As the capital region starts reopening, we hear from the chairman of the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors, Jeff McKay, and D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser. Plus, DCist senior editor Rachel Kurzius gives a preview of D.C.'s June 2 primary.
After serving as the Lee District Supervisor for over a decade, Democrat Jeff McKay was elected as the Chairman of the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors. He joins this week’s Politics Hour.
A Changing Of The Guard In Fairfax County
- Longtime Fairfax County Chairman Sharon Bulova (D) retired after more than 30 years with the county Board of Supervisors. Listen back to her recent appearance on the Politics Hour reflecting on her tenure.
- McKay, who was elected Lee District supervisor in 2007, won the chairman’s seat in November.
- Bulova mentored McKay. She appointed him to lead the board’s legislative and budget committees, with the idea that he would succeed her as chairman.
- McKay’s ascent to the chairmanship wasn’t without scandal. In May 2019, a political opponent of McKay’s filed an ethics complaint against him, alleging McKay exchanged a political favor for a real-estate deal. Virginia State Police launched an investigation into McKay, but found no evidence of a crime. And Fairfax County prosecutors declined to file charges.
- When asked on the Politics Hour about the allegations, McKay said: “The ethics violation that you mentioned was filed by a millionaire developer that tried to purchase the election … Anyone can be a subject of an unwarranted attack by anyone who has an enormous amount of personal wealth to spend on a campaign.”
Affordable Housing In A Growing County
- A resident of Reston, Virginia called in to ask, “Don’t we have enough people? Isn’t Fairfax County big enough?” He thought Fairfax County is overcrowded, pointing to traffic and a lack of green space in particular.
- “The county’s hayday of growth was really in the 1980s,” said McKay on the Politics Hour. “The projections right now show us going from just over 1.1 million to around 1.3 million in the next 10 to 15 years.”
- “To solve our affordable housing problems, we need to address it by addressing it in every magisterial district,” McKay said.
- McKay says he expects to exceed the county’s affordable housing goal of creating 5,000 new homes over the next 15 years.
- When asked about potentially changing areas that are zoned for single-family units, McKay said, “I do think that some of our established single-family neighborhoods need to stay that [way], but I also think that flexibility is something we’re going to look at.”
- McKay also said that Fairfax County is rewriting its entire zoning ordinance “for the first time in decades.”
Could Fairfax County Employees Get More Paid Parental Leave?
- The Fairfax County Board of Supervisors is considering increasing paid parental leave for county employees.
- Right now, employees get two weeks of paid parental leave following the birth or adoption of a child. The Board is considering extending it to six weeks.
- What are the odds of the Board approving the new leave policy? “I think the chances are very good,” McKay said on the show.
- “Most importantly, I think it sets a tenor for the private sector to follow,” McKay added.
Del. Eric Luedtke (D-Montgomery County) is the Majority Leader in the House of Delegates. He’s also an educator: After working for over a decade as a teacher in Montgomery County Public Schools, he’s now an adjunct professor at the University of Maryland, College Park.
Democrats’ Priorities In Maryland’s 2020 General Assembly
- House Speaker Adrienne Jones (D-Baltimore County) and Senate President Bill Ferguson (D-Baltimore City) represent a new era of General Assembly leadership. For the first time in a generation, neither leader is from the D.C. area.
- Topping the list of priorities is education. The General Assembly is considering measures that would rebuild Maryland’s public school buildings and would fund the Kirwan Commission’s steep recommendations to improve public education. (More on that below.)
- Democrats also want to ban vaping products, expand gun regulations and legalize sports betting.
- A bipartisan group of lawmakers is looking to change the way vacancies are filled in the General Assembly. Right now, replacements are selected by party central committees and then appointed by the governor. Some lawmakers want to instead hold special elections.
- When asked about how new Democratic leaders are managing their relationships with Republicans, Luedtke said, “I don’t think you’ll see more fireworks [than with past leaders] … The reality is, Annapolis is quite a bipartisan place. More than 90% of the bills we pass in the House are passed either unanimously or close to unanimously.”
- “I actually as a person get along great with the governor,” said Luedtke. “He and I spar sometimes on issues, but it’s about issues. It’s politics; it’s not personal.”
Funding The Kirwan Commission’s Recommendations
- The “Commission on Innovation and Excellence in Education” is commonly referred to as the Kirwan Commission, named after its chairman, William E. Kirwan. The commission’s 26 members include state lawmakers, representatives from state and local school boards, and other key stakeholders.
- The commission released its recommendations last year to improve Maryland’s education system. Recommendations include free pre-K, higher teachers’ salaries, offering high school students training for jobs right after graduation, and more.
- But, these recommendations come with a lofty price tag of $4 billion per year. And the commission didn’t include guidance on how the state or localities will fund it.
- Prince George’s County and the city of Baltimore are concerned about the hefty cost that they’ll be responsible for covering. Prince George’s County would be expected to pay $360.9 million more on education each year; Baltimore would be expected to pay $329.4 million.
- Maryland House Democrats are making education funding a priority. HB1 and the not-yet-filed HB2 both address funding the Kirwan Commission’s recommendations.
- “I’m confident we’re going to be able to find ways to fully fund the recommendations without increasing the top line rates — property and sales and income taxes,” Luedtke said. “The legislature knew this was coming. We’ve been putting away for it. So we’ve got the first three years already paid for.”
- Luedtke also said that simple changes to the tax code, among other laws, can provide additional revenue.
Del. Luedtke’s Legislative Priorities
- Luedtke introduced the Student Voter Empowerment Act of 2020 (HB245), which would make it easier for college students in Maryland to vote. Some specific requirements: Colleges and universities would need to designate a staff member as the student voting coordinator; colleges and universities would need to put voting registration on their website; and some institutions would get their own polling place.
- Luedtke is collaborating with Sen. Delores Kelley (D-Baltimore County) on a bill that would create a juvenile services education school system to manage and operate education programs in detention centers throughout the state.
- Last year, Maryland Governor Larry Hogan (R) vetoed a bill that Luedtke championed that would allow undocumented immigrants to pay Maryland’s in-state college tuition rate. The General Assembly will have a veto override vote next week.
- Some delegates have floated the idea that pay raises could prevent corruption from state lawmakers. On the Politics Hour, Luedtke said he doesn’t think that opinion is widespread among legislators. Luedtke thinks the appropriate response to corruption is “trying to strengthen our ethics laws,” and he said that Maryland House Democrats are looking into a package of bills that could prevent corruption.
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: the real reason the impeachment trial doesn't start until 1:00 in the afternoon, (laugh) when he's done. I'm Kojo Nnamdi. Tom Sherwood is our resident analyst and a contributing writer for Washington City Paper. Tom Sherwood, welcome.
TOM SHERWOODGood afternoon, everyone.
NNAMDIIsn't that why they start the impeachment trial at 1:00, because you're done by then?
SHERWOODI think this is the first time in recorded history I have been connected to an impeachment trial. (laugh)
NNAMDIWell, I'm happy to be the one who did that. Later in the broadcas we'll be talking with Eric Luedtke. He is the majority leader in the Maryland House of Delegates. And joining us in-studio now is Jeffrey McKay, chairman of the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors. He's a Democrat. Chairman Jeff McKay, welcome.
JEFFREY MCKAYThank you. Thank you for having me.
NNAMDIFirst, Tom Sherwood, an explanation and an opinion piece in The Washington Blade titled "D.C. Enacts Bills With No Hope of Funding." Mark Lee writes that, in fact, during the last D.C. Council legislative period, a total of 90 bills were passed that were either in whole or in part subject to the later appropriation of funds to pay for them. According to a D.C. Council Budget Office report, it was the highest number of unfunded bills passed in council history, and would result in fully 71 of the 90 measures remaining unfunded. How does that happen?
SHERWOODI'm not sure people want just a detailed (laugh) explanation of the legislative process, which we always refer to as "sausage-making." But, basically, the District passes its budget, like most governments, once a year. And then during the year -- and every budget bill has to have some fiscal impact policy statement about it.
SHERWOODBut there are political pressures to pass bills to get things done during the year, and then there are just bills to be passed that will ultimately -- maybe will be funded. So, the Council passes something called "subject to appropriations." There's a whole list of them on the D.C. Council budget website.
SHERWOODThere has been a spike in them. Some are done politically; a councilmember who's under pressure or wants to satisfy the urging of some interest group or community will pass a bill, and then it'll be subject where the mayor or the Council funds it the next year. Others are just important bills that get passed during the year, and they are subject to appropriations.
SHERWOODSo, they may not go into effect. Many of them don't go into effect, but most of them do. I'm not sure exactly why Mr. Lee went off on this long editorial about it. I haven’t heard of any major bills that are never going to be funded or are disrupting the business of government.
NNAMDIWell, we may see what happens later on. The Virginia Senate --
SHERWOODOh, may I just say one last thing? My solution to this, since you didn't ask me my solution, is that every bill passed subject to appropriation ought to be marked at the very top of it, so that everyone knows that it is a subject to appropriation bill, and that would be disclosure.
NNAMDIAnd has not yet been funded. Despite the thousands of demonstrators who showed up Monday, who demonstrated largely against gun control, the Virginia senate nevertheless approved the red flag law, allowing temporary seizure of guns from someone deemed a threat. It is known as the red flag law.
NNAMDIIt passed on a party-line vote, 21-19. But this was, Tom Sherwood, completely expected, was it not?
SHERWOODOh, yes. And the Virginia legislature, now in the Democrats' hands, is moving expeditiously on a number of gun measures. The red flag law, which allows police or authorities to act if someone is an imminent danger, or believed to be an imminent danger.
SHERWOODBut they're also limiting handguns again back to one per month. They're requiring background checks on all gun purchases, and they're going to even allow localities, local governments in Virginia, like Fairfax County, to pass laws banning guns in certain public places.
SHERWOODThese bills will be passing through the Senate and the House, and they'll be signed by the governor Northam. This is part of the fallout. You know, elections matter, and this is what's happening.
NNAMDIJeff McKay, presumably, this is something you approve of.
MCKAYIt is. It's something our board has endorsed overwhelmingly. It's something that our population in Fairfax County supports. Frankly, it's way overdue, and we have supported all of the efforts that were just mentioned, but particularly, the banning weapons from government centers and rec centers. I mean, that's something that should be a local prerogative and decided by a local board of supervisors.
SHERWOODDo people, in your time on the board -- you're now the new chair, but you've been on the board since, what, 2007 or something?
SHERWOODSo you're a veteran. Do people bring guns to the Fairfax government center?
SHERWOODIn Fair -- is it Fair Oaks, is what it's --
MCKAYIt's in Fair Oaks, yeah.
SHERWOODIt is. Huge --
SHERWOOD-- Taj Mahal.
MCKAYRight. Absolutely, they do, and we recently had a delegation public hearing, where we had our entire delegation from Richmond there. And every seat in the auditorium was full, and majority of them were people seeking Second Amendment rights and actively carrying and displaying weapons. And so it's not --
SHERWOOD(overlapping) Open-carry? I mean --
MCKAYOpen-carry. It's not routine, but certainly, when an issue comes up relative to that subject, they routinely will show up and make their presence known.
SHERWOODDid you pay attention to the gun rally? I ended up not going, but I monitor about 10 or 15 Twitter accounts of people I know there. Did you look at it and see -- there were some concerns expressed that the perimeter around the capitol wasn't large enough, that there were more people outside the fences than inside.
SHERWOODBecause inside the fence for the demonstration, you couldn't have a gun, but outside on the street, there were, you know, people with assault weapons and, you know, all kinds of weapons.
SHERWOODDid you pay attention much to it at all?
MCKAYWell, I've been to Richmond many times in the past, on Martin Luther King Day, which also is the day for the gun rights folks to show up. And so I've seen that up close and personal. I think this year was different, because of the governor's declaration, which I think was the right thing to do.
SHERWOOD(overlapping) Upheld by the state supreme court.
MCKAYExactly, and I think it was the right thing to do, you know, based on what happened in Charlottesville and based on some of the things that were being said and done in advance of the General Assembly session. I think public safety should trump all other things. I'm really glad there were no real reported incidents down there, and that people peacefully displayed their opinions.
SHERWOODAre guns a problem in Fairfax?
MCKAYThey are a problem. We look at it more from, obviously, a local level, and in talking with our law enforcement officials and others, they're particularly problematic when we have domestic violence cases. And, a lot of times, people don't think about that. But I think we have a number of suicides that happen in all jurisdictions. They're concerning to us in Fairfax. And availability of weapons obviously has a distinct different outcome in those cases.
MCKAYAnd so it is something that we're concerned about. And, as I said before, clearly, the residents of Fairfax County think it's past time that reasonable gun control measures be passed in Virginia and in Fairfax County.
NNAMDIBy the way, congratulations on your election to the chairmanship.
MCKAYThank you very much.
NNAMDIOn Election Night, you said, quoting here, "Fairfax County is more Democratic than ever. Four supervisors are new, and Democrats now have a 9-1 majority on the board." What difference do you think that makes? What can you accomplish now that you think the board could not necessarily accomplish before?
MCKAYI don't know that there's anything different we can accomplish. I think it provides us a mandate to make a strong pivot forward on some important priorities that have been priorities of mine for a long time, but I think will be easily -- more easily funded and implemented now.
MCKAYAnd certainly how we deal with climate change, how we promote sizeable affordable housing gains, and how we deal with equity issues. Look, the district that I represented for 12 years in the county is an older district. It's a district that has tremendous need.
MCKAYIt's a district that is in need of revitalization. And it's a part of the county that, for many people, they felt like the rest of the county had left behind. And we need to make sure that we think about that when we make decisions, as a board, moving forward, and I think a direct, intentional look at equity is going to be a prerogative of this board that wasn't necessarily on the front burner, always, of past boards of supervisors.
NNAMDIHere's David in Reston, Virginia, with a question that relates to everything you're about to do. David, you're on the air. Go ahead, please.
DAVIDHi. Good afternoon, everybody. Yeah, my question is really pretty simple. I live in Reston. I've been here about 20 years. Don't we have enough people? Isn't Fairfax County big enough? (laugh) That's my question.
NNAMDI(overlapping) This goes to everything you're going to do as chairman of the board of --
DAVID-- because we need it.
NNAMDIDo you think you --
SHERWOODYes, or you stop growing.
NNAMDIDavid, do you think Fairfax County is already overcrowded?
DAVIDYes, I do.
DAVIDWell -- well, just start with traffic. That would be a very easy indicator. Second is the cost in public space and green space, the continued construction --
DAVID-- of more and more --
NNAMDI(overlapping) Got your point. Allow me to have Jeff McKay respond.
MCKAYYeah, well, I mean, first, we need to recognize that Fairfax County is a place where people want to live. There's a reason why people want to come to our county. We have superb services, superb schools, very low crime, a very well-governed county. And so I'm appreciative that people want to live in the county.
MCKAYI think, as we move forward, we have to think more strategically about how we grow. You know, no matter what you do, there's going to be growth in the county. The question is, is it the right kind of growth, is it in the right places, is it environmentally sustainable, is it near transit, to address some of the traffic issues that the caller mentioned.
MCKAYAnd I think, you know, there's a renewed interest in making sure that we protect green spaces and making sure that the growth that happens in the county happens in the parts of the county that have the infrastructure to support it.
MCKAYAnd, certainly, in my lifetime, living in Fairfax County, we've seen an urbanization of certain areas of the county, and tremendous economic success in those areas. That's the type of growth that we need to be focused on.
SHERWOODYou have about a million people on the last census. Is there an outside number in the council of government's planning or Fairfax planning, which you look ahead into the future, 10, 20, or 30 years? You know, the District of Columbia was down around 500,000. It's now at 700,000. By 2032, it could be 900,000. What is the projection for the growth that this caller is worried about?
MCKAYYeah, so --
SHERWOOD(overlapping) In 2032, what would it be, roughly?
MCKAYWell, we have a demographer, we have -- and as you mentioned, COG numbers. And so what we're looking at is continued growth in the county, but not necessarily at the rate that we've seen in some past years. You know, the county's heyday of growth was really in the 1980s, when there was a growth explosion.
MCKAYIt's a different type of growth now, but the projections right now show us going from just over 1.1 million to around 1.3 million in the next 10 to 15 years. And so it's not as dramatic as what you've seen in the District, but we will continue growing. It just will be at a more reserved pace.
SHERWOODDo you recall when Tyson's Corner was, in fact, a corner, an intersection, a small --
SHERWOODI mean, you're -- I think you're old enough, maybe, to remember that.
MCKAYI do remember that.
SHERWOODAnd of course now it's just says "Tyson's." They've dropped the "Corner." And it is promoting itself as a new downtown.
MCKAYYeah, which I think is the right thing to do. Look, we have transit coming there now. We have tremendous economic opportunities in Tyson's Corner. And the traffic issues in Tyson's -- it's interesting, because traffic in Tyson's has been bad pretty much my entire lifetime. And, actually, what you've seen is tremendous, tremendous growth in Tyson's, and the traffic hasn't been equally as bad as the growth because of the transit.
MCKAYAnd we're seeing increased ridership on the silver line. We're seeing new attitudes in Tyson's Corner. We're seeing pedestrian activity for the first time in Tyson's Corner. These things don't happen overnight, but I definitely remember a time when Tyson's Corner was just that: a corner. I remember when going out to Dulles Airport from the Alexandria section of the county that I lived in was a whole day trip. And so, obviously, a lot has changed in the county in a very positive way. But, you know, we are the economic engine of the Commonwealth of Virginia, and we're going to make sure that we stay that.
SHERWOODWell, I'm glad you said that. You know, there's some delegate there in Richmond, a Republican delegate who is suggesting that the district should get back Arlington and part of Fairfax that used to be initially in the District of Columbia that was ceded back to Virginia in the 1840s. Would you --
SHERWOODI'm sorry. I assume you're not interested in having the economic engine of Virginia be reconnected to the District of Columbia. We would welcome you, of course. It would help us become a state.
