In January, councilman David Farajollahi made history by becoming the first Hispanic and Persian to serve on city council in Manassas, Virginia.
Now, Farajollahi - who was born and raised in Virginia to a Bolivian mother and an Iranian father - hopes to keep his seat, which he inherited from Michelle Davis-Younger when she became the city's mayor.
He is now running to finish her original term, which will end next year. The candidate that wins the November election will also have to run again in 2022 for a fresh four-year term.
The Latino Community
In a city of just over forty thousand residents, David said that "the Hispanic population for the City of Manassas used to be in the low to mid-thirties. The newest Census bumped that up significantly to a little over 42%. In a small city of 42,000 people, we have over 18,000 residents that identify as Latino."
"I think it's safe for the Latino population to no longer feel disenfranchised. We have been educating ourselves and mobilizing ourselves, not just on one single issue like immigration, but on multiple issues," he added.
The Councilman said that for the Hispanic community in Manassas, providing for their families is an important issue.
"[That] means having a good economy and job opportunities so that you can put food on the table. Also, traffic conditions or congestion so that you can get to work faster and more efficiently so you get back home to be with your family or for your kids to get to school."
Farajollahi fought for funding to hire additional staff for the Social Services Department to help Latino families in need.
"We hired three and a half additional positions and it doesn't sound like much, but it's a lot. At a local level, usually every year, one person, maximum two are hired, but we added three and a half people for child and adult welfare services," he said.
"In the middle of the pandemic, one in four city residents were seeking social services help with something, whether it be healthcare, any sort of utility or financial help, unemployment, you name it," he added. "Twenty-five percent of our city needed the Department of Social Services at one point or another, and that touched every group."
Priorities for Manassas
Among his priorities for Manassas is investing in education and the fire department, "I'm really big into education, it's pretty near and dear to me. I think that it is fundamental to any community, how the school systems are working and where they are going."
"Historically, the relationship between the council and the school board has always been a monetary one. They present their budget, they get appropriated, and that's the end of it. With this new council that began in January and with our new mayor, we've done much more with our school systems," said David.
"Our police department is recognized nationally with a CALEA accreditation, less than 1% of all police departments in the nation have a CALEA certification. They really focus on de-escalation, a lot of social training, different communication efforts and bias training, things of that nature. I'd like to get our fire department on some sort of equivalent in terms of recognition."
As a resident and as member of the Social Services Advisory Board, Farajollahi created an inter-faith council to better understand the needs of the community, "I've always noticed that in the City of Manassas in 10 square miles, there's over 50 houses of worship. In my time working for Senator Mark Warner of Virginia, I worked with a lot of interface councils throughout the Commonwealth."
"I saw just how well they can mobilize and disseminate information and essentially be the eyes and ears on the ground to give government organizations information on what the issues are in certain communities," he said. "They do great community work. They feed the homeless, other churches give free education classes, English classes for immigrants, and non-English speaking residents, pre daycare and things like that."
"We still meet every month just to communicate information from the houses of faith to the government and our social service department and vice versa. It has been really valuable, especially during the pandemic with fighting misinformation."
David supports Terry McAuliffe's bid for Virginia's governorship, saying that the state is "looked at nationally as a kind of litmus test, the precursor to what's going to happen in the general election. Terry has placed education at the core of the community."
"He has announced a generational investment in our education system to expand pre-K, raising teacher pay and I think it's averaging about $2 billion annually into our education system. That is going to fundamentally change Virginia's education system and that's going to lift all families."
He stated that Republicans "in the last General asembly voted against certain education reforms, driver's license privileges for immigrants, particularly the Latino community, and voting right. The record speaks for itself."
That is why registering and making sure that Latinos go out to vote this November 2 remains a priority for Farajollahi.
"I'm of the mindset that if you pay local taxes, you really should have a say in terms of who is making your local decisions. Our neighbors in Maryland have authorities for legal permanent residents to vote in local elections. It makes you ask a fair question, why not in Virginia?" he said.
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