On this last episode, we look back on 23 years of joyous, difficult and always informative conversation.
Guest Host: Sasha-Ann Simons
U.S. Senator Kamala Harris’ nomination to be the vice presidential candidate for the Democratic party is historic in many ways. One of them: Harris is the first graduate of an historically Black college or university — and the first Howard alumna — to be on the presidential ticket for a major political party. Howard University Provost and Chief Academic Officer Anthony Wutoh joined The Politics Hour for more.
“From The Hilltop To Capitol Hill”
- Howard University quickly offered its congratulations to Harris once she was tapped by Joe Biden to be his running mate.
- Before attending Howard, Harris had attended majority-white schools. But she was determined to have a different college experience.
- While at Howard, Harris became a member of Alpha Kappa Alpha sorority, the oldest historically Black sorority in the country. She participated in protests against apartheid in South Africa.
- Harris’ nomination comes at a time when many colleges and universities, including HBCUs, are financially struggling. Enrollments are down, and HBCUs don’t take in as many donations. But studies show that HBCUs see enrollment go up after periods of racial unrest.
- Wutoh said on The Politics Hour that the number of applications to Howard’s undergrad program has been increasing over the past 8-10 years. “We’re certainly encouraged that we’re going to be admitting one of our largest classes [this fall], but we certainly have to continue to be strategic in terms of the financial impact,” he said.
Virginia House Majority Leader Charniele Herring gave us a preview of next week’s special session.
Virginia Lawmakers Take On Criminal Justice And Police Reform
- On August 18, lawmakers in the Virginia General Assembly will convene to address reforms to the criminal justice system and policing, as well as a budget deficit brought on by the pandemic.
- House lawmakers have held three days of public hearings to guide their criminal justice proposals. The Virginia House Democratic Caucus released its priorities on Thursday, including banning the use of chokeholds and eliminating qualified immunity for law enforcement officers.
- Senate Democrats are also looking to overhaul policing with a package that would, among other things, create standards of conduct for officers across the state and create systems to prevent officers with spotty records from getting jobs at new departments.
- Republican lawmakers are pushing back with their own bills. One would shorten the maximum length of any executive order to 30 days; another would limit a state-of-emergency declaration to 45 days without approval from the General Assembly. But with Democrats holding the majority in both chambers — as well as the governor’s mansion — it’s unclear if any of these will pass.
- Richmond Mayor Levar Stoney is urging Virginia Governor Ralph Northam and lawmakers to legalize marijuana during the special session.
Retooling The Virginia Budget
- The Virginia General Assembly is also tasked with reworking the budget. The legislature originally passed a two-year, $135 billion spending plan.
- On The Politics Hour, Herring said the budget deficit is $236 million. “Our deficit is not as bad as we expected it to be, but it’s still pretty bad,” she said.
- Virginia House Democrats want to prioritize funding for education, telehealth, housing protections and elections as they make changes to the budget.
D.C. Councilmember Charles Allen joined The Politics Hour to discuss gun violence and a confusing mailer from the D.C Board of Elections.
Another Surge In Gun Violence
- This year, at least 570 people have been shot in the District — a 45% increase from this time last year. Homicides have also increased: 118 people have been killed this year compared to 98 at this time in 2019.
- Over the weekend, one person was killed and 21 were injured in a shooting that broke out at a block party attended by hundreds in Southeast Washington.
- The block party broke the mayor’s order that limits gatherings to 50 people due to the coronavirus, and some D.C. residents and officials are calling for stricter enforcement of public gathering limits.
- D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser and D.C. Police Chief Peter Newsham said Monday that the shooters were to blame, not the gathering itself. Bowser also raised concerns about stirring up conflict between police and communities if D.C. police are sent in to break up gatherings.
- “I think it’s really problematic to keep focusing on, ‘There’s just a large gathering,'” Allen said on The Politics Hour. “There are underlying, systemic issues that we have to address, and that is going to be a big part of getting to the root of this gun violence.”
A Confusing D.C. Election Mailer
- If you’re a District voter, you may have received a mailer from the D.C.’s Board of Elections that was, well, confusing.
- The mailer was sent to verify voters’ addresses, as D.C. is preparing to send every registered voter a ballot for the November general election.
- The mailer instructs voters to fill out their new address, tear the mailer along a perforated line and send back half of the mailer with the new address back to the Board of Elections.
- But this means that the Board of Elections won’t receive the original name and address to which the mailer was sent, which is crucial identifying information. The Board says this is a design flaw and is encouraging residents to send back the entire mailer, taping together the two separate pieces if necessary.
- “After the problems with the primary, there’s no margin for error here,” Allen said on The Politics Hour.
- Every registered D.C. voter will be mailed a ballot. Over 50 drop boxes for ballots will be placed around the District. D.C. will also have 17 early voting sites and 80 polling places, including one at Capital One Arena.
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
- Tom Sherwood Resident Analyst; Contributing Writer for Washington City Paper; @tomsherwood
- Anthony Wutoh Provost and Chief Academic Officer, Howard University; @HowardU
- Charniele Herring Majority Leader and Member (D-District 46), Virginia House of Delegates; @C_Herring
- Charles Allen Member (D-Ward 6), D.C. Council; @charlesallen
SASHA-ANN SIMONSFrom WAMU 88.5 and American University in Washington, welcome to The Politics Hour starring Tom Sherwood. I'm Sasha-Ann Simons sitting in for Kojo Nnamdi. Tom Sherwood is our Resident Analyst and Contributing Writer for Washington City Paper. Hi, Tom.
