Many people chose to serve their communities on Martin Luther King Jr. Day. We meet some folks who serve year-round and approach volunteerism in ways you may never have considered.
This week on the Politics Hour, we begin with WAMU environment reporter Jacob Fenston with a live update from the D.C. Climate Strike.
Then Montgomery County Councilmember Tom Hucker (D-District 5) joins us to talk about the latest political news from Maryland’s most populous county; from the recent climate emergency town hall to a racial equity bill and air conditioning requirements in rental units.
And Rep. Gerry Connolly (D-VA) recaps this Thursday’s D.C. statehood hearing.
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
- Tom Sherwood Resident Analyst; Contributing Writer for Washington City Paper; @tomsherwood
- Jacob Fenston Environment Reporter, WAMU 88.5; @JacobFenston
- Tom Hucker Member, Montgomery County Council (D-District 5); @CmHucker
- Gerry Connolly Member, U.S. House of Representatives (D-VA, 11th District); GerryConnolly
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 and a contributing writing for Washington City Paper. Tom Sherwood, welcome.
TOM SHERWOODGood afternoon.
NNAMDILater in the broadcast we'll be talking with Congressman Gerry Connolly, who is one of the more passionate supporters of D.C.'s state who spoke at the hearing yesterday. We'll also be talking with Tom Hucker. He's a councilmember for Montgomery County representing District 5. But joining us now by phone is Jacob Fenston. He is an Environment Reporter for WAMU. Jacob is downtown where he is covering the climate strike organized by young people. Jacob Fenston, thank you so much joining us.
JACOB FENSTONThank you, Kojo.
NNAMDIYou've been at the climate strike for more than an hour now. Where are you now? I know it started I think on Pennsylvania Avenue. And what's happened so far?
FENSTONYeah. So the protestors have just made it sort of outside the Capitol. So I'm just down the hill from the U.S. Capitol at Constitution and First, and everyone is kind of gathering and I think there's going to be some speeches. But, yeah, it's a large group of people. It's, you know, very well organized and well-mannered, and kind of a lot of fun in the beautiful spring weather here. I think everyone is having a good time.
SHERWOODJacob, Tom Sherwood here. What is the basic message? There have been various environmental marches and protests for the last several decades. How is this one different?
FENSTONI mean, I think that some of the slogans are getting, you know, more desperate and people are feeling like there's less time to deal with it. I think it's interesting that it's a lot of young people are leading it. So, you know, we've seen that with previous climate marches recently, but it's a lot of young people in the front and there's kind of some older people in the back. But it's very much driven by young people and people who are sort of, you know, concerned about their future. There's also been, you know, parents with strollers and little kids. I talked to a couple who, you know, are thinking about their one year old son, who they had in the stroller with them. Basically feeling like if we don't start reducing carbon emissions very soon then their, you know, son Max is going to have a very different future -- a very different life than they had.
NNAMDIOne of the organizers with Fridays For Future told our show that between 5,000 and 8,000 people were expected to show up for the strike. I don't know how good you are at crowd estimates, but how many people would you say are there?
FENSTONYeah. I've been, you know, from a helicopter counting people. No. I would guess it's on the sort of lower end of that scale, but it's definitely in the thousands. There's a lot of people here. There were at least -- I think maybe a couple of blocks full of people once this all started moving. But, yeah, everyone was very orderly. You know, and sort of urgent with their message, but, you know, angry in a way sometimes, but people were very orderly and well-organized.
SHERWOODSome of the local governments weren't that enthusiastic about letting students out of school on today. I know Montgomery County had a restriction on it. The District of Columbia was pretty open saying that it encourages students to participate in issues like this, and just getting approval to leave school to do it. What is the makeup of the crowd? One of the criticisms from the environmental movement has been it's been largely white in many of its representations. What's the crowd look like?
