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Seven candidates face off in the Nov. election for three seats on the East Lansing City Council

Sign on sidewalk that reads "Register to Vote Here" with a line of stars on both the top and bottom
Sarah Lehr
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WKAR-MSU
Two of the candidates are incumbents after being appointed to the council, but all seven are running for the first time.

There are seven candidates running for three East Lansing City Council seats up for grabs on Election Day on November 2.

Andrew Graham is a reporter with East Lansing Info.

He joined WKAR's Sophia Saliby to break down everyone running and the biggest issues coming up for the council.

Interview Highlights

On the fact that all of these candidates are running for the first time

That's been a point that's come up on the campaign trail, too, because it's sort of a tacit background issue to this whole election is that two members of council resigned a little more than a year ago [and] the people who are currently on council are relatively inexperienced. And so, it's going to be in one way or another, new, similarly, less experienced on council people taking those roles. Even if Bacon or Watson were to be reelected, they've still only served for a year and some change.

On the biggest issues of the election so far

I would say city issues have been the focus, but I think some of them, namely some of the placemaking stuff, like discussions about the Albert "EL Fresco" and some COVID economic relief stuff have centered around students more because you can't deny you bring in tens of thousands of people. That's an economic stimulus, and they make up some notable plurality of East Lansing's population.

Interview Transcript

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

There are seven candidates running for three East Lansing City Council seats up for grabs on Election Day on Nov. 2.

Andrew Graham is a reporter with East Lansing Info. He's here with me to break down everyone running and the biggest issues coming up for the council.

Thank you for joining me.

Andrew Graham: Thank you for having me.

Saliby: So first off, there are five candidates running for two full four-year terms. Can we run through those candidates?

Graham: I'll start with the incumbent who is Dana Watson. She was appointed to council last fall, fall 2020. There is Chuck Grigsby. There is Daniel Bollman, George Brookover, and then the fifth is Adam DeLay.

Saliby: And do we know a little bit about their background? Obviously, Dana Watson has been on the council.

Graham: Yes. So, Dana is the only one with any incumbency in terms of council, and she brings a record that focuses heavily on human rights, social equity. She said at the council forum, recently, it's in part because she's a Black woman but also because her children.

Chuck Grigsby has a similar, I guess, [modus operandi]. He has been on the Human Rights Commission and was chair of the study committee to form the Police Oversight Commission. So, he brings a sort of significant social equity [and] civil rights kind of background.

Daniel Bollman, for those familiar with the East Lansing Planning Commission, he is an architect and sort of comes from a zoning and city planning perspective to the city, very much leaning on those professional expertises of his.

George Brookover is an attorney, and sort of the, I guess in East Lansing, it's a nonpartisan, nonparty-identified race, but Brookover is sort of the relatively conservative candidate in the field.

And Adam DeLay kind of goes the other direction, as being the more young progressive figure, sort of very pro-student voice and student representation policy for the city government.

Saliby: And then there's a race for a partial two-year term. Who's running for that seat?

Graham: The candidates running for that are Ron Bacon who is the other incumbent of all of the candidates. He was also appointed alongside Dana Watson to council in 2020. And he's running against Mikey Manuel, Jr.

And Ron, again, he comes from sort of an interesting mix of the civil rights, social justice issues. That's very important to him, but also I believe his day job is, he's in medical sales, so he brings a very sort of interesting business efficiency and sort of simplicity of government kind of perspective to his role, which I think is something a little unique.

And then there's Mikey Manuel, who's kind of an unknown. He doesn't have a ton of service around the city. He's a small business owner, and just based on some polling data that ELi got that Bacon is strongly in the lead because of that difference.

Saliby: So, despite the fact that we have two incumbents, they're appointed incumbents.

So, all of these candidates are running for the first time, what will it mean to basically have three relatively new or inexperienced members on the council?

Graham: Well, that's been a point that's come up on the campaign trail, too, because it's sort of a tacit background issue to this whole election is that two members of council resigned a little more than a year ago [and] the people who are currently on council are relatively inexperienced. And so, it's going to be in one way or another, new, similarly less experienced on council people taking those roles.

It's going to be in one way or another, new, similarly less experienced on council people taking those roles.

Even if Bacon or Watson were to be reelected, they've still only served for a year and some change. And it's going to be interesting, because a point that's been made, in that regard, is these are new people, but they sort of, at the candidate forum, I believe, Mikey Manuel made a point about finishing their terms, and that it's important that this slate of whoever the five people who are seated on council after this election, finish their terms and do the full four years or two years in some cases, and that there's a stability and there's a reliability to the people, whoever is elected.

Saliby: Do you think candidates have been more focused on issues related to the city as a whole or the campus community of Michigan State University during this race?

Graham: I would definitely say the city, and that's mostly because of the realities of who's voting. MSU students could obviously change that if they came out and voted en masse in a few elections. But if you just go on historical data, the voters live mostly in the city and not on the other side of Grand River.

While the issues have been mostly centered around the city, I definitely think there's been a distinct element of factoring in the students to how that all works.

So, I would say city issues have been the focus, but I think some of them, namely some of the placemaking stuff, like discussions about the Albert "EL Fresco" and some COVID economic relief stuff have centered around students more because you can't deny you bring in tens of thousands of people. That's an economic stimulus, and they make up some notable plurality of East Lansing's population.

So while, the issues have been mostly centered around the city, I definitely think there's been a distinct element of factoring in the students to how that all works.

Saliby: Andrew Graham is a reporter with East Lansing Info. Thank you for joining me.

Graham: Thank you very much for having me.

This conversation has been edited for clarity and conciseness.

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