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Posts about 2012 Primary


We let you down with our political coverage this spring

It looks like Vincent Orange has probably, but not definitely, eked out reelection over Sekou Biddle. A number of commenters are criticizing Greater Greater Washington's election articles this spring, especially our decision to endorse Peter Shapiro.

I believe that we did fall short in our coverage of this election. I proudly voted for Shapiro yesterday and continue to stand by that endorsement, because he outlined a clear progressive platform, while Sekou Biddle did not..

We did not err in our decision to tell you why most of the contributors had decided to vote for Shapiro. Rather, we didn't do enough to help you make up your own minds based on real issues.

Early in the election cycle, we wrote that our election coverage would focus on issues. There are many significant decisions facing the DC government, from how and whether to fund affordable housing, to what kind of transportation infrastructure to build, to where to put development and what kind, to how to improve education.

HogWash made an excellent point in the comments on today's breakfast links: you're not low-information voters. You don't need someone just to tell you for whom to vote without reason. What you need is more information to help you make up your minds. We ought to have delivered that, and we did not.

The candidates did not help. Even now, at the end of the campaign, there is very little information available about how the candidates stand on these issues. For example, I can't identify any issue, save campaign finance, where we know Biddle would reliably vote differently than Orange; even then, both candidates support some reasonable campaign finance reforms.

They both have said they support increasing funding for affordable housing but haven't done much to actually change that. Neither wants to make the tax structure more progressive. Neither supports traffic camera enforcement. Both support better education and Orange actually has more specific suggestions. The list goes on.

Shapiro, meanwhile, impressed us with his thoughtful and detailed ideas for economic development, workforce development, and more. On many areas of policy, including but not limited to transportation, he spoke from experience and a thoughtfully considered point of view.

After the mainstream newspaper endorsements came out and it was clear that the anti-Orange vote was coalescing around Biddle, we discussed whether to jump on the bandwagon, so to speak. For many, the decision not to do so came down to the simple fact that we could not identify a positive, policy-centered reason to be excited about Biddle.

Some editorial writers and residents seem to feel that DC's only real significant issues are whether a candidate is stealing, will keep spending low, and supports the current flavor of education reform. Otherwise, it seems, a candidate need not want to change a thing about the District's policy and can still earn a glowing endorsement.

We should expect more from our leaders. We need vision. The vision need not necessarily match ours on every single issue, but a candidate with vision is open to listening to persuasive arguments about why a particular policy is the best one. A candidate without it will simply take whatever stance gets headlines and pleases the latest group of angry constituents.

We should expect more from our pundits as well. Very little of the news coverage of this race tried to tease apart the candidates on any substantive issues. Most reporters and editorial writers seemingly filled out a 2-question scorecard: Might this candidate be a crook? And is he or she likely to win?

Using that yardstick on all elections is a recipe for very bland politics and a change-averse council. We need better. And we at Greater Greater Washington could have done more to shine a light on candidates' positions.

We don't want to make endorsements based on what will give us the most political influence. Our role is to inform all of you, the readers. The more you know, the better you can advocate for issues you care about or make up your minds for candidates.

We welcome your input on how we could best talk about political races in the future. The experience in this race will help us learn and shape future coverage. And, as always, consider becoming a contributor. We can't write about candidates' positions on issues if we don't know what those positions are. Candidates try not to take controversial stands in primaries, and unless someone can pin them down, there's no information to share.


Election day is here! Vote!

Tuesday is the primary election in both DC and Maryland. If you are registered and haven't voted early, go vote!

Photo by kristin_a (Meringue Bake Shop) on Flickr.

DC residents can find their polling place here, and Maryland residents here.

Greater Greater Washington has endorsed the following candidates, all in the Democratic primaries:

Your ballot isn't the only important part of your vote. Volunteers will also be at polling places soliciting signatures for important ballot initiatives. In DC, make sure to sign the petitions for Initiative 70, to ban corporate campaign contributions. In Maryland, don't support the effort to send Maryland's new marriage equality law to a referendum.


