On this last episode, we look back on 23 years of joyous, difficult and always informative conversation.
It’s the first Politics Hour of 2020, and we’ll start by looking ahead to what’s in store in the District. D.C. Councilmember and Chair Pro Tempore Kenyan McDuffie (D-Ward 5) joins the show.
D.C. Council Could Give Small Businesses A Boost
- Small business owners face rising rents, high property taxes, changing consumer habits and myriad other challenges to keep their operations afloat. Three bills from two D.C. councilmembers are trying to help.
- Councilmember McDuffie introduced a bill that would offer loans or grants to small D.C. businesses that have operated continuously for at least 10 years and have made significant cultural contributions to the city or a community.
- Councilmember Charles Allen (D-Ward 6) introduced two bills: One would offer a tax credit to local businesses to offset rent and property taxes. The other would offer longtime local business grants and low-interest loans to help pay for capital improvements and operating expenses.
- In July, the D.C. Council unanimously approved a 10-year tax abatement for Sankofa Video Books & Cafe, an incentive not often directed toward small businesses. (Usually, they’re reserved for corporations and developers.) Both Allen and McDuffie thought that one-off tax breaks aren’t a sustainable way for the Council to aid small businesses.
- Which businesses will be considered “legacy” under McDuffie’s bill? “We’re trying to work through what that year is going to be,” said McDuffie about how old the business would have to be to qualify. “Probably somewhere in the range of 20 years.”
- On The Politics Hour, McDuffie recognized that his legislation didn’t address problems faced by newer businesses. “There are new businesses that struggle in the District of Columbia as well. This bill wasn’t designed to address their issues, but there are bills pending before my committee that we’ve had hearings on that would provide assistance to them as well.”
Should D.C. Councilmembers Be Allowed To Hold Second Jobs?
- Amid the ethics investigations into Ward 2 Councilmember Jack Evans, a debate arose around councilmembers being allowed to hold a job in addition to their council position.
- In November, Councilmember McDuffie introduced a bill that would bar councilmembers from holding another job. It would also give councilmembers a pay raise from $140,000 to $185,000 per year.
- In April, Councilmember Brianne Nadeau (D-Ward 1) introduced similar legislation. Hers does not include a pay raise and carves out an exception for teaching jobs. Nadeau’s bill was co-introduced by the majority of the council.
- Aside from Evans, Ward 3 Councilmember Mary Cheh is the only other member to hold an outside job: She’s a law professor at George Washington University.
- About McDuffie’s bill, Cheh told DCist: “I think it’s interesting that [this bill] comes from somebody with whom I’ve clashed occasionally on the council. I wonder what the real motivation is here, especially since there is already a bill to ban outside employment but makes an exception for teaching.”
- “I think the Council needs to draw a very clear and bold line about where it stands on outside employment,” McDuffie said.
- When asked about Cheh, McDuffie said, “It’s not about a single councilmember. I didn’t have Councilmember Cheh or any other councilmember individually in mind when I crafted this measure.”
In 2019, Hate Crime Prosecutions Rose in D.C. … But Only A Little
- Last year, the U.S. attorney for D.C. charged seven incidents as hate crimes. The office charged only five incidents with hate crimes in 2017 and 2018 combined.
- Local crimes, which can include hate crimes, are prosecuted by the U.S. attorney’s office, and U.S. attorneys are appointed by the president. In practice, that’s meant tension between D.C. officials and Jessie Liu, the U.S. attorney for D.C., who they have struggled to hold accountable.
- Councilmember McDuffie said on the Politics Hour, “Trying to prove a hate crime is not as easy as some people might hope it is. But on the other hand, you want to make sure that you have prosecutors who are being zealous.”
- Liu didn’t attend a D.C. Council committee hearing on the decline of hate-crime prosecutions in June.
- The U.S. attorney’s office denied that there was a connection between the increase in prosecutions and The Washington Post’s investigation on hate crime prosecutions from August 2019.
- President Trump announced last month that he plans to nominate Liu for a position at the Treasury Department, which means she will likely leave her post as the U.S. attorney for D.C.
Virginia’s General Assembly session kicks off on January 8. Before heading to Richmond, Del. Hala Ayala (D-Prince William County) joins the show.
Will Democrats Follow Through On Creating A Nonpartisan Redistricting Commission?
- Before the 2019 elections, the Republican-led Virginia General Assembly passed a measure to create a nonpartisan redistricting commission, which aims to prevent legislators from drawing districts for political gain.
- Since it’s a constitutional amendment, the measure needs to pass through the legislature a second time, and eventually head to voters. This time around, Democrats control the General Assembly. And some of them are saying they might not support it.
- Why? If the legislature doesn’t approve maps drawn by the commission, the decision heads to the state Supreme Court. The Court has mostly Republican-appointed judges.
- Most members of the Black Legislative Caucus didn’t support the measure last year for this very reason.
- Some Republican lawmakers are calling this an act of partisanship. If the measure doesn’t pass, Gov. Ralph Northam and the Democratic-led legislature will draw legislative and congressional lines in 2021.
- During her debut on the Politics Hour, Del. Ayala didn’t say explicitly where she stands on the redistricting commission. When Kojo asked if she was still in favor of creating a nonpartisan redistricting commission, Ayala said, “I would say that you may hear conversations about how we’re going to address those concerns in the upcoming legislative session.”
Virginia Will Likely Ratify The ERA
- Congress passed the Equal Rights Amendment in 1972. Virginia is poised to become the 38th state to ratify it — and the last state needed.
- But, there could be a few hiccups for the ERA to become the 28th Constitutional Amendment. Congress originally set a ratification deadline to 1977, and then extended it to 1982. So, Virginia’s ratification would come nearly 40 years late.
- The national debate in the coming months about the ERA will largely focus on two issues: abortion and transgender rights.
- Alabama, Louisiana and South Dakota have filed a federal lawsuit seeking to block the ERA’s addition to the Constitution.