FENSTONI mean, I think that that is a fair assessment, but it is, you know, diverse in its own way. It's not all white. And I think there are a lot of kids who wanted to, you know, wanted to come. But, yeah, ran into that issue of their school district not necessarily making easy for them to come without some sort -- without fearing some sort of retribution. And I've got a high school student here, which you can ask further about sort of, you know, that issue of getting excused absence from schools.
NNAMDIThe student with you is that Judicao Juja?
FENSTONIt is and he's right here. He's a senior at Eleanor Roosevelt High School in Greenbelt and I'm going to pass him over to your right now.
NNAMDIHi, Judicao. Kojo Nnamdi here. What brought you out to today's strike? Are you involved with a climate justice organization?
JUDICAOI am not with a climate change organization. However, I felt it was important to come out, just because I feel that the political stagnation and just the politicization of what should be basic science is, you know, threatening my future.
NNAMDIHow are you feeling about today's strike? Do you think so far that it's been a success?
JUDICAOFrom what I can see yes, it has been a success, like right now I'm watching people stream in towards the Capitol, and I think any protest is better than no protest. And so the fact that we're out here trying to get lawmakers' attention and policymakers' attention is definitely a positive.
NNAMDIThe D.C. area is expecting another protest on Monday where climate activists will block key intersections throughout the city disrupting the morning commute. Are you planning to attend that protest?
JUDICAOI'd have to see if I'd be allowed to because as much as I'd like to, you know, I still do have to go to school.
NNAMDIYes. That can be an interruption of your activist activities sometimes. So you have to see about that. So thank you very much Judicao for speaking with us. Can you pass the phone back to Jacob Fenston?
NNAMDIThis strike is supposed to last another two hours or so. What's next?
FENSTONWell, there is -- on Monday there's going to be sort of a blockade where people are trying to draw attention to the issue by blocking traffic. And, you know, they're not saying exactly where it's going to be. But you can expect areas around downtown to be potentially have intersections blocked and, you know, traffic stalled during the morning rush. And this is all around -- there's a conference at the U.N. in New York this week. And, you know, they're talking about global climate action and, you know, people here as well as around the globe are trying to draw attention to it as well as, you know, world leaders are talking about it.
NNAMDIWhat are these young people going to be doing for the next two hours or so?
FENSTONThat's an excellent question. There are some speakers. I'm not sure. I've been sort of away from the crowd for a little bit so I could get cell phone reception, but, yeah, I think people are sort of moving around the Capitol right now and listening to speeches. And I'm not sure what's next.
NNAMDIBut you'll be around to cover it.
FENSTONOh, yeah. I'll be out on Monday too. So listen for that.
SHERWOODThe traffic is so bad in downtown Washington in the mornings. I'm not sure we'll be able to tell there's a blockade.
NNAMDIJacob Fenston is an Environment Reporter for WAMU. Jacob, thank you so much for joining us. As I said our guest in studio is Tom Hucker. He is a councilmember from Montgomery County representing District 5. Right quickly, Tom Sherwood, Governor Larry Hogan of Maryland is raising a lot of money to boost his agenda and to stop the education plan that the General Assembly has approved. What's going on?
SHERWOODWell, the governor is done. He's term limited. He can't. And so there's a quirk in the law that he can create this PAC Change Maryland Action Fund. He wants to raise two million dollars in a fund that's not necessarily open to the public as to who gives so he can fight what he's calling the excesses of the Democratic General Assembly. You know, the big issue is the coming Kirwan Commission Report. It's meeting in secret even now to figure out how to pay for the billions of dollars that people were seeing, and the governor wants to get ahead of this.
SHERWOODIt's very similar, before he even ran for governor. He created Change Maryland PAC which got him around the state and got him a great deal of attention to run. So this is just another way. Many states around the country, you can create a PAC and not disclose, who the contributors are. I just wish that someone would voluntarily disclose the contributors so we would know who's doing it.
NNAMDIAnd now the General Assembly and the Kirwan Commission have approved the Kirwan Commission's plan. This is a plan for those of you are unfamiliar with it. It's about expanding educational opportunity in the State of Maryland. And the governor thinks that the cost is maybe too much. But he's going to try to stop the plan completely?
