Dearborn – The Yemeni American News
Wayne County commissioner candidate Brian Stone promised to bring energy to the commission and push for it to be more active on important issues, namely infrastructure and the jail project.Stone, a 31-year-old Navy veteran seeking to represent Dearborn and Allan Park as a county commissioner, said he is looking to bring a fresh way of thinking to Wayne County.
“We don’t have anybody on the commission who’s under the age of 50, so we really don’t have any new ideas or representation for young people. That’s something where I know I can make a big difference,” he told the Yemeni American News in an interview.
Stone is aiming for the seat of long-time incumbent Gary Woronchak who is running for the State Senate.
He shared his experiences when he served in the Navy and was impressed by the infrastructure and economic development of some countries in east Asia.
“We were in the middle of the recession, so I had family members who are unemployed while I’m seeing where I was serving these countries were booming. And it really impressed upon me the need for us to change our policy,” Stone told YAN.
The Navy veteran criticised the commission for the way it handled the failed jail project, which was halted in 2013 after going $91 million over its $300-million budget while it wasn’t even halfway finished.
Although the shortcomings of the project were mostly blamed on the administration of then-county executive Bob Ficano, Stone said the commission should have played a greater role in the process.
“We need a lot more energy on the commission,” Stone told YAN.
“I think that the commission hasn’t been as active as it could be on so many different issues. I think the best example is probably the jail project. You had almost a half billion dollars of your own money wasted over something that was visible… We knew that this project wasn’t finishing or being finished on time and that wasn’t even addressed as an issue really until it became a major public issue.”
Stone started his interests in politics and advocacy when he worked to get public universities to stop charging Michigan veterans out-of-state tuition after returning from service.
“They say that all politics starts out as personal and it was very personal [for me],” Stone, a University of Michigan-Dearborn graduate, said.
“I was going to have to pay an extra $15,000 a year just because I had served my country when I had grown up in Dearborn, went to Dearborn High, my parents had paid taxes in Michigan their whole lives.”
When he found out that veterans are being marked as out-of-state by default, he started mobilizing around the issue.
He said the campaign and the media buzz it generated convinced the universities to reverse course on the policy. “And that’s saving to this day veterans about 9 million dollars a year, just in Michigan.”
Stone ran unsuccessfully for Dearborn’s State House seat in 2016, but he says his previous campaign was a “meaningful” experience.
“I actually think having lost my first race better prepares me for this than anything else,” he said.
“One of the things that I’ve heard from a lot of politicians and that I really believe is true is that it’s actually important for a politician to lose the first time. And there’s a really simple reason for this and it’s because if you start out winning you’re not as compassionate towards those who lose. It really forces you to humble yourself.”
The Navy veteran called for bridging racial and religious divides in Dearborn and slammed the phenomenon of ethnic voting, where voters pick candidates based on their name not merits.
Stone said some white residents sometimes refrain from voting for qualified Arab American candidates, while some Arab American voters only choose Arab American candidates.
“One of the things that we really struggle with in Dearborn politics in particular is that on both sides of town there’s a lot of racial voting that occurs,” Stone said.
Stone explained that the pattern breeds complacency in politicians who may not be held accountable by their constituents.
“When every vote isn’t up for grabs it actually disempowers the community that engaged in that kind of politics,” he said.
“This is something that cuts across all sides in Dearborn and whether people realize it or not when their vote is not up for grabs when they’re not up for contest when they default to the person of the same race as them, they’re giving politicians a pass.”
Stone said he started witnessing a separations between the city’s ethnic communities after 9/11 that he found “frightening”, adding that he has always believed that people must face shared challenges together.