- “It’s time that we bring this law into effect, enshrining women into the U.S. Constitution,” said Del. Ayala on the Politics Hour. “It’s something that I fought for for nearly a decade prior to my election.”
What Are Virginia Legislators’ Priorities Heading Into The 2020 Session?
- Virginia Democrats are prioritizing voting rights this session. Two legislators introduced bills that would get rid of the state’s requirement to show a photo ID at the polls.
- Campaign finance reform, however, isn’t on the top of the agenda for Democrats. Del. Ayala said on the Politics Hour that she’s fine with more disclosure and transparency when it comes to campaign contributions. “But I think we really have to be thoughtful about legislation.”
- While Democratic legislators will push for stricter gun laws like universal background checks, some Republicans have introduced gun bills as well, like designating an official state firearm and requiring firearm safety education programs in public schools.
- In addition to being a co-patron on the resolution to ratify the ERA, Del. Ayala has introduced legislation that would create a Cybersecurity Advisory Council, study the use of blockchain technology to protect voter records, allow for same-day voter registration, and more.
- Del. Lee Carter (D-Manassas) introduced a bill to abolish the death penalty in the commonwealth.
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 Writer for Washington City Paper. Tom Sherwood, welcome.
TOM SHERWOODGood afternoon, everyone.
NNAMDILater in the broadcast we'll be talking with Hala Ayala, who is a Member of the Virginia House of Representatives. She is a Democrat. And joining us now in studio is Kenyan McDuffie. He's a Member of the D.C. Council representing Ward 5. He is a Democrat. Councilmember McDuffie, thank you for joining us.
KENYAN MCDUFFIEThank you for having me back on, Kojo.
NNAMDIFirst, Tom Sherwood, Maryland Governor Larry Hogan, who was skeptical back in 2015 about accepting refugees now says in a letter to the Secretary of State Mike Pompeo that Maryland is willing to accept refugees once they have been properly vetted. What's the significance of that?
SHERWOODWell, this is part of the -- President Trump signed an executive order requiring states to acknowledge in writing whether they would accept refugees or not. More than 30 states have. Governor Northam did it in Virginia last November, and it basically just said, we will accept refugees. There had been some concerns that refugees from Syria and other places might create a terrorism threat in this country, but I think people realize now that -- and as Governor Hogan said if he has vetted refugees that have gone through the process to be in the country then the state will accept them.
SHERWOODThe overall picture is that President Trump has tried to severely limit the numbers of refugees coming into the country. And his requirement that they specifically state that they will accept them gives some states an opportunity to say no they won't, but most have.
NNAMDIEven though Governor Hogan pointed out that Maryland is not a sanctuary state.
SHERWOODWell, that's part of the political icing on the cake.
NNAMDID.C. hate crimes prosecutions rise as support grows for changing the city's law. That's the headline on The Washington Post, a story by Michael E. Miller and Steven Rich. The headline might be a little bit exaggerated because Councilmember Charles Allen of Ward 6 says it's underwhelming to try to celebrate an increase of a handful of cases being prosecuted as hate crimes when we are seeing this dramatic increase. He means this dramatic increase of alleged hate crimes in the District of Columbia and a very small increase in prosecutions.
SHERWOODWell, hate crimes are a horrible issue across the country just with the attacks on Jewish people in New York. But here in the District there's been more than 100 cases that have been sent to prosecutors and only a true handful, five, six or seven of them have actually been prosecuted for a variety of reasons. And given the temper and tone of politics in the country, the District government and citizens want the prosecutor to be tougher, and that's where we stand.
NNAMDIWell, we're talking with a former prosecutor here, Kenyan McDuffie.
SHERWOODAnd a former Chairman of the Judiciary Committee.
NNAMDIAnd the U.S. Attorney has said that the District maybe needs to change its laws regarding hate crime especially when it comes to jury instructions, because that may be a part of the problem. What do you see as the problem?
MCDUFFIEI think it's a combination of what's being said. I think obviously, you know, trying to prove a hate crime is not as easy as some people might hope it is. But on the other hand you want to make sure that you have prosecutors, who are being zealous and making sure that they are enforcing the law and getting justice for victims. And so I think that's important. And to the extent that the U.S. Attorney thinks that the law needs to be changed. I know that my colleague, Charles Allen, is always open to having conversations and make sure -- and that goes for I think the majority members on the Council, in fact, myself included -- where we can strengthen laws if there are gaps to try to make sure that we tighten up enforcement particularly around something as horrible as hate crime.
SHERWOODThe current U.S. Attorney, Jessie Liu, is leaving to go to I think Main Justice. Do you have any hope that the next U.S. Attorney will be someone who, A, lives in the District of Columbia and, B, will be more collegial with the city government?
MCDUFFIEI'm generally an optimist and so I'm always hopeful. I guess my hope is that this administration would be open to recommendations that come from Congresswoman Eleanor Holmes-Norton and others, who have traditionally been supportive of trying to make sure that the president has qualified candidates.
NNAMDIYou used to work in that office, right?
MCDUFFIEI used to work at the Department of Justice, but I worked at Main Justice in the Civil Rights Division. I was a prosecutor in Prince George's County. And so I do have some experience there. I was an intern at the U.S. Attorney's Office several years ago during law school. But it's always important where we do not have the ability to elect our own local prosecutor that we have a say in the matter and with this administration they have not demonstrated a willingness to be open to the process as it has been the case for Democratic administrations in the past.
SHERWOODThat's very politely said. Do you do any legal work now?
MCDUFFIEI do not do any legal work right now. I have not practiced law since I was elected to the Council of the District of Columbia.
NNAMDIYou introduced a bill in September called the Protecting Local Area Commercial Enterprises or PLACE Amendment Act, which would provide assistance for small local businesses with an established track record of operating in D.C. with quoting here, "expenses beyond their control. Things like sharp increases in rent or property taxes." Tell us a little bit more about the Place Act. What kind of businesses are you trying to help and how will it work when implemented?
MCDUFFIESure. I'm trying to help businesses, you know, like Sankofa Video Books and Café. We had a hearing ...
