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Resolve Greater Lansing: Local leaders outline vision for 2020 

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It’s a new year. We asked dozens of local leaders.

They answered: How can we resolve to make Greater Lansing a better place in 2020?

Sarah Anthony, Representative, State of Michigan:

For 2020, it is my hope that our community keeps civility and respect for our neighbors and all mankind at the forefront of our minds and deeds. Irrespective of the divisiveness and hatred we see in national politics, I want our community to focus on  the things that bind us together: our shared values, our common interests, and our collective desire to make sure our neighbors have everything they need to achieve their goals and provide for their families.

Ruth Beier, Mayor, City of East Lansing:

The Greater Lansing area is already a wonderful place to live, work, go to school, and raise a family. The current City Council in East Lansing plans to increase focus on one of those aspects of livability — improving career opportunities so that talented people of all ages choose to establish their careers in the Greater Lansing area. Too often, people think that they have to leave the area for good jobs in growing fields. We hope to attract businesses that will attract and retain a quality workforce. Combining career opportunities with our world-class K-12 education, our five brand new elementary schools and our proximity to MSU will make this a destination that workers and families should consider when deciding where to establish themselves professionally.

“Metro Melik” Brown, Owner, LansingMade:

The continued goal of LansingMade is to showcase what’s cool in the region. We have great business attributes and natural resources. If we continue to work together to uplift ourselves, we’ll feel good about ourselves as a community. Others will begin to take notice. Lansing grit is fierce. It’s time for the world to see the many opportunities available in this community. Our greatest positive is the people of Metro Lansing. We are diverse, innovative, industrial, artistic, caring, giving, resourceful and strong. I hope to continue to build a collaborative community that can help all of Metro Lansing prosper.

Bryan Crenshaw, Commission Chairman, Ingham County:

While it may be unpopular with some voters, the Ingham County Board of Commissioners is looking to make Greater Lansing a better place in 2020 by asking voters to renew many millages that are set to expire. Because of cuts at the state and federal levels with revenue sharing and other funding, municipalities must fund these services through millages or other methods so residents who need these critical services receive them. As stewards of tax dollars, the board will ensure that tax dollars received through these millages is used only for the purposes intended. Ingham County voters have historically supported our millages to provide enhanced services to their quality of life. Voting and supporting these renewals will show continued support of making Greater Lansing a better place and a destination for many to come to.

Paula Cunningham, Michigan State Director, AARP:

I envision a Lansing where every man, woman and child can reach their full potential and live in a community that is safe, has easy access to both a quality education and quality health care from the cradle to the grave. I want a Lansing where older adults can maintain the quality of their life by  choosing how they want to age and they are given more support for home and community-based services. I dream of a Lansing that is healthy and where grade school children embrace healthy choices and exercise, where they learn about entrepreneurship and financial security; a Lansing where children grow up without needing unaffordable prescription drugs. I want a Lansing where a 96-year-old can sit in the park with a 9-year-old, both from different parts of the city, and enjoy the bands West 496 or Phil Denny and dance in the street until the sun goes down. I want a praying Lansing that never loses faith in God. So in 2020, I resolve to continue working with AARP, the state and community partners to make Michigan the best “age-friendly” state in the nation.  I invite you to join in this effort.

Sirrita Darby, English Teacher, Sexton High School: 

My hope is that in 2020 we will raise the student voice and put education at the forefront in Lansing. I hope that more people will realize that we are in a siege when it comes to education and choose to fight instead of rest. Some people may see chaos but I see community and I know that educating all of Lansing’s children has to be a collective responsibility of the community. Schools have become the scapegoat for issues of the community but as community members, we have to address those issues too.

Scott Duimstra, Executive Director, Capital Area District Libraries:

For me, the answer to this question is a simple one. It’s to just care. Care about what happens to our communities. Care about those growing up in our schools. Care about those who face barriers in life, in school or in work. Care about our parks, our libraries, our police, our fire. Care about what you do and how it can make an impact on those around you. The list can go on and on. If we care and attach importance to things in our communities, then Greater Lansing will become a better place. Through my work, I care about increasing literacy rates in our communities. I care about helping people connect through technology. I care about making sure everyone feels welcome in our libraries, and in turn, our communities. Overall, I care about empowering every community we serve and that residents feel proud of where they live, work and play.

Daryl Green, Chief, Lansing Police Department:

In 2020, The Lansing Police Department resolves to embrace promising problem-oriented and intelligence-led policing tactics and technologies which are consistent with our core philosophy of community policing. Our crime-fighting strategies should not only be effective at reducing crime but also safeguard the constitutional rights of community members. As a police department, we understand the need to engage innovative training, technology, equipment, manpower and other synergies that enhance our ability to protect the city but further protect community trust-building efforts. LPD must continue to create partnerships that assist in problem-solving societal issues such as homelessness, mental illness and substance abuse. We understand the need to collaborate with community members, agencies and other sections of government to find solutions that address the root of these problems. LPD will continue to train officers on de-escalation techniques and implicit bias which mitigates uses of force when dealing with people having mental breakdowns and other conflicts. Finally, LPD must increase its efforts to inform, train and interact with community members, including our youth through our Citizen Police Academy, Police Athletic League and other community policing efforts needed to fulfill our overarching mission to protect those that live, work or visit the city of Lansing.

