QUESTIONS & ANSWERS | SUSIE LEE
‘I have focused my career on … getting things done’
BY SUSIE LEE
The political season is not just heating up nationally — locally, candidates are holding community gatherings, and campaign signs are beginning to line our neighborhoods. One of those hopefuls is Susie Lee, who is running for the 4th District congressional seat presently held by Rep. Cresent Hardy. A well-known education advocate, Lee is founder of the nonprofit organization Inner City Games. She sat down for a wide-ranging conversation with Las Vegas Black Image, to discuss her candidacy and what she hopes to accomplish on Capitol Hill.
What is your platform for your candidacy for the U.S. Congressional seat for District 4?
I have been in Las Vegas for 23 years, and during that time I have focused my career on rolling up my sleeves and getting things done — helping people have access to better opportunities in education. I was the founding director of the Inner City Games, and I have done a lot of outreach and advocacy around education.
The primary reason I am running for U.S. Congress is because we have a broken system and dysfunction in Washington — and it is taking this country into a direction where young people are being told, “Where you begin determines where you will end up.”
This is not the life and opportunities that I have had — and it’s certainly not what I have been working on for over 20 years. I had a choice and was asked to run for different offices — but I chose to run for congressional District 4 because I have worked in this community for over 20 years. The issues facing the community — the African-American unemployment rate, achievement gaps in education, and the lack of job opportunities — are incredibly important to me. My number-one priority is bringing incentives to businesses to offer good-paying jobs to residents in Nevada.
How do you plan to filter the job and educational opportunities to local Las Vegas African Americans from a congressional seat in Washington?
By accessing workforce development funding and coordinating among our universities, local entities, and workforce development organizations. Also, there are many federal issues that need my support, such as “ban the box” — which will allow people to qualify for jobs even if they have prior convictions for nonviolent offenses. We have to focus on how we allow people who have made mistakes, and who have paid the price, an opportunity to redeem themselves. Unless we get them employed and back into jobs, they will end up back in prison.
Do you see more opportunities opening up for young people who might not want to go to college, to have access to trade education and apprenticeships?
Yes, I do. With our strong union community here in Nevada — and apprenticeship programs offered through the unions — there are definitely opportunities for partnerships.
I know that work has already started to begin. To these issues, it will only happen if we work together. When I look at the need for employment in the African-American community, it is really looking at short-term, midterm and long term solutions. We have to be able to look at the barriers preventing small businesses — especially black-owned small business owners — from accessing capital. Are there arbitrary barriers that can be reversed? If so, those are things I would like to find solutions to, and fix that.
Mid-term is, how do we educate our workforce to qualify for jobs? I have focused my career on K-12 education. But, once our young people graduate from high school — what’s next?
If there are apprenticeship programs, vocational training, and obviously college — how do we make sure that our young people not only get into college, but that they succeed and not come out over burden with financial debt? We need to make sure that they have the skills needed to get these high-paying jobs. Long term, I will look at the intergenerational poverty in our neighborhoods, and how we revitalize neighborhoods and support small businesses.
You have been engaged in these issues for some time, while others just seem to be in the political spotlight?
This is what I say: “I’m going to do a job, not going to get a job.” My mother once said to me, “If you want something done right, do it yourself.” To me, that means it you don’t think something is going right — roll up your sleeves, get in there and get it done. That is what I have done my entire life.