<![CDATA[NBC4 Washington - Politics]]> Copyright 2015 http://www.nbcwashington.com/news/politics http://media.nbcbayarea.com/designimages/WASH+NBC4+BLUE.png NBC4 Washington http://www.nbcwashington.com en-us Fri, 22 May 2015 07:35:26 -0400 Fri, 22 May 2015 07:35:26 -0400 NBC Owned Television Stations <![CDATA[Sherwood's Notebook: Militarized Policing Takes a Hit]]> Wed, 20 May 2015 05:38:34 -0400 http://media.nbcwashington.com/images/213*120/topNews-obama-militarization-police.jpg

Is it an Army Ranger maneuvering down the street, or your neighborhood police officer?

Is it a Marine assault task force, or the county sheriff’s office?

Since the late 1990s, it’s been difficult to tell the difference between America’s armed forces and what are supposed to be local police departments.

But that’s changing.

President Barack Obama announced on Monday that the Department of Defense would scale back its freewheeling program of selling billions of dollars of surplus military assault weapons for pennies on the dollar to local law enforcement officers.

The list of newly banned sales includes “tanks and other tracked armored vehicles, weaponized aircraft and vehicles, firearms and ammunition measuring .50-caliber and larger, grenade launchers and bayonets,” according to NBC News.

Local law enforcement groups that participate in the remaining program must also adopt community policing programs that require regular interaction between officers and the public. The New York Times reported that $160 million in federal funds will help local police adopt those community-friendly policies.

The decision to scale back the police militarization came from the president’s task force on police and community relations. That task force was headed by Philadelphia Commissioner Charles Ramsey, who formerly led D.C. police.

The report in part says, “The substantial risk of misusing or overusing these items, which are seen as militaristic in nature, could significantly undermine community trust and may encourage tactics and behaviors that are inconsistent with the premise of civilian law enforcement.”

The Department of Defense program (DOD 1033) began operating in 1997 after it was created with the National Defense Authorization of 1990. In part, it was to wean the overstuffed military equipment stockpiles and to give more firepower to local police fighting the War on Drugs. As Newsweek magazine said at the time, if police were going to be fighting a war, then the police needed to be armed for it.

A report said that as of 2014 there were 8,000 law enforcement agencies signed up to buy equipment and that nearly $6 billion in off-price sales had been recorded.

The militarization of police, some feel, began to fall out of favor with the civil unrest in Ferguson, Mo. Whatever the tipping point, police officers face real problems in combating crime, potential terrorism or domestic violence like the biker shootout in Waco, Texas.

But day to day, they also are members of our communities. They are sworn to uphold the law, not to occupy the streets. Community policing needs to mean something, even in — or most especially in — “bad neighborhoods.”

The police and all citizens should welcome a more realistic look at how we arm our police officer neighbors.

■ Initial praise. In suburban Maryland, the president’s decision to curb police militarization won immediate praise from Montgomery County Rep. Chris Van Hollen, who is running for the U.S. Senate.

With the Baltimore riot fresh in everyone’s mind, Van Hollen released a statement on Monday.
“President Obama’s decision to limit military-style equipment for local police forces is a productive step toward community oriented policing,” Van Hollen said. “We must address the fear and distrust of law enforcement that exists in too many of our communities.”

Van Hollen is a co-sponsor of a bill in Congress (the Stop Militarizing Law Enforcement Act) that goes even further.

The American Civil Liberties Union also issued its support. Kanya Bennett, legislative counsel in the ACLU’s Washington office, said the president’s move is “a critical step towards rebuilding trust between police and the people they are pledged to serve.”

The ACLU released a recent report “War Comes Home” detailing the military sales.

■ Bad call. The Notebook last week wrote pretty glowingly of the city’s sports teams, only to see the Wizards and Caps flame out of playoff berths. Maryland State Sen. Richard Madaleno of Montgomery County took a moment on the WAMU “Politics Hour” last Friday to blame us for the collapse.

Fortunately the Nationals didn’t disappoint, compiling a 5-2 record during their recent West Coast road trip. And Monday, right fielder Bryce Harper was named the National League Player of the Week for the second week in a row. That’s a back-to-back feat achieved by only 10 players since the weekly award began in 1974.

Just for the record, Harper went 12 for 23 in the week to have an out-of-sight batting average of .522. He accounted for three home runs, one triple, two doubles, nine walks, two stolen bases and 10 runs.

So, we weren’t a jinx to everyone.


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



Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Jim Kenney Wins Philly Mayoral Bid]]> Thu, 21 May 2015 00:15:24 -0400 http://media.nbcwashington.com/images/214*120/AP142050022358.jpg

Jim Kenney is poised to become Mayor of Philadelphia after winning the Democratic Party's nomination in Tuesday's primary.

"I am honored and forever humbled by the coalition of support that made me the Democratic nominee for mayor of the City of Philadelphia," the 57-year-old former at large city councilman proclaimed during his victory speech surrounded by family, former council members and key supporters.

Kenney was declared the winner at 9:03 p.m. with 62 percent of the vote. Only 24 percent of precincts had reported when the race was decided. The numbers narrowed as more votes were recorded, but he still carried the vote 2-1 or 56 percent.

