If there was ever anyone who could talk to the animals, it's this guy.
After two whirlwind meetings, the D.C. Council passed the 2021 fiscal year budget. D.C. Councilmember Elissa Silverman joined The Politics Hour to discuss that, plus the latest D.C. coronavirus news.
Another Contentious Council Meeting
- The D.C .Council voted on the laws accompanying the 2021 fiscal year budget this week. And, just like at last week’s meeting, tensions flared.
- Silverman championed a bill to expand the eligibility of the cash assistance program to cash economy workers, returning citizens and more. It passed.
- Chairman Phil Mendelson and Ward 4 Councilmember Brandon Todd voted against the measure, saying that the way eligibility was defined in the bill could leave it open to abuse. On The Politics Hour, Silverman said, “I think that the focus on abuse or misuse is less important than making sure that we get resources to families who need the help the most.”
- Siverman also introduced the Protecting Businesses and Workers from COVID-19 Emergency Amendment Act, which also passed. The bill requires employers to provide masks to employees and that they must exclude or attempt to eject patrons who aren’t wearing masks. The bill also protects employers from retaliation if they test positive for COVID-19 or if they refuse to serve someone who doesn’t wear a mask.
D.C.’s Paid Family Leave Launched This Month
- Amid the coronavirus pandemic and Black Lives Matter movement, you might’ve missed the launch of D.C.’s paid family and medical leave program, which began July 1.
- Silverman and Councilmember David Grosso first introduced the bill in 2015. The finalized program offers up to eight weeks of paid leave for parents, six weeks of paid leave for those caring for a sick family member, and two weeks for personal medical issues.
- Most employees in D.C. are eligible for the program, with one big exception: federal employees.
- The program requires that an individual be employed when they seek benefits, something that Silverman tried to change in 2019.
- On The Politics Hour, Silverman responded to the criticism that the program benefits mostly people who don’t actually live in D.C. but work there: “What we need to do is make sure that we have more District residents working in our city.”
D.C. Releases Body Camera Footage From Police Killings Of Black Men
- On Friday, Mayor Bowser announced that she released footage from body-worn cameras from three police killings of Black men in 2018: Marqueese Alston, D’Quan Young and Jeffrey Price.
- This follows legislation from the D.C. Council to require the city to make the footage and names of officers involved public within five days.
- “All efforts toward transparency and releasing the body cam footage is a good thing,” Silverman said on The Politics Hour. “It sounds like [Bowser] is making efforts to do this.”
While coronavirus cases are surging in some parts of Virginia, Arlington County hasn’t had a new COVID-19 death for 14 days straight. Arlington County Board Chair Libby Garvey gave us the latest on the pandemic, policing and more.
Virginia’s COVID-19 Cases Continue To Rise
- A surge in coronavirus cases in Hampton Roads led Governor Ralph Northam to return to stricter rules in that part of the commonwealth, capping gatherings at 50 people, limiting indoor dining to 50% and banning the sale or on-site consumption of alcohol after 10 p.m.
- Unlike D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser or Maryland Governor Larry Hogan, Northam has not issued more restrictive rules on mask wearing or a travel advisory.
- As of July 31, Arlington County has reported no new deaths for two weeks straight.
- On The Politics Hour, Garvey said that while the county is not seeing a surge, it’s not seeing a decrease in cases either. She mentioned that a “big problem” is young people congregating in bars who are not social distancing and wearing masks.
Policing In Arlington County
- Arlington County is launching an independent review of police practices and policies, which will be conducted by a 15-member citizen review panel and two experts.
- The four areas the citizen Police Practices Group will tackle are whether a police civilian review board is needed in; the police department’s role in providing mental health services; the police department’s role in traffic enforcement; and the opportunity for alternative dispute resolution.
- On The Politics Hour, Garvey said the county is committed to creating a civilian review board.
- The Police Practices Groups’ findings will help inform the county’s decision as it selects a new police chief. Current Police Chief Murray “Jay” Farr is retiring in September.
- The county has also fast-tracked the deployment of body-worn cameras.
Rethinking Confederate Namesakes
- In the wake of the Black Lives Matter movement, rethinking names and statues that honor Confederate soldiers has become more and more common.
- The nonprofit Lee Highway Alliance started the process to rename Lee Highway (Route 29), with the support of the Arlington County Board. The county replaced Jefferson Davis Highway signs with Richmond Highway signs last year.
- The Arlington NAACP is calling on the county to change its logo and seal, which depicts the Arlington House, which is the former home of Confederate General Robert E. Lee and is now a memorial with the National Park Service.
- Garvey said that the Arlington County Board is planning roundtable discussions this fall. She also said, “I don’t want to get pulled away from that on naming things. It’s an absolutely important part of the conversation, but the prize, the prize is dealing with systemic racism.”
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 joined by Libby Garvey, the Chair of the Arlington County Board. But joining us now is Elissa Silverman, an At-Large Member of the D.C. Council. Elissa Silverman, welcome.
ELISSA SILVERMANGood afternoon, Kojo. And I want to wish Tom Sherwood a very happy birthday. I hear he turned 25 yesterday.
NNAMDIReally, Tom Sherwood actually has birthdays? I never knew that.
SHERWOODMore inaccurate information from the Council.
SILVERMANIt's the only inaccurate thing I will say today.
