Iranian American Seeks City Council Seat in Atlanta
Washington, D.C. - The Public Affairs Alliance of Iranian American and its connected PAC, the Iranian American Political Action Committee, recently had the opportunity to sit down with Amir Farokhi and discuss his campaign for the Post 2 At-Large seat on Atlanta's City Council. The election, which will be held in November of 2009, marks the first time an Iranian American has run for public office in the City of Atlanta.
Having been born and raised in Atlanta, Farokhi takes pride in understanding the needs and concerns of the Atlanta's diverse population. While attending Duke University for his bachelor's degree, he served in the student government where he pushed through legislation to have Martin Luther King Jr. day recognized as an official school holiday. After graduating from Duke, Farokhi lived abroad in Taiwan and traveled extensively. From this experience, Farokhi gathered important lessons that he believes will help turn Atlanta into a livable world-class city that embraces its diversity, history, and Southern roots. His passion for Atlanta led him back home, where he is currently an Associate at McKenna Long & Aldridge, LLP.
Farokhi's campaign is rooted in plans to reform what he sees as an inefficient city government that lacks the resources to effectively respond to the concerns of Atlanta's residents and businesses. Furthermore, he is an advocate of affordable housing and protecting and empowering Atlanta's neighborhoods. In doing so, Farokhi places emphasis on government transparency and holding the city accountable for how it spends its budget. In his own words, "Atlantans deserve a city government that is not only efficient and is a good steward of tax revenue but one that provides responsive, first-class service all over the city."
Since he is running for an "At-Large" seat (as opposed to a specific district), Farokhi must win over constituents in all of Atlanta's districts. He has set a goal of raising $250,000 for his campaign and by doing so sending a strong message to the people of Atlanta that he has a broad base of support that believes in him and his goals. Farokhi believes he will be elected to Atlanta's City Council because he is not a candidate carrying the flag for one issue, but many issues.
Click here for more information on Amir Farokhi's campaign.
The following is a transcript of the interview with Mr. Farokhi:
PAAIA/IAPAC: Why are you running for public office?
FAROKHI: I think Atlanta is ready for thoughtful leadership that focuses on solutions over politics. Atlanta city government is inefficient and lacks best-in-class responsiveness to resident and business concerns. Also, we have not been aggressive enough on issues of livability, transportation and sustainability. I decided to run, in part, because I was raised in a family in which public service, particularly political office, was viewed as an admirable way to make a positive difference in your community. Plus, I have immense pride in Atlanta and want to help it become a better place to live and work.
PAAIA/IAPAC: What are some of the challenges you believe your campaign committee must overcome to mount a successful race?
FAROKHI: Because I am running for a citywide seat (rather than a district seat), I will need to raise a substantial amount of money in order to contact as many voters as possible. I cannot knock on every voter's door so we will have to contact voters in a number of ways (direct mail, yard signs, canvassing, radio) in order to get voters comfortable with me and my name. Also, my race is one of seventeen on the November 2009 ballot, so we will need to work hard to get voters' attention over the commotion of many other campaigns.
PAAIA/IAPAC: How will you communicate your ideas to the public?
FAROKHI: I will be holding a series of meet and greets around the city focused on certain issues (for example, public safety, resident services, city efficiency). I will also communicate to voters through direct mail and person-to-person contact.
PAAIA/IAPAC: What are the fundraising goals of your committee?
FAROKHI: To run a professional and strong citywide campaign, my committee will need to raise $250,000 over the next ten months. If I can raise a substantial amount early this year, I can send a message that my campaign has broad support and, hopefully, establish myself as a frontrunner for the seat.
PAAIA/IAPAC: What are the most critical issues facing the City of Atlanta today?
FAROKHI: 1) Improving the efficiency of city departments and providing better delivery of city services with fewer resources; 2) public safety; and 3) transportation.
PAAIA/IAPAC: How does your campaign plan on addressing some of those issues?
FAROKHI: I have made it a campaign priority to offer smart solutions to the problems Atlanta faces. I have begun convening the best policy minds in the city for small roundtable discussions on a number of issues: sustainability, economic growth, affordable housing, public safety, etc. From this and from listening to residents and businesses, I plan to offer distinct solutions to a number of problems.
Like many cities around the country, the poor economy led to lower than expected revenues for Atlanta which, in turn, led to cutbacks in city services. Instead of proposing solutions, a lot of finger pointing resulted. Atlantans are tired of hearing who may be at fault or who cut what service. We deserve thoughtful solutions as to how we can do more with less and generate new streams of revenue. For example, in order to improve customer service to residents and help the city better allocate its limited resources, I propose that the city implement a 311 customer service line. This will cost money upfront but will lead to cost savings and better service.
Another pressing issue is public safety. Although Atlanta's population is rising and certain neighborhoods are experiencing a spike in property crime, our police and fire departments have suffered cuts that leave them understaffed and without the resources to proactively protect residents and businesses. The city must make it a priority to make every street safe. Public safety is a basic service the residents depend on their city government to provide because they cannot provide it for themselves. To that end, we need to find funding for an additional 250 police officers in the next four years and staff our fire department to national best-practice standards.
PAAIA/IAPAC: How familiar are you with the current situation--demographic, economic, and social--of the Iranian American community?
FAROKHI: Very familiar. Iranian Americans are among the most successful and educated immigrant groups in the country. American business, medicine, science and academia is filled with Iranian American leaders. Iranian Americans have embraced American opportunity and made tremendous contributions to America.
PAAIA/IAPAC: How much contact have you had with Iranian Americans?
FAROKHI: Well, I am one and was raised by one, but on a broader level, I have always had strong contact with the Iranian American community in Atlanta. My father was among the first wave of Iranian immigrants in Atlanta in the 1970s and has long been active in building a cohesive and supportive IA community in Atlanta. He also helped many Iranians settle in Atlanta at a time when there was not much of a support system. I also had the opportunity to travel to Iran in 2004 and spent time with family in Kerman, Isfahan and Tehran.
PAAIA/IAPAC: What role do you think Iranian Americans can play in your campaign and what do you expect from the community?
FAROKHI: I have already received wonderful support from Iranian Americans in Atlanta and hope to find support from around the country as well. Iranian Americans have not traditionally been active in American politics. We are now seeing engagement in public service from second generation Iranian-Americans. It is vital that the Iranian American community support these efforts. It will be a truly American day when Iranian American children (indeed, all American children) do not think it notable to see an Iranian American name in the political arena. Engagement in American political life is another chapter in America's repeated immigrant story. Also, I hope Iranian-Americans support Iranian American candidates because too often there is not an Iranian-American voice at the table on issues affecting the Iranian-American community.
PAAIA/IAPAC: What role can organizations like PAAIA/IAPAC play in assisting your campaign?
FAROKHI: Raising money as a first time candidate is difficult and IAPAC can be extraordinarily helpful in helping me build a professional, well-funded campaign. Also, both IAPAC and PAAIA can provide access to ideas, expertise and help spread the word of my campaign. I welcome the resources and support of IAPAC and PAAIA.