Lansing unemployment continues to drop

By Trevor Darnell
Listen Up, Lansing Staff Reporter

Exactly a decade ago, December of 2005, Lansing’s unemployment rate was 6.2 percent. By June of 2009, it skyrocketed to 11.6 percent. The rate has been cut in half since then and currently sits at 5.8 percent. How has it dropped so much in a quick 6 years? What has been the main reason for it?

This rate of 5.8 percent is a tad higher than the state of Michigan average which currently sits at 5.4 percent.

“The unemployment rate has dropped because of Michigan’s overall economy, particularly its automotive industry, has been rebounding since the depths of the Great Recession in 2009-2010. Of particular importance was the decision by the federal government to rescue the auto industry by providing financing for General Motors and Chrysler to emerge successfully from bankruptcy,” said John Gallagher, a business reporter for the Detroit Free Press.

“As a result of that federal aid, the auto industry has rebounded and today sells more cars than before the recession. This means the auto companies are hiring a lot more autoworkers, which has a ripple effect throughout the entire economy in every part of the state, including Lansing,” said Gallagher.

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Lansing’s south side struggling, but improving

South Lansing fights crime in a time of recovery.

South Lansing fights crime in a time of recovery.

By Isaac Constans
Listen Up, Lansing Staff Reporter

In any major city, residents have mental maps of friendly areas and those that are uninviting, whether because of crime, blight, lack of interesting points, or all of the aforementioned. In Lansing, those mental maps seem to demarcate the south side of Lansing as a no-entry zone.

Lansing as a whole has higher crime rates than state and national averages, with 10.6 violent crimes per 1,000 residents compared to an average of 4.5 and 3.8 violent crimes per 1,000 residents on the state and national levels, respectively, according to Neighborhood Scout. Many of those stats intensify in certain south Lansing neighborhoods.

“I know the guy who works on my car can’t get out of Lansing,” Mark Skidmore, a Michigan State University professor of urban economics, said about his auto mechanic from the south side of Lansing. “And he needs to have all of this security equipment around his house and he got assaulted once while driving to work. He says, ‘You know, I’d really like to get out of Lansing because I don’t feel safe.’”

In the south side of Lansing, these occurrences seem more frequent to residents because they are. In November 2015, 355 crimes of 609 reported by the Lansing Police Department were south of Interstate 496, according to Crime Mapping, a resource used by the Lansing Police Department.

Lansing crimes in the month of November.

Lansing crimes in the month of November, as per

Interstate 496 delineates the boundaries of south Lansing, according to Elaine Womboldt, facilitator and founder of Rejuvenating South Lansing. According to her, higher crime rates themselves don’t exactly speak to the entire story because of recent police unemployment and the large geographic area and population of south Lansing.

“We do have issues with crime and we’re working on it, and we’re trying to find more ways to have more police support,” Womboldt said, adding that a recent decline in police employment made it tough for the officers to cover such a large area. “In the past, and this was explained to me, they would frontload and the would see how many police officers might be retiring and hire that many that were already trained… but they chose not to do that this time.”

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Studies and sports a delicate balance at Lansing schools

By Meg Dedyne
Listen Up, Lansing Staff Reporter

Charnel Gloss, a 12th-grader at Everett High School in Lansing, said that the hardest part of being on the basketball team and being a student is keeping her grades up.

“It’s hard to find time to eat, sleep, go to practice and keep your grades up,” Gloss said. “Everything is really busy and it’s worth it but it takes a lot of work.”

Every day, high school students try to balance their time between school, sports and other extracurricular activities. Young athletes deal with the constant challenges of doing well in school, doing well in sports and finding time for other commitments such as family and work.

Liz Ballinger, the athletic director and girl's basketball coach at Everett High School runs drills at her practice. Photo taken by Meg Dedyne.

Liz Ballinger, the athletic director and girl’s basketball coach at Everett High School runs drills at her practice. Photo taken by Meg Dedyne.

Gloss said that time management is also a big deal while being a student-athlete. She spends most of her time every week on school and the remaining portion is devoted to basketball.