MCKAYWell, look, first of all, I'm a big proponent of regionalism, and so I appreciate our proximity to the District and my partners in Alexandria and Arlington. But, you know, this is one of the frustrating things for me with the legislature, is you get some crazy bills like this that come out that provoke a good conversation, but really aren't focused on the real work of what really concerns people.
MCKAYBut I will say that, you know, one of my focus areas, and I've served on the WMATA board and at COG and NVRC/NVTA, all these regional bodies. And, you know, I do think there's a real strong appetite to focus on regionalism, which is a good thing.
NNAMDIGot to take a short break. When we come back, we'll continue this conversation. If you have called, stay on the lines. Our callers are raising a variety of issues that we intended to raise ourselves, but we'll let you do that. Give us a call: 800-433-8850. Send us a tweet @KojoShow, or email to Kojo@WAMU.org. I'm Kojo Nnamdi.
NNAMDIWelcome back. Tom Sherwood is our resident analyst. He's a contributing writer for Washington City Paper. Our guest is Jeff McKay, chairman of the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors. Later in the broadcast we'll be talking with Eric Luedtke, majority leader in the Maryland House of Delegates.
NNAMDIDuring your campaign for the chairmanship, you were subject to an ethics investigation. There were allegations that you received a discount on a home from a homebuilder that brought a business before the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors.
NNAMDIThe Virginia state police investigated but ultimately did not find evidence of any crime, and Fairfax County prosecutors did not file any charges. Don't want to go over all of that again. The story brought up a bigger issue, though, in the way the Board of Supervisors operates.
NNAMDISupervisors have to disclose contributions from relevant parties in zoning matters, but they don't have to recuse themselves from votes. I know transparency is one of Tom Sherwood's favorite issues. Do you think that, in this case, disclosure and transparency solves the problem?
MCKAYI think it partly addresses it. We do make those disclosures, and our board is very strict on doing that. We're one of the few counties in the Commonwealth of Virginia that does that. I do think there are other issues here that need to be addressed, as well. Campaign finance is one of them.
MCKAYI mean, you know, the ethics violation that you mentioned was filed by a millionaire developer who, you know, tried to purchase the election. It was false. The voters didn't buy it, but it points to a different problem, which is anyone could be the subject of an unwarranted attack by anyone who has an enormous amount of personal wealth to spend on a campaign.
MCKAYAnd, you know, obviously, the voters were clear on how they felt about that, but I think it points to a bigger issue about money that's spent on campaigns. It's out of control. I've said that repeatedly. I do think the Virginia disclosure rules are good. Not only do we disclose on land use cases, but, of course, we file an annual statement of economic interest.
MCKAYWe also file a campaign finance report. And so every contribution that we get can be seen clearly on the Internet. I think VPAP does an excellent job pointing out campaign --
SHERWOOD(overlapping) That's the Virginia Public Access Project, which I would encourage any listener to go to its website. It's a nonpartisan accounter of all kinds of campaign finance money. It's very interesting. VPAP -- V-P-A-P, right?
MCKAYDot-org. And they're excellent.
MCKAYTo your point, they do an excellent job categorizing them by industry, doing regular reports on them. That's the type of transparency that the voters deserve, and something I've always supported.
NNAMDIFairfax County Board of Supervisors is considering increasing paid parental leave for county employees. Right now, employees get two weeks of paid parental leave following the birth or adoption of a child. But the board might extend that to six weeks' paid leave, and that is precisely what David in Vienna wants to talk about. David, you're on the air. Go ahead, please.
DAVID - VIENNAHi, Chairman. It's David (unintelligible). I'm a Fairfax County employee and I live in Vienna, Virginia. And I want to thank the Chairman McKay for championing paid family leave for county employees, and I think it's crucial to support the middle class families.
DAVID - VIENNAAnd, of course, it's a very tough time -- an important time when you have a child or a loved one who's sick. So, I just wanted to know what the chances of it passing the board will be.
MCKAYThank you for the compliment. I think the chances are very good. It's something I strongly support, it's something that I've heard from our employee. Look, in Fairfax, our goal is to be the most friendly -- family-friendly employer in the region, and if we're going to attract the kind of talent into our workforce, especially the young talent, that's what they're looking for.
MCKAYSo, I think our board will support it. I think we will go up to six weeks. I think it's the right thing to do. And, most importantly, I think it sets a tenor for the private sector to follow. I feel like we have an obligation on the public side to provide the kind of supports for our employees that we hope others will imitate, as well. So, I think it has a good chance of passing, and I'm going to continue to work towards doing that.
SHERWOODVery quickly, how many weeks -- if you have two now, what are you recommending for a new parent?
MCKAYMy hope is we get to six weeks. And, you know, we have some anecdotal evidence in the county that show what people take off when they do have a child, paternal and maternal leave. And, you know, a lot of these cases, they're using sick or other leave, and so we've looked at that to try to determine with the right number is. But I support six weeks.
SHERWOODDo you have -- does this require -- can Fairfax do this on its own, or do you require the General Assembly approval?
MCKAYThis is something we can do on our own.
NNAMDIHere now is the question of affordability -- two callers on that. I'll start with Jerry in Vienna, Virginia. Jerry, your turn.
JERRYThank you, Kojo, and thank you, Chairman McKay, and congratulations. Last year's board received the county's strategic plan for affordable homes for all, and that sought to add 5,000 new affordable units and to bolster our local housing trust fund with at least a penny's worth of real estate valuation.
JERRYI'm wondering whether you can address what this year's board, a brand-new board, will do to accept and meet that challenge, but more importantly, how are we going to build the base of advocates who are really going to ensure that we get that housing built in every magisterial district?
JERRYWe have urgent needs, from seniors on fixed incomes, for more affordable housing, newly minted college graduates who are educated in Fairfax County, but can't come back, because they're --
NNAMDI(overlapping) Okay. Allow me to have Jeff McKay answer that question, because we have another one on housing, but that's on a slightly different aspect of the issue.