TOM SHERWOODHey, Sasha-Ann.
SIMONSLater in the broadcast we'll be talking with Charniele Herring, the Majority Leader of the Virginia House of Delegates and D.C. Councilmember Charles Allen. But joining us now is Howard University Provost and Chief Academic Officer Anthony Wutoh. Anthony, welcome to the program.
ANTHONY WUTOHThank you. And how are you, Sasha-Ann?
SIMONSDoing well. Thank you so much for joining us. Now, Anthony, Democratic Presidential Hopeful, Joe Biden he tapped Howard University alumna and U.S. Senator Kamala Harris to be his running mate. And the nomination of Senator Harris marks many many historic firsts. One of them being that she is the first person on a presidential ticket for a major party to have attended and HBCU. So how significant is this moment especially given the current of racial reckoning that we're dealing with. Anthony, are you there? Tom?
SHERWOODYeah. I'm here.
SIMONSYou're here. Looks like we might have lost Anthony.
SHERWOODI hope we get him back. He's got an interesting story himself. And I'm really anxious to hear of what he has to say about Kamala Harris.
SIMONSWell, while we're working on Anthony's line let's chat about something else, Tom. Montgomery County's Chief Administrative Officer Andrew Kleine resigned after being cited for ethics violations this week. Tell us what we know so far about Richard Madaleno, who County Executive Mark Eldridge tapped to be Kleine's replacement.
SHERWOODWell, this is big. Just in one or two sentences Andrew Kleine came from Baltimore as Budget Director there. You would think he would know something about books. Given that horrible controversy involving the Baltimore mayor, Catherine Pugh and her Healthy Holly books -- you know he was fined $5,000 in July, because Mr. Kleine had promoted his own book to county workers and had an improper, ethics office said, relationship with some business people. So he's out. He was considered pretty good, but he didn't have the best relationship with the Council.
SHERWOODMeanwhile, Mr. Madeleno was born and breed in Montgomery County. He worked on the county staff. He was a legislator. He ran for governor. He's been the budget director for Mark Elrich. This is a very good reset for Mark Eldridge's government midway through his term, because Rich Madeleno knows the people, knows the politics, knows how to work with people he even disagrees with. So this is a real reset for Montgomery County.
SIMONSHe said that he hopes to ease tensions between the executive branch and the county council, right?
SHERWOODExactly. That's what I'm saying. With the new reset with the Council, Mark Elrich is -- you know, was elected County Executive two years ago in 2018. And he did have -- he was always out. He didn't have the best relationship with councilmembers, and he works hard at it. It's not like he's purposely not trying to get along, but sometimes he just doesn't consider the political imperatives of the councilmembers. There are only nine there. And you have to have five or six of them to be on your side. Nancy Navarro has said that Madaleno could help -- I'm sorry. She's on the Council.
SHERWOODAnd she was the chairman. She has said that this is important, again, for the county for so many issues with the pandemic, with the budget issues and reforming police and all the issues go with Montgomery County as it becomes an urban county -- is an urban county. It's just good. She says to have Richard Madaleno in that job. And it will happen in a few weeks.
SIMONSFor sure. Now it sounds like we got our guest back. Anthony Wutoh is the Provost and Chief Academic Officer of Howard University. Anthony, are you back with us?
WUTOHYes. I'm here. I'm not sure what happened, but I'm connected live now.
SIMONSWell, we're glad you're back. We were talking about U.S. Senator Kamala Harris being chosen to be Joe Biden's running mate and just the impact of that for Howard University. Of course, that's where she went to school. Tell us how significant it is in this time especially given the current moment of racial reckoning.
WUTOHOh, sure. Everyone in the Howard University community is extremely proud of Senator Kamala Harris. And as the first black woman selected as the vice presidential nominee from a major party she continues to break barriers. And we're so proud that she often credits her time at Howard as paving the way for her career aspirations and the confidence to pursue her passions and a life of service. So this is an extremely significant moment. Not just for Howard, but for the entire country.
SIMONSAnd a lot of greats have come from Howard University. It's known for creating leaders in the realms of government, civil rights, the arts, lots of things. How do you think Senator Harris's experience at Howard will inform how she can lead our country as a potential VP?
WUTOHWell, I was just looking at a quote from her and she I think says it better than I do. She was quoted several years ago saying, "There's something special about the investment that an HBCU places in its students. It's about the nurturing, the refining. It's about all that goes into making someone transition from a child into an adult and in that way it's very tough love." And I think having had that grounding at Howard University and that sense of her commitment to community service and her advocacy for public life. I think that really has framed the importance that she places not just in this most recent role, but throughout her political career.
SIMONSAnd what are you hearing from students? The buzz is wild. I was checking out social media earlier this week. And lots of Howard alumni talking about this nomination. What are you hearing from the larger alumni community?
WUTOHOur alums are absolutely ecstatic. She's really represented the university well as she's progressed through her political career. And our students are very excited obviously. I think I'm in a very unique position of having a daughter who will be freshmen at Howard in the fall and having a role model like Senator Harris and someone that she can aspire to and the things that she wants to accomplish in her life is just a tremendous way for her to continue to contribute nationally and also on an individual level in the lives of our students.
