Most schools in the Washington region will remain closed this fall. So, what's being done to prepare students, teachers and families for continued remote learning?
Maryland Attorney General Brian Frosh (D) joined The Politics Hour to discuss the plan for fall elections and more.
Frosh Pushes Back On In-Person Elections In The Fall
- Last week, Maryland Governor Larry Hogan announced that the state will hold regular, in-person elections in November. All polling places and early voting centers will be open, and all voters will be mailed applications for absentee ballots (but not the ballots themselves.)
- Frosh pushed back against Hogan’s decision, saying this election plan could have “devastating consequences.” “Requiring voters to appear in person to cast their ballots unnecessarily puts voters’ lives and the lives of poll workers at risk,” Frosh said in a press release.
- Maryland held its statewide June primary primarily by mail. Voters experienced long lines at the limited number of in-person voting sites, and hundreds of thousands of voters received their mailed ballots less than two weeks before the primary. But the primary saw a high level of turnout.
Frosh’s Access To Justice Task Force
- Last month, Frosh created the Access to Justice Task Force to help Marylanders navigate the civil justice system, from unemployment and housing issues to health.
- The task force includes more than 40 state experts, plus an advisory board comprised of members of Maryland’s congressional delegation.
- Frosh said the task force is giving special attention to evictions and foreclosures. “We’re going to see, I’m afraid, hundreds of thousands of evictions in our state,” he said on The Politics Hour. “We’re trying to put together a plan to flatten the curve of evictions.”
How Will Maryland Schools Reopen?
- Next week, Hogan and State Superintendent of Schools Dr. Karen Salmon will give an update about reopening schools in Maryland this fall.
- Prince George’s and Montgomery counties have both announced that they will start the year completely virtual, with options for hybrid learning later in the school year.
- Frosh weighed in on The Politics Hour: “Right now, I don’t think the Maryland schools are ready to open. But in a month, maybe on a limited basis. I’m skeptical that kids should be going back to school en masse in September.”
Loudoun County Board of Supervisors Chair Phyllis Randall (D) joined The Politics Hour to talk about policing, removing a Confederate statue and more.
Police Reform — Or Government Reform?
- Loudoun County lawmakers were considering creating a new county police force. Under a Board of Supervisors proposal, voters would be asked if a new police department should replace the sheriff’s office.
- County sheriff’s offices aren’t subject to the same levels of oversight as police departments. The county sheriff is elected for four-year terms.
- But that idea has been scrapped after Randall received feedback from constituents. Now, the county is expected to launch a study of Loudoun County’s government structure.
- Randall is still interested in pursuing changes to how law enforcement works in Loudoun County. On the show, she emphasized the lack of requirements a county sheriff needs: “Law enforcement experience is not required. Investigative experience is not required. Military experience is not required. Budgetary experience is not required.”
Removing A Leesburg Confederate Statue
- Randall, the first African American woman to chair a Virginia county board, has worked for nearly two decades to remove the “Silent Sentinel” Confederate monument in Leesburg, Virginia. WAMU’s Daniella Cheslow offers an in-depth look at the statue’s history and the efforts to remove it.
- Earlier this month, the Loudoun County Board voted unanimously to return the statue to the United Daughters of the Confederacy.
- The statue’s removal may not have been possible even a year ago. Until July 1, local governments weren’t allowed to remove monuments.
- “I said to somebody, ‘I have been fighting the Confederacy three times longer than the Confederacy existed,'” Randall said on The Politics Hour. “It only existed, actually, for five years.”
- Randall also mentioned that the United Daughters of the Confederacy are paying to remove the monument. “The county is not spending one dime to take it down, and we shouldn’t.”
Alleged Harassment And Verbal Assault With Washington’s Football Team
- Fifteen former employees of Washington’s NFL team told The Washington Post they were sexually harassed during their time with the team. The investigation from the Post comes shortly after the announcement that the football team is changing its name.
- “I believe all allegations should be taken seriously,” Randall said, but she mentioned that the allegations were 24 hours old and that she doesn’t have information beyond what has been made public.
- The team has a training facility in Loudoun County, and the county used to have a marketing agreement with the NFL franchise. But Randall said on The Politics Hour that the agreement had expired.
Sorting political fact from fiction, and having fun while we’re at it. Join us for our weekly review of the politics, policies and personalities of the District of Columbia, Maryland and Virginia.
Produced by Cydney Grannan
KOJO NNAMDIFrom WAMU 88.5 at American University in Washington, welcome to The Politics Hour, starring Tom Sherwood. I'm Kojo Nnamdi. Tom is our Resident Analyst and Contributing Writer for Washington City Paper. Tom Sherwood, welcome.
TOM SHERWOODHello, everybody.
