2021 Primary Election Coverage

WE ASKED... Our question to the candidates

The Primary Election is on Aug. 3

Posted

The candidates’ ability to repair longstanding racial inequities, reform public safety and help curb the city’s skyrocketing levels of gun violence are undoubtedly key issues in this year’s election cycle. We asked the candidates directly: How do you plan to use your position, if elected, to drive forward some meaningful social equity and/or public safety reforms in Lansing?

MAYOR

Incumbent: 

Andy Schor

andyschor.com

Schor, 46, the 52nd mayor of Lansing, was elected to his first term in 2017 after having served five years in the Michigan House of Representatives and a decade on the Ingham County Board of Commissioners. Schor has a bachelor’s degree in political science and history from University of Michigan and has lived in the city with his wife, Erin, for more than 20 years. He also serves on executive boards for the U.S. Conference of Mayors, Capital Area United Way, Lansing Promise, Accelerator of America and the Manufactured Housing Commission. 

“As Mayor, I have done significant work on social equity and public safety reforms. I created the first city of Lansing Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Officer who has already accomplished much by addressing implicit and explicit racial bias, assisting with the creation of a Mayor’s Executive Directive on training and working with outside groups, working with the Michigan Public Health Institute and working with the Mayor’s Racial Justice and Equity Alliance. Additionally, I initiated policing reforms to ensure that we provide appropriate safety and security, including the elimination of pretextual pullovers, de-escalation training and other necessary tools. I will be implementing the racial justice and equity alliance recommendations as further equity initiatives over the next weeks and months and will continue to push equity through economic mobility and financial empowerment for Lansing residents.”

 

Kathie Dunbar

kathiedunbar.com

Dunbar, 52, is the director and founder of the South Lansing Community Development Association. Her fourth term on the City Council ends this year; Her decision to run for mayor forced her to forgo seeking reelection. Dunbar also serves as chairwoman of the Council’s Committee on City Operations. Her mayoral platform includes improving customer service for residents, working with neighborhoods and small businesses and finding “collaborative solutions that address community-identified needs,” according to her website.

“It’s time to rethink how we conceptualize public safety. Our system is reactive, focused on punishment after crime occurs. Real solutions address root causes, and there’s a mountain of evidence that shows poverty and inequity are the root causes of crime. I value public safety, and I believe reducing crime increases public safety, so I’ll strategically invest in programs that reduce social and economic inequity, particularly in historically excluded communities.

“It’s also time to reconsider how we engage police and how police engage the public. Not all calls for service require an armed police response. I want to engage the community about creating a system (outside of 911) that people can choose to call for assistance from trained community responders. Officers would have more time to investigate and solve crimes. And when they do respond to calls, they’ll be trained to prioritize de-escalation, understand implicit bias and use appropriate restraint.”

 

Melissa Huber

melissaforlansing.com

Huber, 55, is a community psychologist with both a doctorate and master’s degrees from Michigan State University, where she has worked for years as a research associate and project manager. She said she has been devoted to volunteer work in the city as a neighborhood leader through the Averill Woods Neighborhood Association, Rejuvenating South Lansing and the Lansing Neighborhood Council. Huber has lived in Lansing with her husband, Sam Quon, since 1993.

“We cannot make Lansing safe until everyone has access to affordable homes in neighborhoods where they feel safe from crime or being victimized by their city. 

“We cannot end crime until every resident has hope for a positive future. Every child needs quality education, regardless of learning differences or career goals, and positive places to be engaged with supportive adults. Adults need jobs, child care and reliable public transportation.

“We must fight to keep teachers, doctors, and mental health and addiction specialists amidst the national shortages.

“As mayor, I will develop a community-wide collaboration, including affected residents, to simultaneously address these complex issues, with a sharp focus on racial and geographic equity.

“I will audit our federally-funded programs to determine how well they are serving our low-income residents.

“I will also move our city toward a professional city manager system where the focus is on solving problems, not getting re-elected.”

 

Larry Hutchinson Jr.

Hutchinson, 48, describes himself as a “drum major” for reforming campaign finance laws, an army brat, an author, a defender of the U.S. Constitution and political “revolutionary.” He has previously lost bids for election to the state Legislature, City Council and governor. Hutchinson is known to place handwritten and printed signs on city telephone poles — a violation of a city ordinance. He was also convicted of three felonies in the early 1990s and last year pleaded guilty to one misdemeanor charge of operating a vehicle while intoxicated.

