Dina Yacoubagha is running for Bangor City Council to expand the work she already does as a social worker and to make a larger scale, positive impact on Bangor. If elected, Yacoubagha’s priority as a city councilor would be ensuring the city’s economic growth. She would look at zoning laws and tax relief to support struggling businesses. “And we can’t talk about economic growth without mentioning transportation infrastructure. I want to work with other councilors and the city staff to expand the bus hours. Many people struggle to get to and from work because of limited hours. Better public transportation would also attract young adults to move here, since they’re less likely to own a car,” she said.
Yacoubagha first ran for City Council in 2020, and was inspired by the overwhelming support she received during that election season. “It was scary taking this step. I wasn’t sure how people would react to an immigrant Muslim woman, wearing a hijab, running for office. But although I did experience some incidents of racism last time, the overwhelming majority of people – many of whom I’d never even met before – were extremely supportive.”
Originally from Syria, Yacoubagha moved to the United States 24 years ago with plans to pursue a master’s degree in linguistics. Life took a different turn when she married and moved with her husband to Texas, then to Canada, to fulfill his visa requirements. Then they settled in Bangor with their two young children. She began a master’s program in teaching English for speakers of other languages (ESOL). Nine years ago, Yacoubagha began to volunteer with the Brewer-based Food AND Medicine, a regional grassroots organization tackling root causes of poverty, and realized she had found her passion in life. She switched disciplines, and received a master’s degree in social work in 2017.
She is secretary and former co-chair of Faith Linking in Action, a congregation of regional faith groups that addresses various community challenges, a mentor of high school girls through the Olympia Snowe Institute, and a board member of the Wilson Center for Spiritual Education and Multifaith Dialogue, a progressive religious nonprofit affiliated with the University of Maine. She has also volunteered with Partners for Peace, which works to end domestic violence and support those suffering from abuse. She has worked with people experiencing homelessness, as well.
Earlier this year, Yacoubagha was elected chair of Bangor’s newly formed Advisory Committee on Racial Equity, Inclusion, and Human Rights. “Over a year ago, we had a big story about some Black high school girls who spoke up about the racism and discrimination they experienced in school. They spoke out because nothing was done to address the problem. If elected city councilor, I will work to support the school system to continue the academic excellence, and to also take care of the students’ mental and emotional well-being,” she said.
Her range of experience enables her to see the interconnectedness of issues. “Many people, even with full-time jobs, struggle to find housing. I would like to see the city expand on the work the city is already doing about this issue. … We also need to focus on connecting more people, particularly low-income and homeless people, with mental health and substance abuse resources. So many issues are intertwined. We can’t address one without addressing the others.”