Bernero redux?

Lansing's 'Angriest Mayor' is halfway there

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Have you watched the fallout of COVID-19, the city's budget problems and the issues of tense race relations issues and dreamed back to the days of former Mayor Virg Bernero Well, you may get your wish.

Word on the street is Bernero is at least 50/50 set on running for his old job in 2021. Obviously, we're all thinking presidential politics these days, but Mayor Andy Schor has only fewer than 17 months on his term left.

Asked directly about running again, Bernero said, "A number of community and business leaders have reached out to me with concerns about the direction of the city, asking if I would consider returning to the Mayor's office. I love the city of Lansing and the people here, and still believe in our terrific potential. I have not ruled it out."

If Schor doesn't run (although all indications are that he will), the odds of a Bernero Redux go up. Although, Lansing's "Angriest Mayor" isn't afraid of running against Schor either.

Bernero has kept himself busy consulting some marijuana clients. He's still leading the Capital Area Manufacturing Council as executive director and he's tried his hand at doing a regular political podcast.

But some business leaders miss Bernero's decisive style, particularly when hooligans were smashing windows along Washington Avenue a couple months ago.

Would Mayor Virg Bernero have gone home when protesters were parading around neighborhoods in the afternoon and camping out in the city's downtown business district when the sun sets? I doubt it.

Should the city be draining its reserves right now? Couldn't the city budget get much worse?

Also, consider this: The issues that arguably chased him from the 2017 race are in the rearview mirror.

Who remembers the oddly timed firing of Peter Lark? The ice storm that put half of us in the deep freeze around Christmas? Janene McIntyre? Schor's has his share of personnel departures, too. The two are theoretically even-steven on that front … well, kind of.

Schor hit a rough patch during the George Floyd protests. But calls for his resignation have gradually quieted down as the reinforcements were marched in to right the ship.

Teresa Bingman, a former Gov. Jennifer Granholm attorney, is helping Schor draw up a diversity plan. Sliding Nik Tate into a chief of staff role made a lot of sense.

All signs have Schor running for reelection in 2021, but I'm not expecting a final decision until year's end. He didn't give up time in the Legislature to be a one-term mayor. We'll see how the Police Department reforms are received and what type of autumn he has.

He's getting police out of the business of addressing a mental health issue or issuing tickets for fuzzy dice from the rearview mirror.

Schor's support within the city hasn't gone away. He's still the deliberative, calming presence in the Mayor's Office who would rather strike a deal around the table than pick a fight. Some like that approach better.

Also, there's no lineup of top-tier political types looking to take Schor out. Rep. Sarah Anthony has leadership potential in the Legislature and is a likely contender to replace term-limited Sen. Curtis Hertel in 2022. She is not showing any signs of switching to city politics.

City Council President Peter Spadafore hasn't shown much interest in running, either, particularly not against Schor.

If Schor does show signs that he's "one and done," I'd expect to see someone different to emerge. Certainly, an African American and most likely an African American woman. City Councilmember Patricia Spitzley has been mentioned, but a community leader or member of the business community is another real possibility.

Whoever it is will need to have the fire in the belly to win. Because if there's one thing we all know about Virg, he brings a lot of that to all of his races.

(Kyle Melinn of the Capitol news service MIRS is at melinnky@gmail.com.)

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