On this last episode, we look back on 23 years of joyous, difficult and always informative conversation.
In her three decades on the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors, Sharon Bulova has developed a reputation for pragmatism and geniality. She joins us to discuss her storied career, her upcoming retirement, and what the future might hold for a Democratically-controlled Virginia.
Also in studio: D.C. Councilmember Anita Bonds weighs in on the District’s affordable housing debate and the latest on Jack Evans.
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 Julie Depenbrock
- Tom Sherwood Resident Analyst; Contributing Writer for Washington City Paper; @tomsherwood
- Sharon Bulova Chairwoman, Fairfax County Board of Supervisors (D-Braddock)
- Anita Bonds Member, D.C. Council (D-At-Large); Chair, Committee on Housing and Neighborhood Revitalization
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 the Contributing Writer for Washington City Paper. Tom Sherwood, welcome.
TOM SHERWOODGood afternoon, everyone.
NNAMDILater in the broadcast we'll be taking with Anita Bonds. She's an At-Large member of the D.C. Council. Joining us in studio now is Sharon Bulova, outgoing Chair of the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors. Sharon Bulova, thank you for joining us.
SHARON BULOVAThank you. It's great to be here.
NNAMDITom Sherwood, quickly let's talk about Montgomery County's new police chief. Montgomery's new police chief is its old acting police chief. He's like a suitor, who is rejected on several occasions and now finally he's been accepted into a marriage with the county executive, who at first did not necessary -- he was not the first choice, let's say of the county executive. And he's been heartily endorsed by the County Council.
SHERWOODWell, yes, a unanimous Council. Mr. Elrich the County Executive --
NNAMDIMarc Elrich, yes.
SHERWOODWanted to look nationwide for someone who would not be tied necessarily to the police department, but could maybe bring a fresh voice to issues of community policing sensitivity for minority training and those types of things. His two or three candidates that he considered, though, fell by the way side one reason or another. So he decided he would stay with the acting police chief, who's been there for how many years? I've forgotten.
NNAMDIHe's been there for a while.
SHERWOODMarcus Jones. Yes, he's a veteran. I think he wanted outside ears and eyes, but everyone said that Marcus Jones would be and will be a good police chief. That he is sensitive to the issues that Mr. Elrich had raised, and so we'll see how it plays out. But it's been an agonizing 10 month experience.
NNAMDIOn to Virginia, Arlington County Board Chair, Christian Dorsey has not only filed a personal bankruptcy petition. But in his position as a member of the Metro Board, the board of WATA, the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority, apparently he accepted a substantial campaign contribution. I think $10,000 from local 689 of the transit union here. That was apparently a violation of the ethics rules of Metro and he did not report that contribution until much later, and apparently had sat in on a few meetings that reflected a kind of conflict of interest.
SHERWOODI have to tell you, we've had Christian Dorsey on this program a couple of times.
SHERWOODI pretty much -- I'm not often -- now that I've been around so long. I'm not often stunned, but I'm really surprised at this. Christian Dorsey just won reelection to the Arlington Board.
NNAMDIHe's the board chair.
SHERWOODHe's one of two members on the Metro Board for Northern Virginia. Cathy Hudgins from Fairfax is the other. And he gets a $10,000 campaign contribution from the Amalgamated Transit Union. And he reports it in Arlington, but he doesn't report it to Metro where it counts even more. This is like 25 percent of the money he raised. This is no small donation. And he didn't report it. And then it turns out -- and he didn't tell any of the citizens about it when he was running for reelection. And then it turns out he's filing for bankruptcy, because he says his public service keeps him from earning money.
SHERWOODHe's about in danger of losing his house. He's got credit card debts. He's just well over extended. I think this severely undercuts him at a time when there's great activity going on in Arlington whether it's Amazon issues, the Metro system. He was critical of Jack Evans, who we'll get to in a moment. And it just seemed like he failed to maintain his own personal economics while he was dealing with Metro's.
SHERWOODAnd it's just kind of sad and embarrassing. And the chairman, our guest here, she has I think --
NNAMDIYou know Christian Dorsey. You have worked with him in the past. Is this surprising to you?
BULOVAI do. I know Christian well. Have always considered him to be, you know, a fine colleague. And I've worked with him on Northern Virginia Transportation Commission and as well as other regional bodies. He's just a good guy and this is disappointing. I don't know what the story is, but it's just unfortunate.
SHERWOODJust based on media reports, is this something where he should reconsider his service on Metro or is that too early to make that judgement?
NNAMDIDoes he get a second chance?
BULOVAWell, I guess, you know, that's something for him to discuss with Arlington and also with Northern Virginia Transportation Commission. I will say that, you know, he has been a real leader, knowledgeable person and his loss on Metro would be very very unfortunate.
