Image from 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.
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.