City Desk

Chatter: Tea Time?

A few hours after we published Will Sommer’s cover profile of Busboys and Poets owner and mayoral candidate Andy Shallal (“Busboys and Politics,” Feb. 7), one campaign emailed it to supporters. Sommer quoted Ward 4 Councilmember Muriel Bowser calling Shallal “a rich socialist,” and that upset a rival. “I never thought I’d see this in a Democratic election in the District of Columbia,” the email said. “Muriel Bowser has taken a page out of the Tea Party’s playbook…Bowser is doing exactly what... conservatives like Rush Limbaugh, Sarah Palin and others have done to President Obama.”

The offended party, though, wasn’t Shallal, but Mayor Vince Gray, whose organization called on Bowser to apologize and also threw a prominent “contribute” button at the bottom of the email in case any supporters were sufficiently moved by his defense of Shallal to want to pitch in financially. Shallal’s campaign told Sommer, though, that “it doesn’t even really matter to Andy.”

Readers who weren’t running for office latched onto other parts of the story, in which Shallal—whose restaurants are now a signpost of redevelopment—warns of the dangers of rapid gentrification. “Wow, I was on the fence about Shallal before, but now, there is no way I would support him,” reader DC Guy posted. “He benefits from the gentrification on 14th Street and then tells everyone else to beware?” Jane replied: “I think he brings a lot to the table, and I understand how you can both benefit from gentrification and be uncomfortable with it, but am not sure if he’s currently qualified to be mayor. Why not run for city council or another smaller-scale representative position first?” Shallal’s fans were less ambivalent. “Andy will be the best thing that has happened to D.C. since, well, ever, at least in my lifetime,” wrote Stacey R in one typical comment. “Yeah, he’s made money, so what? Not all rich people are evil.”

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For the second straight week, Jessica Sidman’s Young and Hungry column looked at obnoxious behavior by restaurant patrons. Two weeks ago, it was people who steal things while they’re out; this time, it was diners who book tables, then don’t show up for them, especially common around holidays like Valentine’s Day (“Faux Reservations,” Feb. 7). But most readers didn’t feel sorry for restaurateurs. “I have NO empathy for the overpriced service industry in the bubble economy called Washington, D.C. where obviously the money is printed and dished out lavishly by the corporate sponsors paying the salaries of all those lobbyist and their ass kissing wannabe power brokers,” wrote PHOlosophy. That wasn’t the only comment to take an unexpectedly political turn: “And obama’s Era of Personal Irresponsibility continues,” wrote reader J-Lo (who may or may not have meant it satirically). On Twitter, Veronica Davis had a different take. “Your love is ruining local businesses (but my calendar is open if you want to take me to dinner on V-Day),” she posted.

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In Housing Complex, Aaron Wiener looked at the widely reviled tax breaks for LivingSocial and found that they may not wind up being such a bad deal, after all (“Social Capital,” Feb. 7). The firm is unlikely to meet the requirements for the tax exemptions; offering the deal, though, probably helped keep what’s still a reasonably large employer from considering other locations. Greater Greater Washington’s Ken Archer thought the piece left something out: “I think LS is a marketing company with an IT department. Which raises the fundamental question behind this whole debate that I think you skirt a little: When should we give location subsidies to companies?” Archer commented. “[This] approach leads to a race to the bottom in which localities outbid each other with scarce tax money to keep big corporations, leaving less money for things like transit, schools and other investments that attract smart workers to town.”

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