NNAMDIYour terms on the Fairfax Board went a long towards cementing Democratic control. And now Democrats occupy all but one seat on the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors. There's just one Republican left on the board and that's Pat Herrity, and the Herrity name, of course, is well known in Fairfax County since his father Jack Herrity was the former chair of the board. Were you at all surprised by the blue wave in Fairfax and in Virginia on the whole?
BULOVANo. I was not surprised. I think we could all see it coming. And I've served on the board long enough. This is my 31st year since I've been on the Board of Supervisors. And then I've been chairman for the past 11 years, but I've served under Republican majorities and Democratic majorities. The pendulum swings back and forth. But I think that we all could see a blue tsunami was going to change the dynamics of our board this year.
NNAMDIYou saw it coming.
SHERWOODThirty-one years. You go out of office at the end of this calendar year. Is that correct?
SHERWOODAnd you're kind of an accidental politician that when you first ran I think the Braddock District or whatever, that you were not going to run. That people suggested you run, you ran, and you hung around.
SHERWOODWas that right? The first time you ran you ran in the special election.
BULOVAThat's pretty much -- the first time that I ran for office was actually in 1987. The Braddock District was called the Annandale District back then. And I actually didn't want to run for office. I was shy, had a phobia about speaking in public, but got over that specially walking door to door introducing myself to voters at their front porch.
SHERWOODYou are one -- again, in my many years of covering, you are one of the most mild mannered. You're strong on the Council. When you have a decision you're that way, but your public persona is quite mild mannered. Even your good-bye party, I was looking it up. It's going to be on December the 9th at the Fairfax County Government Center. It's from 4:00 to 6:00. And, you know, you can't get anywhere in Northern Virginia between four and six o'clock. So if you're not already there you're just going to be a very small party, because with traffic as I know from being out there this week is horrific. But who's coming to this good-bye party on December the 9th from four to six?
BULOVASo this is a public good-bye. A lot of probably Fairfax County employees will be there. It will be at the Government Center, but other people, who I've worked with over the many years that I've been in office. It's been a great ride and it has been a real honor to have served Fairfax County and the region.
SHERWOODBefore Kojo gets into your details, what are you going to do next? You're a, of course, a mother and a grandmother. And, you know, I was just joking before the show. You know, you could be a new member of the Metro board from Northern Virginia. If Mr. Dorsey were to decide to leave and Cathy Hudgins is also on the board of Fairfax, she choose not to run for reelection.
NNAMDIWhat's your plan?
SHERWOODYes, Kojo. I'm trying to gear up.
NNAMDIWhat's your plan?
BULOVAYou're warming me up for something. And I don't have firm plans for things other than a little bit of travel, spending time with grandchildren. I have two little guys in Seattle and I'd like to spend a little bit of time with them. I would like very much to write the story of the VRE. That's something that I would like to do.
SHERWOODVirginia Railway Express.
BULOVAThe Virginia Railway Express. I was there.
NNAMDIYou helped found the Virginia Railway Express commuter rail back in 1998. Talk about that.
BULOVASo it was a great idea. When I was actually working for my predecessor, Audrey Moore, she and Elaine McConnell were serving on NVTC, Northern Virginia Transportation Commission. And a study had been completed that said it was feasible for commuter rail to be able to operate on the freight railroad lines so long as the freight railroads gave us permission. Then when I was elected to office I ran for Audrey's seat. I then was on NVTC and had the honor and the privilege of trying to bring things together, as far as agreements throughout the Northern Virginia region for how we would contribute towards the operation of the trains. And we did indeed get permission them from the CSX and Norfolk Southern to allow us to run our trains.
SHERWOODHow big is -- how much of an impact has it been to have commuters on VRE?
BULOVAIt's been huge. And if VRE disappeared essentially, you know, we provide service for one whole lane of traffic on I-95. So that's the equivalent of the service and the passengers.
SHERWOODIt had some troubles for a while with its schedules, but it's for recent times it's been not in controversy.
BULOVAWe're working it out, so actually working things out with railroads especially. The more conflicts come on the CSX line, but both lines. Positive train control created, you know, some friction and some difficulty getting that resolved. But things are much better.
SHERWOODFederal law is such that the freight lines have priority and you have to sneak in between them.
BULOVAWe work it out.
NNAMDIYou oversaw also the massive redevelopment of Tyson's Corner as well as the launch of the Silver Line. How would you describe the transformation Fairfax County has undergone in your time on the Board of Supervisors?
BULOVASo Fairfax County is a very different place from what it was when I was first elected. And it's a little bit humorous, but I was elected on a slow growth platform.
NNAMDIMore than a little bit humorous.
