Indian-American Anaheim mayor aims to fix homelessness

Ritu Jha –

 

The new mayor of Anaheim, California, has some big plans.

 

Harry Sidhu, who was sworn in December 4 as the 46th mayor and first Indian American of Sikh descent to occupy the seat, plans to focus on recruiting police officers and firefighters, sheltering the homeless, and improving public safety.

 

Sidhu, who had held posts earlier as councilmember and mayor pro-term, is a community leader and a successful businessman.

 

About his election, he told indica, “It’s an American dream come true.” Anaheim is the 10th largest city in California, and 55th out of 19,354 towns and cities in the country. It has a population 354,000.

 

Sidhu had a tough election, taking on seven other candidates, three of whom were women buoyed by the MeToo movement. Sidhu, with 32.5 percent of the total vote, had tough competition from one of them, Ashleigh Aitken, a former federal prosecutor Ashleigh Aitken, who got 31.6 percent of the vote. He put that down to his, political experience, his business skills, and the ability to run a city like a business.

 

In fact, at his first mayoral inaugural speech Sidhu said, “Anaheim is open for business! In Anaheim, the doors of opportunity will always be open for everyone to participate in the American Dream!”

 

He immigrated 44 years ago from India and said that his mission is to enact policies to ensure that Anaheim is the ‘City of the American Dream.’

 

He told indica that the city needs to make more revenue to ensure economic development. But his first job?

 

“Cleaning the streets,” he said. “There are over 400 people living in tents and they need shelter. “It’s a major -major issue.”

 

On his first day in office, he called on an emergency Special Council Meeting to address homelessness and then ordered a 200-bed shelter for the homeless.

 

In a press note, he said, “Our streets and parks were never meant to be places for people to live, and we have seen the toll it has taken on our residents, businesses and neighborhoods. At the same time, we have the urgent need to help those living in homelessness with the cold and wet weather of winter upon us.”

 

He said during the interview, “Our goal is creating jobs and at the same time giving them stability in their lives to get in their own feet,” he said. Next, he plans to address the shortage of police officer and firefighters.”

 

“We are short of 21 firefighters and about 25 police officers, the city has not hired since 2008,” he said. “It’s almost 10 years, so the plan is to have an economic development plan in place and raise enough money to fund some police officers to be on the street.”

 

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