Liz Ballinger, the athletic director and varsity girl’s basketball coach at Everett, said that constant reminders of how important school is both in the classroom and on the court are always reinforced.

“When we get tired we need to push each other,” said Ballinger to her team at their afternoon practice. “We have to communicate more.”

After warm-ups, Ballinger had her team communicate to each other and count while shooting layups, followed by sprints.

“We express leadership in everything that the girls do. They need to be leaders in the classroom,” said Ballinger. “That’s why I stress communication and working as a team so much. It’s important to send that message to them as educators.”

DonNae Howard, who is in 11th grade and the manager of the girl’s basketball team at Everett, said that traveling with the team is hard sometimes because it’s hard to find time to eat.

“I think the hardest part about being the manager is being hungry,” Howard said. “Between school, homework, practice and games I don’t have time to eat sometimes. I have to get extra help with school work sometimes too to stay on top of things.”

Howard said she has school all day and then practice for at least two hours a night and then on game days or days they have scrimmages, she does homework after school and then doesn’t get home until late at night after the game.

Liz Ballinger coaches the girl's basketball team at Everett High School. Photo taken by Meg Dedyne.

Liz Ballinger coaches the varsity girl’s basketball team at Everett High School. Photo taken by Meg Dedyne.

Ballinger said that she loves seeing the girls grow from year to year on the team and that most girls who come in as freshman stay until their senior year, besides those who transfer in or other circumstances such as this.

“A lot of these girls have school and jobs and family stuff to take care of,” Ballinger said. “That’s why it’s really important to me that they do well in school and also have an outlet when they come to practices and games.”

Susan Cheadle-Holt, principal of Everett High School, said that there is a pretty direct correlation to being involved in extra curriculars such as sports and doing well in school.

“There is a lot of mentorship that goes into sports and through the coaches and students, we have strong motivation for responsibility in school,” Cheadle-Holt said. “Students have the feeling that if I’m not eligible this week then it’s going to affect my whole team.”

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Homelessness is a national problem. Lansing is no exception

By Alexis Howell
Listen Up, Lansing Staff Reporter



Uploaded by Alexis Howell on 2015-12-03.

Stacy Johnson said she use to be homeless but thanks God she got out of it.

“I became homeless because I was in an abusive relationship with the father of my son and he tried to kill me. Finally I told myself I needed to go, so that is what I did. I had two kids in the shelter with me which I am thankful for because now they take your kids away from you,” said the Lansing woman.

Johnson said that every day she went out and looked for a job because she was determined to make a better life for herself and her kids. She was able to find two jobs while living in the shelter and always had to bang on the door at 2 a.m. when she got off her second job because the shelter was closed, but they always let her in.

“I saved up all my money and applied for Section 8,” said Johnson. “I used all the resources I could get because my back was against the wall. My children were my motivation to get out.”

Johnson said, “Nowadays, people become too comfortable with being homeless and I was just not one of those people. It felt good to finally be back on my feet and supporting my children on my own. I thank God for that rough patch in my life because it made me the person that I am today.”

The predicament Johnson once found herself in isn’t unusual in Greater Lansing or the state of Michigan.

According to a report made by Michigan’s Campaign to End Homelessness, in 2014, 97,642 were counted as being homeless statewide. Screenshot 2015-12-03 09.47.37

According to the Greater Lansing Homeless Resolution Network, in 2014 429 people were chronically homeless in the Lansing area, 709 people were in 2013, 2011 it was 607 people, 691 people were chronically homeless in 2010, in 2009 there was 597 people, and in 2008 there was 657 people found chronically homeless.

“Families are affected pretty heavily,” said Laura Gultekin an assistant professor at the University of Michigan and a homelessness expert. “Data shows that families are single parent females with one to two children under the age of six. They have a fragile family structure, no external support, and no resources in their community.”

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Some Lansing Community College students are borrowing their way through school

By Haywood Liggett
Listen Up, Lansing Staff Reporter

Some students at Lansing Community College are relying solely on student loans to pay for their tuition.

Shane Harris, who attended Lansing Community College for three years from 2011-2014, used student loans to pay for all of his classes. He acquired $6,000 worth of debt during his tenure. If Harris had only taken out the exact loans that were needed to pay for all his classes, he would only be around $5,000 in the hole.

