If there was ever anyone who could talk to the animals, it's this guy.
Virginia Governor Ralph Northam (D) tightened coronavirus restrictions in response to a surge of cases. How will they be enforced? We sit down with the governor to talk about COVID-19, marijuana legalization and his priorities for 2021.
Then we turn to D.C., where Councilmember Brianne Nadeau (D-Ward 1) is leading efforts to increase oversight of the Metropolitan Police Department’s overtime expenses. This follows D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser’s request to redirect $43 million from other city services to fund police overtime during this summer’s protests.
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 Sherwood is our Resident Analyst and Contributing Writer for Washington City Paper. Tom Sherwood, welcome.
TOM SHERWOODHello, everybody.
NNAMDILater in the broadcast we'll be talking with Brianne Nadeau. She is a Member of the D.C. Council representing Ward 1. But joining us now is Ralph Northam. He is the Governor of Virginia. Governor Northam, I know that both you and your wife had tested positive for COVID-19 back in September. So I'd like to acknowledge that and say that we're all glad that you're both better. Thank you so much for joining us.
RALPH NORTHAMWell, Kojo, to you and Tom and to your listeners, thanks so much for having me today. And I just hope all of you are staying safe and healthy. And I appreciate you asking about Pam and me. You know, this virus is a dangerous virus. It's nothing to play around with. It is very, very contagious and we were fortunate, as you know, to have mild cases, and we have completely recovered. But a lot of people out there haven't. And people have lost their lives. And we all as Virginia's and Americans need to take this seriously.
NNAMDIYou ordered tightened coronavirus restrictions last week as coronavirus infection numbers continue to surge in the region and across the globe. What's the picture like in Virginia right now and how do the current restrictions compare to what we saw in the spring?
NORTHAMWell, we follow the data every day, Kojo. And, you know, our positivity rate is something that I pay a lot of attention to. Certainly as a doctor I'm used to analyzing data. You know, we were up over 20 percent at one point several months ago. We got down as low as five percent. Now we're just above seven percent. We had 2,544 new cases today, 16 additional deaths. The trends, Kojo, are not hitting in a direction that I'm comfortable with. And so we've learned so much about this virus, still a lot to learn, obviously.
NORTHAMBut we know where the outbreaks are occurring and why they're occurring, and a lot of it because people aren't following the guidelines that we have put in place, and they're very straight forward to wear a mask. That's not asking for too much, to keep our distance, to not gather in crowds, and so we're seeing a really a large spike in the 20 to 29 age group. And so that's why we took some measures to mitigate these increasing numbers by closing our bars or shutting down the sale of alcohol at ten o'clock, closing restaurants at twelve o'clock. We've expanded our mask mandate down to age five and decreased crowds to 25 or less.
NORTHAMWe know that these work. We did this in the Eastern part of the state a few months ago. It was very effective. And so that's why we chose to do what we did. But the main thing, Kojo, this is all about behavior. And it's in our hands, of course in our case as Virginians, but Americans to do the right thing to keep these numbers down, to keep that curve flat as we talk about, and really to keep our hospital capacities where they need to be. You know, our workers in our hospitals and clinics, they're tired, Kojo. They're putting their lives at risk every day. They've been doing this for nine months. So it's just important for all of us to be a part of the solution moving forward.
NNAMDIHere's Tom Sherwood.
SHERWOODHey, Governor, thanks for being with us today. You know, you're a doctor. And I know you've got that nice soft bedside manner when you discuss the most horrific things. But, you know, over in Maryland Governor Hogan is screaming, "Wear the damn mask." And I'm just wondering if your nice Southern polite style is getting the message through about how dangerous this is. For example, what will you be doing to celebrate Thanksgiving with your family? Will it just be you and Pam?
NORTHAMThat's a great question. And first of all, I am a doctor and I try to provoke calmness when I do things. And, you know, I think for the most part, Tom, Virginians have done very well. They have followed the guidelines. Again, I think a lot of young folks -- and we've been there. You know, once we were invincible. So we need to continue to educate to put that message out that this isn't only about, you know, the young folks. It's about their families, their loved one and that's why it's so important to follow these guidelines.
NORTHAMYou know, the CDC came out yesterday and I appreciate what they did. And I follow their guidelines closely to if you don't have to to please not travel during Thanksgiving. I'm planning on spending hopefully a quiet and restful Thanksgiving with my immediate family and really follow the guidelines that we have put in place and encourage others to follow.
SHERWOODIf can ask just a money question, everyone mostly has been disappointed that the Congress has not done a second stimulus package. There's been suggestions that maybe during the lame duck session Congress might get around to $1.5 trillion stimulus package. How important is it for the Congress and the president to act to help out not only Virginia, but the District and Maryland and every other jurisdiction across the country. Do you think something will happen before Joe Biden takes over in January?
