Roundabout: City Council Election Coverage

Credit Amanda Pinckney, WKAR

Listen 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 

  1. How should the City of Lansing confront its legacy costs?
  2. How big of a role should cannabis entrepreneurship play in Lansing? Why?
  3. Lansing City Council Candidates
    Credit WKAR-MSU
      What should be done to secure affordable housing in the city for people who live paycheck to paycheck?
  4. What are your plans to attract more businesses, residents, and investment to Lansing? 
  5. 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 Council

  1. Are you in favor of the pace of development in East Lansing and the direction it’s going in? 
  2. What are your thoughts on the parking situation in East Lansing?
  3. East Lansing City Council Candidates
    Credit WKAR-MSU
      What role should marijuana (recreational or medical) play in East Lansing’s future?
  4. Do you support the new East Lansing city income tax?
  5. What are your thoughts on the East Lansing City Council’s recent vote to criminalize LGBTQ conversion therapy?

About The Project

All 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. 


Newcomers made the biggest gains on both the Lansing and East Lansing City Council's with Brandon Betz ousting incumbent Jody Washington. And, Lisa Babcock and Jessy Gregg knocking off Eric Altmann in East Lansing.
Amanda Pinckney, WKAR

Two incumbents were ousted from the Lansing and East Lansing City Councils in Tuesday’s election. The upsets were part of a trend of progressive and anti-establishment newcomers, unseating well-financed and widely recognized incumbents. WKAR’s Abigail Censky talked to Lansing State Journal Reporter Sarah Lehr about the results. Below are highlights of their conversation. 

 The reelection effort for Michigan’s junior Democratic Senator, Gary Peters, will be hard fought between Democrats, who need the seat to maintain their foothold in the Senate, and Republicans, who place Peters at the top of their “endangered” list.
Photo: WKAR

Local elections happened all across Mid-Michigan Tuesday. For many Michigan voters this was the first election it was possible to vote no-reason absentee, or register on the same day after Proposal 3 was passed in the 2018 midterms. 

This post will be updated as the results come in. Below are the results for races across Ingham, Eaton and Jackson Counties.

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. 

After both medical and recreational marijuana were legalized this year's crop of Lansing city council candidates are tasked with taking a position on the future of marijuana in the city.
Reginald Hardwick / WKAR Public Media


After the State of Michigan voted to legalize recreational marijuana in the 2018 midterms, cities and municipalities across the state are now deliberating what role marijuana will play in their future. Yet for many, including Lansing, markets are still developing and businesses are just beginning to be licensed forcing city council candidates to take a stand on how permissive they'll be toward cannabis businesses.  



Lansing City Hall
Reginald Hardwick / WKAR-MSU

Managing legacy costs is weighing down Lansing’s budget. As of July, the city has more than $700 million in money that has not been set aside to pay for retired city worker’s pensions and healthcare. In 2018, the city only had $130 million saved for unfunded pension liabilities. 

Newcomers made the biggest gains on both the Lansing and East Lansing City Council's with Brandon Betz ousting incumbent Jody Washington. And, Lisa Babcock and Jessy Gregg knocking off Eric Altmann in East Lansing.
Amanda Pinckney, WKAR

East Lansing has a city income tax for the first time this year. It was passed by voters in 2018 after a previous iteration was defeated in a referendum several years before. Many of the candidates running for council this year support the income tax, but how much revenue the tax will net for the city remains largely unknown.

Holistic Health is a business that offers medical marijuana exams and renewals on Grand River in East Lansing. After Prop. 1 was passed in 2018 the city council and candidates are faced with deciding what role recreational marijuana will play in the city.
Alec Gerstenberger, WKAR

After Proposition 1 was passed by Michigan voters in 2018, many cities and counties in the state are grappling with how they’ll open their communities to recreational marijuana. That includes college towns like Ann Arbor  and East Lansing, where marijuana has been decriminalized for years.  

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

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.