On this last episode, we look back on 23 years of joyous, difficult and always informative conversation.
Protesters have taken to the D.C. streets for weeks protesting racism and police brutality. And on Juneteenth — a holiday celebrating the end of slavery in the U.S. — D.C. is expecting a renewed energy with a wide range of events throughout the city. WAMU reporter Jenny Gathright joined us for more.
D.C. Protests, Rallies And Marches On Juneteenth
- Protests and celebrations are taking place throughout the District this weekend in honor of the holiday and as continued demonstrations in the wake of George Floyd’s death.
- Gathright attended a “Walk in Love” in Ward 8, organized by Momma’s Safe Haven and a few other organizations. “They were knocking door-to-door passing out information about COVID-19, which is very much still a concern in our community. They were passing out information about mindfulness … and also just doing an assessment of their neighbors,” Gathright said.
- Black Lives Matter and supporting organizations are inviting residents to “Strike for Black Lives” by skipping class and work to engage in direct action.
- Don’t Mute D.C. is hosting a “People’s Juneteenth Celebration,” and the creators of Moechella will host a go-go celebration and a march. A Black Mama’s March — a family-friendly protest option — starts at 11 a.m. at the Navy Memorial Plaza.
- There are many more events for Juneteenth. Check out this roundup for more.
Tensions around police reform are rising between D.C. Police Chief Peter Newsham and D.C. lawmakers. Councilmember Kenyan McDuffie (D-Ward 5) joined The Politics Hour to discuss that, plus the latest in D.C. news.
Police Reform Tensions In D.C.
- In a private address to officers last week, Metropolitan Police Department Chief Peter Newsham criticized the D.C. Council’s emergency police reform: “They forgot about our 20 years of reform, and they insulted us by insinuating that we were in an emergency need of reform.”
- The emergency police reform bill, passed unanimously by the council, bans chokeholds, speeds up the release of body-camera footage, places limits on when officers can use deadly force and more.
- McDuffie called Newsham’s comments “inflammatory.” D.C. councilmembers Robert White, Charles Allen and Vincent Gray also voiced frustration with Newsham’s comments.
- When asked on The Politics Hour if he thinks Newsham can lead the department going forward with changes the council wants to make, McDuffie said he could “if he changes his rhetoric.”
Funding The REACH Act
- Last year, McDuffie introduced the Racial Equity Achieves Results Act (also known as the REACH Act).
- The bill would require that the D.C. government explicitly consider race when evaluating programs and policies, establish an office of racial equity and mandate that government employees undergo racial equity training.
- McDuffie is now calling on his colleagues to fund the REACH Act in the Fiscal Year 2021 budget. He said on The Politics Hour that he is hoping for $4 to $5 million in funding.
Councilmembers Push To Get Police Out Of Schools
- McDuffie and four other councilmembers are pushing to cancel the $24 million contract that places security guards in D.C. Public Schools. At-large Councilmember David Grosso, who chairs the education committee, introduced the legislation.
- Earlier this month, DCPS Chancellor Lewis Ferebee defended the presence of police officers in public schools.
- A new poll from the D.C. Fiscal Policy Institute found that 65% of respondents support removing police from schools.
Prince George’s County Police Chief Hank Stawinski resigned on June 18, hours after a new report came out claiming an environment of racism and retaliation exists within the department. Prince George’s County Council Chair Todd Turner (D-District 4) joined the show to discuss.
Prince George’s Police Chief Resigns While Leaders Consider Police Reform
- Stawinski resigned, effective immediately, on June 18. County Executive Angela Alsobrooks thanked Stawinski for his 27 years of service and named Hector Velez the new interim chief.
- Officials in the majority-Black county are beginning to have discussions about police reform.
- Prince George’s County Executive Angela Alsobrooks wants to take $20 million that was earmarked for a police training facility to build a mental health facility in the county.
- The county’s police body camera program will be rolled out by the end of the year. This comes after a Prince George’s police officer who was not wearing a body camera fatally shot a handcuffed suspect earlier this year.
- Alsobrooks also wants to create incentives for Prince George’s County police officers to live in the county.
Should Armed Police Officers Be In Schools?
- That’s a debate that many school boards across the country are having.
- The Prince George’s County School Board began discussions about removing armed police officers from schools this month, but tabled the discussion until September.
- On The Politics Hour, Turner said the conversation was delayed because “there was no communication with either the police department, the members of the Board of Education [and] the members who worked within the school system to get their input as part of the process.”
Prince George’s Entered Phase Two Reopening On June 15
- Prince George’s County entered its next phase of reopening on Monday. Restaurants and retail businesses can open their doors at 50% capacity with social distancing restrictions, and outdoor pools can reopen at 25% capacity.
- Montgomery County enters its next phase of reopening on June 19 at 5 p.m., and D.C. will enter Phase Two on June 22. Counties in Northern Virginia entered Phase Two earlier this month.
- Some health experts worry that the recent protests could lead to a surge in new infections.
- When asked on The Politics Hour if Governor Larry Hogan was giving Prince George’s County enough attention and aid, Turner said, “At the end of the day, Prince George’s County is responsible for Prince George’s County.” Turner also said that “we can always improve our communication,” noting that the governor is ending his calls with the jurisdictions in Maryland.
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 and Lauren Markoe
KOJO NNAMDIFrom WAMU 88.5 at American University in Washington, welcome to The Politics Hour starring Tom Sherwood. I'm Kojo Nnamdi. Tom Sherwood is our Resident Analyst and Contributing Writer for Washington City Paper. Tom Sherwood, welcome.