SHERWOODWell, he wants -- he has called the plans expected cost -- and maybe our next guest will be able to talk a little about this. That's it's too expensive. It truly brought up that the tax rates in the state will have to be raised to terrible points. And some people just simply disagree. And that the governor is being an alarmist about this, but, yes, the fact is many states are having to pay billions more for education.
NNAMDITom Hucker, thank you so much for joining us.
TOM HUCKERThanks for having me. I'm delighted to be here.
NNAMDIWhat do feel about the government's attitude towards this plan?
HUCKERI mean, I think it's really regrettable. Like in some many cases in other areas -- last time I was here I think we were talking about Beltway expansion. I think there were two paths available to the governor. You know, education is usually the number one issue in the state. And it's on the mind of voters and many many people aren't happy with the education their sons and daughters are getting in our public schools. And then even if you don't have kids in public schools it's so important to our property values and our economic development. And the governor could have said -- could have engaged in this once in a generation effort to invest a lot money into our -- you know, the areas in our public schools that need it the most for the kids who need it the most.
HUCKERAnd instead of working with the assembly and adding his best ideas and amending their proposals, he's just taken this other kind of extreme route and announced that he wants to block it. And I think that's really unfortunate.
SHERWOODThe Attorney General Brian Frosh democrat said it was okay to have -- that the Kirwan Commission can meet in private to discuss how all of these changes will be paid for. Is that totally necessary? Is it because it's such a difficult decision to come up with ways you can pay for education that it should be done in private at this stage?
HUCKERWell, I certainly don't think it will be, you know, entirely in private. This still have to be passed by General Assembly. And then the governor will have to decide to veto.
SHERWOODRight. But they're initial discussions about how to do it.
FENSTONI mean, in every issue there are private conversations, right? And I will leave the legal advice to the attorney general. But I don't think it's very surprising that when you're talking about possible revenue sources some people will see some advantage of having a frank discussion of stakeholders privately without, you know, running the risk of provoking a huge backlash.
SHERWOODAnd they put out a plan that can then be discussed.
HUCKEROf course, it will all be discussed in full sunlight.
NNAMDIOur guest is Tom Hucker. He is a councilmember from Montgomery County representing District 5. And there are already several people on the phone with questions or comments for you, Tom Hucker. But we've got to take a short break right now. But when we come back we'll continue this Politics Hour conversation. I'm Kojo Nnamdi.
NNAMDIWelcome back to The Politics Hour. Tom Sherwood is our Resident Analyst. He's a Contributing Writer for Washington City Paper. Later we'll be talking with Congressman Gerry Connolly of Virginia. Joining us in studio now is Tom Hucker. He's a councilmember for Montgomery County representing District 5. We were talking about climate change earlier. Last Saturday you and other leaders in Montgomery County spoke at a climate emergency town hall. Activists were concerned that the County Council hasn't done enough to reach a goal that was set in 2017 to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 80 percent in 2027 and 100 percent by 2035.
NNAMDIOur own Jacob Fenston moderated that event. But what did you hear from county residents and how do you respond to criticism that the county just isn't moving quickly enough? People say they've done nothing since they first decided to do that.
HUCKERWell, I think that's definitely not true that we've done nothing. I think there are a lot of people, who don't know what we are doing. And there are people who don't know what we plan to do. And we are making plans to things we haven't even decided on yet, but there's no question. I agree with the sentiment that there's nothing more important than climate change. That's why we declared an emergency. We were the first I think large county in the country to do so. And we made this very bold, ambitious commitment to get be carbon free by 2035. I mean this is really an existential threat to the planet. We need a government led mobilization like we had for World War II.
SHERWOODWell, County Executive Marc Elrich said that he's going to introduce legislation just as getting something done to require all new buildings to have solar roofs to homes and buildings. He says he'll introduce that maybe in the next year or so once he gets it ready. Is that something like faster actions? Is it something you might support given the details to come?
