<![CDATA[NBC4 Washington - First Read]]>Copyright 2016http://www.nbcwashington.com/blogs/first-read-dmv http://media.nbcnewyork.com/designimages/WASH+NBC4+BLUE.png NBC4 Washington http://www.nbcwashington.comen-usThu, 08 Dec 2016 19:43:31 -0500Thu, 08 Dec 2016 19:43:31 -0500NBC Owned Television Stations <![CDATA[Jaffe Report: Unrestricted Gun Ownership in DC Would Be Disaster]]> Thu, 08 Dec 2016 17:38:23 -0500 http://media.nbcwashington.com/images/213*120/Comet+Ping+Pong+Gunman.jpg

Harry Jaffe, a longtime chronicler of the people and politics of Washington, D.C., writes a column for NBC Washington's First Read DMV blog.

A guy walks into cute Comet Ping Pong brandishing a rifle Sunday afternoon, on a deranged mission to "self-investigate" a ludicrous conspiracy theory that has Hillary Clinton running a child sex ring out of the pizza restaurant's non-existent basement. Police arrest him with three weapons.

Hopefully the nut jobs peddling the insidious Comet fantasy will slither away to another bizarre, imagined caper. But we might have to get used to people packing heat in our neighborhoods.

In the next Congress, Florida Sen. Marco Rubio intends to introduce legislation that will wipe out the District's gun laws. He's likely to be joined by Ohio Rep. Jim Jordan, who coauthored the legislation last Congress.

The Rubio-Jordan bill failed in 2015. Even if it had passed the House and Senate, it's quite likely President Obama would have vetoed it. But that was then.

With Republicans running the White House, Senate and House, the District is far more vulnerable to intrusive legislation -- from stripping the District's gun laws to reversing marijuana decriminalization.

"For lack of a better word," said Bo Shuff with DC Vote, "we are in a defensive position when we talk about autonomy for D.C."

Before the November elections, Shuff and other advocates for statehood and full voting rights were duped into false hope that Hillary Clinton would be in the White House, and Democrats might even control the Senate.

"It's a far more antagonistic Congress," Shuff said. "We are hoping our gains don't get rolled back or whittled away."

Shuff fears members of Congress might seek to roll back the District's budget autonomy. In 2013, District voters passed a referendum to allow the D.C. government to allocate and spend locally collected tax dollars, without the 30-day congressional review. Courts have upheld the law, and Congress has taken no action.

"For all intents and purposes," Shuff said, "it's gone into effect."

The House voted last May to gut the law, but it fizzled in the Senate. President Obama might have vetoed the bill had it reached his desk. Now there's less of a backstop in the Senate. Nobody knows how President-Elect Trump might react, not even Trump, at this point.

But it's quite likely our new neighbor at 1600 Pennsylvania Ave. will have to decide whether to sign Rubio's legislation to kill D.C.'s existing gun laws and the government's right to make and enforce new ones.

For decades, the District had perhaps the nation's most strict handgun controls until 2008, when the Supreme Court struck down the ban. Since then the District has crafted reasonable regulations that allow residents to own guns but also requires training and safety measures.

The law seems to be working well. The Metropolitan Police Department reports that it has registered 8,634 firearms. Of those, 5,617 are handguns. So far the District has issued 94 licenses for residents to carry concealed weapons; it has denied 374 applications to carry concealed weapons.

The Rubio/Jackson bill would wipe out the laws and disable the registration system.

When the Florida senator introduced his Second Amendment Enforcement Act last year, he said: "For years, the District of Columbia has infringed on its residents second amendment rights and rendered them vulnerable to criminals who could care less what the guns laws are."

That's a bunch of bunk. Rubio has no idea what D.C. residents want or need. Besides, since 2008 the path to owning a gun has been unobstructed.

Rubio's law has the potential to attract a parade of tourists with Glock semi-automatic pistols strapped to their waists. It would make it easier to get permits to carry concealed weapons, allow District residents to buy weapons in Maryland and Virginia, and anyone could walk the streets of D.C. carrying a weapon licensed in another state.

There's nothing particularly innovative or inspired about the Rubio/Jackson bill. They follow a long line of representatives and senators who have taken out their pet projects on the District or tried to score political points back home by foisting ideologically pure laws on D.C.

What troubles me is the vicious political climate that's been building, combined with the conservative Republican hold on the House and Senate.

As a member of the National Rifle Association and the proud owner of a Ruger carbine, I believe unrestricted gun ownership in the nation's capital would be a disaster. There are bound to be protests in our streets in the coming months. They will attract advocates on the opposite sides of volatile issues such as abortion, climate change and immigration. Why add firearms to the mix?

D.C. Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton asked a more intriguing question for the incoming president: "Why would President Trump want people with guns walking into the Trump International Hotel?"

Before he ran for president, Trump built a new luxury hotel a few blocks down the street on Pennsylvania Avenue in the historic Old Post Office. The Trump International is now the unofficial flagship for his company's hotel division.

"How does that help him?" Norton asked of unrestricted gun ownership in his new neighborhood. "That doesn't help the hotel at all.

"If you really want D.C. to become a dangerous city then eliminate all of our gun laws. I can't imagine what it would turn this city into."

Norton is hoping Trump and his daughter Ivanka, who negotiated the hotel deal, are sharing the same thoughts. She hopes money talks, and Trump will brush aside congressional attempts to gut D.C. guns laws because it would be bad for business.

That's a long shot, but here's the irony: Trump might have helped spawn the crazy conspiracy theories that prompted a 28-year-old man from North Carolina to shoot up a pizzeria on upper Connecticut Avenue. But he also might be the only one who can preserve the gun laws that can keep purveyors of those crazy theories from legally carrying guns on our streets.

That would be sensible for his high-end hotel and our peace of mind.



Photo Credit: Jay Alvey, NBC Washington]]>
<![CDATA[Cosby Accuser Seeks End of Sex Assault Statute of Limitation]]> Thu, 08 Dec 2016 18:07:24 -0500 http://media.nbcwashington.com/images/213*120/DC+Flag.jpg

The sun is about to set on proposed legislation that would make it easier for victims of sexual assault to seek justice in the District of Columbia.

Current law in the District requires sex assault victims to report allegations before the statute of limitations runs out in order for prosecutors and courts to act on the allegations. For civil cases the statute of limitations is three years; for criminal cases it’s up to 15 years. In cases where the victim is a minor, the statute of limitations doesn’t kick in until the victim’s 21st birthday.

Advocates for victims of sex assault say there shouldn’t be any limits on justice. A movement to eliminate or extend statutes of limitations has gained momentum across the country. California recently became the 16th state to eliminate them, and Nevada and Colorado recently extended the limits in those states.

In 2015, D.C. Councilmembers Mary Cheh and David Grosso introduced separate bills that would eliminate the limits for criminal and civil sex assault cases in D.C. The bills had support of other councilmembers and were referred to the Judiciary Committee, where they have sat without hearings for going on two years. On Dec. 31, the bills will expire.

Councilmember Kenyan McDuffie, the chairman of the Judiciary Committee, decided not to move the bills for public hearings. McDuffie pointed to his committee’s busy schedule as the reason the bills will die.

“I’ve had close to 300 pieces of legislations come through the judiciary this year,” McDuffie said, pointing to several key public safety bills he successfully passed during that time.

Grosso acknowledged the judiciary is one of the council’s busiest committees but said McDuffie could have held hearings.

“I still wish he could have gotten to this issue, at least held a hearing on it,” Grosso said. “I was really hoping we would get it done this year.”

Councilmember Cheh also wishes McDuffie had at least held a hearing.

“The reality of the council is that the chair of a committee sets the schedule for pieces of legislation and some bills languish in the process," Cheh said in written statement. "With that in mind, I will continue to press to have the bill move forward and, if necessary, will reintroduce this bill at the beginning of next year and every council session until I get it passed.”

McDuffie declined to say whether he supported either of the bills before his committee, saying, “As a former prosecutor, I am keenly aware of the suffering that victims of sex abuse have to endure.”

McDuffie added he does have concerns about the legislation.

“We need to make sure we protect the rights of victims as well as protecting rights of any party involved in criminal proceedings,” he said.

Cosby Accuser and Attorney Gloria Allred Meet With DC Councilmember 

Charlotte Fox has been trying to get McDuffie to act on the bills since they were introduced in 2015.

