By SUE SUCHYTA
DEARBORN – Gary Woronchak said he has seen enough elections in his lifetime to know that a primary election does not always reflect the final result.
“As far as I am concerned, the score right now, the voting total, is zero to zero, and we are taking it from there,” he said. “I look on it as I was one of the winners of the primary, in a very strong field, and we go forward from there.”
Woronchak said that now that the field is narrowed to him and state Rep. Abdullah Hammoud, there will be more of an opportunity to compare and contrast experience between the two.
With respect to Dearborn’s flooding issues during rain events, he said the city needs to have a focused effort to immediately identify the causes.
“On the micro-level, we have to go neighborhood by neighborhood, or even house by house, in some cases, to see why some areas are harder hit than others,” Woronchak said. “Then we have to have a community conversation to figure out how we are going to address it. If there are going to be very expensive fixes, then we’re going to have to figure out how it is going to be paid for.”
He said city officials can try to get some federal and state help, but, in the end, Dearborn will have to take care of its own infrastructure.
Woronchak said more retention basins, the expansion of natural flood plains and addressing over-paving can mitigate some flooding.
“I know there are experts in fields that we can employ that can not only identify causes but suggest solutions,” he said. “And, again, it’s a community conversation.”
Woronchak said he would be a very hands-on, visible mayor, not only behind the scenes at city hall, but throughout the community, and residents want the reassurance that strong leadership will return, and, as mayor, he would be running staff and council briefings.
He said geographic, cultural and political divisions still exist within the community, and some are widening.
“We have to find a way to bridge those gaps, with more outreach to all corners of the community, to help heal some of those divisions,” Woronchak said.
He said it is important to reach out to all corners of the city, including to the Yemeni population, to fill city commission positions.
“I would certainly give weight to residents who have actual skin-in-the-game, in their respective communities,” Woronchak said. “Our Yemeni community needs to be respected and properly represented in all aspects of city government.”
He said his record of 20 years in public office demonstrates that he has served the diverse community of Dearborn well.
“I think if you ask within the Arab-American community, I have a good reputation,” Woronchak said. “I do have some support built in to the Arab-American community. I understand how politics works, and I understand the excitement in some parts of the community about Abdullah Hammoud. However, I do have a record of serving for a long time, accomplishing things for the Arab and Muslim communities, and I have a web page on my website devoted to it.”
His website is gary4dearborn.com.
Woronchak said that as a state representative, he authored the Halal Food Act, which was the first reference to Islam in Michigan law.
“I got a million dollars for the ACCESS Health Center,” he said. “During 9/11, realizing that state representatives from around the state were not as familiar with the Muslim community as I am, I immediately invited leaders from the Arab and Muslim community, after 9/11, to come to Lansing, to meet with legislators and staff to educate the out-of-state people more, because our community needed protecting at the time. My roots and support in the Arab-American community go back a long way.”
Woronchak said there needs to be a conversation about property taxes.
“It seems disingenuous to promise property tax cuts that will have any true impact on your overall tax bill, when the city taxes only account for 43 percent of the total, and can have no impact whatsoever on the county or school taxes,” he said. “This is a community where our millage rate is higher than most surrounding communities, and we need to address that, but we also need to maintain services, so you can’t say that there is an easy fix to it.”
Woronchak said he will be devoted to finding ways to economize, but residents will have to be aware and be part of the conversation.
“There are things that we cannot predict now that will go into account when we are looking at our property tax rates in the years going forward,” he said. “Ford Motor Company has appealed some of its property assessments. That could result in a drop in industrial and commercial property values and taxes, which will lower city revenues.”
Woronchak said the cost of things, including labor, is going up, which means it costs the city more to supply lifeguards at outdoor pools and staff Camp Dearborn.
“We want to maintain strong and healthy recreation programs,” he said. “So, what I can say about property taxes is I understand that we have to address it, I see that it is a problem, and a lot of people are concerned. I also recognize that last year, during the pandemic, Dearborn voters approved four different tax proposals at the polls, which shows me that they also care about their schools and the services they receive.”
Woronchak said lowering taxes by one mill saves the average homeowner $40 a year, but it costs the city $3.5 million in revenue.
He said he has more experience in government than his opponent, has run a branch of government (the Wayne County Commission), and he ran a newsroom back when they were still full of reporters.
“The disparity in actual experience is vast, and I think that is valid,” Woronchak said. “That experience is more than just longevity; it is having a seasoning that you get from dealing with different crises as they come up, and you apply that to whatever your new situation is.”
He said he is not disparaging young leadership.
“In the end, we all want what is best for Dearborn,” he said. “We have basically the same concerns that need to be addressed. So, it is a matter now who is best able and best qualified to handle those.”