Editor’s Note: This is the fourth in a series of profiles on the candidates running for D.C. mayor in 2014. Click here to read all the profiles.
Andy Shallal is best-known as the owner of the Busboys and Poets and Eatonville restaurants. Born in Iraq, his father was a diplomat and his family moved to the U.S. when Shallal was 10 years old. He has lived in Arlington or D.C. for the past 48 years.
A political newcomer, Shallal says he entered the race for mayor because he believes D.C. “has so much potential.” He has received celebrity endorsements from actor Danny Glover, TV producer George Pelecanos (“The Wire”) and Peter Yarrow (one-third of the folk group Peter, Paul and Mary).
Shallal calls his first campaign for elected office the most inspiring thing he’s ever done.
“It’s restored my faith in people, it’s restored my faith in humanity and has given me more ammunition to say I want to make the city the best city there is,” he said.
Shallal outlined his positions on several issues in a recent interview with WNEW D.C. Bureau Chief Matt DelSignore.
HOMELESSNESS AND AFFORDABLE HOUSING
He says it “seems a little ridiculous” that the homeless population has spiked during a time when D.C. has enjoyed growing prosperity. Shallal says local and federal programs can offer quick support.
DC UNITED STADIUM
The original Busboys and Poets is right across the street from the Reeves Center, which could be handed over to private developers as part of a land swap that would pave the way for a new soccer stadium at Buzzard Point. “Do we really need another condo building with retail?” Shallal asks. He would prefer a mixed-use project that would guarantee some level of daytime business at the property.
If the Washington football team returns to D.C.–Shallal won’t refer to the Redskins by their official nickname–he believes the RFK Stadium site would be the best place for them to play.
Shallal describes the achievement gaps between white students and black students as “disturbing” and “alarming.” He says changing demographics have driven up scores in the D.C. Public Schools, not reforms instituted in recent years.
Decriminalizing possession of small amounts of marijuana is not enough for Shallal. He wants to see full legalization, with sales taxed and regulated in a similar fashion to alcohol.
FIRE AND POLICE
Concerned about morale issues in both the fire and police departments, Shallal offers suggestions for MPD Chief Cathy Lanier, whom he says is doing “fine,” and embattled Fire and EMS Chief Ken Ellerbe.
A first-time candidate, Shallal tells us running for office has “restored his faith in humanity.”