Feb. 22 2017 12:59 AM

Neighborhood activist files for Council in 2nd Ward

Julee Rodocker grew up in southeast Lansing, and now she wants to represent the area on the City Council.

Rodocker, who has filed to run in the 2nd Ward in the August primary election, sees an area of the city overrun with medical marijuana dispensaries and shuttered businesses along crumbling roads. That, she said, was evidence the ward was not being represented.

Rodocker

“I pledge right here and now, that when I, Julee Rodocker, am elected as Lansing 2nd Ward City Councilperson, that will no longer be the case,” she said in an interview. “They will have a voice and I will be responsive to their concerns as their councilmember.”

Rodocker, 47, who graduated from Everett High School and Michigan State University, is poised to take on incumbent Tina Houghton and challenger Jim DeLine, the former city internal auditor. DeLine has filed but Houghton has not. The deadline is 4 p.m. April 25. The top two vote-getters will face each other in the November general election.

Rodocker has a long record of neighborhood activism, including serving as president of the Old Everett Neighborhood Association. She has served on the board of the Lansing Board of Water & Light and was an unsuccessful candidate for the Lansing School Board.

She said she would like to see the city move quickly on an ordinance to regulate medical marijuana dispensaries. She believes that there should be no more than 12 such facilities throughout the city. By some estimates, Lansing has 70 or more.

“Government has not been conducted in the interest of the voting public, and there has been a failure to control the large amount of the high visibility and proliferation of marijuana dispensaries around Lansing. And it's peculiar on the south side,” she said.

On another controversy facing the city, Rodocker said she would not have voted in favor of allowing the BWL to build the Central Substation at Scott Park in Lansing. As a former BWL commissioner and a current buyer for Consumers Energy, she said she saw no reason for the “rush.” Incumbent Houghton voted for the BWL plan.

“There could have been another way to do this all together,” she said. “I don't think that the Board of Water & Light has been very transparent with a public, and, plus, I am against getting rid of all of our parks.”

That she said, also ties into her belief that preservation of Lansing’s past is a key tool in moving the city forward.

“I'm not for bulldozing all of our historical sites in Lansing because I think there's a way that we can do this in a better light,” she said.

Rodocker said she opposes designating Lansing a sanctuary city, which the Council will address again on Monday. She said the city will “certainly” lose $6.5 million in federal funds because of an executive order signed by President Trump threatening a cutoff to the nation’s scores of sanctuary cities.

But she does support the current policies of the Bernero administration of not inquiring about immigration status when contacting residents. She said the current designation of “Welcoming City” was adequate and she hopes that through dialogue community members will come to better understand the city’s policies and procedures and that will “reduce the fear.”

And don’t expect her to be a cheerleader for tax abatements and other development deals in the city. She said she thinks it’s time to stop helping “elitist” developers and focus on Lansing’s blue-collar community.

“Our city is a working class town,” she said, “and we need to start focusing on just that, not pandering to the exclusive idealist class that come in and live outside in the suburbs.”

She said it was her “perception” that most of the tax abatements and development incentives have been used for the downtown area and along Michigan Avenue.

While she opposed in general the use of tax incentives for most developments, she said she would be more favorable — “on a case by case basis” — to Payment in Lieu of Taxes (PILOT) proposals. That’s where developers creating housing for low-income or disabled persons or seniors make a payment that is representative of a small percentage of the net profits on the project. That particular incentive has been the cause of friction on the Council and even resulted in a federal lawsuit against the city alleging a denial of such a credit was housing discrimination. A federal judge last week removed three Council members who had been named in the suit but left the case against the city standing.

In addition to Rodocker, Christopher Jackson, a legal aid attorney for Elder Law of Michigan, filed to run in the at-large race. Efforts to reach him for an interview have been unsuccessful.