The timeline and cost for completing the Purple Line is up in the air after a judge ruled that contractors may quit in the middle of the project. Montgomery County Executive Marc Elrich weighs in on that, the latest coronavirus news and more.
It’s been 57 years since the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom. Now, another massive march will descend on the National Mall. WAMU’s Mikaela Lefrak joined us live from this year’s March on Washington.
‘Get Off Our Necks’ Commitment March
- Tens of thousands of people are expected at the 2020 March on Washington hosted by the National Action Network. Many other organizations are collaborating on the event, including the NAACP and the National Urban League. (The NAACP is hosting a virtual march for those who can’t attend in person.)
- Speakers will include the families of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor and others killed by police officers. Martin Luther King III is co-chairing the event. “There’s been a really wide range of speakers,” both national and local, said Lefrak on The Politics Hour.
- Because of the coronavirus pandemic, D.C. has travel restrictions and a ban on gatherings over 50 people. D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser has encouraged people to watch the march from home. The NAN says attendees will get a temperature check as well as a mask if they don’t have one. And areas of the National Mall will be divided into grids to help with social distancing.
- Lefrak said that many in attendance were pushing for voter reform. And some came to this march to feel connected to the 1963 march. “Many folks I talked to had family that were here in Washington for the March on Washington 57 years ago,” she said on The Politics Hour.
D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser enjoyed the spotlight at the Democratic National Convention this month. She joined The Politics Hour.
Bowser’s Spotlight At The DNC
- D.C.’s mayor got not one but two opportunities to speak at the largely pre-recorded Democratic National Convention.
- In her first appearance, Bowser showcased Black Lives Matter Plaza and introduced the family of George Floyd, who’s killing by Minneapolis police sparked nationwide protests.
- Bowser spoke out against the president’s crackdown on peaceful protesters in the District. Journalists and activists were quick to point out that D.C. police used aggressive tactics to quell protesters as well.
- “[The Metropolitan Police Department] has worked very well supporting peaceful protests for years and years in our city,” Bowser said on The Politics Hour. “It’s also our goal to keep people safe and to prevent the destruction of property.”
- Bowser’s second appearance was during the roll call. Flanked by Congresswoman Eleanor Holmes Norton and D.C. Council Chairman Phil Mendelson, Bowser cast 43 votes for presidential nominee Joe Biden and one for Sen. Bernie Sanders. The mayor wore a shirt designed by a local artist that shows George Washington donning a mask of the D.C. flag.
D.C. Students Head Back To School — Online
- D.C. Public Schools will welcome students back to the virtual classroom on Monday. Classes will be online at least through November 6.
- Not all D.C. students have access to the technology they need to participate in online learning, so the school district has pledged to provide laptops and internet to those students.
- Chancellor Lewis Ferebee said the “vast majority” of students will have devices for the beginning of the school year, but that device distribution will continue into the first week of school.
How D.C. Police Reform Has Worked Out So Far
- The D.C. Council passed an emergency police reform bill in July that would, among other things, ban chokeholds and expedite the release of body-camera footage in police shootings.
- To comply with the new law, Bowser authorized the release of footage from three killings in 2018.
- The families of the three men killed say the District didn’t follow the right protocols in releasing the footage, and that they were left further traumatized.
- On The Politics Hour, the mayor said her office followed the proper protocol, and hinted that the lawyers representing the families may be to blame. “Strangely, what we’re finding is some of the attorneys, after the families have asked for the release of the video … they’ve wavered or they haven’t given us an immediate response,” Bowser said on The Politics Hour.
- D.C.’s Police Union has sued the District government twice this month over the new police reform. One lawsuit takes issue with the release of body-camera footage. The other addresses parts of the police reform legislation that would make it easier for officers to be fired over disciplinary issues.
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 D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser. But first, we'll talk with Mikaela Lefrak. She is WAMU's Arts and Culture Reporter and the Host of the "What's with Washington" podcast. Today, she's joining us from the March on Washington. Mikaela, thank you for joining us.
MIKAELA LEFRAKThanks for having me, Kojo.
NNAMDIMikaela, where are you now, and what are you seeing?
LEFRAKWell, I am a few blocks off the National Mall, so that you'd be able to hear me. The crowds are enormous right now. And people are just still streaming down towards the Lincoln Memorial. There's still speakers going on, and then, in a little bit, there's going to be a march from the Lincoln to the Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial. But there's many, many people, families, older folks, younger folks all heading down to be part of this event.
NNAMDIFor those of you who are not aware of this, I am working from home, and if you hear noises in the background that's people doing landscaping and cutting and trimming grass in the background. Mikaela, I know you covered protests on the National Mall in June. How does this crowd compare with those, and how does this energy compare with that -- with those?
