That’s how Lansing City Councilwoman Jessica Yorko has described James McClurken, who has filed to run for her seat this year to represent the Fourth Ward.
Yorko posted this on Facebook Thursday:
“My time in local elected office may be coming to a close bc as you may know a pissy rich guy who did not get his way on continuing to burn coal and raise utility rates for seniors is planning to spend $25k of his own money to unseat me.”
McClurken has filed to run in the August primary election in the ward that Yorko has represented for nearly eight years. Yorko said Tuesday she plans to run again and is collecting signatures on a candidacy petition. The filing deadline is 4 p.m. April 25.
Yorko’s “pissy rich guy” comment was an apparent reference, in part, to McClurken’s status as the co-owner, with husband Sergei Kvitko, of the 15,000-squarefoot Potter House, one of Lansing’s most celebrated mansions, near the Country Club of Lansing.
McClurken said he may be “house poor” in his effort to maintain their home, which also houses his Native American consultancy business and his husband’s company, Blue Griffin Recording, including a studio. McClurken and Kvitko frequently open the house for fundraising events for a variety of nonprofit organizations and political candidates.
McClurken said his campaign will not be self-funded and that he will hold his first fundraiser in March. He said he actually hopes to raise $30,000 and that if he cannot raise it, “it would not show very much community support.”
He said Yorko’s comment is part of a broader effort to “stereotype” him.
“She is portraying me as a rich white guy who is not going to be attuned to black issues or women’s issues,” he said.
The “pissy” part of Yorko’s comment apparently refers to McClurken’s participation in the failed effort to stop the Lansing Board of Water & Light’s plan to build a power substation in Scott Park, home of the historic Scott Center house and a sunken garden. The Council approved the plan 7-1, with Yorko’s support, as did the Lansing Planning Commission and the Lansing Park Board, on which McClurken serves. The park board voted 5-3 for the BWL plan, with McClurken in the minority.
The BWL said that Scott Park made the most sense as the home for the Central Substation, which will serve downtown. Once it is built, the coal-burning Eckert Power Station — Wynken, Blynken and Nod — can be closed, which is scheduled for 2020.
In a text message on Tuesday, Yorko defended her vote, although she backed off her description of McClurken, saying, “I’m sorry if anyone took offense to the way I characterized him. Maybe I should have just used the word ‘indignant’ instead.”
She said she was “miffed that someone publicly threatened to waste a ridiculous amount of money running against me because I didn’t vote the way he wanted me to on a complicated issue.
“I could not justify continuing to harm public health by extending the life of a coal plant and raising utility rates astronomically in order to NOT MOVE an old garden,” she added.
Yorko was referring to the Scott Sunken Garden, which the BWL intends to move elsewhere in Scott Park. Preservationists and members of the Lansing Garden Club, who have maintained the nearly 100-yearold garden, fought to save the Scott Center and prevent the garden from being moved. The BWL offered to move the house if a buyer could be found, which it could not, so the house is being prepared for demolition.
Asked to comment on Yorko’s characterization that McClurken wants to continue burning coal and advocates raising utility rates, McClurken responded, “That’s nonsense.”
“I’m running against her because I watched the way the process of putting a new plant on the sunken garden happened,” he said. “It happened without public comment, and when public comment happened, the people who commented against it were belittled and ridiculed. It was clear that the plans were already set and this was just a formality and whatever people said in support of moving this power plant somewhere else was going to be shouted down. And it was.
“Next off,” he added, “there were no numbers presented to substantiate anything she said in that comment.
“Everybody knows we need power, and coal plants are deficient, but there was no demonstrated need to put that on top of the sunken garden, and if there was, there was no evidence presented by the proponents, and that motivated me” to run.
The BWL said it explored a half-dozen sites and concluded that Scott Park was the only one either available or affordable. The BWL held public forums on the design and also made presentations at the park board, the planning commission and the Council.
Asked to comment on McClurken's remarks, York texted, "The decision was not rigged. I am miffed by the comments Jim has stated publicly about keeping a coal plant open and raising rates being a better alternative than moving a garden and that he planned to run for that reason.
Asked twice why she thought McClurken was going to pay for the campaign out of his own pocket, she did not respond.