Candidate John F. Settles, a mortgage banker and charter school founder, responded and asked me to get in touch with him. I appreciate the initiative, and he answered a few questions. I like what I heard. Here's the brief email interview:
Why are you running for the Council?
I'm running because I'm tired of the ethical scandals and inaction by our leaders on key issues facing the city, Columbia Heights included. I believe it's important for those of us with real in-depth experience to step up and lead -- we are either going to be a part of the problem-by not acting, or a part of the solution. For 20 years I've worked on all sides of the issue of Housing Affordability, I know solutions that will work. I have 3 kids in public schools, am a parent leader, and serve on board of early childhood organization. I not only understand education, I'm affected by it and live it everyday.
Unlike many of my opponents, I am not a part of the D.C. political establishment and can provide an outside voice, one that has not been influenced by operating within the ineffective status quo. I'm more like most District residents: I'm a D.C. public school Dad, a former small business owner and a community volunteer. I understand the issues facing our residents, because I deal with them everyday from both a personal and professional perspective. Moreover, I have significant experience working in the public, private and non-profit sectors which gives me a well-rounded understanding of how different stakeholders can best come together for the benefit of the District.
What do you think the biggest issues are for Columbia Heights and the surrounding neighborhoods?
Columbia Heights, like Logan Circle where I live has many of the same quality of life issues. Public safety-not only crime, is a concern for all of us living in dense communities. We all have grave concerns about the dysfunction at Fire/EMS situation. I have spoken with many Columbia Heights residents and I hear alot about street crimes, the collateral damage of gang activity, and the tensions that exist when diverse cultures and socio-economic levels come together. I also understand that there needs to be an increased emphasis on supporting small businesses.
Education is a big issue, Ward 1 DC CAS scores are 53.2% for math and 47.5% for reading. Many parents I talk to in Columbia Heights are worried about the boundary/feeder patterns and middle schools. Housing Affordability is a major issue. As a mortgage banker I counsel many single individuals that are paying $1,500-1,800 to rent a bedroom with others. It's not sustainable, and they can't afford to move out on their own. It's worse for families, low income to middle class, from columbia heights to Petworth and other areas of NW.
Other issues are parking-we need more multimodal transit solutions.
What are some specific policies you'd push to address those issues?
If you look at HELPSDC.COM you will see several policy positions that I have released. Under each there are various policies that I would push.
What do you think about proposals to change the way officials are elected in DC, like instant-runoff voting and open primaries?
I am for publicly financed campaigns, open primaries, and runoffs. We have to create more voter involvement and limit influence of money so we can get the best candidates elected.