Interview with Hamden mayoral candidate Salman Hamid
By Anna Sackel
On November 7 the residents of Hamden will head to the polls for the mayoral election. In the running is current mayor Curt Leng and underdog Republican candidate Salman Hamid. HQ Press sat down with Hamid, a public school teacher and Quinnipiac alum, to discuss his run for office and what motivated him to do it.
Why are you running for mayor?
I got up and I was like I’m going to run for Mayor one day, and it’s been a series of things over time. It’s not just one in particular but the focal point it got to, I was at a bank and the banker goes 'so I heard you’re running.' And this was someone before the word really got out so I’m like 'okay.' And she’s like 'why are you doing it?' and I was like 'great question.' People didn’t really ask me in the beginning what is it that you’re doing this for and I said I’m not in it for the glory or the fame, I’m a public school teacher. What I really am doing it for is my kids and future generations of Hamden so I need to leave behind. I can’t sit in the sidelines anymore. I need to leave behind a sustainable Hamden for my kids and future generations to come. So I’ve always been about the idea that life is about service…and it got to a point where I’m like the taxes are too high, there’s blight all around town, traffic congestion is out of control it’s ridiculous, and it’s all reactive now instead of being proactive. So someone’s got to come in from the outside and clean up. And if it’s going to be me, then so be it. I will be happy to do it.
What is your opinion of the town's relationship to Quinnipiac?
This is a college town, and I get that, but there also has to be a relationship between the college entity and the town and the residents there. You probably heard over and over of residents complaining about Quinnipiac student housing and so on and so forth. And this is what I’m talking about. That situation wouldn’t have happened if taxes were sustainable in town, because people have either foreclosed on their property or they rent it out to students because there is no other option because they can’t sell their homes. Unfortunately people have gotten more and more negative interpretations because there’s always a few bad apples who are out partying on Fridays and Saturday nights, hanging out on their lawns, and people have kids and you know they don’t want any of that. It’s got to be a sustainable relationship. So with the incoming president I plan to meet with him or her and work with them to develop more of that housing moving forward. But I also plan on having events, town events, at Quinnipiac also. People have to understand it’s a two-way street and Quinnipiac is aware of that and ready to own up to their end.
What is the first thing you would do in office if you were elected mayor?
Reestablish communication. There has been a major lack of communication between the top entity in town, which is my opponent, and the residents. The communication only seems to happen when it’s an election season, but beyond that I hear constant complaints as I’m knocking on doors that the town has just stopped listening to our issues and concerns.
If you were to become mayor, what is the biggest thing you want to change over the next 4 years?
Can I say two?
Well they go hand in hand. Refine the spending and bring commerce back into town. That will hopefully bring more people, more families back into town. I want to build a small business advisory council of existing shop owners here as well as ones that want to come in and do business as well because there are too many empty lots.
How do you deal with the racist comments directed towards you?
Being Muslim in a post-9/11 society has not been pleasant. Prior to that my race was rarely an issue, my religion was rarely an issue. Kids at my school would be like 'fight me,' and I was just like 'why would I fight you, I don’t get it?' and they would say 'well your people blew up the twin towers,' and it’s, oh my goodness. Yeah, there’s been a lot of stigma and that’s a lot of the reason I created American Muslims United. But at the end of the day I can’t get angry about this stuff. I love living in a country, as people don’t understand, I love living in a country where people can voice their opinions and not get killed over them. My family is from Pakistan and if you speak out against government you just go missing. I’m thankful to live in a country that people can voice their opinions. And I love it and if that’s what you have to say then say it. I appreciate your comment, thank you. But I also let people know that as an educator it is my job to inform people of what my faith is and how we act and interact in this community. And I mean, how many Muslim candidates have you seen run period? The state of Connecticut has probably had one Muslim mayor but beyond that, crickets. I’m also letting people know that Muslims are here, they’re active, and we’re part of the solution, not part of the problem. But I can’t get angry. As mayor I will represent everyone in town, even the people that write not so nice things, I will still represent them.
Why should the people of Hamden vote for you to be their Mayor?
I plan on committing and following through with the items that are spoken about on my platform, building an animal shelter, a business advisory council, getting a citizens council so we can hear their voices, reduce traffic issues and develop commerce back into town. I have never been part of the problem. I have not been in political office for 20 years. I have always been part of the solution in the background doing stuff. I’ve been given this opportunity to run and I plan on doing an effective job. I mean, I have to have morals and ethics. I’m a public school teacher, right? You know I have to teach future generations. My goal has always been to try and improve my community, and if this is the best way to do it, in this platform and this avenue by running for mayor on the republican ticket, then so be it.