Resolve Greater Lansing: Local leaders outline vision for 2021

We asked dozens of local leaders: How can we resolve to make Greater Lansing a better place in 2020? Here’s what they said:

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Andy Schor, Lansing Mayor

Prospective Lansing mayoral candidate

The top priority for 2021 is to stay safe amid the pandemic. We must continue to practice social distancing, wear masks around others, help local businesses as possible and fight the common enemy: COVID-19. The City will provide COVID-safe activities for residents and will partner with the county Health Department to vaccinate Lansing residents and workers. Lansing will strengthen its commitment to diversity, equity, and inclusion. The Mayor’s Racial Justice and Equity Alliance will work with the city’s diversity officer to finalize and implement their recommendations. We will commit to addressing climate change and sustainability through Lansing’s climate action plan. And I will work with the City Council to provide expected services while navigating reduced revenues due to the economic consequences of COVID-19. We will build on last year’s growth, adding to the successful efforts of opening a downtown grocery store, adding new housing, installing new public art, providing rental and mortgage assistance and increasing services for those in need. Lansing is resilient, and ready for 2021!

Patricia Spitzley, Lansing City Councilwoman

Prospective Lansing mayoral candidate

I resolve to ensure that all Lansing residents feel safe, valued and respected. The consequences of the COVID-19 pandemic will be felt for a long time. Humans are not meant to be so isolated. Mental health, domestic violence and child abuse are the unintended consequences of a necessary quarantine. We have also faced the ugly specter of hate and divisiveness, not only across the nation, but in our own community. I resolve to continue work started in the Diversity, Equity & Inclusion Committee, created as part of a resolution that declared racism a public health crisis. I resolve to hold the administration accountable as we seek out waste in city government, while providing our residents with the best services and ensuring that they have a clean, safe to live. We must continue to seek out opportunities to diversify and grow our economy. We must not be afraid to meet new challenges. Distrust in city government and budget shortfalls await us, but by working together we will persevere.

Virg Bernero, Former Lansing Mayor (2006-2017)

Prospective Lansing mayoral candidate

What sets Lansing apart from other places is its people. There is no obstacle we cannot overcome if we tap the talent of our people and truly pull together. Decades ago, Mayor David Hollister pulled together a blue ribbon commission with business and government leaders from throughout the region to convince General Motors to reinvest here — and it worked. GM continues to build the best cars in the world right here in Lansing and Delta Township. More recently, the region came together to save Potter Park Zoo and bolster the Lansing River Trail through permanent, dedicated funding. When asked, local voters always support regionalism in transportation, education and recreation. Now we just need to get local politicians on board with it. For 2021, we must resolve to continue to find strength in working together.

Steve Japinga, Lansing Regional Chamber of Commerce vice president

Last year was challenging for all of us, but the Lansing region has continually demonstrated how important it was to collaborate and help those in need. This will continue in 2021 with the RELAUNCH Greater Lansing Task Force. Leaders in business, government, education and healthcare came together to develop strategies to help create a successful regional relaunch strategy for our region. The task force developed a blueprint to help businesses relaunch, reopen and re-engage operations safely. There is no doubt that we all look forward to the new year. However, there is still much work to be done. We still face significant challenges that jeopardize our community’s potential for economic growth and vitality. We must resolve to continue to work together to move our region forward in a positive way.

Curtis Hertel Jr., 23rd District state senator, D-East Lansing

Last year was difficult for everyone. We often don’t know of the personal struggles others are living through. In 2021, I hope we all can show more grace and kindness to others.

Carol Siemon, Ingham County prosecuting attorney

In the criminal justice system, there are continuing efforts to address needed reforms and improve racial justice and equity. But there can be no question that COVID-19 is having a once-in-a-generation impact. In my generation, losing 60,000 Americans to the Vietnam War left scars. With COVID-19, we are now approaching 2 million deaths reported worldwide. The economic, social and psychological impacts are enormous. To resolve to make Lansing a better place, we must be patient with the ongoing health and safety protocols in place, work remotely when possible, and limit social and physical contact. At the same time, we must learn what old ways of doing things can be left behind, which can be modified and how we can move forward in our jobs, communities, and personal lives to enhance with compassion and safety-related personal responsibility our continuing efforts for a more fair and just community for us all.

