Think global - act local: CA City Council Candidate Andrew Nosrati
|November 06th, 2018|
|tags:||activism, Andrew Nosrati, California, election, USA|
While on a visit to his native Turlock, California, Nosrati identified an opportunity to act on his aspirations and decided to run for city council in his hometown- which he views as a “microcosm” of the entire nation.
As election day nears, fairplanet sat down with Nosrati and got an insider’s look into his grassroots campaign. Nosrati describes his motivation behind abandoning the world of activism in favour of the political realm, and expounds on some of the challenges facing young candidates who decide to run for office without significant financial backup.
Nosrati reminds us that the roots of a nation-wide, collective change exist, first and foremost, at the local level.
fairplanet: What motivated your decision to run?
Andrew Nosrati: I’ve been wanting to contribute to a better existence, generally. I was very active and involved in the community out there in New York for causes I felt strongly about. I didn’t know exactly what path I’d take to have the impact I wanted, but in the back of my mind I knew that the official political realm is where I should go. I worked on some local races both here and in New York, and got more exposure to elected officials and candidates, and the more exposure I got the more apparent it became that there were no differentiating factors between me and the people who were elected officials. I knew that I could do it, and that it was just a matter of time, energy, and commitment.
When I moved back home, first temporarily, I recognised the opportunity in Turlock to have a measured significant impact which is greater than in a city like NYC, for someone like myself. it’s easy to get drowned out in a city like New York. There’s a lot of hysteria and noise and there are a lot of passionate people who have been contributing for decades and have a track record that ties them back to their community, which I had just recently become a member of; I couldn’t see a route for me to work my way in there.
What about Turlock made it seem feasible?
Being born out here in Turlock certainly helps. My family has lived out here for over 45 years, we have extensive connections in the community- my whole support system runs throughout this town. When I came out here to be with family I recognised an obvious opportunity to do what I want to do.
And what is it you hope to achieve?
I want to become part of the solution to some of the big issues at both the local and national levels. I want to contribute to creating a political system where the word ‘politician’ doesn’t have a negative association. I want people to engage and feel optimistic about their civic engagement. I know that there is a political revolution of sorts happening now and I want to be part of it with my community. I think Turlock is a great microcosm of our country, and a lot of the issues that plague the nation at wide are true in our town.
What are some of the issues, then, you would like to focus on as city council member?
There are a few main issues I’m focusing on. The first one is housing.
Like in other places in US, we have a revitalised downtown district and economic expansion in some of the commercial regions with big shops coming into our town; but on the same token, right alongside these boutique shops that are opening up, and most Turlock residents can’t afford to shop at, there is a growing homeless population. Across the nation, as well as in Turlock, there is a lack of affordable housing. People who work in or around Turlock have to spend half of their salary on rent. And this is continuing to increase. It’s not being prioritised by the city, state, or national government to the degree it needs to be before another person ends up on the street. Every 11 seconds another person is evicted from their home in this country. And in Turlock I’ve heard so many people whose rent has been rising 40% percent every year, and that’s not something a majority of Americans can stomach. I think it’s our responsibility on the local level to start moving in the direction of figuring out private- public partnerships that creates more affordable housing options for people in the community.
Another major issue I’m focusing on is children, and the youth in particular. I believe we have to double down and increase funding of our youth programs. So that it’s not limited in its reach. We need to expand the types of offerings to extend beyond the standard baseball practice. We should provide a focus on the arts and culture and STEM learning opportunities. We need to expand our efforts so that every kid in Turlock gets an opportunity to take part in extracurricular activities. The city plays such a big role in developing its talent, and if we create really strong relationships and great memories for our youth- it will increase the value of our town.
Economic expansion is another main focus of mine. Our economy here in Turlock is stagnant; we don’t have enough career opportunities available. People end up having to commute elsewhere for jobs, and this can and should be changed. I think Turlock is primed to become a city that can be at the forefront of the new agriculture industry, for example. Our proximity to silicon valley and long history of being an agriculture town makes us perfectly situated to create a partnership between these two economies and create something new. Climate change is making it harder for the agricultural community to produce at the rate they did in the past. We as people need to find solutions, and I don’t see a reason why Turlock can’t be a leader in that area.
Back in New York you were involved in community activism. What made you transition out of independent activism and set your sights on official politics?
Activism and civic engagement are a necessity and they drive the political reform. So people who do spend their lives untethered to the political world and are capable of saying and doing whatever they want have a huge impact in what politics become and what our system does. They shape public opinion heavily. But as I got engaged in that level and spoke to people in the activist world, I realised that the majority of them don’t want to have anything to do with the political realm. And I think the political system shouldn’t be abandoned and that it isn't’ broken, it just needs good people who care and for new people to get involved.
The activist world isn’t always about trying to find compromise. They have an issue they press forward with no matter what. And as a politician working within the system you have to be looking at all the issues, all of the priorities, and making a measured decision that is in the best interest of everyone. The activist world is often dominated by a black or white narrative: either ‘this’ or nothing. And I think most of us live in the subtle. In the gray. I think I’m able to navigate that pretty well.
Would you say, then, that you’ll ultimately be able to achieve more as a politician than as an activist?
Ultimately I’m driven by the same things from either location, I just think I may be better suited to work from within the system. I’ve been unofficially practising to become a politician my whole life, just by having hundreds and hundreds of conversations with people with different opinions and ideas (many of which I disagree with), and I know that one of the skills I have is being able to work with a lot of people whom I don’t agree with and reach compromise. I’ve always been someone who ends fights- I don’t start them. I’m good at coming into high-tension, seemingly no-win situations, and am able to step back and contemplate resolutions.
How do you go about spreading the word of your campaign? And how do you find the resources to do so?
If you get involved in politics, so much of the campaign is chasing money, because money, to an extent, yields a higher voice and more power. I probably am not doing it as much as I should be... I will be asking people for campaign contributions eventually. But the thing I really believe wholeheartedly, especially in a race like this, is that money is not a determining factor; that if people use their voice, and do it with passion and compassion, then their message comes through. So If I have a number of people on my side who are helping me spread the word, I know that the money won’t make the difference, I just have to be able to talk to enough people.
And how do you reach people without money?
Calling everyone you know. Reaching out to friends you haven’t talked to in decades and asking them ‘who do you know in this community? Is it a church leader? A non-profit? A business owner?’ Then once you start getting involved in this you begin to have a very intimate understanding of how a city runs. Before, I had a very defined scope of visibility; I could only see mine and my close circle’s lives. Now, in this position, I have to talk to every single sector, because every single person that lives in this community makes up some a portion of the larger picture; they all tie together and, generally, want the same thing. I want to prove that, at least on this level, politics aren’t dictated by the dollar.
Do you see the position of a city council member leading you elsewhere in the municipal or political world?
Well, the truth is that any sort of future plan I have will be foiled by time. And I want to focus on how I can have the greatest impact on the people who matter to me most. Right now it’s leading this community into a better future. There are so many areas where we as a city can do better. I always say “think global- act local”, and I think that if, here in Turlock, we reach the goals we can achieve- I believe we will have a global impact, because there need to be examples that people look at and say ‘that’s how we should run’. I’d like the federal government to look at Turlock and say, ‘They’re doing alright. They're not dividing themselves into parties and failing to pursue common interest; they’re actually sitting down at a table, discussing their shared values and problems, and coming up with real solutions.’ From there on, what happens? Who knows.
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