NNAMDIWell, maybe more about that later. Tom Sherwood, even as we speak Mayor Bowser is announcing that the District is releasing body-cam footage from three police shootings in 2018. The Council, you may remember, passed a law requiring that footage be released within five days in the case of fatal incidents. D.C. Council is introducing a more permanent version with hearings beginning soon. It's my understanding that the footage being released today is from the killing of three men in 2018. Is that your understanding, Tom Sherwood?
SHERWOODYes. That's correct. It's been an ongoing controversy about what good are body cameras if the police don't release the information from them. So today the mayor, I would I think, I guess in reaction to the law. But she released information on 24 year old D'Quan Young who was shot and killed by off-duty police officer in May of 2018. Twenty-two year old Marquis Alston also was shot and killed in a confrontation with an officer on patrol on June of 2018.
NNAMDIAnd I think we just lost Tom Sherwood as he was about to give us the name of the third individual, who was involved in that and that would be Jeffrey Price. D'Quan Young, Marquis Alston and Jeffrey Price, care to comment on this, Councilmember Silverman?
SILVERMANWell, Kojo, I haven't had the ability to watch the mayor's press conference today. But I'll just say that all efforts towards transparency and releasing the body-cam footage is a good thing. We want to build trust in our police department. And it sounds like, as I said, I haven't been able to watch the mayor's press conference. But it sounds like she is making efforts to do this. And I'm glad that if it wasn't a reaction to what we've done at the Council, I'm glad that she is adhering to the law.
NNAMDII think we've got Tom Sherwood back. Did you want to add anything to what you were saying, Tom? I gave all three names.
SHERWOODWell, no. I think that's important. And, you know, this has been an ongoing issue. The police department says, one, body-cam footage doesn't necessarily tell the whole story. And, two, it's quite the imposition bureaucratically to keep track of all this video from several thousand officers. But as the councilmember was just suggesting this is a movement across the country to make it more clear what police officers are doing. And, yes, while it might be burdensome and it may be expensive, for the good of the public's confidence in the police department, we need to have a better understanding of what they're doing.
NNAMDILet's start with this week's D.C. Council meeting were you voted on the laws that go along with the 2021 fiscal year budget. One of amendment of yours that passed changed the eligibility for D.C.'s cash assistance program. What did that change achieve?
SILVERMANWell, it achieved some very important things, Kojo. First -- and this was a theme throughout the day. We need to focus our resources on those families who are struggling the most in our city to get by. We do not want these families to fall into the economic abyss. And what this bill did was it clarify who is eligible for a program that was actually started by Events D.C., our sports and entertainment commission, to provide financial assistance to families, to workers, who are in ineligible for unemployment insurance. There are many people in our city who do important work, keep our city humming. They are landscaping. They are helping take care of our children, braiding hair and so forth. They work in the cash economy. And because they work in a cash economy they can't get unemployment assistance or even the expanded unemployment assistance.
SILVERMANSo this bill did a few things. First, it clarified who is eligible. It also made the income non-taxable, which is really important, because right now for those families who are struggling to survive this pandemic every dollar counts. It also said that by receiving this money it doesn't make them ineligible for other programs. For example, our Health Care Alliance, which provides health insurance to some of these families. And it also did one really important thing, which is say to our non-profit partners, people like Mary's Center or organizations like Mary's Center, who are helping hand out the assistance that they can pay for some of their administrative costs. You know, it costs money to hand out money. So it allowed some of our non-profit partners to be able to cover their costs to administer the program.
NNAMDIWell, Chairman Phil Mendelson and Ward 4 Councilmember Brandon Todd voted against the amendment citing issues with how eligibility is defined in the bill. Chairman Mendelson said that the program could be abused. I'm assuming that somebody can say, Look, I cut grass for a living and I haven't been able to do it for a while, because people haven't been employing me. But how do you identify and prove that?
SILVERMANWell, I mean, Kojo, the question is do we cast a wide or narrow safety net? And I believe we needed to cast a wide safety net to make sure that we were helping these families like the example you gave. The grass cutter, who doesn't have an 1199, is not a W-2 employee, can't prove that they've lost income. And I just feel for $1,000 a family we want to help as many families as possible with this program. And I think that the focus on abuse or misuse is less important than making sure that we get resources to families, who need the help the most so that we don't exacerbate already existing inequities in our city.
SHERWOODCouncilmember, thank you for being with us today. I don't think anyone disagrees -- well, maybe some do that you've got to reach to people, who are the most vulnerable during this pandemic. The Council voted 11-2 for your amendment. I think it's a $9 million appropriation that would be used to pay these grants, which would be one-time $1,000 grants; is that correct?
SHERWOODOkay. And as Kojo was just asking -- people have been asking me and I've -- councilmembers ask at the session, you don't want to not help anyone, because you might help some who aren't eligible. But how are you going to determine -- I think you said on the dais that the day laborers, who work on the streets and get picked up for a day and get paid at the end of the day don't have their job. I think you specifically mentioned sex workers, who are not working. But how is it going to work. I understand Events D.C. is going to dole out the money -- not dole not. It's going to give out the money to various non-profits, who will then determine who's going to get the money. But what will be the criteria for them, because I understood some of the councilmembers technically would be eligible.
SHERWOODAnd you guys -- I apologize for going on -- but you passed this at 11 to 2 with the understanding you would come back and maybe more narrowly clarify or define who would be eligible; is that still going to happen?
SILVERMANSo, Tom, we've already handed out $5 million. Events D.C. has already handed out $5 million of assistance through -- Events D.C. isn't handing out the money. They are partnering with groups that work with workers and residents of our city, who are in the cash economy and it's been a very -- but I am going to point out to you, Tom, I haven't heard a peep from anyone about abuse of that first $5 million. That first $5 million has already been handed out.
