Tom Tafelski is looking to take charge of the city of Dearborn. Tafelski has had a seat on Dearborn’s City Council since 2001 and previously served as the Council President between 2007 and 2013. Now as City Council President Pro-Tem, Tafelski is announcing his candidacy for mayor in the upcoming general election.
By Stephen Coats and Rasheed AlNozili – The Yemeni American News
YAN: What’s your background?
Tafelski: I grew up in Dearborn. My parents were both Dearbornites. My mom taught in Dearborn 39 years, started out in Salina school. My dad was a teacher in Southfield. I went to elementary and junior high at Maples and then went on to Fordson High School and the University of Michigan – Ann Arbor, graduated and came back to Dearborn. I have three boys that I am very proud of, all honor roll students. My biggest priority and greatest achievement is being father to three boys.
My entire life I’ve been around [Middle Eastern] culture, the food and the people. Growing up in Dearborn, we were just kids. We played in the streets, we played in the park. We were just buddies. To us it didn’t matter, the religion, the ethnicity and the national origin. I’m half Sicilian; a quarter Irish and a quarter Polish.
YAN: You recently announced that you were running for mayor of Dearborn. Why are you running now?
Tafelski: The charter has changed, and I can retain my seat on City Council until the election. It’s been 16 years [that I’ve served on City Council] and I’ve learned a lot of things over that time. This city’s changed from an economic standpoint and also from a neighborhood standpoint. I believe we talk a lot in this administration, but we don’t do a lot of things that we used to do as the City of Dearborn and we need to get back to that.
YAN: How would you respond to people who say that you’ve often opposed beneficial decisions made by the current administration?
Tafelski: I have been a vocal opponent of some of the Mayor’s projects. Probably my biggest one was the move from the historic City Hall. Growing up in the hometown of Henry Ford, you have an iconic building that is the fabric of who we are as Dearbornites. That was the epitome of Dearborn for 100 years, that iconic City Hall. I did not believe that we should move from that City Hall and incur additional costs at a building down the street that was a stick-built building and it’s useful life was 20 to 25 years. It’s [already] been 15 years in existence. We were told it would be an economic engine to move art space to our historic City Hall [building]. People can go there now and look; there is no more activity and in fact, quite less activity than what the hustle and bustle of City Hall was when the city offices were there. In my belief, there was no economic savings by moving from the old City Hall to the new City Hall. That was a decision that was made. The Mayor felt that was the right decision; he moved forward, he’s going to have to stand by it. I opposed it and I’m going to stand by it.
YAN: What about the medical center deal on Schaeffer and Michigan, you opposed it as well, correct?
Tafelski: The medical center was the Montgomery Ward building. The city owned the old building and sold it. When we sold it, we also promised a lot of brownfield credits and MEDC (Michigan Economic Development Corporation) money. Redico purchased that and had up to 2018 before those tax credits expired. They came back to us in 2017 with less than a year to go before they lose the brownfield credits and asked for us to do a PILT or a ‘payment in lieu of taxes.’ Four members of Council approved because it was the administration’s wishes. At the end of the day, the Redico Corporation is going to have a $15.5 million project and they are only going to have to put out $1.4 million out of their pocket. It’s a good deal for Redico; it’s not a good deal for the taxpayers of Dearborn. I think Dearborn deserves better.
YAN: What about soccer in the city of Dearborn. Are you against it?
Tafelski: The soccer issue has never come to City Council for a vote. Until soccer comes to the city council meeting in a formal setting as a vote, we can’t take responsibility for it one way or the other. The first thing we’d need to do is let the private sector put up a facility with city partnership. It’s up to the Mayor and the administrative staff of the Recreation Department or Economic Development Department to do those feasibility studies to see what interest there is. I know there’s interest for soccer, but we have to do the due diligence. I am for anything from a recreation standpoint that keeps people engaged, keeps children off the streets, makes it a more viable community, but it also has to make economic sense.
YAN: What do you think of the Ford Motor Company projects in Dearborn?
Tafelski: It’s great what Ford Motor is doing, What they’ve committed to the Rouge Factory, what they’ve committed to revamping the world headquarters and all of their engineering facilities. Taking over Fairlane Mall by taking a third of what was a vacant mall and moving their white collar employees into there. That helps. However, if the city of Dearborn is not strong, it hurts Ford. Vice versa, if Ford is not strong, it hurts the city.
YAN: Is there anything else you would like to say to the community?
Tafelski: I feel I am best suited to run and lead this city into the next millennia because I truly feel I have friends in all areas of the city from all walks of life. I know what this city was and I know what it can be.We are Dearborn, that’s who we are. We are U.S. citizens, we are Americans, we are immigrants. At the end of the day, the city has to serve everybody equally. that’s what I want to do as Mayor of the city of Dearborn.