Kenney bested five other opponents — Anthony Hardy Williams; Lynne Abraham; Nelson Diaz; Doug Oliver; and Milton Street — but his victory is far from a surprise. Heading into May, a poll of 600 likely voters showed Kenney had a huge 42 percent lead over his opponents. The survey was the only independent poll of the primary race and was conducted for NBC10/Telemundo 62, The Philadelphia Inquirer, Daily News and Philly.com.

Williams and Abraham each had 15 percent of pie while the others had 5 percent or less.

Kenney had the most endorsements including vital support from former colleagues on city council and several unions including the electricians, FOP and teachers. Some of the most important backing came from prominent African-American politicians from Northwest Philadelphia including Councilwomen Cindy Bass and Marian Tasco and state representative Dwight Evans.

"Our campaign was a broad and unprecedented coalition of diverse groups many of whom came together for the first time to support me," Kenney said.

Known for his big personality and sometimes brash comments in person and on Twitter, the South Philadelphia-native said he'd like to provide universal prekindergarten education, raise minimum wage to $15 an hour and banish stop-and-frisk. They're all topics that were of top importance to voters, our polling showed.

Kenney spent 23 years in council and was seen for being progressive on issues like the environment, ethics and marijuana decriminalization. He's long supported the LGBT community, police and firefighters as well.

But he has walked back on comments about police's use of force, which some likened to brutality, and, years ago, distanced himself from former state senator Vince Fumo, who was convicted of corruption.

Kenney will now face lone Republican challenger Melissa Murray Baily in the November general election, but he's expected to win as Democrats outnumber Republicans 7-1 in the city. He said he'll be spending the next six months earning every vote.

"We need this coalition to grow even larger," he said "Together I know we can achieve even greater things, so let’s get to work."



Photo Credit: AP
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<![CDATA[Should College Be Free? Bernie Sanders Says So]]> Tue, 19 May 2015 19:35:57 -0400 http://media.nbcwashington.com/images/213*120/471658670.jpg

Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vermont, announced a proposal Tuesday that would make undergraduate tuition at four-year public colleges and universities free to students. The idea would be largely funded through new fees on Wall Street.

“It'll strengthen our economy and give us a better-educated workforce,” said Sen. Sanders, who is also running to the left of Hillary Clinton in seeking the Democratic nomination for the White House.

The Wall Street speculation fee would be levied on investment houses, hedge funds, and other speculators, according to a summary of the legislation posted on the website of Sen. Sanders. The fees would amount to $.50 on every $100 of stock. A .1 percent fee would be tacked onto bonds and a .005 percent charge would be levied on derivatives.

It is estimated that the fees could raise hundreds of billions of dollars a year, Sanders said. Through that, the federal government would cover two-thirds of the free college tuition, with states responsible for the remaining third, according to the legislation summary.

Nationally, total tuition at public colleges and universities amounts to about $70-billion a year, according to the office of Sen. Sanders.

The Independent, who is a self-described Democratic Socialist and admirer of how several European nations provide free higher education, also wants lower interest rates on student loans. The legislation Sanders introduced would give borrowers the ability to refinance student loans at lower interest rates, as homeowners can currently do with their mortgages.

“It is totally absurd that in America today, we have hundreds of thousands of bright young people who can no longer afford to go to college,” Sanders told necn.

Other reforms the College for All Act would implement include expanding the federal work study program, which offers part-time employment to students, and simplifying the student aid application process, Sanders added.

As for Sanders' proposal to tax Wall Street to make college free, many observers believe the GOP-controlled Congress will pay little or no attention. Still, Sanders said Washington has to do a better job of listening to families struggling to pay for education.

Separately, education leaders in Vermont announced Tuesday that high schoolers can continue taking up to two college courses free.

“This is really quite a big deal,” said Jeb Spaulding, the chancellor of the Vermont State Colleges. “It’s really a major economic advancement tool for many students who wouldn’t otherwise get to post-secondary education.”

A state law was about to make towns kick in half the costs, possibly stifling participation in the so-called “dual enrollment” program which more than 1,000 Vermont students took part in in the past year, according to Gov. Peter Shumlin, D-Vermont.

A new fix means the state education fund will now cover the costs of that coursework, Shumlin announced, noting he would like to see more students apply to dual enrollment programs before upcoming deadlines.

Kenyan-born Lule Aden, 18, a senior at Burlington High School, said she enjoyed taking University of Vermont classes well before she even graduated high school. She said she will be the first in her family to go to college when she heads to UVM in the fall, planning to study communication sciences and disorders.

“Taking these courses, getting a feel of how college feels, and how the courses are, and how long classes are, I feel more prepared for it,” Aden said, describing how her dual enrollment experience left her more ready for college. “And I'm going to be able to do it and hopefully be successful.” 

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<![CDATA["Hello, Twitter!" President Obama Gets His Own Account]]> Mon, 18 May 2015 12:43:35 -0400 http://media.nbcwashington.com/images/213*120/obama-blackberry-459365998.jpg

President Barack Obama has joined the Twitterverse. 

With his second term more than halfway through, the president sent his inaugural tweet from a new @POTUS Twitter account on Monday. 

The verified account, which attracted more than 146,000 followers within 30 minutes of posting the first tweet, carries the bio "Dad, husband, and 44th President of the United States."

The official @WhiteHouse account retweeted the message and posted confirmation of its own.

