School Board election results show support for Red Cedar Elementary

redcedar

The Red Cedar Elementary sign still stands in front of the barren, unused school building.

By Irum Ibrahim
Entirely East Lansing

In Tuesday’s East Lansing School Board election, a referendum on the closing of Red Cedar Elementary, two of four seats were won by candidates who had spoken out against the closing. There were eight candidates in the race: Joe Borgstrom, Yasmina Bouraoui, David Gott, Kyle Guerrant, Karen Hoene, Neil Kuhnmuench, Kate Powers and Jeffrey C. Wray.

The winners included Powers with 3,919 votes, Hoene with 3,703, Bouraoui with 3,681 and Kuhnmuench with 3,641. Of the four winners, Hoene and Kuhnmuench announced that they did not support the closing of Red Cedar Elementary and were open to programming events in the school.

Additionally, candidate Wray was not in support of the closing either. He said that ramifications of the decision are still being seen, specifically in a difficulty to move forward.

“Now, the question is, how do you bring a community together that is divided amongst the educated? It must include some kind of remedy involving Red Cedar,” said Wray.
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Bridging together the Red Cedar divide

By Irum Ibrahim
Entirely East Lansing

In July 2014, the East Lansing Board of Education finalized its decision to shut down Red Cedar Elementary for financial purposes. Residents of East Lansing have seen several changes in the community since the school closing, with several claiming that an apparent divide has been created.

In this interview with Michigan State English Professor Jeffrey Wray, he shares his thoughts on how the closing has divided the East Lansing community. In addition, he discusses ways in which that divide can potentially be bridged together.

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The main struggles with East Lansing’s budget

By Jamie DeRosa
Entirely East Lansing

General Fund

The city of East Lansing has been experiencing budget problems for over a decade. An aging infrastructure and employee legacy costs have hindered the city since the early 2000s. The budget proposal for the 2015 fiscal year shows a more positive outlook than previous years, however the city still faces challenges which require small steps toward improvement.

The city’s streets, sewer and water infrastructures and sidewalks have needed improvement for a while now.

“It’s old and the city was established about 100 years ago, so a lot of our sewer and water infrastructure is 80, 90 years old literally,” said City Manager George Lahanas. “Over the past decade we have not invested sufficiently in streets and sidewalks and such, so were particularly far behind.”

A project like upgrading the city’s infrastructure puts additional strain on a budget that is already tight.

“It a puts a challenge on how you pay for it, you have to bond for it and pay back over time. It is going to be very costly, it will be great improvements to the city, but it is going to take time.”
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Deer overpopulation leads to management issues

By Chris Hauler
Entirely East Lansing

Dave Bellmer said he loves this time of year. He said his anticipation for deer hunting season is equivalent to children’s excitement for Christmas. Instead of waking up early to open presents, Bellmer said he gets up around 4 a.m., puts his camouflage overalls on and grabs his coat before heading out the door.

Instead of decorating a tree, he climbs a ladder and sits in his tree blind. There is no hot chocolate because he says deer will smell it. There are no jolly carols sung, only silence. There he remains, sometimes for hours, watching. When one does approach, Bellmer said his heart beats fast with excitement like a child unwrapping that first present on Christmas morning.

“It’s always been that way since I was a kid,” says Bellmer, a local hunter. “My dad had me out in the woods with him as soon as I could walk. I really love it.”

Even though hunting has remained popular, deer overpopulation problems are consistent throughout Michigan, including East Lansing. The issue led city officials to hold a deer management meeting open to the public.

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Park District group withdraws parking lot proposal

By Chris Hauler
Entirely East Lansing

A boarded up bank and vacant parking lots sit on the west corner of downtown.

A boarded up bank and vacant parking lots sit on the west corner of downtown.

 

It’s official. After voters rejected the vacant lot proposal, DTN has withdrawn its plans to rebuild downtown’s west corner. The move has been expected since the city was unable to gain authority to sell three acres of unused buildings and vacant lots.

While a tremendous amount of time and energy has been spent by the city, planning commissions and DTN on a project that will never materialized, Mayor Nathan Triplett said he was encouraged by the process.

“It was very beneficial for the community,” said Triplett. “We will start again and consider what the next steps are, I look forward to the process and the community’s continued involvement.”