NNAMDILater in the broadcast we'll be talking with Phyllis Randall, the Chair of the Loudoun County Board of Supervisors. But first up is Brian Frosh, the Maryland Attorney General. General Frosh, thank you for joining us.
BRIAN FROSHThanks for having me, Kojo.
NNAMDIBut first, Tom Sherwood, let's talk a little bit about the new memoir that's just come out by Maryland Governor Larry Hogan. At least five chapters of it have been released, and it seems that this part of the governor's preparation for a presidential run in 2024. Is that your understanding?
SHERWOODYes, it certainly is a major publicity tour. You know, he's got the first five chapters out. There is some dispute. The Baltimore Sun did a pretty interesting story questioning the governor's recollections of events in these first five chapters. But the governor's office says, "Well, this is the way the governor remembers it." But it's clear. Throughout this pandemic the Governor of Maryland as the leader of the National Governor's Association has been all over national media even though he shies away from talking to local reporters except at organized events. He clearly is promoting both his view of what's happening and himself.
NNAMDIBrian Frosh, have you read the five chapters of the memoir that have been released?
FROSHNo. I haven't, Kojo. I've read the reports about them with amusement and interest, but I haven't read the book.
NNAMDISo you can't comment on it at this point or care to comment on Governor Hogan's apparent desire to run for president in 2024?
FROSHI don't really have anything to say about that. I won't be voting in the Republican primary I can assure you of that. And I don't know who else would be running or what the circumstances will be in 2024.
NNAMDILast week Governor Hogan said the state would run a regular in-person election in the fall despite the ongoing coronavirus pandemic. You quickly criticized that decision. What are you concerns?
FROSHSo, Kojo, I think it's heading us for a catastrophic election. Let me say first what I think should happen. I think we should have a mail-in election. A ballot should be mailed to every registered voter. I also think that they should have voting centers on Election Day where people, who didn't get their ballots, lost them or whatever can go in and cast a vote. They should have drop-off stations where people can deliver by hand the ballots they've received by mail. I think that's by far the better approach. Governor Hogan's proposal to have everyone vote in-person even though they're going to mail applications for absentee ballots to everybody is like a freight train barreling down the tracks toward a bridge that ain't there anymore.
FROSHWe're in this pandemic. It's not going to be gone by November. We need to recruit and train 20,000 election judges to participate in-person on Election Day and before, and they're dropping out like crazy. I know that the other day in Anne Arundel County they said they were down 1,000 election judges from where they need to be at this point. Most of the folks who do these jobs are older, are retired, and consequently high risk.
FROSHSo I think we're going to have a very serious problem staffing the polls on Election Day. And precincts are shutting down. The senior centers, the nursing homes that are usually the voting centers and places are all saying, No, sorry. You can't to our place. We can't risk our residents, our participants' health for this.
FROSHAnd just changing the precincts is going to be a very difficult administrative task. You're going to have to notify all of the voters in that precinct. You used to go to XYZ school, now you're going to this voting center over here somewhere else.
NNAMDISo you think it's basically a disaster.
NNAMDIIn the making. Tom Sherwood.
SHERWOODGeneral Frosh, thanks for coming on the show today. There's some suggestion by people across the country that Republicans are engaging in voter suppression by making it more difficult for people to vote. I wonder if you think this is part of that. Is it possible for the legislature to meet and redirect how this is being done? All the state elections officials seem to oppose what the governor wants to do. And even now the state is looking for a new contractor to print the ballots across the state. That's a $12 million contract. It just seems like it's quite the bureaucratic mess, but what about the politics of this? Is this voter suppression in your view?
FROSHIt is definitely going to reduce the participation in the presidential election without question.
SHERWOODIs that the same thing as suppression?
FROSHYou can call it whatever you want. I think there's little risk that Donald Trump is going to win the presidential election in Maryland. But it still is going to mean that people, who are not well to do, who are in minority communities, in low income communities this is going to put huge burdens on voters.
SHERWOODWhat about the legislature? Could the legislature step in and maybe make this change -- recognize what your criticisms are? What do you do going forward? What possible changes other than the governor changing his mind? Could the legislature step in and do this?
FROSHThe best course is for the governor to change his mind, Tom. The legislature could, but they face all kinds of challenges. They're 188 members, 141 in the House of Delegates. The House Chamber has all 141 of them plus staff in it whenever they're in session. They're shoulder to shoulder and they're indoors. It's just a flat out danger to the members of the General Assembly to call them back in for a special session. And they may be able to jump through hoops and possibly do something that relates to remote voting. But when they got -- the first day they go back they have to address all the vetoes of the previous session. Then they can take up something else. So they'll be there for days.
SHERWOODOkay. The governor says he's simply following the law. Do you dispute that?
FROSHI -- he's following the law. He's not doing the smart thing. He can follow the law and have a vote by mail election. It's very easy. Did it in the primary. He really needs to do it in the general election as well.
