Learn about Aisha Wahab, a candidate in the District 10 State Senate election
If you had to describe yourself as a candidate in three words, what three words would you choose?
AW: Innovative, pragmatic, and persistent.
Why are you running for State Senate?
AW: I grew up in this district. This is the place that I work at. I want to address some of the challenges that we face. Housing at all income levels, public safety, and justice for all. Fighting climate change. I think these are all issues that our generation really want to tackle, and I’ve earned the support of our current state senator Bob Wieckowski and the senator before him, Senator Ellen Corbett.
What are three main goals you hope to achieve as state senator?
AW: I definitely want to ensure that we are prioritizing housing at all income levels. That [includes] down payment assistance programs, first-time homebuyer programs, things like that. And tackling our homeless crisis because it is a crisis. You know, we have 50% of the nation’s homeless population here, in California.
And number two, I definitely want to make sure that we really prioritize public safety and justice for all people. This means not only [regarding] the crimes and robberies we’ve been seeing, but also holding people accountable; making sure that the punishment fits the crime. And that we really take a look at what we are doing; does it work, does it not work? How can we solve this? I think in Hayward we’ve improved significantly. I’ve been able to work with our police officers and so forth. Our policies work in Hayward and we’re going to kind of try to push it to the rest of the state.
And my third priority is supporting small businesses that create local jobs. We can’t have jobs without businesses. So being able to bring those two together. I have an MBA, my parents were small business owners; I think that I can really prioritize that effort. Especially because in California 60% of all businesses are considered small businesses. And they’re largely run by immigrants and it’s a growing population of people of color and women that are trying to start their business. So I want to make it easier and really, really help people fulfill their American dream.
Journey in Politics
How has your experience helping the community impacted the way you look at politics?
AW: I’ve always known that I like helping people. I want to make a positive impact in this world, in my life, but I didn’t really know if politics was really the avenue per se. I grew up in a family that definitely genuinely appreciates community service, but I wasn’t 100% sure what that was going to look like. So I worked in startups and small businesses and so forth. And I feel that when I sat as a board member of different nonprofits, I learned how things work. I feel that there’s a lot that needs to be done, a lot that’s not spoken about, and I feel that my personal experience really pushes me to help the community in ways that I think most people don’t even talk about.
Your journey in politics and community service brought you to the Hayward City Council in 2018. What was an initiative or policy that you were most proud of implementing when you were on the Hayward city council?
AW: I’m proud of a couple of things. I genuinely care about housing on all income levels. In my three years since 2019, we [Hayward] have reduced our homeless population by 22%. No other city in the Bay Area can claim this right. And it’s primarily because I’ve invested so much of our resources and policy to prioritize this. And because of the policies we create, it’s also one of the most affordable cities in the Bay Area. So I’m very, very proud of that.
I’m also incredibly proud of improving public safety by having our mental health and homeless calls handled by our paramedics, so that police officers are allowed to focus on real crime, addressing the growing crime rates that we’ve been seeing throughout the state of California. There’s more policies that I’m proud of. I’ve increased the minimum wage. I’ve also made sure that we have an independent investigation for all officer-involved shootings that result in a death. So I’m very proud of a lot of the work that I’ve done.
You mentioned that one of your priorities is using police officers to ensure public safety and considering the issues regarding police that have been brought to light in the last two years. How do you plan to balance fighting the issues within the criminal justice system while also utilizing police officers to address crime? Or how have you already done that?
AW: I want to be very clear. The mental health and homeless calls are addressed by our paramedics. These are trained medics that do not carry a weapon, who are specialized in mental health and these types of calls. Our police officers are supposed to handle the crime that’s happening. The break-ins, the robberies, the rapes, murders, things like that. And I think that that’s where we need to understand the scope of work of police officers.
We’ve passed a policy in Hayward that addresses the independent investigation for officers involved in a shooting that results in a death. In essence, it should be investigated by an independent party. I’m very proud of that policy, and to be able to work with our police officers to initiate those types of policies.
I think that it’s important to hold offenders accountable, but also to understand the core reasons why we are seeing spikes in crime and addressing those issues as well. So whether it’s affordable housing, education, job placement, we need to address those as well. And in Hayward we actually do.
What are your plans to ensure quality public education for students?
AW: Education is a priority of mine. I personally have paid my way through school. I have my Masters in Business, and I’m pursuing a doctorate and I think that we should be investing in our community [members] obtaining an education that really works for them. Nobody should go broke. [Pursuing education] is how we make our community smarter, safer, stronger, and I want to prioritize that as much as possible. Teachers should be paid fairly. We should make sure that our curriculum supports a 21st century model, from coding to technology to science, math, as well as the arts. I think it’s incredibly important and I’d like to prioritize that. I’m very proud to have the support of [numerous] teachers and faculty associations.
And you mentioned you also have the endorsement of the incumbent Bob Wieckowski. Are there any policies of Wieckowski’s that you hope to carry on or change?
AW: Yes, he has historically been a huge climate activist, more so and a lot longer than a lot of other people. And I really want to continue that effort. In Hayward, we’ve passed some aggressive environmental policies. We invested roughly $900 million in our Hayward shoreline improvement master plan. We do live in an earthquake and flood zone, this close to the bay. We do and I want to protect our communities. I’m very proud to have the endorsement of the Sierra Club as well as the California Professional Firefighters—as the environment is changing, more and more fires are becoming regular. And I don’t want anybody to lose a loved one or their property because of a lack of attention to climate change. So I will be prioritizing that. I also think it creates jobs if we move in this direction. That’s something that I really want to pursue.
Wahab’s Words of Wisdom
As a high schooler, I’ve noticed that a lot of teenagers know quite a bit about elections at the national level, but they aren’t as knowledgeable about the elections closest to home. Why do you think it’s important for students like myself to learn more about state elections like these and not just national elections?
AW: I think that all policy and politics is local. So when we’re talking about things like the potholes in our streets, the quality of education that you have in your own school, the minimum wage jobs that many students may be working, that’s all under the local level or state level. So it’s important to vote for somebody and volunteer for somebody that understands the issues that really impact the local community. And like I said, I was raised here. I grew up here, I work here. I know this community. Without even talking to your parents, I would probably know how they feel about local issues, just because we’re in the same community. So I think it’s important to have a better understanding of our local leaders to really see the influence that they have on local policies.
Finally, what advice can you offer to high schoolers who also want to enact change in their communities like you do?
AW: Definitely volunteer. Expose yourself to things if you are curious about. Volunteer with the people and organizations that really tackle the issues you care about. So whether it’s your local elected officials, whether it’s Animal Services at your local city if you care about animal issues, your environmental clubs, things like that. Young people have so much influence in this world. And being able to utilize that voice is incredibly important, whether it’s posting on social media, whether it’s learning about something, creating these infographics, memes… again, volunteering as much as possible. You know, I think that there’s a lot of opportunity for young people to make positive change in their community.