TOM SHERWOODHello, everyone.
NNAMDILater in the broadcast we'll be talking with Todd Turner, Chair of the Prince George's County Council and Kenyan McDuffie a Member of the D.C. Council, but right now we're talking with Jenny Gathright, a Reporter for WAMU. Jenny Gathright, thank you so much for joining us.
JENNY GATHRIGHTThanks for having me, Kojo.
NNAMDIJenny is about to tell us about what's going on around the city right now in terms of demonstrations and events on this Juneteenth day. Jenny, where are you right now and what are you seeing?
GATHRIGHTSo right now I am in the downtown area. I'm at 12th and Constitution. I'm heading sort of towards the center where there are tons of marches and gatherings really coming together in Black Lives Matter Plaza along the mall. But I am actually coming from an event in Congress Park that was a little bit smaller, a neighborhood Juneteenth event that was different than what's going on downtown, but still very much connected to the day.
NNAMDIThe even you attended in Congress Heights, was that the Walk of Love, I think it was called?
GATHRIGHTYeah. It was the Walk of Love organized by Momma's Safe Haven and a few other organizations that work in Ward 8 and work throughout the city. And they were knocking door to door passing out information about COVID-19, which is very much still a concern in our community. They were passing out information about mindfulness, how to stay mentally okay during these difficult times, and also just doing an assessment of their neighbors. Literally just checking on people, and that was the whole point of the Walk of Love.
GATHRIGHTAnd Beverly Smith Brown, who runs Momma's Safe Haven was just telling me that they do this all the time. It happened to be on Juneteenth. But she felt like this was very much connected to today's celebration of freedom too.
NNAMDIBecause today is Juneteenth, are you seeing a different kind of energy if you will from protestors?
GATHRIGHTWell, I mean, I think there's just a big array of activities happening downtown. And I think that it's clear that people in the community really wanted to celebrate this day to celebrate freedom, but also call attention to all the work that needs to be done when it comes to racial justice.
NNAMDIWhat other protests are going on today and this weekend that you'll be keeping an eye on?
GATHRIGHTYeah. Just to give you a sense of kind of all that's going on today I would say pretty much, you know, in every area of the downtown core there is some kind of gathering scheduled for this afternoon. And many will converge in the Black Lives Matter Plaza area. Many will converge in front of the National Museum of African American History and Culture, and some with very specific goals. There was a gatherings of teachers and students today to specifically talk about how school systems and how local governments can support black students.
GATHRIGHTThere is a gathering of black mothers and children. There's a Defend Black Women march that really is centering the experiences of black women and how our society can work harder to keep black women safe. There is in typical D.C. fashion, a couple GoGo related events. One is a Moechella that's going to start at Black Lives Matter Plaza at four and then move up to 14th and U where those large GoGo Moechella festivals started happening, you know, last year.
GATHRIGHTThere's also -- the group that organizes as Don't Mute D.C. is holding a GoGo related event. That's in Shaw later this afternoon. So there are just a ton of different events and gatherings. And some have really specific demands for local governments. And then others are merely to commemorate the day. There's a group of black bike riders that gathering this afternoon to do a ride around town. So I think there's a lot of diversity when it comes the goals of these events, but a lot of different people are going to commemorate the day.
NNAMDIA lot going on today. Jenny Gathright is a Reporter at WAMU. Jenny, thank you for joining us and stay safe.
GATHRIGHTThanks for having me, Kojo.
NNAMDIIndeed a lot going on this weekend. There's a black father's matter march that takes place on Sunday starting at the African American Civil War Memorial and going all the way out to southeast. That starts at 1:00 p.m. on Sunday, because Sunday, of course, is Father's Day. And, Tom Sherwood, how significant it is that Senator Jennifer McClellan of Virginia is launching a bid to run for governor?
SHERWOODWell, it's very significant in the Commonwealth of Virginia. Senator McClellan is from Richmond. It's not very well known in the Northern Virginia area, but she's announced. She's been a longtime member of the Virginia House of Delegates and she's now a state senator. And her announcement this week and in the video she put out yesterday morning, she noted that Alexandria Mayor Justin Wilson and Arlington County Board Member Katie Cristol are on her initial list of supporters. And, you know, the election is not till next year, but these things always start early.
SHERWOODWe have another delegate -- I mean, another candidate, called Jennifer. That's Jennifer Carroll Foy of Prince William in Stafford County. She's already announced for governor. Either one would be the first black woman to be governor of the state and the first black woman governor of any state, I believe. But, you know, this is a very fluid race at this point, because we're still waiting to see whether Terry McAuliffe the former governor will get into this race or whether he'll bide his time with the Biden administration if Joe Biden wins the presidency.
SHERWOODAnd also two people who have always planned to run for governor, we're not sure exactly what's going to happen with them. That's the Lieutenant Governor Justin Fairfax and the Attorney General Mark Herring. Both of whom have had problems that could interfere with their running. So it's a very fluid situation. But Jennifer McClellan is a very well-known person in Richmond in the halls of the General Assembly. She's been a longtime lawyer for the Verizon Corporation. And she's been involved in about every issue that you can think of. And it will be interesting to see how she pursues her campaign.
