- December 26, 2001
needs to rethink priorities in new year
wish list for 2002:
A return to open, honest and responsive city government is critical.
City Council attacks on First Amendment rights must cease. Hopefully,
2002 will be the year voters will no longer fear retribution from the
powers that be or their employers for their views on issues like the
A more realistic view of Mayor David Hollister.
Suggestions that Hollister should or could be mayor for life
are as un-American and undemocratic as they are ridiculous. When Terry
McKane was mayor, he and his administrative assistant, Cleophus Boyd,
were chastised by the public and blasted by the media for driving an
old Cadillac and Thunderbird, respectively, that were paid for by the
city. Now the current mayor is applauded and praised for having the
city pay for his newest model Cadillac. Whatever happened to the mayors
report cards for city departments? What about his pledge to eliminate
the use of city cars by so many department heads and city employees?
Maybe he can make it happen next year.
A greater emphasis on citizens needs.
The plethora of sweetheart deals for developers or in the name of Regionalism,
Old Town and Downtown Development that appear to be cut in the backroom
havent added much to the citys coffers, but they have alienated
thousands of Lansing residents. The Boji parking ramp deal is just the
latest in a perpetual parade of questionable and unprofitable deals
struck by the city in the last eight years. The region has prospered
tremendously under Hollister. Lansing, on the other hand, is hurting.
Instead of benefiting during such an unprecedented period of economic
boom, the citys short- and long-term debt skyrocketed. Despite
popular opinion and the mayors policies, economic development
at any cost is not the Holy Grail. Snow removal, for example, is a far
more important issue to Lansing residents. Economic growth has been
a bust for the city. Too many residents feel taxed and fined to death
as basic city services decline. It is extremely difficult to convince
citizens that the city cant help them because it doesnt
have the money when it so easily throws away millions of dollars so
often for outlandish projects and developments. A greater emphasis on
the needs of citizens must be reflected in the citys budget priorities
A better route for the gas pipeline.
Early next year will find Lansing engaged in a fierce battle to keep
the proposed Wolverine gasoline pipeline from running through the city.
Pipelines and population centers dont mix. There are safer and
admittedly more costly routes through rural and much less populated
areas. Maybe the $4 million to $5 million being loaned the Bojis for
a new downtown should have been given to Wolverine to help offset the
costs for the pipeline to bypass Lansing altogether. I certainly hope
to see a call to arms from city leadership on this issue.
Doing right by teens and senior citizens.
Without a doubt these are the two most underserved groups in all of
Lansing. Children under 18 are almost 27 percent of the citys
population. Those under the age of 21 equal 31 percent. Even with the
advent of a teen advisory task force, teen court and the junior city
council, the installation of new playground equipment, the construction
of a BMX park and the opening of a skate park next year, the needs and
concerns of Lansings teens go overlooked and unmet. Since the
days of Model Cities in the 1960s, teen-agers have wanted and asked
for a center. The school bond proposal rejected by voters on May 1 included
$350,000 for it. Hollister used it as a carrot to help motivate teens
to register to vote and then to vote for the school bond. The teens
did their part. At least two, if not thee, of the four candidates who
won their City Council races in the November election favor a teen center.
Surely the mayor would be onboard. The citys mantra is if you
build it, they will come. Well, they (the teens) are already here. Besides,
theyve earned it. So, build it already.
Senior citizens are wronged the most. The loca l media are still falsely
blaming seniors for the defeat of the school bond and maligning them
regarding their motives. One would think such a powerful voting block
would be courted and their needs catered to and fulfilled. Not in Lansing.
Lansing residents ages 60 and over represent over one-eighth of the
population, but you have to search high and low for the few real benefits
they receive for their share of taxes or the citys $102 million
annual general operating budget. Where is the Senior Center they were
promised seven years ago when the Civic Center/Veterans Memorial was
Fairness to minorities.
Minorities make up 31 percent of Lansings population but receive
less than 1 percent of the city governments total purchase of
goods and services. Even though minorities now account for 60 percent
of the student population of the Lansing School District, they receive
less than 2 percent of the $17.3 million spent on goods and services
by the district last year. Too often lucrative contracts are awarded
to out-of-town businesses and vendors without putting the contracts
out for bids. Such practices smack of apartheid and 21st century Jim
Crow. The purchasing practices of so many public institutions in mid-Michigan
remind me of Ivory soap commercials; 99 percent white or so-called pure.
Unlike the soap, these shameful practices cause Lansing to sink instead
of float. Women-owned and Lansing-based businesses dont fare much
better than Lansings minorities. The time has come to break up
this deplorable system of cronyism. The old boy and old girl networks
must be put asunder once and for all. Economic justice for all is what
is desperately needed in order for Lansing to really prosper. No more
taxation without economic representation.
Finally, Lansing needs to unite.
At long last the unification of the beer drinking, nylon jacket-wearing
bowling crowd with the wine-sipping, quiche-eating, golfing crowd should
begin to materialize. Lansing residents must understand the inescapable
fact that were all in the same boat. No more backward thinking.
The new year should be our time for getting along and thinking and moving