By James Wright, Special to the AFRO, [email protected]
During the Nov. 6 general election, voters in the District will elect a independent at-large representative on the council. Rustin Lewis hopes residents will consider his bid. “I come from a non-profit background and I work at the University of the District of Columbia (UDC) as a member of its faculty,” Lewis told the AFRO. “We need someone with a non-profit background on the council and someone who understands the way non-profit leaders think.”
Lewis is the former executive director for College Bound, an organization dedicated to helping young people go to college and a board member of Bowen McCauley Dance and National CARES Mentoring Movement.
Lewis has never run for political office. He received bachelor’s and masters’ degrees in public administration from Clark Atlanta University and a doctorate in public administration from the University of Baltimore.
If elected to the council, Lewis will focus on developing a pipeline that supports children in their pre-K years to pursue college and job opportunities with UDC as well as help university graduates find good-paying jobs.
Lewis is concerned about the rising costs of housing in the District and wants to address that. “We are all concerned about the escalating costs of housing, and we do not want residents to choose between rent and eating,” he said. “The displacement of our residents is of grave concern. I want to collaborate with the business and non-profit communities to ensure that government policies support helping senior citizens keep their homes or that they are equitably compensated should they choose to sell.”
Lewis said as a council member, he will focus on developing affordable housing units and workforce housing. “We need to make sure that teachers and police officers can live in the city they work in,” he said. “I heard a story about a teacher who lives some distance from the city getting up at 5 a.m. in the morning to make sure that her children got off to school, fight traffic and arrive at school on time with a smile. That’s not easy and housing is expensive in the city.”
Lewis said District government surplus property can be converted into affordable or workforce units as well as abandoned property can serve in that function as well.
Lewis, a resident of the Hillcrest section of Ward 7, said economic development east of the Anacostia River can be achieved with creative policies. “I support creating incubators that will help senior and seasoned citizens start their own businesses,” he said. “I believe the government should play a role in helping people start businesses. That helps the city because tax money will be coming in and D.C. residents will be employed.”
Lewis suggested a two-year moratorium on some businesses fees to help entrepreneurs get a start.
Lewis will be competing against D.C. Council member Elissa Silverman (I-At Large), entrepreneur Dionne Reeder, and Ward 7 health care activist Ambrose Lane, among others. The filing deadline for the Nov. 6 general election is Aug. 8.