SHERWOOD(overlapping) I'm not talking about abuse, because obviously there would be some. I'm talking about how are you going to know what to do. The initial $5 million was specifically for undocumented workers. It is now a larger expense to excluded workers.
SILVERMANWell, how do you prove you're an undocumented worker? I mean, that's the point I was making on the dais. No one is coming up and saying, I'm undocumented. They don't want to do that. So -- and that's what we were ...
SHERWOOD(overlapping) I'm trying to look positively, not negatively. So you give money. Bread for the City or someone organization that works really hard in this city for the people, who are most damaged by this pandemic in just normal life. So what is the guidance to them when people walk in the door or do they have to apply? I mean, how is it going to work for people with no, listening to us even.
SILVERMANThey have to apply and we are working with, you know, groups like Mary's Center, like Ayuda and they are administering the program. You know, I think the concern really gets down to are people going to take this money, who don't really need it. I think most families ...
SHERWOODThat's not what I'm saying. I agree with you. But how would the person who may be listening to this person -- I guess, a person knows that they have no income and no program, so they can -- but where would ...
SILVERMANSo there's an application process.
SHERWOOD(overlapping) How would they go, where would they go and what would they do? The people who are not cheating the program, but want to use the program, what would they do?
SILVERMANWell, I'm excited that maybe more people are learning about this opportunity. They are going to go to the non-profit partner that we partners -- we are actually allocating this money to Events D.C. And we are working with the partners that they've already identified for that first $5 million to then expand to the additional $9 million that we've allocated in this budget. And there's an application process. And I'm happy to have you talk with people like Maria Gomez, who I know have been on this program before to explain to you how they distribute the money and make the decisions.
SHERWOODOkay. How many people do you think you're going to get to? Hundreds maybe thousands?
SILVERMANWell, I don't have my calculator in front of me, but it's $1,000 grant and we've allocated $9 million. So I think you have to remove some zeros and that tells you about how many families we'll be able to help.
SHERWOODOkay. Okay, I'm good on that subject. I got to admit and say this at the beginning of the program since you were so nice to mention my birthday. I wanted to mention the passing of your cat of 10-11 years Usman. I always say it wrong. It's Usman or Osman?
SILVERMANNo, you correct. It's Usman. Thank you, Tom. He was a special kitty.
SHERWOODIt was a rescue cat, wasn't it?
SILVERMANYes. I adopted him through Washington Animal Rescue League, which I think now is renamed the Human Rescue Alliance. And his first owner -- there's an interesting story in that.
SHERWOODBut not a long one.
NNAMDIWe only have about 20 seconds left.
SILVERMANSo the quick story is his first owner was actually a tremendous champion of racial equity in public education, who lived on Capitol Hill.
NNAMDIOkay. Got to take a short break. The Politics Hour focusing on birthdays and kittens. But you're up next 800-433-8850. I'm Kojo Nnamdi.
NNAMDIWelcome back to our conversation with At-Large D.C. Councilmember Elissa Silverman. Let's try Justin in Washington again. Justin, are you there now?
JUSTINI am, Kojo. Thank you. Sorry about before.
JUSTINFirst, councilmember I want to thank you for all your work on these issues. You're my spirit animal on the Council and I appreciate your (unintelligible).
JUSTINSo I run D.C. Wage Law, a law firm in D.C. that represents low-wage workers and wage theft issues. And my question is this, have you considered using debarment as a tool to fight against wage theft, because a lot of the biggest violators of D.C. wage and hour laws that I see are construction companies that receive millions of dollars from the District each year. Wouldn't it be easy and cost effective for the District simply not to give money to companies like that to kind of perpetuate the problem?
SILVERMANWell, first of all, thank you, Justin. And thank you for your work. And to emphasize, wage theft is a big problem. I will say that we have been working with the attorney general on this issue. And to let listeners know, people there are many ways of robbing workers of their wages. One is not to classify them properly as employees, but instead as contractors. I imagine this is some of the work you look at, Justin. And what that does is it deprives people of overtime and benefits.
SILVERMANAnd I know the attorney general is very interested in this. So one thing we did in this budget is give the attorney general more fire power and resources to combat wage theft. In fact, we added another attorney through my committee to combat wage theft and work on these issues. We are working with Attorney General Racine, who has really been terrific and the head of his division Randy Chen on this.
SILVERMANSo we're happy to talk with you Justin about strategies and possibly this strategy to discourage -- what we want to do is discourage employers from depriving their workers of a fair day's pay for a fair day's work.
NNAMDIOkay. Justin, thank you for your call. Let me move on to Bob in District Heights, Maryland. Bob, your turn.
BOBReal quick. I find it appalling that every time you try to do something for poor people there's this big big discussion about theft and fraud. Yet when these banks walk away with millions and billions of dollars and don't do anything for the community there's very little oversight. I just find it appalling that begrudging folks of few bucks. I know somebody, who worked over at Nationals Park. They were ecstatic to get the vendor's job, and I'm sure as of this whole pandemic they have not been able to make a buck. Thank you.
NNAMDICouncilmember Silverman agrees with you. We can move on. No, I'm sorry. Go ahead, Elissa Silverman.
SILVERMANThank you, Bob. No, I appreciate that comment. I mean, just to say, Kojo, there are a lot of voices at the Wilson Building, who are lobbying for the well-connected. And I have to say, Bob, thank you so much for you comment, because I do see my job as being the advocate, being the champion of those, who can't hire a lobbyist or email councilmembers a million times to get a few tax payer dollars to help them.