NNAMDIWe have several comments from listeners. On Twitter Rodge weighs in, "I'm made a point to repeatedly praise the many good decisions Governor Larry Hogan has made during this period. However this one really seems odd and not in keeping with his COVID leadership." Mark in Maryland sent us an email, "Your statement from July 10th said that massive voter fraud is exceedingly rare, because of checks and balances including an identifying number on each ballot. What is the nature of the identifying number and how can it track and verify the validity of a ballot?" General Frosh.
FROSHYeah. So I mean, the ballots are mailed to voters and it's got a tracking number on it that allows -- that prohibits voters from getting multiple absentee ballots and submitting them in their name. There haven't been any cases -- in the past two presidential elections, I think there were a total of two voter fraud cases. The Board of Elections does a great job of organizing the ballots so that there is not a possibility of voter fraud. Distinct from that, however, is the fact that when you mail ballots out the Post Office is unable to deliver many of them, because they don't forward them at the request of the Board of Elections because we don't want them to go to folks who are not entitled to vote or to end up in a place where somebody can grab it and vote for somebody else.
FROSHAnd that's one of the reasons why you need in-person voting on Election Day as well as a fallback, because we know five percent of the ballots will probably go astray. But they do a great job of ensuring that there is no massive voter fraud.
NNAMDILast month you created something called the Access to Justice Task Force in response to the pandemic and the reason Black Lives Matter protests. Tell us what this task force does and who's in it?
FROSHSo we have, Kojo, put together I think some of the smartest best people in the state to address the civil issues that arise out of the COVID-19 crisis. We have former Judge Andre Davis of U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals. We have former Attorney General Steve Sacks. We have former Chief Judge of the Maryland Court of Appeals, Robert Bell, and many many other experts. And we are looking at the situation that we face imminently with respect to evictions and foreclosures. We're going to see I'm afraid, hundreds of thousands of evictions in our state. We're trying to put together a plan that will provide legal help for those folks.
FROSHWe're trying to put together a plan that will flattened the curve of evictions if possible. Our goal is to make policy presentations available to the General Assembly when they reconvene in January. But in the meantime we're going to be trying to address individual issues and give suggestions to the courts, give suggestions to the governor, because it's not just evictions and foreclosures. It's consumer protection. There are heightened dangers of domestic abuse. We need to find funding for legal aid. And we've got committees in the digital divide. Of course, it's really important. That needs to be addressed so that kids can be educated and people can work.
FROSHSo this task force is going to be looking at all of those issues and trying to put forward recommendations that the state can adopt to deal with this crisis and its aftermath.
NNAMDIWe're going to be taking a short break. When we come back, we'll try to get to the phone calls that we have from Kyle and from Jeff. And, of course, we have Tom Sherwood in the conversation. I'm Kojo Nnamdi.
NNAMDIWelcome back. Our guest is Maryland Attorney General Brian Frosh. Tom Sherwood.
SHERWOODGeneral, I'm going to go to the governor's op-ed in The Washington Post this week how he lays out how he was so critical or has been so critical of President Trump's handling of the virus. Some would say it's pretty easy to attack Trump now that his approval rating on this is down in the 30s. But how do you think the state is doing and what is your reaction to the Baltimore Sun story today that the state contracted for a $12 million contract for masks and ventilators? It turns out that the company that the Hogan administration hired had no experience, couldn't deliver and only got the contract probably because one of Governor Hogan's senior officials recommended them.
FROSHSo, Tom, I have to be a little careful here, because we are involved in that -- we're looking at it. And I can't comment on what happened or how it happened or why.
SHERWOODI understand that. I understand you're the law enforcement official. So I won't pressure you on that. But that official in the Hogan administration recommended this brand new politically connected firm to other states, Alabama and Illinois. So what overall your view as a citizen of the state, someone, who I'm sure has personal feelings about the virus, how is the State of Maryland doing in combating this virus as we look to open schools and keep people safe?
FROSHYeah. We like all of the other states in American need to be barging ahead on testing. We're not doing enough in Maryland. We don't have tests. We're not administering it to enough people and we're not doing the tracing that needs to be done in order to tamp down the virus. It's amazing that the models across the world are there for us to use. And we have failed to see that. South Korea, which, blew up early now is down to very low numbers of cases. And same with New Zealand other places where they tested aggressively. Did contact tracing aggressively and then had people quarantine after they had been in contact with folks with the disease. That's what we need to be doing, and, you know, it needs to be done all over the country. It needs to be done in Maryland as well.
SHERWOODLet me follow that up. It's important because the governor got international publicity when his wife helped him secure 500,000 tests of kits from Korea. But they've kind of fallen into a black hole. No one knows quite what's happening with them. Do you know where those tests are?