BULOVAAnd yet we've seen dramatic growth happen, and especially in areas of Fairfax County where the county has targeted growth in areas that are in need of revitalization. Merrifield, for instance, The mosaic at Merrifield, but Tyson's is the big story, and with the extension of the Silver Line from Falls Church through Tyson's on its way to Dulles Airport, it presented an opportunity for us to redevelop and reinvent the Tyson's area, which is really --
SHERWOODTo make a more human scale as opposed to a place for cars driving into by the billions.
BULOVAExactly. So, you know, previously it was a sea of impervious surface, and now it's a place where people will live and work and play.
SHERWOODTyson. Since the '60s we all called it Tyson's Corner. And now it's been just called Tyson's. What is the thought behind just calling it Tyson's and not Tyson's Corner, which in fact was a corner?
BULOVAIt was a corner.
NNAMDIThat's it. It's not a corner anymore, but go ahead.
SHERWOODIs it marketing? It's just a matter of marketing.
BULOVAIt's -- I think it just it puts up a more correct title to the area. So originally Tyson's Corner was the intersection of Route 7 and 123. And it was a shopping center, Tyson's Corner Shopping Center, but now it's much larger. A much larger area served by four transit stations, Silver Line stations, and it is already an exciting place to work and more and more residential is being constructed.
NNAMDIYour departure means a major transition on the Board of Supervisors. So we need to talk about Jeff MacKay the newly elected chair, who is in some respects your prodigy. What are you looking forward to from Jeff MacKay? And what do we need to know about him that we may not already know? Tom Sherwood likes these tidbits of information about people that are not well known.
BULOVASo I think that Jeff MacKay is going to be an outstanding Chairman of the Fairfax County Board. I've had the opportunity to serve with him for the past 12 years as the Lee District Supervisor. And before that he was an aide to his predecessor, Dana Kauffman. And I think that he was also an intern to Joe Alexander. So he's been around for a very long time, even though, he's a young man. He's 44 years old. He has two little kids in our school system, and I have encouraged him to think in terms of running for chairman. I appointed him to chair the budget committee. He's done that very very capably, but also the legislative committee and transportation committee. So he's had, you know, a tremendous amount of experience that will make him I think an outstanding chairman.
SHERWOODIt's a country of a million people now, over a million people. On the Board of Supervisors do you have bans on outside income or can you have jobs in addition to being on the board?
BULOVAWe do not ban outside employment, and board members have had outside employment. For instance, Pat Herrity, who has served as the Springfield Supervisor has been a CFO for a number of different companies. I've done the chairman's job full time. My predecessor Jerry Connelly worked in the private sector. So people do both. I would say that probably the majority of individuals serving on the Board of Supervisors have done so full time, but not all.
NNAMDIOne of Jeff MacKay's primary opponents, Developer Timothy Chapman, accused MacKay of benefiting from a quid-pro quo relationship with a developer friend alleging that Jeff MacKay got a bargain price on the home he and his wife purchased in 2017 in exchange for pushing action by the board that this developer wanted. Chapman's formal complaint triggered a police investigation, which at this point has not yet concluded. What is your response to those allegations?
BULOVAI think that they are untrue. Jeff MacKay bought a house. He bought it from someone, who is a builder who Jeff knew. The developer -- or the builder was not a party to the development that came before the board. So it was not a conflict of interest. And he paid full price for the house. So, you know, where is the controversy?
SHERWOODYou say there's some expectation that that will be cleared up before he takes over as chairman in January?
BULOVAI hope so.
SHERWOODThe board has changed substantially or is changing. John Cook didn't run for reelection. Catherine Hudgins didn't run for reelection. Linda Smith didn't run for reelection. You didn't run for reelection. How many members are on the board?
BULOVASo there are 10 of us altogether.
SHERWOODTen, so that's nearly half.
BULOVARight, so that's about half of the board. Although I will say that the new members of the board are folks who are experienced. Rodney Lusk has previously worked as an aide to a supervisor. I think it was Supervisor Dana Kauffman perhaps, but he's then also served on the EDA, the Economic Development Authority.
SHERWOODI bring it up because you've had a difficult time -- Northern Virginia has had a difficult time in Richmond getting your way on things. And now the legislature has flipped to Democrats, House and Senate. I think your party for the -- your annual party for State Legislatures in Richmond, wasn't very well attended by the governor and others who were in trouble back in the spring and winter, but now a bright door has opened in Richmond just as you're leaving.
BULOVAI think that this election bodes well for an improved relationship between the General Assembly and local government in Northern Virginia.
SHERWOODWhich provides a great deal of the money to the state as a whole.
BULOVAExactly, exactly. We are the economic engine. Not just Fairfax County, but Northern Virginia. And I think we'll find a friendlier voice than what we always have found.