LEFRAKWell, I would say these -- the event today is very, very structured. So, right now, there's been speakers talking for the past couple hours, at this point, both nationally and local speakers. So, many people are really gathering right around the Reflecting Pool and sitting quietly and listening to those events, as compared to the June protests, were it seemed like everybody was marching all around the city in all different directions throughout the entire day. And, today, I'd also say there's a lot more out of towners than I noticed in June, which felt like a bit more of a local crowd. You know, I've spoken to people who came here from Georgia. I spoke to one couple that drove 10 hours overnight from Atlanta to be here. There's folks from New York City, Massachusetts, and this is all despite the city's COVID-19 travel restrictions.
NNAMDIWell, the National Action Network, the main organizer of the march, said they'd be implementing measures to keep attendees safe. What safety measures have you seen, and are people following them?
LEFRAKYes. You know, I'd say for the most part people really are. Almost everyone I'm seeing is wearing masks. And then the National Action Network has many volunteers out, kind of directing crowds. There's a very, very long line to get your temperature checked, and then you get this green wristband, and you're directed into sort of a gated pod area. And they're limiting the number of people in each pod so that they can kind of control crowd size. And people are taking it really seriously. At one point, you know, a woman very kindly asked me to step back a couple of feet. She said she'd gotten there with her elderly mother at 3:00 a.m. so that she'd be able to, you know, have some safe space around her.
NNAMDITom Sherwood, what do you want to know?
SHERWOODWell, Mikaela, I thank you very much. I've been watching some of the television coverage of this. I've noticed not many people in the Reflecting Pool yet. But maybe when the heat goes up a little more. But while people are wearing masks, unlike the White House last night, there doesn't seem to be six feet of separation on the crowds. As I see them, it looks more like six inches. But I think with a crowd that big, it's just going to be really hard to keep people separated around a seated area and farther back.
LEFRAKI think that's completely true. You know, they do have an area of seating setup and those chairs are setup six feet apart. But the vast majority of people really are crowded together. One woman tried to shake my hand. I think there's -- you know, there's this community spirit that's there right now. And sometimes I think people are forgetting that, you know, there's also a pandemic going on. But, again, for the most part, everyone wearing masks. There's people handing out free hand sanitizer. So, I do think folks are doing their best.
SHERWOODIf I could follow up on that, what is the plan at the Martin Luther King Memorial itself? It's a great memorial. You have to walk through the Stone of Hope. But it's not a very big space. That's a very large crowd. How is that going to be handled down there?
LEFRAKYou know, Tom, I've been wondering that, too. You're right. There is not a lot of space. And the crowd right now is way bigger than that space can handle. I have heard a number of other kind of separate marches being planned. One woman I spoke to who is here specifically to try to get the Department of Justice to reopen cases related to police brutality, she's leading a march to the DOJ. Other folks are planning to head to the White House and Black Lives Matter Plaza. So, my guess is that we're going to start to see some splintering of the crowd pretty soon.
NNAMDIThe program got underway earlier this morning. What have you heard from speakers so far?
LEFRAKThere's been a really wide range of speakers. And they're both national and local. So, for example, the Reverend Anika Wilson Brown from D.C.'s Union Temple Baptist Church spoke. Local organizers like Tylik McMillan of the National Action Network. And then some more nationally folks, as well. There was George Clinton from Parliament-Funkadelic. He was there. There was also a really wonderful choir singing "Oh Happy Day." So, it's really been quite the mix. You know, there was also a speaker who was there speaking specifically about Black maternal health. So, I think they've given a really wide range of voices the chance to kind of get up there and talk about these specific policy reforms that they want to see take place.
NNAMDIWell, it's -- you've talked with some folks at the march already. You mentioned the woman from the Department of Justice. But you also talked with someone named Precious Kennedy, who is with Mass Action Against Police Brutality. The organization is asking the Department of Justice to reopen every case involving police brutality. But she also had a personal reason for coming down. Let's take a listen.
PRECIOUS KENNEDYMy husband was a victim of police brutality. And, no, he didn't die, he lived, but he lived with trauma. He lives with trauma that every time this happens, he sees it on the TV, it retraumatizes him. And he keeps -- you keep seeing that there's nothing done to the police officers who are killing, who are murdering, you can't call it anything else, but murder.
NNAMDIMikaela, what else have you heard from people about why they're coming out?
LEFRAKYou know, I've heard a lot of people talking about voter reform and really looking ahead to the presidential election this fall. Also, there's a number of people here who feel really connected to that 1963 march. Many folks I’ve talked to had family that were here in Washington for the March on Washington, 57 years ago. I've also seen a number of people who came with t-shirts with names of family members on it of folks who couldn't be here today, or people who they know who were here in the past. I spoke to one woman, Elizabeth Jordan, from Southeast D.C., and she had family members who were here in 1963, but have since passed away. And she told me, "Since they're no longer here, I want to stand for them today, because they stood for me." And she's here handing out free water to folks today.
