Vote for Bryan Weaver

Photo by Darrow Montgomery

Thinking about the upcoming special election for an at-large D.C. Council seat brings on a certain sense of déjà vu.

The seat’s only open, after all, because its former occupant, Kwame “Fully Loaded” Brown, moved up to the council chairman’s seat following last year’s election. His chief rival for that job, Vincent Orange, is now running in the special election. So is Dorothy Douglas, who also ran against Brown and Orange in 2010. As are Bryan Weaver, who lost a primary challenge to Ward 1 Councilmember Jim Graham last fall, and Josh Lopez, who spent October trying to rally Adrian Fenty’s supporters to write the latter in on the November ballot. Patrick Mara, who’s also in the race, ran (and won) the Ward 1 Board of Education seat last fall, too.

Questions at voter forums (including one sponsored by Washington City Paper) keep dwelling on last year’s issues: Is the District better off without Michelle Rhee? Should streetcars get funding? And, over and over again in different iterations, the same fundamental question that underpinned so much of the debate in 2010: How can the city best deal with the demographic changes it’s been going through for years?

Yes, the months since the last election have added a few new ones, about Lincoln Navigators, about relatives of powerful people on the D.C. payroll, and about whether the occupants of the Wilson Building do enough to keep an eye on either of those topics. Those questions, though, have mostly had the effect of boxing in Sekou Biddle, the guy who’s in the unfortunate position of occupying the at-large seat now up for grabs.

Like in any special election, turnout next week is expected to be light; a margin of fewer than 1,200 votes decided the last one, 14 years ago. Picking someone to support this time isn’t easy. There’s a lot to like about many of the candidates, but none of them are perfect.

On paper, Biddle makes a pretty good councilmember. He’s familiar with education issues and his policy ideas are progressive. But we can’t get behind the closed-door maneuvering that put him on the council in January—maneuvering that appeared to put Biddle in debt to three of the city’s more troubling pols: Brown, Ward 5 Councilmember Harry Thomas Jr., and Ward 8 Councilmember Marion Barry. The insiders embraced him in January largely because of resentments left over from Vincent Orange’s campaign against Brown the previous fall. Today, Biddle can’t decide how to distance himself from the machine that launched him into citywide politics. He initially employed Brown’s father, Marshall Brown, a polarizing former Marion Barry campaigner. Then, last week, Biddle fired him over racially inflammatory remarks he made in The Washington Post.

Likewise, though we tepidly endorsed him last fall, we’re not thrilled about the fact that Orange is now considered this year’s man to beat. He’s become the establishment candidate, and now—like most politicians trying to coast to victory—the last thing he wants to do is say anything that might give a hint of what he’d do while in office. He’s against cutting spending, but he’s also against raising taxes. He’s proud of his record bringing big-box retail to Ward 5, which is better than bringing no retail to Ward 5. But it won’t help small businesses or would-be pedestrians if his development theory is applied citywide. His time as Pepco’s chief local lobbyist doesn’t bode well for his claims that he’ll push sustainable energy policies. He joined a protest outside the Post building recently over its education coverage, in a blatant pander to a union that’s backed him (a move that Orange probably knows won’t actually do anything for the teachers he says he’s helping). Last year, we thought he was a better pick than Brown for council chairman. But now he has opponents who are interested in things besides SUV upholstery.

Mara, who won the Post over, says the council needs tougher oversight of itself and the rest of the government, and he’s right. But his sense that taxes are way too high in D.C. doesn’t jibe with reality (many District residents actually pay less than they would in Arlington, Alexandria, or Montgomery counties). His reveries about gentrification in Columbia Heights only infrequently seem to be matched with a sense that the city could be doing more to manage the changes that have led a young, white Republican to want to live in the neighborhood. And though Mara’s no Tea Party aficionado, we’re not quite ready to enlist with the GOP.

Lopez may be working harder than most of his opponents, but a combination of enthusiasm and Fenty nostalgia isn’t enough. Like other former Fenty campaign aides, he landed a well-paid city job after the primary—which he quit to run the write-in campaign last fall, using leftover Fenty signs in a violation of election laws.

