Lansing Mayor-elect Andy Schor granted an exclusive onehour interview to City Pulse with editor and publisher Berl Schwartz and associate publisher Mickey Hirten The following excerpts have been edited and condensed. A video of the entire interview, cosponsored by ACD.net and C&R News and produced by C&R News, will be available at www.lansingcitypulse.com on Thursday.
SCHWARTZ: The Lansing State Journal, which endorsed your opponent, said outgoing Mayor Virg Bernero “got a lot done with strong leadership, despite a lack of collaboration.” Referring to you, it said, “Can a collaborator who doesn’t project strong leadership do better?” SCHOR: I don’t agree with it. First, I do believe someone who works with others and collaborates can get things done and can get it done faster. I have taken very strong stances in the Legislature, where we’ve gotten a lot of things done. I got many things done as a county commissioner, and we put out a vision and a plan in May. I’ve also shown that I’m willing to work with the other side of the aisle, and I’m working to be someone who collaborates.
SCHWARTZ: Why haven’t regional governments in mid-Michigan worked closer together?
SCHOR: Relationships. Sometimes you have policy disagreements, and that’s OK. But when you have people who don’t trust each other, then you have issues. I had a person from a neighboring government tell me she wouldn’t work with Lansing at all because she doesn’t trust the city government here, and, you know, that’s a problem. That’s an issue that when I come in, having the relationships that I have, having the endorsements that I have from neighboring communities, we will take that off the table. We will take it off the table immediately. We’ll work with Lansing Township, Delta Township, East Lansing and Holt.
HIRTEN: We’ve never, as citizens, or taxpayers, or voters, had any idea what really happened in the Janene McIntyre affair, and whether those issues have been addressed.
SCHOR: I am still focused on moving the city forward. I get it, and I get people ask me about it, and they want to know what happened … HIRTEN: Well, how do we know it won’t happen again? SCHOR: That’s the difference. We plan to be very transparent. I don’t like negotiating contracts with buyouts and things like that. I don’t like spending taxpayer dollars to buy people out. There are times when that’s necessary, but I plan to minimize that. I plan to share information with the public, but balancing that with the private rights of city employees. I plan to work very closely with the media to share what’s going on and count on the media to get that out to the public. We’re gonna be very active on social media as we were in the campaign, as I have been in the House of Representatives.
HIRTEN: Can you capsulize what you plan to do? SCHOR: Sure. It’s been online since May at andyschor.com.
I don’t plan to take that down. We broke it up into four issue areas. We broke it up into neighborhoods — a whole series of proposals from parks, to housing, to a citizen advocate so the people can navigate government. These are all the things that we’re gonna start implementing on day one.
The second area was job growth and the economy. So, we are going to look at the whole city —downtown and Michigan Avenue but also our corridors, to try increasing the business presence there, small businesses, grocery stores, retail.
The third piece is infrastructure and services. So, we are gonna fix the roads. We’re gonna have a plan, a long-term plan, where we’re gonna meet with citizens. We’re gonna go back to transparency. We’re gonna meet with the citizens.
We’re gonna identify their priorities. We’re gonna start those meetings fairly soon, and then start fixing those priority roads along a schedule, and at the same time, we’re gonna do that with our sidewalks, and we’re gonna make sure that people are safe in their neighborhoods. I have a book that I carried with me on the campaign where, as I talk to people, they would say, “we’ve seen breakins in my neighborhood, or I’m afraid that the speed is too high — people are going 50 in a 35, and kids are gonna get hit.” I’m gonna sit with the chief of police and talk about where are we sending patrols. How are we doing our community policing? We’ve got 10 community policing officers. How are we working with our neighborhood associations and others to make sure that they feel safe in the city?
Then, the fourth point is working with our education, our school district, our community college and universities here in Lansing and in the region. We need to talk more about the great education you can get in Lansing schools.We’ll have other issues that we have to deal with as well, but this is gonna be our blueprint that we start from.
SCHWARTZ: How are you going to improve Cedar, Pennsylvania and MLK?