SHERWOODWhich did get help.
MCDUFFIEIt got a tax abatement. And then I -- you know, we did a hearing on that tax abatement legislation earlier this year. And what became apparent to some people for the first time, but not to me because I've been having these conversations with small business for the last several years since I took over as Chairmanship of the Committee on Business and Economic Development.
MCDUFFIEWhat became apparent to some people around the Sankofa issue was that long term legacy businesses like Sankofa are finding it increasingly difficult to maintain their businesses in the District of Columbia whether you own your business or not, all right. So if you own your business, like Sankofa, then your property taxes are steadily going up in and around you and it's impacting your ability to stay in business. If you don't own your business and unfortunately, you have a triple net lease where you're paying all the taxes that are being directed your way then it's difficult whether you're a legacy business or not to do business in the District of Columbia. So this business ...
MCDUFFIEThis bill was designed to try to address the issues associated with those long term businesses like Sankofa that have been around for a while that are institutions in some cases in communities across the District of Columbia, who are finding it more difficult to stay in business. One of the people who testified in our hearing, Tom, was the owner of Florida Avenue Grill, who testified that he experienced nearly a 400 percent increase in his property taxes over the time that's he's owned the business.
SHERWOODThe Florida Avenue Grill, though, is that still owned by the original -- it's not still owned by the original.
NNAMDINo, not the Wilsons anymore. This is a younger guy who -- it is a kind of legacy business, but he's not actually a member of that family.
SHERWOODWho would decide? Sometimes people worry that the law sounds good, but then it gets into the meat grinder of government bureaucracy. Will there be precise definitions of who is a legacy business? Will it be a 10-15 year limit that you have to be in business? And a lot of new businesses, which are culturally important in parts of the city are the very ones, who go out of business in their first year, because they're undercapitalized.
SHERWOODBut this is on one end of the spectrum that you're dealing with.
MCDUFFIEAnd it's important to make that point, Tom, that this bill is designed to address issues with long term legacy businesses. We're working on trying to define what that year would look like.
SHERWOODKojo, would be a legacy business.
MCDUFFIEKojo is a legacy.
NNAMDII'm a non-profit.
MCDUFFIEHe's an institution. He's an institution ..
NNAMDII'm a non-profit.
MCDUFFIE... in the District, we support him wholeheartedly. But, you know, those long term businesses -- so we're trying to work through what that year is going to be, probably somewhere in the range of 20 years. On the other hand it's important to point out that, as you mentioned, there are new businesses that struggle in the District of Columbia as well. This bill wasn't designed to address their issues. But there are bills pending before my committee that we've had hearings on that would provide assistance to ...
SHERWOODCharles Allen has introduced a tax credit bill.
MCDUFFIECharles, Brianne Nadeau and others have introduced measures to try to address issues that are faced by businesses that have not been in business very long, but none the less experience the challenges in this climate where the value of real estate continues to go up.
NNAMDIThe bottom line is that this District is becoming an exceedingly expensive place to do business, to live, to rent an apartment, to do anything.
MCDUFFIEAnd that's the bottom line. If you truly want to be a world class city I think we need to make sure that we have a government that's working to make it more economically inclusive for, you know, people, families and businesses to thrive. And I think we've got some work ahead of us.
SHERWOODI heard this morning when I woke up on WAMU the story out of Los Angeles where people are living in pods where people have like a warehouse and they have these pods. People literally are pod people. They have a very small space where they can sleep and store some of their goods. It costs them 50 bucks a night or something like that, $1,000 a month. We have a lot of people in our city not just homeless people, but people who are trying to stay in their homes and keep their businesses alive.
MCDUFFIEAbsolutely. There are people who are living in, you know, English basements, people who are living in accessory dwellings. And I think our independent zoning commission, you know, the last few years has, you know, made some adjustments to our laws and regulations around zoning to try to recognize how expensive it's become to live in the District of Columbia. And I think the process that we're going to do now with our Comprehensive Plan is extremely important. And I will, you know, recognize that Mayor Muriel Bowser has a goal of creating 36,000 new housing units across the District of Columbia and 12,000 affordable, and that's something that we need to do like yesterday.
SHERWOODDo you agree that we can get rid of the single family zoning that any residential property could have one, two ancillary dwellings?
MCDUFFIEI don't know if that's the solution that we need to implement for the entire city.
SHERWOODCould you see that happening in Cleveland Park or Chevy Chase?
MCDUFFIEI think there are areas of the District that we should target and focus to make sure that they're more inclusive to recognize that the District of Columbia is still a very racially segregated housing market. The further east you go the less expensive and the more people of color you're going to find and the less expensive the housing is. The further west you go like this area where we are here along Connecticut Avenue when you go up to Wisconsin, McArthur Boulevard, the whiter it gets and the more expensive the real estate.
NNAMDITwo questions related to that. Does any of the language in your bill about businesses deal with the issue of race, businesses owned by people of color or by women?
MCDUFFIEThat particular legislation does not. However, I am working really hard as Chair of the Committee on Business and Economic Development to address opportunities for people who are in business how have historically been discriminated against and that's minorities and women. So I've actually funded a disparity study for the Department of Small and Local Business Development to conduct in order to attempt to move our -- what's now a certified business enterprise program. You guys who are a little older like Tom and Kojo will recognize ...
MCDUFFIEYeah, remember when we had a minority business enterprise program, which the Court of Appeals -- actually the Federal Circuit Court for the District of Columbia said was unconstitutional. They didn't say we couldn't do it. They just said that we didn't do it right. And so in order -- one of the things we need to do in order to do it right is to have a study that demonstrates that there is a current disparity. And I want to get that study done so we can make sure that the resources that we're using to help and opportunities for our small business actually target people, who have historically been discriminated against. That's minorities and women.
NNAMDIWe got a tweet from Cory, will Councilmember McDuffie follow-up on an email exchange to arrange a meeting to discuss reforming BIDS, Business Improvement Districts.
SHERWOODWhat needs to be reformed?