NNAMDIWith everything going on, D.C. workers might have missed that the paid family leave program runs into effect on July 1. Can you give us a brief overview of what this does and what D.C. employees need to know about accessing the benefits?
SILVERMANRight. So, Kojo, let me say that the fact that you haven't heard many stories about paid family leave is a testament to the smoothness of this launch. You know, there were a lot of skeptics that we would be able to pull off paid family leave. And as my old boss, David Carr, would say, "Planes landing safely at National not news, planes crashing is." And we've had a smooth glide path so far on paid family leave.
SILVERMANSo the program is up and running. It has a website, which I should have been prepared to give you. But there is a paid family leave website, which has all the information about the program. And I know certain people have applied for the benefit. Just to remind everyone even though this was a four year discussion what paid family leave would do, would allow you to get some compensation during a time when you are facing either a health challenge or a really joyous event in your life welcoming a new child. And it is -- the basic formula is eight weeks for parental leave, six weeks of up to $1,000 a week compensation for family leave and two weeks for leave to take care of yourself.
NNAMDIWhat do you say to those people who say, but this still benefits mostly people who live out of the city. There are people who live in the District, pay taxes in the District, but because they don't work in the city, cannot benefit from this.
SILVERMANI'd say the same thing about unemployment insurance and the minimum wage. This is a worker benefit, and what we need to do is make sure that we have more District residents working in our city. No offense, obviously I grew up in Baltimore and my parents live in Maryland. No offense to Maryland or Virginia residents, but I want to see every job in the District occupied by a District resident, worked by a District resident and that way we'll have more of the benefit go to District workers.
SHERWOODCouncilmember, that website if you want to know about paid family leave is dcpaidfamilyleave.dc.gov. Let me ask you about elections. We're running out of time. Before the June 2 primary you had expressed concerns that there were going to be problem with so few precincts and people not having ballots and not getting that they had requested. Now the mayor and the board has actually said the Board of Elections is going to send a ballot to every registered voter. Are you confident now that we're on the right track to have a decent election on November the 3rd?
SILVERMANWell, yes, in that I think the Council and Councilmember Allen and the mayor just released the new plan for November 3rd in terms of Election Day, precincts being open.
SHERWOODLike 80 precincts instead of 144.
SILVERMANI think the lesson learned, Tom, is we need to work with the Board. Stay on top of the Board in terms of voter education. Many voters didn't realize that there was early voting. And there are challenges with having an election in the pandemic. And that is for in-person voting that's about maintaining social distance. So I would encourage all voters, who want to vote in person and don't want to vote by mail for whatever reason, take advantage of early voting.
SILVERMANI'm one of those converts who I used to love voting on Election Day and saw it as a big deal, but now I'm early voter. I like voting early because you get that vote in the, you know, completed and done. So I would encourage our residents to take advantage of the early voting sites that will be open. Certainly vote by mail is a very good way to vote. And I think if we follow through on the lessons learned from the primary, we will have a very successful general election.
NNAMDIHere's Camille in Lorton, Virginia. Camille, you're on the air. Go ahead, please.
CAMILLEKojo, my son is 51 years old disabled living in the District. And he was robbed, mugged and lost all his I.D.s. He's been able to recover most of his I.D.s, but he cannot get his driver's license, because he also was in the process of moving. I have spoken to the office of the deputy mayor for infrastructure, who oversees the DMV and they have said, I'm sorry. There's nothing we can do. That simply is not possible. That means that he cannot get medical care other than in an emergency room. He cannot get psychotropic medications that he takes, because he has no I.D. to prove, who he is even though he has, you know, a myriad other things, but he doesn't have a photo I.D., and that there is no one in the entire District of Columbia that can help him.
NNAMDIThat sounds like a terrible dilemma. Elissa Silverman, what advice would you give to Camille for her son?
SILVERMANI am going to offer up help of my constituent services director, Kojo. So I think we're at the end of the segment and if Camille can stay on the line and connect with me, we will work through this, but I think it shows the importance of having I.D. It is critical to getting housing, healthcare. And I'm sorry your son's gone through this, Camille, but we'll do our best to help him.
NNAMDICamille, we'll get your number and pass it on to Councilmember Silverman. Tom Sherwood, 30 seconds.
SHERWOODWell, I don't think we have a question that Elissa can answer in 30 seconds. But I'm just still concerned about the voting that people are going to -- but she's reassured me a little bit.
SILVERMANI am too, Tom.
SILVERMANI am too. And I think Councilmember Allen, the mayor -- we need to learn from what happened in the primary. And I will be focused on it. And I think other of my colleagues at the Council are. We need to have a successful election, and we are focused on making sure that happens.
NNAMDIOkay. Elissa Silverman, thank you so much for joining us.
SILVERMANThank you. It's always too short, Kojo. But thank you and happy birthday again, Tom.
NNAMDIIndeed it is. Elissa is an At-Large Member of the D.C. Council. We're going to take a short break. Up next, Libby Garvey, Chair of the Arlington County Board. I'm Kojo Nnamdi.
NNAMDIWelcome back. Our guest is Libby Garvey, the Chair of the Arlington County Board. Libby Garvey, thank you so much for joining us.
LIBBY GARVEYWell, I'm delighted to be back. And I understand birthday wishes are due to Tom; is that true?
SHERWOODNo more wishes.
GARVEYOh, Tom, get all the good wishes you can. Good energy is good at our age.