Sam Inglot, Progress Michigan deputy director

When we create a transparent and accountable government, we create a better place to live. In 2021, elected officials should commit to more transparency and accountability. In Lansing, that starts with the police department. From public access to body camera footage to records regarding internal investigations, LPD and our elected officials have continually erected roadblocks to full transparency. The public deserves access to records regarding bad police officers. We deserve to know how they are disciplined. We deserve to know if problem police are being kept on the force. The energy that brought residents together to call for racial justice for Black and Brown communities and police accountability will continue into 2021 and beyond. Basic transparency can help build trust and establish accountability. And this lesson shouldn’t only be reserved for just the police or other elected officials in Lansing, but for all levels of government, including those elected to state government. We also need to fundamentally change the rules for financial disclosure, lobbying and accountability for state elected officials.

Joan Jackson Johnson, former director of human relations and community services

This year has given each of us a clearer understanding of the many gifts and challenges that comprise our own lives. As we become aware of the medical, social, financial and other devastations felt by so many, let us not wrap a beginning and ending around this experience but rather allow it to open our hearts and minds to the ongoing daily needs of others.

Greater Lansing may be defined by place, but maybe more importantly, by those who call it home. The extent to which we each give care and respect and hope to our community neighbors should best define our goals for 2021. Whether in words or deeds or attitude, let us resolve to focus our energies in the new year on sharing and giving as we express our gratitude for the gifts we too often take for granted.

Mark Grebner, Ingham County Commissioner

Bah! Humbug.

Dana Watson, East Lansing City Councilwoman

We can make Greater Lansing a better place in 2021 by supporting outreach efforts with choice toward community immunity. I’m getting the COVID-19 vaccination. Also, I am determined to see our community be better by emphasizing interdependence. Each of us are visibly separate beings, however, each individual creates seen and unseen ripples for our community. Some of us have broken hearts with our actions and others have spread good trouble. Individuals impact themselves and their circle, their community and many loved ones on both ends. Next, uphold all the work we do with an equity lens. Let’s strive to fine tune our interest in attracting and keeping diverse groups of workers, families and businesses. Finally, I resolve to be familiar with what racial justice and inclusivity looks like so I can serve it and choose it each time for my community. And I would be remiss if I did not keep encouraging more to respect the land.

Samantha Vaive, Lansing Community College trustee

It is my hope in 2021 that we can all make Lansing a kinder place. Every one of us has been through a devastating year. Life will not be going back to normal overnight. In a lot of ways, we should not go back to the way things were. In 2021, we need to be kind to each other, and just as importantly, kind to ourselves. There has been a great divide in our state and our country. People are angry. And you have a right to be. People of Color are still being attacked in our streets. Never stop fighting for justice or what’s right. But we need compassion and empathy from everyone to rebuild a better society. Take a moment every day to find even the smallest gratitude for your loved ones, your life, and for yourself. Lansing is an amazing place because each one of you brings something unique. Even from inside your homes, you make Lansing a community. Don’t lose sight of that.

Bob Trezise, Lansing Economic Area Partnership president and CEO

From an economic development perspective at LEAP, we wish all in our region to equitably receive the coronavirus vaccine, in a very well organized way, as soon as possible, so we can stop the terrible suffering and death. Secondly, we hope government stimulus from the federal and state level can be implemented in the first half of the year to get our small businesses to a place late in 2021 where they can strongly and fully reopen. Third, LEAP’s new Department of Equity Economic Planning will be hard at work to make sure we begin to help correct systemic discrimination among our underserved populations, so that they can better access and participate with the economy and our economic development programs. Finally, we think we have a real opportunity to grow and attract many very significant projects throughout the region in 2021, creating good jobs and huge investment for all people in our community.