NNAMDIWell, let's talk with Kenyan McDuffie. He's a Member of the D.C. Council representing Ward 5. He will be with us very shortly. But I'm pretty sure he'll be able to hear some of the conversation that Tom and I are about to have. Two significant Supreme Court rulings this week, Tom Sherwood, that while they do not directly affect Washington so to speak they affect people all over the country. And, of course, people living in this area also. And that is the Trump administration has from the very beginning wanted to end DACA, which is for Dreamers sort to speak deferred -- what's the correct term, Tom, DACA?
SHERWOODThey call them Dreamers. Before President Obama left office he made a provision that young people, who had been brought to this country before they were 16 years old and had no say whether they came or not would be protected from deportation. And that was called the Dreamers Act. And there may be as many as 800,000 people, who are recognized. And some people say there's another 600,000 of them who have to stay in the country and renew their citizenship -- or not the citizenship, but their staying here every two years. And President Trump has tried several times to end this program even though he had said he supported it at one point, which is kind of typical of him. But anyway, he's tried to get rid of them. And it would be a mass deportation of people.
SHERWOODThe Supreme Court didn't rule they -- didn't rule that he couldn't do it. They just said that he doesn't done it properly. And because of the ruling, it looks like nothing will happen to these folks until after the November election. So the people of the country will decide what happens to them.
SHERWOODDid you want to talk about the other ruling also?
NNAMDIBut first I have to correct myself. Deferred Action for Childhood Arrival, that's what DACA means. I had a forgetful memory.
SHERWOODDACA is so much easier.
NNAMDIYes, it's so much easier to say DACA. And it's my understanding now that Councilmember Kenyan McDuffie is ready. Kenyan McDuffie, thank you for joining us.
KENYAN MCDUFFIEThanks for having me, Kojo.
NNAMDIKenyan McDuffie, Tom Sherwood and I were just discussing the Supreme Court ruling on DACA or Dreamers that will not allow them to be deported at this time. And since you're a lawyer I was interested in your thoughts on this issue.
MCDUFFIEWell, I think it's the right thing to do. Yeah, I appreciate that the Supreme Court, which, you know, some people had concerns about given its makeup was able to come out in lights out of this issue. It's better for this country. It's better for America. It's better for equality of all people, and so I'm really happy and excited about that. And it's something definitely to be celebrated.
NNAMDIThe other decision Tom Sherwood was about to talk about, the Supreme Court ruling saying that federal law protects LGBTQ workers from discrimination. Tom Sherwood.
SHERWOODYes, that dates back to the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which protected discrimination against men and women. And this Supreme Court although many can see it as very conservative said that discrimination based on sex, which when it passed in '64 pretty much meant men and women in fact does apply to all persons in -- along the sex line whether you're transgender, gay, straight whatever it might be that you cannot have employment discrimination against a person, because of his or her or their sex.
SHERWOODAnd it's a very significant ruling, because a lot of people thought, well, of course, people can't be fired for their sexual orientation. But as one reporter said, until the Supreme Court ruling last Sunday, you could go to work on Monday and be fired for being a gay person. And that's the significance in terms of the discrimination against gay people across the country and here in the District. Maybe Mr. McDuffie has a comment on it.
MCDUFFIELook, I think they got this one right as well. You know, question was easy. You know should an employer be able to fire someone simply because of their homosexuality or transgender? And the Supreme Court decided this the right way. I appreciate that Justice Gorsuch actually rendered the opinion and he found that discrimination is barred clearly by the language in the 1964 Civil Rights Act. And so I think it really demonstrates that the rights of everybody, you know, regardless of your race, regardless of your sexual preferences are going to be protected under the law. And I think that it's something that this country needed to do. And I'm glad that employers will now be clear that they cannot violate people's rights if they're transgender or homosexual.
NNAMDIAnd, Tom Sherwood, Councilmember McDuffie is going to be getting a new colleague on the Council starting, well, basically immediately. Brooke Pinto won the Ward 2 Council race to serve the rest of the year. She won that special election. Tom Sherwood, no surprise there.
SHERWOODWell, it was kind of hard to tell who was going to win. And she's such a newcomer. She's 28 years old. Her only experience in the city was working for Attorney General Karl Racine, but she ran a good campaign in a crowded field. Jack Evans was running for a new four year term. She won the June 2nd primary. She won the June 16th special election to finish the rest of this term to January that Evans gave up. But she won't be certified until probably the first week in July maybe before July 4th. But she'll become an immediate member of the D.C. Council.
NNAMDIGot to take a short break, when we come back, we'll have Councilmember McDuffie comment on that, and the other topics that we have. I'm Kojo Nnamdi.
NNAMDIWelcome back. We're talking with D.C. Councilmember Kenyan McDuffie. He represents Ward 5 on the Council. And Councilmember McDuffie you were just talking about you're getting a new colleague. Brooke Pinto has won the Ward 2 seat and so she'll be joining you very shortly. Do you know her? Are you looking forward to working with her or not?
MCDUFFIEI do not know her. I did speak with her and congratulated her on her win. And I do look forward to working with her, you know, I won my election in 2012 on a special election. And so I have a similar experience and so I know that she's excited to be joining the Council. And she should be sworn in in a couple of weeks. And so we look forward to having a full complement of 13 members.
NNAMDIOkay. On to the issues that you deal with personally. MPD Chief Peter Newsham said in a private address to officers last week that D.C. lawmakers had quoting here, "completely abandoned officers by passing emergency legislation." That legislation unanimously passed last week by the Council banned chokeholds, speeds up the process for body-cam footage to be released and more. First, what's your response to the chief's comments?