Jessy Gregg, Councilwoman, City of East Lansing:

We've made some great strides in rehabilitating our trail infrastructure in the last few years, and there are a lot of great parks and trail projects in the pipeline. I think the Capitol region is well situated to be a regional destination for outdoor recreation if we continue to invest in our trails and blueways (river trails) infrastructure. We also need to continue the work that’s been done on our “complete streets” plan. It should be just as easy and convenient to navigate our towns on foot or on a bike as it is by car. I would also like to see more of our vacant retail spaces filled, ideally with locally owned businesses outside of the chain-restaurant mold. If someone locally has an exciting idea for a shop or business I want them to keep that idea here so that we can benefit from it rather than take their creative ideas elsewhere. There’s been some progress made with local tech incubators but tech companies are only one piece in the local economy puzzle. We need incubator space for other kinds of start-ups as well.

Curtis Hertel Jr., Senator, State of Michigan:

In 2020, I resolve to encourage and promote a return to decency. Three years of a president who will literally attack anyone — a 16-year-old girl, a disabled reporter, the widow of a passed congressman in the week before Christmas — has left all of us feeling raw. The danger is if we allow this to poison our political discourse. This year we saw an over the top rhetoric during the budget battle in Lansing and even our local races in Lansing had negative tones. I hope all elected officials will try to be more civil in our discourse, and that citizens will hold them accountable if they fail to do so.

Adam Hussain, Councilman, City of Lansing:

We must be unwavering in 2020 and aggressively pursue deliberate and productive efforts to move the entire city of Lansing forward. We must prioritize economic development along our commercial corridors, strengthen community policing and enhance public safety, pursue efforts to crack down on predatory businesses and slum landlords, address infrastructure woes, support neighborhood capacity and interconnectedness, and work smarter to provide quality public services. That being said, we must also acknowledge the importance of regionalism and embrace it as our best chance at making our larger community attractive and vibrant while sharing the resources and responsibilities involved in doing so. We must lead conversations centered on the diversity and affordability of the region’s housing stock, economic diversity and economic mobility, workforce training, centralization of operations when possible, infrastructure, and the fight for limited state and federal resources. We have a big year ahead of us and I’m excited to get started!

Steve Japinga, Public Affairs Vice President, Lansing Regional Chamber of Commerce:

In the past decade, the landscape has shifted and transformed dramatically by transformational projects throughout the Lansing region. Economists believe the U.S. economy is on solid footing and Michigan will see stable growth heading into next year. This year will undoubtedly be an exciting one for our region, and how we start it off will make a significant impact on the growth of the next decade. As we anticipate a challenging election cycle at the federal level. We are hopeful that our local elected officials and interest groups will rise above the noise of negativity and continue to work across party, county, township and city lines to move our region in a positive direction. The tri-county region will always face a multitude of diverse challenges. However, we must continually commit — particularly in the upcoming year — to set aside our differences and come to the table to work together and find solutions that will create a better region.

George Lahanas, Manager, City of East Lansing:

Striving for greater environmental sustainability is one of the first things that comes to mind when thinking about how to make Greater Lansing a better place in 2020 and the years to follow. We, at the city of East Lansing, will continue our efforts to reduce the city’s environmental footprint in 2020 by making strides toward a 100-percent clean energy goal. As a community that was recently recognized with a SolSmart Gold designation and collaborated with regional partners to open an award-winning community solar park on a retired landfill, we will also continue to encourage the use of solar energy in our community.. We are also continuing to focus on responsible reuse of land and urban density in our downtown to combat urban sprawl and promote a walkable community, and we are looking forward to the completion of the anaerobic digester at our water resource recovery facility, which will result in significant reductions in energy usage and biosolids disposal costs by converting methane gas into electricity. Additionally, we are extremely excited to have worked with regional partners to bring the region’s first material recycling facility to Lansing, which will open in 2020. Environmental sustainability is an ongoing journey and, we, as local communities, must do our part to ensure our future viability.

