By Paul Natinsky
Sara Habbo’s run for a Southfield City Council seat is an extension of her commitment to public service and the city in which she was raised. The 31-year-old emigrated from Iraq with her family when she was 2-years-old, and grew up in Oak Park and Southfield.
“It’s really helpful to have grown up in a household of people who immigrated to a country realizing that they had to learn a new language, learn new laws, and also create a life.” As the youngest child of eight, she has a strong appreciation of family sacrifices that have afforded her opportunities.
Officially, Southfield features a non-partisan government, but its officials are mostly Democrats or Democratic leaning, including Habbo, though she is quick to point out that her focus is not on politics. “My biggest projects are around accountability, transparency and accessibility,” she said.
For example, the western part of Southfield contains many older homes that are part of the city sewer system and, instead, rely on wells and septic tanks. Many who live in these older homes are senior citizens who may not be able to afford to connect to the city system. Habbo wants to ensure that contractors working with the city receive proper vetting and that the bidding process for projects is open to public scrutiny.
Fair elections made easy for voters and immigration issues are also important to Habbo.
“For me, we can’t ignore where there is injustice anywhere. One of the things I want to make sure is that for the Chaldean community in Southfield, we make the voting process easier for them.” A number of Chaldeans still struggle with English and need help deciphering ballot language and with navigating the process, help that Habbo has personally provided.
Regarding the federal government’s aggressive immigration policies, Habbo said: “I know the Chaldean community for the most part supported Donald Trump and now they feel hurt and misled by the statements he made about the Chaldean community. On the broader issue, I think if we can’t protect people who are different from us, then we can’t protect ourselves.”
Habbo serves as a legal observer for the National Lawyers Guild, a group that she describes as “progressive, radical organization who supports activism.” In her role on the board of the National Lawyers Guild, Habbo helps support the group’s activist membership and organizations “that are challenging a lot of the broken systems that we are dealing with—police brutality, limitations on the First Amendment, voter suppression.” The National Lawyers Guild also observes immigration officials to ensure they are acting properly.
The coming election is not Habbo’s first. She ran unsuccessfully for the same Council seat in 2017. Determined to serve in any capacity she could, Habbo was assigned to the Commission on Senior Adults in Southfield; a post where she connected with people she now considers political mentors.
Habbo admires Commission Chairperson Karen Schrock because “of the way she leads with integrity and that she is always prompt, running meetings exactly on time.” Habbo added that while Schrock runs a tight ship, she is responsive and flexible about finding opportunities for public comment, often ensuring that attendees have a chance to speak, even if it means bending the rules.
Planning Commission member Donald Culpepper sat next to Habbo at the first City Commission meeting she attended and patiently explained the arcane protocols on display. “He is somebody who leads by example and has a lot of integrity,” she said.
Intensely focused on serving Southfield, Habbo has not given much thought to a future seeking county or state level elected office.
When she is not servicing the city where she grew up or working her day job as an attorney, Habbo immerses herself as a coach and organizer in the same youth soccer league she played in when she was a child.
For more information about Habbo and her campaign, visit www.saraforsouthfield.com.