By ZEINAB NAJM
The incumbent mayors in Dearborn and Dearborn Heights are facing primary challengers Aug. 8.
The Dearborn primary ballot has incumbent John O’Reilly Jr., City Council President Pro-Tem Tom Tafelski, entrepreneur Edward Binkley, businessman and developer Hakim Fakhoury and financial advisor Jim Parrelly.
In Dearborn Heights, incumbent Daniel Paletko, Councilwoman Lisa Hicks-Clayton and Crestwood School District Trustee and previous Dearborn Heights police officer Eduardo Garcia.
Both races will be narrowed down to two candidates following the primary.
All candidates were contacted and asked to answer questions about why they are running for the Dearborn mayor seat and Dearborn Heights mayor seat. Garcia did not respond by deadline.
Question 1: Why are you running for mayor?
Binkley: I am running for Mayor because I genuinely care about the city and I also have a vision that I can cut down on the crime rate and end the drug epidemic that we face.
Fakhoury: My run for Mayor is to change the culture at city hall. To impose a culture of accountability, to create a culture of customer service. It is most important to me to amend the city charter to so never allow dynasty to stay in office by seeking from our residents a vote on terms limits of any city elected official.
O’Reilly: I want to continue the initiatives I’ve started that will keep our community successful in the future. Those include investments in our neighborhoods, parks, and downtown areas, as we add amenities to appeal to young families and the talented workforce being recruited by Ford and others, so they will choose Dearborn as their home. I’ve proven my leadership. More importantly, I’ve proven my capacity to carry out my vision, at the same time recognizing the contributions our residents and community partners have made to our momentum. I want to build on the improvements we’re continuing to achieve in our already outstanding police, fire and EMS services, because those are your top priority – and mine too. My motto is “One Dearborn,” and I want to continue to promote our community’s unity. I’m running for re-election because I’ve had direct involvement in all aspects of the advancements in our community, and I believe a leadership shift now would put too much at stake for you and our city. I’m the one candidate with the demonstrated experience of managing the city’s comprehensive operations, and I’m doing that even as I look strategically ahead to ensure our future prosperity.
Parrelly: It is time for new energy and fresh ideas in our city. I have been here every day of my 58 years, and now is the right time for to give back. With my 38 years of highly successful business experience, I believe I have the experiences and relationships to bring business and opportunities to the city we all love.
Tafelski: I am running for mayor to re-establish leadership and confidence in City Hall. Every neighborhood and business owner must feel like they have someone who listens to their concerns. The Mayor is responsible for ensuring the city provides high-quality services in an efficient manner, but he is also supposed to be an advocate for constituents. That’s something I’ve always taken seriously on City Council and I would continue to do so as Mayor.
Hicks-Clayton: I am running for Mayor because I want Dearborn Heights to be the best place to live, work and raise a family. As a current member of the Dearborn Heights City Council, I have dedicated myself to listening and responding to residents’ concerns to build consensus with diverse groups throughout the community. As Mayor, I would offer a comprehensive economic development plan focused on growing our business districts, revitalizing our neighborhoods, and emphasizing a greater role with public safety to ensure our officers have the resources and tools they need to protect our community.
Paletko: I am running for reelection to continue to serve the residents of Dearborn Heights as there is still important work to be done and I am the best candidate to accomplish this work. We have been able to do much more than our surrounding communities with limited resources, we have successfully addressed the challenges of managing with less and responding to more.
Question 2: What do you see as the biggest issues the city faces in the future?
Binkley: I plan on restarting the drug court with a large portion of my pay, meaning give back to the city what it has given me. I see businesses being brought in for the purposes of adults I would like to bring in some for the youth of our city also I would like to see a skate board park down at Ford field this would keep out youth from riding there skateboards at Fairlane Mall. I also would like to see the museum offer a course year round that the residents of the city can have easy access to the archive’s that they have so they can learn about this great city.
Fakhoury: Imposing term limits, creating districts so the council board has representation from the entire city, allowing the city council to seek there own legal council instead of using the Mayor’s
O’Reilly: Dearborn is a mature community, so as Mayor, I must keep positioning our city to be successful and appealing not only for today, but for the future. And that means looking ahead to implement the amenities, economic conditions and services that will attract residents and businesses investment 20 or 30 years from now. It can be incremental progress, like our push to expand 35-foot residential lots through the sale of side-yards, so we can offer modern homebuyers more options. Or adding more bike paths, green spaces and pedestrian-friendly areas attractive to Millenials, changing zoning codes for more flexibility with downtown developments, or directing the evolution of our recreation programs for contemporary sensibilities. The second issue is fully leveraging the hundreds of millions of dollars in private development taking place in Dearborn today to amplify our own initiatives to boost and support our neighborhoods and commercial areas. The third issue is continued advocacy for a statewide overhaul of municipal financing. The way Michigan cities are funded hinders our ability to deliver services to you. It’s an unsustainable model that must be overhauled, and I have been in the forefront of efforts for its reform.