Mike Mackey, Chief, Lansing Fire Department:

The Lansing Fire Department strives to provide quality, caring, skilled all-hazard emergency response services to the Citizens of Lansing. As an organization, we resolve to ensure the highest level of efficiency and effectiveness for all types of emergency response. The importance of well-trained firefighting and EMS personnel, along with specialty response personnel readily available to respond to any emergency our community may have is well understood and supported as a priority. Beyond the LFD’s response capabilities, it is our mission to prevent as many emergencies as possible from occurring and keeping our community safe. As such, we are working on increasing community outreach and education. In 2019, we worked with the Lansing School District to provide the inaugural CPR training to high school students with hopes of expanding this collaborative program to more students in 2020. This is just one example of many programs LFD is working on to increase our community involvement and engagement. As an organization, we strive to truly be a world-class department for the community we serve.

Thomas Morgan, Commissioner, Ingham County:

Too often we measure progress by cranes in the sky. Development is great — especially when it creates good-paying union jobs for local workers — but at the end of the day, our community is only as strong as our weakest residents. The child failing third grade because his home life is in shambles doesn’t care how many high-end apartments Pat Gillespie is building. The 55-year-old woman with two jobs but no access to mental health care doesn’t benefit from Joel Ferguson’s new boutique hotel. A hip microbrewery doesn’t help an 80-year-old widow stay in her own house instead of being wheeled into the dank corner of a cheap nursing home. Progress means better lives for our residents, and that’s why I’m working to expand the county’s health services millage to include mental health, and it’s why I’ve co-authored a new senior citizens’ millage to provide critical services for elder residents in need. I’m urging everyone in Ingham County to approve the health care millage on March 10 and the seniors’ millage on Aug. 4. As we enter a new decade, let’s resolve to remember that people matter most — and let’s recalibrate our priorities accordingly.

Dick Peffley, General Manager, Lansing Board of Water & Light:

It has been a great year for the Lansing Board of Water & Light, and we’re looking forward to great things in 2020 too. This year, we broke ground on the largest construction project in company history: a new, cleaner and more efficient $500 million natural gas-fired plant called Delta Energy Park — expected to be operational in summer 2021. We also completed the central substation, which provides reliable power to downtown Lansing while also serving as the gateway to REO Town. It’s critical we continue to invest and upgrade infrastructure throughout the greater Lansing region to best serve our customers. The BWL is fulfilling that promise, as we’re committed to making the place we live and work better than we found it.

Mark Polsdofer, Commissioner, Ingham County

As a member of the Ingham County Brownfield Redevelopment Authority, as well as an Ingham County commissioner for Okemos, I am working on various initiatives to encourage installation of electric vehicle charging stations in the tri-county region. As the auto industry rapidly transforms toward electric, charging stations will be critical to keep the Lansing area ahead of the curve for business attraction, job growth and retention, as well as tourism.

Randy Schafer, Commissioner, Ingham County:

Greater Lansing becomes a better place when we elected officials (including me) put aside our egos and narcissism and focus on the common good and needs. If we don't care who becomes chair of a board, who gets his or her name in the media or who claims credit for the work of many; if we are truly focused on self-improvement and contentment within ourselves; amazing things can happen. If we seek to understand and listen, as we would like to be listened to; amazing things happen. Away with the nastiness, vindictiveness, blaming others and personal attacks and focus on the common good as one would focus on a precious newborn child. Imagine what will happen.

Andy Schor, Mayor, City of Lansing:

There was no slowing down during my second year as mayor in 2019. But there is still much that can be done to make Lansing even better. City government does what we can by using our existing resources to improve infrastructure (roads, sidewalks, sewers), neighborhoods, economy and schools. But we can do more with citizen help, and we continue to explore new avenues for resident involvement and input into decision making. We have held town halls and done in-person and electronic surveying on important issues. We always hope that residents and visitors will participate and provide their opinions. We have many avenues for direct participation including our Lansing Citizen Academy and Police Citizen Academy. We have many boards and commissions where citizens can participate. And we will continue to hold participatory budget conversations and do surveying as we prepare our next budget. For more exciting announcements, join me and my team at my 3rd State of the City Address on Feb. 5. We welcome all who have the time and energy to make Lansing an even greater place in 2020 and beyond!

Jack Schripsema, President, Greater Lansing Convention & Visitors Bureau:

This year promises to be an exciting one for the Greater Lansing region, with many destination changing developments coming to completion. The skyline is changing, creating positive momentum for continued growth. I look forward to promoting the region in 2020 to foster community pride and build visitor awareness and demand. My resolution for 2020 is to celebrate the renaissance of the Greater Lansing region and to spread the message that Lansing is rising.

Derrell Slaughter, Commissioner, Ingham County: 

If we all commit to the goal of ensuring our citizens have adequate resources to meet their mental and physical health ailments, our Greater Lansing region will be a much better place to live, work, and play. The real strength of our region is our hardworking, creative people. With this understanding, it makes all the sense in the world that we commit to investing in institutions that provide these vital mental and physical healthcare services.