At-large candidates, except Shapiro, pander to speeders

Except for Peter Shapiro, the candidates for DC Council at-large either don't think pedestrian safety is a very pressing issue, think the only people who will vote tomorrow are drivers who'd rather speed than be safe, or both.

Image from WAMU.

On Friday, the Democratic candidates for DC Council at-large appeared on the WAMU Politics Hour with Kojo Nnamdi and Tom Sherwood. Sherwood asked about Mayor Gray's plan to increase the number of traffic enforcement cameras, including ones that will detect drivers running red lights or speeding through lights when they're green.

In their answers, all 4 candidates focused on the question of whether DC is or is not pursuing the program just to raise revenue. But only Peter Shapiro gave any time at all to the serious danger to pedestrians that comes from drivers speeding, turning right on red without stopping, blocking the box, and more.

Any revenue bump will not last long as drivers adjust to actually following laws. Plus, it's a red herring to cast doubt on the program just because it's coming up in a budget cycle. DC needs to spend money to get cameras. Therefore, the program has to be part of the budget. MPD has been trying to buy the cameras for over a year, and budget and procurement have long been the obstacle.

Below are the candidates' answers:

Sekou Biddle: Putting aside the fact that these cameras will certainly change Tom [Sherwood]'s driving habits, I'm not a fan of this idea because, frankly, it looks like we're taking what was initially designed to be a public safety tool and turning it into a revenue generator. We see in the budget the claim that we're not having tax and fee increases, but we're looking to generate more revenue through speed cameras, and then using those cameras to do both speed and red lights. This really is disconcerting, and we need to really think about what we're using them for.

Vincent Orange: I do not support the idea. We've already raised in excess of $100 million through the speeding cameras and parking tickets and things of that like. I think that now it's become a revenue generator, and to say that we're going to cover the entire city with this apparatus is not a good idea in my view.

E. Gail Anderson Holness: I don't think it's a good idea. I think it's a waste of taxpayer money to use the funds to put those cameras in place ... I think there are other options to raise funds for the District of Columbia. I'm out there waving in the mornings and I see Maryland and Virginia tags coming into the District. There ought to be some kind of commuter tax.

You don't let the good suffer with the bad in this instance ... of course Tom, some of us go over the speed limit a little bit every now and again, and we're going to be subjected. But it's going through that green light piece is a major issue, so I'm not in favor of it all.

Peter Shapiro: I think there's a little bit of election-year pandering going on with this, because it's an important issue, and we've got some serious concerns with public safety in the city. Now the key is around balance, and so the red light cameras and even speed on green can be a very healthy thing. Now the idea of blanketing the whole city doesn't make a whole lot of sense.

Kojo Nnamdi: Why not?

Shapiro: Because there are many many intersections where if we put this in place, then it's only about generating revenue. There are any number of anecdotes, you will hear people, I have my own experience with this, where it it feels like it's essentially a trap for folks. It's not making the community safer, so what you really have to do is make sure that we have a comprehensive plan, but that they're located in places where they actually will reduce speed in ways that keeps the community safe.

Shapiro is right that there's a lot of pandering here. During the debate, Vincent Orange repeated the phrase "livable, walkable," as he did at the Urban Neighborhood Alliance forum. It rings hollow from Orange, but it's nice that he has decided to play up the "livable, walkable" angle.

But "walkable" is part of "livable, walkable," and part of making a place walkable is making it safe to walk around. If Orange really believed in that, he might have mentioned in his answer that it's important to curb speeding and red light running.

Shapiro is right that we should only place cameras where they will improve safety, and it might be just fine to reduce the level of fines as DC increases the number of cameras. However, when Gray said he would "blanket" DC with cameras, he likely didn't mean one on every corner, but rather far more than we have today. Good for him.

All 4 candidates focused their answers around their complaints of the program. Perhaps they were all assuming that most people who listen to WAMU are driving. One day, hopefully soon, people running for office citywide will feel that if they pander, it's better to pander to residents who want safer neighborhoods than drivers who want to speed with impunity.

Meanwhile, if you are a Democratic voter in DC, vote for Peter Shapiro, whom we endorsed, in tomorrow's primary. It's not enough to just get a more ethical candidate if that candidate still won't take a stand on the important issues that actually affect policy. Ultimately, the reason to have a candidate who's not bought and sold by moneyed special interests is so they vote for better policies. Shapiro has demonstrated far more commitment to good policy than any other candidate in the race.


For DC Council at-large: Peter Shapiro

The DC Democratic primary for at-large councilmember will finally end a 17-month game of musical chairs between Sekou Biddle and Vincent Orange. When the tune stops on April 3, neither should take the seat. We endorse Peter Shapiro because we believe he is the best candidate.

Image from Peter Shapiro.

While the Washington Post and Washington City Paper were both far too quick to dismiss Shapiro's work in Prince George's County, he knows firsthand how to work for and with a diverse, and often vulnerable, constituency, and he can accomplish this without the pandering the current councilmember is known for.

After serving for two years on the Town Council in Brentwood, Maryland, constituents elected Shapiro to the Prince George's County Council from 1998 to 2004, and he served as council chair for two years. He also sat on the National Capital Region Transportation Planning Board, where he was chair in 2003.

Shapiro worked with community stakeholders to bring a grassroots vision to fruition along Route 1, which has culminated in the Gateway Arts District. Despite the economic downturn, revitalization continues along the corridor, stopping dead in its tracks at the District's doorstep on Eastern Avenue.

Shapiro is ready and committed to bridge the gaps along DC's gateway corridors, starting with Georgia Avenue, and his record more than suggests that he is fully capable of doing so. Additionally, his involvement on local boards, including the Latin American Youth Center, the Nonprofit Roundtable of Greater Washington, and the Washington Area Housing Partnership, exemplifies his longstanding commitment to community development.

As executive director of the College Park City-University Partnership, Shapiro was a constructive voice in critical town-gown disputes, where he was able to win support from both sides. The Prince George's County Council elects their chair, and their choice of Shapiro strongly demonstrates his ability to work collegially with other councilmembers to work toward common goals. This skill is missing in many members of the current DC Council.

The District is a part of a diverse metropolitan region. Its issues affect communities hyper-locally and also cut across jurisdictional lines. A councilmember with a proven ability to think and work regionally will only benefit District residents in the long-term.

Incumbent Vincent Orange's record, particularly with regard to economic development, stands in stark, disappointing contrast to Shapiro's. Orange has long viewed the city's urbanity as something holding us back. He has exploited it, particularly in Ward 5, by touting a brand of economic development best defined by poorly-designed big-box stores and clear-cutting, greenfield development. Meanwhile, revitalization and small business development along Rhode Island Avenue, New York Avenue, and Bladensburg Road has floundered.

At the recent candidate forum, Orange repeatedly uttered Tommy Wells' catchphrase "livable, walkable." If he truly has come to believe in strengthening urban spaces as a top priority, he has not demonstrated that with more than words, at least not yet. Whether he wins re-election or remains in public life in other ways, he will have opportunities to actually walk the walkable walk, and hope he will avail himself of these.

Biddle's experience with education is impressive, but in both the past and current campaigns he has not been able to articulate a clear vision for how having him on the council will change education for the better. Nor has he made a compelling argument for electing him in other ways beyond simply not being Vincent Orange.

We do hope Biddle will continue to advocate around education policy, where DC's discourse still focuses too much on "horse race" issues such as how education news affects a mayor's political fortunes rather than what will best help DC's kids succeed.

Meanwhile, your vote on April 3 ought not to turn on vote-splitting game theory. Instead, vote for the best candidate for the job. That candidate is Peter Shapiro.

This is the official endorsement of Greater Greater Washington, written by one or more contributors. Active contributors and editors voted on endorsements, and any endorsement reflects a strong majority or greater in favor of endorsing the candidate.


For Ward 4 Council: Max Skolnik

In Ward 4, Councilmember Muriel Bowser is facing five challengers in the April 3 Democratic primary. For his strong leadership on ethics and positive vision for the ward, we support Max Skolnik.

