REO Town resident says Lansing needs to be a destination for employers
Joe Manzella might be young, but he aims to bring some maturity to the Lansing City Council.
“My real goal is to put an adult on Council. This kids stuff has to stop,” Manzella, a 1st Ward City Council candidate, said.
Manzella, a 25-year-old REO Town resident, went to high school in Shelby Township and earned a bachelor’s degree in urban and regional planning from Michigan State University in 2008 and is working on his master’s in public policy at MSU. He is manager of regional programs for the Lansing Economic Area Partnership. This is his first time seeking an elected position.
He said his role at LEAP is about creating an environment that attracts investment.
“Great places attract great talent. Great talent attracts employers,” he said. “Placemaking in the grand scheme of things makes all the difference.”
When asked why he decided to run for Council at 25, he said: “You can’t mistake age for experience. We need people who understand how Lansing fits into the global economy. The other reason is because of communication and the lack of it (by Council).”
Manzella said “a great example” of this was the recent medical marijuana debate. The “fight about the moratorium” extension happened because “these folks (who wanted an extension) weren’t heard (by Council members) early on.”
Manzella said the medical marijuana debate got heated, but more important issues face Lansing.
“This is all well and good to get solved. When it gets down to it, we’re missing the boat,” he said. “The millage didn’t pass. We need to get serious about making Lansing a good place to do development.”
A concern, he said, is next-door neighbor Lansing Township has taken on the role of developer, a.k.a. a competitor. He’s referring to the township’s decision to use $20 million in public bond funds to expand Eastwood Towne Center.
“I don’t want Lansing to compete with other (municipalities) that are going to play developer. Publicly subsidizing competition between those two areas is a little scary.”
Seeking four more years
Incumbent At-Large City Councilman Derrick Quinney said since he ran for Council in 2007, the city appears headed for a “standstill.”
“It’s certainly changing. As a lifelong resident I see changes all the time,” he said. “We seem to be at a standstill. We’re looking at doing things like closing down schools and privatizing. Where are we going?” Quinney added that the budget woes are preventing Lansing from being “progressive.”
“The budget is certainly not helping us. Finding ways for revenue around here is a challenge,” he said.
Quinney is 56 and a 3rd Ward resident. He was chosen among several interviewees to serve the last year of Joan Bauer’s City Council term in 2006 after she was elected to the state House of Representatives. Quinney recognized the vast improvements in downtown development in recent years, but said he’s always hearing from Lansing residents: “What about south Lansing?” “Too often I’m not seeing folks in neighborhoods along the main corridors getting taken care of and getting revitalized,” he said.
Quinney’s full-time job is the state director of health and safety for the Michigan AFL-CIO union. Some in the community questioned whether he should have recused himself from voting in October on incentives for developer Pat Gillespie’s downtown Market Place project. Quinney was a deciding no-vote that blocked the incentives for a short time (a Circuit Court judge ruled later to reinstate the incentives after the Council blocked them) because the development agreement did not specify the project’s labor force would be unionized, or at least come from local contractors, he said. His employer is part of a nationwide labor organization that represents 55 national and international unions.
“My employer is the city of Lansing, too, and the residents of Lansing,” Qunney said. “It’s all about the development of the community. It’s a continuous cycle of development and folks that can be part of the workforce.”
For Market Place, “There were concerns about (using) the local labor force. It didn’t guarantee local union jobs or local jobs, period.”
The Eastside Neighborhood Organization also questioned whether Quinney should have voted on the recent medical marijuana dispensary ordinance because he accepted campaign contributions from medical marijuana “organizations.” City Attorney Brig Smith said before the Council’s vote that it was perfectly legal for Quinney to vote, so long as there wasn’t a direct exchange for services.
“For myself who received campaign contributions from these organizations, I’m proud that I did,” Quinney said.
Tune in to “City Pulse on the Air” at 7 p.m. July 13 on 88.9 FM The Impact to hear the primary election candidates for the 1st Ward and July 20 for the At-Large candidates. Or check www.lansingcitypulse.com for the podcasts. Pick up the Election Preview issue, including City Pulse endorsements, on July 27.