With over a half million Indian-Americans living in California, the state is home to the largest Indian diaspora community in the United States. And yet, there has never been an Indian-American representative in the California Legislature. I am running for the State Assembly to change that. Like so many others in their generation,
Political representation isn’t just symbolic; it is a fundamental necessity for strong communities. It is no secret that Indian Americans make up a large proportion of health care professionals, entrepreneurs and small business owners. But rarely does California adequately support the medical field, small businesses and capital investment, and the state continuously hampers these sectors with an obtuse regulatory regime. At the most fundamental level, our community believes that education is the key to success, yet California’s public schools are among the lowest performing in the nation in core academic areas like reading and math (California ranks 45th). New York invests over $20,000 per public school pupil while California pays a paltry $9,100. We spend six times that amount incarcerating each prisoner. While California has one of the best public university systems in the world, we have cut it to the bone over the last decade. I care deeply about education, which is why I guest lecture at community colleges in my district and co-founded the Samvedana school in India, which serves students in slums in Gujarat. The consequence of a lack of political representation is that our priorities are not adequately reflected in our state’s policies.
However, for the first time our community has a real shot at political representation here in California. There are three viable candidates (in San Jose, Los Angeles, and Anaheim) and if at least two of the three elected, we can build a legislative caucus in Sacramento like other ethnic groups have. We can establish a political infrastructure on the inside so that each time a qualified Indian American runs for office, he or she is not doing it alone. But, this can only happen if our community up and down the state rallies to support us. I have spent my career working in the film industry, and as Los Angeles’ Deputy Film Czar I helped to engineer and pass the recent Film and Television Jobs Promotion Act that has brought thousands of production jobs back to the state and infused millions of dollars into small businesses around Southern California. I know what it takes to get meaningful legislation passed in Sacramento, and it is not easy. If our community wants legislation that positively impacts our concerns—be it ethnic and religious anti-discrimination protections, fair immigration practices, pro-business reform, or positive representation in educational curriculum, we need to come together as a community and as professionals to effectuate change.
(Dalal, who has served as L.A.’s “deputy film czar” under Mayor Eric Garcetti, is a Georgetown University Law Graduate, he is married to Divya and is running as a Democrat for the CA State Assembly, from Dist. 43 that covers Burbank, La Canada, Glendale).