The tweet wasn't the first 140-character missive sent from the 44th president. The White House's existing practice was to sign tweets from the president on the @BarackObama handle with his initials, "-bo." That @BarackObama account, launched in March 2007, is run by the staff of Obama's non-profit Organizing for Action group. 

The new account followed all major Chicago sports teams except one — the Cubs. 



Photo Credit: AFP/Getty Images
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<![CDATA["SNL" Heralds the Summer of Hillary Clinton]]> Sun, 17 May 2015 06:37:59 -0400 http://media.nbcwashington.com/images/213*120/Hillary-Clinton-SNL-Louis-CK-16-May-2015-2.jpg

Summer is only a calendar page away. But nevermind the sunny skies and balmy breezes: the season of straw polls and caucuses has arrived, and Hillary Clinton was in campaign mode on "Saturday Night Live."

In the musical opening sketch, the former senator and secretary of state (portrayed in her latest "SNL" incarnation by a manic, delighftully unhinged Kate McKinnon) took to beaches and sand castles to introduce herself to a younger generation.

"May I have just a moment of your summer? I'm Hillary Clinton and I'm running for president of these United States," said Clinton, clawing at the air, her hands like pincers.

"But that's not for a long time," one (Kenan Thompson) said. "Now it's summer vacation."

"My last vacation was in 1953," she replied. "I played one round of hopscotch with a friend. I found it tedious. Why hop when you can march — straight to the White House."

She then issued her percussive laugh — something like "ah HA HA haaaaaa" — as her mouth curled into a snarling rictus.

She spoke with some kids (Aidy Bryant and Pete Davidson), whose parents remained resolutely against her political aspirations.

"I like your sand castle," she said.

"Thanks," Bryant's character replied. "It's our dream house."

"That's nice. This is my dream house," Clinton said, embracing a massive, sandy model of the White House.

Also on the campaign trail were a few surfers (Kyle Mooney, Jay Pharoah and Beck Bennett).

“Hey there, 18-to-25-year-olds," she said, stiffly hula-twisting up to a surfboard. "How does it hang?”

Blank stares.

"You know what's cool? In two years I'll be 69," Clinton said. (More blank stares). "You like that? Bill told me to tell that to young males."

The former president made a brief appearance himself (in the person of longtime "SNL" impersonator Darrell Hammond), if only to help a young woman (Sasheer Zamata) apply sunscreen.

"Billary Rodham Clinton, what are you doing?" the former first lady hissed at her husband.

"Sorry," Mr. Clinton told Zamata's character. "It's my mom."

The Clintons weren't the only political dynasty to take some flak on Saturday night. On "Weekend Update," co-host Colin Jost skewered Jeb Bush for his fumbled responses to questions related to his brother's record in Iraq.

"Jeb Bush said in an interview this week that, like his brother, he would have authorized the invasion of Iraq," Jost said. "But he wouldn't have done it for the same George did: to capture the genie from Aladdin."

Jost also noted that Jeb Bush faced criticism during a Nevada town hall meeting, where a college student said George W. Bush "created ISIS."

"But that's really not fair," Jost said. "It's more like he co-created it," as a photo of Bush and former Vice President Dick Cheney appeared.



Photo Credit: Broadway Video
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<![CDATA[Sherwood's Notebook: D.C. Sports and That 'Skins Name]]> Thu, 14 May 2015 09:51:38 -0400 http://media.nbcwashington.com/images/213*120/shutterstock_231981787.jpg

There have been explosive cheers in town recently for the Washington Wizards, the Capitals, D.C. United and the Nationals. In one Nats game last week, Bryce Harper hit three home runs; maybe it's a taste of what's to come from his career.

Unfortunately, the Capitals lost Game 7 in overtime to the Rangers on Wednesday night. And John Wall's wrist injury is complicating the Wizards' route to the Eastern Conference finals. But overall, it's good news for D.C. sports.

"Our hockey team, our basketball team, our soccer team, our baseball team -- all located in the city -- are all doing great," says Ward 2 D.C. Council member Jack Evans, who commented before the Caps' collapse on Sunday.

The only real sour spot? The Washington Redskins play in the suburbs.

Ever since Mayor Tony Williams took office in 1999, Evans and other city leaders have been trying to get the football team to return to the District, ideally with a domed stadium located on the site of the old RFK -- and paid for by the team, not taxpayers. Williams talked strategy about bringing in the team throughout his tenure, as did Adrian Fenty.

Then-Mayor Vincent Gray also backed bringing the 'Skins to the city, but he aggressively joined the campaign to force the team to change its name. Gray got to the point where he would not even say "Redskins."

Mayor Muriel Bowser is aware of the name controversy, but she also sees a billion-dollar business that belongs in the city. She made a strategic decision to send a message to the team by sparingly using the "Redskins" name in her quotes.

"We know that the perfect location for the Redskins is where they played for decades very successfully," she told NBC4 last week. "We have the infrastructure sitting on top of a Metro station" at the RFK site. She also made similar comments to WMAL radio last week and again on Monday to NBC4's Mark Segraves.

Both Bowser and Evans say any new stadium would coexist with lots of land turned over to local development for long-sought retail, grocery stores, playgrounds and open space for residents who live near RFK.

