Washington Informer: When people think about Donna Edwards, what do you want them to know about you?
Donna Edwards: I want them to know that I'm a doer and that I'm a fighter, and that I don't mind difficult fights...challenging ones.
WI: Since you've been in the office we know that you've heard a couple of things and one, most recently is the redistricting fight that you've been involved in, which was not necessarily a fight, but you took the side that some people didn't support. Tell us a little bit about that.
DE: Long before I came to Congress, when I was running nonprofit organizations, we did a lot of work both in the foundation that I ran and a couple of nonprofit groups that I headed focused on civic participation and on expanding people's opportunities to participate. One of those areas that I focused on (many years ago) was around the redistricting process and what that meant for people.
WI: Has there been any backlash–how do you think this will affect your candidacy?
DE: Well, certainly, it's true that the district as it is redrawn, comprises a greater portion of Prince George's County, all of Montgomery County and [that] a large swath of Anne Arundel County is added to the district. I think that the challenges are the same.
WI: We have real concern especially in the District [of Columbia], with the primaries being moved up to April, that there won't be as much political engagement, but we also find a lot of folks in the county aren't as engaged in county politics. What will you do to get more folks engaged?
DE: That's an excellent question, and as I've said before, I did a lot of work around civic participation challenging this question, trying to figure out how it is you get people engaged in the way that they want to be, as opposed to whatever the cookie cutter is that we as elected officials might want. For example, in the time that I've been in Congress, we've done a couple of different things. I think that anybody who pays attention to my social networking knows that I'm on Facebook and I tweet.
WI: So, what is it that you do hear about from the folks who show up [at your public events]? Which issues have you put the most resources in trying to tackle?
DE: We certainly have foreclosure, as it's an issue that just won't go away. I was speaking at a housing conference at the Gaylord Hotel with national housing agency advocates from all over the country. The D.C. Housing [Authority] was the host, and in talking to them about the challenges of finding affordable housing, that remains a challenge for us and all over Maryland, especially in Prince George's County and increasingly in Montgomery County.
Housing is so unaffordable that people who are struggling have to live farther and farther away from their jobs, because to meet the housing needs – it's like one hand trying to feed the other.
WI: Gov. O'Malley has ambitious plans [on] the infrastructure problems facing Maryland. He wants a 15 cents gas tax.
DE: We have $2 billion deficit for infrastructure spending. We have not raised the federal gas tax in 20 years and that is the principal way we pay for infrastructure.
WI: Are you for the windmill piece, too?
DE: I don't think it is either or. We have to look to multiple sources of energy. We have to reduce dependency on fossil fuels. Make it solar, wind, natural gas. We have wind tunnels across the country but they are not where the electricity is needed. Best places for solar is not where you need the energy. Wind, solar natural gas can convey that energy to communities.
WI: The County suffers from image problems. [Prince George's County Executive] Rushern Baker thinks that Prince George's can be a leader in green revolution, green businesses. How do you propose Prince George's moves toward green revolution?
DE: I think there are a couple of things: Our county has an untapped technology corridor. It's NASA in Greenbelt, NOA [National Oceanic Administration] in Suitland and the University of Maryland and its Science and Technology corridor. We are in a great position to take advantage of the future. As a county, [it] has to make the commitment. We have an education system that is second to none. When a company decides to locate in a particular place it makes sense where there are safe communities and kids can get a great education.
WI: Do you support statehood for District of Columbia?
DE: I have supported statehood for D.C. for a long time. I have reinforced that support as a member of Congress. This city is the heart of our democracy and no other developed nation has a city where the people who live there don't have a voice. It is really an embarrassment.
WI: You mentioned education would drive people back to the county. The school board has proposed year-round schooling. Is it a good idea or is not a good idea?
DE: I have a bias, I actually went to school year-round and I liked it and my parents liked it. When my Dad was stationed in the Philippines, the school year split into trimesters and a two-week break and it was not long to forget what we learned. Our [students] spend like three months trying to recover what was lost over the summer.
WI: In 2009, you introduced an amendment that passed the House Science and Tech Committee that created a bill that required a committee to monitor the participation of minorities in federally funded STEM programs. Can you update us on the status of those minorities in the STEM program?
DE: It's such as good question. There are a number of different federal STEM programs. You have to be a rocket scientist to figure out what is going on with each one of those programs. The idea behind the amendment included in the America Competes Act is to aggregate that data. We don't actually have data yet. But a better analysis and assessment would be where these STEM dollars are going. This is an effort to try to require federal agencies to consolidate the data they report to us.