MCDUFFIEI'm not sure what exactly Cory was referring to. I know he's a correspondent with my staff and I about his BID proposal. And I'm happy to meet with him. I think that's something that we're working on now.
SHERWOODThe big picture overall of this is last year you introduced a racial equity bill, which in short term basically says whatever action the government takes it needs to consider the racial implications of discrimination or exclusion and the future effect. Now I think that bill is still pending in the Council. Is that correct?
MCDUFFIEIt is. It's pending before ...
SHERWOODAny hope that -- I think you had a hearing, a big hearing in fact.
MCDUFFIEWe had a big hearing. A number of witnesses came out in support.
SHERWOODWhere does it stand?
MCDUFFIEWe're working with my colleague, Brandon Todd, who chairs the committee that has oversight. He has indicated his support for the bill. It's just a matter of trying to make sure that we get it out of committee. We still have -- any bill that's been introduced last year still has an opportunity to be marked up out of committee and passed by the full Council by the end of the calendar year 2020. So we've got some time to work on it. But it's received tremendous support, and I think it's something that we sorely need to do in the District Columbia to make sure that we're measuring our progress and performance as a government through the lens of racial equity.
NNAMDIAnd we got a tweet from a politician aspiring to be on the Council. Anthony Lorenzo Green is an ANC Commissioner and he's seeking the Ward 7 seat. Does Councilmember McDuffie support funding grocery stores east of the river and what's his take on the failure to secure funding for the construction of those stores?
MCDUFFIEI'm not sure what he means. I know Commissioner Green well. He's been an activist over in Ward 7, has done a number of things around some of the challenges in Deanwood and other areas in the ward. And so I appreciate his service to the District. When he says failure to fund, I'm not sure what proposal he's talking about.
MCDUFFIEI can say specifically that I've worked with Councilmember Vincent Gray as well as Councilmember Trayon White and my colleague Mary Cheh to put money in the budget to support grocery stores east of the Anacostia River. Phil Mendelson has been supportive of that. And we've put money in the budget to try to support those efforts in the past. And I'll continue to support those efforts. We need to make sure that every resident of the District of Columbia regardless of where you live regardless of your zip code has access to healthy food options.
NNAMDILater in the broadcast we'll be talking with Hala Ayala, a Member of the Virginia House of Delegates, a Democrat. I'm Kojo Nnamdi.
NNAMDIWelcome back. Our guest is Kenyan McDuffie. He is a Member of the D.C. Council representing Ward 5. He's a Democrat. Our Resident Analyst is Tom Sherwood. He's a Contributing Writer for Washington City Paper. We're taking your calls at 800-433-8850. The last time we had you on this show in March the D.C. Council had just voted unanimously to reprimand Ward 2 Councilmember Jack Evans. Now the situation is different.
NNAMDILast month the Council unanimously voted to recommend his removal from office. And you can excuse our listeners and residents if they're a little confused that there's a difference between recommending his removal from office and actually voting to remove him from office, because the full Council will be voting -- will be doing that vote sometime later this month. Can you tell us quickly about the process and if you will in fact vote to remove him?
MCDUFFIESure. We have a legislative meeting coming up on Tuesday and after that meeting there will be a meeting.
SHERWOODA special meeting.
MCDUFFIEAn opportunity for the councilmember to address his colleagues on the Council, sort of a hearing of sorts that Chairman Mendelson will conduct. And then following that there will be a vote on January 21st where we take up the actual recommendation to remove and decide whether or not to remove via ...
SHERWOODAll 12 -- the 13 members on the Council, Jack Evans is one of the 13. All 12 others including you voted as Kojo said in December to recommend that he be expelled. He would be the first councilmember in the history of the legislature since the 70s to be expelled. You voted that you would expel him. Are you aware of your -- you or any other councilmember changed their mind? I don't think so.
MCDUFFIENo. I'm not aware of any other councilmember, who's changed their mind. I definitely have not changed my mind. I've obviously reviewed all the records and evidence and facts that have been compiled through the various investigations whether it's the Board of Ethics and Government Accountability, WMATA.
SHERWOODHave you spoken to Jack Evans yourself personally to recommend him?
SHERWOODWell, because you guys have a pretty friendly relationship.
SHERWOODYou meaning all the councilmembers basically have a collegial atmosphere there. All of them to my knowledge in speaking to Evans have said, this would be better for you, your family, the Council, the city if you step away rather than being expelled.
SHERWOODHave you spoken to him?
MCDUFFIEI have spoken to Jack more than a couple of times. And, you know, most recently before I voted to recommend his removal. I spoke to him and I asked him to resign point blank. You know, in light of everything that's come out about his conduct I think it is appropriate for him to take that step. I think it would be, you know -- I don't want to put myself in his position and to begin to imagine what he's going through. But I've got to think about what's best for the residents of the District of Columbia. He's got to think about what's best for the residents of Ward 2 in the District and his family. And I hope that he makes the right decision.
NNAMDIA lot of this has to do with the councilmember's other job so to speak. In November you introduced legislation that would prohibit D.C. councilmembers from holding outside employment. You also want to raise councilmembers' salaries. Ward 1 Councilmember Brianne Nadeau introduced a similar bill in April that would bar outside employment with the exception of teaching jobs. Her bill was co-introduced by the majority of the Council. Why did your bill not include that exception?
MCDUFFIEI think the Council needs to draw a very clear and bold line about where it stands on outside employment.
SHERWOODLet's be clearer.
SHERWOODThe Nadeau bill protects Ward 3 Councilmember Mary Cheh, who is a law professor at George Washington University.
MCDUFFIESure, sure. I don't know ...
MCDUFFIEWell, I mean, it's not about a single councilmember. And so I didn't have Councilmember Cheh or any other member of the Council individually in mind, when I crafted this measure. This was a measure recognizing where we are in the District of Columbia politically and the need to restore the public's trust. And I think to put something in place that allows the institution of the Council to function better than it's currently functioning.
