With only seven months into his term, Lodi City Council Member Shak Khan has been engulfed in controversy. The Grapevine News was fortunate to sit down with the Council Member to discuss a number of contentious topics, including his surprising arrest before the 2020 Election.
Hector Madrigal, founder of The Grapevine, and Bryan Sullivan, columnist at The Grapevine, had a lengthy discussion with Lodi City Council Member Shak Khan on April 22, 2021. Since then we have been diligently working to create this interview to bring to the people of Lodi. It should be noted that Hector Madrigal ran for Lodi City Council in 2020 for district 5, and Bryan Sullivan was one of his volunteers.
The 2020 election for Lodi City Council district 4 was sensational, dramatic, and filled with scandal. For those that are unaware, district 4 encompasses most of Lodi’s downtown area, from Sacramento St in the west to Cherokee Ln in the east, and from Lockeford St in the north to Kettleman Ln in the south. The candidates that competed for the newly created district 4 seat included Ramon Yepez, Nati Bowman, Shak Khan, and Joanne Mounce. Joanne Mounce had previously served Lodi for 16 years as an at-large City Council Member. 2020 was the first time districts 4 and 5 were up for election in Lodi’s newer by district elections, and Shak Khan won the contest with 37.5% of the vote.
“This act was a message that if any person of color runs in this town, the same will happen to you.”-Shak Khan on his arrest
What were the scandals that then-candidate Shak Khan found himself facing during the heated election? The first controversy was when police arrived at Mr. Khan’s house to discuss the disappearance and destruction of election yard signs. Many candidates during the 2020 election, Hector Madrigal included, had numerous yard signs removed and even destroyed from supporters’ homes. Some signs were replaced with yard signs for Shak Khan’s campaign. Hector Madrigal’s volunteers can support this claim. Council Member Khan told us that it was then-Council Member Joanne Mounce who sent the police to Shak Khan’s residence regarding the issue.
However, the controversy surrounding campaign signs was nothing compared to what happened just a few days before the election. The largest scandal that Shak Khan found himself in was his arrest on October 28th, 2020. Shak Khan was arrested for allegedly owning and maintaining an illegal gambling site, conspiracy to commit crime, and money laundering. This was all tied to The American Smokers Club in Stockton; a business Council Member Khan was formerly the owner of until he saw someone killed over a pair of shoes. He didn’t think it was worth it to get killed over a pack of cigarettes, so he sold The American Smokers Club and bought The Roundhouse Bar here in Lodi.
Since the arrest there has been no activity on Council Member Khan’s case. Even with his full cooperation, and a raid on his house, the District Attorney of San Joaquin County has not made any steps forward. Those from the public who read this, please put pressure on our DA to move the case forward, Council Member Khan stated.
As we spoke with Council Member Khan, he told us that the arrest was a complete set up. Do you think I’m stupid that I would run for office, submitting info to the government while committing this crime? He went on to say, “This town has been known as a small racist town over the years. Everyone knows this. This act was a message that if any person of color runs in this town, the same will happen to you.”
Council Member Khan then mentioned the arrest of a Pakistani gentleman here in Lodi who was suspected of being a terrorist. In 2006, Hamid Hayat was arrested on suspicion of being linked with an al-Qaeda sleeper cell. In 2019, Mr. Hayat’s case was overturned by a federal judge because he never received a fair trial. Prosecutors chose to dismiss the case in 2020, allowing Mr. Hayat to go free after fourteen years in prison. The community never recovered, and it would appear this arrest was also a set up in the wake of 9/11 hysteria.
Newly Elected Council Member for District 4
Citizens’ jaws dropped when Shak Khan won the race just a few days later with such troubling accusations floating over his head. Distrust of Mr Khan soared before he entered office. There was even talk of starting a recall election, but some said Mr. Khan was and still is innocent until proven guilty.
Since taking office, Council Member Khan has been posting frequently on social media. During our interview he told us that he chooses to post often because he wants the public to get more involved with their local government. We the people must hold our representatives accountable, he said.
On December 16, 2020 Shak Khan posted on Facebook a kind deed that he did for the children at the Child Abusive Prevention Council SJC. He loaded up his van full of toys and personally delivered them to those kids so they could have a joyous Christmas surprise. That deed did not bode so well for Mr. Khan, unfortunately. The comments on his social media post were very harsh.
One resident commented, “The best Oscar award goes too…”Khan! The corrupt politician ‘Khan’ who got caught.”
