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Politics & Government

Farhan Sheikh-Omar | 2021 Lansing Mayoral Candidates On The Issues

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Courtesy Farhan Sheikh-Omar
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Six candidates are running to be Lansing's next mayor. An Aug. 3 nonpartisan primary will narrow down the number of candidates before the general in November.

WKAR is speaking to each one of them about why they're running and the biggest issues Lansing faces in the next few years.

Farhan Sheikh-Omar shared with WKAR's Sophia Saliby why voters should choose him on Aug. 3.

Interview Transcript

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WKAR's Sophia Saliby speaks with Lansing mayoral candidate, Farhan Sheikh-Omar about his stance on the issues ahead of the primary.

Sophia Saliby: This is All Things Considered on WKAR. I'm Sophia Saliby.

Six candidates are running to be Lansing's next mayor. An Aug. 3 nonpartisan primary will narrow down the number of candidates before the general in November.

WKAR is speaking to each one of them about why they're running and the biggest issues Lansing faces in the next few years. Joining me today is Farhan Sheikh-Omar. Thank you for joining me.

Farhan Sheikh-Omar: Thank you for having me.

Saliby: Why are you the right person to lead the city?

Sheikh-Omar: By so many measures, our city is weaker and less prosperous than it was four years ago. In 2020, our city saw a record number of homicides with 22 citizens killed in Lansing. This year, we've had 17 homicides, which means that if we continue at the same rate, that record will be doubled in 2021.

Lansing desperately needs strong leadership, and I am running to bring that leadership to Lansing.

Nine current or former Black city staffers are suing Mayor Andy Schor for racial discrimination. Additionally, there's a pending federal lawsuit against Andy Schor for the wrongful death of Anthony Hulon. Lansing desperately needs strong leadership, and I am running to bring that leadership to Lansing.

Editor's note: Nine current and former Black city staffers filed a racial discrimination lawsuit against the city of Lansing and Andy Schor in August 2020. Two of the people originally listed as plaintiffs later sent notices to quit, saying the attorney who filed the lawsuit wasn't authorized to represent them.

Saliby: How would you reform policing in the city? And would that include defunding the force in some capacity?

Sheikh-Omar: We have to 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. Right now, in Lansing, we are being reactive rather than proactive. And it is time that we be proactive rather than reactive.

Saliby: What are the biggest issues to you involving racial equity in the city, and how do you plan to address them?

Sheikh-Omar: We have to do a better job of, first of all, uniting the city. And that means addressing the nine current and former Black city staffers who are suing the city and the mayor. You know, equity means fairness, and Andy Schor has not been fair.

Editor's note: See previous note.

And it is time that we, as a city, heal and come together because at the end of the day, we all love the city. We're all part of this community. And we need to have an open, honest dialogue. We need to have more transparency. We need to have more accountability, and there needs to be honesty and trust, as well.

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?

Sheikh-Omar: It's important that we use the federal grants that we have received from the federal government. It is time that we invest back into our local businesses. That means our local businesses are the backbone of our economy. They hire our neighborhoods. It is time that we invest back into that.

It is time that we look at the bigger picture and also invest in social justice and mental health illnesses and substance abuse [and] homelessness. There are many ways we could use the federal grant that we received, unfortunately, that grant is currently being used to hire five new police officers, and I don't think we need that.

Editor's note: In this interview, Sheikh-Omar references a federal grant being used to hire five police officers. The Lansing Police Department was awarded $625,000 to pay for a portion of salaries and benefits for the officers through the Community Oriented Police Services (COPS) Hiring Program (CHP). This funding is different from the $51 million the city received through the American Rescue Plan to help with the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Saliby: Lansing faces hundreds of millions of dollars in underfunded pension and retiree health care costs. How would you address this problem if elected?

Sheikh-Omar: We're talking about an issue that has been ignored and neglected for years. And unlike Andy Schor, you know, I will never strip away our city's retirees benefits. You know, that's something that Andy did this past year, at the beginning of this year, in the middle of a global pandemic.

It is time that we honor past contracts. And as far as going forward, we need to negotiate better. That means it has to be fair on both ends for any new city staffers that we hire.

Saliby: And in this last minute, I want to give you an opportunity for a 30 second to one minute elevator pitch to voters on why they should elect you.

Sheikh-Omar: Lansing desperately needs strong leadership. By so many measures, our city is weaker and less prosperous than it was four years ago. We can do better. We will do better as long as we end this cycle. We need to end the status quo in the city.

We will do better as long as we end this cycle. We need to end the status quo in the city.

Lansing has been divided. There's a lot of division. There's a lot of bigotry. There's a lot of hate. There's a lot of racism going on in the city, and the only way to end that is to bring the city together and unite all of us in order to tackle the many challenges that we face and will face going forward.

Saliby: Farhan Sheikh-Omar is running to be Lansing 's next mayor. Thank you for joining me.

Sheikh-Omar: Thank you. Thanks for having me. I appreciate you.

This conversation has been edited for clarity and conciseness.

WKAR Politics & Civics Reporter Sarah Lehr contributed to this web article.

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