Photo by gisellebill on Flickr.

The DC Council is currently at a standstill, mired by scandal. Earlier this month, we learned of federal investigations into the prolific campaign money man Jeff Thompson. 12 out of 13 members of the Council took contributions from Thompson, including Bowser. In order to restore trust and effectiveness to the council, strong reforms are vitally important.

Skolnik, a former ANC commissioner, has shaped his campaign around ethics and campaign finance reform. He has a strong background in education and brings concrete and proven proposals for education in Ward 4. Skolnik would also bring a positive voice on development and smart growth to the council.

Skolnik is a strong advocate for real, meaningful campaign finance reform. He fully supports Initiative 70, the ballot measure that would ban direct corporate contributions to candidates. Skolnik has signed on to Independent at-large candidate David Grosso's transparency challenge, agreeing to fully disclose the sources of any and all campaign contributions. Additionally, Skolnik supports ending all outside employment for councilmembers and abolishing constituent services funds.

Skolnik also brings to the table a long record of experience in education and working with youth. Since 2002, Skolnik has run the non-profit Kid Power, which provides a full array of service-learning opportunities District youth. Skolnik understands that education involves far more than simply what happens in the classroom. This experience gives him a broad view on education that is presently lacking on the Council.

Specifically, Skolnik outlines detailed action items on education, including expanding the Promise Neighborhood initiative to Ward 4 and beyond. This program, which has seen huge success in Ward 7, understands that education is a "cradle to career" issue. Skolnik understands that the best way to lower unemployment, decrease crime, and increase achievement is to reform all areas of youth services.

Skolnik also importance of building communities that work for all residents, that foster small and local business, rather than relying on big-box retailers. Skolnik would be a strong and effective advocate for smart transportation and growth policies.

Bowser has not set herself apart as a strong leader with a vision for DC While she has talked about ethics and reform, her piecemeal approach to reform has been uninspiring. She is more reactive than proactive, with her ethics reform package being a prime example of this. Bowser missed a huge opportunity to distinguish herself as a champion for good government and transparency. She has also failed to provide effective oversight or strong leadership on the WMATA board.

We believe that Max Skolnik is the best choice in this race and encourage Ward 4 voters to give him their vote on April 3.

This is the official endorsement of Greater Greater Washington, written by one or more contributors. Active contributors and editors voted on endorsements, and any endorsement reflects a strong majority or greater in favor of endorsing the candidate.


For Ward 8 Council: Jacque Patterson

It would be challenging to name a more divisive figure in DC politics than Ward 8 Councilmember Marion Barry. Recently, Barry has said he deserves another term because he's "wiser and more caring." On April 3rd, Ward 8 voters can show Barry they are, in fact, wiser and more caring about their future by voting for Jacque Patterson as their next councilmember.

Patterson's record is impressive. He emphasizes public safety, and he can speak personally: he served as an MPD reserve officer and is the only candidate with experience patrolling the ward. The violence and crime that have long defined the ward have fallen, but this gives little comfort for residents who still fear dangerous streets. To improve relationships between police and citizens, Patterson says he will work to "increase the effectiveness of community policing."

That's just one of the issues pertinent to all Ward 8 residents that his campaign emphasizes, such as education reform, enhanced economic development through the growth of local businesses, and improved public transportation.

A veteran of the U.S. Air Force, Patterson is raising a young family in Ward 8, and his eldest daughter is a graduate of Thurgood Marshall Academy. Education hits home for Patterson. He told us that he will "pay particular attention to middle school-aged children, to ensure that they are well prepared for high school and beyond," adding, "This age group, often deemed the crossroad in development, is faced with the decision of whether it will continue or end its educational pursuits, and where grades begin to suffer greatly."

Another focus is jobs, particularly developing the ward's major business corridors of South Capitol Street, Good Hope Road, Alabama Avenue, and Martin Luther King Jr. Avenue. Patterson plans to bring together ANCs, the Ward 8 Business Council, and various community development corporations to create a comprehensive plan for developing the ward and enhancing its employment options.

