A personal message from Gary to Dearborn voters
Direct communication between you and me. That’s how it’s always been, through my 20 years of elected service and as a journalist before that. And that’s how I’m approaching it now, as I ask your vote to be Mayor of Dearborn.
From regular newsletters as your County Commissioner and State Representative, and in writings as Editor of the Dearborn Press & Guide, I’ve always approached our communication as personal. I’ve provided information and analysis on topics of importance and interest, and asked your feedback.
Whether it’s been in wide distribution, or in emails between two of us, more recently on social media, or in conversations over the years at Kroger and elsewhere, I’ve felt a relationship with the people of our town through this communication.
The communication has been two-way, certainly. As an elected official, I mailed an issues survey to residents every year, and was grateful for thousands of responses that advised me on how to best represent our city. I’ve not only been listening, I’ve been asking and engaging.
I’ve always done my own writing, never leaving it to staff or others. So what you read is from the horse’s … well, keyboard.
In that vein, here are a variety of thoughts about Dearborn and the mayoral election. Not necessarily well organized or conventional. But that’s how conversations go.
Gary has informed and communicated with us for years. Drawing on his background as a journalist, his newsletters as an official kept us aware of what was happening in government. His annual issues survey asked our opinions on important matters to guide Gary in his role as our representative. And, Gary created A Citizen's Guide to Wayne County Government to increase awareness of how the county works and the services it offers.
THE FIRST, OBVIOUS QUESTION: WHY SHOULD YOU VOTE FOR ME
I can provide a steady hand to move Dearborn forward during uncertain times. Stability in the face of challenges.
Even after we’ve endured one of the most unusual years ever, much uncertainty remains about what’s ahead. Optimism and vaccines aside, we really don’t know when things will be “normal” again.
Our community faces continued challenges from the pandemic, not just in public health, but also its devastating effects on small businesses, how it has impacted our children’s education, and the general economy. Long-term impacts on the financial health of our government and the continued delivery of important services are unknown.
Separately, but related, the divisions that have afflicted our country have not spared Dearborn and have seeped into our community, sometimes on levels beyond politics.
Our challenges demand strong leadership and an ability to bring people together, and keep them informed and engaged as we move ahead, unified, as one Dearborn.
EXPERIENCE THAT GOES BOTH WAYS
I hope you will consider my background, experience and performance as a public servant as you decide who is best prepared and suited to lead our community forward. Respectfully, no other candidate has the experience that I have, and want to put to work for you as Mayor. My performance in positions of responsibility in Dearborn for most of my life has prepared me for this.
I have served our community as its State Representative and then on the Wayne County Commission, where I was selected by my colleagues to lead as Chair of the Commission. As Editor of the Dearborn Press & Guide, I provided information to residents while delving into the issues and traditions that have shaped our city.
But on the topic of experience, it’s not just my experience serving the city, but also the experience you have had with me. Based on your own experience, you can judge whether I have worked effectively in Dearborn’s best interests, gotten results for our community and communicated well to keep you informed about, and involved with your government.
It’s the kind of two-way experience, I hope, that will bring us together as you decide on who will be Dearborn’s next mayor.
My thoughts on city government
Now, let’s talk about some topics and issues of general interest. Other topics will be added here during the campaign. Check back for more discussion or, better yet, if there’s an area you want covered, let me know
YOUR GOVERNMENT WILL WORK FOR YOU
This should go without saying, but I want to say it anyway. It’s important to me.
When you call a city office, someone should answer. If someone is unable to answer at the moment, you should get a return call promptly. If you have a question, you should get an answer. If someone can’t answer your question immediately, they should get an answer for you as soon as possible.
The person on the phone will know that they work for you, and will provide prompt, efficient, professional service. We will strive to resolve your concern as quickly and completely as possible.
That’s what you should expect. That’s what you will get.
Your city government will be open, honest and accessible. You should accept nothing less.
You will be hearing from us more frequently, as your city government engages you with information that you will find helpful, and asks your input on important matters that affect you and our community.
As major decisions need to be made, you will be made aware in plenty of time to weigh in as you wish.
We will use technology to better serve you. And to engage you.
PUBLIC SAFETY A PRIORITY
Dearborn’s police officers and firefighters have my gratitude and respect. Our residents value public safety. They want to know that when they have an emergency, well-trained professionals will arrive quickly when they call. This is one of Dearborn’s greatest traditions.