FROSHI have no idea. What I do know is that what they got were 500,000 test kits, which is call it a test tube. It's one of three components that you need to do the tests. You need a swab. You need reagents. And you need the test kit. So just getting those kits doesn't allow the state to do any tests. We don't know and there has not been transparency on this. So we don't know to what extent those 500,000 kits have been used or whether they're just sitting in storage somewhere. But the point is we need a lot more. And we need the complete package. And we need to have a program were by we're doing the tests and the contact tracing.
NNAMDIHere's Kyle in Snow Hill, Maryland. Kyle, you're on the air. Go ahead, please.
KYLEYes. I had a question for Mr. Frosh. You know, with the push nationwide more and more so to the defund the police as it were, my question for you would be during his last election against Craig Wolfe, Mr. Wolfe exposed a number of cases were individuals were arrested for a crime violence -- or excuse me for gun violence and one way or another. But due to your catch and release policy a number of them were released on their own recognizance and then a lot of them didn't show up for their court case. And as of today I still see no initiative from your office that's going to be tougher on gun crime. Do you have anything to say to that?
FROSHSure. First of all, I don't remember that Craig Wolfe said specifically that, but it's not true. Our office doesn't do the street policing. We don't arrest somebody usually on the street for possessing a weapon that he or she shouldn't possess or for committing a gun crime. There's no catch and release policy in effect. The bail system has been changed so that people who are charged with minor crimes like shoplifting, urinating in public, trespassing don't end up sitting in jail, because they can't afford to pay bail that's been set for them by the court system.
FROSHBut that look, there are hundreds of judges across the state making these decisions. They don't all get it right. But our office doesn't play a role on those individual cases. Now we do go after organized crime. We do go after gun traffickers. And when we go after them and we charge they don't get released.
NNAMDIGovernor Hogan and State Superintendent of Schools Dr. Karen Solomon will give an update next week on Maryland schools reopening. Montgomery and Prince George's counties are both starting virtually. D.C. has put off its decision until July 31st. Do you have any insight at all or any opinion on what you think should happen?
FROSHKojo, I think the path on this is pretty easy. Let's let the experts tell us whether it's safe or not. And right now I don't think that the Maryland schools are ready to open, but in a month, maybe on a limited basis. I'm skeptical that kids should be going back to school in mass in September. But I'm not Dr. Fauci. I don't know what the right approach is. But he's the guy that I would listen to determine whether or not Maryland public schools ought to be opening.
SHERWOODOn a different subject, we're going to talk more about this later in the program. But the NFL football from Washington that plays there in Maryland, there was a major story about sexual harassment in the team. The team has hired a lawyer to investigate. But this is also in the State of Maryland. Does the Attorney General's Office, do you have any concerns about what's been reported in the post about the years and years of sexual harassment? Is there anything illegal here or possibly illegal that you might look into?
FROSHSo what I read suggests that there are violations of law on the civil side. I didn't get a chance to finish the article. So I can't tell you whether there were criminal acts alleged or not. If there were, it's potentially something we could look at, but it's usually the bailiwick of the State's Attorney and in this case it would be Aisha Braveboy the State's Attorney in Prince George's County. I will say I think the team definitely needs a name change. And they seem to need a culture change as well, based on today's article.
NNAMDIHere's David in Bethesda. David, you're on the air. Go ahead, please.
DAVIDThank you. I'd like to commend Attorney General Frosh for his leadership on this and many other issues regarding the fall election. I particularly wanted to ask about counting the ballots. So if there is a massive increase in the number of ballots submitted by mail it's my understanding that current state law requires they can't be counted or even opened until the Thursday after Election Day. And so is that true? How can it be changed and if it's not changed what are the risks and implications of that?
NNAMDIYou only have about a minute left, General Frosh.
FROSHOkay. They can start counting before that, but they are limited in what they can do in that regard. It worked very well in the primary on election night. We had pretty good idea who was ahead in the various different races. It may take some days to sort this out whether we have a mail-in election or not because we're getting many more ballots in by mail.
NNAMDIMichelle couldn't stay on the line. "How about drive-in voting rather than mail-in ballots?" And how about several days of voting? We have about 30 seconds left.
FROSHYeah. We do have -- our system does allow people to vote prior to Election Day at a polling station. And that will obtain whether we do a mail-ballot -- whether everybody gets mailed a ballot or whether the predominant method of voting is voting on Election Day. The early voting goes on for a couple of weeks before the General Election.
NNAMDIBrian Frosh is the Maryland Attorney General. He's a Democrat. General Frosh, thank you very much for joining us.
FROSHKojo, it's always a pleasure. Tom, thanks to you too.
NNAMDIGoing to take a short break. When we come back, we'll be talking with Phyllis Randall. She's Chair of the Loudoun County Board of Supervisors. I'm Kojo Nnamdi.