MCDUFFIEWell, as I stated previously I think that the chief -- it's unfortunate that he made that comment to suggest that in any way the Council in responding to the demands the public, in responding to our obligation to make sure that we are evaluating how residents are being policed, that he would suggest that we somehow abandoned the police department. I think it's the farthest thing from the truth. And you all know I'm a former trial attorney with the U.S. Department of Justice in the Civil Rights Division.
MCDUFFIESo I spent some time investigating police departments, and what I understand and which I wish the chief would appreciate is that even though in D.C. we've had 20 years of reforms in his words. We had an MOU with the Department of Justice starting back in 1999. It doesn't mean that this is a one off. That you stop somehow and that you're a perfect department. MPD is by no means a perfect department. Yeah, and we don't simply want our chief, our leader, to compare himself, you know, to departments where they're seeing these types of, you know, horrific police killings. You know, we've had Terrance Sterling here in the District of Columbia and, you know, while I'm not suggesting that the department is perfect in any way.
MCDUFFIEI know they've had some reforms. But a first rate police department understands the need to constantly reevaluate itself, to constantly make sure that you're meeting the public's demands and you're protecting and serving. So I think the chief failed the public and he failed in suggesting that somehow the City Council has abandoned the police department. It is very divisive language. It's inflammatory. And really there's no place for that when we're trying to address concerns and demands of our public.
SHERWOODMr. Councilmember, you said that when the chief said to his officers that the Council has completely abandoned the police force he was saying as I understand it that the Council is not looking to the police chief to give some guidance on what could be changed for reforms. You've called it inflammatory. You've said it undermines public confidence. In his leadership Robert White, At-Large Councilmember, has been more even more aggressive. But neither of you has called for the police chief in this city to resign or be fired by the mayor. Do you want that to happen?
MCDUFFIEWhat I'm saying is I don't have any confidence in the chief to continue to lead if he's going to continue with this type of language, in the rhetoric that is very divisive.
SHERWOODAre you calling for him now?
MCDUFFIEI think it's more important that we build trust between MPD and communities of color. Look, I'll just give you an example, though. Use of force incidents increased 20 percent in 2018, right? Is that a perfect department? It's not. They pushed back when we passed the NEAR Act and required them to collect data on stops, frisk and searches. It took them years to implement something when it was clear Council mandate. It was unanimously passed. So we shouldn't pretend that MPD doesn't have room for improvement. I think they do.
SHERWOODWell, Mr. Councilmember, let me be clear -- excuse me for interrupting you. I apologize. But, yes, I know this history that you're citing. But it seems to me you've come right up to the line that if you don't see some change in the chief you would not want him to be in office. You and Mr. White have stopped short of calling for his resignation. Do you think Chief Newsham can lead the department going forward with the changes that the Council wants to make?
MCDUFFIEI think if he changes his rhetoric. I'll say this. There is still a clear demand to look at MPD's budget to reduce that budget where their programs are ineffective or no longer needed and to redirect those funds and invest them in communities that for decades have been over policed and have lacked the resources that they need to really prosper and avail themselves of economic opportunities. I know that there is communities across the District of Columbia, who don't like the way they're being policed. And I don't just mean criminals. I mean ordinary residents who feel like their neighborhoods are being occupied.
MCDUFFIEThis is what we're hearing, right? And I think any police department needs to understand that real policing begins with transparency, accountability and meaningful community policing. And I would love to make sure the chief focuses on improving in those areas.
SHERWOODOkay, thank you.
NNAMDIHere is Audrey in Washington D.C. Audrey, you're on the air. Go ahead, please.
AUDREYWell, thank you. I'm calling. I work with the 9:30 Club and the Anthem. And as you all know that we were the first to close and will be the last to open. And I'm just curious what more the city can do to help us and large gathering venues like us that have zero revenue. And all the overhead that we had before and it is something that is untenable for us to be able to continue to be in business when there's no assistance. And whether that be some type of emergency funding for us and help perhaps with taxes.
AUDREYWe want to come back safely, but there's no way to be able to do it if we all go out of business.
NNAMDIWell, Councilmember McDuffie you head the committee on business. And D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser said the District will enter it's next phase of reopening on Monday coming. Second phase would bump the limits of mass gatherings up to 50 people, allow restaurants to open at 50 percent capacity, gyms can reopen at limited capacity. But how would you respond to Audrey's question?
MCDUFFIEAudrey raises a very important question. And you mention, Kojo, you know, that we propose reopening for phase two on Monday and I hope that happens. But I think I want to emphasize that we follow the guidance provided by Dr. Nesbit and public health officials in doing that safely, because we're still seeing people lose their lives. We got 530 total lives lost and 74 percent of those are black residents. And so it's important that we do so safely.
MCDUFFIEI'll say this. You know, we've done a microgram program when we started our emergencies at the Council. We even allowed bars and restaurants to pivot and carry out delivery of, you know, beer, wine and spirits. We've done a number of things to try to support our small businesses and workers throughout this pandemic, but we still need to do more. Specifically around, you know, restaurants and other event related venues that are closed because of the public health emergency. And so I think there are ways that we can continue to support them.
MCDUFFIEI'll be looking to -- and I'm actually working on a bill to find further relief to those types of small businesses who have had to shutter temporarily, because my concern is, you know, getting people back employed. Getting back and beyond normal means that those types of businesses that she mentioned need to be back open, need to be thriving. They need to be able to hire their workers so they can take care of themselves and their families. And so I'm working on a measure now that would provide some additional relief. And I hope to be able to get the support of my colleagues and work with the mayor on the COVID related funding that she has right now in her budget.