NNAMDIWhat are you hoping that Jeff MacKay and the board will prioritize next year? And what do you see as the greatest challenges still ahead for Fairfax County?
BULOVASo some of the major issues that were on the front burner during the primary and the general election was affordable housing. That's a big deal. That's a focus that COG has embraced regionally to make sure that we have, you know, an affordable housing stock for the commercial growth and the economic growth that we want to have. But also climate change, energy efficiency and another issue that we're all concerned about is storm water. And those are, you know, those are going to be major issues.
NNAMDIIs there something you regret not being able to get done during these last 31 years or so? Something you would do differently if you could go back?
BULOVAI don't think that there are things that I would do differently. I'm disappointed that it looks like the Silver Line will not be completed all the way to Dulles Airport by the time that I retire. So I expect that others will be cutting the ribbon, but I hope to be there to celebrate.
SHERWOODThey'll invite you back.
BULOVAI hope so.
SHERWOODWhat about policing, of course, Fairfax? Do you recall what the population of Fairfax was 31 years ago roughly speaking?
BULOVAGosh, I'm thinking.
SHERWOODIt wasn't a million people, of course.
BULOVANo. It was not a million people. It was probably more in the vicinity of like 500,000 or thereabouts.
SHERWOODSo there's been a tremendous growth, a tremendous change in the demographics of the county. Has the police -- have the police kept up? There have been issues about, you know, with the immigration and just treatment of people. Where is the police department as we look at the growth of Fairfax County? What changes could or may need to be done?
NNAMDIThere was a crisis of sorts in 2013 when the police in Fairfax County shot John Geer outside his home in Springfield and he was unarmed at the time. You had some problems that the county handled the subsequent investigation.
BULOVAYes. And the Geer case was tragic, but it also sparked some major reforms in policing. Really a reengineering of the way we provide public safety and law enforcement in Fairfax County. Our new policies call for more transparency and a focus on sanctity of life when police are responding to a critical incident. Also diversion first when someone is suffering from mental illness becomes involved with law enforcement instead of their being incarcerated, so long as it hasn't been a major crime, instead being diverted into treatment. It's a more compassionate way of policing. And these are some of the reforms that we've been able to adopt.
NNAMDIWhat about a larger county board? You've grown so much. Should the board be expanded? I can't remember the last time it was expanded.
BULOVAIt was expanded the last time, I guess after the 1990 census. So it would have been 1991ish, when a new district, the Sully District was created.
SHERWOODQuite a while ago. So is the 10 member board, is that enough?
BULOVAI don't see a change in the 10 member board. I think we'll continue to have the same nine districts that we have previously. Actually we haven't had as much growth in recent years than we have had when I first was elected to the Board of Supervisors. So it's pretty much evened out, even with the revitalization and redevelopment that we've had.
NNAMDIGetting back to the issue Tom raised a little earlier. Thirty-one years ago you did not really plan on going into politics. And now you're saying again that your plan is to lead a more domestic life, but can you be lured into public service after your retirement?
BULOVANo. I have definitely no plans to run for another office.
NNAMDIYou don't necessarily have to run. You could be appointed to a board like Metro.
SHERWOODYou can be dragged in. The governor could appoint you to something.
BULOVABut yes, this is my home. I'm not going anywhere and I look forward to continuing to be engaged and involved.
NNAMDISharon Bulova. She is the outgoing Chair of the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors at a time when she as a Democrat is overseeing a board that will soon have nine Democrats and just one Republican on it. I guess, Go Blue is what you'd like to say before you go.
SHERWOODWhat about maybe -- just very briefly. Pat Herrity, the lone Republican as Kojo said long good name in the county. What would you say to him as you leave about how he'll get along with these nine other Democrats?
BULOVAYou know, we've always had -- and I expect that we will continue to have a board that is collegial. And Pat brings to the board issues and perspective that are important. And I think that he will find that his views are respected as they always have been. Again, we've been a collegial board. I expect that that's going to continue under Jeff's chairmanship.
NNAMDISharon Bulova, thank you so much for joining us. Good luck to you.
BULOVAThank you so much. It's been a pleasure.
NNAMDISharon Bulova's the outgoing chair of the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors. Up next, Anita Bonds, at-large member of the D.C. Council. If you have questions or comments for her, you can start calling now: 800-433-8850. You can send us a Tweet @kojoshow, or email to email@example.com. I'm Kojo Nnamdi.
NNAMDIWelcome back. Tom Sherwood is our resident analyst and a contributing writer for Washington City Paper. You're listening to The Politics Hour. Our guest now, joining us in studio, is Anita Bonds. She's an at-large member of the D.C. Council. She is a Democrat. Councilmember Anita Bonds, welcome.
