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It’s a new year. We asked dozens of local leaders.
How can we resolve to make Greater Lansing a better place in 2019?
State Rep. Sarah Anthony, D-Lansing: “My hope is that decision makers in government, business, education and the nonprofit sector will work to ensure more diverse voices and perspectives are authentically represented and heard in the halls of power. These voices should include younger people, women, people of color, individuals who are differently abled, and people with various income levels, religions and life experiences.”
Lansing Mayor Andy Schor: “In the new year, we want to continue to grow the city, meaning more developments, continued capacity building in neighborhoods, improved infrastructure and a strong focus on schools and public safety. We will continue to work with our neighborhoods, including pushing for regional initiatives for development.”
Ingham County Commissioner Randy Schafer said next year is a prime time to take steps toward consolidated district courts.
“We should focus on the betterment of the tri-county region. Too often, conversation centers on Washington, D.C., or one party or another. Elected officials need to focus on their responsibilities directly, and serve the public. When mutual respect, interest and concerns are shared; smaller entities know all voices are heard.”
Jack Schripsema, president and CEO at the Greater Lansing Convention and Visitor’s Bureau, labeled 2019 the “tipping point” for rapid redevelopment to begin, such as the Red Cedar Renaissance project.His “wish list” includes convention center updates, a downtown performing arts venue, a conference center near Eastwood and a multipurpose indoor sports center and/or expansion at the Hope Sports Complex.
“Visitors see cranes in the air and know this is a region that is moving forward.”
Developer Pat Gillespie said Greater Lansing is on the rise both in terms of business and commerce but also in spirit, enthusiasm and energy. Downtown growth — like his upcoming plans for the Capital City Market — is important for the city, but he said it’ll be more important in 2019 to have a positive attitude about the region.
“It’s up to us to keep Lansing’s position for growth energized. Lansing must be Lansing Made. It will take unified determination to do so. Our history as a region is built on hard work and should be echoed as we come together to create a new identity for Lansing over the next 20 years. If we aren’t excited about what’s to come, who will be?”
Lansing Councilwoman Patricia Spitzley wants to diversify the economy, explore partnerships with Michigan State University, capitalize on the emerging marijuana industry and continue to address the city’s legacy health care obligations — just to name a few of her priorities.
For her, it’s also about continued service for residents and “passing laws that are predictable, reasonable and enforceable that give our residents a sense of safety and health, and also provide the means to approve new businesses in the community to increase our tax base so that we are able to continue to provide expert services.”
Dick Peffley, general manager of the Lansing Board of Water & Light, said neighborhood trees, for the first time in company history, will also finally be trimmed to industry standards following the chaos of the 2013 ice storm.
“There’s also plenty more on the way for renewable energy in the greater Lansing region. We’ll be expanding both our solar and wind portfolios, as well as continuing to develop a more robust energy efficiency program.”
Ingham County Sheriff Scott Wriggelsworth said construction will soon begin on a new justice complex, recently fueled by $70 million in millage dollars.
Voters also recently approved upgrades to county 911 systems. It’s been a “big year” for law enforcement but the county is primed to make a bigger impact in 2019, he said.
“Increasing our ability to assist people incarcerated and continue care as they are released into our community is huge. At least 70 percent of inmates have a mental health issue and/or a substance use disorder. Finding ways to increase the chance people will lead successful lives upon release is not just our job, it is our duty.”
Capital Area District Libraries executive director Scott Duimstra noted his mission statement — “empowering our diverse communities to learn, imagine and connect” — as he looks to address continued regional struggles with literacy and early childhood reading proficiency. Libraries, he said, will be essential to working toward solutions. “As an organization known for books, we’ll make sure we have materials that appeal to every level of reading on many topics so that our communities can learn what they want, imagine how they want and connect with who they want.”
Laurie Baumer, executive vice president of the Capital Region Community Foundation, said her goals include completing the downtown riverfront project and long-term sustainability of local nonprofits.
“We must ensure our nonprofits throughout the tri-counties are sustainable, so they continue to fill gaps in our communities and address pressing needs as they change over time. This reflects our commitment to the longevity of a vibrant, prosperous region.”
East Lansing Mayor Pro-Tem Erik Altmann said 2019 will be a time to take stock after dodging a looming financial crisis. He wants to bolster downtown development and collaboration with Michigan State University.
“We need to welcome more projects that provide amenities people want. We also need to make the most of new leadership at MSU and work on shared policy interests, such as housing and economic development.”
Meridian Township Manager Frank Walsh is eyeing continued growth in his neck of the woods too.
“We’re focused on eliminating the commercial decay in downtown Okemos and Haslett.
We have approximately 20 vacant buildings between the two sites. There is such citizen concern for the decay in downtown Okemos that over 300 residents have formed a group to raise awareness of the blight.”
State Sen. Curtis Hertel Jr., D-East Lansing, said Michigan is at a crossroads following years of a Republican-driven agenda. He hopes newly elected state leadership will make an impact in the coming year.
“Every Michigander is paying more in taxes but getting less from their government. Our schools are struggling. Our roads are crumbling. College education is the least affordable it has ever been and wages are stagnant. The people need us to focus on these problems, listen to them and invest in solutions that help all Michiganders. I see an opportunity to do that with the incoming governor and Legislature. Heading into the new year, I’ve never been more hopeful — but real solutions require us to work together, put people first and invest in the people.”
County Commissioner Mark Grebner said the most obvious problem facing local residents is the deteriorating condition of local roads. Public buildings and technology, while not as obvious, are also desperately in need of improvements, he said. And he hopes additional revenues for local governments will help ramp up the pace.
“We can begin catching up on all the needed projects that we’ve been putting aside because we don’t have the money to deal with them. We’ve gotten into this fix because the right-wingers control the legislature, thanks to gerrymandering, and they strive for political prominence by opposing every tax, regardless of its balance of benefit to cost. It won’t happen immediately, but over time I expect the public will become increasingly fed up.”
State Rep. Kara Hope, D-Delhi Township, said roads are an issue, but so are public schools. Some voters are also anxious about health care costs and environmental threats.
“We are facing some huge challenges in Michigan. Voters are frustrated because leaders have only paid lip service to this enormous and growing problem.
It will take serious cooperation and shared vision to get the job done. Listening alone won’t get the job done. But it’s the only place to start.”
Ingham County Commissioner Bryan Crenshaw said there were many “trials and tribulations” in 2018 but new county leadership will help bring a wide array of backgrounds and experiences to push forward into 2019.
“While we cannot forget the past, we can learn from it and have a more prosperous future.”