By Charles Sercombe
There is plenty of chatter online about two school board candidates claiming residency in Warren and Hamtramck.
During the past few weeks The Review has shown through property and voting records that Nasir Sabuj and Mohammad Huda own houses in Warren where they receive a 100-percent Homestead tax exemption – meaning they live there – yet also claim to be residents of Hamtramck.
Mayor Karen Majewski posted a Review story on her Facebook page and commented that they are abusing the system. The response was immediate. Here’s a sampling:
Speaking of Huda, who has changed his address from Hamtramck to Warren and back to Hamtramck, a person identifying himself as Syed Tasnim Hussain said: “This guy changes address every other year.”
Laurie Pons said Hamtramckans are not surprised: “People here in Hamtramck know the deal.”
Teresa Rush didn’t appear phased either: “I’m sure there are more than just those two in this city who pull the same crap.”
Beverly Tran said the city should have caught on before the election. “If the City had an Election Commission the candidate would have been legally challenged for disqualification.”
Mayor Majewski responded that legal-wise, it doesn’t take much to become a candidate: “Unfortunately, residency for voting purposes requires a very LOW burden of proof, as we found out when we tried to pursue the issue with a former (then sitting) city council person who claims a home in Sterling Heights as her homestead.”
As for motive, Majewski offered a lengthy explanation: “I think there are a few things going on. One, some of these school board candidates have ties to the charter schools with which the Hamtramck Public Schools are competing.
“From the HPS board, they can undermine our public school system, and divert that money into for-profit charter schools. There is most certainly a monetary benefit. And really, this plays into a state-wide strategy that is endangering the entire system of public education. Two, there is heavy duty internal competition for power going on within the ethnic communities that has nothing at all to do with the city as a whole.
“These positions — and maneuvering your selected candidates into them (in short, positioning yourself as a king maker) — carry a LOT of weight within the ethnic communities themselves, power that carries back to the old country as well.
“If you live in Warren and are Bengali, you have a normal chance or less of being elected to any position. But if you are running in Hamtramck, regardless of where you really live, you have a real chance of gaining power — we are ripe for the picking, and that’s exactly how we are seen.
“Once you are an elected official, your name carries real weight in your community, and the power brokers who put you there, legally or illegally, are strengthened. It is not that different from the consolidation of power by Poles here (rather than in the much larger Detroit) a hundred years ago. Ethical, legal, or not, there is a political logic to it.”
Since this issue involved two Bengali-American candidates, Evan Major, who was elected to the School Board, said there needs to be an outreach to our immigrant communities to offer “new leadership development initiatives.”
“If we can give people real choices amongst candidates who care enough to communicate their ideas with the public, then I like to think it will crowd out the wanna be king makers. Cuz at the end of the day, they aren’t interested in doing the work that is needed. It’s just about the power and the title.”
Michelle Wagenaar-Mohamed said the city’s ethnic communities need to look at all candidates when voting
“I am tired of the people voting for racial reasons instead of for who is best qualified for the job. It’s all about voting for your own race and the title of office, and it’s destroying this city.”
On our own website, hamtramckreview.com, the debate was just as vigorous.
Sayeda Ali was “disgusted that Mohammed Huda won. … I am a Bengali and I was not going to be psychologically blackmailed into voting for this man like the others in the community were. He doesn’t even live in Hamtramck! His child does not attend Hamtramck schools!
“What does he know about the school district and the students in it?
Never will you see this man in the area interacting with the young people … he ran (and won) for his own personal gain. As a graduate from the Hamtramck Public School system I am OUTRAGED and DISGUSTED and definitely disappointed in this result.”
A person with the name Marwan was not happy with Huda or Ataur Khan winning. He said they “should resign from school board if they want any good for the city. Gave wrong information to voters that doesn’t understand anything about voting and took advantage.
“Election Day their phone calls was about lowering houses and businesses tax but they are running for school board. The right people needs to go after them and put them down from the school board. After all the city and the residents needs to know they are not the right candidates. Hopefully, we don’t see any candidates like this for the future election. Please if you’re not qualified don’t ‘RUN’ for any public election that’s a big help for the city of Hamtramck.”
Another person identified as Galal said the problem is with Bengali candidates: “Bengali candidates think they’re becoming a big shot but they don’t even understand they’re actually putting themselves in deeper problems. It’s better for them not to be in any public position. Someone teach them.”