ANITA BONDSThank you very much. Happy to be here with you, believe it or not. (laugh)
NNAMDIQuestions or comments for her, 800-433-8850. Tom Sherwood, Rachel Kurzius broke the story for DCist. David Grosso, at-large member of the D.C. Council says, no more, I'm done, not running again.
SHERWOODWell, that's not what the story said. He's not going to run for reelection as an independent member of the Council. He's got another year to serve. But some people are saying he plans to step away from the Council job, stay active in the community and run against Phil Mendelson in 2022.
NNAMDIWhat do you know, Anita Bonds? Do you know?
SHERWOODYou've heard that rumor, haven't you?
BONDSI have heard that rumor, yes.
SHERWOODThat's all we need to say for confirmation. (laugh)
NNAMDI(laugh) Consider it now...
SHERWOOD(overlapping) You know, he was the education chair -- he is the education chairman. He's had some fights with Council Chairman Mendelson. Mendelson, when he rearranged the committee assignments, Mendelson put himself as the co-chair of the Education Committee, which is what's considered a slap at Mr. Grosso. Mr. Grosso has been the biggest person calling for Jack Evans to simply resign from the Council or be thrown off the Council. Mendelson is taking a more moderate approach to that. So, there are lots of issues there between Mr. Grosso and Mr. Mendelson. It could play out again in a couple of years.
NNAMDIA lot of people are calling already. Given the ethics problems confronting Ward 2 Councilmember Jack Evans, before we get into any details of the report that was issued this week, apparently there are two pieces of legislation that are going to be before the D.C. Council that would bar councilmembers from having second jobs. I don't want to go into the details of those two pieces of legislation, but you might want to.
SHERWOODWell, just one of them. Kenyan McDuffie, he's the latest person. He has proposed that no councilmember be allowed any outside employment. And he wants to give the Council a raise from about 140 to about $180,000 a year. Previously, Brianne Nadeau of Ward 1 had proposed legislation that would bar outside employment...
NNAMDIExcept for teaching.
SHERWOOD...except she made an exception for teaching. And that's partly because Mary Cheh is a law professor at George Washington University. But, you have to say, teachers are one of the most political groups in the country. There are unions, there are advocacy groups, the well-to-do universities. They want their say at these tables. And to exempt teachers, I think, would be maybe unfair.
NNAMDISuffice it to say, that Mary Cheh does not participate in discussions having to do with her employer, which is George Washington University. Anita Bonds, do you have a second job? Are you looking for one?
BONDSI do not have a second job, and I must say that Housing keeps me quite busy, so I'm satisfied. (laugh)
SHERWOODNow, did you work in the past...
NNAMDIWould you be in favor...
SHERWOOD...you did work some in the past for Fort Meyer. As a councilmember, or before?
BONDSBefore. When I came on the Council, I was working for Fort Meyer.
SHERWOOD(overlapping) Fort Meyer is a construction company.
BONDSYeah, yeah. Mm-hmm.
NNAMDIWould you be in favor of either of these two pieces of legislation?
BONDSI am in favor of -- I think McDuffie's bill makes the most sense, given the situations that we've encountered. Now, I have not made any decision or thought about an increase in salary. I understand why he would do that, because that would perhaps eliminate the opportunity for a second job, or the income that those that have a second job may be bringing in now.
SHERWOODWell, you know, the CFO just put out a report this week that the District is in some of the best shape it's ever been, that it's better than, he says, any other jurisdiction in the country about paying for its infrastructure issues, paying off indebtedness. The city is in excellent position to maybe pay the elected officials more and make sure they don't have outside jobs. Others say, look, if you cut out outside jobs, then you kind of cut the elected leaders off from the communities. You don't get bankers. You don't get community leaders who are paid in their neighborhoods. You kind of shut them off from the community.
BONDSI don't agree that it shuts us off from the community, because, as you know, we have the advisory neighborhood commissioners. And that's the frontline in the community, and they are a very active group of elected officials. And I think that that's not a real issue that we have to look at. The real issue is a job, and whether or not an individual should give full time to the work of the Council. The Council is broad. The work of the Council is quite different from the '70s, the '80s, even the '90s. And I think it does require full-time attention. And I think by giving it full-time attention, we have better products.
NNAMDIAnd it has a lot more to do than a lot of other city councils across the nation, because it has some state responsibilities, also, here.
NNAMDITom Sherwood, let's go to Jack Evans before we go to break. And that is, there was the long investigation report that the Council ordered was finally released this week. It found that 11 cases over the past five years where the Ward 2 councilmember voted or took other official actions on behalf of paying clients of outside firms, he was employed by without publically disclosing them, that from the WAMU report. What's likely to happen next?
