By Charles Sercombe
What if there was a “meet the candidates” forum, and hardly any candidates showed up?
That happened last Thursday evening when only three of the nine city council candidates were on hand.
The forum went forward as planned.
The event was sponsored by the Detroit League of Women Voters, who said they contacted all nine candidates.
Those who did show up at the Hamtramck Public Library were Robert Zwolak, Justin Jessop and Carrie Beth Lasley.
Those who were MIA include incumbents Anam Miah, Abu Musa and Saad Almasmari. The other no-shows were: Nayeem Choudhury, Mohammed Hassan and Mohammed Alsomiri.
For two hours, the three who were present fielded questions written down on index cards by audience members, of which there were about 30.
Jessop was first up to offer an opening statement, which he used, in part, to praise his two opponents at the candidate table.
“They are great people,” he said of Zwolak and Lasley, and added: “They are great candidates.”
He then went on to criticize the current council for ending the work sessions that had been held for two years when the former city manager was in charge.
Now with a new city manager, Kathy Angerer, that practice stopped.
“Without those work sessions, the city manager has no guidance,” he said. “We need to change that.”
This is the first time Jessop has run for local office.
Next up was Lasley, also a newcomer seeking local office.
She said she is “sick and tired” of watching money leave the city and “being spent recklessly.”
Her focus, she said, will be “budget, budget, budget.”
Zwolak, who is a former city clerk and councilmember, boasted of “having a better attendance record than some of our current councilmembers.”
Zwolak has, indeed, been a regular attendee of council meetings for a number of years, both in office and out.
His theme for the night was making sure the city gets an accurate Census count in 2020. He believes the city is currently undercounted by at least 3,000 residents.
Getting those residents included in the count, he said, would result in millions of dollars in extra federal revenue for the city.
He also stressed he is motivated to seek office again because the city, which was once known in the 1950s as the one of the cleanest cities in America, can no longer make that boast.
“I can’t make excuses to visitors,” Zwolak said.
As for what qualifies her for the job, Lasely said she has a doctorate degree in urban planning, as well as related experience.
She said she can perform budgeting in a “qualified, educated manner.”
Zwolak said his past experience in public office is his strength.
“I got a real education in Hamtramck’s cultures,” Zwolak said, referring to the city’s well-known ethnic diversity.
Jessop had nothing but praise for Zwolak and Lasley, calling them “exceptionally qualified.”
As for himself, he said, it’s more than qualifications. He wants to change the city charter to expand the number who serve on council as a way to more accurately represent the city.
“We need people with new ideas. We need people with different backgrounds to come in, and bring their experiences in,” he said.
The subject of allowing marijuana retail shops was posed, and all three rejected that move.
They were in favor of allowing grow operations — but only in isolated areas of the cities — as a way to drum up tax revenue.
Jessop said marijuana dispensaries in the city business district would “look a little trashy.”
As for important issues facing the city, Jessop stressed public safety, and Lasley said it’s about the budget and taxes.
Zwolak again stressed the 2020 Census, and getting an accurate count.
Each person counted, he noted, represents an additional $1,800 for the city to receive.
If there was one moment that raised eyebrows, it was when the question of how to increase transparency in government was posed. Lasley said that it wasn’t just about transparency, but also “calling out things.”
“A lot of things are going on here. Some of it needs to be public, some of it needs to go straight to the FBI.”
Lasely did not offer specifics on what information needs the attention of the FBI.
Those were just some of the points mentioned in the forum. If you’d like to see the entire session, visit the League of Women Voters Detroit on their Facebook page, where the entire forum was recorded.
The primary election is Aug. 6. The top six vote-getters will then advance to the November General Election.
The top three candidates winning that election will serve a term of four years.
July 19, 2019