NORTHAMWell, it's very important, Tom. One of the things that governors have had to face -- we've been fighting this biological war now for close to nine months with really no leadership coming from Washington. And, you know, whether it's PPE or testing, you know, we just haven't had the guidance that we have needed and especially the messaging. And it's unfortunate that just the simple fact of wearing a mask has become so political. But we know why this is happening and will continue to, you know, to promote our message.
NORTHAMBut to your question about the CARES Act funding, we have used that to a great benefit in Virginia. We've, you know, put $220 million in K through 12 to help them prepare for their testing and keeping our children safe. We put money in higher education. Money in a program called rebuild Virginia that's helping small businesses get back on their feet.
NORTHAMAnd something that is very, very important as we move forward and this is where I think the doctor in me can really help messages. I am very hopeful about the vaccination. The numbers look very good. And so we have been planning for a couple months in how to distribute that equitably across the Commonwealth. We're going to do it in different phases and more will be said about that in the next couple of weeks.
NORTHAMSo the CARES Act funding has been very beneficial. We would like to see more relief coming out of Washington. So we're hopeful that they will sit down at the table and put their political differences aside and do what's in the best interest of Americans. One last thing I would say, Tom, that is a real priority for our administration is the broadband. You know, because of COVID-19 we know even more now than before how important this is. It is an equity issue. It's about access to business opportunities, access to healthcare through telemedicine and access to virtual learning for our students. So we've put a significant amount of our resources about $82 million this year toward getting that last mile for folks across the Commonwealth for broadband.
NNAMDIGovernor Northam, you recently announced that you support the legalization of marijuana. This comes after the general assembly decriminalized marijuana possession this year. You have supported decriminalization since you ran for governor in 2017. What would legalization do and why do you now support it?
NORTHAMWell, I think Virginia is ready for legalization, Kojo. And as you said we did introduce and pass decriminalizing marijuana last year. As a doctor, I followed very closely the medicinal use of marijuana. And there are numerous uses for it out there. I look forward to collecting more data in that regard. I hope that the federal government can change the schedule from Schedule 1 so that we can do more and better research. But we want to move forward in Virginia with this. And we want to do it the right way. We have two studies that we're following very closely. And it's going to be done with equity.
NORTHAMKojo, just, I think a quick fact. People of color and those of not, they use marijuana at the same rate. People of color are three times more likely to get arrested and convicted. So we want equitability to be a part of this. I, as a pediatrician, certainly want to protect our youth. We want to maintain our clean indoor air policy, which I worked on with smoking in restaurants.
NORTHAMAnd then finally we really want to do a good job of collecting data and be able to measure our progress as we move forward. But, you know, I think it's all about timing. There are probably 15 or so other states that have moved toward legalizing marijuana. Virginia will be the first in the South. But, you know, we tend to be leaders and that's what we're going to do this year. And we're going to do it the right way.
NNAMDIWell, we got a tweet from Roger. "Governor, with the marijuana legalization would you allow people to grow their own personal plants like three for personal use? And do you plan on allowing more adult fireworks like Pennsylvania?"
NORTHAMWell, two questions there, Kojo.
NNAMDIIn one, yes.
NORTHAMI am not, as a pediatrician, a big fan of fireworks. Those need to be in the hands of professionals that do it every day. As far as growing marijuana personally, you know, at the home that's something that we're looking into. We're looking at what other states have done. The bottom line is, you know, if we're going to do that, we want it to be done safely. Now you could make the argument or the point that, you know, we're able to brew beer in our homes so why not grow marijuana? I've heard that. I understand that. But it's something that, again, we want to do this the right way. There's going to be a lot of people at the table to discuss how we move forward and that's certainly a part of the discussion that we'll undertake as we move forward with this.
NNAMDIHere's Manny in Western Virginia. Manny, you're on the air. Don't have a lot of time. Go ahead, please.
MANNYYeah, thank you for taking my call. Big supporter of Governor Northam, I only had one question in reference to gyms and fitness centers. It still sounds very illogical to me to limit the restaurants and other facilities in terms of the number of attendees, but the gyms are getting the carte blanche in terms of not wearing a mask and show up in mass quantities of people even though there's a limitation on the lower side as I have read in your statement and decree. The question is when is that going to change? I think this is a --
NNAMDIGovernor Northam, can you respond?
NORTHAMYes. That's a great question, Manny. And, you know, we are following that. We are encouraging the limited number of occupants in gymnasiums and also the distancing is so important especially when, you know, people are exercising. They're breathing harder. There's more of a risk to disperse the virus should they be infected with it. So we are following that closely. And the issue of wearing a mask when you're exercising sometimes it's difficult because you want to get as much oxygen as you can. So we do encourage, though, the distancing and being as safe as we can, cleaning equipment when you're through with it, all of those types of things.
