Hamtramck pulls vote on censure of councilman
Hamtramck — The City Council abruptly removed a resolution to censure one of its councilmen over controversial comments he made on immigrants earlier this month.
The resolution called for Councilman Ian Perrotta to be “publicly censured for remarks he made” during a radio interview and “is admonished to guard against making such biased and impertinent remarks in the future.”
But the council did not vote Tuesday night on the resolution. No explanation was given.
Speaking on WWJ-AM (950) on Sept. 11, Perrotta blamed immigrant residents for trash piling up in Hamtramck alleyways and singled out residents from Yemen and Bangladesh.
“There is an issue with trash in Hamtramck,” Perrotta told WWJ. “I think some of it comes from the fact that some of our immigrant population comes from areas where regular trash collection and sanitation is not available, or not a priority.”
“The previous iterations of the immigrant population were more Europeans who maybe came from places that had similar methods of sanitation,” Perrotta continued. “The current wave of immigrants is primarily from Yemen and Bangladesh.”
The resolution also stated that Perotta’s “bigoted comments” perpetuate “hurtful stereotypes about European and Western cultural superiority over many of the immigrant cultures represented by members of this council and the broader community.”
At Tuesday’s meeting, Perrotta apologized to anyone who took offense to his remarks, which he said was a response to a question in an interview about a problem in the city drawing complaints.
“I never meant to disparage any group of Hamtramck residents. It is very unfortunate that that was the way it was construed,” he told the audience.
“I truly am sorry if you were hurt by my words. But please note that I said what I said out of a duty to all Hamtramck and all residents because our responsibility is to take action and ownership of the problems and anything that is going on in Hamtramck. If we don’t address problems that are at hand, they will never be solved.”
According to a Global Detroit report that evaluated 2010-14 census data, Hamtramck has the largest percent of foreign-born residents of any city in Michigan. Of 22,256 Hamtramck residents, 44 percent are foreign-born, the report stated.
The city, which covers just over two square miles, has historically attracted immigrants from Europe, including those from Poland, Yugoslavia and Ukraine. In more recent decades, a large number of Yemenis and Bangladeshis have settled in the diverse city.
Tuesday night’s meeting drew about 25 people, and many of the attendees who spoke during the public comments portion discussed the measure’s impact on the community.
Some believed Perrotta was unfairly targeted and the resolution distracted from more important matters in the city.
“When you want to try to put something on him when he was misquoted… I take an exception to this,” resident Susan Dunn said. “It’s an attack on somebody’s ethics. And that’s unacceptable to those of us who actually know this man.”
But others said Perrotta’s comments were harmful.
“He was not misquoted,” said Bill Meyer, who leads One Hamtramck, adding he doesn’t believe the councilman is “a bad person” but needs to weigh his words more carefully. “I heard him. ... … You were trying not to offend anybody but unfortunately you did and you caused this problem.”
The Michigan chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations, the largest Muslim civil liberties and advocacy organization in the U.S., supported the resolution in a statement Tuesday.
“We support the censure of Council Member Perrotta for his scapegoating of Yemeni and Bangladeshi immigrants,” CAIR-MI executive director Dawud Walid said. “In the Trump era, racist and Islamophobic statements from government officials are becoming all too common. It is important for their peers to clearly rebuke such bigoted rhetoric.”
The Arab-American Civil Rights League also supported the resolution Tuesday.
“While we stand for the protection of all citizens’ rights to free speech, such offensive commenting by a city official towards the immigrant community is intolerable,” the group said in a statement.