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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.

On Attracting New Investment: Lansing City Council Candidates Are Split

Lansing skyline
WKAR File Photo

The City of Lansing began several new development projects this year including the Red Cedar Development, linking Lansing to East Lansing, and a mixed use space near the Cooley Law school stadium. Combined both projects are valued at over $300 million. As the flurry of new developments increases candidates running for city council are deciding what their elevator pitch of the city will be and who it will be addressing. 

Business Is The Future For Lansing

Last summer the city signed an agreement with Gillespie Group to begin building an urban market owned by Meijer and a hotel and apartments in the 600 block of Michigan Avenue.

Patricia Spitzley is an incumbent running for one of the two available at-large positions. She said she’s excited about the new Michigan Avenue development, however the council needs to work closely with the Lansing Area Economic Partnership (LEAP) to make sure future projects are giving the right impression of the city.

“We have to be smart about it. I think that we need to look at in general what we want our economic development future to be, what we want our city to be. And then work with LEAP and work with our economic development department to market our city to attract that type of development.”

I think that we need to look at in general what we want our economic development future to be, what we want our city to be.

Brandon Betz, is running in Lansing's 1st Ward against incumbent Jody Washington. He said small businesses are the backbone for Lansing because they have a stake in the city. Those are the businesses Lansing should be focused on retaining and recruiting, said Betz. 

“What kind of businesses are we going to have in Lansing? And I think that the answer is small businesses and I think that developing entrepreneurs in our city and working on making sure that everybody is hired locally in these jobs is going to be of utmost importance.”

Looking In Before Looking Out

Julee Rodocker is running against three others for an at-large position. She said in order to bring more investment to the whole Lansing area, not just downtown, the city needs more control over their finances.

“I think it gets back to having control over our legacy costs. Showing our investors that we’re worth the investment to begin with and then showing that we are ready to move forward in developing across the city and not just in one particular area.” 

Retaining Lansing Residents

Incumbent and current President of the council, Carol Wood is running for re-election as a member at-large. She said increasing development is important to the growth of the city, but the resident satisfaction also needs to be taken into account.

“So, I think as we look at bringing business and residents in, we also have to look at how we’re keeping people here.”

So, I think as we look at bringing business and residents in, we also have to look at how we are keeping people here.

Keeping residents is also a concern for Jody Washington, an incumbent running for Ward 1 re-election. She said there’s a trend within the city that once people make enough money, they move to the suburbs. 

“We need to ensure that people move back to the city. People of all income brackets and in order to do that, we have to have appropriate housing for them too.”

Yanice Jackson-Long is running for an at-large position. She said as development increases, the city needs to consider the different lifestyles of people living in Lansing and if the new projects are something they can enjoy.

“As people come, then more developers and more businesses will come. But we need to keep a focus on the people and not lose sight of the people as we’re building and expanding. Making sure that our attractions are friendly not just to people that are out of town or people that have higher incomes.”

Adam Hussain, who’s running unopposed for his current 3rd ward seat, did not participate in the series after multiple requests for comment. 

As election day draws closer, some candidates suggest looking inward, figuring out what the city needs to fix to attract new businesses and people, while others look outside to increase business recruitment and new development. 

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