“I’ve been trying for more than a year to get a meeting with the councilmember to even talk about it,” Fox says.

Fox is one of the many women who have come forward to accuse Bill Cosby of sexual assault. She and her attorney, Gloria Allred, finally got to meet with McDuffie Thursday.

“It’s bad enough the door to justice is closed in face of victims now,” Allred said, “but also bad there is not even a hearing where we can make our arguments.”

The two women emerged from McDuffie’s office encouraged he took the time to listen to them but disappointed the legislation will have to start over next year.

“Its not about me, its about victims who have rights,” Fox said outside McDuffie’s office. “They should be heard. This bill should come out of committee and become law.” 

Catholic Church Opposed to Lifting Limitations on Civil Cases

Both Allred and Grosso pointed to the Catholic Church as one of the opponents of the legislation.

Ed McFadden, a spokesperson for the Archdiocese of Washington, said the church is opposed to lifting the limitations on civil cases, but not on criminal cases.

“We do not support legislation that does nothing to protect children and which sets one set of rules for public institutions and a different set of rules for private institutions,” McFadden said of Grosso’s bill, which eliminates the limitations on civil cases.

“The church is afraid that what’s going to happen here is they’re going to be held accountable for the actions of the priests they kept hidden for so long,” Grosso said.

As for the limitations on criminal cases, the church is in favor of that.

“The Archdiocese of Washington has had an effective child protection policy in place since 1986 and a strong record in protecting young people. Over the years the Archdiocese has supported efforts to eliminate the statute of limitations for criminal prosecution of perpetrators of sexual abuse in the District of Columbia,” McFadden wrote in a statement.

Allred, who has lobbied for changes to the SOLs in states across the country, said the Catholic Church has opposed similar legislation in other states.

“The point is, we are here about victims, not institutions that want to protect themselves, not about predators who want to protect themselves. We are here about victims and it should never be too late for justice for victims,” Allred said.

McDuffie said he had no communciations with the church on this issue and pointed out he voted in favor of the Death With Dignity Act which the church opposed.

“My religion doesn’t get in the way of the work I do down here,” McDuffie said.

Both Grosso and Cheh said they will reintroduce their bills next year. It’s unclear who will chair the Judiciary Committee next year. Asked if he will support the legislation in 2017, McDuffie said, “We’ll see what happens in the next council session.”

As for Fox, she has faith the council will eventually pass both bills. She said that same faith has allowed her to forgive Cosby. She said she even likes the Cosby mural on the side of Ben’s Chili Bowl.

“It doesn’t bother me," she said. "I can separate the actor from Cosby the man. A picture on the wall doesn’t mean anything to me. I love it. I love Ben's Chili bowl. That doesn’t matter to me."

"What’s a picture on a wall. I don’t care about that,” Fox said. “Absolutely, absolutely of course I forgive him, absolutely, but we still want justice. We still want victims to have their day in court.”



Photo Credit: Dave Newman, Shutterstock]]>
<![CDATA[Sherwood's Notebook: As MGM Casino Opens... Caution Ahead]]> Wed, 07 Dec 2016 08:28:18 -0500 http://media.nbcwashington.com/images/213*120/MGM_National_Harbor_EXTERIOR_1216___Credit_Stephen_Wilkes.jpg

Crowds are expected this week to jam the roadways to the new MGM National Harbor casino in Prince George's County. The table games and thousands of slot machines are likely going to be jammed with players, too.

The state of Maryland has bet big on casinos, and MGM — the sixth — is its biggest yet. The other casinos around the state make money, but MGM is projected to be the big daddy. Roadways lead right to it from the District, and the Wilson Bridge is expected to funnel tens of thousands of gamblers to Maryland every year.

In a recent column we gave our advice on gambling: Don’t gamble with any more money than you are willing to simply throw into the Potomac River.

All the slick television, online and print ads show you smiling faces and promise excitement and entertainment galore. Those ads don’t show you busloads of senior citizens, their precious money in hand, hoping to hit it just a little bit big. They don’t show the lower-income worker hoping to pad the paycheck, the same worker who maybe has already played the lottery excessively.

The truth, which is hard to see in the subdued lighting and blinking slot corridors, is that casinos make money for the company that owns them and the state that taxes them and collects fees from them. The big rollers can stomach the losses. As for the middle to marginal gamblers, you’re on your own. A free drink here or "club" access there? Sure, enjoy it. But remember, someone is paying for all that glitz: you.

■ Warning signs. They're required by law, so MGM and other casinos include warnings against "problem gambling." The MGM National Harbor website itself this week listed these signs:

  • Gambling to escape worry.
  • Gambling to solve financial difficulties.
  • A feeling you're unable to stop playing, regardless of winning or losing.
  • Often gambling until your last dollar is gone.
  • Neglecting your family because of gambling.

 

Again, remember. The flashy promotions lure you into thinking you will win something when the odds always — always — favor the house.

Consider these warning signs and you won't feel bad when the last card is dealt or you hear the last bing-bing-bing of the seductive slot machine as you adjust your eyes from those bright lights.

■ A different light. Your Notebook traveled to the Antietam Battlefield in western Maryland this past Saturday, where we witnessed a remarkable community experience. About 1,500 volunteers fanned out over the 3,000 acres to set up and light some 23,000 real candles to mark the casualties, dead and wounded, of that epic Civil War battle.

Saturday night at dusk, long lines of vehicles — the headlights off — rolled slowly through the fields to respect those who fought (on both sides).

Your Notebook was accompanied by Garrett Peck, a local author whose book "The Potomac River: A History and Guide" includes a whole chapter on Antietam.

"I find the Antietam Memorial Illumination a moving public commemoration of the bloodiest day in American history," Peck said after the trip. "The sight of the 23,100 lit candles scattered across the battlefield bring home the devastating loss and the high human cost of war."

However, he added, it was arguably the Civil War's most politically important battle — leading directly to the Emancipation Proclamation. "Freedom came with a high cost, and the illumination is a reminder that that liberties we take for granted did not come cheaply. We had to fight for them," said Peck.

And back to those volunteers: Before the public was allowed in, there was a brief program for all who had helped, including National Park Service rangers who were proudly assisting and controlling traffic.

Georgene Charles of Washington County, Maryland, was there. She started the Illumination back in 1988, using candles provided annually free of charge from the Root Candle Co. of Medina, Ohio — long-burning ones now known as Antietam Candles. In the cold of the gathering Saturday night, Charles praised the volunteers, some of whom had come from as far away as Ohio.

"This event was volunteer-driven, a high proportion of them Boy Scouts and their parents," Peck said. "In an era where civil institutions are weakening and we have no common national service, it is impressive to see these young people work together from across the Mid-Atlantic to make the commemoration possible."

And any parent or guardian would appreciate this: "The boys were respectful and not at all fidgety during the opening ceremony," Peck said. "They took the event seriously and, I think, recognized the importance of their participation."

■ A final word. Our publication date this week is the Dec. 7 anniversary of the 1941 attack on Pearl Harbor by Japan. Almost 2,500 people died and 1,000 more were wounded. The History Channel offers a good look at that two-hour incident that stunned America. You can find it here.

Tom Sherwood, a Southwest resident, is a political reporter for News 4.



Photo Credit: Stephen Wilkes]]>
<![CDATA[$130,000 Reward Offered in Case of Slain DNC Staffer]]> Tue, 06 Dec 2016 21:15:48 -0500 http://media.nbcwashington.com/images/213*120/Seth+Rich+Blue+Background+Look+N.jpg

A Republican lobbyist is increasing the reward he is offering for information on the murder of DNC staffer Seth Rich.

Rich, 27, was shot multiple times in the 2100 block of Flagler Place July 10. No arrests have been made in the five months since his death.

Republican lobbyist Jack Burkman has added $5,000 to the $100,000 reward he originally offered, according to a press release. The Metropolitan Police Department is also offering a $25,000 reward for information that leads to an arrest in Rich's case. 

"I really just want to the Rich family to have closure and for those involved with this tragic event to be brought to light," Burkman said in a release. 

Last month, Rich's parents pleaded for any clues that may help police.

"You have two people who shot my son twice in the back," said Rich's mother, Mary Rich. "We're not going to stop until we find my son's murderer. We will find his murderer, but we need all of you."

Investigators have said they don't have any evidence suggesting the slaying is connected to the victim's work at the DNC. Attempted robbery has been cited as a possible motive.

