East Lansing senior Brandon Johns prepares for a recent basketball game. Johns plans to attend the University of Michigan.

East Lansing basketball standout Brandon Johns heads to Ann Arbor

Most people who closely follow college basketball recruiting might have thought a top basketball prospect born and raised in Lansing  would choose to stay home and play under Tom Izzo at Michigan State University. But Brandon Johns, a 6-foot-8 small forward at East Lansing High School, had other plans. Johns loves his hometown, but he decided to commit to the University of Michigan. It was the path he wanted to take. “A lot of people were happy,” Johns said, “especially the people that really cared about me because they knew it was my decision and my future.

East Lansing offering unique assistance to homeless families

While Greater Lansing provides a variety of resources for individuals dealing with homelessness, East Lansing’s Haven House targets families in need. In 2015, members of families comprised over half of the homeless population in Michigan, according to data from the Homeless Management Information System. In Ingham County, the numbers are similar. Roughly 46 percent of people dealing with homelessness are families and children, according to the Greater Lansing Area 2015 Annual Homeless Report. “Homelessness is an issue throughout the greater Lansing region,” said Amy Schlusler-Schmitt, East Lansing’s community development and engagement manager.

Two police forces in East Lansing work together to ensure public safety

Like many college towns, East Lansing is home to two police forces: the East Lansing Police Department and the Michigan State University Police Department. With MSU’s police force focused primarily on events occurring on campus, East Lansing residents receive the majority of the attention of ELPD. “Really there’s personalities to every neighborhood, and the more that you could localize the police to be sensitive and human the less violence that would happen during an arrest,” said Robin Lee Berry, an East Lansing resident. Since both police forces have been around for a long period of time, many people don’t think much of there being two police departments in the city of East Lansing. “I don’t know what happened at the beginning of time, (Michigan State has) always had their own police department as long as I’ve been paying attention,” said East Lansing City Council Member Ruth Beier.

New construction in downtown East Lansing to provide housing, parking and retail for residents

The Center City District redevelopment project has residents hopeful for positive changes in downtown East Lansing. According to the City of East Lansing website, the City Center District is a mixed-use redevelopment project involving Albert and Grand River avenues. Planning & Zoning Administrator David Haywood said the project will include two buildings with housing, retail, a parking structure and infrastructure improvements. “There are two buildings, one on Grand River and one on Albert,” said Haywood. “The Grand River building is 12 stories.

Red Cedar Elementary updating the school and programming

Along with the rebuilding and remodeling of East Lansing school district’s elementary schools, the programming inside of them will be seeing some changes, too. And the school board is moving toward more diversity and inclusion in these early childhood communities.

Does East Lansing need to have a better dialogue about religious freedom and sexuality?

University towns like East Lansing can be pivotal places of self-discovery and debate, but some say a better dialogue is still needed when it comes to religious freedom and sexual identity. Conversations between churches and the LGBT community can be polarizing. Although roughly 54 percent of U.S. Christians across denominations think homosexuality should be accepted by society, according to a 2014 survey conducted by Pew Research Center, many churches don’t fall into this category. “In my view, we’re letting the extremes on both sides define this debate and I think what we’re losing is the opportunity to try to find common ground,” said Frank Ravitch, a professor of law at Michigan State University, and author of “Freedom’s Edge: Religious Freedom, Sexual Freedom, and the Future of America.” According to Ravitch, religious entities like churches reserve the right to discriminate based on sexual identity, but not all types of discrimination should be conflated.