SHERWOODYes. Mikaela, speaking of police, that's one of the central issues of the march, it's police reform or changing police. What is the police presence? You're on land there at the Memorial that is U.S. Park Service land. What is the sense of Park Police there, D.C. Police, how is that working out? Is it a big presence or is it pulled back?
LEFRAKYeah. That's a great question. Right now, you know, I'm staring right at three or four MPD, or D.C. Police cars. They seem mostly right now just to be here to block off streets. There isn't much of a police presence kind of roaming through the crowds. Though, definitely, anywhere you look, you'll catch one or two police officers in your eye. I personally haven't seen many National Guard or other federal law enforcement here. Though, I have heard that, you know, D.C.'s government has called in for support from the National Guard to help direct traffic. So, we'll see once the marching gets underway. But, again, right now, things are so concentrated with these speeches at the Lincoln Memorial that the police presence hasn't felt particularly heavy.
NNAMDIDo you get a sense that most people who are there live in this area, or are many people coming from outside the Washington region?
LEFRAKI would actually say for the most part a lot of folks seem to have come from other places. Again, you know, I'm hearing Georgia a lot. I think a lot of people have come up to support the memory of Congressman John Lewis. And then, you know, a lot of people from East Coast cities. You know, I do know the National Action Network had to cancel some buses that were going to bring people in from states that the city has deemed high-risk. But there still seems to be a lot of people from around the country. Though, you know, I think there's a lot of -- a lot of the D.C. residents that I've spoken to are here in, you know, both to protest and in a support role. Again, there's people handing out free water and hand sanitizer. There's volunteers here from a really wide range of organizations. So, it does seem like quite the mix. And I will also point out, I think it's important to note that I would say the vast majority of people in the crowd are people of color, I would say perhaps more so than the protest in June, though it really is a diverse crowd.
NNAMDIGo ahead, Tom.
SHERWOODI'm sorry. Have you run into any persons, people who were at the 1963 March for Jobs and Freedom, which was 57 years ago?
NNAMDIThat's funny. That was my next question to her.
SHERWOODYou know, people don't know, we do not rehearse questions before this show, but sometimes we are in sync. Sometimes we can't believe when some asks something.
LEFRAKYou've been working together too long. You know, I personally have not yet. But I do know there are many people that said that they were coming. I had spoken to D.C. Delegate Eleanor Holmes Norton the other day, who of course was an organizer in her 20s for the original March on Washington. She's not here today. I think kind of in part for concerns around COVID-19. And, you know, a lot of the folks that were there at that march are much older right now. So, I'm guessing there are some health concerns perhaps for what's keeping them home.
NNAMDIMikaela, we only have about a minute or so left. Are there any counterprotests because last night there were fireworks over the National Mall for the Republican National Convention and there were counterprotests there. Any counter protests on the Mall today?
LEFRAKThat's right. There were a number of counter protests last night. Today I have not seen a single Make America Great Again hat. I have not seen a single Trump supporter. You know, perhaps folks are out here watching. But there has not been any significant counterprotest presence that I have seen, personally.
NNAMDIOkay. And that's about all the time we have in this segment. Mikaela Lefrak is WAMU's Arts and Culture Reporter and host of the "What's With Washington" podcast. When we come back, we'll be talking with D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser and taking your calls at 800-433-8850. So, you can start calling now. You can send us a tweet @kojoshow. Email to firstname.lastname@example.org, or go to our website, kojoshow.org, join the conversation there. I'm Kojo Nnamdi.
NNAMDIWelcome back. We'll be talking shortly with D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser. But first, Tom Sherwood, Maryland Governor Larry Hogan is urging, it seems more like demanding, that all Maryland school systems reopen for in-person classes. He talked about those jurisdictions, which include both Prince George's and Montgomery counties, which will be doing virtual learning only, and says that is simply unacceptable. On what basis is he making that -- is he saying that?
SHERWOODWell, first of all, this seems a really odd thing for the governor to do. School systems across the nation not just in Maryland are desperately trying to figure out how to how to educate students. They already were nervous. They've been strained in their resources. And suddenly, you know, Montgomery and Prince George's opens next week. All the state school systems are planning to start virtually. Suddenly the governor plops in from left field and says, "Hey, we can now open the schools and you guys need to do something about it." Well, the fact is, the governor has no power to force any school to open. All the schools are going to do virtual. And many of them say they're doing virtual, but they will move to classroom settings as soon as they safely can. Montgomery County said it was deeply disappointed in what the governor said in this last minute. You know, schools are opening next week and in the weeks to follow.
SHERWOODIt was just very odd for the governor to kind of puff out his chest and say, "Well, we're doing great. You guys should open schools." It sounded like something better for 2024 than 2020.
