We find ourselves trying to navigate challenging times. Size and scope are hard to fathom. Our restaurants and bars provide half of the District’s sales tax revenue and have taken a Tonya Harding like blow, and many will close and not reopen. The Council faces shrinking revenues and diminishing rainy-day funds, with the budget headed for an inevitable crisis with the hard choices still to come. And it’s worth saying the obvious: There is no recovery without small business recovery.
It’s essential for the District, but that’s not everything we are facing — the death of George Floyd has once again shown racial injustice. If it wasn’t obvious before, it’s blatantly obvious now that part of our community is still suffering, frustrated, and hurting — Black lives matter. We see the effects of economic inequities on someone’s fragile health and health care, the growing numbers of gay homeless youth, the District’s LGBTQ elderly living quiet lives of isolation, and the increasing depression and suicide rate. Undoing the damage done by Trump’s pandemic and the after-effects of the endemic are overwhelming challenges. If the Gods from Mount Olympus wanted to punish us, it’s hard to think of a more perfect scenario, and that is why I’m voting for Council member Brooke Pinto.
I want you to know Brooke like I know Brooke. She’s a progressive pragmatist that’s unquestionably qualified. Her granular understanding of the D.C. budget and its process is outstanding and can’t be emphasized enough. She’s dedicated and embraces bold ideas, and as a creative pragmatist, she’s grounded in the reality of the steps to deliver those ideas. After all, a big idea that can’t be turned into reality will remain a dream.
And Brooke is smart, very smart. Her educational background in hospitality at Cornell, a law degree from Georgetown University, and the unglamorous position as a tax attorney in Attorney General Karl Racine’s office provided the experience that makes her ideal to work on the critical recovery for small businesses, including restaurants and bars. Expertise is valuable.
Brooke’s dedication to our economic recovery’s urgent reality has her working late nights and early mornings. That’s not political puffery, it’s her work ethic and drive. And I’ve experienced her pace, as I’ve had text conversations on advocacy issues past 11 p.m. on several nights, and she’s even called on a Saturday evening to have a substantive discussion on items like dram shop reform. After listening to our restaurant’s concerns, Brooke co-sponsored a bill with Council member McDuffie to provide clarity to licensees on expanded outdoor seating for our restaurants, allowing them to plan for the future.
I also want you to know Brooke as the LGBTQ ally like I know Brooke. Going way back to her youth, she was president of her high school Gay-Straight Alliance and the first person her trans friend came out to. Brooke fought with the administration at the all-girls school they attended to ensure he didn’t have to wear the quilt uniform or a dress at graduation. Brooke learned at the age of 16 that things that seemed inevitable or comfortable for some are daily stressors for others. At an age when most of us were desperately trying to fit in, Brooke spoke out about how rules and society impact people differently. This action wasn’t to gain political capital for a Council member run; it’s just who Brooke has always been.
When Brooke was working on Capitol Hill and the landmark case giving us the right to marry, Brooke canceled work with two other important Senate offices to celebrate this moment in front of the Supreme Court with her best friend from college who had privately come out to her.
Brooke knows our community is under siege these days. The equality the LGBTQ community has gained is going to be challenged in court, and she will vigorously defend our rights as fundamental human values and needs: the ability for all of us to pursue health and happiness, earn a living, be safe in our communities, serve in the military regardless of gender identity, have access to health care, take care of the ones we love. And to help protect those fundamental values, Brooke worked on drafting hate crimes legislation to ensure that the D.C. Attorney General’s office could prosecute hate crimes. She continues to work with the Judicial Committee to ban “the gay panic and trans panic” defense.
Coming from Laramie, Wyo., this is close to my heart. On Oct. 10, 1998, Matthew Shepard, a University of Wyoming student, was tortured, tied to a barbed-wire fence, and left to suffer and die outside Laramie. And using a person’s sexual orientation or gender identity as an excuse for murder or violence is still a valid defense 22 years later in the District. Council member Pinto has committed to our community and me to push and ensure the bill moves through the final stages to become law this Council period. Council member Pinto is committed to our beliefs, vigorously defends our values, and will promote our political needs because that is who Brooke is.
Each election, I ask myself one question: Who is the most qualified person to represent Ward 2? And without a doubt, I know it’s Council member Pinto. It’s why she has the endorsement of the majority of the SMD commissioners from ANC (2F) Logan Circle, the endorsement of Council Chairman Mendelson, and why the Washington Post endorsed her run again.
It’s not lost on me that I’m not endorsing the gay candidate, but to all my friends that feel being a member of the LGBTQ community is important: I say this is what I know for sure, a friend is a friend, an ally is an ally, and Brooke is both.
Although she didn’t need the big windup, as a 31-year resident of Logan Circle, a lifelong proud member of the LGBTQ community from Laramie, and a 30-year small business owner, I’m proud to enthusiastically endorse our Democratic nominee for Ward 2, Council member Brooke Pinto.
John Guggenmos is a longtime D.C. resident and local business owner.