"We have the ability to make it more than a sports stadium," Bowser told us. "The surrounding neighborhoods want more play spaces, more active areas for children and families."

Many of those residents are skeptical they can benefit from the team's arrival. Ward 6 D.C. Council member Charles Allen, who represents the area, flatly told NBC4, "I do not support the team coming back to RFK." Allen suggested he might support the team at a different location "with the right plan."

But at a minimum, D.C. leaders feel they're back in the game. Team sources have indicated that Prince George's County may have trouble keeping the team with the FedEx Field lease expiring in a few years. Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe has bragged that the team would be relocating to Loudoun County.

Evans scoffs at the transportation problems in Prince George's that would be replicated in Loudoun. "There's no better site than RFK in the metropolitan region," Evans said. "And everybody knows it."

■ MLB "security" barriers. Major League Baseball should leave the playing of games on the field.

At Nats Park and elsewhere, MLB is requiring the use of metal detectors. That's even though there is no credible -- or even sorta credible -- evidence that ballparks are any more a terrorist target than are any other site of mass gathering. We were outside the center field gate on Opening Day. The Nats get a pat on the back (not a "pat down") for having tried to usher fans quickly through the new metal detectors. Still, a crowd of several hundred, maybe more than a thousand, fans were queued up just outside the gates. Well, we thought ominously, what a perfect place for a terrorist to set off a bomb.

That kind of horrible incident would have impact whether it was inside or outside the gate. So what good are the metal detectors here?

The same is true, as we've written, about the thousands of families that line up at Orlando's airport security stations. The crowds are brimming with parents, children and stuffed Mickeys and Minnies. There's no security for this captive crowd, where anyone intending harm can just walk up.

These scenes of potential destruction and horror and death are replicated all over our free country. And that's the point. Security bureaucrats are spending trillions of dollars on buzzers and barriers and bomb-sniffing equipment in a Sisyphean frenzy to make Americans "feel" safe. But no matter how many security barriers they roll uphill, it never will be enough.

Washington Post writer Alexandra Petri recently derided the MLB initiative, noting that it was also possible "that someone could fire a blow dart at me RIGHT NOW and I should stop typing to duck under the desk."

More seriously, she quoted "security theater" critic Bruce Schneier on the ballpark idea.

"As a security measure, the new devices are laughable," Schneier writes. "The ballpark metal detectors are much more lax than the ones at an airport checkpoint. They aren't very sensitive -- people with phones and keys in their pockets are sailing through -- and there are no X-ray machines."

There are too many places in America where crowds gather in significant numbers: subway stations, shopping malls, theaters, museums, houses of worship, schools and colleges, train track crossings, et cetera, et cetera, et cetera. Security bureaucracy, security theater, security scare tactics -- whatever you call it, it's not the way to live lives in the land of the free and the home of the brave.

■ The real fear. We always feel the need to point out the real fear of all these security folks, no matter where they are. That fear is that something terrible will happen and some member of Congress or some department head will ask the most dreaded of questions: "Why didn't you...?" Whatever the incident, there's always something that could have been done or shouldn't have been done.

There is no foolproof defense against any of that second-guessing. None.

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



Photo Credit: Shutterstock]]>
<![CDATA[D.C. Mayor Saying "Redskins" Again]]> Tue, 12 May 2015 09:22:33 -0400 http://media.nbcwashington.com/images/213*120/461046870.jpg

Washington, D.C., Mayor Muriel Bowser is changing her tune in an effort to bring the Redskins back to Washington.

Last year, as a D.C. Council member, Bowser signed a council resolution calling for the team to change its name, which many consider a racial slur.

In the past, she had said a name change should be part of any talks about bringing the team back to D.C

But the mayor recently started using the name in TV and radio interviews.

“We know the perfect location for the Redskins is where they played for decades very successfully,” Bowser said.

Bowser is not disputing reports that she's talking with the team about moving back to Washington.

Multiple sources, including a senior Bowser administration official, told News4 the mayor has been advised to start using the name as a way to show good faith with owner Dan Snyder.

The Redskins played their last game at Robert F. Kennedy Memorial Stadium in Washington, D.C., in 1996. The next year, the team moved to Jack Kent Cooke Stadium in Landover, Maryland. The stadium was later renamed FedExField.



Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[GROSS: Rand Paul Staffer Licks Super PAC's Camera]]> Mon, 11 May 2015 19:47:52 -0400 http://media.nbcwashington.com/images/213*120/AP759153459907.jpg

A New Hampshire staffer for Republican presidential candidate Rand Paul's campaign licked the camera of a Democratic super PAC trying to videotape the candidate on Monday.

A YouTube video posted by the group American Bridge, which is tracking GOP candidate on the trail, shows David Chesley, Paul's New Hampshire political director, staring into the video camera for several seconds before giving the lens a big lick.

Boston Globe political reporter James Pindell was at the event - a Town Hall in Londonderry - and asked Chesley afterward what the lick was all about, but said he got no answer.

Necn has an email in to the Paul campaign seeking comment.



Photo Credit: FILE
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<![CDATA["SNL" Skewers GOP Presidential Candidates]]> Mon, 11 May 2015 07:33:42 -0400 http://media.nbcwashington.com/images/214*120/Ted-Cruz-Bobby-Moynihan-SNL-9-May-2015.jpg

The 2016 presidential election cycle has officially begun — and in the comedy world, that means it's open season on the high-profile politicians clamoring for a shot at the Oval Office.