Peter Spadafore, Council Vice President, City of Lansing

Our region continues to be a place that seeks to improve. We don’t always succeed but we dare to try. To that end, we as a community must continue to aim higher. We must continue to experiment and create–be bold. We must continue to work toward the goal of making Lansing a great place to live, work, and play for all residents, not just a few. We won’t always be successful. In fact, many times we will fail. But we as a region should not be afraid to explore new ways to collaborate on our most pressing issues. Whether to tackle our housing challenges, our regionalism questions, or to find new and exciting things to do, we must not be afraid to try. As we head into 2020, we should all resolve to keep an open mind, to work together, and to explore new ways to make Greater Lansing a better place for all residents.

Patricia Spitzley, Councilwoman, City of Lansing:

Continue to grow and diversify our economy. Continue to seek out waste in city government. Make sure our residents have clean and safe places to live. We must develop a set of enforceable policies and procedures that hold recalcitrant landlords accountable for unsafe housing stock. We must look at new tools to not only compel compliance with our housing codes but also allow us to recoup the costs associated with non-compliant housing stock. Right now we are unable to completely recoup the costs of multiple inspections, attorney fees, and other costs associated with non-compliant landlords. I am hoping that the City Council, working with the mayor’s office is able to develop ordinances that require the landlord to pay for lodging when their properties are red-tagged and uninhabitable by their residents.

Aaron Stephens, Mayor Pro-Tem, City of East Lansing:

This coming year, with new leadership in place in many areas throughout the region, I hope that we are able to utilize resources, and solicit input from each other, rather than acting as competitors. I look forward to the opportunity to work with the new MSU administration on important issues affecting students and members of the Greater Lansing community. The idea that our actions do not affect each other, whether that be the actions of Lansing, East Lansing, Okemos or MSU is a falsehood. My next resolution is something I cannot do alone, and hope is not as big of a task as I imagine it is. I want to see this region more involved in their community. I want to see elected officials holding more coffee hours, extra communication and transparency from governmental agencies, I want to see public attendance of meetings, and we need to see involvement in the upcoming election. Today, we decide the future of our community, everyone should be involved in that process. I ran for office at a young age, because I wanted to be a part of shaping my future. Let’s all be a part of shaping the future of our community now.

Kelly Tebay, Trustee, Michigan State University:

My 2020 resolution is to make Michigan State University a desirable place to study and work. That MSU would be an economic driver for Greater Lansing and a trusted partner in our community. Michigan State will be where people come together to solve problems for our state with innovation, expertise and integrity. An institution that leads in addressing community health holistically, including resources and support for mental health issues and preventing sexual assault on college campuses. That our campus is diverse, equitable and inclusive and expands these ideals beyond our borders.

J. Estrella Torrez, Associate Professor, Michigan State University:

The Greater Lansing area is a place rich in spirit, culture, and ingenuity. I have always appreciated the love that Lansing folks have for the area. Whether the Greater Lansing area has always been their home or a temporary home, the people in this community breathe life into the area. The spirit to build collectively, lovingly, and with such dedication cannot be found easily. My hope for 2020 is that we continue to build the area together and welcome newcomers into these efforts. We, as a collective, look upon our resources and be sure to uplift all those that make the area their home. We dedicate ourselves to supporting newcomers to the area while maintaining our commitment to those who have lived in the area for generations. I would hope that we continue to encourage the growth of the arts, small businesses, and community spaces specifically dedicated to youth. The city should dedicate funds to supporting our area youth through the arts. In the end, I would love to see 2020 be the year that the Greater Lansing area be representative of all those who call this place home.

Bob Trezise, President and CEO, Lansing Economic Area Partnership:

The region’s Lansing Economic Area Partnership will be focusing on four areas of economic development: One, we will develop ecosystems of Med-Tech (medical isotopes and other health-related innovations), Ag Tech (food production facilities/M-21 Corridor) and Insurtech (global high tech startups related to our insurance industry). We will unify our region’s global assets in these high growth niches, creating ecosystems that naturally encourage and attract jobs and investment from around the world. Secondly, LEAP will unveil inclusive-focused business startup programs to add to our already robust partnerships. Thirdly, utilizing our Big Small City pitch for the region, we will continue to attract new companies to our region, which in turn will continue to imperatively grow our in-migration population. Fourth, with the Lansing Regional Chamber of Commerce, we will unveil the first year of what will be an annual benchmarking study of our region’s economic and community well-being compared to major regions around the country. This information will be very eye-opening. While we are doing well right now, $3.2 billion of construction is underway across the region, we cannot be complacent about our economic development efforts and the reality of our competitiveness and accomplishment in comparison to the Greenvilles and Nashvilles of the world.

Samantha Vaive, Trustee, Lansing Community College:

In 2020 I’d like to see the city move towards being more female-friendly. It is my hope that women will be supported in Lansing by the removal of the tampon tax and ending Bathroom Inequality so that menstrual products are freely available in all public restrooms just like toilet paper, soap, and paper towels.

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