Jan. 18 2018 12:42 AM

Infrastructure and communications top Schor’s to-do list


    Andy Schor hasn’t even unpacked from his move across the street -- from the state House to the Mayor’s Office — but he’s already opened a bundle of 17 recommendations from his transition team.

    The team, cochaired by former Mayor David Hollister and former state Rep. and City Councilwoman Joan Bauer, released its final report Tuesday afternoon. With aspirational intent, it deals with business and economic development, education, neighborhoods and public safety and infrastructure and public services.

    “This will be my guide,” said Schor of the report. “I listened to a lot of the conversations. I sat through as much as I could for every meeting. The idea was, this was community leaders coming together to talk about the issues that are important.”

    Those issues, Schor directed his team, would be framed from his campaign vision and plan. Their task was to create a governance document that would ultimately act as a measurable set of goals and actions — a roadmap for the next four years.

    Bauer said she is excited that Schor has agreed to continue communications with the transition team.

    “He has promised, without prompting from us, to bring us back together in six months and give us an update,” said Bauer. “That’s important.”

    Schor concurred. “I think that it will be important to say what are some metrics that we can hit. And come back and say, ‘This was laid out in the report. This is done.’” There are two overriding issues among the many recommendations: tackling infrastructure and broadening and expanding communications and transparency in the city.

    The poor quality of city roads top the agenda and discussions. But the Infrastructure and City Services Committee recommended expanding the definition of infrastructure to include city owned buildings, parks, sidewalks and other items not traditionally thought of as infrastructure.

    Key in the infrastructure and public services recommendations was a plan to inventory and assess the viability of each of the city’s properties. With the city workforce shrunk after years of financial uncertainty, the city’s building inventory matters. Add on top of that a plan to sell City Hall and move to the former Lansing State Journal building several blocks south, and you have a perfect scenario for the city to “right-size,” Schor said in an interview.

    “There are opportunities, and if we start looking at how we are going to restructure a new City Hall, assuming the numbers work, then we can figure out: What can we bring in?” he said. “What can we put in that building? What can we get rid of that might be old? That may not be ADA [Americans with Disabilities Act] compliant — that has a lot of future costs. So we’re going to look at all that. It’s absolutely important to know what you have, when you want to plan the future.”

    He talked about the city’s operations and maintenance facility on Pennsylvania Avenue and Hazel Street along the Red Cedar river near the zoo. That space is shared with the Lansing Board of Water & Light, which is planning a new facility on the city’s west side, creating a potential boon in riverfront property being available for redevelopment.

    Key to any such inventories and plans to dispose of them will be communication with Lansing residents. It was a key recommendation and discussion point raised in all of the reports by the four transition team: Business and economic development; education, neighborhoods and public safety as well as the insfrastucture panel.

    It’s also Schor’s goal. “We plan to be transparent,” he said. One key example which he touted during his campaign was to work hand-in-hand with neighborhoods and community leaders to identify which roads need fixing immediately and which can wait.

    “What are roads are going to be fixed?

    What are we doing with the money?” Schor asked. “We plan to be transparent and communicate and talk to people about their priorities.”

    Exactly how that road transparency will evolve is unclear, Schor said, but he has regularly discussed having dedicated websites identifying current and past road projects, as well as those slated for future action. With limited cash to fix roads, and the cost running about $1 million a mile, Schor is going to have to balance economic and neighborhood needs and thread the needle to satisfy competing interests.Bauer said the road infrastructure planning is not a new issue.

    “I remember when I was on Council and Paul Novak was pushing his $7 million for roads every year for seven years plans,” said Bauer. “So this has been a long term issue. Being transparent is important to that.”

    Said Schor: “We’ve always shared things that we’re working on, have always been extremely open to the media too, proactive and reactive. And I plan to continue that.”

    But he cautioned that the business of running the city versus the process of running a campaign necessarily require differing tactics about openness.

    “We will share what we can,” he said.

    “There is always the internal kind of give and take within the staff as you’re coming through with ideas. Sometimes it’s hard to do that in the public because someone mentions an idea, that maybe is not something you’re moving forward on, and then the public says, ‘Oh my God, you’re going to do this.’” To better communicate with the public, Schor said he is considering hiring a public information officer to facilitate media communications throughout the city departments and operations. That person may solely do that or could be part of one of his administrative staff assigned portfolio of responsibilities.

    He also agreed to a weekly press conference.

    “We have to figure out what information we have week to week, to share proactively,” he said.

    The education committee also recommended an increased communication on the positive impacts of the Lansing School District. Schor’s children both attend Lansing Schools, and he’s been a vocal booster and supporter. But education committee members want the success of the school system to become part of the economic development pitches and tourism conversations put out by the city. Drawing positive attention to the schools would, the committee reported, increase attendance in the district and support young families moving into the city.

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