For the general election, City Pulse asked all the candidates to answer a series of general questions. In Ward races, candidates were asked to answer Ward specific questions and concerns. Here are the responses from Patricia Spitzley, candidate for one of the two At-Large seats:
1. Lansing is in the midst of a "surge" or "epidemic" of heroin related overdoses and deaths. How should the city address the increase in heroin use in the city?
Heroin use is a rising national problem that affects suburban areas as much as the urban core. There are a variety of factors that lead people to drug abuse, including the increased dependency on opiate-based prescription painkillers that devolves into heroin addiction. Because drug abuse has such far-reaching consequences for society— homelessness, mental health, poverty, public safety, unemployment, prostitution, etc., we need a regional approach to tackle it. I understand that such a workgroup has been established and includes the Ingham County Health Department and Lansing Police Department. I support this effort because the county and the city each have community health and law enforcement resources that, when pooled together, can do more to address this growing problem.
2. Chief Yankowski, with support from the Mayor and the Prosecutor, has announced an immunity of sorts for heroin addicts seeking treatment. Do you support this? Why or why not?
I agree that immunity for addicts of this sort demonstrates our humanity, and shows we understand drug addicts are physically and mentally unwell. Prosecuting people who are addicted doesn’t address the underlying social and psychological problems that spur long-term drug abuse.
3. If elected to council what will you do to address the burgeoning heroin crisis?
I support the work being done by the city/county collaboration. I would support allocating city funding to support this collaboration. I believe we can make tremendous inroads fighting this dependency if we come together as a community in a coordinated effort.
4. Ingham County has one of the highest HIV rates in Michigan, however, despite the surge in heroin overdoses, there is no needle exchange program. Does Lansing need a needle exchange program and if elected are you willing to revisit paraphernalia laws in order to prevent those providing clean needles from being charged with a crime? Why or why not?
I agree with needle/syringe exchange programs, because they have been proven effective at reducing the rates of HIV and other diseases like hepatitis. A needle exchange program doesn’t imply that we endorse heroin use, but it does demonstrate that we are committed to helping people we know would be creating greater risk for themselves and others without these resources. The added benefit of these programs is that they are often paired with free health screenings and information about local addiction treatment centers. In Michigan communities like Grand Rapids, Ann Arbor, and Flint, these programs are usually run through outside social organizations with the support of the communities.
1. Over 30 percent of Lansing's housing stock are rentals. Is this too much, too little or just the right mix of rental properties? Why?
Each neighborhood is different with different rates of rentals. I believe that it is an important objective to strive for the right balance of homeowner-occupied housing and rental housing. It is also important for the city’s diversity and overall appeal to ensure there is market-rate, high-quality, safe and accessible housing. Most homeowners, including myself, got their start renting which is why we should hold all property owners to the same high standards of maintaining safe and well-manicured housing that makes our city more appealing.
2. Landlords continue to report significant lag times between paying for and obtaining inspections on rental properties. How should Council address this problem?
The department is working to fill four vacant positions. I believe that this should be evaluated after the code compliance division is fully staffed. If the job isn’t being done at that time then I would support giving them the resources needed to complete timely inspections including adding more officers.
3. Landlord's are currently allowed to send a letter to code compliance acknowledging having fixed identified violations. Do you support this action? Why or why not?
When violations pose a significant hazard for tenants/occupants/neighbors, then these issues should require re-inspection. However, with lesser violations, I would support emailing time-stamped photos and relevant receipts of repairs and/or equipment that show the work has been completed. This evidence should be accompanied by a legally-binding affidavit that make the property owner accountable. I also support random screenings of minor violations to keep everyone on their toes while making good use of limited employee hours.
1. Lansing roads are in significant disrepair. The state is unlikely to increase revenue sharing -- which has been declining for a decade. How you propose fixing Lansing's roads?
Roads will continue to be in disrepair until the State comes up with a solution. It is estimated that fixing our roads will cost upwards of $13 million annually in addition to the $2-3 million that Lansing currently spends. To put this in perspective, the entire Parks & Recreation budget is also $13 million. Lansing cannot afford to shift needed funding from essential services like police and fire or even parks to pay for this kind of outlay. There is no solution to the deteriorating condition of our roads until the state legislature takes its responsibility seriously.
1. Do you support marijuana legalization?
Yes, I fully support medical marijuana. Unfortunately, when the legislation was introduced, it did not cover the regulation of those facilities that dispense the product. The City of Lansing showed leadership in developing an ordinance to address the licensing of medical marijuana dispensaries. I am encouraged by the recent actions in the legislature toward addressing this important issue. The legalization of marijuana for recreational use is a much tougher issue. While states like Denver and Alaska have legalized marijuana for recreational use, there is still concern over federal action. I believe there is much to be learned from those states and we should look to them for guidance as we continue the discussion on legalization. If we developed a regulatory body like the liquor control commission, we could hold vendors accountable for ethical practices, establish standards of safe dosage and create an untapped and potentially large revenue stream to supplement funding for essential services.
2. Lansing has a comprehensive human rights ordinance. Is that law working, or is it broken? If it is working, please explain why you believe that. If you believe it is broken please explain how and how you would fix the problem.
Lansing is a very inclusive and welcoming community, and it speaks volumes to our character that our leaders passed an ordinance to protect the rights of all citizens. As with all ordinances and laws, there is some room for improvement, and I support increased publicity and awareness of the laws we already have on the books, including the Human Rights Ordinance.
3. Do you support a woman's right to choose?
Yes, I support women right to choose.
1 Name the three largest issues facing the city (for at large candidates) or the ward.
Lansing needs to continue to be a job magnet for the region. We have one of the lowest unemployment rates in the state but we need to work to ensure that all of our residents are equipped and have the opportunity to land a good job.
Because of the rising costs of providing quality services to our citizens, we need to pursue regional partnerships as much as possible. The innovative Ingham County Land Bank, Potter Park Zoo and recently enacted River Trail millage are excellent examples. This regional approach will strengthen our community and ensure that we can continue to maintain a balanced budget and improve the quality of life in Lansing.
Public safety is the leading challenge and priority for any community, which is why I support the strategic and modern technological approach that our police and fire utilize.
2. What are the three most significant things that have happened in the city or Ward in the past four years
1. I am so pleased that the City has pursued a pro-growth strategy within the confines of a balanced budget that will help lay the foundation for an even more prosperous future. I am also thankful for the sacrifices made by our city workers that have helped to put the City in a position to continue our revitalization. We need council members who support this approach and will continue to be vigilant about a balanced budget while keeping an eye toward future growth.
2. Success of major job providers such as GM, burgeoning insurance giants like Jackson National Life, Accident Fund and Blue Cross, and high-tech companies Emergent BioSolutions and Neogen. As a council member, I will be a strong advocate of these economic engines and work hard to help them to nurture even more success.
3. We are starting to experience the long road back from the Great Recession with recovering property values. We have a long road back but we need to continue to emphasize policies that strengthen our neighborhoods like the Land Bank and Blight Elimination Program while protecting neighborhood assets like our parks.
3. What are the qualities of your opponent you most admire?
I admire anyone who is willing to serve the public.