Police have said there are no additional updates in Rich's case. 

WikiLeaks previously offered a $20,000 reward for information leading to a conviction in Rich's death. 

Rich, a Nebraska native, was a rising star in the DNC, colleagues said.

Anyone with information on the shooting is asked to call police at 202-727-9099 or send a text message to 50411. 

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<![CDATA[Bowser to Meet With Trump in NYC]]> Mon, 05 Dec 2016 20:06:21 -0500 http://media.nbcwashington.com/images/213*120/Donald-Trump-Muriel-Bowser.jpg

D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser will meet with President-elect Donald Trump in New York City on Tuesday, Trump's team has announced.

Trump has meetings scheduled Tuesday with four notable names. In addition to Bowser, Trump will meet with Iowa Gov. Terry Branstad, political commentator Laura Ingraham and ExxonMobil CEO Rex Tillerson. NBC News has identified Tillerson as a possible candidate as Trump's secretary of state.

Bowser's office declined an interview but the mayor was the one who requested the meeting with the president-elect. A news release from the mayor's office cited the city's growing economy but didn't mention other issues, like statehood or a lawsuit by Trump over the tax bill for the new Trump Hotel in Washington.

Bowser, a Democrat who campaigned on behalf of Trump's opponent, Hillary Clinton, in the presidential election, has said she and Trump share common ground on the need for investments in infrastructure, namely Metrorail, roads and bridges.

But Bowser has also said she and Trump disagree on the Affordable Care Act and on D.C.'s status as a sanctuary city for undocumented immigrants.



Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[DC Probes If Political Interference Played Role in Contracts]]> Thu, 01 Dec 2016 19:08:25 -0500 http://media.nbcwashington.com/images/213*120/WRC_0000000016934379_1200x675_822356035753.jpg Members of the D.C. Council are conducting three days of closed sessions to look into possible pay-to-play arrangements after a leader of the Department of General Services quit abruptly. News4's Tom Sherwood reports.]]> <![CDATA[Sen. Tim Kaine Talks Election, Future With News4]]> Thu, 01 Dec 2016 12:10:21 -0500 http://media.nbcwashington.com/images/213*120/WRC_0000000016927379_1200x675_821957187701.jpg Sen. Tim Kaine sat down with News4's Aaron Gilchrist to talk about what he's been up to since the election. ]]> <![CDATA[Mayor: DC Sets Example for Reducing Carbon Footprint]]> Wed, 30 Nov 2016 19:36:02 -0500 http://media.nbcwashington.com/images/208*120/Untitled-1220.jpg

This week leaders from around the world will hear how they can combat climate change by following Washington's lead.

D.C. that is, not the federal government. The message will come from the mayor of the nation’s capital.

Mayor Muriel Bowser will address an international climate change conference in Mexico, telling her counterparts how Washington is leading the nation in efforts to reduce the city's carbon footprint.

Bowser will deliver her message as President-elect Donald Trump prepares to take office. The fact that Trump has questioned the science of climate change in the past is not lost on Bowser.

“I have the same responsibilities no matter who lives at 1600 Pennsylvania Ave.,” Bowser said.

Bowser and her top adviser on environmental issues, Tommy Wells, say the District can set an example for other big cities. The first thing Bowser pointed to was the District’s investment in alternative power sources.

“Not only solar, but wind energy as well,” Bowser said.

“We entered into an unprecedented agreement to energize D.C. government buildings that’s not only good for our environment, but it’s also good for our bottom line,” she said.

“We’re taking a lot of steps to reduce the production of greenhouse gasses,” Wells added. “We’ve reduced greenhouse gasses produced by our city by almost 23 percent since 2006.”

Bowser and Wells will travel to Mexico City for the C40 Mayors Summit. This will be the sixth time the international organization of mayors has held the event, which is geared toward sharing solutions to climate change.

“We’re having to learn from each other as fast as possible,” said Wells, who attended the summit last year in Paris. “In Washington, we’ve just released a report on how to prepare the city for major storm events like a derecho, or flooding, the kind of things that happen in climate change.”

Bowser said she knows having an incoming president who once tweeted that climate change is a “hoax” invented by the Chinese could mean challenges to local jurisdictions who have a different view.

“I’ll be among a group of American mayors who are staying the course," Bowser said. “We’re going forward. We’re not fighting science, we’re embracing it.”

Trump has stepped back from his “hoax” tweet, telling The New York Times there is “some connectivity” between manmade carbon emissions and climate change, but in the same interview, the president-elect left open the possibility he might withdraw the U.S. from international climate change agreements.

Bowser said Trump’s uncertainty on the issue is something she and other mayors are preparing for.

“A lot of Mr. Trump’s policies haven’t been well advanced, and so we don’t know exactly what a Trump administration will bring,” Bowser says.

Bowser and Wells said regardless of who is president, they will continue to push for a greener D.C. As part of that initiative, Bowser said she wants more residents and businesses to start using solar power.

“We don’t only want the well-to-do, who own big homes, to have solar but we want people who live in apartments, we want their property owners to be able to buy solar and pass those savings along to, to residents of those buildings as well." Bowser said. “So that is our real focus, making sure we make solar accessible to more people.”

The District has been successful in getting low income families connected with solar power, Wells said.

“When we first came into office, the mayor launched an initiative to put 150 solar arrays on homes for free for low-income folks so they could benefit and we’ve been doing that each year,” Wells said.

“We’ll be generating, over the next 16 years, potentially up to a half-billion dollars of investing in solar, just in D.C. Working with the council, the mayor has directed that this is primarily to benefit low-income residents in the District that as their power bills go up and need that support, that the solar investments be deployed on their behalf.”

While the world can learn from D.C.’s example, there is still more to prepare for, Bowser said.

“We are a city that embraces science and needs to be prepared for any changes in climate and its effect on us," she said. "Whether it’s a heatwave, which we saw in August, 90 degree days for almost three days in a row, which impacts our city; whether it’s the storm events -- that some are expected, some are unexpected -- and preparation for flooding. People of Washington expect that we’re going to take care of our city, no matter what.”

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<![CDATA[Proposal Would Give Workers in DC 11 Weeks Paid Family Leave]]> Mon, 28 Nov 2016 19:01:24 -0500 http://media.nbcwashington.com/images/213*120/dc-flag-shutterstock_206336774.jpg

D.C. Council Chairman Phil Mendelson plans to propose a family leave bill that would provide up to 11 weeks of paid leave to workers in D.C.

Mendelson told News4 he has distributed highlights of the proposal to his Council staff and planned to brief Mayor Muriel Bowser soon.

Bowser and Mendelson have argued publicly about the proposal in the past. She issued a statement late Monday, expressing concern:

"The Mayor looks forward to reviewing Chairman Mendelson's full proposal once it is released to the public, however, without the full details she remains concerned that the legislation does not go far enough in putting D.C. families first," the statement reads. "This is about fairness, and if we are going to raise a quarter of a billion dollars in new taxes each year, then D.C. families should be the primary beneficiaries."

Mendelson’s new plan, which appears to have enough support to gain Council approval, would provide up to 11 weeks off for new parents and up to 8 weeks off for workers who need time to care for a family member. The original proposal provided up to 16 weeks paid leave.

Employees would be eligible to receive up to 90 percent of their pay with a weekly cap of $1,000.

Employees of the federal government would not be covered, nor would D.C. government employees. Workers at all other businesses would be covered, including part-time workers.

The new law would cover people who work in D.C., regardless of where they live. It would be funded by an increase to the payroll tax of 0.62 percent.

The first taxes would not be collected until 2019 and the first benefits would not be paid out until early 2020, according to Mendelson. 

D.C. government employees already receive up to eight weeks off for family leave, with 100 percent of their pay.

"The U.S. is behind most of the Western world with regard to offering benefits to families," Mendelson said. "Clearly this is an emerging trend and there’s a good reason for it. Benefits like this make it a more attractive place for workers and therefore employers."

The Council could take its first vote on Dec. 6 and a final vote Dec. 20.

News4 has not yet received a comment from Bowser.

Some councilmembers said they already support the plan.

“I am excited that paid family leave is moving to a vote next week," said Councilmember Elissa Silverman.

"Stressful life events -- good or bad -- like the welcoming of a new child or a grave illness in a worker’s family should not turn into financial hardships that have ripple effects on our city," she added.

