Mayor While it is all but a foregone conclusion that Andy Schor will be elected as Lansing’s next mayor, we offer here our thoughts on why that should happen.
State Rep. Schor’s even temperament will be a welcome relief from the Trumpesque style of the incumbent. But Schor will bring far more to the office than that. His campaign for mayor shows a remarkable ability to foster a coalition of labor and business support. That talent bodes well for the challenge he faces of creating a spirit of cooperation or at least mutual respect with the Wood, Washington and Hussain faction on the City Council. Given that all three face reelection in two years, they should think carefully about whether they want to be seen as an obstacle to the agenda of a new mayor whose landslide victory against four opponents in the primary election points to widespread popularity among Lansing voters.
A bigger challenge will be working with leaders of other jurisdictions to promote badly needed regionalism to alleviate the budgetary strain facing many local governments. The incumbent has made a strong case for regionalism, but he has often undermined it with real and perceived insults to his peers. No doubt that has also given other leaders an excuse for not embracing regionalism, which voters in some communities don’t want. Schor can be counted on to remove that excuse.
While we and many residents would like to know what really motivated the payoffs to J. Peter Lark and Jeanine McIntyre under the current administration, we applaud Schor for saying that as mayor he wants to move on. The next mayor faces enough challenges, from what to do about City Hall, streets and sidewalks to long-term debt from unfunded liabilities. Schor is going to fight enough of his own battles without getting bogged down in old ones.
Schor has yet to spell out his agenda, and his response to questions on issues has too often been that he will study them if he is elected. But over the years as an Ingham County commissioner and a state representative, he has shown he is not a waffler. Moreover, he is happy to engage with the public and the media without rancor. We expect Andy Schor will carry on the best traditions of previous mayors.
City Council The City Council is divided between four at-large members, who represent all four city wards, and four members who each represent a ward. On Nov. 7, vote will choose two at-large members. Fortunately, four strong candidates will be on the ballot.
Of them, we endorse Kathie Dunbar and Peter Spadafore.
Dunbar, the only incumbent, has distinguished herself through her leadership on progressive issues. She hasn’t always prevailed, but she has demonstrated determination and a mastery of details. In her win column is the revision of the city’s discrimination ordinance to include sexual orientation and gender. She ultimately lost the fight to call Lansing a Sanctuary City, but she influenced the administration to adopt rules that actually make Lansing a Sanctuary City. And behind the scenes, she has helped persuade business interests to drop their opposition to renaming Grand River Avenue after Cesar Chavez, which the Council is expected to approve soon. She helped move the Council toward more liberal regulation of medical marijuana. Though a strong supporter of Mayor Virg Bernero, she has also demonstrated her independence, as she is doing now by calling for a slowdown on the administration’s rush to decide the fate of City Hall. Dunbar’s attendance and tardiness records are of concern, as is her lack of regard for the preservation of the building that houses City Hall and the police headquarters. Overall, though, Dunbar’s record of accomplishment and thorough understanding of complex issues deserve to be rewarded with a fourth term.
The rap against Spadafore is that he is too ambitious, and we certainly don’t see him spending the rest of his political career on the City Council. But we do see a conscientious and ever-growing leader whose time on the Council will only benefit the city. As a Lansing School Board member and president, Spadafore has helped bring focus and civility, resulting in a school district that is making real strides. Of all the candidates, we think Spadafore is our best hope for doing the same on the Council. His take on the fate of City Hall is a good a example: “Pump the breaks” on the administration so the issue can be thoroughly examined. And emphasize preservation in calling for new RFPs. Spadafore brings a level-headed, progressive approach to public policy that deserves your support.
4th Ward Though he is not a single-issue candidate, we endorse James McClurken because of his views and leadership on preservation. Over and over, the City Council has shown a lack of regard for Lansing’s heritage. The destruction of the Scott House is just the latest example. A pole barn went up in the historic Walnut Neighborhood without even the apparent awareness of the Council. Another replaced our City Market. The fate of City Hall, which is threatened with destruction despite being on the National Register of Historic Places, may well be up to the next City Council. The list goes on. McClurken got mad as hell over the Scott House and has put his time and money into a City Council race. His election is the best chance to make sure preservation gets more than lip service in the future.
Beyond preservation, McClurken stands for more neighborhood policing and greater code compliance, two issues he correctly says are of great concern to 4th Ward residents. He is able to draw a line between those issues and Lansing’s future: “I’m interested in the preservation of neighborhoods,” he told City Pulse in his endorsement interview. “That will draw more people of mixed incomes back to the city and spur economic development.” He sees a Lansing that is returned to its roots as a “livable, walkable city.”
If elected, McClurken would be the Council’s first openly gay member. As that and an anthropologist for Indian rights, he has a unique understanding of what it means to be a minority, which will help make the City Council more progressive. He supported Sanctuary City status (but unfortunately sided with the Old Town
Commercial Association’s now-abandoned opposition to renaming Grand River Avenue after Cesar Chavez. We encourage him to reconsider). He has opened his home, the grand Potter House, for many fundraisers, including the first one for our candidate for mayor, Andy Schor, whom McClurken continues to strongly support. Moreover, McClurken has supported preservation of our open spaces as a member of the Lansing Park Board.
The 4th Ward has two talented candidates, but McClurken has a stronger vision and considerable determination. We urge you to back him as you cast your absentee ballots or at the polls on Nov. 7.
City clerk Incumbent Chris Swope easily deserves a fourth term. The operation of his office has become a model across the state. He shows no sign of complacency. For example, Swope introduced new voting machines this year, even though he had another year to comply with the state law mandating them. The city’s new medical marijuana dispensary ordinance saddles him with determining licenses, which Swope can be depended on to do with complete fairness, impartiality and integrity. The Clerk’s Office is the glue of city government, and under Swope’s leadership it has grown with the times. We expect it will continue to do so with Swope in charge for four more years.
Cooley-Haze House Lansing voters are being asked to approve the sale or disposition of the Cooley-Haze House next to Cooley Gardens, and we encourage voters to do so. Thanks to the leadership of the Lansing Park Board, the sale includes an historic covenant to maintain the integrity of the architecture and interior features. The building needs work, but it is still occupiable — the Michigan Women’s Historical Center moved out just this year. By selling it, the city hopes to find a developer with the foresight and resources to stem its decline and turn it into a restaurant or other enterprise that will be a gem.