- Experience: Current mayor of Hamtramck, formerly executive director of the Polish American Historical Association
- Education: Doctorate from University of Michigan
- City Website: Hamtramck Mayor
- Facebook: Mayor Karen Majewski
WDET’s Ruby Duffield spoke about the 2017 election and what it means to the residents of Hamtramck with Hassan Khalifeh, a reporter at The Arab American News, who covers Hamtramck. Click on the audio link above to hear the full conversation.
Here’s a full transcript:
Ruby Duffield: So who’s running for office in Hamtramck?
Hassan Khalifeh: In the mayoral race you have the incumbent mayor Karen Majewski. She, in the primary elections, received about 43 percent of the votes. The (challenger) is Mohammed Hassan. He’s a Bengali American. He is a close second but Karen is taking the lead at this point in terms of numbers.
RD: The city council race is important for Hamtramck. Can you talk a little bit about that?
HK: Just to give a little bit of background, in 2015 Hamtramck elected the first Muslim majority city council in America. I think this city, just like Dearborn and Dearborn Heights, is struggling with this shifting demographic and it’s struggling to keep up with change. There is in the city hall one Bengali Muslim American. While in the 1970s Hamtramck was 90 percent Polish, and then just you know in barely three decades they’re down to 12 percent. And now Yemeni Americans make up 33 percent of Hamtramck population, Bengalis make up 23 percent and African-Americans make up 17 percent. And then polls reveal that 63 percent of residents are Muslim.
RD: What are the issues that concern the residents you’ve spoken with there?
HK: Education is one thing. Hamtramck is an extremely diverse city. I think the struggle is mostly with newcomers who are struggling with getting accustomed to different laws that we have here. Assimilation, language barriers. Again, like I said, there’s one Muslim-American in the city hall in Hamtramck. Another thing is actually the travel bans really affected Hamtramck and the sort of moratorium on sanctuary cities. Actually the school district in Hamtramck made itself a sanctuary district. They would not cooperate with federal law enforcement if they asked for the immigration status of their students or the families. And actually at a rally the superintendent and some school board members came out and reassured parents that they can bring their kids to school because some of them stopped doing that in fear that they would get deported. So that’s a big issue facing Hamtramck.
RD: What do you think each of the candidates for mayor will bring to the table?
HK: Well the thing with Hamtramck is that they actually just placed the emergency manager that kind of I think really does the job of a mayor. Karen has been wonderful in terms of being inclusive, always out in the media dispelling myths about the city. And I think they both have things to bring to the table. It’s just a matter of representation.