MCKAYYeah, so I support the recommendations that the group made. I've made that clear. The caller is absolutely right: to solve our affordable housing problems we need to address it by addressing it in every magisterial district. This is a regional issue, as well, and I support the COGS goals that are out there.
MCKAYWe have over a thousand units already in the entitlement pipeline of affordable housing, as we sit here today. And so getting to that 5,000 goal, we will exceed that, is my expectation. I do think this next board will invest the extra penny in affordable housing that we need, and this is a vital issue -- not just an economic issue, but an environmental issue, quality-of-life issue.
MCKAYAnd you know, in my time on the board, we have built hundreds and hundreds of affordable dwelling units in my District, and to build the community support, as you mentioned, we have to show them the affordable housing that we're building in Fairfax County today.
NNAMDIBut can you --
MCKAYIt's high quality, it's walkable, it's high quality. It's not what the image of affordable housing that people might have had in the '50s, '60s and '70s. That's not how we build affordable housing today, and that gets people to a comfort level to be advocates and supporters.
SHERWOODAnd what do we mean by "affordable housing" for a family of four, maybe? What would be an income level? Are we talking about workforce housing or low-income housing or no-income housing? When you say affordable housing, what is that audience?
MCKAYSo, it ranges in spectrum.
SHERWOODI realize it can get very complicated very quickly.
MCKAYIt does, and a lot of it is, you know, specific site-based. But, you know, we try to look at a sliding scale of AMI, of you know, between 40 and 120 percent.
MCKAYArea -- annual --
NNAMDI(overlapping) Median income.
SHERWOODMedian income, right.
MCKAYAnd so, you know, it's different for each project, what economics work. And so one of the good things about the extra penny is we will use that to leverage our nonprofit housing builders to come in with creative ideas. I have an affordable housing project that I worked on recently in my district that is built on what used to be a storm water pond. It was public land not used.
MCKAYAnd, in that case, our public land was put on the table and offered up, and it allows us to work with a private sector, nonprofit, affordable housing builder to drive down that cost. And so the range will be different in each case, but we need to look at this target 50 to 100, 120 percent.
NNAMDICan't talk about affordable housing without talking about zoning. That's what Mike in Fairfax wants to talk about. Mike, could you make your question or comment brief? We're running out of time.
MIKEFred Seldon, the former head of (unintelligible) plan said that 70 percent of Fairfax County is zone for one acre or more. If we say that we're going to provide affordable housing, can we really limit it to only 30 percent of the county? And we're not going to solve it with high-rise. That's the most expensive way to build housing.
MCKAYWell, I mean, you know, what Fred has said is based on a comprehensive plan, and, you know, I don't know all the details of his quotation. I certainly have represented an area that doesn't mimic that at all. And so I think it is important to recognize the county is big.
MCKAYIt's geographically diverse. It has areas that are going to have lower density development. Remember, we -- in that equation, we have places like Mason Neck that have no public sewer, intentionally. And so, you know, I've rezoned a lot of property in my years on the board, and, you know, what we're seeing is an urbanization of some areas of the county where we have great opportunity.
MCKAYI do think that, you know, some of our established, single-family neighborhoods need to stay that, but I also think that flexibility is something we're going to look at.
MCKAYYou know, we're rewriting our entire zoning ordinance in Fairfax County right now for the first time in decades. And this is going to be one of those critical things we look at, is the single-family zoning.
SHERWOODWill you include ancillary dwelling units for single-family homes to have smaller buildings built on their property?
MCKAYSo, we have that already in the county. It's quite restrictive, and so one of the things we're going to look at is: do we need to be more spry in that area? But, right now, one can do that. They just have to go through a process, and that's one of the things we'll be looking at.
SHERWOODThe process is not a good -- I have one more question if we're almost out of time.
SHERWOODYou've replaced Sharon Bulova on the board. She was what, on the board 30-something years?
SHERWOODShe had a very mild public demeanor, but she could be tough-as-nails when she needed to be. I'm not sure exactly what your style will be but I also looked at your background. You have retired greyhound dogs in your house?
MCKAY(laugh) I do.
SHERWOODIs that something you do on a regular basis? Where would you even get a retired greyhound dog?
NNAMDIHave enough time at home for greyhound dogs?
MCKAYYeah, we actually have adopted them through a nonprofit organization off of the racetrack in Wheeling Downs, West Virginia. They make phenomenal pets, and they keep me energized. (laugh)
SHERWOODAll right, good. Thank you.
NNAMDIKathryn tweets: how does the new board intend to address shifting to renewable energy sources and preserving the environment, reducing waste and pollution? I know that Fairfax County is planning to buy energy from contractors who will install solar panels on over 100 county buildings, something that Dominion Energy presumably disapproves of. So why is it a priority for you?
MCKAYIt's a priority because, for one thing, we have a lot of buildings in the county, including schools, which are incubators for learning. And, you know, renewable energy is something that future generations and this generation have to address. And so school buildings are a good incubator for that.
MCKAYYou know, this is the largest solar power purchase agreement in the history of the Commonwealth of Virginia, if we're able to pull it off. But to your point, we need some help in Richmond, because clearly this is not something that Dominion Power strongly supports. We need to remove the cap on solar power generation, or else we will gobble up every ounce of it just in Fairfax County. And this, like affordable housing, is an issue of regional importance. And so, hopefully, the legislature in Virginia will remove some of these hurdles that local governments in Fairfax face, so we can implement these strategies.
NNAMDIThese last two questions shouldn't take you long to answer. Abbabo tweeted: can you please ask the supervisor if and when Orange Line Metro will come to Centerville, Virginia? (laugh)
MCKAYYou know, first of all, I support Metro extensions, but I think everyone who's ridden Metro, like I have noticed, we have to fix the Rosslyn bottle neck before we continue to expand Metro. And so our focus right now is on, you know, the Long Bridge, getting VRE trains moving and addressing the bottle neck in Rosslyn. I think potential future extensions, both to Prince William County on the Yellow and Blue Line and Orange Line out to Centerville are important priorities as we move forward. But Metro's got to get its act together and fix some of its existing bottlenecks.
