Melissa Huber | 2021 Lansing Mayoral Candidates On The Issues
Updated July 16, 12:58 p.m. E.T.
Lansing has a primary election coming up on Aug. 3.
Voters will cast their ballots to narrow down the field of six candidates running to be the city's next mayor before the general election in November.
WKAR is speaking to each candidate about why they're running and the biggest issues Lansing faces in the next few years.
WKAR's Sophia Saliby asked Melissa Huber to give her elevator pitch to voters.
Sophia Saliby: This is All Things Considered on WKAR. I'm Sophia Saliby.
Lansing has a primary election coming up on Aug. 3. Voters will cast their ballots to narrow down the field of six candidates running to be the city's next mayor before the general election in November.
WKAR is speaking to each candidate about why they're running and the biggest issues Lansing faces in the next few years. Joining me today is Melissa Huber. Thank you for joining me.
Melissa Huber: Thank you so much for having me. Glad to be here.
Saliby: Why are you the right person to lead the city?
Huber: I am someone who has been working on issues in our city for the last 15 years. And I will say off the bat, I'm not perfect. I don't think any of our leaders ever can be perfect, but I'm coming into this race with a heart for service. And a desire to fix some problems that have been troubling me for a very long time in the way in which our city is doing what I see as harm to citizens.
I'm coming into this race with a heart for service.
So, I'm here to try to make a difference, try to educate people, let people know what's going on [and] what kind of opportunities we have to make changes. And I can talk about the skillsets that I bring with my background as a community psychologist, and someone who's co-founded a nonprofit, worked a family business, and also spent all these years really trying to bring positive change to Lansing. So, I'm committed. I'm dedicated, and I'm ready to go.
Saliby: How would you reform policing in Lansing? Would that include defunding the force in some capacity?
Huber: Well, I think that's a difficult way to characterize it. I think people think of the abolitionist movement when you talk about defunding. So, what I talk about is definitely a need for more resources to address the issues of crime and preventing it, in all of its various earliest stages, and responding to it [and] solving crimes. But in terms of using the same kind of strategies that we have, I think there's opportunities to use different kinds of staff to make an impact in different ways and also to better use our officers' time on the things only they can do.
One of the things that concerns me and has been going on is that we've had shortages of qualified candidates for our police officer positions, and that's only getting worse. People are not wanting to be in that career anymore. There's a lot of backlash. There's so many things that make it difficult for people to enter that force. So, we're going to have to deal with the fact that we aren't going to be able to have as many police officers, even if we want them [and] even if we can fund them.
So, we have to look at doing things differently, using different kinds of services to cover administrative tasks and then all the things that are related to domestic issues and community. Things that are happening inside the community and help people to be better neighbors with one another. And then dealing with education, dealing with all the effects of poverty and joblessness, we just have a lot of things to fix.
And as a community psychologist, it's both a curse and a benefit. But we tend to see all these problems in their wide form and all the different pieces that connect. So, when I think about solving crime, I think about the fact that we need more mental health services. And yet, we also have a shortage of providers for mental health services. So, we have to fix that problem, too. It's not just one simple thing. It's multifaceted. We have to work together as a community with lots of partners to solve these problems.
Saliby: What are the biggest issues involving racial equity in the city? And how do you plan to address them?
Huber: In my time as a neighborhood leader, I was pretty shocked to see how neighborhoods are treated differently. So, I've seen this issue of inequitable services for a long time. So, one of the things that's very important to me is to use our data capacity to monitor where services are delivered and how satisfied people are with those services, so we make sure that everybody's getting their fair share, and that everybody can be satisfied with how they're being treated.
Saliby: In many ways, the coronavirus pandemic has worsened financial inequalities for Lansing residents, how would you stop the most vulnerable from being left behind?
Huber: It concerns me since we already have such a wealth divide here in the city. So, one of the strategies that I've looked at is trying to bring in more income into the city. There's research suggesting that if we can improve the rate at which people buy services and goods in our community from outside the community, that we can actually have an impact on poverty.
By reducing that gap, by bringing more money just into our community that way, because we see money kind of circulates around. The more money we have flowing, the more of that can be shared with people in all parts of our community.
Saliby: Lansing faces hundreds of millions of dollars in underfunded pension and retiree health care costs. How would you address this problem if elected?
Huber: Well, I'm committed to a couple of things in relation to that. One of the things is that I would only use unilateral changes as an absolutely last resort. I watched the impact of my grandfather losing some of his pensions as a retiree. And I just know, that's devastating. I don't want that to happen to people. I understand how important it is, and we need to honor our commitment to our retirees.
And then on the other hand, we know we have to work together to make some sort of changes because if we don't work together and find a way to address those funds, then we face an emergency management situation or bankruptcy, and then we all lose and nobody wins in that scenario. So, my plan is to work together to find ways that we can provide things that people need, and yet make some changes to make sure that we can be accountable over these next few years.
Saliby: And I want to give you these last 30 seconds about here to give your elevator pitch to voters about why they should vote for you.
Huber: I've been in your studio several times, and in some of the other studios in our community talking about the issues and problems that have faced our residents. So, I'm prepared, and I'm ready to fix these issues. I have a good idea of what's wrong with our city, what needs to be fixed and how we, as a community, can move forward to become more professional.
I have a good idea of what's wrong with our city, what needs to be fixed and how we, as a community, can move forward to become more professional.
We need to take politics out of running the city. So, we need to move towards a city management system where we have professionals running the city. We're not tied to special interests or all these other undue forces that have really had a hold on us over the years. So, I'm a person that can bring that change.
As a community psychologist, I have a high ethical standard. And I'm committed to serving people, so I can move us through that change to bring some trust to our government again, to help us to run more efficiently and to make sure that everybody is benefiting, not just a few people.
Saliby: Melissa Huber is running to be Lansing's next mayor. Thank you for joining me.
Huber: Thank you so much.
This conversation has been edited for clarity and conciseness.
Editor's note: A previous version of this story included audio of Kathie Dubar's elevator pitch to voters. This post has now been updated with the correct audio from Huber.