NNAMDITom Sherwood. We only have about a minute left in this segment, but go ahead, please.
SHERWOODWell, personal plans. People are saying that you're going to run for mayor in 2022 or Attorney General. I know you're going to give me a fuzzy answer. But are you?
MCDUFFIEWhat I'm going to do is I'm going to continue to focus on the issues that matter to residents in the District of Columbia. And in this moment it is important that we focus on equity.
SHERWOODOkay, I got it. The rest of -- the rest of the question is if you run for another office, people are saying that Harry Thomas, Jr. is going to try to retake the seat he held before you. Would you support Harry Thomas, Jr. if he ran for the Ward 5 seat if you were not running for it?
MCDUFFIEWhat I find interesting is that not a single person has reached out to me and mentioned Harry Thomas Jr. in Ward 5.
SHERWOOD(all talking at once) on June 2nd, you were on a Get out to Vote motorcade. He led the motorcade and you were back in the motorcade.
MCDUFFIEActually I wasn't at the motorcade. So Tom you go that one incorrect.
SHERWOODWell, your car was. Your car was.
MCDUFFIEI may have had some supporters, who put things on their car that represented me, but I was not present.
SHERWOODHarry Thomas Jr., should he make a run for Ward 5?
MCDUFFIEAnybody who is interested in addressing and eliminating the systemic racism and institutional inequities between black people and white people in the District of Columbia and being bold in how we legislate and govern who have a racial equity agenda, I'll be interested in talking with them to see how they can help the city.
NNAMDIOkay, we got to take a short break. We don't have any time left. Of course, the former Ward 5 Councilmember Vincent Orange is also throwing his hat in the At-Large race, a seat he held before. But we got to take a short break. I'm Kojo Nnamdi.
NNAMDIWe're back with D.C. Councilmember Kenyan McDuffie. Councilmember McDuffie, during Monday's public hearing on the D.C. police budget, about 90 residents testified, mostly in favor of redirecting police funds to other programs. What does defund the police mean to you and what changes would you like to see to the police department's budget?
MCDUFFIEI appreciate that question, Kojo. When I hear people say defund the police, what I understand it to mean is that residents want me and all my colleagues at the council to examine MPD's budget. They want to identify programs that are ineffective, the ones that are no longer necessary in this day and age, and reduce spending in those areas, and reinvest that funding in the people that are living in those communities where there's high needs, where they've been over-policed for decades.
MCDUFFIEAnd so I think that's important that we do that for the PD's budget, but we can't stop there, right. And I think that's part of the conversation that's missing. We have to do that for every single agency and look at those other programs, as well, and their role and relationship.
MCDUFFIEAnd I think it's important, also, in the context of defunding the police, that some people are demanding that we reevaluate the law enforcement's role in relationship to our communities, and the culture of calling the police for every issue and asking the fundamental question of whether or not we want an armed police officer to respond when there are issues related to mental health, or when we're dealing with homeless populations or when we're talking about school discipline. Or neighbor disputes, because somebody's playing their music too loud.
MCDUFFIEAnd I don't think we need officers, necessarily, to be respondent in those instances. And I think that's a question that we have to decide in the District of Columbia. And so I appreciate all the folks who are peacefully protesting, who are amplifying the voices of, you know, black folks who have been, you know, really dealing with issues of mistrust between law enforcement and communities of color for a really long time, but recognizing that police reform is only one step that needs to be implemented in order to address issues around racial equity. And eliminating the systemic issues that underlie, you know, really black folks in every aspect of success.
NNAMDI(overlapping) Indeed, because we only have about five minutes left, and you raised that issue last year. You introduced the Racial Equity Achieve Results Act, also known as the Reach Act. Now you're calling on council members to fund the bill in the 2021 budget. Quickly remind us what that bill does and what kind of funding it'll take.
MCDUFFIESure. It's called the Racial Equity Achieve Results Act. We call it the Reach Act, for short. And it's really -- we want to put it in place to examine every single policy and legislative decision that is made by the executive, by the council through a lens of racial equity, ensuring that, you know, we're looking at how our decisions are impacting people along racial lines in an effort to eliminate those inequities that I mentioned earlier, education, housing, criminal justice, transportation, health.
MCDUFFIEAnd so we want it funded. You know, we have a preliminary fist. We don't have that yet. We're looking at it but we hope that it comes in somewhere around 4 or $5 million. And I'm going to be working with my colleague to fund it. We've got a commitment by the council that exists right now, and I think, you know, residents will be pleased with the steps that we take to try to implement a racial equity agenda in the District of Columbia.
SHERWOODThe police department has a contract, and it's going to be renewed June 28th with the public school system to provide school resource officers in the schools. The chancellor likes the program. He thinks the police officers work hard to make arrangements and relationships with the students and provide security when necessary in the city schools. David Grosso, the councilmember, has said that he will ask that this contract be held up, so it can be looked at further. Where do you stand on police officers in the public schools?
MCDUFFIEI joined David Grasso, who chairs the Education Committee, in a disapproval resolution, in order to hold that contract up to look at it, to see whether or not there are other ways, better ways to support our students within the schoolhouse. I think that we have to reevaluate whether we need armed police officers in our schools, in that manner.
MCDUFFIEWhen I was young, you know, very young, we had an Officer Friendly, right. I grew up in the Metropolitan Boys and Girls Club. We had, you know, coaches who were police officers, and we had great relationships. But the type of interactions need to be examined and whether we need to support police officers in responding to school disciplinary issues. Or can we redirect those funds and invest them in our students in other ways?