“Instead of taking that small refund each semester from excess loans and paying it back immediately, I would put it towards things like clothes and shoes,” Harris said. You don’t think about it at the time since you don’t have to pay that money back right away, but six months after you’re done taking classes, those reminders that it’s time to start paying up start flooding in, and they don’t stop.”

Harris did not receive his associate’s degree from LCC. He planned on transferring to a 4-year institution after a year hiatus from school in 2014, but has not applied anywhere else still. Since he hasn’t been in school he’s had to begin paying his loans back.

“Those payments came at a really bad time, but when is it ever good to have another bill,” he said.”I’m paying about $250 a month, which is pretty steep from me, but it’s not as bad as a four-year university loan payment would be.”

The rising cost of college has not lessened the need for those that want a better chance at a decent job to have a college degree. According the U.S. Census Bureau, a person that earns a bachelor’s degree will earn almost double ($51,206 to $27,915) someone with only a high school diploma makes over a span of their working careers.

Although the average difference in wages is noticeable between those with a degree and those without one, there are students that would love the opportunity to receive higher learning, but simply can’t afford the classes on. This is where student loans come in.

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Local public school enrollment is steadily shifting to charter schools

By Sheryl Levitt
Listen Up, Lansing Staff Reporter

According to the Lansing School District’s enrollment report, 1,917 students from Lansing are attending local charter schools.

It’s a number that seems to keep growing, at the expense of Lansing’s public school enrollment.

Enrollment in the Lansing School District is continually declining. Over the last five years, enrollment numbers have decreased from 13,399 to 11,695 students. This means the district has experienced a total loss of 1,704 students.

Lansing Enrollment

Decline in enrollment in the Lansing School District

In contrast, enrollment in local charter schools has seen an increase. Lansing Charter Academy, Mid-Michigan Leadership Academy (MMLA), Shabazz Public School Academy, Cole Academy, and Windemere Park Charter Academy have experienced a combined increase of 2,363 students. Enrollment in Lansing Charter Academy has seen the most growth, increasing by 6.19 percent in the last year alone.

Charter Enrollment

Increase in enrollment in local charter schools

More often than not, local charter school students are residents of the City of Lansing. According to this year’s enrollment data, 100 percent of Shabazz Academy and Mid-Michigan Leadership Academy’s students are Lansing residents, while 93.3 percent of Lansing Charter Academy and Cole Academy’s students are Lansing residents.

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Lansing Police is working to combat crime

By Tyler Austin
Listen Up Lansing Staff Reporter

One of the most important aspects that go into creating a sense of community between a group of people is safety. Creating a space that seems welcoming and safe are high priorities for many people.

According to a survey conducted by more than 50 percent of people would only live in a place with good safety and low crime rates. While this is a general want for most people it can prove quite difficult to actually accomplish.

As an example of this, Lansing is a city that claims to have a hard-working heart with the charm of a small town, according to the city’s visitors page. It has all kinds of unique neighborhoods, local businesses and some up-and-coming artists.  It is also a place that has fluctuating rates in a wide spectrum of crimes.

Among the ever-changing numbers of crimes reported there does seem to be some consistency, that being that burglary, assault, and theft are in the top five most-committed crimes.

(Find a detailed report on Lansing crime rates at the bottom of this article.)

Crime rates in Lansing over the past 6 months. Graph taken from Lansing Police Department's crime mapping data.

Crime rates in Lansing over the past 6 months. Graph pulled from Lansing Police Department’s website.

The main issue with some of these crimes is the effect that it may have on the community, specifically on the victim, according to Michigan State University Criminal Justice Professor Edmund McGarrell.

“It leaves the victim with a sense of violation,” said McGarrell. “It (burglary) is one of the most serious crimes because of the emotional impact it can have.”

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Lansing’s River Trail is a growing part of city tourism

By Trevor Darnell
Listen Up, Lansing Staff Reporter

The Lansing River Trail has become a big part of Lansing tourism over the years. It currently stretches from Waverly Road to Old Town and from Potter Park into Michigan State University. Plus, it now has over 20 miles of paved trails through numerous parks and natural areas, including downtown Lansing.