Councilmember David Grosso had proposed his Universal Paid Leave Act more than a year ago and said he supported this version. "Even revised, this legislation offers the most expansive paid leave benefit in the country," Grosso said. "It puts workers in a better position to care for their families while providing a benefit that is not available anywhere else. That is something we should be very proud to vote for."

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<![CDATA[Flag Burning: DC Residents Say They Don't Like It, But Know It's Protected Speech]]> Tue, 29 Nov 2016 19:27:59 -0500 http://media.nbcwashington.com/images/213*120/20161129+Flag+Burning.jpg After Donald Trump made flag burning the topic of conversation again today when he shared his opinions via tweet, News4's Tom Sherwood wanted to find out what people in the District think. And he found flag burning is such an emotional issue for many Americans.]]> <![CDATA[The Divided House: How to Get Through Thanksgiving This Year]]> Wed, 23 Nov 2016 06:55:15 -0500 http://media.nbcwashington.com/images/213*120/clinton-trump2.jpg

Last Thanksgiving, "Saturday Night Live" parodied every stereotype in the book at a family holiday meal — the racist aunt, the transphobic grandfather, the progressive daughter disgusted by her relatives. Just as the characters launch into political arguments, a little girl rushes to the stereo to play Adele's "Hello." Everyone remembers their shared love of the British soul singer, and Thanksgiving dinner is saved.

While political tensions surged in the primaries, they’ve exploded since last November. The United States drilled even deeper into differences during an incendiary and scandalous general election. After all the heated debate, even Adele might not save some family and friends now. 

“We’re beyond unification,” said former Illinois Rep. Joe Walsh.

He made headlines in October after posting a tweet claiming “if Trump loses, I’m grabbing my musket.” Now, he says “the revolution’s going to continue” as “Americans give a large middle finger to the government.” 

The former Republican congressman has lived in another kind of divided house at home. While his family isn't very political, his friends are and range in ideological bent. Some are liberals, and many were never Trumpers during the campaign. Though most of them were able to talk politics while sipping a beer, “There were very few people where it got to the point where we couldn’t even discuss this race,” Walsh said. 

He's not alone in thinking it was a "tough year" for friends and families. 

"There were some hurt feelings that we wouldn't accept each other's viewpoints," Bill Seavey, whose perspective on the election differed from his wife's, told The Associated Press. "We're civil people, love each other and we agreed to disagree. But I'm glad the election is over."

Political divides have harmed personal relationships “that come Thanksgiving (are) going to be difficult to repair,” according to Charity Hagains, senior therapist at Noyau Wellness Center in Dallas, Texas.

“I always recommend people to never talk about politics,” Hagains said.

Texas has long been a Republican stronghold, but in 2016 it was more of a battleground than in the past. In relationships where couples may not share the same political beliefs, Hagains said she saw patients adopting the personas of both candidates and having "all-out battles if they (didn’t) keep themselves in check.” Some of her clients also experienced surges in post traumatic stress disorder symptoms from sexual assault and abuse because of Trump’s comments on women. 

Indeed, the 2016 presidential election’s effect on mental health in the U.S. was undeniable, according to data taken from the American Psychological Association’s 2017 Stress in America Survey.

“Fifty-two percent of American adults report that the 2016 election is a very or somewhat significant source of stress,” the APA released in a statement.

While millennials and older voters seemed especially concerned about the election results, Lynn Bufka, the APA’s associate executive director of practice research and policy, said that a moderate faction of Americans would just be “happy that the campaign is over and hopeful that the negative rhetoric and hateful communications will be done.”

The APA reported that there was a correlation between social media use and stress during the elections: 38 percent of respondents said that political posts online bothered them, and social media users were more likely to feel significant stress because of the elections than those who abstained from Twitter, Facebook, and other platforms.

High-profile tweets like Walsh’s got people’s attention, but average Americans also weighed in with ideas that countered those of former high school classmates and friends from back home, provoking combative replies.

“We certainly see that there appears to be less filter that goes on, that people will say things online that they would be much less likely to say to someone else’s face,” Bufka said. 

Hagains said that during the elections families threw most of their punches over the internet. Generational gaps led to comment wars, where passive aggressive posts created tensions among loved ones.

“People are usually reading these messages through the worst possible lens,” Hagains said. She joked that life was easier during past elections because she didn’t have to worry about her grandparents following her social media presence.

Facebook was founded in 2004, Twitter in 2006. Both were well established during the last two elections, but Hagains said she didn’t think politically driven social media was “as prevalent as it is now.” In 2015, the election was the most discussed topic worldwide on Facebook. Between January to Oct. 1, 2016, 5.3 billion likes, posts, comments, and shares from American users on the platform related to the presidential election.

Over the internet, loosened inhibitions and miscommunications make discord common. 

“I think it’s a lot harder to respectfully disagree, particularly when emotions are very high, and it seems that the rhetoric and the points of view have been pretty polarizing,” Bufka said. “In those situations it’s a lot harder to try to find the commonalities and the middleground. Which means that for families where there are differences, or communities where there are differences, the hurt is likely to be greater and the need for healing and figuring out how to re-engage and find the commonalities will be more challenging."

Bufka added, "It’s certainly doable, and it’s important to do that, but it is going to be more difficult.”

Hagains said that people can ease the transition by using "I feel" sentence structures, sharing their thoughts as opinions instead of fact. She also recommended that if people choose to talk politics, they should try to make conversations about policy instead of diverging into personal attacks. And at social events, attendees should consider whether it is more important to prove to others that they're right, or to enjoy the company. 

Bufka urged locals to try to connect with one another, and especially for Trump supporters, as the winners, to make amends with Hillary Clinton's followers. 

“First, if you’re not happy with the outcome, vent, let it out," she said. "But then think about, ‘Okay, this is what it is. How do we move forward, and what is it that we need to do to be able to move forward? Are there ways that we can try to make a difference?’”

Hagains emphasized the need to remind Clinton voters that they’re still part of the citizenry and their opinions are valued. “If your side loses, it’s hard not to feel that you’re not wanted,” she said. 

Vincent Hutchings, a professor at the University of Michigan and member of American National Election Studies, downplayed how much famililes are affected by politics. 

“It’s a relatively rare thing for most people to have a falling out about politics, mostly because most people don’t talk that much about politics,” he said. “Politics will not be uppermost in people’s mind, or it won’t be a potential casual topic of conversation anymore. And in that regard, some of the animosity may diminish on the mass level.”

Jeffrey Berry, a political science professor at Tufts, disagrees.

“Come December or January, there’ll still be a lot of political discussion… and it’s going to be really nasty,” he said. “It’s going to continue. There’s no reason an election marks the end to that. The day after will be just as nasty as the day before.”

But though Berry predicts continued issues on social media, he says mobilizing the public would take action that most people who use angry rhetoric online aren’t willing to execute in reality.

He also said that neighborhoods are becoming more politically homogeneous, so the healing process among neighbors should be expedited by their similar views.

While healthy relationships between family members may be imperative for a nice holiday dinner, a healing process for the country might not be the right path for America, according to Todd Gitlin, American studies professor at Columbia University. He blames the Republican party and the mass media for what he deemed an uninformed electorate. “They are forces of ignorance, and you can’t heal ignorance. You have to defeat it, you have to overcome it,” he said. 

He argued that you can’t reason with people who don’t believe in climate change but do think that doctors perform nine-month abortions. 

John Fortier, democracy project director at the Bipartisan Policy Center, said, "We shouldn’t expect that everybody’s going to agree.” 

But he thinks that government officials will lead by example, collaborating on less polemical issues like infrastructure and tax reform regardless of party.

As for families, Berry thinks ideological problems between mom and dad will probably be replaced by other concerns as Thanksgiving approaches. 

“I suspect families will heal more so than the country in general,” Berry said. “Family polarization revolves around many other things than politics. So eventually Uncle Fred will be forgiven for being for Trump.”



Photo Credit: Getty Images
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<![CDATA[Former DC Schools Chancellor to Meet With Trump for Cabinet]]> Mon, 21 Nov 2016 09:47:47 -0500 http://media.nbcwashington.com/images/213*120/l_l_michelle-rhee-1200px.jpg

The former chancellor of Washington, D.C., public schools is scheduled to meet with President-elect Donald Trump for a potential cabinet seat.

