Opinion

Lansing deserves a leader with vision and purpose

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Sixteen years I’ve served on the Lansing City Council, and, still, no one mistakes me for a “typical politician.” I’m known for being funny, outspoken, sometimes brash and unconventional.

I’m also honest, hard-working, extremely knowledgeable and very effective.

I gave up my Council seat to run for mayor because Lansing deserves a leader with vision and purpose. We need a mayor willing to explore bold initiatives to address the complex challenges facing our city. We need a different approach to governance, led by a mayor who demonstrates compassion and empathy and doesn’t shy away from accountability.

From the moment I took office, I’ve been a staunch advocate for resident-driven community and economic development, social equity and human rights, green infrastructure and fiscal responsibility. I’m proud to have a tangible record of service to our residents and business owners. 

In my first year on the Council, I worked with local LGBTQ and BIPOC communities to write Lansing’s Human Rights Ordinance, with protections against discrimination in housing, employment and public accommodations. I also made the case to install stormwater filtration systems along Michigan Avenue to clean toxic runoff before it reaches the river.

In the years since, I worked with our parks department to write the MDNR grant used to purchase the largest remaining riverfront parcel of land in the city. Those 28 acres of wilderness became Hunters Ridge Park, which is now full of mountain bike trails connecting three parks along the Grand River.

I facilitated a yearlong community engagement process with residents and small business owners to redesign the South Washington streetscape and pave the way (pun intended) for the renaissance that transformed the REO Town commercial district.

When a neighborhood shopping center lost its anchor grocery store, I worked with surrounding neighborhood organizations, adjacent business owners and the Lansing Economic Area Partnership to recruit a new Spartan Valuland grocery store.

I proudly worked alongside members of our Latinx and immigrant communities to create sanctuary policies that protect noncitizen residents’ rights to due process.

When the city privatized the parts supplier in our city garage, I worked with UAW leadership to prove that costs were higher and efficiency was lower, and the contract was terminated. We restored two union jobs and saved money.

Most recently, I worked with city attorneys and finance staff to restructure the Lansing Lugnuts contract renewal, saving taxpayers $2 million dollars in the process.

Lansing needs a mayor willing to roll up their sleeves, dive deep and get things done.

In addition to serving on the Council, I’m the founder and director of South Lansing Community Development Association, which oversees: the South Lansing Farmers Market, supporting local growers/entrepreneurs and increasing neighborhood access to healthy food; the Hawk Island Triathlon, which promotes South Lansing as a destination for numerous recreational opportunities; and South Lansing Urban Gardens, where we grow thousands of pounds of fresh produce to donate to local food pantries. We also host our own 24-hour food pantry and coordinate with other agencies to provide for unsheltered clients and newly housed families.

As a nonprofit director, I’m privileged to work with our most vulnerable residents, helping them navigate systems that weren’t designed for them. As a Council member, I have strong relationships with staff in all city departments and I’m well acquainted with city operations and the budget process. I am the only candidate who brings this unique combination of municipal experience and grassroots perspective to the mayor’s office.

Under the current administration, trust has eroded inside and outside of City Hall. Morale has declined among city employees, to the point that some describe themselves as passengers on a rudderless ship. Community members also deserve leadership. We are in our second year of record levels of gun violence, with two more victims this week, and this mayor has resisted investing in solutions until there’s a sustained public outcry.

Under my administration, the organizational culture of City Hall — including our relationships with employees, retirees and the community — will be centered on collaboration, transparency and trust. I will lead by example, empower our employees to innovate, and involve stakeholders in decisions that impact their lives.

My top priorities are post-pandemic recovery, economic and community health, increasing safe and affordable housing options, adopting priority- and outcome-based budgeting which includes reigning in unfunded liabilities, reducing epidemic levels of gun violence that disproportionately impact our Black youth and using integrated technology to foster innovation in systems and services.

Sixteen years ago, I won my first election with $4,000 and two pairs of Birkenstocks, beating a candidate who outspent me 8:1. I’ve stayed in office because people trust in their gut that I genuinely care about them as individuals and our larger community. I still have those sandals, and I still care.

I’d be honored to serve as your next mayor. Visit kathiedunbar.com for more details. 

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