SCHOR: We’re going to talk to developers and the folks who own the properties there now about how we can further develop it, how we can grow those properties, how we can bring in small businesses. There are small business incentives. People living behind those corridors want to stay there and shop there. Some people will go to downtown, some won’t. Some, you know, they don’t like the parking, or it’s too busy. They just want some small stores they can shop in. So, we’re gonna focus on that, as well as the downtown.SCHOR’S TEAM
Four women named top aides
Lansing Mayor-elect Andy Schor announced his leadership staff today — all women. They are:
SAMANTHA HARKINS, CHIEF OF STAFF Harkins, 39, worked with Schor for four years at the Michigan Municipal League. She’s also served as the executive assistant to the mayor of Norfolk. Virginia, and as a specialist on local government policy for the Michigan House of Representatives. She’s been a lobbyist for various groups. She’s a lawyer holding a J.D. from the University of West Virginia.
JENNIFER LAFEVRE, OFFICE MANAGER LaFevre, 45, comes to the post with a plethora of experiences in politics and around elective offices. That includes a stint as director of scheduling and advance for former Gov. Jennifer Granholm; deputy campaign manager/communications director for Friends of Carl Levin; and director of political affairs for U.S. Sen. Debbie Stabenow, D-Mich. She served for 12 years as the executive director of the Michigan Economic Development Corp. Foundation. She’s a graduate of Michigan State University.
CHELSEA COFFEY, SPECIAL ASSISTANT TO THE MAYOR Coffey, 24, will move into the Mayor’s Office with Schor after spending the last eight months running his mayoral campaign. Before that, she worked at Vanguard Public Affairs as development manager. Previously, she handled internships for U.S.
Rep Dan Kildee,D-Flint, and in finance for the Michigan House of Democratic Fund. She’s a graduate of Saginaw Valley State University.
MARILYN PLUMMER, COMMUNITY OUTREACH COORDINATOR Plummer, 63, will move around the corner from Schor’s legislative office to the Mayor’s Office. In the legislative office, Plummer has served as Schor’s community relations and community services coordinator for the last four years. She has chaired Lansing’s Juneteenth Celebration since 2004, served as a commissioner for the Lansing Board of Water and Light, and is an active member of the Mask Memorial Christian Methodist Episcopal Church. She has a degree from Davenport University.
What I continue to hear on the west side is they don’t like the one-way streets because it makes it very easy for people to get in and out of Lansing, but not stop and shop. So, we’re gonna have that conversation with the state. I still have good relationships in the Snyder administration and they’ll be there for another year with MDOT. I have heard that the attitudes are shifting a little bit as the state is now talking about complete streets and things like that. I will use the relationships that I’ve developed over my last five years in the Legislature with the governor, with his chief of staff, with MDOT, to say the citizens of Lansing need to revitalize that area, and moving from one way streets to two way streets is a good way to do it.
SCHWARTZ: There’s obviously been a lot of tension between the Mayor’s Office and City Council. Anything concrete you know you’re going to do to try to change that dynamic?
SCHOR: I’ve got great relationships with all members of Council, and I’m proud of that. I did that as a state representative. I wasn’t on one side or the other, and I campaigned on that. We’re going to have regular meetings with Council and their leadership, whether it’s every other week, or once a month. I’ll work with Council leadership and members to figure out that sweet spot. I want to share with them our vision and our policies as we’re moving forward. I want to invite in what they’re hearing from our residents. I plan to engage them immediately.
I’ll have us all sit down and have a dinner and just meet each other and understand each other and who we are, and meet the spouses. Relationships are good now, and they’re gonna be better. Now, are we always going to agree? Is it gonna be an 8-0 vote for everything I want? Probably not. But I will be respectful with them as I’ve always been with them and with everyone else, and we’ll have some disagreements. If we invite them in to be part of the vision, and we give them information with enough time to digest it and provide feedback, we have conversations with them early, I think we can work together to be leaders for Lansing.