"Saturday Night Live" skewered Republicans running for the presidential nomination in a skit featuring the Southern Republican Leadership Conference, but Hillary Clinton didn't exactly escape unscathed.

In the cold open sketch, GOP leaders emerged onstage at the Southern Republican Leadership Conference accompanied by over-the-top shoutouts from a DJ (Cecily Strong).

Former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee (Beck Bennett) promised to shred the Obamacare and the IRS like his basslines, while Dr. Ben Carson (Kenan Thompson) likewise promised to do the same.

"Put this guy in prison, because he's about to steal your vote!" the DJ said. "But be careful, because if sexuality works the way he says it does, he might turn gay in there." (For the record, Carson apologized for saying that being gay is a choice.)

Texas Sen. Ted Cruz (Bobby Moynihan) entered and ripped off his suit jacket, revealing a fluorescent shirt. Former HP executive Carly Fiorina (a loony Kate McKinnon) one-upped that, riding in on a motorcycle flanked by pyrotechnics.

"Her maiden name is Snead, and she's just got what you need — unless it's foreign policy experience," the DJ said over the blaring hip-hop.

Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul (Kyle Mooney) rode in a skateboard as the DJ explained his stance on pro-marijuana legalization: "He's a small man who loves small government and fat blunts."

And Florida Sen. Marco Rubio (Taran Killam), who apparently eschewed an undershirt in favor of tanning oil, entered with a bevy of dancers to a background track from Miami rapper Pitbull.

"Won't it be fun to watch all these guys lose to Jeb Bush?!" the DJ says as the candidates gather onstage.

But Weekend Update co-hosts took a few jabs at Democratic favorite Hillary Clinton, too.

"A new poll shows that Hillary Clinton's poll points have dropped two points since she made her campaign official," Michael Che said. "Because for some reason, once a woman tries to make it official, we suddenly lose interest."

And then there was this, also from Che: "Hillary Clinton reportedly met with potential donors for her presidential super PAC, three weeks after she criticized that practice. The super PAC's name is Hillary's Political Action Committee for Democracy, or HiPACracy."



Photo Credit: Broadway Video
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<![CDATA[LaRuby May Unofficial Winner of Ward 8 Seat]]> Sat, 09 May 2015 14:31:04 -0400 http://media.nbcwashington.com/images/213*120/voting-dfw-generic-01.jpg

D.C. election officials declared LaRuby May the unofficial winner of the race for Ward 8 on D.C. Council -- by a two-digit margin.

The latest numbers, updated on the D.C. Board of Election's web site Friday afternoon, say May won by just 79 votes over Trayon White.

White said he will ask for a recount, the Associated Press reported.

The election was April 28; a Ward 4 seat was also up for election. Brandon Todd won that race, but but Ward 8 remained too close to call until Friday, when all absentee and special ballots were counted. 

Now, two precincts in each ward will be manually audited before the election is certified. 

There were 13 candidates running to replace Marion Barry as the representative from Ward 8, including his son, Marion Christopher Barry. Christopher Barry came in 6th.

Barry died in office in November. It's been 17 years since a special election needed to be held because of a council member's death.

The Ward 4 seat was vacated when Muriel Bowser was elected mayor.

Click here for the Board of Election's current vote counts.



Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Sherwood's Notebook: Spring Buds and Duds…]]> Wed, 06 May 2015 09:39:21 -0400 http://media.nbcwashington.com/images/193*120/2015-05-06_0937.png

It’s spring and a lot of things are blooming in Washington — except democracy.

Three DC Vote activists were arrested last Thursday after they unfurled a D.C. flag in the balcony of the House of Representatives and shouted “D.C. Vote!”

The three were protesting the House vote to rescind local legislation that would extend protections to workers whose employers might discriminate against them for using birth control or other reproductive health care.

Never mind that the Senate was unlikely to (and didn’t) pass it before a deadline on Monday; it was an intrusion into local home rule because D.C. is denied full voting rights in Congress.

The demonstrators — Rosalind Conn Cohen, Michael S. Bolton and James L. Jones — were charged with disruption of Congress. DC Vote issued a statement saying city residents “will not sit quietly by and allow Congress to overturn laws by our locally elected legislature. … We are outraged by the action, but have no way to register our ‘no’ vote in Congress but through protest.”

Late last week, the White House released a statement condemning the House vote. Even if the measure passed the Senate, officials said, President Barack Obama would be advised to veto it. In addition to concerns about discrimination against employees, the White House said the measure “also would have the unacceptable effect of undermining the will of the people of the District of Columbia citizens.”

■ Blooming economy. The breathless pace of development and growth in the District has slowed somewhat, but the city’s economic engines keep churning.

A new report from Chief Financial Officer Jeffrey DeWitt says there were 15,900 more jobs in the District in February compared to February a year ago, a growth of 2.1 percent. About 1,300 of those jobs were in the leisure and hospitality sectors. Even the federal government here gained 1,000 jobs compared to a year ago.

This February, there were 297 condos sold, a 3 percent decline from a year ago. But median prices for condos rose 12.6 percent. (The median for single-family homes rose 6.3 percent.)

