I asked each candidate to fill out a questionnaire, the answers to which I would publish on the site. Below are the answers to a few prepared questions.
Ron Austin is running for the Ward 4 Council seat in the District of Columbia. Ron retired from DC government, where he worked for years in the Parks department, among others. Ron gained experience working as the Director of Constituent Services for Adrian Fenty when Fenty was the Ward 4 Councilmember, and then again when Fenty was Mayor of DC. He's lived in Ward 4 for 59 years and views constituent services and his street-level connection to residents and their needs as his primary assets as Councilmember.
What is your current profession?
I am retired from the DC government.
Please briefly describe why you are running in this election cycle for Ward 4 Councilmember?
I am running to provide first-class constituent service to all residents of Ward 4, specifically:
- Provide proactive community programs to support senior care, public schools, and small businesses in their push for a thriving economy
- Helping small businesses succeed as part of a flourishing economy, with special attention to the upper Georgia Avenue and Kennedy Street business corridors and surrounding residential communities. These two corridors have been neglected for far too long.
- Providing MPD with the tools and personnel to really make a difference in the fight against crime.
- Provide care for senior citizens.
- Work with DCPS AND Charter Schools to provide first class education for all students, including special needs."
Provide a quick overview of your professional and/or personal background and experience, including volunteer work, activism, and what you have done to help residents that qualifies you as a great choice for Council.
I have over 40 years of community service. In my youth I coached youth football and basketball and helped those with special needs. For several years I was in charge of one the most highly regarded constituent services departments in Ward 4. Presently, I am serving as Chairman of ANC 4B and the MPD 4D Citizens Advisory Council and I am the ANC Commissioner for SMD 4B06. I am also the president of the South Manor Park Citizens Association. For me, public service is a calling, one I've been answering for all of my adult life. I will bring my compassion, patience and knowledge of the DC government and the "real world" to bear as your next Councilmember and hit the ground running on my first day in office.
In brief, what are your Legislative Priorities?
- Housing (finding options for affordable housing and creative solutions to the ""one-size-fits"" all zoning regulations currently being adhered to.)
- Jobs (work-force training, enticing hi-tech and innovative businesses to Ward 4.)
- Education (As stated earlier, I want to find ways that DCPS and charter schools can work together for the common goal of providing a first class education to all students.) As a Coolidge HS alumnus, I am keenly interested in making its long delayed renovation a reality.
Share your position on Education issues in Ward 4.
A lot of the education issues in DCPS are tied to other issues, such as housing, rising child population, homelessness, etc. I feel that every child in the city, as well as the Ward, is entitled to a well-rounded education.
Share your position on Transportation issues in Ward 4.
We need a mix of public and private transportation options. There are a lot of competing factors: Public vs. private, cars vs. bicycles, bikes vs. pedestrians, and all of these things vs. the transportation infrastructure (roads, designated bike paths and upgrades to metro). The problem is to merge these disparate elements into a cohesive whole.
What do you think are the biggest issues facing Ward 4 regarding Crime and Public Safety? What are you solutions to help fix these issues?
As with education, Crime and Public Safety issues are interlinked to other issues, like homelessness, drug and domestic abuse, and mental illness, to name a few. What is needed is comprehensive wrap around services to help mitigate the root causes of crime. In addition, I feel that community policing is a valuable tool that benefits both law enforcement and the residents of Ward 4.
Do you think the current focus on affordable housing in Ward 4 is correct? How would you balance affordable housing with the increased rent and home prices?
I think the current focus on affordable housing is highly ambitious and greatly flawed. Under the current plan, creating transitional housing in each Ward only solves the problem for 90-120 days.I also have a problem with the cost of these temporary housing solutions. In fact ANC 4B drafted a resolution highlighting specific issues that need change. What is needed is a more permanent solution to the affordable housing problem.
What is your opinion of "pop-backs"? (Whereby homeowners or developers are extending the rear portion of homes by ten feet or more.)
In certain situations they are entirely appropriate, as with a home with a large back yard for example. They should be avoided in shallow lots.
Do you believe DC government and existing regulations (DCRA, Zoning Commission, etc.) favors homeowners / residents more, less or equal to for-profit developers? Is there enough residential availability in Ward 4 for the expected growth over the next 20 years?
I believe the lack of consistent adherence to existing regulations by said agencies and subsequent inconsistent enforcement of regulations strongly favors for profit developers. I do not believe there is enough residential availability in Ward 4 for the next 20 years.
How would you define gentrification? Do you believe Ward 4 and in particular, the Petworth, Brightwood and Shepherd Park neighborhoods, are experiencing gentrification?
I don't know how to define "gentrification". It means many things to many people. Demographics are changing, more in some neighborhoods than in others.
Do you think the residents of Petworth, Brightwood and Shepherd Park neighborhoods are positively or negatively affected by gentrification, or no impact at all?
Any change brings positive and negative impacts
I appreciate the time that Ron Austin spent speaking with me and answering questions. Be sure to check out the in-person interview with Ron. If you have questions for the candidate, feel free to post them below or contact the campaign directly. As a reminder, Petworth News is not endorsing a candidate, only offering interviews and overviews of their campaign positions.