Another resident commented, “Its not a good deed if you need praising/credit.”
Another person responded, “Do you really expect a pat on the back with criminal charges pending against you? GTFOH loser!”
Another asked, “when is your court date?”
Much to my surprise, one resident came to his defense and told another resident that, “I’m glad he’s in office and I’ll do everything I can to use my media platforms and influence to keep him in there especially if it pisses you off.”
The public can be really cruel to other people, especially without knowing all the facts. Besides passing out toys to children in need, Shak Khan has been busy trying to make Lodi a more Lovable and Livable place to be, especially in his district.
Fighting to bring Urdu to the Lodi DMV
During the April 21, 2021 City Council Meeting, Council Member Khan brought forth the idea to add Urdu to the list of languages at the DMV. According to Neighborhood Scout, a resource that uses multiple government agencies, roughly 4.3% of Lodi’s population (approximately 2,600 people) speak Urdu. California state law requires translation services for languages that exceed 5% of the population, meaning Lodi is close to the mandated percentage, but have yet to reach it. [Source]
Mayor Nakanishi pushed back on the recommendation stating, “I look at the cost. If you do something like this for this group, how about for another group? When do you stop? People come in and say let’s protest here and let’s protest there, and I think it’s not appropriate for the City Council to do such things. We’re here to basically run the city. Not be advocates for certain members of the city, right, because they may differ.” He went on to say, “My thought was we shouldn’t take a stand at all. We’re here to run the city, not to make discord among the people.” I think the mayor has lost sight as to what it means to be a political figure. In order to run a city properly you need to listen to the residents. That is what Shak Khan is doing, listing to the residents.
We were able to talk to him about this and he expressed that in order for Lodi to show the world we are diverse and welcoming we have to hear the voices of the people. 2,600 people may not seem like a lot to some but, to Shak Khan that is 2,600 people that live in his district. That is 2,600 people who are asking a person with power to help them live here in Lodi. Help them make it easier for them to obtain a drives licenses so they can get back and forth to work.
Council Member Mikey Hothi supported Council Member Khan’s request, and even said our State Assembly Member Jim Cooper would be behind such a powerful motion. After failing to table the recommendation, the City Council voted unanimously to adopt the resolution requesting the California Department of Motor Vehicles to provide all printed and test materials in the Urdu language
Some stated the recommendation was a waste of time given the fact that the DMV is state-controlled and might not respond to the City’s request, but Council Member Khan said in our interview that it is never a waste of time when you are helping the community. He went on to tell us that it often takes 6-8 months to find a proper translator for in-person appointments at the DMV. Moreover, you have to pay a fee that expires after a set amount of time. Shak Khan understands that legislation has to start somewhere, why not start in Lodi and show the world that we care for our citizens needs no matter if it is a city thing or a state thing.
Fighting for Mobile Libraries
About a month later at the May 19th City Council Meeting, Council Member Khan presented the idea of bringing mobile libraries to east side. Again, Mayor Nakanishi disapproved of Council Member Khan’s procedure:
“I think a thing like this should be recommended by the library board. That’s why they’re here… A City Council Member is elected for the whole city, and not to bring his or her own ideas of what he wants… We don’t have the money, that’s the difficulty… I think when a City Council Member wants something, they could look at what it is and discuss it with the City Manager, then present it to the appropriate committees.”
Again, the Mayor has lost focus on what it means to be a mayor. If it was not for Shak Khan, then who? If not now, then when?
Click here to see the full Lodi City Council Meeting for May 19, 2021. Council Member Khan’s request starts at 34:20. Mayor Nakanishi’s comments begin at 40:35
On June 23, 2021, Shak Khan posted on Facebook that he went up to Sacramento to meet with California State Assembly Member Carlos Villapudua. They talked about the potential of State funding for Lodi’s Mobile Library and sidewalk improvements for the eastside. It was nice to see that Shak Khan is thinking outside the box for funding of the Mobile Library. What was even nicer about that post was, there were no negative comments. They were all positive feedback thanking him for trying to do something for the community.
Improvements Council Member Khan Would Like to See
With all the push back that Council Member Khan has been receiving from the Mayor, we asked if he supported the idea of electing the Mayor separate from the City Council.