With particular focus on development, Patterson said, "One of the biggest issues facing the next councilmember of Ward 8 will be the design and development of Poplar Point. How do we bring it together in ways that incorporates green spaces, affordable housing, recreation, retail/entertainment venues and commercial development?"

Patterson is also focused on improving public transit for the ward. Residents continue to face the challenge of both traveling within Ward 8 and connecting to crosstown neighborhoods on the bus. In response to Metro's proposed reduction of existing routes, Patterson pledges to advocate "for more frequent bus routes and more funding for the mass transit system, [as these are] vital to the growth and stability of the ward."

"I support the trolley coming east of the river and think it will not only help the transportation situation of a transportation dependent ward, but enliven and serve as a catalyst to revitalize downtown Anacostia," Patterson said in an email interview.

Patterson, the immediate past president of the Ward 8 Democrats, arrived in Washington in the mid-1990s while stationed at Andrews Air Force Base. Soon thereafter, his Shipley Terrace neighbors elected him Advisory Neighborhood Commissioner, and he served 4 terms.

Positions in the U.S. military and Mayor Williams' administration, as well as with Federal City Council and the DC Housing Finance Agency, have both informed Patterson's policy stances and prepared him for the challenges of political leadership.

The Washington Post, Washington Examiner, and Washington City Paper have endorsed Patterson. This stands in stark contrast to Barry, who walked away from the Ward 8 Democrats endorsement forum without enough votes for an endorsement.

In his 8 years on the council, Barry has done far more to take personal political advantage of the poverty and other serious issues in Ward 8 than to actually try to solve them. The City Paper's Alan Suderman even reported today that Barry was trying to stoke racial divisions in the Council during the committee reshuffle that punished Council­member Tommy Wells (Ward 6).

While Barry plays defender of the downtrodden, residents of the ward can do far more to improve their neighborhoods and economic opportunities by taking a fresh turn and choosing Jacque Patterson. We urge Ward 8 voters to choose Jacque Patterson in early voting or on April 3.

This is the official endorsement of Greater Greater Washington, written by one or more contributors. Active contributors and editors voted on endorsements, and any endorsement reflects a strong majority or greater in favor of endorsing the candidate.


For Maryland 6th Congressional district: Rob Garagiola

The battle for the Democratic nomination in Maryland's new 6th Congress­ional district is now a heated race. In 2010 we endorsed State Senator Rob Garagiola for his current seat, and we endorse Garagiola again in this race based on his experience and his consistent support for smart growth and sustainable development.

Garagiola. Photo by chesapeakeclimate on Flickr.

The General Assembly redrew the district in 2011 to try to unseat Rep. Roscoe Bartlett, a Republican who has represented the district in Congress since 1993.

The new district gains 350,000 western Montgomery residents, while losing 360,000 from northern Frederick, Carroll, Baltimore, and Harford counties. About 380,000 residents of western Maryland and southern Frederick County remain in the district.

Although Garagiola has been the frontrunner since before redistricting, the Democratic primary race is now competitive with the entry of John Delaney, a banker from Potomac.

Garagiola continues to represent the values of smart growth and sustainable policies in Annapolis, most recently as State Senate majority leader. In 2006, Garagiola prevented the closure of 4 MARC stations, including 2 in his district. He established and serves on the blue ribbon commission which came up with transportation funding recommen­dations last year, including increasing the gas tax.

Garagiola has sponsored legislation establishing programs to encourage the use of solar energy and clean energy. He also supports the Corridor Cities Transitway, the Purple Line, and Montgomery County's Agricultural Reserve.

Many of his ideas are directly in line with policies advocated on Greater Greater Washington. He's also been endorsed by the League of Conservation Voters and the Sierra Club, as well as and labor unions.

In contrast, Delaney has never run for public office, does not live in the new district, and has contributed $2,400 to Andy Harris, the Republican candidate who defeated one-term Democratic Congressman Frank Kratovil in Maryland 1st district in 2010.

