residents with felony convictions to vote from prison. It's received unanimous support from the Council. Can you explain what this act changes?
WHITEYes. This bill, I'm incredibly happy about this bill. This bill would make the District of Columbia the first jurisdiction in the United States to re-enfranchise, give back the right to vote to incarcerated felons. And what I always hope people understand is that people who are incarcerated did not always lack the right to vote. This happened throughout history primarily during Jim Crow. And so the District of Columbia being the first in the nation to reverse this, to re-enfranchise people, put them back in the political process, give them their citizenship back would be a huge and momentous step for the District of Columbia.
NNAMDIAnd, Tom Sherwood, you had a piece in the City Paper, the Washington D.C. City Paper this week about parking tickets. What's that all about?
SHERWOODWell, you know, everybody thinks that, you know, every Mayor jokes about how many parking tickets the city issues, 1.3 million or so. But it really made, the city is growing. We have terrible traffic problems. So, the Public Works is going to start something new in October. You need to pay attention to this. Right now, a parking ticket writer has to fill out the ticket, and put it on your windshield. But they're going to start using cameras where they can just take a picture of the violation, and you'll get a ticket in the mail.
NNAMDIJust like a moving violation.
SHERWOODSo, there's 25 people park in a bus zone, a ticket writer could just go down and take 25 pictures, and then you'll get 25 tickets in the mail. And he or she won't put have to put all that work together.
NNAMDIAnd there's a new app coming out.
SHERWOODAnd a new app called How's My Driving? Which is beta testing this year, that will allow citizens of anyone to just report parking violations so that the city will have better information on two things. One, enforcement. And two, maybe how to redesign some of the streets where it's really bad. 14th and Irving was the worst spot. And bus lanes, all these bus only lanes, they're already being clogged with traffic.
NNAMDICouncilmember White, I can guarantee you that the person who will be sending in most information to the city about parking violations that he sees is sitting in this room right now.
SHERWOODWe cannot grow the city if we can't get anywhere, no matter what the issue is. If you cannot get to something, it doesn't matter whether it's your job or you're going to your church -- and should I stop now?
NNAMDIHe'll be the most enthusiastic citizen on this issue. Robert White, Jr. is an at-large Council member of the D.C. Council. Thank you so much for joining us.
WHITEThanks for having me.
NNAMDIToday's Politics Hour was produced by Cydney Grannan. Coming up on Monday, pro-democracy protests in Hong Kong continue. We'll hear from the Hong Kongese expat community here in D.C. about how they have been affected. Plus, a Maryland court recently ruled that a local teen could be charged with distributing child pornography for texting friends a racy video of herself. We'll hear from lawyers and educators who are concerned about privacy and consent laws in the digital age. That all starts at noon, on Monday. Tom Sherwood, big plans this weekend?
SHERWOODYeah, Hurricane Dorian is going to bring us great weather this weekend. So, let's all enjoy it.
NNAMDIThat is so counterintuitive.
NNAMDIHurricane Dorian is bringing us great weather.
SHERWOODI was informed by Chuck Bell at Channel 4. That's what he said.
NNAMDIWell, go out and enjoy it. Until then, you have a wonderful weekend. I'm Kojo Nnamdi.
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