NNAMDITom was born before they kept record of births. So we don't exactly know when Tom's birthday is.
GARVEYIt was about the same time I was born. No, they were keeping records, Kojo.
NNAMDITom Sherwood, can we briefly talk about Cheryl Glenn, the former Maryland delegate who was sentenced to two years for bribery, fraud. She was, of course, a delegate from the City of Baltimore. And she was accused of and convicted of taking nearly $34,000 in bribes having to do with her cannabis advocacy. And she accepted money in exchange for supports on measures for a bill that she was promoting. And it looks like she's going to be facing at least two years in jail.
SHERWOODYes. This is another sad example of legislators in Maryland. We may have to start questioning their statehood, just like people do in our District when something goes wrong there. But, no, this is actually a fairly sad case. I mean, she was elected -- Cheryl Glenn in Baltimore was elected in 2006. She was a respected member of the legislature. She became an expert on the efforts to have medical marijuana in this state.
SHERWOODBut then she sold -- she pled guilty -- she wasn't convicted, she pled guilty to taking $34,000 in bribes in trying to steer monies to companies that would take advantage of the marijuana issue. The judge said at sentencing, he called this a deliberate scheme, that she sold her influence. She resigned last December, and she had pled guilty and now she has been sentenced to two years in jail.
NNAMDILibby Garvey, other parts of Virginia, like Hampton Rhodes, have seen a surge in coronavirus cases. How is Arlington County doing?
GARVEYWell, we're doing okay. We're going up and down, a little bit. We get about an average of 38 cases a day, and we've really just kind of kept things steady, which is kind of good news and bad news. We're not spiking, that' good, but we're not going down. And we're, I think, concerned. There's a lot of places -- I think, you know, Hampton Rhodes, have traced it back. It's a lot of mostly young people congregating in bars and not paying attention to, you know, social distancing and mask-wearing. And that's a big problem.
NNAMDIDoes the county have adequate testing and contact tracing to keep up with current coronavirus numbers?
GARVEYYou know, we don't -- adequate, yeah. Well, we don't have what we need. Testing is run through the state, and we are about to launch some testing that's not the nasal swab, but the -- a spit test, which is a lot easier to administer. And we're working hard to make sure that basically anybody who wants to get a test can get one, but we're not there yet.
GARVEYYou know, we're affected by the national issues as much as anybody else, and, again, needing to work through the state, there's a limited amount of tests, so we don't have as many as we would like but we're doing better than most, I guess, would be a way of putting that. But we absolutely need more. I mean, the whole country does, right? It's just ridiculous where we are.
GARVEYI'm confident on contact tracing, by the way, I will say, because we've had good contact tracing for a long, long time, and we're ahead of it. I think we've got the best in the state. We're fine on that, but, of course, contact tracing isn't any good if you can't get the results back from the test within a reasonable amount of time. And we're seeing that amount of time expand. And so if its 10 days between a test and getting the results back, what good does the contact tracing do, really?
GARVEYIt's a national problem. We're all affected by it. We're doing the very best we can here, but, as you see, we're on a local -- you know, jurisdictions like Arlington, we're kind of on our own to try to get testing. We have some support from the state, not as much as we need and none on the federal level. It's pretty -- you know, it's difficult. Sometimes it feels like Groundhog Day, guys. You know, we're kind of almost going back to where we were in April.
SHERWOODAt the top of the show, we talked about Mayor Bowser releasing some body -- police body cam videos of three controversial shootings in 2018. The Arlington Board -- I watched the session from last Saturday. You are going to move forward with body cams for police officers and fire marshal's office and sheriff's office. For the people who don't know much about it, as briefly as possible, where -- this -- you passed this, and you're going to implement this at the beginning of the year. What steps are needed? And once you do have it, what will be your policy on releasing video, which seems to come up in several jurisdictions?
GARVEYYeah, so we're working through a lot. I will say that, you know, we have -- we've looked at body one cameras before and actually have been thinking about it. We were planning to look at adopting it in this budget way back in January. So, we're fairly prepared, and we have cameras in our cars, and have for a long time. What's involved -- what's taking time -- so what we voted on is one, yes, to adopt it and bring them on. And then the money to make that happen.
GARVEYIt's not only, you know, purchasing the cameras. Sometimes I think people might think it's just a matter of putting a cell phone on your pocket, right, and turning it on. It's not that.
SHERWOODNo, it's real cameras.
GARVEYThis is real cameras, well, and they also have to tie into the court system. So, among the expenses in what we're doing is setting up the court system with facilities to use the video from the cameras to be able to show it. Right now it's on little, tiny screens.
SHERWOODWhen will citizens know that their police officers and public safety people are wearing those cameras? Is the target date January?
GARVEYJanuary. Mm-hmm, yep, January, 2021.
SHERWOODAnd how would that -- would that -- will you allow that video to be accessed in a Freedom of Information request? What will be that rule or has that been decided yet?
GARVEYI don't think it's been decided. I think it's fair to say that we will follow the law and do the most we can to be transparent. And I really -- I'm not a lawyer, and I haven't even gotten a briefing on that aspect of it yet.
SHERWOODOkay. If Kojo will let me, I'll also ask you about something else you talked about on the last session. And that is moving forward with the state's approval to limit the guns, that guns cannot be allowed in county buildings or used or owned by the county, county parks, recreation or community center facilities, in public streets or public places.
