Speakers Table

Raise the Bar and Vote Peter Shapiro

April 2, 2012

On Tuesday, raise the bar for D.C. Council candidates by voting for Peter Shapiro, the best qualified candidate for at-large councilmember.  No other candidate combines clear, specific policy positions with a track record of legislative leadership.  Those are simple, uncontestable facts.

After two years on the Town Council in Brentwood, Maryland, Shapiro was elected to the Prince George's County Council from 1998 to 2004 and served as council chair for two years.  Unlike in D.C., the Council Chair position in Prince George’s County is elected within the Council, attesting to Shapiro’s ability to work collegially with a diverse Council to get things done.  That’s a skill that has been sorely missing on the current DC Council.

Shapiro’s platform includes specific proposals to address unemployment, affordable housing and homelessness and economic development that have worked elsewhere, but require the legislative leadership that Shapiro has demonstrated.

Those are the reasons why Shapiro’s enthusiastic supporters are so committed to his candidacy.  The reality is that other candidates – Councilmember Vincent Orange and Sekou Biddle – lack either clear, specific policy positions or a track record of legislative leadership.

Councilmember Orange has served two full terms and a partial term on the D.C. Council, and has no significant legislative achievements to show.  He routinely introduces legislation, such as a recent Jobs Czar bill, on his own with no consultation with his colleagues.  His proposals go nowhere as a result, and he is viewed as a grand-stander by his colleagues.

Sekou Biddle would be an attractive candidate if he would tell voters specifically what he would do if elected.  The lack of specific policy positions from Biddle has frustrated me and others who have met with him with an open mind to his candidacy, and raised concerns about how he would legislate if elected.  I sincerely hope that, should Biddle lose, he writes and advocates for educational policy issues and develops specific proposals in advance of a future Council run.

Biddle’s lack of detailed legislative proposals is concerning given his erratic handling of important legislation during his brief tenure on the Council.  Then Interim Councilmember Biddle voted against a tax increase that was supported by most DC residents and ultimately passed the Council, and that Biddle had previously supported.  He explained his vote to me and others by saying that he believed equivalent cuts could be made in certain agencies, but that he didn’t have the time to research and propose those cuts in lieu of the tax increase. 

It is probably due to Peter Shapiro’s deep legislative experience that he has specific policy proposals.  For some unknown reason, many have dismissed Shapiro’s legislative leadership in Prince George’s County – often known as Ward 9 – as evidence of a lack of knowledge of DC issues.  Shapiro speaks about many issues – such that the workforce intermediary – with more knowledge than half the current Councilmembers.  And he also brings extensive experience, such as chair of the National Capital Region Transportation Planning Board, to the many metropolitan-wide issues that several current Councilmembers have not mastered.

When Shapiro and his supporters are asked why we should vote for him, they point to his policy proposals. 

When Orange and his supporters are asked why we should vote for him, they point to legislative proposals that went nowhere and they falsely take credit for anything that happened in Ward 5 during his two terms. 

When Biddle and his supporters are asked why we should vote for him, they say that Biddle was in the race before Shapiro, and that progressives need to take turns.  That’s simply not good enough. 

Progressives aren’t losing elections in D.C. because we aren’t good at convincing good candidates to sit down and wait their turn for office.  Progressives are losing elections in DC because we aren’t good at building campaign organizations and enthusiastic, active constituencies. 

When the latter happens, then progressives will break out of the pack of contenders and win elections.  That’s Shapiro’s plan, and he has earned my vote as a result.

By Ken Archer

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Oscars Follow-Up

February 27, 2012

Jessica Chastain (Photo by: oscar.go.com) Jessica Chastain

It was another big night for Hollywood at the 2012 Academy Awards.  For days leading up to the event, every news show and talk show was predicting who would win and telling us how to host an Oscar party.  It’s just like Christmas and the Super Bowl, by the time it’s all over, you wonder what all the fuss was about.  In this case, however, I can tell you exactly what the fuss was about:  fashion on the red carpet.  And the stars did not disappoint.  There were winners and losers before the show ever began.