SHERWOODWell, our guest will have a lot to say about that, but, you know, Mr. Evans -- the report is quite damning for him for ignoring some basic ethics rules about what to report and when, and what he did -- what he calls a constituent service for people who were also paying him money. He has filed a response saying that the O'Melveny Law Firm that did the investigation misinterpreted the rules, did not recognize that some of the rules are kind of vague. A great deal of questioning of how they came to their conclusions.
SHERWOODNow, what's next is D.C. Council, under Mary Cheh, an ad hoc committee that's been formed of all the members except Jack, will now decide what to do, whether to censor him again. You know, he's been reprimanded, I think, and now whether to censor him or, even at the worst case for him, 11 members could vote to remove him from the Council. Nine members of the thirteen-member Council have suggested that he should resign and just save the city and the Council and himself a great deal of fight.
SHERWOODBut we have a hearing -- Mary Cheh will hold a hearing on November the 17th or 19th?
SHERWOODNineteenth, where this law firm will give its results in public, and the councilmembers will be allowed to ask. And then Jack Evans will be allowed to come back at some point after that to appear before the Council for his side of the story. Our guest here is one of the few councilmembers who has not said whether or not Mr. Evans should resign.
NNAMDIWell, what is your position on the findings of this investigation?
SHERWOOD(overlapping) And you had known -- for people to know, you have known Jack Evans since well before he was a councilmember in the Democratic Party. You may have known him longer than anybody there.
BONDSI have known Jack for many, many years, as you point out...
BONDS...decades, that's correct. I knew him as an ANC commissioner in the community of Ward 2, where I lived at that time. But this issue is very difficult for us, because we're all concerned. We're concerned about, what does this say about our government? And, well, I would say all of us would like for Jack to resign. And he has said he will not. So...
SHERWOODAll of us means you.
BONDSAll of us. All of us. And he knows that, and I've spoken with him. But the issue is that he's not going to. He says he's not going to. And so that means this ad hoc committee has to move forward. And we'll have our first meeting on the 19th, and then we'll come back probably in, I guess, January. And then, possibly, we will take a vote. I said to him: I am very sure when we take the vote, the vote will be to expel you. And...
SHERWOODWill that include your vote?
BONDSIt will be -- I will be...
SHERWOOD(overlapping) Unless you hear something that you do not know now in the upcoming...
BONDSI'm not talking about it in the public. I've spoken to Jack, and I think that that is really adequate. The issue is, let's have the process to move forward. I'm a little discouraged that so many of my colleagues, you know, kind of jumped out there and said, well, you know, resign now, or however the term has been put to the public. I think this is a man who, for all practical purposes, has decades of service. He has constituency. We're not hearing his constituency say, you know, he's been a bad egg.
BONDSBut he has broken our ethics rules, the rules that, by the way, and the standards that he had something to do with creating, because they were voted on by the Council. And so here we are now, hearing that, well, maybe I didn't understand the rules. Well, the rules are the rules, the standard are the standards. We all have something that we must abide by.
SHERWOODCan I just clarify this? You have privately spoken to him...
SHERWOOD...and suggested he resign, but you have not, at this point, decided that you would vote to expel him, because you're waiting to see what's said at the public hearings.
BONDSI'm waiting to see what's going to be said, of course, and that's the due process. But I think...
SHERWOODOkay. That's what the Post -- the Post editorial page today, he criticized Mary Cheh, in fact, and said that you have to have due process rather than just popping off...
BONDS(overlapping) I think so. I think -- and we set up the taskforce to do just that. And that's why it's so discerning. And when I say I'm so concerned about where we're going -- I know you want to take him off.
NNAMDINo, believe me, after the break, we're going to talk about housing, which is one of the things you wanted to talk about and a lot of our listeners want to talk about.
BONDSOkay. Thank you. Okay.
NNAMDISo let me take a minute to ask you this. The Washington City Paper reported that Jack Evans and two others plotted to have you introduce an amendment that would divert funds from Mary Cheh's proposed study on the benefits of public versus private utility providers. Were you aware that this was happening, that you were apparently being used?
BONDSI was not aware and, quite honestly, I thought that it was my idea to use this money that she was proposing in the Budget Support Act towards the seniors. I thought that was a better use for informing them of the -- because we'd already voted for the merger. So, trying to get, you know, them onboard to understand what it means -- and, by the way, even today, people are still calling from the various companies, trying to get individuals in their homes to make a decision about their electrical service.
NNAMDII'm supposed to take a break here, but I think we're going to have to move through the break, because there are so many callers and so many issues left to be discussed that we're going to have to take the blame for not taking that break today, because we need to talk about affordable housing in this increasingly gentrifying city. There's a public hearing coming up in November, on the 13th, to extend rent control and stabilization for another decade. Why is this so important, and what are the chances this extension will come to pass?