NNAMDIWell, Councilmember Nadeau said she hoped you would consult with Councilmember Cheh about your bill. Councilmember Cheh, said you didn't. And she said, "I think it's interesting that this bill comes from somebody with whom I've clashed occasionally on the Council. I wonder what the real motivation is here especially since there's already a bill to ban outside employment that makes an exception for teaching." How would you respond?
MCDUFFIEI think the motivation is clear that we need to do what's in the best interest of the 700,000 plus residents of the District of Columbia and not think about one councilmember in particular when we craft legislation.
NNAMDIWell, I know there are other legislative bodies, who do also have that exception because teaching is seen by a lot of people as a very noble profession.
MCDUFFIEIs it any more noble than being a fire fighter or a police officer or some other public servant? I think not.
SHERWOODWell, and also -- and I have a great deal of respect for Mary Cheh about this. But education is one of the most politically charged whether you're in Maryland where they're trying to do the Kirwan report on billions of dollars or in Virginia where the billions of dollars are at stake or in the District where teachers and where schools are and how we have schools. It's one of the most political worlds in our entire community. And so teachers are very political. How about George Washington University in Georgetown and Howard and America those are very political organizations that have launched up from the Council.
MCDUFFIEThey're some of the largest employers.
SHERWOODRight the largest employers.
MCDUFFIEAnd real estate owners as well.
SHERWOODSo actually personally I'm not that -- I could argue against excluding outside income, because I think disclosure is the issue. You have to have a lot more disclosure and then people can do what they want. We have citizen legislators, but if you're going to ban outside employment, how can you card that out? What about ministers?
MCDUFFIEYeah. I mean, ministers and other professions.
SHERWOODThey're more political than educators. We won't get into that.
MCDUFFIEAnd then there's also the issue that a host of teachers locally in our D.C. Public School System wouldn't be able to run for public office for other reasons like the Hatch Act. And so I think you have a limited pool of the folks, who you actually protect by carving out for teachers and I think it's best to create a bold and filled line.
NNAMDIA lot of people would like to speak with you. Let's start with Brian on Capitol Hill. Brian, you're on the air. Go ahead, please.
BRIANThank you. I want to thank Councilman McDuffie and our Councilman Charles Allen for all the work they're doing with our small businesses. I happen to be ANC commissioner in Capitol Hill 6BO3 that represents half of Barracks Row and I know our businesses definitely need the help for the tax abatement and other challenges to help them thrive and continue to move forward. Just recently we just lost one of our businesses. They decided to -- Medium Rare decided to close its doors on Barracks Row to focus on some other areas, which I understand which is a business decision. But I do think the work that you guys are doing will definitely help with our remaining business and future businesses that are coming in.
SHERWOODCan we just say -- 8th Street is a very popular place with lots and lots of restaurants kind of like 14th Street here in the District, but a lot of them are having trouble.
SHERWOODAnd they're not necessarily legacy businesses.
MCDUFFIEThey aren't necessarily legacy businesses and they're having trouble. And you think about where 8th Street and Barracks Row has come over the last 20 or 30 years it's come a very long way. And it's some of the pricier real estate along that corridor in Capitol Hill as is the case in Shaw.
NNAMDIAll I know is that 8th Street was where I bought my last bicycle. And when I went there to look for a new one the bike store was gone.
SHERWOODYes. I think I bought my bike there.
NNAMDIHere's Kenneth in Washington D.C. Kenneth, you're on the air. Go ahead, please.
KENNETHYeah. Good day everyone. Thanks for the opportunity. I also want to -- my wife owns a business in that area as well too, which is actually on Pennsylvania Avenue. And like the other businesses she's struggling as well, which to me is very unusual, particularly because it's female and minority owned also. And one of the things that we do we work with the Department of Employment Services. But it takes forever and ever for them to process students to come. We've had to contact the Deputy Mayor on multiple occasion. You know, we try to get a class of students every month to help them ...
NNAMDIWhat are you hoping the councilmember can do?
KENNETHTo try and help streamline the system that they already have in place. Some of the things that they said -- one time computers down and couldn't do anything. I'm like, have you ever heard of paper and pen?
NNAMDILet me have the councilmember respond.
SHERWOODWell, in the Department of Employment Services, people always complain about DCRA. But if you look at...
NNAMDIThat's coming up next.
SHERWOOD...if you look at it, the Department of Employment Services is horrific.
MCDUFFIEWell, I think, you know, maybe talking about Marion Barry's summer youth employment program he's trying to bring students through, I thought I heard him say. And so, obviously, you know, working with Director Morris Hughes is important to make sure that we streamline any process where you create opportunities for youth and teenagers all the way up to, I think, 23, now, to get opportunities for employment.
MCDUFFIEI mean, that's one of the biggest challenges that we face in the District of Columbia, is access to meaningful opportunity for employment. We have some of the highest rates of employment in Wards 5, 7 and 8. And any process to streamline to allow businesses like Kenneth's wife's to be able to hire our young adults, then we need to make sure we're reducing the red tape.
NNAMDIHere is Bill, in Adams Morgan. Bill you're on the air. Go ahead, please
BILLYes, good afternoon. I might have one of those legacy businesses. We've been in business for about 28 years, but I wanted to ask the councilmember about his oversight of the Alcohol Beverage Regulation Administration. And it seems that there has never been a member of the hospitality industry that sits on the board. And I can't imagine any other board or commission that would oversee an industry this large without any input at all from a member of the...
NNAMDI(overlapping) To which you say, Councilmember McDuffie?
MCDUFFIEOh, I appreciate the call...
BILL...hold on, the chairperson -- I've spoken with the councilmembers, also, before. The chairperson of the board, by his own bio, is a lawyer who represents special interest children in education. He was just reappointed for another four years. That's eight years as a chairperson. There's now openings on the board, and it just seems that it would be opportune time to put a member of the hospitality industry or two on that board to oversee their industry.
MCDUFFIEI'm not opposed to having a member who has some experience in the hospitality industry be a member of the ABRA board. On the other hand, the hospitality industry isn't the only industry where issues around alcoholic beverage regulation come into play. And so I think that -- and then the other thing is the council doesn't appoint nominees. We give advice and consent. And so the mayor makes those nominations. I generally try to work with any mayor who's in that position around nominations that...
