By Charles Sercombe
Hamtramck’s candidates for City Council and for mayor once again met face-to-face in a Meet the Candidates Night, and once again there were few fireworks.
The candidates last squared off before the August Primary Election. That election is headed for the history books with the surprise of the three Bangladeshi council candidates taking the top three spots.
That election has now cemented the Bangladesh community as a powerful voting bloc.
But with the Nov. 3 General Election looming, there’s no telling how the election pendulum will swing.
Wednesday’s candidate forum was hosted by the Yemeni American Public Affair Committee and held at People’s Community Center. Only about 30 people were on hand to hear what the candidates had to say.
Council candidate Al Shulgon missed the meeting because he was holding a fundraiser at the time. Council candidate Kathy Kristy attended the forum after missing the prior forum held in the summer.
Here’s a round-up of what they had to say.
Council candidate Kazi Miah, the top vote-getter in the August election, promised to make the council more “citizen” orientated. He said an example of making the government more focused on the concerns of citizens was the outcry by some residents this week over a proposed ban on allowing commercial vehicles — including taxi cars — to park in residential streets.
Because of the opposition from residents, the council tabled the issue.
“Our voices were heard,” Miah said.
Miah also said he’d work on recruiting and retaining students in the public schools. The school district has seen hundreds of students leave for charter schools and other districts during the last several years, resulting in the loss of millions of dollars in state financial aid.
“If we don’t believe in our public schools, who will?” he said.
Kathy Kristy said her experience serving on City Council for two years, 2002-’03, qualifies her to take another stab at council. Her strength, she said, is her expertise in finances.
Mayoral candidate Abdul Algazali, a Yemeni-American who is now serving on council, said he’s fought against discrimination and “climbed the ladder” to city government. He also stressed he’s against new taxes.
Asked how he will deal with the spending cuts in state revenue, Algazali said he has proposed a 5 to 10 percent salary cut among city employees and officials. He also said he would stop overtime in the Police Department and use that money to instead hire more officers.
He also took some swings at Mayor Karen Majewski, saying several times that his position on issues is the “difference from my opponent.”
One of his pet peeves came up, too. He said he will not allow traffic cops to patrol in unmarked cars nor “hide” in wait for motorists. Algazali received a ticket last summer for speeding by one of the traffic cops.
Further regarding the police, Algazali said there are a “lot of issues” with the department. Just what those issues are he didn’t elaborate on, but it appears the department is definitely on his radar.
Candidate Mohammed Hassan said he will bring more “diversity” in City Hall and make property assessments “more reasonable.” Note to Hassan, on the business cards you are passing out, you promise to “re-asses” property taxes. Yeah, we’re sure that’s a typo.
Mayor Majewski, who is facing a stiff challenge, gave an overview of the development accomplishments that happened on her watch, such as the new construction of bridges over I-75, street repaving, bus shelters, new street signs and a number of other development projects in the works.
She said “we’ve managed to do an incredible amount” thanks to her strong connections with state officials.
“We had to work for that respect,” she said about cultivating her connections.
Council candidate Tom Jankowski said safety is number one for him. But having said that, he said he would seek a reduction in pay for police officers if the city is hit with a major cut in state financial aid.
“We’re just not in good enough shape,” he said. Employees, he added, have to “work for us again, and not for the unions.”
Council candidate Anam Miah said his experience as president of a local steel workers union gives him the knowledge on how to deal with union employees. Hamtramck, he said, has “good unions and unions are good for Hamtramck.”
He also said he has no “magic solution” for the city’s impending financial problems, but he has a “willingness to learn.”
Although council candidate Al Shulgon couldn’t make the forum, his wife, Hedy, spoke in his place. She said her husband’s main strength is balancing the budget. She also credited him for finding funding to hire two traffic officers.