SHERWOODThat's a pretty sweeping thing. I listened to a lot of the people who called in on your Zoom meeting. Congratulations on how well it was run, but there were any number of people who said you were interfering their ability -- one woman called in, said she was African-American, had two children and that she felt uncomfortable going to some of the city parks without maybe taking her concealed permit with her into the parks. That gun would not be allowed in the parks now. How important is this for Arlington? When will this go into effect?
GARVEYSo, this, we're looking to have a public hearing in September, and we would adopt it in some form in September. And then we would implement it, but we would have to have -- before we can do that, there have to be signs everywhere that the guns are prohibited. So, whatever amount of time it takes to put up those signs. And I think there's -- I've had some very good conversations -- as you probably know, I'm a Quaker, and people carrying guns is pretty foreign to me. But I think people have come up with, you know, reasonable concerns and worries. And we're going to talk those through and work it out.
GARVEYWe are basing our ordinance on what the state passed, and it's also very similar to what Alexandria passed. So, that's how the format came forward, and I think we're going to -- I've already had a number of conversations with gun owners. Particularly it's the concealed-carry folks who are very concerned, and I'm, you know, perfectly willing to talk to them and think it through. We are not -- there was a lot of fear about being trapped, because apparently some people wear guns like clothes, so they just walk around with them and don't even realize they have them. And they're concerned they will go into a park and get arrested...
SHERWOOD(overlapping) Okay. So, that'll be a public hearing in September.
GARVEYThat will be a public hearing in September, and then it'll take a while to implement. Mm-hmm.
NNAMDIHere is Julius Spain, the president of the Arlington County NAACP in Virginia. Julius Spain, you're on the air. Go ahead, please.
JULIUS SPAINWell, thank you. Hello, Madame Chair and (unintelligible).
GARVEYMr. President, nice to talk to you.
SPAINYeah, yeah, thank you to your team for everything you're doing with COVID-19. So, you're aware the Arlington branch of NAACP, we've taken a position as it relates to the logo here in Arlington. One of the questions some of the members wanted to know, and perhaps hear from you, is how do you view the logo, and do you believe that it memorializes in any way, shape or form a slave plantation?
SPAINAnd on the backside of that, I'd like you to address a statement you made in Arlington Now where you stated community engagement and a good solid conversation needs to be had. What does that look like for us here in Arlington now? What can we expect? Because we also know that there's been a number of citizens that have already addressed this issue with the county board.
NNAMDIAnd so that our listeners know what he's talking about, the NAACP's calling on the county to replace its logo and seal which features Arlington House, the home that belonged to Confederate General Robert E. Lee, which is now a memorial to him, run by the National Parks Service. Please go ahead, Libby Garvey.
GARVEYYeah-no, thank you. So, we've been getting a request to change not only our logo and seal. We've been getting requests to put names on bridges, change names of streets and highways and building and community centers. So, there are a lot of these kinds of requests coming in and I think we need to come -- we don't really have a set process for this number and differing kinds of requests coming in. And they're all, you know, around this issue of racial equity and how are we going to look at our history.
GARVEYAnd I have been learning a lot of interesting history. One of the things I learned about the logo, the house on the logo is, you know, it was done -- it was first built in 18 -- begun in 1803 and it was George Washington's stepson and adopted son that ordered it to be built. Lee didn't live there very long. It actually came to and through the Washington -- the Custis family. Didn't live there long, left. And actually Arlington Cemetery was put in place to make sure he couldn't come back. So, it's kind of interesting. Marquis de Lafayette's been there, so there's a lot of interesting history that I really didn't know or had forgotten, so I'm looking at that.
GARVEYBut the question really is, so how are we going to decide how to do that? And we're getting a lot of different requests, and there are so many issues we need to work through with racial equity. We are planning a series of roundtable conversations this fall. We have not gotten all of the details worked out. We're going to be having some professional groups helping to facilitate those conversations and hoping to have really lots and lots of in depth conversations about racial equity and what it means. And, in fact, I...
NNAMDI(overlapping) And you've created -- you've created a new position called the chief race and equity officer who Deputy County Manager Samia Byrd was named to that position earlier this month. What role will that officer play in this conversation?
GARVEYShe's actually working out the details about how we're going to have that conversation right now. It's one of her first and early tasks, obviously along with looking at our police procedures. So, I'm looking at a good conversation about history and what does it mean? What do we want to honor? What do we need to remember? We can't forget our history. And I do want to say, Julius, to you and to everybody, you know, the more I think about it, the issue, I think, is systemic racism. And how are we going to tackle that?
GARVEYAnd I don't want to get pulled away from that on naming things. It's an absolutely important part of the conversation, but the prize -- the prize is dealing with systemic racism. So, I want to do it the right way and have some really good conversations and figure this out, because it doesn't really matter what I think about the seal. It matters what the people of Arlington County think about it and what they want.
NNAMDIThank you very much for your call, Julius Spain. Arlington County Board Member Christian Dorsey lost his seat on the Metro board because he received a $10,000 donation from the agency's largest transit union, and he failed to report it to Metro. He promised to refund the money to the union in November. And after falsely saying that he did so in January, he wrote the check in February. Last week, the Washington Post reported that the check was never cashed. According to the union, it was lost in the mail, and the check was listed on the board member's midyear campaign for finance filing that was due this month. What's going on here? Have you talked with your colleagues about this at all?
GARVEYI talk to -- I've certainly talked to Christian. He's pretty frustrated with the whole thing, as well. There's a picture of the check. He says he sent the check in. The union says they got it, it's not been deposited. What Christian's told me is he's now trying to get the bank routing number and stuff so he can just do an electronic transfer. And he's having trouble getting that number from them. And that's all I know.