Few of the other candidates have raised enough money to make a serious bid. One of them, Arkan Haile, has steadfastly refused to appear at any campaign forums. We’re tempted to back the Statehood Green Party’s Alan Page, out of frustration over how Congress and the White House treat the District.

We’d rather endorse Bryan Weaver, though. He’s spent years working with—and for—at-risk kids in Adams Morgan. He’s demonstrated both a fierce commitment to fairness for all D.C. residents (he’d push for new tax brackets for high incomes, to help balance the city’s budget without putting most of the sacrifice on poorer residents) and a pragmatism that could keep him from being marginalized on the council (as Advisory Neighborhood Commission chairman, he negotiated a deal making hotel developers promise to hire local workers in exchange for a $46 million tax abatement, which is more than other city officials bothered to do). His irritation with the petty scandals at the Wilson Building is clear: He says he won’t take an outside job if elected, something other councilmembers do, despite salaries that are the second-highest in the nation at $125,583 per year. And he would join a growing urbanist bloc on the council that could improve everyone’s quality of life.

Here’s where we admit that Weaver isn’t likely to win. He got into the race in response to a social media-driven petition, making him the official candidate of myopic little twits at a moment when, politically, that could doom him east of the Anacostia River. And we see him around the neighborhood during the day a little more often than you might expect for a candidate in an upcoming citywide election.

But Weaver would bring a perspective the council seems to be missing now: someone who understands both the flood of young, mostly white, professional types the last census counted, and someone who also thinks about how the fallout from the trends that brought them here can leave longtime residents struggling. That’s the intersection where the District government—and all of us who live here—will find most conflicts come from over the next few years. That’s where the city needs a reasonable voice that can translate one side’s hopes and fears to the other.

Chances are you won’t vote April 26. But if you do, vote for Bryan Weaver.

Our Readers Say

If everyone who believed that Weaver is the best candidate would actually vote for him, there wouldn't be a fear that he couldn't win. Kudos to WCP for not trying to be cute in the manner of another local newspaper that found Weaver to be the most knowledgeable challenger in 16 years but chose to endorse a lesser candidate based on the preconception of who had a better chance to win. Personally, I'd rather let the winner be determined by a vote count rather than a bunch of Nostradamuses who are wrong more often than not.
Well-reasoned and well-written, but I cannot bring myself to vote for someone who seriously proposes that we take the teachers from the better performing schools and simply ship them to the lower performing schools. You don't have to be a genius to know that robbing Peter to pay Paul will not work; the idea of using a revolving door to handle dead-wood teachers has already been tried and it failed.
Amy, I totally respect that point. However, Bryan doesn't support simply moving teachers from good schools to bad. Rather, he believes that we should incentivize teaching at the lowest performing schools. With meaningful financial incentives, we could see good, long term teachers, who are masters in their field, come to the district and teach in underpreforming schools.

So, two points:

1. It's not a zero sum game. The district is not at it's capacity in terms of good teachers. There are many more out there.
2. These incentives will bring great teachers to underpreforming (read: failing) schools, however, there will always be good/great teachers who want to teach at our best institutions.
Totally agree with Jeff here -- if everyone who supported him voted for him, rather than playing the game of who can beat the candidate(s) we don't want, he'd stand a much better chance of winning.

It's frustrating that the discussion surrounding dc elections often centers more on a candidate's ability to win rather than focusing on who is the right person for the job and believing he/she can win. If a candidate's own supporters don't believe in him/her, how can anyone else be expected to? This city is in a really crappy place right now. The onus is on us to make the right call at the ballot box -- and to trust and believe that your fellow voters who support your candidate will show up and make the right call too. In reality, with such low expectations for turnout, the candidate that can effectively rally his/her troops and GOTV will be the winner. I have a hard time believing that our generation of Washingtonians can't/won't mobilize. But it's going to take the folks who have the broadest networks to be brave, step up to the plate, and endorse their candidate with pride and enthusiasm and without any caveats.

