Lansing’s First Ward has had uneven representation on the City Council for decades, culminating in Brandon Betz’s resignation after the Council censored him for his abusive verbal treatment of Lansing activist Michael Lynn Jr. The Council appointed Brian Daniels, who has emerged as a thoughtful, articulate and progressive Council member. We encourage voters in the northeast section of the city to elect him on Nov. 8.
Those voters are fortunate in that they have two good choices in the General Election. Ryan Kost, who ran second to Daniels in the nonpartisan August primary election, has proved his dedication to his community. He serves on the boards of the Eastside Neighborhood Organization and Friends of Bancroft Park and is vice president of Foster Your Neighborhood. He is often seen leading cleanup efforts. And he is determined: Last June when a vandal kept destroying the Pride flags he helped plant on Michigan Avenue, Kost kept replacing them. He has a fighter instinct.
But so does Daniels — literally. He teaches boxing at a gym that he opened on Michigan Avenue four and a half years ago. Behind that choice is a compelling story of a man determined to overcome obstacles.
Daniels, 36, is a Lansing native who returned here after serving in the U.S. Army in Iraq. In 2005, he had to learn to walk again after he was injured by an attack on a Humvee that killed his killed everyone else. He took up boxing as part of his therapy, which included coping with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. Four and a half years ago, he opened emPOWer Lansing. “We spend every day just trying to help people not only be healthier with an affordable fitness facility, but also fight their demons.”
The two candidates have a very different approach to public service. Kost is an eastside joiner and activist, and his campaign slogan reflects this: “Your voice, not mine.” Daniels has taken a more political route in his desire to be a public servant: He supported Mayor Andy Schor’s reelection last year and is being repaid with Schor’s support this year.
Of the two approaches, we think Daniels’ will be more beneficial to the First Ward. Lansing’s is a strong mayor system. An alliance with Schor — who in his second term is embracing the power a strong mayor can wield — will make for a more effective Council member.
Morever, Kost has gotten sidewise with the mayor in the Bancroft Park driving range brouhaha. In pointed remarks aimed at Kost, Schor decried misinformation that he claimed ardent opponents were spreading. And in the same statement, Schor praised Daniels — also opposed to the driving range — for how he handled the controversy by dealing directly with the mayor on it. Two different approaches: One confrontational, the other collaborative, and both clues to how the candidates are likely to perform if elected. In Lansing, the latter is more likely to be effective.
Daniels also supports the mayor’s $175 million public safety proposal on the Nov. 8 ballot, which on balance City Pulse does as well. (See The Edit next week for why.) Kost is right that taxpayers are already struggling as inflation takes its toll. But Daniels has a broader perspective in seeing that Schor’s bold plan will pay dividends for all citizens by making our homes and streets safer.
This is not to suggest that Daniels is a sycophant. The mayor and the Council are often in sync, but Daniels demonstrated his independence when he joined colleague Brian Jackson in being the only two members to vote against Schor’s proposal for how to spend $25 million in American Rescue Plan federal funds.
In fact, one of the biggest differences that emerged from interviews with both candidates was their very disparate takes on what it means to be a leader. Despite his progressive personal views, Kost said he would have voted against the resolution five years ago to declare Lansing a sanctuary city because of the threat by the Trump administration to cut off federal funds to communities that sought to protect immigrants from the italicize — the view that prevailed after a public uproar over the Council’s initial support for the resolution. Daniels, on the other hand, said he would have stood up to Washington’s bullying, despite the risk — which never materialized nationally — to federal funding.
We are not without qualms about Daniels. He does not have a track record of public service to the First Ward. We’ve heard complaints that he’s not as responsive as citizens would like (a complaint every Council member gets, though). Some view him as wishy-washy and suffering from the Sandy Allen Snydrome, named for a late Councilmember who was famous for changing her vote at the last minute, depending on the last person to get her ear.
However, voters should consider that Daniels, if elected, would face them again in a year, if he were to choose to run for a full term. We think it is worth taking the risk to see if he grows in office. If he doesn’t, he can and should be replaced.
No comments on this item Please log in to comment by clicking here