Who will you pick for DC Council at-large on April 23?

John Settles

John Settles is a housing finance and development professional whose career has taken him from the Department of Housing and Urban Development to being a realtor, mortgage expert and developer. He lives with his family in Logan Circle.

Question 7

We asked the candidates:

Below are a set of proposals for ethics reform which some have advocated in recent years. For each, would you vote for or against? Further, you can explain any position in more detail if you wish and offer any additional ethics measures you would advocate for.

  • Ban or limit outside employment
  • Eliminate or constrain constituent service funds
  • Ban corporate contributions to campaigns
  • Ban "bundling" from multiple entities controlled by same person
  • Ban contributions by contractors and/or lobbyists who do business with DC
  • Forbid free or discounted legal services, travel gifts, sports tickets for councilmembers

John Settles responded:

Ban or limit outside employment

A wise man once said: "With great power comes great responsibility." I believe that the council position should be a full time position with a salary that is competitive with the private sector to attract the cities best and brightest. Even though we elect 13 individuals to oversee a Multi-Billion dollar enterprise it is a pay cut compared to lawyers, doctors, corporate executives etc. In the interim I do believe that outside employment should not be allowed with firms that do business with the city.

Eliminate or constrain constituent service funds

I think the constituent service funds should have restricted uses, sponsoring informational/community building sessions in respective communities, financial assistance to individuals in emergency situations, supporting community events, and other important functions. I believe that transparency is critical, I would place the expenditures on my council website.

Ban corporate contributions to campaigns

I actually would like to see publicly funded campaigns to level the playing field, and make it more about the individual and issues, versus money and influence.

Ban "bundling" from multiple entities controlled by same person.

I would support this.

Ban contributions by contractors and/or lobbyists who do business with DC

I support this. I would support any bill that would allow local candidates to choose to run for office without relying on large contributions, big money bundlers, or donations from lobbyists, and would be freed from the constant fundraising in order to focus on what people in their communities want.

Forbid free or discounted legal services, travel gifts, sports tickets for councilmembers

I support this.

Here is how you rated the candidates' responses:

Question 6

We asked the candidates:

Residents who walk and bicycle often feel our streets are not sufficiently safe for them. Others feel that projects to accommodate bicycles and pedestrians have impeded quality of life for those who must drive. Is there a way forward that can bring peace among all road users? What would you say to each of these groups?

John Settles responded:

Our transportation planning should focus on making DC a multi-modal transportation mecca where pedestrians are kept safe; bicyclists are protected in their own lanes; and alternative options that offer comparable trip times without the hassle of parking are provided to motorists.

A combination of bike lane expansion, car-sharing servicessuch as Zipcarand dedicated bus lanes that provide express service, can create greater connectivity particularly in transportation islands such as Hillcrest, and Palisades that are underserved by Metrorail.

The tension between motorists and cyclists is unfortunate, but the reality is that we need both cars and bikes. Folks who live near Metro stations, Circulator routes, are within walking distance to work, or who bike to work, provide a great benefit by reducing their carbon footprint.

However, those neighborhoods with few or no public transportation options; people who for health reasons can't walk or ride a bike to work; or families with children, may have to drive cars. But, more carpooling, expansion of car-sharing services and additional metro bus and rail services can alleviate commuter traffic in and around the District. I personally drive a Zip car periodically and have found car-sharing a great option. However the city needs to explore options for those who can't afford the rental fee.

The city should consider incentivizing transit oriented development projects which combine residential units with employment centers so that more people have the option of walking to work.

Over the past 5 years there has been an average of 653 crashes involving pedestrians and 334 involving cyclists each year in this city. The city needs to develop better metrics for aggregating bike use counts, making the case for bike lanes and essential safety improvements based on accurate numbers. Additionally a public information campaign promoting the environmental, health, recreational and transportation benefits of bike riding, should be waged concurrent to a campaign educating cyclists and motorists on safety precautions, rules and etiquette of the road.

Cyclists need to understand that some people drive a car because they have no other options. Motorists need to be better informed on how to share the road with cyclists.

Here is how you rated the candidates' responses:

Question 5

We asked the candidates:

What do you think the District should do with its $417 million surplus?