SHERWOOD(overlapping) You could change the law, though, and require someone from the industry, like we do in Metro and other...
MCDUFFIESure. I mean, we could do something like that, but you have to recognize how important it is to have people with ordinary experience in a community also be able to weigh in on issues that involved alcoholic beverage regulation.
NNAMDIDown to one minute left, and Elise has turned her radio down, so, Elise, go.
ELISEYes. Councilmember McDuffie and Alan, we thank you for all the great work you do. DCRA is absolutely an abominable place to go on every other day. They make up new rules consistently, and we...
NNAMDI(overlapping) What would you like to see done?
ELISEWe need to streamline the ability to get a business up and running. When you're spending 3 and 4 and $5,000 a month for rent...
NNAMDII'm pretty sure the councilmember's familiar with this problem. Councilmember McDuffie?
MCDUFFIESure. No, we've had a lot of complaints about DCRA. In fact, the council has focused extensively on trying to improve and reform the Department of Consumer Regulatory Affairs. Chairman Mendelson, in particular, has oversight of that agency...
SHERWOODAnd a bill to break it up.
MCDUFFIEHe has a bill to break it up. I'm not sure if that's the right course. On the other hand, I hear that complaint all the time that Elise just mentioned. It's too burdensome to start a business. And even after you've, you know, gotten past all the hurdles to start a business, the burden placed on you to -- all the fines and fees and taxes and trying to keep up while you run your business really is extremely burdensome to small businesses in the District of Columbia.
MCDUFFIEIn some cases, we have to recognize that people can take their businesses elsewhere. I think we take for granted that people have to run and maintain business in the District of Columbia. If we've got jurisdictions, you know, on the either side of the river who are making it a friendly business environment, then we have to recognize that people don't have to stay here.
NNAMDIKenyan McDuffie is a member of the D.C. Council. He represents Ward 5. He's a Democrat. Thank you for joining us.
MCDUFFIEThank you for having me.
NNAMDIGoing to take a short break. When we come back, we'll be talking with Hala Ayala. She's a member of the Virginia House of Delegates. She's a Democrat. I'm Kojo Nnamdi.
NNAMDIWelcome back. Our guest is Hala Ayala. She's a member of the Virginia House of Delegates, representing District 51 in Prince William County. She is a Democrat. Thank you so much for joining us.
HALA AYALAThank you, Kojo. Thank you, Tom.
NNAMDIIf you have questions for the House member, you should call now: 800-433-8850. Don't wait until it's too late. Just a couple of quick things about Virginia, Tom Sherwood, and feel free to join in, Hala Ayala. There's a poll that says that Joe Biden is the only Democrat who would defeat Donald Trump in Virginia among the leading four Democrats, at this point. Biden is campaigning fairly heavily in Virginia. Too soon?
SHERWOODWell, I don't want to correct you, but, actually, Biden and all the other Democrats mentioned are within the margin of error.
NNAMDITrue, which is four points.
SHERWOODBiden is ahead of Trump, and Trump is barely ahead of Elizabeth Warren, Bernie Sanders and Buttigieg. I've never said his name right, Mayor Pete. But, you know, it's early. You can just ask Republicans how popular President Trump is in Virginia, given the last two election cycles. So, I think this is really too early to take much stock in it.
NNAMDIAre you of the same view, Hala Ayala?
AYALAI haven't seen the poll. For me, I'm just getting through an election, but I would say Virginians spoke loud and clear about how they felt about where Virginia was and where it is now. And we're just excited about what the future holds.
SHERWOODDo you agree that President Trump was a big factor in elections across the board?
AYALAI think that there is some -- you know, to really get into the logistics or the rationale of it, he did have a tone. You know, this nation -- we elected someone who, in my community and how I felt, did not represent our American values.
NNAMDIAnd Governor Ralph Northam says he's going to be pushing for legislation to replace Virginia statue of Confederate General Robert E. Lee that's housed in the U.S. Capitol building. The other one, of course, is George Washington...
SHERWOOD(overlapping) ...George Washington.
SHERWOODI don't think there's any controversy right now about George Washington.
NNAMDINo, not at this point, but there has always been controversy over General Robert E. Lee. But I think, Hala Ayala, he's going to need your help on this, because this is legislation in the General Assembly.
AYALAYeah, and this is going to be an interesting conversation. It is yet to unfold, but I do believe, Kojo and Tommy, that this is something that we will be seeing as a particular discussion. There are, like, other pieces of legislation and issues that are near and dear to our heart. We have to, again, move Virginia forward. And what does that look like?
SHERWOODWell, Robert E. Lee is the biggest statue on Monument Avenue, I believe. Isn't it?
AYALAAre you talking about physically big, or... (laugh)
SHERWOODI mean physically. It's huge. I mean, you go stand by it, you have to...
SHERWOODIt's, like, 30, 40' up in the air. It's huge. But the one in the Capitol, who would you recommend to replace Robert E. Lee?
AYALAHow about Sojourner Truth, Harriet Tubman? How about, you know, Ida B. Wells?
SHERWOODDon't they have to have a hardcore -- they have to be from the state of Virginia though, don't they? Maryland has two Revolutionary War figures and...
AYALAWell, you can't change the perimeters on me. You asked me who I thought... (laugh)
SHERWOODD.C. has Frederick Douglas.
AYALAFrederick Douglas. You know, I think we need people that are inspirational, those who contributed to our progress, despite having to face such enormous obstacles to move our country forward. And these are pioneers. And that is the criteria to your point, but you asked me who I'd like to see. And I'd like to see women represented in our state capitol.
NNAMDIYou were reelected to represent District 51 in Prince William County this past November. We didn't have you on during your first term, so welcome now for your official Politics Hour debut.
NNAMDITell us a little bit about yourself outside of your work in Richmond.