NORTHAMBut we want to -- Manny, we want people to continue to be able to exercise and stay healthy. And it also helps our mental health, which is a whole other issue as part of this pandemic and we're aware of that.
NNAMDIAnd I'm afraid that's about all the time we have with Governor Northam. Ralph Northam is the Governor of Virginia. He is a Democrat. Governor Northam, thank you very much for joining us. And stay safe.
NORTHAMKojo, you and Tom and all your viewers or listeners, thanks for having me. You stay safe and healthy as well. And I hope to be with you in person soon.
NNAMDIGot to take a short break, when we come back Brianne Nadeau, a Member of the D.C. Council representing Ward 1 joins us. I'm Kojo Nnamdi.
NNAMDIWelcome back. Joining us now is Brianne Nadeau, a Member of the D.C. Council representing Ward 1. Councilmember Nadeau, thank you for joining us.
BRIANNE NADEAUHi, Kojo. Glad to be here.
NNAMDIBefore we get questions specifically for Councilmember Nadeau, Tom Sherwood, we have some left over business from Virginia from before. And that is former Virginia House Speaker Kirk Cox says he'll be seeking Ralph Northam's job next time around. Of course, Northam is term limited. So it's open for Kirk Cox. Think he has a good chance?
SHERWOODWell, the Republicans haven't done so well since 2008-2009. But, you know, Kirk Cox is certainly a conservative. He is a more moderate conservative than the only other Republican candidate for governor right now. That's Amanda Chase, a state senator in suburban Richmond, who is trying her very best to mimic the Trump approach to state politics. I think Kirk Cox will try to be seen more in the middle, but that's an interesting race for the Republicans. They're still having internal fights about how Trump-like they want to be and do they want to move back to the middle and capture some of those suburban voters, who have abandoned them recently. So that's an interesting race to watch.
NNAMDIAnd we were talking with Governor Northam about his efforts to stem the coronavirus pandemic in Virginia. Governor Larry Hogan of Maryland some months ago highly touted that a batch of 500,000 coronavirus tests had been obtained from Korea with some assistance from his wife who is Korean. He even wrote about it in his memoir. Now it turns out that that batch of coronavirus tests were flawed and never used. What say you?
SHERWOODYes, that's a big story from The Washington Post just within the last hour. You know, he got international publicity last April when he arranged to have these 500,000 tests flown in from Korea. But then all summer long people were saying, "Well, what happened? How are they being used? Where are they going?" It was all these mottled answers from the governor. Now The Washington Post's Steve Thompson has told us they didn't work. And they had to just give them away. I forgot exactly what happened to them. But the state had to pay $2.5 million to the same firm to replace the tests.
SHERWOODSo that's a $12 million investment that will not look good on the governor's record when he leaves office in a couple of years. It's just an embarrassment for the governor and the Post asked the governor's office to respond. Basically, the governor's office did not respond. I would say it's a variety of things, the Purple Line and a couple of other things are not looking good for Governor Hogan. And I'd love to be able to talk to him if he would appear on this show.
NNAMDII know you also love talking with Peter Franchot exchanging barbs with him. Well, you're going to get a lot of opportunities to do that it would appear because Peter Franchot is campaigning for Governor of Maryland. And he says according to Bruce DePuyt of Maryland Matters that's he's going to be campaigning for governor like a tiger, which is not exactly how his personality seems to come across, but what are his chances?
SHERWOODWell, he's the most popular elected official in the State of Maryland and probably the least popular in the Annapolis, the hall of the legislature. So it's interesting, but, you know, he's out early. The race is technically not until 2022. Governor Hogan can't run for reelection. There's at this point not yet a strong Republican candidate running. But there's several people who might run in this race. I think Peter Franchot just wants to get out there early. He gave that interview you just mentioned with Bruce DePuyt in Maryland Matters is really quite good. He lays out exactly what he's going to do, how he's going to do it, when he's going to do it. And so he's all fired up. It's just an early firing of a warning shot at the beginning of that campaign.
NNAMDICouncilmember Nadeau, the Metropolitan Police Department accrued $43 million in overtime expenses this summer responding to protests. You're leading a push to increase Council oversight of that spending. Why? Because you know there's going to be the pushback that says you're trying to tie the hands of the MPD and responding to major events like this past weekend's large pro-Trump rally. What say you?
NADEAUWell, asking for more information certainly doesn't tie anyone's hands, right? We're not telling them what to do. My legislation is meant to get more information, more transparency and more accountability so that the Council has an oversight role. And that's what I'm doing here.