I thought this was a great piece too
A good piece, thank you for the courage to speak the truth. Andy is right about the point regarding teachers. The proposal is to bring the lower performing schools up with better teachers not just new ones. It's not about robbing Peter to pay Pal. And another point to make, to clarify the endorsement: this election is a potential inflection point. Turnout is key, so if you care and you bother to vote, you will actually make a difference. Show up, bring friends, and vote for Bryan Weaver, for DC's future.
The ironic thing is, I was just talking to Bryan Weaver about how people shoot themselves in the foot politically by voting for "who they think will win" instead of who fights for their interests. As the DC Statehood Green Party candidate in this race, I run into the "pragmatism" argument every now and again, as you'd imagine. I implore people to support the candidate whose policy positions most closely mirror their own passions and aspirations.

And please tell everyone you know to vote April 26th!

ps: Hope the City Paper gives in to the temptation to endorse me in future races *smile*

In solidarity and with love for the people,

Alan Page
weaver is your typical tax and spend liberal - give them a check and the problem will go away - that may work in the short run and in nw (and minnesota) but it does not work in the long run and for those of us in ne, se, and sw - weaver's failure to give jim "quid pro quo" graham a challenge for the ward 1 seat demonstrates to citywide voters all they need to know for this special election
What are Bryan Weaver's view on illegal immigration? I can tell you, he's a liberal. He's against the federal program 'Secure Communities' and he support's DC being a sancturary city for illegal aliens like the entire DC Council and the candidates running against him. I will never support or vote any candidate, Republican, Democratic, and Independent that support illegal immigration and granting amnesty and citizenship to illegal aliens.
Just curious if the M. Brown thing was the final nail in the coffin for Biddle, or was he done for before that? Honestly I thought he was the perfect candidate for DC until his racist staffing was revealed, I didn't even care about his association with the shady councilmembers. I felt he was playing the political game quite well at that point, a necessity in such a bruising arena.
Andy, Fernando: I'm just going by what was directly stated in the very enthusiastic endorsement of the Georgetown Dish.
That's right "Weaver" can't Win. Stop Orange, "Vote Biddle on Tuesday!
i threw his campaign flyer in the trash. It was poorly executed and incoherent. If he wins, we are in deep trouble.
"But his sense that taxes are way too high in D.C. doesn’t jibe with reality (many District residents actually pay less than they would in Arlington, Alexandria, or Montgomery counties).

Please don't reply on Empower DC or Save Our Safety Net for this info. Just look it up! At 8.5%, we are by far the highest taxed and least competitive in the region. Our income, property, and commercial real estate taxes far exceed any other jurisdiction in the region.

Not surprised that the hipster douchebag crowd at CP would go for Weaver though. Nice guy, don't get me wrong. But unknown and out of touch. In other words, a wasted vote!
<I>Just look it up! Our income, property, and commercial real estate taxes far exceed any other jurisdiction in the region.</I>

I shall look it up, at least for residential property taxes, since all my suburban friends keep insisting they pay far more than I do. My source is <A HREF="">The Apartment and Office Building Association of Metropolitan Washington</A>, a group which lobbies long and hard to lower DC's property tax rate, so if they're not accurately comparing DC with its neighbors they're likely making DC's tax rates seem worse than they are. Your area residential property tax rates, per $100 of assessed value:

Montgomery: $0.811 base (county and state). Some municipalities also have a property tax, ranging from an extra $0.01 in the town of Chevy Chase to $0.292 in Rockville. (Rockville has some property classes with even higher rates, but these are all commercial properties.)
DC: $0.85
Arlington: $0.958
Alexandria: $0.978
Prince George's: $1.072 base (county and state). Some municipalities also have a property tax, ranging from $0.24 in Upper Marlboro to $1.038 (!!!) in Colmar Manor.
Fairfax: $1.09

This clearly is some definition of "far exceeding" that I am not familiar with.
If the context is the residential property tax rate alone then, on that sole basis, one can certainly challenge Pat Mara's "sense that taxes are way too high in D.C." But Patrick's (and many others') assertion is not that myopic and, in a city-wide race, the perspective of D.C. voters should not be, either. To see a comparative analysis just out this week-- in which the District ties for dead last among the fifty states-- of the tax burdens that major businesses (read: employers) consider in deciding whether to locate HQs, manufacturing facilities, call centers, etc. in a particular jurisdiction, go here:
There's a comparison here that looks at property, sales, income, and other rates:

For families making under $150,000—which is about 75 percent of the city—the tax burden is lower in D.C. than it would be anywhere else in the region. For families making $150,000, the District ranks 4th out of 6 jurisdictions. (The analysis doesn't look at higher incomes.)