And jobless claims fell 6 percent compared to a year ago, a sign of better employment.

■ $$$ and the national parks. America’s national parks may be hurting for budget money themselves, but they do a lot for the economies where they are located.

Across the capital region, the National Park Service accounted for 38 million visitors in 2014 and helped contribute $1.4 billion to the region’s economy. An agency report said it generated 14,957 jobs.

In a news release, regional director Bob Vogel said the Park Service returns $10 to the economy for every $1 it invests in the area. The study was a peer-reviewed visitor spending analysis by U.S. Geological Survey economists Catherine Cullinane Thomas and Christopher Huber, along with economist Lynne Koontz of the Park Service.

■ $$$ and Metro. A key House committee has sliced $75 million from the annual appropriation to help fund the Metro system in the region. Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart, R-Fla., told Roll Call and other media that his transportation subcommittee was getting a lot of heat for the cut. He emphasized that it’s early in the budget process and the cuts might change.

The entire Washington area delegation — including new Republican member Barbara Comstock of Virginia — issued a joint statement condemning the cut.

“More than half of Metro’s rush hour passengers are federal workers, and the federal government cannot operate without Metro,” D.C. Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton noted.

Under a long-standing regional agreement reached in 2009, the federal government has contributed $150 million a year to Metro, and Maryland, Virginia and the District each contribute $50 million a year. “Providing anything less than the federal commitment of $150 million would jeopardize rider safety,” the regional members of Congress said in their statement.

■ A final word. Sad news came this week with the death from pneumonia of Skip Coburn, whose life exemplified my frequent saying that “local Washington is only as good as the people active in it.” Coburn was 70. A requiem Mass was held this past Saturday.

For the past 12 years, Dick Edward “Skip” Coburn was executive director of the D.C. Nightlife Association, explaining to reporters and countless citizen groups the ins and outs of that business. He did it with passion, good humor and informed advocacy. He came to D.C. advocacy after a 24-year Air Force career, retiring as a lieutenant colonel.

Coburn formerly worked for Ward 6 D.C. Council member Sharon Ambrose. “Those who knew Skip,” Ambrose wrote in the Hill Rag, “know he was something of a character. Often his enthusiasm for an idea or a project was so intense it led to hours of research and investigation and reams of paper spilling out of printers and copiers to be shared with whomever he could buttonhole.”


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

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<![CDATA[Director of D.C.'s 911 Call Center Steps Down]]> Tue, 05 May 2015 20:02:43 -0400 http://media.nbcwashington.com/images/213*120/dc-flag-shutterstock_206336772.jpg

The director of D.C.'s 911 call center has stepped down after sources tell News4 she was forced to resigned.

Jennifer Greene and the Office of Unified Communications has been under intense scrutiny following several high profiled missteps, including slow response times during the smoke incident at L'Enfant Plaza and the choking death of toddler who was not sent the closest paramedic.

The unsuccessful roll-out of a new computer tablet system also led to delayed response times.

"I’m very glad the mayor is looking at some of these agencies and cleaning them out, because we need, in her words, a fresh start in some of these agencies," Councilwoman Mary Cheh said. 

Sources tell News4's Mark Segraves that the last straw was Greene's testimony last week that the call center is unable to meet the national standard for response times.

"[T]hat’s really the last call that somebody may make," Cheh added. "So we need to do what we need to do, and it includes changing the leadership."

Green, who previously served as a commander with the Metropolitan Police Department, was promoted to director of the Office of Unified Communications by former mayor Vincent Gray.

Chris Geldart, the director of D.C.'s Homeland Security and Emergency Management Agency (HSEMA), will oversee the 911 call center until a replacement is found. He will also continue to head HSEMA.

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<![CDATA[Va. AG: Abortion Clinics Can Be Exempted From New Standards]]> Mon, 04 May 2015 14:31:38 -0400 http://media.nbcwashington.com/images/213*120/shutterstock_226623193.jpg

Virginia Democratic Attorney General Mark Herring says new strict building standards should not be applied retroactively to existing abortion clinics, contradicting advice given by his Republican predecessor.

 

Herring issued an opinion Monday to the state health commissioner. The standards would treat abortion clinics as hospitals and cover issues such as hallway widths and closet sizes. Herring says applying them would essentially shut down abortion services in the state.

Republican Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli's office said the opposite in 2012.

State officials say that of the 18 clinics operating in Virginia, five meet the code for new hospitals and 13 are operating under a variance.

Abortion rights supporters say the building requirements were designed to put existing clinics out of business. Abortion opponents say they are intended to protect women's health.



Photo Credit: Shutterstock]]>
<![CDATA[Carson, Fiorina Announce Run for President]]> Mon, 04 May 2015 12:43:15 -0400 http://media.nbcwashington.com/images/213*120/2015-05-04_1240.jpg Ben Carson added his name to the race for president Monday morning, just hours after former Hewlett-Packard CEO Carly Fiorina did so herself. They are both Republicans and are both considered underdogs. Carrie Dann, a politcal writer for NBC News, joins us with the strength and weaknesses of these new candidates.]]> <![CDATA[Ex-Christie Aides Plead Not Guilty]]> Mon, 04 May 2015 18:56:05 -0400 http://media.nbcwashington.com/images/213*120/kelly-Baroni.jpg

Two former political allies of Gov. Christie entered not guilty pleas Monday after they were charged for their alleged involvement in politically motivated lane closures of the George Washington Bridge in 2013.

