DEARBORN HEIGHTS — Voters are gearing up for the City Council primary on Tuesday, August 8, in which seven of the nine candidates are Arab Americans. The top six vote-getters will compete for the three seats in the November election.
The Dearborn Heights City Council race will be the only item on the ballot this election. At least one new City Council member will be elected due to the decision of Council Chairman Wassim (Dave) Abdallah to not seek a third term.
The list of candidates on the ballot includes incumbent Councilmen Mo Baydoun and Ray Muscat, in addition to seven challengers, including former Councilwoman Denise Malinowski-Maxwell and Zouher Abdel-Hak, who was appointed to the Council in early 2021 and lost the bid to retain his seat in the 2021 municipality elections.
The contenders include four Arab American candidates who are running for office for the first time, Ahmad Alkaabi, Wissam Fadlallah, Hussein Mazloum and Hassan Saab. A fifth candidate, Muhammed Janny, decided to drop out of the race, but his name will still appear on the ballot.
In addition to Abdallah, Baydoun and Muscat, the Dearborn Heights Council currently includes Council members Hassan M. Ahmad, Nancy Bryer, Bob Constan and Tom Wencel.
The primary elections will be held in the backdrop of renewed tensions in the city, the latest of which was the failed petition by City Council candidate Zouher Abdel-Hak to recall Mayor Bill Bazzi. Abdel-Hak has been waging a smear campaign against Bazzi for nearly two years. The Wayne County Election Commission unanimously rejected the petition on July 25. After being appointed mayor in January 2021, Bazzi was elected in November of that year in a landslide victory over Malinowski-Maxwell, then chairwoman of the Council.
Baydoun is seeking to retain his seat for an additional term to complete his vision of developing the city with an increasing number of Arab American residents by encouraging businesses, improving municipal services and restoring transparency and confidence in the city government.
Baydoun, a small business owner, ran for the Dearborn Heights Council for the first time in 2017. He lost the race by less than 300 votes, which prompted the Council to appoint him to the seat vacated by former Councilwoman Lisa Hicks Clayton after she was elected the city’s treasurer in 2020.
Saab told The Arab American News that he looks forward to being on the Council to support public safety, promote businesses, strengthening cooperation and harmony among City Council members. He also intends to focus on improvements to the city’s infrastructure and support efforts to fix the roads, renovate the city parks and address flooding. Saab was against the recall petition against Bazzi.
Fadlallah looks forward to setting rational policies and deepening stability in the Dearborn Heights government, giving public safety and economic development the utmost importance, as well as improving public services and addressing the effects of the floods caused by the Ecorse Creek.
“We need to bring more business into our city and develop the Van Born corridor just like we did with the Ford Road corridor,” he said. “Every part of Dearborn Heights is integral to the overall prosperity of the city.”
Fadlallah, a real estate broker and economic development expert, said that he has the experience and the knowledge to get the job done. He told The Arab American News that his professional experience and being a longtime resident of Dearborn Heights for more than 25 years qualify him to successfully develop the city and improve the quality of life for all its residents.
He added that it is time to put an end to what he called “nonsense” and focus on fruitful work, referring to the need to stop the bickering within the local government and focus on accomplishing the tasks entrusted by the voters to its elected officials. Fadlallah was against the recall petition against Bazzi.
He stressed that his only focus — if he wins the election — will be “serving the public”, pointing out the importance of providing municipal departments with modern technologies, focusing on strengthening public services, supporting the police department with more qualified personnel and combating drug addiction and reckless driving.
Alkaabi’s focus revolves around updating aging infrastructure, attracting economic investments and improving the quality of life for the residents by upgrading parks, enhancing neighborhood security and providing recreational safe facilities for families.
He told The Arab American News that he has a comprehensive plan to address the dilemma of recurring floods in Dearborn Heights, based on cooperation between affected communities, acquiring federal funding and modernizing dilapidated structures.
“We can effectively address the problem of floods and protect our society from its devastating effects,” he said.
Alkaabi, who is of Iraqi origin, expressed his strong opposition to the failed recall petition against Bazzi, who won more than 70 percent of the vote in 2021.
“Our legal system provides us with the opportunity to elect officials every four years for specific reasons, among them is giving them the time necessary to enact laws and regulations that produce positive changes, in addition to allowing us to replace these officials if we are not satisfied with their performance through elections,” Alkaabi said.
Public safety is Mazloum’s main focus. He has a vision of making Dearborn Heights a better place to live, work and raise a family. He said he believes hiring qualified police officers is one of the biggest hurdle facing the city’s police department.
“We must allocate more funding and resources to the police department to hire the best talents and invest in intensifying patrols in our streets and neighborhoods,” he said.
Mazloum is looking forward to finding radical solutions to deal with the floods that inflict heavy damages to the population almost every year, in addition to enhancing transparency in administrative dealings.
Malinowski-Maxwell, who’d served as interim mayor during the transitional period that followed the death of the late Mayor Daniel Paletko in December 2020 until Bazzi was appointed in mid-January 2021, is looking forward to returning to the City Council.
Councilman Muscat, who currently holds the position of vice chairman, expressed his apologies to The Arab American News for not answering the questions about his priorities and visions for the city if he was fortunate enough to be reelected, due to his participation in a “family funeral” outside the city.
Primary elections is on Tuesday, August 8. Polls open at 7 a.m. and close at 8 p.m.
The top six winners will face off on Tuesday, November 7 for the three seats up for grabs.