When it was officially announced that Dearborn Mayor John B. O’Reilly was retiring and would not seek another term, the race opened wide for people to replace him.
O’Reilly is retiring after 14 years in office and an additional 17 years on the City Council.
Whoever ultimately wins will only be the seventh mayor of Dearborn, following Clyde Ford, John Carey, Orville Hubbard, John O’Reilly Sr., Michael Guido, and O’Reilly Jr.
Dearborn has a strong mayor form of government, meaning the mayor runs the city, not a city manager. The position will pay $157,185 in 2021 and will go up to $160,329 in 2022. The salary was set by the Local Officers Compensation Committee. The 2021 and 2022 numbers represent a 2% raise each year.
The candidates are Hussein Berry, Susan Dabaja, Abdullah Hammoud, Jim Parrelly, Thomas Patrick Tafelski, Kalette Shari Willis, and Gary Woronchak.
The Press and Guide asked each candidate a series of questions about their campaigns. All but Willis responded.
The stories will be released in alphabetical order, but all candidates’ answers were collected before any of the stories ran to prevent an unfair advantage to candidates whose stories are running later in the series.
The deadline to return the questions was prior to the recent flooding, so no topics related to that are included in these stories.
The third candidate to be featured is Hammoud.
Q: Please provide a brief biography of yourself, including family and professional life information, length of residency in Dearborn, civic involvement, etc.
A: I am currently serving my third & final term in the Michigan House of Representatives, representing our hometown of Dearborn. As a proud son of immigrant parents, I learned the value of hard work and community. I earned my BS from U of M-Dearborn, an MPH from U of M-Ann Arbor, and an MBA from U of M-Ross. While in Lansing, I was recognized as an economic development champion for work in support of small business, a champion of hope for my work to increase access to quality healthcare, and a leader in the fight to protect our environment.
Q: Why are you running for mayor of Dearborn?
A: Dearborn is home – It always has been and always will be. I’m running to be Dearborn’s next mayor because we need someone who fights for working families and keeps them here. My administration will make it a priority to lower our property taxes and enhance our city services, to protect our community from reckless drivers, and to guide our economic recovery to build back stronger than ever. I will bring bold and trusted leadership to the Mayor’s office, and we are the only campaign with a real vision and plans for our city. Read our plans at VoteHammoud.com/Issues.
Q: What is your top priority on day one of your administration?
A: There are countless issues to tackle within the city – all equally important- but, as Mayor, we will first work to establish a line of communication with residents and ensure an accessible, trusted, and capable team is built to move our city forward. We will then work to bring forward solutions to lower property taxes and enhance city services, make our roads and neighborhoods safer from reckless drivers, improve our air and water quality, and provide stronger support for our small businesses.
Q: COVID-19 has hit every government agency hard. What is your post-pandemic recovery plan for Dearborn?
A: As the only public health professional and epidemiologist in this race, I am prepared to assume the mayorship and readily provide the city of Dearborn the concrete leadership it needs to prioritize the health and safety of our families. My team and I have devised a plan that effectively identifies the most effective means for guiding our public health and economic recovery for residents by tackling the root causes of the issues we face as a community. You can read more about my Covid Recovery Plan at votehammoud.com/issues.
Q: Tax revenue is a hot-button issue in our city. If elected, how would you improve city services without raising taxes? Would you consider privatizing some services?
A: Dearborn levies some of the highest local taxes in Wayne County, yet for Dearborn to prosper and compete with neighboring communities, we must find a solution that brings relief to our families’ pockets while supporting them in the process. My team and I have thought carefully about how to maintain Dearborn’s current budget without increasing property taxes, while ensuring that city services and long-term infrastructure projects are funded. We have put forth a five-part solution to reduce property taxes, generate new city dollars, and enhance city operations. A thorough explanation of my plan is outlined at votehammoud.com/issues.
Q: Another hot-button issue is that of police reform and how officers do their jobs. What is your relationship with law enforcement, and do you think there is a need for changes to policing in Dearborn?
A: As State Representative, I have built a strong relationship with our officers and first responders. As Mayor, we will build off bipartisan reform proposals in Lansing to advocate for a public safety plan that works better for residents and first responders. Top-level changes include: 1) providing expanded mental health resources to officers and their families; 2) as well as mental health response units for residents, 3) shifting enforcement from non-moving traffic violations to issues of speeding and reckless driving; 4) establishing a public safety task force to assist in evaluating training, ensuring accountability, and improving outcomes; and lastly, 5) establish strong communications between our officers and the community.
Q: The city faces a number of infrastructure issues of concern to residents, including pools, parks, and roads. What’s your plan for fixing these problems?
A: Our city has a long history of providing good quality services to our community. But over the years, as city leaders have tried to balance the budget, city programs have been trimmed and cut — including pools, libraries and city infrastructure. Our plan is different- it will protect our environment, reinvest in our community pools & libraries, and rebuild our infrastructure safer than ever. With our tax and service plan, as well as the relationships I’ve built in Lansing, we have a means of providing solutions to many of the infrastructure concerns in our city.
Q: The business community has been hit hard by the pandemic, especially smaller businesses. How will your administration attract and support small businesses?
A: As Mayor, I will retool the city’s economic development team to provide greater assistance to small businesses, like help accessing small business support programs & grants. I will also partner with local institutions to launch a small businesses incubator. This program will provide starting funds to entrepreneurs with vetted business plans who are committed to opening and sustaining a small business in the city of Dearborn. This will help Dearborn reduce the likelihood of falling into a post-pandemic recession and place entrepreneurs in open storefronts across our city.
Q: On the subject of business, how will you make it easier for residents and companies to do business with the city online?
A: For many prospective and current business owners in Dearborn, one identified barrier to entry is the extraneous and lengthy permit application process. As Mayor, I will work with our city directors and departments to establish an online fast-pass permitting process. This merit-based system will allow residents or contractors to apply for a permit and secure approval in 10 days or less. As a result, barriers to entry will be reduced for prospective and current small business owners, as well as for homeowners seeking to make improvements to their homes.
Q: Dearborn is a city rich in history, diversity, and other amenities. How do you intend to capitalize on our past to attract more residents here in the future?
A: As Mayor, we will build bridges across our community and celebrate our diversity. We will utilize our assets and institutions such as Ford Motor Company, the Henry Ford, the Arab American Museum, and the Dearborn Historical Museum to engage our Dearborn community. Other initiatives will include:
a. Improving the amenities and services offered at various Dearborn recreation sites,
b. Identifying new programming to attract more residents to our libraries,
c. Expanding accessibility to our pools and parks by residents with disabilities, and
d. Engaging our local veterans groups to commemorate historical events, as well as provide mental and physical health support systems.
Q: Why should you be elected the next mayor of Dearborn?
A: Our hometown needs leadership where people and community come first. My campaign is about our Dearborn community, our families, and our priorities. I am running for Dearborn Mayor to be a champion for our children who want to breathe clean air; for our seniors who need a helping hand to stay independent; and for our neighborhood businesses who are fighting to keep their doors open. I want to tackle the issues that matter, like lowering property taxes, improving our parks and city services, and ensuring the public safety of our community. I hope to earn your vote Aug. 3.