Up-and-coming Washtenaw County commissioner to sell his three-foot-long mane for homeless fundraiser
It may sound unconventional, but there wouldn’t be any other way to describe Washtenaw County Commissioner Yousef Rabhi.
The 24-year-old Democrat from Ann Arbor will be closing out his first term on the board with a bang — or rather, a snip: He’ll be selling his 3-foot-long jet black mane of hair, inch by inch, as a way to raise funds for three area organizations that help the homeless.
Joseph Tobianski | AnnArbor.com
He’s been recently re-elected to represent one of the three Ann Arbor districts on the county board for his second term.
As the dynamics of the board are changing in 2013, Rabhi is emerging as a contender for chairman.
According to sitting Chairman Conan Smith, D-Ann Arbor, there’s a tradition among the county commissioners to rotate the appointment each term.
Smith said the new chairman will be a Democrat and most of the other commissioners with the experience to sit in that position have already served as chairman. Rabhi is a strong contender for that role, Smith said.
“I’m certainly putting my hat in the ring to be chair of the board,” Rabhi said. “I have a vision for where the county should be going and how to lead the county there.”
Rabhi said it’s easy for some of the discussion between commissioners at board meetings to quickly become personal. Moving past that is important to have a productive governing body, he said.
“It’s how the board works together that’s going to define how successful the county’s going to be; to make sure we’re all working collaboratively on these policy issues that we’re going to be grappling with,” Rabhi said, explaining that part of that is increased communication from all parties involved.
Ryan J. Stanton | AnnArbor.com
The goal is to raise money in a fun way for a good cause, Rabhi said. He’s hoping to launch the campaign from Thanksgiving to Christmas.
“The idea with the timing is since it’s getting colder and colder, it’s important to provide shelter for folks that don’t have a place to stay,” Rabhi said. “I wanted to do the haircut in conjunction with something very meaningful because my hair means a lot to me.”
He’s fairly humble about his choice.
“I was just thinking that I wanted to cut my hair, I guess,” Rabhi said. “I haven’t cut my hair in a long time.”
When Rabhi announced his plans at the Wednesday board meeting to sell his hair inch by inch to raise money for the Safe House Shelter, the Shelter Association of Washtenaw County and the Alpha House run by the Interfaith Hospitality Network, he received a strong show of support — and just as many chuckles — from his fellow board members.
Smith was first to pledge his support to Rabhi’s campaign: $500 for an inch of hair, and offered an additional $50 per quarter inch of facial hair.
Rabhi said he’s not sure if he’s ready to put his mustache and beard on the chopping block just yet.
“You know I will pledge money for this, but you know I will also pledge for Conan Smith’s facial hair,” said Leah Gunn, D-Ann Arbor.
Some commissioners took Rabhi’s challenge one step further, hoping for another bald head in the board room: “I’m going to pledge $500 for the 1 inch of hair closest to your scalp,” said Wesley Prater, D-York Township.
During recent Board of Commissioner meetings, several Washtenaw County residents have spoken before the board during public comment to request further action by the county to help homeless individuals. Those comments have included requests that the county help find a new location for Camp Take Notice, a former homeless encampment that was evicted earlier this year from its location near M-14 in Scio Township.
“I agree with those folks that come and speak that we need to do more,” Rabhi said. “We also have to live within a budget and within mandated services that we have to provide.”
Compared to many other Michigan counties, Rabhi said Washtenaw County is a cut above in its efforts to help the homeless and the hungry.
“As long as there’s someone out there who’s hungry as long as there’s someone out there on a cold night, there’s always more that we can do,” Rabhi said.
Rabhi encouraged people to come before the board during the public comment session to express their opinions, and explained that comments are often better received if the individuals meet with a commissioner beforehand to better understand the issues and government process. Advocating for a viable solution to a problem is the best way to impact change with the county board, Rabhi said.