HUCKERYeah. I'm looking forward to seeing that bill. I mean, if you have to sort of think about our carbon footprint in buckets. And 51 percent of carbon comes from buildings. And we have as you know, kind of aging downtowns, residential and commercial buildings that were built decades ago and they are not energy efficient. And so you have to do two things. I think you have to first -- I'm putting in legislation to improve our benchmarking, which is getting building by building disclosure of their energy usage. So then we can work with private owners to incentive them to --
SHERWOODTo retrofit them.
HUCKERTo retrofit them and to provide the financing in a way where they know they're going to get their -- they're going to get the return on their investment.
SHERWOODAnd one of the things you want for people there's an issue that a lot of buildings for lower income people or no income people there's no air conditioning. And on the one hand people understand that air conditioning is not just a luxury it's part of -- with global warming you got have it. But also people say air conditioning is not the most environmentally correct thing now. You say that new technology makes a difference there.
NNAMDISpecifically you introduced legislation that would require air conditioning in rental units. That was in July. You re-upped the bill last week. Go ahead.
HUCKERThat's right. So Montgomery County has 300,000 tenants. And all of our housing law is really based on the idea that they deserve safe and healthy places to live. Landlords are required to provide that and the county enforces those laws. We require landlords to provide heat, but we don't require them to provide working air conditioning. And I think air conditioning decades ago when our housing law was written was seen as a comfort issue. And it's more and more a life or death issue. We had 28 deaths in Maryland -- heat related deaths last year. We don't know the number yet for this year. It's not unique to Maryland. Japan had 57 in one week and 18,000 people hospitalized. France had 1500 deaths this year.
HUCKERAnd so we used to have 30 days over 90 degrees. Recent years it's been averaging 40. This year it was 51. And NOAA says we're going to get 70. So we need to take some action to protect people and without that kind of requirement in our law our county can't enforce. We can't enforce that and make sure people are safe.
NNAMDIJosh in Chevy Chase has what I think was the same question I had about that. Josh, you're on the air. Go ahead, please.
JOSHYeah. Hi, thanks. Well, I want to talk Councilmember Hucker for introducing the bill on air conditioning. My wife and I aren't exactly spring chickens and she has a heart condition so this is very personal for us. We live in a 70 year old garden apartment that has two wall air conditioning units, but it's poorly insulated and has old windows. We can't keep the temperature below 80 degrees during the heat waves in the summer, which seem to be coming more and more frequently. So this bill could really make a big difference for us. I was just wondering if Councilmember Hucker had any idea on when this bill might become law and take effect and when we might actually, you know, see working air conditioning in our unit.
NNAMDIWhat's the timeline?
HUCKERWell, you should certainly call my office and we can try to get our housing department to work with your landlord to, you know, voluntarily correct the air conditioning that you have. And if it's in your lease, you know, that's required. We'll have a work session on the bill in a few weeks. And then it should pass I hope a couple of weeks after that. And all this should be, you know, in place well in time for landlords to make improvements over the winter and the spring. Most of our buildings, of course as you guess, have air conditioning. Many times they're not older buildings it's not maintained, and without a requirement like this we can't make a landlord maintain the air conditioning.
SHERWOODLet me ask a hot question on a different subject. And that's the difficulty in getting a new police chief for Montgomery County. The longtime Chief Tom Manger announced last January that he was going to retire. He did in April.
SHERWOODMarcus Jones has been the interim chief, well-respected, but has been told he's not going to be the new chief. The county executive said no. There were some feelings that the County Executive Elrich would not appoint Tonya Chapman, or nominate her, from Portsmouth, but she withdrew after -- I don't think, one councilmember expressed any support for her. It's been reported by Bethesda Beat and others that Darryl McSwain, who I think you once worked with...
HUCKERI did. I do now.
SHERWOOD...is going to come back to the force. He retired from the force, but may come back.
NNAMDIHe's now chief of the Maryland National Capitol Park Police in the Montgomery County Division.
