Villaraigosa’s staff have indicated that Nahai will focus on renewable energy programs and modernize the reliability of water and electricity in Los Angeles. The Los Angeles DWP is the nation’s largest public utility with a $6.16 billion annual budget and more than 8,000 employees. Nahai was elected as President of the L.A. DWP Commission in September 2006 and one of his last votes on the DWP Commission was to support the first electricity rate increase in 15 years. The measure must now be approved by the L.A. City Council and Mayor. The DWP board under Nahai’s leadership also approved increasing residential water rates by about $1 per month, beginning on July 1 in both 2008 and 2009.
This new position is significant in that Nahai becomes one of only two Iranian Jews currently serving in local government in Southern California. Nahai’s involvement in this local government post would indeed been a rare achievement for the Iranian Jewish community which had never been involved in political office in Iran. Nahai has been one of the few politically active members of the local Iranian Jewish community and I have interviewed him on a number of occassions. During his campaigning on behalf of John Kerry in 2004, Nahai spoke at a number of community venues and also on KIRN 670 AM, the local Persian language radio station. More importantly, Nahai was key in campaigning and helping with fundraising efforts in the larger Iranian community on behalf of Villaraigosa during the 2005 mayoral race. Political activism is a fairly new phenomenon for Iranian Jewish immigrants who, for more than 2,000 years in Iran, were generally denied voting rights and the right to partake in political activities. My 2005 article in the L.A. Jewish Journal explored the Iranian Jewish community’s growing interest and involvement in local politics.
Indeed, Nahai is no novice when it comes to environmental issues as he practices environmental law as a Century City attorney and has worked on the Los Angeles Regional Water Quality Control Board. In January 2005, Nahai was reappointed by Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger for an unprecedented third term on the Water Quality Control that overseas water quality in Los Angeles and Ventura counties. In addition, he currently serves as vice chairman of the Santa Monica Bay Restoration Commission. Last but not least, Nahai is married to the acclaimed Iranian Jewish author Gina Nahai.