NNAMDIWelcome back. Joining us now is Phyllis Randall, Chair of the Loudoun County Board of Supervisors. Phyllis Randall, thank you so much for joining us.
PHYLLIS RANDALLThank you for having me. Good afternoon.
NNAMDIEarlier, Tom Sherwood mentioned to our previous guest, Attorney General Brian Frosh, about the scandal of sexual harassment taking place at the Washington football team's headquarters. And, of course, we know that the Washington football team also has a presence in Loudoun County. But in this situation, we're talking about 15 former female employees of the team who spoke to The Washington Post, 14 of them on condition of anonymity, but, Tom Sherwood, first you. What do you think?
SHERWOODWell, you know, the team is already in turmoil over the decades-late decision to change its name. And now this story alleging what, since 2006 until last year, wholesale abuse or mistreatment of women in the workplace adds another boulder to what Dan Snyder is facing. There's no allegation, I should say, that Dan Snyder has done anything wrong. But Larry Michael, the voice of the team for the last 15 or so years abruptly resigned on the very day the Washington Post submitted specific questions about things that he had done inappropriately as a member of that team.
SHERWOODAnd so the team has responded, not so much publicly, but it has said it has hired Beth Wilkinson. She is an attorney. She's probably best known to the public as the lawyer who represented Brett Kavanaugh during his confirmation hearings for the Senate in allegations of wrongdoing. She's been asked to do a review of the Redskins' management to see what happens.
SHERWOODBut I'm glad our guest is on. I think it might be her first time, because the team has a very big presence in Loudoun County, and still some speculating that there could be a football stadium there, if the county allowed it. I wonder -- we'll get to that in a moment, maybe.
NNAMDIPhyllis Randall, care to comment?
RANDALLWell, first of all, again, thank you for having me on, and I will first speak to the fact that so many people have believed that the name of the Washington team is an inappropriate and offensive name. And so we were very happy that they decided to change the name. The Loudoun County Board actually voted to weigh in on this issue, because the team is located -- the training facility is in Loudoun county. And they're very closely identified to our county, so we weighed in on that, and we encouraged that name change and happy that it's happening.
RANDALLAs far as the allegations, they are that right now, they are allegations. I believe all allegations should be taken seriously. I believe women should be listened to, should be respected and treated with dignity while they work through this process. But I hasten to rush to any other statements right now. These allegations are about 24 hours old, and so I don't know that anything else should be said about them, because I don't have anything else -- any other information to...
SHERWOOD(overlapping) Chair Randall, if I could ask you -- thank you again for being on the show. Your economic development team promotes the NFL team's presence in your county, which is growing leaps and bounds. There also is a street there. I think it's called Redskins Avenue. Is that a public street, or is that a private street in their complex? And if it is a public street, would your county be looking to change that name, also?
RANDALLSo, the arrangement that Loudoun County actually has, the formal arrangement with the Washington Redskins football team has expired. And so we don't -- that promotion does not exist anymore. We do not have a formal contract with them at all. Although they still are located -- the training center within Loudoun County. I know the street you're talking about, and I do believe it is completely within the Redskins' compound. However, that is something I would be happy to check on. And if, in fact, it is a public street, and I don't believe it is, I would most definitely support changing that name.
NNAMDIIt is no coincidence, in my view, that all of this is going on in the wake of the killing of George Floyd and the Black Lives Matter protests. And now we're seeing all kinds of investigation into racial equity or the lack thereof and into sexual harassment. And, of course, there's this ongoing. The Loudoun County Board unanimously voted to remove the Silent Sentinel Confederate monument which sits outside the Loudoun County courthouse. This is something that wouldn't have happened even a year ago.
NNAMDIRemoving the statue has been a priority for you for nearly two decades. Why was it removed now, and why, at one point, did you attempt to stop people from, I guess, assaulting the statue so that you would have the pleasure of ultimately seeing it removed?
RANDALLWell, let me say that, you know, I think -- let me say first that, you know, what happened to George Floyd is not new. It is just now being taped. And I don't believe that all that is happening now across the country, the wave of protests and calls for equality and justice and equity are new. I think that George Floyd was the tipping point. He was the last straw, as it was. And so there are so many other names that we should remember and should call, but George Floyd was the one that we watched on camera, for almost nine minutes, basically be murdered on camera. And so I think that it was just so striking to see it, but it's not new, and we know that it's not new.
RANDALLSpeaking to the Confederate statue that's been sitting on Loudoun County publically owned property since 1908, I have been, yes, fighting to have the statue removed. My first op-ed about it was in 2004. I have written about it. I have lectured about it. I have talked about it. I have appeared before the board of supervisors in the past about it. I said to somebody, I've been fighting the Confederacy three times longer than the Confederacy existed. It only existed, actually, for five years, (laugh) which is pretty amazing.