SIMONSTom, your thoughts on Senator Harris and this nomination.
SHERWOODWell, I wanted to follow-up with Dr. Wutoh. I saw pictures of him taking his daughter to class I think it was last year or earlier this year, moving into the dorm.
SHERWOODAnd those were pretty cool pictures replicated millions of times by parents all over the country. But I think a larger issue in this country of course has been immigration. Kamala Harris is the daughter of parents from India and Jamaica. Dr. Wutoh, you are from Ghana. Your family has a huge immigration world view from your parents being in England and Australia. What do you think Kamala Harris can bring to Howard University, all universities across the country and to the country about the issue of immigration and how people, who have been immigrants have built this country and are not a problem that the current administration suggests?
WUTOHWell, I think she brings a unique perspective, a broad perspective. Howard, again, is an institution that has created opportunities for students of all races and colors and from -- throughout the world. And I think that continued perspective in terms of her father being Jamaican and her mother Indian and her uniquely seeing herself as a Black woman with Asian roots, I think it gives her a perspective to understand that this country was built by immigrants.
WUTOHAnd that, you know, whether they came her voluntarily or whether they were forcibly brought here as enslaved Africans, immigrants and people from throughout the world have been integral and critical in the development of this country. And I believe she brings that perspective in terms of how to make that a part of her world view, and how that has formed her perspective of how to make this an even better country.
SHERWOODAnd if I could follow-up, you are a pharmacist by trade. Medical care -- Medicare for all healthcare issues that the Trump administration is trying to do, how would Kamala Harris help Howard and this country settle on what it's medical policies should be in terms of making sure the least of these and everyone gets proper medical care. Howard is going to be building a new hospital. You're right in the thick of modern day medicine.
WUTOHRight. And I think that the circumstance that we're in now in a global pandemic really has just heightened everyone's awareness of the importance of medical care, the importance of medical research, the importance of planning and having in process -- having in place a process to assure that we can care for everyone. So I think that the circumstance of the COVID-19 pandemic I think will continue to help to guide her thinking and to also help her in terms of what we need to do as a country to assure that we're never in a circumstance again where we are not prepared to be able to deal with critical issues like this.
SIMONSAnd Harris was a member of the Alpha Kappa Alpha, AKA sorority, which is the nation's oldest historically Black sorority. It was also started at Howard. Can you talk about how a group of this magnitude with hundreds of thousands of members across the country and they've got a multimillion dollar budget, how could they help garner Harris more support?
WUTOHOh, sure, I think in a number of ways. As you mentioned Alpha Kappa Alpha is the first African American sorority founded here at Howard University. And the members of the sorority I know are extremely proud of what she's accomplished, and certainly proud of her affiliation as a sister of Alpha Kappa Alpha. And they certainly will continue to galvanize and be supportive of her as she moves into this next phase of her career, but I think she's going to be supported by a number of organizations and our alums throughout.
SIMONSJust about 30 seconds before we have to take a break, Dr. Wutoh, but colleges and universities are facing uncertain financial futures right now. HBCUs most definitely. Can you tell us how Howard is doing financially, because some schools are seeing numbers go up after times of racial turmoil especially?
WUTOHIn terms of enrollment?
SIMONSIn terms of enrollment.
WUTOHRight. Well, we've actually been in an interesting and unique circumstance in that our applications have actually been increasing over the last 8 to 10 years. And there continues to be a strong interest in a Howard University education. I agree that HBCUs often times when there are financial recessions and depressions, HBCUs tend to be more adversely impacted, because the financial circumstances of HBCUs is oftentimes challenged.
SIMONSBut things are looking up?
WUTOHAt Howard we're certainly encouraged that we're going to be admitting one of our largest classes.
WUTOHBut we certainly have to continue to be strategic in terms of the financial impact.
SIMONSAnthony Wutoh, thanks for your time. We'll got to go. Short break. We'll be right back.
SIMONSWelcome back. I'm Sasha-Ann Simons in for Kojo Nnamdi. Tom Sherwood, our Resident Analyst is here. And we're joined now by Charniele Herring. She's the Democratic Majority Leader of the Virginia House of Delegates. She represents District 46, which is in Alexandria. Hi, Delegate Herring, welcome back.
CHARNIELE HERRINGHi, Sasha. Hi, Tom. Thank you so much for having me.
SIMONSIf you have questions for Delegate Herring, call us at 800-433-8850 or email firstname.lastname@example.org. Get in touch with us through our Facebook page or by sending a tweet @kojoshow. Now I want to talk about Kamala Harris just for a little bit more, Delegate Herring.
SIMONSBefore we get to Virginia, tell me what her nomination means to you and what you think it could mean for the country?
SIMONSI know right
HERRINGIt means a lot to me, needless to say, as an African American woman to see another woman, you know, be, you know, the nominee of a major party for vice president is exciting. And I will share with you all this. I first met her when I just got elected to the Virginia General Assembly in 2009. A law school classmate of mine was throwing a fundraiser for her, actually two of them. And when she was running for AG of California. And I got to spend with her in a car, which was exciting because not only did she talk with me and wanted to learn about me and my interests in politics. You know, the song "None Stop"? That was her.
