By Zamná Ávila, Assistant Editor – February 20, 2014
For former Long Beach Rescue Mission leader, Jim Lewis, running for Long Beach District 3 is not a career move, it’s a calling.
“A Proverb says, ‘Seek the welfare of the city . . . for in its welfare you will find your welfare,” Jim Lewis said. “For those who are passionate about community, and want to see it flourish, their service and calling are inseparable.”
Lewis, who works as a development officer at Mission Aviation Fellowship and as a nonprofit and corporate consultant, said he was motivated to run for city council after completing his master’s degree in Global Leadership from Fuller Theological Seminary, about two years ago.
But this is not Lewis’ first attempt. In 2000, Lewis ran for a state assembly seat for the Coachella Valley. He also had announced his run for a part-time city council position in Palm Desert but did not end up filing his candidacy because he was entering into a capital building campaign in a rescue mission in Palm Desert, where he was the CEO.
“It was a combination of these campaigns and my subsequent organizational service that led me to recognize my desire for a graduate program in Global Leadership,” Lewis, 59, said. “I wanted to be a better leader and to build into those who served with me…. Then, I ran on principle, not with any expectation of winning. I am much more invested in Long Beach than I was when I ran previously.”
The candidate has lived in Long Beach since 2006, when he took over as president and chief executive officer of the mission. He’s lived in District 3 for about 7 years.
“I have a passion for community and a desire to serve,” is his campaign slogan to reporters.
While Lewis considers himself pro-business and fiscally conservative, he has a special concern toward social and community issues. While many may consider this a dichotomy, Lewis affirms that his conservatism shapes his service.
“It provides the model for what I see as reciprocal and interdependent services that are required to see successful outcomes in social service,” he said.
He’s been involved with the Long Beach Homeless Coalition, Leadership Long Beach, Long Beach Prayer Breakfast, the Long Beach Chamber of Commerce’s Government Affairs Committee and the Long Beach Gang Reduction, Intervention, Prevention Taskforce. That said, in his role as president and CEO, Lewis believes he’s used his views of what helps, rather than what enables individuals, setting policies and parameters for programs, fundraising and communicating with the public and donors.
So far, Lewis has garnered the endorsement of Long Beach First Lady Nancy Foster, a mental health advocate, Jean M. Benson, a council member and mayor in Palm Desert, Signal Hill Councilman Larry Forester, Councilman, former Long Beach Vice Mayor Val Lerch. He’s even garnered the endorsement of educator and former running mate Lionel Gatley.
According to his campaign disclosure statement for 2013, Lewis raised about $5,249 in campaign in monetary and non-monetary contributions, of which he had spent about $3,781 by the end of that year.
“I have raised the most funds of 4 candidates from people who live and/or work in Long Beach, and 45 percent more than the fifth candidate,” he wrote in an email. “That is indicative of my personal investment and relationships in this City. People know that I am committed to Long Beach.”
His campaign priorities include fiscal responsibility, infrastructure, community, public safety, jobs and economic development, and education.
Lewis supports limiting compensation and benefits to something that is more congruent to the private sector. Where possible, Lewis supports project labor agreement that insure that a certain percentage of workers are drawn from Long Beach for local development projects. However, too many projects have restrictive funding and he would like to see more training in basic trades.
Unlike other candidates, Lewis believes in providing equitable incentives for businesses to locate in the city, such as limited tax incentives. He said he wants to search for other incentives of economic growth and jobs. He also wants to streamline the permit process and make code enforcement more equitable, such as variances in zoning.
Public Safety If elected, Lewis wants to restore funding to fire and police that has been lost through budget cuts within the past several years. He particularly hopes restore the gang unit within the police department.
Other issues he is concerned about are related to equitable allocation of development funds and activity throughout the City. A lot of former Redevelopment Agency funds bought blighted properties in North Long Beach, but there were few redevelopment projects that got started. So, there are numerous empty lots that – without a corridor business plan – may wind up back being liquor stores and undesirable businesses that are currently allowable in the zoning.
He sees inequities in the demographic of those seeking services in the city. For example, in homeless services, the percentage of Hispanics and blacks receiving service is inversely proportional to the overall demographic.
“While Hispanics make up 45 percent of the population, only 14 percent are receiving services,” Lewis said. “And, while blacks make up 15 percent of the population, over 45 percent receive services. I would like to study this issue and examine what we might do to rectify such imbalance.”
Another issue of concern is the lack of safety vehicle access in the congested Belmont Shore and Naples area.
“My concern is for the parking on the narrow streets and alleys,” he said. “When I drive through these areas, I can’t imagine a fire truck getting through safely and quickly. Should we investigate alternative equipment that could navigate these streets more easily?”
Other issues include traffic planning for the future development on Pacific Coast Highway and Second Street. He also wants to tackle above ground utility congestion through clean up and undergrounding.
Infrastructure Not unlike the other candidates running for District 3, Lewis sees the upgrade of the Naples seawalls and the adjustment of the breakwater as important considerations. However, unlike other candidates, he does not want to alter the configuration of the breakwater. Because not only does it not belong to the city, the Army Corps of Engineers only will examine recapturing the ecosystem and not the wave action. Although the Department of Defense has the last word on any change of the breakwater, he believes the current ecosystem would be disrupted. He believes the water quality issues in the ocean have more to do with the river run-offs, rather than the lack of currents.
“Our No.1 priority should be to protect property in the peninsula and Belmont Shore,” he said. “We do not want a return to flooding up to 2nd Street as was common before the breakwater (people were known to row boats up the streets.) Property values would plummet, reducing property tax revenue, and the cost for flood insurance would more than quadruple.”
Instead, he would like to start a discussion on the alternatives for expanding the use of the breakwater for energy and environmental uses, by utilizing the breakwater’s position to install wave and wind generators for electricity production.
Consensus Lewis sees himself as a consensus builder. He believes he could bring civility back to the council. He is critical of about members who post negative blogs after something did not go their way in the council.
“Unless it is a flagrant issue of breakdown in protocol, the council should speak with one voice,” he said. “The voters will make a difference in the culture of the next City Council and in Long Beach. We need a Council with a common mission: to make appropriate policy, trustworthy appointments, building consensus, and an “In what way can we?” attitude.”
He believes his business experience and acumen, balanced with a personal involvement and understanding of the city’s diverse cultural and social issues, make him the right man for the job.
“I believe I am the best candidate to represent Long Beach and the Third District and Long Beach,” he said. “My skill of listening and objectively analyzing issues and the intended and unintended consequences of our decisions is a key component of a leader.”