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The Lansing City Council is evenly divided between at-large members, who represent the entire city, and those who represent each of the city’s four wards. The latter, if they do their job right, find the right balance between acting both in the best interests of all residents and of those in the ward that sent them to City Hall. The 2nd Ward is fortunate to have just such a representative in Tina Houghton.
In her eight years on the Council, Houghton has demonstrated a grasp of the broad issues, has won the support of both the UAW and the Lansing Regional Chamber of Commerce, has voted progressively on most issues, such as sanctuary cities, has a very good attendance record at Council and committee meetings and has stayed in touch with her constituents. Moreover, though often quiet, she stands up for her beliefs. One current example is her position favorable to medical marijuana dispensaries, which are unpopular in the 2nd Ward, where they have proliferated on Cedar Street. Representing a ward that badly needs economic development, Houghton would have preferred no cap on dispensaries. But as a realist, Houghton voted for the 25-dispensary compromise that the Council recently imposed.
Her critics say Houghton is not responsive enough to constituents, and, as reported in City Pulse, perhaps she could improve. But others in her ward say she is responsive. Even one of her primary opponents, Jim Deline, said she frequently attends meetings of a neighborhood association he helped form. “I often leave before Tina does,” he added. “She’s there talking to people.”
Houghton deserves criticism for having not paid traffic tickets in a timely fashion. Further, she demonstrated bad judgment in asking the city attorney to quash a resulting arrest warrant (and the city attorney showed further bad judgment in obliging her). But those missteps are far outweighed by her record of public service on behalf of the city at large and her ward in particular.
Her opponent, plumber Jeremy Garza, has not only a thin record of public service — which consists of serving on the city’s Plumbing Board for six years — but also no record of having even voted in a City Council race until August, despite being registered for 15 years. His sudden interest in the Council gives every appearance of him being a candidate bought and paid for by the trade unions, which have financed his campaign. This newspaper is hardly anti-union, but there is much more to the job he seeks than fighting for prevailing wage, worthy cause though it is.
Moreover, his campaign slogan — “Working for the regular people,” with “regular” underlined — is concerning. Maybe it’s just empty political rhetoric. Or maybe it’s an appeal to the 30.6 percent of Ward 2 voters who backed Donald Trump and helped put him over the top in Michigan and hence nationally. The slogan smacks of the politics of division, which is the last thing we need today. We want Council members who represent not just “regular people” but all people.