BONDSOkay. It's very important, and I believe that it will pass. Once we complete the hearing, we'll prepare our report from the committee. It will go to the full body. And the reason I think my colleagues will support it is because so many people, so many citizens, tenants, even homeowners have indicated that they are supporting it. As you know, rent control housing is the largest tranche of affordable housing that we have in the city. It is...
SHERWOODIs it right at about...
BONDSIt's about 80,000 units. And we estimate it houses more than 150,000 residents, easily. And so it is so important to maintain housing affordability. We're one of the very few points in the country that has such a process. And interestingly, now, there are other cities that are looking at rent control, or rent stabilization, as it's called. You know, they have it in New York City. And a couple other, you know, large cities now are looking at it.
SHERWOODBut the D.C. bill exempts new housing. New housing is not under rent control. Is that correct?
BONDSIt does. That's for this. But I am looking at how we can take the other approximately 50,000 units of what we call naturally affordable housing, which is also aging, and spruce it up, renovate it so that people will have continuation at a decent price point.
NNAMDIHere is Veronica in Washington, D.C.. Veronica, you're on the air. Go ahead, please.
VERONICAHi, good afternoon. My question for Councilmember Bonds is, just for context, the average rent increase under a voluntary agreement is $1,500. And my friend Kathryn saw some rents go up to 374 percent when her building signed a voluntary agreement last month. What plan does Councilmember Bonds have to close these loopholes that are responsible for why so many rent-controlled units are now effectively market rate?
BONDSAnd that's a great question, and thank you for bringing that to the audience today. Voluntary agreements have been one of the most, I'll say, difficult and destructive ways for eliminating rent control units. And we're looking at it. We've had, through the committee, a working group that's been in progress now for about eight months. They cannot resolve it, or have not to date. The advocates and the tenants, of course, are saying it's terribly unfair. And then the developers and the housing providers are saying, well, but this is the only way we can do the necessary renovations and still keep everyone in their units.
BONDSVoluntary agreements is a process where landlords can actually ask the tenants to sign an agreement to make sure you will continue to have your rent at a nice or affordable price point. But when the unit is vacated, other units are vacated, then the new residents will pay at a higher rate.
SHERWOODYou're, like, buying them off.
BONDSWell, kind of like.
SHERWOODCan you say -- would you say that? That's what it sounds like to me.
BONDSIt's a very difficult process, and so we're looking at how -- I think, ultimately, we will have to discontinue that process.
NNAMDIHere is Tim, in Brightwood, on another issue. Tim, you're on the air. Go ahead, please.
TIMYeah, hi. I was calling because I'm just curious about the councilmember's stance on public campaign finance. I know that the councilmember has received a lot from Fort Meyer Construction, done a great job about representing her interests. And, of course, also has received many significant funds from corporate and other campaign contributors. So, is that something that she supports? Is it something she would ever consider actually following herself?
NNAMDIWith public financing for campaigns.
BONDSPublic financing for campaigns, it's a way to obviously increase your campaign coffers, easily. I think now, for $25, you can multiply that times five, and you'll get that from the so-called public chest. I prefer and have been using contributions from, not just corporations, but from individuals. And I prefer that.
SHERWOODWell, if you were to run for re-election, would you do the public financing route?
BONDSI don't know what I would do. Most likely, I would not do the public loop, most likely.
SHERWOODWhomever does it, the reporting requirements, the form that needs to be filled out, we need to make sure that's both clear, but it's easier to report. All the candidates who are running for public financing are saying the reporting requirement forms are horrific. It's a good idea, but you don't want to burden candidates with writing a form instead of collecting money.
NNAMDIAre you onboard with the mayor's plan to increase affordable housing in the wealthier parts of the city, particularly Chevy Chase, Spring Valley, Capitol Hill?
NNAMDIWell, that was an easy one. (laugh) Here's Alan in Adams Morgan. Alan, you're on the air. Go ahead, please.
ALANThank you, Kojo. Councilmember Bonds, you told a Washington Post reporter back in July that some of your colleagues are, quote, "too quick to cry corruption," unquote, and that they are, quote, "looking for innuendoes" with respect to the Evans matter. I'm wondering whether, in light of the O'Melveny report, you'd like to reconsider your words, including your characterization of those colleagues, at the time, as crazy.
BONDSYou know, I'm not quite sure I know exactly what you're speaking of, but I stand by my attitude today. And my attitude today is that I believe all of us have requested that Mr. Evans consider resigning. I think it's better if he has his timing set, as opposed to the body voting to set the timing for him. And so I'm going to stand by that.
SHERWOODI just got a text from someone who says: it's huge news that you have called on Jack Evans to resign, because you had not done so publically before today. Is that right?
BONDSI'm not doing it publically. I said I had a conversation with him.