NNAMDIAnd the mayor, of course, is pushing back saying you should withdraw your bill. Where are the funds to pay for the overtime costs coming from?
NADEAUWell, just to be clear, the bill passed Tuesday. So that's happened already. And the funds that the mayor reprogramed to cover the cost of overtime for the most recent overtime expenditures came from the Department of Healthcare Finance, which is where Medicaid is. It's where the Alliance healthcare benefit for our immigrants is. It came from the child and family services agency, $2 million, when they have waitlists right now for some of their parenting programs and grand parenting programs. And the workforce investment fund. And these are places that, you know, in a pandemic we need to ensure we are not taking money away from the critical programs that people need.
NNAMDIWell, let me cut to the chase before Tom Sherwood intervenes and that is there seems to be a suspicion on your part that the police might be padding their overtime bills. Is that your concern?
NADEAUI don't know that they're padding it, but I do want to know how they're spending their funds. There's no accusation here. It's a wanting a better understanding of how and when overtime overspending occurs. And we just don't have access to day to day spending in the way that we need to understand the trends and to understand when we're about to go over budget. And that's what we need to know as a Council.
SHERWOODThanks for coming on the show today. Appreciate it. Some people would say, you know, the whole $16 billion government spends millions, tens of millions of dollars in overtime, but they're not having to report every couple of months. Let me ask you, you tweeted about the police department in this overtime spending. You said, "I express my disapproval to the idea that the police department's reckless overspending and over-policing of our communities should be prioritized above health and human services programs." That's earlier this month.
SHERWOODWhat is over-policing mean in a city where the murder rate is 22 percent higher this year than last year? It's on pace to be the worst murder rate since 2005, 180 people dead this year, car theft is up 46 percent, assaults with a dangerous weapon with guns up 19 percent. You've criticized reckless overspending and over-policing. How would you address these statistics I just cited and these are from yesterday?
NADEAUWell, that's a lot to unpack. So let's take a couple steps back. First of all we have --
SHERWOODThe people are saying you are anti-police.
NADEAURight, which is not true. But we have more police in the District of Columbia per capita than almost anywhere in the country. And that has not reduced the murder rate. And this Council and I have focused on allocating funding to things that prevent violence, investing in people, investing in programs that actually reduce violence, right?
SHERWOODBut that's long-term, isn't it?
NADEAUNot necessarily. We have violence interrupters on the streets, who mitigate conflict ongoing as it's going. However, this bill was about the peaceful protests this summer. You know, we are still waiting on the investigative reports from May 31st and June 1st where my constituents were kettled on Swan Street. I have constituents from other peaceful demonstrations that have been shot in the eye with rubber bullets. I have one constituent who has had multiple surgeries since that happened. And these are peaceful protesters.
NADEAURight. So that's what we're taking issue with in particular with the overtime spending with First Amendment demonstrations that have not been peacefully handled by police. And looking at this overtime spending, helps give us a bigger picture of how we're using police resources and what alternatives might exist once we've analyzed that information.
SHERWOODWhat are the alternatives? Yes, there are all those peaceful protests and legitimate criticism of police actions there. But also those -- I've seen the video and I've been at these protests where there in fact is violence. And are you not saying that overtime should be eliminated for the violent incidents that occur?
NADEAUOf course not.
NADEAUBut here's the thing. You know, we need more transparency with the police department bottom line. And that is what this bill is about. This bill is about information. Yeah.
SHERWOODLet me ask you about --
NNAMDIWe've only have about 30 seconds left.
SHERWOODOkay, police chief, he has to go before the Council for reappointment next spring. Will you support the Police Chief Newsham being reappointed if the mayor submits his name again?
NADEAUThat has a lot to do with what happens between now and then. We're in ongoing conversation with the chief about transparency and accountability. He has said in his conversations with me, he agrees the police department has too much responsibility right now. I want to make good on the beginning of that conversation to carry it through.
NNAMDIGot to take a short break, when we come back, we'll continue this conversation with Brianne Nadeau. I'm Kojo Nnamdi.
NNAMDIWelcome back. Tom Sherwood is our resident analyst and contributing writer for Washington City Paper. Our guest is Brianne Nadeau, a member of the D.C. Council, representing Ward 1. The U.S. attorney for D.C., Michael Sherwin, announced yesterday that his office will not be prosecuting the D.C. police officer, or charging him, who fatally shot Deon Kay this summer, because the U.S. attorney's office says it could not prove beyond a reasonable doubt that Officer Alexander Alvarez broke federal law. As I recall that incident, Deon Kay may have had a gun in his possession, or was attempting to throw it away at the time. What's your response to this decision?
