By Elliot Grandia
Entirely East Lansing staff writer
Tuesday, Nov. 8, marks this year’s general election. East Lansing voters will be electing three council members to four-year terms; concluding in 2015, according to the city’s election page.
There are five candidates bidding for the three spots; all with varying experience and backgrounds in the city. Three of the candidates have held previous city council positions: Diane Godderris, Nathan Triplett, and Roger Peters.
Don Powers and Hans Larsen will be vying for their first City Council position.
All five candidates represent the Democratic party.
Here’s a quick inside look at the candidates for city council:
Background: A war veteran, Michigan State University alumni and 40-year resident to East Lansing, Powers believes he can continue a tradition of open communication in East Lansing by doing what he believes he does best — listening. “I’m not afraid to let the community in on our conversation; not everybody is comfortable with that,” Powers said. Powers said past experience mediating on different boards and committees, including the East Lansing Library board, will help him come to decisions that will reflect the needs of the city. “I understood how the community worked. I gained experience listening to the different groups; sitting down and hammering out a compromises in order to get a consensus.”
The issues: With the city’s search for a new city manager, Powers believes the search should stay local; utilizing the knowledge of the city and experience working with the on-going issues in the community, instead of going national. Referring to his suggestion for an internal search, Powers said, “We don’t want in a sense to throw our own employees under the bus. Lets make them feel valued and appreciated for their work in the city.” Another issue Powers hopes to address while in office would be the financial crisis hitting the area. According to Powers, the city should be more conservative with the incoming tax revenue. “We can’t pay as we go anymore. I’m not against economic development, but I am for very prudent development.”
Short pitch to voters: “One word to describe me would be experience; experience in managing and mediating problems and issues and finding solutions. I have had vast years of experience doing that for 45 years and that’s what I will do for the city.”
The issues: Peters said cohesion between the students and residents is something he would like to see improved. “There’s always a question of how we can strike a balance with how both populations can get along and work together. Organizations like Community Relations have done great things and I have worked closely along with them.” And with the latest cuts in revenue for the city and state, Peters said the city will need to re-evaluate how to deliver it’s services with reduced resources. “We need to make our organizations constantly more efficient so that we can deliver essential services to our residents,” Peters said, adding that consolidating with neighboring townships is something he has approved in the past and will continue to in the future.
Short pitch to voters: “Relative experience and involvement shows deep interest in the city and commitment into the city and that’s what I’ve done.”
Background: Diane Godderis said her love for the community gave her a sense of personal obligation to run for city council, initially. After raising a family in the East Lansing School District, volunteering in several boards, including the neighborhood association and East Lansing Planning Commission, she felt she could voice the community’s needs in a more prominent position. And after serving one term on the council, Godderis said her experience is needed in this unstable time in the city, especially with the search for a new city manager. “It takes a while to get the hang of how this city runs and what it needs to stay afloat. The council can’t afford to have someone who is needing to be acquainted with the process.
Issues: Apart from the search for a new city manager, Godderis said she wants to take a deep look at how the city can cut back without sacrificing the real needs of the community. “People value certain services. The real question is how can we consolidate and protect those valued services. Its not easy, but I’m willing to put in the time.” The council will have to put in extra time when dealing with the upcoming School Board decisions, Godderis said. “The council will need to cooperate with the school board in this next chapter while there is reevaluating of the schools to make the transition smoother, and find that optimal outcome for students.” Environmental issues is something Godderis would like to see on the agenda more too. “We need to start looking at the community sustainability plan and review its short and long term goals; finding what we can do now for our city’s environment.”
Short pitch to voters: I haven’t been your typical politician, but my activism in this city has been over 30 years and as a candidate my value of work sticks out. My expertise gained over the past five years will help the city in the upcoming challenges.
Background: With roots in East Lansing, graduating from East Lansing High School and instructing clinicals for Michigan State University medical and nursing students, Hans Larsen said he was inspired to run for city council after being disgusted with some of the latest actions done by members of the city council in his hometown. “They have slashed all city services, liquidated assets, raised the millage as high as they could, and sold millions of dollars more in bonds (public debt) in order to make debt payments on failed projects that were supposed to pay for themselves,” Larsen said.
Issues: If Larsen is elected into his first term, his main goal is to restore the integrity in City Hall- something he believes has been missing. Larsen says part of restoring that integrity means finding the right city manager replacement. “We have to find an ethical replacement city manager capable of untangling this wicked web of crony capitalism and complex municipal financing—all while the incumbents congratulate themselves for a job well done.” Larsen wants to see an ethical relationship bud between students and the city, too. “For the past 15 years, City Hall has launched an all-out war against the students, pushing affordable student housing farther using the PACE and Police and Code Enforcers to suck as much revenue from students as possible.
Short pitch to voters: “I promise to listen to your concerns, budget responsibly, and deal objectivity with our long-term debt crisis, including the City Center II disaster, in order to maintain and preserve essential public services.”
Triplett did not respond, but here is a link to his biography.