NNAMDIAnd the Virginia Senate has passed a bill that would allow judges to consider lesser charges in assault on a police officer. And I guess, in a way, that is a response to the movements that we're seeing around the country. It's not necessarily police reform itself. But it is less punitive against civilians for their interactions with police.
SHERWOODIf is taking -- this is part of the, not defund the police, but reform the police efforts. This bill was sponsored by Scott Surovell, the State Senator from Fairfax. And it doesn't defund the police. It doesn't grant any rights to assault police officers. It just says that if a police officer is involved with someone in some type of scuffle, then it will not automatically be a harsh penalty of a year in jail or some heavy fine, that the circumstances of an interaction with police will be considered. Now, some of the police unions and other police officials say this will open the door to more resistance to police. But, again, this is part of the effort to change how police tactics are used, given the brutality that people have seen on their cell phones and around the country.
NNAMDIAnd since that bill was passed in the Virginia Senate, we need to point out that the Virginia Senate is meeting in person, and a Virginia State Senator has tested positive for coronavirus a week after meeting in special session. But the Virginia House is not meeting in person. Right, Tom?
SHERWOODYes. You know, this is a special session called specifically to deal with police issues and a budget that's been hammered the coronavirus. State Senator Bryce Reeves from Gloucester County down near Hampton Roads is the senator who's got -- but the House couldn't figure out exactly what to do. They just kind of -- the Democrats ramrodded the system through against republican protests to meet remotely in the Senate, which is only 40 members. They are meeting, I think it's at the museum there in Richmond. But it's quite the scene, if you see it there.
NNAMDIAnd joining us now is the mayor of the District of Columbia, Mayor Muriel Bowser. Mayor Bowser, thank you for joining us.
MURIEL BOWSERThank you, Kojo.
NNAMDIMadam Mayor, today's March on Washington comes 57 years after the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom. What are your thoughts on this day and will you be participating in any way?
BOWSERWell, I'm watching right now. I've been watching all morning. And, certainly, we're participating, because our government workers are supporting keeping everybody safe.
NNAMDIYou encouraged people to join the March on Washington at home because, of course, there's a pandemic. And the march itself means that people could be disregarding the District's travel restrictions and social distancing measures. What are you concerns about today?
BOWSERWell, that's obvious, from your question, Kojo, that we continue to be fighting COVID-19 locally. Our residents and businesses have made a lot of sacrifices, and we've made a lot of progress, and we see our metrics moving in the right direction. So, we want to encourage anybody that's participated in an event over the last couple of days to go home, to distance themselves from their family, especially vulnerable family. And if they are noticing that they have any symptoms or learn that they've been exposed, to get tested and isolate right away.
NNAMDIWell, this might be beyond your jurisdiction. But we got a tweet from Ken, who says, "Why didn't the mayor order her police to write $1,000 tickets for everyone attending last night's event at the White House? They were in violation of her orders." That's not your territory.
BOWSERWell, I love his question, because it speaks to D.C. autonomy. But even when we get statehood, there's going to be a federal enclave. So, it's important that we elect people that follow science and put the country and getting the country back on track before any partisan purpose.
SHERWOODMayor, looking at the crowd today, as you can see on your own screens, many people are wearing masks at the event today, although they are not socially distancing. They're more like, as I said earlier, six inches apart rather than six feet. Last night, the White House South Lawn, it had all those people there sitting in those nice, fancy white chairs. Very few of the people there were wearing masks, and they were not socially distancing at all. Are you concerned at all that, across the country, maybe, there's some kind of virus fatigue, and politically, some divisions that are keeping people from doing what would be normally the right thing to do to be safe?
BOWSERWell, I think that is a reasonable question for you to ask, Tom. But it's a lot of things that concern me about last night. Like, why was there a political fine at the people's house and a political rally at the people's house, a house that belongs to all Americans, not just Democrats and Republicans. So, I would start there. And I just hope that none of us gets normed into thinking that's okay and not being outraged by what they saw. Can you imagine if I had a political rally in the Wilson Building, how our local press would react?
SHERWOODI'd be right there.
BOWSERYou would be screaming at the top of lungs, like, "What are you doing?" And they have all kinds of memos that say that (unintelligible) didn’t apply, but I can't imagine how an event like that took place without the use of a lot of federal workers and staff. And those workers and staff were exposed to corona, I'm sure. There were a lot of people there of all ages, and I'm sure various conditions that were all exposed needlessly to this virus. Now, as an American, I'm concerned for everybody and as the Mayor of Washington D.C. I'm concerned that those folks are going to go home and spread the virus among vulnerable people. The people who had no choice, but had to be there that work and are likely D.C. residents, were exposed to the virus. So, we all have to be concerned about it.
