For the general election, City Pulse asked all the candidates to answer a series of general questions. In Ward races, candidates were asked to answer Ward specific questions and concerns. Here are the responses from Shelley Mielock Davis, candidate for the First Ward:
1. Lansing is in the midst of a "surge" or "epidemic" of heroin related overdoses and deaths. How should the city address the increase in heroin use in the city?
The surge in heroin use is not limited to Lansing. This is a concern nationally as well as something confronting our suburbs. I support a community –wide response like the workgroup that has been started and spearheaded by professionals at the Ingham County Health Department, the Lansing Police Department and Mayor Bernero to reduce the use of heroin and combat addiction and the health problems that arise from it.
2. Chief Yankowski, with support from the Mayor and the Prosecutor, has announced an immunity of sorts for heroin addicts seeking treatment. Do you support this? Why or why not?
Yes. I believe this is a responsible approach. We need to encourage people who are addicted to heroin to come forward and get treatment. Our policy should be based on compassion and not criminalizing those who are trying to get out from under the downward spiral caused from addiction.
3. If elected to council what will you do to address the burgeoning heroin crisis?
I would continue to support the city-county partnership to combat this terrible scourge. If necessary, I would support city funding for this purpose. I believe money spent on a sensible policy can result in a savings from the societal damage caused from addiction both to the individual and community at-large.
4. Ingham County has one of the highest HIV rates in Michigan, however, despite the surge in heroin overdoses, there is no needle exchange program. Does Lansing need a needle exchange program and if elected are you willing to revisit paraphernalia laws in order to prevent those providing clean needles from being charged with a crime? Why or why not?
Yes. Programs such as needle exchanges have proven effective at reducing rates of HIV in other communities. It also allows for more contact with health professionals who could be available to help those addicted to seek treatment.
1. Over 30 percent of Lansing's housing stock are rentals. Is this too much, too little or just the right mix of rental properties? Why?
Most homeowners began as renters. A healthy community should have a range of housing options, including rentals. Some neighborhoods have significantly higher rates of rentals and some less. It has been my experience that those neighborhoods with higher rates of rentals face more challenges and would benefit from more homeownership and less rentals.
2. Landlords continue to report significant lag times between paying for and obtaining inspections on rental properties. How should Council address this problem?
Currently, there are four vacancies in the code compliance division. I believe the division needs to be fully staffed to determine its effectiveness. If lag times on inspections continue after vacancies are filled, I support giving code compliance the resources they need to do the job including more officers.
3. Landlord's are currently allowed to send a letter to code compliance acknowledging having fixed identified violations. Do you support this action? Why or why not?
I believe we need a thoughtful approach to addressing housing inspections and code compliance, this includes using our resources wisely. Violations that are structural or pose a danger must be re-inspected. However, a violation could be as simple as fixing a light switch or a leaky faucet. In addition to a signed affidavit by a landlord attesting that violations of this nature have been corrected, I believe we can utilize modern technology by requiring receipts and/or pictures of the repaired items be emailed to the office. I would also support a random re-inspection of smaller violations to see if there is a pattern of compliance or not.
1. Lansing roads are in signficant disrepair. The state is unlikely to increase revenue sharing -- which has been declining for a decade. How you propose fixing Lansing's roads?
The State’s formula for fixing our roads is broken. It relies on a state law called Act 51, an outdated method of fuel taxes that is completely insufficient. Revenue sharing, which is declining, helps communities pay for much needed services like police and fire not road funding. Current yearly spending on our roads is $2-3 million. Estimated annual costs for the City to maintain and fix our roads is $15 million. There is not enough money in the budget to pay for that without painful cuts to essential services like police and fire. The state legislature’s failure to act on its responsibility is shameful.
Roads will continue to be in disrepair until the State comes up with a solution. It is estimated that fixing our roads will cost upwards of $13 million annually in addition to the $2-3 million that Lansing currently spends. To put this in perspective, the entire Parks & Recreation budget is also $13 million. Lansing cannot afford to shift needed funding from essential services like police and fire or parks to pay for this kind of outlay. There is no solution to the deteriorating condition of our roads until the state legislature takes its responsibility seriously.
1. Do you support marijuana legalization?
Yes, with proper laws regulating the sale, distribution and production like those for alcohol.
2. Lansing has a comprehensive human rights ordinance. Is that law working, or is it broken? If it is working, please explain why you believe that. If you believe it is broken please explain how and how you would fix the problem.
I am proud that Lansing is a welcoming community and has an ordinance that protects all of our citizens. Whether the ordinance is working is difficult to measure because there have been very few violations brought before the city. I believe that it is a powerful tool but it could be more effective if more people know about it. I support efforts to publicize it and enforce it.
3. Do you support a woman's right to choose?
1 Name the three largest issues facing the city (for at large candidates) or the ward.
1) Economic conditions and job opportunities
2) Neighborhood stabilization
3) Continued emphasis on LPD’s data driven crime fighting that has helped the Kalamazoo Street area
2. What are the three most significant things that have happened in the city or Ward in the past four years
1) The revitalization of Marshall Street Armory
2) Continued success of Emergent BioSolutions and Neogen Corp and their harmonious integration into surrounding neighborhoods
3) Development along Michigan Avenue
3. What are the qualities of your opponent you most admire?
Her commitment to public service.
Specific to the Ward and your Race:
1. FEMA has asked cities and localities to prevent buildings in flood plains. THe Urbandale plan calls for clearing some of the area at the south end of the neighborhood bordered by Aurelius to the west, Kalamazoo to the North, the city boundary on the east and 496 to the South. Despite this plan, which has been in the works for years, very few properties have been purchased. Do you support relocating people from the flood plain and demolishing that housing stock? Why or why not?
The flood plain around the Grand River includes neighborhoods throughout the city. The City received a FEMA grant a few years ago to purchase and demolish homes in the flood plain. As a result, some homes in Urbandale and Baker Donora neighborhoods were purchased and demolished. I understand that some people refused the City’s offer and chose to stay in their homes. Because people have emotional attachment to their homes, I view this as a long term strategy. I support continuing this program as funding becomes available.
For Shelley Mielock: You have been a resident in Lansing for just about a year Why did you decide to run for the City Council? Does it matter that you are not a long time resident of Lansing? Why or why not?
I have been a resident of Lansing Metro for 20 years and always been involved in the life of the city of Lansing. I wasn’t born in Lansing, but I choose Lansing. I am raising my children here and I want the best for them and our neighbors. Some wait years before getting involved. I have always been a doer and a positive change agent. I offer my collaborative experience and approach now because I think the city can’t wait for positive and productive dialogue and action.