|By City Pulse Staff|
This story was corrected July 2.
Editors note: Each week leading up to the Aug. 2 primary election, City Pulse will profile each City Council candidate in the 1st Ward and At-Large races.
1st WardHarold Leeman
Hes Back for more time on Council
Harold Leeman has been waiting four years to reclaim his 1st Ward seat on the Lansing City Council.
“I know a lot of people know my record — it’s a progressive record. Some people need to be reminded of that,” he said. “For the past three-and-a-half years, the ward has not had the representation day in and day out that I gave it.”
Leeman, who is 53 and owns a consulting business, served as the 1st Ward Lansing City Council representative for 12 years — two as president — before losing to Councilman Eric Hewitt by 17 votes in the 2007 General Election. Leeman ran for an at-large seat in 2009 but placed fourth in the General Election. Leeman got his bachelor’s degree from Michigan State University in 1981 and said he has been involved with the east side since 1978.
He said 1st Ward voters were “bamboozled by Hewitt and others thinking he was the greatest” in 2007. Hewitt has said he is not seeking re-election to pursue other job opportunities.
Leeman said: “The thing that hurt me (in 2007) was the negative campaigning Hewitt did against me. I did not respond quickly enough. It was not my intention to go negative.”
Leeman said he decided to run in January.
But weren’t you criticized for not knocking on enough doors and campaigning in the neighborhoods?
“People need to get off this thing that I didn’t knock on doors. Get over it. It was a negative campaign orchestrated by Carol Wood. I have people saying they are sorry they voted for Hewitt. It had nothing to do with knocking on doors,” he said. “Carol tried to neutralize the power on Council and neutralize Virgil (Bernero). It was successful, and look what happened.”
So what’s different about this year than 2007?
“The difference is I’m not having to deal with all the b.s. on the Council 24/7 like I was in 2007.”
Leeman said the “best thing that could have happened” by being away from Council for three-and-a-half years now is getting back in touch with constituents. “Everybody has their own situation in life — they just want good government.”
An early committer with a specialization in transportation policy
Rory Neuner announced her candidacy for an at-large City Council seat back in October, the day after the contentious Council vote on developer Pat Gillespie’s downtown Market Place project and months before candidates typically announce.
She said then: “As a citizen, I’m disappointed with the process.”
And not much has changed. “We have a dysfunctional situation right now with personalities. It should be about policy,” she said Saturday.
Neuner, 31, said “leadership has to be about more than saying no to things.” She claims she has knocked on “thousands of doors” and is hearing from voters “that they want change” on the Council.
Neuner works full time as project coordinator for the Transportation for Michigan Coalition, graduated from Haslett High School in 1998 and holds a bachelor’s degree in political science from Yale University and a master’s degree in public policy from the University of Chicago.
Her specialization is transportation policy and her day job is about bringing statewide organizations together to achieve “comprehensive transportation policy reform.” She said the coalition has a “diverse group of funders,” from the Detroit Branch of the NAACP to the Michigan Chamber of Commerce.
She said Lansing is doing “a number of things right” and also “has room for improvement” when it comes to transportation. She said the Capital Area Transportation Authority and the city’s Complete Streets ordinance are positives, while “two big areas” that could be made attractive from a transportation perspective are Michigan Avenue and Saginaw Street.
“No one wants to sit in a caf with traffic going 40 to 50 miles per hour outside,” she said of Saginaw Street.
Neuner, who sits on the city’s Public Service Board, also actively campaigned in support of the May 3 millage election that failed. “I get to watch what investments we need and infrastructure. We just don’t have the revenue we did in recent years.”
Neuner is also an openly gay candidate, appreciative of Lansing’s diversity.
“I think we have come a long way,” she said about the city’s attitude toward the LGBT community. “The whole country has come a long way. … Lansing is very diverse and welcoming. I’m very proud of this. Statewide, there’s still work to be done.”