NNAMDID.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser did not renew funding for the Cure the Streets violence interruption program that's run by the D.C. Attorney General's office. You opposed this budget cut. What success have you seen with violence interruption in your ward, Ward 5, and would you like to see the money diverted from MPD to continue to fund the program?
MCDUFFIEI would say, she didn't completely defund everything. She made some cuts in the Office of Neighborhood Safety and some of the violence intervention programs. I want to not only restore those cuts, but to increase funding for violence intervention. As you all know, I drafted, and we passed through the council, the NEAR Act, Neighborhood Engagement Achieves Results. And we're seeing positive strides in communities across the District of Columbia, where they have these resources.
MCDUFFIEThey'd ushered in the Cure Violence model. They brought Cure Violence to D.C. where we looked at, you know, gun violence as a public health epidemic, and we are seeing progress. When you go to these communities, talk to the residents and ask them what they think about the programs. They have built really solid relationships and are helping to prevent crime before it happens. And it's important for your listeners to know, you know, police officers very rarely prevent, you know, violent crime, right.
MCDUFFIEYou know, there was a horrific shooting on Mount Olivet Road in Ward 5 last week, and there were police officers not too far from the scene when it happened. They didn't stop that shooting. I'm not blaming them for it. I think they risked their lives being out there, and I support them. On the other hand, we need alternatives to how we address violent crime, and we need to get at the root causes of violent crime.
NNAMDIYes. Police have not been known to, as they say, squash beefs. Kenyan McDuffie is a member of the D.C. Council, representing Ward 5. Kenyan McDuffie, thank you so much for joining us.
MCDUFFIEThanks for having me. Happy Juneteenth.
NNAMDIHappy Juneteenth to you. If you have called for Kenyan McDuffie, he is leaving the conversation, so you might want to hang up so that our next guest can get as many calls as possible. That would be Todd Turner, chair of the Prince George's County Council. He's a Democrat who represents District 4 in the county. Council Chair Turner, thank you very much for joining us.
TODD TURNERThank you very much for the invitation again. It's been a few months.
NNAMDILast night, Prince George's Police Chief Hank Stawinski resigned hours after a new report was released indicating that racism and retaliation exists in that department, and that these issues had not been adequately addressed by department leadership. Are you in favor of the resignation? Of course, it is now, as they say, fait accompli, so there's not much you can do about it.
TURNERYeah, obviously, under our charter form of government we, as the county council, have a process of only on a confirmation, with respect to the appointees by the county executive. Obviously, County Executive Alsobrooks, as we were, I guess, here on your show, including starting last night, you know, accepted the resignation of Chief Stawinski, and has made a decision to have an interim chief, Hector Velez, who's deputy chief currently, with over 26 years of experience.
TURNERSo, that's the purview of the executive. She gets to choose her leadership team and executive team. And so we will move forward with the interim chief and look forward to -- I know she's also announced a nationwide search for a new chief of police for Prince George's County to be implemented.
NNAMDIWere you aware of the problems within the department, and do you think Chief Stawinski should have resigned?
TURNERWell, I will say this. Obviously, we're aware of the ongoing litigation that was the part of the conversation yesterday with some of the reports. So, obviously, we get updates as the council, with respect to any litigation that's going on with the county. I will simply say, obviously, these are, again, allegations. They haven't been proved. I understand the report that was issued yesterday was a report prepared by the plaintiffs in this case. However, we do take serious the allegations as part of that process.
TURNERI think we understand that, along with the national conversation that's going on now, that we need to look at how our policing is done, not only here in Prince George's County, but throughout the nation. And that's something that I know the council is willing, and has been doing, having those conversations, as well. So...
NNAMDI(overlapping) Tom Sherwood.
SHERWOODChair Turner, thank you for joining us. Every government is being asked to look again at what the police departments are doing. I think you said last week, or within the last week, that, quote, "we will take our time and be measured." What do you think should be done immediately -- like the D.C. Council has passed immediate changes in the police force here. What do you think should be done immediately in Prince George's County, if anything? And the new interim chief is Hector Velez. I’m not sure if I’m pronouncing the last name correct or not. What do you know of the interim chief and -- of the interim chief?
TURNERSo, obviously, Prince George's County is -- and I think the county executive said this today, as well, in her press conference. Prince George's County is in a different place than other police departments, either around the region or even with the nation. Obviously, we went through this soul-searching over ten years ago with the federal consent decree, looking at how we did our services here as a police department. And so I think we've been able to learn from those things.
TURNERI know, obviously, a part of the conversation that's going on now is with respect to, you know, it can't wait with respect to some of those things that I know our surrounding jurisdictions have moved forward with in liti -- excuse me, legislation. Those things are already in place in Prince George's County as part of either our general orders or within legislation.
TURNERSo, because of the fact that we've had to go through that process previously, I think we're in a better position. Now, that doesn't mean we don't have more to do as part of that. And we understand that, as the council and as the county executive. And, you know -- but, you know, situations caused them the opportunity, as part of that. So, when I said my -- in my comments, that will be measured, is that we don't want to rush to judgment on anything.
TURNERI know there was an immediate proposal about taking police officers out of our school system, without any conversation. So, we're going to take our time. I know the county executive -- we had a briefing with her, obviously, with the former police chief, as well as with the chair of the school system, as well as the president of the fraternal order of police in Prince George's County, to have that conversation as a government first as we go out to talk to our community, you know, given the heightened conversation that is going on. So...