SHERWOODWell, unfortunately, I don't want to leave it there, because I spoke about this fairly harshly last week. He's frustrated? I can't imagine what the citizens of the county are. I mean, you were frustrated, too, because you thought it had been fixed, and he misled the county in January. If he has $10,000, he can -- you know, he has to walk it over in a wheelbarrow. I don't understand why Mr. Dorsey -- who's well-liked personally by many people -- has allowed this to fester. He either has the money or he doesn't.
SHERWOODAnd saying he's waiting for a routing number or replacement of the check and all of that makes no sense. If he has ten -- and I know he filed for personal bankruptcy last October. And, again, a person that many people like, this is -- it sounds to me like this is almost disqualifying to serve on the board. He should've cleared this $10,000, and he should've done it in July. He knew -- he knew when he had to file his report that he didn't file that the check had been cashed. And then he acted surprised that it was lost. And this is not the union's fault for this $10,000 check. It's Mr. Dorsey.
SHERWOODAnd he seems to be just sliding away from this, and the board hasn't sanctioned him, to my knowledge. Have you sanctioned him? Have you criticizes him publically? Have you told him to get this fixed?
GARVEYI've certainly talked to him about how important that is to do. I think he understands that. I have not done all kinds of research, and I'm not...
SHERWOOD(overlapping) It's now -- it's now almost August.
GARVEY...you know -- so, Tom, yeah, Tom, and he maybe could walk it over in a wheelbarrow, you know. That's maybe where he will end up doing it. In COVID, that's maybe not a good idea. But this is really Mr. Dorsey's issue, and I think if you want to talk to him about it, you can. I would like to put it in perspective. It's $10,000. That's not really very much money. It's a lot of money to some people, but we are in the middle of a...
SHERWOOD(overlapping) But (unintelligible) ...
GARVEY...we're in the middle of a pandemic right now...
SHERWOOD…$10,000. It's $10,000 from the principle union at Metro while he was serving on the Metro Board. It's not just the amount. It could've been $500. Yes, the amount maybe counts, in the long term. We are talking $10,000. That's a lot of money.
GARVEYYes. And it's out there and it's public, and he says he's trying to return it. And who am I to tell him that that's not -- you know, what am I supposed to be telling him? Say, you can -- you can continue...
SHERWOOD(overlapping) Well, being the chair of the board would be one thing.
GARVEYWell, yeah, but I talked to him about it.
SHERWOODI know you like him. You've told us before that you like him. I liked him and when I've dealt with him. He's been pretty, I think, straight up with me. But it could linger, this check out there. I just think it makes the whole board look bad.
GARVEYNo. I think it's definitely a problem. It's definitely a problem, and I can't walk -- there's only so much that I can do about it. I will continue to say that Mr. Dorsey's a valued member of the board, and we're lucky to have him on the board here. And I hope this gets settled because this is -- yeah, it's frustrating, it's annoying. And I assume he will get it fixed.
SHERWOODCan I ask (unintelligible) graffiti that was also -- there was some controversy about graffiti that was removed in Fairlington and part of Arlington county. Some people had put up some Black Lives Matter material. Then some other people for Trump put up some Trump 2020 stuff. And there was a conflict there and the public works people, I think, erased it all. Where are we now -- where is graffiti in terms of, can I put graffiti up on public space now and not worry about it? Or where are we on graffiti?
GARVEYNo, you're not supposed to put graffiti on public spaces, and it's supposed to be removed within three days, no matter what it says. We just -- in fact, what we realized was we didn't have an ordinance -- in fact, the manager did this. It wasn't something the board had to vote on, so that anything that's put up will be removed within three days. Given all of the work we've got going on, a chalk -- you know, you use a little commonsense. If it's going to rain in the next day or two, the rain will wash it away. So, we're trying to use some common sense, but absolutely we need to treat all of the messages the same because that's part of the basis of our constitutional democracy that we're trying desperately to hang onto these days.
NNAMDIWe got an email from someone who said: I was wondering if you could ask Chair Garvey what her position is on the November referendum in Virginia to establish a bipartisan, transparent citizen-led commission to draw the 2021 electoral district lines and end gerrymandering in our state. As a former Democratic Capitol Hill staffer, I learned that the two issues that can really transform politics and partisanship are the end to gerrymandering and campaign finance reform. The Arlington County Democratic Committee will be voting on supporting or opposing the amendment next week. Libby Garvey?
GARVEYYeah, getting rid of gerrymandering, I absolutely support. There is a group, I think it's called One Virginia. I give them money. I've been supporting that effort for a while. It makes sense. I hope we can do it nationwide. But, that said, I need to look at the -- you know, I haven't looked at the details of this particular one. Often, the devil is in the details, but I absolutely support no gerrymandering. Let's just do it, you know, based in a nonpolitical way as we can. Let's just make sure everybody's vote counts.
NNAMDIAnd Ashley tweets: Will the board help Arlington Public Schools with its $12.5 million deficit?
GARVEYWe are helping the Arlington Public Schools in every which way that we can. And if they need help with that, and we've got the money to do it, we will. We've been in discussion with the superintendent and with board members about that. We're all trying to figure out where we are right now financially, as is the rest of the country. And we, you know, need to figure that out. But absolutely, we support the schools. I didn't spend 15 years on the school board to forget about the schools.
NNAMDIThe county's launching a review of police practices with a report to come by the end of the year. The report will be conducted by two outside experts and a 15-member civilian review panel. What will that panel do and, I guess, even more important, what kind of power will it have?