BOWSERSo, I just that those people who were there will make better decisions about watching their symptoms and avoiding contact with vulnerable people.
NNAMDIMayor Bowser, on the first night of the Democratic National Convention you introduced the family of George Floyd and you criticized President Trump's aggressive police tactics. But some D.C. residents point to aggressive tactics by D.C. police and, in their view, you are against police reform. What is your view on the whole issue of police reform?
BOWSERMy view is that we have to have safe neighborhoods. And there's a lot of ways, there's a lot of aspects to that equation, Kojo. It's not just police. But police are a part of the equation. It includes all that we invest in with afterschool programs, what we invest in our Office of Neighborhood Safety and Engagement, and it includes how we hold people who aren't going to keep our community safe accountable. That includes violence in our neighborhoods. But it also includes people who aren't really here to protest for social justice. The vast majority of people are. But there's a group among them that are being destructive, and we hope that that destruction doesn't turn violent. So, our police have been doing this a long time, protecting peaceful protests. And I trust them to make the right decisions to keep peaceful protestors safe.
NNAMDIYou only have about 30 seconds.
BOWSERAnd to keep our community safe.
NNAMDIGot to take a short break. When we come back, we'll continue this conversation with Mayor Muriel Bowser. I'm Kojo Nnamdi.
NNAMDIWelcome back. Our guest is D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser. Before I get to Tom Sherwood, Mayor Bowser, one more question about the whole Black Lives Matter issue. The Black Lives Matter activist organization says that not only do you not want to defund the police, but you've paved over their message at Black Lives Matter Plaza asking to defund the police. But I guess one of their pet peeves is that you called to increase the police department's budget. Why?
BOWSERKojo, it is true that I do not believe that my budget needed to be defunded by one cent when it came to our investments in police. Every year, we make decisions looking across all of our neighborhoods about what we need. And the proposal I advanced to the council included all of those things. It includes pay, it includes equipment, it includes training, and it includes the number of officers we need to cover the District.
SHERWOODMayor, a couple of quick political questions if I may, please. You campaigned for Mike Bloomberg in the primary, but you've enthusiastically thrown your support behind the Biden/Kamala Harris ticket. Should Biden win, is there any job in the Biden administration that you might want to take, a job that would have you leave the mayor's office early?
BOWSERTom, I -- first of all, let me just say this. I enthusiastically support a Democratic ticket and getting a new president. And that is what all Democrats, in my view, need to be focused on. What we have seen in the last four years has killed our economy, it's made us less safe, and it's made us less healthy. So, I'm very focused on that. As for me, I have told the vice president's campaign that I'll help them in any way I can, but you already know, I love my job being mayor of my hometown.
SHERWOODOkay. Another quick political question. Do you plan to endorse any candidates in the November election? Your longtime campaign chairman Bill Lightfoot has endorsed Marcus Goodwin for the at-large seat. Was that a signal for the others at the Bowser/Green team to back Marcus Goodwin?
BOWSERI haven't made any decisions about that yet.
SHERWOODOkay. And third, you were at a press conference a couple -- a week or so ago. You said that you would be meeting with the Board of Elections, the chairman of the council Bill Mendelson and Charles Allen to discuss how they can make certain that the November 3rd election will be carried off without a hitch. I think you did hold that meeting. What can we expect from that meeting?
BOWSERWell, the big thing is that we want to make concrete our offer to the board to help have D.C. government workers man the polls, man and woman the polls, if you will. You know that the council moved a piece of legislation that I wasn't entirely satisfied with that said at least 80 polling places would be open. I think all of the polling places should be open, 144 of them. So, we -- the board has said they don't have enough people to staff the polling places, so we are going to work with our own employees to help make sure they have enough people.
SHERWOODWhen do you think that will be announced, that all the precincts will be...
BOWSERWhat be announced?
SHERWOOD...all the precincts, 144 of them, will be open?
BOWSERWell, I don't -- they had -- that's going to be a board decision, Tom, but I want to make it clear that the kind of manpower issue is a nonissue.
NNAMDIOkay. Here is Lauren, who is in middle school in D.C. Lauren, you're on the air. Go ahead, please.
LAURENHi. I have a -- okay. I wanted to ask a question for the mayor. Is there anything I can do as a student to make sure we can return to learn in the school building?
BOWSERTo make sure what, honey? What did you say?
LAURENIs there anything I can do as a student to make sure we can return to learn in school in the school building?
BOWSERYeah, so -- and thank you for that question, because we want to get you back in the school building just as soon as possible. We, as you know, are in virtual posture until November 6th term ends. And we'll hopefully be able to get our students back. The chancellor of schools has already indicated that between now and then, there will be many in-person opportunities for students to come into the buildings, for teachers to come into the buildings. And we look forward to talking about those offerings in the coming days.