A Trump administration official said Michelle Rhee will be meeting with Trump in New Jersey on Saturday to discuss the secretary of education position. She is currently Sacramento, California’s, first lady, but she was the chancellor of D.C. schools from 2007 to 2010.

Her tenure in Washington courted controversy almost immediately after she took the position, closing 23 schools and firing 36 principals in her first year. In 2010, she fired 241 teachers under the terms of a new contract.

Rhee's aggressive style drew massive public attention. Rhee made the cover of Time magazine in 2008, and made an appearance in the 2010 documentary film “Waiting for Superman.”

“Michelle Rhee was a disaster in Washington D.C. She supported independent, privately-run charters -- sometimes for-profit,” Sacramento City Teachers Association Vice President Davis Fisher told KCRA. “Pretty much used private school rules and public money to continue the have and have-nots.”

Rhee was not active in education in Sacramento or in California.



Photo Credit: AP]]>
<![CDATA[Jaffe Report: Time to Free D.C. From Federal Taxes?]]> Fri, 18 Nov 2016 10:13:32 -0500 http://media.nbcwashington.com/images/213*120/dc-flag-shutterstock_206336774.jpg

Harry Jaffe, a longtime chronicler of the people and politics of Washington, D.C., writes a column for NBC Washington's First Read DMV blog.

Time to free D.C.! Not from Congress. Nor from the White House. Nor from federal control of the courts. 

With Donald Trump about to take up residence at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, the time is ripe to free residents of the District from federal taxes.

The new president could propose a tax-free D.C. in his first 100 days.

It wouldn’t be the craziest thing Donald Trump has said, from his denial of global warming or his diatribes on immigration or his railing against all environmental regulations.

But on tax incentives for inner cities, he might not be so off base.

There’s precedent in Republican politics, even in D.C. (more on that in a moment). And freeing the District from taxes fits perfectly with the president elect’s plan to revitalize urban areas. And it’s a simple fix. From many reports, Donald Trump is drawn to quick and dirty solutions, as opposed to drawn-out policy procedures.

President Trump could even pitch it as a bipartisan approach to solve problems in urban areas. Both parties have proposed similar ideas before.

Way back in 1990 Jesse Jackson and then-Mayor Marion Barry asked then-Delegate Walter Fauntroy to introduce a House bill that would exempt District residents from federal income tax. Fauntroy turned them down.

Five years later, legendary former GOP congressman Jack Kemp advocated exempting District residents from federal taxes as a stimulus for low-income residents. Kemp, who later ran for vice president, was devoted to the District and the well-being of American cities.

In 2000 Delegate Eleanor Holmes Norton introduced legislation to exempt D.C. residents from paying federal taxes, until the District got full voting rights in the House and Senate.

“We put the same demand on Congress that the founders of our nation put to King George: ‘Give us our vote, or give us our taxes,’” Norton said when she introduced her bill.

In 2014 the Internal Revenue Service said it collected $26.4 billion from D.C residents. In fact, those numbers show one reason that my incredible idea is unlikely to fly – the District just isn’t as desperate for a middle class as it was back in the day when Barry proposed the idea.

Norton introduced her 2000 bill to make a point, and she later withdrew it. Now she’s less dead set against removing federal taxes because the government might reduce services in exchange.

"With the elimination of some of its federal funds, the District would almost surely be compelled to raise local taxes in order to pay for many benefits and services provided by federal funds today," Norton says. Plus: "Many D.C. residents have expressed the view that an exemption from federal income taxes would draw an entirely new, ultra-rich demographic to the District, pushing out even more residents due to an increase in the cost of living, especially housing."

Council member Jack Evans, chairman of the finance committee, likes the idea of as tax free D.C. but agrees it would pack the nation's capital with the rich. They, of course, could pay more in local taxes which could in turn increase affordable housing.

But all that might not matter so much to Donald Trump. On the campaign trail Trump unveiled his urban renewal plan that would, among other things, call for “tax holidays” to spur inner city investment. In an Oct. 26 speech in Charlotte, N.C., Trump also suggested tax breaks for foreign companies that relocate to “blighted neighborhoods.”

Why not go all the way and lift the federal tax burden? Imagine how many companies and wealthy individuals would settle in the District. They could generate billions in local taxes, too.

“I think it’s a great idea,” says Grover Norquist. The president of Americans for Tax reform has never seen a tax increase worth making. “It would give you a model. Why not then in Detroit?”

Let's be honest about statehood and full voting rights in Congress. Despite all the fine rhetoric, good intentions and the vote for the statehood referendum, neither will get any traction with Trump in the White House and Republicans controlling both House and Senate. Let's accept this reality and make a trade: keep you vote, we keep our taxes.

President Trump would also have a personal reason to make the District a federal tax free zone. His flagship Trump Hotel on Pennsylvania Avenue would be assured of success in a town where wealthy individuals and corporations set up shop.

Plus, the president wouldn't have to change his tax habits. He hasn’t paid federal taxes in decades.

Why start now?

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<![CDATA[Former D.C. Schools Chief Censured by Ethics Board]]> Wed, 16 Nov 2016 16:16:20 -0500 http://media.nbcwashington.com/images/213*120/kaya+henderson.jpg

A former District of Columbia schools chancellor has been censured by the city's ethics board for soliciting a six-figure contribution from a company that was doing business with the school system.

The investigation of former chancellor Kaya Henderson, who stepped down in September, was launched in May after The Associated Press reported that she had asked major contractors to give money to a gala honoring teachers.

Among the companies she solicited was the city's troubled food-service contractor. The AP reported that Henderson asked Chartwells for a $100,000 contribution to the gala, just weeks after the company was accused in a whistleblower lawsuit of cheating the school system out of $19 million and serving spoiled food to city schoolchildren. Chartwells ended up making two $25,000 contributions to the event.

Several other companies that do business with the city also gave money to the gala, including Sodexo, a Chartwells rival that took over the food-service contract this school year. In response to questions from the AP, the school system acknowledged that Henderson had solicited contributions from Sodexo and other contractors.

City ethics rules prohibit city employees from soliciting money, including charitable contributions, from companies that do business with the city. The rules are meant to prevent the appearance of "pay to play'' politics in which contractors get preferential treatment in exchange for gifts or campaign contributions.

Henderson agreed to the censure, which is largely symbolic because she's no longer in office. The board can fine city officials up to $5,000 for violations but chose not to issue a fine.

Still, the episode complicates the legacy of Henderson's 5 years at the helm of city schools, during which she built a reputation as a national leader in urban education reform.

Henderson, who did not immediately return a message seeking comment, told the ethics board that she did not realize her actions were prohibited, according to a settlement agreement that was reached last week.

"The chancellor did not appreciate the distinction between soliciting funds from ordinary businesses that wanted to assist the District government and those that might be considered prohibited sources," said Darrin Sobin, the city's ethics director.

John Davis, who was one of Henderson's deputies, is serving as interim chancellor while Mayor Muriel Bowser searches for a permanent replacement.

Under Henderson, city schools saw gains in enrollment, standardized test scores and graduation rates. But that progress masked huge achievement gaps between white students and non-Asian minorities. Those gaps remained stubborn and grew in some cases. The improved test scores also coincided with the city becoming wealthier and the white population increasing.

One of Henderson's major initiatives was a rigorous evaluation system for teachers that's based, in part, on their students' standardized test scores. Henderson fired hundreds of teachers who received poor evaluations. Those who get the best marks are honored at the annual gala, known as Standing Ovation for D.C. Teachers, which is held at the Kennedy Center.

Chartwells, the food-service contractor, ended up paying $19.4 million to settle the whistleblower lawsuit, which alleged that the company had cheated the city through price-gouging and fraud, deliberately stockpiled food and allowed it to rot, and served spoiled food in cafeterias.



Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Sherwood's Notebook: The Political Richter Scale]]> Wed, 16 Nov 2016 06:09:36 -0500 http://media.nbcwashington.com/images/213*120/AP_16315701573479.jpg

We are not going to rehash last week’s presidential election.

You have seen and heard the results. You’re reading about the president-elect’s appointments.

Looking ahead is what we are doing — the aftershocks, you might call them.

The sound you hear in the background is the knife-sharpening recriminations bubbling up in the losing Democratic Party. Who will lead the Democrats in the midst of second-guessing and generational change? Should the party go more left or more centrist, really reaching out to disaffected middle-of-the-road white voters?

The Republicans are in a power-shifting tizzy among themselves, amid speculation over who’s in and who’s out and what the new president will do or more importantly allow to be done.

