Would you give away $50,000 of your salary?
Would you do it if you believed in something? Perhaps a cause greater than yourself?
That is the true spirit of public service. In our Founding days when our forefathers were contemplating the building blocks of what would become a great nation, they believed in the promise of public service -- the ideal that to give freely to a community worthy of building would give back tenfold in the rewards of a good society.
Today, in a modern world of political careers and opportunist handlers managing candidates in races that seem more like contests of ill conceived stare downs, rather than a debate of new ideas and solutions for old failures, one City Council candidate for Los Angeles Council District 4 has pledged new ideas and backed it with nearly a third of her own salary as grants to neighborhood projects.
Located smack in the center of Los Angeles, district 4 encompasses Koreatown, Mid-Wilshire and the Miracle Mile, Fairfax District, and Hollywood Hills into Sherman Oaks through much of Hollywood and over Cahuenga Pass into Toluca Lake, and through Los Feliz and Griffith Park into the parts of Silver Lake on the east. The council district includes many of the city's tourist destinations, such as the Hollywood Boulevard , the La Brea Tar Pits, Los Angeles County Museum of Art, Farmers Market and The Grove, as well as Griffith Park and the Hollywood Sign, the Hollywood Bowl, and the area adjacent to Universal Studios.
Intimately familiar with the district, Sheila describes it as a "quilt of neighborhoods." CD4 has been her home since birth. A product of local schools, Sheila went to UCLA as a Chancellor's Scholar then came back to make the district her home. Out of college she was an economic analyst for an affordable housing developer, then after getting an MBA and Entrepreneur Award from UCLA's Anderson School, she decided against a career in investment banking where she summer interned, and opted to work at a small company where she eventually became partner to bring child care benefits to the workplace at thousands of companies, including Fortune 500 ones like EDS, Universal and Toyota. She then began her own social marketing firm attending to solutions aimed at reducing traffic congestion and air pollution for government agencies from DC to LA. "These memories fuel the passion that I have for this district," she admits. A woman who came to politics by way of creating business solutions to social problems, Sheila knows the value of a hard working day, and the worth of a dollar where it is much needed. Her credo is one that squares disciplined hard work with a commitment to be the change, and she embodies this with an uncommon sense of public service for a purpose.
With an election looming less than a month away, Sheila has made a priority of supporting community projects and small businesses within the district. In a race with 14 candidates for City Council -- many of whom were colleagues in local government at some point and are now running against each other without much difference in their platforms -- it is hard to stand out. But Sheila does. She is not a career politician. She is a single mother who worked for a living most of her life, and became a successful business professional. She tried her hand at entrepreneurship by launching her own firm, and built it to fruition. She entered public service as a natural extension of her progression as a woman.
She was chosen by Councilmember LaBonge to serve as Field Deputy for the Wilshire Region. After pressing him that she could do more and wanted to get to know the city better she was Director of Special Projects. Using her skills as a business person and her hard won lessons as an entrepreneur, she was able to move forward multiple gridlocked projects. With diligence and an ability to collaborate with diverse people and interests, she was able to expedite funding for projects such as the Old Zoo Amphitheater and Robert K. Burns Park improvements. She negotiated the Purple Line extension and Bus Rapid Transit Lanes and helped determine roads for easy adoption of bike lanes. To address community safety concerns, she fought for streetlights in Windsor Square and Ridgewood Wilton while also addressing homeless youth issues and finally chairing a nonprofit to help get assistance to at risk youth in CD4, and producing benefits for non profits serving foster kids and battered women.
At home, she was an engaged mom and the President of Lake Hollywood Homeowners Association and instrumental in the opening of Larchmont Charter School where her daughter attended and she served as Room Parent. She serves as Outreach Chair on the Hollywood United Neighborhood Council, and brings her experience working with the heads of all the City agencies to build a solid reputation as someone who is responsive and effective, offering comprehensive intelligent solutions to complex problems.
Now in her early 50s, Sheila has had a great deal of experience as a parent, fundraiser, an entrepreneur and as a member of local city government where she instated programs and policies that made a difference. Her commitment to improving the lives of everyday people who live and work in her district is refreshing, and her articulate delivery of her own message is uncommonly good.
Still, more than 60 percent of voters in CD4 are still undecided. After months of campaigning, the multitude of candidates trying to get their undeniably similar messages out has confused voters. They are looking for a novel quality, a shining light, a difference that they can hinge their vote on and cast a ballot they can feel comfortable with. By March 3rd, voters need to see a clue that gives them confidence that the next public servant they put into the City Council's office is one that has a commitment to the public and to serving them. That commitment lies within Sheila Irani, who through every stage of life has almost invariably been preparing to serve a diverse public that she has come to understand well.
NOTE: Since this post was originally written, Sheila has picked up 3 endorsements, most notable from the LA Times (http://www.latimes.com/opinion/endorsements/la-ed-end-council-district-4-20150220-story.html), the Los Feliz Ledger and City Watch.
She's also been served with a frivolous law suited, rooted in dirty politics. This makes someone like me support her even more earnestly. A formidable female candidate that hasn't run a negative campaign, and can stand up to dirty politicking with measured words and impressive policy ideas, should be our kind of candidate.