HIRTEN: The regional thing is challenging. It’s going to require investment from some of the communities, and they have been extraordinarily reluctant to contribute one nickel to anything that tends to be centered in Lansing, other than the zoo, which got pushed through. How do you get them to understand that they have to invest in a regional community, and it may cost them their taxpayers some bucks?
SCHOR: it’s not just Lansing saying, “Hey, give us your money.” It’s about how you do things that help out Lansing and it helps your community. They all want great things to happen in Lansing because they’re gonna be spending time here, whether they work here — HIRTEN: They just want the free ride. SCHOR: Everybody wants services without taxes. That is a challenge, but we’ve got regional entities, you know, the Chamber of Commerce has the capital area council of governments where they are trying to do things regionally. We can do that, and if Lansing is putting in dollars for regional things, then other communities can as well. We saw that at the county commission. I mean, you’re not wrong that people don’t always want to invest regionally, but we did see it with the zoo, we did see it with the trail’s millage.
SCHWARTZ: Lansing has not reached its potential. What are three or four things you will do to help us get closer?
SCHOR: you mean three or four development things?
SCHWARTZ: They could be, but they could also be in the arts, for example.
SCHOR: That’s actually a really good point.
I’ve had lots of conversations with people about Lansing as an arts center. We had this conversation years ago about trying to create a performing arts center. I would like to continue that conversation. I’ve had lots of people, including CEOs, who want to put money toward that. Let’s find an arts space. I’ve had people say, “Let’s bring the Lansing Symphony back to Lansing.” We want to attract the millennials out of college. We also want the seniors. You need to have arts, you need to have parks, you need to have museums. You need to have the third thing to do, not your home and not your work, that third thing to do. So, we’re gonna focus on a lot of that as well. You mentioned Red Cedar. A lot of that is talk about development, but Pat Lindemann, our drain commissioner, also has grand plans for this huge green space with little entities where there are gonna be people performing,. So, you have little art and performing art spaces within a big park. I think that’s great. That will attract people here. We need to have more sculptures.
We have come a long way. Mayor Bernero really has been able to bring in many of the larger businesses, the Accident Funds, Blue Crosses, those who will employ and bring in young people. But we also have to have the entertainment and the walkability. When I hear from young people or anyone who moves downtown, they have lots of restaurants, but they don’t really have retail and a grocery store. They have to get in their car and drive to the grocery store. Those are some of the initiatives that I think make Lansing even better and even more attractive to attract and to retain the talent.
HIRTEN: Lansing is somewhat reluctant to see marijuana legalization as a job growth and economic growth opportunity What is your thinking?
SCHOR: it’s not marijuana itself, it’s the actions of the places. When I knock a guy’s door who tells me, “I voted for the medical marijuana ballot initiative statewide. I’ve always been supportive, but my kid plays soccer at a park, and the park is behind a dispensary, and there’s people out back who are smoking, and she’s the goalie and she’s got to sit there and smell the marijuana fumes.” I think the bad actors are giving this a bad rap.
SCHWARTZ: Isn’t that a policing problem? SCHOR: I do agree with that. But, people still see that’s a problem. I think that it has made them less interested in adding a whole lot more and making us the marijuana capital of Michigan. . We now have an ordinance that says Lansing has to get down to 25 dispensaries. We’ll see a ballot initiative, I think, on the ballot in 2018 that will legalize it statewide, so we’ll see if that passes.
SCHWARTZ: If voters pass the referendum, there’s serious revenue that would accrue to the city and county governments. Isn’t it ultimately in the best interest of our community for you to lead the public toward growing this segment of the economy?
SCHOR: I have not read the ballot proposal. I don’t know how much they’re planning to give to the local governments, so I have to look it all up.
SCHWARTZ: One of the things the city ordinance did was not put a cap on everything else. Would you at least encourage the non-dispensary licensing?
SCHOR: Yeah. I’m supportive of that. I know some of our economic development people have been hesitant to move on that. I think we can start moving on that now that the ordinance is settled Now, are we ready to be the the marijuana capital or Michigan, or have that as our biggest industry? I don’t know that the residents are ready for that yet, but we will participate.