Given the uproar, we have some simple advice. If you are so inclined, get your Airbnb account in order and straighten up the extra room. There is going to be an onslaught of events in January.

■ Inauguration week. Whether you voted Republican or Democratic, or sat it out in a huff, there’s money to be made from folks arriving for the swearing-in ceremony. If you don’t cotton to the winners, there will be plenty of protesters looking for a convenient and inexpensive stay.

The day after the inauguration, there’s also the aspiration-imbued Women’s March on Washington (initially dubbed the Million Women March) set for Jan. 21. A large crowd is expected, but just like the Million Man March in 1995, prospects for a true million aren’t likely. However, attendance could be boosted by the extensive social media coverage we are already seeing, and any unusually large crowd will get attention.

You need to know that planning for the Jan. 20 official inauguration and its inaugural balls is complicated by many things, so stay tuned for what will be happening.

Which brings us to the third event that week.

After more than 40 years of large and smaller demonstrations, we think the March for Life on Jan. 27 could be one of the largest ever.

The March for Life is a professional nonprofit organization that has drawn hundreds of thousands of marchers, who have gathered each year since the 1973 Roe v. Wade decision by the U.S. Supreme Court legalizing abortion.

The size of the crowd has varied a lot depending on the weather and political climate. Given the Republican victories in Congress and the White House, it would seem the 2017 attendance could be significant.

The president-elect signaled in his interview with “60 Minutes” that he hopes — through court appointments — to send abortion-choice back for states to decide. The GOP’s 2016 platform had one of the strongest anti-abortion planks ever.

To sum up, the inauguration, the protests and the March for Life may lead some of you to just get out of town for the week, either for political or convenience reasons. For all who stay, buckle up.

■ Metro and the march. The marchforlife.org site has a special section on how to use Metro to and from the march. Its six tips include a reminder to “walk left, stand right” when using the escalators. Whatever your politics, you have to appreciate that these tips are being passed along to the thousands of out-of-town folks expected.

■ The lightning round:

 

  • Cheaper eats. Fairfax voters rejected a 4 percent tax on prepared food and beverages that could have raised as much as $100 million, most of which would have been used for pressing education needs. The vote was 48 percent in favor to 52 percent opposed. Sandra Bulova, chairman of the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors, acknowledged what she called an “uphill” battle for the tax, even though non-Fairfax residents would have paid more than a third of it. She was quoted in the Fairfax County Times predicting a protracted battle over the school budget in coming months to make up for the lost funds.
  • Time’s up. For the first time, Montgomery County voters approved term limits on elected leaders. Rejected in 2000 and 2004, this success means several council members’ political careers are over, although one or two may run for county executive since incumbent Isiah Leggett had already announced his intention to retire.
  • More government. Voters in growing Prince George’s County voted to add two at-large members to their nine-member council, which currently is divided into wards. The vote is seen as a way of getting council members to focus on county-wide issues, not just wards. Others see it as a way for current council members to get around the two-term limit for a seat in the county.

 

Tom Sherwood, a Southwest resident, is a political reporter for News 4.



Photo Credit: Alex Brandon/AP]]>
<![CDATA[DC Council to Take Final Vote on 'Death With Dignity' Bill]]> Tue, 15 Nov 2016 10:42:15 -0500 http://media.nbcwashington.com/images/213*120/dc-flag-shutterstock_206336774.jpg

District of Columbia lawmakers are set to vote for the final time on a bill that would allow terminally ill patients to end their own lives with the help of a doctor. 

The "Death with Dignity'' bill was approved earlier this month on an 11-to-2 vote. That's a veto-proof margin, and Mayor Muriel Bowser said she would not veto the legislation. The council will vote Tuesday on whether to send it to the mayor. 

The bill would allow patients with six months or less to live to request lethal medication from their doctors. Physician-assisted death is legal in five states. 

In the District, opponents expressed concern that poor people would be pushed to end their lives prematurely rather than undergo costly treatment. Supporters said those concerns were unfounded.

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<![CDATA[Harriet Tubman, Frederick Douglass Statues Proposed in Md.]]> Fri, 11 Nov 2016 12:56:16 -0500 http://media.nbcwashington.com/images/213*120/tubman+douglass.jpg

Two leading Maryland lawmakers want to commission statues of Harriett Tubman and Frederick Douglass for inside the Maryland State House. 

Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller and House Speaker Michael Busch made the proposal Friday in a letter to Lt. Gov. Boyd Rutherford. Rutherford is Gov. Larry Hogan's designee on the State House Trust, which oversees the historic building. 

Miller and Busch are proposing the statues for inside the Old House Chamber, which was restored in 2012 to look as it did in the 19th century, when Tubman and Douglass lived. 

Tubman and Douglass were famed abolitionists who were from Maryland's Eastern Shore. 

Miller and Busch say the statues would help visitors learn about important Maryland historic figures in the same room where the state abolished slavery in 1864.

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<![CDATA[DC Voters Elect Gray to Council, Approve Statehood Measure]]> Wed, 09 Nov 2016 12:02:11 -0500 http://media.nbcwashington.com/images/213*120/Vincent-Gray-AP_247605509720.jpg

Former D.C. Mayor Vincent Gray is headed back to the Wilson Building, and voters want Congress to make the District of Columbia the 51st state in the union. 

Gray won 87 percent of votes in his race for the Ward 7 D.C. Council seat. Independent Gary Butler won 7 percent, and Independent Christian Carter won 6 percent. 

Gray lost the 2014 Democratic mayoral primary amid a federal corruption probe.

Allegations of corruption within Gray's successful campaign to become mayor in 2010 began to surface just weeks after he took office. The U.S. attorney's office launched an investigation that ultimately led to six guilty pleas from people who helped Gray get elected. The probe revealed that an influential businessman poured $660,000 in illegal cash into the campaign, and prosecutors said in court that Gray knew about the illicit funding scheme. Gray denied all wrongdoing, and the investigation ended in late 2015 when prosecutors decided not to charge him

Eighty-six percent of voters approved the advisory referendum that asked voters "whether the [D.C. Council] should petition Congress to enact a statehood admission act to admit the State of New Columbia to the Union."

Fourteen percent of voters rejected the measure. 

Mayor Muriel Bowser thanked D.C. residents for their approval of the "bold, new path" to statehood.

"Today, nearly 80% of District voters cast a ballot for full democracy and citizenship. We pause tonight to celebrate this remarkable milestone in the District's decades-long fight for fundamental fairness," she said in a Facebook post.

Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton hailed the results.

"Today’s over-the-top majority signals D.C. recognizes that Congress needs a kick in the pants to jump start a new drive for statehood," she said in a statement.

Though D.C. residents pay federal taxes and fight in the military, they have no senators and only one congresswoman without voting powers.

“Despite the fact that we perform all the functions of a state, Washingtonians do not enjoy the rights of all Americans,” Mayor Muriel Bowser said in a speech to the Democratic National Committee in June.

DC Delegate to US House 
Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton will serve another term. 

Norton won 89 percent of votes. Norton has held the position since 1991. She faced Libertarian Martin Moulton and D.C. Statehood Green Party candidate Natale Stracuzzi.

At-Large DC Council Seats
Voters have decided to keep Independent David Grosso and Democrat Robert White as at-large D.C. Council members.

White won 53 percent of the vote. Grosso won 25 percent. Voters could select two candidates.

Their competitors were G. Lee Aikin of the D.C. Statehood Green Party, Republican Carolina Celnik, Independent John C. Cheeks and Libertarian Matthew Klokel.

DC Council Ward 2, Ward 4 and Ward 8
Ward 2 Councilman Jack Evans and Ward 4 Councilman Brandon Todd on after running unopposed.

In Ward 8, newcomer Trayon White also won after running unopposed.

Stay with News4 for more details on this developing story.



Photo Credit: AP
This story uses functionality that may not work in our app. Click here to open the story in your web browser.]]>
<![CDATA['One Word: Backlash': How Trump Won Frustrated Voters]]> Wed, 09 Nov 2016 12:59:37 -0500 http://media.nbcwashington.com/images/213*120/WRC_0000000016688691_1200x675_804791363505.jpg Donald Trump's message of "fear and anger" resonated with many voters and was an important factor in his surprising win over Hillary Clinton, according to Howard University Professor Michael Fauntroy. Fauntroy joined News4 to talk about how Trump's campaign successfully capitalized on the backlash of frustrated Americans.]]> <![CDATA[Virginia Rejects Right-to-Work Measure; Beyer Wins]]> Tue, 08 Nov 2016 23:57:48 -0500 http://media.nbcwashington.com/images/213*120/DonBeyer.jpg

Virginia voters headed to the polls Tuesday to select not just the next president, but also some new local leaders. They also had to decide whether to approve two amendments to the state's constitution and ballot initiatives.