SHERWOOD(overlapping) That's such a long title, I didn't want to say it. (laugh) But Elrich says he's not going to make a formal proposal until he does more vetting. Where are we in getting a new police chief for the million residents of Montgomery County?
HUCKERI wish we had all the information. The executive hasn't sent over a nomination yet. You're right, there've been media reports about Darryl McSwain, who's a great chief of our park police. There are requirements to do some of that vetting, like background checks, understandably. And last I was told, that they're still doing a new background check. Even for an existing police chief, there's a requirement for that.
SHERWOODAnd there's also some -- because he's a retiree, there's some financial...
NNAMDI(overlapping) Yeah, some kind of human resource gymnastics they're going to have to do. (laugh)
SHERWOOD...yeah and, you know, you have to rejigger the funding to pay him properly.
HUCKERYes, he's in a retirement program that, right now, he's not allowed to come back. But I think there may be changes to that. But that's all up to the county executive, and I look forward to his nomination. I mean, several of us did meet with Officer Chapman, and I had a great conversation with her. And, you know, I was happy with her answers, but she decided to withdraw her nomination, as you know.
SHERWOODBut you never publically endorsed her or anything.
HUCKERWell, I wanted to hear the comments -- wait for the interview. I thought it would be a little premature, but, you know, I would've been comfortable with her, I believe.
NNAMDISpeaking of policing, that's what Jasmine in Silver Spring wants to talk about. Jasmine, you're on the air. Go ahead, please.
JASMINEHi, Councilmember Hucker. I'm concerned about the recent incidents involving police officers using excessively forceful or aggressive tactics, especially with young people. So, I'm just wondering, what is the Council doing to increase transparency and ultimately restore the public's faith in the police department?
HUCKERThat's a great question, and it's on a lot of people's minds. Yeah, I mean, certainly, Jasmine, you know about the two sort of high-profile unfortunate incidents that were covered a lot by the media. I'm a supporter of the Police Advisory Commission Bill that Councilmember Hans Riemer has introduced. I've met with a lot of community advocates for that bill. It's just a voluntary commission and people should, you know, be realistic about what we can and can't do.
HUCKERPolicing practice is really regulated under state law. And there's something called the Law Enforcement Officer's Bill of Rights at the state level, as well as the collective bargaining agreement for our police, that really puts in practice what can and can't be done in terms of police discipline and policing procedures. But we have advisory commissions on, I think, it's 75 other areas of policy, libraries and parks and aging. There's sort of no reason we don't have one for policing.
HUCKERMontgomery County is blessed with experts on all kinds of topics. There's no reason we shouldn't be able to get them in the room with a representative of the police force and the police union and hear their best ideas and share information about the experience -- especially from communities that experience a lot of policing -- and share that with the police and build stronger community relations and build greater trust by having a formal process for complaints like that, and a routine of getting people together to discuss policy.
SHERWOODIs the general police force -- is it 1,300 officers, I think?
SHERWOODIs it diverse enough, I mean, in terms of both foreign language abilities and understanding culture? Does the training just tell you who the people are who live in the county? This is true whether you're in Montgomery County or the District or Fairfax, the changing nature of what the demographics are and how the police can do community policing if they can't speak the language or if they don't know the culture and the customs...
SHERWOOD...it's a much broader job than just looking for law violators.
HUCKERRight. It's diverse. In some ways, it's not diverse enough, and the police leadership would be the first to say that. They put a lot of effort into -- and some people would certainly say not enough -- but in recruitment at Montgomery College and at fairs and through our high schools. And they have a cadet program, and many other things. But, you're right, we need, in particular, Asian Americans, we need more Spanish speakers. We need a lot more people who grew up in Montgomery County, and we need more police to live in Montgomery County and just be part of the fabric in the neighborhoods. A lot of them feel like they're priced out, because of our high housing prices. There are some incentives to have them live in the county.