AYALASo, I am a mother of two, a cyber security specialist for the Department of Homeland Security. Did that for 20-plus years, and currently still employed.
NNAMDIDid that in the Coast Guard first, didn't you?
AYALAI did, Coast Guard first. I was one of very few women who had a seat at the table right after 9/11 and worked on plenty of projects upstanding -- upstanding, listen to me -- standing up. The most largest component of DHS.
SHERWOODWhich part do you work for now?
AYALAI'm still -- I won't reveal the agency, but I'm still with (unintelligible)...
SHERWOOD(overlapping) I thought it was TSA. Am I...
AYALA(laugh) Yes, that's who -- I am with TSA.
SHERWOODAre you a contractor, or are you an employee?
AYALAI am a contractor. You know, Hatch Act, you know, as a fed, when I decided to run for office. So, I quit. And, two days later, I filed, and the rest is history, so they say.
NNAMDISo, well, since you're a cyber security expert, we've got to ask you this, because this is at the top of the news cycle today. I need to ask you about the escalation of tensions between the United States and Iran. Early Friday, Baghdad time, the United States targeted and killed Iran's top general, Qasem Soleimani, in a drone attack at the Baghdad Airport. Iranian leaders said today that this is an unequivocal act of war, and that they are going to retaliate. And the speculation is that that may mean retaliation through cyber attacks. What would that kind of attack look like, and what would it mean for the average American?
AYALASo, let me speak to this in the context of my experience after 9/11. Not to say that the retaliation will look like that, so I want to make that clear.
AYALABut just to tell you how our world changed once we knew the -- we were already doing information security across DOD. And some non-DOD entities were assisting in those efforts. But after 9/11, our world looked a lot differently on the cyber front, right. We had information warfare, things that we could not disclose publically, you know, about what that looked like. And we ramped up our efforts. Some agencies who were never a part of DHS or was not, you know...
SHERWOODMore than the history, do you think this country is prepared for whatever may come next?
AYALAWell, we have wonderful expertise and talents across, you know, our nation in this area of cyber security. We constantly work at securing our infrastructure, constantly protecting our data that assists in some of our military efforts and nonmilitary efforts. But I will say this, you can't really speculate what this is going to look like, because we see what's happening already. We saw what happened in our elections. That's what a cyber attack would look like.
AYALAWe see how information can be easily transmitted. We've seen that play out throughout the media. And I would say this: for me, it's dangerous to speculate what our cyber security world will look like after this attack.
SHERWOODDo you think Virginia government is ready to do more?
AYALAWell, again, I think it's something that we will have to take a deeper dive. You know, we don't -- this has just happened. This incident has just occurred, and I think we need to leave it to not only specialists who are dealing with national security issues and cyber issues and things to really figure out what that's going to look like.
NNAMDILast year you sponsored a bill that would increase cyber security training for state employees in Virginia. What bills relating to cyber security are you hoping to introduce and pass this session?
AYALAWell, you'll see a lot of those come through -- let me reframe that. You'll see bills that are pertaining to cyber security that are released, so privacy is a big issue. That's not just about what everyday Virginians are concerned about, but that's one of the issues that were amplified during the campaign trail. You know, as we become increasingly educated and aware of what cyber security attacks look like, to your earlier point, we have to do things to protect our critical infrastructure.
AYALAThis could mean, you know, making sure, you know, operations for police and EMT are encrypted when they're using their, you know, what do you call it -- what do you call that device -- their CBs and things like that when they're transmitting tactical information. So, we want to make sure that we are prepared and that we move Virginia forward, and preparation for any type of cyber emergency that...
SHERWOODWell, let me ask you about a state issue: redistricting.
NNAMDII was about to go there.
AYALAOh, we go from cyber to redistricting. (laugh)
SHERWOODThere's concern that Democrats, now that you're in charge, you will not go forward with an independent citizens commission to redraw the lines. Where are you on that issue?
AYALASo, we did pass redistricting reform. It was one of the most...
SHERWOODYou have to pass it again, and then the voters pass it.
AYALA(overlapping) We do have to pass it again.
SHERWOODAre you for it?
AYALASo, we fought very hard for independent redistricting. We've been constantly blocked on some of these particular, you know...
SHERWOODYeah, but it comes up for a vote again.
AYALA...reforms that we've wanted to see. It does come up for a vote again. But we have introduced redistricting reforms in years past, right. And so we've been constantly blocked from passing this type of reform.
SHERWOODYes, but coming up, the legislature passed it overwhelmingly last year. You now have to pass it again in the same substantive form. And then it goes to the voters. Are you -- some Democrats are saying, hey, why don't we just do it ourselves? We're in control. Do you want the commission or not?
AYALASo, I would say this: there are legitimate concerns about some of the issues about the current piece of legislation regarding redistricting reform. We have to move forward in making sure that we have fair maps across the Commonwealth. Right? We've seen what unfair maps has done. It's kept Democrats out of office and people of color out of office for over 20-plus years here in the Commonwealth. And the system -- in 2017, we have overcome a lot of our gerrymandering issues just by the state of the presidential election.
SHERWOODOkay. So, you're open...
NNAMDIBut wait a minute...
SHERWOOD...so you're open to change, or not change?
NNAMDIMost members of the Legislative Black Caucus, of which you're a member, opposed the legislation the first time around. And I'm suspecting they will oppose it this time around. But you voted for it the first time around, so are you saying that you are still in favor of an independent redistricting commission?
AYALAI would say that you may hear conversations about how we're going to address those concerns in the upcoming legislative session. We do need to move Virginia forward. The way we passed, you know, amendments, or our constitutional amendments, we have time now to look at this piece of legislation and really have a thorough dialogue...
SHERWOODOkay. So, you're not going to make a position. Let's do something that's more to the heart of what people do. The governor's proposed raising the gas tax. I believe, in your interesting background, you worked for a gas station.
AYALA(laugh) I did.
