YAN – Dearborn
State Rep. Abdullah Hammoud is on a mission to end what he calls “discrimination by pollution” where some neighborhoods in Dearborn suffer asthma levels as much as four times higher than the state average.
Hammoud introduced a state bill last year to increase the transparency in reporting pollution levels and the sources of pollution. Earlier this year, he brought his fight to the local level, urging the city council to adopt an ordinance that would help improve air quality by tightening some environmental regulations.
Hammoud said there was a “broad base” of support for the resolution, including Congresswoman Debbie Dingell and Wayne County Commissioner Sam Baydoun as well as activists on the ground.
In an interview with the Yemeni American News, Hammoud urged council members to take a vote on the ordinance, even if they need to amend it.
“I think we can get it done,” Hammoud said.
Additionally to being a voice for Dearborn, Hammoud has been an effective lawmaker, introducing and sponsoring several bills that were signed into law since joining the Legislature.
Earlier this year, he introduced a resolution recognizing April as Arab American Heritage Month.
“We’ve also been big winners in the budget. We’ve brought back over 10 million new dollars to the city of Dearborn,” Hammoud told YAN.
That money includes a $500,000 in funding to the Arab American National Museum and $6 million to a Henry Ford College project.
“We’ve had many great wins within the city,” Hammoud said.
Hammoud stressed the importance of building relationships with his colleagues, so they can understand his perspective when he talks about the needs of the city and the community.
In fact, the state rep has made a mission to introduce legislators to Dearborn over the past years.
“I’ve been able to bring over 50 state representatives to the city of Dearborn – Republican and Democrat. I give them a tour, make sure they get some good food before they leave, and use that as a means to build bridges.”
Hammoud was elected in the State House in 2016 to become the first Muslim American to represent Dearborn in the legislative body.
At just 29, the lawmaker represents a new generation of activism that is not only interested in advocacy for the community but determined in pursuing public service to improve society as a whole.
“If I can look back at my tenure in the House and identify things that help identify the lives of Dearborn residents, that’s ultimately success as I could define it. Leaving the office better than when I first got there, making sure that we did something with the time we had to enact positive change and also to inspire, to inspire that next generation of youth,” Hammoud said.
The damn roads
Gov. Gretchen Whitmer, who won in 2016 in a campaign focused on fixing the “damn roads” has proposed a 45-cent gas hike to repair the state’s crumbling streets.
Hammoud said before implementing the tax increase, the state should look into other avenues for funding and long term plans to fix the issue.
One problem, the state rep said, is that all roads – no matter how frequently travelled – get the same amount of money.
“If we appropriated the money equitably, so that the roads that have more drivers on them, larger trucks, more lanes highways, received more money, that’s one approach we can do. Secondly, we can start making sure that the trucks, which are damaging the roads mostly are paying their fair share.”
Hammoud also called for looking into the methods for building the roads to hold contractors accountable.
Indeed, while Michigan’s harsh winters and hot summers contribute to the terrible conditions of the streets, it seems that the roads in the state deteriorate at an astounding rate. An internet meme comparing a still-intact roman street built 1700 years ago to a pothole-ridden Michigan road built in 2018 has gone viral over the past year.
The state rep said we should be investing to build our roads to last, not patching potholes for one year.
The roads are only one aspect out of the dozens of bills that get introduced in Lansing every year – issues that Hammoud said deeply affect the lives of residents.
Hence, Hammoud said the community must remain politically active to hold politicians accountable, himself included.
“My message to the community is to stay engaged,” he said. “The more the community is engaged, the more town halls they attend, the more rallies they hold – that’s how they build political capital and apply to political pressure to make sure that their elected officials are representing them the way they want to be represented.”