Virginia's 8th Congressional District
Rep. Don Beyer has won his race to stay in the U.S. House of Representatives.

Beyer, a Democrat, won 68 percent of the vote for Virginia's 8th District seat. Charles Hernick (R) won 28 percent of the vote. Julio Gracia took 4 percent of the vote.

This will be Beyer's second term. He was formerly Virginia's lieutenant governor, and ambassador to Switzerland and Liechtenstein under President Barack Obama.

Virginia's 8th District includes Arlington, Alexandria, Falls Church and parts of Fairfax County.

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Right-to-Work Amendment to Virginia Constitution
Voters declined to enshrine Virginia's current right-to-work law as an amendment to the state constitution.

The results said 53 percent of voters rejected the measure. Forty-seven percent of voters approved it.

The state's current law bans employers from requiring union membership or from denying non-union members the right to work. The proposed amendment would place the provisions of this law into Virginia's constitution.

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Virginia's 10th Congressional District 
Rep. Barbara Comstock, a Republican, will keep her U.S. Senate seat after fending off challenger LuAnn Bennett, a Democrat.

Comstock won 55 percent of the vote. Bennett won 45 percent.

The freshman Republican's fight to retain her office has been seen as a bellwether for how Democrats and Republicans will fare in this election.

Virginia's 10th District includes parts of Fairfax County, Loudoun County and farther west toward the West Virginia border.

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Property Tax Exemptions for Survivors of First Responders
Virginians were asked to vote on property tax exemptions for the surviving spouses of emergency service providers who died in the line of duty.

The results said 80 percent of voters approved the measure. Twenty percent opposed it. 

The amendment will give localities the option of removing property taxes for the surviving spouses of any law enforcement officers, firefighters, search-and-rescue personnel, or emergency medical services personnel killed in the line of duty.

There is a current law, but it only extends to spouses of veterans with 100-percent service-connected, permanent and total disability, as determined by the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs.

In all cases, the exemption is not valid if the surviving spouse remarries.

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Arlington County Board 
Democrat Libby Garvey is up against challenger Audrey Clement, an independent, for the Arlington County Board.

Although Garvey is the current board chair, there is no guarantee that, if re-elected, she would be chair again. The board votes on that appointment at its annual meeting in January. 

Arlington County Board members serve staggered four-year terms, according to the county's website.

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Fairfax County Meals Tax
Fairfax County, Virginia, voters rejected a referendum on whether to tax prepared foods and restaurant meals.

The results said 56 percent of voters rejected the measure. Forty-four percent of voters supported it.

The tax would have applied to restaurant meals and already-prepared foods at grocery stores, such as items from hot food buffets and salad bars, but not groceries and food from vending machines.

If approved, the tax would have been up to 4 percent, but Fairfax County's Board of Supervisors said it would hold public hearings to establish the rate.

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Stay with News4 and NBCWashington.com for updates on this developing story.



Photo Credit: Don Beyer
This story uses functionality that may not work in our app. Click here to open the story in your web browser.]]>
<![CDATA[Sherwood's Notebook: 'Proof ...Our Flag Was Still There']]> Wed, 09 Nov 2016 04:47:25 -0500 http://media.nbcwashington.com/images/213*120/us+flag4.jpg

Whether your candidates won or lost, is there any hope our country will move beyond the political bitterness that now divides us?

It's remarkable to hear people on both the far left and far right point to Tuesday's election as proof positive the country itself is doomed.

Your Notebook has faith in America. We still like the ideal of "The Star-Spangled Banner" despite ongoing protests when it is sung and criticism of its racially tinged, barely known third stanza.

Whoever has won the presidency (our deadline came before the results) the country will survive and thrive. The doomsayers have every right to bemoan the tone, tenor and outcome of this election, but it is an insult to American voters to suggest we've lost our way permanently.

There are some Bernie Sanders voters still angry the country didn't embrace his progressive brand. The idea of voting for Hillary Clinton was anathema. The feeling was matched for different reasons on the far right.

Donald Trump ran an extraordinary campaign that will be dissected for decades. Were his early primary victories a measure of him or the dissatisfaction of the country?

Whatever the results, and however our national anthem falls short, your Notebook is hoping — corny as it may sound — that a substantial majority of Americans can still believe that we are still "the land of the free, and the home of the brave."

■ Early voting. A lot of people could not wait until the official Election Day.

In Maryland, the State Board of Elections told us that 859,928 people cast early ballots during the week of early voting. That number doubled the 2012 turnout of 430,573 votes.

In the District, about 101,000 people voted early, a substantial increase over 2012.

In Fairfax County, one in six voters cast an absentee ballot. Virginia, unlike Maryland and the District, does not allow simple early voting. You have to meet one of 14 reasons you can't show up on Election Day. (To Virginia's credit, one of those reasons is that you are in jail, either awaiting trial or being held on a misdemeanor conviction. Felons with convictions in place can't vote, but ask Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe if you want to know more about that.)

There were lots of local issues on ballots in the Washington region. We'll take a look at some of them next week when the dust settles.

■ Next up, the inauguration. Some disappointed folks whose candidate lost can look forward to being out of town the week of Jan. 15 to 24. That's Inauguration Week.

It will be the 58th presidential inauguration.

Something called the Joint Task Force-National Capital Region 58th Presidential Inauguration is leading planning for the quadrennial event. Its website will have information on inaugural events, as well as current and historic photos and other interesting aspects of the week.

The Joint Task Force coordinates all of the military ceremonial support activities during inaugural week. It notes that the military has participated in inaugural ceremonies dating back to George Washington in 1789. But that is just one of the organizations gearing up for the 2017 inauguration.

The Joint Congressional Committee on Inaugural Ceremonies plans and carries out the swearing-in ceremonies on Capitol Hill, as well as the traditional luncheon that follows.

The Presidential Inauguration Committee will be set up shortly after this election by the president-elect. It will handle large and small decisions about the shape and feel of the inauguration.

All of these committees will work right up to the week of the inauguration, planning activities. In December, all the planners will gather at the D.C. Armory. That’s where a 60-by-40-foot planning map will be displayed as they go over the details of the big day. Military officials say on the Sunday before the inauguration, there will be a full dress rehearsal at sunrise.

■ Metro will be there. So there's a lot going on for that week. And one final thing, Metrorail has already said it will be open with longer hours for the installation of our new president. Some of you know your Notebook has an extreme suggestion that we made as an analyst on WAMU 88.5's Politics Hour. We suggested Metro close down for the whole inaugural week to prove to the federal government how important the system is and to suggest Congress get on board with helping Metro with operating appropriations and restructuring rather than just criticizing it.

We have never expected Metro to take such a daring step, but somehow, the federal government needs to get in the game with Metro. It is the spine of the region's mass transit network. It shouldn't be allowed to wither because of bad management and poor funding. Even if Metro were expertly run — and few organizations are — there wouldn't be enough money to run it successfully.

Tom Sherwood, a Southwest resident, is a political reporter for News 4.

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<![CDATA[Virgina Democrats Celebrate Wins]]> Wed, 09 Nov 2016 10:30:41 -0500 http://media.nbcwashington.com/images/213*120/WRC_0000000016680929_1200x675_804334659570.jpg Virginia Governor Terry McAuliffe celebrated the successes of Virginia's democratic candidates today Tuesday in Falls Church, Virginia. It's the same place LuAnn Bennett conceded the race for the state's 10th congressional district. News4's David Culver reports.]]> <![CDATA[Fairfax County Rejects Meals Tax]]> Wed, 09 Nov 2016 08:13:29 -0500 http://media.nbcwashington.com/images/213*120/shutterstock_74171587.jpg

Fairfax County, Virginia, voters rejected a referendum Tuesday on whether to tax prepared foods and restaurant meals. 

Results showed that 56 percent of voters rejected the measure. Forty-four percent of voters supported it. 