“God brought light out of darkness, therefore I don’t see any situation too dark you cannot bring light out of. No one knows how much you know, until they know how much you care.

“Mr. Hutchinson doesn’t care about drugs. He believes they should be confiscated and destroyed along with any large sums of money, which the person or persons will be given a ticket and will have 30 days to prove where they acquired it.

“Mr. Hutchinson’s focus is illegal firearms. Larry is here to stop the blood flow in our streets and the pain it causes everyone involved. Mr. Hutchinson would like to see our jail cells, resources, and law enforcement attention reserved for the most violent crimes and offenses.”

 

Farhan Sheikh-Omar

farhanforlansing.com

Sheikh-Omar, 26, is a community activist focused largely on public safety reforms. A Kenyan refugee, he studied political science at Lansing Community College and taught at the Ingham Intermediate School District. In 2019, he lost an election to First Ward Councilman Brandon Betz and was defeated by State Rep. Sarah Anthony in his bid to become a lawmaker in 2018.

“The biggest challenge facing Lansing is lack of vision. Public safety is more than just policing. My number one priority is to improve all aspects of community life, including health, education, employment, housing, business development and crime prevention. I believe we need to develop thriving and livable neighborhoods with walkable streets, affordable housing and accessible transportation. The gun violence in our city is unacceptable. We need to be more creative and deploy community-led violence intervention programs to help target and disrupt gun violence. The purpose of these programs is to prevent crime before it happens, rather than responding to crime after it occurs. We will invest in community-driven, evidence based interventions. We will secure more funding for community programs that protect at-risk youth. Our children need guidance, resources and opportunities. As your mayor, I will ensure equal treatment, equal justice, and equal rights for all Lansing residents.”

 

Patricia Spitzley

patricia4lansing.com

Spitzley, 56, was elected to her second term on the Lansing City Council in 2019 and works as a deputy redevelopment manager at Racer Trust, a company which was created out of the General Motors bankruptcy to clean up and redevelop the automaker’s toxic assets. Spitzley is also chairwoman of the Council’s Committee on Equity, Diversity and Inclusion as well as the Committee on Development and Planning. Her current term on the Council expires at the end of 2023. Her successful election as mayor would enable the Council to appoint her replacement. 

“Transparency. Accountability. Leadership. First, I would admit I do not have all the answers. The gun violence affects everyone in this community and requires an ‘all-hands-on-deck’ approach to solve it. I would reach out to community groups already working with our youth, listen to them, honor their work and make sure to include them and the rest of the community in addressing this tragedy. Now is not the time to work in silos. The only way we will adequately address this issue is by working together. City government, working with community groups, parents, family members, Lansing schools and the business community. We must put aside our differences, egos and agendas and focus on this one issue. Everything must be on the table: jobs, mental health, the city budget, additional public safety. Everything. All children are in crisis and we must consider everything to resolve this issue.”

 

CITY COUNCIL (At-Large)

Incumbent: Peter Spadafore

peterspadafore.com

Spadafore, 36, was elected to the City Council in 2017 and has since been unanimously elected twice by his colleagues to serve as its president, running meetings virtually for more than a year. He served as president of the Lansing school board. He is a graduate of Michigan State University, where he studied social relations and policy. He works as a director at the Michigan Association of Superintendents and Administrators.

“As a sitting City Council member, I have successfully led the effort to expand services to promote social equity by statutorily dedicating city resources to support outside agencies that work in the space of social justice and racial equity. The city cannot go it alone to achieve this goal meaningfully and dedicating resources will help ensure organizations doing this work have access to funds they need to be successful. Further, I have supported and will continue to support efforts that decrease our reliance on police officers for public safety and invest in social workers, emergency response from the appropriate mental and social service agencies, and access to a more community focused approach to law enforcement. If re-elected, I will continue to look for ways to invest in public safety reforms and intentional efforts toward social and racial equity.”

 

Linda Appling

Appling, 72, was born in Detroit, earned multiple degrees from Michigan State University and has moved from East Lansing to Lansing’s south side. She has worked for the state in its Human Resources Division and departments of Social Services, Civil Service and Commerce. Today, she bills herself as an activist — namely as an active member of the Lansing-Eaton Neighborhood Association and as vice chairwoman of the Eaton County Democratic Party.

“Bail for misdemeanor crimes should be eliminated. Qualified immunity for police officers should be rescinded. An ordinance should be passed, creating a duty for police officers to intervene when observing force being used is beyond what is objectively reasonable.

Individuals receiving assistance via Section 8 should have access to the City Attorney to place rent in escrow. CATA riders should be able to get work between 4-5 am. Students should be ticketed for violations of law. City investments designed to attract businesses should be monitored to determine the effect on minority communities. Attention should focus on whether or not money is being taken from services to pay for provisions to attract businesses. 

“Open gyms for evening basketball games. Make it illegal to have open carry in the city of Lansing. Require weapons being transported to be locked in the trunk of the car.”

 

Grant Blood

Blood, 34, was born in Grand Rapids and raised by his autoworker father and postwoman mother in Ionia. For the last 15 years, he has lived and worked in Lansing — mostly in the physical security business, most recently at a bank in East Lansing. He has a bachelor’s degree in criminal justice from Ferris State University and serves as a youth liaison with the Mid-Michigan chapter of the American Society for Industrial Security, among other groups.

“I believe that my knowledge of criminal justice and de-escalation could be invaluable as well as my knowledge as a project manager in large scale construction projects and other corporate projects I have taken a lead role in. The partnerships that I have cultivated with various community members will allow me to bring a different perspective to the table and make meaningful change one step at a time.

“I am running for the office of City Council at-Large because in the last four years, the political climate has been tumultuous, and some members of law enforcement have shown blatant disregard for life. This needs to stop and for that to happen we need new people in positions that make decisions. This is not a ‘business-as-usual’ setting in any elected position. A city cannot find success when the same people in leadership positions run on the same platforms year after year.”

 

Jeffrey Brown

jeffreybrownforlansingcitycouncil.com

Brown, 37, serves on the executive committee of the Ingham County Community Health Centers and the city’s Human Relations and Community Services Advisory Board. He has several college degrees — including a doctorate in Ministry Christian Leadership from Kingdom University International Bible College. Brown is also a public speaker and author, with a stated focus on vocational rehabilitation, transitional housing, residential long-term care, life skills management, community living supports, youth and self-employment and job readiness.

“I believe this question is hypocritical. This is not just an elected position solution. This is a community dialog that requires all of us to consider social equity. We must listen and hear what people are dealing with in their daily lives, whether at work, their neighborhoods or their stores.  Having those uncomfortable conversations and not judging others by our lives experience. Our experiences only mold and shape our lives, listening to others will help us reshape our thinking.  Do not allow anyone to persuade you that this is someone else’s problem or responsibility. It is all of ours.”

 

Claretta Duckett-Freeman

clarettaforlansing.org

Duckett-Freeman, 39, has lived in Lansing for the last 16 years with her husband and five children. She has degrees in education and political science from Michigan State University and has served as a combat medic in the U.S. Army Reserves. Duckett-Freeman is a board member at the Willow Tree Family Center and the state Board of Licensed Midwifery and was the first Black certified lactation counselor in Lansing. In addition to volunteering for churches and several other neighborhood organizations, she’s also pursuing a career as a firefighter-EMT.

“Our taxes should go to improving our wellbeing, whether that means investing in community centers or parks and recreation. Investing in our people lowers crime and endears people to the city. I believe that punitive measures of controlling human behavior are outdated and inhumane.

“I work for a day where the prison system is abolished and the money spent on prisons and jails go to therapists and childcare. Our taxes should improve the lives of the citizenry because it belongs to the people. I don’t just believe in caring for the marginalized. I believe in centering them. I am running for City Council because politicians seem more afraid to offend those in power than they are afraid of harming marginalized peoples. Defunding the police is not a matter of punishing our police department but addressing a system that was created to harm the most marginalized in the first place.”

 

Linda Keefe

Keefe, 64, has lived in Lansing almost 30 years. She has served on the Board of Commissioners in both Eaton and Ingham counties, as well as clerk in Windsor Township. Additionally, Keefe has served on boards for Michigan Works!, the Tri-County Office on Aging, Capital Area Community Services and for Clinton-Eaton-Ingham Community Mental Health.

“Imagine: Community centers — studies prove they reduce crime; Community-based mobile crisis teams responding to non-law enforcement issues; Continuity of care. Challenges throughout Lansing are opportunities to create something better. I live in South Lansing, and I will use a social equity lens to create inclusion — all groups represented and treated equitably — and will encourage my fellow Council members, if not already, to do the same.

“I want to talk to you directly, as I did at the Moores Park concert. For 26 years, a woman has faced every day that her husband’s killer has not been brought to justice. She said that LPD needs to work with the Detroit Police Commission — now — to solve the 75 cold cases dating to 1963. I recommend the Council seek grant funding to fill the cold case positions they cannot fund until the next budget is structured in 2022.”

