HAMTRAMCK – On Tuesday, August 8, voters in Hamtramck will go to the polls to elect six out of the nine candidates who are vying for three seats on the City Council. Those six candidates will face off in November to fill the three seats, which are for four-year terms. In addition, Hamtramck voters will also have to decide on a public school millage renewal, which is also on the August 8 ballot.
The Hamtramck City Council consists of six seats in addition to the mayor, who presides over the Council meetings and has the right to vote as a seventh member, but votes only in the case of a tie and on ordinances, according to the city’s charter. A city manager serves as the chief administrative officer.
Hamtramck attracted national and international interest after making history in 2021 when it became the first American city in which Muslims were elected to all City Council seats, as well as the mayor’s position.
Incumbent Councilmen Muhammed Hassan, Nayeem Leon Choudhury and Muhammed Alsomiri are seeking to keep their seats and are being challenged by Sari Ahmed, Ruhel Amin, Nasr Saleh Hussain, Muhtasin Rahman Sadman, Yousuf Osman Saed and Lynn Blasey.
In addition to Hassan, Choudhury and Alsomiri, the City Council currently includes members Muhith Mahmood, Abu Musa and Khalil Refai.
While all the Council members are Muslims, they are of different ethnic backgrounds. Councilmen Hassan, Choudhury, Mahmood and Musa are of Bengali origin, while Alsomiri, Refai and Mayor Amer Ghalib are all of Yemeni origin.
Hamtramck, which Detroit surrounds on all sides, is one of the most ethnically and racially diverse cities in Michigan. While Muslims of Yemeni and Bengali descent make up about two-thirds of its population of about 28,000 residents, according to the 2020 Census, the reset of its resident are a mix from Eastern European descent, including Polish and Bosnian.
Hamtramck today is very different than it was during the 20th century, when the Polish community made up about 90 percent of its total population in the 1970s. But, their numbers declined over the decades, where they now constitute about only 10 percent of the city’s residents, which is reflected in the political shifts of the city’s leadership.
The Aug. 8 primary election will be held in a tense atmosphere due to the deep political and social polarization between segments of its residents following the recent City Council decision to ban LGBTQ+ flags on public properties. A proposal submitted by Councilman Hassan and passed unanimously by all members prompted a national wave of political and human rights condemnation of the decision.
Most candidates promise on their social media to focus on a number of key issues of concern to residents of Hamtramck. Foremost among them is the reduction of property taxes, business developments, enhancement of the standard of living and strengthening the unity of the city’s residents.
While the three incumbents seeking to keep their seats are betting on their records of service, the challengers believe they will inject new blood into the City Council, which is entrusted with updating laws and regulations it envisions to advance Hamtramck by getting the city out of its economic and social crises and leading it into a brighter future, taking advantage of its proximity to Downtown Detroit, which is witnessing a rapid economic and urban boom.
Local School District: Hamtramck Public Schools Sinking Fund Ballot Proposition
In addition to the City Council race, the August ballot includes a public schools millage proposal to renew the real estate property tax by 3 mil (3 per thousand of the value of the property), for a period of 10 years, extending it from 2024 until 2033. The funding aims to create a financial fund that will be invested in building and repairing public schools in the city, which includes more than 3,000 students spread over eight schools. If voters pass the proposal, the Hamtramck School District will be able to raise $750,000 annually, bearing in mind that the proposed millage is a renewal of the millage, previously authorized in 2014 at the rate of 4 mills, that will expire with the 2023 tax levy.
It should be noted that voters in Hamtramck can choose to vote in one of three languages: Arabic, Bengali and English.