By ZEINAB NAJM
DEARBORN — Residents and community leaders showed up to a discuss issues important to them with U.S. Rep. Debbie Dingell (D-Dearborn) and state Rep. Abdullah Hammoud (D-15th District) during a town hall May 8.
During the meeting held at at the University of Michigan-Dearborn Fairlane Center South Michigan Room Dingell and Hammoud gave attendees an update on what is taking place at the state and federal government levels before answering questions.
“Debbie asked me to collaborate with her on this town hall to allow residents to talk about any issue at the state and federal level,” Hammoud said.
The issues included teacher pensions, attempted income tax elimination, state budget and infrastructure. Dingell listed healthcare, transportation, infrastructure, Middle East military action, deportation and mental illness as her concerns on the federal level.
“All levels need to work together now more than ever,” she said. “People want to be engaged and ask questions which is why hosting town halls more frequently is important.”
During the question-and-answer portion of the meeting, the biggest concerns from residents were immigration, school funding, mental illness, retirement healthcare, sanction cities, insurance rates and medical marijuana.
Hammoud said he is working on a 17-bill package to make Michigan a welcoming state. When asked about pensions for teachers and public safety employees, Dingell said, “We need to appreciate public service employees for all their hard work and not cut the pensions of police, fire, teachers and others.
Dearborn Heights Councilman Dave “Wassim” Abdallah asked Hammoud and Dingell about their feelings on medical marijuana because he was between supporting and not supporting it.
“I am also struggling with my opinion on it but remind myself that I need to be open-minded,” Dingell said. “I know what drugs can do to a family so it’s difficult.”
Hammoud said his decision was made based off research he’s done on the use of medical marijuana.
“My opinion is driven by the data that I’ve looked at,” he said. “States with medical marijuana have seen a drop in usage rates, added state revenue and can now control it.”
On the topic of insurance rates in Michigan, which are some of the highest in the country, the issue of collapsing infrastructure becomes involved.
“No funding to infrastructure leads to the filing of claims and higher insurance rates,” Hammoud said. “People don’t want to be driving uninsured which some are doing. A good public transportation system would help issues in our area, and it’s a shame the regional transit authority proposal didn’t pass during the last election.”
Also during the town hall was the discussion of mental health and breaking its stigma in the Dearborn community.
Hassan Abdallah, Support for Addicts and Families through Empowerment Substance Abuse Coalition executive director was in attendance to provide information on addiction and services available.
“We helped train the Dearborn Police Department on how to administer the drug naloxone which works to reverse an opioid overdose,” he said. “The officers have already saved seven lives using the naloxone. The chief and department even took the training a step further by making it a requirement before becoming a police officer in Dearborn.”
For more information on SAFE visit its Facebook page and for questions email [email protected]
(Zeinab Najm can be reached at [email protected])