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From D.C. community leaders, a to-do list for Mayor Gray

Washington should be a cultural capital as well as a political one. The city's mayor should be an arts advocate - a person who understands that organizations such as the D.C.Commission on the Arts and Humanities and the Humanities Council of Washington, D.C. play a key role in shaping the quality of life in our city.

As mayor, you should be seen walking around not just with budget reports but with a book of poems or a novel as well. When you discuss school reform, you should emphasize the critical role of arts education. Young people in the District will develop a growing appreciation for the arts if they see you as a visible and vocal supporter. Find time to attend theater performances, gallery openings, concerts and cultural festivals. (You'll have fun, too.)

People can come together around song and dance and celebrate our city's diversity. Govern like D.C. native Duke Ellington and keep the big band happy.

- E. Ethelbert Miller, poet, Poet, director of Howard University's Afro-American Studies Resource Center

Say no to Wal-Mart.

In November, Wal-Mart announced plans to open four stores in Washington by 2012. This is not what our city needs.

As an independent small-business owner, I am concerned about the District's "big box" approach to economic development. This strategy - plant national chains in gentrifying areas, some of which are still recovering from 1968's riots - is unsustainable and unwise. It's economic crack.

You should take the long view and strive to attract small businesses with tax incentives that level the playing field for those battling the big-box bullies. Small businesses give our neighborhoods - whether Mount Pleasant, Shaw or H Street - their unique character. (Remember when Chinatown had something more Chinese than Fuddruckers?)

Small businesses create more local jobs, pay more taxes, keep more money in the community and are far less likely to close down when things get tough. And, if they go bust, they don't leave an economic crater behind.

Learn from the mistakes of your predecessor. Instead of hopping a flight across the country to entice Fortune 500 companies, support independent local businesses by taking walks in our neighborhoods, dining at local restaurants and shopping at local shoe stores. It will be money well spent.

- Andy Shallal, owner, Busboys and Poets and Eatonville restaurant

Focus on senior citizens.

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