NADEAUWell, it's heartbreaking, of course, especially for Deon Kay's family, and this one was really difficult. What I can say from the perspective of a councilmember who is doing oversight is, you know, the law that we passed earlier this year allowed for a quick investigation, allowed for that footage to be available.
NADEAUAnd I know that this wasn't the outcome that everybody wanted, but I think that we are, you know, at least moving towards more transparency for the public, so they can understand when a U.S. attorney makes a decision like that, what they're basing the facts on.
NNAMDIWell, most of our next calls fall under the heading, "The Rent is Too Damn High." (laugh) So, allow me to start with Yolanda, in Ward 1. Yolanda, you're on the air. Go ahead, please.
YOLANDAHi. Thank you so much for having me. I just wanted to ask what your position is on cancelling rent for people who were housing insecure before the pandemic, and especially those who do not qualify for ERAP funding.
NNAMDIOkay. Councilmember Nadeau, hold your response to that question because Jorge, also in Ward 1, has a similar question. Jorge, your turn.
JORGEThank you. I applaud you for your efforts in gaining oversight with regard to police funding. But I also would like to explore with you, you know, forum, an open forum regarding rent forgiveness in D.C. I don't qualify for many of these programs. I'm 72 years old, living here 40 years, and I would like your assistance in that.
NADEAUYolanda and Jorge both have really important questions. This pandemic's been hard for a lot of people. We recently expanded ERAP so that more people are eligible, and we know that that's still not enough. We can't cancel rent, writ large, because we also need landlords to be able to run their properties. So, it's a tough position to be in. So, the focus that I've had is making sure that we are getting subsidy to as many people as we can and really pushing our landlords to work out individually with folks who can't access that subsidy, other arrangements.
NADEAUUnfortunately, it really does have to be case by case because we need folks who can pay rent to do so, so that our housing does not deteriorate while we're waiting for the pandemic to end. But I've been really focused on this, so I oversee ERAP. It's part of the Department of Human Services.
NADEAUIt's something we run out of funding for every year. So, every year, I have expanded the funding for it. We now have federal dollars for additional funding through the Department of Housing. And so, it's really critical to me that we are getting money out the door to people who need it, and that we don't let any of that go to waste, because it's a critical time to be helping people remain in their homes.
NNAMDIOn a broader issue involving rent, here is Gary, also in Ward 1. Gary, your turn.
GARYHi, Brianne. We desperately need stronger rent control, as outlined in the reclaim rent control coalition. I know people have been organizing for over two years to push it through, and I know you've been an ally to help with that, and we appreciate it. But I don't see how we stop gentrification displacement without it. You know, who's holding this up in the council and what do activists and, you know, citizens of D.C. need to do to really make it clear that their constituents really want this?
NADEAUHi, Gary. So, we had a hearing last week on the bill that Councilmember Trayon White and I introduced that is the reclaim rent control platform. And this bill would close some loopholes. It would expand the number of housing units that are currently -- that would be under rent control, close off some exemptions to certain properties. I think it's a really important piece of legislation, and it's a really important platform.
NADEAUYou know, it's in the Housing Committee, it's at a hearing. My hope is that it will move forward and, you know, the challenges that rent control was reauthorized this year, which I support, but without any improvements. And we know there are challenges with the way rent control currently runs. And my hope was to amend the reauthorization as it went through, but, unfortunately, it was swept into the Budget Support Act. So, instead, I introduced this bill so that we really can improve the existing rent control laws and expand rent control to additional properties in the District.
NNAMDIThank you very much for your call, Gary, Yolanda and Jorge. Tom Sherwood.
SHERWOODThank you. Councilmember, you represent Ward 1, the heart of the city, probably the most diverse part of the city, but I was looking at demographics. You know, 10, 15 years ago, it was like 48 percent black and 30-something percent white. Those numbers have been reversed, and I think I saw somewhere recently, the Office of Planning, your ward now is almost 55 percent white, maybe 20 percent Hispanic, Latino and Latinx. Are you running for reelection in 2022?
NADEAU(laugh) What does that have to do with the rest of the question?
SHERWOODWell, there -- well, I was -- well, one, I'd like to know, and secondly, there are some people who, in this past election, the Hispanic, Latino, Latinx candidates were blown out by all the other candidates. Maybe, is there a time for a Latino member to represent Ward 1 on the council?
NADEAUI see where you're going. Okay. (laugh)
SHERWOODThere you go. I wrapped it together for you.
NADEAU(laugh) Thanks. I was waiting. I know you usually put a bow on it, Tom. Okay. So, I do represent, I believe, still one of the most diverse wards in the District of Columbia, and I'm really proud of that. I have spent the past six years, and even before that, ensuring that I'm hearing the voices of the residents that I represent that don't look like me, right. As a white woman who only moved here about 20 years ago, I know that, you know, my life experiences are not the same as everyone I represent. But I really prided myself on ensuring that I'm hearing those voices and lifting them up.