NNAMDIAnd, finally, Benjamin tweeted: Chairman McKay, I live next to the government center. During Celebrate Fairfax the fireworks fall onto my property and the storm water runoffs. The last five years, I have not seen staff or contracted staff cleaning up. Could you please look into this? I love the look-into-this question. (laugh) Could you please look into this?
MCKAY(laugh) I would be glad to. You know, my office is now in that building. I'm three weeks in, learning some of the ropes there. And so if he can contact my office directly, we'd be happy to follow up on that.
NNAMDIYeah, Benjamin, he'll be looking in. Hopefully, he'll do something about it. (laugh) Jeff McKay is the chairman of the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors. He's a Democrat. Thank you for joining us.
MCKAYSure. Thank you for having me.
NNAMDIWe're going to take a short break. When we come back, Eric Luedtke, majority leader, the new majority leader in the Maryland House of Delegates. If you have questions or comments, praise or denunciations for him, start calling now: 800-433-8850. I'm Kojo Nnamdi.
NNAMDIWelcome back to The Politics Hour. Tom Sherwood is our resident analyst and a contributing writer for Washington City Paper. Tom Sherwood, apparently, the District is no longer going to be extending the streetcar line between Union Station and Georgetown via downtown. I don't know if this was something you were looking forward to, but it's not going to happen.
SHERWOODI was not looking forward to the massive traffic construction that would be required to take the streetcar. But the Department of Transportation and the mayor decided that the effort to build that streetcar down K Street into Georgetown was just going to be too much of an undertaking. The streetcar runs now only on H Street. The city has never figured out a way to make people pay for it, so it's been free. It's been popular, although it's not a dedicated lane. And cars and trucks block it way too often over there. And they plan to extend that one out Benning Road, across over to Minnesota Avenue, across the river.
NNAMDIThat's still going to happen.
SHERWOODThat's still going to happen. The big plan to move the streetcar down to Anacostia in Southeast, Southwest Washington seems to be going nowhere, at this point. So, I think the city has recognized -- is going to -- the Transportation Department, in fact, says they're going to look to make a transit way along K Street that's going to be redoing the lanes, taking out the service lanes, putting in dedicated, maybe, bus lanes to move more people.
SHERWOODAs we've said earlier, a lot more people are living and working in the District of Columbia in transportation. Not housing, not schools, not any -- it's the number-one thing. If you can't get to where you want to go, it doesn't matter what you have at the end of the road. So, that's what they're going to do with buses and other dedicated lanes.
NNAMDIJoining us now by phone is Eric Luedtke. He is the majority leader in the Maryland House of Delegates. He represents District 14, which covers part of Montgomery County. He is a Democrat. Eric Luedtke, thank you so much for joining us.
ERIC LUEDTKEThanks for having me on the show, and thanks for doing the show. There's such a dearth of local and state government coverage. You do a great public service with this show.
SHERWOODI know you were trying to say nice things about us on Twitter before you got onto this program for the first time.
SHERWOODI noticed that. First of all, what is the majority leader? What does that mean?
LUEDTKEI'm the floor leader for the Democrats in the House of Delegates. I work closely with Speaker Jones and other members of Democratic leadership in coordinating our efforts.
SHERWOODYou're part of her new leadership team, but how is that different from the majority whip, which also, in fact, whips votes on the floor?
LUEDTKESure. So, the majority whip's main job is to whip votes. My job involves helping to coordinate our messaging, work with members to support them in achieving their goals and try to achieve the Democratic agenda in the House.
SHERWOODThe Maryland Matters, Josh Kurtz, who's a longtime reporter and opinion person in the state, picked you as one of the top 10 people to watch in Annapolis. Is that a burden too high?
LUEDTKE(laugh) No. I mean, I just hope I live up to the expectations of my colleagues and of the speaker.
NNAMDIWell, this next question is, essentially: do you want or need a pay raise? But as a backdrop, I will be talking briefly about the fact that the former Baltimore Delegate Cheryl Glenn pled guilty to federal corruption charges. That story has been widely covered, but as a result of that, there was an opinion piece by Frank DeFilippo who says that a lot of legislators in the General Assembly think that these kinds of issues could be avoided if they got a pay raise, that it's a part-time job, and you don't make enough money. How do you feel about pay raises as a possible solution to corruption?
SHERWOODAnd you make about $53,000, I think, is what the delegates make now?
LUEDTKEYeah, I believe so. Look, I don't think it's a lot of people that feel that way. I think the reality is that, you know, corruption exists sometimes in government. It exists in the private sector. You know, we had a scandal in my local PTA, at one point. The appropriate response to legislature, I think, is in trying to strengthen our ethics laws and do what we can to prevent these things from happening.
LUEDTKESo, House Democrats are working on a package of bills, one of which would give the attorneys for the government more power to pursue these cases. Another would ban candidates from having campaign treasurers who are members of their family, which relates to another case that we had recently. The governor has some proposals, too, so I think there's going to be conversations about it.
LUEDTKEAs to pay raises, we can't even do that right now. We have a constitutional provision that says you cannot increase the salary of any elected official in their current term. And, even if we could, I think most of us feel that that's not an appropriate thing to do.
NNAMDIIf you have questions or comments for Delegate Luedtke, give us a call: 800-433-8850, or send us a Tweet @kojoshow, or email to email@example.com.
SHERWOODOne of the things that Josh Kurtz said about you was that you could be a thorn in the side of the Republican Governor Larry Hogan. The governor has made some very strong statements. It seems the Democrats and Republicans are onboard about the $2 billion needed for school capital funds, building schools. But you're far apart on the $4 billion idea of how to do the Kirwan Commission findings to improve Maryland schools.
SHERWOODThe governor has said you guys are going to raise taxes, you're going to cost the state a fortune, and it's going to -- well, he didn't say bankrupt, but it's going to be terrible for the state. The Democrats insist you're going to do something to fund operations of schools. How are you going to reach some kind of compromise that the governor will sign?
NNAMDIAnd you're a former member of the Kirwan Commission yourself.
