Journalism at Michigan State University

After Nassar: A community responds to a local face shrouded in national scandal

Ex-Michigan State University doctor and former Holt resident Larry Nassar is facing over 80 sexual abuse allegations, and that number seems to grow every week. Holt, a small and tight-knit community of just under 24,000 people watched as the headlines of court cases and accusations piled up. Nassar was a long-time resident and, at one point, an active member of the community. The reports began last summer, when allegations began to surface through the news media. One victim, Rachael Denhollander, alleged that Nassar — ungloved and without proper explanation — digitally penetrated her vagina during what was then explained to her as a “medical treatment.”

Denhollander learned later, as many of Nassar’s other patients, this was not a legitimate medical procedure—at the very least, not a commonly used and unexplained one.

Lansing residents stood outside of the city council meeting on Monday, Feb. 27 with a banner to show support for a sanctuary city resolution.

After months of dispute, Lansing is declared a sanctuary city

It is official; the Lansing City Council has unanimously voted and declared Lansing a sanctuary city. Prior to the meeting on April 3 where the vote took place, Lansing Mayor Virg Bernero released an executive order that clarified policies in place for city officials and law enforcement to more effectively protect immigrant and refugees in the community. In Bernero’s executive order, he stated the following:

“We are confident these new policies do not violate federal law, but we are also prepared to take legal action to protect the prerogatives and powers of local government and local law enforcement,” Bernero said. “We do not want our local police to become de facto immigration agents— especially under the divisive and draconian direction of the Trump administration.”

The council agreed. “I think is one time that the city of Lansing has got it right; we are aligned and I think this addressed all the things we are getting in our emails, within our phone calls, within our conversations,” Council Member Judi Brown Clarke said at the meeting Monday.

A car drives down South Waverly Road past a busy intersection located in Lansing Township. Photo by Hannah Holliday.

Accidents happen. Even in Lansing Township

With the further advancement of technology, drivers behind the wheel are now more distracted than ever and even in the small community of Lansing Charter Township, accidents happen. According to the Lansing Township’s Citizens Guide and Performance Dashboard, in 2014, there was a total of 469 non-injury crashes, 128 injury crashes and zero fatal crashes. However, Lansing Township Supervisor Diontrae Hayes said township roads for the most part don’t see a lot of hazardous driving. “In the Lansing area I haven’t seen much of that,” Hayes said in regards to crazy driving. “We do have accidents like every other place but I can’t say with certainty that consistently on x amount of roads here, there are people speeding or driving reckless.

Fiscal Budget for 2016-2017 for the City of Lansing based on a $199.7 million dollars

Public safety, public works dominate Lansing’s city budget

Lansing’s current city spending is focused on public safety and public works, according to city budget documents. Public safety gets over $70,000,000 of funding for both the fire and police department; and public works gets a little under the same amount for roads, sewers and recycling. In the 2016-2017 fiscal year, the city of Lansing budget had a total of $199.7 million dollars to spread out throughout several different departments. Lansing resident Ciara Johnson found the funding for road work very odd. “I find it very ironic that funding to repair roads gets over $18 million, like you said.

A pair of Lansing Township Police cars sit in the parking lot of the Lansing Township Police Department on Michigan Ave. First responders in Lansing Township can be dispatched to emergencies in surrounding jurisdictions outside the township. Photo by Casey Harrison.

Lansing Township first responders, among others in Lansing area, respond to calls outside jurisdiction

Like the other first responders in the greater-Lansing area, Lansing Township Police Officer Matt Birr’s daily routine is different from others in his field of work. The 10-year veteran can spend his 12-hour shift doing a number of things; from patrolling the morning traffic at Waverly East Intermediate School and other surrounding areas in the township, or handling penny thefts and other reports of mischievous behavior to intervening with calls about domestic abuse. “The days tend to go by pretty fast,” Birr said. And due to the fragmentation of Lansing Township, many of the station’s calls from the dispatch center aren’t actually cases where the Lansing Township Police Department has jurisdiction. The east and west sides of the township sandwich the city of Lansing, and the township is just blocks away from Clinton and Eaton counties.

Despite its headquarters residing in East Lansing, the Greater Lansing Jewish Welfare Federation supports Jewish community members from several surrounding cities.

Increase in threats and vandalism frightens some within Greater Lansing’s Jewish community

For many, Jewish Community Centers and similar organizations represent a place where people from all walks of life can go to feel safe and welcomed, no matter what color, gender or creed. For some, however, those places don’t feel quite as safe anymore. Over the past couple of months, there have been over 100 bomb threats made against JCCs and organizations across the United States. Although there have been no actual incidences of bombings stemming from these threats, there has been widespread vandalism against these centers. In addition to the bomb threats, there have been several incidences of headstones in Jewish cemeteries being toppled over and destroyed.