Christie's former deputy chief of staff, Bridget Kelly, and his former top appointee at the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, Bill Baroni, entered the pleas through their attorneys in the nine-count indictment unsealed Friday after a yearlong investigation.

"I would never risk my career, my job and my reputation for something like this," Baroni said after the brief court hearing. "I am an innocent man."

Kelly didn't talk to reporters Monday, but said she was also innocent at a news conference on Friday.

Bail for both was set at $150,000 and U.S. District Court Judge Susan Wigenton set a tentative trial date of July 7.

David Wildstein, who went to high school with Christie and later became a top official in the Port Authority, pleaded guilty Friday to two criminal counts. He admitted that he helped plot lane closures in Fort Lee on an approach to the world's busiest bridge as political payback against that community's Democratic mayor for failing to support Christie's re-election campaign.

"If David Wildstein was willing to repeatedly lie to settle a petty political grudge, nobody should be surprised at his eagerness to concoct any story that he thinks will help him stay out of federal prison," said Baroni's lawyer Michael Baldassarre. "We're confident that everyone will see this desperate ploy for exactly what this is."

Kelly's attorney, Michael Critchley, said that the case was built solely on information from Wildstein. He said that her brief appearance with Baroni in court Monday was the longest Kelly and Baroni have ever spent together.

Christie has not been implicated in the criminal case.

The charges provide mixed news for Christie as he tries to regain momentum in support of an expected presidential bid.

Christie appears to have been cleared of any allegations that he personally participated in the scheme, but the charges brought by the U.S. Attorney's Office in New Jersey still hit close to home.

A Monmouth University poll of 500 New Jersey residents conducted from Friday through Sunday and released on Monday found that half believe Christie was personally involved in the decision to close the toll lanes. Sixty-nine percent don't believe he's been completely honest about what he knew.

Less than one in 10 believe the three individuals who've been charged in the scheme were the only ones involved. The poll has a margin of error of plus or minus 4.4 percentage points.

Several recent polls have found Christie's job approval rating in the state has also sunk to an all-time low.

Christie's aides and backers hope the developments will allow the governor to put this chapter behind him less than a year before the first presidential primaries, even as legal proceedings have just begun. In many ways, the outcome was the best he could have hoped for — little new information and no names mentioned beyond those Christie had already cut ties to.

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<![CDATA[Sen. Bernie Sanders Announces Presidential Bid]]> Thu, 30 Apr 2015 13:00:33 -0400 http://media.nbcwashington.com/images/213*120/WRC_0000000010327331_1200x675_437030979677.jpg Sanders does not have the name recognition of opponent Hillary Clinton, but he says, "I am running in this election to win. NBC News Political Writer Carrie Dann discusses what's next.]]> <![CDATA[Sen. Sanders Announces White House Bid]]> Thu, 30 Apr 2015 12:21:58 -0400 http://media.nbcwashington.com/images/213*120/sanders-announce.jpg U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders discusses his plans to run for the White House in 2016.]]> <![CDATA[Ward 8 Race Still Too Close to Call]]> Wed, 29 Apr 2015 13:25:21 -0400 http://media.nbcwashington.com/images/213*120/WRC_0000000010312668_1200x675_436404291557.jpg Brandon Todd is the winner of the D.C. Council's Ward 4 seat in Tuesday's special election, but as of midday Wednesday, the winner in Ward 8 has yet to be determined.]]> <![CDATA[Ward 8 Too Close to Call]]> Fri, 08 May 2015 17:48:33 -0400 http://media.nbcwashington.com/images/213*120/voting-dfw-generic-01.jpg

The special election for the D.C. Council's Ward 8 seat appears to be too close to call, but Marion C. Barry, the son of former Mayor Marion Barry who held the seat until he died in November, is out with just 7 percent of the vote, News4's Tom Sherwood reports.

LaRuby May has 26.94 percent of the vote to 24.55 percent for Trayon White, but there's just 152 votes separating them with 163 absentee ballots and some special ballots still to be counted.

In Ward 4, Brandon Todd won easily with 42.42 percent of the vote to fill the seat vacated by now-Mayor Muriel Bowser. That's almost twice his closest opponent, Renee L. Bowser (no relation to the mayor), who has 21.57 percent of the vote.

Barry's son was one of 12 candidates trying to replace him on the council. The elder Barry represented the poorest section of the city for the last 10 years of his life, and he remained beloved in the majority-black ward even though his citywide popularity never recovered after his 1990 drug arrest.

It's been 17 years since a special election needed to be held because of a council member's death.

Twelve candidates also ran for Bowser's seat, which opened once she won the mayoral election in November.

