LEGISLATIVE CANDIDATE SALIMI ADDRESSES THE STTP – Anousheh Salimi, a
candidate for Broome County’s 15th legislative district seat,
addressed the STTP at our August general meeting.
Mr. Salimi is originally from Iran and was studying abroad in Scotland
at the start of the Iranian revolution in 1979. During the revolution
his father lost his construction business and was ultimately
imprisoned. With his family’s finances depleted, Mr. Salimi was
unable to fulfill his plans to study at Cornell University. Instead
he found himself “in the art of hair rather than the art of
architecture,” and he entered the hairdressing business with his
future (now ex-) wife. At his family’s urging, Mr. Salimi remained in
the United States after the revolution rather than return home in the
midst of the Iran-Iraq war. Separated from his family in war-torn
Iran, Mr. Salimi’s adult life started under tragic and unimaginable
circumstances, but it has become an iconic American success story.
In 1984, the Salimis launched their business. In the years that
followed, Mr. Salimi raised his two children, helped his mother
emigrate from Iran to the U.S., and managed the rise and growth of his
business. Unfortunately, Mr. Salimi’s salon enterprise was not spared
from the economic malaise that has afflicted our area for decades, and
its early successes were tempered by subsequent contraction. His
experience in facing the ups and downs of our economy has spurred Mr.
Salimi to seek a seat in the county legislature. His family and
livelihood are rooted here, and he plans to apply his business acumen
to help grow the economy.
Mr. Salimi places much of the blame for our area’s economic regression
on governmental incompetence and the burden of government on
businesses. He has seen our elected officials and their deputies
regulate and oversee sectors of the economy of which they have no
knowledge. The detrimental effect on his and many other
entrepreneurships is manifest. When GE, IBM, and other large
employers downsized in the late 1980s, our leaders had no plan to
secure jobs and prevent the bottom from falling out of the economy.
Instead of expanding his business, Mr. Salimi was forced to shrink his
operation from sixty-five to eighteen employees.
Mr. Salimi believes that Binghamton’s image makes it anything but
business-friendly. He said, “Downtown Binghamton had a certain
excitement about it” when he arrived in 1979. There were boutiques
and shops and a bustling economy. The Downtown Binghamton of today
cannot be described in such glowing terms, and Mr. Salimi sees a
direct correlation between the city’s image and its economy. For
example, he had a salon located in the MetroCenter, but he was
eventually forced to close it because his clients became too afraid to
go there after dark. Of this, Mr. Salimi asks, “What happened to our
city? What happened to our county?”
If elected to the legislature, Mr. Salimi will focus on reducing the
size and scope of government, particularly the pension plan for
government employees and ill-advised county investments. He also
wants make the residency requirements for Broome County more stringent
and to close the landfill in favor of a high-tech incinerator which
would bring jobs and generate electricity.
At a broader scope, Mr. Salimi worries about a form of socialism that
he has seen corrupt and destroy the spirit of people the world over.
Socialism, he said, is not just what you’d find in the old Soviet
Union. Said Salimi, “socialism is when you make the society depend on
the government. When you have this dependency, you don’t want to
work.” He continued, “I have been in countries throughout my life.
My travels took me through Turkey, Bulgaria, Yugoslavia, Austria,
Germany, Italy. I have seen the difference in the places that
socialism existed and in places that people were prosperous because
they were working and they were achieving.” “Socialism is when you
work for government without reward. What do you have to wake up for
when you have that kind of routine?”
Here in Broome County and Binghamton Mr. Salimi sees this form of
socialism. Business owners work hard and are successful and in turn
have to pay to subsidize people who do not work. He said people
settle for taking handouts instead of being given hope that if they
work hard they can do better.
How does the political culture of Iran compare with that of the United
States? Mr. Salimi drew a sharp distinction. In Iran, he said, “if
you spoke against the government, you either go to jail or you are
hanged—secretly. Here it is a breath of fresh air to be able to speak
your mind and still walk around having your head on your shoulders.”
How does Mr. Salimi view his success? He quipped that when he first
started his business he wanted to see his name in neon lights on
Broadway. Of his business today, he said, “I have a neon light in my
salon. My name is on that.” Perhaps Mr. Salimi will soon see his
name on a placard in the Broome County legislative chamber as well