Observing Los Angeles

Beverly Hills' Iranians

Today's Wall Street Journal advances tomorrow's Beverly Hills municipal election with a front-page story that focuses on the Iranian face of the city through Jimmy Delshad, a councilman who is likely to be reelected then become mayor. He gets the ink block illustration and everything.

At a time when tension between the U.S. and Iranian governments is on the rise, Mr. Delshad, a 66-year-old Jewish immigrant, is on the brink of becoming one of the highest-ranking Iranian-American elected officials in the U.S. So what are some of the political issues he feels most passionate about? Traffic-light timing, reducing sprinkler-water use at local parks and even beautifying the city's alleys.

"I want to make Beverly Hills one of the safest cities in the nation, in order to protect our residents and visitors," Mr. Delshad said in a recent interview. "Oh, and free wireless too."

Roughly 8,000 of the approximately 35,000 residents of Beverly Hills are of Iranian descent -- an influx that began in earnest nearly 30 years ago after the fall of the shah of Iran and has fundamentally changed one of America's most iconic cities. The sensitivity of the situation was underscored recently when the city, for the first time, printed its entire ballot in English and Farsi -- a move that prompted an outpouring of complaints, including a number from Iranian-Americans....

While Mr. Delshad effectively mobilized the Persian community to vote in larger numbers than ever before during his 2003 campaign, he has said this race should be tougher. As an incumbent, he has received the endorsement of both of the city's local newspapers. However, in a small city like Beverly Hills, which traditionally sees a low voter turnout, results can be unexpected.

A former computer entrepreneur, Mr. Delshad says he's not fazed by seeking a high-profile role at a time when the U.S. and Iran are facing off on the world stage. "It doesn't keep me up at night," he says. "This is the bed I made and I'm going to sleep in it." A registered Democrat, Mr. Delshad declined to comment on the global issues surrounding Iran.

Delshad changed his first name to Jimmy from Jamshid when he became a U.S. citizen, the WSJ says. Also, when he first ran in 2003 he hired bodyguards and carried a panic button after receiving death threats in Farsi. He says he never knew who was behind the threats.

Link to sample ballot in English and Farsi

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