HERRINGShe was on the phone working. She was working that phone calling for votes or raising money between events. And she was a site to see. And what is so special about her is that she came back to Virginia to help us with events and also appearing for candidates and to help us flip the chamber. And I was surprised. She says she does remember me and our conversation. And she actually was able to tell me --
HERRINGYes. I'm here. And I think we're going to see great things from her.
SIMONSSo let's talk about Virginia. Lawmakers are heading into a special session on Tuesday to tackle criminal justice reform and also to rethink the state budget that's really felt the effects of the pandemic. So we're talking about the sessions next week. And ahead of the session you and your fellow House lawmakers, you hosted public hearings to inform your police reform priorities. Tell us what you are hearing or what you heard from police and from the advocates and from the public at those meetings.
HERRINGRight. Well, I think there's definitely a desire from everybody including the police on reform. Police officers do want to have things a little bit easier for them when they find out they basically have a bad cop among them to decertify them. We have heard about practices the police -- the public want stopped like the use of chokeholds or no -- no knock warrants. So there are other things, though, in the reform aspect that people want to see, which is eliminating inequities that are within our judicial system. And that would include our expungement system, which is very difficult in Virginia to have anything expunged.
HERRINGOther states are moving toward an automatic or automated expungement system. So we are looking at that. And the Crime Commission, which I chair is actually studying it. And we'll see what happens. We are expecting to have legislation ready for a special session on that. So there are a lot of things that people want reformed and I think we have a bold agenda. At least the Virginia House Caucus does.
SIMONSTom, your thoughts on the agenda.
SHERWOODFirst of all, Majority Leader, thank you for joining us today. You were very modest in not pointing out that you were co-chair of the Kamala Harris campaign for president last year. So I know you're proud of that.
SHERWOODLet me ask you about the upcoming session. I want to ask if you, the governor and the Senate, which is controlled by the Democrats only 21 to 19, are pretty much on the same page of what you want to get accomplished. There was some dispute last -- during a session earlier this year when the Senate didn't quite want to go along with some of the House measures. Are the Democrats with the governor, the House and the Senate in your control, pretty much on the same page as you open this special session Tuesday?
HERRINGI would say the answer to that is an absolute yes. I mean, we definitely want reform. There are things that we certainly do agree on. There are certain things that are in our House agenda that is not in the Senate and vice versa. That doesn't mean we don't support each other. I think that the question is this, is what we can get done. And, you know, -- I want members to realize that there our criminal justice system needs reforming. We are about the old way of doing things and it's not evidence based.
HERRINGAnd unfortunately when you look at things like early release, it's not evidence based in the way that we do here in Virginia. And that we can actually improve our system. So I'm looking forward to our -- the session, the debates that will happen and actually, you know, getting some good reforms in place.
SIMONSWe got a tweet for Delegate Herring. And they ask, "Will you definitely vote to end qualified immunity for cops? There is no bill on the Virginia Senate side yet."
HERRINGYes. That is correct. The House does have it. And this is a bold measure. But I always tell people this. I believe most in law enforcement are in it for the right reasons. And but there are some that do not. And there are some that do not act appropriately and with excessive use of force. And, you know, if we do our training right that should not happen. And I think it is appropriate and proper that we eliminate qualified immunity. And I think that if one who is employed as a public safety officer does right, there should be no worry, but if we eliminate it -- but I think this is the right thing to do, because I think it causes there to be more accountability from the police.
SHERWOODCould I follow-up?
SIMONSGo head, Tom.
SHERWOODThank you. Qualified immunity, I should say for people who may not know. There are laws that when a police officer is doing his or her job, it's very difficult to bring a suit against that officer based on their conduct. Many unions and police departments have these rules written in and it's in the state laws. That's one thing. The other thing is you're asking that police officers -- the law will be that police officers on duty will be required not to report misconduct from their fellow officers.
HERRINGOh, I lost you. Hello.
SIMONSI think we might have lost her.
SHERWOODShe didn't like my question and hung up.
SIMONSShe didn't like your question, Tom.
HERRINGOh, I'm sorry. I lost you.
SIMONSSo you're back.
HERRINGI lost you.
SIMONSAre you back?
HERRINGYes. I did lose you.
SIMONSGo ahead, Tom.
SHERWOODMajority Leader, did you hear me asking about qualified immunity? I think I explained that well enough, but what about having police officers -- because you say the good officers, the majority of officers on forces across the state that they would be required to report misconduct on their forces. How would that work?
HERRINGWell, that is just common. That is something that is so basic and common sense. Any time -- I mean, if you see -- I'll take the George Floyd example because I think probably every American has seen that video. Those officers, you know, but for the 17 year old, who videotaped it, what would have happened is sometimes they probably would go back to the station and not report that this horrible incident happened.
HERRINGSo it is important that police officers, you know, report when they witness something that is not within the scope of duties of the officer, when they use excessive force, when they are, you know, using pretextual stops. That is not proper. And it's absolutely appropriate that officers report on each other. And I tell you this from talking with police officers, they want to be protected. They want to be able to do this, but a lot of them fear retribution. And they should not be in that situation. They should be able to make sure that their environment and those that they work with are upstanding police officers. So it's absolutely appropriate.
SHERWOODSome people call that the blue wall silence where officers join together to protect each other, because it is -- I stress again. It is a difficult job.