The tax would have applied to restaurant meals and already-prepared foods at grocery stores, such as items from hot food buffets and salad bars. It would have excluded nonprofits and volunteer organizations that fundraise with food. It also would not have applied to groceries and food from vending machines. 

The tax could have been up to 4 percent, but Fairfax County's Board of Supervisors had planned to hold public hearings to establish the rate and terms of the meal tax. Businesses would have been permitted to keep a small percentage of the tax. 

The board introduced the referendum in an effort to reduce dependence on real estate taxes for revenue, the county said on its website. Officials said the meals tax could generate an additional $99 million per year, with 70 percent of it dedicated to funding for schools and the other 30 percent for county services, capital improvements and property tax relief.

Opponents had argued that the tax would disproportionately affect lower-income and middle-income families who rely on prepared meals. They also said the tax would negatively affect tourism. 

Fairfax County residents rejected a similar referendum in 1992. 

Herndon, Falls Church, Vienna, Arlington, Alexandria and Washington, D.C., all have meals taxes. D.C.'s meal tax is the highest, at 10 percent. 

Stay with News4 and NBCWashington.com for updates on this developing story.



Photo Credit: Shutterstock
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<![CDATA[Northern Virginia Divided Over Candidates, Issues]]> Tue, 08 Nov 2016 17:48:34 -0500 http://media.nbcwashington.com/images/213*120/WRC_0000000016678274_1200x675_804053059735.jpg News4's David Culver spoke with people in Loudoun and Fairfax counties Tuesday, who cast ballots for different candidates. One man split his vote, going with a Democrat in one race and a Republican in another.]]> <![CDATA[What's Does High Voter Turnout Mean for This Year's Election?]]> Tue, 08 Nov 2016 12:58:01 -0500 http://media.nbcwashington.com/images/213*120/WRC_0000000016674360_1200x675_803829827560.jpg Howard University professor Michael Fauntroy explains how high voter turnout may benefit, or hurt, the presidential candidates. NBC4 Barbara Harrison reports.]]> <![CDATA[Decision 2016: Virginia Votes for Next President]]> Tue, 08 Nov 2016 12:56:39 -0500 http://media.nbcwashington.com/images/213*120/WRC_0000000016673908_1200x675_803774019563.jpg Virginia is lining up today at polling places to vote for the next president. NBC4's Molette Green reports.]]> <![CDATA[PHOTOS: DC-Area Voters Share Election Day Pics]]> Thu, 10 Nov 2016 19:01:06 -0500 http://media.nbcwashington.com/images/213*120/voters6.jpg Voters in Maryland, Virginia and Washington, D.C., will decide Tuesday whether Democrat Hillary Clinton or Republican Donald Trump will become the next president of the United States. (Have photos to share? Send them to isee@nbcwashington.com!) ]]> <![CDATA[Voter Registration Deadlines: Dates for DC, Md., Va.]]> Mon, 17 Oct 2016 04:51:50 -0500 http://media.nbcwashington.com/images/240*120/20160919+Register+To+Vote.jpg

Deadlines are approaching for voter registration -- and, in some places, early voting is beginning.

Here's a guide to the voter registration and voting dates in our area:

VOTER REGISTRATION

In the District of Columbia, online voter registrations must be completed by Oct. 11; mailed-in applications must be postmarked by Oct. 11. Registering in person at the D.C. Board of Elections can be done as late as Election Day itself, Nov. 8.

In Virginia, the voter registration deadline in Virginia is Oct. 17 for online, mailed and in-person applications. The deadline to request an absentee ballot is Nov. 1 at 5 p.m. if you're mailing your request, or Nov. 5 at 5 p.m. if you're requesting one in person.

In Maryland, Oct. 18 is the last day to turn in an application online or mail it to either the local or state board of elections.

However, you can also register during early voting at the early voting centers in each county in Maryland. Early voting runs from Oct. 27 to Nov. 3, from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m.

EARLY VOTING

Early voting in D.C. starts Oct. 22 at One Judiciary Square and on Oct. 29 at several community centers throughout the District. Go here for a list, hours and wait times.

Virginia does not allow early voting, but you can vote absentee (see below for details).

In Maryland, early voting starts Oct. 27. Go here for more information and a list of early voting sites.

ABSENTEE VOTING

Like voting deadlines, absentee ballot deadlines differ slightly from state to state as well.

If voting via absentee ballot in D.C., the Board of Elections must receive the request to receive the ballot by no later than November 1 (you can also apply online). Then, your voted balclicklot must be received by Election Day. 

In Virginia, applications to receive an absentee ballots in the mail must be processed by Nov. 1 by 5 p.m. (you can apply online here). The deadline changes to Nov. 5 if requesting a ballot in person.

Absentee ballots must be received by Nov. 1 in Maryland as well (here's a link to the form you'll need). You can also download an absentee ballot online, which must be done by Nov. 4.

In Maryland, you'll have to postmark your absentee ballot by election day, and it must be received by Nov. 18. You can also hand-deliver your voted ballot to your local board of elections by 8 p.m. on election day.



Photo Credit: Shutterstock / Joseph Sohm]]>
<![CDATA[The Jaffe Report: Local D.C. Should Have a Viable GOP]]> Mon, 07 Nov 2016 19:28:03 -0500 http://media.nbcwashington.com/images/213*120/20161107+Trump+Rally.jpg

Harry Jaffe, a longtime chronicler of the people and politics of Washington, D.C., writes a column for NBC Washington's First Read DMV blog.

Guess who will not be elected to anything tomorrow with votes cast in the District of Columbia? Anyone from the Republican Party. Here in the nation’s capital we live under a one-party system.

Donald Trump has no chance in D.C., of course. Of the 19 D.C. delegates to the Republican National Convention, not one voted for Trump.

But at least the Republican presidential candidate will be on the ballot. Thanks to the 23rd Amendment to the Constitution, we otherwise disenfranchised, taxpaying residents of the District can vote for president and have standing in the Electoral College.

But in local elections for mayor, Congress and council, the GOP does not count. On Election Day tomorrow voters can cast ballots for our one delegate to Congress, two at-large council members, four ward candidates. The D.C. GOP failed to field candidates in all but one race.

Carolina Celnik will be on the at-large ballot, but she has less of a chance to win as Hillary Clinton in Wyoming.

"It's a difficult time to run as a Republican in the District," said Patrick Mara, executive director on the local GOP. "Things will get easier."

"Difficult" is one term; "mathematically impossible" is another.

The Board of Election counts 29,862 registered Republicans compared to 363,642 Democrats, for more than a 10-1 advantage.

"We are still in the wilderness years," said Mara, who's run for council and briefly held a seat on the Board of Education.

The local GOP has been in the wilderness thanks to its own insularity. For years it lay in the lair of the white, wealthy set in Georgetown. In a city that’s been predominantly African American for decades, that was not a prescription for success.

The Home Rule Charter says one of the four at-large members must not be a member of the dominant party. For decades the estimable Republican Carol Schwartz held that seat. Since she got knocked off in 2008, Democrats have changed their affiliation to Independent to satisfy the Home Rule Act.

The D.C. GOP has been vestigial and clubby at best. Now it’s close to inoperative, thanks to mismanagement and fraud.

Mara says former executive director Ron Phillips left the local party tens of thousands of dollars in debt. Earlier this year former executive director Robert Turner pleaded guilty to embezzling $7,631 from the party’s coffers.

"Makes it hard for us to talk about corruption," Mara said.

So we are left to live in a Soviet-style political system, where one party controls every local elected office. The lack of a conservative voice – social or fiscal – might become more glaring with the current, progressive council.

The one-party dominance doesn’t bother some on the academic side.

"It's true," writes George Washington University's Chris Klemek, "though the situation is hardly unique in American cities – nor for that matter, in electoral districts generally."

True, but even in political districts gerrymandered to favor one party, the other party at least functions and fields candidates. Not in D.C.

"It's no more or less fair than Utah," says Jamie Raskin, American University Law School professor who’s a Democrat running for Congress in largely Democratic Montgomery County. "Utah sends only Republicans to Congress."

Yes, but there is a viable Utah Democratic Party that fields candidates in every major election.

As a lifelong Democrat, I miss the bump and grind that might come from a robust local Republican Party. Democracy thrives on the clash of ideas and policies. D.C would be better off with a viable GOP.

I would even welcome a few Trump supporters. It would make the nation’s capital city more like the rest of the country.



Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>