RANDALLAnd just last year, yes, just last year I put a motion for it on my board to allow the county government to control what sits on our own county property. And I could not get that vote through the board. Well, since then, and we've had an election, elections do have consequences, and we have new members of the board who supported that, along with all that's happening in the country right now. I believe that the country was ripe and ready. I am just very happy that they -- that we have now taken that vote.
RANDALLAbout -- this is about six weeks ago, we had a march, equity march in Loudoun County. And we ended at the courthouse grounds, where the Confederate statue sits. And there were people who were wanting to literally tear the statue from its base. And, you know what? I understand that feeling, but I don't agree with that. One, I do believe there's a right way to do things and the vote was the right way to do it.
RANDALLBut I also believe, and this is so important, that there have been people for generations, generations of people who have talked about these statues, and that statue, in particular, who have fought against it. And they deserve to watch the process play out. They deserve to watch the vote taking place, the families of people who have passed on who deserve to be part of the process. And so tearing down a statue, it gives some emotional relief to the people who tear it down. But there are so many more people who have been a part of this process, and they deserve to watch the fruits of all that they have been fighting for come to fruition.
RANDALLAnd so, yes, I found myself, as did the vice chair of our board -- Koran Saines, who also actually happens to be African-American -- you know, literally standing our bodies in front of the statue saying, you will not tear this statue down. We will do it the right way, and then we did.
NNAMDIAnd it's coming down September 1st? That's my understanding.
RANDALLIt will. So, the Daughters of the Confederacy, knowing that we have the votes to remove it, have said that they would come reclaim it. They have said that they will come reclaim it on or before September 7th. And people have asked me what will happen to the statue, and my comment is, the statue sits on public taxpaying property in front of the courthouse. I don't care what they do with that statue, to be quite honest, as long as it's gone. And so they will -- they're responsible for it, and they're paying to take it down. The county is not spending one dime to take it down, and we shouldn't.
NNAMDIReese in Loudoun County has a question about it. Reese, you're on the air. Go ahead, please.
REESEHi, Chairwoman. I want to thank you for your leadership. My question is about enablers. And I'm so glad the statue's being removed. Can you tell me what the historical significance for African-Americans and, you know, the -- how also that enablers can be educated about a historical significance of these statues?
RANDALLReese, that's just -- that's an excellent question, and thank you so much. And the answer -- I'll try to keep this answer as short as possible. You know, there are so many people who either choose to believe or just are ignorant to the fact that what the Civil War was about, and choose to say that the Civil War was not about the fact that some people wanted to own other people. But if you listen to the Confederate vice president, Andrew (sic) Stephens, he gave a speech on March 21st, I think it was 1861. It was called the “Cornerstone” speech.
RANDALLAnd he actually said that the cornerstone of the Civil War rests upon the great truths that the negro was not equal to the white man, that slavery was the subordination of the superior race and the negroes natural and normal condition. That was the vice president of the Confederacy. So, you know, when we've talked about this -- when I've been talking about this, I've heard people say, it's not really about slavery. You should do your homework. And, you know, you cannot ever tell me to go do my homework, because then I'm going to.
RANDALLI have set up night after night after night and literally through the succession papers of all the Confederate states. Let me just be clear, the Civil War was primarily and fundamentally about one race of people wanting to own another race of people. So, when these statues went up, and they went up well beyond when the Civil War was over. The one in Loudoun went up in 1908. It wasn't just about honoring Confederate soldiers. Not at all.
RANDALLIn fact, on Loudoun's property, and there had been -- Loudoun's property is where slaves were sold. Loudoun's property was where people were drug out of the then-jailhouse and lynched, literally. Young Orion Anderson was drug out of that very spot and lynched. And then 19 years later, a Confederate statue was placed in that site. And so these Confederate statues are really very much about a message of who was in charge and who was not in charge. And they went up, not after the Civil War, but during Jim Crow.
SHERWOODI have two questions. One, fallout from the George Floyd is -- or the issues about police departments. You proposed that there be a review to create a police department in Loudoun County, which right now is policed by the sheriff's office with its 600 officers. After some feedback, you said, well, we'll take a look at the entire governance of Loudoun County's government, how it's structured. And so you're going to be voting on that, I believe, next week.
SHERWOODMeanwhile, the sheriff -- who's elected in the county, Mike Chapman -- says that this is a blatant power grab by you and, I guess, the Democrats on the county board. The sheriff has 600 officers in a county with 400,000 people. It's 500 square miles and an $87 million budget. He's suggesting that they can do the job. You said the sheriff can be elected without any qualifications, and there's not enough oversight of the police department. Why do you want to have a new police department in Loudoun County?
RANDALLYeah, fair question. Fair question. Thank you for asking me that question. First of all, I don't feel like it's appropriate to have the chief elected official in Loudoun County, the chair and the sheriff, having tit and tat back and forth. It's not good for the county. It's not good for the people. I will say that Sheriff Chapman and I have, just this year, had at least three or four meetings on this. And so this was not at all new to him. And he knows exactly why I put this forth.