SHERWOODIs there anything you hear about the shape of the forces, the makeup of the forces to make certain that the police force in any jurisdiction looks like the jurisdiction that the police are policing?
SIMONSAnd we've got about less than a minute before we've got to take a break, Delegate Herring. Go ahead.
HERRINGYeah. I'll be really quick. The Department of Criminal Justice Services there is a bill in there about police training that will also touch recruitment and that the police department is making, you know, and that would be one of the things making sure that there are representatives on the force that look like the community, but also most importantly have a connection with the community.
SIMONSYou are listening to The Kojo Nnamdi Show. I'm Sasha-Ann Simons sitting in for Kojo. There's more to come. We'll talk more with Delegate Charniele Herring. She's the Democratic Majority Leader of the Virginia House of Delegates representing the District 46. And that's in Alexandria. We've got some tweets here for her and Tom's with us as usual. Stay with us.
SIMONSI'm Sasha-Ann Simons, sitting in for Kojo Nnamdi. Our resident analyst Tom Sherwood is here, and so is Virginia's House Majority Leader Charniele Herring. Now, Delegate Herring, let's turn to the budget. Newly in control of the General Assembly, Democrats passed a two-year, $135 billion spending bill before the pandemic. How much do you need to cut, and what do you expect to cut?
HERRINGRight. So, we are -- I will say this, we're -- first of all, our deficit is not as bad as we expected it to be, but it's still pretty bad. It's $236 million. What is expected to be cut, I think, will be decided certainly by our governor and driven by that. He will unveil his budget on the 18th, on the first day of session. And then we'll work from there in deciding on what we do. But a lot of the sort of decision-making will certainly begin with our governor.
SIMONSLet's go to the phone lines. Rob is on the line, from Arlington. Hi, Rob.
ROBOh, hi, everybody. Thank you for taking my call.
SIMONSHi. What was your comment or question for us?
ROBYeah, yeah, quick question. Will the governor and y'all in the Assembly re-look at -- I know that we lost the assault weapons thing that I thought we really needed. Will you guys be re-looking at additional gun control measures? Thank you.
HERRINGThank you for that question, and, no, not during the special session. The special session is dedicated to healthcare, education, making sure that we have support for our students as, you know, they're either being educated at home or returning to schools, police reform and criminal justice reform.
SIMONSAbout a dozen Alexandria residents facing eviction lobbied outside State Senator George Barker's house this week, and they were pushing for an extension on the state's eviction moratorium. State Senator Ghazala Hashmi is working on legislation to extend the moratorium through spring of next year. Is the House considering any legislation on this issue, and do you support it?
HERRINGRight. So, yes, we are considering legislation on how to support tenants and, you know, prevent them from being evicted. Luckily, the Supreme Court did institute a temporary moratorium to allow the General Assembly to decide how we will decide how to handle it so that the families are not out on the street. But I will tell people, the situation is dire. The moratorium, as it stands right now, will just prevent a sheriff actually from removing people's property.
HERRINGSo that means families are still sort of getting the notices to pay or quit. And that is very stressful, and I think the landlords and tenants both need some stability. I certainly -- you know, with my background, I have been homeless before as a teenager, and I understand the impact that it has on families. And so I certainly would support, personally, a moratorium, but also supporting financing. And there are ways, I think, that we can creatively help tenants.
HERRINGVirginia has a rapid rehousing program. There is a housing trust fund. So, we'll see what the governor proposes, and then, again, work from there. I know our budget committees are very dedicated to making sure that people are able to stay in place.
SHERWOODThank you. State Attorney General Mark Herring, no relation, I believe...
SHERWOOD...has some legislation I think you're going to consider, the required greater disclosure of nursing homes with their outbreaks of the virus. That's pretty important, because a lot of nursing homes are having trouble. And also you want to -- he wants to stop price gouging on personal protective equipment that people need to buy. So, if you want to speak briefly about that, but I also want to ask you about voting. What is the legislature doing to make sure that people will be able to vote in November? You don't have early voting, but what is the role now for November voting?
HERRINGOkay. So, first thing, with the nursing homes, the attorney general was absolutely right. I mean, that's just an example of where we need to make our code clear. You all may recall, it was questionable, according to Northam's administration, about whether they can disclose the information of an outbreak. And so that is making things a little clearer.
HERRINGAnd price-gouging, all I -- my comment is that, isn't it a shame that we have to have a law to tell people do not exploit a situation when people are in dire needs and they're trying to buy equipment and things to protect themselves from disease. So, I expect that those two measures will not have any problem.
HERRINGNow, the good news on November 1st, I did sponsor HB1, which provides for no-excuse absentee voting. I have been working on that bill for years. This year, it passed and, you know, the time that it passed, you know, we did not even know that, you know, we would have this pandemic. But I'm so grateful that is now in place. And so now what members are doing or what organizations are doing is educating people that this does exist and asking people, please do take advantage of it so that they remain safe.
HERRINGAnd, you know, those poll workers, who are typically volunteers, are going to be at the polls, and they always do their duty. But it is important that we try to limit exposure for people. So, I think that that is going to be a huge benefit for us here in Virginia.
SIMONSLet's hear from another caller with a question for you, Speaker. Megan is in Alexandria. Hi, Megan.
