Councilman Mohamed Seifeldein visited the Islamic Relief USA (IRUSA) headquarters on Tuesday, April 30, thanking the organization for the work it does in saving “countless lives,” as well as requesting its assistance in making the city of Alexandria, where IRUSA is headquartered, even better.
Seifeldein, who was elected last November, is the first Muslim to serve on the local governing body. He is a refugee from Sudan, an African nation that recently experienced major political shockwaves when its longtime president, Omar al-Bashir, was removed from power.
The councilman, who is a lawyer, said he decided to run for local government after noticing it lacked sufficient representation from the city’s west side, which has a large immigrant population. In November 2016, under then-Mayor Allison Silberberg, the city declared itself as a “hate-free zone.”
Despite little support from the city’s political establishment and even smaller campaign contributions — largely because he refused to take money from developers — Seifeldein prevailed in last November’s election, a win he attributed to strong grassroots support.
During his visit, which comprised of meeting with IRUSA’s Programs Department and Disaster Response Team, Seifeldein praised the work of IRUSA, saying, “the world wouldn’t be able to function” without the help of nonprofits.
“Government can’t solve all of the problems,” he said.
Since he started serving on the council, Seifeldein has made his presence known, suggesting proposals to ordinances and budgets that are intended to help residents with limited resources. For example, he suggested putting an additional $200,000 on the proposed $300 million schools-spending plan in order to provide early education for low-income residents. And, thanks to his advocacy, the city will set up a legal fund to help immigrants in deportation cases.
Giving Back to Alexandria
Seifeldein urged IRUSA employees to patronize the city’s eateries and restaurants, since part of the sales tax helps provide housing. Last year, the city council passed a one percent “meals tax” that was added onto the sales tax (bringing the total sales tax at Alexandria City eateries to 11 percent). The proceeds from the meals tax helps fund the city’s affordable housing trust fund.
The city could use more affordable housing, given the city’s high cost of living. He said a person would need to earn at least $65,000 to reasonably afford a market-rate one-bedroom apartment.
The councilman also suggested various organizations IRUSA can partner with to help the city. In recent years, IRUSA has been active in the local community, helping distribute turkeys to local residents during the Thanksgiving season.
On May 17, IRUSA employees are scheduled to help out in some capacity during the city’s volunteer day, something it has done previously. Last year, IRUSA helped perform various tasks, like painting, at a local church.