NNAMDIThere was a bill recently introduced in the Montgomery County Council. It's called the Racial Equity and Social Justice Act, cosponsored by all nine members of the Council. It's very ambitious. It includes the creation of an Office of Racial Equity and the requirement that all other county departments and offices develop a racial equity and social justice plan. Would that include the police department?
HUCKERWell, it would. Again, what we can mandate of the police is limited by state law. But the racial equity and social justice policy that's been introduced and championed by the Council president, Nancy Navarro -- I'm very proud of her leadership on this. I think this is a great thing. You know, the county we live in is rapidly changing, as we've talked about many times, and it didn't happen by accident. It happened by thousands of decisions over, you know, really, hundreds of years. And we have to understand the past and look at things through a racial equity and social justice lens if we're going to be able to correct for some of the inequities that vex our policymaking.
HUCKERWe have disparities in health outcomes. We have an achievement gap in our schools. We have housing disparities, and looking at our future policies through a racial equity lens, I think, is only going to be helpful at addressing many of the disparities that have vexed us for years.
NNAMDIWe only have about 30 second left in this segment. Trevor from Silver Spring emails, I would like to know more about the status of the Beltway expansion project and how it will impact our community in the four corners area. I've heard that most of the existing YMCA facility will be bulldozed, which will be a huge loss for the community. What is your and the Council's position on the Beltway project, in 20 seconds?
HUCKERWell, after many of your neighbors made their views known and came out to a big town hall and we presented an alternative to the board of public works, the governor postponed the northern portion of the Beltway expansion to phase two, and they're now studying the alternative I put forward.
NNAMDITom Hucker, he's a councilmember for Montgomery County representing District 5. Thank you so much for joining us.
HUCKERThanks so much for having me.
NNAMDIWe’re going to take a short break. When we come back, we'll be talking with Congressman Gerry Connolly of Virginia. I'm Kojo Nnamdi.
NNAMDIWelcome back. Tom Sherwood is our resident analyst and a contributing writer for Washington City Paper. Right quickly, Tom Sherwood, before we talk to Congressman Connolly -- who might also be interested in this -- what is the interest of Democratic megadonor George Soros in Northern Virginia? He's invested in yet another race, $50,000 to a candidate for sheriff in Prince William County. What's the nature of his interest there?
SHERWOODWell, he's a liberal and frequent donor to any number of cases. There's lots of PAC money going into Virginia for the November 5th elections. I think he supported previous primary races in Fairfax and Arlington for the county prosecutors. He's got the money. He's trying to change the politics in many places, including Virginia, and so he's just opening up that checkbook.
NNAMDIJoining us now by phone is Gerry Connolly. He's a member of the U.S. House of Representatives, representing Virginia's 11th District. He's a Democrat. Congressman Connolly, thank you for joining us.
GERRY CONNOLLYGreat to be with you again, Kojo and Tom.
SHERWOODHey, Congressman, have you calmed down a little? I mean, you know, you stole the show yesterday. I was outside with the people watching on big screen TV, and you said that the people who were opposing statehood for the District of Columbia were doing it -- and I'm going to quote you -- you said, "When the opponents say it's not about race and partisanship, you can be sure it's about race and partisanship in denying statehood to the District of Columbia.”
SHERWOODYou were asked by the gentleman from CATO...
SHERWOOD...to retract that statement. And you didn't shout, but you said in the most forceful voice possible, in a closed room, "Never."
NNAMDIWhy did you choose to emphasize race and its role in D.C.'s disenfranchisement?
CONNOLLYWell, given the Republican record -- and remember I prefaced those remarks, relaying the history of what Republican state legislatures and governors have done all over the country in purging voter roles largely of minority voters, making it harder for voters -- and frequent voters, especially -- to register. Cutting back on early voting, cutting back on absentee voting, adopting very difficult and tough voter ID laws to make it very difficult, particularly for people of color, to vote.
CONNOLLYNow, in light of that history, you know, don't tell me that this absolute implacable opposition to any voting rights in the Congress for the District of Columbia is not related to that overall global effort they've launched where they've taken over governments. I don't believe it. I don't accept it. It's the elephant in the room that ought to be acknowledged.