SHERWOODRight, that he should resign. Because some people think you were one of his firewall votes.
NNAMDIWell, both you and Councilmember Vincent Gray have said that you want to see the process...
NNAMDI...the process go through. And, of course, Vincent Gray, in particular, has obvious reasons for saying that because of what happened to him during the course of his last campaign. But if you're going to talk politics in Washington, you have to talk race. And both you and Vincent Gray are African American. I have seen some tweets in other places where people who feel that Jack Evans, because maybe has been around for so long, because...
SHERWOODBecause he's white.
NNAMDI...and because he's white, is getting the kind of break and the kind of length of investigation that African American councilmembers did not get. What do you feel about that?
BONDSWell, I think that's a very fair judgment of what is going on. But, also, I think we have to take into consideration the time. You know, it seems to me that the time of D.C. today is quite different from four years, eight years ago. And so I think we also have to take that into consideration. But there's no doubt that it's been a softer approach to Jack.
SHERWOODJim Graham, of course, was treated -- he was reprimanded by the Council. Is that correct?
SHERWOODAnd the other councilmembers who got into trouble, Harry Thomas, Michael A. Brown and Kwame Brown, were facing criminal charges. And we should point out, Jack Evans is still under investigation by the U.S. Attorney's office. We do not know if he's going to face criminal charges. That could really change the apple cart, let's say, whenever that decision is made to go forward or not to criminally charge him.
BONDSI agree with you 100 percent. And, you know, it's -- you know, as he says, I haven't been charged. You know, there's an ongoing investigation. The reason my clients took the fifth -- because I was concerned about that, and I approached him about that. And he says, well, because there's an ongoing investigation. And they can't say anything. I said, well, you need to tell the world that's the deal.
NNAMDIWe don't have a lot of time left, but I wanted to talk about some of your more recently introduced legislation. What can you tell us about the homeownership bills that you've proposed? We only got about two minutes.
BONDSOkay. The HPAP bill, which is the homeownership bill, primarily...
NNAMDII bought my first home in the District.
BONDSAll right. Fantastic. Well, now, if you were to...
NNAMDIHPAP is Home Purchase Assistance Program.
BONDSYes, exactly. If you were to try today, you would get about up to 80,000 for an individual. Of course, that's not quite enough for ownership, but you could afford a condo. You could afford a cooperative unit. And I've been very busy looking at the cooperative movement that we're trying to reignite here in the District, so that more people -- particularly at the 60, the 50 percent AMI -- will have an opportunity to become homeowners.
SHERWOODWell, the fact is a lot of African Americans are feeling gentrification is pushing them out of the city. Do you agree with that? Not agree that it's being done, but do you agree -- not agree with it, but agree that it's being done, and needs to be taken more firm actions?
BONDSOh, yeah, definitely. Definitely.
NNAMDIRon called to ask -- and we only have about 30 seconds left -- what plan do you have to stem the rising tide of violent crime in the city?
BONDSOh, boy. I wish I had a magic wand. I think it's awful, what we're going through. And I think it's particularly trying for neighborhoods, because it's usually African American youth against African American youth. And, you know, we're killing off our people, and I think that that is always going to be a problem. I'm not sure what we can do, except get the guns out of the District. That is a very tall order, given the fact that a lion's share of the guns come from Virginia.
NNAMDIWell, now that the Democrats control the General Assembly in Virginia, there is likely to be gun control legislation coming in. We'll see...
SHERWOOD(overlapping) That may be number one on the list when they meet in January.
BONDSIndeed, and we're excited.
NNAMDI...what impact that has on the District of Columbia. Anita Bonds is a Democrat and at-large member of the D.C. council. Thank you so much for joining us.
NNAMDIToday's show was produced by Julie Depenbrock. Coming up Monday, she landed in the national spotlight after a picture of her flipping off the presidential motorcade went viral. Now, Juli Briskman is channeling her anger into serving her community in Loudoun County. She will be here to talk about her new role on the county's Board of Supervisors. Plus, the transformative power of service animals. That all starts at noon, on Monday. Until then, I hope you have a wonderful weekend. What's your plan, Tom?
SHERWOODVeterans Day weekend and honor our service members.
NNAMDIYeah, we've got to work Veterans Day. But you have a wonderful weekend. I'm Kojo Nnamdi.
Most Recent Shows
Kojo talks with author Briana Thomas about her book “Black Broadway In Washington D.C.,” and the District’s rich Black history.
Poet, essayist and editor Kevin Young is the second director of the Smithsonian's National Museum of African American History and Culture. He joins Kojo to talk about his vision for the museum and how it can help us make sense of this moment in history.
Ms. Woodruff joins us to talk about her successful career in broadcasting, how the field of journalism has changed over the decades and why she chose to make D.C. home.