Frank L. Walsh, Meridian Township manager

I believe I can help in making Lansing a better place by serving our 43,000 Meridian residents with more compassion and kindness. This past year has reminded us that the world needs more of both. As we move into 2021, I plan to be very cognizant of what I can do to make life a little less challenging for those in need. Moving forward, my focus will be on how can I serve Meridian Township with a more caring and compassionate heart.

Julie Pingston, Greater Lansing Convention and Visitors Bureau president and CEO

This past year was like no other for the region’s tourism and hospitality industry. So much of what we enjoy promoting and sharing with our 5.3 million annual visitors evaporated quickly in March and has yet to return for our local hotels, restaurants, meeting and event venues, sporting facilities, theaters and so many more. I resolve to do everything I can to help ensure the visitor economy survives in 2021. Through the creativity of our local businesses, the pandemic has given residents an opportunity to rediscover their own community and enjoy outdoor adventure, public art, local food and drinks on patios, virtual performances and virtual tours. We hope you will resolve to join the Convention and Visitors Bureau in inviting and welcoming visitors back to our community as soon as we are able to in 2021 and beyond.

George Lahanas, East Lansing city manager

We can resolve to make Greater Lansing a better place in 2021 by continuing the important work that began in 2020, from taking additional steps to combat COVID-19 to working toward greater racial equity throughout the region and supporting our local businesses. Everyone loves a good comeback story, and my fervent hope is that 2021 is just that — an opportunity to reflect upon the past year and work together for a better tomorrow. We plan to continue to work with MSU and our local health officials to safeguard the community as vaccinations are rolled out, and we also plan to continue to focus on support initiatives for our local businesses. There is a tremendous amount of work yet to be done on the equity front, but we have assembled a great team of people to lead that effort. While we’ve all been impacted in one way or another by the events of 2020, it brought about stronger partnerships and a lasting spirit of regionalism.

Barb Byrum, Ingham County clerk

My resolution is to lift up those whose voices are not being heard, speak up when I see injustice, stand up for the citizens of Michigan and the residents of Ingham County against those who would disenfranchise them and live up to my oath to support the Constitution.

Scott Duimstra, Capital Area District Libraries executive director

We are still living through many of the same pre-pandemic issues as last year, like concern over area literacy rates for our students and limited access to technology for a number of residents. These issues have only been heightened by the pandemic. I resolve to make Greater Lansing a better place by working with elected officials and community partners to raise literacy rates for students, ensuring easy access to reliable, fast Internet connections so our community members can use them to become thriving students, productive employees and engaged citizens. Elected officials, businesses and nonprofits have a lot to offer our community and if we work together, we have a lot we can accomplish as well.

Ron Bacon, East Lansing City Councilman

Last year brought heights of triumph and tragedy often in the same week or the same day. We have been forever altered by 2020, but I choose to believe that our best days are yet to come. Here is a sampling of what I will take with me: If you can’t find the right person, be the right person. When we put our egos and differences aside, we learn that it is as natural to serve as it is breath. We are truly all in this thing together and often those least likely to ask for help may need it the most. When we focus on a common goal, even in the face of great heartbreak, division and calamity, we will emerge on the other side triumphant. In 2021, I desire that access to anything that has been denied to us begin to flow freely in our lives, that what we have lost be restored and that our pain and loss be transformed into laughter and wisdom.

Lorenzo Lopez, LGBTQ and Hispanic activist

We must get the pandemic under control, reopen up the economy and the schools and create some sort of normalcy. Greater Lansing must also acknowledge its diverse population. It must also recognize the inequities that exist, strategically remove them and collectively work with the entire business sector to secure jobs for those unemployed or underemployed. Affordable housing and homelessness are critical issues that require immediate attention. Racial justice and economic justice for all citizens in the region must also be a priority. Police brutality and excessive force must be part of the discussion. We can no longer allow health care to be a privilege. The Greater Lansing area also needs to create an arts and cultural district in which all genres of art can be created and become a major source of pride, revenue and tourism. We need real action, not empty words, if we are to make Greater Lansing a better place for all.

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