Milla Jovovich (Photo by: oscar.go.com) Milla Jovovich

Here’s a quick rundown of the hits and misses of the evening.  There were scores of fabulous dresses this year—possibly more that previous years. The hands down stand out of the evening was Gwyneth Paltrow in a Tom Ford cream column gown with a cape over her shoulders.  It was simple, elegant and perfect.  Jessica Chastain was a close second in a stunning black and gold strapless Alexander McQueen.  Tied for third place were Milla Jovovich, who channeled old Hollywood in a white sequined one shouldered Elie Saab, and Rose Byrne in a black sequined, one shouldered Vivienne Westwood.  And once again Olivia Spencer knocked it out of the park for the plus-size gals in Tadashi Shoji.

Rose Byrne (Photo by: oscar.go.com) Rose Byrne

Glenn Close took an unfortunate approach topping a rufflley black strapless Zac Posen with a structured tuxedo coat.  It was wrong on so many levels.  And Nancy O'Dell of Entertainment Tonight fame wore a Chagoury Couture gown of bright yellow and black that resembled Italian drapes.  Seriously, don’t these women pay their stylists to know better?  And does anyone know why Angelina Jolie kept trying to thrust her leg out of the slit in her full skirt?  Awkward.

Ah, well, the anticipation is over for this year.  It was worth the wait, though, and I’ll look forward the 2013 awards season to see who will rise to the top on the red carpet!

by Robin Jones, a fashion stylist with Style for Hire, and co-owner of Refresh Your Dress.

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A Confident Mayor Talks of His Vision for the City

February 8, 2012

In a well-crafted and well-delivered speech, Mayor Vincent Gray says the city has finally ascended to a fiscal vigor that is the envy of other mayors and laid out his vision for an even greater future.

The District is in good shape financially, the mayor said, and rightfully claimed in his State of The District address Tuesday night, that any governor or mayor around the nation would like to be in our financial position. Since last June there has been close to a $400 million turnaround in what is colloquially called the city’s “rainy day” fund, which now stands at $1.1 billion.

The mayor spoke confidently about the potential for the District to continue to grow and add to the 17,000 taxpayers who have moved here in the last 12 months. He forcefully stated that he would fight any effort to move back to the days when we spent more than we took in or go back to the last four years when our reserve fund was raided each year to meet budget needs. But, he said, we must be prepared for the possibility of a weak economy and the loss of federal funds in coming years.

He spoke of the turnaround on jobs and that the District added 9,500 jobs in the past year. He projected that by 2015 we will add another 45,000 to the local economy.

He bragged, deservedly so, that we are a city of firsts.

“We are the No. 1 retail market in the country, the No. 1 place for young professionals to move, No. 1 in foreign retail investment, No. 1 in metro household income, and No. 1 for quality of living in the mid-Atlantic region.” But the mayor also underscored that, “some of our fellow Washingtonians have not yet benefited from the economic turnaround. They still struggle to find a job, put food on the table, and pay the rent …. while continued economic growth is a priority, we must remain committed to getting our unemployed citizens back to work.”

The mayor spoke of the drop in crime, and that he recognizes a basic demand of members of any community of their government is the expectation that their home, their neighborhood and the city’s streets be safe.  While last year’s 108 homicides were the lowest number in the District in nearly 50 years, they were still 108 too many, the mayor stressed. He complimented the Police Department and Chief Cathy Lanier, who was in the audience, on the astonishing 95% homicide closure rate compared to the national average of just 56%  

He also spoke of his commitment to not only continue education reform but move it ahead more quickly.

The mayor apologized for missteps his administration made early on, and took full responsibility.  He pledged to work steadfastly to regain the peoples trust.  With his new hires, his record of accomplishment and with his commitment to a totally transparent government, the mayor believes he is on the right road.

All-in-all it was an upbeat speech, with strong facts and a realistic vision for the future of the District and its people.

By Peter D. Rosenstein

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