City Council candidates offer clearly different views
Lansings two City Council candidates, Brian Jeffries and Kathy
Pelleran, are running to replace Saturnino Rodriguez, who was appointed
May 13 to fill the seat of Louis Adado Jr. until the end of the year.
Adado resigned April 8 after a City Council employee sued him for sexual
harassment. Either Jeffries or Pelleran, both trustees at Lansing Community
College, will fill the Council seat for three years beginning Jan. 1.
Why are they running?
Jeffries, an attorney for Jeffries, Newton & Baumann, was elected
Ingham County commissioner five times, but lost the race for district
court judge. From 1993 until 2002, he served on the board of the Lansing
Housing Commission and has served more than a dozen other community
organizations. Ive been part of this community for 25 years,
and from a selfish point of view I could say I want to improve my own
life and do the same for my neighborhood and the city.
Pelleran says shed like to improve city government. Her list of
credentials includes training local government leaders in Russia and
working as Sen. Carl Levins Lansing area director from 1983 until
1986. Having handled political deadlines for 26 years Ive
organized a timeline of getting things done, instead of just letting
them go, says Pelleran, state executive director of the the nonprofit
organization Fight Crime: Invest in Kids.
Major campaign goals
Both candidates advocate strategies for better housing, better schools
and better city services. They differ in their views on how local politics
should be organized.
advocates holding Council committee meetings at times convenient for
working families. Currently, for example, the Councils Committee
as a Whole meets as 1:30 p.m. Thursday. Pelleran says people are sweating
bullets, because they have to get back to work. She suggests scheduling
meetings either early in the morning or late in the afternoon and holding
town meetings on Saturdays. In addition, Pelleran doesnt like
how City Council President Larry Meyer cuts people off mid-sentence
during public hearings. She said shed work to see that this was
changed. Lansing citizens want to be involved, so lets involve
them instead of limiting debate .
Jeffries said the tensions in City Council meetings have been an issue
for more than a decade. Its basically how you treat people,
he said. There has to be mutual respect. He also said that
tensions at the meeting were due to a personal style. Jeffries
said he would let people complete their thoughts even if their time
was up. On boards hes chaired, they only cut public comment
once or twice, because it was off the subject. He suggests introducing
two different public hearings, one specifically limited to the agenda,
and a second for general comments of the public.
Early in September Pelleran released her 2001 income tax statements
in what she referred to as a spirit of openness. Pellerans
total income, derived from working as the director of Fight Crime:
Invest in Kids, was $46,736. Pelleran states that she doesnt
receive compensation for her work as an LCC trustee, as a board member
of the Lake Superior State University Alumni Association, or for her
membership in the Regional Sister Cities Commission and the Michigan
Community Coordinated Child Care Association. Shes also pointed
out that Fight Crime receives funding entirely from foundations and
doesnt contract with the City of Lansing. Pelleran announced that
in order to avoid potential conflicts of interest she would resign from
the LCC Board of Trustees if elected, although her term expires in 2007.
Jeffries responded by filing a statement of financial interest, which
the citys ethic ordinance requires only if elected. He denied
any potential conflict of interests if elected, saying he would not
derive income or benefit directly from any contract with the city. Jeffries
law firm is contracted to provide legal services exclusively to the
student governing bodies at Michigan State University and is this year
budgeted for $300,440. Jeffries said hes had no other clients
since becoming a full-time attorney for ASMSU in 1998. Although he is
a member of two community organizations, the Lansing Art Gallery and
the Greater Lansing Housing Coalition, he receives no income from them.
Jeffries plans to complete his term as LCC trustee, which ends June
30, 2003. He said he would excuse himself from voting if a conflict
of interests arises and, if required, would discontinue his relationship
with the organization.
Jeffries said Lansing had a very good park system and that the River
Walk was a tremendous asset to the city. Do we need more green
space? Maybe. He indicated that the city only had a small budget
for such projects. He said that hed have supported Sparrows
Special Land Use request to convert a green area into a temporary parking
lot. I believe Sparrows intention to rehabilitate the property.
However, he thinks City Council missed a real opportunity to start a
discussion about the future of the Armory. The state and the federal
government have indicated they want to sell it. That area should be
Pelleran says she likes the environmental hug, because she
grew up in Northern Michigan, where there are more trees than
people. She said Lansing doesnt have enough green space.
She suggests whenever the city takes away land for development, it should
trade it for more green space elsewhere. She said that in this respect,
City Councils recent 6-1 approval of Sparrow Hospitals request
for a temporary parking was a lose-lose for everyone. Many
neighbors fear Sparrow wont return the area to its original condition.
Pelleran said shed involve people more in the decision-making
process if elected. A contract could have been introduced in which
Sparrow promises to build a community center if they didnt manage
to turn the parking lot back into green space within 18 months.
GM, tax exemptions, and clean air
This year General Motors was given a $140 million in tax abatements
for its new factory. However, the automobile company recently announced
the departure of the Pontiac Grand Am, Chevrolet Malibu and Oldsmobile
Alero in 2004and the delay of its $1 billion Delta plant until 2006.
Added to this, Westside neighborhood residents have been complaining
about plant emissions, despite Mayor Hollisters Westside Air Quality
Task Forces recently released report that in essence called the
said she wasnt happy that GM would move product lines out of Lansing.
Weve always been good partners with GM, because we have
a talented workforce here. But when you give tax abatements, you have
to get more than a pat on the back in return. She said if she
gets elected she wants to talk to Westside neighbors in order to better
address concerns at City Hall.
Jeffries said there should be no concerns on a scientific level, because
GM met all required federal standards. But then you have a perception
of reality issue. Its hard to tell a person its OK when
you smell an odor. He said Mayor David Hollister was doing a great
job in opening a dialogue between GM, the city, and the neighborhood,
and in giving tax abatements to keep GM.
Praying in City Council
At the opening of every Monday sessions, for 60 seconds the 10th floor
conference room of City Hall turns into a church. The entire Council
stands with arms folded, silently attentive as one of the members gives
a long Christian prayer as prelude to the Pledge of Allegiance. Lord,
help our Council, since we have a monumental decision of our budget
tonight. These prayers make the words Under God seem
like a minor violation of the constitutional separation of church and
state. Both Pelleran, who attends Grace Lutheran Church, and Jeffries,
who is a member of St. Casimir Church, say they support the prayer.
At Mondays LCC trustees meeting, Jeffries and Pelleran voted
to provide same-sex domestic partner benefits to employees. The proposal
passed, making LCC the first of 31 Michigan community colleges to adopt
Earlier this year, the Lansing Association for Human Rights Political
Action Committee rated Pelleran Positive and Jeffries Somewhat
Positive, based on their responses to a questionnaire, among other
considerations. Joe Marutiak, a LAHR-PAC official, said Jeffries was
unsupportive of the gay community as an Ingham County commissioner in
the late 1980s and early 1990s.
In contrast, three LCC board members commended Jeffries for his support
of gay rights. In an open letter to the gay community, trustees Todd
A. Heywood, Olga Holden and Thomas Rasmusson said Jeffries is a
true friend of the gay community and described Pelleran as weak
on the issue of protecting LBGT people on the campus of LCC, and we
believe she will continue this weak leadership to the City Council if
Neither candidate received LAHR-PACs highest rating of very
Ever written a book?
Kathy Pelleran says she has worked with the Midwest Academy in Chicago,
who in 1991 published the book Organizing for social change
(by Kimberley A. Bobo). Jeffries has written law manuals and almost
wrote a book, together with his wife and his parents, on the subject
of golfing. We spent a long time but never finished it.
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