NADEAUWhen it comes to the Latino community, I've been a tireless advocate for everything related to immigrants in our community. I've worked with all our small businessowners ensuring they have resources. You know, our Latino community cares about the same things many others do, which is good education, affordable housing. And these are things that I focused on, so if I do run and I have a challenge, I look forward to debating those issues then. But let's let the ink dry on the 2020 results before we have that conversation.
SHERWOODCan I ask...
SHERWOOD...a political question about the council? You know, one change is that the council that will be taking seats in January will be a majority female council for the first time since 1998. And it will be majority black the first time since 2012, I believe. And you are chair of the human services committee, appointed by the chairman, Bill Mendelson. He will make reassignments of committees by the end of December. Do you want to remain as chair of the Human Services Committee, or are you looking to take on new responsibilities?
NADEAUI really appreciated the opportunity to chair the Human Services Committee. In just the few years that I've been chair, I've reformed TANF, I reformed homeless services. I've created more rights for people with disabilities, and I'm really proud of that work. If I have the opportunity to continue doing it, I know there's a lot more we can do.
NADEAUAnd my focus right now is on ending chronic homelessness. And I've had the opportunity to do that, not only at the council, but at the Regional Coalition of Governments for Metro Washington, as chair of their committee. I think we have a lot more work to do there, but wherever the chairman assigns me, I will be very pleased to serve.
SHERWOODWhat is your relationship -- quickly, what's your relationship with the chairman? You sometimes are his most severe critic on the council, depending what the issue is. How are you and he getting along?
NADEAUOh, you know what? So, one of the things that I love about being a D.C. councilmember is that you never know who you're going to agree with on any given day. But as long as we can be respectful of one another, then we can work together. And chairman and I don't always agree, but we always are able to work together.
NNAMDIWell, there are some...
SHERWOODDo you respect each other?
NNAMDIWell, there's some people who think you can predict how many of the councilmembers are going to agree with anything on any particular day, because when she joined for her debut on The Politics Hour, Christina Henderson mentioned that women leaders lead differently, and that the council, being majority female, will have a real impact. What do you think of that assessment? And the assessment that the new members of the council will push the council to the left?
NADEAUSo, there is evidence that when women lead in office, issues like paid family leave, issues like education, issues that impact families and people in poverty get lifted up in a way that they aren't, otherwise. And so, I'm thrilled that we're going to have a female majority again on the council. It is not the first time. There have been female majorities on the council many times in history, and it's actually just recently it's kind of unusual that we haven't had one. So, I'm excited to be back there. I think it's going to be even more collegial and inspiring than it's been.
NNAMDIOkay. Here is Heather, in Eastern Maryland. Heather, you're on the air. Go ahead, please.
HEATHERHi, Kojo. Thank you for taking my call. Councilwoman, thank you so much for giving me a chance to touch base with you. Going back to the bill that you're proposing for clarity with our police spending, this might seem a little unusual, but do you believe that the pandemic gives you a little boost when it comes to public support?
HEATHERWhere I base that out of is during the pandemic, especially when it first began, we just kept hearing, we don't have enough money for protective gear. We don't have enough money to take care of our people in the healthcare industry and the people who really need it. But then when the peaceful protests came along, all of a sudden, we had plenty of money for rubber bullets, tear gas, things like that. I know I never was really curious about public spending or even police spending until I really made that correlation. So, do you think others will make that correlation and show you support for that bill?
NADEAUWell, Heather, I think you kind of answered your own question, right? Because that's how you're perceiving it, I'm sure a lot of others perceive it that way. You know, for me when you're dealing with a budgetary reprogramming, it becomes very clear what things are being prioritized. So, in this case, it was millions of dollars from the healthcare finance agency. It was a couple million dollars from a child welfare agency and money from our workforce investment fund. And that just such a striking juxtaposition to police activity, that it really drove the point home for me.
NNAMDIThank you very much for your call, Heather. D.C. never entered phase 3 of reopening, and Mayor Muriel Bowser announced this week that we should expect new coronavirus restrictions soon. She hasn't announced them yet. What new restrictions would you like to see?
NADEAUWell, Kojo, I follow the daily case counts and the numbers, and I'm always interested in where our case tracking is telling us that the cases are coming from. We know that folks are really letting their guard down when it comes to small gatherings with family and friends. And that a quarter -- last I checked, a quarter of the infections are coming from those. So, we really need people to be cautious about their own behavior and their gatherings. Another 25 percent, last time I was looking, was from restaurants and bars. And so, we certainly need to examine that, right, and what's causing that.
