As the youngest District Council member ever elected and the first woman to represent Ward 2, Democrat Brooke Pinto, 28, is off to a running start after assuming the seat vacated by Jack Evans. Evans had held the post since 1991 — before Pinto was born.
Though she’s only resided in D.C. for six years, Pinto had gained significant legal and political experience prior to winning the special election to succeed Evans in June. Graduating from Georgetown Law in 2016, she served as a tax lawyer for the District Office of Tax and Revenue and, under Attorney General Karl Racine, rose to become D.C.’s assistant attorney general for policy and legislation.
“I love this city. This is where I will be for the rest of my life. It’s where I plan to raise my family, once I have a family,” Pinto said.
But, what a time to step into office — in the summer of the coronavirus pandemic, the economic crisis and the waves of protest stemming from the Black Lives Matter movement. For Pinto, however, great challenges inspire fresh governing opportunities. “I feel really grateful to have the opportunity to lead during this moment in our history,” she said.
Pinto assumed office just as the Council’s budgeting season was heating up. She quickly steered $500,000 toward the Georgetown Business Improvement District for expanded sidewalks, while helping to secure another $500,000 to refurbish the C&O Canal in Georgetown and $7 million to remodel the Jelleff Recreation Center. She also supported the city’s purchase of Georgetown Day School to help relieve crowding at Hardy Middle School.
“The revitalization and recovery of our small business community is front-of-mind,” Pinto said. To assist small businesses, she’s working on a raft of initiatives. She is aiming to help pass massive direct grants to keep shops and restaurants running, maintain employees on the payroll and enable retail tenants to pay rent. Not only did she help business owners process their PPP loans and navigate cumbersome red tape, she also helped them receive a waiver on their sales tax deadlines.
To help set up “streateries,” Pinto intervened to reduce regulatory demands for outdoor dining liability insurance. She is seeking to “incentivize short-term leasing” to address high vacancy rates through tax code adjustments or direct credits. On the Council, she helped eliminate the proposed advertising tax that would have saddled businesses and publications with heavy costs.
“We’re also trying to think creatively about ways we can utilize our spaces to benefit our small businesses,” Pinto said. The Rose Park Farmer’s Market in Georgetown might be opened up to a more diverse range of small businesses. Water Street could be converted to an outdoor dining and market space, not only boosting local socially distanced commerce, but also helping to stem some of the crime in the area.
With an undergraduate degree in business and hospitality from Cornell University, Pinto is especially attuned to the importance of revitalizing the District’s service, hotel and tourist industries. “I think from a business perspective,” she said, noting that it’s essential “to understand how important our hotels are and tourism is to our local economy.”
Social justice issues also permeate Pinto’s agenda. “I feel very inspired by the Black Lives Matter movement and think it’s incredibly important and far overdue,” she said. She seeks systemic reforms in the criminal justice system and an expansion of restorative justice programs. She is also committed to diversity in staff hiring, as well as in the range of viewpoints her staff considers. And she supports D.C. statehood.
“I’m really glad to be on the Judiciary Committee so that I can have an opportunity to really implement some of these important measures,” she said. Mayor Muriel Bowser’s pandemic response and the decision to shift D.C. schools to virtual learning this fall are also measures Pinto supports. However, she emphasizes that “we’re doing everything we can to get our children back to school as quickly as possible.”
Right now, Pinto said, “we’re seeing how important it is for the government to run efficiently, to be productive, to be responsive, to be transparent. So that gives me an added sense of commitment and responsibility.”