John Settles responded:

I propose contributing to the rainy day fund, AND investing in the protection of the middle class, while creating pathways out of poverty for low income residents. The latter is critical because the annual expenditures for social services programs currently exceeds the cost of the surplus, and continues to rise. Lower and Middle class individuals, and families are besieged with the high cost of housing, higher tax rates, and overall cost of living. Incentives for the creation of a more diverse and broadly affordable housing stock, investments in targeted 21st century trade, technology, and workforce development programs for at risk youth, underemployed, and unemployed adults has an economic impact 3-4 times the initial investment. Leveraging these funds with creative financing will increase the benefits while also saving future dollars. Creating Public Private partnerships will enhance success. For example offering direct financing, and revenue guarantees for social impact bonds to fund creative programs such as creating green manufacturing facilities east of the river could provide thousands of well paying jobs. The large number of unemployed, illiterate, ex-offenders, and underemployed have created a cycle of poverty that impacts education, public safety, economic development, and quality of life. The Wilson building has allowed some of the greatest waste and failed policies to occur in the area of poverty eradication. If factories can be created in prisons why can't they be brought to the city.

On the other end of the spectrum funding micro financing, and other incentives to attract knowledge based entrepreneurs and businesses will continue the job growth.

At a time when many public buildings are in need of renovation, such as schools, and fire stations, we can't afford to let the problems continue to worsen.

Here is how you rated the candidates' responses:

Question 4

We asked the candidates:

Mayor Gray has set a goal of growing by 250,000 residents in 20 years. Previous mayors had similar goals. GMU studies suggest we need over 122,000 new housing units (each of which might hold multiple people) by 2030. How can and should the District accommodate this growth?

John Settles responded:

To grow the city's population by 250k over 20 years I would create a Strategic Growth and Retention Plan. This plan should be based upon the mantra; Jobs Attract, Homeownership Roots, Education Stabilizes, and Public Safety Secures.

Given the competition with the suburbs, rising housing prices, underperforming schools in many communities and, increased street crime, we must proactively address these issues to ensure we don't lose population. The city must attract approximately 400,000 given the transient nature of the city. We must continue to create neighborhoods that are culturally unique, and thus more desirable than "urban" developments in suburban neighborhoods such as Ballston. Transformational projects that add housing stock and create neighborhoods should be the central long term focus of the Strategic Growth and Retention Plan. For example Hill East, the former site of DC General Hospital, has great potential to become a world renowned sustainable urban village that provides a carefully crafted mix of housing units ranging from micro-housing to senior cottages and town homes wrapped around neighborhood businesses all digitally powered by Google fiber, thus providing the best bandwidth capability and speed in the region.

In order to manage growth and welcome new residents, we need to create a diversity of affordable housing stock and unit sizes, across the entire city, especially in underdeveloped neighborhoods where investment has been lacking. These neighborhoods should be focused around new anchors — local businesses, green space, art and cultural centers and transportation nodes that connect the neighborhoods to employment and entertainment centers. Development should enhance the lives of current residents instead of displacing them, or creating financial burden. A Smart Growth plan, customized to the identity of neighborhoods is the best way for DC to remain the attractive metropolis it is. We need carefully crafted development plans that retain existing families and attract new families as well as young professionals and empty nesters. We need to become more entrepreneur friendly and create more well-paying, knowledge based jobs.

Here is how you rated the candidates' responses:

Question 3

We asked the candidates:

DC's education system has improved in recent years for many kids, but many schools remain inadequate to our children's needs. If you could design a better school system for DC, what would it look like? Would we have more teacher evaluations or fewer? More charter schools, fewer, or different ones? More or fewer kids going to local schools? How else would your school system differ from the one we have today?

John Settles responded:

My 3 children attend a DC Public School. I am pleased with the staff, yet dismayed at the outdated facility. In my volunteer efforts I have witnessed first-hand many of the problems with the school system. While there has been improvement, the city still has an unacceptable average Math and Reading Proficiency level below 50%. Every year our schools are graduating children, many of whom are not prepared academically, or equipped with skills that line up with the jobs of today, or the future. As the Nation's Capital, we should be a model for delivering high quality education in all schools, regardless of income level. In order to create a city wide system of excellence that surpasses Maryland, I would undertake the following actions:

Sponsor legislation that creates a complimentary versus competition between Charter and DCPS schools. Charter Schools should be specialized, and incented to be the innovation and incubator centers for forward thinking education offerings, that once proven can be shared with DCPS. In cases where synergies are found I would push for the co-location of Charter Schools and DCPS schools, as an alternative to school closings, and for improving underperforming schools. I also would push for additional investment in early childhood education,additional preschool classes, to match growth, and demand. Families should not have to depend upon a lottery process to determine the quality of education that their children receive.