NNAMDILauren, thank you very much for your call. Good luck to you. Here is Kathy in downtown D.C. Kathy, you're on the air. Go ahead, please.
KATHYHi. Thank you. Madam Mayor, I have a comment and I have a question for you.
KATHYMy comment is to thank you for your staunch leadership and guidance to all of us as residents. But as our small business and independent restaurant operators are struggling so much, you know that outdoor dining, the expansion program has been a lifeline for many of our small businesses in the District. Are there any plans of extending this program as we enter the fall and winter months, knowing how important that will be?
BOWSERWell, we certainly want to help our small businesses as much as possible. I've been very proud of our efforts with the council, where we've offered more local relief to small businesses than any jurisdiction in our region, where over 7,000 D.C. businesses have gotten assistance. Our Events D.C. offered even more assistance to restaurants and excluded workers, many of whom are restaurant workers. We've offered extraordinary testing and training, which we also know is helpful to D.C. small businesses.
BOWSERAnd the program that you are referring to is we've made streeteries. We've taken lanes of travel off the road to expand them. We've taken parking spaces. We've allowed sidewalk space to be used. And as we go into the fall and winter, we know we're thinking of ways to allow that outdoor dining to continue, even when it gets brisk outside. So, we'll work with all of our businesses and associations to come up with ideas to do that and continue to use the public space as best we can to support that outdoor dining.
NNAMDIThank you for your call, Kathy. If you have questions or comments, give us a call at 800-433-8850 or shoot us a tweet @kojoshow. Tom Sherwood.
SHERWOODMayor, the $600 bonus unemployment payment from the feds has ended. There's now a proposal -- or 30 states are now doing the $300 federal plan for unemployment. The District has not joined that program. Can you -- why not?
BOWSERWe're still evaluating it, Tom. And we are -- have a little while longer to do that. And while we want the $300 and we are in a position to make that application, we are also concerned about the larger package. And so I don't want anybody to take their eyes off of that ball. The House Democrats have a package that they -- we all need the Senate to pass that will make the District whole from Cares Act would provide state and local funding moving forward and would extend unemployment benefits. So, I just want everybody, yes, to understand that we really need all of those things to happen if we want our economy to come back.
SHERWOODSchools are starting in the District on Monday. It's distance learning, but the chancellor said in his meeting this week, a telephone meeting this week that a lot of parents still don't have the necessary technical equipment, computers, iPads to be online. What's the status of that?
BOWSERWell, as he said, we are distributing devices all through this week and the weekend. So, we expect everybody who needs a device to be able to get a device.
NNAMDIWell, we got a message from Leanne who said, please ask Mayor Bowser why public school administrators have to ask nonprofits -- let me see if I can read this whole message -- have to ask nonprofits like Serve Your City to supply their students with laptops, iPads and hotspot internet access. Three years ago, your administration adopted a plan to close D.C.'s digital divide, yet here we are with a large number of D.C. youth still going without the updated hardware, software and internet speed needed to fully engage with online learning. How would you respond, Mayor Bowser?
BOWSERI don't really know what she's referring to when she says that so many don't have, because that's just not our experience. And we have been asking, for weeks, for families who need any of those things, a device or the hotspot connection to make sure they're getting in touch with us or directly with their school. So, I think there are -- and I've seen some tweets even leading up to coming on today about people saying what other people don't have. We need to hear from the people that don't have, and we can tell them directly how they can get what they need.
BOWSERI don't think that this is a resource issue. We have spent -- since we went into the online posture in March, we've spent a lot of time procuring the devices that we need. We've learned how to troubleshoot and assist families with kind of technical issues so that they can be effective, and that's important.
BOWSERAnd while I think it is an important question, the device issue, it is not a replacement, let me be real clear, for school. You heart from Lauren, our young middle schooler, who called. She didn't say she didn't have a device. What she said was she wanted to go back to school. And so I think all of us need to focus, as a community, on what -- she asked the perfect question, what do I need to do to help get back to school? So, following health guidance, social distancing, washing hands and staying home when sick, limiting your travel, going out when you need to go out. Those are all the things that are going to let us get our kids back in school.
NNAMDITom asked earlier about unemployment insurance, and I should've gone then to Richard in Northeast D.C., but I will do so now. Richard, you're on the air. Go ahead, please.
RICHARDHey, thank you, Kojo. Madame Mayor, I was a hotel concierge private tour guide. I was furloughed in the beginning of March, and I have yet to get an unemployment check.
NNAMDIWhy do you think that is, Richard?
RICHARDI think it's the horrible DOES...
NNAMDIDepartment of Employment...
RICHARD...because they keep kicking me back, because they're 1099s. And it was very clear from the Cares Act that 1099s, including my regular employment at Marriott, was included. And they keep telling me it's insignificant. And I need more...