SHERWOODYou see how people come in and buy a $1.25 worth of gas to get them to the next place. What do you think about raising the gas tax? I think it's 12 cents. I can't remember all the reasons why he wants to do it, but also, there's a group that wants to raise it another 17 cents for carbon emissions issues. That would be almost 30 cents a gallon for gas. Virginia has one of the lowest gas taxes in the country.
AYALAYes, we do.
SHERWOODAre you prepared to raise the gas tax?
AYALAI would say the premise of your question would assume that it would possibly be a bad thing for us to do that. But we need to look at funding and how we're going to fund projects like transportation, education and things that we are needing to, again, address in...
SHERWOOD(overlapping) I think Virginia has one of the lowest in the country, so raising...
AYALAYeah, we do. Yes.
SHERWOOD...I don't have a personal opinion, but you certainly have room to raise the gas tax.
AYALAWe do have room, and I think that's a fair statement. We have room. We have to see what that proposal looks like before we can say yes, I'll do this, or no, I won't. But I think this is one of the way we can raise revenue in order to fund those specialty projects.
NNAMDIHere is Chris in Falls Church, Virginia. Chris, you're on the air. Go ahead, please.
CHRISHi. And I wanted to say congratulations on your reelection.
CHRISAnd I'm a volunteer activist for gun violence prevention. And I called to ask you to please vote yes on the eight bills that will be presented to the legislature, particularly the universal background check bill and the localities bill, the bill that will allow each community to vote on whether they want their city hall, town hall or county government center to be a gun-free zone. And that allows -- that would -- each community, depending on what they want to do, and they get to make the decision. So, please vote for that bill, too. (laugh)
AYALAOkay. So, I haven't reviewed the gun-free zone bill that you're talking about. I'm still reading through all the bills that are crossing our desk. But, for me, there have been too many shootings over the past few years. I've lost my father to gun violence personally, so I know the impact of gun violence. And we recently saw the incident in Virginia Beach. We have to act. That's the bottom line.
AYALAThis is an opportunity to make so much meaningful change. And I think we're going to do that with the legislation that we have proposed this year to include, you know -- I do support common sense gun legislation, such as universal background checks.
SHERWOODWhat about one gun a month, which used to be the law, and you may bring it back. It was under Governor Wilder. You could buy one handgun a month, but no more. Would you support that law?
AYALASo, again, I don't want to speculate what that law would look like, but we need to look at policy. Politics have been in play here, where we have seen some really very dangerous rhetoric and narratives around gun violence prevention legislation. My job is to review the policy, because policies are people. And that will impact my community, as well as communities across the Commonwealth. So...
NNAMDIGot to ask you about this, you're one of the co-patrons of the bill to ratify the Equal Rights Amendment. It seems like a done deal, that the vote will pass. Are you sensing any hesitation, however, from General Assembly members?
AYALANo. It's time that we bring this law into effect, enshrining women into the U.S. Constitution. And it's something that I fought for for nearly a decade prior to my election, as a woman's rights activist. It's very meaningful to now have representation in the Constitution, and making sure that women are treated fairly in our courts when it comes to ensuring that we get, you know, equality -- not equality, but just equal treatment and fair treatment in the courts when they're judging against or hearing cases on discrimination, sexual assault.
AYALAWhen you're talking about making sure that we enshrine this to empower us for future particular policies, like fair -- what is it, paid family medical leave, and also making sure that we get equal pay. This is what the ratification will do.
SHERWOOD(overlapping) What about campaign finance? Virginia has some of the most lax laws. Right now between now and the opening of the legislature, there's like 60 fundraising parties for various delegates and senators to collect money that they don't even have to report until July.
SHERWOODAnd so they'll go through the legislative session having all this money from interest groups and individuals. Do you think there ought to be tighter laws on what monies can be raised, how it's reported and when it can be reported?
SHERWOODBut as you saw, these elections this past year were obviously the most expensive elections. Some people spent a million dollars.
AYALAI don't think that there -- you know, let me segment this a little bit. There is an issue. Virginia's the wild, wild west, right, when it comes to campaign finance laws. Right? That is a given. We have to raise money when it comes to running for office. That's a given. Right? You have to raise money. So any law that we put forward, we have to be mindful that even women, women of color who don't nearly raise the same amount of money as some of our counterparts do, we need to look at these laws in a full 360 spectrum...
SHERWOODHow about more disclosure?
AYALA...and more disclosure. I'm fine with transparency, but I think we have to really be thoughtful about legislation. We need reform, obviously, but what that looks like needs to be discussed in a very thoughtful and thorough context.
NNAMDIYou got quite a bit of your money in your last campaign, (laugh) because you refused to take donations from Dominion Energy. Well, how come? Why don't you accept contributions from Dominion Energy?
AYALASo, this was a people-powered grassroots campaign, people that supported our movement. This wasn't against -- this wasn't a I dislike Dominion type of pledge. I took the pledge in 2017, initially. We need -- when we're talking about climate change, when we're talking about reform, these are things that, traditionally, from my -- until I got the in to the General Assembly, that we've seen that Dominion has had particular policies that favored their growth and impact on our communities. And we needed reform.
AYALASo, with that in mind, I marched to my own beat of my own drum and said, look, hey, we got to, you know, empower our campaigns from other people that support us to get into office.
NNAMDII'm afraid that's all the time we have.
SHERWOODI've got many more questions.
NNAMDI(laugh) Hala Ayala is...
AYALATommy, you better have me back, then. (laugh)
NNAMDI...a member of the Virginia House of Representatives, representing District 51 in Prince William County. She is a Democrat. Thank you so much for joining us.
AYALAThank you so much, Kojo. Thank you so much, Tommy.
NNAMDIToday's show was produced by Cydney Grannan. Coming up on Monday, what role did guns play in the murder rate that plagued D.C. in 2019, the highest in the past decade? And with the rise of anti-Semitism across the nation, how is the local Jewish community responding? That starts at noon, on Monday. Until then, have a wonderful weekend. What are you doing this weekend, Sherwood?
SHERWOODNothing is one of the best things you can do to refresh yourself.
NNAMDIOh, boy. Here we go again. I'm Kojo Nnamdi.
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