GARVEYYou know, you probably should invite Simia Byrd to be on your show. (laugh) She's doing that, too.
NNAMDIIt's a thought.
GARVEYYeah, no, no, absolutely. The panel right now, the group right now is to help -- the research that's being done and the analysis that's being done will be reported to them. And they will come to us with recommendations. And I can't tell you right now what those recommendations will be, because we haven't gotten that far.
NNAMDIWell, the aforementioned Julius Spain who called in on the broadcast earlier, the president of the Arlington County NAACP, said that if a civilian review board is created, he'd like the board to have subpoena power. Is that something that you would support?
GARVEYIt's something that we need to look at, and I will correct it. It isn't on the civilian review board. We haven't said if. It's a matter of how and what the details are. We are committed to doing a civilian review board, but the form that will take, we don't know exactly. And that's part of what this group will be working on for us and giving us some recommendations.
SHERWOODLet's go back to schools, briefly. What is the status for Arlington schools? Is it going to be virtual to start schools? When does it start, and what do parents need to know at this moment?
GARVEYYeah, it is starting virtually, in September. September 8 is going to be the first day, and virtually at least into October. And we are working as hard as we can to figure out how we can get students back into the classroom and how to be able to do that safely. Obviously, that's the school system's -- that's their bailiwick. We are going to support them, but they are looking at everything, and we are supporting them as much as we can.
GARVEYIncluding particularly one of the biggest issues is childcare. Teachers can't teach if they have their own children they need to watch, right? So, there is that, as well as with our own employees. We are looking at repurposing a couple of our community centers to actually help handle some childcare. We found out that schools are able to be used for childcare, but what we're looking at in working with schools is not so much childcare. We call it virtual learning support.
GARVEYWe've got to find some ways to make sure that as long as students are learning virtually, they've got the support they need to do that. And, finally, we have committed to provide the broadband and internet that students -- every student and every teacher needs. About 10 percent of our teachers do not have the internet connection they need at home to be able to even teach virtually the way they need to.
GARVEYMany of our students are in that boat. We are on plan C. We worked through trying to do something called -- there are hotspots that were handed out that we helped, you know, pay for. Those don't begin to provide the kind of power that needs to happen, so that didn't work. Now we're to Comcast Essentials. Comcast is being very slow about setting it up and, again, there are kind of limits and all kinds of problems with getting that to work.
GARVEYSo, we are, you know, hoping that we can find some other ways to do it and actually use some of the broadband that we've got to reach those students. This is -- it's just absolutely ridiculous that broadband, which should be a utility like water and electricity, is handled the way it is right now. It frustrates the heck out of me.
NNAMDIArlington Chief of Police Jay Farr announced he was retiring in September. What do you say about his tenure, and does his departure have anything to do with the current moment?
GARVEYNo. I talked to -- it does not. I'll answer your last question first. No. I remember talking with Jay a year or 18 months ago about his -- you know, that he had retirement plans and planned to kind of be heading out west, I think, and being closer to family, and was looking forward to doing that.
GARVEYI think Jay -- you know, I think Jay has done a great job. Nobody is perfect but, you know, our police department is really recognized as being quite progressive. Seventy-five percent of our officers are trained in crisis intervention training, which is how to handle mental health crises. They're very well trained. They are -- community policing is what we look at. Doing de-escalation is where we are.
GARVEYBut -- and I think -- so I think we're really well positioned to be taking the next steps we need to do, which is actually looking at: What is policing going to look like in the 21st century? Do police need to be doing traffic stops? Probably not. Maybe we need to have another way of doing that. How should we continue, and should we continue to involve police in mental health issues? And, clearly, a lot of times that's not the right thing, but sometimes people in mental health crisis are a danger to themselves and others. And you need some trained police there to handle that.
GARVEYIs that's part of what this group is going to be working on. And, again, I think Jay set us up very well in a good position to have a police force ready to continue to move forward. We've always been progressive, and we are going to continue to stay out in front of issues.
NNAMDIAnd I'm afraid that's all the time we have. Libby Garvey is chair of the Arlington County Board. Thank you so much for joining us.
GARVEYOh, it's nice to talk to you guys. Hope I talked fast enough. (laugh)
NNAMDIYou sure did.
GARVEYIt's always pretty quick here. It's good to talk -- you guys stay well and stay cool. And happy birthday, Tom. Celebrate.
SHERWOODOh, there it is again.
NNAMDIToday's show was produced by Cydney Grannan. I'd like to take a moment to give a friend a hard time on his birthday Tom, I'm sorry to say you are now old enough to be a Washington institution. In print, on television and on the superlative medium of radio, you've documented the DMV fairly and compassionately ever since the British burned the White House. (laugh) Keep holding the feet of authority to the fire and, well, your birthday was yesterday. Did you enjoy it?
SHERWOODI did. I got some very nice gifts, one of which is being delivered today. I won't get into it but it starts with the letter R and ends with an M, and it's going to be rum. But I'm going to go this afternoon and see the new Martin Luther King Library, which opens in September. I'm getting the tour of it, and I'm considering that part of my birthday week.
NNAMDIThat's my gift. Sip it slowly. Coming up Monday, it's all about the books. We first sit down with some professional bookworms to talk about the best reads of the season. And Kojo for Kids welcomes Fred Bowen, who writes about sports for the KidsPost section of the Washington Post and has just published his 25th sports book. That all starts Monday, at noon. In the meantime, have a good weekend, and stay safe. I'm Kojo Nnamdi.
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