SHERWOOD(overlapping) Do you know...
TURNER...for us to take a look at what we need to do legislatively, what things we can do administratively through the department. And I have confidence in Interim Chief Velez. I've been able to work with him. Obviously, he's been in the command structure and served in the county for over 26 years, as of tomorrow, as I just heard.
TURNERAnd so I know he's dedicated to not only the men and women in the police department, but also to the community, as well, in Prince George's County.
SHERWOOD(overlapping) Do you think he should be considered...
TURNERAnd so we'll have those conversations about going forward (unintelligible) ...
SHERWOOD...do you think he should be -- excuse me. Do you think he should be -- I apologize. Since we can't see each other, it's hard to have a conversation. But do you think the assistant chief -- the acting Chief Velez should be considered as the permanent chief going forward?
TURNERI guess he -- if it's going to be a nationwide search, anybody can apply for that. Obviously, seeing him in action in a different capacity, it's a little bit different when you're the police chief. So, I defer any judgment. Let's see how he does during the interim status, and then, obviously, the county executive will make a decision based on the search about who's the best person to come into Prince George's County.
NNAMDIIn D.C., the council introduced emergency legislation to ban chokeholds, speed up the release of body cam footage, and more. In response, MPD Police Chief Peter Newsham has said essentially, sir, what you're saying, that we've had reforms for the past 20 years. We don't need to be rushing any more reforms right now. So, what would you say to people who say, yes, you may have had reforms for the past 10 or 20 years, in your case, under federal oversight. But there needs to be more done, and there needs to be more done now. Why is this cautious -- why this cautious approach?
TURNERRight. (unintelligible) the question for us is to do the right things and not necessarily the most expedient thing in response to the conversation that's going on. And I'll give -- the school resource officer is one of those occasions. There was no communication with either the police department, the members of the Board of Education, the members who worked within the school system to get their input as part of the process before it was proposed.
TURNERI might be old school in that kind of way. I like to talk things out first, see if there's consensus on being able to do stuff as part of that process. And I think we should have that conversation. And I know Dr. Alvin Thornton, who's chair of the board, and the members of the board, you know, did delay that discussion. But they are going to come back to that, because they wanted to have that kind of input before they made a decision with respect that impacts both policy, people and obviously the budget process, as well. So, I'm simply saying they're not mutually exclusive. We can have the reforms that we need, but let's think about what we need first before we jump into something.
SHERWOODLet's talk about the COVID-19 pandemic in Maryland. Prince George's County leads in the number of deaths in the state, as I understand, in the most recent numbers. And we know that this (word?) has a larger toll on African-Americans and people who have not had access to the kind of health care that many other Americans have had. What is your own personal assessment now of how the county is doing in battling the COVID-19 experience?
TURNERSo, obviously, Prince George's County was supremely impacted by COVID-19 for various reasons. And some of those are obviously some of the underlying conditions that, you know, we've been trying to address in the county for years now, with respect to our population, having access to health care. Obviously, we have a large portion of our population who are essential workers as part of that. So, they were exposed more, as part of that process.
TURNERWe've been able to move forward. Obviously, the numbers that we've seen most recently have moved us in a direction to where we, this past week, moved into what we call our modified phase 2 of operations. We've also ramped up our testing in Prince George's County. I know the county executive had a tele-town hall meeting last night, and we've heard from Dr. Ernest Carter, who's our -- excuse me, health officer for Prince George's County. And he talked about the positive trends that we've been seeing over the past few weeks.
TURNERHowever, we still, unfortunately, lead the state of Maryland with respect to positive cases. And we don't necessarily lead it with respect to deaths as part of that, but we have seen the disproportionate impact underlying COVID-19 which is some of the issues that we've been dealing with historically here in Prince George's County. So, we're trying to get the resources in that we need to get our residents to be healthy and do those things that we've been told.
SHERWOOD(overlapping) How is it -- thank you. How is it personally affecting you? Are you wearing a mask in public? Are you limiting where you can go? In your own family, are you limiting who you can see? What is some personal experiences you've been having as a county leader, and also trying to get around and see the people in the county that you lead?
TURNERRight. So, yes. It has impacted me, personally. Unfortunately, I lost my mom back in March, as part of this. She was in New York City, so I had to go up there as part of that. So, that was the hotbed at that point, within New York City.
SHERWOODI'm sorry to hear that.
NNAMDIYes, condolences to your family.
TURNERAnd so just working with my family trying to have the opportunity to say goodbye properly to my mom. With respect to operations here in Prince George's County, obviously, we're operating remotely as a government, and we are still open. I personally, obviously, you know, wear a mask. We try to do all the social distancing we can. Obviously, washing hands. And the family -- knock on wood, my immediate family has been fine, as part of that. And we're starting to go back into our recovery, as well.
TURNERMy wife went back to work just yesterday. My daughter's going back to work this week, as well. So, it does hit you personally, as well. And so it has been a little bit of disconnect trying to, you know, with new technology to, you know, stay in touch with people. I have been out, obviously. You know, obviously we see the impact, particularly with food distribution, participation in our testing sites. So, I have been able to go out. And this past couple of weeks, I've gone out and provided food to our first responders at our fire stations here in my district. So, we're trying to maintain that personal contact, even though we're doing that social distancing, as well.
