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Indian Americans run for California council seats

Last updated on: October 26, 2010 14:49 IST

Three Indian-Americans are running from Union City, California in the coming November 2 election. They believe, "If you want to be the part of the community, they have to come forward and participate in the system."

 "To make them know we are Sikh and not Muslims," says Gary (Gurnam) Singh, presently a chairperson of the Planning Commission, in Union City, California. Singh is seeking for a council seat and is hopeful of winning the election.

Singh is running for the three open seats on the Union City council race in California. Born in Punjab, Singh is a businessman and runs an auto mechanic shop for the past 16 years in Union City. He said, "I want to represent our community as a complete Sikh."

Singh said 40 percent of the population in the Union City is Indian-American. "It bothers me if people come and ask. I just like to do community service." Singh said.

"We heard that the mayor will lay off the police officers and my concern is city's safety. It is number one issue for me," said Singh. Being a businessman, he knows the need of police force.

"I myself have ran across trouble, number of times and my house has been burglarized. And they want to lay off cops, and I am against that. So I favour the increase in Sale Tax," he said.

Subru Bhat

Subru Bhat, a biotech executive is also a candidate for the city council race from Union City, California. Bhat said, "Mahatma Gandhi saying, you must be the change that you wish to see in the world, inspired me a lot."

Bhat said he is not happy the way city affairs were being managed, 'especially the perceived collusion between the City officials and a local developer in building a dense housing complex of more than 1500 apartments and a shopping plaza.'

"The people of Union City had voted to protect and preserve the hillside area, including the flatland, but serious attempts were being made to build the housing complex. This resulted in a thought that someone from our neighborhood should be in the City Hall as a council member," Bhat said.

Stating on Union City's quality of life and the crime in the city, Bhat said there is a big difference between the east and west sides of Union City. "The eastside or the Decoto area has more gang violence and drug related youth crimes. The police are doing a great job in tracking them. I think the challenge is how to prevent violence incidents from happening," Bhat added.

"From what I hear, the district attorney is not pursuing many gang violence cases in the City. This needs to be pursued, as pursuing the offenders would be a great deterrent," he said.

Sarabjit Kaur Cheema

Another Asian Indian running for the November 2 election is Sarabjit Kaur Cheema. Cheema, is running for Union City School Board. A transport engineer for the state by profession, Cheema had earlier contested in 2006 and again 2008 and has received good amount of response from the voters in the latter election. However, she withdrew before the 2008 election due to some personal reasons.

So, finding good response, Cheema this year decided to run again and is confident to win the school seat.

"The most important is proving transportation to school children. "It is a big concern for many parents.  I have to bring awareness, by introducing car pooling and have to start a school bus which we do not have," said Cheema.

At present high and middle school children have no bussing. "I have served in the city and have good terms. I hope we should work with the city on bussing. We can redesign the bus route timings to help school going children," said Cheema.

Pragati Grover

After serving for Saratoga Union School District trustee, Pragati Grover is a running for a council seat in November 2 election.

She will run for one of three open seats on the Saratoga City Council.

Grover hopes to work as a bridge between the school board as well the council with her past experience. Grover has been on the district's school board since 2006.

"I am one of those people who really like to contribute to the community," says Grover. "School board was one of the position that I have held  in order to serve the community and it's time to jump in and contribute to the entire city and that is the reason I am running for the council race."

Grover has also been an active member of the Saratoga Area Senior Coordinating Council task force, the Saratoga Library Commission, the Saratoga Education Foundation and the American Youth Soccer Organisation. She has also served on the board of Indian Business and Professional Women.

Grover says the three main issues facing the city are budget challenges due to the troubled economy and housing market; the vitality of the Village; and the proposed proposition that would limit buildings to two stories throughout Saratoga.

Grover says, "I am very excited that finally the Asian Indian community are showing up and are giving back to the community and are engaged in the community they live in."

Indians are realizing that if they want to live in the community they need to be part of it, she notes.

Dr Ami Bera

Born in Southern California, Dr Ami Bera, a physician is seeking a 3rd District Congressional (covers most of Sacramento County)

seat from California. His is vying the November 2 election with a three-term Congressman Dan Lungren, a former state attorney general and the 1998 Republican candidate for governor.

"This race I have been working for the year and a half. All our hard work is now paying dividend," said Bera. He said has been receiving tremendous response and his district people are excited. "We are sure to win," said Bera in a phone interview. His main concern is creating jobs and making sure the public schools are working back on track.

Stating on the Asian Indian community, Bera said the community is excited and main thing is everybody needs to get out and vote and this is an exciting time for the Asian India community.

"I will encourage them to get involve and volunteer," said Bera who served as Associate Dean for Admissions at the UC Davis School of Medicine and was the former Chief Medical Officer for the County of Sacramento.  

Ishan Shah

The youngest of all candidate is Ishan Shah, 18, is running for Ohlone Board Of Trustee, a community college in Fremont, California. Shah says his, candidacy will really be able to help Ohlone in the long term.

"I can't speak for other campaigns. Everybody makes decisions about signage according to their own election game plans. We made our signs big because we wanted to show that my candidacy was different. It wasn't about who has a longer resume, it's about who's going to bring the most to the table when we take up our positions in January. The large signs really embody that. They show I'm not your average politician," says Shah.

The college has a high ratio of Asians. Ohlone College District encompasses three cities within Alameda County: Fremont, Newark, and Union City. The District is governed by a seven-member Board of Trustees who are selected by voters in local elections.

Shah was endorsed by John Weed, who is retiring after 33 years on the college board, mayor, City of Fremont, Bob Wasserman, Councilwoman Anu Natarajan, Former California State Assemblyman John A Dutra and many more politicians.

Anu Natarajan

Past weekend at the India community Annual Banquet, Anu Natarajan  was busy answering to the people about her ongoing campaign.

Natarajan, dressed in a black printed silk sari and who took a few hours from her busy schedule to attend the community function, said, "Today I knocked at 200 homes and, it took me 6 hours."

Natarajan is an incumbent council woman for the City of Fremont, Calif. Natarajan has lived in Fremont for 14 years. She earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in Architecture and a Masters degree in Urban Design and Planning from the University of Washington. She has said that she won't be accepting money from people with projects before the City Council.

Natarajan has served at the Fremont Planning Commission from January 2003 to December 2004 before being elected as the council member in 2006. She believes in creating well-designed, sustainable and livable communities, which is essential to foster economic growth.

Ritu Jha