RANDALLSo, he can say what he wants to say, and I'm not going to have a tit for tat. There are some things you just don't dignify and so I'm not going to. But I will say this, it is true, to be an elected sheriff, all that is required is to live in a county, be of legal requirement age -- legal requirement age. That's it. That's it, to be a citizen of legal age. Law enforcement is not -- experience is not required. Investigative experience is not required. Military experience is not required. Budgetary experience is not required. None of those things are required to be the sheriff.
RANDALLAnd so, at any moment, at any point, it's not about the person in office at that moment. It is about the process that would allow somebody completely unqualified to be sheriff, to be -- to take that position. I will say that Mike Chapman is very...
SHERWOODExcuse me -- excuse me chairman, let me interrupt you because I know we don't have a lot of time. Fairfax County, for example, has a sheriff's office that handles court duties. And then there's a police department that handles policing. It sounds like you want something similar to that in other counties. But are you, in fact, going to have some type of vote in this coming week, and what will the vote be about?
RANDALLWell, to be clear, it's not just Fairfax County. It's every county in northern Virginia. The sheriff is a constitutional officer. They never go away. You never get rid of a sheriff. The question is, will you have the sheriff do court and civil duties and a police officer, a police chief who is answerable not to the politicians, but to the county administrator. That is the question. When you have some type of oversight over that...
SHERWOOD(overlapping) So, excuse me, will you be voting -- excuse me, I apologize, what are you going to be voting on next week?
RANDALLOn Tuesday, we're going to vote on -- there are two parts to the motion. The first part to the motion is to have the county administrator and staff look at the different types of county government that are allowable under Virginia state constitution right now. As far as I know, there are four or five. We are under -- Loudoun County's under the traditional type of government. And the second part of the motion, it will be to bring back a motion next year after a study is done on cost to place on the ballot for 2021 a referendum for a sheriff's department.
RANDALLBecause what the people have said to me -- and as an elected official, your job is to listen to the people. People have said, yes, they want to do this or no, they don't want to do this. But almost all of them have said that they first want to see cost. And so we're going to put, on the ballot, cost.
SHERWOOD(overlapping) Okay, thank you very much.
RANDALLSure, no problem.
NNAMDIHere is Lisa in Loudoun County. Lisa, you're on the air. Go ahead, please.
LISAYes, hello. Let me get you off speaker. We are in western Loudoun County and both tele-work and tele-health, and particularly school has been a nightmare through this pandemic because of lack of internet. There's no change in any accessibility to internet in the last 10 years in the western part of the county. And we're always in communication with our supervisor and whatever, but the county government is really limited in what they're able to do about this.
LISAI'm wondering if the board, as a whole, has been hearing this throughout the pandemic, if all the supervisors are hearing that we're going to have a big problem as people try to go back to school, in particular, with continuing to educate from home.
NNAMDII'm going to ask Chair Randall to respond to that in a broader context. Wednesday was the deadline for Loudoun County families to decide between two options for a return to school. A hybrid model with two in-person and three virtual days, or completely virtual option. But many teachers say a return to in-person learning is unsafe. More than 300 educators participated in a Solidarity for Safety rally outside of the school district's headquarters on Monday. How would you answer both the concerns of our caller about lack of internet access for virtual learning and educators' concerns about going in to school because of their concerns about safety?
RANDALLWell, those are two very good questions. Let me answer Lisa's question first. First, yes. Yes, ma'am, we've heard about internet access in western Loudoun County for years. And we have actually made many attempts. But the truth is, when you neither want to have people nor do you want to have cell towers, it's hard to get effective internet access. And so what we've done is two things.
RANDALLOne, we've done micro towers that are fairly small that we've set on public buildings. But also especially after the COVID-19 crisis started, we put hotspots all around western Loudoun County, so that it would make connection easier. Is it enough? I doubt it. And I think when we hear from people in western Loudoun county, they say that. But we're still investigating ways, especially as the school year approaches, to get better internet access in Loudoun County. We do hear that.
RANDALLAs far as the school system, I will say that I do not envy the school board and the school administration. This is a very, very tough decision. You know, by profession, I'm a mental health therapist, and so I really do know how important it is for kids to be in school and to socialize. And I know that a lot of times when kids are having issues at home of abuse or violence, it's the teacher that picks up on those things first. And so there's so much value to face-to-face education and having them in school.
RANDALLAt the same time, you know, we are in a novel virus, and we don't know what is going on right now, how to handle some of these things. And so I have said for every decision I've made -- we have made in this process, that we should follow science and data. And I've talked to the secretary of education, I've talked to the school superintendent, and they have said that they are following science and data as they make these decisions. So, I'm going to leave the decision up to the decision makers, which is the school board and the school administrative staff. And I'm going to encourage them, as they make these decisions, to follow the science and the data.