While being or supporting a Republican does not disqualify anyone from receiving Greater Greater Washington's endorsement and we have endorsed Republicans in local races, the GOP leadership in Congress has lately demonstrated a strong hostility to urban living and any policies which help urban areas.

Delaney has, however, received two major endorsements. First, the Washington Post endorsed him last week, citing his business experience (and Garagiola's sponsorship of legislation supported by teachers' unions). Second, Bill Clinton endorsed him, after Delaney raised more than $800,000 for Hillary Clinton in the 2008 presidential race.

Based on Garagiola's record of advancing smart growth and sustainable policies, and Delaney's lack of a legislative record, we encourage Democratic voters in Maryland's 6th Congressional district to vote for Rob Garagiola in the primary on April 3.

This is the official endorsement of Greater Greater Washington, written by one or more contributors. Active contributors and editors voted on endorsements, and any endorsement reflects a strong majority or greater in favor of endorsing the candidate.


For Ward 7 Council: Tom Brown

Many new projects have improved Ward 7 in recent years, but much remains to be done. Councilmember Yvette Alexander has had little to do with Ward 7's successes and done little about its challenges. Residents of Ward 7 have looked hard for a replacement, and we support Tom Brown in the Democratic primary on April 3.

Image from Tom Brown.

Brown stands on a solid record of accomplish­ments in education and workforce development. He is the founder and current Executive Director of Training Grounds, a workforce development non­profit. Through this, he has developed relation­ships with corporations and linked young people to jobs. A former "National Teacher of the Year," he helped establish and taught at the KIPP KEY Academy in Ward 7.

Ward 7 is one of DC's last frontiers for economic development. Brown is committed to implementing small area plans that the Council has approved but which are currently collecting dust on the shelves.

The incumbent, Yvette Alexander, has few accomplishments during her 5-year term as councilmember. She is touting the ward's new libraries (Anacostia, Dorothy Irene Height/Benning, and Deanwood), the Deanwood Recreation Center, and the new H.D. Woodson High School. However, these projects were already planned and funded prior to Alexander's tenure. Ward 7 residents struggle to identify any ways she specifically aided these projects.

Ward 7 enjoys recent transportation improvements, such as the Great Street projects on Pennsylvania Avenue, Benning Road, and Nannie Helen Boroughs Avenue; the DC Circulator; Capital Bikeshare stations; and a study for Metro's W4 route. Alexander had very little to do with these either. In fact, transportation advocates credit other councilmembers for expediting the Circulator east of the river and ensuring the ward is an integral part of the bike sharing program.

Alexander has also been absent on education, redistricting, and more.

Brown has won endorsements from a wide range of groups that do not always agree, including the DC Chamber of Commerce PAC, the Washington Post, DC for Democracy, Gertrude Stein Democratic Club, Washington Metro Labor, AFL-CIO, and the Washington Examiner. We add our name to this list and encourage Ward 7 voters to chose Tom Brown during early voting or at the polls on April 3.

This is the official endorsement of Greater Greater Washington, written by one or more contributors. Active contributors and editors voted on endorsements, and any endorsement reflects a strong majority or greater in favor of endorsing the candidate.


At-large candidates talk about "livable, walkable" visions

The Democratic at-large candidates for DC Council, incumbent Vincent Orange, and challengers Sekou Biddle, E. Gail Anderson Holness, and Peter Shapiro, talked about transportation, housing, land use and some social issues at last night's forum at the Black Cat on 14th Street.

Here is the full video from the event:

Small business: As in many forums, most candidates gave few specifics, and in most cases didn't sharply disagree with one another. For example, I asked all candidates to talk about a time they'd helped a local business directly. I asked this first of Vincent Orange, who often touts his work bringing Home Depot to the Rhode Island Avenue Metro area but when talking about small business, speaks much more in generalities.

Orange and the other candidates launched into generic, prepared statements about the value of small business. Sekou Biddle's answer, that he helps them most of all by patronizing them, was the most responsive. Orange was, however, able to name a lot of local businesses once pressed.

