July 22, 2009 > High school student runs for 2010 council seat
High school student runs for 2010 council seat
By Ritu Jha
Photos By Courtesy of Ishan Shah
"Are you crazy?" said a father to his 16-year-old son last summer after he announced his intention to run for the Fremont Council in 2010.
However, Ishan Shah, a Mission San Jose High School student, was determined. Seeing his seriousness and hard work, Shah's father, as well as friends, decided to support his dream. Shah's father said, "I will help you in whatever way I can."
Seats of incumbents Vice Mayor Anu Natarajan and Councilmember Bill Harrison will be on the ballot in November 2010. Shah, 17, believes it is time for change and confidently considers himself to be a perfect candidate to make it happen.
Shah is planning to attend the University of California at Berkeley next year and has planned to major in Political Science leading to studies in medicine. However, his ultimate goal in life is to become a state senator.
What changes could he bring to the city? Shah says it's too early to say what he is going to do. But he is certain that an average Joe could be a better candidate than an average politician.
"I do not have a fancy degree or a political background, but Fremont is going through a crisis," says Shah. "Fremont is trying to find its identity."
"I want to make it a little of both, a place to live and to work," he continues. "I do not want people to leave the city and go elsewhere." Shah states that Fremont has multimillion dollar homes and people want a decent movie theater. He is unhappy about the way the city has spent money over the newly built water park, and blames the present council for putting the city into a budget deficit.
Shah thinks the city has incurred a deficit because the council did not plan spending wisely. He said the city has built a water park, with a target to attract 1,100 people every day during summer which it has not. "We barely reached one thousand, except on one hottest day in May," said Shah.
Shah said that to get out of the city deficit, "We have to have a smart tax."
He pointed to getting more businesses in the area. "People go to Milpitas and Union City to watch movies and spend money. That revenue could have come to Fremont," said Shah. He adds that the council needs to be changed, noting a lack of communication between the people and a council that does not listen.
"There are certain things that need to be fixed," said Shah. "The city is spending more than we have." He believes that the council should know how to generate money, before spending revenue. "The city employees' salaries grew faster than revenue generated," said Shah. This past December the council voted against a property tax raise but favored an increase in spending. "There should be money coming in from somewhere to spend," said Shah. He said he wants to keep the city alive in these hard times.
Shah is also concerned over the way Fremont's population is growing. He said the schools are good here, but overcrowded. Other cities have quota systems. For every specific number of houses built, there should also be a certified number of schools. But Fremont is a city that has no such system.
"The council gave permission to build 800 new homes on Patterson Ranch without any school plans," says Shah. "We need to change this because we need more schools."
The city is growing and 60 percent of the population is Asian. "The minority in the country is the majority in Fremont," said Shah.
If elected to the council seat he will welcome companies that are working for greener fuels. He said not only Fremont but the country needs to generate green energy. "There is a potential here," said Shah.