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Board votes to keep collecting all taxes in summer

By Jamie DeRosa
Entirely East Lansing

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The board of education in East Lansing has approved to collect all 100 percent of the school property taxes in the summer tax levy for the 2015 – 2016 school year. This change keeps with the tradition that East Lansing has carried for years.

The idea of collecting all the taxes at once is different from the way things are done in some other districts where school property taxes are spread out throughout the year. Taxes, if not paid all at once, are generally cut in half and paid in two intervals, one for the winter, which has a deadline in February, and one for summer, which ends in September.

“The 100 percent summer tax levy benefits the district’s cash flow and thus lessens the need to borrow early in the school year,” said director of finance for the East Lansing school district Richard Pugh. “In addition, when interest rates are favorable the district can invest funds and earn greater amounts of interest than a 50 percent winter and 50 percent summer levy. Interest rates are horrible currently but the district still benefits from a cash-flow perspective.” Continue reading

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Voters reject parking lot proposal

By Chris Hauler
Entirely East Lansing

A boarded up bank and vacant parking lots sit on the west corner of downtown.

A boarded up bank and vacant parking lots sit on the west corner of downtown.

For years, citizens have urged the city to clean up the blighted section on the west side of downtown. Voters had the chance to approve a proposal which would allow the city to negotiate to sell three acres of vacant or unused property.

The proposal needed 60 percent approval to pass, and while the results were close, it ultimately failed to reach the needed outcome by 57% to 43%.

Approval would not have led to the direct sale of the property, it would have been an important step in redeveloping that corner.

DTN Management Co. and Park District Investment group proposed to build two projects on the property. The first would have included a first-floor bank branch, 120-room Hotel Indigo, and five floors of apartments. The second project would have been a five-story mixed-use building with commercial space and an apartment complex.

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Community members and Michigan State students march to the East Lansing Police Department

By Jessica Steeley
Entirely East Lansing

On Wednesday, Oct. 23, 2014, there was a protest march to the East Lansing Police Department in recognition of the National Day of Resistance.

The march was held to protest police brutality, criminalization and repression, said Rashad Timmons, one of the organizers.

Crystal Gause, a community member who helped to organize the march, said that there were over 70 protests across the country.

“It was a small part of a big thing,” said Gause.

Nathan Wikman, a philosophy and linguistics junior at MSU, walked in the march and wrote in an e-mail, “The protest was about trying to prevent the militarization of the police, particularly as it effects the black community who are overwhelmingly targeted by police and other law enforcement officers.”

Gause said that the protest march was organized by many of the alliances on MSU’s campus, including MSU Students United, the Black Student Alliance and the North American Indigenous Student Organization.

“The protest wasn’t limited to a student movement,” said Gause, “a lot of community people joined as well.”

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City’s No. 2 issue a hot topic among residents

Dr. Campa explaining his presentation.

Dr. Campa explaining his presentation.

By Chris Hauler
Entirely East Lansing

When City Manager George Lahanas took office three years ago, he was surprised to learn how important deer management is to residents.

“One big conversation has been about vacant buildings downtown,” said, Lahanas. “The No. 2 conversation, no matter where I am, people want to talk about deer. So, this is obviously an important issue.”

More than two dozen citizens attended the city sponsored deer management meeting at the Bailey community center. The event gave residents a forum to voice their feelings and concerns over what many consider an overpopulation of deer.

“We talk about citizen engagement, I want to tell you, this is it,” said Lahanas. “This is people coming together to give the city good feedback.”
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City sought more voting in town, on campus

By Jamie DeRosa
Entirely East Lansing

While this year’s Election Day turnout is expected to be smaller for East Lansing than it was for the presidential election two years ago, the number of ballots coming in showed an improvement from the off-term election four years ago.

“It’s definitely higher than in 2010, which was the last general election. In terms of absentee voter ballots, for example, we issued about 1,800 in 2010 and we’ve now issued close to 2,100. I expect we’ll be receiving more,” said City Clerk Marie Wicks. “The voter turnout has already been heavy and I even ordered 3,700 extra ballots just to make sure we’re covered, and sent out extra booths to the voting locations. I’m anticipating a really good turnout.”

East Lansing has 17 precincts covering the city Michigan State University campus. Voting sites include houses of worship around the city, the Bailey and Hannah community center and locations around campus such as all IM locations and Brody hall.
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