Police in particular have been under greater scrutiny in recent years, and Dearborn has responded with training on racial bias, verbal de-escalation and avoiding lethal force. This sort of professional training should continue and evolve, and results be measured and made public. But, let's view this as the standard direction of modern policing, and never lose sight of the fact that our public safety employees -- police and fire -- put their lives on the line for our protection, every day.
I am a proponent of community policing, with officers in the neighborhoods. And neighborhood crime, including traffic offenses and break-ins, are quality of life issues that require special attention.
I will scrutinize our recruitment practices for police officers, with an eye toward increasing diversity in the department.
AN HONEST LOOK AT PROPERTY TAXES
I have always respected every tax dollar that you pay. I’ve never viewed it as “the government’s” money, but your money, paid in return for a series of shared services that make our community a great place to live.
Top to bottom and corner to corner, I will conduct a full review of city operations to determine where we can operate more efficiently without diminishing essential services. In some cases, increased efficiency will actually enhance services.
Dearborn’s overall tax rate is higher than that of many nearby communities. In some cases, not by much, but more significantly in others. We will start by getting a true comparison of how Dearborn stacks up with similar cities in tax rate and services.
A Mayor cannot unilaterally reduce the overall tax burden. City taxes are 43 percent of your total tax bill, education is another 41 percent, and the county and other taxes make up the rest. More than half of your tax bill is beyond the control of city government. (If you'd like to know all about how your taxes are figured and where they money goes, come back after you've read this page and click here for a detailed look at property taxes.)
What I will do is make sure taxpayers know how their money entrusted to the city is spent, how those decisions are made, and how they can participate in that process.
A property’s assessment (determination of value) for tax purposes is updated each year, and is an important part of the formula that calculates your tax bill. The assessment process will be fair, we will make sure that homeowners know how those values are decided, and, importantly, we will make it clear how property owners can appeal their assessment if they believe it to be unfair.
We will talk about whether reducing city taxes by, for example, 1 mill, which would save the owner of a $150,000 house $75 per year, will be worth reducing city revenues by $3.5 million. And, if so, what services or personnel should be cut by $3.5 million? I realize this is an oversimplification, and that many residents pay more money per mill, but you get the idea.
If a candidate says they will cut taxes, just know that it’s not quite that simple. Questions could include: By how much? How much money will that save me? How will city expenses be reduced as a result? And, will the City Council – which must approve the city budget – go along with it?
The bottom line: Will I cut your property taxes as mayor? I will sure try, and you’ll be involved in that attempt. That’s as honest an answer as there is. Anything more certain is what has come to be known as a “campaign promise.”
SUPPORT FOR OUR BUSINESSES
Most businesses have been hurt by the pandemic, some severely. Restaurants, bars and banquet halls have been especially ravaged by limited capacity and, worse, forced closures. Residents responded as best they could by supporting carryout offerings, and we need to supercharge that same community spirit as restrictions loosen and we move toward regular capacity.
I will develop a Dine Out Dearborn campaign, working with the chamber of commerce, downtown development authorities and the businesses themselves, to encourage support to get these local businesses thriving again – maybe better than ever.
Meanwhile, my intent is to visit every business in Dearborn to learn what more they need from the city to flourish, whether it’s cutting red tape or a parking issue.
We will aggressively pursue new retail and other businesses to fill empty storefronts and buildings. I understand that businesses decide locations based on different factors, but we will make sure Dearborn is in the mix when companies are looking for locations.
And, in keeping with my theme of more openness and better overall communication, we will strive to keep residents updated on what’s going on with empty properties. You shouldn’t have to wonder what’s going on with the old Farmer Jack, Hyatt Regency or Village Plaza. That information should be provided someplace easy to find, not only to keep you up to date, but to quell rumors or speculation.
IMPORTANCE OF NEIGHBORHOODS
I was raised in the Monroe-Carlysle area. Our home is in a neighborhood near Military and Outer Drive. Over the course of my life, I’ve lived in rental units near Ford Road and Schaefer and near Warren and Wyoming. I spent more than 20 years working at the intersection of Michigan and Greenfield. And, over a period of years seeking public office, I’ve knocked on doors on just about every block in Dearborn at one time or another.
My point: I know Dearborn. I know Dearborn neighborhoods.
And, I know that each neighborhood is unique. Each has its own personality. Each has its own advantages, and its own challenges.
Caring and active neighbors make strong neighborhoods, and those neighborhoods collectively are the grassroots of our great city.
I will support the neighborhood organizations that, as some have done for years, bring people together to provide information, wield strength in numbers, and sometimes just to have some good, old-fashioned neighborliness. I will be in each neighborhood, helping to resolve their unique challenges. They all will be heard. And served.