MEGANHi, Sasha. Madame Speaker, I just had a quick question in regards to pricing for testing and care regarding COVID. Given that the -- you know, given that the care and testing could cost just hundreds of dollars out of pocket in the state of Virginia, is there anything that House Senate and governor are currently working on to try to get those prices down?
HERRINGThank you for the question. Megan, I have to say, I'm not the Speaker, the leader, but...
SIMONS(overlapping) You beat me to it. I was just about to say...
HERRING(laugh) ...I appreciate the promotion. Yes, and I love our leader. We work great together, Eileen Filler-Corn, and she's done a great job. So -- but with COVID and testing, and so, you know, as I said earlier, healthcare is one of the things that we will be addressing. So we'll see what the governor does in the budget and work from there.
HERRINGBut, again, that's another thing, just like with housing, sort of those basic things, housing, food and shelter, basic survival things that we've just got to make sure that people have. And with that, testing that they're able to access it without, you know, going into financial strain.
SIMONSWell, we thank you so much for your time.
SIMONSCharniele Herring is the Democratic majority leader of the Virginia House of Delegates. Thanks for joining us.
HERRINGThank you so much. I appreciate it.
SIMONSJoining us now is Charles Allen, a D.C. councilmember representing Ward 6. He's a Democrat. Hi, Councilmember. How are you doing?
CHARLES ALLENHey, good afternoon. Doing well. How are you?
SIMONSGood. Thanks so much for joining us. Now, before we hear from some more callers and talk with the councilmember, Tom, I'd love for you to comment on this. You know, 80 advocacy groups are pushing the Maryland General Assembly to hold a special session to address the economic impact of this pandemic. What groups are launching this campaign, and tell us what do they want Maryland lawmakers to actually address?
SHERWOODIt's about 80 groups across the state, CASA, civil rights, legal rights groups, 80 different groups. Delegate Ivey from Prince George's County has been pressing for a special session to address, you know, policing, all the things we just talked, about in Virginia. The problem is, you know, last week we had State Senator Cheryl Kagan on the show. And we asked her about, will there be a special session? Governor Hogan appears to have zero interest in calling one, and then you have to have both the House and Senate approve one. So, she was telling us that the likelihood of the special session is not going to happen.
SIMONSNot very. Yeah, it doesn't sound like it. Now, Councilmember, last night, D.C. police, they surrounded the Black Lives Matter protests in Adams Morgan, corralling protesters, not letting them leave, a controversial tactic that's known as kettling. And some witnesses also said that police clashed with protesters and they used pepper spray and detained them. What do we know about what happened last night? And are you worried that the D.C. police broke any laws here?
ALLENWell, this is something I'm concerned about. I'll say I've got calls in, and I haven't found out much of the details yet, so I'm still trying to find out more about the facts and exactly what took place. But kettling is something that is highly problematic, and so I want to be very careful to...
SIMONSIs it legal for police to use kettling?
ALLENI don't believe it is. When we do -- when we see the kettling, what it's doing is...
SHERWOODWhat is kettling?
ALLENThanks, Tom. So kittling is essentially a tactic where you go and surround a group of protesters in a way that lead to their arrest and their detention. For a First Amendment assembly, there's never going to be a situation where kettling would be appropriate or be allowed. I think that's very clear and I'm still trying to find out more facts about what took place last night. And so I've got inquiries in to MPD already about this.
SIMONSMm-hmm. Tom, you had another question?
SHERWOODTo follow that up, people I've seen on Twitter and other places, I've been told by conversation that some people were peacefully demonstrating. But on the other hand, there was at least one trash fire and windows were broken, and that the police considered it a riot. Have you, in any way, determined whether this was, in fact, a riot or the police are just being less -- well, being tougher in terms of these demonstrations that do include breaking of windows and cars windows and at least one fire last night? How bad was it, based on what you've been told already?
ALLENWell, I haven't been told much.
SHERWOODHow much violence was there?
ALLENWell, that's what I mean. I have not been told much, so I want to be a little careful that I don't have the facts yet to be able to talk about exactly what took place last night. Because I just don't know because I haven't gotten that call or those details about that. You know, but...
SHERWOODLet me ask you -- let me ask you, because I know going back in the early 2000s with Kathy Patterson and others just more recently, the police department has undergone a lot of changes and changed some of the way they deal with big crowds. And we have lots of demonstrations in town where the police simply trail along with the demonstrations and they block traffic and they do lots of things. What do you want to see the council change, or what have you changed in your emergency legislation that will change how the police officers interact with people who are, in fact, being disruptive, as opposed to just simply protesting? I think you outlawed the use of teargas or gas-like substances.
ALLENCorrect, in First Amendment assemblies and those peaceful protests. You know, we certainly have plenty of examples where we do have MPD who will fall back and give space to that protest. And we have -- you know, we're no stranger to First Amendment assemblies and peaceful protests here in the District. But what we've seen, certainly the last several weeks and months -- not just here in D.C., but around the country -- is cause for concern around how do we make sure that we are enabling peaceful protests and a right to protest against your government, against decisions and make sure that we do that?
ALLENYou know, we have a piece of legislation I introduced, right as the COVID crisis was hitting, with several of my colleagues to reexamine, for example, the felony of rioting lawsuit -- or laws. And this is what most people are charged with. I don't know about last night, but they get charged with felony of rioting. And what typically happens is you'll see that go to the courts, and those all get dismissed and dropped.