NADEAUThose are the things that we're looking at. At least from my perspective, from oversight, I'm looking at the numbers the Department of Health is sending out about where the infections are coming from. And that's what the focus needs to be on.
NNAMDID.C. is ramping up testing, but people were already complaining about long lines at public testing sites in D.C. What do you think the District should be doing to address that?
NADEAUWell, in our briefing this week, the Department of Health told us that they are going to continue beefing up the testing options. And one thing that we can do, also, is just encourage people who have other ways to get tested to do that. So, for example, if your doctor's office does testing and you can make an appointment and do that rather than standing in line, we'd encourage you to do that, as well. The public testing site is, of course, there for anyone who needs it, but we also want to make sure for people who only have that option, that it's there.
SHERWOODThank you. I apologize, I cannot remember, did you vote yes or no to overturn initiative 77, which was the voter-approved measure to get rid of tip wages for workers and just have everyone have the same minimum wage? I can't remember, in 2018...
NADEAUI voted against overturning it, Tom.
SHERWOODRight. That's what I was thinking that you were against overturning it. It passed the voters by 55 to 45. Do you think the new council, coming into place in January, might take a second look at that bill -- that initiative, and maybe bring it back up?
NADEAUI don't know. You're the first person to mention that to me, and it's hard to say what the new council will take up. But I look forward to having those conversations with all my new colleagues, because I'm excited about the new energy coming. And I could certainly see us taking on something like adequate wages for our restaurant workers.
NNAMDINo follow-up? Here's John in Logan Circle, (laugh) John, you're on the air. Go ahead, please.
JOHNThank you for having me on the show and thank you, councilmember, for taking my question. This is John. We've known each other for quite a while, Councilmember Nadeau. And the question is, really, considers the legislation that was just passed over the overtime in spending. And, traditionally, hasn't the federal government reimbursed the MPD for any of the overtime for protests? And this administration, for, you know, whatever reason, maybe wanting to, you know, penalize or hurt the District, has not so that where the police traditionally stay within their budget.
JOHNSo, it seems to be a reaction to the 43 million currently and the money that was taken from the different federal critical services. Again, the result of the federal government not reimbursing us. So, couldn't the same oversight questions or reports, which are absolutely reasonable, be handled at an oversight hearing?
NADEAUHere's the challenge with this type of overtime spending. It happens really quickly, right. I mean, and it can happen without anyone expecting it. And when we expect that the federal government's going to reimburse us, if they do, we're fine. If they don't, then we find ourselves in this situation. And so, the council has the right and should have the ability, to be able to more closely monitor something that has been overspent, especially to such a large degree, and close to real time.
NADEAUBecause, ultimately, we also play a role in budgeting, and oversight of police, in particular, the public has made very clear, is critically important to them. So, in my mind, there is just really no reason to push back on the council asking for more information on a regular basis. We don't have the ability to tell the mayor how to spend the money once the budget has been passed, but we do have the right and the responsibility to monitor the spending.
NNAMDIThank you very much for your call. We were talking earlier about how the council has changed, and how the new members might affect it. Brianne Nadeau, Christina Henderson, who was in a field with more than 20 candidates, says one of the first bills she will introduce will be one of rank choice voting. You actually co-introduced the rank choice voting amended back in 2019. Do you think that now, this is something the D.C. Council will pass?
NADEAUI really hope we will. I mean, it was a good idea then, it's a good idea now. As far as I can tell, it's never been a bad idea. It just hasn't had -- there hasn't been enough time to take it up. And so, I hope that we can. I'm thrilled to hear that the councilmember-elect Henderson is going to lead with that. I think it's a great piece of legislation.
NNAMDITom Sherwood, how does rank choice voting work?
SHERWOODRank choice voting is when you go into the -- when you vote whether -- whenever you vote, however you vote, if you have 10 candidates running for office, you maybe would select the three you want, the first choice, second choice and third choice. And if no candidate gets up to 50 percent, then the people who didn't -- who are the lowest on the vote totals drop out, and your second choice is considered until someone gets 50 percent. It's not as complicated as I just made it.
NADEAUBut the idea is that in these at-large races, you have people wining with a pretty small percentage of the vote. And, typically, more people voted for everyone else than the person who won, right. And the voters want to feel...
SHERWOOD(overlapping) Yes. Christina Henderson won with 15 percent.
NADEAUYeah, voters want to feel good about knowing that the person who is taking the seat got a significant number of votes and is really representative of the voices of the District. And I think it's great.
SHERWOODCan I ask one more election question?