“I run a few times a week on the River Trail bird walks. It not only is a good place for long distance, but the environment makes my runs so much more interesting and beautiful. There’s no better place to run or bike; birds singing and animals running at every turn you make,” said Cherry Liz, an East Lansing resident.

Work has been recently done on the River Trail, the state added a 2-mile hiking/biking trail which now runs along Jolly Road and connects with the Lansing Trail at Maguire Park on the south end.

There are many more things that are positives that go along with the River Trail as well.

“Amenities like this tend to enhance property values and increase the property tax base. Resulting increased property tax collections will, at the minimum, offset the cost of trail development and maintenance. Also, attributes like ready access to a trail are among the first things people share about where they live when discussing where they live with non-residents,” said Don Holecek, a Michigan State University professor and expert in the tourism and Michigan’s tourism industry.

“There are a couple of obvious potential negatives,” said Holecek. “These include the need to maintain the trail very well and to insure that it is a crime-free zone.”

RiverTrail Map

A map of all of the trails involved in Lansing’s River Trail.

RiverTrail Map Key

“The River Trail is extremely unique, it offers a beautiful number of trails for everyone that uses it. It offers people to see nature in a beautiful way with animals and wildlife in all forms,” says Tony Beyers, Board Member for Friends of the River Trail, a group in which helps promote and maintain the trails.

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Poverty rising in Lansing

By Alexis Howell
Listen Up Lansing, Staff Reporter

Poverty is slowly rising every year in Lansing.

Screenshot 2015-12-03 08.29.29According to the Census Bureau in 2014, the percentage of families whose income was below the poverty level was at 12.1 percent, in 2013, the rate was 12.0 percent. The percentage of families whose income was below the poverty level in 2012 was 11.7 percent, 2011 came in at 11.1 percent and 2010 was the lowest at 10.6 percent.

Steve Anderson, director and professor of Michigan State University’s School of Social Work and poverty expert, said poverty can be described as absolute poverty and relative poverty.

Anderson described absolute poverty as a lack of provision of basic things, and not having enough resources to purchase things. He said U.S. standards include what is needed to get by.

Relative poverty, according to Anderson, is a sense inequality. For example, how do you compare to rich people in the society that you live in and what is the set of standards for that community?

The city of Lansing is considered to have relative poverty, because they are being compared to other people living in that city.

“In an international community,” said Anderson, “Many people may live on one or two dollars a day so these standards of living can change based off their community.”

In short, Anderson said, poverty is not having basic stuff to survive or advance.

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Are downtown Lansing holiday decorations dwindling?

By Meg Dedyne
Listen Up, Lansing Staff Reporter

Boris Hsieh said he looks forward to the downtown Lansing holiday decorations every year outside of his family’s restaurant, AnQi Sushi Express. However, this year the spirit seems to be in short supply.

“I always notice what is different about the Halloween and Christmas decorations each year,” said Hsieh. “But the past year’s decorations seem to have been much more vibrant and it seems like there were more of them in past years.”

During Silver Bells in the City, the iconic Christmas tree in front of the Capitol was lit. Photo taken by Meg Dedyne.

During Silver Bells in the City, the iconic Christmas tree in front of the Capitol was lit. Photo taken by Meg Dedyne.

According to Hsieh there are a lot less decorations downtown this year, including this year’s Christmas tree in front of the Capitol.

“This year’s downtown Christmas tree is a whole lot smaller and less pretty compared to the past years,” Hsieh said. “The Christmas tree downtown used to be huge and really full but this year the tree is much shorter and thinner than in the past. The tree also usually has a lot of different colors but this year I only really notice three.”

According to Layna Anderson, communications and marketing manager for Downtown Lansing Inc., there are around the same amount of decorations every year.

“The amount of decorations don’t really change from year to year since we keep most of them intact to reuse again. Although since the banners on the light poles are sponsored, we might have to change a sponsor or something like that,” Anderson said. “There are about 70 sponsors for the banners.”

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