ALLENAnd so, I think there's some real concerns around what our felony rioting provisions look like and how they end up getting applied, especially if there is a case where it's being applied in a peaceful protest. So, it's something that we've got to take a good look at and be willing to make change.
SHERWOODIf Sasha-Ann will let me, I want to switch very quickly to violence in terms of just homicide.
SIMONSWell, yes, I was going there too. Yes, go ahead.
SHERWOODWell, I don't want to preempt your question, but homicides are, some people would say, off the charts. We had that violent incident on July 4th, this past weekend. Yes, there are long-term social needs to change the attitudes of people. But what, more immediately, do you think the police should do to crack down on crimes and homicides in the city?
ALLENWell, I think that...
SIMONSYeah, it feels like we're always asking this question but, yeah, what next steps would you like to see, Councilmember?
ALLENBut the thing is, I think the way that the question gets asked of saying, well, what more can the police do? We put so much on the police already that are not policing problems. We need to understand what's going on.
SHERWOOD(overlapping) That's what I'm asking you...
ALLENThis gun violence is completely unacceptable. Last Saturday was a mass shooting. It was gun violence at a level that is wholly unacceptable. Now, we didn't...
SHERWOOD(overlapping) Should the police have broken up -- should the police have broken up...
ALLENBut wait a minute...
SHERWOOD...400 people were there...
ALLEN...wait a minute, Tom. I think it's more than just breaking up a large event. I mean, we're talking about a mass shooting that took place. And I think that is -- I don't think it was covered as a mass shooting. And I think if we had seen this take place somewhere else, we would be seeing, you know, trauma and grief specialists and so many other people coming in to wrap around a community in a very different way.
ALLENYes. A large crowd like that, especially when it's very clear that we shouldn't have gatherings over 50, should have been -- shouldn't be taking place, period. But it's a lot different. I mean, what we're seeing right now, and D.C.'s not alone in seeing this, but essentially, we've taken away -- COVID has taken away our rec centers, our libraries, our afterschool programs, our job training programs, our summer youth employment programs. And so there's not a lot left in communities that have been experiencing and suffering trauma and gun violence at their front door day after day.
ALLENAnd so we have to -- I mean, this is what we're seeing manifest now, is a large amount of under and divestment in communities that suffer the most gun violence. And so it's not just a police matter. There's got to be so much more that goes into this.
SHERWOODThe mayor says -- has said publically, after that event, that the police should have broken -- have -- maybe you could bring in other people too, violence interrupters and others, mental health experts and whatever, and say to 400 people, you shouldn't be doing this. She said it should've been stopped before the shooting. Do you think those large crowds should be allowed with maybe police presence and other presence to make sure they're peaceful, or do you think this was a one-off?
ALLENNo. I think that we understand -- I hope we understand, from the public health crisis of COVID, layer on top, of course, the public health crisis and emergency of gun violence, but the public health emergency of COVID, a large gathering like that should not be taking place, period.
SHERWOOD(overlapping) How do you prevent it?
ALLENWell, we -- you know, hearing from Office of Unified Communications, that's our 9-1-1 call center, they had calls at 9:00 in the evening saying that there were -- crowds were growing. I think it's understandable to say that once you've got a crowd of 400 or 500 people, it's going to be difficult for MPD to be able to disperse a crowd safely and without escalation, at that point. But it should never have gotten to that.
ALLENSo, yes, there are ways in which we do that, but I think it's really problematic to keep focusing on, there's just a large gathering. There are underlying, systemic issues that we have to address, and that is going to be a big part of getting to the root of this gun violence.
SIMONSWhile we're on the topic of Mayor Bowser, you know, she did authorize the release of D.C. police body cam footage, you know, of police killings last month to comply with the new emergency police reform. But the families of the three men who are the subject of those videos, they're saying that the city didn't actually follow proper protocol when they were releasing the videos in terms of allowing the families to opt out and view the footage in advance. The three families say that they've been further traumatized by the release of the footage. So, can you clarify? What's the proper protocol for releasing the body cam footage, and where did the officials go wrong?
ALLENWell, the law requires that the body cam footage has to be released after five days. Now, the mayor's always had the authority to release the BWC video. It's just that, in most cases, that has not been the decision made. And what we've heard from so many families involved and have lost a loved one is that they want that video to be released. And that's part of what's been coming out of public hearings on legislation and oversight.
ALLENSo, we also want to take a family-centered trauma-informed approach, which means that as a release is coming up, that the city works with providing trauma-informed support to a family. That we also give them the ability. There may be the next of kin that does not want that video to be released and so we want to respect that family's decision point. And so all of those outreaches are supposed to take place.
ALLENI think one of the -- the biggest challenges, of course, is -- at least what I'm seeing, is that many of the families were told, I think, 90 minutes in advance of when the video was being released that it was about to be released. And I think that is -- I don't believe -- we didn't, in the legislation, put a clock on exactly how much time you had to give the families that advanced notice, because I think we assumed...
SIMONS(overlapping) Like 90 minutes?
ALLEN...I think we assumed that people would use some good decency in terms of that type of outreach. Ninety minutes is unacceptable. If we need to legislate you've got to give people more time, I guess we could do that. I think most of us thought the humanity is going to be such that you you're not going to just drop something like that with 90 minutes heads-up. And I think that -- and I've even heard, you know, from the executive, I think I've seen some quotes in the paper saying that they recognize that more time should've been given to do that.