SHERWOODCongressman, your statement, which I have a copy of it here, but is it anywhere where the citizens in Virginia or anywhere in the region of Washington want to see what you said, not only what you just said, but about the history in the District of Columbia, how it has been treated as the most un-American place in America, as I call it. Where could people see that statement? Is it on a webpage or Congressional page?
CONNOLLYIf we haven't posted it yet, Tom, we will post my statement yesterday on the video. It's already on our webpage, so people can go to my website, and they can see it right now.
SHERWOODIs there an address for that webpage?
CONNOLLYWhat's the website? Connolly.House.gov. And remember to spell Connolly right, two Ns, two Os, two Ls.
NNAMDIYou also emphasize partisanship. Right now, no Senate Republicans support statehood. For D.C. statehood to become a reality, do you think the strategy will be trying to arrive at some form of bipartisanship, or will it require simply flipping the Senate?
CONNOLLYWell, you know, in an ideal world, Kojo, everything should be bipartisan. But the fact that it isn't ought not to deter us from doing the right thing and putting a marker down. Here's the first time in a quarter of a century where we've had a hearing on statehood. And we now have 220 cosponsors, which is more than a majority of the House, and I don't think we should wait for some stray Republican to finally find a conscience and support the voting rights of 700,000 people.
CONNOLLYI think it says volumes that not a single Republican is rogue on this issue. Not one can find his or her way to saying, you know, you're right. There's an injustice here, and I'm going to address that. Not one. And that tells you everything you need to know about what's going on. It is partisan, and that's tragic. The right of people to vote should not be a partisan matter. And, as I said yesterday, what I fear is the party of Lincoln is not a party of Jefferson Davis.
CONNOLLYAnd instead of champion people's rights, especially the right to vote -- and Republicans, through the 1960s, a higher percentage of Republicans in Congress in those days voted for the Civil Rights Act and the Voting Rights Act than Democrats. That's totally untrue today. And that's a tragic development for their party, and, I think, you know, an injustice to people who demand the right to vote. It is a right, not a privilege.
NNAMDIHere is Karen in Maryland. Karen, you're on the air. Go ahead, please.
KARENOkay. Hi, there. Good afternoon. I'm sorry if this is an unexpected question. I think Mr. Connolly should be aware of the different voting methods that Congress has. There are different voting methods for the U.S. Senate and the U.S. House. And I'd like to know why all of the voting records are not on the record, please, and what can be done to address that. And I'm surprised that there are members of Congress that are tolerating that.
CONNOLLYWell, I'm not quite sure what she's referring to, but...
SHERWOODIs that recording your votes on the House and in the Senate, is it done differently? Maybe she's referring to recording votes.
CONNOLLYYeah, because in the case of the House, we have electronic voting, and anyone can see on the big board how we're voting.
SHERWOODLet me get back to the issue now.
SHERWOODYou know, the statehood, we can't have -- I'm a District citizen, and I'm for it, as a citizen. As an analyst, I have to tell you, you know, Kentucky representative Tom Massie was pretty clear that one of the reasons the District can't have statehood is because the federal workers who come into the city will have nowhere to park. If the District takes over all the land for statehood, he says, where will we park? That's a real problem. Can you assure him that you can solve that problem, and federal workers will be able to park somewhere in the new state of Douglas Commonwealth?
CONNOLLYI absolutely can assure Representative Massie that if he will vote -- join us in voting to instate the voting rights of 700,000 District members, fellow citizens -- Eleanor Holmes Norton and I personally will see to it that he and other federal employees have adequate parking.
SHERWOODNow, one other thing people brought up, Jim Jeffers of Ohio, did I get his name right?
SHERWOODI mean Jordan. He brought up -- well, he was demanding that the Council bring Jack Evans -- a councilmember who's under investigation for a variety of things -- and the District can't have statehood because it has potentially a corrupt politician. And we've had some in the past. And you suggested that that's not the condition of which statehood is granted. I suggest that there are enough people being convicted in Ohio and North Carolina that those states ought to turn in their keys for statehood.