SHERWOODThere were a lot of complaints around the June primary and the special election in Ward 2 about the ability of the board of elections, three-member board to actually be up to speed on everything that needs to be done. It worked out better in the fall. Do you think we need a new board? I don't think any of the three members have any experience running elections, except what they've done on the board. Do we need a different kind of elections board, so we don't have any of these problems, going forward?
NADEAUI honestly haven't thought about that, specifically the structure. What I have thought about is, you know, how responsive the board of elections has been to the needs of the pandemic. You know, you may know that I'm the author of the vote-by-mail bill and...
SHERWOOD(overlapping) Which is actually a very good thing. It worked out really well.
NADEAUIt worked out well. I think -- look, what we saw, was everything perfect? No. But did the board of elections learn from June? Absolutely. I found them to be very responsive this time around when folks couldn't find their ballots, etcetera. I thought the technology was good, the ballot trackers. I thought the sighting of the boxes, we didn't have any problems, that I heard of, at the polling locations. So, I do think that they ultimately rose to the occasion, despite June being pretty challenging.
NNAMDIHere is David in Washington, D.C. David, you're on the air. Go ahead, please.
DAVIDHey there, Kojo and the gang. Thank you for having me. I was calling about the Airbnb legislation that passed last year, which I think I can say with confidence, passed thanks in great part to the hotel lobbies influence. But it was initially passed with the rationale that short-term rentals were limiting access to affordable housing, but nobody ever presented any data to show that.
DAVIDNow that so many people have left the District because of COVID and rents are down as much as 20 percent or even more then they were last year, would you, Councilmember Nadeau, support doing a study of showing how short-term rentals actually do affect rent prices, and whether there might be a possibility of changing the legislation, so that people who depend on their Airbnb income, can get through a difficult time like this?
NADEAUWell, certainly the pandemic has made us rethink a lot of things, but I do want to clarify that, for me, the argument wasn't necessarily about affordable housing stock. It was about overall housing stock. It's that if we have useable housing units that are being tied up with short-term rentals, then those units aren't available for rent to anyone, no matter what their income is. And it just destabilizes the entire housing market and, you know, can impact every price of housing, from the top down.
NADEAUThere was some study. I believe the D.C. policy center looked at this. I doubt that there's an appetite to take this up again, but I do think that, you know, we'll probably be revisiting a whole host of things after this pandemic, just to make sure that everything in the housing and, I would say, office buildings, as well, all of our stock is calibrated with the needs of the District and where the workforce is.
NNAMDIWell, with your and Councilmember Trayon's bill to expand rent control, it's received pushback from landlords and developers who argue that expanding rent control would mean less tax revenue for the city and lower property values. And there are some small landlords struggling to make ends meet during the pandemic who would be subject to this new bill. We got an email from Margarita, who says: Why should landlords pay the price because the city demolishes affordable housing? The mayor is the principle gentrifier. How would you respond to those concerns?
NADEAUThose are interesting assertions I mean, the rent control bill that Councilmember White and I introduced is about expanding the properties that are covered under rent control, so that we can preserve affordability on existing housing. I do agree...
NNAMDIWe only have about a minute left, but go ahead.
NADEAUOkay. I agree that -- well, maybe I'm not agreeing. I believe the government does need to put some skin in the game, right. Right now, the burden of rent increases in rent control property is on the tenants alone. And landlords surely do need that revenue. So, my thinking is that the government needs to put some skin in the game.
NADEAUPerhaps we need a fund that helps offset the difference between rents paid and what the landlord needs to make ends meet. But we definitely -- the system right now is not working, and that's why I wanted to change it. That's why I was so disappointed that the rent control got reauthorized without any improvements at all. So, this bill is meant to move us closer to a better workable rent control system. And perhaps not all pieces of it will pass, but I do think there's some really valid pieces of it.
NNAMDIAnd I'm afraid that's just about all the time we have. Brianne Nadeau is a member of the D.C. Council, representing Ward 1. She's a Democrat. Brianne Nadeau, thank you very much for joining us.
NADEAUThank you, very much.
NNAMDIToday's Politics Hour was produced by Cydney Grannan. Coming up Monday, Hyattsville Mayor Candace Hollingsworth is resigning at the end of the year to form a new black-centric political party. We ask about what she learned as mayor and what she plans for this new party.
NNAMDIPlus, Lamar Giles didn't see black main characters in the books he read as a kid, so he grew up to write them into his own award-winning novels for tweens and teens. He's the next guest on our Kojo for Kids series. That all starts at noon, on Monday. Until then, have a wonderful and safe weekend. Any big plans, Tom Sherwood?
SHERWOODIt's nice weather. Be safe and enjoy the weather outside.
NNAMDII endorse that all. Thank you for listening. I'm Kojo Nnamdi.
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