SHERWOODIf -- can I -- let me -- if I could follow up on that. As a leader, President Trump is insisting on having his big event in Tulsa Saturday night. Twenty-thousand people are expected inside, maybe more outside. If that were being held in Prince George's County, at the equestrian center or something like that, would you actively try to stop it? What do you think of the president, going forward with his massive event in Tulsa, Saturday night?
TURNERWell, I would wish the president would actually listen to the health professionals that he has on his team. Obviously, right now, under our modified phase 2, with the restrictions that we have, you would not be able to gather in that type of way in Prince George's County.
NNAMDIThe pandemic has definitely taken an economic toll on local jurisdictions. The MGM Casino alone generated over $60 million last year. What's the revenue shortfall in the county, and how does your budget prepare for it?
TURNERSo, yeah. So, obviously, during the course of the pandemic, we've considered the county executive's modified budget. We passed an almost $4.5 billion budget on May 29th. We had to fill a hole of approximately $134 million. As estimated at that time, what we've agreed to do is to go back and look at the budget over the course of the upcoming fiscal year. That starts July 1st, because we know we may be impacted more substantially.
TURNERThe other thing that we do most recently, and we want to thank our federal delegation, is to allocate the Cares Act funding, over $158 million to respond to COVID-19, including business assistance over $20 million to our local businesses in addition to what both the state and federal government did with their business assistance program.
TURNERWe're doing ramping up our food distribution, because we know there's much need out there. We implemented a rental assistance program, as well as an arts assistance program, as well. So, we're trying to use the resources that we're able to get in, but we are going to have a substantial impact. We did have to ask our workers to take no COLAs or merit increases for the upcoming fiscal year in order to balance the budget. We were able to compensate those who were actually responding to COVID-19 through a hazard pay program.
TURNERSo, we're trying to balance. I think all governments are going to have to go back and look at their budgets during the upcoming year, because there are going to be additional fiscal impacts. And that's why we're encouraging both Congress and the president to move forward with the Heroes Act, which would provide direct benefits to local governments -- states and local governments to do services, and for the future, as well.
SHERWOODOn this subject, I think Maryland Live!, the casino in Anne Arundel, has said it's going to open. Do you have any guidance -- the MGM Grand has been a big thing, a big economic boost for the county. Do you have any guidance from them -- from the corporation about when it might open?
TURNERSo, right now, I would say under our modified phase 2, casinos, for those types of large gatherings are not open. Obviously, we're a little bit different than the state of Maryland and what the governor announced, which could open, I believe, as of today, I think was his announcement for some other jurisdictions in the state of Maryland.
TURNERMGM did present to us -- or sent us their guidelines for reopening, at some point. And so I think it's a conversation that we need to have, obviously, with our health officials to make sure that, at the end of the day, it's safe for the residents of Prince George's County and the region to come to any facility. You know, we have to recall, you know, this pandemic is not over. We may be seeing decreases here in the region and in Prince George's County, but as we've seen nationally, we're also seeing spikes everywhere else.
TURNERSo, it's something that, at the end of the day, the health of our residents and our visitors are the most important thing. And then to the extent we can move to the recovery phase, which we all want to get there as soon as we can, but we have to do it safely and properly.
NNAMDIToday is Juneteenth, and while the pandemic has prevented us from having large, in-person celebrations, it's my understanding that Prince George's County has been hosting some of those virtually. Can you tell us a little bit about that?
TURNEROh, yes. Our Prince George's County Parks and Recreation Department, under the Maryland National Capital Park and Planning Commission, has extensive programs today. They're all virtual, and I encourage everybody to go to PGparks.com to sign up for those events. I mean, we have great performers. We have Step Africa here today, as part of that program. And so, although we can't be together in the normal way that we would on Juneteenth, we are encouraging residents, not only in Prince George's County, but around the region, to join us in the virtual celebration of this special day.
NNAMDITom Sherwood, we only have one minute left, but go ahead.
SHERWOODIs Governor Hogan giving the county enough attention to help you?
TURNERListen, at the end of the day, Prince George's County is responsible for Prince George's County. We've worked hard with our staff and with the administration, with the county executive. And in those areas where we haven't gotten what we've needed, either from the state or the federal government, we've tried to compensate as part of that.
TURNERI think the biggest thing is always communication, and I think it's fair to say that we can always improve our communication. I know I just read recently that the governor has now discontinued his calls with all of the jurisdictions in Maryland. And I'm not sure why he did that. I think communication is always important to making sure that we're fighting this COVID-19 pandemic.
NNAMDIWell, the -- all those jurisdictions that he has discontinued talking to can experience what we have been experiencing on this show since he's been in office, and that is, he's never spoken with us. But I'm afraid that's all the time we have. Todd Turner is the chair of the Prince George's County Council. He's a Democrat and represents District 4 in the county. Todd Turner, thank you so much for joining us.
TURNERThank you very much. Appreciate it, and hopefully, I'll get to see you in person sometime soon.
NNAMDIWe hope the same. Today's show was produced by Cydney Grannan. Coming up Monday, as coronavirus cases spike, emergency physician and public health Dr. Leana Wen returns to talk about what's safe to do this summer, and what is not. And it's our weekly Kojo For Kids Show with sportswriter John Feinstein. Remember, adult can listen, but only kids can call in. That all starts, at noon, on Monday. Any plans this weekend, Sherwood?
SHERWOODI'm getting the popcorn and beer ready for Trump in Tulsa. And then happy Father's Day to everyone.
NNAMDIAnd happy Father's Day to you, Tom Sherwood. Have a wonderful weekend. Stay safe. I'm Kojo Nnamdi.
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