Tax proposals, few candidates on August 4 ballot
In the midst of a pandemic, with the possibility that distancing and other precautions may continue to be necessary, important elections will be held August 4 and November 3. Even with so much else requiring our focus, Dearborn voters will need to make informed choices on candidates and ballot questions.
We don’t even know for certain what voting will look like this year, although it appears at this point (as of mid-June) that there will be in-person voting at schools as usual, even while more voters are likely to take advantage of the vote-by-mail option.
The electoral main event this year is, of course, the presidential election in November. Otherwise, most local elected officials are unopposed for re-election, or nearly so. There will be ballot proposals that affect how much property tax you pay, so those will be worth paying attention to.
Two local officials who are up for re-election have already won, by virtue of being unopposed.
Wayne County Commissioner Sam Baydoun has no opposition this year and will begin his second term in January. And, District Judge Mark Somers will get a fourth term without having to campaign, since no opponents filed to run against him by the deadline for becoming a candidate.
Somers running unopposed is notable because he won re-election in 2014 and 2008 by a grand total of 313 votes – combined, for both elections. He certainly had the most narrow consecutive re-elections of any judge in Dearborn history (and probably in the state), winning over challenger Tony Guerrerio by 85 votes six years ago and by 228 votes over Candyce Abbott six years before that.
Also unopposed this year are several incumbent judges of Wayne County 3rd Circuit Court, including Dearborn residents Charlene Elder, Mariam Bazzi and Helal Farhat.
Tax proposals on August 4 ballot
Of greatest impact to all Dearborn voters on the August 4 ballot will be two property tax renewal proposals that will combine to generate over $53 million annually for Wayne County government.
The county is asking for a 10-year renewal of just under 1 mill for general operations (Proposal O), while also asking for a 5-year renewal of just under one-quarter mill for county parks (Proposal P).
The tax for general operations costs the owner of a home worth $150,000 roughly $72 a year. The same homeowner pays around $18 per year for the county parks millage. The precise amount can vary depending on how long you’ve owned your house. Of course, you will pay more or less than this example if your house is worth more or less than $150,000.
To determine precisely how much each tax renewal will cost you, follow this formula. First, find your home's taxable value, either on this year's assessment notice or on the summer tax bill you will receive in early July. For the cost of the general operations millage, multiply your taxable value by 0.0009529. For the cost of the parks millage renewal, multiply your taxable value by 0.0002459.
One more point about the county tax renewal proposals. The ballot language for the parks Proposal P is pretty straightforward. The ballot language for general operations Proposal O is, in my opinion, a little disingenuous. Proposal O states that the money will be used "to continue existing County services, including programs for the arrest, detention and prosecution of criminals, juvenile court and related services, public health" and so on, listing all programs that the public would deem favorable. The language is accurate, because the services it will pay for "includes" all those things, but it also includes ALL things paid for out of the county's general fund, including officials' salaries, office supplies and more. My point is not to argue against the proposal, just to make you aware that the money will be used for things other than the services listed in the ballot language.
Only Democratic candidates on primary ballot
The August elections are also called “primary” elections, because we first determine who will be each party’s candidate in partisan elections in November. That is, Democratic and Republican candidates compete within their own parties to decide who advances to the November ballot.
All of the primary election contests on Dearborn ballots are in the Democratic column for county and federal offices. I've listed names of current officeholders in bold type.
Congresswoman Debbie Dingell has a challenger in the Democratic primary, Solomon Rajput of Ann Arbor. Rajput, 27, is a medical student at the University of Michigan. Republican Jeff Jones will challenge the winner in November.
Wayne County Prosecutor Kym Worthy will be challenged in the Democratic primary by Victoria Burton-Harris. Treasurer Eric Sabree will face Beverly Kindle-Walker and Sheriff Benny Napoleon will has two Democratic primary challengers, Charles Corley II and T.P. Nykoriak. No Republican candidates have filed in those races, so the winners on August 4 will serve new four-year terms in those county offices.
County Register of Deeds Bernard Youngblood is challenged by Ricardo Moore in the Democratic primary, with Republican Parker Burns set to run against the winner in November.
This race doesn't involve many Dearborn residents, but Detroit State Rep. Karen Whitsett's district represents three precincts in northeast Dearborn: Precincts 5 (votes at Oakman School) and 9 (votes at Maples) in the Greenfield-Warren area, and Precinct 3 (all who vote at St. Alphonsus). Whitsett has three challengers in the Democratic primary, Roslyn Ogburn, Nicole Elcock and Marc Cummings. All Democrats in the race are residents of Detroit. Adding some interest to this race is the fact that first-term Rep. Whitsett has angered Democratic Party officials because of a relationship she has developed with President Trump, with Trump publicly suggesting she should join the Republican Party. So, prominent Democrats, including U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders and Congresswoman Rashida Tlaib, and the 13th District Democratic Organization, have endorsed Roslyn Ogburn in the primary election. Republican James Stephens of Dearborn will challenge the winner in November.
Dearborn state Rep. Abdullah Hammoud has no opponent on the August 4 ballot, but will face Republican challenger Carla O’Neill in November.
Earlier, there appeared to be one statewide Republican primary election, for U.S. Senate, but one of the two candidates was disqualified by election officials. So there are no primary elections for Republican candidates on Dearborn's August ballot.
Arguably the most important candidate election for Dearborn voters will be in November, when four seats on the seven-member Dearborn Board of Education will be on the ballot. Especially given the challenges for schools during the pandemic, school board trustees will face some major decisions with significant impact on our community. But, that has nothing to do with the August 4 ballot.
How will we vote during a pandemic?
City Clerk George Darany expects that voting will be held as usual this year, with voting at schools in addition to the usual absentee voting. He cautions, though, that this could change, and he will keep residents informed.
It seems logical that many voters will consider voting by absentee ballot this year, to reduce whatever risk of coronavirus infection might exist with in-person voting.
Voting by mail is heating up as a debate nationally, with the President opposing widespread mail voting despite the fact that absentee voting has been around for a long time, and, in fact, five states conduct all elections only by mail: Hawaii, Washington, Colorado, Oregon and Utah.
It’s a moot point in Michigan, since voters in 2018 approved voting by absentee ballot for anyone who wants to. Previously, a voter had to be age 60 or over, or declare some other reason why they could not vote in person. Not anymore. If every single voter in Michigan wants to cast ballots by mail, they can.