March 18 2013 12:00 AM

First Ward City Council candidate Lynne Martinez kicks campaign into gear

Thursday, May 19 — First Ward Lansing City Council candidate Lynne Martinez’s campaign officially kicked off today in front of a dozen supporters and curious voters outside of Gone Wired Caf on Lansing’s east side.

Martinez, 62, said she’ll be “out door-knocking” and “sending mailings” leading up to the non-partisan Aug. 2 primary that pits her against five other candidates.

“Today is about starting the connections, starting the work,” she said.

Martinez touched on the city’s proposal to redevelop the shuttered Red Cedar Golf Course as well as two draft ordinances seeking to regulate medical marijuana dispensaries. Some refer to the portion of Michigan Avenue between the Capitol and East Lansing in the First Ward — where 11 dispensaries operate — as the “Mary Jane mile.”

“I’m not sure they’re worse than vacant buildings, but there is the density,” Martinez said, echoing concerns she has heard from residents. She said the moratorium on new businesses that’s scheduled to expire July 1 is “appropriate” as Council works to license and regulate them.

Martinez said she is “strongly in favor” of the idea to ask permission from Lansing voters to sell about 13 acres of the former Red Cedar Golf Course for private development coupled with Ingham Country Drain Commissioner Pat Lindemann’s plan to address large scale environmental problems of rain water runoff from Frandor into the Red Cedar River. She called Lindemann’s plans “brilliant and really important for that area.”

Martinez called Michigan Avenue her “graphic novel of opportunities and threats that exist right now,” citing the importance of longstanding establishments like Sparrow Hospital and Emil’s Restaurant and proposed redevelopments at Red Cedar Park and the corner of Michigan and Marshall Street.

Ann Francis, an east side resident who attended Martinez’s press conference, said she will be backing Martinez in what she said is a “very full field.”

“It’s nice so many people are interested (in running). I think that speaks well for the First Ward,” she said. “I believe Lynne has all the strengths that are needed at this time. She has tons of experience in policy and decision-making. She does her homework and is very thorough.”

Francis said she has been “very disappointed” in First Ward Councilman Eric Hewitt and “didn’t think he was very accessible to people when they didn’t think like him.”

The First Ward seat will have a new occupant after the Nov. 8 General Election. Hewitt said hours before the May 10 filing deadline that he will not seek re-election because he is “looking at taking this opportunity to focus on personal and professional opportunities for advancement.”

Martinez was a three-term Democratic state representative from 1994 to 1999. Former Gov. Jennifer Granholm appointed Martinez as the state Children’s Ombudsman in 2003. She stepped down from that post to run for mayor of Lansing in 2005, which she lost in the primary to incumbent Tony Benavides and then state Sen. Virg Bernero. Before joining the Legislature, she was an Ingham County commissioner.

The other five First Ward candidates are:
- Phillip Damico, 35, a Sparrow Hospital laboratory technician;
- Former First Ward Councilman Harold Leeman, 53, who lost narrowly to Hewitt in a bid for re-election in 2007;
- Joe Manzella, 25, a regional manager at the Lansing Economic Area Partnership;
- Sarah Surface-Evans, 33, an adjunct Lansing Community College and Michigan State University anthropology professor; and
- Jody Washington, 54, vice president of the Eastside Neighborhood Association and grievance specialist with the state Department of Corrections.