NNAMDIOf course, in D.C., Mayor Muriel Bowser has put off a decision until July 31st. But staying with education for a second, here's Rachel in Loudoun County. Rachel, your turn.
RACHELHi. Yes. Both myself and my husband are frontline workers, and so we both have to go back to work. Have you guys discussed or thought about the idea of voucher systems going forward, for the school just for this year, so that people who don't have a choice but to have care for their child will have some accommodations made for them?
RANDALLHi, Rachel. Thanks for calling in. Talking to the school superintendent, I have -- I do not believe they have talked about voucher systems. I can take that idea to him. I know that in the county, we have talked extensively about childcare options and childcare possibilities for children of county employees and children of school employees. We have to find spaces that are large enough. We have to -- you know, little kids -- little kids especially, they're beautiful, wonderful, cute little Petri dishes that always touch one another. And so you really have to find appropriate spaces that are large enough.
RANDALLAnd so we're talking about, at the county government, childcare options that we can help with funding. But the school system, I do not know if they have talked about vouchers or not.
SHERWOODThank you. There's some news breaking. The Washington Business Journal is saying, Dan Snyder, the owner of the team, has put out a statement denouncing the sexual harassment that's being reported in his organization, and says he's intent on rooting it out. But let me go back to the pandemic, the historic pandemic. Chairman, you gave your -- I watched your May speech, your State of the County speech. And you gave a nice strong speech supporting students who couldn't graduate in class, and all that. But your voice, I believe, literally broke and you took a moment when you started talking about all the small businesses in your county that are affected. How has this pandemic affected your own approach to being a public servant?
RANDALLYou know, people take their whole lives and dream their whole lives about having their own business, whatever that business might be, and to do everything right and to wait and to invest correctly and to work very, very hard. Just to have something like this happen is just devastating for their finances, but also just for, you know, how hard they worked.
RANDALLSo, you know, one of the things we focused on when we received Cares Act money was doing what was called business interruption funds. That was able to give, not loans, but grants to qualifying businesses in Loudoun County. And we've given out hundreds of those grants at this point with Cares Act money, from $7,500 up to $10,000. And while we know that that is not, you know, what the normal revenue of the business would be, the goal is to try to help them just keep the lights on and to float them until they can get back on their feet.
RANDALLAlso, when we hit phases two and three, what we've done was we went to the boardroom and decided to take some of the restrictions of zoning and things off. And so restaurants can have more outdoor seating and dining and things like that. And so we have really looked at different ways. I work closely with the Visit Loudoun, our tourism arm, with the Chamber of Commerce to start something called Loudoun We Are Ready. And that was to signal the people that there are establishments that are safe to go back to.
RANDALLWhat we learned from states that opened much too soon was that although the states opened, people didn't come back, because they did not feel safe to come back. And so we and Loudoun We Are Ready, the business owners have a checklist of things that they're doing to assure that their business is as safe as possible. Our small business community is just so vital and important, and it just -- it's just very hard to know that people were, you know, suffering and losing their businesses. And I know never in our life times have we had to decide between our lives and our livelihoods. And that's what this pandemic has done.
NNAMDIAnd I'm afraid that's about all the time we have. Phyllis Randall is the chair of the Loudoun County Board of Supervisors. She is a Democrat. Phyllis Randall, thank you so much for joining us.
RANDALLThank you so much for having me. I appreciate it.
NNAMDITom Sherwood, big plans this weekend?
SHERWOODPretty much hunkering down.
NNAMDINot going on any long drives to Prince George's County again?
SHERWOODNo. That was a great trip to Prince George's County, though, and the Merkle Wildlife Sanctuary. I recommend it to everyone.
NNAMDIToday's show was produced by Cydney Grannan. Coming up Monday, Chef Kwame Onwuachi recently announced that he's leaving the Wharf's Kith/Kin and setting out on a new culinary adventure. Plus, on Kojo For Kids, we're blasting off with Astronaut Stanley Love. Remember, adults can listen, but only kids can call in.
NNAMDISpeaking of Kojo For Kids, we want to wish a very happy early birthday to producer Lauren Markoe. Those Kojo For Kids segments you hear every Monday, those are all Lauren. Those who know her count themselves lucky. She's not only one of the kindest and most thoughtful of colleagues, she's also pretty darn good at her job. So, happy birthday, Lauren. We're a better team because of you. Everyone else, have a wonderful weekend, and stay safe. I'm Kojo Nnamdi.
Most Recent Shows
What will the region's transportation scene look like after the pandemic is over?
The former U.S. ambassador to the United Nations sits down with Kojo to talk about how growing up in Washington shaped her career.
How do vaccine trials work, and will we get enough volunteers?