Ward 4 candidates:

  • Acqunetta Anderson
  • Leon T. Andrews Jr.
  • Ron Austin
  • Renee L. Bowser
  • Gwenellen Corley-Bowman
  • Judi Jones
  • Edwin W. Powell
  • Glova Scott
  • Douglass Sloan
  • Bobvala Tengen
  • Brandon Todd
  • Dwayne M. Toliver

 Ward 8 candidates:

  • Jauhar Abraham
  • Marion C. Barry
  • Sheila Bunn
  • Greta Fuller
  • Eugene D. Kinlow
  • LaRuby May
  • Anthony Muhammad
  • "S.S." Sandra Seegars
  • Keita Vanterpool
  • Leonard Watson Sr.
  • Trayon "WardEight" White
  • Natalie Williams



Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Demonstrators Outside Supreme Court for Same-Sex Marriage Debate]]> Tue, 28 Apr 2015 20:38:42 -0400 http://media.nbcwashington.com/images/213*120/WRC_0000000010301230_1200x675_436039235885.jpg News4's Chris Gordon talks to local residents who converged on the U.S. Supreme Court as justices heard historic arguments over same-sex marriage.]]> <![CDATA[WATCH: Obama Jokes at Correspondents' Dinner]]> Sun, 26 Apr 2015 05:09:02 -0400 http://media.nbcwashington.com/images/213*120/Obama-White-House-Correspondents-Dinner-1.jpg President Obama poked fun at politicians, government officials and himself at this year's White House Correspondents' Dinner.

Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Republican Firehouse Primaries]]> Mon, 27 Apr 2015 11:37:02 -0400 http://media.nbcwashington.com/images/213*120/WRC_0000000010260210_1200x675_434082371981.jpg A look at candidates in the race for the Republican nomination for Prince William County chairman of the board of supervisors and the candidates for the supervisor seat from the Sully District in Fairfax County.]]> <![CDATA[DC Mayor’s Proposal to Limit AG’s Powers on Hold]]> Wed, 22 Apr 2015 23:24:26 -0400 http://media.nbcwashington.com/images/213*120/461046870.jpg

A showdown between the mayor of the District of Columbia and the first-ever elected attorney general has been averted for now.

At issue is Mayor Muriel Bowser’s proposal in her new budget to water down some of the new attorney general’s powers, particularly when it comes to reviewing government contracts.

After a five-hour council roundtable on the dispute Wednesday, D.C. Council member Kenyan McDuffie issued a statement saying the matter needs more public discussion and it appears the mayor and attorney general agree.

"The mayor is happy to have more public debate on the matter and separate the proposed changes to the AG’s powers from budget negotiations," Bowser spokesman Michael Czin said.

While Bowser is not withdrawing her proposal, the council is expected to remove it from the budget and hold more public hearings on the issue in the coming months.

Attorney General Karl Racine not only opposed Bowser’s proposal, he also would like to see his office given more power and a larger budget.



Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Lamwkers Fight in Annapolis Over Funds to Help Students]]> Tue, 21 Apr 2015 19:23:04 -0400 http://media.nbcwashington.com/images/213*120/WRC_0000000010215684_1200x675_431692867823.jpg Maryland lawmakers are fighting in Annapolis to get the governor to release more money for schools. News4's Chris Gordon takes a look at how the funding battle could have a big impact on school children in Prince George's County and Montgomery County.]]> <![CDATA[Clinton Has Qualms on Trade Deal]]> Tue, 21 Apr 2015 18:16:10 -0400 http://media.nbcwashington.com/images/213*120/l_apclintonburritox1200.jpg

The second day of her first 2016 campaign visit to New Hampshire found Hillary Clinton at another roundtable, this one at New Hampshire Technical Institute in Concord.

Clinton says community colleges need to reinvent themselves and better market what they offer.

"It's one of the reasons why I really support President Obama's efforts to try to raise the visibility of Community Colleges and make it even more affordable for even more people to go," said Clinton.

Obama's proposal calls for community college to be free.

In contrast, Clinton expressed qualms over the trade deal the Obama administration is negotiating with Pacific nations.

Clinton's campaign previously said she would be closely watching efforts by the administration to complete the Trans-Pacific Partnership. Her comments Tuesday were her first on the subject on the campaign trail.

"We need to build things, too," she said. "We have to do our part in making sure we have the capabilities and skills to be competitive," while getting back to "a much more focused effort, in my opinion, to try to produce those capacities here at home."

Even so, she stopped short of rejecting the Trans-Pacific Partnership - an agreement opposed by many manufacturing unions.

The next stop for Clinton is the Concord home of 94-year-old Mary Louise Hancock, a New Hampshire Democratic Party stalwart who has hosted dozens of Presidential candidates in her living room over the years.

In keeping with Clinton's no media strategy, reporters were held at bay. And it's not just reporters frustrated by the lack of access.

"She is being insulated to the degree that she should not be as a candidate," said independent voter Brian Blackden. "We don't run campaigns in New Hampshire, never have, with one candidate from the party, and it's wrong."

The Clinton campaign doesn't disclose most of her stops - but Hillary Clinton is not difficult to find. Just look for the crowd of people, motorcade of cars and secret service.

Another stop, not on the public schedule, a visit with Democrats at party headquarters where Clinton is warmly supported - though the progressive wing of the party is listening closely and Clinton is responding.

Political analyst Dean Spiliotes says, "She's sounding much more populist, much more progressive. Wall Street supporters for now seem to be kind of okay with that . They see it as a strategic choice that she has to make."

Besides free community college, Clinton now supports same sex marriage as a constitutional right and she is talking about limiting "unaccountable money" in politics.

 

Content from the Associated Press was used in this report.



Photo Credit: AP | Charlie Neibergall]]>