Reta Lewis gives her closing remarks

Vince Gray wasn’t there. Neither were Muriel Bowser or Tommy Wells. Still, the lack of a full house of mayoral hopefuls didn’t stop Jack EvansVincent OrangeReta LewisAndy ShallalChristian Carter, and little-known newcomer Michael Green from showing up last night at a forum hosted by Ward 5’s Premier Community Development Corporation.

Moderator Denise Rolark-Barnes‘ questions centered on economic development in the District, and the candidates responded with concerns that the District’s boom is leaving many behind. Carter warned that developments near Metro stations were used as a tool to drive residents out of neighborhoods, while Orange lamented budget cuts at the University of the District of Columbia. Evans trumpeted his vote against changes to the Height Act. “Frankly, I hope we have heard the last of it,” Evans said.

Just about the only business development that did win approval from the audience was Shallal’s new Busboys & Poets location in Edgewood. Shallal touted the latest iteration of his restaurant and its policy on paid sick days for workers, quipping that he offered them “before it was cool.”

The restaurant owner also expanded his list of people who would receive free public transportation in a Shallal administration, previously limited to the poor, to include senior citizens. Which is good, because according to him, no one over the age of 65 bikes. “I think seniors get really incensed when we start talking about bike lanes all the time,” Shallal says. “When we start talking about things that have nothing to do with them.”

With Evans ducking out early and Orange showing up for only a few minutes, things got a little weird. Green channeled Sulaimon Brown by urging voters to cast a ballot for someone with a color in his name, while Carter claimed that Marion Barry didn’t create the summer jobs program. The program’s actual progenitor, according to the candidate? His aunt.

The near-empty candidate tables didn’t go unmentioned, either. “90 percent of life is showing up,” Green told the crowd.

Photo by Will Sommer