CONNOLLYThat's right. I think I pointed out, Tom, too, I mean, I went to school in Illinois. Illinois, in my lifetime, has had, I think, four governors...
SHERWOODGo to prison.
CONNOLLY...sitting governors who were indicted, convicted and had to serve time in jail.
SHERWOOD(overlapping) Now, I know you are not -- I want to be...
CONNOLLYShould the entire state of Illinois be denied its voting rights in Congress?
SHERWOODI want to be clear about this. You have been one of the biggest critics of Jack Evans in terms of his leadership on the Metro Board, as chairman there and whatever issues.
SHERWOODSo, it's not whether you like Jack Evans or don't like Jack Evans, or you think he did wrong or he didn't do wrong. It's a question -- that's not the issue of voting rights to statehood.
CONNOLLYThat's right. Tom, you're exactly right. There's no connection. And, frankly, by wanting to subpoena Mr. Evans to come before the committee as part of this hearing on D.C. voting rights and statehood, they were, once again, engaging in, you know, deflection and distraction, because they don’t exactly want you to know they actually opposed voting rights.
SHERWOOD(overlapping) Well, maybe we could get Jack Evans to give up and plead guilty to something. And then he'll get out of office, and then we can have statehood. I'll call him and ask him if he'll do that for us.
CONNOLLYWell, here's the other one, Tom. Ask him if he's willing to move to Ohio. (laugh)
NNAMDIRepublicans argue that D.C. statehood is unconstitutional, because it goes against the intentions of the founding fathers. And both Democrats and Republicans agree that if HR51 were to pass, it would face significant legal challenges. How do you respond to arguments against the legality of D.C. statehood?
CONNOLLYYeah, I, again, think that's sort of a smokescreen. There are legitimate constitutional arguments to be made, but I don't believe they are inseparable. I think that we can overcome them. Look, I pointed out yesterday, how do you think West Virginia became a state? Despite the constitutional prohibition from carving up states into other states, guess what we did in the middle of the Civil War? We carved out Western Virginia, and we made it a state in 1862, and we did it by congressional fiat, that Congress approved it. We did not have an amendment to the Constitution of the United States.
CONNOLLYThere are lots of ways states have become states, almost none of them through a constitution amendment. So, the idea that that's just, you know, an absolute ironclad, you know, problem is false. And I would argue that the Constitution imbues Congress with immense power to decide on territories and decide on their status and ultimately decide on statehood.
SHERWOODThat's the argument that Jamie Raskin made from Maryland, too. He joined you in that.
CONNOLLYYep. And here's the other thing. Remember that when the Constitution was written and adopted by the convention in 1787, D.C. did not exist. They hadn't even decided it would be here. It was subsequently, when George Washington had been sworn in, that the deal was cut between Thomas Jefferson, James Madison and Alexander Hamilton that the Potomac would get the capital, but Alexander Hamilton would get his debt so that he could put the United States on a solvency footing. Now...
NNAMDISorry to interrupt, but we are just about out of time, I'm afraid, Congressman Connolly. Thank you so much for joining us.
CONNOLLYMy great pleasure. Keep up the fight.
NNAMDIGerry Connolly is a member of the U.S. House of Representatives, representing Virginia's 11th district. Today's Politics Hour was produced by Cydney Grannan. Coming up Monday, 51 inmates have died by suicide in Virginia jails in the past five years. In one county, more than 500 inmates have been put on suicide watch just since this past June. We'll dig into why these deaths are taking place. Plus, Dr. Monica Goldson will join us to share her new blueprint for Prince Georges County Public Schools. That all starts Monday, at noon. Until then, you have a wonderful weekend. Any big plans, Tom Sherwood?
SHERWOODEllicott city has a big -- 45 bands are going to be playing in Ellicott City.
NNAMDII'm Kojo Nnamdi.
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