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Home News  One term on Council is enough for Kaltenbach. Who’s next?
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Wednesday, December 10,2008

One term on Council is enough for Kaltenbach. Who’s next?

by Kyle Melinn
One term on the Lansing City Council is enough for Tim Kaltenbach.

The westsider says he’s not running for re-election next year to his Fourth Ward Council seat. The time commitment apparently has become too much. Both of his grown children live out of state and with practically every Monday and Thursday blocked off for Council business, it limits the amount of time he and his wife, Melissa, can visit with them.

Kaltenbach, a retired state legislative staffer, says he’s looking forward to staying involved in the community, but he’s closing the book on his short career in elected politics.

Asked if he was interested in running for mayor with Virg Bernero’s first term coming to an end in 2009, Kaltenbach laughed before deadpanning, “No.”

Not that Kaltenbach would challenge his political ally anyway. Kaltenbach is part of a four-Council member coalition on the eight-member body that is more open to Bernero’s proposals. And this grinding 4-4 split on Council appears to be wearing on the Sexton High alum.

Before Monday night’s vote to reject another one of Bernero’s Deficit Elimination Plans, an exasperated Kaltenbach said, “I see this as an exercise in futility … I’m tired of this game.”

Also, Kaltenbach’s annoyance with the “City Hall regulars” and their weekly meandering soliloquies is pretty obvious to anyone watching his interaction with them.

So with Kaltenbach’s removing himself from the equation in 2009, the jockeying to replace him has already begun. Chris Lewless, the 2006 state House of Representatives candidate, says he’s in.

After losing in the Democratic primary to now-Rep. Joan Bauer, D-Lansing Lewless moved his young family to New York for a job opportunity. He returned to Lansing shortly thereafter. Lewless attends St. Stephens Community Church, which is led by the departing Rev. Michael Murphy.

It’s worth noting that Murphy is old political buddies with At-Large Councilwoman Carol Wood, a potential Bernero challenger, making a Lewless candidacy that much more interesting to watch.

Also taking a strong look at the seat is labor activist Luke Canfora, who had worked with At-Large Councilman Derrick Quinney for a spell and helped run the latter’s Council campaign. Another name floating around is Brad Williams, another West Lansing resident who worked with the Michigan Department of Transportation before taking a government relations job with the Detroit Regional Chamber of Commerce.

Gina Nelson, the 2007 at-large candidate and strong Bernero supporter, lives in the Fourth Ward too, and is said to be talking to folks.

As it stands, all four Council races in 2009 have to be viewed under the Bernero-Wood split in City Hall. Who is more sympathetic to Bernero? Who is viewed as a “Carol Wood” candidate?

Although it’s likely going to be Quinney and A’Lynne Robinson leading the Council in 2009 as Council president and vice president, respectively, Wood and current Council President Brian Jefferies will gladly serve as the “anti-Virg” lightning rods in 2009. Wood is expected to run against Bernero and Jefferies is eying re-election in his at-large seat.

The other two Council seats up in ’09 are those held by At-Large member Kathie Dunbar and Second Ward member Sandy Allen. Both are expected to run for re-election and both are Bernero supporters.

Those in Virg’s camp wouldn’t mind taking out Jefferies in ’09, but they risk bumping off Dunbar if Jefferies ends up the top vote-getter citywide in the runoff system, as he was in 2005. One possibility being kicked about is Liz Boyd, Gov. Jennifer Granholm’s press secretary, who lives in the same Moores River Drive neighborhood as Jefferies.

With Granholm expected to take a spot in the Barack Obama administration, Boyd could return to retirement as a state employee, allowing Lt. Gov. John Cherry to put in his own communications team. One scenario has the effervescent and high-energy Boyd running in tandem with Dunbar.

Boyd was a huge supporter of the Frances Park project and admits she follows city politics closely. (The Frances Park incident was a split Council vote over whether to apply for a grant from the state Department of Natural Resources to make improvements to the park. The vote ended up being split, and some see it as a classic case of the pro versus anti-Bernero sentiment on Council.) On any interest in running for the seat, Boyd declined to commit one way or the other. She said her biggest concern is whether -— regardless of what the governor is doing — she would have time for the campaigning because of family commitments.

True, the “Anybody But Virg” signs have been seemingly up for months, but the real behind-the-scenes maneuvering for that ’09 race has begun in interest.

(Kyle Melinn is the editor at the MIRS newsletter. His column runs weekly. Write melinn@lansingcitypulse.com.)


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