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Politics & Government
0000017b-01f0-d19f-ab7b-19f505140000Listen to the series Monday, Wednesday and Friday on Morning Edition and All Things Considered. 13 City Council Candidates. Five Questions.WKAR reached out to 13 candidates running for City Council in Lansing and East Lansing to ask them the same set of questions about their respective cities. 12 accepted the invitation. This is what they had to say about big issues in Lansing and East Lansing. Lansing City Council How should the City of Lansing confront its legacy costs?How big of a role should cannabis entrepreneurship play in Lansing? Why?Lansing City Council Candidates What should be done to secure affordable housing in the city for people who live paycheck to paycheck?What are your plans to attract more businesses, residents, and investment to Lansing? Mayor Schor has been in office for two years now, Lansing operates on a strong mayor system, what letter grade you’d give him?East Lansing City CouncilAre you in favor of the pace of development in East Lansing and the direction it’s going in? What are your thoughts on the parking situation in East Lansing?East Lansing City Council Candidates What role should marijuana (recreational or medical) play in East Lansing’s future?Do you support the new East Lansing city income tax?What are your thoughts on the East Lansing City Council’s recent vote to criminalize LGBTQ conversion therapy?About The ProjectAll of the candidate interviews occurred in WKAR’s studio with the exception of one interview that was conducted off-site. Candidates were not provided with the questions in advance.The interviews took place between late September and mid October. Candidates were asked five questions about big issues in their city and asked to provide any policy changes they believe should be implemented around those issues.Of those questions, we chose three issues per city that are emblematic of this election cycle to air in a radio series called Roundabout: City Council Election Coverage. East Lansing will air beginning October 21. And, Lansing will air beginning October 28. Short clips of the candidate’s responses to all of the questions are included on the web.Over the course of the project, the Lansing City Council voted on new rules to govern recreational marijuana businesses. Lansing candidates Brandon Betz and Yanice Jackson-Long were interviewed in advance of that vote; thus, their answers may reflect that timeline.Lansing candidate Adam Hussain did not participate in the series. Hussain did not respond after multiple requests for comment.

For EL City Council Candidates Development Is Good, Mostly

Over the past two years there's been 20 large scale development projects in East Lansing. This year's East Lansing City Council candidates, have differnt philosophies on how the development should be conducted.
Alec Gerstenberger, WKAR
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Over the past two years there's been 20 large scale development projects in East Lansing. This year's East Lansing City Council candidates, have differnt philosophies on how the development should be conducted.

There has been a surge in development in East Lansing over the last two years with 20 major projects that have dramatically changed the skyline of the city. The new structures, the majority of which being apartment complexes designed with students in mind, have brought with them more students.

The candidates running for this year’s city council election generally support the development. Candidates differ on how they want to go forward from the current breakneck pace. Where they differ is in how they want to move forward after such a rapid surge in development. 

Development With Limitations

Lisa Babcock is running for one of the three, four-year terms. She’s open to new development in the downtown area, but Babcock said she thinks the skyline is becoming higher and denser than what residents want, “To developers, I say welcome, but you’re going to pay your fair share, and you’re going to adhere to what the community has set as the standard of development. And that’s eight stories.” 

Most of the candidates support development in East Lansing. Lisa Babcock, John Revitte, and Warren Stanfield III have the most qualms about future large scale projects.
Credit Alec Gerstenberger, WKAR
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Most of the candidates support development in East Lansing. Lisa Babcock, John Revitte, and Warren Stanfield III have the most qualms about future large scale projects.

Like Babcock, candidate Jessy Gregg supports increased development. But, she thinks the city needs time to adjust while there are still growing pains. Hasty construction has been a theme of the last two years as developers rush to meet deadlines for student move-ins.

“We need time in between these big projects for our residents to kinda get used to the new things, for businesses to move into the retail area, to make sure we’re not overbuilding housing in areas that we don’t need it. And having a little more thoughtful approach would probably be better,” said Gregg.

Correcting Course And Reversing Blight

Incumbent and current Mayor Mark Meadows said he thinks the development is an appropriate response to former blight in the downtown area, namely an old bank that stood derelict for some time. However, now that most of the new projects have started, Meadows said he thinks new buildings and businesses need time to become established in the community. 

“I’d like to see us slow it down a little bit. And we do have others who are interested in some redevelopment in the downtown, and I would like to see the current projects at least running at the time that we actually take a look at those projects.”

Warren Stanfield III is a student at Michigan State University who’s running for a seat on the council. He said the new apartment complexes are far out of reach for a majority of student price ranges. And, most prices don’t match the quality.

“With the price, we also need to work on the quality of some of these - not only these new residential facilities, but some of these rental houses that we already have. The quality of wherever an East Lansing citizen lives needs to be up to par and we can’t just shuffle out whatever we can throw together because this portion of the population is younger.”

Proceeding With Caution

Another candidate, John Revitte, said he has concerns about the changing landscape and making the downtown area too dense.

“Is it possible that we’re going to overbuild and have too many apartments,” said Revitte.

Incumbent and current Mayor Pro-Tempore Erik Altmann said he sees the new developments in the downtown area as a positive change. But, he said he believes any future development should be centered around community.

“We have approved a lot of change in the downtown and the goal is to try and bring a more diverse array of businesses and services and amenities to the downtown and the way to do that is to increase the residential density and so it’s already working. Everyone has wanted a grocery store in our downtown for a long time. It’s been high on our list and we’ve gone from zero to two in the space of a year I think because of all the developments we’ve approved so I think we’re going in a good direction.”

As a group, the candidates see new buildings, residences and businesses as progress. They agree on the end goal of revitalizing the area and bringing more services and businesses downtown, but they differ on to what degree they believe downtown should change.

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