SHERWOODAnd you also teach at the University of Maryland, I believe.
LUEDTKEAnd I was a middle school teacher in Montgomery County Public Schools. I had 10 years...
SHERWOOD(overlapping) So, you can't waffle on this answer.
LUEDTKERight, exactly. Now, look, I mean, let me take a step back and say first, the blueprint for Maryland's future is, I think, the best school reform proposal in any state in the country. I think it's absolutely vital that we make that commitment to our kids, both from a moral perspective, and from an economic perspective. Maryland competes economically in the knowledge economy. And we need to make sure we're educating that next generation.
LUEDTKEAs to how to pay for it, I'm confident we're going to be able to find ways to fully fund the recommendations without increasing the top line rates in property and sales and income taxes. And there's a couple reasons for that. One, the legislature knew this was coming. We've been putting away money for it, so we've got the first three years already paid for. Two, there are some relatively simple changes we can make in our tax code and to some of our other laws that will provide us much of the revenue we need to get there. But it's absolutely essential we make this investment. I mean, it's a crucial, historic moment in terms of Maryland's planning for its future.
SHERWOODWell, speaking of development, how fast the state is growing in various places, Prince George's County has now eclipsed Montgomery County in terms of job growth. Angela Alsobrook, the county executive, has been touting that this past week. What are your own thoughts? There's been some concerns that the -- and you're from Montgomery County, I should say -- concerns that maybe Montgomery County has got its eye off the ball in terms of development. We just heard a lot about Northern Virginia development. Marc Elrich, the county executive, he wants to have reasonable development that doesn't overwhelm the schools and the roads. Where is Montgomery County in the growth pattern?
LUEDTKEYou know, I think Montgomery County is a mature county now in terms of our growth. I think what you're seeing from Prince George's County is just fantastic. I think Prince George's did not get the same sort of economic investment over many years. I used to live in Prince George's County, so I'm very familiar with it. So, I think it's fantastic that Prince George's has been able to add so many jobs, and continuing to do so.
LUEDTKEBut I do think that Montgomery County's leaders and our broader community have some work to do in terms of determining a vision for the county. There are choices that we can make in terms of how rapidly we want to grow. I don't see it as a zero-sum game in terms of us competing against Prince George's or Virginia or D.C. But I do think that we need to be aware that our economy isn't growing as fast as it used to, and have real discussions about what to do about that.
SHERWOODWell, of course, the big issue there in Montgomery County and Prince George's suburban Maryland is the I-495, I-270 American Legion Bridge plan that Governor Hogan has proposed. There is a bill that Washington Post editorial page was railing about this that there's a bill to allow local government to veto highway changes. And they said this would be a disaster for the state. Where are you on the traffic issues of I-495, I-270, American Legion Bridge in allowing local governments to veto highways?
LUEDTKEWe have a transportation problem in the whole region. Building more roads alone is not going to get us out of it. What Virginia's doing right now in terms of their real plan, in addition to some of the other improvements they've made, is a mixed solution to the problem. I think Maryland, the last few years, has been leaning too much towards roads. All that said, that particular bill, I don't think it would be a disaster.
LUEDTKEThe eastern shore counties in Maryland have had that power for years, and transportation decisions should be a partnership between the state and the local governments. It makes no sense to me that the County Commission and Wicomico County would have that level of agreement or ability to work with the state and Montgomery County or Prince George's County don't. So, I support the bill.
SHERWOODOkay. The Post editorial position on that was the eastern shore and those places don't have the traffic issues that this rapidly-growing region has. And so it's a totally different world.
LUEDTKEI think if you sat in the traffic waiting to get across the Bay Bridge any day of the week, you'd dispute that argument.
SHERWOODWell, I rarely go over there now, because of that bridge traffic.
NNAMDIEducation. Howard and Montgomery Counties are embroiled in intense debates about public school redistricting. I know this is a county level issue, but as an educator who taught in the Montgomery County school system for over a decade, what do you think of this debate about redistricting?
LUEDTKEI have a perspective on this that comes from my background. I great up in Gaithersburg and went to Wooten High School, which is one of the wealthiest parts of Montgomery County. And, you know, honestly, when I was growing up I grew up in a bit of a bubble. I don't think I had a sense that there were poor people in Montgomery County.
LUEDTKEAnd then I, you know, went to college, became a teacher, and I ended up working in high need schools, schools that, you know, almost always had more than 50 percent poverty. And I think we have to admit the fact that, for a variety of reasons having to do with historic housing policy, development, all sorts of reasons, our schools are segregated. And that's not good for kids. It's not good for poor kids, but it's also not good for other kids, because we live in a world now where you have to be able to, in order to compete in the economy, to interact with all sorts of people.
LUEDTKEAnd, you know, I've got four kids myself. I want them to understand people from different backgrounds to understand that not everybody has the same privileges in life. So, I think what Howard County has gone through and what Montgomery County's starting to go through is a really difficult, but really important discussion. We will all be better off if we can get to a place where our schools are more integrated.
SHERWOODI think the Senate President Bill Ferguson said that the plans and things you're going to do for the Kirwan Commission will not require any increase in taxes. Is that correct? Do I have that right?
LUEDTKEThere won't be any increases -- we're not considering any increases in the top-line sales, income and property tax rates.
SHERWOODRight. There might be other things. The governor also has a long-term effort, a plan he's promoted to allow 200,000-plus retirees in the state of Maryland to not pay income taxes to the state on incomes of 50,000 or less, or half of it for up to 100,000. Is that something that Maryland can afford, possibly could do, or will do?
LUEDTKEEvery year in the legislature, we get dozens of proposals for tax cuts for various groups. And, you know, all of them are, on their face, things that look good. And I think everybody is sympathetic to folks on fixed incomes. I think the challenge with the governor's proposal is he has made no suggestion for how to pay for it. In fact, he's proposed a couple other tax cuts for first responders and other groups, and he did account for those in the budget. But this one, he did not. He himself, I think, would admit that it's unlikely to happen. You know, from a fiscal perspective, from a perspective of fiscal responsibility, I think won't be able to do it this year.
