Meet Amir Farokhi - First Iranian American Candidate for City Council Seat in Atlanta
Source: The Public
Affairs Alliance of Iranian Americans
Washington, D.C. - The Public Affairs
Alliance of Iranian Americans 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
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
For more information on Amir Farokhi's campaign, please visit:
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
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
FAROKHI: 1) Improving the efficiency of city departments and providing
better delivery of city services with fewer resources; 2) public safety; and 3)
PAAIA/IAPAC: How does your campaign plan on addressing some of those
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.
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