Friday, June 19, 2009

India west - Article- Exemplary youth civic engagement


From: Indiawest news article []
Sent: Thursday, June 18, 2009 9:39 PM
To: Nate Ivy
Subject: India west - Article


Teen Candidate Makes Bid for Fremont City Council
By SUNITA SOHRABJI June 18, 2009 02:52:00 PM  

SAN LEANDRO, Calif., - Seventeen-year-old Ishan Shah, perhaps the youngest candidate ever to run for office in the nation, has announced his bid for the 2010 Fremont, Calif., city council race.

The Mission San Jose high school student — running against Fremont's vice mayor Anu Natarajan and council member Bill Harrison — declared his candidacy May 29 at a local coffee house and got a spontaneous standing ovation from the assembled crowd of patrons, many of whom he'd never met before.

Natarajan has served two terms on the city council since 2004, and Harrison has served one term. Both are past members of the Fremont Planning Commission.

In a recent interview at India-West headquarters, an ardent and affable Shah said he had "enormous respect" for Natarajan and Harrison, but conceded Fremont was ready for a change from the old guard.

"Fremont is a great place to live, but we can do better," said Shah, whose campaign slogan is "A Path to a Better Tomorrow."

"The next generation is ready to shoulder it for ourselves," said Shah, sporting the innate exuberance of youth.

The son of businessman Mihir Shah of Baroda and Sonali Shah of Mumbai noted that the city is facing a $13 million deficit, with very little planned to close the fiscal gap. He was critical of Fremont's new Aqua Adventures waterpark, which opened this May to record crowds.

"The water park was not smart development," said Shah, noting that the park is geared towards the tweens set, rather than teenagers with higher disposable incomes and their own transportation. Aqua Adventures has an admission price of $14.99 for adults, and $10.99 for children under 48 inches. The nearby Silliman Center in Newark has a similar set-up, with three indoor pools and water slides, but charges $4 for children and $5 for adults.

Natarajan told India-West the response to the new Aqua Adventures has "far exceeded the city's expectations."

"Just look at all the people coming to it," she said, adding, "A lot of kids that are Ishan's age have come up and thanked us for building it."

Shah instead wants the city to build a movie complex to attract the flush adolescent crowd, who must now go to neighboring Milpitas, or further to the BayFair shopping center to watch movies.

"The film industry is the one industry that is still going strong despite the recession," said Shah, noting that he has spent more than $300 in the past semester to see movies at the Great Mall in Milpitas. "The key is to get people here," he said, expounding on a concept he recently learned in psychology class.

"Once people spend a certain amount of money to get in, they're going to spend more once they're in. Think of the tax revenue," he said.

Shah interned with Rep. Pete Stark, D-Calif., last year and credits the experience with inspiring him to run for office. He said the congressman has told him he will not endorse his city council bid. Stark's Washington office declined to comment on Shah's candidacy.

Shah said there was no "lightbulb" moment in which he decided to run. The decision came about more progressively, as he looked at the shabbiness of his high-achieving high school and the city's recent decision to decline the Oakland A's offer to build a new stadium in Fremont.

The latter, said Shah, initially proposed for a non-residential area of town, would have created an "attraction," to bring jobs, revenue and affordable housing to Fremont.

The young candidate's campaign has been compared to the grassroots campaign of President Barack Obama by national media pundits. Shah has a Facebook page, which has quickly amassed more than 400 fans, and has raised a total of $100, but notes that Obama too, started out with virtually zero dollars in his campaign warchest.

The initial skepticism of supporters – including his parents – has died down, said Shah, adding that people now come up to him all the time to discuss the city's issues.

"I'm amazed that people care about what I think," said the adolescent, nattily attired for the interview in a pinstriped blue shirt with khaki slacks and tie.

The high-school senior, who plans to apply to UC Berkeley next fall, will major in political science. He eventually plans to go to medical school.

Natarajan told India-West she does not view Shah as a threat to her impending candidacy, which she will announce next March. "Lots of people are going to be running, and Ishan is just one of them," she said.

Shah will be 18 at the time of the elections in November 2010.

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The CalServe Network posts news and updates of interest to the service-learning field in California. News and updates are drawn from the CalServe List Serve and the National K-12 Service-Learning List Serve and various other sources.