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Wednesday, December 15,2010

Martinez highlights rumored names for Council

by Kyle Melinn
Rory Neuner and Joe Manzella wasted no time getting into the 2011 Lansing City Council races after the controversial project labor agreement votes on the Market Place and Marshall Street Armory Projects.

Wow … two months before Christmas. Incredibly early for such talk. But since they broached the subject, let’s talk about it.


Who wants Eric Hewitt’s 1st Ward Council seat and the two at-large posts held by Carol Wood and Derrick Quinney?


The big name is that of former state Rep. Lynne Martinez, who ran for mayor a few years back. Martinez was the state’s Children’s Ombudsman for a spell before becoming the executive director of the Greater Lansing Housing Coalition, a post she left last year. Martinez confirmed Tuesday that she is seriously considering running for Council.


Martinez, 61, could take a run at Hewitt’s 1st Ward seat or one of the two at-large seats, but the recent focus has been on the 1st Ward seat. She’s not alone.


Including Manzella, 24, the manager of regional programs for the Lansing Economic Area Partnership (LEAP), and Martinez, one source said Tuesday as many as nine people could be interested in the 1st Ward. That list of possibilities may include Amanda Stitt, the director of Michigan Voice, a group aimed at getting underrepresented groups involved in the political process.


Hewitt has become a popular target because of his vote against Gillespie’s project, but as a sitting Council member, Hewitt has won favor with folks within northern Lansing for his hard work and dutiful attendance at Council meetings.


There’s a fear among the "new progressive" movement, however, that too many candidates in the 1st Ward could carve up the vote and create a scenario where Hewitt slides in for a second term, which he’ll likely seek.


Also, while Hewitt would appear to be vulnerable today, he may not be toast in August or November. There’s always a significant silent population that likes the fact that the streets are clear and the garbage is picked up. To them, that’s all that really matters.


For the at-large posts, Quinney and Wood are both a go and labor likely will have their backs for standing tall against Gillespie. That comes with pluses and minuses. The UAW, AFL-CIO, SEIU and other labor groups have the clout, money and the internal organization, but do they have the votes in Lansing they once did?


Meanwhile, all systems are go for Neuner, the Yale-educated policy analyst with the Safe Routes to School National Partnership. She’s making the calls she needs to make to put together a credible campaign.


Some are suggesting that the 30-year old find a partner to run with as a slate. Wood and Quinney will be hard to knock off individually. If the "new progressive," pro-Mayor Virg Bernero sector of Lansing sees a tandem to support as opposed to Wood and Quinney, it could help Neuner’s cause.


That person could be pro-Bernero sympathizer Gina Nelson, who was unsuccessful in 2007 when she ran as the anti- Wood candidate. The business community would prefer to have a candidate they can call their own, too, though, which raises the question of whether Tom Truscott, who came within 50 votes of advancing to the 4th Ward run-off two years ago, could get in.


Liz Boyd, the press secretary of outgoing Gov. Jennifer Granholm, would be an energetic addition to the eight-member Council, but right now, at least, it doesn’t appear her heart is steering her in that direction. Boyd was fired up about the Council when the Frances Park debate was hot, but that issue has since cooled down.


Then there’s the 3rd Ward, where Lansing City Council President A’Lynne Robinson will make her first re-election bid. How things have changed for Robinson in the last two years, when she was considered a strident supporter of Carol Wood and the anti-Bernero crowd.


Since ascending to the president post, Robinson has been a more moderating presence. She supported the Gillespie project and has broken with the Wood-Hewitt- Brian Jeffries block on some key votes.


No name is publicly "out there" as a challenger for Robinson, but there are rumblings that there may be blue-collar, working class folk in the 3rd Ward who voted for Robinson in ’07 who may not like her sudden metamorphosis.


If Robinson loses the voting base that led her to victory in 2007, she will need to pick up support elsewhere. Robinson only won by 72 votes last time when a combined 2,716 voters participated. The margin of error here can be surprisingly small.


But the number of days for her situation or the situation of any of the aforementioned people to change is quite large. It’s still only a couple weeks before Christmas, after all.


(Kyle Melinn is the editor of the MIRS Newsletter. He can be reached at melinn@ lansingcitypulse.com.)

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