NNAMDIWhen you say 1099, are you saying that in addition to your employment at Marriott, you have a freelance job of some kind?
RICHARD(unintelligible) I was a private tour guide in Washington, D.C.
NNAMDII don't know if Mayor Bowser can answer that specific question, but I'll give her the chance.
BOWSERWell, thanks, Kojo. And, no, I can't answer the specific question, but let me say, Richard, I'm happy, and if you leave your information with Kojo's team, we'll make sure you get a direct response. Because I can only imagine how hard that is since March not to have the right answer. But I will say that our teams have been working around the clock to get benefits out. And I don't have the exact number of claims paid at this point, but they have processed the vast majority of them and got millions of dollars out to D.C. workers.
BOWSERWe do have to make sure that we have all the information we need and that we're paying what we owe. I don't have to mention a lot of the scams that have been going around the country. So, there are processes in place to make sure we're paying real people the real money that they're owed from the government.
NNAMDIRichard, stay on the line, and we'll take your information and pass it on to the mayor's office. Tom Sherwood?
SHERWOODMayor, you tweeted this morning that this coming weekend is the last weekend of the two-week restaurant week. Two weeks ago, public health Director Dr. LaQuandra Nesbitt, in a response to a question from me, said that she is not going personally to restaurants to eat inside. I just wondered if you have been inside any D.C. restaurants over the last couple of weeks, recognizing you have a very busy schedule.
BOWSERI've taken advantage -- yeah, I've taken advantage of every option, Tom, delivery, pickup and outdoor dining and indoor dining.
NNAMDIHere's Stephanie in Northeast Washington. Stephanie, your turn.
STEPHANIEHi. Good morning. Thank you for taking my call. I was one of the many furloughed in March, and since have been volunteering my time at some of the COVID testing sites around the District, but have noticed a widespread issue of folks who do not have access to email or phones unable to receive their testing results. And I wonder if the mayor has a plan to fix that.
BOWSERWhat do you suggest?
STEPHANIEWell, one of the things that we've talked about on the sites that I've been at has been having someone on the ground who's able to -- who is HIPAA compliant that's able to give out those results verbally, and/or put up a printer at those sites so people can access those when they need them.
BOWSEROkay. Let me -- I hadn't heard that as a concern, Stephanie, so thanks for bringing it up. I will touch base with my testing team for us to see how widespread an issue it is and how we can get -- the Department of Health can mail or find another way to get that information out to people.
STEPHANIEThank you. I appreciate that.
NNAMDIThank you very much for your call, Stephanie.
NNAMDIWe got a text from someone who said: We saw obvious signs of abuse by MPD during the last round of widespread protests in D.C. What is the mayor doing to address those violations and hold accountable those police officers who took inappropriate action?
BOWSERI'm not -- I'm not -- you would have to be more specific about that, Kojo, and I'm happy to respond to it. But let me reiterate what I said earlier. MPD has worked very well supporting peaceful protests for years and years in our city. And that is always our goal. It's also our goal to keep people safe and to prevent the destruction of property.
NNAMDIMayor Bowser, to comply with the Emergency Police Reform legislation passed by the D.C. Council, you authorized the release of body camera footage in the police killings of three men back in 2018. The families say the District did not follow protocol when releasing the footage, specifically in alerting the families early enough about the release. What went wrong, and has anything been done to make sure that doesn't happen again?
BOWSERWell, that didn't happen. We followed the protocols. You may know, and maybe your callers don't know, is that the law requires a release within five days. And we reach out oftentimes in -- probably in each of the three cases you're referring to, families are represented by an attorney. And so we reached out to the attorneys. Strangely, what we're finding is some of the attorneys, after the families have asked for the release of the video, have now said, or they waivered or they haven't given us an immediate response. So, then there’s some nuance that's not evident your question.
BOWSERWhat we know, however, is that these are families that have lost a loved one, and that these are difficult conversations to have. So, we decided that we would have our Office of Victim Services reach out to the families and let them know what the law says. Most knew about the law and asked them for -- what their feelings are about moving forward.
SHERWOODMayor, a lot of pro sports teams shut down, at least temporarily, because of the Wisconsin police shooting of Jacob Blake. But I want to ask you about the Washington football team. It did -- it has -- it's in the process of changing its name, but the Washington Post has done some riveting stories about sexual harassment and misconduct within the top levels of the Washington football team management. What is the status of your hope to get the team to come back to RFK, if the team were to build its stadium at the minimum cost to the District? Have you changed your mind at all in terms of looking at the management of the Washington football team, regardless of what its name is?
BOWSERI think that, Tom, our focus continues to be on the land and getting control of the land, regardless of whether an NFL team goes there or not. I have been concerned about what I've read, and obviously -- it's obvious to me, anyway, there needs to be some wholesale changes to the culture of the team.