Parrelly: I have managed over $1 billion in my career. I am currently responsible for almost $250 million, more than twice the budget of our city. My experience in the private sector has provided me with deep experience and contacts in the business world. I can bring new industries to Dearborn, diversifying/growing our tax base, and pass those benefits on to residential taxpayers. We need to fully recognize, embrace, and practice our diversity. It is our strongest asset. The uniqueness of our residents provides us with a wealth of talent and energy to share with the world. For too long, different parts of towns have been separated and treated differently. I have lived everywhere in Dearborn, and I believe I’m uniquely situated to being everyone together.
Tafelski: Guaranteeing fiscal responsibility and accountability, strengthening and enhancing public safety in our neighborhoods and business corridors, and developing programs that make city government more user-friendly and consistent in its enforcement of codes and ordinances.
Hicks-Clayton: The most important issues facing our community are transparency in city hall, economic development, and public safety. The lack of transparency in our city hall has created an environment of mistrust. As mayor, I will openly share the business of the city with residents via a new and easier to navigate.
Paletko: Today’s biggest issues local governments’ face is keeping a balanced general fund budget while maintaining the same if not better city services. Emergency Services, public works, and recreation and senior services are the cornerstones of bedroom communities like Dearborn Heights. Revenues continues to remain relatively flat, but budgets can be negatively impacted by state funding cuts or housing downturns. The cost of delivering services continues to rise as healthcare and overhead costs rise faster than revenues. I have shown that I have the experience and education to keep Dearborn Heights on sound financial ground in normal times and during recessions.
Question 3: Why should residents vote for you?
Binkley: I am not a politician just a concerned citizen. I cannot run a big campaign cause I do not believe in asking the community for money I would work for what I get. The community has given enough. I feel that I am best suited for the city because I believe that our children are our future and we should concentrate on what I’d in there best interest.
Fakhoury: I am the only Arab American running that has a western mind set and understand how to bring this community together for a better Dearborn.
O’Reilly: My proven record of results is the biggest reason voters should re-elect me. Under my leadership, we’ve seen a significant drop in our crime rate, improvements in our fire department, large increases in residential and commercial property values, the attraction of new developments, and the construction of landmark public projects, like our Veterans Park and War Memorial. Dearborn is on a successful and promising path, and I’m the right person to continue the momentum we’ve realized together. A change in leadership now would put at risk the progress we’ve made, as well as our initiatives in place to move our community into the future. I’m more qualified than the other candidates because of my educational background, my working history inside and outside of government, my widespread network of key leaders, my accomplishments in this office, and my high ethical standards. This means that I bring not only a vision, but the capacity to make that vision a reality. It means I can lead people through good times and through bad times, marshaling our resources to meet and exceed expectations. It also means that regardless of the difficulty or consequences, I will continue to put the people’s interests first.
Parrelly: For change. For new energy. To empower new voices. The status quo isn’t working for us. Our taxes keep going, and we are not the destination for businesses and families we should be. Big business is flowing into Michigan, but it’s not coming here. I can bridge that gap. I can efficiently manage our finances to lead into new eras of prosperity. I ask for your support on August 8.
Tafelski: Experience, energy, a commitment to public service and history of private sector success. In sixteen years on City Council – six as Council President and four as President Pro Tem – I have always been a strong advocate for neighborhoods, public safety and our business community. I would make these priorities as Mayor. Dearborn must be more forward-thinking and business-savvy to secure a brighter future, and my experience would enable me to hit the ground running on day one.
Hicks-Clayton: Voters should support me because I believe city hall should work for them, not the other way around. If elected, I would create a Citizen Advisory Council that would bring together our community’s stakeholders, which includes local organizations, members of our schools, and most importantly, our residents to address our city’s problems. I would also propose that the city council vote to roll back the tax increase form the Headlee Override, which was supported by our current mayor.
Paletko: I have a proven track record of keeping Dearborn Heights running. When you call 911 you can be assured that our emergency responders will show up quickly. Your trash is picked up, not piled up. We have invested significantly in ordinance to enforce existing city codes to reduce blight and encourage strong and welcoming neighborhoods. Our public works fix water mains and other problems quickly and effectively, even in the worst weather. Under my leadership the city was able to successfully responded to the last recession–, despite cuts from the State, we maintained city services. I have instituted several cost-cutting initiatives to increase efficiency while increasing police and fire services. I have an excellent track record of keeping taxes low while increasing services. I bring a strong education, a career as a CPA, and plenty of experiences to tackle the tough decisions that need to be made every day. I have worked successfully with the City employees to get the most for residents. I have long standing relationships with local, state and federal leaders that help Dearborn Heights have a voice and allow their concerns to be heard and responded to in a quick and efficient manner.
(Zeinab Najm can be reached at [email protected].)