Also, surely a survey of major businesses is just as biased toward a likely outcome as you think an analysis by the Fiscal Policy Institute would be toward the other likely outcome.
I respected weaver until yesterday when I got his flyer with the broom in his hand. Sharon Pratt did that years ago and it showed that Weaver is just another corny politician.
BTW- isn't the CP concerned about Mr. Weavers wife who works for one of the largest lobbying shops (Dewey Sq) that do business in DC. I mean if he had to recuse himself from all the businesses they lobby the Council for, he'd have to recuse himself for half his job. Good thing it's part time!
After a quick read, a potential issue with that Ernst & Young study is that it looks at the likely tax burden for large employers. As it notes, 82% of announced new capital expenditures and 58% of announced new jobs in its 2008-2009 sample were in manufacturing facilities, and this is apparently how it weights its figures ("The overall tax burden calculations can be weighted by either the distribution of capital expenditures or the distribution of jobs associated with the investments", p. 8).

Which is fine for a national survey. But if 82% or even 58% of new investments in DC were in manufacturing, we'd be doomed. We have very little land available that's zoned for manufacturing -- and, yes, the nation's second-highest personal property tax rate on industrial machinery. The only way we'd be able to get manufacturing up to national levels would be to make the pie smaller, by reducing our current strengths in headquarters and office/call center facilities -- which make up only 15% of capital spending nationally, but far more than that here. If I'm reading it correctly, the report penalizes DC for being unfriendly towards activities that are important nationally but are physically difficult to locate here, while giving us little reward for being better at things that are peripheral nationally but common here.

If I'm reading it wrong, let me know, but it seems to me like it's comparing apples and oranges.
@ohmygoodness: If the worst thing you can say about Weaver involves what he is holding in a picture, I guess it's understandable why you would target his wife. Will you go after his children next?

For most members of the Council, you don't need to worry about their wive's jobs, you have to worry about those members' own second jobs.
I will vote for Bryan next Tuesday for having the courage to raise taxes on the wealthiest DC residents. Our own CFO, Nat Gandhi, is the best source of evidence that our rich ARE undertaxed. DC residents earning $150K pay 9.0% of income in total taxes (income/sales/property/auto) versus 10.5% for those making $25K. They also pay less in taxes than their wealthy counterparts in Montgomery, PG, and Fairfax Counties. See the CFO report on Tax Rates & Tax Burdens, Washington Metropolitan Area, 2009 (CFO) at
"...the official candidate of myopic little twits...?" WTF That Social Media launch successfully got him this far. I supported his run (from afar) and I'm an Anacostian! Say you're Sorry!

Other than that - Great article. Pragmatic choice. ;-)
@IllegalImmigration, That you Leo Alexander? lolololol Lawd you've got to mellow up and find a different approach to addressing that issue.
Remember that Pat Mara was the guy who said he thought it was fine that Allen West was the headliner for the annual GOP fundraising dinner a few weeks ago. I'm really surprised that the local media didn't jump all over this after DeBonis wrote about in The Post.

Allen West is the GOP congressman from Florida who basically had to leave the Army after there were questions about his "interrogation" of Iraqi prisoners. Moreover, he was going to hire radio host Joyce Kaufman as his chief of staff until she became too toxic even for him. Kaufman advocates hanging illegal immigrants who commit crimes in the U.S. and dumping their bodies in their home countries.

But, the DC media has given Mara a free pass. Why? And why hasn't Mara denounced this wing of the Republican Party? I don't believe Mara advocates any of these things -- I don't believe they represent his positions. Mara should be ashamed of himself for not speaking out.

I will not be voting for any of these clowns today because all are opportunists and liars. I agree, Bryan Weaver is a white liberal and he does support illegal immigration, as do Joshua Lopez. I will never vote for any candidate that supports illegal aliens right to work here and to be here illegally. This country has immigration laws and others coming here should respect law and order.

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