Our city is behind, we need to keep up with the 21st century, Council Member Khan stated. The Mayor should be elected and should be independent from the Council Members. Maybe the Mayor should be elected every two years instead of every four years, Council Member Khan told us, and they should hold regular meetings with the Members of the City Council; but at this time, the City Manager is the one who acts like the Mayor.
Council Member Khan went on to say, we need more new and young faces in the City Council. However, the Police Department and any other public departments should not get involved in the elections. During the previous election, numerous public departments and officials had openly endorsed candidates for City Council.
To bring equitable results to Lodi’s east side, Council Member Khan told us he would like to work more with the Chamber of Commerce and the Lodi Improvement Committee. He also stated that the City of Lodi must be more welcoming to businesses. The 76 Gas Station on Harney Ln and Stockton St took three years to approve. Stockton is much more welcoming to businesses, as businesses can easily pay to get a permit, Council Member Khan stated.
Resolving the Issue of Homelessness in Lodi
The issue at the forefront of most people’s mind is how to reduce the homeless population and deal with those whom frequently break laws. In California, homeless citizens often cannot be prosecuted due to their current situation unless there are enough beds equal to the amount of homeless people counted at a specific point in time. Lodi has approximately 139 homeless citizens, which means we must provide at least 139 beds within a low barrier shelter, as shelters with religious barriers do not qualify. Unfortunately, many of Lodi’s citizens are not supportive of the idea nor any location within the City for a homeless shelter.
Council Member Shak Khan is aware of the problems and possible solutions facing the homeless community in Lodi. During our interview he said that he supports the idea of a navigation center, though it still might not be enough. More work must be done on the east side to make steps forward. The Ready To Work Program is a great help, as it provides work for homeless people throughout San Joaquin County. They even pay the homeless to clean the City alongside Waste Management.
We at the Grapevine News informed Council Member Khan of a small number of hotels and houses on Main Street which appear to be the root cause of much of the criminal activity in the downtown area. Many nearby building are in a state of disrepair. Moreover, there was a large fire just a few months ago at one of the abandoned buildings not too far from Main Street.
At this time we only have two Code Enforcement Officers in Lodi, Council Member Khan informed us. He would love to work with the City Manager and the Code Enforcement Officers, but questioning the fitness of these buildings would place the occupants at risk of becoming homeless. Council Member Khan said he would still like to inspect the properties and get the owners to fix them or have the City place a lean on the building if they refuse. This would place the building under the ownership of the City and allow them to provide repairs if they are salvageable. The money for the repairs would come from state and federal grants, Council Member Khan claimed. Most of the rentals are on the east side, and many of the owners of these rentals live in the Bay Area, Council Member Khan stated, making Property Management the middle man. The owners must be held accountable!
Council Member Khan continued by stating that the fire on the east side was most likely caused by the Homeless individuals who were known to live inside the abandoned building. He would like to see no trespassing or no-go areas that would only allow the public and police.
Anti-Homeless Bars on City Benches
Not too long ago, the people of Lodi were up in arms over metal bars that were mysteriously installed on City benches in the downtown district. Though the issue has already been discussed and “resolved” by the City Council, we at The Grapevine were able to discuss the issue during our interview with the Council Member Khan.
We began by asking what the Council Member thought of these bars on our City benches. Council Member Khan stated that the bars should be removed from the benches, and we should open an investigation to find out who is responsible. Those who installed them must have a permit from the City before they can take such action.
We then asked why the City hadn’t removed the bars themselves. In fact, it took nearly a month before the bars were removed. His response was that the City did not want to take the bars off themselves and cause more controversy.
Finally, we asked Council Member Khan if the City Council directed the Police Department to arrest anyone who had tried to remove the bars. Allegedly there was an incident one day when someone attempted to remove the bars from the benches but were stopped by Police Officers who had threatened to arrest them, belittled them, and claimed the bars were “clean vandalism” – a term we still have not received a definition for. Council Member Khan told us that the Council did not direct the police to take action. In fact, City Council Members cannot question departments so easily, but a meeting must be requested and the City Manager must be present.
Love him or hate him, Shak Khan is working hard to not only improve the district he has been elected to, but to improve the City as a whole. Council Member Khan ended our interview by saying that a responsible person should not engage in arguments. “We cannot fight hate with hate. We must fight hate with love.”
Once again, Shak Khan is the City Council Member of Lodi – District 4. He won the election in 2020 and will be up for election in 2024 with new districts. You can find him on Facebook at shakforlodi.
If you would like to watch some of the Council Meetings you can access them by clicking here.