SHERWOOD(overlapping) Sell the team?
BOWSERAnd there -- I'm sorry?
SHERWOODDo you think maybe Mr. Snyder, Dan Snyder should sell the team, given 20 years of not only a bad record, but a bad management system, if these reports are true? Sell the team.
BOWSERI mean, I think it would be hard to argue that a fresh start wouldn't be a good thing, but only he can decide to sell the team, he and the NFL. And I certainly think for the franchise, starting fresh, a new location and a new approach to doing business wouldn't be a bad idea.
NNAMDIHere is Sean in Hagerstown, Maryland. Sean, you're on the air. Go ahead, please.
SEANHi. Thank you, Kojo. It's a great show you have. I wanted to lend a helping ear to the issue that was spoken about earlier with the kids working for -- doing class from home. It's very hard for some parents to understand that their laptop or their internet service may or may not be qualified. The best way to help the school system, I think, would be like a website with a system check where the parents would have to kind of run a system check. And it would tell the school district what they actually have at home, their internet speed. And, you know, the specs of the laptop or the desktop that they're using. It would make it a lot easier.
SEANA lot of people are reluctant from seeing what they may or may not have at home because they're not actually sure. But, Mayor, you're doing a great job. Thank you, Kojo, for the show. I just wanted to lend that helping ear.
NNAMDIWell, let me add to what you said, Sean. We got an email from Paul who said, my wife is a teacher and she was issued a computer from DCPS. The computer was from 2014 and does not run the software necessary for online learning. The backlog for new computers is years long and her principal has no way of getting a replacement. Mayor Bowser, Sean's saying that people should be able to have the specs of their computers they have at home and what they can and cannot do. How can the city assist?
BOWSERWell, I know -- now, you're getting into an area where talking about technical issues related to computers. I have to tell you, it's not my strong suit, but I do know that DCPS learned from our experience in the spring that they need more tech support for families, and it sounds like for teachers, as well.
SHERWOODMayor, homicides continue to be a problem in the city. According to statistics yesterday, there are 126 homicides this year, compared to 110 last year, but other crimes are down, overall. But death from auto is up 40 percent. I was very surprised by that number. How -- what is your thought about the increase in crimes such as auto theft in the city? Are police too distracted by all the public safety issues that they have to deal with, or is it something else?
BOWSERWell, the police should be distracted by people shooting each other, okay. So, that's their -- that's the -- we're going to talk about violent crime before we talk about property crime. And our team, you know that I appointed Roger Mitchell to serve -- in addition to his capacity as the Chief Medical Examiner, to serve as the interim Deputy Mayor for Public Safety and Justice. And he is very focused, like all of us, on all the pieces of the public safety puzzle.
BOWSERAnd we know if we see theft from autos, they're largely crimes of opportunity and economic crimes. So, really making sure that we're touching people with resources. We know a lot of people are out of work, so a lot of people are...
NNAMDI(overlapping) We only got about a minute left, Madame Mayor.
BOWSER...at home. So, addressing all the issues of public safety are important. Theft from auto, people are stealing electronics, loose change, things that are left in vehicles. So, we need to -- we in the communities can help with this crime of opportunity, you know, from two sides.
NNAMDILike I said, we only have about a minute or less left, but we got an email who says I'm a small landlord in Southeast D.C. with a single unit. Would love to hear from Mayor Bowser about the plan for dealing with tenants who haven't paid and are refusing to engage in payment plan discussion. I know how important eviction restrictions are, but I also can't keep paying my mortgage like this. Thirty seconds, Madame Mayor.
BOWSERI feel for that property owner. It is a big problem. We're going to have to address it, I think, nationally. Because at the end -- these eviction moratoriums will end, and people are going to have big bills. So, one message is, everybody who can pay their rent should be paying their rent right now, because you don't want to show up in January and have 5, $6,000 that you can't repay. And then...
NNAMDIMayor Bowser, that's about -- I'm afraid that's about...
NNAMDI...all the time we have.
BOWSERThere's so much to talk about. (unintelligible), Kojo. I have to come back.
NNAMDIYou certainly will be invited back. But thank you for joining us today.
BOWSERAll right. Thank you. Okay.
NNAMDIToday's show was produced by Cydney Grannan. Coming up Monday, as local schools embark on an all-virtual start to the academic year, how are local students and their families adapting to the new normal, and what supports do they still need? Plus, Kojo for Kids welcomes one of the best West African musicians this side of the Atlantic. Amadou Kouyate is going to play his Djembe drum for us and maybe give us a music lesson. That all starts at noon, on Monday. Until then, have a wonderful weekend and stay safe. You too, Tom Sherwood.
SHERWOODThank you very much.
NNAMDII'm Kojo Nnamdi.
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