SHERWOODLet me ask the general -- there's been a historic change in the Maryland General Assembly, a new speaker, a new president, lots of new members, diversity. It's all still heavily Democratic, of course. What is the relation with Governor Hogan? He can be antagonistic, at times. He can be conciliatory. He's called for an accountability clock on the things you guys are doing. What is the personal relationship between you and the governor?
LUEDTKEBetween me, personally? I get along great with the governor.
SHERWOOD(overlapping) You, personally, and also with the new leadership, is it going to be tougher than under, you know, Michael Busch and Mike Miller? Are we going to see more fireworks, or are we going to see agreement, or both?
LUEDTKEI don't know that you'll see more fireworks. Look, the governor's a Republican. The legislative majorities are Democratic. The voters chose divided government. I think they expect that we'll have some disagreement on issues. But, you know, underneath the headlines, the reality is Annapolis is quite a bipartisan place. More than 90 percent of the bills we pass in the House are passed either unanimously or close to unanimously.
LUEDTKEYou know, to the first part of your question, I actually, as a person, get along great with the governor. He and I spar sometimes on issues, but it's about issues. It's not about -- you know, it's politics, it's not personal.
SHERWOODCan you call him up and speak to him if you want to?
LUEDTKEI don't have his direct line, but I can get to him when I...
SHERWOOD(overlapping) Kojo will give it to you after the show.
NNAMDII definitely don't have it, otherwise the governor would have been on this show a long time ago. Here's Chris in Bethesda. Chris, you're on the air. Go ahead, please.
CHRISHi. Thanks for taking my call. A quick question for the delegate. Can you explain why we have state laws that prohibit the sale of beer and wine in grocery stores? That's not common in most of the other states that I travel in. And when someone goes out to make a trip through all this traffic we've been talking about to purchase a meal, and if you could purchase a bottle of wine without having to make a second trip, wouldn't that just be a convenient and smart thing to do?
NNAMDI(overlapping) Eric Luedtke.
LUEDTKEYeah, that's a great question. Look, the reason it is that way is the policy decision was made many decades ago now to try to allow beer and wine to be sold by mom-and-pop small businesses. So, in Montgomery County there are grocery stores that have licenses to sell beer and wine, but there's only one per chain. And that limits access a little bit.
LUEDTKEWe hear a lot from constituents about that, and they'd like more options. A few years ago, I proposed a local bill which would have allowed a system like they have in Pennsylvania, where basically, the county or small business retailer with a license could co-locate inside a grocery store. It's a way around sort of that policy, but I don't see that happening this year. I think we would need a lot more public pressure to move the dial on that.
SHERWOODThe wholesale liquor industry has opposed the craft beer industry in the state and these more commercial sales of alcohol. But wouldn't that be a money-raising issue for the state to allow more sales of alcohol?
LUEDTKEIt might. I mean, there's a balance there, also, in terms of ensuring that we don't make it too easy, particularly for people that are underage, to access alcohol. As to the craft beer industry, you have seen a number of changes over the last decade, and that's been fantastic. I mean, in Montgomery County my district alone, we now have three farm breweries. And they're all great places, and so that's been a real economic boost for us.
SHERWOOD(all talking at once) Very quick, Peter Franchot, the state controller has been very strong about -- not necessarily effective on everything, but very strong on trying to fix some of these laws. He now says he is going to run for governor. I always say that he's very popular in the state, but not very popular in Annapolis. What do you think about his possibly running -- well, running for governor?
LUEDTKEYou know, it's very early in the 2022 gubernatorial race, I think, will have a lot of time to consider it. You know, I always welcome a broad range of candidates to get into a race like that. I think it's good for the party and for the state to have a real debate between ideas.
SHERWOODWill he be on your list of possibly one to endorse?
LUEDTKEI would have to see who else was getting in the race first. He's the only one out right now talking about it.
NNAMDIWell, Ed tweeted: Delegate Luedtke just ruled out any rises in top line taxes, sales, income and property. Sales taxes are not progressive, so raising them should be anathema. However, our income and property taxes in this state aren't particularly progressive. The General Assembly should raise top rates. What say you, Eric Luedtke?
LUEDTKEYou know, that's been a longstanding conversation. I would actually argue that our income taxes are fairly progressive. That was a change that we made. That didn't used to be, but that's a change we made under Governor O'Malley. But the sales tax is absolutely regressive and our property taxes are fairly regressive. And the reason on the property taxes is we have a provision in our constitution that says you can't have differential rates.
LUEDTKEA jurisdiction like D.C., I believe, has higher property tax rates on the most expensive homes. And, you know, that may be something that gets considered particularly as the counties are looking for ways to fund their portion of the blueprint for Maryland's future. But I don't think we're going to see an increased progressivization in the income tax this year.
NNAMDIEric Luedtke is the majority leader in the Maryland House of Delegates. He represents District 14, which covers part of Montgomery County. He is a Democrat. He tweeted earlier today that his appearance on this show is an indication that he has peaked. So, Delegate Luedtke, it's all the way downhill from here. You know that, right?
SHERWOODYou can come in one day and then redeem yourself. (laugh)
NNAMDIYes. You have to come in the studio so that we can attack you in person. So, thank you very much for joining us.
LUEDTKEThank you for having me.
NNAMDIToday's show was produced by Cydney Grannan. Coming up on Monday, 16 Virginia school districts are replacing diesel buses with electric models. We'll find out why Dominion Energy is offering to pay for the project and what benefits it offers to students and the environment. Plus, “Gun and Powder,” a new musical about two black women passing as white in the Wild West, makes its world premier at Signature Theater.
NNAMDIWe talk to the playwright who found the story in her own family history and the Broadway director who took the project on. That all starts at noon, on Monday. Between now and then, Tom Sherwood, what do you plan on doing?
SHERWOODI'm going to try to get down and see the last parts of the Right for Life march downtown.
NNAMDIOh, that sounds very interesting. As we said, it all starts at noon on Monday. Until then, you have a wonderful weekend. I'm Kojo Nnamdi.
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