City Council Candidate Questionnaire

Jonathon Akkari

Healthy Dearborn is a vibrant community coalition that has partnered with the City of Dearborn since 2015 to create a culture of health in Dearborn by working to reduce health disparities through active living and healthy eating strategies. For more on Healthy Dearborn, please visit our website: How do you see your Mayoral administration or Dearborn’s City Council working with Healthy Dearborn? And what specific ideas do you have for implementing Healthy Dearborn initiatives? *

I support Dearborn's Multimodall Transportation Plan, but I fear that the City may delay its execution and funding due to budget constraints. The plan is an ambitious vision that contains short and long term plans for city infrastructure, and includes protected bike lanes, transit lanes, the expansion and connection of sidewalks for pedestrians, and a greenway aligned with the train tracks along Michigan Avenue. Our city's current design induces reliance upon motor vehicles and incentivizes the building of new parking, at the expense of reducing public spaces for people and housing. That makes our community less healthy, inaccessible and, particularly in light of car insurance rates, expensive. We have a talented sustainability director, and he needs the proper staff and funding for this project to be executed, and I will commit to seeing work begin immediately. "Traffic Calming" measures could be incorporated into the plan to utilize road design to impose caution upon motorists and reduce collisions as well. One successful example of this kind of city planning can be seen in Lancaster, CA where the city transformed its main road--an eight lane highway--into a public agora for pedestrians that can be easily closed for event space. Lancaster's plan decreased collisions in the area by over 70%, created 40 new small businesses along the road, and 800 new jobs. Additionally, I would work with Wayne County to expand protected bike lanes on county roads, and work with the County and neighboring communities to develop a a true, comprehensive public transportation plan.

Furthermore, Dearborn's Southend, which is overwhelmingly populated by working people of color, and has among the highest asthma rates in the entire state. That is the result of poor corporate citizenship and repeated environmental infractions on the part of manufacturers like AK Steel. While the City passed a version of a 'fugitive dust ordinance' to clamp down on this wanton disregard for public health, it is an inherently reactive measure that only comes into play after pollution occurs, and is difficult to enforce in light of the mobile nature of some emissions. Southend activists proposed a proactive ordinance that would have required measures that prevent pollution from the outset. The current Council rejected this proposed ordinance on the basis that the City lacked sufficient resources to ensure compliance. Dearborn does have the resources, but it's narrow conception of 'public safety,' has rigged the City budget in a manner that is both inefficient for taxpayers and ineffective at guaranteeing safety. I would fight to ensure funding and staffing for qualified inspectors to enact the ordinance proposed by Southend activists.

Lastly, in 2011 Dearborn eliminated its health department, which acted as a primary care provider for 15,000 low income residents. That decision rendered Dearborn vulnerable to the opioid epidemic that began shortly thereafter, as well as the global COVID 19 pandemic. I would support the establishment of a community health center with similar functions as the health department, which would provide routine vaccinations, checkups, substance abuse assistance, STD testing, and contraceptives to low income residents. The resounding success of the COVID 19 vaccination center at the Civic Center shows that the public trusts the City in healthcare, and that there exists demand for medical assistance free at point of service.

What do you see as Dearborn’s biggest health challenges and Dearborn’s biggest health assets? How can we best leverage our assets to address our challenges? *

Our three greatest health challenges are as follows: rampant pollution in the Southend, reliance upon motor vehicles in conducting day-to-day activities, and mental health and substance abuse disorders. Dearborn's greatest health asset is its people: those who live and work in the City that have attained or are seeking to attain professional degrees and licenses, and who have an awe-inspiring dedication to community. Dearborn is losing people at an alarming rate, and those leaving the city are primarily young people who have earned advanced degrees and professional licenses. We need to make structural investments into this City the likes of which we have not seen in over a decade to retain and attract medical professionals, civic engineers, environmental scientists, and the like. That, in turn, will require a City Council with the guts to address the underlying problems in the City Budget that have resulted in a decade of cuts to funding in infrastructure, public health, public works, and other city services. That means abandoning our narrow, outdated, and inefficient understanding of 'public safety' in Dearborn for one that includes public health, improved infrastructure that revolves around human beings instead of motor vehicles, housing security, access to healthcare, and clean air and water.

Do you believe that "Health in all Policies," which is the use of health assessment tools to guide decisions on major civic projects and policy decisions, should be implemented in Dearborn? Please explain why, either way. *

Yes, absolutely. Each policy decision results in an impact upon public health, whether intentional or unintentional. The decision to close the Dearborn's Health Department, for example, had remarkable implications for public health. As another example, zoning ordinances that require on-site parking for new construction reduces housing options and public spaces, and makes Dearborn less walkable. Even the elimination of recreational programs for youth at the Civic Center has health implications for young people. Policy does not occur in a vacuum, and it is incumbent upon city leaders to carefully consider the health impacts on residents before coming to a policy decision.

Dearborn’s Multimodal Transportation Plan (MMTP) ( was developed with significant community involvement, including Healthy Dearborn, and was adopted by the Dearborn City Council on October 6, 2020. How do you see the implementation of the MMTP fitting into your community health priorities as City Council Member? *

The Multimodal Transportation Plan is a top priority for me. The plan will make Dearborn a more pedestrian and biker friendly city, and has the potential to reinvigorate public squares and small businesses. What may impede the plan is lack of funding. Dearborn already faces a budget deficit--despite a significant tax increase in 2011 of 3.5 mills, the elimination of 30% of general personnel in the last decade, and cuts to many city programs. That is the result of Dearborn being the only municipality out of 1,700 in the State of Michigan that has a minimum staffing requirement for police and fire. That requirement puts Dearborn at a competitive disadvantage, as it is the only city in the entire state that cannot staff its police and fire department based upon demand, data, and calls to service. As a result, Dearborn currently spends $8 million more on those two departments alone than all revenue it generates from the entire 18.5 mill operating millage. The increase in spending on these two departments in 2021 alone will amount to $2.8 million--the equivalent to the revenue generated by 0.8 mills. That is unsustainable; it is literally bankrupting the city. It's caused a decline in the quality of life for Dearborn residents, and makes Dearborn almost entirely reliant upon state and federal grants for any major infrastructure project.

That puts the MMTP's prospects in serious doubt. Many of my opponents are promising tax cuts, nonetheless, with absolutely no plan to account for the resulting revenue loss that can approach nearly $20 million annually. I'm the only candidate that is explicitly identifying the way we conceive and fund public safety as the underlying problem in this city. I am fighting for comprehensive public safety which recognizes health as a safety concern. I will preserve the current tax base, and work to spend in a more productive manner. Please take a moment to read the attached article from 2011 to learn more about how this requirement has stifled Dearborn's growth and development: