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Election 2011: Lansing City Council race

WKAR Illustration
WKAR Illustration

By Melissa Benmark, WKAR News


LANSING, MI – The November 8th elections are coming up soon, and there are several Lansing City Council races to be decided. Melissa Benmark spoke with Kyle Melinn of the Michigan Information and Research Service and the Lansing City Pulse about the races. Two of the at-large candidates, Derrick Quinney and Carol Wood, are incumbents...but there are also two challengers for those seats.

KYLE MELINN:Rory Neuner is known more for her policy work in the transportation arena. Tom Stewart's actually a newcomer to Lansing in general, but he's been around the area for some time, and they both have grown an affinity to the--their positions have been embraced by the Lansing Chamber of Commerce, they're supporting both of those candidates. You know, as far as name recognition and getting the name out there, they're way behind Carol Wood and Derrick Quinney.

MELISSA BENMARK: But in some cases one might say that the name recognition is not necessarily a good thing, because there are some folks who feel that the council meetings have deteriorated in terms of being professional.

MELINN: It's just not productive. You know, in the case of the Oliver Towers project, you know, we had a situation there where Davenport was willing to come in and put some development in. And because of the, you could say, the deliberative, the overly deliberative nature of the city council, they're not going to do it any more. But Carol Wood, I think, has gotten a lot of support from a segment of the community that doesn't want to see things rammed through quickly. They're a little skeptical about Virg Bernero and maybe his motivation.

BENMARK: Lynne Martinez and Jody Washington (are running in) the first ward. The Chamber endorsed Lynne Martinez, and the MEA endorsed Jody Washington.

MELINN: Yeah, I mean, it is kind of a strange thing there. I mean, when you're talking about who the Chamber is endorsing in the City of Lansing elections, the question is not, "who's the Republican and who's the Democrat," it's "who's more workable, who's the more workable Democrat?" That's the real question that's asked.

You know, and Lynne Martinez is like a Dave Hollister type in that they are extremely liberal personally, but, you know, they can work with the business community, it's not a closed-door policy with them. And they're not so embedded with the union structure that it's hard to even negotiate with them on even real basic projects or premises.

But, you know, I think they feel like Jody Washington is so in with organized labor that they don't see themselves getting anywhere with her. And Lynne Martinez, also, is a known quantity.

Jody Washington, though, I think has been very impressive in her enthusiasm for the job. And I think that that's where she's getting a lot of support. She's knocked a ton of doors, she's working very hard, and you know, that goes a long way, too. She's got a good story to tell. And she's, you know, very familiar with the issues. I mean, you're not going to stump her with what's going on. And it's very appealing to folks, and that's why groups like the MEA and the unions have gone ahead and supported her.

BENMARK: In the Third Ward, A'Lynne Robinson and Jason Wilkes going against each other?

MELINN: Yeah, you know, in A'Lynne Robinson's case, I mean, she came into office almost four years ago with the impression that she was with the Carol Wood block, that she would be one of the so-called "obstructionist" votes against Virg Bernero. And I think when she took office that was indeed the case, but over time, I think that she's been a little bit more open in working with the Mayor and other sectors of the city to try and move projects forward. And she has become somewhat of a sympathetic voice with Virg Bernero now as president of the City Council.

You know, what happens when you're in that position sometimes, you realize that you gotta bring folks together and you have to adopt positions that, you know, maybe you wouldn't usually adopt. You know, you're not that voice on the outside any more who can just say no for the sake of being no. You've got to be a leader. And in being a leader that means bringing people together. And so, that's where A'Lynne Robinson has maybe gotten herself a little crosswise with organized labor, because they want her to be that bloc vote to stick up to Virg, and she just hasn't been lately.

So what we have here is a candidate in Jason Wilkes, who would be that voice, who would be organized labor's kind of go-to person and saying, hey, if we're going to do these types of projects, we better have certain agreements in place that make sure that we get union folks doing projects as opposed to just Joe off the street.

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