By Charles Sercombe
There were no knockout punches or game changing turns and twists at Wednesday’s “Meet the Candidates Night.”
But there were some enlightening moments and a few jabs, as well as a mother lode of information supplied by the nine City Council candidates who elected to participate.
Four candidates did not show up. Some candidates apparently boycotted the event because The Review was a co-sponsor. You can read more about this subject in the story below.
As for what the candidates had to say, here’s a highlight of who said what.
In their opening statements, which each candidate was given three minutes to get their message across, Councilmember Cathie Gordon, the only incumbent running for re-election, conceded it’s been a rough three-and-a-half years since she was first elected to office.
And she conceded she didn’t fix much, but then again, many communities throughout the state suffered the same economic blows Hamtramck has weathered. Actually, if one were to look at Hamtramck’s situation, the city has fared better than some others.
Gordon said the key to Hamtramck’s economic survival is not by cutting more costs, but instead by increasing revenue.
How to do that?
She said the city needs to explore partnering up services with the public housing commission and public schools. Just what she meant by that was not made clear.
Gordon also said savings can come by “restructuring” city departments, a point that other candidates also touched on. But again, details of what that entails were not given.
A theme that Gordon has lately been promoting is for more “transparency” in government operations, which also was a subject some of the other candidates touched on.
Her point is that all meetings of the council and the city’s various commissions should be recorded and aired for public viewing. She also wants to open the Police Department’s log sheet, which was once open to public view.
The log sheet is a daily description of what calls come in. Former Chief James Doyle closed the books on that several years ago, citing privacy concerns. However, many communities not only make available their log sheets, but also post them online.
Gordon stressed that she first ran for office as the “people’s voice.” She said she continues to represent the people.
“I have heard the voices,” she said.
Next up was Susan Dunn-Rahdar, who is certainly no stranger to Hamtramck politics, having run for council several times.
She summed up this election and the mood of the country in general, in succinct terms.
“This election is a pivotal time on our city and country,” she said.
Indeed, it truly is.
Dunn called out for unity, and stressed her opposition at a town hall meeting earlier this year over an option the city manager was considering for the city to file for bankruptcy.
At that time the city was facing an imminent budget crash.
Filing for bankruptcy, she said, would have “reduced the city to nothing.”
Mohamed Delawar Hussain’s remedy for Hamtramck’s financial problems is to hook up with the “private sector” and “get something” going.
Roger Lamm took a jab at the candidates who did not show up, saying “thanks to the candidates who cared to show up.”
He then quickly added: “But I’m not here to pick on anybody.”
Smooth, Roger, smooth.
Like most recent transplants to Hamtramck, Lamm said when he moved here three years ago, he was impressed by the city’s “huge amount of culture.”
And compared to Detroit, he is also impressed that Hamtramck’s crime rate is low and its response time by the fire and police departments is relatively quick.
Because of that, he said, he is against any notion of merging public safety services with Detroit, which is a notion being tossed around, or we should say, a worst case scenario on the minds of some.
Anam Miah is running for council for the second time. He said he has lived in Hamtramck since he was a young boy, and he says that in that time he has seen the city go “up and down.”
Now, he said, he wants to see Hamtramck go “back to the community it once was.”
“Government,” Miah said, “is by the people, for the people.”
As a councilmember, he said, his “door will always be open.”
And, he repeated the magic word of the night: “accountability.”
Miah received the loudest round of applause.
Ian Perrotta acknowledged that he has been associated with The Review newspaper for the last two years.
(Editor’s note: Indeed he has, and he is currently our copy editor.)
Perrotta is a transplant from Pittsburgh, and became intrigued by Hamtramck and Detroit after seeing a television report on the program “20-20.”
He has served on various community organizations, and is part of a commission trying to get the baseball grandstands in Veterans Memorial Park designated as an historical landmark. The baseball field is believed to once have been a part of the Negro leagues.
Perrotta also said he can relate to the city’s international flair because he has lived in other countries growing up. His father was in the Army and stationed outside the US.
For you musicians out there, Perrotta said he will soon be opening a music store, called “Sticks, Strings and Other Things,” in Hamtramck on Florian St.
(Editor’s note: If you stock Vic Firth wooden tip 5A drumsticks, I will be a faithful — and paying — customer. Oh yeah, you can’t go wrong with more cowbells.)
Steve Shaya was once the director of public services when Hamtramck was under the control of a state-appointed emergency financial manager, which was back in 2000.
He said the city should not go through that experience again, because under this current political climate in Lansing, Hamtramck would become “dead in the water.”
His emphasis would be to crack down on code violations and slum landlords, which was also touched on by other candidates.
Shaya also pointed out that few of the candidates in attendance actually come to council meetings or serve on a city commission. Shaya has in indeed been a regular attendee at council meetings and serves on the Zoning Board of Appeals.
Robert Zwolak, who has worn a number of hats in City Hall and once served on council, said he probably has a better attendance record at council meetings than some current councilmembers.
In this election, perhaps more so than in previous ones, the issue of residency has been the talk of town. Zwolak has been on the forefront of this issue, and he let loose a zinger.
“If you don’t live in this town, don’t run for council,” he said. And as for those who serve on council but don’t live here, he said: “resign.”
Whoa! Who was that in reference to?
Zwolak won the prize for using the biggest word of the night when he said candidates have to be “cognizant” of the city’s problems “past, present and future.”
We’ll have more on what was said in next week’s issue.