Wayne County voters face money issues, mayoral races
A trio of mayoral races, a city bond proposal and three school millage requests are among ballot items voters throughout Wayne County will weigh in on Tuesday in the primary election.
In Hamtramck, four candidates are running for mayor in a city that has what’s believed to be the country’s first Muslim-majority city council. Hamtramck Mayor Karen Majewski is being challenged by Mohammed Hassan, Cathie Ladzinski Gordon and Asm Rahman. The top two vote-getters Tuesday will advance to the November election.
Majewski, who has been mayor for 12 years, said voters should value her experience and ability to represent the diverse, densely-populated city on a national and international stage. Majewski, 62, is also owner of Tekla Vintage on Jos Campau.
Majewski said that in the last three or four years, she’s been involved in efforts to address infrastructure issues such as sewers, streets and alleys.
“This is not just quality of life issue,” she said. “It’s an economic development issue. If they are not addressed, we can’t even attract residents and development.”
Majewski said she would like to keep working for the city as it overcomes the financial impact of the Great Recession. Hamtramck emerged from 18 months of emergency management in 2014 and has been under the watch of a Receivership Transition Advisory Board since then.
“We have serious issues mostly due to finances we need to work through,” she said. “We’ve put the plans in place to begin that. I want to see those through. We’ve worked hard to get those implemented and I don’t get it to get lost in a new administration.”
Rahman, a 48-year-old political newcomer, said he believes his education and experience in finance makes him the best candidate for mayor. While the city has a budget surplus, he points to past financial woes.
“I notice the community needs new leadership ideas,” he said. “In the last 16 years, we had two state-appointed emergency managers. There’s a lack of understanding and respect in government. Often times, council and mayor don’t agree. They don’t have somebody that understands finance very well.”
Rahman, an application analyst for the Detroit Water and Sewerage Department, said he would like to involve the city in a water assistance program. He said he also would like to provide employee training and volunteer translation services to reduce language barriers for residents conducting business at city hall.
Two familiar faces are also running for mayor. Hassan sits on city council and Gordon is a former city councilwoman. Neither responded to repeated calls for comment last week.
Meetings in Hamtramck have been tense in recent months. Residents have accused the city council of violating the Open Meetings Act, saying that some discussions are taking place behind closed doors, such as the decision earlier this year not to renew the contract of former city manager Katrina Powell.
Some also accused a majority group on council of colluding in an attempt to name their choice as interim city manager. A spokesman from state Attorney General Bill Schuette’s office said the office would not divulge if there is an investigation into the matter.
Beside the mayor’s race, 10 candidates are vying for three open seats on the city council.
“Things will get better after the election,” Rahman said. “People’s mindsets will change.”
In other Wayne County communities, voters will be asked to pass proposals for public safety and public services buildings and school operations.
In the city of Grosse Pointe, officials are asking voters to approve a $12.96 million public safety and public services bond issue. The funds, to be repaid over 23 years, would pay for a new public safety headquarters and a new public services building.
Officials say both buildings on Maumee Avenue are obsolete. Grosse Pointe Public Safety Chief Stephen Poloni said the 1928 public safety building can no longer handle the department’s large equipment.
“Vehicles back then, fire vehicles were considerably smaller,” he said. “It’s so tight you can barely get in and out of the door. If you want to work on the trucks, you have to pull them out, (even) in inclement weather.”
The nearby public services building lacks adequate space to store the department’s trucks and its salt storage, Poloni said. Other materials, such as pipes for main repairs, are stored off site.
If approved, the city would relocate public safety and public services. Locations under consideration for the public safety building are the site of Alger’s Deli and Liquor on Mack and St. Clair. The public services building could possibly relocate to a St. John Hospital warehouse at 4849 Canyon.
The current public safety building would be repurposed for court offices and other city offices.
The millage would cost the owner of a home whose taxable value is $125,000 an estimated $212 in 2018.
Poloni said he’s confident voters will approve the measure.
“They want us to maintain a good level of service,” he said. “To do that, we’ll need the new facilities.”
Officials for Romulus Community Schools are asking voters to approve a pair of millages. One is a 10-year operating renewal for 2.5 mills, down from the previously authorized 5.13 mills that expired in 2016. The second is a 10-year sinking fund increase for no more than 3 mills for real estate purchases and school repairs.
In Huron Township, the Huron School District is asking voters to renew a five-year, 18.59-mill nonhomestead operating millage. The district serves both Wayne and Monroe counties.
In other mayoral races on the primary ballot:
--Dearborn Mayor John O’Reilly is being challenged by four other candidates: Edward John Binkley, Hakim Fakhoury, Jim Parrelly and Thomas Patrick Tafelski.
--Dearborn Heights Mayor Daniel Paletko is being challenged by Ed Garcia and Lisa Hicks-Clayton.