 

D. Taft

votedtaft.com

Taft, 46, said he is an ordained minister with a church outside of Benton Harbor and has lived in Lansing for six years, but he remains among the most mysterious candidates in the race. He didn’t submit any biographical information and his website doesn’t include details, though he has been seen campaigning in the downtown traffic circle wearing eccentric clothing. Among his plans: drive new initiatives to help reduce issues with youth and gang violence in Lansing.

“Compartmentalize LPD into specialized divisions including for cold cases and homicides. Detectives will lead divisions supported by assigned officers. Divisions will have specialized task forces including social media and gangs. Task forces will proactively monitor social media for conflicts and threats to identify violence before it occurs. Task forces will include community leaders from each ward. Leaders will negotiate truces.

“Alternative dispute resolution will create events for inner city youth to compete and challenge each other without violence via monthly talent shows and open mics in each ward. The winners will perform at an annual city showcase. There will be a citywide youth sports league, including basketball and boxing teams from each ward competing toward a city championship.

“There will be a year round city flea market where local entrepreneurs and vendors buy, sell and trade goods and services.”

 

Rachel Willis

Willis, 33, is the vice president (and past president) of the Lansing school board. She works as the director of the East Lansing branch of Bethany Christian Services. According to her LinkedIn profile, Willis also recently took a job as the director of the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services’ Division of Child Welfare Licensing.

“Collaboration is the key to developing and sustaining any level of reform. In order to truly achieve and maintain meaningful changes, individuals of power and individuals directly impacted by the issues at hand have to take part in the conversation to create accountability and change. For too long, systems of injustice and oppression have created and perpetuated inequities and disparities, leading to generations of discord that cannot be fixed overnight with one policy change or swipe of a pen. In order to bridge the gap and truly create social equity, you have to start with inclusion, the inclusion of key stakeholders i.e. those impacted by the injustices, at the decision making table. From there, the decisions need to be resourced and supported. Lansing is rich with resources, knowledge and individuals willing to support long-term change. If elected, I would push for community engagement and empowerment to be involved with decision making.”

 

CITY COUNCIL (2nd Ward)

Incumbent: Jeremy Garza

votejeremygarza.com

Garza, 45, was elected to represent the city’s southern Second Ward in 2017. Born and raised in Lansing, Garza identifies himself as a plumber rather than a politician and has since accumulated a mountain of support from local labor unions. He said his job is to give a voice in city government to “everyday working families” who are far too often overlooked in local politics.

“I was born and raised in Lansing and am raising my family here as well. What makes this community so great is the diversity we have running throughout our city we call home.

“As a member of a historically marginalized community, I know all too well the discrimination faced by people of color, women and members of the LGBTQ community — particularly those with lower incomes. I am committed to fighting bias and discrimination and creating equal opportunities for all of our Lansing residents.”

 

Oprah Revish

voteoprah4ward2.com

Revish, 34, has worked in education since 2009. She serves LGBTQ students at Michigan State University and Lansing’s LGBTQ community as one of the co-directors for the Salus Center, a gathering space, information hub and advocacy space for LGBTQ culture.

“I will work with my colleagues on the City Council to establish our shared values. True social equity means we need to have a change in priorities and raise our empathy toward each other. The question I often consider is, ‘If it is not a problem for you, does that mean it is not a problem?’ My answer is always no.

“We need to expand our definition of public safety beyond policing. Lansing can move public safety from being reactive to proactive by providing Lansing schools with a strong curriculum that centers mental health practices. We can provide direct support to folks experiencing houselessness and folks in need of mental health resources. As City Council for Ward 2, I will work with Lansing’s non-profit organizations serving our marginalized citizens so they can help inform policy toward equity. Lansing deserves a better future and I am prepared to work for it.”

 

Nicklas Zande

nwzande.wixsite.com/picknickforsouthside

Zande, 19, is a recent graduate of Everett High School and a student at Lansing Community College. He has interned for City Clerk Chris Swope, worked as an election inspector and has served as a delegate for the Ingham County Democratic Party.

“I want to make this very clear. The police don’t prevent crime, violent or not. They respond to it. So, saying that we need to increase the police budget, which we have already been doing under recent mayors, is unfounded in reality and won’t really solve anything. We must instead cut the police budget by 45% and use it for other things such as housing, social programs and ways we can prevent gun violence from happening without relying on the police for every single petty crime in the city. That’s what I believe in and that’s the issue I want to bring forth to the Council.”

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