State Rep. Andy Schor sat down with editor and publisher Berl Schwartz and reporter Todd Heywood for an hour and a quarter on Friday to answer questions about his decision to run for mayor of Lansing. A portion of the interview will air at 10:30 a.m. Saturday on MY18. The entire audio will be available at www.lansingcitypulse.com on Thursday. Here are excerpts.
Leadership and style:
I have a different style than we've seen recently. I want to bring everyone together. I want to work with our Council. I want to work with our employees. I want to work with regional partners. I want to work with the state. I want to take these pieces and cooperate, and have conversations, and then move forward for what's best for Lansing. I'm going to present that as my vision, as my leadership style. … leadership is trust. It's respect. It's transparency, and then it's moving forward and fighting for what's best for Lansing.
Is the mayor’s unwillingness to disclose why he approved paying former City Attorney Janene McIntyre $160,000 a campaign issue?
It's not something that I am talking about. Again, I'm going to talk about me and how I plan to move forward. Others may raise that, and I don't know, but for me I'm talking about my vision and again, more of the leadership style. If we want to talk about how I'm going to provide transparency, then I'm going to talk about that. These are the pieces that I want to talk about with voters. This is what they've asked me. They've asked me to provide a change, a change that is different for us moving forward into the future, so that's what I'm going to focus on.
Mayor Bernero warns the city could face bankruptcy because of legacy costs. Your thoughts?
These are promises we made to our employees, to the people that have worked for Lansing over the years, have done great work for us, and are now either retired or are still currently working. I don't believe we need to go after those employees to fix this problem. It's got to be a variety of solutions, and that's what I pitch as a legislator. That's what I would pitch as mayor.
Are you open to selling the Lansing Board of Water & Light, which Bernero’s Financial Health Team is studying?
I would like to see a variety of other options. I think we have a very unique situation with the Board of Water & Light where we as ratepayers are owners of that board. I think it works pretty well. The rates have been relatively lower than our neighboring utilities, and I would not like to see that happen. Now again, I'm not taking anything off the table until I get in there and get a chance to look at the books and see what our expenses are, what our budget is, so I would say nothing is prohibited.
On whether Lansing should declare itself a sanctuary city at the risk of losing $6 million or more in federal funds:
We're a welcoming city. We've got policies. Does that qualify as what a sanctuary city is now? I don't want us to lose $6.5 million federally. That's important dollars that we use for our residents, for our low income residents, for a variety of things. I think that we need to make sure that our police are doing the job they're supported to do, which is enforcing our laws here. They're not immigration agents. They're not ICE agents. They're not trained for that. For me, it's a matter of protecting immigrants and refugees and making sure we're not collecting their information, but do we need to stand up and yell it and say, “Take away our money”? That I don't know.
How many medical marijuana dispensaries should we have?
Is this a "Not in my backyard" issue? Maybe, and I don't want to say there's going to be none. I think the neighbors in the neighborhoods understand that, that it's not going to be there is none. Maybe some want none and maybe some don't, but that's not going to be the reality. But we also don't need an overabundance … . We should have it and we should have it available so that those with the cards can get the marijuana that helps them for their conditions. That being said, it should not be every shop on a block. I think that there's an in between, and I think that you need to put the people together and collaborate, and find out where that middle ground is, and then move forward for what's best for the city.
A rap against Bernero is he can’t get along with other regional leaders.
I've got relationships with all of them, with most of them, and I've got several leaders who have told me that they'd like to see a change so that they can more effectively work with the city. I'll let those leaders state for themselves what they believe, but I've got the relationships with other leaders in other neighboring communities that I think will help us. We've left a lot of things on the table that we could be doing regionally, and that will be high on my list of what we need to do. We need to partner with our neighbors in the region to make our city and our residents better.
You haven’t gone after the mayor on his leadership style. Is your style not to be confrontational?
I'll be confrontational when I have to be confrontational. Getting into this race for me is not about going after Mayor Bernero or anyone else. Getting into this race for me is using my leadership style to provide what I feel is the best vision for the city moving forward. When I want to ... When we need to compare and contrast, we'll compare and contrast. I'm not going to shy away from that, but I'm not getting into the race to beat up on someone else. I'm getting into it to provide a choice for the residents. They can choose the leadership style that they've had if he runs again, they can choose someone else's leadership style and vision, or they can choose mine.
Why do you think you can win?
I think that in doing doors in the primary is when I first starting hearing it. I mean, not a week went by when someone didn't say, "Will you run for mayor? We think that your leadership has been good at the Capitol and good in the past, and we would like to see that here." It started then, but I mean I go to neighborhood groups, and business groups, and meetings and I have people all the time asking me.
What is he not getting done that people want?
I think the change really is in leadership style. It is in how you approach things. I'm not going to come out there and say, "It's my way. This is what it's going to be, and if you don't like it, run against me." … I'm not going to leave voicemails on other elected officials' voicemails and yell and scream. It's a different style. It's a different approach.
How will you work with other officials?
When I was a county commissioner under Mayor Hollister, once a month he met with the city and county commissioners, and just talk about what was going on in the city, and we talk about what was going on in the county, and we shared information. They used to meet with labor. I plan, should I be the next mayor of Lansing, I plan to met regularly with council members. I plan to meet regularly with our county partners, with the business community, with labor. I plan to do a lot of that.
Will you run on a slate with candidates for the City Council?
I'm not. I am not going to endorse in any of the council races. My belief is that I would like to come in on day one having relationships with all of the council members, and I have good relationships with I think just about all of those that are running and those that are there.
What’s your take on the outcome of the fight over Scott Park?
I followed this as a citizen, and as a citizen I just didn't see the same case made. I think there is a case that Eckert needed to close, but in terms of other sites and why they were eliminated, I would have liked to have seen a little bit more and taken a little bit more time. But again, I'm not on the council, so I'm not into the weeds on this.
What should be done about Eastern High School, which Sparrow has purchased?
Should I be the mayor come Jan. 1, I would have that conversation with Sparrow to say, "Don't knock this down. Let's find another use for it. Let's find a way to repurpose this, because it's an important piece of our history." It's not just Eastern, you know? We've got properties all over the place. Preservation Lansing gave out a book. I saw it a year ago, and it listed all the incredible previous properties in Lansing that had been torn down, and it was pretty tough to see that because a lot of that is our history.
TJ Bucholz, who is helping you announce your candidacy, is the spokesman for a dark money group, No Secret Lansing Deals. Will you tell him not to engage in dark money activity while he is assisting you?
I will publicly say that I am not going to be part of that. If consultants decide to be part of that on behalf of their clients, I would say publicly that I am not asking nor do I want someone to use that on my behalf. What TJ does is his business decision.