SIMONSLet me get a caller in here. Eric's been waiting. Eric's calling from Ward 6.
ERICHi, Councilman Allen. January WUSA 9 article stated MPD whistleblower Charlotte Djossou made the following statement at a public safety hearing January 16th, 2020. The statement said: Officers were targeting groups of minority males and violating 4th Amendment rights. Jumping out during roll call, NSID officers were being instructed to target large groups in poverty-stricken areas without probable cause. Officers conversing about ways of violating body-worn cameras.
ERICI went to D.C. Granicus and listened to the testimony. The one thing the article didn't mention was these were felony arrests. There was a follow-up article in March, and it basically stated you didn't try to get back with Sergeant Djossou. These are my questions.
ERICHave you, at any time, made any public comments about getting to the bottom of these allegations, that being really a priority outside of your committee? Also, will you name who's being accused of instructing officers to violate residents' 4th Amendment rights? I just want to mention the 2001 memorandum of agreement with DOG -- DOJ clearly states in section 156 that MPD should be trained not to do what they're accused of doing...
SIMONSLet's get the councilmember to respond to your question. We're running out of time, Eric. Thanks for your call. Go ahead, Councilmember.
ALLENYeah, and thanks, Eric, for the phone call. I know that -- I've spoken with Sergeant Djossou, and I know my staff had, as well, so I'm not sure about that aspect. But the issue that you're talking about with the jump-outs or essentially the lack of consent and the really troubling stuff, that's something that we heard about. And that's why we took action through our emergency legislation on policing to require consent searches.
ALLENIt's trying to get directly at that stop-and-frisk jump-out, where an officer is just, you know, patting down, stopping and frisking and all the things you're -- those violations that you were just talking about. So, what we did is we've changed the law, because there has to be a consent search. So, officers have to get consent before they just start making a search of somebody.
ALLENNow, to be clear, if an officer sees somebody with, you know, a gun bulging in their waistband, they're able to take action there. But the effect of just having officers just jump out and just start doing stop-and-frisk, that's what the legislation was addressing. And that's where these hearings are so important to get that type of feedback so that we can make informed policy and legislative changes.
SIMONSCouncilmember, before we wrap up, I want to move on to elections, because this week, the D.C. Board of Elections sent out a mailer to registered voters to confirm their address, but it was flawed. Tell us what happened there, and will it be fixed this late in the game?
ALLENYeah, there will be additional mailers coming out. So, the Board of Elections, as folks may know, it's an independent board. So, it's not a D.C. government-run agency. And you want to do that, obviously, for independence from the politics of people running. But, you know, after the problems with the primary, there's no margin for error here with the board. They've got to get things right.
ALLENAnd, on the face of it, the mailer that went out might look really good if they've got the correct name and address. The problem lies, when they sent it out, trying to get people to update and say this, you know, Tom Sherwood no longer lives at my house. You know, so being able to have that information in a checkbox and send it back and the way they designed it, and the way that the instructions read on the card, if I were to say Tom Sherwood no longer lives at my home and I check the box and I send it back, there's no way for the board to even know who it is, because you detach the card. So it's a huge oversight. And...
SHERWOOD(overlapping) Let me ask -- I know we're running out of time very quickly. I looked back over the last five years of people appointed to the Elections Board. And the three current members -- and you were not chairman for the first two -- but none of the three members, and Dorothy Brizill, the activist, brought this up -- none of the three members, none have any election experience which is required by law. None. Could we maybe get some board members -- Michael Bennett's the chair. He has no election experience at all. Could we get some members on the Board of Elections that know what elections are?
ALLENI think we have to. I think we're 80 days out from an election right now, so it would be very destabilizing to try to have a big leadership change 80 days out from the election. But they have to get it right. Now, to be -- so that all the callers -- or all the listeners will also know, you know, every registered voter is now going to be mailed a ballot. That was something that we pushed for and we've required by law. No more of these, like, double steps of making a request and then getting it back and those problems.
ALLENWe're also going to have drop boxes, over 50, scattered around the city. They'll be secure drop boxes, so we -- while people can return it by mail, some folks just don't want to do that. And we don't want to have to put them in the position of in-person voting, so we're going to have secure drop boxes, over 50 of them, around the city. And we'll also have over 80 vote centers, where you can go to any one of them on Election Day, as well as early voting.
ALLENSo, we're going to work hard to make sure that we've got an election that is responsive and is safe in the middle of the pandemic for people to be able to exercise their right and not repeat what I think were the failures from the primary.
SIMONSWell, out of time. The only time left is to thank Councilmember Charles Allen, representing Ward 6. Thank you so much for joining us once again, Councilmember.
ALLENWell, thanks so much, everybody. Appreciate it.
SIMONSPolitics Hour was produced by Cydney Grannan. Coming up on Monday, we're revisiting some of our favorite conversations. First, it's the annual summer reading show. And then national ambassador for young people's literature, Jason Reynolds, talks to kids about systemic racism and the hope of the Black Lives Matter protests. It all starts Monday, on The Kojo Nnamdi Show. Thanks so much for listening, and thanks for having me this week. I'm Sasha-Ann Simons, sitting in for Kojo.
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