We must invest in state of the art technology offerings for all schools, so ALL students can be offered STEM-ART programs through a choice of Animation, Gaming, Augmented Reality, and Distance Learning. No matter the location, or income level, all children must have advanced technology proficiency, and code writing ability.

We must recognize that not all children will go directly to college, if they go at all. Therefore we have to reintroduce trades, life skills, and entrepreneurship classes in schools. Creating a pathway to gainful employment will reduce dropoutrates, juvenile crime rates, and improve academic environments.

Additionally, I will push for more in depth partnerships withprivate and federal organizations to bring Art, Music, and specialty electives such as Robotics to all schools.

Further, I would empower principals to create metrics forevaluating teacher effectiveness, to balance current measurements that are based upon 2 annual visits to a class.

DCPS and Charter schools must work in tandem with other government agencies to provide comprehensive services in the schools. We must recognize that all students are not coming from the same environments. There are children coming to school with untreated illness, suffering from mental or physical abuse, malnourishment, and sleep deprivation, yet they are labeled, and/or judged by the same test standards as other children.

Lastly, the city must invest in Workforce Housing for teachers, and other incentives to stem the teacher turnover, especially in lower performing schools.

With focused leadership, and strong partnerships between the school system, parents, community, and the private sector we can improve the schools, and properly prepare the children.

Here is how you rated the candidates' responses:

Question 2

We asked the candidates:

Chief Lanier and Mayor Gray have made a lot of the drop in homicides, but other crimes — assaults, robberies — remain stubbornly high. How should DC police deal with those challenges, and do you have an opinion on how many officers MPD needs?

John Settles responded:

MPD must use a comprehensive approach to reducing crime. Assaults with a deadly weapon, sex abuse, theft and hate crimes against LGBT are all up. A sense of security positively impacts growth, retention, tourism, and investment.

MPD must:

Inform Residents: MPD Crime Mapping tool must work. Officers should regularly attend ANC meetings to discuss data, and train the community on responding.

Partnerships: The Mayor needs to assist MPD by bringing together key agencies such as DCPS, Dept. of Employment Services, Health and Human Services, and DCHA/DHCD to create better prevention programs.

Presence: There must be a strong/visible presence during hours of the day with crime "spikes" and along streets with heavy pedestrian traffic.

Prevention: Situational Crime Prevention combined with real time GIS crime mapping can identity hot spots, allowing MPD to react quickly and provide a visible deterrent.

MPD should have 4,000 officers to maintain a city wide presence given the population growth. Given the limited number of cadets that the police academy can graduate annually, this must occur now. Lastly, MPD needs to hire civilians for desk jobs, and get officers on the street patrolling, and talking with citizens to build relationships. We all need to take a greater stake in our public safety and if we can bring the job of keeping our streets and homes safe a little closer to home in a more positive way, maybe we can all feel a lot better about the city we love to call home.

Here is how you rated the candidates' responses:

Question 1

We asked the candidates:

The District has changed a lot since 1993, and will likely change much more by 2033. What are 2-3 changes you hope to see by 2033, and how will electing you to the DC Council help bring them about?

John Settles responded:

I envision a DC ("Dynamic City") in 2033 that is a national model of innovation, and operational efficiency.

We will live /work in a Net Energy city, powered by Co-Generation, bio waste and other renewables. DC 2033 will be a world leader in urban sustainability, with an advanced multimodal transportation system; urban plantagons and farms; multi stream recycling, free- cycling; and remanufacturing facilities. Our water will be obtained from the treatment of harvested rain, and non-potable water will be reused.

Our state of the art schools using a STEM/Arts/Robotics program taught through Animation, Gaming and Augmented Reality, will develop independent thinkers who are able to write code and create next generation technologies.

The city's diverse housing stock will surpass Swiss Minergie standards, and allow residents from all socio economic levels to live in artistic and culturally rich neighborhoods where the streets are safe, and clean.

As a council member I will sponsor listening meetings in each ward of the city where residents and key department leadership will hear from great visionaries such as Richard Florida, Eric Freed, etc., with the objective of shaping specific goals and road maps for attainment.

During this process I will hold individual and joint meetings with city, and federal agencies to determine if existing programs, pilots or studies can support intelligent urbanization projects. Additionally, I will seek to create a website that will chronicle ideas and progress. I will task staff with seeking out partners for public/private partnerships to finance, design, and implement these projects.

Here is how you rated the candidates' responses:

Whats next

We will be asking the candidates more questions, and will post their responses to one question each week on Tuesday. In addition, after voting ends, we will analyze the results and post a summary of your reactions.

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