Affordable housing: Peter Shapiro had thoughtful recommendations for how to promote housing affordability, drawing on his experience with Arts District Hyattsville when he served in Prince George's County. Perhaps because of his experience as an elected official in the past, Shapiro gave more specifics about actions he has taken or policies he would implement on this and some other issues.

All candidates raised their hands when asked if they would restore the Housing Production Trust Fund; hopefully Orange, in this budget cycle, and whoever wins the race, in the future, follows through on that promise.

Ethics: Shapiro went the furthest on campaign finance reform, criticizing the current council for not taking stronger steps and arguing it should pursue a public financing system for elections. Biddle called for reforms to money order contributions, the source of the latest scandal.

Orange, as he has in the past, emphasized his advocacy for banning outside employment for councilmembers, but hasn't agreed to support limits on corporate contributions. He defended his decision not to cosponsor Mary Cheh's recent campaign finance bill as "self-serving," since Cheh holds other jobs as a law professor at GW and teaching bar review courses. (Tommy Wells, the one co-sponsor, does not have any outside employment).

Transportation: During a section on transportation, it came out that of the candidates, only Sekou Biddle is a member of Capital Bikeshare, and only he and Peter Shapiro subscribe to Zipcar. Biddle even pulled out his CaBi key, on his keychain, and his Zipcar membership card right on the stage.

I asked candidates about how we could help cyclists and drivers better understand each other's needs and concerns. Without being "gotcha" about it, I wanted to give Vincent Orange a chance to speak to what he had learned from the January 1st episode where he parked in the 15th Street bike lane, was called out on Twitter, and apologized. Orange said that he hadn't realized on which side of the white stanchions he should park, and that now he does.

Biddle proposed having driver education include information on how to deal with bicycle infrastructure and people riding bikes. This would only be a small start, since many DC drivers move in from other states, but it was a thoughtful response on the topic.

Biddle was also most able to talk about the role of buses in helping connect communities. I asked candidates to name a bus line that they feel works well in DC, partly to see how many could name a bus line at all. Orange gave an example of a bus line, the X2, but couldn't name it without help from a staffer who shouted it out unprompted.

Holness, marriage, and the Redskins: Dr. E. Gail Anderson Holness, generally considered a long-shot candidate, gave some reasons to appreciate her candidacy, but also some reasons for concern. As a resident of Ward 1, she lives in the most urban neighborhood among the candidates, and says she rides a bicycle and takes many forms of transit regularly. She was able to name many bus lines and talk about them in depth.

However, Holness was the only candidate of the four not to encourage Maryland residents to vote to keep the new same-sex marriage law. She also said on last week's WPFW debate that she supports giving land to the Redskins for a practice facility, on the theory that the master plan calls for recreational space.

The plan does ask for recreation space, but intended to serve local residents, not to be a fenced-off facility that only serves a professional team. I pushed on this issue, asking her why she would fulfill a neighborhood request in this way. She didn't have a good answer and seemed confused by the policy details.

The other candidates all reaffirmed their opposition to the practice facility. Orange said he would support bringing the actual team back and potentially using public funds, if it were part of a plan to create a "livable, walkable" community around the stadium as the District is doing at the ballpark.

"Livable, walkable" actually is a phrase Orange spoke at least 5 times over the course of the debate. It's a testament to the phrase Tommy Wells coined for his campaign slogan, and the policies behind it, that Orange has latched on. Hopefully this means he genuinely supports the principles of "livable, walkable" communities; either way, he clearly believes it's a growing political force.

Kwame's revenge: Speaking of Mr. "Livable, Walkable" Wells, the forum's most dramatic moment came near the end, when Orange suggested that Wells should have at least toned down his criticism of Kwame Brown's Lincoln Navigator scandal, to avoid losing his committee and his opportunity to advance his agenda. Shapiro quickly disagreed, arguing that Wells was right to speak up and that it shows the "dysfunction" in the current council that others did not come to his defense.

Did the forum help you make up your mind? What stuck out as most meaningful to you?

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